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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 14:10 GMT
Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith
Kirsty Wark was in Milton Keynes for a Newsnight Special, a debate with the Leader of the Conservative Party Iain Duncan Smith.

He faced voters who turned their backs on the Tories in 1997 and had yet to be persuaded to return to the fold.

Was he right to back Tony Blair over war with Iraq? Is he the right leader for the party, and what does he have in store for the public services?

KIRSTY WARK
Good evening from Milton Keynes. We're here in the Headquarters of the personal group of companies, the venue for our debate with Ian Duncan Smith. It's been a distinctly uncomfortable few weeks for the Tory Leader. Rebellion in his own ranks, helping the Prime Minister with a rebellion of his own over Iraq, and creating a credible policy in public services. The three areas for discussion tonight with local voters who abandon the Tory Party in 1997 and have yet to go back. First war, today as we've heard, Tony Blair told the Commons he was confident there would be a second UN resolution on Iraq, and that it would be passed. That's clearly not how key members of the Security Council see it. Ian Duncan Smith, you've always argued for the UN route and a second resolution. But if the Americans press launch war without a second resolution, should Britain follow?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well let's get this absolutely straight. This is not a second resolution, this would be the 18th resolution since Saddam Hussein was told to get to get rid of his weapons of mass destruction. Remember back after the Gulf War he was found to have chemical and biological weapons, large stock piles, tons of them, and also he was found to be developing radiological weapons, essentially nuclear weapons, and he was told to get rid of them. He prevaricated. There were a series of resolutions passed and eventually he kicked the inspectors out. So this will be the 18th resolution rather than the second resolution, but each resolution was passed under the powers of the UN to take military action. So every one has empowered the UN to act if he fails to do what he's told. So it's important, it's necessary to get that second resolution as we refer to it, but it's not absolutely vital.

KIRSTY WARK
So let's be quite clear. You would back Tony Blair in a Commons vote for war without another resolution.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I don't know when he'll hold another vote in the Commons.

KIRSTY WARK
But you would back it.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I have urged him to do it. What we've said is that we think now that the UN has said get rid of those weapons. It's absolutely vital the UN enforces its will at this stage if he doesn't do it.

KIRSTY WARK
So despite the fact that a majority of people in the country from all parties don't support war without a second resolution, indeed a number of Conservatives don't. As far as you're concerned, you back Tony Blair.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well you make some wonderful speculations about this. I'm not so certain that people don't back the idea that there would have to be war as the last resort if Saddam Hussein doesn't do as he's told. The po

KIRSTY WARK
about this, and this absolutely needs to be clear, Saddam Hussein has every opportunity to do exactly what the UN has told him to do for 12 years, and I for one have been warning about this since 1995, that unless the UN acted we would end up on the situation we are in now. It has to happen now. He has to get rid of them now.

KIRSTY WARK
Tony Higgs, you want to make a point

T. HIGGS
Yes, as a disillusioned Conservative over the last couple of years with the leadership and the party, regarding the Iraqi war, Tony Blair appears to be in his dictatorial attitude of ignoring the people of this country. Now over the last few weeks we've had demonstrations, the newspapers are all telling us, and I agree, that a large percentage of this country's people are against the war. Now are you going to vote with Tony Blair or are you going to be the person that we want and get the confidence in to listen to what the people are saying and go against it and go for a no war situation.

KIRSTY WARK
Do you think there's been.. evidence has been given to support the idea that there should be war, there are weapons of mass destruction?

T. HIGGS
No, I think that Tony Blair and Mr Bush, they want war, and I think most people in this country don't want war.

KIRSTY WARK
Here you have a possibility of making a distinctive position.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well can I just make an important point here. Nobody wants war. I've been a soldier and the last thing I want is any troops to go to war. I was in Kuwait over the weekend. They don't want to go to war but they'll do their duty if they have to. The point that I would make simply is what will you do if Saddam Hussein turns round and says he refuses to get rid of any weapons - which he's done. He refuses to accept that he has them. In 1999 he was found to have tons of nerve agent and gas. He has hidden those since and refuses to say what's happened. What will you do if the terrorists get hold of those weapons and actually let those off in London or Milton Keynes. My point is we have a last chance with Saddam Hussein. He really does pose a threat. I believe this passionately. He poses a threat to the United Kingdom, the people of the United Kingdom and many other people in the Middle East as well as other countries in the world. Surely now is the time to force him to make that choice to get rid of those weapons.

