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Breakfast with Frost Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Michael Ancram MP, shadow foreign secretary
Michael Ancram MP, shadow foreign secretary
Michael Ancram MP, shadow foreign secretary

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

PETER SISSONS: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has rejected an appeal by white farmer for him to meet them ahead of the government imposed deadlines for them to leave their land next month. Aid agencies are warning that Zimbabwe is on the brink of a potentially devastating famine, they say six million people face starvation. It is partly to drought but mainly because white farmers have been ordered to stop working on their land and dispose of their stock. It's difficult to independent accounts of what's happening in Zimbabwe, the BBC is banned from the country and most other foreign journalists are heavily restricted as to what they can say. But the Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram has just returned from Zimbabwe, he joins me now from Edinburgh, good morning Michael.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Good morning.

PETER SISSONS: Now how did you get in?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I arrived at Harrare airport, I presented my passport, I described my profession as a politician and I said I'd gone to see friends and I spent a day in Zimbabwe.

PETER SISSONS: And just a day, was that long enough to draw some firm conclusions?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Probably not to get all the accurate information, but I wasn't certain I'd get in, I believe if I'd let them know I was coming they would have stopped me, I've been fairly trenchant in my views of what Mugabe and his government have been doing over these last months and I had a very intensive day, those who had arranged to take me round made sure that I saw the things I wanted to and I came back absolutely convinced that what you just said about Zimbabwe is not only true but very urgent.

PETER SISSONS: Will Morgan Zvangerai every become leader while Mugabe is alive?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I believe that the election was rigged, I think that Morgan Zvangerai should have won it at that stage. I met him during my day in Harrare and he certainly is intending to fight on. His sole objective is now to see fresh elections held under proper supervision but he too is aware that the crisis which is impending in Zimbabwe is very urgent. I mean I saw fields which are, are not prepared to be sown, I saw wheatfields with no wheat in them and on the other side I saw all the early signs of famine, I saw 100 of the 85,000 black farm workers who've been thrown off the farms without food, without possessions, without homes. There is a real crisis impending and it's all politically made by Mugabe.

PETER SISSONS: Has the time come to kick them out of the Commonwealth?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Well at the moment they're suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth but I think what is important is to try and make sure that the pressure is brought to bear on Robert Mugabe and his henchmen. I hope that the European Ministers meeting tomorrow in Brussels will look again at the targeted sanctions which have been imposed which are simply not working and which are regarded as a sort of mockery in Zimbabwe, to tighten them up to make sure that the travel ban not only includes a few people like Mugabe but includes their families, includes their business associates and that their power to seize assets also is much wider so that a real pressure is put on Robert Mugabe and his henchmen to make them understand the international community's not going to stand by and watch this, this horrific crisis unfold.

PETER SISSONS: Perhaps the only real pressure will come when the crisis does unfold and people start starving to death?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Well it would be awful if that was to happen because it's not just in Zimbabwe, there's going to be enormous problems of famine and starvation in Zimbabwe, totally politically created. But outside I went to Malawi, I returned from Malawi yesterday, there is a famine in Malawi which is not politically created, it's because they can't produce enough food. Next door in Zimbabwe they were able to produce not just enough food for Zimbabweans but also for the countries around, so this famine is going to be worst. In South Africa, in Botswana, in Malawi and other countries because of Robert Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe and I talked to the leaders and the leading politicians in South Africa and Malawi and they are aware of the problem. We've got to now make sure that they join us in putting pressure on Robert Mugabe.

PETER SISSONS: Why does he retain so many friends in Southern Africa who are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think there's a historical attachment to those who fought in what was regarded as the war of liberation but all the politicians I spoke to in South Africa are aware of the economic damage and the humanitarian damage that it's going to be done to them by this disaster and next door the President of Malawi was in absolutely no doubt as to the impact that it would have on his country. So it's not a, as is often portrayed by Robert Mugabe, a problem for the white people in Zimbabwe, this is a crisis for all the black people in Zimbabwe and around Zimbabwe as well. The world cannot turn its back on it, the reason I went in was to show people there that we were not forgetting them. I met a black farm worker among others who had no hope, who turned to me as I left and said thank goodness that you're not forgetting us too. They really are looking for support and understanding from outside Zimbabwe, we need to give it to them.

