Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.
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.
On Politics Show, Sunday 16 May, 2004, Jeremy Vine interviewed:
- Liberal Democrat, Menzies Campbell, MP
- Conservative Party Chairman, Liam Fox, MP
- Green Party MEP, Jean Lambert
Interview with: Menzies Campbell, MP
Liberal Democrat, Menzies Campbell, MP
Jeremy Vine: Unlike Labour and the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats opposed military intervention in Iraq without UN backing fourteen months ago.
But we are where we are, so what would they do now? Let's speak to their foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell, who joins me from Edinburgh. Good afternoon to you.
Menzies Campbell: Good afternoon.
Jeremy Vine: What do you make first of all of what Geoff Hoon was saying there about Tony Blair's position?
Menzies Campbell: Well what I thought was interesting was that the Cabinet was talking about law and order and not talking about Iraq because if ever there was a subject which was right at the very head of the political agenda, it is of course the subject we're talking about.
Now, it seems to me, particularly from your report that we've just seen that the outlook is pretty dismal; the only prospect now is for the United Nations, successfully, through Lakhdar Brahimi, to establish a provisional government and there after to drive forward as fast as it possibly can the arrangements for elections in January of next year.
And if that time table were able to be met, then I would not disagree with Robin Cook's analysis, that as soon as a democratic government had been established, voted for, by the Iraqi people themselves, that would be the point at which the United Kingdom should withdraw.
Jeremy Vine: But you said recently, ... there is no alternative to the occupation in Iraq, it's an inevitable consequence of precipitant military action, withdrawal is unthinkable. ... You couldn't at this point guarantee that Britain and America could pull out at that stage, could you?
Menzies Campbell: Well, the point about it is this that if you were to withdraw, and there were people in the film who are arguing that case, you have to ask yourself what would happen. There would most certainly immediately be a large amount of violence.
There would be yet more opportunity and encouragement to terrorists to come in to Iraq, but perhaps more fundamentally, the prospect to the United Nations, which may not be as rosy as I would prefer, but the prospect to the United Nations, for successfully achieving a hand over of sovereignty on the 30th June, and then moving swiftly to elections, would be completely undermined. That's why my argument is that Britain's presence there has got to be directly related to the United Nation's effort.
Jeremy Vine: But we're at a paradox with your position in a way aren't we, because you, the Liberal Democrats were against the war but seem now more committed than the other parties to keeping troops there, because of your fears of what will happen if they go.
Menzies Campbell: Well I'm not sure about the second half of that question, you're quite right about our scepticism in advance, which if you remember was based on the fact that the United Nations had not been given sufficient opportunity that, Doctor Blix's inspection regime had not been allowed the full opportunity it deserved.
I think we're entirely consistent to say now that since the United Nations now represents the best opportunity of bringing stability, then Britain's efforts should be directed towards assisting the United Nations in trying to achieve that objective.
Jeremy Vine: Do you believe that that is feasible when you see, for example, Spain leaving?
Menzies Campbell: It's very difficult. Let's not under-estimate those difficulties, and as was pointed out I think by someone recently, any kind of hand-over on the 30th June, which is accompanied by the raising of flags and brass bands and things of that kind, will only carry credibility if it's seen to have accompanying with it, a hand over of authority as well.
It's not just sovereignty; it's sovereignty plus authority, which is essential. That is necessary in order to persuade the people of Iraq that the United Kingdom and the United States are determined to go as soon as the necessary democratic institutions have been established.
But don't let's kid ourselves, between now and then, it may be very difficult indeed, not least of course because we haven't seen the last of the revelations from the United States of the way in which detainees in the custody of the United States were treated. The photographs were so horrific; I understand that some senators left the room after a few minutes.
Jeremy Vine: We heard in David Thompson's film that Lakhdar Brahimi, a UN representative in Iraq might even be thinking of walking away himself. If that happens, what next?
Menzies Campbell: Well that is the sixty four thousand dollar question. If that happens then the whole strategy is completely undermined, and the United Kingdom and the United States would be left in a position of very very considerable weakness and difficulty.
As you probably know, there's a negotiation going on at the moment in New York as to the precise terms of a United Nation's Security Council resolution. It's clear that France and Russia in particular, are playing hard ball, and they want a resolution which transfers effectively, to the Iraqi people, a far greater degree of authority than anything which we believe the United States would be willing to countenance at this stage but the United States, and the United Kingdom may have no option.
