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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
June 28, Norwich
You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in the latest programme to:

You can watch the programme online in Real Video by clicking on Latest edition.

The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: Is Ken Clarke a Conservative relic or is there still a place in the British heart for a tobacco promoting, euro loving Tory leader? You said:

The entry of Kenneth Clarke into the Conservative leadership race and indications of significant popular support in the country create the real prospect of all three party leaders supporting adoption of the euro and a consequent shift in public opinion. It is now clear what William Hague meant when he said that the general election was in effect a referendum on the euro. The future of the pound may well now rest with the membership of the Conservative Party!
Alan Marshall, Southampton

Should the Conservative party wish to be re-elected within the next 10 years they would do well to choose Ken Clarke as their leader. An earlier comment talks about not giving up principles for the sake of short term political gain. This (happily) appears to be the voice of a large majority of the Tory party who do not realise they are living in the politics of the past, and as such will remain wonderfully unelectable.
Peter Strachan, Glasgow

It is time the Conservatives woke up, and realised that only a strong and determined leadership candidate can save the Tories from political oblivion. Only Ken Clarke has the ability and experience to defeat Tony Blair and win a future term for the Tories.
David Simm, Wigan

Ken Clarke is clearly the best choice as Tory leader - he'll split the Tory Party, and they will become a nasty and very right wing grouping. People say "he's a great bloke", but he was a disastrous minister in the Tory years. He's had his time, so if the Tories elect him leader, go for it!
Leighton McKibbin, Bebington

Ken Clarke can never be leader of the Conservative Party. His views on Europe are incompatible with those of myself and the vast majority of Tory supporters. He should realise that our principles will not be compromised for the benefit of short-term electoral gain. I believe that there is a place for europhiles in the Conservative Party, but not as leader.
Derek Johnson, Birmingham

Kenneth Clarke will be, I think, the best man to lead the Conservatives. He has experience of government and will be a good prime minister for our country. Tony Blair must have a strong opposition to make sure he does not get his own way. I did notice slight fear on Patricia Hewitt's face at the thought of Kenneth Clarke becoming the leader of the Conservative Party.
Steve Fuller, Brighton and Hove

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Audience question: With politicians playing the bogus asylum seeker card and an increase in BNP votes should we really be surprised that racial hatred has been stirred up once again? You said:

I am sick to death of the racism issue. Britain is a great example of a multi cultural society, not a racist hellhole as some commentators would have us believe. Politicians should be trying to highlight the similarities between the races, and not the differences. Unfortunately, under this government, agitation has been stirred up as the term has been used to stifle debate and defile normal everyday unbigoted people. Who plays the race card, those who raise an issue of genuine concern, or those that tag that concern racist?
Steve Caron, Nottingham

In response to a member of the audience, Joel Edwards said that just because his church had made comments about some of the difficulties associated with homosexuality that this should not, by definition, label them as homophobic. This is fair comment. On the same principle why, just because somebody raises reasonable comment and question about immigration, ethnic minorities etc., should they be automatically labelled racist?
Paul B, Carterton, Oxon

I was extremely saddened by Rev Joel Edwards comments on homosexuality - in one breath he talks about 'humanitarian issues', and in the very next he is partaking in the very same rhetoric he is criticising the Conservatives for. That he complains about being branded a homophobe for 'voicing his concerns' over homosexuality is amazing - are we not allowed to exercise our freedom of speech to defend ourselves when he uses it to attack us?
Richardo Gladwell, Sutton

It is no coincidence that racial tension occurs predominantly in areas of socio-economic deprivation. It is now time for the residents of these areas to realise that the best method to improve their prospects is through unity and that there is nothing to be gained by anyone (save the BNP etal) from thoughtless scapegoating.
Stuart Howarth, Wigan

When you have poverty society will break down at its weakest point. It may be drugs, crime, or racism or many other things. Poverty is the key cause. Why is there poverty? Because the mills closed. The mills closed not because people no longer wanted the produce just that it was cheaper to produce the goods elsewhere. With globalisation and removal of trade barriers, periods of BUST, which will occur, will bring more such events as these.
T Chant, Exeter

It seems to me to be no suprise that the BNP's votes have risen. They are giving a voice to white British people. However politicians from all major parties seem more interested in representing minorites. It is obvious that the multi-cultural experiment forced on the British people by politicians has failed.
Paul Hemmer, Newcastle

Patricia Hewitt said that the Labour government had dealt with Kosovo so that refugees could return. How can I justify to my wife that once again, another six month tour away from my family is a worthwhile job, serving with the armed forces, when over 1m refugees still have not returned back to the Balkans even with relative peace.
Richard Gooderham, Colchester

I live in Hayes Middx and we have many asylum seekers around this area and most of the local people are very afraid to walk the streets at any time of the day. Well I am a taxpayer and am entitled to some protection surely. As for racism I work with Indians, Pakistanis, Germans etc and I can honestly say that racism is not a problem in this day and age unless the ethnic minorities make it one.
Kevin Reid, Hayes

I don't think there is any connection between 'bogus' asylum seekers and the racial tension the north of England. The communities there are long established and underlying tensions have been there for a long time though tolerated.
David Preston, Lage Zwaluwe, Holland (originally from Manchester)

