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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 November 2005, 13:40 GMT
Jon Sopel interview
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 13 November 2005, Jon Sopel interviewed:

  • John Hutton MP
  • David Cameron MP
  • Charles Kennedy MP


Interview with John Hutton

Max Cotton: You said this year, the concept of profit can and should play an increasing role in improving the quality of public services - how do you justify that

John Hutton: Well there are two things I'd say about that, I mean if you take the National Health Service for example 90 per cent of all patient journeys begin and end in out primary care system, with our family GPs - they are all privately run businesses ... they are small businesses and those GPs quite rightly so make a profit from their work with the National Health Service - the people who build our hospitals are private sector contractors - they make a profit and rightly so because they are delivering a new environment in which we can deliver health care - 21st century hospitals ...

Max Cotton: But do you want profit to be a motive within the health service to provide a better service?

John Hutton: I think that both NHS trust as well as private sector providers - if they can run a good service reduce waiting times meet the needs of patients, I think it is quite compatible with our traditional notions of public service for those organisations to make a surplus and reinvest it in their organisations..

Max Cotton: What you have just said will make 40 or 50 Labour MPs hair stand on end ...

John Hutton: I know ... but look

Max Cotton: You do know that don't you ... ?

John Hutton: You've got to look at the facts and the facts in the National Health Service are completely different ...

Max Cotton: Are you the right person to be building bridges with the parliamentary labour party if you think the profit motive needs to play a greater part in providing health care in Britain?

John Hutton: I think the profit motive can help improve the delivery of public services, and is true for new as well as existing providers, but I say to all of my colleagues in the party, look we just won an election on a manifesto that made it explicit that these were the reforms that we want to introduce and we are going to introduce them because we know they work - they improve the National Health Service they can reduce waiting times they give patients more choice and they want more choice.

Max Cotton: What happened to the dull technocrat yes man who I've been reading about in the paper - John Hutton machine politician, uber-Blairite ...

John Hutton: Well, I believe the prime minister is doing the right thing in this reform agenda....

Max Cotton: That's how you describe yourself - uber-Blairite?

John Hutton: I describe myself as someone who supports the prime minister because I know he's doing the right thing and for Labour members of parliament who believe in that social democratic tradition which is very strong in our party and rightly so these are reforms that I hope the vast majority of my colleagues will get behind, we're doing the right thing here.

Max Cotton: You sound a little bit like Mrs Thatcher saying "the lady's not for turning ... "

John Hutton: Look I'm not sure I can win this particular argument, but ...

Max Cotton: But that's what you are saying aren't you you are saying no we are not rowing back from any of this, this is radical ...

John Hutton: That is what I am saying absolutely that is what I am saying ummmm I thing the comparison with Mrs Thatcher ends there ... because ummmm, she did nothing ...

Max Cotton: I don't know she wanted private sector investment in the NHS ... and all these other things you are doing?

John Hutton: Look on incapacity we all know and up here in the north west we all know exactly what the score was in those Thatcher years, they used Incapacity benefit as a was of massaging the figures of mass unemployment - we saw that here we saw it in every part of Britain and the legacy of that is still with us that's what we've got to tackle now, so that Incapacity Benefit does not become a dead end it becomes a means for you to get on with your life again now that is something the Tories - they had 18 years to do that ...

Max Cotton: I walked into this one didn't I ...

John Hutton: Well you did rather ... they never showed a single interest in doing this type of reform this is classic labour territory - this is why we come into politics ...

Interview with David Cameron

JON SOPEL asked about the Conservatives' decision to oppose 90-days detention in the Government's proposed anti-terrorism legislation ...

DAVID CAMERON: We have to explain to people why we reached the judgement we did. That's what it's about, that's what we're sent to Parliament for, is to make a judgement and my judgement was yes we need a Bill, yes we need other anti terror measures, but ninety days is too long; so let's talk to the government, let's try and make a compromise for the good of the country.

