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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: DAVID DAVIS MP CONTENDER FOR TORY LEADERSHIP JULY 8TH, 2001

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

DAVID FROST: It's just two days now before the Conservative Party start actually choosing their next leader. On Tuesday 166 Tory MPs will take part in the first round of voting, there are of course five men standing in the contest, Ken Clarke, Michael Ancram, Michael Portillo - all of whom have been here in the last couple of weeks, plus Iain Duncan Smith who I'll be talking to in just a moment and David Davis who joins me right now. David, good morning.

DAVID DAVIS: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: What about the, the stories which go on in a lot of papers today, where do you stand on that business of cannabis and the reform of the criminalisation?

DAVID DAVIS: I'm against the, the decriminalisation of cannabis, I think it's worth having a debate because the current policy is not working, hard drugs on the street more available than they ever were, cheaper than they ever were, more people taking them. But nevertheless I'm against the decriminalisation because I've seen what's happened in Holland, it's been a disaster.

DAVID FROST: In what way?

DAVID DAVIS: Well Holland has got more hard drugs today than it had a couple of decades ago, it's become a centre for drug-trafficking, it's created problems for other European countries, as Europe Minister I saw this only two closely and it's become a drug-based society in some respects. So there are many reasons why this is a bad idea.

DAVID FROST: And what, what direction do you think the party has to take now to regain a chance of winning an election?

DAVID DAVIS: Well we lost, we've lost nearly six million votes since 1992, we've got to get the trust of the public back and there are really two main areas where this, this comes into play. One is on public services, on schools, hospitals, law and order, the issue you've been talking about this morning with riots in Bradford, we've got to get some more performance politics rather than posture politics frankly. The other side is honesty in politics, trying to re-establish the trust of the people in the whole political system, I mean we've had the lowest turnout that I've ever heard of in the last general election, that's partly because of lack of performance but also I think because of cynicism of our politics today.

DAVID FROST: And when you change direction or whatever, people talk a lot about tone and all those things but the key, the key question is how do you move into the centre to challenge Tony Blair when he seems to have the centre-right and centre-left tied up and you're, you're seen as right of centre, I mean is it possible to win from the right when another party owns the centre?

DAVID DAVIS: Well the, the left-right centre is an odd metaphor here, let's take the issue this morning that's, that's dominating the airways, the riots. One of the things I've been arguing for from a right-wing perspective if you like for the last year has been is that we need 30,000 more policemen, not 3,000 more, 30,000 more a very large number more because what's happened in the last few years is we've seen the number of policemen go down and at the same time draconian laws brought in, the sort of police state without the police, you know the jury trial being done away with, taking away people's passports on suspicion, things like that. What we need to do is say, what do we need to do to solve this problem? We need more policemen, we need to solve it then you'd have more community policemen, more people to deal with burglaries, more policemen to do with all the issues that worry people.

DAVID FROST: But also you'd need a new approach by those police perhaps to these racial flare-ups?

DAVID DAVIS: Well you'd need more effective policing that's certainly true but if you've got the people to do it then it's possible. If you haven't got the policemen you simply can't do any of the job properly.

DAVID FROST: And what about when changing direction, what is the major change in actual specific policy that you would advocate?

DAVID DAVIS: Well that's one but there are others as well, you've got real problems in our hospital sector, tens of thousands of people dying unnecessarily from cancer, from infectious diseases they didn't have when they went in, from, from medical mistakes even and just throwing money at that problem will not solve it. We have to address the whole question of giving power back to GPs, power back to the patients, choice back to the patients and making the hospital system work better, personalising it if you like rather than privatising it. It isn't just money it's the way you organise it. The same thing applies in schooling, our schooling systems let down the weakest children for a century, the bottom half of our population's always been badly served, we've got to bring Conservative policies to bear on the weakest schools, that may mean using the private sector, it may mean having other schools take them over. There are lots of areas where serious policy insight is necessary and this government is balking it.

DAVID FROST: So you think you can bring that great, that greater insight and what, at the same time, in terms of public and private, not in terms of the tube but in terms of, do you want to see much more private provision of the public health service?

DAVID DAVIS: Well the irony is that the government's going down this route but trying to cover it up and if we do this we have to use it in a transparent way, we must preserve free at the point of delivery, that is we've got to give people free health care but if we use the private sector we must use it in the way which makes sure it's well run, not as was described by one of your correspondents, Alice Miles, in the papers this morning, a badly run one. It's got to be open to, open and accountable to the public, if we do that we start to get back to this honesty and politics telling people what you're actually doing. I mean the problem today is people don't trust politicians, hardly surprising you've got circumstances where big business appears to dominate some political decisions, Ecclestone and all that, we should be looking at party funding, we should be looking at the whole issue of politicisation of the civil service, all these things undermine trust and it goes right through from policy to the way we run the country.

DAVID FROST: Do you think the last four years, as Ken Clarke says, have been wasted years, if you look at the results you would think that may be true but do you thinkż

DAVID DAVIS: No, no I don't, I am actually a fan of William Hague, I think he behaved with great dignity and courage on what must have been the last, the worst day of his life but we've had big advances in the, in the council elections. The European issue is much less of a problem today than it was four or five years ago, I can remember I was Europe Minister, I lived on this knife-edge all that time so a lot of things he's done and I actually think it probably was the case, he could never have won this election because the government always had the excuse last time of blaming a previous Conservative government.

DAVID FROST: And they also said that no one can get back that large a majority in the next throw which is defending William Hague and that, but that raises the point that you couldn't win the next election if you became leader?

DAVID DAVIS: I'm not so sure about that, that's not an argument I'd make because I think now the government is going into an excuse-free zone it has to justify everything that happens on it's own basis. It's going to fail, it's going to fail on taxes, it's going to fail on public services and at the end of this four years the public are going to want somebody else to vote for, our job is to make sure that we're the ones who've won the trust, we're the ones they believe can deliver better hospitals, better schools, better law and order and indeed a lower tax economy.

DAVID FROST: Do you think that, everyone talks about David, about your, you had a pretty tough childhood and do you think that's a help, I mean it's, it's a very different childhood to Michael Ancram's for instance, two different worlds there, but do you think that upbringing toughened you up for today's politics?

DAVID DAVIS: I have to say I view it as a very normal childhood actually and I think most people face that, most people, most of our professional classes they probably started the way I did and came up through grammar school and did all of that. So I actually think that of course it gives me a link with a large number of people but they're all very good people and this is a contest of good people, I wouldn't, I wouldn't want to detract from any of them.

DAVID FROST: Not from any of them and what, what happens David if obviously you're planning to win and so on, but if, if you were a clear fourth would you consider speeding up the process by stepping out after Tuesday?

DAVID DAVIS: Well I was the dark horse candidate coming from the back of the field, I'm already into the field now and I'd expect as people drop out I would get, I would accelerate towards the front, that's the, that's the, that's how our strategy is designed. But having said that, you know I used to be a mountaineer and one thing I never did when I climbed was think about falling off and I'm not going to do it now.

DAVID FROST: David, thank you very much for being with us.

DAVID DAVIS: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: We wish everybody well and of course we can't take sides and so we wish all of the five candidates well but that can't happen, one of the five who will be leader is going to be knocked out on Tuesday and on Thursday they'll vote again and then it's down to three.

END

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