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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 16:47 GMT
December 14, Maidstone
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The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: I'd like to ask the panel if they think that the farcical election of the US president struck a blow against democracy across the world? You said:

I think it was appalling that the man who took the White House was fighting a battle in the courts to stop votes being counted. I also think that a revote should have been called as soon as those in charge of running the election realised that mistakes had been made.
Rachel Extance, Maidstone

Much as many US voters have a right to feel let down by the voting system employed by the three Florida counties, the fact remains that no one can ever know for 100% certainty who won. Therefore a decision had to be taken. Now that is has been made it must be respected by all in a peaceful and gentlemanly manner, of which Mr Gore set an impeccable example.
Chris Willcox, London

When will you silly Brits stop being so obsessed with all things American? Why don't you stand up for your vastly superior election technology...the pencil and paper! None of you Brits seem to realise that in the US a politically motivated supreme court actually stopped the world knowing the truth about this was a coup d'etat against the democratic will of the people by the conservative establishment.
Jon Marks, Rochester

The idea of all people voting and a small percentage not having their vote counted must leave a bitter taste in the mouths of all those who advocate government for the people by the people. It is disingenuous to ask a person to vote and then to disregard that vote when it does not comply with the ideology at that time. It is also preposterous to expect that a state, namely Florida should be the pendlum in which the axe falls, and the vote is decided.
Antonio Baidoo, London

Jamie Rubin commented that America is the "oldest democracy". For the record America abolished slavery in 1860. The British Empire had done so 30 years earlier. America has never been a pace setter in the liberalisation of western society. Today the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is decades behind the European Convention on Human Rights.
Christopher Sexton, Crowthorne

In agreement with Mr Goodger's comments, it seems clear to me that what is required of any sound democracy is a decisive constitutional requirement for the resolution of statistical ties, thus relieving legal bodies (which even if not politically appointed, are necessarily beholden to the political biases of their members) of making difficult and subjective decisions which are not conducive to unanimous decision making.
Anthony Hucklesby, Sevenoaks

Has the US election exposed the selective and contrived form of democracy that America has for so long imposed on the rest of the world, particularly 'developing' countries?
Richard Warth, London

Don't count the votes of people, count the votes of judges. Is this the new world order?
Nazar Hussain, Birmingham

The response from the American was that the election was unique in that it was tied and that has never happened in US electoral history. He was in fact wrong - in 1896 the Democrats won a tied election after much legal wrangling. Coincidentally there were problems with the count in Florida.
Ken Goodger, Newport

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Audience question: Are William Hague's comments regarding the effects on crime figures of the Macpherson report an indication of the depths the Tories will sink to in order to gain support? You said:

What was James Rubin trying to imply when he stated that his friend wrote an article about whether he would employ a black man in his shop and that his answer to that was that he wouldn't? I felt the comment was unneccessary and discriminatory. In addition, it was irrelevant to what he was being asked. He should remember this is not America where they are blatantly racist.
Toyin Bower, London

This issue appears to be entirely about the race of the perceived perpetrators and not the crime itself. If the issue really was about the crime, then the Tories and a lot of the white community would devote as much time questioning why worse crimes like paedophilia appear to be committed almost exclusively by white men.
Chid Fredricks, Golders Green

There is no doubt that Macpherson had a more damaging effect on the police in this country than anything else in history. Nevertheless, I find it bizarre that on two occasions now, people have attacked Hague for playing the "race card". What does this fatuous statement mean? Surely Hague does not want to argue points in order to expose himself as racist!
Mike Shaw, Sheffield

I thought that the way in which this question was posed was offensive and provocative but it is symptomatic of the desire in some quarters to supress any dissent on certain issues by insult rather than entering into reasoned, `grown up' debate. The deeply flawed Macpherson report is one such area. Read Hague's speech in full before you make your mind up - he was spot on!
David Hearnshaw, Stockbridge

I was profoundly displeased with the comments uttered by Hariett Harman MP on your last programme. How can she denounce William Hague with regards to his speech about the Met Police Force. All her government can do is brand the Conservative party, racist but in fact, the Met Police are a microcosm of the people and thus, if they are racist, the people are racist.
Alexander Brodkin, London

