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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 January 2005, 14:12 GMT
Jeremy Vine interviews
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

On Politics Show on Sunday, 16 January, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Dr Liam Fox MP, Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party
  • Robert Jackson MP
  • Glenys Kinnock, MEP

Liam Fox MP
Dr Liam Fox MP, Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party

Interview with Liam Fox

Jeremy Vine: The Conservative Party Co-chairman, Dr Liam Fox joins me now from our Millbank Studio.

Dr Fox, thanks for joining us.

Fraudulent prospectus you're unleashing on us this weekend according to Mr Jackson.

Dr. Liam Fox: Yes, I mean, a couple of things that Robert said I - I think was perfectly in line with what he said before about tuition fees and about Europe. But what I do find very strange is when he says that he thinks it's a false prospectus what we're offering on tax and spending when we're about to unveil that tomorrow er, and I think that to er, to say in advance that you don't like the direction of policy before we actually outline what the policy's going to be is extremely strange, especially when Robert Jackson has voted against every single finance bill that the current government has brought forward.

Jeremy Vine: Well we're dancing on the head of a pin there a bit aren't we because Mr Howard did put a figure on the amount he hopes to save and Mr Jackson's point is that can't be done through cutting waste alone; those are real cuts.

Dr. Liam Fox: Well, what we are identifying are real areas where we think the government can be reduced for example, abolishing a large number of quangos and also a point that he made, beginning to reduce the role of the state and looking to see what the central government should be doing and what it doesn't need to do, we've said that we want to look at that waste, we want to see where we can re-invest it in frontline service er, (fluffs) some twenty three billion of that into areas that matter. Erm, but to also take a responsible view of the government's finances, recognising that the government has to live within its means. Reducing the black hole that the chancellor has at the present time. And also giving some money back to hardworking people in this country.

Jeremy Vine: (interjects) But the trouble is you ...

Dr. Liam Fox: (overlaps) Because we think that ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) But you're talking about this weekend and we've got a defecting MP here.

Dr. Liam Fox: Well, indeed.

Jeremy Vine: He's going to get the attention isn't he?

Dr. Liam Fox: Well, he may in the sort term but the big issue at the election will be what is actually proposed in terms of economics and I think when he mentions the - Robert Jackson mentions about the philosophical arguments here, it's very clear that there is a difference because we believe that there are two reasons why we should have lower taxes. One is economic, we think it actually gets the economy to grow faster and in the longer term gives you the ability to sustain your spending on the things that matter and secondly there's a moral case for low taxation because it enables individuals to make more decisions about their own lives and be less dependent on the government and that I thought was, was what he was trying to say.

Jeremy Vine: (interjects) Do you accept that ...

Dr. Liam Fox: (overlaps) But that's going to be offered by the Conservative Party not by the Labour Party.

Jeremy Vine: Do you accept that having an MP who feels so deflated about your party and its prospects coming out this weekend as you launch these policies, is pretty horrible?

Dr. Liam Fox: Well, we've seen that in the past two elections with the Labour Party trotting out Tory MPs who were defecting. Erm and I think it's - it's a great pity that any of our colleagues should want to maximise the damage to the party that they've supported and their own colleagues at this particular time; clearly that's his own personal decision.

Erm, I - I fully understand why he takes a different view on policy on Europe because he supports The European Constitution, we don't, we think The European Constitution gives too many powers away from Britain to The European Union.

Jeremy Vine: Okay.

Dr. Liam Fox: Robert Jackson supports the Euro, we don't support the Euro, we think Britain should retain control over its own economic affairs but there's a stark difference there, clearly he's in line with Tony Blair who wants to give our powers away but the Conservative Party will never agree to that.

Jeremy Vine: Dr. Fox, thank you very much indeed for joining us from Westminster.

End of interview with Dr. Liam Fox

Robert Jackson MP
Robert Jackson MP

Interview with Robert Jackson

Jeremy Vine: Robert Jackson MP joins us now and you can answer that question at the end of the piece, why have you done it?

Robert Jackson: Well, I've obviously thought long and hard about it, I only made a decision when we were on holiday in South Africa and when we came back I decided I should just do it straight away and not hang about er, frankly I wasn't aware that Michael Howard would be launching the James Report this week, that was not a factor in my decision it was entirely a consequence of the fact that I had simply decided that I was going to - to - to go over to the Labour Party.

Jeremy Vine: And do you honestly believe that a Michael Howard victory is a general election would mean what you call, 'certain harm' for the country?

