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Question Time Vote 2001
David Dimbleby
May 23, Manchester

You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in the latest programme to: questiontime@bbc.co.uk

The topics discussed this week were:

Twenty points behind in the polls - what are you going to do about it?

Audience question: The General Election is two weeks away. Your policies seem unpopular, your public image is dreadful and you're 20 points behind in the polls. What are you going to do about it? You said:

If Labour get back in after June 7, it will amaze me how many ignorant people there are in this country. It will be too late by then so we have to look to the common sense approach of William Hague. For instance, it's not how much money you spend but how you use it.
Joanna Horsley, Derby

Any attempt by Mr Hague to form a government would be farcical when his party contains so many divisions. After a term in opposition they have yet to sort themselves out. Surely one of the key reasons for Labour being so far ahead in the polls when they aren't actually saying anything is that the alternatives (ie the Tories) would be worse.
Emily Cox, Nottingham

Is it not time we started to elect the party to form a government which seems at the time most likely to recognise our problems and will try to solve them. Tony Blair was given his chance and according to many of the electorate he has not delivered and they are fed up with him and his government. William Hague is now entitled to that same chance. He has a record of succeeding in whatever he takes on - surely more important than the way he looks or sounds. If he fails then we don't re-elect him.
Patricia Henderson, New Malden

I cannot understand why so many people in Britain are, according to the opinion polls, intending to re-elect this government. If re-elected we will become a region of Europe within 10 years. If that happens, I say to all those who mistrust our politicians, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Richard Akehurst, Northampton

I have much admiration for any party that wishes to "take on" our country's problems, but unfortunately I will not have my vote wasted in a popularity contest. Why do each and every party seem to think that they will win our votes with evasive and emotive language.
Lisa Berrill, Whitwick

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Would you join the euro?

Audience question: I would never join the euro. Would you? You said:

I am one of the people whose job is directly at risk if we were to join the single currency. Mr Hague is right to say that he will only set policies for the next parliament - surely that's why we have elections every four years - and, even though there are no long-term guarantees about not joining the euro, I feel much happier to vote for the only party that categorically states that they would like to retain the British pound.
Spencer Davies, Fambridge, Essex

The idea that a euro referendum could be rigged is lame. With a huge portion of the electorate against the euro and with talented orators like himself, I can not understand how William Hague can even think his side would lose come the referendum. The June 7 election is a general election - not a vote about the euro.
Pascal Jacquemain, Croydon, UK (French)

I don't think Germany and France have lost any of their sovereignty by being a member of the single currency. I don't understand why we are talking about sovereignty when debating on the single currency. I think we should join if our economic interests are served. Tories are confused over whether or not to join. They cannot say what they will do with the euro after the next parliament. Even as a first time voter, I am not impressed by Mr Hague's stand.
Kham Dhamma, St Anne's College, Oxford

I can only strongly support Mr Hague's views on the euro, coming from Austria where the euro was formally introduced two years ago. Since then the people's savings have gone down in value by about 10%! And the economy faced a decline which was not seen since the second world war. If the UK was to join the euro, this would certainly happen here as well.
Dr EM Speight, London

It was a poor performance from the Conservative leader when he announced that this general election would be a referendum on Europe. It was a rather puerile attempt to play on the insecurities of the electorate over this issue.
David Wyllie, Edinburgh

William Hague was spot on with his comments that this election would in fact be a referendum on the Pound...It is the last chance to retain it as Labour would sell us out to Europe tomorrow. Mr Blair.
Andrew, Fleet, Hants

Those in favour of the euro always say that jobs would suffer if we do not join. What about the many businesses in the UK who would suffer major hardship if we joined the euro? Companies that trade with the US and the Far East, for example. Sterling is NOT too strong - the rate has been steady against the dollar for a number of years now. It is the euro which is too weak and if we join in its current, weakened state, we risk doing irreparable harm to our economy particularly for companies not trading exclusively with Europe.
Chris Bagnall, Exeter

I find it difficult to believe that Mr Hague will not enter the euro under any circumstances in the next parliament. Are we to assume that he would put prejudices before the overall well-being of the country?
Andy Norsworthy, Plymouth

His comments regarding the issue of the euro were sound and the idea of the election as a referendum on keeping the pound should be expanded and made into a theme/rallying call.
Paul Cousins, Rainham

When the sun shines shouldn't we make hay? If a golden opportunity to join the euro should occur next term wouldn't it be silly to refuse to grasp it because of dogma? It is a poor politician who believes he can predict the future with certainty.
Tony Chapman, Bolton