Having been a serving police officer for 21 years I am still amazed at how many people who have had little or no experience of policing seem to know best when it comes to the fundamental basics of crime prevention and detection. Of course the service is understaffed and morale is at an all time low. What can you expect when the average pay of the bobby on the street is under £400 per week. I know lorry drivers who can earn more.
Jack Bowler, Basildon

I cannot believe the remarks I have heard on your programme today. The completely racist remarks made by Iain Duncan Smith and some members of the audience have brought back the dark days of the rivers of blood speech!
Mike Hayes, Nottingham

To solve the problem of racisim we must not highlight it so much. Racism will die only when it is ABSENT from our society, NOT when we all become experts on what to say and what not to say. The answer is so simple and it terrifies me that people with such influence in the world cannot see it.
David Pledge, Guernsey

As an ethnic officer I am proud to be associated with the service and it is very satisfying, rewarding and challenging work. However, I am uneasy at Mr Hague making these unfounded comments and I believe he is on very sensitive terrain and remarks like these cause racial tensions in the community.
Zubair Khan, Birmingham

Is it any surprise that William Hague is playing the race card again? Unfortunately the current leadership of the Conservative party are indeed quite racist, and I believe that we the ethnic minority communities can see that for ourselves. I hope that no black people ever vote for them.
Abdou Touray, Ilford

It is interesting that despite the number of stops and searches going down, the number of arrests, as pointed out by David Dimbleby has remained the same. If anything Macpherson has led to the police becoming more efficient as they now have to be more focused.
Arthur Putey, Guildford

William Hague's comments are in line with the widely-held view that the present government pander excessively to minority groups, with the result that policies tend to favour such groups - Mr Hague is clearly wishing to bring equality back to the the situation. The vast majority of our police are highly professional, and will use stop-and-search only when necessary.
John Mann, Birchington, Kent

The Metropolitan force, and by extension the whole service, have been vilified both in the press and by politicians, who are elected to serve the people. I feel that as a serving police officer who, to the best of my ability, serves the public on a daily basis, I have been betrayed by the representatives that have been elected to serve the people and I know that I am not alone in this respect.
Anthony Leighton, Swansea

I have unfortunately witnessed at close range one murder with a handgun in Brixton, London. I know of at least three other murders in the past 6 months all of which are commited by young black males. The young black criminal community is running arround Brixton with impunity with police morale at an all time low! William Hague should be congratulated for having the courage to speak the truth however unpalatable that may be for the liberal elites.
Claude Partridge, London

As soon as anyone mentions levels of crime committed by ethnic minorities they are hysterically branded as "racists." The Politically Correct Brigade, of which the BBC appears to be in the forefront, would have us forever keep silent, and not voice our justified fears and criticisms. Keep on speaking the truth, William Hague, the silent majority is with you all the way.
Mrs Estelle D Davis, Leeds

I listened to the panel talk about William Hague's comment about crime going up since the Stephen Lawrence case. This means that it's members of the black community who commit crimes in this country and if this is so has the panel ever thought about why it is so. Don't you think all this is because of racism? Unless racism is tackled everywhere then we will always have problems.
Veronica Kararwa, London

The ridiculous comments made by Iain Duncan Smith were as unacceptable as they were blind and ignorant. To try and deny that the Met does not suffer from institutional racism is like trying to deny that women do noy get paid less. The fact of the matter is that whilst there is no doubt that there are decent police officers in the Met there is a general culture which discriminates against a number of different groups.
Andrew Tucker, Sydenham

William Hague has once again proven that no matter how hard the Conservatives try to be more inclusive they can only offer policies and ideals which are divisive. He states (incorrectly) that because police are reluctant to stop and search ethnic minorities for fear of being termed racist, that this has caused a direct rise in the number of crimes taking place. Does this not suggest then that ethnic minorities in the main are the cause of rising crime?
George Sabapathy, London

Iain Duncan Smith seemed to be saying he disagreed with the report. If so, why not just say it, instead of the usual politician's attempt to weasel out of the question? Also, the report never said the majority of the police were racist, only their procedures.
Roger Inkpen, Portsmouth

