How long before the Academy Schools programme comes to a dead end without you behind it? MIRIAM HARTSON, Goole
Academies are in good shape. There are more than 130 open and will soon be 200. Academies are three times over-subscribed by parents and improving their GCSE results at more than twice the national rate. Strong parental demand has driven academies forward, and I'm confident it will continue to do so.
When did you last use public transport? How often do you do so? And should more politicians spend more time using the services they are supposed to be improving? GEORGE LEWIS, Sydenham
I was on the tube on Saturday night and travel by bus or tube several times a week. Most of my long-distance journeys out of London are also by train, including to Southampton last week and Paris this week. So I constantly experience public transport – both its triumphs and disasters. This is essential to doing the job properly, and yes I do think that politicians should use the services they are responsible for improving. You need to be emotionally involved, which only comes from personal experience.
Do you find motorways as interesting as children? KEVIN NICE, Whitton
With the greatest feat of imagination, I find them impossible to compare.
After the decision to expand Heathrow, how can anyone who cares about the future of the planet vote for Gordon Brown? CHARLOTTE BUNTON, London
Heathrow expansion is consistent with our green commitments. A key part of the decision is a new target that aviation must have lower carbon emissions by 2050 than today. Given technological trends, this is credible. Today's planes are dramatically more fuel efficient – and less noisy and polluting – than their predecessors. The new emissions trading scheme is a further incentive to cut emissions.
Why was the decision to put a third runway in at Heathrow made without a parliamentary vote? ALICE KEATON, Edinburgh
There was a Commons vote on Heathrow last week. The government won both the vote and the argument. By the end, the Conservatives admitted the need for more runway capacity in the South-east, as Boris Johnson has also accepted with his idea of an Estuary Airport. So the debate now is where this should go. Without a third runway at Heathrow, passengers and companies will suffer; we will simply hand business and jobs to Frankfurt (with three runways and now building a fourth), to Schiphol in the Netherlands (with five runways) and to Charles de Gaulle in Paris (with four runways).
Wouldn't it be better to invest in better transport links for people in the north of the country instead of making the south even more of a focal point by expanding Heathrow? NIALL FROST, Manchester
We need better north-south links as well as Heathrow expansion. That's why we have set up a company to propose a new north-south high-speed rail line, accelerating journey times between London, the Midlands, northern cities and Scotland.I am a strong supporter of high-speed rail, having seen the transformation it has wrought in the links between the dominant cities and the regions of France, Spain and Germany. We have asked the company to publish a plan by the end of the year.
Do you think it is time for Labour to dump Gordon Brown, who seems a total loser and to be stuck in the past? EVE MARSH, Hartlepool
Of course not. Gordon is demonstrating a firm and forward-looking grasp of the international crisis and deserves our support.
Were you pleased to be promised the offer of a job in David Cameron's government, and would you accept? ANDY RICHMAN, Chester
Are you ashamed to be part of the Labour Party in the House of Lords after the recent bribery scandal? What should be done to reform the Lords and make this kind of abuse harder? FLORA HOLT, Bristol
Let's wait for the parliamentary investigation to be completed before judging the present case.But corruption has no place in Parliament. The Commmons is elected, so the final sanction of expulsion must be left to the voters. However, in the Lords the House itself has the ultimate responsibility to uphold standards and it cannot duck this responsibility when occasion demands. In my view, those clearly guilty of corruption should be expelled from the Lords, and not simply suspended or given a verbal warning.
Is the Labour party sinking into the same mire of scandal that engulfed the Tories before they lost in a landslide? WILLIAM DAY, Skegness
Why don't you send your children to a state school? JULIA FAULDS, London
I do send my children to a state school; a very good one too.
As a former academic, aren't you shocked by the government's anti-intellectual stance on the classification of ecstacy, which your experts say should be Class B? DEAN UNDERWOOD, Sheffield
There is nothing "anti-intellectual" in seeking, by means of the law, to prevent young people from taking drugs which could well destroy their lives.
You were a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Lib Dems. Was the change of heart solely motivated by the desire for power? HARRY MAULE, Oxford
I joined Labour when Tony Blair became leader and abolished the party's Clause 4 commitment to public ownership. At that point, the ideological barrier between Labour and the Liberal Democrats vanished and Labour became the credible and electable social democratic party I had wanted to see since joining the SDP a few days after my 18th birthday. Tony Blair was easily the most impressive social democratic politician since Roy Jenkins, my political hero.
Which is more fun – journalism or politics? LUCY POTTS, Cardiff
They both have their moments. I had a lot more free time as a journalist, which I miss.
Whom do you most admire in current politics? And journalism? JEREMY LITTLE, Dunbar
Barack Obama and The Financial Times respectively (apologies to The Independent, also a great paper).
Do you think it would be nice to win an election rather than be appointed to something? MARY GILBERT, Inskip
I served as an elected local councillor for four years. But yes, I would much rather have been elected to the Commons than appointed to the Lords. When Tony Blair asked me to become an education minister immediately after the 2005 election that wasn't possible.
What was it like growing up in a children's home? Was it more or less weird than the boarding school you then attended? MURRAY HARMAN, Chippenham
I was unhappy a lot of the time, but it didn't seem weird because it was all I knew. Children adapt fast, and I was lucky to have some brilliant social workers and teachers looking outfor me.
You did a doctorate on the British aristocracy. How do you feel about joining them in the Lords? KATHERINE McGEE, Southampton
Lord Salisbury, the Victorian prime minister who I studied, would find the procedure of today's House – not to mention the decor – virtually unchanged, and I see his ghost around every corner.
But the old aristocracy is now largely gone and Lord Salisbury would find the membership distressingly common. He would be horrified that someone like me, the son of a Cypriot immigrant without an acre to his name, could become a member.
Robert Harris is supposed to have said you are "more Andrew than Adonis". Do you want to say something rude about him? TONY RANDALL, Barnet
I took it as a compliment! Robert is a brilliant story-teller, his novels rooted in real – often disturbing – historical situations. Fatherland is my favourite thriller, with a lot to say about the morality of the Holocaust. The savage portrayal of Tony Blair in The Ghost I liked less.
Do you ever relax? And if so, how? LAURA COOPER, Birmingham
As I write these answers, I'm watching the Federer-Nadal Australian Open tennis final on the television. Enough said!Reuse content