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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
A Liberal viewpoint
On Sunday 10 June Andrew Marr interviewed Sir Menzies Campbell MP, Leader Lib Dems.

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Sir Menzies Campbell MP
Sir Menzies Campbell MP, Leader Lib Dems

ANDREW MARR: Sir Menzies Campbell, once held the British record in the 100 metre sprint and he competed in the Olympics, so no slouch in his past.

But what of his political future? Some think his leadership is running out of steam, even within his own party.

Sir Ming himself scorns recent polls that suggest many potential voters just fail to be inspired.

He's adamant that he will lead his party into the next General Election and beyond this week he's going to launch a new initiative focusing on poverty and housing, and Sir Ming Campbell is with me now. Welcome, thank you Menzies.

MING CAMPBELL: Thank you very much.

ANDREW MARR: Let's start with the housing initiative.


ANDREW MARR: Everybody in politics seems to be saying we need more houses, there is a divide between those lucky enough to own their own homes, and those struggling to get one. What makes your policy distinctive?

MING CAMPBELL: Well there's a crisis at every level. For example we know young people find it almost impossible to get on the housing ladder. We've got illustrations where people are borrowing five times their salary in order to try and get on the housing ladder.

And even predictions you might have to borrow ten times your salary in the future. And at the same time we've a distinct lack of social housing. When this government came to power...

ANDREW MARR: What we call council housing.

MING CAMPBELL: Council housing, exactly. When this government came to power ten years ago there were about a million families on the social housing list. Now there's a million and a half.

And we know for example a million children in this country live in conditions of overcrowding. Something has got to be done. And what's got to be done is to make more land available, brownfield sites, there are plenty of these.

ANDREW MARR: Greenfield too?

MING CAMPBELL: Brownfield because we want to make sure we preserve the countryside, there's plenty of land available that justifies the description brownfield.

And in addition to that we've got to find some better ways, some cleverer ways, of raising the finance. And that's why you can have shared equity, things of that kind, a much more innovative approach. But what is absolutely essential is that we recognise the nature of the crisis.

I went the other day to Brent and I went to meet a young woman who's got three children, all under ten, she's living in a one-bedroom house with no central heating. That's not right in a country which claims to be a civilised country.

ANDREW MARR: One of the columnists in the papers today says, look we're heading towards a Britain where we're going to have shanty towns, if nothing is done, would you go along with that?

MING CAMPBELL: Well if you remember, it's not all that long ago we'd a huge problem about homelessness, the sort of thing you and I used to see if you walked along the Strand late at night, all those people sleeping in doorways. Now we managed to do something about that, but if we're not careful then we will create circumstances in which there will be a crisis.

I mean, some of the things which happens in constituencies like mine is people are born in a particular village, or a particular town, simply can't afford to go on living in that town when it comes their time to leave home and to buy a house. And that inevitably will have enormous social consequences too.

ANDREW MARR: Let's move to the story that everyone's been talking about today which is the British Airways Saudi bribe.

MING CAMPBELL: BAE, I think you said British Airways.

ANDREW MARR: Sorry, I beg your pardon.

MING CAMPBELL: Lawyers stand down across the country.

ANDREW MARR: Free legal advice, I would expect that! The bribe scandal - some of your own MPs have used very, very strong language about this, David Howard talking about it being disgraceful and deplorable and a scandal.

MING CAMPBELL: I call it squalid myself, and I raised the issue with the Prime Minister some months ago.

ANDREW MARR: So what should happen now, I mean given that the Attorney General has denied being involved in trying to stop the OECD investigation but no one is denying, on the British side, denies that payments were made.

MING CAMPBELL: And no one is denying that the OECD were not given the information. And it said in one newspaper that the Serious Fraud Office reached the decision that this information should not be given.

It's because of national security. Now it seems to me it's not for the Serious Fraud Office to decide what are issues of national security, that's a responsibility elsewhere in government. I think it's necessary now to have an enquiry, at the very least by the Cabinet Secretary, in order to find out just exactly where these, how these responsibilities were being discharged.