We were prepared to do that, the Home Secretary was prepared to do that but the Prime Minister wasn't. He was the one who played it for politics, that was profoundly wrong, and I think he'll regret it.

JON SOPEL: Well let's look at the legislation that's coming down the track because when you're the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, you might have all sorts of other opportunities to go into alliance with, you know I don't know, the Jeremy Corbyns of this world to bring down Tony Blair. What about the Education Bill when we see that?

DAVID CAMERON: I support the Education White Paper. I've said throughout this leadership campaign that I'm not interested in the politics of it; I'm interested in doing the right thing.

If the government comes up with right measures, good measures to give schools more autonomy, I'll back them. City Academies, I think they're a good idea. I back them. I think you could make them even better if you gave those schools more autonomy.

JON SOPEL: So what do you do ... ?

DAVID CAMERON: That is terribly important, Jon.

BOTH TOGETHER

DAVID CAMERON: Consistent Conservatism is absolutely what I stand for. Let's not play politics with these things, people are fed up with politicians doing that. Let's ask the question: "Is this good? Will it improve the public services?" In which case let's back it!

BOTH TOGETHER

JON SOPEL: But won't there be an irresistible urge, if you sense that you've got I don't know, whatever it is, forty seven, forty nine Labour back benchers, who are now prepared to rebel. You get your troops in line, you could bring him down.

DAVID CAMERON: Well, we've got resist that temptation because we've got to show that we are in this for the public good and in it for the long term. It was a mistake frankly to oppose foundation hospitals in the House of Commons.

Our argument was that they were not proper foundation hospitals, the government hadn't thought it through, it was a flawed bill and in many ways that's true. But much better in politics to just be consistent and say, "If this measure gives schools more autonomy and parents more choice, we will back it". That's my sort of conservatism, that's how I'll behave if I'm Leader of the Opposition.

JON SOPEL: So reform of welfare, incapacity benefit, do you support that?

DAVID CAMERON: If they get it right, if they make the right judgements, if it actually helps people off incapacity benefit and in to work, while protecting those who are genuinely disabled and cannot work, then yes, I'll back it.

JON SOPEL: So, you said you were wrong on Foundation Hospitals?

DAVID CAMERON: (interjects) Well no, what I said, is I think wrong to oppose the Bill. We always said, let's make these real foundation hospitals. But I think the temptation to try and bring down the Government by voting against something with which you fundamentally agree, I think that is a mistake. I want a consistent Conservatism.

A lot of people aren't that interested in politics, Jon, and I want the few times they do switch on and listen to the Conservatives, to make sure we are consistent and clear in what we do. So then they'll get a sense of how we would make the country better.

JON SOPEL: And were you wrong on patient's passports which you introduced at the election? It was in the Manifesto, because the policy wrong - it created the wrong impression because I've looked at the quotes of what you've said afterwards and it was because you gave the wrong impression, not because the policy was right.

DAVID CAMERON: I think, I think it's both really. I think, I've thought seriously about this policy. The idea of trying to break down the, the Berlin Wall between public and private in the Health Service, I think is right.

But I think the patient's passport, the idea that you could go off an NHS waiting list and take some of the cost of that operation and go private, I think that both gave the wrong impression and actually is not the right way of breaking down the wall, because it takes money out of the Health Service. What I'd rather see is a much more general, right to supply within the NHS, so that all voluntary and private sector providers can supply NHS operations to NHS customers, for free. I think that's a better way of breaking down the wall. I mean, Jon, let's sort of stand back from it all for a second.

My whole point is that the Conservative Party has got to learn from three election defeats. If we just re-heat the same policies, re-heat the same soufflé that's already flattened once, it won't work. That's why we've got to do serious long term work to get the policies right and that's what my leadership campaign is all about.

JON SOPEL: Now, you said a little while ago that our Party faces a clear choice in this Leadership Contest; do we move to the right, or do we fight for the centre ground. You want the centre ground?

