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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 October 2005, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Jon Sopel interview

Below are the results of our poll asking who would make the best Tory leader.

ICM interviewed a random sample of people aged 18+ between 06 and 08 October 2005.

Interviews were conducted by telephone throughout the country and the results have been weighted to be representative of all adults.

ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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 09 October 2005, Jon Sopel interviewed:

  • Dr Liam Fox MP, Conservative Leadership contender
  • Mark Oaten MP, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman

Liam Fox MP
Dr Liam Fox MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary

Interview with Liam Fox

Jon Sopel: So some encouraging news there for Dr Liam Fox, who joins me now. Good poll findings, great reception to your speech. You must have been relieved that you didn't get panned like David Davis did.

Liam Fox: I can't remember such bad press, nor can I remember such unfair press for what was a perfectly reasonably good conference speech.

Jon Sopel: Was it unfair? It was a bit lack lustre wasn't it?

Liam Fox: It was I think, none the less the, I'd never seen such press ganging up on one person, but leave that aside. The answer to your question was yes, I was pleased it went well, my speech was well received and I think what encouraged me about it was that it showed that you can bring a lot of different issues in to a party conference speech. It wasn't vague.

I set out purposely to try to address a lot of difficult issues. Things like mental health, domestic violence, which you don't hear Conservative politicians talking a lot about and I think that there is an element that the Conservative Party has been missing in recent years and yes, people want us to be robust on the economy, yes people want us to be strong abroad, but they also want us to be compassionate at home.

Jon Sopel: There was a line in your speech where you talked about how your grandfathers were both miners and that you had gone to a local comprehensive, and then you went on, "we should elect leaders because of where they are going to, not where they have come from." That was a pot at David Davis wasn't it.

Liam Fox: No it wasn't.

Jon Sopel: Widely interpreted as such.

Liam Fox: It may have been interpreted. It was not what it was intended for because I went on to say that as a properly meritocratic party we should value people by the contribution that they want to bring to the country, not the colour of their skin not their religion, not who their parents were, not how they speak. That I think is something the Conservative party used to have ownership of.

We had this great view that you would be judged by, by what you actually brought to the feast, not where you came from and that was the point I was trying to make in that speech.

Jon Sopel: It was widely interpreted that you thought that David Davis had been playing too much on his background. Do you think he has?

Liam Fox: No, and I think it's just as ridiculous to say that you should be elected because of one background, as for people to say, you shouldn't be elected because you come from another background.

And I think there's been a little too much of this cult of personality recently in our politics because the Conservative Party will ultimately be judged by the electorate, not by how we look or the age of our members. But on what we intend to bring to the country.

There are a lot of problems our country faces. The question is, can the Conservative Party identify those and can it bring solutions which are in tune with the sort of trends we have in our society.

Jon Sopel: Sir Malcolm Rifkind said something very interesting during the Party Conference.

Liam Fox: He said lots of things which were interesting.

Jon Sopel: Yes, there were lots of things, but he said something particularly about, it's essential that when this vote goes out to the country and the Conservative Party members that they're offered a clear choice between someone from the one nation tradition like him, or Ken Clarke or David Cameron and that there should be someone from the right of the party like yourself or David Davis. Do you agree with that?

Liam Fox: I think these labels of left and right are very dated. I think they're very old fashioned. Now I gave a speech which talked about human rights.

Traditionally people would have thought of that as being on the left of politics, although I think that's a mistake to do so. And I was talking about those issues that I mentioned, things like mental health, but I also talked about the need to have a proper agenda for wealth creation in this country.

You know to welcome those who are creative, to help small businesses, and for Britain to be strong in Europe and abroad. Now, that's a mixture, and I think that our politics has gone beyond that old idea of left and right and I think that those who think in those terms ...


Jon Sopel: But there is still broadly an identifiable centre-left of the Conservative Party and a broadly identifiable right. Liam Fox: But I don't think that politicians fit in to those pigeon holes. I'm very concerned that a lot of our citizens in this country are being left behind.

I'm very concerned that a lot of vulnerable people, people sleeping out in our streets, who suffer from mental health problems, or learning difficulties and end up in our prisons, are not being looked after properly. Now does that make it left or right?

Jon Sopel: Well let me just go back to where we are, and where you are in terms of the amount of support that you have. I mean you're way behind David Davis at the moment. Can you overcome David Davis?

Liam Fox: I think that it's very fluid. Watching these programmes over the last few weeks, we've had - The Tory Party wants Kenneth Clarke, the Tory Party wants David Davis, The Tory Party wants David Cameron.

What I think it says is, there's a very fluid situation and of course, if I may say, polls are all very well, but these polls don't actually address the real electorate, which is in the House of Commons.

