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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
July 5, London
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The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: Where do you think William Hague went wrong and as leader of the Conservative party what would you do differently? You said:

Michael Ancram last night said that the leadership campaign must be fought on the qualities of the candidates in leading the Conservative party and not on personality. What utter rubbish - William Hague was an excellent politician who lead the party very well. But despite the respect I have for Hague, it was his personality the public disliked - they didn't like HIM and couldn't imagine him as prime minister.
Roddy Peters, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

I have to say that the way to win the next election lies in seeing all five contenders for the leadership of the party, all of whom came across superbly, unite in opposition of the current government. What a strong team they would have made were they only prepared to work with each other!
Nigel Keene, Maidenhead

Last time I voted LibDem, as I could not trust Hague's rightwing team. I respect Clarke as he is honest and has no time for "spin" which is just what's required! I also watched Portillo tonight and was impressed - if he is for real and not playing a role maybe Portillo is the future. It's good to finally look at a leader and feel inspired by both and not have to just make do with the least evil of the pack. I'll vote Conservative again if Clarke or Portillo win.
Timothy, Newbury

The reason that the Tories lost the last election is that before they started talking about the pound they banged on about tax cuts, while the Labour party was talking about spending more on public services. Now all the candidates think they can just start talking about improving education and the National Health Service. Are they going to do this with while still cutting taxes?
Peter Ellington, Milton Keynes

There is one factor that consistently annoyed me and made Conservative and Labour look bad - not giving a straight answer to a straight question. We could have stood out from the crowd if we stopped parroting slogans and gave the kind of logical and reasoned answers we heard this evening.
Chas Newport, Barton St David, Somerset

All five leaders elect talk about redefining the Tory party. There will be a whole raft of policy changes and even U-turns for the sake of becoming a more electable, centrist party. In effect this means all five candidates are saying they want to lead a New Tory party that doesn't yet exist - how can they do that?
Geoff Anderson, Bewdley

I accept that there are issues that need attention in those council estates that Mr Portillo alluded to, but as somebody who has inherited life in middle England and finding it difficult to survive what future can he or any of the prospective Conservative leaders offer those like myself finding it difficult to live outside those council estates, with no private health, pension, allowances or future of state help?
Gareth Crawshaw, Olney

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Audience question: Under what circumstances would you consider joining the euro? You said:

If the Tories must talk about the euro, they should make the reasons why we should keep the pound relevant to people's main concerns. They should focus on how the euro will mean higher prices, higher taxes and restrictions on public spending. People care deeply about hospitals, schools and the police. The keep the pound policy is correct - the Tories failed by not making it connect.
Stuart Coster, Hatfield, Herts

I found the recent programme fascinating, but I am puzzled. There was much debate about joining the EU. Wouldn't Britain lose its autonomy if it joined the EU? I understand that there are many who look at the economic factors, but what about your sovereignty? The political climate could change at any time, when you are dealing with almost a dozen nations.
Aaron Spalding, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA

I thought is was fascinating that all the Tory leadership candidates favoured "talking less" about Europe. If anything they need to talk more now about Europe - but amongst themselves and their supporters. Only by doing this can they ever hope to lance the boil of their obsessive europhobia and move towards a more mature and acceptable position. Then, and only then, can the issue of Europe be allowed to move comfortably down the policy agenda where it belongs.
Will Mayor, Tufnell Park

If the Conservative party is to adopt the view that we should not join the euro because the greater the level of centralisation the less that economy will suit outlying areas (eg the UK) then surely they will condone the break-up of the UK into its member nations on similar grounds?
David Sharp, Troon (in Ayrshire)

I am a 58-year-old male who first voted in 1964 and at every election since. I voted Tory at each one up to and including 1987. Since then the increasingly anti-European policy has turned me off. Regarding the potential leaders Ken Clarke is the only one talking sense. Duncan Smith would be a godsend to Mr Blair and the others could not run a whelk stall.
Jim Wright

Why seek a leader when the Tories as a party don't have a clear policy on Europe and the euro. Hague was not vague on that and more's the pity he could not get the party together. I am a card carrying Conservative at present but will not be if they don't state clearly that they will rid us of controls from those unelected bureaucrats of Brussels.
John Pullin, Bingley

I know that Kenneth Clark is pro-European so was he brewing beer with the Trappist monks and does he know their views on Europe?
David Preston, Lage Zwaluwe, Holland, Originally from Manchester

