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Breakfast with Frost
A transcript of Breakfast With Frost's interview with David Davis MP on Sunday 15 June 2003.

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

David Davis MP
DAVID FROST: Governments can be blown off course by all sorts of unexpected disasters. What Harold MacMillan famously summarised once as events dear boy, events. Reshuffles, however, are a tool to be deployed by the Prime Minister of the day as and when he chooses. But this reshuffle didn't seem to go according to plan and it's been greeted with quiet despair by many government supporters and by howls of outrage by the opposition. The former Tory Chairman David Davis who now shadows John Prescott is with us right now. Good morning David.

DAVID DAVIS: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: Were you surprised or angry about this reshuffle?

DAVID DAVIS: Well, a bit of both. But the surprise is perhaps less than might have been because the cause of the chaos and reshuffle actually is fundamental to the Cabinet today. Mr. Blair no longer controls his Cabinet fully. You can see this because he was stopped in his attempt to reform the Health Service by Mr. Brown, Gordon Brown. He was blocked in his ideas for Minister of Justice by David Blunkett and that started much of the chaos that we've seen this week and he was blocked again over appointment of a Minister for Europe in the Cabinet by Jack Straw, so he's no longer in command of his Cabinet and that's what's causing the problems we're seeing today.

DAVID FROST: And at the same time though, some of the ideas are OK aren't they. The idea of the abolition of the Lord Chancellorship, is that something you were in favour of, even if it takes three years.

DAVID DAVIS: I'm absolutely in favour of having an independent judiciary, but we actually have an independent judiciary today. I mean that's one of the things that this country has been famous for. However we do it, by whatever old-fashioned method, 1400 years old. We actually achieve it. So, as the Americans say, if it ain't broke don't fix it, or at least don't try and fix it with a hammer as this government appears to have done. And so what we've seen is, with the cavalier disregard for our constitution, they've gone ahead over something which you now say will take three years, but actually on Thursday they thought they could do by a stroke of the pen. No. 10 didn't even realise it took an Act of Parliament to get rid of the Lord Chancellor. So clearly they hadn't thought it through at all and there's real serious risks in the way they're going about it.

DAVID FROST: But you don't think of this government particularly as inefficient, do you. You may oppose it passionately in various ways but it seems slightly inexplicable.

DAVID DAVIS: Well historically we've always seen this government as being in control of events. That's how it's presented itself. Mr. Blair as a control freak Prime Minister now no longer in control. But this seems to be as though the constitutional reform that we're facing now which will take three years, is a complete by-product of the internal battles of his Cabinet and so what we're seeing is not really thought through at all and that's why it's not thought through. It's not because they are innately inefficient, it's because they haven't thought it through in any detail. And that's very serious because you have to defend things like the independence of the judiciary. Other countries which have a supreme court, other countries which have independent appointment of judges have found those processes politicised. Look at America, the Supreme Court, a political body, the appointment of judges goes to confirmation hearings and you see all sorts of political battles go on there. We don't want to see that in this country. Now Mr. Blair says it's not going to happen but he would say that wouldn't he? I mean the raw truth of the matter is that nobody believes anything he says any more on these things. This is a government which has historically not been shy about putting its own nominees into major places where they're supposed to be independent, not least the BBC. You've got two Labour supporters as Chairman and Director General of the BBC and you see this across society.

DAVID FROST: Acting with a total lack of bias ...

DAVID DAVIS: I'm sure you would say that wouldn't you, David.

DAVID FROST: A total lack of bias. Any bias is ... In one case Southampton and in the other case Manchester United, that's the only bias. But tell me something. In terms of the future now. Do you begin to feel after ten years of disappointing opinion polls, terrible opinion polls, that you may see a glimmer of victory on the skyline?

DAVID DAVIS: Oh, more than a glimmer. Again for the reasons I've been describing. I mean the problems I describe actually apply to the Health Service because of the battles over that. For different battles between Prescott and Clarke over the education service over the failures of the last few months there, over crime, even over transport. This is actually making it worse this reform. I mean Alastair Darling now has to be the Secretary of State for Scotland didn't turn up to open a motorway on Friday. He tells people he despairs, he's dismayed by the prospect of doing two jobs at once. This government's failing and that creates an opportunity for a rising Conservative party.

DAVID FROST: David, thank you for being with us.

DAVID DAVIS: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: We appreciate it. David Davis. INTERVIEW ENDS


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