KIRSTY WARK
Well Sally Ann Coleman, you want to come in on that.

S. COLEMAN
Yes, I would like to say I feel there's a lack of opposition from the Conservatives regarding the war with Iraq. I'd like to say what support did the British public expect to receive from you if things go wrong?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I will be absolutely clear and straight. I mean I know that there is concern amongst the British public, of course there is. One of the criticisms I've made time and again in the government is that they have not made the case, so that British people can understand why it may be necessary to go to war. Now as I say, I've been on this for a long time, and my view all the way through is that if people had listened earlier when I and others were saying you must force Saddam Hussein to do this or else we will end up in the situation we are in now. What we should have explained and what the government should have explained is that there really is a linkage here between what Saddam Hussein is doing in producing these weapons of mass destruction biological and chemical agents and terrorism, as well as his own ability to threaten directly, via missiles, countries around him. Now if we want we can walk away from it. We can say it's nothing to do with us, rather like we did before the Second World War, it was a far and distant country about which we knew nothing and it had no direct threat to us. But when you don't deal with somebody like Saddam Hussein at the moment you have an opportunity, you can bet that they are going to grow in strength and power and that threat will grow too, and I think it's a straight choice. My view is we do need to do it and what I want to do is the right thing for what I believe to be for the British people for their security and safety, and if at the moment it appears that I should, for some people, go against this simply because that would be the thing to do in opposition. I would be wrong. I couldn't live with myself if I did that. I feel passionately this man poses a real threat to all of you, and I in two years time saw a weapon let off in Milton Keynes and I had played games with this, I don't think I could live with myself, and I'm not prepared to do that.

KIRSTY WARK
But just let's look at the figures here because if that resolution was put to the vote now, there would not be a majority in the Security Council for supporting that resolution. We've heard today from the French, from the Germans, from the Russians. In what circumstances should you go to war without a second resolution? Any circumstances?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
But Kirsty, you don't know that.. with respect you don't know that any more than I do. So when you make that judgment, it's a wonderful judgement but it is not founded in any reality. Just let me explain one thing to you which is very important, people should understand this. Before the last resolution many of you were saying exactly the same thing. That the French were against it, the Russians were against it, the Chinese we veto it. It didn't happen. We got that resolution despite the fact that everybody said we couldn't. I absolutely passionately believe we should go for this next resolution, because I want the United Nations to once and for all do something that their predecessor, the League of Nations in 1938 never did which is to force down a tyrant and make sure the world could live peacefully with itself and I believe if they do it this time the United Nations has an opportunity to put the rule of law above these people and it would really lead to peace and harmony.

KIRSTY WARK
Let's move on now from war to issues about the Party and leadership. You said "I believe we have a year and a half to establish our credentials as a party that's relevant. We don't have four years, we have 18 months. We have to pull together and bring in all the talent." Do you remember when you said that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Yes I did and I can tell you exactly why I said it. I said it because...

KIRSTY WARK
You said it 18 months ago.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Yes, I did, I said it because I meant every word of it. What I wanted us to do was to spend that first year and a half not playing games for short term advantage but to put together a comprehensive programme of change for the public services which would put us in a position to be able to say to the British people the government is ruining public services - health, education, crime, all those things that they need for a decent quality of life, there has to be an alternative and we have done that. By October last year we put forward 25 policy initiatives about reforming health, education, law and order, drugs, all of those were placed forward. We have to now push those to the electorate and explain them that we have for the first time, I think for a long time as a Party, made a huge effort to put public services right at the heart of everything we do. That was what I meant when I said 18 months and I believe we're doing it and we've done a ?? ??

KIRSTY WARK
(overlap) We'll come on to talk about public service. "We have to pool together and bring in all the talent"

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Absolutely.

KIRSTY WARK
Over the last few weeks the mess at central office show that you failed to do that.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
One has to say, I find it rather intriguing that you would focus on people who work for the party at central office. It's an irrelevance. What is important....

KIRSTY WARK
How you handle it is very important.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well, with respect, people come and people go, and I don't think there's any need for me to start a debate about whether I can say one person should work here or not. The truth is the party has a clear strategy. A sense of direction, and if you want to spend time debating individuals who work for the party, well frankly I don't think the British public is in the slightest interest in that. They want to know what are we going to do...

KIRSTY WARK
Well let's see if the British public is. Let's see...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
... for the health service or education or transport.

KIRSTY WARK
Maureen Lewis.

