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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
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 02 April 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:

  • Francis Maude MP
  • Sir Menzies Campbell MP


Francis Maude MP
Francis Maude MP

Interview with Francis Maude MP

Jon Sopel: I'm joined now by the Conservative Party Chairman, Francis Maude. Welcome and thank you very much for being with us.

When you get the head of the Fabian Society saying that he's comfortable with the thought of a Social Democratic Conservative Party gaining power, what is the point of the Conservatives?

Francis Maude: Well we're going to be a conservative party but a modern and compassionate conservative party. We're going to be doing ... what David Cameron is doing, is giving really strong leadership to the party to require it to do what previous leaders have done once in a generation which is to confront Britain as it is and to be in tune with what modern Britons want and aspire to have, the kind of country they want to live in, and.. you know.. I thought interesting that Max used that phrase "real Conservatives".

For too long we've been a party that's sought to define people out of the party, but actually if you want to be elected, if you want to have the chance to put your principles into practice and serve the country in government, then you've got to attract the support of very nearly half of the population, and so you've got to define your conservatism very broadly and we have got to be a mainstream modern compassionate party, and that's all that David is trying to do.

Jon Sopel: And inclusive and caring and all those things that Tony Blair would agree with.

Francis Maude: Yes, but he's not a Conservative at the end of it. But I would say actually that Tony Blair came to power as a prime minister who actually had some pretty serious objectives with which we would all agree, like creating social justice, like having a strong economy and economic efficiency, like having first class public services. The problem is that he hasn't been able to deliver them because he's the Leader of a Labour Party, and he's particularly leader of a Labour Party where the principle road block to a lot of those things being accomplished is Gordon Brown.

Jon Sopel: So you're saying then that Tony Blair, if you want Blairite reforms you vote Cameron, is that what you're saying? I mean you're saying there's nothing different between Tony Blair and David Cameron, it's just that Tony Blair can't deliver them because of his Party, whereas David Cameron will be able to.

Francis Maude: Tony Blair understood the right objectives for Britain, and he wasn't able to deliver them because he led the Labour Party. I think that..

Jon Sopel: You're saying there's no difference between Tony Blair and David Cameron?

Francis Maude: No, the difference is that he leads a Labour Party which makes it impossible to deliver those desirable ...

Jon Sopel: But in ...

Francis Maude: But let me just finish ...

Jon Sopel: In terms of personal philosophy you're saying there is no difference?

Francis Maude: No, I think in terms of personal philosophy, because actually that's what prevents him delivering it. We are a Conservative Party, but there's no point in us trying to define ourselves by reference to our opponents.

We should define ourselves by reference to our beliefs and the values which underlie what David is seeking to do with the Party are those values of trusting people, not believing that government is always the answer, of taking shared responsibility, so that it's actually people doing things together that makes both people stronger and society stronger.

Jon Sopel: And so you get Lord Tebbit saying: "I think that every one of those things ... " this is in your 'built to last' idea ... "I think that every one of those things could be listed in a Labour manifesto. It's going to be difficult, until it's fleshed out, to find any differences with our political opponents."

Francis Maude: But he also said that there's nothing in it that he disagrees with, which seems to me to suggest that we are beginning to succeed in describing a broad conservatism with which very large numbers of people can agree. Absolutely right, that when it comes further down the line, when our policy groups start to give birth, as it were, to their product, their ...

Jon Sopel: Would you concede we are in a motherhood ...

Francis Maude: ... we will have to flesh ...

Jon Sopel: ... and apple pie phase at the moment?

Francis Maude: Well we are in the phase of describing a direction, describing values, describing underlying aims which is really important. People do need to know that. People do need to know that we're a party that isn't locked into the past, that isn't stuck in the past, that is engaging with modern Britain, that is showing that actually a modern, compassionate Conservative Party can serve our country in government and make it a better country.

Jon Sopel: I just wonder whether you quite actually enjoy the criticism that's coming in the direction of Lord Tebbit. It shows you've changed, doesn't it? I mean just as Tony Blair couldn't have wished for anything better than when Arthur Scargill used to round on him.

Francis Maude: Well this is this idea that somehow we need a clause 4 moment, we need to have a fight. I don't believe that. I want actually us to be describing and advocating a Conservatism, a modern, compassionate Conservatism which does embrace people very, very broadly because that's actually ... in a broadly two party system, that's what you need to be able to do.