I cannot understand why the media had to nitpick about Mr Hague getting a few figures wrong to try to undermine what he was saying. The fact is the man on the street agrees with him on crime. I don't believe the problems are connected to race in any case, it is more to do with a general decline in society, due to many factors.
David Mansell, Braintree, Essex

Our government's statistics regarding blacks who are stopped and searched are very distressing. As long as the so called scales of justice continue to tilt in favour of our police force we can never truly call this country, a democratic society. I believe within the next century weżll replace police officers with police robots who will be programmed to give objective responses regarding matters of race.
David Pearch, London

If there is one thing I hate about society it is political correctness. These days anything negative against blacks or minorities is automatically considered racist! I hardly think William Hague is a 'populist' if he's got the guts to speak out the truth even if it means stepping out of the boundaries of political correctness!
David, Cardiff

I totally agree with Michael Winner and Iain Duncan-Smith. The MacPherson report castigated good and honest officers with the 'institutional racism' label and destroyed their morale. The sad fact is that violent crime is up and it is also a fact that black-on-black crime is up. Why? Because the police have to walk into a political minefield created by the Labour party in order to solve these crimes.
Michael Thomas, Uxbridge, Middlesex

Thank goodness there are still some politicians around such as William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith who have the guts to face up to race associated issues such as the higher crime rates in the black community. These problems have been so politicised by left wing loonies the problems are now almost impossible to address. Ignoring these problems and calling everybody who tries to deal with them racist is utterly disreputable.
J Watkin, Den Haag

Ian Duncan-Smith was getting away with inferring that the MacPherson report accused ALL policemen of being racist, when it did no such thing. Mr Hague uses emotive issues like the high crime rate among black youths to further his real aim: that of appealing to the lynch mob mentality of racists and xenophobes.
If nobody else is prepared to say it, I will: the views of the man in the audience whom Harriet Harman refused to answer represent precisely the danger I am talking about. If those views are translated into election winning votes, then this country is in real danger of inheriting the pariah status of the old South Africa.
David Chamberlain, Wokingham

Michael Winner was a breath of fresh air. He was absolutely right about the police. The problem in this country today is that if you dare to disagree with the Macpherson report you are a racist. That report has done immeasurable damage to race relations in this country. The police are after all simply made up of ordinary citizens - but you need to be very brave to venture into this debate.
AM Peterson, Ormskirk

A disproportionate number of street crimes are committed by and against young black men. That is a fact, instead of prattling on about political correctness and calling people racist perhaps some thought could be given as to why this is the state of affairs.
Nick Williams, Walsall

How often I get the feeling that William Hague makes a headline grabbing comment which he doesn't actually believe. He is obviously driven by populism in everything he says, and he was when he played the latest of his race cards. Unfortunately, his comments on this issue are deeply divisive, irresponsible and offensive. We're not stupid though and hopefully there are enough of us who want a more inclusive less racially divided society to keep the Tories out for a very long time.
Simon Carman, London

As a serving police officer I am relieved that this issue has at long last been brought to light. Police morale is incredibly low and it stems not just from the Macpherson report but from the racism within the upper echelons of the service. In that ethnic minority officers are being promoted and given better postings over their white colleagues, irrespective of their ability to do the job.
John, West Yorks

Police numbers are down, as they always are at times of high employment. Look back to the late 50's, 60's and early 70's and the police found it difficult to recruit. Whenever there is a downturn in jobs like that which occurred in the late 70's and 80's and early 90's you have high police numbers. Now that there are good jobs available people do not join a dangerous job with unsocial hours and not relatively high pay.
Bill Paterson, Oldham

There is simply too much emphasis on the issue of race. The issue is crime. Yes there are racist policemen, just as I am sure there are racist doctors, lawyers, dentists, gas fitters etc. This does not mean that the institutions to which they belong are racist in themselves. I think the comments that they are now being forced to over-react over this issue are correct.
Peter Nutt, Hartlepool

I am really pleased to read that some of the email writers were as equally appalled as I was at the implicit and not so implicit racism that emerged on the programme this evening around the question regarding Hague's comments. It worries me listening to Iain Duncan Smith. Are the Tories moving to the right, way extreme right because they perceive that they have a following that is substantial? If so, Labour had better get on the case and get their voters out at the next election.
Hilary Radnor, Exmouth