M.LEWIS
But we are interested. We are actually interested in what happens to the Conservative Party and that impinges on your leadership.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I agree.

M.LEWIS
We know nothing about your party Mr Duncan Smith. I've been a Conservative all my life apart from 1997. I have always voted Conservative. I admit I wanted the Conservative Party to have a short sharp shock, I did not want the party to sink without trace which is what we all feel has happened. I don't know anything about your policies. You say...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well that's exactly the point I want to try and explain.

M.LEWIS
But where are they? Where are they?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well they're there, let me explain something. If you want to know about specific subjects, less use this as an opportunity to talk about health or education or crime. That's exactly what I think we ought to talk about.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Do the public care about leadership?

HIGGS
No. Ian, when the last Conservative government was in, every time you stepped on a crack in the pavement someone was there opposing it. This government has made such a mess of things. Yet you're not there, you're not saying. Nobody hears from you. You're not on the TV, you're not on the radio, you're not in the newspapers. It doesn't make you a credible leader. With regret.. you know.. an opposition party has to oppose, and you're not opposing. (Applause) Therefore I ask you Ian, with respect, is it not time you moved on?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
No, because what we've had is a year and a half in which I had to rebuild the policy position of the party. It's no good just saying right, we're going to jump up and down and say we hate everything the government is doing because you're going to say legitimately with the next breath so what are you going to do about it. And it's therefore the important part of the first year and a half was to put in place those major reforms and changes...

HIGGS
You're not telling us...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well I want to tell you what they are because the point is every time you deal with the media, what they want to talk about is who is doing what to whom in central office or some other...

KIRSTY WARK
(overlap) ?? ?? there's a confusion here, there's a confusion here.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well let's talk about policy Kirsty. It's a huge opportunity.

KIRSTY WARK
Part of the reason that you cannot put your policies across effectively some people would say is because every time we hear about the Conservative Party it's about problems for you, problems because the very people that you bring into the party are gone now, the key people, the key personnel who are meant to build your style of party.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
No, no, no.

KIRSTY WARK
And then what happens is there are briefings. For example, lets talk about Michael Portillo. He said there seemed to be a crisis manufactured at the centre, there was a failure of leadership. And then the next thing is that you're quoted as saying Portillo and the people around him are like a cancer. Did you really say that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
No I didn't. Now, can we deal with what the issue is all about? We had a really important question.

KIRSTY WARK
Well can you tell me that there will be no briefings and counter briefings...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well Kirsty there aren't.. listen, there aren't any.

KIRSTY WARK
... and you will discipline people.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
.. and I have to tell you this is an important point. What you want to talk about is quite different from what they want to talk about.

KIRSTY WARK
I can assure you these people are very happy to talk about leadership issues.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well that's my point about what this is really all about is how we present an opposition and an alternative to the government, that is the only thing that matters right now, and we want to do it. And what I'm saying is...

KIRSTY WARK
Nigel please, what's your point?

NIGEL
The point is, all we actually hear of all the time in the media and so on where you're actually in the media eyes is that the whole thing is in disarray. That your party is in disarray, there is your own people having a pop at you from behind. It just seems like the whole...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well with respect, this has been going on for quite some time now. This predates anything that I had to do with it right the way back into the last Conservative Government. What I am trying to do right now is bring the party to focus on the most important thing. As you quite rightly said, the first thing is we have to show that the government is failing. We've started to do quite a lot of that. I mean look at Asylum for example, where there's a huge outcry about the level of asylum seekers coming in. We, three weeks ago, produced a series of policies and challenged the government to do what we have said which his basically to have a quota system in the United Kingdom to stop the asylum seekers coming in who should not be here, those who are not genuine asylum seekers, and to say we can no longer take vast numbers coming in here who are coming in for economic reasons. The government has done none of that.

KIRSTY WARK
Steven you want to come in, Steven Croner.

WOMAN
You can't ?? ?? (overlap)

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Yes you can, and I'll explain to you exactly how you can do that. You can bring that in. What we've said is you have to sort out two areas. We've said it to the government, the Prime Minister said he might and then he said he wont and Blunkett denied it. You sort out the convention of human rights. What you do is you put.. you (resile/resign?) from the convention and you put a reservation in the convention, it stops our judges essentially bringing in those elements that stop us being able to for example say they can't receive benefits, something that was challenged the other day. The second thing you do is you go to the UN and you say the convention of refugees which was passed back in the 1960s, the UN Convention of Refugees, which means all people who get to this country who claim asylum have to be treated as asylum seekers. That's wrong now. We think the time has changed. There are vast numbers of people coming in for economic reasons. What we say to them is let us either redo that treaty or we will break the treaty and have quotas. We'll only take so many people coming in so that then if they claim it we can decide ourselves whether we should stay in or not.