I think my colleagues will be taking this weekend to digest what they've seen at the conference in Blackpool and I think to be fair, what they've seen is a pretty decent array of potential leadership talent, which they can now look at but at least say, we've got the making of a good team for government.

And the other thing I would just say is that, we also have to remember that our enemies are not on our side of the House of Commons, they're on the other side.

Jon Sopel: But if they were just to decide on the basis of who's going to win for them at the next general election, it looks like all the polls not be any clearer, they all want Cameron.

Liam Fox: Well your poll just said Kenneth Clarke. So that's amongst the public. Now I think that our MPs will be looking for a number of things. They'll be looking to see, does the candidate have experience.

Can they build a team and do they have an agenda, which will be relevant, not even today, 2005 but in 2009, when we actually will be fighting a general election.

Jon Sopel: So when you say that it's - the old visions of left and right are not important. Is it conceivable that going through to the country, to the play offs, will be David Davis and Dr Liam Fox.

Liam Fox: I think pretty much anything is conceivable.

Jon Sopel: Really, you think that's possible that there could be David Davis versus Liam Fox in the final play offs?

Liam Fox: At the moment, knowing my colleagues, I think almost anything is possible. But I think that there is a growing appetite out there, for what I might describe, or what has been described as, Thatcherism with a social conscience.

In other words that we do still be very robust on the economy, that we understand that Britain should be strong in the world but that we do have an agenda that's compassionate at home.

And I think that that cuts across some of these old ideas of left and right, and I think actually addresses what the country needs.

Jon Sopel: In your speech you talked about a broken society. Now some would say that drugs is a major contributory factor to a broken society. You stated quite clearly that you'd never taken drugs. David Cameron won't answer the question. Does that matter?

Liam Fox: That is entirely a matter for, for David and whether he wants to be open or not about that. I've never taken drugs, I'm asthmatic, I couldn't have even smoked a cigarette if I'd wanted one.

Does the drugs debate matter, yes, it matters very much. And I take a line on drugs that says that we should be tougher on them.

Jon Sopel: But presumably if you have taken drugs, then you must have at some time broken the law. Now does that matter.

Liam Fox: Well I think politicians have to be very careful if they're accused of breaking the law and I think that the - the drugs debate is a very important debate to have.

Some people, quite legitimately say that drugs should be liberalised because that would make it easier to control the price and maybe restrict the crime rate. My view in having ...

Jon Sopel: But the legality issue for one of the Tory candidates, surely that matters.

Liam Fox: I think legality does matter but I think that's for other candidates to judge and I'm not going to be dragged in to a campaign to criticise any of my colleagues.

But I do think having myself seen young people brought in to casualty departments, blue and lifeless from drug overdoses that we've got to be very, very clear about the messages that we send out. Drugs are a danger to young people, they're a danger to our society, and we have to be very very firm about that line.

Jon Sopel: Okay. Liam Fox, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

Interview with Mark Oaten

Mark Oaten MP
Mark Oaten MP, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman

Jon Sopel: David Thomson reporting there.

Well I'm joined now by the Liberal Democrats, Home Affairs Spokesman, Mark Oaten.

Mark Oaten thanks very much for joining us.

You're opposing Labour on all sorts of things, ID cards, extending summary powers, counter terrorism legislation, isn't there a danger you just find yourself on the wrong side of the argument here. Mark Oaten: Well we think it's the right side of the argument, and particularly when it comes to ID cards. I'm absolutely convinced that we will shift public opinion on this.

The idea that the public want to spend maybe a hundred pounds themselves on ID cards, the country, billions of pounds, on a piece of plastic which is not going to tackle crime. I reckon I can win that argument and persuade them it's better to put that money into more police.

Jon Sopel: But the public seem to want these things. The public want the tougher actions that will make their streets safer.

Mark Oaten: No, the public want things which will make their streets safer, my argument is what's the tough thing to do. Now Tony Blair talks about being tough on crime but many of the things he argues are quick fixes, they move a problem from one estate to the other estate.

My tough on crime is different, it's about actually getting in to the causes, dealing with drug problems, drink problems. A longer term solution, which in my judgement is actually more effective in the long run.

Jon Sopel: Well you've talked about tough liberalism, but there we see two neighbouring councils in action, Labour Camden, Liberal Democrat Islington. Labour Camden, crime down 10.5%, in Islington down 3.5%. You hear the council leader saying she has to take two padlocks when she takes her bike in to Islington.

Mark Oaten: Well I'm going to sound like an evasive politician. You know, what were the starting bench marks, the statistics can be dependent on what the crime level was like in the past. So, I think it's very hard to make a judgement just on those two authorities.

