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IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, MP CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER
APRIL 27, 2003
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: Iain Duncan Smith is considered to have had a good war. His personal opinion poll ratings have improved with his support for the government's military action against Saddam, and he's been trying to capitalise on that, campaigning across the country for his candidates in the local elections. He's refused to accept that the results of these elections are a verdict on his leadership, although he has said that showing how Conservatives can be trusted to run our local neighbourhoods will illustrate how we can be trusted to govern our whole country. Iain, there must be a reverse to that that if you don't do well then it shows that you can't run the country?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well no actually David the, the real point about Thursday is very simply this, last time we fought these seats we had a remarkable result, we won councils up and down the country, we won close on a thousand councils and I just heard John then saying that Labour's from a very high base - they're not actually, they're on a very low base at the moment because we won so many council seats last time,
It's all about one simple thing, it's about showing the Labour government that they've failed on health, education, on policing, on asylum, and asking Conservatives, who are already running things very well in the councils they run, asking them to run them in other councils. In other words, Conservatives, as the Audit Commission said, cost you less and give you better services, and that is the key message. It's about local government and about who runs your local services.
DAVID FROST: And then there's all these headlines - we had two or three press clippings for John so we've tried to find some for you - and they're -
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: You succeeded.
DAVID FROST: Yeah. John, John was putting up the figure that, to a thousand, you've got to get gains of a thousand to satisfy people, according to John.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yes, according to John.
DAVID FROST: And according to yourself, originally the figure you needed was right at the other end of the scale, was only 30.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yeah.
DAVID FROST: But the, but the News of the World today, everyone's got figures, someone else got 150, the News of the World here says 200 seats or you're out.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yeah.
DAVID FROST: IDS election challenge. What figure do you have to get to survive?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I have to tell you this is not - I love the way the media, by the way, look at two different figures and they play games, well it's got to be this or it's got to be that. There's nothing scientific about it. The only scientific analysis has been done by Thresher and Rawlings who do all the local government analysis. They've confirmed our own view, which we did so well last time round, that we actually will have to gain seats to stand still, so even if we do gain seats the net gain may be 30 or so which is what we put out.
That is what our expectations are of net gains, but we're having, we're looking to keep control of councils, because we won so many last time round, and we're therefore looking to see as many councillors as possible in. So we stand by our original projections, which were confirmed by Thresher and Rawlings. Now I have no idea what the result will be on Thursday, I don't want to play a speculative gain, David. I don't think there's any point because it's really only about one thing, it's about Conservatives run things better than Labour or the Liberal Democrats and they cost you less to do it, and that's because they're careful with people's money and they don't waste it. And I think therefore that -
DAVID FROST: But where did John Reid get his figure that he said that Conservative councils, council taxes have gone up 60 per cent more than Labour councils? Where did that come from?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Shall I just tell exactly what's going on?
DAVID FROST: Yes, that's what you're here for.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I'm going to tell you that. John Prescott this year has gerrymandered the council tax system, the grant that supports councils, which is the majority of the money they receive. Everybody, all the commentators accept this, they've taken money now from Conservative councils to give it to failing Labour councils and that has forced Conservative councils to raise their council tax - in fact in one case I gather they told Conservative councils they should be raising it by over a hundred per cent.
They still managed to keep it low, equivalent band D we're still lower than Labour and much lower than the Liberal Democrats and so all this nonsense about Conservatives raising it higher, they're under real pressure but they still deliver better services. Interestingly enough, the Audit Commission - not a Conservative body - actually said before Christmas, Conservative councils, like for like, give you better value, they cost you less in council tax and they give you better services. Now I stand by that and I think that's the experience of people up and down the country.
DAVID FROST: Tories accused of aping BNP, said the Guardian here. Tories were accused of aping the British National Party. A leaflet distributed in Halesowen, the leaflet said seven asylum seekers will arrive in Labour Britain during the time it takes you to walk to the polling station and cast your vote in the election. Conservatives will detain all asylum seekers until it can be proved their claim is genuine, and if they're not they will be deported. Various people have said they thought you should dissociate yourself from that because it's pandering to racism.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, do you know what I really get fed up with David - and I think it's time we had a proper debate about this - I'm very tired of the way in the left wing media turn round and say if you say anything at all about asylum, suddenly you're pandering to racists. The worst element of pandering to racists is if you cannot discuss the issue of asylum. We announced an asylum policy two months' ago, by Oliver Letwin and myself, and where we said this present system is in complete collapse.
