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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 12:05 GMT 13:05 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 15 May, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health
  • Denis MacShane MP

Andrew Lansley
Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Interview with Andrew Lansley

Jeremy Vine: One man mentioned in some quarters as a potential standard bearer for the more socially liberal Conservatives is Andrew Lansley, the party's health spokesman and he joins me now. Welcome to you. What does this word 'modernisation' mean?

Andrew Lansley: Well, the word modernisation in itself is only a description of the need for us to be a 21st century party using the traditions of Conservatism but applying them in the modern world. I mean the interesting thing about Conservatism is that it has a range of philosophies that have become part of the modern Conservative Party.

We are, in effect, the inheritors not only of Toryism, that is a belief in the things which work, the traditions and the institutions of Britain, we are also the inheritors of classical liberalism, of free markets, and of letting people lead their own lives, of a belief in small institutions rather than the big state. We're also the inheritors of one nation Conservatism of the Conservative Party of Disraeli and an understanding that those who have advantages and benefits in society also have responsibilities to look after those who are less fortunate who cannot help themselves.

Jeremy Vine: But you're struggling, are you not, to find the balance between those three and therefore you've got these different factions already.

Andrew Lansley: Well struggling? No, I don't think so and I don't think we have factions. I think that's not fair. I think on of the things ...

Jeremy Vine: Well groups then. Different ...

Andrew Lansley: (overlap) We're having a debate, of course we're having a debate.

Jeremy Vine: There's nothing wrong with that.

Andrew Lansley: Rightly so, and after a general election that we didn't win it's right to have a debate. But I think it's also important to recognise that one of the key things that Michael Howard has achieved is for the Conservative Party to be able to have that debate in the context of a sense of unity and purpose.

You know.. it's unfair on Michael if you look at what he's achieved, it's quite ... it's very substantial. And when he, the day after the general election, made his statement in Putney, I think the most important thing he said was that he wanted his successor to have the period of time he didn't have to achieve these things because.. and I said this back in 2001 after the last general election, when you're in opposition, you don't get judged simply on your policy, the public very rarely find out what your policy is until the immediate run up to the general election. What you're judged on, as in opposition, is your personality and in sense your values, who you are ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlap) Right, well that's ...

Andrew Lansley: ... and that's ... you need a long time for that to be developed.

Jeremy Vine: Well that's what came out of the film, the idea that actually ... take your election campaign, that you may have stumbled on some policies there that people wanted, they might have wanted to slow immigration for example, but when you talked about that as a party people said: Oh no ... they're being nasty again and they were turned off for some reason. Now how do you change a party's personality?

Andrew Lansley: Well, because over time you show during the course of a whole Parliament - and ideally of course even longer period of time, but let's say for the sake of argument over a whole Parliament - you show at the very outset what your values are, and I think.. I think Nick Boles got it right when he said actually it's less about the personality of the leader in the first instance. It's about the personality of the party, and that's why I think Michael's given us a period now when we actually need to determine what it is we're trying to achieve, what direction the Conservative Party is taking.

Jeremy Vine: But you can go around being likable - and this will sound disparaging, it's not meant to be - you can go around being very nice people. That's fine. Nick Boles was very nice in the film, but at the end, you need some values, don't you?

Andrew Lansley: Of course you do, and those values ... you see you talked about immigration, well actually good management ... management is important┐ a value is competence and the Conservative Party in the past has been a party that's been valued for its ability to manage the economy competently, to manage issues like immigration fairly and competently.

Jeremy Vine: But that's not ideological then.

Andrew Lansley: And that is a weakness for Labour. Of course it's not ideological. The Conservative Party is not ... it's not entirely an ideological party. So the values of competence are important but also the values of understanding the Britain we live in today, and of course that came out in the package as well, and I think people right across the Conservative Party ... even though there's an absurd kind of modernisers versus traditionalists representation of what's going on, all of us are trying to make sure that we live in a Conservative Party that it accurately reflects the nature of Britain we live in today, which is not to say everything is fine.

I mean if you ... if you walked around as I did during the election campaign and asked people their concerns, not just about the Health Service but things like crime on the streets and antisocial behaviour it is a major concern. And when you listen for example a few days after the general election to the Prime Minister saying: "Well it'll all be fine as long as we have greater respect" you have to say well actually the Conservative Party has understood for a very long time that getting responsibility and respect for others into community is not about spending large sums of money through state institutions and having a bureaucracy that visits council estates during the day and then goes home when lights go out at night.

It's actually about building stronger families, stronger communities, neighbourhoods that are capable of taking responsibility and exercising that so as to ensure that antisocial behaviour is not only dealt with but actually that there is less of it because young people in particular are brought up in families and neighbourhoods and communities where all the peer pressures are in the opposite direction.

Jeremy Vine: Right, so that's completely non-ideological what you've just said, it's totally practical, it's about just finding practical commonsense solutions and it's as Tony Blair said, what matters is works.

