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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Root and branch
On Sunday 02 July 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed William Hague MP

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

William Hague MP
William Hague MP

ANDREW MARR: Now when David Cameron was running for leadership of the Conservative Party he promised that there was going to be root and branch reform.

He also promised to take the Tories out of the main centre right grouping in the European Parliament, we were talking to Chris Patten about that just a moment ago.

But the thing about Europe is you need allies there, and searching for new allies has produced what one Tory MEP calls an unappealing ragbag of fringe politicians.

Now the man who has to sort out all of this is the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague. Good morning. Thank you indeed for coming.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Let's just talk a little bit about this admittedly slightly obscure subject, the EPP because you need allies in Europe, you need to form alliances to get your policies on trade and the open market and so on through there. How are you getting on with forming an alternative alliance?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well not badly. I mean you will hear about this later this month actually. I said I would announce¿


WILLIAM HAGUE: In July, yes, and we're now in July, July 2nd, what we're going to do about that. So that announcement will be coming and I will explain how David Cameron's commitment is going to be implemented. We have made it more difficult for ourselves in a way and so we're not only going to leave the EPP Group but we are going to form a new group, we want to form a new group in the European Parliament, and now that of course is the objective and now that of course is the objective ...

ANDREW MARR: David Cameron ...

WILLIAM HAGUE: ... a new force in Europe which will actually stand for the things that we believe in, and not for a centralising federal Europe but for an open, modern flexible anti-protectionist Europe, and we think that is the agenda of the future.

ANDREW MARR: And you're still convinced you can form that new group?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well you will see later in the..

ANDREW MARR: Sounds like you're not ...

WILLIAM HAGUE: I can't anticipate the announcement that I'm going to make today otherwise I would have come on the programme to make the announcement but we're obviously working with like minded parties.

There are a number of parties that want to create a new group, not all of them are able to do so at exactly the same time. That complicates these sorts of things, but David Cameron's commitment will be met and I will be explaining how we're going to do that later this month.

ANDREW MARR: And you've got the problem that whatever you do, whether you'd stayed in the EPP or you create this new group, you're going to lose some of your own MEPs off the side because there are people who are determined to stay in the EPP whatever you say as well as people who are determined you should leave it.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well we'll see. We'll see how people react to it. Obviously it's my job and David's job to keep people together as best we can and to set out an actual positive agenda, and I think that's the important thing to remember in all of this.

It is about building something for the future. It's about the Conservative Party being able to advocate the sort of Europe we believe in with parties that we agree with, and then of course to work with other parties on other issues. You sometimes think that from the tone of some comment on this that we would be leaving the European Parliament and not talking to anybody anymore. All it means is an alignment in a different way in the European Parliament so we can stand for what we believe in, an unappealing

ANDREW MARR: An unappealing ragbag of fringe parties?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well again no one is in a position to comment about that.

ANDREW MARR: Not my words, as you know ...

WILLIAM HAGUE: No, I know, you're quoting from ... how can anyone comment about that before they know who we're actually going to be allied to.

ANDREW MARR: Alright, we will wait and watch that with interest. Can I as you about the Conservatives generally. Why was it that compassionate Conservatism, so popular in Notting Hill, didn't make it as far as Bromley?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I think we've got more work to do. I think there were particular factors in Bromley. I think it is true that the Liberal Democrats ran a very, very nasty, negative, personal campaign. Now you could say well the strength of the Conservative Party should be such that we're not troubled by ...

ANDREW MARR: It's a bit like complaining about ...

WILLIAM HAGUE: Yes, and so that may be the fact of the matter but it doesn't excuse the whole situation. We realise that we've got to keep doing better. That is in my view, and I think in the view of virtually the entire Conservative Party, strengthens the case for what David Cameron is doing to broaden the appeal of the Conservative Party. We have to make sure the Conservative Party changes in order to succeed.

