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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 June, 2005, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Jeremy Vine interviews
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 12 June 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Peter Hain MP, Northern Ireland Secretary
  • Theresa May MP, Shadow Family Secretary

Peter Hain
Peter Hain MP, Northern Ireland Secretary

Interview with Peter Hain

Jeremy Vine: Well we are joined by Peter Hain himself, the new Northern Ireland Secretary from Belfast. So there we are, you have this history of anti Unionist views going back more than thirty years.

Peter Hain: It's been fascinating watching all those pictures of me with a lot more hair Jeremy, and looking very young. And we've all got things we've said, twenty, thirty years ago, indeed the whole world has changed since then. We now have a political process, we've had a period of parties that have been fighting each other quite literally with bombs and bullets, talking to each other, and having sat together in the assembly and sharing government with each other.

The process which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, seven years ago, has completely transformed Northern Irish politics, and indeed the whole world has been transformed; so although it's fascinating that you delve in to all these events decades ago, and things that were said decades ago, and the whole situation was completely different when bombs and bullets were being fired in all directions, and going off all the time. What my job is, is to get on with getting the process of democratic politics, back on the road, entrenching the peace settlement, and I ask you to judge me on my record.

Jeremy Vine: But you say, we have all got these views that we've expressed, plainly we haven't. Not only that, we can't find anywhere where you've renounced these views.

Peter Hain: As I say, the whole world has changed. You know when - some of the quotes you got back twenty, thirty years ago, Nelson Mandela was in prison in South Africa, the Berlin Wall was still up. There was no prospect at all of the kind of completely different life that I now see around me, just today in Belfast or across Northern Ireland.

Jeremy Vine: But you keep saying these quotes are twenty, thirty years ago. Some are more recent than that. In 1998 you said the imposition of partition was, and remains unjust and undemocratic. Now is that still your view.

Peter Hain: Jeremy, you can quiz me as long as you like on the history of Northern Ireland. What I find interesting is people here, in Northern Ireland as I am at the moment, are looking forward not backwards.

The BBC can continue to go into the entrails and ups and downs of history, partition, what happened, you know, the whole of politics in Northern Ireland was frozen in the past, and that has been the problem. And until we got the Good Friday Agreement, which opened up a whole new world for Northern Ireland, and indeed elsewhere, that has changed everything.

My job now, as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is to take this process forward, and that I'm determined to do, whatever old clippings you dig out and whatever old quotes you put before me.

Jeremy Vine: I will ask you, I will ask you where the talks are going but I just want to get back to this very simple thing - you say it's changed everything. And I'm asking, has it changed your views. Do you renounce those views.

Peter Hain: Jeremy, you can keep quizzing me about the past, about things that were said thirty years ago when bombs were going off, when there was an impasse and all sorts of different avenues were being explored, and I'm happy to have an academic discussion about that.

My job as Secretary of State, and I asked to be judged on this record and my appointment has been widely welcomed as you, to be fair, you pointed out in your programme- my job is to work with the people of Northern Ireland, and with the Irish Government, to take this process forward.

I'm going to be looking forward, asked to be judged on my record, not taken back as has been the - in a sense, the tendency throughout politics in Northern Ireland, is to always look back, always look at what was said a long time ago, instead of looking forward.

Jeremy Vine: Well we're going through your views because what you said was important and you're in an important position now. Now we have a situation where we have British troops in Northern Ireland. You were Vice Chair of the Troops Out Movement. Now do you (interjection)

Peter Hain: I wasn't actually. I was never Vice Chair of the Troops Out Movement.

Jeremy Vine: Do you think those troops should go?

Peter Hain: No, no that's, actually wrong Jeremy, I was never Vice Chair of the Troops Out Movement, and I don't think you programme said that by the way.

Jeremy Vine: Sorry, you were at the head of the Time to Go Movement. Do you still think they should go?

Peter Hain: Of course I don't. Actually, the number of troops that have come down, there's been a significant reduction in the number of British Troops.