We have, I think, 110,000 people coming in in this last year, of whom only a tiny proportion will turn out to be real asylum seekers. The rest will spend a long time being assessed, will have to be put into camps, will be on benefit, may even be taking jobs. And what we're saying is, we want to give asylum seekers who are genuine a proper home - that's the right thing - but the way to do that is to do it with our policy, which is to have quotas
DAVID FROST: But does that mean you're happy with this leaflet?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well the leaflet is simply, as I understand it - I haven't seen, but I don't know the figures - but the leaflet's statement -
DAVID FROST: Seven asylum seekers will arrive in Labour Britain - you don't have to say the figures are correct but seven asylum seekers will arrive in Labour Britain during the time it takes you to walk to the polling station and cast your vote in the election. And the Conservatives are saying
That's, they're saying that they think you should dissociate yourself from that leaflet but you're saying no, it's okay.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, I'm not going dissociate myself from the literature that's put out. If the figures turn out to be correct, that's fine. I don't know what the figures are, I haven't seen it. The point, however, which the Guardian misses and others who make this claim, is that if you do not discuss this rationally, if we do not find a better way which we have put forward, to give genuine asylum seekers, people fleeing persecution a home here, a temporary home, and not those who are coming for economic reasons, then we will stir up all the problems that exist in these various towns and it gives a feeding ground to the extreme nonsense from the BNP - who I absolutely hate,
I fight them in my own seat - you know, what gets them their oxygen is the, all this idea that you mustn't talk about this subject and you mustn't deal with it.
I think that's nonsense. We as a party, as the Conservative Party, have a right to say the government is in a complete mess on asylum, they have been for a long time, figures have gone up, they've got much worse under them, that chaos actually effects people's lives and we say there's a better way.
DAVID FROST: What about IDS under threat if he keeps aide. This is saying Iain Duncan Smith will face an immediate challenge to his authority when the Conservative Party's ruling body demands that he dismiss Barry Legg, his most senior aide, the man he just appointed just a few weeks ago as chief of staff and chief executive. If they demand you dismiss Barry Legg, will you?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I've had him already confirmed into post and I think all these stories are complete nonsense. I have to, David. It says, it says a lot about the media I think, more than anybody else, if they have to go scrambling around and searching for speculative bits of stories when there's so much out there. The real story, right now, is that the government is raising people's taxes dramatically, and it's public services.
DAVID FROST: Are you saying Barry, Barry Legg is into post, confirmed into, definitely confirmed into post.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Absolutely.
DAVID FROST: Looking what we were talking about, about Scotland and Wales and thinking of the lack of Conservative parliamentary seats in both places -
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yeah.
DAVID FROST: - you are really now leading an English party, aren't you? No longer a British party or a national party, it's just, it's just an English party?
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well not really. I mean clearly we haven't, over a long period of time, we've seen a decline in the number of seats that we held for Westminster, in Scotland and in Wales. We started, after the last election, our way back with a return to an MP in Scotland, and we have further to go in Wales as well. I'm looking in the election, in terms of Scotland and Wales, to build on that. I don't expect major breakthroughs in Scotland and Wales but I do believe that the campaign they're fighting up there under David McLetchie and Nick Bourne are good campaigns and they're about, you know, Conservatives delivering for local people, in this case for Scotland and Wales.
And that's going to be good and I, I believe that they'll do well there. I'm not, as I say, expecting major breakthroughs, this is a steady rebuilding process after 30 years of decline in both. I'm a Scot, David. I'm passionate about Scotland. I was educated in Wales. No one is more about the United Kingdom than me. I want to be back in those two countries because it's important to me.
DAVID FROST: Iain, thank you very much for being with us this morning. Much appreciated. Iain Duncan Smith, thank you very much indeed.
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