Ken Clark cites agriculture's problems as being an example of not being in the euro. He obviously does not realise that European legislation is largely responsible for putting the industry in the mess it is in.
Andrew Caunce, Ormskirk

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Audience question: Isn't it time the Conservative party advocated the legalisation of cannabis and established itself as the only truly liberal libertarian force in British politics? You said:

Western societies do not need cannabis.
Una, London

"Jonathan" must have tried quite hard to track down a statistic on the EMCDDA's website that appears to support his views! I would suggest readers visit the website and judge for themselves. The isolated statistic he quotes is suspect and misleading. The fact is, Dutch policy does work, however many people claim the contrary.
Beverley Jackson, Amsterdam

You might point out to Beverley Jackson who has two young daughters that hard drug use is much higher among 15/16 year olds in Holland than in the UK. According to the latest report of the EU's European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug abuse it is over twice as much as in the UK.
Jonathan, London

I am tired of hearing Amsterdam depicted (eg by Ken Clarke) as a drug-ridden den of sin. I have two daughters, and I worry far more about the traffic than about drugs. In our open society drugs are not a great problem. Now my daughter, who grew up in Amsterdam, is studying in London, and finds herself surrounded by far more drugs than here. A lack of information, a lack of openness - those are the really dangerous things.
Beverley Jackson, Amsterdam

Alcohol and tobacco can cause major health problems to people but would be extremely difficult and unpopular to criminalise as they are currently widely used. This is not the case with cannabis as it is currently an illegal substance and while it remains an illegal substance its use in society is more restricted as it is more difficult to obtain and its possession is also a crime. It makes sense to have the line kept where it is and to keep cannabis illegal.
Dominic Montgomery, Huddersfield

Ken Clarke made a great point during the debate on the legalisation of cannabis that it has never been proved cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. I should like to point out that it has also never been proved that cannabis is as dangerous (or more dangerous) than alcohol and tobacco or that cannabis is more carcinogenic than tobacco, a great point he made later in the programme. This lack of knowledge is due to a long lack of research into the subject due to the government's unwillingness to comment on this subject
Tim Wintle, Newbury

The reason why cannabis may lead to hard drugs is precisely because it is illegal and the supply chain is the same as harder drugs. In a controlled legalised supply chain such as that established under the licensing laws for alcohol and tobacco cannabis would not represent a greater danger than it does now.
Juan, London

I keep on hearing people who are against the legalisation of cannabis say it leads onto harder drugs. With all the people who take cannabis, what do these anti-cannabisers think lead these users onto cannabis - alcohol and cigarettes maybe?
Dean Daley, Balham

Cannabis can lead onto harder drugs I freely admit but it depends on your character. I smoke cannabis yet hold down and excel in my career for a major British charity. Legalise it, tax it and you get rid of the criminal element.
Richard Pickett, Wakefield

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Audience question: I'd like to ask the panel do they think it's important in leading a political party to be a "remarkably normal family man"? You said:

None of the candidates answered my question properly re 'normal family man'. I would have liked the panel to have deplored Tebbit's snide remark which, ironically has possibly backfired AGAINST Duncan-Smith. Interestingly, Portillo off loaded the question onto Tony Blair saying he had no idea what attending a state school would be like and merely had to 'imagine'. A bit rich coming from a member of a party where 99.9% went to private schools.
Elizabeth Whey-Harries, London

The comments made by the panel would appear to show a certain amount of homophobia. Surely it is society's duty to treat all members as equal regardless of age and sexuality. It is further important to protect all children from unwanted advances regardless of their sexuality. To imagine that it is only gay men that will make predatory advances towards children is ludicrous.
Andrew Simmonds, Wintebourne Bassett

When asked about the age of consent, Ken Clarke said his decision to vote for 18 and not 16, was nothing to do with homophobia. It was about protecting "6th formers from older gay men". His decision was inherently homophobic as it was based on a stereotype of a predatory abusive older gay man having sex without the consent of a younger partner. Also, presumably, these older gay men are only interested in younger people who are studying for their A-levels? I'm confused. And gay. But 30, so I guess I'm safe.
Danny, London

It is no use the Tory leadership candidates trying to pretend that personality or personal background has no relevance to the choice of leader because although they will not declare this openly, they know, full well that this will influence the voting in a General Election and therefore, unless they want to shoot themselves in the foot once again, they must choose an ELECTABLE leader.
Paul Gabriel, Grantham

Why do people always think that young men need protection from older gay men? Why is it everyone seems to think that just because you are gay you are immediately attracted to young people and are unable to keep your hands off them? If the young people are gay they are gay and do not need protecting from anyone.
David Butler, Bromley