Jon Sopel: Okay, let's move from the high-minded world of politics to the grubby reality of what you often have to do. What was Friday like for you in the lead up to it when you had to go around doing all those business about declaring some of what you'd borrowed but not who the other five million was from?

Francis Maude: It felt much better afterwards, I'll be very frank with you. We have recognized that the way in which parties have been funding themselves, the framework, the system, in recent years has not been satisfactory which is why one of the first things David did was to commission this study with some serious proposals for comprehensive reform which will carry forward, and what we're doing is saying: okay, a lot of this stuff, transparency, the lack of transparency, the way the system has worked and all three parties have to work within that system ...

Jon Sopel: What did you think ...

Francis Maude: ... has undermined people's confidence in public.. in politics and politicians.

Jon Sopel: What did you think when you lifted the stone up and you saw what was underneath the loans from odd sorts of people, five million of which the people don't want their names revealed?

Francis Maude: Well I didn't see anything sleazy, but what I saw was a system which was.. had a lack of transparency, and that lack of transparency has contributed, as I say, to the undermining of confidence, and so we want to be as open as we can, and we have been.

We have actually been, Jon, much more open than Labour has. Labour haven't said anything about how many loans they've repaid. They haven't said anything about which of those loans, either past or present¿

Jon Sopel: They've said there were no loans from abroad.

Francis Maude: No, they haven't said that. They haven't said ...

Jon Sopel: Well your responsibility is for the Conservative Party.

Francis Maude: But just to be clear, we have been more open, more transparent than Labour have on this by a very considerable margin.

Jon Sopel: Just very quickly then, let's rattle through a few of the questions that I think are outstanding. How many of the people who lent your party money are not British citizens?

Francis Maude: Some of them.. no, I think actually only one was not a British citizen and that amounted to £25,000, it's been repaid and it reflects ...

Jon Sopel: What line of business?

Francis Maude: It reflects a tiny ... well I'm not going to get into all of that but it reflects.. he's an utterly respectable person and it represents a tiny proportion of the loans and an even tinier proportion of the total funding.

Jon Sopel: What about the allegation in the Daily Mirror that one was a Chinese drug lord, another a Middle Eastern arms dealer?

Francis Maude: Rubbish. Absolute rubbish.

Jon Sopel: Some come from off shore trusts?

Francis Maude: Some will have come through off shore trusts but from people who are British people and that will have been the case with Labour as well, I'm absolutely certain.

And as for the Liberal Democrats, you were talking to Ming Campbell about their guy who made a donation and then he said, he held his hand up and said: "I am not a permissible donor and I want my money back."

Jon Sopel: Right. Do you accept that what you did was not breaking the law but doing your absolute utmost - and I know it was a different regime - it was doing the absolute utmost to get round the law?

Francis Maude: No, I don't think it was getting round the law. It was operating within the law to fund a party, and I just make this point because it is really important. A democracy requires there to be political parties, and political parties do need money to be able to operate, to be able to present their views.

Labour gets two thirds of its funding from trade unions. They're now giving some of that back to trade unions from the taxpayer - the Trade Union Modernization Fund - well.. you know.. that is, if you want sleaze, that is very, very direct sleaze ... that is directly buying influence and buying taxpayers' money.

Jon Sopel: Francis Maude, we must leave it there. Thank you very much indeed.

End of interview


Sir Menzies Campbell MP
Sir Menzies Campbell MP

Interview with Sir Menzies Campbell MP

Jon Sopel: Sir Menzies Campbell, welcome to the Politics Show.

Menzies Campbell: Thank you very much.

Jon Sopel: We'll talk about the local elections in a moment. Just on the whole business of the loans affair, would you accept that no party comes out of this particularly claiming the moral high ground?

Menzies Campbell: Well I'm not sure this is an issue on which parties ought to be claiming moral high ground of the kind you describe, but what I am clear about is that our party has made full disclosure, that transparency lies at the very heart of restoring public confidence, and many of the things which are now being proposed were amendments proposed by Liberal Democrats to the political parties legislation when it was going through Parliament in 2000. So in that regard I think we've been entirely consistent about the need for transparency and the acceptance too of limited state funding.

Jon Sopel: But would you accept that all three main parties ... let me just let you adjust your earpiece, all main three parties have had to scurry around to some extent to get everything cleared up?