Robert Jackson: Well, yes, I do mean that. First of all in respect of Europe. I think that there - there are huge pressure within the Conservative Party er, to try to achieve a completely different relationship with the European Union and I think that that is bound to provoke a crisis which I think will be very damaging because the European Union is (fluffs) going through a process of enlargement er, the biggest issue in world politics I think after terrorism is the world trade negotiations, The Doha Round. I think to distract Europe for two or three years with another round of the British question would be very damaging both to Europe and also to Britain. But it's not only that er, the European issue, in fact in my mind more important is the question of the coherence of the Conservative approach to the great issues, the domestic issues, the public services, tax and spending and there I drew the conclusion from the business about university tuition fees, er, but it's not only about university tuition fees, that the Party was in a simply incoherent position.

Jeremy Vine: What is Mr Howard himself doing wrong in your book?

Robert Jackson: Well, I wouldn't want to personalise it too much on Michael Howard; there's a tendency in the Conservative Party to turn all debates into debates about the leader and the leadership. I think the problem of the Conservative Party are much deeper than that.

They're problems about structure, they're problems about philosophy, they're problems about identity; what is the Conservative Party for? And this is well-illustrated in this business about erm, the public services. I mean, you know, is the Conservative Party about cutting taxes, if it is about cutting taxes, it's got to face the fact that it's got to reduce the responsibilities of the state. You can't pretend everything can be done by cutting out waste.

Jeremy Vine: Well, that's what they're saying they're saying that that they're identifying waste. That's what they're doing this weekend identifying waste and you've hit them with a torpedo haven't you?

Robert Jackson: Well I - I guess I have although I have to say unintentionally. But it is a critical point. Now, lots of figures are being bandied about and I noticed that on The Frost Programme this morning Michael Howard himself made a mistake about whether it was thirty five billion in a year or thirty five billion over three years.

Let me just put it like this, a very simple point. In the early nineteen eighties, when the Conservatives came in we had the period of the so-called Thatcher cuts, there was something called the Rayner Review, another businessman called in to advise and he produced recommendations for cuts in public expenditure amounting to nought point four per cent of public expenditure. What the Conservatives are now talking about with James is the equivalent of eight per cent of public expenditure. We remember how difficult it was to deliver those capped cuts in the early eighties; these are on a much greater scależ

Jeremy Vine: (interjects) You wereż

Robert Jackson: I do not believe it is possible or feasible to solve this problem in the way that is being proposed so I regard it as a fig leaf to avoid talking about the real issue if you are on a tax cutting agenda, which is shrinking the responsibilities of the state.

Jeremy Vine: You were a minister under Mrs Thatcher, you believe the - Conservative Party has gone to the right of where it was then?

Robert Jackson: Look, on Europe, Margaret Thatcher was not talking about denouncing treaties, she actually signed the Single European Act er, which was the biggest extension of European responsibilities we've ever had. And as far as, for example, tuition fees are concerned, it was under Margaret Thatcher and indeed, me as her junior minister doing this; that we introduced student loans er, to enable students, to make students pay for a portion of the cost of going to university.

So I think that er, that actually the postures that the Conservative Party have been adopting on Europe and on this University issue for example are, are well adrift of where Mrs Thatcher was.

Jeremy Vine: Isn't there some instinctive loyalty in you that says, hang on, I - I've been a member of this party for a very long time, someone said forty five years, at least on the way out I'm not going to trash the place.

Robert Jackson: Forty five years is a - an exaggeration. Look, of course - of course I felt that and very powerfully. There are friends and colleagues in the House of Commons, there are lots of very good people that I, you know, appreciate and like and are friends in the constituency, er, there is a tribe, I don't denounce the tribalism of politics, er, I think it's a sort of strength in British politics but, you know, you do have to ask yourself sometimes whether the party that you've supported for all these years is going in the right direction and - and this is a pretty critical point, cos I don't want to look as though it's only negative against the Conservatives, whether there isn't actually an alternative in place and in being which is actually doing a lot of the things that you think er, you know, are right and proper and whether you shouldn't lend it er, your support and I would like to just place this emphasis that I'm not doing this as - primarily out of anti-Conservative motives I do very strong appreciate the lead that Tony Blair has being giving and - and I want to support him and the Labour Party for positive reasons.

Jeremy Vine: Why did you say that Michael Howard has only two registers, scorn and anger?