KIRSTY WARK
Paul Godfrey, where's your question Paul?

P.GODFREY
Some time ago I was a supervisor. Over that period of time I learnt to respect good leadership. I have to say that your predecessors, the two predecessors were very poor on strong leadership, or they came across as being a very poor in leading people. I'd like to know how you are going to bring the Conservative Party back up to the front to make Britain great again, to get the voters back on your side?

KIRSTY WARK
Doesn't that really demand a question of loyalty, and Chris Patton has said, it's very hard for someone to demand and command loyalty and command unity when they have not shown loyalty themselves.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well there's a very simple answer to that. In which case you'd never have heard of Winston Churchill or Harold Macmillan, both who rebelled against their parties in the 1930s. So let's be absolutely clear about this. If you can only ever be a leader of a party because you have never got your nose dirty, because you've never passionately believed in something or said I can't support my party on an issue, then half of the leaders of political parties in the past would not have actually got to the top. My point is... I disagree with that.

KIRSTY WARK
Absolutely so you would endorse back bench rebellion in your own party from wherever it comes?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I've always said... no, I've always said, what the party wants is the party wants to focus. We need to go in a single direction. However, there will be people in a party who have passionate views that are different. And.. you know.. rebellion will take place as individuals. You're never going to stop that. Political parties are broad churches.

KIRSTY WARK
But you say unite or die.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Yes, in focusing on Labour, we have a clear issue. The Conservative party has to focus, as this gentleman said, quite rightly earlier on...

KIRSTY WARK
But clearly part of the reason...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
... on Labour and why they are failing and bring those alternatives forward.

KIRSTY WARK
But part of the reason why the Conservative Party has failed...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I wanted to answer this question actually.

KIRSTY WARK
... part of the reason why the Conservative party failed is because the Party was so divided and indeed you were one of the main dividers in that when you voted for the government only four times out of 62 votes and ?? you were the classic serial rebeller. You can't presume to be in a position to say other people should be in the same position.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Kirsty, Kirsty, excuse me, I rebelled over one issue. The Maastricht Treaty. The Maastricht Treaty. I believed quite passionately that the Maastricht Treaty was going to lead to major difficulties which I have to tell you I was right about. It has done. There are major problems now in our relationship with the European Union and it ?? ?? ??

KIRSTY WARK
(overlap) So you're right about that.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
... but, you know.. you'd have said exactly the same to Churchill, you'd have said "How can you dare you lead the country or the party because you disagreed and you voted against your party." This gentleman over here had a very legitimate question. Perhaps we can just deal with it.

KIRSTY WARK
Well let's deal with it. There's an issue of where this party is and what this party is. Six months ago Theresa May told the Party Conference "some people think we are the nasty party".

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Kirsty, can I just answer this question.

KIRSTY WARK
This is part of the same thing, it's about what the nature of the party is. "Some people think we are the nasty party" now that upset a lot of members of the party. Do you regret using that kind of language?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
What Theresa was pointing out was the attitude of many people to us in the past. What we've said is, we've drawn a line under that. What we have to now do is say right, the past is the past, what we have is a job, and in answer to this gentleman's question over here, what we need to do now, if I am to lead the party forward to win the next election which I believe we will do, is to show - and this is the critical bit - that where the government promised to do so many things, they promised to include the health service, they promised to include the transport system, they said that they would be tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime. In each of the key areas they have failed every single judgement and value, even on health today we find a report that says they fiddle figures.

KIRSTY WARK
Well let's deal with this now. Let's deal with this because these are voters who were Conservative voters pre 1997 who aren't now. That's the single criterion is they want to be convinced that you've got something to offer them. So let's deal a bit with funding the public services.

HIGGS?
I feel it's very important for the Conservative Party that you really do come down on these people that try to rock the party because the most important thing is the party, not you, not us, but it's the party. And I feel that is a very strong thing we should be concentrating on. (Applause)

KIRSTY WARK
?? ?? return to the people that are really interested in this area. Are you going to come down hard on (the people?)

