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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 May, 2004, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Sir David Frost interviewed Iain Duncan Smith, MP
On Sunday, 9 May 2004, Sir David Frost interviewed Iain Duncan Smith, MP

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

Iain and Betsy Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith with wife, Betsy.

DAVID FROST: And now we can go to Washington to talk to Iain Duncan Smith, who is on a tour of the States - he's got speeches happening there, it's the middle of the night, it's now coming up to 5am, and you're looking good Iain. Considering the time, you're looking very well.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I'd like to say the same about you but I can't see you, I'm afraid, so I'll have to go with the reports from Barney.

DAVID FROST: Well let me start by just a question on what we've been discussing here this morning, obviously, which is the bad news out of Iraq and the photos and the possible video tape and so on.

Given the combination of the two things, the no weapons of mass destruction and now this, do you, if you had your time over again would you, would you rewrite your hundred per cent support for the war?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I, no I actually think it was right to rid the world of Saddam Hussein, and also Iraq too, and I think the clear process here is now that we have to make sure that we win, essentially, what is the post-war period.

And the problem that we've got at the moment - and these pictures, not to beat around the bush on this, I'm absolutely appalled, like everybody else, by the sight of these pictures, of the American pictures, but also the suggestion that British troops might be involved in this, as somebody who has been a serving soldier myself, I find that particularly difficult to swallow but swallow it I must and so must the whole of the British Government - and I think it's important now, vitally important, to try and regain any of that moral high ground that we must to be able to make sure we settle Iraq, that every single action must be taken almost in the full public glare, so that people can see not just that actions are being done but that they are seen to be done and be robust.

And that means anybody who has failed to act, anybody who has been involved in this, must be dealt with swiftly and very severely indeed and it's only by doing that and showing people that we're doing, do we have any chance of regaining that moral high ground.

DAVID FROST: And do we need to know, too, exactly how high the knowledge went and the orders went?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Yeah. I'm horrified today, obviously, to hear that it appears the Red Cross were warning the British Government about these possible abuses.

And if that is the case, I think the Government today - I mean again I think there should be no delay about any of this - the Government today to settle the sense in Britain, and also around the world, they really need to say immediately, yes they've admitted that they were warned, but they need now to say exactly what that warning was.

They need to say what action was taken and when it was taken and when they intend to see the results of that action.

It's not good enough, I don't think, just to say action was taken. We need to know exactly when and in what category that action was taken. We now know in America that as soon as these reports arrived in January, they initiated some serious enquiries.

There are question-marks about perhaps the pace of that, but that got started. We need to know with HMG whether or not that happened on these particular bits of information coming from the Red Cross.

DAVID FROST: One of, one of the things that has been announced as part of your speeches was to warn, warn Americans in Washington of anti-Americanism in UK, Europe, the Middle East and so on. I suppose these events give added urgency to that message.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: They do, David. As somebody who is a strong supporter of our alliance with the United States, and I know that that is the view still of the bulk of the British population, this tests that view considerably. And what I really want to say over here, and I'll be meeting a number of people from the administration, is that you cannot take support for the USA for granted and you really have to work at it in a very public manner. And that means perhaps sometimes taking unpalatable advice from those who are closest to you, if that means that you need to change some of what you're doing.

For example, one of my criticisms might generally be that it's one thing to say you're going to take action against people who are disturbing the peace in Iraq, threatening people with their guns, such as in Najaf and Kharboula but if you do that you need to do it. If you then stop, hold back and then nothing happens, it makes the situation worse.

So either you proceed quietly, calmly and get the job done in that way and don't sabre rattle or else if you're going to do it in a public way, you do it. But the worst of all worlds is to fall between two stools as perhaps has been happening recently. And can I just make one point, too David, about what, what will ultimately define whether this is a success or a failure, these are horrific pictures and there's no question, there's no way of downplaying that, but I think for people in Iraq - and I was struck particularly by a letter in the Telegraph, yesterday, from a serving soldier who had his name withdrawn, he made the point, very powerfully, that for Iraqis, who have seen much of this and in far worse circumstances from Saddam Hussein, for them the real test is whether there's security on their streets again, whether their water flows, their electricity's on, whether they have clean streets, decent health care, whether they have jobs - and that's a huge issue over there - and finally, of course, whether they're going to have a government that they can elect themselves.