Jon Sopel: Well these are published crime survey figures.

Mark Oaten: But what I'm keen on understanding is what are the long term effects. If you look over a five year period, are you seeing some of those individuals who are given ASBOs in Camden, actually committing future crimes. My judgement about ASBOs is they're a quick fix.

Many people don't pay the fines and there's no guarantee if you'd issued an ASBO that somebody will stop behaving that way in the future. You have to stop them doing that, break that cycle, and that means a punishment but with something else as well.

Jon Sopel: But Mr Oaten, it gets them off the streets; the Government is now talking about extending to even under 10s, to baby ASBOs, or BASBOs.

Mark Oaten: But it gets them off the street for a day and then they come back and commit another crime in a couple of weeks' time. The harder, tougher thing to do is yes, punish, but then tackle the reasons why they're committing those crimes in the first place, stop them reoffending, now that needs tough, difficult work to do with drugs, to do with education, to do with trying to find alternatives for them. Maybe those sound soft to the pubic, my argument is they're not. They're much tougher and more effective in the long run.

Jon Sopel: Well let me read back something you said because you addressed the problem. You said, we unfairly, we were perceived as soft on crime, that's what polling showed. Now that is a problem because you say you're going to convince the public but there's no sign of it, you even acknowledge it yourself.

Mark Oaten: Well because what I need to persuade the public is that what may sound soft ie let's tackle the causes, let's deal with education, is a lot harder, a lot tougher and is more likely in my judgement to stop them being the victim of the crime, than just issuing a fine, which may make everybody feel very good at the time, but isn't actually going to stop them committing a crime in the future. And that's the critical issue.

Jon Sopel: Are you saying that none of the things that have been put in action, none of the things that are being introduced by Camden Council are working.

Mark Oaten: Well, there's clearly a case for ASBOs, as a short term fix. My argument with the government is that they don't solve the long term problem and that's why I argue ASBO plus, match it with other things which are going to be more effective in the long run. I'll give you another example of prisoners.

Why is it that something like 60% of prisoners come out from jail and commit a crime? We need to tackle that. Now the Government say, let's lock more people up. What is the point if they're going to come out and commit more crimes? You've got to actually get to some of the causes of these. Now that may be a difficult political message to get across, but it is the right thing to do if you want to tackle crime.

Jon Sopel: Let's more on to another area where you have a big problem with the Government's proposed legislation and that's on counter terrorism legislation.

The government has moved on the whole question of glorification, but it says it's going to stick to the whole thing of being able to hold the suspect for three months before bringing charges. Now, come what may, are you going to oppose that.

Mark Oaten: Yeah. As things stand as they are, I don't think the case has been made for moving beyond the fourteen day period we already have, in which you can charge people. To move to a three month period breaks all the principles.

I suspect it's probably illegal as well, and we need to see what the Attorney General actually says on that. I think it's a step too far. I think what the public want is sensible measures, which will tackle terrorism, but what they don't want to do is to see the very fundamental principles of justice and liberty broken away.

Jon Sopel: Let me just so no room for compromise at all, or what if Charles Clarke came back and said, well, six weeks.

Mark Oaten: I don't think it's about bartering on the time Jon, I think it's about the principle itself. Now we're suggesting an alternative to the Home Secretary, which is that we could actually charge individuals on a lower charge, during the fourteen day period.

Jon Sopel: But if you haven't got access to their bank accounts, to their flats, to everything else that you might need to, before you can get that critical evidence, then maybe it will take more than fourteen days. Your approach would be to say, if we can't, if we haven't got enough to charge them with after fourteen days, you wave them goodbye.

Mark Oaten: Well let's look at forensics for example. We believe that some of the arguments for going beyond fourteen days are legitimate in relation to forensics. You need to get the complicated material back. But at the same time we're supporting the Government in creating a new offence of, acts preparatory to terrorism.

Now you could charge somebody with that act in the fourteen day period, and then when the forensics come through at a later date, there is nothing wrong with them charging at a higher charge after that point. Now the Home Secretary has not come back to me on that. I hope we can find a way forward on this. My dream ...

Jon Sopel: What's your suspicion? Do you think you will find a way forward?

Mark Oaten: I think we all want consensus on this if we can have it. But if we can't, then we will oppose this Bill, on this principle of holding individuals.

Jon Sopel: And you will not go above fourteen days. You're not going to get in to any kind of trading there.

Mark Oaten: At this stage, I think the case has not been made, and I've put alternative ways round this to the Home Secretary, I'm waiting to hear back from him.

Jon Sopel: Okay. Mark Oaten, thanks very much.

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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