Wow! What an informed and articulate audience! If there was ever an argument for extending suffrage to the 16-18 year old age group then last night’s broadcast proves it.

I would have blogged this live, but since the untimely demise of my iBook and the now elongated repair time from Apple I had to make notes old-school style with lead and tree fibre. I’ve tried to capture Sarah’s point of view on the subjects raised and capture a few quotes. Here goes…

Audience question: Do you think it was the correct decision to allow Yusuf Al-Qaradawi into the country?

Sarah supports a ‘moderate course’ of tolerance. At this point in time, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has not broken any of the laws of this land and, as such, he will be tolerated in this country until such time as he breaks the laws of this land. She did not want to see the UK go down the same route as America who profile air passengers and pre-screen entry using a variety of data sources that passengers “can’t review, let alone dispute”. More on EU/USA data sharing…

Audience question: Does the panel believe that the proposed restrictions on smacking will turn many good and loving parents into criminals?

Sarah is opposed to the smacking of children and feels that this area is somewhere that the state should ‘extend the same protections of adults to children’. For Sarah, legislation in this area should be all or nothing. Ban smacking, protect children. She said that not smacking was about setting the right example to our children as it ‘teaches them not to lash out’ in situations of fustration andangere.

For me, a smacking ban is pointless as it is not possible to police. However, if the end goal is some sort of social engineering project for a peaceful andharmoniouss society, then I’m all for the goal, just not this method.

Audience question: Both Blair and Howard are promising choice in education in the next election, but who is offering the most choice?

Education, Education, Education.

Given the age range of the audience, education was bound to be a hot topic for the show. On the question of ‘Choice’ in education, I have to agree with Jimmy Carr; ‘You don’t need a policy on choice, just better schools’.

It was funny to hear David Lamy and Boris Johnson split hairs of the definition of the words ‘choice’ and ’selection’ – two words that really shouldn’t be attached to the delivery of public services. We, the people, don’t choose or select to have poor education or health services in our local area. And while the capitalist mantra of competition driving up standards works within a competitive free market, it is not the way to deliver public services.

In answering the question, Sarah observed that neither Labour nor Conservative offer ‘meaningful choices’ as what people want are good local schools. Sarah recently called an ajournment debate in Westminster Hall on the subject of fairer funding for Brent schools.

Audience question: Has the government ever considered that the university fees aren’t the problem, the 50% target is?

Well, I don’t know what happened to Sarah on this one. I had expected her to come out firing on this one, after all she’s paying off a student loan herself! The issue of top-up fees is an area that Sarah has campaigned about recently and voted against in parliament.

Audience question: As 16 year-olds are able to smoke, get married, have sex etc, is it right that the voting age is still 18?

Having described votes at 16 as a “Question of Fairness”, this was a subject Sarah was keen to discuss. She sees the extension of suffrage as a way to encourage the habit of voting to combat disenfranchisement among the population. She said that encouraging representation of young people in Parliament would bring about a “better standard of democracy”. As she wrote in the local Times/Chronicle series, “young people are interested in politics, it is often politicians and political parties who they are disinterested in.”