ANDREW MARR: But isn't it the case that there's an awful lot of people who are traditional Conservatives who are not entirely happy about this new image and you have to find ways of holding onto them even as you change, and a lot of the people who didn't vote in Bromley may have been exactly those kinds of Conservatives, and you can't leave them behind when it comes to the election campaign.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I don't think there's as much of that as you may think, and bear in mind the local elections in which millions of people took part, you know, twenty odd thousand people voted in Bromley but many millions of people voted in elections across the country just a few weeks ago, and there the Conservative Party had its best performance for 14 years, all the evidence around the country is that David Cameron is the most popular leader of the opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party than we've had for a very long time and I certainly include myself in that (laugh) and so there is a very, very positive feel in the Conservative Party at the moment and I don't think we're getting anything like as much of the reaction that you describe as you might think.

ANDREW MARR: Let's move on to foreign policy and Afghanistan in particular. A lot of stories in the papers clearly being briefed by some senior people on the army side, worries about whether our troops out there are sufficiently protected, whether their Land Rovers are sufficiently protected, whether they've got enough air support, and probably whether there's enough of them at all.

WILLIAM HAGUE: There are worries about that and let me say first of all we support the strategy of being in Afghanistan. We don't think that you can just abandon it to the terrorists, or abandon a place where 87% of the world's heroin supply is coming from. So we do need to succeed in getting a new and a working nation, a stable, democratic nation in Afghanistan, and we are concerned not to say or do anything that makes the jobs of our soldiers any more difficult. But we are concerned about the deployment and about its capabilities and objectives.

You're quite right, there are questions about Is there enough helicopter lift capability for our troops. We will of course be continuing to ask and we have been asking for many weeks these questions of the government because we want this mission to succeed. I think there is a strong case for a powerful United Nations mandated coordinator of the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Now this is really bound up with the military situation because unless we can show people in Afghanistan that there's an alternative future to growing opium and being with the Taliban, unless we can prove that, then actually we're not going to succeed there.

ANDREW MARR: But this is the problem. I mean originally the Government sent over lots of good governance advisors and civil servants and so on to help that process take place, and in fact it's a war that's being fought out there. The troops were sent out there as a peacekeeping, relatively low-level business, but the Taliban are back, well armed, determined and they're into a serious fighting war which we didn't anticipate.

WILLIAM HAGUE: And actually with very difficult objectives because they have to win the hearts and minds of the local population while at the same time removing their main source of income. Now that would be a very difficult thing ...

ANDREW MARR: That's impossible.

WILLIAM HAGUE: ... for anybody anywhere in the world to do, and that is the importance.. that shows the importance of making sure this reconstruction effort which we also (in France and in other countries?) actually works. At the moment there is evidence that there's a lot of waste, a lot of corruption, a lot of duplication.

There is no powerful central figure actually pulling all of that together and making sure that the people in Afghanistan can see there is some real progress being made, and I think that is one of the changes that now needs to be made to the strategy in Afghanistan.

ANDREW MARR: When it comes to the other main story we're going to talk about again in a minute, the terrible events going on in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians at the moment, how seriously do you think we should take all of this?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well very seriously. It's one of the many tragedies that has happened to what was an established peace process in the Middle East. There is a limit to what outside powers can do to resolve it. Obviously we need to see the release of the Israeli soldier and we need to see all sides show restraint in this situation.

ANDREW MARR: And what's your message as Shadow Foreign secretary to the Israeli Government at the moment?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well it is not surprising that they react to the kidnapping of a soldier, but we don't want them to react in such a way that the whole thing is much worse when this matter has been resolved than it was before, and that does call for a measure of restraint on all sides. The rest of the world does want to see Hamas change of course, that's a ... and I slightly differ with what Chris Patten was saying earlier on, because I think we do have to show that we will not accept.. we will not be able to support budgetary aid a government that does not recognise its neighbour, that doesn't recognise previous ...

ANDREW MARR: Doesn't accept the state of Israel.

WILLIAM HAGUE: ... and so on. So the rest of the world, the international community, wants to keep that pressure on Hamas. Obviously it also requires Israel to act whenever possible with restraint.

ANDREW MARR: William Hague, thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning.



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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