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EDITIONS
Breakfast with Frost
Shirley Williams MP, Tom Clarke MP, and Bill Morris
Shirley Williams MP, Tom Clarke MP, and Bill Morris
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
HOSTED BY SUE MACGREGOR
INTERVIEW:
SHIRLEY WILLIAMS MP.
BILL MORRIS and
TOM CLARKE MP
SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2002


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

SUE MACGREGOR:
Well Tony Blair as we said earlier faces possible defeat over Iraq in two places back home this month. At the Labour Party Conference and at the TUC gathering. Well Shirley Williams is leader of the Liberal Democrats here in the Lords, Bill Morris is General Secretary of the Transport and General Worker's Union and joining us from Glasgow is one of Tony Blair's former ministers, now a prominent Labour back-bencher Tom Clarke. Shirley Williams you as Professor of Politics in the States which you are for at least half the year, have studied this very closely, what do you make of what appears to be Tony Blair apart - quite a trans-Atlantic divide on what to do about Saddam Hussein?

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:
I think the divide actually is much deeper than simply about Iraq. I think fundamentally what we're seeing is a European Union that is moving towards the idea of international law and the idea of a moral order internationally and a United States which still largely depends upon the concept of national sovereignty and power and that's a very deep division that underlies all of this. Having said that it's also important to recognise that there is a very powerful link between the Christian coalition and the Republican conservatives which adds to the United States a certain kind of moral dimension, almost a puritan dimension as Professor Kagan was saying in the Observer. I would simply say that if you are proposing a war which would mean the death of thousands of innocent civilians because that's what it does mean and the destruction of one of the world's oldest civilisations you must have overwhelming evidence and so far as Colin Powell hints in his interview we do not have evidence that is overwhelming.

SUE MACGREGOR:
And he is differing therefore from vice-President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and others who seem to be saying let's go in anyway?

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:
Frankly I think they're not helping, their rhetoric is repeated over and over again, they still have not pointed to the evidence that they say is there and the other thing that we know for certain is that there is a real question about whether Iraq has either the means of delivery or the intention to use such weapons, I might just point out that from 1988 'til today Iraq has been effectively contained and has not used its weapons against any other country¿because it's frightened.

SUE MACGREGOR:
But why should we wait because we know they've got quite a lot?

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:
We don't know that they have and the International Institute of Strategic Studies has reported in today's Observer, is about to come out with a report which suggests that event the present levels are over-stated. Now let me say again if the evidence is clear yes the case changes but so far we're being asked to commit ourselves in a way that is not sustained by any evidence we've seen.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Alright, let me bring in Tom Clarke in Glasgow, Mr Clarke I don't know how divided you think the Labour Cabinet is here but Tony Blair is determined, it looks so far, to back Bush on going in if necessary?

TOM CLARKE:
Well Sue I have to say that I frankly don't believe that that is the case, I've heard Tony Blair speak on a number of occasions, most recently when he spoke to the Parliamentary Labour Party just before the recess and he made it quite clear that he had a very open mind. Now I believe that to be the case, I believe that the Parliamentary Labour Party like myself frankly doesn't have the stomach for a war against Iraq. We understood the arguments of Afghanistan, the guilt there was clear, it was necessary to get to the people who were responsible for September the 11th. That isn't the case and I agree almost everything Shirley Williams has said on that but I don't believe that Tony Blair's position is one which is firmly committed to war against Iraq. I think he is listening and I think he will have a powerful influence upon Bush himself.

SUE MACGREGOR:
And if he gauged the opinion of Labour back-benchers on this it would be strongly of the opinion that he should not?

TOM CLARKE:
I sense that that is the case, I think that when President Bush has been persuaded, as he clearly has been and it should be out, quite clearly the American Administration isn't united in this, quite clearly too a number of the military including those involved in the Gulf War are not supporting action on the current evidence against Iraq¿I think that Tony's listening to that. He's immensely well informed, his response to the events of September the 11th¿was quite outstanding and I don't think that's something that Bush himself will dismiss lightly.

SUE MACGREGOR:
So what will the message of backbenchers be at Blackpool at the Labour Party conference?

TOM CLARKE:
My guess is that we're more concerned about seeking to avoid conflict in Iraq than in party political matters or in responding to cheap party political points. I think that we've reached a stage where we think that President Bush has been forced into a position by some of the extremists in his own administration, he's been painted into a corner, his position is not justified by the facts, we moved from saying that there was a build-up of weapons in Iraq to saying that they were responsible for the events of September the 11th and now to saying that they're a threat for other reasons and the fact that all this is extremely unconvincing, not convincing enough in the absence of a United Nations decision and of world and international lawfulness to act and we believe that Tony Blair will be taking those views very firmly onboard.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Tom Clarke thanks very much, Bill Morris the views of the TUC will be made pretty clear, there are some pretty unfriendly emotions floating around are there not?

BILL MORRIS:
Well not too many but I think what we're seeing here is, is a debate about world peace now and in future and if that's the case then I think we first of all have to look to the institutions which is charged with that responsibility, that is the United Nations. From Britain's point of view I think Britain has a very crucial and strategic role to play, not just at home nationally but indeed in terms of Europe and can form the bridge head between Europe and the United States and I think that the Prime Minister is doing that very well. My message to the Prime Minister is that whatever decision is to be taken at the end of the debate has got to be based in real incontrovertible evidence, that's not yet been seen¿

SUE MACGREGOR:
If there is no¿if there is no¿


BILL MORRIS:

I see no point at this particular juncture for the party to be divided in any way and my position is simply this¿don't divide your party, seek the evidence and get the inspectorate in.


SUE MACGREGOR:
If the party is already divided on what should be done¿

BILL MORRIS:
The party's reflecting public opinion¿

SUE MACGREGOR:
The evidence has not been shown, if there is no evidence by the time the TUC gathers, would you expect a lot of trades unionists to make a very firm stance against moving in and make that quite clear to the Prime Minister?

BILL MORRIS:
Well I think that the party and indeed trade unionists is almost a microcosm of society as the debate evolves and therefore I think from the trade union point of view it will be, there'll be, there will be a debate but the outcome of the debate will be influenced by the evidence which emerges.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Let me just ask you, if I may just, just quickly ask Bill because time is limited, of course you won't just be talking about Iraq, you will also be talking about Europe and the Euro, I think you rather firmly do not wish to test public opinion on that for some time to come?

BILL MORRIS:
Well my position is that only Labour will deliver the single currency, that means a third term Labour government and people's experience at the next election would be based on public services. So I argue that we should make public services the priority, get this third term and then address the Euro.

SUE MACGREGOR:
No referendum until a third term?

BILL MORRIS:
No referendum until the third term, that's a guarantee.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Shirley Williams you wanted to come back on Iraq?

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:
I'm not sure how far a bridge can stretch, I think one of Tony Blair's real problems is that the European leaders are now taking an increasingly tough line against a war on Iraq and therefore in trying to make that bridge I think the only route for Tony Blair is to support what Jack Straw is desperately trying to do which is to go back to the UN and back to the issue of inspections and I think he's right.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Shirley Williams, Bill Morris, thank you both very much indeed.

END
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