If in order to get Security Council authorisation, more concessions have got to be made, then they will find themselves in a position of simply having to do that because without a fresh Security Council resolution, then the position would be even more bleak than it is at the moment.
Jeremy Vine: Ming Campbell for the Liberal Democrats, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
Interview with: Liam Fox, MP
Jeremy Vine: And what about the Conservatives?
Conservative Party Chairman, Liam Fox, MP
I am joined by their Party Chairman, Dr Liam Fox, afternoon to you.
You would be in this situation would you not if you were the government, because you supported the government in going to war.
Liam Fox: Our major reservation at the outset was about the level of planning that the government had done for the reconstruction of Iraq. We agreed that to deliver the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny, and the region from a dangerous dictator who'd invaded his neighbours twice, was something that we could support.
Michael Ancram in particular raised in the House of Commons a number of reservations we had about the level of planning the government had done, and whether or not they were making the appropriate steps necessary for this transition to a new civilian Iraqi authority. It does seem that a lot of that preparation work wasn't done sufficiently.
Jeremy Vine: So just going back to your reasons for the war. Even if you take weapons of mass destruction out of the picture and concede that they aren't there, if they're not there. You still believe the war was right.
Liam Fox: Well we were of course, we were given the justification of weapons of mass destruction by Tony Blair at the outset, where history will tell whether the regime was actually involved in such programmes or not, and of course the House of Commons, all parties voted on the basis of the information we were given but even leaving that issue aside, there's no doubt that the Iraqi people would benefit from a civilian regime, rather than the one that they endured previously, and of course the region itself could be stabilised if we had the appropriate government in Iraq, which took account of the necessary safe guards to make sure that the region itself was stable.
Jeremy Vine: A lot of planning was done by the military for the aftermath. Was there any way of knowing that the fall of Saddam would lead to this chaos?
Liam Fox: I think it was very difficult to know that it would be as complex as it has turned out to be, and there would be as little help from some of the groups inside Iraq, and the problem of course has been worsened by the revelations of the treatment of prisoners.
I thought there was a very interesting piece this morning by Michael Portillo, saying that the biggest problem that we now face is the loss of the moral high ground, because the way in which prisoners were to be treated, was indicative of how we would be seen in the region as a whole.
And that has caused, it has to be accepted, enormous damage and increased the difficulty in the coalition being able to move forward. So I do think that the involvement of the United Nations, is actually now more important than it was before to give wider credibility to the efforts of reconstruction.
Jeremy Vine: But the treatment of prisoners takes us does it not to a fundamental issue here which is the criticisms of Mr Blair for being too close to President Bush. Is the Prime Minister too close to the President?
Liam Fox: I think that the Prime Minister would have done well to make it very clear from the outset, for example, that the treatment of prisoners would be regarded as a, as totemic in the eyes of many of those in the region.
Jeremy Vine: Is he too close to Mr Bush?
Liam Fox: I don't know what close means. I think that ...
Jeremy Vine: Not critical enough.
Liam Fox: Well, close is fine, if close is about being a full and frank ally, which is willing to speak up when things are going wrong as well as when things are going right. And perhaps the Prime Minister could have told the President some of these issues in advance, given for example, as has been widely reported in the press today, Britain's involvement in Northern Ireland.
So the treatment of prisoners would be seen as a very important issue by those would be later involved in the reconstruction; so that is important. But of course if we are able to be an influential ally with the United States, that's very important for the United Kingdom, and for the geopolitical situation in general.
Jeremy Vine: Now you're the opposition and if we're to believe today's papers, the Prime Minister is in the most dreadful trouble. Do you capitalise on it?
Liam Fox: I don't think the Prime Minister's main worries are the Opposition sitting opposite him in the House of Commons.
Jeremy Vine: Should be shouldn't it?
Liam Fox: I think his biggest problems are those sitting along side him in the House of Commons, if John Prescott's to be believed. And I think it would be a big mistake to turn this in to a personal battle to try to destabilise the Prime Minister at a time when the country is involved in a major foreign policy problem.
But it is of course, our job to point out that the Government's failures, and whether it's the information we were given, whether it's the Prime Minister telling us the truth, whether it's the amount of planning that was done for the aftermath of the war, but of course it has major implications in domestic politics, if the Prime Minister is being destabilised to the extent that perhaps John Prescott was eluding to yesterday.
Jeremy Vine: Do you call a vote, do you call a vote in the Commons on the war?
Liam Fox: I think to use a situation like Iraq for short term political purposes would be mistaken, and would be seen by the general public as playing politics with a much more serious situation.