Thousands fewer than there were years ago and if we can continue to get the peace process cemented in, and I notice for example that Martin McGuiness on behalf of Sinn Fein only the other day, said in a BBC interview that he was committed to pursuing Sinn Fein's objective by exclusively peaceful and democratic means. Now that wasn't what was happening. The IRA were letting off bombs, ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

So I think what's crucial is we have all moved forward together and I'm confident now, with an imminent IRA statement expected, which needs to be credible and has been promised after a very important speech by Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, in which he committed Sinn Fein to exclusively political and democratic and peaceful means, and he called on the IRA to do the same.

I think we now look forward to an IRA statement, which I hope will be credible and will open up a new chapter in Northern Ireland politics.

Jeremy Vine: But how do you act as an honest broker in this when Unionists can see you've got these anti Unionist views.

Peter Hain: Well ask the Unionists. I've had very good meetings with Unionist leaders, Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley and his team.

I've had good meetings with the Ulster Unionists and I continue to intend to have those and indeed what I find interesting is they are concerned, as I am, is how we for example make sure that the parades in the next few weeks are peaceful, that there's not the kind of community turmoil and danger of violence that we've seen in the past. We're all working together to achieve that.

We're all working together then to look forward beyond an IRA statement, if it is the credible one we're hoping for and expecting. That we can really entrench the democratic process in paramilitary and criminality activity and banish it from Northern Ireland politics forever and get people sharing government and taking Northern Ireland forward. We're all joined together at the hip in making sure that this happens.

Jeremy Vine: But as has been pointed out, not everybody has said these things, you're out of line with your own party on some of them, and we had Paul Dixon, the distinguished politics lecturer, in the film there saying, you're the most partisan Secretary of State for Northern Ireland ever.

Peter Hain: Well academics and BBC journalists, even distinguished ones like you Jeremy, can say what they like. In real-life politics, I have not had a single member of the public in Northern Ireland, and not a single politician, Unionist or Nationalist or Republican, talk to me about any of this past history because they are all concerned, you may not be, and various academics writing interesting books and theses may not be, who want some air time, may not be, they can get on with their job.

You can get on with your job. I'm going to get on with mine. And mine is to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland, that's what they expect from me and I'm not going to be deflected by interesting academic or media speculation or attempts to take the whole debate back. I've got to move forward.

Jeremy Vine: Did the Prime Minister know about your views when he appointed you.

Peter Hain: The Prime Minister knows about everything when he appoints Cabinet ministers. I've been in the Cabinet for three years now. I think the role of that the Prime Minister has played is an absolutely historic one, in achieving what no previous prime minister has achieved, although John Major did take this whole process forward for the Conservatives, has achieved - is a period of unparalleled peace and stability and prosperity and the achievements of much greater democracy.

We'll be launching the new public prosecution service in Northern Ireland tomorrow. I'll be doing it in Belfast tomorrow. This is an entirely new era, in which criminal justice now exercised on an equal basis, not the old basis in which community division was a feature.

What we now see is a new independent judicial commission being announced next week. A whole process moving forward. The big missing part of the jig-saw is to get the assembly back up and running here in Northern Ireland, to get shared government back in business, that is my objective, and we await the IRA statement to see if this will trigger a new dawn.

Jeremy Vine: Well tell us then finally what you think Sinn Fein must do to get the peace process moving again.

Peter Hain: What's crucial is that the IRA produce a credible statement that paramilitary and criminality activity is a thing of the past. That they are committed to a future which is exclusively peaceful and democratic.

That Sinn Fein, as I've already indicated, their leaders have already indicated that's what they want to achieve - once we get that credible statement, then we can get around the table and start to move forward, and I'm confident we can do so.

End of interview

Interview with Theresa May

Theresa May
Theresa May MP, Shadow Family Secretary

Jeremy Vine: The Conservative leadership field is starting to resemble the Grand National.

The Shadow Home Secretary David Davis is reckoned to be the front runner, but by our count there are eight candidates who've expressed an interest in running, including the shadow Foreign Secretary Liam Fox in today's Sunday Telegraph and the former Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind earlier in the week.

