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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 May, 2005, 13:07 GMT 14:07 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 22 May, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed:

  • Iain Duncan Smith MP
  • Simon Hughes MP, President of the Liberal Democrats


Iain Duncan Smith MP
Iain Duncan Smith MP, former Conservative Leader

Interview with Iain Duncan Smith

Jeremy Vine: Does it frustrate you that your party has gone into leadership mode again?

Iain Duncan Smith: I did have somebody on the doorstep who said to me the other day: "If this is the answer, what was the question" at the election, and there is a sense that parliamentary parties they go straight into themselves afterwards and they don't deal with the one question posed of the electorate which is, we can't vote for you, not enough of us anyway to bring a government about which is a Conservative government and that's the real challenging question.

This is.. you know.. to some degree it's about shuffling deckchairs and I think the important thing is the quicker we get this out of the way, whatever the changes, the better.

Jeremy Vine: One of the things being said we heard from Gillian is people in the party saying: "We can't have another leader chosen by the members out there who is unacceptable to MPs. Now do you find it hurtful to hear that?

Iain Duncan Smith: No, because actually I'm again rather amused by that because I seem to recall it was MPs that selected Mrs Thatcher and promptly stabbed her to death. It was MPs that selected, for example, William Hague and gave him four years of hell and two years in which they didn't seem to want, some of them, to have me. It isn't actually about who selects the leader.

The key question for us as a party is that at some point the Members of Parliament have got to decide whether they're going to give the new leader, whoever selects that leader, the right to lead for four to five years to get an agenda going in peace and harmony so that we can get a message to the public. If the message is constantly a party at war with itself, it doesn't matter how good that message is, the public will turn away and that's what's been happening.

Jeremy Vine: So you think the MPs may be almost ungovernable.

Iain Duncan Smith: Well it's up to them. I mean my colleagues in Parliament have got to decide now whether they want to go back into power enough to allow the leader, whoever it is, to come in with a clear agenda and to get on with it, and that's what Labour had to decide back in the '8Os, they decided enough of winning the argument amongst each other, now it's time to win the argument outside, and you can only do that with a clarity through a leader that you back.

Jeremy Vine: And in terms of the system, just finally on the system, we heard Gillian reporting there, are you happy for MPs to have the final say?

Iain Duncan Smith: I don't mind, in a sense, who has the final say. I mean I do have a sense that however, the voluntary party - they deserve more respect from us as MPs. You know, we say that they're unrepresentative but you know MPs are unrepresentative by probably an even worse degree, and anyone who takes interest in politics like we do is bound to be unrepresentative.

But these are the people that work in the charity groups as well beyond politics, they work in the hospices, they give their time to the self help and the advice centres, so they're, by their behaviour, possibly more representative in many senses and know more about the community that we often say we do.

So there's a balance here and I do hope we're not going to be on the road as I heard over the weekend of yet more abuse heaped on the voluntary party; they are the backbone of this party so it's time for us to give a little bit of respect - using a Labour term at the moment - and then just say okay, whatever we decide, at least they must have some sort of a say.

Jeremy Vine: So to the crunch, and you run the Centre for Social Justice now and you've brought out a pamphlet, and it's about being: "good for me, good for my neighbour" which his what you think the Conservative Party's future is all about.

Iain Duncan Smith: Without question I think the Party now has to get beyond the mechanics of who becomes leader and decide actually how it is that we can be against a very unpopular government scoring only 36 points in the polls and still fail not just to win an election but to lose by - historically in terms of parliamentary seats - a dramatic majority, and the key here is that the party is missing some vital equation.

People, by and large, when they looked at our policies, they by and large agreed with many of them, you know, whether it happens to be an instinct for lower taxation or greater security on the streets, whatever it was, they said yes.

Once you hook them to the Conservative Party they plummeted, and the reason therefore is that the Party itself makes them feel selfish about their vote for the Conservatives. So while they may agree with us, they feel worried that we're stealing from somebody else to make them feel good, and they don't want that.

They want their self interest not to be selfish, and so that's the point. Instead of being just good for me, we've got to convince the public that what we do is going to be good for a wide range of other people as well - good my neighbour ...

Jeremy Vine: But isn't the second bit that you're bolting on, this social justice bit, just presentational. It's just about killing the nasty party image.

