Lynne Featherstone: You Ask The Questions

The Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green answers your questions, such as 'Is the state too big, or too small?' and 'Where do you stand on Gina Ford?'
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The Independent Online

How can your party claim to be economically credible when your mansion tax on £1m homes barely lasted a month? Stephen Radkorn, Harlow

The Liberal Democrats are the most economically credible of all the parties. I have no doubt most people would want Vince Cable at this country's economic helm. Liberal Democrats predicted that the debt bubble would burst – we were the first to say that we would need to save Northern Rock and nationalise those banks. The deficit must be paid off as swiftly as is possible without choking off the green shoots of recovery – and our priorities must be about creating a sustainable economy and jobs. Our manifesto will follow the maxim – less is more – and our commitments will be focused on: fair taxes, better education, green jobs and clean, reformed politics.

Mr Cable and others debate and discuss policies – and sometimes after hearing what people have to say, ideas get adapted. But would you really prefer a party who propose ideas and then close their ears to what anyone has to say in response?

Can you guarantee your supporters you'll only work with the Tories in a hung parliament if you get proportional representation? Cassandra Tyburn, Surrey

The power rests with the voters. There will be no back room deals. The people are the kingmakers. If there is no overall majority, then the Liberal Democrats will most certainly use what power we have to get more of the policies we believe in introduced.

Wouldn't it be more grown-up of Nick Clegg to admit there is common ground between you and the Tories, rather than invent fake divisions? Samantha Toppingham, Cardiff

What is the Tory ground? David Cameron doesn't appear to know the answer. Is it the green Mr Cameron of photo opportunities with huskies, or the Conservative party conference which votes against environmental measures? Is it the rhetoric of social inclusion from the likes of Iain Duncan Smith or the economic policies of George Osborne – who has put tax cuts for the richest at the top of his (very, very short) list of policies? Was it the Conservative Party which said how awful Tony Blair was over Iraq – or the Conservative Party which voted in Parliament to back Blair over Iraq? The list goes on and on.

Compare that division and muddle with the consistent Liberal Democrat approach to greening our economy, taking the least well-off out of the income tax system and working with international law and institutions, and you have not a fake division but a yawning abyss.

How close to bankruptcy would your party be if you returned the several million pounds you received from a fraudster (Michael Brown)? Gareth Frome, Southampton

We would definitely be a lot poorer. However, while our opponents would have loved the donation to have been pronounced illegal and not allowable – unhappily for them the Electoral Commission, after investigating, said that the donations were permissible.

Unlike the other two parties, we are not supported by the Ashcroft millions or in the pay of the trade unions. We manage our elections on a fraction of what Conservative and Labour spend.

Wouldn't you rather Mr Cable was representing your party in the televised debates? Richard Edmond, Exeter

There's no doubt Mr Cable is the person who most people would want for Chancellor but Mr Clegg is the leader the party wants – and leadership is a very different role. The debates are going to be a real test – and we are all going to be watching to see which of the three leaders can take the pressure and win the debate. I expect Mr Clegg to shine and for this to be a real opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to show people what we're made of.

What is the minimum number of seats which would represent a good result for your party at the election? Yvonne Margot, Newcastle

I'm aiming for maximums.

Would you chair Chris Huhne's campaign if he ran for leader again? Priscilla Judt, Basingstoke

Mr Clegg is doing a brilliant job as leader – so my chairing talents will not be required for many years. And who says I wouldn't be asking someone to chair my campaign when that day comes?

Given your brief is youth and equality and you live in London, will you be frank in admitting street crime in London disproportionately involves black boys? Toby Moreton, London

There are too many people of all backgrounds involved in crime – particularly violent crime. However, street crime is disproportionately caused by poor people. If you want to understand the causes of such crime – and how to cut it – look to bank balances, not just skin colour. There are evil people from across all parts of society, but it is in the worst estates and the most dysfunctional communities that people are most likely to fall prey to the lure of criminality.

Which is the greater problem with our welfare state: that it is too big, or that it is too small? Rupert Atherton, Ipswich

The issue isn't size. The welfare state is about helping those who cannot help themselves and ensuring a safety net is there.

Do you approve or disapprove of the Gina Ford parenting method? Davina Sinton, Sheringham

I approve of doing whatever gets you through. I had my children so long ago that Gina Ford hadn't even put pen to paper. I've never read what she prescribes. My only knowledge of her methodology in raising baby comes from the recent coverage of Nick Clegg (who has a relatively new baby) being reported as saying he thought that Ms Ford's methods were too strict and made him feel like he had sub-contracted parental instincts to a third party. What I do remember from the tired haze of motherhood is that when my babies cried I went to them. I spared the rod and spoilt the child. I'm with Mr Clegg on this one.

You're one of the most prolific of all Twittering MPs ... but isn't every tweet proof taxpayers are not getting value for money from you? Freddie Westerby, London

I recently tweeted (and emailed and posted on Facebook) to find out about the snow/gritting status on the streets of Hornsey & Wood Green. The 200 responses I received showed that Haringey council's claims that their contractors were doing the job properly did not match the reality. It means we can now hold the contractors (paid for by our taxes) to account for what they didn't do rather than just being told by the council how everything is fabulous.

That sort of two-way communication is what we need more of – not less. It's why my blog ( is also such an important part of my job – both to let people know what I'm doing on their behalf but also to hear back what they think.

Don't you think pressure would be taken off accident and emergency departments if GPs worked evenings and weekends? Martin Donaldson, Shoreditch

No amount of extra GP hours could mitigate for the loss of a 24-hour, seven days a week, accident and emergency department. I have had a positive response to my petition campaigning against the proposal to close the casualty department at the Whittington hospital in north London.

Why did you think it reasonable to spend £22,000 of our money on stationery for your office? Hannah Farthing, London

When I was elected in May 2005 I promised to be one of the "hardest working MPs – ever". If you look at my record, you will find I have delivered on that commitment. Using stationary to write to people when they contact me, and when they need to be informed of what's happening, is the mark of a good MP.

If I wasn't replying to people and telling them what's happened about the casework they have brought to me, there would soon by howls of protest. You can judge my overall use of expenses by the Telegraph. They called me one of their "saints".