DAVID CAMERON: Yes

JON SOPEL: How does flat tax square with the centre ground?

DAVID CAMERON: Well what we've got is the Tax Reform Commission, that George Osborne set up, quite rightly to look at ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: Do you think you'll ever have a flat tax?

DAVID CAMERON: I think it's unlikely that you'll have a, a pure flat tax in the sense of a flat tax on income. But what the Conservative Party ought to be doing is having ...

BOTH TOGETHER

DAVID CAMERON: Jon, (overlaps) Can I answer the question?

DAVID CAMERON: Right. Thank you. What we ought to be doing is looking at all the latest ideas. There is a flat tax revolution sweeping Eastern Europe, being introduced in some of these countries.

And a creative opposition would be looking at these ideas and saying, how can we apply them to Britain, can we simplify taxes, can we flatten taxes, can we make the tax system better and more competitive for this country. That is what the Conservative Party should be doing.

JON SOPEL: And what about the way you're going to lead the Conservative Party. A lot of people look at it and see that it's white, elderly. There aren't many gay people, there aren't many black people. How is that going to change?

DAVID CAMERON: Well it's got to change. We've already got our first black MP and that's a good advance, but we do need and we had at the last election more ethnic minority candidates than any other party. The situation with women MPs is very bad, there's no doubt about that. In 1932, we had thirteen women MPs, today we've got just seventeen.

I would do everything short of all women short-lists because I think we are a meritocratic party and an open democratic party, but we do need to select more women and I've said we need head hunting of good women from business and the voluntary sector and public services. We need mentoring programmes, like they have in the US. I'd be prepared to look at an 'A' list that we put in front of constituency parties and say, here are the brightest and the best.

But we've got to improve the situation, there's no doubt about it. It's not about political correctness, it's about making sure the conversation within the Conservative Party, reflects the wider conservation we want to have with the country.

JON SOPEL: Just looking back at things you were saying, just before you came into Westminster in 2000: "The Blair government continues to be obsessed with their fringe agenda, including deeply unpopular moves like repealing Section 28 and allowing the promotion of homosexuality in schools". You say it's a fringe agenda, and now you're trying to tell me it's central ... (overlaps)

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think it's absolutely essential that the Conservative Party reflects the country that it aspires to govern, and that's why we need to have candidates from the ethnic minority communities, more women candidates, we've got to do better in the North and in our cities, and that is absolutely vital.

BOTH TOGETHER

JON SOPEL: This from the Witney Gazette: "Blair has moved heaven and earth to allow the promotion of homosexuality in schools". Did he?

DAVID CAMERON: Well that was the whole argument about Section 28.

JON SOPEL: Well did he? Did he? Was he shifting heaven and earth to allow the promotion of homosexuality in schools or might you look back at that quote and think oh, maybe that's a bit ...

DAVID CAMERON: (overlaps) I think, I think that Section 28, I'm glad that it's gone. I think that actually, it was an issue where clearly gay people felt that it was discriminatory against them.

And one can have lots of arguments about, should local authorities be telling, or the government be telling what, schools what should be taught in terms of sex education.

I think that's a fair argument. But at the end of the day, one section of our community did feel discriminated against by Section 28, and so I'm glad on that basis that it's gone.

JON SOPEL: So he wasn't shifting heaven and earth to promote ...

DAVID CAMERON: I've said what I said John, I think it's pretty clear.

JON SOPEL: What do you say to those who argue that your campaign is running out of steam: "One fantastic speech at the Party Conference, but that is essentially all the campaign has been built on"?

DAVID CAMERON: I think that's just completely wrong. Since the party conference we had the vote of the MPs, I topped the poll with ninety votes. Since then, I've actually had now over a hundred and five, a hundred and six or so, members of parliament backing my campaign, that's well over half the parliamentary party.

