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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: IAIN DUNCAN SMITH MP CONTENDER FOR THE TORY LEADERSHIP JULY 8TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: Iain Duncan Smith is the last of the five challengers we meet, a former Army man turned MP for Norman Tebbit's old seat of Chingford, a former Maastricht rebel all those years ago and now the Shadow Defence Secretary and he's with me now as if by magic, one flick and there it's transformation.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Morning David.
DAVID FROST: Good morning, the transformation is complete. John Major when he was with us two or three weeks ago said Thatcherism was right for its time and it is wrong for this time, what do you think about that?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I think it depends what you, what one means by Thatcherism, I mean in actual fact what Thatcherism was was about massive change because if you remember in the mid-70s the public out there had enough of politicians who told them that nothing could change and we were told that the economy was going to decline, trade unions were too powerful, you couldn't handle them, no single government was good enough and what she did and what her ministers did was to come in and say, no we don't accept that nothing can change and look at us now, they changed all of that and the big issues then were industrial policy, trade unions and the economy. So what they taught us was that the Conservative Party can radically change things and make things better but what they did then was a different agenda, industrial policy economy and not what we're worried about today, we're worried about public services most particularly and also making sure that our, our, our country remains as a unified nation and these are new issues for our time and they need new politicians.
DAVID FROST: New politicians, but at the same time, you are, everybody says, Margaret Thatcher's choice as it were, is that a big plus?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I don't know that I'm anybody's choice, I must say David I am my own man and I've come to this because I believe that it's right and I'm going to make the right decisions because I believe that what's needed by the Conservative Party now is clear leadership, leadership that has a sense of where the party should go and we're not going to deviate on that main aim, that's been our problem for too long.
DAVID FROST: Well now where should it go, indeed is the point, because there's tremendous community of people saying, you know we must change the tone and we must talk about the issues that matter to people and so on and so forth, I mean what is the specific things that you could do to make the Tory Party really seen to be addressing today's problems, I mean what's, what's the most dynamic new policy you could bring in?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I think you're absolutely right, earlier on you said tone, what does that really mean and I think that's exactly the point, it's no good just saying we're going to change the tone, of course we don't, we don't want to get to where we got to about ten years ago which is language had got very strident but the message got lost. We need now the message to be powerful so what is the message? It's about reform and change in the public services, what's intriguing is that the present government has got completely lost on this, they're still wedded, it appears to me, to ration book politics where out there the public when it comes to public services, health and education, get what they're told they can have and no choice. Yet in the rest of the public's lives they have choice, they have choice in almost everything and so it's bizarre now that they have to accept what they're given in perhaps some of the most important areas.
DAVID FROST: Well you should have made more of that at the last election?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I think, I think you're right, the trouble was you need to get proper policies bedded in with time to sell them and let me give you an example. In education I have, I had a woman come to my surgery not so long ago where she said she didn't want to go to a particular failing school in my constituency. The council had done nothing at all about it for years, it was a real problem, it had become a sink school and she didn't want her child, who was a good child, to go there. She couldn't afford to go private, she was in a despair so she kept her child at home and what we should be able to do in the Conservative Party is say we have a message for them, for example you know why can't we say that in a case of a failing school or a school that's on short time she could take the credit of the amount that the state pays for that education and take it somewhere else because it is after all the state that's failing her. So why can't we give her the choice and the chance to improve her life, just little things like that begin to break open this idea¿
DAVID FROST: But if she went to a private school it would be more than she would get in her voucher payment from the old school, wouldn't it?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well there are ways of putting perhaps some grants, maybe even means test the grants, perhaps topped up, there are bursaries. What I'm saying is you've got to break the stranglehold of failure on people who want only the best for their children, that's the key message, it's not about privatisation or versus the state, it's about a state monopoly that's grinding people down versus competition. In Holland and France for example, David, they do this already, in Holland over 70 per cent of secondary schooling is paid for by the state but founded in private institutions. So we're alone in the world¿
DAVID FROST: But we've heard it's a drug-dominated as well¿
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well there's another issue.
