BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
HOSTED BY HUW EDWARDS
RT HON FRANCIS MAUDE MP
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT, FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AUGUST 11TH, 2002
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
Now, factional in-fighting, squabbling children, wasting time, breakaway parties - just a quick selection of the latest headlines on Conservative politics.
Lord Tebbit, the former Chairman, is the latest to weigh in, demanding that Iain Duncan-Smith, the leader, sacks some senior figures at party HQ for undermining the leadership. And all of this after reports that some disaffected members were even thinking about setting up a breakaway, so-called, Start Again Party.
Summer froth or something a bit more substantial?
Well, Francis Maude, one of the party's leading thinkers, joins us now from Brighton.
Mr Maude, good morning to you.
You're on the phone because we can't make the television link to you, which I'm very sorry about. But it's good to hear your voice anyway.
Let's just talk first of all about Lord Tebbit's words today over the weekend saying that Mr Duncan-Smith should sack some of his key people at central office. What do you make of that?
Well, I think he is wrong about that. I think these are good people who are doing a good job. Iain has set his course and rightly he's decided and he's concluded - as many of us have - that there is a new political terrain, the political world has changed and the Conservative Party needs to do what it has always needed to do, once a generation, which is drag itself up to date and become a truly contemporary party. We go through the same pattern, through the centuries and decades - we have a long period of ascendancy, it goes horribly at the end, we lose and we then have to drag ourselves up, to re-pot the plant, if you like, and become once again a modern centre-right party that gains the respect and support of the public as being a proper alternative government.
Well, let me ask you the blunt question, Francis - is Iain Duncan-Smith on the right track really? Because I know that you're making positive noises and trying to be supportive and being supportive. But people are asking bluntly - look he's been there for a while, the polls are not moving really and he's not doing things which are radical enough to ensure that you have a chance when the next election comes. Now what is your blunt response to that?
Well, my blunt response is that he is doing the right things. He's actually been leader for less than a year now. It's only eleven months or so since he became leader. We were a party very demoralised at the time with the second landslide defeat and there is a lot to be done. And it isn't going be an overnight turnaround - these things don't happen like that.
What there is going to be is a steady pull-back - a steady winning back of people's respect - which we're not going to do by launching into sort of all out bare knuckle fights with Labour about everything - that's the old the old yah-boo politics that people are sick to death of - they want something different now. They want thoughtful, intelligent people who seem to be living on the same planet as they the public do. They want people who are talking about the same issues that they're talking about in a way that they can understand.
Are you at least concerned that some people in the party are even talking in terms of setting up a breakaway group or a breakaway party - does that bother you?
No it doesn't because I think that's a lot of silliness and a bit of misinterpretation as far as I can understand it by people who are on the fringes and I don't think that's a matter of any account at all. But what we do have to do is be clear about the direction the party needs to go which is about getting ourselves to be a party that looks, sounds and behaves like modern Britain and is at one with modern Britain and the aspirations of people who live in contemporary Britain. A party which is genuine - not talking about the vulnerable as some kind of electoral gimmick to appear more caring but genuinely is serious about the condition of our cities, the condition of many of the disadvantaged people in this country and is serious about it. These are things which Iain is striving for very much.
Well, to be serious about it Mr Maude, of course you need a whole raft of policies to prove that your are serious and that you are planning to do some serious things. So when Mr Duncan-Smith makes a speech at the party conference, coming up in a few weeks' time, can we take it that we'll have a full list of policies then or not?
No, I'm sure there won't be a full list policies and I think the time for detailed policies is a long way off. But policy directions, ideas - absolutely is where we should be and that is beginning to emerge. You're hearing it from Oliver Letwin, you're hearing it from David Willetts - you're hearing it from a number of senior people in the Shadow Cabinet and from me and himself - the steady development of what are the core ideas of modern Conservatism.
Mr Maude, once again apologies for the failure of vision link. But thank you very much for talking us.