Tessa Jowell: You Ask The Questions
The Olympics minister answers your questions, such as which Cabinet member would win a Greco-Roman wrestling contest?
Monday 18 August 2008
Is the Prime Minister's unpopularity a matter of bad communication? Or is he just incompetent?
Poppy Kelen, Blackpool
Politicians are invariably unpopular – the times when they genuinely aren't can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And in the kind of economic circumstances we see now, they are all the more unpopular; they have to absorb people's anger and anxiety while trying to create the right measures to mitigate the effects on families of this global downturn.
Did you really say you would jump under a bus for Tony Blair? Would you for Gordon Brown?
Matthew Aherne, Canterbury
The only people I would jump under a bus for are my children. I was once asked in an interview if I would do the same for Tony, and I laughed and said 'yes, of course'. Irony doesn't translate well into print, I have discovered.
I live in Leeds. What possible value are the Olympics to me?
Peter Chu, Leeds
This will be UK 2012, not just London 2012, I'm determined. How will it touch Yorkshire? Through local athletes competing, spectators attending, businesses winning contracts, tourists visiting Yorkshire and foreign teams using facilities in Leeds in the run-up to London 2012, to give just a few examples. You have got seven venues in Leeds alone wooing international interest as pre-Games bases, including Headingley and the John Charles Centre.
Like most kids, my son will play games without being asked, but it's impossible to get him to pick up a book. Does he really need to be 'inspired' by the Games, or would the money be better spent elsewhere?
Kim Allen, Edinburgh
The money is being spent precisely to make sure that people like your son benefit directly. In the run-up to the 2012 Games, he will have a chance through our education programme to get involved in new pursuits, new sports and the arts, in and out of school. He will have the chance to try his hand at being the best he can be in his chosen fields. The Cultural Olympiad will cover the whole country and every art form, so I would hope that he will be inspired to do things he has not tried before, including the world of books.
Why are you going to mess up Greenwich Park, a vital recreational resource for millions of ordinary families, when there is a perfectly good equestrian cross-country course at Windsor?
Thomas Finigan, London
This is interesting. The siting of the equestrian events in Hong Kong raised similar concerns there, for the same reasons. But they have shown how this short-term change of use for a park can produce longer-term benefits with, for example, the replacement of turf and new sowings of grass and flowers. But I really do not want local residents to feel imposed upon or left in the dark, so keep talking to the park authorities in the lead-up to the Games about their plans for before, during and after the event.
Should we spend the money it would take to compete with the Chinese opening ceremony?
June Oakley, Lewes
No. The Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Games was spectacular, but we are a different city, with a very different history, culture and view of the world. Our opening ceremony will be very different and just as awesome.
David Hare's new play has a character who resembles you who divorces her husband for the sake of political expediency. Does this make you uncomfortable?
Kerry Painter, Gillingham
The National Theatre have described this play as a work of fiction. I completely agree. David Hare knows nothing about me or my family.
Have you restored your relationship with your husband yet?
Jim Ternent, Rotherham
If you don't mind I won't talk about my marriage – I never have and I never will. Even politicians have the right to space which is not public.
Do you think you should have signed mortgage documents without knowing what they meant?
Iain Hateley, Liverpool
I didn't. I signed a document, not a mortgage on my house, knowing full well what I was doing. Everything I did at that time, which was three years ago now, was investigated by the Cabinet Secretary and I was exonerated. Enough already.
Has China's human rights record improved lately?
Lilian Bolton, Swindon
The Chinese gave clear commitments about press freedom when they won the right to host the Olympics. The reports last week about an ITN reporter being manhandled are in contradiction to those commitments, to put it politely. So that behaviour should never be repeated. One of the best legacies for China after the games should be press freedom. So there's a long way to go, but equally China is a hugely different place from what it was 30 or even 10 years ago.
How do you get on with Boris Johnson? When did you last speak?
Julie Horan, Gloucester
People whose money is being spent on 2012 should expect good working relationships between all the key players. In this spirit, I have a good relationship with Boris Johnson and I will do all I can to keep it on track. I will be seeing him later this week when he comes to Beijing for the Closing Ceremony.
What would happen to the Games if there was a change in government?
Sam Abbott, Bath
God knows it's tempting to make a cheap dig at the Tories here. But the truth is that whichever party is in power will want to get this right – you don't want a global audience running into billions watching a car crash. But I am confident that the party that helped devise London 2012 will be the government in power in 2012.
Would you like to see a Great Britain football team in 2012?
Gareth Carr, Newtown
It would be great if GB fielded a football team in 2012. I know this is something many people want to see and the BOA are determined to put a team forward. I fully support that.
If we get the World Cup in England in 2018, what are the odds of it coming in under budget?
Kitty Burton, London
The World Cup is an entirely different proposition to the Olympics. We already have world-class football stadiums, it is one sport (not the 26 at London 2012) and involves a fraction of the nations here in Beijing. So there is not the same need for a large budget for venue construction and we won't be combining it with the huge amount of regeneration we are doing in the Olympic Park. But many of the same issues apply: security and transporting thousands of spectators. Either way, I know we can stage a world-class World Cup in 2018.
What's been the best moment of this Olympics for you so far?
Alistair Glenday, Crewe
There have been many, but I particularly remember going to the Olympic Village last Monday and encountering Nicole Cooke the day after she won Britain's first gold medal in Beijing – not lying back in the face of all the plaudits but sitting on her bike, training for her next event.
What was your best and worst event at school sports day? Did you win anything?
Taniya Abidi, Luton
I was quite good at egg and spoon, and terrible at the three-legged race. Netball was my favourite team game.
Would you rather win an Olympic gold or be Prime Minister?
Bernard Wilton, Thatcham
Olympic Gold, without a doubt. Being prime minister is the most thankless task in the world. Everyone is convinced they could do a better job and lets you know it. But no one looks at Michael Phelps and thinks "I could swim faster than him; he's rubbish."
If the male members of the Cabinet were to take part in an Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling competition, who would win?
Katy Denning, Nottingham
I think this wins gold for Most Surprising Question of 2008. Most of my male MP colleagues need no encouragement to pump up their testosterone, so I won't name names. I spend a lot of time (often unsuccessfully) encouraging them to show their feminine sides instead.
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