But there's clearly a lot of disquiet on Labour backbenches about the Prime Minister's conduct of the whole war, and I think it's what happens now in the Labour Party, and within the Cabinet, that will seal Tony Blair's fate or otherwise.
Interview with: Jean Lambert, MEP
Green Party MEP, Jean Lambert
Jeremy Vine: I am joined now by Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London. Thank you for coming in.
Max was saying your priority is to reduce consumption, which could cause a recession.
Jean Lambert: Well it's an issue about how we use the world's resources which is always what we've said that yes, meaning this consumption does eventually use up the planet's resources and if you look at what the European Commission is doing at the moment, coming out of the Johannesburg summit, a couple of years ago, they are also looking at this issue about how can we limit, not necessarily limit our consumption, but do it better so that we're not actually wasting resources as we do it; so this is an issue which is there, it's there in international politics.
Jeremy Vine: But less consumption means less people buying things, and less people driving around and therefore making cars, and less people working and so forth. And then in the end you have a recession don't you?
Jean Lambert: Not necessarily. I mean it depends what it is that people are doing with their time and what it is that they're being paid for. But if you look as well at some of the costs of some of the things that we actually spend a lot of money on, cars - let's take an example - that it's a massive use of resources that goes in to making them.
They still have extremely high levels of pollution, we have traffic congestion, we have still an unreasonably high number of road deaths, but there are costs as well for the way in which we consume at the moment.
So that sort of shift and rethinking how we use our resources, is absolutely crucial to the future of basically, of our life on this planet, if we want it to be an equitable future, not just for the few rich, but for the planet as a whole.
Jeremy Vine: How do you say to somebody who's working let's say in a bank in the City, and you don't like multinational banks I know, you say to them, I'm sorry, you can't have your job any more because it's damaging the planet, and they say, well what on earth do you mean.
Jean Lambert: Well quite, and I think they'd be quite right to ask that question.
Jeremy Vine: That one job.
Jean Lambert: That one job. I think one of the things that we're looking at if you're looking at international finance, is basically what does it support, what are the limits on finance at the moment?
I mean, one of the big problems that we've had and the whole question about how you taste terrorist finance, has been that governments have still been totally unwilling to deal with issues about tax havens and off shoring; so that there are big questions there within the banking sector, way before you get to an individuals job.
And given the way in which the banking sector in the UK has been slicing jobs over the years, I don't think the Greens are their biggest threat quite frankly.
Jeremy Vine: You want us to be more local as I understand it and you've said policies to increase local investment and the circulation of local finance are very important.
They'd be designed to encourage local people to invest in local economic activity. Isn't the whole point though about environmental policy, that it can't be local, that it has to be global and maybe the only way to deliver it is through big corporations.
Jean Lambert: No, I think we've mixing different things here. I mean what we're talking about when we're talking about the local economy is actually keeping jobs in the locality, keeping cash local, so that it doesn't whiz off to tax havens to transnational corporations elsewhere within the world. That's one thing.
The sort of other legislation that you need in terms of environmental legislation, whether you're talking about GMOs, whether you're talking about air pollution, is international. I mean that's one of the things that the European Union does a lot of, is a lot of work of environmental legislation.
So there are different things here. Part of it is, if you like, the pollution, the international effects, but also what we want to do is to see about local benefits, and again that's not just for the UK, here we're talking internationally.
Jeremy Vine: But you mentioned you don't like multi national corporations. I mean that's clear from reading your manifesto, and yet at the same time, if you're going to fight pollution internationally, isn't that the vehicle to do it with?
Jean Lambert: Well regulation of transnationals yes. Issues about how we produce emissions levels, yes, I mean that is part of it and having international standards which all companies abide by and where you know, we do have the means of actually taking them to task when they don't. But that's, again that's a different thing.
The control of transnational corporations I think is essential if we're actually looking at the future well being of our planet.
Jeremy Vine: You're demanding action to combat cruel practices like the production of pate. Will we be allowed to eat it if you take power?
Jean Lambert: Well I think, you know, if you looked at the production of pate de foie gras in particular, where you are basically force feeding you know, force feeding animals, force feeding the geese, you know, it is an animal rights issue, and I think there's a big question here about, is it really the only way that we can actually give ourselves a sense of luxury, is actually by creating suffering elsewhere.
And we don't think so, we think you can actually have an extremely convivial lifestyle that doesn't necessarily involve animal cruelty.
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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