Robert Jackson: Well I was asked what I thought about that and it was specifically in the context of a comparison between Tony Blair and Michael Howard and the point I made was that Michael Howard is - a very nice man in private I - I know him well, I served as a junior minister with him but the fact is that he does have a limited range in public and I characterised it in those perhaps rather lurid terms.

Jeremy Vine: What do you mean a limited range?

Robert Jackson: Well, look at the performance in Prime Minister's Questions for example but I honestly don't want to get too drawn into the question of personalities because this is not about personalities, this is about politics, policies and philosophy and my point is this, that what we have as a choice it seems to me between er, a realistic tax policy on the part of the government, accompanied by an ambitious programme which deserves support of modernisation of public services and on the other hand, what I think is basically a fraudulent prospectus of cutting public expenditure without doing anything about the size of the state and pretending it can all be done by taking out waste which I think is a gross exaggeration of possibilities.

Jeremy Vine: Robert Jackson, MP, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

End of interview with Robert Jackson, MP

Glenys Kinnock, MEP
Glenys Kinnock, MEP

Interview with Glenys Kinnock

Jeremy Vine: I'm joined now by Glenys Kinnock, Labour's development spokesperson in the European Parliament.

What did you think, Glenys Kinnock of what Dr Abdul Rahim said there from Justice Africa, I do not want my life to be depending on the British taxpayer?

Glenys Kinnock: I have enormous sympathy with that view and believe very much that devising solutions in Europe and in the West are not always - it isn't always the best way of alleviating poverty, of dealing with the fundamental issues of increasing erm, problems of declining incomes, er, declining life expectancy; all the things that we hear repeated, the mantras, but what we want to hear is that there is sufficient political will and the tsunami could provide the conduit for growing that kind of political role, I hope so but I'm still a bit sceptical.

Jeremy Vine: So are you worrying, Glenys, that what you're hearing from Gordon Brown at the moment is still basically about us giving more?

Glenys Kinnock: Yeah, there's this sense, you know, that Africans are vulnerable, that they're weak and so on. And one of the things that's been quite striking about what Gordon Brown has said this week is that he's - he's noticed how resilient and tough Africans are, particularly the African women and that has to be er, I think, a greater understanding that he will apply.

Jeremy Vine: He's talking about a martial plan for Africa and one part of it which David Thompson referred to is something called the the International Finance Facility which would allow poor countries to borrow against future aid. Now what do you think of that idea?

Glenys Kinnock: I think it's - it has, it has its function and I'm very keen to use it, for instance, for the development of research into vaccines. However, when push comes to shove, the real solution is to put money into development assistance and as Geoffrey Sachs said in your piece, we need to see development assistance actually doubled to Africa, twenty billion is what we need to see which is a huge amount of money and so whilst our government and others are saying that in the short-term future they will increase ODA, we still need it now.

Jeremy Vine: So you're saying that the quickest way to give money is to increase what we give now, not to let them borrow against future money?

Glenys Kinnock: Absolutely because what some people believe about the IFF is that you're creating debt for the future.

Jeremy Vine: Would you go so far as Paul Nilsson did, one of your former colleagues, outgoing EU Development Commissioner, and he said, "this should be about solidarity not borrowing from our children, it smells too much of Enron accounting."

Glenys Kinnock: I wouldn't be as hard line as that. I do think it has a purpose but it's not the solution and I think Gordon Brown would acknowledge that.

Jeremy Vine: And of course Alan Duncan in there, the Conservative, said in the film that EU trading rules are keeping people in poverty; that is partly true isn't it?

Glenys Kinnock: that's absolutely true. And it's not just about - I mean, it's good for Tories to say these things but they are the great liberalisers and liberalising trade is not the solution for developing countries because what you have to do then is understand that they're expected to offer reciprocity, to also open their markets and it's precisely those things that they grow that they need to export to us, that we have the barriers against.

Jeremy Vine: Gordon Brown said this year is make-or-break for Africa, if we spool forwards twelve months how will we know if the year has done what it's supposed to have done.

Glenys Kinnock: I think we'll - we - the major assessment we'll have will be in the autumn of this year when the Millennium Development goals and our progress to halve poverty by 2015 will be assessed.

I fear that perhaps with the amount of money and this huge outpouring of funds and global solidarity to the tsunamis will mean that there actually won't be enough money to meet the needs - those development goals which currently we're well off target on, one every one of them.

Jeremy Vine: Glenys Kinnock, joining us from Cardiff, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview with Glenys Kinnock

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday, 23 January, 2005 at 12.30.
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