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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST HOSTED BY ANNE MACKENZIE INTERVIEW
IVAN MASSOW AUGUST 6th, 2000

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

ANNE MACKENZIE
Well the Conservatives lost one of their brightest young stars to the Labour Party last week. Ivan Massow who's a successful gay businessman was said to have embodied the idea of inclusive conservatism that William Hague has tried so hard to promote. Mr Massow says he could no longer tolerate the Tories stance on gay rights, but the Conservatives have condemned his decision to defect as self-serving. I'm joined now by Ivan Massow - good morning to you.

IVAN MASSOW
Hi.

ANNE MACKENZIE
It's been quite a week hasn't it? Do you now regret having done it?

IVAN MASSOW
Oh no, it's an absolute relief. It's nice that it's coming to the end of the week and I'm sure by tomorrow it will be a completely non-thing and we can just get on with our lives as normal. But the week leading up to the decision was the hardest, not knowing who you could talk to or what it would be like - because it could have been just a damp squib, no one noticed and people would still think I was part of the Conservative Party, or it could have been much worse than it has been.

ANNE MACKENZIE
You can't be surprised though that people are doubtful of why you did it, because you joined the Tories - what - about two years into Mrs Thatcher's regime, you stayed with them all this time, through the introduction of Section 28, and now you jump ship - it is puzzling.

IVAN MASSOW
Yeah. If - I mean - anyone's capable of taking their mind back all that time to about 1982, the Conservative Party was the only party that was talking sense on the economy and so my memory of old Labour, of the Labour Party, was of huge inflation, nationalisation, total incompetence when it came to running - running the country. For a long time, and even up to a year after the Labour Party had taken power - once again, New Labour under, under Tony Blair - I kind of still wondered whether they were wearing Tory clothes, whether they'd just done lots of focus groups and research groups, I still felt the Conservative Party was the party of the economy - and I'm a businessman, and it's, and I believe that we all enjoy a much better standard of life because of that.

ANNE MACKENZIE
But you're also a gay man and they did introduce Section 28 - okay, you may not have been able to join old Labour, for economic reasons but there were other places you could go - the Liberal Democrats, or just nowhere, you could have just left them, and you didn't.

IVAN MASSOW
There was an argument, which I still maintain today, and it's one that's been thrown at me which is that if you believe, I mean if fundamentally you believe the party can act well on, on the big issues like the economy, maybe you can work from within to change it and make it more compassionate, and I was convinced I could do that, and it may have been arrogant to have tried but I -

ANNE MACKENZIE
Do you not see William Hague as more right wing than Margaret Thatcher, or less compassionate or whatever than Margaret Thatcher's regime, surely - that you stayed with happily?

IVAN MASSOW
Yeah but I believe now that the whole, the whole conversation should move on, there are things, I mean post-Aids, gay pride rallies - let's say, if we're going to make this about sexuality, and I left for lots of reasons - it was about the total tone, the total lack of compassion on everything from asylum to Section 28. But these sort of issues were, were very in their infancy in those days, where now we should be able to put all, all of these debates behind us, we should just accept that we live in a diverse country and have inclusive government.

ANNE MACKENZIE
But it has been such a sudden conversion - you've said some pretty harsh things about William Hague but just a short time ago you were saying that William Hague, there's nothing overtly right wing about William Hague, you said in one article when you were lambasting Sean Woodward for doing what you've just done.

IVAN MASSOW
And that was eight months ago and that was when I was getting very close to William and to, and to central office, and I -

ANNE MACKENZIE
And you think he's more right wing now than he was eight months ago?

IVAN MASSOW
I don't know whether he is more right wing but there's one thing for sure, that the government, the shadow cabinet is definitely speaking a language which is intolerable. And whether he is being pushed by the Anne Widdicombes and the different members of the shadow cabinet that, that have come out with the kind of language we've heard over the last few months, I don't know but I do know that it's not a party that I want to be a part of any more and it's just a decision I've made.

ANNE MACKENZIE
There have been suggestions that the Tories offered you a peerage to keep you on board - there's been a lot of confusion about that, some people say yes, some people say no - perhaps you could clear up the confusion - did they offer you a peerage to try and keep you, or not?

IVAN MASSOW
This is something I chose not to talk about, and I read about it in The Times and a few other newspapers as well. Given that they've confirmed, or they did in some articles, I think it's safe to say that they did discuss the possibility of a peerage, but beyond that I don't particularly want to - I mean they certainly didn't make an offer to try and keep me from going because they really didn't know I was going. I mean I made lots of noises to say how unhappy I was about the language being used by the Conservative Party and the fact that I thought they were moving too far away from the centre, but I must admit that I never really told them 'I will go', I didn't blackmail them or attempt to blackmail them, I just tried to influence them.

ANNE MACKENZIE
You did clearly want to damage them though by the way you left. Are you disappointed that they seem not particularly upset that you've gone?

IVAN MASSOW
I don't know how upset they are. I mean they've spent a lot of column inches saying how un-upset they are, so I just, who knows, but I mean, I - they're right, I was an insignificant player, I'm not an MP, I wasn't a paid advisor to William Hague, though I knew him and did give advice, and, and they're right to play it down I suppose. But I may have just been a catalyst for the kind of mood that, that many people are experiencing at the moment, the kind of feelings that many people are having at the moment about the - as I say, constantly - the language that's being used at the moment is just not acceptable.

ANNE MACKENZIE
There have been some suggestions, perhaps unfair, but there have been suggestions that your business, selling insurance to the gay community, was being damaged by you being a Conservative, and that influenced your decision. Is that fair?

IVAN MASSOW
Not particularly, but businesses are, I mean politics, you're going to upset some people and and, and make people happy whichever way you go. Last night I went to a part - a new Labour party - and the, and there were plenty of Conservatives there who came up and, and were very disappointed and, and let me know so. And so I don't think you can please all of the people all of the time. It's fair to say that people - gay people especially - didn't like me being associated with the Conservative Party and there were lots of, there were lots of things on the Internet, kind of these groups where people join in and say nasty things. But it didn't affect the business, if anything the business has been doing rather well just lately.

ANNE MACKENZIE
Okay, Ivan Massow, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

IVAN MASSOW
Thanks a lot. ENDS

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