One person we haven't heard from so far is the former party chairman Theresa May. She famously coined the phrase 'the Nasty Party' to express how some people saw the Tories and she joins me now. Are you standing?

Theresa May: Jeremy, one of the problems is that this keeps being seen in terms of leadership bid and I'm not about putting, suddenly putting my hat in to the ring.

What I want to do is actually say, and I will be saying later this week, that I think there is a real danger that the party, after our third election defeat, is going to miss the point. Is going to fail to learn the lesson from the election, because it is being focused in to the personality of the leader.

And I think we've got to understand that our failures at the elections have not been about the leadership, it's actually been about us, as a party. If we don't learn that lesson, if we don't make the chances that are necessary as a result of that lesson, then frankly, we'll be out for another ten years.

Jeremy Vine: But you're minded to stand are you?

Theresa May: No, what I'm saying is that 'a' there isn't a leadership context at the moment, and 'b', I'm certainly not seen as a contender. What I'm saying this week is not about being contender for the leadership, what is about is saying that this party has got a real task ahead and we've got to - let's put the leadership issue to one side.

The election won't happen until the autumn for the leadership; what we've got now is an opportunity as a result of losing the election, to do what we failed to do after the last two elections.

Stand back and say where does the problem lie. The problem isn't about just changing the leader. It's not about just another leader with perhaps a different tone or a different approach, and one more heave, that won't get us there. We've got a real job to do to change this party.

Jeremy Vine: Now I know, you're saying in your speech this week the following, we can put this up on the screen. "We have now elevated certain policies to the status of ideology, so we, the Conservatives have seen low taxes or small government as an end in themselves, rather than as a means to delivering the kind of open free enterprise culture we value." Now, if low taxation, small government is not ideology, then what is?

Theresa May: Oh what - well that's the problem. The problem is we've got hung up on what we think of as ideology, rather than actually going back to what we believe of - as our principles and as our values. And as a result, we have simply failed to connect with most people in this country.

Low taxes are not the end goal. Low taxes are a means of delivering what we believe in, which is a better future for people in this country, by giving them more freedom, by encouraging opportunity, by ensuring we've got a fair and decent society. They're a mechanism, not an end in themselves.

Jeremy Vine: But then if you say small government can't be the big idea, it doesn't leave very many big ideas does it.

Theresa May: Well what it does leave is an opportunity for us actually to connect with the values that people hold, and be talking about the things that really matter to people, in the way that matters and is relevant to them.

And I think what the - one of the problems the party has had, is that we've tended to talk up here, in this sort of political jargon way, rather than actually getting to grips with what people want to see from their government.

They do want to see fairness, they want to see decency. They want us to be generous in our judgements, to be open-minded and tolerant. And they want to feel that we're actually in touch with them and I fear that we've been, it's been too easy to continue to characterise us as a party that's negative.

Jeremy Vine: That's nasty.

Theresa May: Self interested, not nasty. I never said we were nasty.


Jeremy Vine: But people - you said people thought ...

Theresa May: I said (overlap) ... people perceived of us as nasty.

Jeremy Vine: Yeah.

Theresa May: I don't think they do perceive of us as a nasty party now. But I think they still think too often, we're characterised as negative, self interested and out of touch.

Jeremy Vine: So what's the word you want to replace nasty with? Nice?

Theresa May: No, I don't want to replace it with a word like nice.

Jeremy Vine: Friendly?

Theresa May: I think we need to be a decent party, I think we need to talk about the issues that matter to people in ways that are relevant to them, and let me give you an example of that. On the public services, what people want is good quality public services. And at the last election, the Labour Party talked a lot about the quality of public services, we talked about choice.

We offered them choice. Now we saw choice as a means of delivering good quality public services, but actually, the message we gave to them was not that we would do that, and I think until people really feel they can trust us on an issue like public services, then we can talk all we like about small government, but actually they won't be listening.

Jeremy Vine: You do sound like you're standing. I must say, you sound like you are.

Theresa May: What I want to do Jeremy, is make sure this debate actually gets to the heart of the problem, because if we don't, then we won't win next time round.

End of interview

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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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday, 19 June 2005 at 12.00.

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