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Breakfast with Frost
John Bercow MP
John Bercow MP
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST PAPER REVIEW EXTRACT: JOHN BERCOW, MP FEBRUARY 23rd, 2003

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

DAVID FROST: Well that's a perfect cue for John because there is the insult he's looking at on the front page, by Iain Duncan Smith, of Michael Portillo. This is your mega area.

JOHN BERCOW: "Duncan Smith's astonishing fightback, Portillo is mad," he says. The Sunday Times carries an interesting piece on its front page by Eben Black, the chief political correspondent, which says "IDS calls Portillo a cancer". Now this does seem to me to be extraordinary language to use against anyone in the Conservative Party. To deploy it against a senior member of the Conservative Party who has given more than 25 years of his adult life to its service, and to the service of the country, is both inappropriate and unacceptable. I just don't know what's going on. I would have thought in these circumstances where Iain is going through an incredibly difficult time, and there's been continuing criticism of his leadership, it would be a good idea to be thoughtful, to be reflective, to be conciliatory, to be magnanimous. To denounce senior members of the party in this way just fans the flames. I don't think it's constructive and I don't think it assists Iain or the party.

DAVID FROST: If it fans the flames, do you think it means that we're going to have a challenge sooner rather than later to his leadership? I mean a formal challenge?

JOHN BERCOW: I think it's certainly possible. I think it could happen sooner rather than later. I think it's quite interesting that a senior member of Iain's shadow cabinet, Tim Yeo, has now said well the leadership will have to be assessed at the time of the local elections and that the opposition is not doing a very good job. There is clearly grave disquiet and I think to talk about people being mad, as the leader and his allies apparently are doing, is unhelpful. It's not going to improve the situation. So I think it is entirely conceivable that there could be a challenge. The party needs to be led, but we need explanations. It's bizarre if a very senior member of staff, described a year ago by the leader as having a brilliant brain, is summarily dismissed, and there's no explanation of it and the leader says it's all very uninteresting when talking to John Humphries the other day, and he's not going to offer an explanation of the rationale behind his decision. We then find that the head of the Conservative Party's local government election campaign planning, who has served four leaders over 15 years and is the party's deputy chief executive, is also dismissed - days before the start of the campaign. What is taking place there?

DAVID FROST: What is taking place, yes indeed John.

[SECOND GUEST COMMENTS ON SUBJECT]

JOHN BERCOW: Well the Conservative Party has got to buck up its ideas. We've got to pull together but we've got to be given decisive inspirational and reassuring leadership. It's not helpful when an advisor to the leader of the party is quoted in The Mail on Sunday as saying "Iain's view is that he's going to give the bastards (for which read Michael Portillo and friends) a good beating. That isn't serious language. I mean that cannot be credible.

[SUBJECT CHANGES]

ends


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