Clearly nothing will change in the Tory party. Portillo refuses to respond to a question on Tebbit's homophobic comments about himself, Clarke continues to believe the much touted but frankly untrue and insulting suggestion that older gay men are simply predatory to sixth-formers and the rest of the panel would prefer an unequal age of consent. Against a back drop of a party which embodies homophobia, it appears they have nothing to offer me, even with a new leader.
Mark Edwards, Southampton

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Audience question: How will the panel attract young voters considering that the average age of party membership is 60+? You said:

When will the Tory party realise that young people want to be part of Europe? By refusing to entertain the euro they are losing our vote.
Rachael Smith, London

As a 19-year-old I feel there are limited policies a government can adopt to help the youth of England and Wales. However I do hope that the leadership candidates take a few minutes from their busy schedule of spin-doctoring and concentrate on some of the matters that influence our lives such as university, employment for under 21-year-olds and cheaper, quicker, more efficient public transport.
Rupert Burnell-Nugent, Modbury, Devon

I think all the candidates are wasting their time courting the younger voter. Most kids are very concerned about cruelty to animals, and presumably all the famous five are pro fox hunting. No what they must do is what Margaret Thatcher did to win. They must appeal to all moderate wage earners who want to pay less tax.
Alan Whittle, Nottingham

The issue of the disinterest of young people in the Conservatives goes to the heart of the matter - in the same way that old, irrelevant Socialist baggage made the Labour Party unelectable in the 1980s, I suspect that the old "core" Tory values of family, church and country that have been driving policy are now hopelessly out of date. It's not just that younger people aren't interested, the rhetoric based on these values sounds very "old-fashioned" and this itself is a big turn-off. You need to concentrate on choice and efficiency - not bang on about the Queen's head on our currency and immigration. Sorry - very major surgery is needed to get through this one!
Steve Jones, Manchester

I am a student and was interested in what the candidates had to say regarding reaching out to the youth vote. Portillo's analysis is fundamentally wrong. The idea that we need to change the party's 'tone' is nonsense. People want their politicians to speak clear English in an honest fashion. So if our policy is to detain all asylum seekers on the point of entry for example, then it's right that that should be said with clarity and honesty and the electorate will eventually respond as Duncan Smith was saying very wisely. David Davis was also right to say that politics has lost much of its idealism.
Hywel Carr, Colchester

If the Tory party want to win back the young voters they need a young vibrant enthusiastic person to identify with. They need something done for them - tuition fees abolished so they will not start off in work with terrible debts. A lot of the people in the country can identify with Tony Blair who has a young partner and a family and the wife works. Looking at those five candidates last night, even though at least one of them was still in his 40s - their attitude was staid and not fresh. Is there any such person in the Tory party to fit my thoughts?
Ruth McGregor, Glasgow

In my opinion leadership should go to Ken Clarke. Having being left baffled by the responses of Michael Portillo, Ken Clarke answered questions directly and to the point. Not many politicians can do that! At 27 and never voted, I'd make the effort if Ken was leader.
Nigel, Southampton

The Tory party has no credibility with young voters after making them out as thugs in their election broadcasts. The only mention of youth in the Tory manifesto was under crime. This is totally disgraceful.
Alon Or-Bach, Golders Green, London

The Conservative party appears an "old" party. There is no clearer image of this than at party rallies when the leadership addresses row-upon-row of pensioners. I have every respect for the wisdom and experience that elder people can bring to the party. However, until each and every audience appears (on average) middle-aged, middle-classed and of mixed ethnicity, there can be no possibility of the membership of the party increasing. It desperately needs dynamic people in their 20s who wish to engage in the issues of today and tomorrow, and help drive policies into reality.
Alex, Exeter

Young people appeared to be disillusioned by politicians of all parties, not only by the Conservative party. All politicians are now seen as being in politics only for themselves, showing loyalty firstly to their parties with their constituents in a distant second place. Until politicians are seen to act in the interest of their constituents rather than their political masters, then young people will continue to be cynical about all politicians and will opt out of the political process.
Michael Murphy, Glasgow

If the Conservative party are going to involve the younger population then they are going to have to not only inform us better but more exhaustively. The term informavore is now in usage, meaning a consumer of information, and at the height of this movement are the young. I suggest leaflets should take more than three minutes to read. Newspapers do (well the good ones) and people read these on a daily basis.
Richard Fletcher, Sheffield