The Tories are right to challenge the Macpherson report and the Labour government over the current state of the police force. What happened to the Lawrences was an awful travesty, but it shouldn't inhibit the debate. The sad irony here is that it is Labour that are trying to play the "race card" - as a way of distracting us from rising crime rates.
Dominic Dinardo, London

Harriet Harman's remarks about how the police are not suffering from low moral are utterly ridiculous. The scenario is more complex than just pay, housing allowances, reduced staffing numbers or having to cope with the complexities of a multicultural society. I suggest that she meets police constables rather than commissioners and perhaps she will realise the truth of the matter.
Roger Loads, Solihull

Speakers like Iain Duncan Smith show that they are more out of touch than ever with the voters of the forthcoming election. They come across as a racist right wing party willing to grab onto any issue and create much hysteria in the process.
John Burns, London

I am beginning to feel that being a white person of no religion/CofE and working in any area that could be said to be an institution of Britain that automatically makes me a racist and not just a racist but hateful particularly of black people, and what does black and white mean anyway?
Claire Walker, Witney

The salient point is that blacks are over represented in prison, in stop and search, in poor housing conditions, in diagnosis of schizophrenia and it is this over-representation that highlights issues of institutional racism where, because of colour, individuals are ghettoised. I am 30 and of mixed race and feel the yob element is the one William Hague is appealing to.
Donna Gordon, Leeds

Racism is rampant - ignoring and assuming it does not exist only worsens the situation. You cannot know racism until you are on the receiving end of it - then you may have a better understanding.
Colin, Nairobi

There are thousands and thousands of decent, honest police officers. Thank you Michael Winner for the support you have given. It is true to say that since Labour took office the moral fabric of this society has all but been broken down. Harriet Harman and this government need to listen to the people who elected them to power, only to discover that they were actually voting for a morally bereft set of individuals.
Alison Bebbington, Stockport

Iain Duncan Smith banters on about a few bad apples in the police force who should be "hounded down" and refuses to accept that there is a force wide problem. For years this is what they have said about mistakes in the NHS - refusing to accept that there is a problem with the system not individuals.
Suneil Ramessur, Hammersmith

For the last three years I have seen crime in my area get so much worse and have been attacked in the street on numerous occasions. So I would be happy for stop and search to come back in full force.
Richard Wakeman, Camberwell

Police officers should have the opportunity to stop people without the threat of being called racist by politicians with a point to prove. Therefore what Mr Hague is doing is asking for equality rather than the special treatment of ethnic minorities.
Tony Jacques, Birmingham

Surely the fact that the government has recently awarded the Met a £6000 London allowance will solve their housing difficulties whereas the teaching population of London have had theirs cut despite a massive crisis in teacher recruitment in all subjects at primary and secondary levels.
K Mackey, London

It is my belief that comments made by certain panellists tonight, causes great anxiety within society and explodes the great divide within our multicultural community. Surely it is a matter of the major parties working together to ensure that the disgraceful handling and investigation of incidents like what occurred during the Stephen Lawrence case, never repeats itself again.
Adrian Bishop, Purley, Surrey

I am disgusted with the Maidstone audience and their attitude towards the police's indiscriminate use of stop and search. No one is against the legitimate use of stop and search by the police. Mr Hague and the Conservative party just show their true colours. As I understand it, the Macpherson committee based their report's conclusion after taking evidence from around the country.
Anthony Sotande-Peters, London

I am appalled at the behaviour of Iain Duncan Smith who is obviously out of touch with his own government. The report into Stephen Lawrence's death was not wanted by the Conservatives because they knew it would show up more of their failings and because Labour did the decent thing by having the inquiry they are being blamed for police morale being low.
Frank Whisken, Thetford, Norfolk

I think that race relations have improved since the Macpherson inquiry. Today's comments by William Hague were very irresponsible and he may have undone years of hard work. Police morale might be low but the Macpherson report is not to blame.
Andrian Greenfield, London