Andrew Lansley: No, there's a philosophy there, the philosophy of being able to build a stronger society. David Willetts quite rightly said building a stronger society is what it's about. When I'm talking about the Health Service I.. frankly I don't start from saying we have a plan for how much tax we want the government to levy, and from that flows a belief upon what level of health care we ought to be delivering.

I'm actually looking at things like why are we not delivering cancer services that have outcomes like those of France, even though we're approaching the point where we spend as much as they do in France on health care. Those are the key issues, and, as far as I'm concerned, David is right in the sense that the public are not sitting there saying: "How much tax am I paying?" they're saying: "Am I getting value for money?" So yes, it's competence but also it's about an understanding that public services.. the reform of public services is about bringing part of the Conservative philosophy to hear.

Jeremy Vine: But ...

Andrew Lansley: I say classical liberalism, free markets and enterprise bringing competition and choice into public services, it's not just practical, it is a clear philosophical approach, giving people greater freedom ...

Jeremy Vine: Okay ...

Andrew Lansley: ... free enterprise for social entrepreneurship is very important.

Jeremy Vine: Alright. We've heard from two other voices though, two other Conservative voices since the programme started. In the news, Liam Fox, and then in our piece Nick Herbert who believe that modernisation is really about recapturing what it is you're all about and I'm going to try and do this without using the word Thatcherite, but it's about low taxes and having a smaller state and all of that, and because you've lost the thread somehow, you haven't realised that's the big selling point.

Andrew Lansley: No, I don't think we've lost the thread at all. I mean I came into the Conservative Party.. or in a sense I left the civil service and I joined politics and Conservative politics in the mid 1980s for the simple reason that I recognise that that belief in free enterprise was absolutely at the heart of the regeneration of British industry, of that sense of Britain being greater again and freedom and free enterprise ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlap) ... and cutting tax, for example.

Andrew Lansley: ... is a part of that. Well cutting tax only if you can, at the same time, maintain the level of what you're trying to achieve. Sometimes cutting tax is the way to achieve these things. If you said to people: "How do we cut taxes and at the same time improve people's lives and fairness?"

Well actually, looking at families who are trying to bring up children and who are paying high rates of tax, well cutting tax may be one of the ways of achieving that. During the general election campaign, as I said, talking about policy, sometimes it comes too late, but there were policies that we were putting forward in relation to supporting flexible childcare which actually I think there's an awful lot of people out there who believe in precisely that ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlap) Okay.

Andrew Lansley: ... not in the state telling people, and particularly parents, how they should look after children, but enabling families -and diverse families in this modern world, meaning a range of different kinds of families - to take decisions and go on to exercise responsibility for how to bring their children up.

Jeremy Vine: Alright. Okay, well we have a couple of quotes from you after the 2001 election which I have here were very, very critical of the Conservative Party, one of them saying: "There is endemic racism in the Tory Party, and another one saying that we haven't got enough women MPs. We still only have 17 out of 197 and that needs to be sorted, that's unacceptable. If you became leader would you sort that?

Andrew Lansley: Well I mean the first ... the first quote, there is racism endemic in society and of course it's all very well the Conservative Party wanting to be representative of Britain today, we're not, we need to be. But actually, one of the things we need to do is to be leaders in society so combating discrimination needs to be something we actively do in the Conservative Party. And you know, I saw the other day, the Daily Telegraph did a sort of list of all the potential leaders of the Conservative Party, they were twelve men, and frankly it is a pity ...

Jeremy Vine: Were you one of them?

Andrew Lansley: Yes, I was one of them, and frankly it is a pity that the Conservative Party has not yet arrived at the point.. the party of Margaret Thatcher where we have a diverse range of candidates for leadership.

Jeremy Vine: Okay.

Andrew Lansley: We have good MPs coming through, you know.. Justine Greening and Anne Main and Anne Milton and Maria Miller are excellent UMPs and Adam Afriyie but we have to make sure that those are coming through in much greater numbers next time.

Jeremy Vine: Okay, final question, are you running?

Andrew Lansley: When there's a leadership contest that's the right time for people to say whether or not they're candidates.

Jeremy Vine: Andrew Lansley, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

Denis MacShane MP
Denis MacShane MP

Interview with Denis MacShane

Jeremy Vine: Until last Monday the British Minister for Europe was Dennis MacShane, now rudely dispatched to the back benches and he joins me now. You can tell us why it wasn't mentioned in the election campaign then.

Denis MacShane: Nobody put a question. If you read the Labour Manifesto there were ten good pages on Europe and international politics. But Jeremy Paxman, John Humphries, I listened to their terrible interviews with the Prime Minister and Mr Howard and Mr Kennedy.. not a question on Europe.

Jeremy Vine: But you don't just wait for someone to ask you a question before you say something.

Denis MacShane: The Prime Minister mentioned it at the beginning press conference. As I say, there were ten chunky pages in the Labour Manifesto which I know you've read, Jeremy.

Jeremy Vine: Very carefully.