That I think gives me a great mandate to go out round the country and try and win the support of as many members as I can. So I think that's completely wrong. I think the momentum is with my campaign.

There's a clear choice for the party here. We can go on playing the same tunes, re-heating the old policies, and we'll get the same election result. I don't want this party to be out of power for seventeen or eighteen years. That's what happens if we lose the next election.

JON SOPEL: David Cameron, thank you very much.

DAVID CAMERON: Thank you.

End of interview


Interview with Charles Kennedy, MP

JON SOPEL: On a whole basket of policies the Liberal Democrats under your leadership seem almost inseparable from the campaign group of left wing Labour MPs.

CHARLES KENNEDY: Oh I don't think so at all. I really don't think so at all. It may be that we can find ourselves in the same division lobbies on certain issues in the House of Commons. But I dare say ...

JON SOPEL: ... (overlaps) ... Education, Welfare Reform, you're going to find yourselves together again.

CHARLES KENNEDY: Well, let's see what happens over these coming months er, clearly the Prime Minister is a bit of a wounded animal this week and I think he's going to have great difficulties with some of his welfare reforms. What we are arguing, which I think is different, very different from ..

BOTH TOGETHER

CHARLES KENNEDY: ... let me just finish the point John, that we are saying let's have a more localised approach to the administration and the delivery, as well as the funding of health, of education, of policing - whatever it might be.

JON SOPEL: You mentioned the Prime Minister and I know you hate left, right axis, description of British politics and I know you're going to get cross with it but can you think, can you name me one policy where you are to the right of Tony Blair.

CHARLES KENNEDY: Well I don't accept the left-right axis. I can name you a lot of policies that are much more progressive than Tony Blair. Tony Blair stood up at this party Conference, just a few weeks ago and said, if anything, he felt frustrated as Prime Minister and as leader of the Labour Party in government, that he hadn't gone further on so many issues. Great stuff, I'm with you Prime Minister. Why didn't you go further on voting reform in this country? Why didn't you go further on pushing the European argument much more firmly than has been the case? There's lots of things that whether that makes me to the right, the left or anywhere else, I would have said, ahead of the Prime Minister.

JON SOPEL: On 90 days there's been a certain amount of criticism about maybe the police got too closely involved in the selling of this policy and trying to sell this policy. Isn't it entirely right that if the police believe that this is what they need to fight terrorism, that they should be arguing for it?

CHARLES KENNEDY: I've been an MP now for twenty two plus years. The local Chief Constable, several Chief Constables, in my own area will feel free to pick up the phone and to say to me, as a local member of parliament, this is what I think, this is what we might regard as necessary. What happened in the course of the last week was quite different from that. It was the police, I think, taking a particular view in a particular way, and putting it out there in to the political arena. I think you've got to be very very careful about this. And that's why I think that the Home Affairs Select Committee or others may wish to look at this in a parliamentary sense because I don't think that it was legitimate.

JON SOPEL: Is Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commission, at fault?

CHARLES KENNEDY: I don't know is the answer but I would like to hear him answer that question and I'd like to hear him answer that question in front of a Select Committee of Parliament.

JON SOPEL: That sounds like you suspiciously think he may be at fault.

CHARLES KENNEDY: I simply do not know. I am not choosing weasel words here. I am simply saying that when the Chief of the Metropolitan Police takes such a high profile as he did, over a specific clause or a specific amendment, to a piece of Government legislation, questions have to be asked. I think it's over-stepping the mark.

JON SOPEL: So you think he has over-stepped the mark.

CHARLES KENNEDY: I think that there is a good case to be made for saying that the police have allowed themselves to get dragged too much in to the political and parliamentary politics of the situation.

JON SOPEL: Let me turn to something which again the Metropolitan Police I'm sure will take an interest in, and other police forces, and that is identity cards. When the Government introduces it, you're opposed to it. Would you be happy for the House of Lords to be the block on that legislation?