It would be a great incentive to young people if a party pledged to abolish tuition fees and bring back grants. I have just finished my first year at Cardiff University, and am nealy 4000 in debt just with my loan, I've no overdraft or other debts. I also work in the holidays, and hope to find a part time job that will not interfere with my studies.
Claire Sanderson, Penryn, Cornwall

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Audience question: What to do you consider to be your weakest point? You said:

When asked what was their greatest weakness, all but one of the candidates gave somewhat flippant answers. Only Kenneth Clarke actually told us what he believed was a genuine weakness, and said that he tried to correct it! We need a leader with integrity and honesty - we already have a prime minister with flippant answers.
Marian Clarke, Reigate

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General comments on the programme:

Mr Ancram made a comment about his daughters not knowing what the Conservatives stood for in the last election. How will he be able to convince the whole nation about his policies if he is unable to convince his own daughters? Mr Portillo made a comment about the lack of decent Conservative policies during the last 3-4 years. He was the shadow chancellor at the time - why would we believe in him producing any decent policies in the coming 3-4 years?
Magnus Axelsson, Southampton

Having watched Question Time tonight I became more impressed with David Davis. His replies reflected a sound grasp of the main issues and a depth of sincerity we expect but rarely see in our politicians. If Mr Davis became leader, I have no doubt Mr Blair would not win the next election.
Sue Kaye, Laxton

Michael Portillo came across as the most genuine candidate with genuine answers to the questions that were posed to him, while the others seemed to have fixed answers to every question - the so called "politicians answer" which does not go down well - especially with me. Answers like this you expect from the Labour Party and the Lib Dems, but not from the Conservatives. If I was to have a say I would vote for Michael Portillo again and again. He has the charisma, the looks and he is more than capable of leading the Conservative party to victory at the next election.
Pamela Howarth, Harrogate, N Yorks

I hope that I get the chance to vote for Michael Ancram as I feel that he can lead the Tory party to a new beginning and sure success.
Liz Roberts-Morgan, Cardiff

Unfortunately modern politics is about personality, what a shame that the Conservatives have not got a strong woman candidate.
Barbara Young, Lincoln

The programme brought home how much Portillo has been hyped - ambiguous uncommitted answers delivered in a suave monotone will impress no one. To me (and I'm not a Tory) the winner was Iain Duncan Smith. Immediate, sensible, considered answers, which also show that he actually believes in something. He is the only one who is a true leader and therefore the only one that New Labour should be afraid of.
BD Mooney, London

Michael Ancram so clearly loves his country and his party. Easily the best candidate.
Chris Gillibrand, London

It was a pleasant change to see politicians sitting round a table and not sniping at one another like children. It is that kind of display of maturity and integrity that will win back voters. One of the biggest challenges British politicians face is to inspire HOPE in young people, because that is what is missing in the hearts of far too many. Whichever leader can achieve this will lead their party to victory in the next election.
P Crowson, Chingford

It should be of no great surprise that the candidates were generally agreeing on most issues, as they are all Conservatives. Ken Clarke himself has said that the only real differences are over Europe but at least he's willing to create a shadow cabinet which reflects all opinions. Surely if the other candidates continue with their dogmatic approaches to this subject they will suffer the same consequences as previous leaders.
Carl Shovlin, Durham

I think that the candidates are missing the point. The Labour party had to ditch Labour principles and completely re-invent themselves to get into office. The Tories must do the same. I think that maybe a new name might help.
George Bridge, Southport, Merseyside

It seemed incongruous that six almost interchangeable [including Dimbleby] middle-aged, rich, white men should feel that they could understand and represent the views of a society increasingly diverse and fractured. It felt like a previously undiscovered episode of Walking with Dinosaurs.
Mal Simon, Blackpool

I am 57 years of age, and after watching the latest edition tonight I would support none of the contenders. Having always voted Tory not including the last election (I didn't vote) none of the candidates up for leadership of our party come across as remotely in touch, all still appear to be stuffed shirts. When will they find a person worthy of the leadership, who can communicate with the public, and STOP saying what they think we want to hear.
Marje Mitchelmore, Javea, Spain

Oh how my heart sings! I am a member of the Labour party and I've just seen the leader of the opposition! Not one of those on the panel looks or sounds like they are genuinely the least bit interested in what anyone who earns less than 40k a year thinks or feels! For god's sake go back to being honest - you look after the rich, at least I could respect you for letting us 'mere mortals' know where we stood.
Christine Ainsley-Cowlishaw, Oxford

Question Time was excellent - the star of the show was the bearded guy in the red 'polo' shirt in the audience who showed more acumen and intelligence than several of the politicians. Great viewing so congrats all round!
Ian Dewhirst, Wallington

Congratulations on a superb and interesting programme. I have certainly been able to make up my mind which candidate I will vote for (if he gets into the final two). Thanks also to Mr Dimbleby for being extremely restrained and not interrupting the panel all the time, unlike some other presenters, who seem more interested in promoting their own opinions.
ED Davis, Leeds

I would suggest a new face in the form of David Davis, who seems a person with good credentials and sound behind-the scenes experience, would be a good choice. As he said, an unknown name might be no bad thing. I agree.
Marion Arkell, Coventry

Excellent programme. All five candidates came across impressively, if not equally endowed with recognisable "leadership" qualities. It was especially useful to observe the less well-known candidates, and I thought David Davis emerged with credit. I wonder if the other parties could have fielded such an impressive quintet.
Maxwell Betts, Norwich

The lady who had the knife out for Michael Portillo failed miserably. Before the programme I was undecided but now I hope Michael Portillo wins. He showed he has understanding of us mortals and has great leadership qualities.
Tom Brady, Glasgow

I found it interesting that unless Ken Clarke had answered a particular question before them the rest of the panel prevaricated and didn't answer a question directly. Does this imnply that the rest of the panel looks to Ken for leadership?
Keith Clayton, Grimsby

I was very disappointed by the way David Dimbleby suppressed the important issue of tax cuts, raised by a member of the audience, indicating that "we would come to it later" - but this never happened. Surely, a major reason for the Tory defeat was that the party called for better public services combined with tax cuts, but never explained convincingly how this could be achieved.
Eleanor Ellington, Milton Keynes

Iain Duncan Smith is the most convincing person, after Michael Ancram.
David Waddleton, Eton

I can't tell you how stunned I am to have seen five politicians discussing complex and controversial topics on television intelligently, honestly, candidly (for the most part), and with respect for the opinions of others. Even more stunning is the fact that when your audience asks those very intelligent and succinct questions (not something we often see in American politics), the members of your panel actually answer them! I wonder if any of these men would be willing to be kidnapped by aliens and placed in positions of authority in the United States?
Paul Russo Stone, San Antonio, Texas

Why won't Michael Portillo answer the questions he is asked?
Pete Barnet, Nottingham

Having watched Question Time, I still do not know who I will vote for in the battle for a new leader!
J Mitchell, Wiltshire

After watching 10 minutes of five self-centred, dogmatic politicians who don't listen to the electorate or even the audience, it is no wander they lost the last election and it appears in the last two months they have learned nothing. What is more, in spite of what they say, they have the worst record on the environment of the three main parties.
Anthony Boyland, Ilford, LB Redbridge

What is left for the Conservatives when our best hope is M Portillo?
Mark Rowland, Wellington

Were I a Tory I would vote for Clarke (I don't agree with him but I trust him). I don't agree with the others AND I don't trust them. As a Labour voter I hope Portillo gets the leadership for then the Tories will never regain power.
Si Bishop, Ipswich

While policy issues are the most important reason to vote for a leader, image too has its part to play. The only two people who are dressed like a leader are Michael Portillo and David Dimbleby. The others are all rather shabby.
Michael Townsend, Battle

I feel that Ken Clark is the only credible leader for the party at this time. He is the only heavyweight candidate with political clout who will bring much needed accountability to the Labour party. I feel that if the country were voting on this, Ken Clarke would win hands down.
Mario Rodrigues, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Who cares? I am fed up with hearing about the Conservatives, they get far too much coverage. We need a strong opposition - not more grey men like Mr Major.
David Anderson, Monkton, Prestwick

The Conservatives lost my lifetime of support when they lurched to the right. Only Ken Clarke will regain my vote and membership of the party.
AR Shakeshaft, Poole

In the 1980s Mr Portillo was a right-wing extremist who jumped as high as Margaret Thatcher asked him to jump. Now he talks of compassionate conservatism and moving to centre ground, because this is fashionable and a way to win votes. As recently as six months ago, Mr Portillo categorically denied any designs on the Tory party leadership. Now he claims to be the only man for the job. Why should he expect anyone to forget these facts and believe anything he says, let alone elect him as leader?
Ian Waldron-Mantgani, Liverpool

I am generally a staunch Labour supporter, but had to log on specifically to comment on the debate. Ken Clarke is consistent, credible and the only REAL candidate for the leadership.
Debra Silkstone, Belper

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