|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: Audio/Video: Programmes: Breakfast with Frost|
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST, HOSTED BY PETER SISSONS, INTERVIEW WITH POLLY TOYNBEE, THE GUARDIAN, JANET DALEY, THE TELEGRAPH AND TREVOR KAVANAGH, THE SUN, MAY 13TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
PETER SISSONS: Well the phoney war is finally over and the election campaign is getting into full swing, with us to look ahead at what the next few weeks are likely to bring is the Guardian's Polly Toynbee who's just written a book on New Labour's first four years. Alongside her is the Telegraph's Janet Daley and the man now routinely described as the most powerful man in the land, the Sun's Political Editor Trevor Kavanagh. Polly let's talk first about the campaign so far, there's some consensus that Hague has won the first week, do you agree with that?
POLLY TOYNBEE: Yes I think undoubtedly but it depends what you mean by win, I mean the opinion polls haven't budged an inch, his tax cuts promises - tremendously effective, straight out of a gate with a, a walloping great manifesto pledge - seems to have budged the opinion polls not at all. So that, you know, for all of us who love the game and watch the boxing match aspect of it, you could say yes on points but it doesn't seem to have helped them much yet.
PETER SISSONS: Janet, do you, do you expect the opinion polls to move, there wasn't much evidence that they did during the last campaign?
JANET DALEY: I've got a theory about this, I mean it's possible that what Polly says is absolutely straightforwardly the case, public opinion hasn't moved as reflected in the polls. But then there's an alternative explanation and that is that Labour have succeeded, and if you'll forgive my saying so the media have helped them to succeed, in making it unthinkable to admit that you're going to vote Tory. They've tried to make it inconceivably shameful to vote Tory but what they might have done is just persuaded people that it's impossible to admit that you're going to vote Tory, in which case I wouldn't expect the opinion polls to change at all and I wouldn't expect them perhaps to reflect very much what's actually going to happen in the election.
PETER SISSONS: Trevor how do you, I mean Tony Blair has what every politician wants which is the backing of the Sun newspaper, how do you assess his first week's performance?
TREVOR KAVANAGH: Well the Tories certainly hit the ground running so much so that I think that those of us at Westminster thought that the Labour Party had deliberately given the clear run so they could burn themselves out quickly, say all they had to say and then switch the debate to the economy which is their strong point. But I found over the weekend that quite a lot of dismay has been felt in the Labour Party high command about the way that they've stolen the first two or three or four days.
PETER SISSONS: I don't if any of you have picked up this Robert Harris piece in the Sunday Times today, which is, the headline over it is The revulsion I feel for New Labour's cold-hearted ways, and of course Robert Harris was one of the few journalists with pretty well exclusive access to the last Labour campaign on the inside and he's a very close friend of Peter Mandelson as we know, and it is extraordinary. He says there is something truly loathsome about the modern Labour Party, every time I see Alastair Campbell with his face like a hatchet skulking at the back of a hall or listen to the Prime Minister blathering on vacuously as he did at that unfortunate school last Tuesday, I feel a great surge of revulsion, and it goes on and on and on. And he says, you know, it's, it's a dream come true but it is a nightmare, what, what does that, more and more Polly, you're hearing people who were sympathetic, top level intellectual commentators express sentiments similar to that, or disillusionment and yet it's not reflected in the polls?
POLLY TOYNBEE: Well Robert Harris is Peter Mandelson's mouth piece and one assumes, can only assume from that that Peter Mandelson feels very sore and outside it all. It's a bit rich for, for Mandelsonites to be complaining about the cold heart of New Labou5r when they invented the cold heart of New Labour. I think there is quite a lot of disaffection, it's not, it's not profound, it's more of a kind of irritation that having won so victoriously inevitably going to win again, why can't they just be a bit braver, why do they have to make a rather silly pledge on income tax which won't actually work for instance, when people will just say, well you'll put up other taxes and income tax is the fairest tax. There are a lot of Labour supporters are very sceptical about that but I mean not enough to make them not vote and the thing about Labour Party support is that they always want Jerusalem and they never get it and they're always going to be much crosser with their party than perhaps Tory Party supporters are with theirs.
