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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 April, 2005, 11:36 GMT 12:36 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 10 April, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Alan Milburn, MP, Labour's Election Co-ordinator
  • Sir Menzies Campbell, MP, Liberal Democrats Deputy Leader


Alan Milburn
Alan Milburn, MP, Labour's Election Co-ordinator

Alan Milburn, MP, Labour's Election Co-ordinator

Jeremy Vine: I'm joined now by Labour's General Election Co-ordinator, Alan Milburn, welcome to you.

Alan Milburn: Thanks Jeremy.

Jeremy Vine: and just on a technical point first of all, you are still the co-ordinator, it's not Gordon Brown or anything like that.

Alan Milburn: No, I'm still the co-ordinator.

Jeremy Vine: He's not taken over.

Alan Milburn: No, he's not taken over, but as I've said, and as Tony Blair has said, right from the outset of this, Gordon is obviously going to playing a big part in the campaign. He is why? For a simple reason, the economy is absolutely centre stage. At least in the Labour campaign, it's interesting that the Tories, the one issue that they're not talking about, is the issue that in the end, most people are bothered about, which is the strength, stability of the economy and whether you can keep it like that.

Jeremy Vine: What the Conservatives are speaking about to-day is immigration. What's wrong with a cap on immigration.

Alan Milburn: Well, it just wouldn't work and I think that is the issue. I mean, there are two choices here between the Conservatives who are basically saying, look, you've got this cap on immigration, and I think frankly, playing with the issue and not dealing with it, and Labour that says, that what we need are strict controls that work. We need ID cards. We need the finger-printing of visa applicants coming in to the country, so you can see who should be here, and frankly who shouldn't. The points system that we want to introduce in the future - all these things that we want to do.

And frankly, a Conservative Party, that when it is asked what is the detail of its proposals, those proposals fall apart, as you've seen today with this business about the UN HCR. The Conservatives have been saying for two years, that they want to process asylum applications abroad, but they can't tell us where that will be. And if you've got a proposal which says, you're going to cut the immigration and asylum budget in half, which is what they're planning, how on earth is that going to protect Britain's borders.

Jeremy Vine: Okay. You have your manifesto coming out this week, we understand Tuesday, and there was a very interesting comment from somebody in the film about it, left winger, Christine Shawcroft, who says there are commitments in there to enthuse core Labour voters, it's been cleverly written to reflect the feeling in the party; so the left, Labour Left like it. It pleased them.

Alan Milburn: Well I, (overlap) I hope that the Labour Party likes it. And more importantly, I hope that the voters like it.

Jeremy Vine: But it's not unremittingly New Labour then is it, as the Prime Minister said it would be.

Alan Milburn: Oh, I think it's pretty New Labour and ...

Jeremy Vine: Pretty New Labour ?

Alan Milburn: It is pretty New Labour and when people see it, I think they will see at its heart, it has this very simple idea. It's in my view, it's more ambitious, it's more detailed, and more radical than either the manifestos that we published in '97 or 2001. It will have a simple commitment, which is in a world of ever faster change, we live in this world now of bewildering change, we say the job of progressive government is not to stand aside; that's the Conservative position.

We say that the government should be there providing more help, more security, more opportunity for decent hard working families and pensioners in this country. So, for example, we want not just a stable economy, but we want to make sure that we can get a million more home owners on the housing ladder. We want to make sure that we don't just have investment going in to the public services, but we drive forward big changes in those public services. And I think what people will see is that this is a manifesto that is about realizing traditional Labour values, but understanding that the only way of doing that, is by having really modern policies.

Jeremy Vine: And it's going to be honest this time is it, and you will tell us what you're doing on National Insurance.

Alan Milburn: Well as far as tax and those sort of issues are concerned, they will be in the manifesto but let me just say this; all the things that we've ever said on tax, all the promises that we've made, either in '97 or 2001, we've kept. We said that we would keep the top rate and the basic rate the same, and in fact actually we've reduced ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) That's not really true is it. That's not really - that's very misleading to say that.

Alan Milburn: (overlaps) Hold on, no it isn't, it isn't ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) You said you wouldn't increase income tax, and you put up tax on income.

Alan Milburn: Hold on. What we said is that we wouldn't, people understand what income tax is, and they understand that

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) It's a tax on income.

Alan Milburn: ... not only, that not only have we kept those promises, we've actually reduced the basic rate of income tax down to 22p in the pound, the lowest rate I think in seventy years, and we introduced a new 10p starting rate, which is the lowest rate in forty years.

Jeremy Vine: Last time, your manifesto said income tax wouldn't rise and then you raise National Insurance which is a tax on income. Just before the last election, on Newsnight, the Prime Minister was asked, why he was giving guarantees on income tax, but not on National Insurance. Jeremy Paxman said, wouldn't any reasonable person suppose you therefore propose to increase National Insurance contributions, Mr Blair replied, 'they shouldn't'- and you did.

Alan Milburn: Well, I think people should wait and see precisely what is in the manifesto.