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I just wanted to come to... because actually we've been looking at each other and I've been wanting to get to this question. You're absolutely right. What is acceptable always in a political party you have a passionate held belief in a principled issue that is going through in politics. Everybody knows that. And that is always acceptable. What is not acceptable at the end of the day is that people for their own personal agendas just play games to distract from the real message which is attacking the Labour government for what they fail on and for then producing the alternatives. You're right. The real leadership is in getting my party to focus on the job in hand, the job in hand is that the Labour Party is failing, we show how they're failing and then we actually bring forward...

KIRSTY WARK
Right, well let's clear up the position of the party on funding the public services. You said at Christmas "An abiding influence of an incoming Conservative Government with a lower tax, lower regulation government will be... this will be this government. Two days later the shadow chancellor says in principle you were right but the priority was to sort out the public services. Which is it?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
It was exactly what he said. Isn't it wonderful. With respect Kirsty, when the shadow chancellor agrees with me you find as though there's some problem. He's agreed with me. What we have is a very straightforward strategy. At the hear of the problems that we face here in the UK are public services that are failing costing vast sums of money more and not delivering better service. Now I have said that the Conservative Party is at its hear and soul a party of lower tax than Labour. That is what we will be when we're in government after the next election. But to get to that point..

KIRSTY WARK
So...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Hang on, to get to that point and be credible, we have to show there is a real programme of reform and change in health, education, law and order, that can deliver services that provide better quality for lower levels of money. That is the critical issue.

KIRSTY WARK
Chris do you want to come in.

CHRIS
Yes, with regard to health and education, especially in Milton Keynes, with.. in respect to your tax cuts, I can't see in an area now that has not enough schools and one hospital that can't even cope with the population that we have here now - we've got 10,000 more houses proposed in the next ten years here - surely if you cut taxes there's not going to be enough public money to spend on that education and health to buoy up, especially our local economy, and also to service the population that's growing at such a phenomenal rate here.

KIRSTY WARK
?? wants to come in on another point on that too.

WOMAN
I totally agree. You talk about lowering taxes and all that and everything, 25 policies you've come up with but where is the money going to come from? It's no good taking the money from right hand and giving it to left. (Applause)

KIRSTY WARK
So are you going to cut spending on public services?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Well there are two elements, no and I never said that. This is the important difference. What I said earlier on when I said about the Party being a party of lower tax than Labour, it's a statement of fact. If you look at councils around the country Conservative councils cost less and deliver better service. That was the audit commission's view two months ago, and it is the same with Conservative government. All I am saying to you is I recognise until we sort out the public services we are not going to be able to make clear statements about levels of taxation. Now you asked very straight forwardly "How do we deliver that". What I have done over the last year and a half is go to various countries and look at how they deliver their public services. Two things occur to me that I have discovered: nobody runs their public services like we do, nobody runs their services as a monopoly state controlled, state run, state funded enterprise and they all say when I tell them how we run it "It will never work like that". In Holland where I visited about schooling - their education system, 70% of all education is delivered by the private and voluntary sector paid for by the state. The result of that is that they get better vocational training and a higher level of education. Now we could do a lot of that and that would siphon money more effectively.

WOMAN
The thing is, I am not totally convinced, the Labour Party has increased the taxes and everything in 53 cases as you have said somewhere, however, the public services still have not improved.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Exactly the point.

LEWIS
How do you propose to lower the taxes and still improve...

MALE
It is the immortal ?? again isn't it, "The Party of Lower Tax". We have heard it from so many parties before, you drop a penny off income tax and what happens is all the indirect taxes go up, my fuel goes up as a private hire driver in Milton Keynes, it costs me a fortune when the fuel goes up, it costs me a fortune when the cigarettes go up, it costs a fortune when the fuel goes up, when the booze goes up.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Yes.

MALE
And this is the problem. Can you give us here on air now, three concrete policies the Conservative Party have for cutting tax in this country, now, without any swerving away from the question.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
We are two to three years out from the next election. You can't tell me, nobody can tell me in this room exactly where the government will leave taxation in two to three years time so for me to turn around to you and say specifically here, here and here...

FEMALE
It is about the principle Ian Duncan Smith.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
The principle is different from this specific question, this gentleman...

KIRSTY WARK
Well let us just...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
This gentleman... Kirsty, he has just asked me a direct question can I answer it? He asked me a direct question about where we would specifically cut taxes and I am telling you I am not going to give you the answer to where now because I would be lying if I did.

