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 Breakfast with Frost
Iain Duncan Smith MP, Conservative party leader
Iain Duncan Smith MP, Conservative party leader
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, MP CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER JANUARY 12TH, 2003

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

DAVID FROST: And talking of leadership, here with us right now is the leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith. Welcome.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Good morning David. Can I just first of all start by congratulating you on the ten years of this programme.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed. That's greatly appreciated. And you're looking forward to ten years as leader of the Conservative Party, at least.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: At least. At least.

DAVID FROST: Tell me something, the latest two polls show Labour losing about five points -

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yes.

DAVID FROST: - compared to the election, 42 down to 37 roughly, and the Liberal Democrats going up by about those five points, and you staying steady at about the figure, or close to it, at the last election. Why did that five points go to the Liberal Democrats and not to the Conservatives?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well first of all polls come and go - we've had polls that showed us further ahead and polls that showed us further behind and the only poll, ultimately, that really matters is of course the one of the general election. But the simple answer to your question is, what's happening to the voting public is that most of them are now moving from having been in the camp of saying I'll vote for Labour to saying I'm undecided, I want to know what is going on, I think Labour is failing on all the promises Mr Blair made on crime, on education, on health and on being a clean and unsleazy government, they know he's broken all those promises, and now they're saying right, what's the alternative? That's the majority. There is some peel-away on the left of Labour, as a temporary vote - I don't know, that's their problem because they've got a real crisis in their own party at the moment - and that's what I'm not worried about. My concern is now that I, as a party leader, we as a party take the fight to Labour and show how Labour's failure in all these areas - particularly this week on crime - is actually hurting people up and down the country, and that is the only way which we will end up winning the next election.

DAVID FROST: Yes of course on crime I mean those figures this week were horrendous - 35, 46 per cent - but the British crime survey still shows all over that there's less crime now than when they came to power.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well let's get this absolutely straight, David. This week what did we see? We saw at Prime Minister's question time, Mr Blair, the man who promised to be tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime, saying to me that burglary was coming down, and yet the day following we saw burglary rising, we saw violence rising, we saw street crime rising, and we saw gun crime doubled over the last four years! So whatever the survey showed, he inherited a set of crime figures, that were falling, back in 1997. Now that Labour's policies are beginning to take effect, we're seeing those figures rise. And that's the key. This is what Giuliani said earlier on - and I have nothing but the highest admiration for Rudy Giuliani - what he pointed out, there is no substitute for clear government and clear leadership. For example, this week we saw the Lord Chancellor siding with the Lord Chief Justice in saying that burglars don't have to go to prison if they're caught. That's completely wrong, they should do. And he talked also, Giuliani, about mandatory sentences. This is the government that said they would have a mandatory three year sentence for somebody who is a third time burglar. I asked the question how many had actually been convicted and prosecuted on that basis since the government instigated this four years, only six. So they've failed on crime and their failure's hurting people up and down the country and that makes me really angry David.

DAVID FROST: But why is the overall figure still down? Is it because of minor crimes that have been reduced?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, essentially what happened was that some of the crimes like car thefts and burglary fell and they were on a falling trend in 1997 and they continued on down. What we've seen now is this is stalling and what's happening is it's rising again. And the reality here is that gun crime, even from '97, has actually doubled. That means that there are more crimes involving guns - we saw the tragedy up in Birmingham of those teenagers shot dead - and this is a normal occurrence now in many of our cities. What really worries me is New York used to be the crime capital of the western world but under this government London now is more violent and most of our cities are seeing more violence than a place like New York. It's an absolute tragedy and Mr Blair is completely guilty of failing to show some leadership on this.

DAVID FROST: You mean him specifically or the Home Secretary?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, I think Tony Blair is specifically responsible now for this failure. After all, look, this is a man who promised education, education, education, and we saw A-Level fiascos, we've seen a crisis in education with people leaving without qualifications -

DAVID FROST: Better A-Level results, we see results.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: We have seen a mess on the A-Level results, David.

DAVID FROST: Well that's true this year.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: This is a man that promised education, we've seen the man that promised he would solve the health service last year - a quarter of a million people actually had to leave the health service, mostly pensioners, to buy their treatments. But most of all, this is the man that promised tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime and this week we have seen a crisis in crime that is really damaging people's lives. Yes, it is him. It's Blair who is responsible. He made personal promises and we have to hold him to account for that.