Jeremy Vine: And you'll say will you.

Alan Milburn: We will. We will lay out precisely what our tax and spending plans are, in the manifesto.

Jeremy Vine: On National Insurance

Alan Milburn: And we will, and we will honour all the tax and spending plans that we make, and there is a very very straight forward choice on this - either you say that you're going to put the investment in to the public services, to keep it going in, which is what we want to do, making sure for example, that education remains the number one priority, so that we can get school standards better, so that we can give every child the best start in life; introducing universal child care, rather than ensuring, as the Conservatives now want to do, that a decent start in life is only for those who can afford to pay.

A good education is only for the privileged few, and opportunity to get to university is capped. Now, there's a choice, and I think it's emerging in this campaign, which is not just a battle between tactics or even a battle between policies, it's a clash of values. (interjection)

Jeremy Vine: Okay let me ask you ...

Alan Milburn: ... it's opportunity that comes first and the Tories increasingly seem to be saying, it's opportunities only for a privileged few.

Jeremy Vine: Right, let me ask you about another area that you may not be covering in your manifesto, help us on this. We have a pensions crisis at the moment, you'll agree with that, it's a pension's time bomb, we are not saving enough for our old age. There's a report coming out, after the election, so why can't you tell us in the manifesto what your policy is on that.

Alan Milburn: Well there will be a big section in the manifesto, on pensions policy and to start with, it will remind people how far we have come over these last few years. Where we've managed to lift so many pensioners out of poverty, where pensioners used to have to choose between heating and eating. Now we've changed that, and more help has gone to the poorest pensioners in the country.

Jeremy Vine: Still got the time bomb, still got the time bomb.

Alan Milburn: But what has changed in the debate, and you're right about this, in 1997, the issue was, what could you do to help the poorest pensioners and we've done a lot there, there's a lot more to do. The issue now is, how can you ensure that we have a pension's system that is put on a sustainable basis for the future and that is an issue that of course we have got to deal with.

Jeremy Vine: But there's a report coming out from Adair Turner, part two of his report, and you're waiting for that, you've already said that, so in the manifesto, we will not know what your policy is, that's the problem isn't it. You're saying vote for us, and we'll tell you later what our policy is.

Alan Milburn: Well of course there will be a policy on ...

Jeremy Vine: Compulsory saving.

Alan Milburn: ... no, of course there will be a policy on pensions in the manifesto, but it is right and proper, as I think most informed commentators take this view, that when you have got the changes in demography that are taking place, not just in our society, but across the developed world, it is right and proper that you could take a cold hard look at how we can make sure that in the future, we have sustainable pensions, that can see not just this generation, but future generations to through.

Jeremy Vine: No doubt about that. It's just that your answer to it is not going to be in the manifesto, because you're waiting for this report and ...

Alan Milburn: (overlaps) Well I ... I think Jeremy, with respect, I think you should wait and see what's in the manifesto.

Jeremy Vine: It doesn't inspire confidence when Peter Hain says, the Queen's Speech will be strong, radical, fizzy first Queen's Speech, it's going to surprise people. Where are the surprises.

Alan Milburn: Well, I think again, if you can just wait for the manifesto, you'll have to wait a few days, but what I can say about it is that it will be radical, it will be ambitious, it will be about realizing traditional Labour values, and compassion and opportunity, but only doing so through modern policies.

What we won't be doing is advocating that we can return to the past in our public services, either by cutting those public services, which is what the Conservatives now propose or returning to the days when you have monolithic services, the disempowered parents and patients. Instead we want to drive forward, so that in the future, the power is there in the hands of the individual citizen, the parent and the patient, with shorter waiting times, more choice, greater diversity in those services; that we genuinely do get services that are right in their values, but are modern in their means.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) Does it, does it worry you that you have this terrible, as a government, this terrible trust problem, where you may say these things, but people don't believe you.

Alan Milburn: Well, I think trust will be an issue, it is an issue in this General Election campaign, and the issue that people will be asking themselves, the question that they will be asking themselves when they go to the ballot box, is who is best placed, who can we trust on the economy. Is it the Conservative Party, that is committed to tax and spending plans that simply don't add up, repeating the mistakes that John Major made in the early 1990s, of saying, we're going to tax less, we're going to borrow less, but we're going spend more. And ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) But people will ... trust you.

Alan Milburn: ... thereby taking people back, precisely to what we had there. 10% inflation, 15% interest rates. Public finances out of control, or is it a Labour party that has delivered a strong and stable economy, two million more people in work, and the lowest interest rates and inflation in forty years.

End of interview


Sir Menzies Campbell, MP, Liberal Democrats Deputy Leader

Sir Menzies Campbell
Sir Menzies Campbell, MP, Liberal Democrats Deputy Leader

Jeremy Vine: Well I'm joined now by their Deputy Leader, Sir Ming Campbell, welcome to you. The accusation that there's no coherent ideology, there's just a series of individual policies.

