Ben Bradshaw: You Ask The Questions

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport answers your questions, such as 'What do you think culture is?' and 'Are we ready for a gay Prime Minister?'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

You've just been made Culture Secretary. What do you think culture is exactly? MATTHEW TIMSON Weymouth

The way we feel, experience and express ourselves about the world we live in. It is part of the lifeblood of our sense of being.

Do you think Britain is ready for its first gay prime minister? Would you like it to be you? OLIVER REYNOLDS London

I'm not sure there hasn't been a gay prime minister. Yes, I think the country could cope with an openly gay one, but it would still be more difficult than were he or she straight. No, I would not like it to be me.

Aren't you ashamed of branding the Conservatives as homophobic? And do you honestly think there aren't some unreconstructed Labourites who have a problem with you? HELEN DART Brighton

I didn't brand all Conservatives as homophobic. I said there was still a strong strain of homophobia on the Tory benches. I judge people by what they do, not what they say, and the Tories' voting record – with one or two honourable exceptions – is dire. I am sure there are still outdated views in my own party too, but Labour has always had human rights and equality at its core.

What will you do to stop the top four clubs hoarding all of the money in football and ruining the game in the process? GEMMA CARNATH Cardiff

Football must run itself but, as funder of the game's grassroots, the Government has a right to ask questions. The redistribution formula of the Premier League is quite equitable, but more will need to be done to ensure long-term competitive balance to make sure fans don't start to switch off.

Are you worried that the constant sniping at the BBC these days, combined with your critique of its management, will create a situation where the Tories can do what they've always wanted to when they get into power next year and privatise it? KIMBERLEY GORDON Dundee

The Tories aren't getting into power next year. But I would fear for the future of the BBC were they to. The BBC is the best broadcasting organisation in the world. In order to thrive in the digital age it has to adapt. It has a better chance of defending its case if it agrees to help valued public service content such as local news and children's programmes survive, rather than trying to keep every penny of the licence fee to itself.

If you want to subsidise ITV, why don't you do it directly rather than laundering money raised for a different cause from licence-fee payers? The licence fee has never been for Britain's third channel. Leave it alone! SUSAN BARKER Abingdon

The licence fee is the TV licence fee not the BBC licence fee. It is custom that has led to the BBC receiving all of it. Currently, 3.5 per cent of it is ring-fenced to help people switch to digital TV. Local and regional news are in crisis and won't survive, apart from what the BBC provides, unless something is done. The public value is in having more than one source of news. Continuing to use a small fraction of the licence fee in future to secure this seems a fair and reasonable way to do so, but we are still open to other suggestions.

Were you a member of Labour when you worked at the BBC? If so, how can you defend that? I was paying you to report, not to propagandise on behalf of your socialist masters.


Yes, just as BBC colleagues were Tory or Lib Dem members. The BBC permits staff to belong to political parties, but requires all its journalists to exercise professional impartiality and sets clear rules, which are strictly enforced.

Andy Burnham was expected to damn the FA's disastrous running of football before he left the job. Will you pick up where he left off? NICK PALLISTER Poole

There is much to be proud of in the English game. We have one of the most successful leagues in the world and huge investment in community programmes. But Andy was right to challenge the game's governance. Recent proposals, such as a strengthened "fit and proper persons" test and "home-grown player" proposals are a step forward. But there are still questions to be asked and we will be continuing to press on these issues.

For most fans, clubs are valuable community assets, and more must be done to protect their long-term financial governance. I also want to see greater supporter involvement in the running of clubs, as is done to great effect with my own club, Exeter City.

You have bankrupted the country and nobody has a clue what you stand for. Why should anybody bother voting for you? PRIYA LANE Bolton

The whole world has suffered the biggest economic shock since the Second World War. Numerous independent economists say that this Labour government has taken the right decisions to deal with the downturn, and the UK has a lower historic debt than many other developed countries.

I could bore on for ages on what Labour stands for, but how about fairness, progressive values and reason for starters?

Why do you think the culture job is such a poor relation in the Cabinet? What are you going to do to increase its status? JANET NOON Rotherham

All cabinet posts are important and carry great responsibility. Labour first made culture a ministerial post with Jennie Lee in 1964 and this government has given culture, sport and the creative industries a greater role than any previous government has.

Don't you agree that that gay marriage is an oxymoron? Why should homosexuals be allowed to fundamentally change the definition of a millennia-old institution to appease modern liberal instincts? SEAN WALLACE Grimsby

It wasn't "homosexuals" who voted to allow civil partnerships, but (overwhelmingly) heterosexual MPs, who recognise that this is a human rights matter. Why should anyone feel their marriage threatened or devalued by civil partnerships?

Is there an art form you just don't get? What do you make of death metal, for instance? Or opera?

DAVID HART Southampton

You've hit the nail on its metal head. I am definitely more opera (and a lot else) than heavy metal.

What was Michael Jackson's best song? Did you ever see him live? LANA GREEN Oxford

"Billie Jean". Sadly, no.

As Culture Secretary, the people should be told: What is your favourite album, book, film, and art work? And what's your guiltiest pleasure? VICTORIA PALMER Leeds

Kaya (Marley), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Hardy), Casablanca, and David (Michelangelo). I resist feeling guilt about pleasure; there are plenty of other things to feel guilty about.

Who's the best-dressed member of the Parliamentary Labour Party? Surely you agree that nobody matches up to the impeccably attired Denis MacShane? SHAUN SIMPSON Dundee

I'm a great fan of Denis, but he wears bright red socks. My departmental colleague Barbara Follett gets this accolade – appropriately so – because she has ministerial responsibility for our flourishing fashion industry.

If you were kidnapped by terrorists and had to rely on one member of the cabinet to negotiate your release with your captors, which one would it be? KIERAN TOOLEY Doncaster

Alan Johnson, for his negotiating skills.