DAVID FROST: And do you think you can get that message across in a way that means no longer the Lib-Dems get the advantages of any doubts people have about the government, or do you think that the Lib-Dems, you have to admit privately, have a chance of ending up as the second party?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: There's absolutely no chance of that happening, for one major reason. What people today want to know is as they see Tony Blair's failure in crime and education, in health, the fact that he promised a whiter-than-white government and we've got a sleazy government - all of these are things are failure - they want to know what's the alternative. The Liberal Democrats are not going to give an alternative, they simply want to know what your opinion is and then agree with it - and that's not governing, that's not taking tough choices. You have to show tough choices, you have to take leadership on issues. Tony Blair's failed to give leadership, I'm going to give the alternative which is a party which has a strong clear sense of direction.

DAVID FROST: That's the key thing that's not happening yet, obviously with those figures, they don't yet see you as the alternative.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: What they want to know is what is the alternative, this is the first time now since Mr Blair came to power that they've really decided he's failed and now they want to know what the alternative is. It's our job to show that. And there is one point, David, you know up and down the country Conservative councils are now demonstrating, as the audit commission showed the other day under some fantastic Conservative councils, that they actually produce better results for less tax money. And that is a clear demonstration of better run services for less money and that's what a Conservative government will be about, about getting it right, giving a real lead and showing that you can achieve these things - not just promising them as Mr Blair does.

DAVID FROST: What about, what about this thing, Iain, and this is a change really, you've come back to the issue of tax cuts and talking about a reduction of 20 per cent and so on, finding savings of 20 per cent, which on four hundred billion a year would be savings of 80 billion, which sounds a bit, a bit difficult, but this is a new development, isn't it? You've put tax cuts back, clearly, into the equation. A few months ago they were put second to the public services and so on, but now tax cuts are right back there in your policy aren't they?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well first of all let's get it clear what this is not about. What Labour has done has perpetrated a complete lie about what our policy is. We never promised, and will not promise and do not intend to have across the board cuts in doctors, nurses, teachers or anything like that. That is a complete lie and they'll go on repeating that mantra and they're simply pushing a lie out. We will not be doing that. What we were talking about -

DAVID FROST: What - what do you - what are you talking about cutting by 20 per cent.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Let, let me clear - let me be clear about this. What Howard Flight talked about was looking at the administrative cost of running the departments, which has risen dramatically, under the government, they have taxed more and more but they are wasting huge sums. Can I give you two examples. The first is, that running central government alone has gone up by two and a half billion pounds - a third more than when John Major left office in 1997 - and by the time they leave office, this government, Mr Blair will have cost the taxpayer more than four billion pounds just to run his government. You know, the health service has 24,000 more administrators now than it does beds. Well that's what, that's what Howard was talking about - no - I'm not talking across the board cuts in services -

DAVID FROST: So how much is he, how much is hoping to save?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: What - what I'm talking about here is that two things must happen. The Conservative Party is, and always has been, a party that believes in lower tax. We, we are, and always have been, about being a lower tax government than Labour. You know we've delivered it time after time. They're showing that their tax and waste policy is not working. What I'm saying is we will be that lower tax party when in government but what we have to say is that we have to cut the waste and reform public services. And reforming public service, David, is about giving people greater choice, but bringing in new ways of financing the service - we talked about pay-as-you-go systems helping the people with insurance -

DAVID FROST: But that -

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: - that actually allows you to spend more on public services without it just being general taxation ...

DAVID FROST: Yes, but the thing is, the thing is though, as you know Iain, that every opposition promises to cut waste and the sums they've managed to - Labour promised it too - and the numbers, the amount of money that's saved by cutting waste is -

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: But David -

DAVID FROST: - is relatively small and people are going to say, people are going to say how - a simple question - but how can they have tax cuts and maintain all these services that you've just said you're not going to cut into, where will you get the money for the tax cuts if you're only doing a bit of saving on waste in central government?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I didn't say that. What I said, actually, absolutely categorically, let's be clear about this, we are a lower tax party than Labour, for one major reason. We are much more careful with people's money, when we take their money in tax we recognise there are limits to what you can spend it on and you must spend it so that money is effective. In other words, being careful with people's money means that you spend it on things that deliver improvements. We have seen vast amounts of money squandered by this government, you know last week I saw a figure showing over 20 per cent increase in spending on the health service but less than two per cent improvement in the number of treatments. That is about squandered money. And I'm saying, first of all, we'd be more careful with their money, but the key thing is that we would reform public services so that we widen choice, the private and the voluntary sector involved, but also we're going to look at ways of bringing in other money, through the private sector, that is not necessarily just tax money. This government has refused to reform those public services and that all they have is that they tax and tax and tax and spend - we're talking about other ways of helping people to use their money, and to use other money, to improve those public services. Well that twin process will allow us, ultimately to be that party.