DAVID FROST: All very complicated. Frank Johnson said yesterday "most of us Tories want the party to stay the same only win", that's the problem about changing the aspects of the Tory Party isn't it, that really everyone's really happy with everything, even the old-fashioned things except, except the results?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well actually what, there's a real message in what he's saying, when he means stay the same he means don't lose sight of our values, of our ethos, of who we are, we mustn't become Labour because you know if Labour were popular don't we think the public would have gone out and voted for them at the last election. Only something like one in four voted for the Labour Party, so out there's a well of discontent¿
DAVID FROST: But one in how many voted for the Conservatives?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I know because we didn't have a clear message at the end that said here we have an alternative that is going to solve your problems. The message we said is not just language it's about saying to people you have a problem in health, you have a problem in education, we want to produce solutions as we did in the '70s to challenge this dead consensus, the ration book politics that the government's got locked into with the trade unions arguing the toss and their own back benchers denying them, we can break through that and actually say to the public, you're used to choice everywhere else, you're used to higher quality, why do you have to accept it in some of the most important areas that you accept low quality, we shouldn't accept that.
DAVID FROST: Europe, are you, in some quotes it would seem you are, would, are you a never man?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I personally, my view's have not changed on this, I see no way in which Britain could enter the Euro and make a success of it, I think both in constitutional terms where I think we lose huge powers that the public vote to us then go to another group who are unelected, bankers or whoever, and in economic terms, I mean just look around Euro-land at the moment, there are serious problems, Germany's beginning to wobble, the Irish have got a problem because their economy's out of kilter with the rest, one size fits all interest rate means someone is going to be down and somebody's going to be up and everybody's going to be hurt.
DAVID FROST: So that is, so you are a never man?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: My personal view is I don't see any time I'll be voting for it, I'm opposed to it in principle but the way to unite the party is for us to say that's what the party wants the majority, that's what the country wants, we need to offer alternatives so at the next referendum, which is now what Labour wants, we will oppose the Euro but everybody concerned in my Shadow Cabinet because what I say to them is when the moment comes I can be tolerant, very tolerant, because I've seen it all, I've done it myself, you can go and support this, vote for it, even campaign for it providing you do it positively¿that's the key.
DAVID FROST: Do you think, would you rule out completely or is, is it possible that one day we may have to leave the European Union?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I, I don't see that there is such a clear definition about leaving the European Union, my view is we want to be friends, we want to be partners, these are our allies, we want to cooperate and trade with them so it's a matter of adjusting what we have already into a working relationship. At the moment, as has been pointed out by too many people, it's got very political, it looks as though many people wanted to head towards some sort of superstate, we don't want that, what we want is cooperation and trade and friendship, we don't want some central government that denies the rights of people.
DAVID FROST: Is it possible that in fact a turn up for the books but looking at the, how the skew between the nine per cent lead resulting in a huge majority that you've got to get more than nine per cent to level it and so on, that in fact the, the voting dynamics are against the Conservatives now, should you consider electoral reform which you never have before but the only time one of the two big parties would consider it is when it benefits them and it could benefit you now?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I always think that people who change their view on electoral reform when they're doing badly are, are weak people and it's because what you end up doing is chasing the error. Look our job is to go out David, and persuade people that, that what the government is doing is wrong, that the Liberal Democrats are like an adjunct, they're rather like a sort of little left-wing adjunct to the Labour Party and that the two together have no solutions. If we can persuade the public of that then they'll vote for us, I don't think the public sits there and says, I'm a Labour man, I'm a Conservative man, what they say is I don't understand what the purpose is of voting because nobody talks about solutions they just talk about silly things, now what they want to know is does the Conservative Party have an alternative, I mean you'd have said almost remember the 1970s, they said exactly the same thing, I mean you'll remember this, they said we can never have a proper government again because the trade unions are too powerful. But look, along came a government that said no and they changed it and change has got to be the key for us.
DAVID FROST: Change has got to be the key, I'm sure, yes let's just get an update on the news headlines from Sian.
[BREAK FOR NEWS]
DAVID FROST: Iain you've stood in Bradford, you know it well what's your reaction to what we've been seeing?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I think that there's a real problem in all of these cities, Bradford included, where some very militant young people are trying to take the law into their own hands and sadly looks like targeting the police. I mean we've actually got to be absolutely clear that that is not to be tolerated but there are divisions even within the Asian community and there's a simplistic view sometimes, that it's all Asian versus the other, it's not, there's a real mix so we now need to understand more fully what's happening before we rush to judgement.
DAVID FROST: Iain thank you very much indeed and of course the Tory Party rushes to judgement itself on, on Tuesday, in the meantime thanks to everybody and good luck Tim. Good morning.
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