PETER SISSONS: Do you regard Mugabe as racist?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Certainly in the way that he's treating the black farm workers who are being thrown off, he is describing them as Malawian and Mozambiquean and therefore sneering at them, he doesn't see them as a problem, if that isn't racism I don't know what is.

PETER SISSONS: Can we just raise with you one or two other topics, Gibraltar first, very hypocritical of the Tories to condemn Jack Straw's moves when it was a Tory government that originally started the talks with Spain?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Well the Brussels process which was set up by us allowed the two governments to What they say, whatever the phrase was to discuss sovereignty but to negotiate on those areas of normalising relations, and that was made clear, there was a distinction between the two. I've talked to my predecessors who were foreign secretary during the Conservative government and they said, yes, I mean sovereignty was technically on the table, as I suppose it was in my case in Northern Ireland but we didn't discuss it because there was, there was going to be no outcome. The only way in which sovereignty can change in Gibraltar is if the people of Gibraltar vote to have it changed and the reality and I know this because I've been there, is that 99 per cent of the people of Gibraltar will not vote for it to be changed.

PETER SISSONS: The state of the Conservative Party, Michael, Matthew Parris, I don't know whether you read his piece in the Times the other day, he suggested the Tory Party, as he put it, spit it out and say what they really believe about public spending, they should say Gordon Brown plans to spend too much but they haven't got the wit or the guts to say so?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I read what Matthew Parris raised and Matthew's a good friend but I think he was wrong in this instance because we're three weeks, three years at least away from a general election, I wish it was three weeks, but three years away from a general election and we don't know what the financial state of the country is going to be then or the state of the public services and so we can't make a judgement as to what our policy would be until nearer the time. Secondly I think everybody who looks at the public services which Gordon Brown was talking about last week, knows that they all need reform and what is the point of putting more money in until that reform has taken place, it's like putting water into a bucket before you mend the hole through which the water's draining out.

PETER SISSONS: So Gordon Brown does plan to spend too much in your view?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: No what we are saying very clearly is that reform should precede the decisions on how much money should be spent because there's no point putting money into something where it is not going to work effectively to provide the level of public services that people deserve. If it was just a question of putting money in there wouldn't be a problem in the Health Service because money has been put in over the last five years or so, we've been told, the same with transport and education and law and order. All of these need fundamentally to be reviewed in terms of how you reform them to make sure that many actually produces the levels of service that people deserve, only after you've done that should you then look at precisely how much you should put in.

PETER SISSONS: But until then Tony Blair gets a free hit every week by saying, you know, the Tories would cut Labour's mighty investment plans?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I talked to a lot of people around the country including my constituents, what they're interested in is the level of services which they are receiving, in health, in education, in transport, they know this government is failing to deliver, they're not going to believe Tony Blair's rhetoric any more because they've heard it for the last five years and it hasn't produced the goods. What they're interested in seeing is how those services are going to be improved, we are going to be working over these next months and years to make sure that they see how we would approach these services in a way where we can deliver those improvements, we know we have to regain the trust of people, they're not going to trust us just simply because we use rhetoric like Tony Blair does, we've got to show them we're working out how it can be done and then showing them how we are going to do it when we return to office.

PETER SISSONS: Michael Ancram thank you very much for joining us this morning. The Shadow Foreign Secretary.


PETER SISSONS: And that's all for this week, as we mentioned earlier we won't be on air for the next two Sundays, instead there'll be extensive coverage of the Commonwealth Games and they look like being really very, very spectacular. Breakfast with Frost will be back on August the 4th but it will be breakfast with Fergal Keane but from me until the next time good morning.


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