And I think the test - and this is the critical, most critical moment since perhaps we entered Iraq - the test right now is whether we hold our nerves, all of us, collectively, and make that happen in Iraq, and make it happen in double quick time. Not enough plans were made for this, but now I think the Government has to insist that absolutely every effort is brought to bear to do that, and I think nothing must be left unturned on that.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of re-evaluating one's life and so on, sometimes a trip abroad, like you're on now, is a, is a good thing for working out what one really thinks about things. Looking back on it now, Iain, do you think you were treated fairly by the Conservative Party?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well actually what I spend most of my time now doing David is not, trying not to look back but actually look forward because what I'm really doing at the moment is, is building this new institute which I intend to launch, which is about taking Conservative policies and principles into what I consider to be terrible areas in Britain, in the inner cities, where literally there's been almost a complete collapse of society and of community and seeing if after years of the Welfare State and the growth of dependency and drug culture and crime whether we can't actually improve that for people on the ground whose lives have really been blighted.

Now that's my forward focus. Looking back on things, well of course like anything else, I'd wish that things had been different but the thing about politics really I suppose is you've just got to accept the rough with the smooth and get on with it.

But the important thing for me is that the Conservatives win the next election, that Michael Howard goes on to be the Conservative prime minister and he'll get my full backing to do that and I really urge my party to get behind him, as they seem to be at the moment, and that's good.

DAVID FROST: But there were times when you must have felt despondent.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well I'd be a liar if I said I didn't and, you know, you find yourself tested by circumstances, clearly that are beyond your control at times, and particularly when they suck in your family - and that of course is always much more difficult and unusual.

But I think the important thing for, for me and for all politicians, is that, you know, I entered politics generally because I really wanted to do the best for the British people, to serve them in every way that I can, and I intend to go on doing that, and in the best way I can do now, hopefully, is to help and assist my party regain footholds in cities that we have lost for too long.

And that is a, it needs a positive agenda, an agenda of returning hope to people whose, frankly, whose lives have been smashed apart. And I was actually horrified when I was leader, in the tours I made of Gallowgate and Easterhouse and the Moss Side in Manchester and various of the cities around Britain, to find to what degree there is a complete collapse in some of these places in community, with rampant crime and terrible drug addiction.

We really have to set that as our number one priority if we really want to restore British people's hopes in us again.

DAVID FROST: Right. And in terms of looking ahead, would you like politics to remain your full time endeavour for the rest of your life - full time politics, standing again and so on - and then hopefully returning to a Cabinet post, not in a shadow cabinet but in a real cabinet of course? Would you like to go on like that in politics or do you have something completely different in mind?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No I've got lots of other things I'm doing at the moment and they're beyond exactly what I call the narrow focus of being on the frontbench, but yes, I mean, my purpose in life is to try and get the best for the British people.

I will stay in full time politics - absolutely. I hope to play a very full part in any future administration of the Conservative Party but right now my role is simply to get my party elected in the best way that I can, but most of all to help British people wherever I can, and that means being over here, perhaps being a candid friend and telling the Americans what I think may be going right or wrong.

But I desperately, desperately want this Iraq thing to succeed for the right reasons, for both the Iraqi people and for security and peace in the world generally.

DAVID FROST: Would you be willing to have a major role in the next election, Iain? You'd like to.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I - I will do - David, I will do whatever I'm asked to do in the general sense to support Michael in his run to the next election, of course. I mean I remain a staunch believer that Conservative policies, ultimately, will benefit Britain, if applied correctly and with the best intentions.

And that's exactly what I want to do and I therefore hope and believe that the Conservatives have a very good shot now at the next election and I really do want them to do well and Michael gets my best wishes and support.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed for joining us. Thank you for joining us at this hour and I don't - I don't know whether you're going to go and have a late supper or an early breakfast now but thank you.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.


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