CHARLES KENNEDY: Well I think one of the interesting developments of this past week is that when you've got a government which is elected on thirty six - thirty seven per cent of the popular vote and it can't carry, never mind the opposition parties, it can't carry its own back benchers to a sufficient extent. That's a government that needs to think twice about the way in which it goes about public policy and therefore this idea that you can just ram through and use the Salisbury Convention and so on and so forth, where identity cards are concerned and the House of Lords is involved, I think it would be a great mistake from the Prime Minister's point of view.

JON SOPEL: So you wouldn't hesitate in marshalling Liberal peers to vote against a manifesto commitment that Labour made to introduce identify cards in the House of Lords in the unelected second chamber.

CHARLES KENNEDY: Yes. I think all bets are off. I think that a government er which on an issue as divisive as this, where they have got such a division of opinion within their own ranks in the elected House of Commons, to simply think that in a draconian way, they can ram this through the House of Lords, I think that's quite wrong. And the other issue for the ...

JON SOPEL: Let's talk about the problems you're having with your own party. You set up a policy review, you want them to look at things. At the party conference ... proposal on partial privatisation of the Post Office, rejected. Are you having problems getting through your own party?

CHARLES KENNEDY: No, I don't think so. I think that what we're doing in terms of Liberal Democrats at the moment is looking at the bare canvas of policy generally and challenging people. Now, is this a party that wants to prepare itself for government? I believe it is. But that means it's got to start facing up to some very tough decisions along the way. Not least economic decisions. Tax decisions, that's what I'm about.

BOTH TOGETHER

CHARLES KENNEDY: ... parliament to begin with.

JON SOPEL: So let me ask you a very specific question then. If they were to come up with a proposal that ended your support for a 50% tax rate, would you support that.

CHARLES KENNEDY: We've got a tax commission. I'll want to hear what it's going to say. That is ..

JON SOPEL: You must have a hunch of what you want it to say.

CHARLES KENNEDY: I certainly have a hunch.

JON SOPEL: What is your hunch?

CHARLES KENNEDY: Leadership, leadership is about not just having hunches but also taking people with you. I want a fairer tax system, a simpler tax system and one that discriminates in favour of those who are best able to contribute.

JON SOPEL: Let me ask you the question slightly differently then.

CHARLES KENNEDY: All right.

JON SOPEL: Do you think at the last election, having a 50% tax rate was broadly speaking a vote winner or a vote loser?

CHARLES KENNEDY: Oh I wouldn't think that at the end of the day it necessarily cost us any votes. Erm, I think that it was important in terms of credibility. That's not to say in four years time, come the next general election, it's going to be the correct policy. We have to wait and see.

JON SOPEL: Could you imagine directly participating in a government led by David Cameron. It only takes a very small swing for Labour to lose its overall majority. He's a very different style of leader. Now in the past you've said you can't really imagine helping the Conservatives, could you now?

CHARLES KENNEDY: No, because David, I'm not going to be abusive or critical of David but to be perfectly honest, as far as I can see, it's a bit of blank canvas in front of us there. I don't know what it is that he represents or what he wants to do with his party. I'm quite clear what I represent and what I want to do with our party and the more that we focus on that, the better we do.

JON SOPEL: If his modernising instincts are as he says they are, then might you look again at the possibility of supporting a minority Conservative administration and helping them form a government?

CHARLES KENNEDY: Well I think the important thing from our point of view is they're obviously, first and foremost, I want a majority Liberal Democrat government, that is clearly my interest, my instinct, everything that I'm about. If we don't have that in a future House of Commons, I want the Liberal Democrats to behave in an independent way which influences the course of public policy in a sensible direction, but which doesn't sign up to somebody else's agenda.

Now I don't know what David Cameron's agenda is, any more than I know what Gordon Brown's agenda might be, as and when he succeeds Tony Blair. I am not going to take decisions about the future of this party, based on who or who may not be leader of another political party. That will be a great mistake, I'd let a lot of people down.

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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