If Mr Hague thinks he will win votes with his latest "race card" I hope and pray that British people will resist his small-minded nonsense. As a real Labour supporter, as opposed to "new" it is a timely reminder that there are differences in the parties and thank God there is.
Ashley Roach, Halifax

If the police service is not racist why have they been installing video cameras in police station cells and considering video cameras to monitor inside all police vehicles? Is there any connection to the over-representation of black people's deaths, whilst in the custody of police?
Francis Corrigan, London

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Audience question: I'm personally horrified having a teenage daughter at the thought of the morning after pill being so easily available in the new year. What does the panel think? You said:

No one mentioned the fact that the pill can only be taken twice.
Miss M Loveridge, South East London

I thought Harriet Harman was wrong in her views on the morning after pill, but the most annoying aspect was when she ran through the precautions for pregnancies she blamed uneducated girls and careless boys. Well I'm sorry but I think girls whether educated or not can be equally as careless regardless of education.
David Lyttle, Airdrie

I think that it needs to be pointed out to a number of people that accidents do happen even to those who do take precautions. I had a friend who had an accident over a bank holiday weekend. Trying to get hold of the morning after pill proved extremely difficult with the time restraint. Had it been available to buy a lot of stress could have been avoided.
Nefra Germain, Milton Keynes

Having had a baby at 16 myself, we have to tackle the attitudes of children when it comes to their perception of how "cool" it is to have sex. Sex education needs to teach people about real sex not just the science of sex in order to discourage young people from making mistakes they have to live with for the rest of their lives, whether that involves a baby or not.
Sarah Trew, Tiverton

Why did nobody on the panel mention that the morning after pill is just an early abortion?
Paul Smith, Ayr

Contrary to what Harriet Harman says: in my young days, when most mothers did not work, and sex education in schools was practically non-existent, there were far less teenage pregnancies.
John, Stirling

I thought the levity led by the chairman regarding situations which can lead to misery and family breakdown most inappropriate. It was also significant that not one person had an atom of morality. It seems that morality only applies to more important matters than human conduct.
Derek Yirrall, Tring

Instead of offering the morning after pill as an 'easy option' to get out of an unplanned pregnancy, the government should be directing its efforts into encouraging more responsible attitudes towards sex in the first place. It should not just be assumed that young people will inevitably have sex.
Ruth Gill, Cambridge

Family Planning clinics need to be available for young people to go to for advice and privacy and where they will be spoken to as responsible young people, as there will always remain an issue with parents who do not see there children as young adults untill far too late.
Jools Lauder, Aldershot, Hants

It is imperative that young people have choices. More important than this is the fact that education must improve so that the decisions and choices they make are based upon factual information. They should not be forced into making a decision because they've made a mistake.
Peter Wordley, Bolton, Gtr Manchester

Harriet Harman gave a very impressive list of all the reasons why there are rising numbers of teenage pregnancies. She failed to mention however the fact that it is politically incorrect for society today to cast judgement on these young women and there is no longer any shame associated with having a child outside of a stable relationship.
Wendy Blythe, Barnstaple, Devon

Surely this debate opens up the wider issue of exactly what the public should be able to accept responsibility for in the purchasing and taking of drugs and medicines which we are currently forced to obtain on prescription only. This practice is "a nice little earner" for the government, when in very many circumstances, the drug costs very much less than the current cost of a prescription.
Michael King, Bredfield, Suffolk

I was surprised at the comment made by Harriet Harman when she said that the moning after pill must be safe otherwise they won't be selling it over the counter. I'm not a parent myself but I can easily agree with some of the parents who strongly feel against it! The moning after pill has various side effects.
Yuko Long, Llanelli

I was absolutely appalled to see Michael Winner, someone who tried to turn rape into a spectator sport in Death Wish II, being asked to comment on contraception and turn it into a knockabout laff.