Mr Hague did not answer WHY he didn't want to join the euro. I myself am in Belgium, and have not yet seen any disadvantages to the system, apart from a small mathematical re-conversion. Price comparing is far easier across mainland Europe, and it would help stabilise the pound, stopping it from continuing its roller-coaster ride which is at a high at the moment, but could dip at any moment, for example, after an election.
S Taylor, Brussels, Belgium

It's no wonder Hague doesn't agree with a referendum on the euro - he made it quite clear that he would not accept any result that did not agree with him... so no point asking is there.
Mark, London

Is it not the case that Mr Hague's position on Europe is riddled with inconsistencies? He thinks it important for this country to be in Europe - his previous government passed both the Single European Market Act and the Maastricht Treaty, yet he seems to think he can "cherry pick" the bits of Europe that suit him, and avoid those that do not. Does he really believe that the other members will stand by and let him do this?
Tom MacFarlane, Lancs

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Why keen to stay in the EU?

Audience question: Can you name a single benefit of our membership of the European Union that we could not have achieved by ourselves and if that is the case why are you so keen to stay in? You said:

I found Mr Hague's evasion on the question of the euro and the EU as a whole completely laughable. His principle of staying with the EU beyond one parliament whilst at the same time ruling out the euro for simply one parliament is a contradiction which runs to the heart of Mr Hague and his 'leadership' of the Conservative party. Roll on his defeat and replacement.
K Rodgers, Doncaster

The "development" of Europe over the last decade gives me cause for concern. The central bureaucracy is taking on the characteristics of empire. I voted to join the Common Market not a European State and unless there is a significant change of policy and direction it will all end in tears and bloodshed. All empires in history have collapsed in this manner.
Bernie, Cranfield

The only policy the Conservatives have got wrong on Europe is they are not taking us out of the EU. We have not gained a single benefit from this gravy train. The British people are all for trading with Europe but we are sick and tired of being taken for a ride. We should get out now.
Roderick Graham, Rossendale, Lancs

William Hague says that he would not pull out of the EU. The fact is that if he had had the chance to vote in the referendum in 1973, he would not have voted to join the EU. Now, he has been forced to accept that fateful decision, which a lot of people do not want. Therefore, regarding the euro currency, this is indeed our last chance to KEEP THE POUND because otherwise, many years from now, people are going to suffer for it and then be forced to accept it.
Alex Brodkin, London

William Hague is woefully misguided if he thinks that the vast majority of British people want to re-examine our relationship with our EU partners. This was never an issue before. He is scare-mongering and stirring up prejudice to prevent our inevitable joining of the euro and to try and claw a few votes from extremists who would probably vote for him anyway.
Amanda Robinson, Basingstoke

The whole point of EC law is not that we have any particular rule on a given issue, but that all member states have the same rule. This is the principle of the common market which enables us to trade with ease across the continent. We may disagree with particular rules, so let's object to them, not the institution. You may not like a particular law from Westminster, but you wouldn't argue that it shouldn't be making laws at all.
Craig Montgomery, Oxford

William Hague seems to forget which Party took us into the EEC.
John Frail, Alfreton

My opinion of the euro is it should be dumped and so should the EU. Why not concentrate on our relationship in the Commonwealth rather than Europe! I think the Commonwealth holds big opportunities and even one day might even have its own currency.
Chris

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Why imprison those escaping injustice?

Audience question: Does a supposedly civilised society take people who may be escaping injustice and imprison them? You said:

Hague is right to say that the treatment of refugees and economic migrants are different issues. Everyone who enters this country claiming they are a refugee fleeing persecution has a right to be treated as a refugee until they are refused that status. The solution in a fair society is to speed up that decision making process, not treat everyone like cheats and criminals.
Julie Scott, Hartlepool

The Conservative's policy on asylum is the most humane policy of all the parties. Detaining asylum seekers at the point of entry would prevent the criminal gangs from trafficking humans into our country and it will ensure that the bogus claimants are removed swiftly. This will ensure that most of the asylum budget will be spent on the genuine refugees who need the most help.
Dominic Montgomery, Huddersfield

The comments received so far on the asylum issue make me wonder whether those individuals truly belong to a civilised society, or whether they would prefer an "iron curtain" to be placed across this country's borders. Fear and hatred indeed.
Roy Stead, West London

William Hague says that it is proof that our asylum system is too lax - that people try to get in by their thousands in the backs of lorries. If that were so wouldn't they just arrive on a ferry and not try to sneak in? What this actually shows is our asylum system is already seen as tough.
John Williams

William Hague has just restored my faith in the Conservative party. The biggest issue in my mind is the asylum one. Far too many people come into this country too easily and taking places in our schools and homes especially in our area.
Carol Allen, Enfield

I think Mr Hague is totally correct on the subject of aslyum. We must stop these bogus people coming into this country and spending our tax paying money. These bogus people seem to get money for nothing.
Jackie Harrison

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Accepted Blairite spend and tax policies?