PETER SISSONS: Do you think it's important that people like Harris and to some extent Hattersley and Polly herself in her column are saying these things and yet it's, it's not actually making any difference to the opinion poll?
JANET DALEY: Well see my previous arguments for the business about the opinion polls but I do think it's actually more serious than Polly says, every Labour government, it's true, has disillusioned its core supporters, Harold Wilson and so on, no, no, they were never radical enough for the core support but I think there's something more going on here. That nauseating performance by Tony Blair, the sort of Kim il Sung photo opportunity and the, the cross between sort of Uriah Heap and Mussolini as somebody said earlier in the week, I mean that, that, it wasn't just irritating, there was something about it that seemed to be quintessentially Blair, you really got the feeling that this was the heart of it and I can't understand really why they're making that mistake. I can only assume that they're very influenced by American politics and the kind of Clinton approach and talking about kids and grand-kids and this sort of thing and I think they're forgetting that there's a really fundamental difference, the American... [INTERRUPTED BY POLLY] hang on, no, no, no, I'm talking about style, I'm talking about style here. The Americans have an infinite tolerance for sentimentality and the British have an infinite capacity for cynicism and I think the collision between those two is really, if Blair doesn't learn that lesson is really going to come unstuck.
PETER SISSONS: Of course Trevor, Hague of course has exactly the same problem with dissidents in his own party but they haven't been nearly so vocal?
TREVOR KAVANAGH: I think that the Labour Party machine is probably a unique phenomenon so far in British politics and it's a strange schizophrenic sort of situation where you have the cuddly Tony Blair with his family and his sympathetic sort of style of appearance on television and elsewhere and behind him is this machine which is the most ruthless I think ever seen in Britain and one which is leaving the Tories completely behind in terms of watching every single point on a grid, plotting and planning, preparing everything, second-guessing everything the media may do, the preparations for instance, for the launch of the election announcement, the placement of Sean Woodward. All of these things show a machine which is not prepared to miss a single opportunity and I think as a result they sometimes miss the big picture as I think they've done in the first two days of the election campaign.
POLLY TOYNBEE: I think the idea that the Hague campaign and Amanda Platel is any less tough minded, harsh, cynical and all the rest of it...
TREVOR KAVANAGH: I think they'd like to be.
POLLY TOYNBEE: But they may not be as good at it, they're not winning, well it may not be their fault they're fault they're not winning, the Tories aren't winning basically because their policies aren't winning. But I mean let's just get away from spin a bit, I mean it may, let's just consider the arguments, it may be Labour has the winning arguments.
JANET DALEY: What are the arguments?
POLLY TOYNBEE: We spend all our time talking about spin...
JANET DALEY: Give me a break, what are the arguments?
POLLY TOYNBEE: You assume that Labour's wonderful at spin, I think the curious think about Labour is it's very...
JANET DALEY: Well it's the absence of arguments that are causing Labour to be ahead in the polls, they are bringing about a kind of Maoist silence, they're trying to silence all argument that's why they're staying ahead in the polls and the chances of getting a real political debate and a real grown-up political argument in this campaign are absolutely nil.
POLLY TOYNBEE: We've had a week on tax which has been real arguments.
JANET DALEY: Which has been Tory-led...
PETER SISSONS: We'll come back to you for a moment or two after Sir David's interviewed the Prime Minister but just to take us into that, just tell us how you expect the campaign to develop, very, very briefly now, in the, in the next three weeks, Polly?
POLLY TOYNBEE: I think there is a danger that the Tories are going to make the running and they've said it's going to be tax, asylum, crime and Europe and if Labour doesn't watch out they will make the running and they'll be on the back-foot all the way through, still win because their arguments are better but if they want to seize the initiative they've actually got to move it onto their ground into something much more positive, they've got to look to the future and make bolder promises and not always be just trying to defend a fairly modest but adequate record.
PETER SISSONS: Janet?
JANET DALEY: The problem is that we don't, they don't know and we don't know what their plans are to the extent that they have plans they're Gordon Brown's plans and they are unspeakable during the election because they're old-fashioned, Old Labour, tax and spend, redistribution of wealth plans.
Links to more Breakfast with Frost stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy