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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 May, 2005, 12:11 GMT 13:11 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 01 May, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Theresa May, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment and Transport
  • Baroness Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat


Theresa May, MP
Theresa May, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment and Transport

Theresa May, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment and Transport

Jeremy Vine: I am joined now by Theresa May, the Shadow Secretary of State for the Family.

Michael Howard said a few days ago that your party was 2-0 down in the election. What's the score now?

Theresa May: (laugh) No, what Michael was saying was that obviously there are polls that suggest that the Labour Party are still putting the no party in front. But if you look at a games like the Carling Cup Final that he attended, you can have one score mid way through and then a very different result at the end.

Jeremy Vine: But where are you roughly now? You scored a couple of times or there's been an own goal or what.

Theresa May: Well I'm not a football fan, Jeremy, so I don't tend to put things in football ... ah ... football terms, unlike Michael who of course is a great football fan. I think that what is happening, and what I'm hearing from on the doorsteps is that we are scoring the points because what is happening is that people are seeing that we're a party that is standing up on the issues that really matter to them.

What we've been doing throughout the election is focusing on those issues that, on the doorstep, are the ones that people say they want government to get on and sort out. They're fed up with 8 years of broken promises from Tony Blair and what they want is a government that will stand up for them on the issues that matter.

Jeremy Vine: You did once say that people thought of us as the "nasty party". What have you done to clear up that impression during this campaign?

Theresa May: Oh I think what I ... what we've just been talking about, which is actually being willing to address the issues that really matter to people and our 5 key areas. Of course, as you probably know, we're talking about putting more police on the streets, about cleaner hospitals, school discipline, controlled immigration and lower taxes. Those are the ...

Jeremy Vine: (Overlap) But we've looked at your posters ... I'm sorry, we looked at your posters, every single one of them seems to be negative. I mean I could go through them. "Act now, or it's five more years of him. If he's prepared to lie to take us to war, he's prepared to lie to win an election. Imagine five more years of it." I won't do them all but: "How would you feel if a bloke on early release attacked your daughter?" It's relentlessly negative.

Theresa May: What it is, is raising and focusing on the things that people are raising on the doorsteps and this is.. this is I think people need to, with due respect, I often have commentators saying well in their Westminster bubble or Whitehall bubble: "What about this negative campaigning? These aren't issues that matter to people." They are issues that matter to people. It's not negative campaigning when you're saying to people look, what we hear is that people actually want to do something about the rising rate of crime, particularly violent crime. They want to have ...

Jeremy Vine: (Overlap) That means 5 more years of him. That's really not positive, is it, with a picture of Tony Blair.

Theresa May: Well people have got a clear choice on Thursday. They've got an absolutely clear choice between rewarding Mr Blair for 8 years of broken promises and going forward with another 5 years of yet more talk from him, or electing government ... a Conservative government that will take a stand and has taken a stand on the issues that really matter to them and is showing through our Timetable for Action that we've got policies that will deliver more police on the streets for them, giving matrons power in hospitals to close dirty wards, provide cleaner hospitals; policies that will deliver for people the results that they're looking for.

Jeremy Vine: There is some talk that you are putting the brakes on this negativism. You've got focus groups saying it's not working, they're cheesed off with this liar stuff, this charge you've come out with against Mr Blair personally, and you're pulling back.

Theresa May: No, what you do in an election campaign is you focus on different issues at different times. We are putting forward, and have been, throughout the election campaign, pointing out where we think government has got it wrong, because we do think they've got it wrong in a number of areas, but it's not just us that thinks that.

Actually people out there, they see what's happening, they.. you know.. they see people going into accident and emergency and being moved around before they've been treated in order to meet government targets.

People know there are problems out there, we've also been showing how we would resolve those problems, things like putting the matrons in, to giving the matrons power to close dirty wards; things like giving head teachers real power to expel disruptive pupils so that the learning of others isn't destroyed and damaged by the disruptive behaviour of the few.

Jeremy Vine: You are collecting a lot of critics of this campaign though. Michael Portillo, mentioned in the film, Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop of Oxford, Lords Heseltine and Tebbit, Kenneth Clarke, it's almost a full house.

Theresa May: We will see what the people.. what the voters think of what they have heard during the campaign ...

Jeremy Vine: (Overlap) They don't like it, they don't think it's ...

Theresa May: ... and what they think of ...

Jeremy Vine: ... a good campaign.

Theresa May: Well.. with due respect.. no Jeremy, with due respect, we will see what the voters think when the result comes out on Thursday.. ah.. on the early hours of Friday morning. People will be going to the polls on Thursday with a very clear choice. It's a choice between rewarding Mr Blair for 8 years of broken promises and voting in ... him in for another 5 years of talk, or voting ...

Jeremy Vine: (Overlap) That's the negative part, yeah.

Theresa May: Or voting in a Conservative government that is addressing the issues that matter to them but has the policies that will deliver action on those issues. That's what we're actually focusing on, not just talk about these things but showing that we can deliver more police on the streets.

Jeremy Vine: But the polls ...

Theresa May: (Overlap) We can do something about the yob culture, we can deliver cleaner hospitals.

Jeremy Vine: The polls suggest that people agree with that list of the great and good that I mentioned. Michael Portillo, I think we can see this on the screen, has said today: "Name calling by politicians demeans not only the intended target but politics as a whole." So is there not a danger that the style of your campaign is pulling the whole lot of you down?

Theresa May: Not at all, and that's not what I hear on the doorsteps. What I hear on the doorsteps and what I hear from colleagues who are out there actually to voters is that what voters are looking for is a party that will stand up for them on the issues that matter to them, and that's what we've been doing as a Conservative Party.

It's what we will do in government, it's what we've been doing during the campaign, showing that we're willing to take a stand on things that matter to people day by day, issues like providing those more police, those cleaner hospitals, that school discipline, controlled immigration and lower taxes.

Jeremy Vine: I think you have mentioned them. Diana Coad ...

Theresa May: But I mention them because those are the issues that we're focusing on.

Jeremy Vine: Several times, yes. Diana Coad who we saw in the film, a Conservative candidate in Stourbridge, who was interviewed with an owl on her shoulder, says: "When I knock on doors I don't suggest to people how they should vote." Is that common in your party at the moment?

Theresa May: (laughing) No, every campaigner has their own style when they go on the doorsteps as to what they choose to say to people. What Diana is doing, what we're all doing, is pointing out to people what the Conservative Party in government will do, and how we will ... how we will change the direction of this country, because people do feel the country is going fundamentally in the wrong direction, we need a change, we need a government that is going to be prepared to take a stand on the issues that matter.

Jeremy Vine: The Lib Dems have a "decapitation" strategy, as they've called it, to remove key Tories from the Commons, and they mentioned you as one of the ones they'd like to get rid of. Liam Fox said something curious about this, the Tory Co-Chairman, he was asked about it, and he said: "Theresa May will keep her seat, so will Oliver Letwin. David Davis' seat is problematic, he's got matinee idol looks but we'll have to see." What on earth did he mean by that?

Theresa May: Well I have to say David Davis is also a street fighter and ... I never predict election results for any particular seat or ah what I do is actually go out there campaign, that's what my colleagues are doing. All I will say is this so-called "decapitation" strategy - what a charming phrase to use - is actually I don't think having the results that the local democrats thought they would get.

End of interview



Shirley Williams
Baroness Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat

Baroness Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat

Jeremy Vine: There are only four days left before we all put our mark on the ballot paper. Is that long enough to get Liberalism across?

And now for the last of our senior figures from each of the parties and I'm joined by the Liberal Democrat Peer Shirley Williams.

Shirley Williams: Thank you very much.

Jeremy Vine: When people vote Lib Dem do you think that's because they are Liberal?

Shirley Williams: Not necessarily. In some cases it's a protest vote about things like the Iraq War, but I think what we're seeing, especially among younger voters, is a real shift to understanding what it is to be a Liberal Democrat.

Jeremy Vine: So how are we defining it, because on the high street people say different words like 'fairness' and 'freedom'. Some women ... one woman said 'extravagance' was the defining feature.

Shirley Williams: Okay.

Jeremy Vine: What is Liberalism?

Shirley Williams: Fairness is part of it. For example, when we say that we would have a higher rate of tax on people who are 1% of the population and very well off indeed, 100,000 plus income, we want to use that money for two major purposes, one is to bring in personal health care for people who are living at home and need that care with washing, laundering etc.

You may have noticed that the bookshop owner said that he would be willing to pay a little extra tax if it went to those purposes. Though I must say he probably isn't in 100,000 plus. He might be if he's a very successful book seller.

Jeremy Vine: It sounded like he was willing for other people to pay more tax.

Shirley Williams: Well to be fair he said he would pay it himself.

Jeremy Vine: Okay. Shirley Williams: He did say that. I think many people feel that way. The second great purpose of it would be, as you know, to enable us to abolish tuition fees, and that means that a lot of the children of people who are in the better off groups would not be paying tuition fees to go to university anymore ...

Jeremy Vine: (Overlap) But of course it's not...

Shirley Williams: This would be very good purposes.

Jeremy Vine: It's not ... it's not just the 50% rate on the 100,000 plus, it is also local income tax and that brings in more people who pay more.

Shirley Williams: Jeremy, that's revenue neutral as they say, in other words of course you'll get local income tax but it replaces council tax and as ...

Jeremy Vine: Sure, but it's not revenue neutral for an individual person who pays a higher charge.

Shirley Williams: For three quarters of them it would mean they paid less for the same proposition.

Jeremy Vine: But for the other quarter, do they...

Shirley Williams: Well of course, we'd never denied that. We try to be very honest with people. I mean fundamentally we know now that last year Britain became a yet more unequal society. It is a pretty unequal society anyway. The young lady who was pointing out that she didn't want to pay tax because it's ... she should have gone on to say because it starts awfully low in this country. It starts around thirteen-fourteen thousand pounds a year for a single person.

That's far sooner than most other countries. So we've got a pretty regressive tax system, and one of the things we believe, it should be bent the other way in order to favour pensioners, less well off families, public servants like nurses on relatively low salaries, would all benefit from local income tax instead of council tax, from being helped with their issue of the tuition fees for their children.

Jeremy Vine: But are you going to sell that to Tory switchers, if I can call them that, Conservatives you want on side with you?

Shirley Williams: Yes, we have sold it to many thousands of them. I've been on the track going to almost ... or something like 40 marginal constituencies, mostly in the East and South East. What you get is.. there's a deep split in the Conservative Party, let's say it directly. There are a great many one nation Tories, people like Kenneth Clarke, people like Michael Heseltine, that was their great tradition. Those Tories I greatly respect.

They date back to Mr Heath and Mr Major but they are rather swept aside by Mr Howard who has been pursuing a very rightwing and rather extreme campaign. Many of them are uneasy with it and they've said so on television in rather coded language. Those Tories, many of them are coming to us because they don't find the Conservative Party under Mr Howard the party that they really believe in.

Jeremy Vine: But we're looking here at positive reasons to vote Lib Dem and that means being Liberal and we're trying to define what Liberal is ...

Shirley Williams: Alright, sure.

Jeremy Vine: .. and I want to ask you about your prison policy.

Shirley Williams: I thought I'd done fairness thing.

Jeremy Vine: Well we're certainly ... certainly ...

Shirley Williams: I'm happy to go on.

Jeremy Vine: We're some way there.

Shirley Williams: Honesty, how about that?

Jeremy Vine: Well, tell us how honesty fits in with your prison policy.

Shirley Williams: Oh no, there's no question of that so ...

Jeremy Vine: You want fewer people going to prison.

Shirley Williams: We now have ... yes ... we now have..

Jeremy Vine: Give it to me in two sentences.

Shirley Williams: Okay Jeremy, first of all we have over 70,000 people in prison. Being in prison costs something like 20,000 a year. It's a very expensive thing to do. We believe that where there's no question of violence involved, or major fraud, that there should be a much greater emphasis on community sentences.

Incidentally, one of the worst things is ... the case about the prison population is that within two years the great majority have committed a crime again. It doesn't straighten anybody out. What we believe is that in prison there should be a major programme of compulsory education and training so that the people in prison will come out able to hold down a job.

More than half our prisoners are illiterate for starters. They can't get a job, so they go back into the criminal system, and we would see community sentences, often very tough sentences, as ways to help those men and women straighten themselves out, get training, get decent jobs but community service properly run is by no means a soft option.

Jeremy Vine: But isn't that policy and your approach on travellers, giving them more sites, actually out of step with where the majority of people are in this Brit ... in this country?

Shirley Williams: No. People's views have changed. For example, when the House of Commons, many years ago now, decided to abolish capital punishment, the figures of support for capital punishment began to drop.

Far fewer people today favour capital punishment than did 20 years ago because sometimes politicians have to give a lead, and on the travellers issue let me just say this, travellers are a very ancient tribe, they go back for years and years. Many of them in Britain are, far from being migrants, they've been here for centuries and centuries. We have to find us ... that young lady in ... your hairdresser - she did a good job by the by - as she pointed out ...

Jeremy Vine: She's one of yours.

Shirley Williams: Good. She was very nice. People have the right to live. We have to either find them sites which are screened and out of the you know.. the major way, or we just we'll see them settle and squat everywhere.

That's much less desirable and that's really the choice - squatting or arranged settlements. There isn't any third choice unless you talk about extermination and I'm sure nobody is talking about that.

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, 08 May 2005 at 12.00.

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