Sir Menzies Campbell: Well I would dispute that because as the film reveals, fairness, freedom fairness and trust, these are themes which we have struck in the past and in particular, the leading role which we took in relation to the terrorism legislation, just a few weeks ago, emphasises the fact that the Liberal Democrats believe in personal freedom and individual liberty, and they're against the authoritarian instincts, of the present government.

Jeremy Vine: But if we look at some other policies, for example, tuition fees, which we'll mention now, you're giving a tax windfall to students and they tend to be predominantly middle class, so that's not very fair.

Sir Menzies Campbell: What we're seeking to do is to ensure that there is the kind of access to higher education, which virtually every member of the present cabinet enjoyed, which will allow us to create the skilled workforce, which will enable us to compete in an increasingly globalized economy.

Jeremy Vine: So target it then, target the money, because at the moment if you give it to all students, we know the richest 20% of youngsters, are six times more likely to be at university than the poorest.

Sir Menzies Campbell: We have been, gone out of our way to argue the case for those from less affluent backgrounds, and indeed, all the evidence suggests that it's the thought of a large amount of student debt, which puts people off, from less affluent backgrounds, from becoming students, and taking the degrees to which they're entitled. I'm in no doubt whatsoever that this is a policy designed for the whole of the community, not just for the middle class.

Jeremy Vine: Well let's look at fairness again, in the context of free personal care to the elderly, and again, that doesn't look very fair does it, when you give it even to the richest pensioners.

Sir Menzies Campbell: Well, why should those who have contributed all their lives, not be entitled to have free personal care. There's a report referred to in some of the newspapers to-day, which suggests that the apparent division between health care and personal care, is increasingly blurred, and that many people are losing out. It's being dealt with really on a postcode basis.

Jeremy Vine: Isn't the answer to your question that if you take it from those rich pensioners, you can give more to the poorest.

Sir Menzies Campbell: I think it's proper to give to those who deserve and in particular ...

Jeremy Vine: Exactly.

Sir Menzies Campbell: ... in particular, when you come to the question for example of pensions or things of that kind. The government's instituted a sophisticated system of means testing. All the evidence suggests there are many pensioners who are insulted by the means test, but indeed are put off, diverted from obtaining things to which they're entitled, simply by the obstacle of the means test; that's why I think universal provision, is much more worthwhile.

Jeremy Vine: But at least, with the means test, you're trying aren't you. You're trying - you're taking money from the city gent who's retired on a fat pension, you're not giving him free personal care, you're trying to move it to the poorest.

Sir Menzies Campbell: What we're trying to do is to ensure that those who are in need of free personal care, are able to access it. What we're trying to do is to ensure that we have a society that better reflects the principle of fairness, as Charles Kennedy has consistently argued.

Jeremy Vine: Should we be worried that in Scotland, where you brought this in, the figures turned out to be wrong. 20 million pounds wrong.

Sir Menzies Campbell: Well, obviously if any figure turns out to be wrong, that's obviously something that has to be carefully considered. But I believe you had my colleague, Vincent Cable on the programme recently, and people have got to ask themselves whether, do you accept Vincent Cable's calm authoritative analysis of these matters, or Conservative and Labour spin doctors? I know who I'd rather put my money on.

Jeremy Vine: Well it was wrong, at least whoever put the figures together in Scotland was wrong, so we need to learn from that don't we, that these can be more expensive than they at first appear.

Sir Menzies Campbell: (overlaps) Absolutely - yes, indeed, and you have to build in contingencies and you are talking about, about boldness. There was an implication of a lack of boldness on our part. No, we're the one party going in to this election to say there is one tax increase that we're willing to put through, and that is to ask those who earn more than a hundred thousand a year, people like High Court judges, for example, to pay a little bit more, to pay 50p in the pound rather than 40p in the pound, and everything they earn over a hundred thousand; so that we can deal first of all, the question of free personal care, so that we can deal with the question of tuition fees, and so we can make an additional contribution to local authorities, in order to alleviate some of the worse problems of local taxation.

Jeremy Vine: And the High Court Judge gets his free personal care at the end of his life as well doesn't he.

Sir Menzies Campbell: Well he's paid his taxes, why - why shouldn't he be entitled to something for which he's paid his taxes all this life. But we're asking people who have done better, to pay a little more. What is anything other than fair about that?

Jeremy Vine: But more than a little isn't it, because when you, your other policy I want to just quickly talk about, is the switch from Council Tax to Local Income Tax. 3.75% income tax on people who work. What have you got against people working.

Sir Menzies Campbell: We've got absolutely nothing against people working. What we've got is a very considerable objection to the present system, which is grossly unfair. It's not related to the ability to pay and all the independent analysis reveal that half of those who presently contribute to council tax would be better off, a quarter would be about the same, and a quarter would be asked to pay a little bit more, what is unfair about that - asking people to contribute to local taxation, to local services, based on their earnings, rather than some notional value of their house.

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, 10 April, 2005 at 12.00.

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