Audience question: Do you think that the timidity of your current spend and tax policies show that in fact the Conservative party has accepted the Blairite agenda? You said:

William Hague stated that people don't mind paying taxes for good quality public services, and then went on to say that services under Labour were of poor quality and did not represent good value. Rather than promise 8bn of tax cuts and promise to maintain services at current levels (which he himself says are inadequate), why will he not hypothecate this money he is so confident of saving from other areas to improve services eg rather than cut 6p/litre from fuel duty, ring fence all that money to pay for improved roads and public transport?
Euan Smith, Inverness

I totally agree with Mr Hague's policy on taxation. With better housekeeping and far less waste on silly forums and quangos, this country will be able to have better public services and lower taxes. Every housewife knows that to run an efficient household you have to be able to manage your budget effectively.
Fiona Haigh, Blackpool

During tonight's debate Mr Hague said he could not commit a future government on points of taxes and expenditure and yet his side has been trumpeting about Labour refusing to say what Mr Brown will or will not do about National Insurance contributions in a future government.
Arthur Nicol, Ringwood, Hampshire

I think Mr Hague is fab - how can the majority of the British people fail to see that a Conservative government is the way forward? Don't people realise that you can't save failing public services by continually throwing money at them? That is not the way at all and I agree that in order to maximise the revenue the elected party has at its disposal you need to analyse carefully the way it is spent. Money will not make the NHS, schools etc more efficient.
Sarah Lovell, Swindon

William Hague is right to say that it's how the money is spent on services and not the amount of money that's thrown at those services. I will go for William Hague's policies and vote Conservative.
Sheila Thomas, Nottingham

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Taxes by stealth like the Labour party?

Audience question: If you get into power how can I be sure the Conservatives will not put up taxes by stealth like the Labour party?You said:

After 25 years of voting for the Tory party, I am now uncertain that Mr Hague will continue to receive my vote after hearing his policy on the Married Persons Tax allowance. This positively discriminates against those couples unable to, or who do not want to have, children. Why not introduce tax relief for childless couples to fund infertility treatment and in addition a tax rebate for those couples not wanting children, for the public services they do not use such as education, child healthcare etc.
Wendy Brasenell, Tamworth, Staffs

William Hague has more front than Brighton! How can he sit there with a straight face and blame the government for raising taxes by 'stealth'. His party stood over the immense rises in prescription charges, VAT up to 17.5% (the last 2.5% to pay for their mistake of the poll tax) and the introduction of insurance tax. He needs to get his facts right.
Richard McCarthy, Cardiff

I have lost faith in William Hague's answer to a question asked about the abolition of married persons' allowance by the present government. It seems that the Conservative government will follow Labour's policy if elected. Do they realise that so much funding has gone into encouraging single parents with the tax credit? I believe that there should be an allowance for married women who cannot have children...as they have worked all their lives contributing to tax and not taking time off to have children.
Visva Sriharan, Surrey

Why introduce a married persons tax allowance. It was Hague's party that started its abolition. The children's tax allowance is much better as it targets help to those with most need.
Colin, Slough

We have had enough of stealth taxes over the last four years. The current government lied about this issue at the last election, who can possibly believe a word they say now?
Alison Baldock, Ashford, Kent

William Hague is digging his own grave on the issue of "stealth taxes." He has never defined "stealth taxes" so we must presume that they include everything except income tax. Yet he pointedly refused to assure the questioner that he would not put up taxes. If he put up any tax as Prime Minister this would count as a stealth tax rise and he would be branded a liar.
Alan Simpson, Belfast

How Mr Hague has the bare-faced cheek to sit there and talk about stealth taxes is beyond me. The Tories' record on taxation is disgraceful. They were the party that put VAT on pensioners' heating costs, they were the party that introduced the poll tax, the fuel escalator, who raised VAT soon after winning an election despite promising they wouldn't. They also introduced 28 ''stealth taxes'' only they will call them proportion taxes.
E Spinks, Kensworth

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Ignorance regarding the economy and the environment?

