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Michael Ancram MP
Michael Ancram MP
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST HOSTED BY PETER SISSONS INTERVIEW: RT HON MICHAEL ANCRAM MP, FORMER CONSERVATIVE CHAIRMAN AUGUST 19TH, 2001

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

PETER SISSONS: I'm joined now by the outgoing Conservative chairman, Michael Ancram, who was once in this race himself but is now backing Iain Duncan Smith. Good morning, Michael. What will happen to the Tory party if Ken Clarke wins?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think the first thing we've got to accept is that whoever wins this contest is going to be the leader of the party and we've got to

PETER SISSONS: What will happen if Ken Clarke wins?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: The point I've been making and I made this week in an article is that if you have a leader who is in effectively in disagreement on a major policy issue with the majority of the party then that does risk creating division and indeed risks tearing the party apart. And I hope that the members

PETER SISSONS: You didn't say risk, you said it would.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: No, I said risk, if you actually read what I wrote I said it would risk tearing the party apart. And that was something that I hope the members would consider because it is a matter of some importance. William Hague I think in what he has said in his endorsement of Iain Duncan Smith has raised the same point. This isn't a personal point against Ken Clarke, I am a friend of Ken's, I think he's a great guy, but when we're talking about the leadership of the party I think it's important that you have a leader who speaks for the majority of the party on a major issue such as Europe and the Euro.

PETER SISSONS: This business of tearing the party apart, would you envisage MPs actually leaving the party if Ken Clarke became leader?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think the history of the Conservative Party over the last ten years is that where we have allowed an argument of the type to develop that developed over Europe, we are seen and perceived to be a party that is divided and that feeds on itself in parliamentary terms as well. What I want to see is a leader who can reach out and unite the party. Who speaks for the majority of the party on the major issues, including Europe. But he can reach out and unite the party and say, we have to manage our differences on these issues where we differ but on the specific issues of which the public are concerned such as health and education and pensions and welfare we will drive forward with a positive and united programme which will attract voters back to us again. But we have to find a leader who can do that.

PETER SISSONS: Perhaps Ken Clarke is a healer, Ann Widdecombe and Malcolm Rifkind, both no fans of the single currency, are willing to trust him with the leadership. Perhaps he's the man who, who could surprise us.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think the difficulty I have is, for instance, we, when we get back in October the first thing we are going to be debating on government business is the Nice treaty where I know that Ken has taken a different view from the view that was the view of the shadow cabinet before last election. So what would happen in terms of the debate there, which would be the argument that was the argument which was dominating our policy within the Conservative Party? What happens if we have a referendum at the same time as a general election? Not impossible. If we had that and we had a leader of the party who was leading the party against the Labour Party on all issues except Europe, it was as Ken said yesterday, prepared to appear on the platform with the prime minister, we would have chaos. And that would, that would as I said earlier risk tearing the party apart.

PETER SISSONS: But you talk about the tearing the party apart over Europe, do you buy the whole Duncan Smith thing on Europe? It may not be precisely as outlined in the Mail on Sunday, but re-negotiate EU membership, forge closer trading links with the United States, keep the pound, cut taxation? You know, it reinforces his firm opposition to the single currency and even suggests Britain should join the American-led North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. And of course reading between the lines a lot of people saying the secret agenda is pulling out of the EU.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: If the secret agenda was pulling out I wouldn't be supporting Iain Duncan Smith. I'm actually a pro-European, I'm totally against the Euro. I believe the Euro is bad for this country politically and economically. I think it's going to be highly divisive in Europe as well. But on the issues you talk about, we talk about re-negotiation. Well the question for instance that Ken perhaps might be asked is he happy with the current common fisheries policy? Which is literally tearing our fishing industry apart. Or should we as a country be arguing for changes in that, that you could call re-negotiation? I believe we have to be in a situation in Europe where we can go and re-argue and re-open things which are damaging our country. I don't find that to be exceptional. I think most people in this country would think that was common sense.

PETER SISSONS: Have you ever heard Iain Duncan Smith talk about pulling out of Europe?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: No, I haven't. And as I say if I thought that was his agenda I would not be supporting him. I had long discussions with Iain Duncan Smith before I agreed to support him. He told me he would have a broad-based shadow cabinet which would include people who are pro the Euro and with the arrangements made for when we get to the referendum as to how they will be able to campaign for their beliefs, he will have a broad-based policy approach. He talks about being a one-nation Tory, as indeed am I. He has some very radical views on welfare, on health, on education, all of which I think are part of the programme which as a party we are going to have to develop for the next election to show that we have fresh ideas, dynamic ideas and attractive ideas.

PETER SISSONS: The judgement of another former party chairman, Jeremy Hanley is that Iain Duncan Smith has a record of disloyalty to the party. That this should really count against him, is his record of undermining John Major over Maastricht, when he was one of the people who time, after time, after time drove the party leadership to destruction.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think Iain himself has said that there are a lot of politicians in the past who have gone onto fine leaders of our party, like Churchill, like Disraeli, who at one time or another opposed their party on a particular policy issue. I think there are some very good precedents for that. The point, I'm not interested in looking back. I'm not interested in saying who was responsible for what election defeat in 1997, or, or, 2001, what I'm interested in looking at is who is most likely to unite the party in the next four years? Who is most likely to provide the leadership which will bring forward new, challenging ideas which will attract people back to us again? Iain Duncan Smith has one thing in his favour, very strong things, really, he's not a prisoner of past policies, he was never part of a previous government.

PETER SISSONS: But what has he got that William Hague hasn't got? You could have equally have said all that about William Hague four years ago. What has this man, Iain Duncan Smith, got? What's that magic ingredient that could lead you to victory that William Hague didn't have?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Well I think, I'm in the strange position now, I supported William Hague at the last leadership election. And I let it be known that I couldn't support Ken then for precisely the same reason as I'm giving now. That I don't think that he lead a united party because of his views on Europe and the Euro. I'm saying exactly the same thing on this occasion. I, when I stood earlier in this contest, made it clear that the first priority for this party of ours was to unite, because a divided party will never win elections. I do think that Iain Duncan Smith is best placed to unite this party

PETER SISSONS: I've not heard the magic ingredient yet.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Well it's the ability to unite and bring forward fresh ideas. Each generation of leader has to come forward with fresh ideas which are going to attract the electorate back to us in the next election. I have two candidates I'm looking at at the moment, I believe Iain is best placed to unite the party. I believe he is best placed to bring forward to those exciting and radical ideas which are going to attract back those voters we lost.

PETER SISSONS: And whoever wins, Michael, what sort of party will it be with so many big names deciding to sit it out? Presumably, will you go on the backbenches if Ken Clarke wins?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I've always said, I will always serve my party in whatever way the party thinks I'm best suited to do.

PETER SISSONS: Will you take a shadow cabinet post?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I've always taken the view and I've always made it absolutely clear that I do believe that in politics

PETER SISSONS: You're slagging him off, Ken Clarke, but you'd take a shadow cabinet post

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Slagging off is a strange expression to use. We have to make a judgement. And the thing about a leadership contest is it's not between enemies or foes, it's a contest between friends and perhaps we all would rather not be in a position of having to decide between friends but we have to make that decision. We have to make it responsibly and we have to make it with justification. What I'm doing is not slagging off, I'm saying I'm looking for someone who can unite our party and who can lead our party with exciting new radical ideas and I believe that the person who can do that best is Iain Duncan Smith.

PETER SISSONS: Michael Ancram, thank you very much.


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