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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: BRIAN MAWHINNEY FORMER CONSERVATIVE PARTY CHIARMAN and NEIL KINNOCK VICE-PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION , MAY 27TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.
DAVID FROST: Now William Hague is doing his level-best to make Europe the main issue of this campaign, has that worked? Is it happening? Well what is happening in the campaign? We've got two people who are as expert as any in the land to analyse that, I'm joined by the former Labour Leader Neil Kinnock and the former Tory Party Chairman, Sir Brian Mawhinney and following on with the cricket terminology, they've had the toss and Brian is opening the batting. What do you, what do you make of the campaign, as a pro, as a campaign?
BRIAN MAWHINNEY: I think our campaign is going very well, what impresses me David is that there's a difference between the polls and the newspaper reports on the one hand and what people are saying on the doorstep on the other, as a back-bencher I've got the privilege of spending a lot of time out on the streets talking to people and I was saying to Neil earlier, it reminds me a little bit of '92 where again there was a difference between the doorstep and the opinion polls and we're doing much better on the doorstep.
DAVID FROST: Well you always have to say that if you're doing badly in the opinion polls of course, you think there's that big a, that big a difference?
BRIAN MAWHINNEY: Well the reason I'm telling you is because we are doing better on the doorstep.
DAVID FROST: What about the mistakes of '97, when you were Chairman and you lost were there any lessons to be learned from that and have they taken them?
BRIAN MAWHINNEY: The campaign itself in '97 was a good campaign and after it was all over a number of people, including a number of people in the media complimented me and us on the campaign. The problem in '97 was on Black Wednesday in '92 people had made up their minds that they weren't going to vote Conservative again and they held that view right through the General Election.
DAVID FROST: As a pro, would you, would you have made Europe as central as William is trying to do, because it always comes in about number six in people's concerns, doesn't it?
BRIAN MAWHINNEY: On the doorstep people are talking to me about crime, they're talking to me about tax and they're talking to me about Europe. And something that Clarissa picked up earlier, they're also talking to me about student university fees. Those are the things that are actually on the doorstep and if that's what the people want to talk about then of course Europe should be one of the big issues of the election.
DAVID FROST: And those are the ones they're talking about. Frank Dobson said last week he hadn't been asked once about asylum, that doesn't seem to have caught on as a big issue, does it?
BRIAN MAWHINNEY: Well if that's what Frank says then of course I, I believe him. I have to say that I have been not only talked to about asylum but harangued about the failure of government policy on asylum. So it is an issue but my sense is that the big issues in this election on the street are crime and the drop in the number of police officers, tax and Europe.
DAVID FROST: Neil as a seasoned campaigner, what do you think of the campaign so far, and I would, I'm thinking about all three parties though really?
NEIL KINNOCK: Well first
DAVID FROST: Engage people
NEIL KINNOCK: Yes as far as Labour's concerned obviously the party is in an historically unusual position of being substantially in the lead at the end of the government and in large part its campaign mission must be one of explanation and the avoidance of greatest excitement. That's not complacency, it's just to ensure that things don't go wrong, this is not information given to me by the party leadership, it's just commonsense and I think everybody understands that. The Conservatives, clearly as you indicated in your, in your introduction, are pretty desperately trying to make an issue out of the European Union, the problem is that they're hit with a dilemma, the dilemma is of a three-way split in the party, I think everybody knows about that too, between those who are very pro-European Union, those who are in all circumstances utterly hostile and those who want to say let's get out altogether. And that's almost, that faces William Hague with almost impossible task of trying to bond it especially when, as you indicated, it is not the top-most issue in the minds of the British public who are much more concerned about health and the development of the infrastructure, education, which are the usual campaign fair. I think Charles Kennedy is doing well from a very, very low start simply by being immensely energetic and putting himself round, himself round. In many ways of course he would, he's got nothing to lose and I think that his great attribute is spontaneity and, and energy so it's sensible for him to exploit that.
DAVID FROST: Would you, would you in fact if you, if you were William Hague, would you have made this sort of admission yesterday that it probably will go through, Europe will go through, because that was quite a surprise?
NEIL KINNOCK: Well the extraordinary basis on which it's alleged is what interests me. And that is that it will go through, according to Mr Hague, because somehow the government will rig the question in a referendum. Mr Hague knows, because he's a member of the House of Commons, that the current legislation ensures that the question is set by the Electoral Commission, that campaign expenditure in the referendum is very tightly regulated and seeks a balance between both sides. So the idea that that referendum can be rigged, either in terms of the question or in terms of the conduct or in terms of the finances is effectively ruled out not because a bunch of politicians say it is but because the politicians have adopted a law that forbids such rigging.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of vital election matters, Neil, there was a story yesterday by Charlie Wheelan that in fact it was not Peter, Peter Mandelson who invented the red rose but Neil Kinnock, is that right?
NEIL KINNOCK: Yes it is. It is. Peter's contribution actually was to arrange for the designer but even then Peter insisted on a longer stem to the rose, I can't say that it was a matter of great controversy between us.
DAVID FROST: So it was your idea and who won, who won on the length of the stem?
NEIL KINNOCK: Well I, I said to Peter that's the length of the stem and this is the rose and that's great and it was all agreed and we went away and then when I eventually saw it in its final form the longer stem was there, but I didn't cast him out
DAVID FROST: Well thank, thank God we've cleared that up, it's been waiting┐many vital┐ What is there that, Brian, that if you were, if you were Chairman of the Party now, what would you say there was that could be done in the 11 days to save the pound or 11 days to save the party?
BRIAN MAWHINNEY: I would keep on saying this government promised to deal with crime and it's much worse. This government promised no taxes and the taxes have gone up and this government will do whatever it can to get us into Europe. One, one story from the, from the street David, I was up supporting a friend in Worksop this week, I talked to a lady in the marketplace and I said can my friend count on your support? "Yes you can, I have been a Labour Party voter all my life but I want to remain English, I want to remain British, I don't trust this government on that issue, I'm going to vote Conservative for the first time in my life". That's playing out there whatever the media might say.
DAVID FROST: Everybody credits you Neil with the, the first reforms that took the Labour Party into a winning position, and then Tony Blair took over and forced through all of those reforms, what, what is the main difference between those campaigns in the '80s and the early '90s and these two very successful campaigns?
NEIL KINNOCK: Well I'll gladly come on to that in a second but I hope that Brian said to the lady up in Worksop that there is no circumstances under which that lady's Britishness will be diminished whatever the outcome of the election and which ever the main parties, is elected to government because there is no prospect of the Conservatives or of the Labour Party damaging people's Britishness at all. Now on the issue of the differences in many ways those campaigns of the '80s and early '90s were in a sense the last of the raw campaigns. The rumbustious campaigns had started to die away in the '70s partly as a result of extremists exploiting the television opportunities, invading the major parties, rallies and all the rest of it. But I think that there was a fair amount of vigour and clash in the '80s and early '90s, election campaigns are more professional, I'm not saying they're more superficial but it does mean that there is less temperature, less heat, maybe a little more light into these election campaigns. I think that's the big difference.
DAVID FROST: Thank you both very much indeed, great, great to have you with us. You mentioned Charles Kennedy, said he's having a good campaign which seems to be the general view, he's having a good war. He'll be with us in a second.
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