Audience question: By promising to cut fuel tax by 6p isn't the Tory party showing ignorance of both economics and the environment? You said:

Though I am a Labour supporter, I think that William Hague did quite well. However, he seemed to justify his tax cuts, whilst maintaining public spending, by savings in waste and getting "value for money". He went on at length discussing his proposed tax cuts (I found the one about keeping the cut in fuel for only one year very amusing), but said little as to what measures would give "value for money" other than to say they would cut bureaucracy.
Edward Foster, Lancaster

Hague criticises fuel tax as regressive. It is, but that didn't stop his government increasing it. His change of heart seems nicely to have coincided with a change of public opinion last summer. Yet another shallow and opportunistic vote grabbing policy!
Charles Guthrie, Stirling

All you seem to hear lately from the Tory party, is tax cuts and more cuts. I am fed up with politicians using almost everything to win votes. To remind everyone: politics is supposed to be about having ideas and ideals and when people agree with them, they will vote for you. If they do not, clearly it shows that a majority does not want you in power. It is simple I know, but it's basic democracy.
Cynthia, Guildford

Mr Hague told us how he can cut taxes by reducing wasteful spending (such as money spent on 'spin' and 'advertising). No politician, however, can give us any idea how efficiently they can run, for example, education.
David Humphrey, Egham

Hague or Vague? However you prefer to refer to the Tory leader, his arguments were, at best, unconvincing and he came up with very few solid answers to direct questions such as the question on VAT. The stock answer was: "We have a programme of reducing tax". Virtually every sentence he uttered for minutes after this contained this throwaway statement.
Andrew Banner, Leighton Buzzard

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Prevent early release of criminals?

Audience question: If elected as prime minister what would you do to prevent the early release of criminals from prison and would you stiffen punishments in order to deter criminals for committing crimes? You said:

We mustn't forget prison at its best is as much for rehabilitation as punishment. I am concerned in particular that riding for the disabled helping with which has given many a youth offender a different take on life cannot now be easily done without a torrent of paperwork so many are saying why bother.
Ian Brealey, Northampton

To the person who was saying that keeping prisoners in jail for the duration of their sentences would cost more money, the Conservatives' believe in so-called 'working prisons'. The prisoners would be paid to work 35-hour weeks for the private sector and industry - the jails would receive payment for this work and effectively pay for themselves. It also helps in getting criminals used to doing a decent day's work for legitimate reward.
Bryan, York

In Mr Hague's policies for making prisoners serve more of their sentences would this not cost more money and where would it come from. Would it not be more cost effective to use tagging?
Ian Upton, Bolton

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General comments on the programme:

I haven't been a huge admirer of William Hague but last night's Question Time has totally changed my mind. I thought he was superb, showed huge confidence, great leadership and demonstrated just how well he understands the key issues. He had all the facts at his fingertips. A masterful performance!
Michael De Malpas-Finlay, Sunningdale

We believe that Mr Hague's manner and responses were both very commendable. He did not resort to the nervous twitching that seems to befall another candidate when faced with tough questions, and also showed sincerity and truthfulness in each of his answers. He is by far the best candidate for prime minister and the best leader for England's future.
T&E Clough, Newmarket

And all of a sudden it makes sense why Tony Blair doesn't want to be confronted with William Hague on TV. His performance was fantastic. His answers were real. Despite so many people trying to catch him out wherever they can, he took them on, and won them over. He's just got my vote.
Andrew Tucker, Peterborough

As a member of the Conservative party and a staunch Thatcherite, I was hoping for a brilliant performance by Mr Hague. Unfortunately, I didn't get it. He has proved by his performance tonight that he is not fit to be the next prime minister. All of his answers were hesitant and unclear. This programme has already decided the outcome of the election.
Mark O'Neill, Wurzburg, Germany

I have to say that I was very impressed by the way William Hague carried himself, in the face of often hostile questioning. As an "instinctive" Tory voter for the past 25 years, I had felt that perhaps he didn't have the "weight" to win on June 7 but I am delighted to say that Bill's performance this evening leaves me thinking that the Conservatives do have a real chance of victory. Well done William Hague.
David Scrimgeour, Keighley

Mr Hague's performance on TV this evening was outstanding. He tackled a wide range of controversial issues head on and gave open and honest answers. He was confident and good-humoured throughout. The policies he expounded made sense.
John Evans

James Read of Nailsea - where were you when the Tories were in government? Massive public debt - I think the figure was 25bn, 4m unemployed, 400,000 homes repossessed, capping of local councils causing neglect of the infrastructure, pensions mis-selling. The list is endless. You've obviously forgotten the "feel good" factor that was missing too! Give Labour a chance for goodness sake. Their trying their best to make a good job out the appalling mess the Tories left this country in.
Chris Curran, Exeter

With regard to Mr Mooney of Maidstone, the main lack of intelligence lies with the average Labour voter who is only interested in what is in it for himself and will not or cannot take in all the issues in this election.
James Plimsoll, Bristol

