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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
TV debate: The voters' verdict
Ballots must be returned in the leadership contest by noon on 11 September
Opinion is divided on whether the debate will affect voting
BBC Two's Newsnight debate was the public's sole chance to see Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith debate head-to-head - but it is only Conservative members who can choose the next Tory leader.

So what did they make of the clash? BBC News Online asked some senior Tory activists for their assessment.


David Pinsent, former chairman of Surrey East Constituency Conservative Association

I think it would have reinforced people's existing opinions.

For people who are undecided, I think with the best will in the world Iain Duncan Smith came across far better.


For people who are undecided, I think Iain Duncan Smith came across far better

He did not get rattled, he came up with some new ideas and did not just hark back to the past.

I support Iain Duncan Smith and the debate reinforced my view.

I wanted to hear more about the economy. You had half the programme on Europe, 10 minutes on health and 10 minutes on education.

John Downes, chairman of Basingstoke Constituency Conservative Association

I thought it was really an internal discussion and people should not read too much into it.

I think it was unfortunate they both dwelt on the issue of Europe, I think they would have been better talking about the way forward.


This kind of public performance is great showbiz but I don't think it will change many people's minds

A political party is there to become elected and form a government and I think Ken Clarke is more likely to achieve that than Iain Duncan Smith, who is another version of William Hague without the charisma.

I have been to several of these debates and quite frankly it is a lot of buzz words.

This kind of public performance is great showbiz but I don't think it will change many people's minds.

Bill Soane, chairman of Wokingham Constituency Conservative Association and Berkshire Conservatives

I was not happy with the way the whole thing was set up. I felt the presenter did push the Europe issue a bit too much to start with.


Both parties handled themselves very well and they showed they could work together whoever wins

Both parties handled themselves very well and they showed they could work together whoever wins.

I don't think either of them had the edge.

I have already decided to vote for Iain Duncan Smith and last night's debate will have changed nobody's vote.

Barrie Priestley, chairman of Aylesbury Constituency Conservative Association

I thought Jeremy Vine kept it on Europe for too long but I also felt Ken Clarke, whom I support, scored better than Iain Duncan Smith.

I think Iain Duncan Smith revealed that if he got the leadership, on Europe the party would lean very much to the right and Ken Clarke managed to get him to concede that.


Some people will view it that the party is being truly democratic in arriving at the leadership so openly

The debate will change people's votes but a lot of people have voted already.

I think the general public would have said: 'Oh dear, they are at one another's throats again' but some people will view it that the party is being truly democratic - and I think it is - in arriving at the leadership so openly.

John Brady, chairman of Salisbury Constituency Conservative Association

It was an absolute fiasco. I was very disappointed.

I thought that three-quarters of an hour on Europe slating each other was not what we needed, it gave the wrong impression.


I thought that three-quarters of an hour on Europe slating each other was not what we needed

I'm a Ken Clarke person but I thought Ken did not do himself justice on that particular debate.

I would have liked the candidates at least to have had some strategy to talk about the real issues which the electorate are interested in.

John Wilkin, president and former chairman of Holborn and St Pancras Constituency Association

My impressions were that the general perception before hand was that Ken Clarke is supposed to be the most experienced debater but by no means did he get the better of Iain Duncan Smith, whom I support.


Clarke just bullies all the time but Iain answers questions quite calmly

I would even go so far as to say that Iain edged it - Clarke just bullies all the time but Iain answers questions quite calmly.

Clarke is always accusing the party of staying on the subject of Europe but as far as I can see it's him that's keeping the Europe issue open.

I suspect the majority of members have probably made up their minds but it may have helped to swing it for some of those who have not.


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