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Audience question: Given all the media coverage of events in his country does anybody believe that Milosevic could receive a fair trial? You said:

I delight at the news of Milosevic's extradition to the Hague, but how ironic that the panel sit there as if their own nation and their past leaders are free of grievous war crimes themselves.
Oliver Williams, London

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Audience question: Do the panel think Tony Blair will see through his reform of public services bearing in mind he appears to have capitulated to the unions after only three weeks back in office? You said:

Funding healthcare - it's a simple question of maths. How can the private sector achieve more than the public sector with the same amount of money when on top of all the other costs they have to pay dividends to share holders and higher salaries to management? Some believe they can achieve this through greater efficiency. Have you been on a train lately? As one audience member said, New Labour's friends in the city stand to profit.
T Penwarden, Devon

It is plainly obvious to anyone with half a brain that if we are to keep the NHS and improve it greatly then it has to be the subject of radical reform. Let us not fight the brave and courageous stand the prime minister has taken, let's fight together to make our NHS second to none. The NHS is too important to us for all this bickering, and Ann Widdecombe would do well to remember that.
E Dower, Bedfordshire

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Audience question: Does the panel think that the publication of Denise Fergus's comments in the press will increase the likelihood of vigilante attacks? You said:

I find it quite sad that many of you expressing your views seem to be somehow always thinking about the killers rather than the victim. It's disgusting! The reason there could be a risk of vigilante attacks is not because of Denise Fergus' comments, but because the justice system in Britain is atrocious. Always favouring the criminal rather than the victim! Because of this, people are fed up and want to take the justice system into their own hands.
Paul Swan, Herne Bay

Whilst Denise Fergus's comments could stir up vigilante elements in our society it is up to everyone to understand where she is 'coming from'. As a mother of a child who died at the age of two unnaturally she needs society's support, help and understanding. It is not for us to condem two 18 year olds, who from the age of 10 have been in 'secure' accommodation.
Ric Lambert, Peel, Isle of Man

How utterly predictable that the despicable rags that masquerade as 'newspapers' in this country should use the distress and confusion of a bereaved mother to feed the sick minds of those who engage in so-called vigilante attacks. We should call them what they are, mindless criminals who use someone else's suffering as an excuse to satisfy their lust for violence. We should all remember that Denise Fergus has never been allowed to grieve properly for her little son. Fanning her natural emotions to sell papers is quite simply beyond the pale.
Ian Manning, March

I have deep sympathy for the family of Jamie Bulger, but I also see a need for forgiveness, not cheap forgiveness, but a willingness to move on and serve the memory of Jamie well, by not creating more violence. I also believe strongly that as a society we need to take responsibility for the murder of Jamie Bulger, we must remember that Thompson and Venables were only children themselves and that children act out of the environment they live within. It's time our society started giving children something worth living up to.
Jon, Bromley

I find the reaction to the release of Venables and Thompson very saddening. It is sad that many cannot find it in their hearts to forgive the admittedly abominibal actions of two 10-year olds who have now been reformed. I also find it very hypocritical for vigilantes to be intent on hunting down two child criminals when there are numerous adult murderers and abusers of children released from prison every year.
David Kadumukasa, London

Every society has to have forgiveness but not the ability to forget.
Moira Davie, Cupar

I do agree with a general point, which is often highlighted by sensible politicians/panellists. That is, that the media have the burden of responsibility and often fall short when it comes to righteous reporting of news.
Robert McKee, Fleet

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General comments on the programme:

Patricia Hewitt put up a superlative peformance on the programme. She answered some difficult questions with a great deal of clarity and intelligence. Ms Hewitt will prove to be a valuable asset to the government over the next parliament.
Yilmaz Mamedy, Bradford

I am left-leaning so this should not be seen as a partisan comment. Patricia Hewitt should hang her head in shame. If politicians are to be taken seriously again they must be able to react with some degree of independence to legitimate questions. Patricia Hewitt sounded as if she was reciting some memorised script from central office (when she bothered to answer at all).
Michael Mather, Hull

Tony Blair has often been accused of surrounding himself with "cronies". Surely after seeing Patricia Hewitt on Question Time we must adjust that to Tony and his "clonies". Her mannerisms were exactly those of the PM, her head nods, eye positions, speech patterns, pauses etc, all so similar that I wondered if some genentic engineering was taking place within the Labour party. Perhaps by 1997 we will have a cabinet full of Tony's!
Gary James, Bexleyheath

Patricia Hewitt ignored questions she didn't want to answer. She has a very patronising way of speaking and tries to spin out of everything by talking about the last Tory government. The last Tory government is becoming more distant each day and is no longer relevant. No more excuses please. I thought Nick Cohen was very good. He goes through government spin like a hot knife through butter!
Wendy Jones, Exeter

Having watched tonight's programme I now fully inderstand why the electorate is so tired of politicians and stayed at home in their millions at the general election. I do not believe that Patricia Hewitt MP has ever had a sincere thought in her head and certainly has never uttered a sincere answer to any question. I have voted at every occasion I could up to now but even I feel that this level of total insincerity is too much to take.
Keith Pearson, Gloucester

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