What general advice does the SFO have from the Attorney General? Were there any conversations between anyone in the Attorney General's office and the Serious Fraud Office and No. 10, about what was to be done in relation to the OECD? Now the OECD is very significant in this because of course there's a convention about corruption to which we are signed up.

ANDREW MARR: And you feel that we might have broken that convention, candidly?

MING CAMPBELL: And the OECD think so, at least by an associate, because they begun an investigation and they're going to go on with that investigation.

The other point to make is this, that after 2002 of course we changed the law in this country. And we created criminal offences, and so there must be a question as to whether in any respect criminal offences were created here.

ANDREW MARR: It sounds to me as if you regard this as potentially as serious as cash for honours?

MING CAMPBELL: It's certainly serious. And of course it's serious in the context of the G8 because corruption is one of the issues which lies right at the very heart of how Africa can achieve the kind of sustainable economic development which is necessary.

How can we go round Africa saying to people you've got to stamp out corruption, if we appear on the face of it to be less than rigorous ourselves. And for BAE there's another problem too.

BAE quite legitimately got an ambition to penetrate the American defence market, enormously lucrative market. And what we know is that already the Americans have expressed some reservations and anxieties about the decision to drop the investigation. But we should also remember that no one defends local interests more furiously than members of the Congress and members of the Senate.

It's not impossible that a Senate committee or a House of Representatives committee may start an investigation into BAE, what has happened in relation to these matters, and the extent to which it would make BAE suitable to achieve the kind of penetration that the American defence market is so obviously keen on.

ANDREW MARR: Your polling has been poor, and you've made tiny advances only in the local elections. Are there any conditions, circumstances, polls, which would cause you to have pause for thought and possibly even stand down as leader?

MING CAMPBELL: No. I've made it clear, in fact you were good enough to refer to it in your introduction. I can lead the party through this parliament, through the General Election, and beyond.

And our whole focus now is upon the General Election which is to come, I think probably within two years. We may only be a hundred weeks away from that General Election. We're writing our manifesto, we're adopting our candidates, we're raising our money, we're ready for the election whenever it comes.

And it's my responsibility to make sure our party's in the condition in order to take maximum advantage of the circumstances which will present themselves.

ANDREW MARR: So if your pollsters came to you and said look, I'm terribly sorry Sir Ming, but your own polling is not good enough, and you're part of the problem, you would just ignore them, send them out of the room would you?

MING CAMPBELL: The polls are up and down, as one of my colleagues said they're like buses, there'll be another one along in a little while.

There was a poll last week which actually said I'd gained a whole lot of points in relation to being the sort of person who wouldn't give up his principles, the sort of person you could rely upon. So the polls come and go.

ANDREW MARR: The latest populist poll is putting you at 5% as against Gordon Brown at 23%.

MING CAMPBELL: Well have you seen the kind of coverage Mr. Brown's had in recent times, it's very surprising. Look, I'm concerned to make sure that our party takes maximum advantage of the new circumstances.

A Prime Minister of whom we know very little coming in, desperate to try and shore up his party, desperate in many respects to try and deny everything that's taken place in the last ten years.

And a Conservative leader who's reinventing his party with the kind of growing pains that we saw over the issue of grammar schools. There's a huge opportunity for my party and I'm determined to lead them in a way which allows them to take it.

ANDREW MARR: It feels a little bit like they're coming at you from both sides at the moment though because you know, you have got a new Prime Minister and you've got a Conservative Party which is quite clearly moving into the centre and you've got the Democrat party struggling in the middle.

MING CAMPBELL: Yes, with 20% of the poll. Only a fraction less than we got in the last General Election and these local government elections we got 26% of the poll, 4% more than we got in the General Election and why are they coming after us?

Because they know we're now in an era of solid third party politics. That's why they're coming after us. It's a recognition of our importance that they are coming after us in the way that they are.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Sir Ming Campbell, sprinting still. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.



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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