Iain Duncan Smith: Well it would be if we just spend our time using the words 'social justice' without everyone understanding it, and you'll see today I've done an extensive polling as well as writing the pamphlet, and what I'm saying is, this is about living the strategy.

This is about going beyond our own seats, our own marginal seats, and going into the areas of Britain that are the most affected, most blighted parts of Britain from Easter House to Mosside where we haven't had any interest to representation and demonstrating by what we do beyond the cameras that actually the people who live there, the pensioners who live in poverty, the people who have kids dying of drug abuse, and the people whose streets are so unsafe that frankly they don't see police on them.

These are the people we have to be on the side of and demonstrate to them by what we do that we're for them and we're with them, and it's about selling this to them, not to the Westminster elite, and that's the big hardship. It's not easy.

Jeremy Vine: But now what happens if somebody says well he is doing what Labour did to the Conservatives, he's trying to steal Labour's clothes.

Iain Duncan Smith: Well, we use these terms in Westminster about stealing each other's clothes, but actually politics is about ultimately people having a sense of who you are. You know, we need to understand, the thing about, despite many of their failings and their problems, out there people sort of have a sense that they're trying to do something in the best interests of others.

Now we may disagree about the outcomes, but what we lack as a party out there is a public having the same sense about us. We used to be seen as the competent party and then we lost that.

But we haven't been seen as a party that actually cares enough about Britain so that people say well: "Well, I don't know if I agree with them but ... but I think their instincts are right, they're not going to do us down, they're not going to do our friends down, they're going to try and do us some good." And that's the bit that we've got to get right.

Jeremy Vine: But if we're trying to define the new ... the instincts that you would like your party to have, you've now given us the choice, haven't you, because you've got the social justice bit which you talked about, but you have still got what you call "enduringly popular instincts and policies, low tax, being Eurosceptic" and they seem to be at war with each other those two.

Iain Duncan Smith: Well they're not really at war with each other because actually, when you test this in polling, you'll see from the poll today that we've published actually what remains of the values of the British public weigh out by the vast majority, they have aspirations and those aspirations are based on strong values, they want good strong families, they want their kids to grow up, to get married to have children, to live stable lives.

They aspire for all of that, that's absolutely clear, but the difference is, they also cope with the breakdown on the edges of that, and for us, what we're after is saying look, they agree with many of our instincts, you know whether it be on Europe, whether on taxation or whether on crime, but when they agree with us they feel uneasy because they think that what we care about is only ourselves and we don't care enough about those others out there who are beyond that edge, that margin, and so they want to be able to feel good about their vote. When they mark that card, when I'm voting on this and vote for the Conservatives, I'm not just voting for myself, I am also voting to improve the quality of life for other people beyond me.

Jeremy Vine: So back to the reality of all this, who do you want as leader to carry this forward?

Iain Duncan Smith: I mean quite frankly I haven't even begun to think yet and I'm not just ...

Jeremy Vine: It's quite important though, isn't it?

Iain Duncan Smith: Well.. yeah, it is, but as and when we begin to see who's going to stand at the moment, I think there's only about three or four people who've absolutely declared themselves not standing which I am one, William is the other and I gather there's one other as well, so we're stuck in the position where we don't know who's standing.

But what I do say to all of my colleagues is that the issue is about who we are and that sense of us from the public, not the shenanigans that goes on in Westminster but improving the quality of people's lives in the worst areas.

Jeremy Vine: Iain Duncan Smith thank you very much indeed for joining us.

End of interview

Interview with Simon Hughes

Simon Hughes MP
Simon Hughes MP, President of the Liberal Democrats

Jeremy Vine: Simon Hughes, the Party's president joins me now. Welcome to you.

Simon Hughes: Good afternoon.

Jeremy Vine: And I seem to remember last time you were in, in September, you told us you were on the verge of a breakthrough which you didn't then have.

Simon Hughes: Well we went up, we didn't go up as much as we h0ped we might. We've ... You said at the beginning we've got or best resulting numbers since 1923, long before you or I were around.

Jeremy Vine: Yes, improved but not a breakthrough.

Simon Hughes: I guess that's true.

Jeremy Vine: Eleven more seats.

Simon Hugh: Well, it depends where your starting point. The previous election 14 ... 11 more seats.

Jeremy Vine: Yeah.

