Chris Grayling: You Ask The Questions

The Shadow Home Secretary answers your questions, such as 'Are you an attack dog?' and 'Do you dance as well as President Obama?'

Monday 26 January 2009 01:00

What would you do on your first day as Home Secretary? MICHAEL UNDERWOOD Havant

I'd do two things. First I'd abolish the Government's ID card scheme. It won't make our security better, it may well make it worse and the tax payer needs a £19bn bill like a hole in the head. And secondly I would immediately scrap some of the absurd form-filling that is keeping our police off the streets, leaving too much antisocial behaviour and crime to go unpunished.

Are you an "attack dog" as you have been labelled in the media? DIANE HARRIES London

The primary role of an opposition politician is to hold the Government to account and there is a lot to hold them to account over. I make no apologies for that. But I'm not quite as "ruthless" as some of my political opponents seem to believe.

Do you agree with your predecessor that people should challenge anti-social youths rather than report them? CATHERINE TANTER Bakewell

Dominic Grieve announced policies to protect those who intervene to stop a crime from being unfairly prosecuted themselves. It is not about saying people should challenge antisocial behaviour regardless, but offering them protection them if they do. Of course I agree with that.

What would you say if the Government appointed a senior minister who is on the record as disagreeing with one of its major policies, like Ken Clarke does with yours on Europe? ARJUNA SINGHLiverpool

Appointments should be made on merit and what is best for the country. That is how I would judge any government appointment.

Given that George Osborne is so hopeless, shouldn't David Cameron have just sacked him rather than bring in Ken Clarke to fight the Tory cause on the economy? CATHY SHARPLEY Bath

Of course not. George Osborne is not hopeless and has, over the past 18 months in my view, been extremely effective in challenging Gordon Brown's economic record. His analysis has been proved correct and his ideas – like the loan guarantee scheme – have been adopted by the Government. The country is in economic crisis and Labour clearly have no ideas about getting us through it. Ken Clarke is the ex-chancellor who brought us out of the last recession and he has valuable experience to bring to bear on the current problems. By having both George and Ken in the Shadow Cabinet we have the best economic team in Britain. That can only be of benefit to the country.

If there was an issue you felt strongly enough about, would you copy David Davis and resign to fight a by-election over it? And what would that issue be? DENNIS HILL Glasgow

I admired David enormously for the stand he took, and for putting his career on the line for a cause that he believes in. I share his concerns about civil liberties. I would certainly put principle before career if I felt strongly enough about an issue. It hasn't happened yet, but maybe one day it will.

Crime fell by 3 per cent in the last quarter. That's good news, isn't it? LIONEL MURDOCH, Oxford

Any fall in crime is welcome but that is based on the Government's discredited British Crime Survey. Recorded crime statistics show violent crime has gone up by over 80 per cent under Labour and latest statistics showed an 18 per cent increase in robbery with a knife in the last year. What is more, we have seen the first increase in burglary for years as the Government fails to address property crime caused by the recession.

Is it inevitable that crime will rise in a recession? MARINA CORBY, Birmingham

Based on past experience, and the latest crime figures, it certainly seems very likely. That's why the Government and police have a duty to redouble their efforts to make sure more people don't become victims of crime in a downturn. At the moment the Home Secretary seems to have little idea how to do this.

Should the Government listen to its expert advisers and downgrade ecstasy to class B, or just pander to populist hysteria and leave it as it is? POPPY CARSON, Luton

Ministers are appointed to listen to the evidence and then take responsibility for decisions themselves. There is overwhelming evidence that ecstasy is a lethal drug. Ministers should do the right thing and maintain its current classification.

Have you ever taken any illegal drugs? If so, which ones? STEVE MACINTYRE, Aberdeen

I think politicians have the right not to answer this question, but i am happy to. No, never.

I hear you disagree with your party's opposition to the expansion of aviation and a third runway at Heathrow. True?JAMIE WHITBREAD, Chesterfield

Actually, I was the person who – when I was Shadow Transport Secretary – first proposed our alternative policy; a high-speed rail line linking Leeds and Manchester to Birmingham, Heathrow, London, Paris and Brussels. That will take huge pressures off Heathrow. So I will be voting against the third runway this week.

You used to work at the BBC. Do you think it suffers from a liberal bias? GARY HUME, Didcot

Well, even Andrew Marr has admitted it has an "innate liberal bias". There are a large number of high-quality professionals working in the BBC, particularly in news and current affairs. But I know from the experience of working there that there is a bias in some output, not as a result of an intentional policy, but because of the way many people who work there see life. It's a problem that needs to be addressed, but I am also aware that it won't be straightforward for BBC management to change things.

What is Gordon Brown's greatest achievement for the country? What is David Cameron's? What is yours? NINA WATTS, Rock

The one thing I think Gordon Brown has got right was focusing more attention on helping developing countries – but he's messed up so many other things that he won't be remembered for his achievements. David's so far has been to offer the country a real, credible alternative, which is crucial given the real trouble families are facing.

I don't think I will be able to claim real achievement for the country unless we win the election and spend time in office, but I do think that the welfare reform proposals I helped shape last year will have a big influence in the future of the welfare state under whoever is in power.

To show all Tories aren't from the same background, you said that you have "an old council flat near Victoria Station". But in fact you have a family home in Surrey, your London flat, and two other London properties you rent out. So wasn't your statement dishonest? NIGEL JARRETT, Portsmouth

No, in a light-hearted moment I was asked whether my London home was in Notting Hill, and I said no – and told the interviewers that my flat in London is in an old council block near Victoria. Which is true.

As a cricket fan, how do you feel about the Ashes only being on Sky this year? RACHEL HOPE, London

I want to see as much cricket as possible free to air but that relies on terrestrial broadcasters submitting a realistic and competitive bid for the packages available. If the ECB were to be forced to accept an artificially low bid, investment in cricket's grassroots would undoubtedly suffer.

In April you'll be 47, the same age as Barack Obama, and he's President. Does that give you an inferiority complex? KIMBERLEY PERRIN, Burnley

Afraid not, that would be tragic. But I do admire him immensely for what he has achieved, while not envying him at all the personal sacrifices he and his family are making. I hope he succeeds in improving the economy and the international situation.

Can you dance as well as Barack Obama? CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, Hartlepool

Definitely not! When it comes to dancing, my feet are made of lead.

Why do you think it is it that so many Tories are bald, chinless, or both? ALICE PETINGELL, Dumbarton

They say baldness is a sign of virility!

Why on earth did you write a history of the Bridgewater Canal? Can you tell me one interesting fact about it? PAUL OSTER, Leigh

It was a nepotistic project – my father ran the company which had grown out of the ancestral estates of the Duke of Bridgewater, who built the canal and hired his history student son to write its history. The canal kick-started the growth of Manchester into an industrial city, by bringing easy, cheap coal to it for the first time. It also starts in a network of underground canals used to dig the coal.

How do you have fun when not writing books on inland waterways? DAVE GREENBY, Manchester

A lot of my spare time now seems to be taken up with football – either watching Manchester United or the team my son plays in – or if I get a free Friday night, playing five-a-side badly.

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