DAVID FROST: But people - people from - people from Labour and so on would say that they are reforming things and they're in the middle of the reforms and so on, wouldn't they?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well -

DAVID FROST: And -

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: - if Tony Blair was sitting here now, I can guarantee you what he would he say is "we're going to reform these services, yes, give us another four years, give us another five years." He's had five years now and the public services are actually not improving but the spending level, David, has ratcheted up and the taxes have risen as well and it's time for him to recognise -

DAVID FROST: So you'll spend less money on the NHS?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No. That's the key. What we're talking about here is not doing it the way they're doing it. What he's done is he's spent, he's raised taxes hugely, he's spent huge sums of money on unreformed services. Those unreformed services are wasting vast amounts of money - that's the key - the levels of waste have risen dramatically and it's that which is causing a crisis in many of the public services, which is why the services have not risen or improved dramatically as the spending has. He hasn't reformed them, and that reform is critical but you have to cut that waste out. Being careless with people's money is what Labour is.

DAVID FROST: Right. Let me just ask you one question which is related to the prime minister too, which is when you asked at PMQs last week would he support America launching an attack on Iraq even if the weapons inspectors found nothing and even if the UN did not sanction such an attack, he didn't say clearly yes or no on that one. Would you say yes you would?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I've always said, all along, and I've been on this for some years, as you know, that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose a serious threat - not just in the Middle East but to British citizens abroad and at home. And we've seen, you know, terrorists putting biological weapons together in the last week in London. So I am in favour of dealing with that. But my concern is that Labour and the prime minister have not made that case. They failed to make the case, to advance the case, because they are so split and divided over this issue, and that worries me, because it means the British people are still waiting to hear what the case is for British involvement. I'm not in favour of just simply following the Americans, I think we have a requirement to make the case for Britain's involvement on British interests, protecting British citizens, and that's the key.

DAVID FROST: So you would say yes to that question that he didn't answer.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I believe it's right, if necessary, to take that action on British interests, not following somebody else, and the process of the United Nations we now must follow it through but we must advance the case with getting rid of those weapons. It's very important that we stick to that. But I'm worried, David, that as long as the government is so split and divided over this issue, what we're now beginning to see is the prime minister wobbling on this, not showing a lead, actually, as in so many things domestically, this is the man that is promising a lead that doesn't actually give it.

DAVID FROST: Yeah - but so - so you would back going in without UN support?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, I think that right now the government is bound on a course which is that the inspectors must report back, we will then go and discuss this matter at the UN, I believe it is possible for us to persuade the UN that whatever else, Iraq must eradicate those weapons and we must take the necessary steps to make sure they do. I believe it is possible to advance that but by being clear about that in British interests - that's what has to happen - the prime minister must advance the case for Britain, not just let it go by default, as he seems to be doing at the moment.

DAVID FROST: Iain what do you feel about, when you read all the criticisms and all that stuff, he's out of his depth or all of those things, do you, do you feel hurt, or indifferent - no one can feel indifferent - how do you feel?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: My sense is that I stood for leadership to lead this party because I'm a determined man and I'm determined to hold the government to account and nothing is going to knock me off on that. I'm leading a, a party at large in the country, who are running councils, running them effectively, doing the job that we have to do and I'm determined to lead us on that basis, David. I'm not, I'm not going to be knocked aside by anyone.

DAVID FROST: But when, when William Hague was under this sort of pressure he went and did a bit of judo, what do you do to get, to get that out of your system?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I'm a sports fanatic so I - I try and play football, I play five-a-side football in a parliamentary side as much as I can and, you know, I'm a Spurs supporter, which puts extra pressure on you, I can promise you at the moment. But no, I just enjoy being with my family. So the key thing for me is that I stood for leadership and I said because I was absolutely determined that the Conservative Party has to give that alternative to this failing government and we will David.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of an alternative, you set a low target but you set a target of 30 seats for the elections, the local elections in May.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well, David, the local elections, at the moment in the local elections we control a vast number of councils. We had huge success at the equivalent local elections that we're now going to fight in May. We are now in power, we are literally almost the - you know, the second largest party in government - we are the second largest party but we're almost actually about to take over as the largest party in local government - and the key thing here is that in running that and showing that success, you know, now we're into bedrock Labour vote and it's going to be more difficult to make headway.

DAVID FROST: Right. But your target's 30 extra seats. Iain, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

INTERVIEW ENDS


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