MALE
I appreciate that that would probably be the answer that you would give because...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
No, right now, but in two to three years time...

MALE
85% of the public don't actually trust what politicians say.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Agreed, that is why I am not going to give you a statement... with respect, I am not going to give you a statement that I will break a week later, there is no point in that. It is two to three years before...

ALL
[All talking together]

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
This lady asked the question about how do you change that. You said something very important just then, you said that the government has raised taxes dramatically and they have increased spending hugely, quite right. But yet you see absolutely no change in the quality of health service, no change in education, in fact, in health fewer people get operations now than four years ago.

FEMALE
And you are proposing to do that without that excess money.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Because I am saying the system is fundamentally wrong. No other country runs it as a state run

FEMALE
FEMALE But we are the highest tax payers here and still no public services.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Yes, my point is your tax is going to go up and up and up. Now if you go to a place, for example, like France or Germany, the level of tax that they take for the health service etc is give or take what this government was taking when they took over power from us.

FEMALE
But people pay in other ways.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Exactly the point.

ALL
[All talking together]

KIRSTY WARK
One of the situations you are suggesting is that if someone needs a hip replacement and they have been waiting 8 months, they take the money from the health service and they add their own money on and then they get it in private... only if they can afford it.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Kirsty, hold on a second, what I said quite clearly was that last year, a quarter of a million people waited on a waiting list, couldn't get their health treatment in time, mostly pensioners by the way, they left, they borrowed money or they got their sons or their daughters to pay.

KIRSTY WARK
They borrowed money... if they could afford it.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Hang on... they did it! A quarter of a million people, Kirsty, last year did it already.

KIRSTY WARK
A lot of pensioners couldn't afford to do it.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
51% were pensioners Kirsty, you want to get the figures right. Let me tell you something, they had to...

MALE
Why should they do it?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Exactly my question, why should they have to go and do this if you have a health service which is meant to treat them. So what we have said is, in the short term, when we get back into power, if they can't get their treatment within a set period of time, if therefore they want to and have to because they are in too much pain...

KIRSTY WARK
They can pay for it themselves.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
... we will assist them to get that treatment outside.

KIRSTY WARK
We have to wind up here...

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
That is very important, give them some assistance because the system is failing them, that's a very positive policy.

KIRSTY WARK
We have to wind up here, just one final point to you. Will you... you say you can't name taxes you will lower. Will you make a tax guarantee now that by the end of a Tory four year term the overall tax take will be lower. Can you guarantee that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Look, I am three years out from the next general election. I will give you a guarantee Kirsty if you give me a guarantee you can tell me what the Government spending plans and what their tax plans are in two years time. That is the difference. I am not going to give you things that I am going to change in a year's time. I will give you guarantees when we are absolutely ready before the next election and everybody here can make a genuine judgement. I will not lie to them, and I am not going to play games with them, I will tell them something which we can stick to.

MALE
But Ian, you said you were keeping quiet for the simple reason you were organising these policies yet you can't tell us them.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
No, I didn't say I was keeping quiet, I said we are producing the policies and we are going to attack the government, we are.

KIRSTY WARK
We're moving onto the closing and of course the first big test...

MALE
Excuse me Ian, is that not your way of a politician answering a question with a question and not giving an answer.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I am giving an answer, the answer is a Conservative Party in government is a lower tax party than Labour and I am not going to go and give you something...

KIRSTY WARK
Your first big test coming up will be the May elections. Now, your shadow cabinet colleague Tim Yew has said the verdict on your leadership will come in the may elections. Some of your own polling says that you will gain only 30 seats out of a possible 7,000 gains. If that is the case will you just go quietly?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Lots of ifs and buts, I can tell you now, I am going to lead this party through to the next election and we are going to win it and I have no question at all about that.

WOMAN
Can you guarantee that?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I can guarantee you that, absolutely!

KIRSTY WARK
So if there is a challenge after May 1st you will fight it, you won't go quietly?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I am going to lead this party to the next general election and we are going to win it Kirsty and then you can come and share a drink with me afterwards.

MALE
Lets hear from you again, let's see you on the telly, let's see you on the radio, let's see you in the newspapers.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
I am going to. Absolutely on the button, and then you can vote for me at the next election.

KIRSTY WARK
That's all from Milton Keynes, thank you to our audience and of course to Ian Duncan Smith.

This transcript was produced at speed. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.



SEE ALSO:
Tony Blair
05 Feb 03  |  Newsnight


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