While I appriciate David has a role to play as devil's advocate, in these programmes he has become increasingly vocal, and on occassions prevents the question from being answered at all. We don't watch Question Time to hear the views of Mr Dimbleby, at least not at the expense of those of the politician.
M Halliwell, Sandhurst

I attended Question Time this evening. I cannot believe that so much time was spent on minor issues. There was a four-minute debate on crime and NOTHING AT ALL ON THE NHS. I find that unbelievable. The most disappointing Question Time I have ever watched.
Frank Hessey, Blackpool

Mr Hague put on a dazzling display of mediocrity in the Question Time programme. His failure to provide a straight answer to any of the questions posed, the ill-conceived policies and the irritating and aloof manner, hopefully left the country in no doubt that he is totally unfit to govern this Britain.
Dr Simon Langley-Evans, Northampton

I thought that William Hague acquitted himself surprisingly well, given the obvious hostility of the presenter, David Dimbleby. He just would not give Mr Hague the courtesy of time to reply to the questions and, indeed, seemed to feel that the audience and viewers would be much more interested in what he himself had to say, rather than to what Mr Hague said.
Joan Sinden, Grays, Essex

I agreed with every answer William Hague gave. He is fantastic in front of a live TV audience. He made jokes at his own expense and even made critics laugh with his one liners much as he does in the House of Commons where even Tony Blair struggles not to smile. Mr Hague has certainly got my vote.
Chris D Kelly, Wolverhampton

Having read all the comments on last night's programme with William Hague, were some folk watching a different one? It would seem so from their vastly opposing comments! Those who are anti-Tory were determined to be anti-Hague no matter what he said. It is amazing how blind and shallow some of the electorate can be. The same could be said of some politicians but not William Hague.
Chrstine Kitson, Marlow

Congratulations to Question Time. I think the format you've adopted is better than all three leaders debating amongst themselves. People are bored of the inter-political arguments. What you've done is right as it is the people who want to ask the questions and it's the people that should get the answers. Alone on the stage they cannot be side-tracked by other party policies and must account for their own. Well done.
A Pearson, London

It was very interesting to hear W Hague's comments, some of which I had not heard before. I believe he defended himself extremely well, and being into psychology and 'body language' I believed he was sincere in his answers. He most probably will get my vote. I liked what he had to say.
Sarah Clark, London

William Hague's performance tonight was simply appalling. He came across as insincere and showed total contempt for the intelligence of the British public.
Ray Mooney, Maidstone

I have just finished watching the special Question Time with William Hague. He clearly showed he is someone who can be trusted with the future of Britain. He showed a clear vision and plans for the future. Anyone who cares for the future of this country, and our public services must vote for him.
Tony Belyavin, Chelmsford

Last week we had a sensible, well-articulated debate from Charles Kennedy, this week we have had an hour of cheap promises (when Mr Hague would actually commit to them for more than a year) and shallow brawling. If this is how William Hague engages and interacts with a studio audience, surely it does not bode well as an indicator of how he would handle himself and take leadership of a future government.
Ross, Bexleyheath

I think William Hague proved in the programme tonight that on all the major issues he alone is in touch with the vast majority of people in Britain and he alone deserves to be prime minister on June 7. After today, I now think he really can achieve it.
Peter Calderwood, Durham

Mr Hague displayed inconsistency, hesitancy and avoidance in "answering" the questions put to him. He does not come across as a potential country leader, not does his party's manifesto add up in terms of serving the public by making effective use of public money. If he spent as much time on looking at his own party's flawed manifesto as he does picking everyone else's to pieces then he may have something worth looking at.
Jo Jones, Tonbridge

I thought the host was unnecessarily hostile and that William Hague showed enormous fortitude, wit and intelligence in answering every question put to him in detail. I would put William Hague's intelligence and integrity above that of the Labour leader every time - and that's from a former lifelong Labour supporter.
Corinna Coffer, Loughton

Contrary to all of his critics, William Hague came across as a mature, well-informed party leader. We've seen that Labour doesn't work - we should go back to the Tories. We all moan about how government doesn't work and how politicians are corrupt - so let's vote for a party that's willing to keep its nose out!
Deborah Thomas, London

I feel that William Hague has tonight proven that he is in no position to govern this country as he repeatedly did not answer questions and gave shabby comments.
Brendan McGilloway, Market Harborough

Why are people so oblivious to the fact that the Tories are more efficient than the Labour party and that always after a term in office the Conservatives have to come in and bail out the mess that the Labour government has left the country in.
James Read, Nailsea Nr Bristol

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