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Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Well in a spectacular pre-emptive strike William Hague decided to put himself out of his own misery rather than wait for the knives to come out and now the spotlight is turning towards the other stars of his party as people weigh up who will succeed him. With us this morning is Ann Widdecombe, Ann, top of the morning.

ANN WIDDECOMBE: Good morning to you.

DAVID FROST: Were you one of the people who tried to persuade, persuade him to carry on?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: Yes I did, and I tried to persuade him fairly forcefully but he had made up his mind, it was rightly his decision to take and not anybody else's and he had come to a view which I respected.

DAVID FROST: And Chris Patten was just saying, but Archie Norman was saying about the, the three subjects, Europe, tax and asylum seekers, that in particular that you spent too much time on Europe, in retrospect do you think that was right?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: I think we had a duty to draw to the attention of the British people the dangers of going down a path towards the Euro. I think we particularly had a duty to say, look don't be lulled by the fact that you've got a referendum coming up because by then you could be at the point almost of no return. I think we have that duty, I think we had to discharge it. But to be fair we spent the first week on tax, we spent the second week on a variety of subjects, it wasn't all about Europe and we did have radical ideas in our manifesto about health and education, I think the pity of it is that we didn't concentrate on those, not only during the campaign but also in the preceding period.

DAVID FROST: So that if you were running the party rather than William Hague what would you do differently?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: First of all I think there is one crucial thing that we've got to do and this I think William would also have done, it isn't a question of, of William or anybody else, it's a question of what should now be done by anybody. And I think one of things we have to do is to clean up politics and to make it once again the situation that people can believe what they hear because I think the true disaster of this election was the non-vote and the number of people who said to me in the course of the campaign, but we can't believe anybody anymore. And I think we do have to get honesty back even if it means saying there are no quick simple solutions for some things, such as the Health Service, and we really do have to be honest and say, it doesn't matter how much money you pour into it, it will never be able to meet every last demand that people make upon it and we have to start from that point and build a solution on that. I think we've got to do that, I think it is crucial for the health of democracy in this country that we raise the standard of political debate.

DAVID FROST: Can you appeal to other people, than the core voters, can you regain the centre when Blair, as we were just saying, has got such control of the centre at the moment. How do you, how can you win the centre-ground?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: We do have to regain the centre-ground and that means that we have to talk about the things and have ideas, not just talk about them, but have ideas of the things that matter to people. Now to be perfectly fair I think most people do have law and order either at the top or near the top of their agenda and I don't think we were mistaken to try and put such emphasis on law and order. But you also have to see that in the round you must link it, for example, to regeneration.

DAVID FROST: To regeneration as well?


DAVID FROST: And in terms of the, looking at Europe, do you think a referendum on Europe would be a good idea, to repledge that as a way of trying to get, get rid of the subject?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: Well the problem about the referendum on the Euro which, which Labour has promised is that we're now at the top of a very steep slope and if we go down that steep slope it may be that in a couple of years' time they offer a referendum and you're trying to grab at branches to stop the slide or to haul yourself back up. But by then we will have gone a very long way, what we offered as a party was we don't even start on that slope and I think we were right, I think we were utterly right to take that stand and I do maintain that stand. But what that shouldn't exclude and, and this is the whole point of it, that shouldn't exclude the fact that we have some people in the party who do not share that view, who are extremely significant clever people who've done a lot for the country, never mind just for the party, and we do need to make sure that their voice is heard.

DAVID FROST: And if you were in the position to do it, would you want to try and bring some of the people, some of the great lions as it were, like Ken Clarke, back into a Cabinet?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: I would certainly want a very broad based shadow Cabinet, all, every Tory Cabinet that I can remember has been exactly that, it, it's been composed of people from right across the party, it doesn't mean that you then don't have collective responsibility for policy, you must, but at least it's been broad-based. I believe that to be right but one of the reasons why I'm giving this interview today is not just to talk about that, it's because over the last few days our activists will have been shattered, the loyal people who voted for us will have been shattered, I don't think we can all go away and hide because we're afraid of being asked questions about the leadership. I think we've now got to give a strong voice and talk about the future, the future, the future, you learn from the past but you don't dwell on it.

DAVID FROST: You don't dwell on it but you've got to learn from it?


DAVID FROST: And you've got to really examine, everyone's saying, you've got to take it really serious and, and examine everything?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: I think that the thing that Chris Patten got right in the previous interview with you was that after every defeat you do have to have a major review. What you mustn't then become is just locked in looking back, what I think we've now got to do and what all of us have got to offer the country is a way forward. I do not believe that this country is enamoured of Mr Blair, I think it would like an alternative, it is now for us to give that alternative.

DAVID FROST: And, and you've, you've obviously thought this through and, and saying it very clearly and very deliberately and you're being pressed to run at the moment in the leadership, aren't you, by your supporters?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: There are quite a lot of people who would like me to run but that doesn't mean I can just jump in, I've got to take soundings just see how wide the support is, consider what I've got to offer, it would be very premature to make any decisions now but as I say what that shouldn't mean is what has happened over the last few days where because we didn't want to answer those questions we haven't been getting out there and trying to gee people up and I think we've now got to start doing that.

DAVID FROST: So will people, would people looking at the sort of Tory Party that you would like it to be, would they, in those circumstances, would they see something very different, not, not, not a personal thing about William Hague, but just a new direction, a new tack?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: I would think┐

DAVID FROST: One big new┐

ANN WIDDECOMBE: What I would like to see from the party now is a completely different approach, I would like to see it, I mean those things that we're talking about are important and I want us to go on talking about them, I'm going to be talking about Europe and asylum and tax and law and order, but I want us to have a completely different approach in the way that we debate these issues, I want away from the personalities, onto issues honestly, saying when you don't know, saying when the solution isn't perfect, saying when things won't take five minutes but will take longer, saying when we have got things wrong. Now that is important and it isn't just politicians who make that difficult, if I may be so bold, it's also your profession because if a politician says perhaps that's wrong we'll do it slightly differently, your attitude is this is a major and embarrassing u-turn, not actually a sensible modification. Now we've got to have the guts to go through with it.

DAVID FROST: And in addition to that, would there be specific changes of policy that you would like to see?

ANN WIDDECOMBE: I want to see a big initiative on regeneration linked to law and order, on estates all over this country there are hundreds of thousands of people like you and me trying to live normal decent lives, whose lives are being made a hell by drugs and thuggery and degradation of the environment, they are the people we need to include, they are the people that we need to serve as, as well as the rest and I want to see a major initiative in that area.

DAVID FROST: Ann, thank you very much indeed for being with us this morning and just two days after those results were in all the papers, coming out this weekend, we appreciate it.


DAVID FROST: Thank you very much to Ann Widdecombe.


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