That Harriet Harman should preface her remarks on the morning after pill with the plea that one must "take the world as it is" is the complete contradiction of politics, education, and progress of any kind. Why, oh why, in the debate on unwanted pregnancies does no one ever mention the idea of self-restraint? The repeated sniggering that went on among the panel and the chairman at the innuendoes made about Winner's "bachelorhood" is just a very thin end of the wedge.
John Melia, Southport

I fear that the arguments put forward by Matthew Taylor were consistent with his party line, weak. The idea that a baby should be aborted simply because his/her mother is a 'school or university student' is abhorrent and should be rejected. Liberal politicians must realise, as must James Rubin, that the rights of the woman do not outweigh those of a person whose life begins at conception.
Peter Stanley, Liverpool

I do not normally agree with Harriet Harman on any subject, but on the topic of the availability of the morning after pill, she is completely right.
Antony R Hipkins, Leicester

Harriet Hartman reckons that education is the answer to teenage pregnancies. I can assure her that as a young man almost 50 years ago girls experienced the same sex drive they experience now - they did however have the strength of will power to say no. We have greater sex education in this country than in most of Europe but unfortunately we do not have the same level of family commitment.
R Bryant, Newington

If we make the morning after pill more easily available it will be abused. Women and girls will see it as an easy way out and will become less careful than they otherwise would be. It is also a means of abortion because once the sperm fertilises the ovum a new life is formed. It only takes a few minutes to happen and it may be hours before they get the pill. This is legalised murder and we will all be responsible for it.
Mrs Monteith, Thamesmead

Nature has a far older and more reliable way of preventing unwanted pregnancies: Don't have sex with people who you don't want to have babies with. Simple. As a young girl I was put under pressure to have sex far younger and more often than I'd have liked because the availability of the pill made it consequence-free. Women don't usually like sex as much, or as often, as men and it's time you men got used to that.
Jo Kirton, London

I think everyone missed the "real" point here. Why give something away, especially in a promiscuous society like ours, when you can sell it?
Liam Green, Rotherham

Sex education is now excellent in secondary schools. I am a secondary teacher and I am always very impressed by the quality of what I see being taught. There are other real issues with the level of teenage pregnancies however. To deny them, or to deny young people easy access to the morning after pill is a "head in the sand attitude". It could prevent youngsters from ruining their lives.
Justin Frank, Maidstone

Can Harriet Harman explain why a working mother sets a good example to her daughter not to get pregnant rather than a mother who stays at home and cares for her own family?
Sara Worton, Altrincham

On the subject of teenage pregnancies and the morning after pill, I was puzzled and angered at the way the debate deteriorated into a joke. Why is it that a man being promiscuous or having unprotected sex is regarded light-heartedly as a "busy man" whereas a woman is scapegoated, judged, and discriminated against.
Frances Corr, Glasgow

The morning after pill encourages people to have unprotected sex, hence STD infection rates will increase, including HIV infections.
Stefan Oloffs, London

I think that the morning after pill is a good idea because things happen. We need to teach our children the right way to behave and the things they should use.
Derek Wright, Haverhill

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Audience question: Is the apparent lack of progress on European integration at Nice the beginning of the end of the federal Europe bogeyman? You said:

What are we all so afraid of? European boundaries are constantly changing, what does it matter where we are governed from as long as the government is democratic and effective? We have lived in a multicultural society for at least the last two thousand years. I also thought that we were all supposed to be equal partners in Europe not that Britain, France, Germany and Italy should bully smaller countries into obeying their will. One country, one vote!
Rachel Extance, Maidstone

By opposing the rapid reaction force, and by assuming that no British government could ever act independently of US wishes, the Tories are equating their much-loved British sovereignty with Britain's complete dependence on the United States. I am against militarism, but if the rapid reaction force helps Europe and Britain to act independently of US interests, I am for it.
Stewart Crehan, Alsager, Crewe

I rarely have time for Michael Winner, however he asked the very pertinent question: 'Who will this European Army point its guns at?'. This seems to me the most vital question and as yet unanswered in the public debate. How long will it be before those guns point in the direction of America or the East. Most will consider these scenarios unthinkable.
Tom James, Morpeth

As a serving member of the armed forces, I watched with interest the comments about the EU force. Within our profession the vast majority are opposed to any organisation that will move us away from Nato. If only in purely financial terms the cost of duplicating Nato command structures is something our already cash strapped forces cannot afford.

Do we really need a new European army? Surely Nato has been doing a good job for a long time. But what bothers me is that the structure is already being set up before the debate is over. Is it going to be presented to the general public as a fait accompli or even worse has the decision been made and all the public debate is just a cosmetic.
Tel Warne, Plymouth

What has been ignored both by the panel and the audience is the complete franco-phobic attitude taken by both the media and politicians with regard to this topic. I wonder if such a negative 'them and us' situation would have emerged after Nice had this 'Euro army' idea been proposed by a less traditional 'enemy', such as Holland or Sweden.
Chris Phillips, Melton Mowbray, Leics

Harriet Harman says that we will of course take on board what our primary allies (US) thinks. Well even if we wholeheartedly agree with them the decision to side physically with them ie with our army, will be taken out of our hands as we will have to debate what to do with our 'mutual' forces with the likes of the French, who did not even want to go against Saddam Hussein! We should keep our own forces under our command.
K C, Bexleyheath

Jamie Rubin is already beginning to sound like a Republican. But he misrepresents Bush's views on US troops in Europe - Bush wants to get them out. So should we. Nato was a response to a threat from the Soviet Union, something which no longer exists. There is no future need for Nato. The sooner the USA stops interfering in Europe the better.
Dr Martin Duffell, Barnet, Herts

If a conflict arises in Europe and the rapid reaction force is engaged to remedy the situation what happens if Nato categorically objects to such an engagement?
Mike Mullins, Chesterfield

Have more guts about the European army. Don't just do what America says...think for yourselves and see where your true interests lie. Only the French have been bold enough to begin this process so far. It may have teething troubles, but it's a start...and a good reaction to George W's election!!
Jon Marks, Rochester

Do the euro-sceptics in this country not envisage that most of the developed countries in the world in 100, 200 or maybe 500 years' time will be working within a single economic framework with a single global currency, or do they think it will still be clattering along with several hundred disparate and localised currency zones with all the inherent instability which this brings to the global economy?
Jon, Cheshire

Michael Winner's comment about Britain's role in the Balkans was empty, frivolous and devoid of compassion. Our action was honourable and praiseworthy. We fought two world wars to eradicate tyranny from Europe and it was raising its ugly head once more. The government are to be congratulated on the action they took and surely Michael Winner's view, although he is entitled to it, is not shared by any decent thinking people.
TH Phillips, Swansea

Let us not skirt around the real subject of the rapid reaction force. It is being created in order to undermine American world supremacy which is needed to establish a balance in world once again (I am referring to the days of the cold war). This will be advantageous to Europe and to developing countries.
MR Bond, London

I think that a European superstate is a good idea. We are no longer an empire, and the idea of the nation state is outdated. A federal Europe will make us more powerful. We can still have democracy within this superstate.
David, Edinburgh

It seems Michael Winner is from the old school of thought where anyone whose first language is not English is an enemy. He should move with the times and realise that the world is getting smaller, and we must all look after our fellow human beings, of whatever nation, not use them as scapegoats for the ills in the NHS and schools.
Raymond A Goslitski, Orpington

A question for all the British people: do you want to be a part of Europe, a satellite state of the USA or stand alone? If you chose to stand alone your future isn't looking bright. Britannia doesn't rule the world (or the waves) anymore. If the British people and government keep putting off this decision, the UK will suffer. Not only by losing economic power and jobs but by missing the historical evolution of united European power. We want you to joint in this unique project, but won't wait forever!
Joachim Snyers, Antwerp, Belgium

Concerning the continuing integration of Europe, is it not significant the way the language has changed? At first we were told about the " common market " then later references were made to the "European economic community" and now all we hear is about the "European Union". Is this not reminiscent of the transition made in Orwell's 1984?
Bob Brindley, Nottingham

My comment concerns the last remark Mr Winner made about Bosnia and "poking our noses into another country's business". How could any moral society stand by and allow genocide and how can Mr Winner compare that to the waiting lists of the NHS? It may cost millions of pounds of tax payers money, but what is that to the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women and children who have been tortured and murdered.
Darren Byer, Folkestone

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General comments on the programme:

I was interested to read the emailed comments about the audience. While watching I too got the distinct impression that the audience was biased and in my opinion not a fair representation of the opinions that one hears day to day in this area of the country.
TS Relton, Maidstone