Denis MacShane: And I think actually, if I'm honest, that what happens in the election campaign there's maybe room for one international theme and it was Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, wasn't it.

Jeremy Vine: So you have this situation where the constitution as discussed might be stopped on in France. If not it comes.. the vote comes here and the government that you've just left could take a real battering over it. Is it worth it?

Denis MacShane: I disagree because if you actually look at this general election result and any general election result where people actually vote, rather than what you read in the papers, you see a strong majority in Parliament are a pro European MPs, ourselves as the Labour Party with a strong commitment to the Constitutional Treaty - by the way, it's a treaty, it's not a constitution, it's a very important technical point this, a great mistake to keep calling it a constitution.

You've got all the Liberal Democrats who increase their vote, at least nominally pro-European, and some Scots and Welsh Nats and others, and at every election the anti-European party - at the moment the Conservative Party, 20 years ago in the 1980s, Labour was profoundly anti European - have been trounced at the polls. I don't think the British people will vote if we come to a referendum to isolate themselves from their partners in Europe.

Jeremy Vine: And if France says no, what then?

Denis MacShane: If France says no, Europe is going to go through a very unhappy period. I personally think that at that stage the constitution probably the constitutional treaty is dead.

It's a treaty, it has to be ratified by everyone, and then we're going to have to face up to the really big questions in Europe, why is French unemployment so high. That's a national problem for France, nothing to do with Europe.

Jeremy Vine: We heard from one of the speakers in the film saying however good the Constitution is, it doesn't address that question so what's the point?

Denis MacShane: But of course it doesn't. The American Constitution doesn't address how the American economy is run. The French and German Constitutions don't address how their economies are run. We've been bound in with treaties in Europe for 30 years in the case of the UK. We're doing spectacularly well..

Jeremy Vine: (overlap) Because we've got the 48 hour working week coming this way, haven't we.

Denis MacShane: Well that was a very foolish vote by the European Parliament. Unfortunately a lot of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MEPs supporting it.

It's only one tiny phrase because actually it's governments that will decide and I'm very confident that that won't come about, but it's exactly for people to understand that it's the national decisions that determine whether a national economy does well. We've got other European economies that are flourishing. Unfortunately France, Germany and Italy are in the economic doldrums. That is Europe's number one problem, not necessarily the treaty itself.

Jeremy Vine: We heard Ed Owen in the piece, distinguished Special Advisor to the Foreign Secretary, saying it was time for a gear change in government, to campaign for this thing. Now do you worry that the government is not capable of putting some oomph into it?

Denis MacShane: No, I think that everybody in government realises that if we have to fight a referendum, we have to fight and win this because if it's a defeat it will be a huge and mammoth defeat for the Labour Party and the Labour Government and the more progressive pro European politics that we've fashioned in this country.

So yes, Margaret Thatcher in the late 1980s spent 25 million pounds of taxpayers' money on a government information campaign on Europe. We haven't really got off the starting blocks in terms of informing the British people.

Jeremy Vine: So there is a lack of will there or what?

Denis MacShane: I think that we've been very successful in Europe and the big issue at the beginning of the Blair Government, the question of going into the Euro or not, I don't want to call it a red herring because I used that phrase once, but in a sense that was going to be determined by the economic conditions in Europe and in the UK and they never came into play, and I think we have missed a trick in actually having an adequate level of basic information campaigning on this treaty and on Europe generally because I listen to your programme on the radio, I do tons of radio phone-ins myself. I am amazed at the sheer ignorance, of course a lot of it fuelled by the anti-European press in our country about what Europe is and how it works.

Jeremy Vine: But seems that sometimes the government decides okay, we're going to get stuck into this issue and then nothing really happens. In 2001 we were told the Europe Minister, Peter Hain, was starting a tour of Britain to persuade people of the benefits of the EU. I don't know what happened to that. Tony Blair signalled he is ready to take Britain into the Euro in the near future. That was four years ago. It doesn't seem to go anywhere.

Denis MacShane: I actually had a wonderful time as Europe Minister touring Britain and having lots and lots of very positive regional coverage but there is a huge block.. I mean really.. it's very frustrating in this because I think politicians moaning about the media are like sailors moaning about the weather on the sea. But there is a very substantive problem when we have got press so hostile, or even, if I may say so Jeremy, the BBC.

I was on John Humphrys, on the Today Programme about a year ago and he said: "Mr MacShane, this Constitution is going to profoundly change the way we're governed." I said: "John, name me one thing in it." Well he couldn't. Now if a guy as smart and as clever as John Humphrys doesn't actually know what's in the treaty, I mean can you name me anything that will change anything ...

Jeremy Vine: He's speaking for his listeners who would feel profoundly that that was the case.

Denis MacShane: But Jeremy, can you name me something in it that you think will profoundly change the way we're governed?

Jeremy Vine: I've got a week to think about that because it's the end of the programme. Dennis MacShane, thank you very much indeed.

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, 22 May 2005 at 12.00.

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