For most of us, a general election campaign is the only time we ever meet that strange creature, the British politician, and those who aspire to become one. But forewarned is forearmed. Here is a list of questions to wipe the grin off the faces of even the most smug candidates: the questions that the party’s candidates would least like asked. They are not trick questions, merely those which highlight inconsistencies and contradictions in the parties’ programmes and records. Cut them out and keep them in a handy place. If the wannabe on your doorstep can answer them convincingly, then he/she may yet be deserving of your vote.
Six questions for Labour candidates:
1 What benefits has Britain derived from the “special relationship” with the US which Tony Blair has made such a priority, to the extent of taking us to war in Iraq?
2 You pledged not to introduce top-up fees in your last manifesto. How can we trust your promises this time?
3 How can the government afford £1.5bn a year to keep UK troops in Iraq, but not the estimated £1.1bn a year for free care for the elderly?
4 What happened to Tony Blair’s promise that everyone would have access to a National Health Service dentist?
5 Why, when 66 per cent of people are in favour, will you not renationalise the railways?
6 How can you say unemployment has shrunk under Labour, when record numbers of people of working age (eight million) don’t have a job, including 2.7 million on incapacity benefit?
Six questions for Conservative candidates:
1 Will your cuts in “wasteful public spending” include the £3bn a year in subsidies to privately owned rail companies?
2 How can you claim to be the party of “law and order” when you supported an illegal war in Iraq?
3 Why have you championed the accession of the former communist countries to the EU, but want to deny their citizens (unlike other EU citizens) the right to work and live in Britain?
4 Will the 20,001st asylum-seeker be sent home, as required by your quota system, even if he or she, like Michael Howard’s parents, is fleeing persecution?
5 Why, when the UK has the lowest road death toll in the EU, do you want to increase motorway speed limits and cut speed cameras?
6 How does your claim to be concerned with “social justice” square with your plans to freeze the minimum wage and pull Britain out of the EU Social Chapter?
Three questions for Liberal Democrat candidates:
1 You promise to abolish tuition fees. How can we believe that when Lib Dems in the Welsh Assembly voted with Labour to continue them?
2 Why, if you support military action only when approved by the UN Security Council, did you support the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia, which was not sanctioned by the UN?
3 Why, if you are so keen for Britain to become more European, are you opposed to ID cards, used in 21 of the 25 EU member states?
Two questions for Green candidates:
1 How does your policy of working for “significant reductions of immigration controls” square with your policy of promoting “debate on sustainable levels of population in the UK”?
2 How do you square your support for promoting “health and well-being” with your policy of legalising soft drugs?
Two questions for Ukip candidates:
1 Why do you oppose loss of sovereignty to the EU, but not the loss of sovereignty entailed by joining the North American Free Trade Agreement?
2 Why, if you oppose the EU, do your MEPs continue to draw salaries from the European Parliament?
Two questions for BNP candidates:
1 How can we believe that you are “tough on law and order” when, up till quite recently, 13 of your 28 regional or branch organisers had criminal records for offences that included assault, fraud, theft and possession of drugs and weapons?
2 Why, when your leader denounces Islam as “a wicked, vicious faith”, is your newspaper printed by a Saudi Arabian firm?