I think Question Time is a truly wonderful programme and having watched it for many years, I do like Mr Dimbleby, he is far more subtle than Robin Day. However, there is one thing which really does annoy me about David Dimbleby. He refers to people in the audience as 'That Man or That Woman'. I really thought that he had more manners.
A M Ford, Norwich

Unfortunately it is inevitable that the audience in such a programme is biased towards those that are more politically vocal. Unfortunately this means that there is always the air of intimidation against anyone who speaks out for the proportion of the population who is worried about the way this country is heading, eg decriminalisation of drugs, availability of morning after pills, and drop in stop-and-search rates. These are issues pushed forward by the so called 'politically correct' trendies - somehow the rest of us need our voices be heard without being heckled.
Ken Hori, Cambridge

The Tory party are carrying nearly two decades of real policy baggage, rather than the hot air of opposition. It is therefore inevitable that most of what is currently offered by them will be the subject of, at best, aggressive argument and often ridicule. I see little evidence of the Dimbleby bias claimed elsewhere on the forum. Labour weakness is regularly attacked but their policies are only just starting to have an impact.
Peter Walker, High Wycombe

Though I am no fan of Michael Winner, I do respect his right to have a say. In any case, the flippancy of his remarks removed what little credibility they had in the first place. Also, if we don't acknowledge the existence of views such as those of Mr Winner, how can we effectively argue against them?
Gary Dring

It seems so unnecessary in these high-tech times for Mr Dimbleby to have to identify participants in the audience by referring to their clothing or other feature ie "you in the blue shirt and yellow tie". Is it not possible for the audience to have key pads which would identify them by number. If the high-tech approach is not feasible why not use a simple card with a number that can be held up by those wishing to participate.
Peter Lloyd Jones, Brynaman, Ammanford, Carms

I listened to Harriet Harman with so much distaste that my mouth has gone sour. She epitomises everything that is pathetic about politicians today. When confronted by a serving police offiicer she comletely avoided his remarks as if she knew better.
Steve Flanigan, Blackpool

I think it quite discriminatory that you plan to charge viewers 25p per minute on the phone to volunteer for your audience. You will alienate the very people that should be questioning our politicians.
Dave Ferguson, Kendal

In future Question Time programmes why not select a question from the internet or telephone classed as viewers question?
Mike Mullins, Chesterfield

I agree with Marcus Hudson. If Question Time is being funded by our licence fee then it should have an equal left/right wing audience! Also why have the last two Amercian panellists been Democrats? It would be nice to hear the views of a Republican, before they and George W Bush are slammed as xenophobic right-wing nutcases by our own media!
Matthew, Cambridge

Why was Michael Winner invited to sit on the panel this week? It is a pity that the BBC have delved even further into the sludge at the bottom of the barrel than usual this week.
Ben Colburn, Greenwich

The BBC should not give the likes of Michael Winner air time. The ignorance and bigotry he displays are not worthy of what is meant to be an intelligent debate.
Celia Savage, Cranleigh, Surrey

James Rubin is obviously very intelligent and astute. I hope he gets an appointment which uses his obvious talent.
Richard Wiseman, Glasgow

I would like Question Time to be longer in its transmission. It's is a rare opportunity for guests to confront politicians and others but it is always disappointing when it finishes. Some events need extra time. The guests need extra time to counter arguments put by the panel. If it were longer maybe it could then incorporate within its structure "on line" debate also.
Nigel, Birmingham

As this was the last programme before Christmas would it not have been prudent of Mr Dimbleby to have wished the viewers a HAPPY CHRISTMAS? Well I hope you have one!
Paul Velissarides, Woking

I feel tonight's programme was spoilt by inane and trivial comments from Michael Winner. Please have people on the panel who have something sensible to say.
John Fletcher, St Leoinards-on Sea

I am afraid that I got so bored that I just turned over to another channel. I may be back later. Never have I seen such a panel so devoid of charisma or intelligence. Please try harder as in the past you have had some very incisive debates.
Andrew Timms, Ampthill

Do you not believe there should be a more cross partisan crowd on Question Time, as the crowd seems to errupt in applause any time anyone says anything against William Hague or the Conservatives.
Marcus Hudson, Brighton

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