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Francis Maude MP
Francis Maude MP
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: FRANCIS MAUDE MP FEBRUARY 3RD, 2002

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

DAVID FROST: Well now since 1997 commentators have been saying that the top Conservatives must change to survive. The calls for change became even louder after last year's general election result. Now the former Shadow Foreign Secretary Francis Maude who supported Michael Portillo's leadership bid has set up a new think tank, it's called Policy Exchange. According to his web site it's aimed at embarking on a process of far-reaching renewal. He's with us, Francis good morning.

FRANCIS MAUDE: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: When John Major was here just, just after the election he warned that if the party was too dogmatic over Europe, or drifted too far to the right it would consign itself to permanent opposition, is that a fear you share or is it a fear that the first six months of IDS have largely dispelled?

FRANCIS MAUDE: I think, well in, some good things have happened, there is still the risk, certainly the risk that the Conservatives will go backwards, we can't assume that we have a God given right to move off the bottom and gain popularity, we have to earn it bit by bit. Iain has made some very encouraging first steps in the first few months but there is a huge long way to go and not very much time so the case I'm making is that the process of renewal and change has to be entered into in a really wholehearted way.

DAVID FROST: What do you mean that he has to, I mean he's done something on women candidates, gays, asylum seekers, crime and so on, a more touchy-feely approach and so on. But you're saying that that has to accelerated because of the dangers facing the Tories?

FRANCIS MAUDE: Yes it isn't just a question of ticking the boxes, sort of done women candidates, because actually nothing has actually happened in terms of more women candidates, it couldn't possibly at this stage. The view I take is that we can't rely on exhortation of local associations to deliver more women candidates, more candidates from an ethnic background. I mean at the last election we didn't select a single woman or ethnic minority candidate for any Tory held constituency. I mean they were exclusively white males, now that won't do, that made us look very unrepresentative, very narrow and we can't afford that. It's wrong anyway because actually the Conservative Party at its best has always been very broad and Disraeli, a couple of centuries, a century and a half ago said the Conservative Party is national or it's nothing and that's absolutely right, it has to be a party that credibly and genuinely seeks to represent everybody in the country and respects everybody regardless of what type it attracts, their gender, sexual orientation, colour, origins, anything.

DAVID FROST: And I mean obviously the point of the think tank in a sense is to promote the sort of ideas that you and Michael Portillo and Archie Norman were discussing during the leadership campaign and so on. What exactly is Michael's role, is he one of the founders of this, is he a member, is he a supporter or subscriber?

FRANCIS MAUDE: Well I haven't, to be honest I haven't talked to him about this because there was a lot of talk early on about how this was sort of a band of disgruntled Portillistas and I thought it was unhelpful both to Michael and to the endeavour we're setting up for Michael to be associated with it. So I'd rather deliberately not talk to him about it and as things have gone on a much wider group of people have expressed support for the ideals that we're seeking to promote and you know there is not a sense any more of this being at all factional, this is about a Conservative Party that is post-factional, which is genuinely broad and generous and seeking to move¿

DAVID FROST: But obviously these are issues he'd be sympathetic to¿when you said you haven't talked to him about, about joining this organisation so that he can feel separate from it. Does that mean you haven't talked to him at all or do you go to football matches together or whatever?

FRANCIS MAUDE: Oh I don't think either of us particularly goes to football matches but I've had casual conversations with him, you know we're old friends but I haven't, rather specifically haven't talked to him about this.

DAVID FROST: And do you see him as an important force in the future of this party you're talking about?

FRANCIS MAUDE: Well I hope so, I mean you know he is a big figure and he has contributed an enormous amount and I hope he would want to contribute much of the party in the future but you know that'll be a matter for him.

DAVID FROST: Do you, do you intend to make life difficult for the leadership if they go in the wrong direction?

FRANCIS MAUDE: Well I don't...

DAVID FROST: Because otherwise they'll say you're a toothless tiger or...

FRANCIS MAUDE: No exactly, I, I will, we will robustly promote what we believe in which is the need for the Conservative Party to move on, for us to be a relentlessly internationalist party, outward looking, never ever must we behave in such a way that we can be caricatured even as being little Englanders, I found that grossly offensive, we are an internationalist party, internationalist people with a global outlook. We must never allow that to happen again, we've got to be a party that's seen to be generous and broad, not narrow. People found it far too easy to characterise us as being mean minded and disagreeable, against things rather than for things so our style and approach and our outlook, and has to come from within, this is not about presentation, it has to come from inside, we have to be people who are positively for and not against...

DAVID FROST: You're obviously got to have an impact on the floating voters and so on, do you think that's easier or more difficult with IDS on top or with Hague on top?

FRANCIS MAUDE: Well I think Iain is, has positioned himself very well, his style is matter-of-fact, he's, he doesn't indulge in grandiose rhetoric and I think people are fed up with politicians, aren't they, today, they distrust all politicians across the piece, they think we're self-serving, they think we're in it for ourselves, they think we're dogmatic, promoting things because of a sort of knee-jerk reaction. Iain's style fits very well with what I think people want from politicians, being measured, not automatically opposing everything the other side says. I think people wanted to hear politicians who talk as much about the things where they agree with their opponents as the things that they disagree.

DAVID FROST: David Owen pioneered that a few years ago, I think he was attractive. But so do you rule out, you don't rule out one day being in a IDS Shadow Cabinet again, or an IDS Cabinet again?

FRANCIS MAUDE: Well I mean I'm always open to have conversations with my party leader and I don't, it isn't for me to say whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, everyone's always open to have the conversation.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed for being with us Francis.

FRANCIS MAUDE: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: Many thanks.

END


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