Simon Hughes: And we would have liked to have done better so it was good progress but it was disappointing compared to the upper target we hoped, but the interesting thing is that everybody now believes.. I haven't met anybody who thinks that a government that got a quarter of the government to vote for it and only a third of the voters to vote for it, clearly doesn't have authority and the whole debate about how you have a representative parliament is now on the agenda, and had there been representative parliament there would have been a very different political picture.

Jeremy Vine: Well let me give statement and see if you agree with it. To really make a breakthrough you have to take Tory seats and you didn't take them because you campaigned to the left of Labour.

Simon Hughes: Well I don't accept ... firstly we did take your film show, we lost a few seats but we lost ...

Jeremy Vine: You lost five.

Simon Hughes: We took three seats from the Tories, we took seats from Labour and we took a seat from the Nationalists. We made progress in Scotland, Wales and England. We made huge progress in the North. The Tories have effectively disappeared in Scotland, in Wales and in the North of England and we've made significant progress.

Jeremy Vine: (overlap) Come on, it was the ...

Simon Hughes: No, no ...

Jeremy Vine: I'll tell you what the reality is, you targeted a lot of Tory seats and you didn't get them.

Simon Hughes: The Tory share of the vote went up by half a percent. They had their third worst election since 1832. We went up again by about 3 percent in popular appeal. Yes we didn't catch them up but they are stalled, they changed their leader again because they're stalled, and the reality is we're beginning to catch up on them as we are on Labour, but we could have won every Tory seat in the country, we still wouldn't have been in government because we needed to win Labour seats too and that's why we were aiming to win seats from both in all parts of Britain.

Jeremy Vine: But that doesn't work. You need a political narrative was the word used in the film, and Sue Doughty in Guildford says of the local income tax.. you know.. in a high cost area it's not very attractive, and it might have even cost her the seat. Now how do you help the next candidate in Guildford?

Simon Hughes: Well you need policies and you need a narrative. We had very good policies, probably the best we've ever had in terms of package and the posters people saw round the country people responded well to, and we had a very good narrative: "Freedom, Fairness and Trust" were absolutely in tune with what the British people wanted.

I think there was ... I supported local income tax as a change but there was a flaw and that was that it meant different things in different parts of the country, and that's why I don't think actually in the end it worked well. All the other policies meant the same thing - scrap tuition fees meant the same whether you were in Sunderland or in Swansea - that didn't and that was the weakness in that particular policy.

Jeremy Vine: Is that not the flaw in the Party that you say different things in different areas?

Simon Hughes: No, we didn't say different things but the costings were obviously.

Local income tax spending depends on what each chooses, so it would have had a different outturn. You've got to have policies, it seems to me, for a general election, that you can say simply what they mean and that it doesn't allow people then to misinterpret locally in Guildford or in somewhere else.

Jeremy Vine: Right, now you have also a review of policy making going on. You've got to decide how you make policy. At the moment you're the one party that where the party conference members can turn up and make policy. You're not going to change that, are you?

Simon Hughes: No, let me just say, we started before the election we agreed we would look at all our policies again for the next decade, next generation and that's right and that process will start. In terms of the process, Charles Kennedy has said to the party can we look at the process because all this time we had a difficulty.

We have a democratic conference selected by members, they decide policy. They choose a policy committee, that agrees with the leader what goes into the manifesto. But people like you, as you know well, in the election kept on saying well hang on a minute, this is what your manifesto says, but you say this in your policy past at Blackpool in 1991, and ...

Jeremy Vine: And that's a dog tax, 16 year olds acting in porn films, all of that.

Simon Hughes: And that was a difficulty, and we have to address that. My instinctive judgment is you allow the members to agree on policy at conference, you draw from that for your manifesto but it may be that at the moment of the general election starting, the rest of the policy lapses.

You have to have a way in which you people cannot say you are standing on this policy when we're not, which is what we weren't, by digging up something that the conference has, as a view, expressed 16 years ago.

Jeremy Vine: But isn't it a very attractive feature of being a Lib Dem that you can turn up at conference, you can set a policy and then you turn the TV and your party leader is being questioned on the policy you set?

Simon Hughes: No, no, we will keep ... I promise you we will keep as a party a process that gives the members a say but the leader and the committee and the Party as a whole will decide the manifesto.

Jeremy Vine: Simon Hughes, 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, 12 June 2005 at 12.00.

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