Dr Richard Taylor: You Ask The Questions

The Independent MP for Wye Forest answers your questions, such as 'Is it more stressful being a doctor or an MP?' and 'Should there be an election?'

What's it like being the only MP anyone still respects? DANIEL LUFF, Wigan

I am very flattered to have respect. I am quite sure that when the details of all MPs are known, there will be a lot of others who have not used the system for personal gain.

I remember you winning your seat with a campaign to save Kidderminster Hospital, but I can't remember what happened next. Did your campaign succeed? If so, will you be standing down? FARAH PERRIN, Dundee

Kidderminster Hospital was drastically downgraded in September 2000, before I was elected in June 2001. Since my election, a wide range of elective surgery has returned to Kidderminster and there have been improvements to urgent care, but I continue to fight for more.

Have you ever made any regrettable expenses claims? ALEX MURTY, Leeds

No. I have published my expenses online, so you can see for yourself.

Is it true that the atmosphere in Westminster is one in which suicide would not be surprising, or is it the ridiculous exaggeration I suspect? GORDON HARRISON, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire

I hope it is an exaggeration. However, I am worried at the unfair pressure being put on staff in the Fees Office.

Do you think the anger on expenses is going overboard? LILA HARRIS, London

No, because it is also anger against a failing parliamentary system on the wider issues of holding the Government to account.

Do you think it's a disadvantage to getting things done in Westminster for your constituents that you're not part of any party? NEIL WISE, London

No.

Would you consider joining the Jury Team independent coalition? YVETTE UNWIN, Durham

I have made my support for the Jury Team very clear.

Do you think there should be a general election? THOMAS CURZON, Poole, Dorset

Yes, but perhaps in the autumn of this year rather than immediately.

Has your respect for your parliamentary peers increased or decreased since you took your seat? HELEN FORREST, Glasgow

My respect for rebels against party whips, especially those who voted against the Iraq war, has increased.

What would be your solution to the expenses crisis? KEVIN HART, Southampton

I have made a number of detailed recommendations to the parliamentary Committee on Standards in Public Life calling for a more transparent and less generous system, but my general suggestions are that the term "allowances" be changed to "expenses", so it is not seen as an automatic right and the excellent "principles" in the Green Book should all be converted into absolute "rules".

I understand the committee is going to publish submissions, including mine, in due course.

How do other MPs treat you? DANIEL RUDD, Chester

They are all very well disposed towards me.

Have you ever exchanged stories with Martin Bell about life as an independent? CHRISTIAN LEWIS, Loughborough, Leicestershire

No, but Martin was an inspiration in encouraging me to stand and then helping me to know who to ask for help to get onto the Health Select Committee.

No one trusts the rest of our MPs – so will you consider standing for Speaker of the Commons? JOE THOMAS, Kidderminster, Worcestershire

Unfortunately, Ladbrokes' odds are lengthening against me!

If you had to join one of the parties, which would it be? PHILIPPA DOWD, Cambridge

Thank goodness I do not have to join a party, because I could never obey a whip on all subjects.

Isn't there a danger that single-issue MPs will not be responsible voters on other issues? CAMILLA PRICE, Bishop's Stortford, Hertforshire

It would be impossible to be a single-issue MP, even if it was a single issue that got one elected. Constituents bring every conceivable matter before one. If one is going to vote without following a whip, one has to study and understand the issues.

Which is more stressful: being a doctor or being a Member of Parliament? HENRY GARSIDE, Exeter

Without doubt, there is more stress in being a consultant physician on call for emergencies at the time of changeover of junior staff.

As a doctor, do you despair of how politicians so routinely ignore science when they make decisions? KIMBERLY DEAN, Lincoln

One of the functions of the Health Select Committee and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Post) is to make sure that scientific evidence is taken into account.

Do you think Esther Rantzen would make a good MP? OLIVIA WATTS, Bristol

My advice to her would be that she has to spend a great deal of time within the constituency she chooses, to get to know its people and their issues, so they know they have someone they can trust to fight for them.

Which well-known apolitical figure do you think would make the best Prime Minister? Which would make the worst? THEO CRIPPS, Birmingham

The best apolitical Prime Minister would be Sir Ian Kennedy, the recent chairman of the Healthcare Commission, who is totally fearless about criticising anybody and everybody, and is excellent at listening and distilling opinions and feelings expressed to him. The worst potential Prime Ministers are too long to list.

Who's your hero? RACHEL WHITE, Brighton

Alan Patrick Herbert, who was the independent MP for Oxford University from 1935 until 1949, when the seat was abolished. He wrote in his book Independent Member: "I have even thought that, on great occasions where the parties were furiously raging together, the votes of Independents (cast with, of course, more conscience) might be as straws in the wind and show the party leaders which way the pure air of free opinion blows. Some horrid pride here, no doubt: but at least no 'levity' or lack of conscience."

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