Menzies Campbell: Well I wouldn't accept that, because Liberal Democrats put on the electoral registers website the names of the three people who'd given us loans in the period before the election, and the extent to which we had benefited by the fact that no interest was required from these. The figure was £5000 which we took for that purpose which, as you know, is the figure at which a donation has to be declared in any one year.

So in that respect I believe we have been transparent in accordance both with the substance and indeed the spirit of the legislation, but there is a general point which I think may lie behind your question and that is does any one party benefit from the kind of discussion we've had in the last week or two, and the answer to that of course is no, because all that it does is it reduces confidence in the political process and in politicians and that's why it's necessary, in my view, for their to be transparency and why we should accept, as the other half of that proposal, limited state funding.

Jon Sopel: You said a while back that your party was right to accept the donation of two million pounds from Michael Brown. Is that still your position?

Menzies Campbell: Yes, it was given in accordance with the legislation at the time. The Electoral Commission has been asked to pronounce upon it and has said that the loan was consistent with the regulations of the time, and that is correct, that is how we did it and that is why we appear to have achieved the endorsement of the Electoral Commission of what we did, but we have nothing to hide in these matters.

Jon Sopel: Let me try and just change the question slightly. Do you think, with hindsight, you were wise to accept the donation?

Menzies Campbell: Well I didn't accept the donation but I'm not in any sense trying to deny, if you like, party responsibility. This was a donation made by someone who thought that Charles Kennedy had an enormous contribution to make to politics in this country.

He made it. He didn't ask for any preferment or any patronage, he wasn't offered any preferment or patronage and he most certainly wasn't given any preferment or patronage. In those circumstances I think it was an entirely appropriate decision for the leadership of the party to take at the time.

Jon Sopel: But no accounts have yet been filed by his company in the UK. He's not domiciled in the UK.

Menzies Campbell: Well these matters have been discussed by the Electoral Commission, or with the Electoral Commission by the Liberal Democrats, and as I understand it, the Electoral Commission is satisfied that we were entitled to take that loan.

Jon Sopel: Okay, let's move on to the local council elections. I want to put a quote to you which I read which I thought was very interesting. "We have often been poor at explaining that ours is a party where decisions are made locally. We have to introduce a sense of responsibility. People have to understand that the effect of a decision made locally can go beyond their borders."

Menzies Campbell: I recognize that quote you will not be surprised to learn.

Jon Sopel: No, I don't but I'm just interested to know what you meant by it.

Menzies Campbell: Well what I was saying was this, that there's often an argument, in my view quite unfounded, but there's an argument against us about saying one thing in one part of the country and one thing in another part of the country.

And what I was saying was, that people have to recognize that while we are wholly committed to the principle of localism, local people taking the decisions that directly affect their lives, then these decisions obviously may have impact upon other Liberal Democrat controlled councils or oppositions in other parts of the country, and therefore in that sense we all have to be aware of the fact that what we do may have political implications elsewhere. It's a fairly straightforward principle and I don't see anything remarkable in it.

Jon Sopel: No, I'm just interested whether you think that what you need to do much more as a party is to have a nationwide position so that you're no longer open to the accusation that you say one thing in one area and something quite different in another depending on which will give you most electoral advantage.

Menzies Campbell: Well remember we're a party who believes firmly in local democracy, that's why we supported an Assembly for Wales and a Parliament for Scotland. We believe in local people and local councils taking the decisions that directly affect their lives.

All I was saying to my colleagues in local government was remember the decisions you take may have political implications elsewhere. I think that's a fairly straightforward principle and I'm slightly surprised that you think it's a matter that needs to be remarked upon to the extent that you have.

Jon Sopel: Well I'm just interested, for example, you support congestion charging - yes?

Menzies Campbell: Indeed, and you're going to tell me about Edinburgh, but remember what happened in Edinburgh was that there was a referendum. The people of Edinburgh were invited to decide whether or not they thought congestion charging was a good thing, and they declined to say yes, and the reason why they declined was they were not satisfied that the public transport infrastructure which would necessarily take a much greater burden in the event that there's congestion charging and fewer people use their cars, that that public transport infrastructure was strong enough and adequate enough to deal with the consequences.

Menzies Campbell: But it was the Liberal Democrats that were leading the opposition to it.

Menzies Campbell: We campaigned against it on the basis I've just described to you. There's absolutely no point imposing congestion charging if you don't have a public transport infrastructure which deals with the knock on effect of congestion charging. More people out of their cars, how do they travel to work? How do they travel¿ take their children to school? How do they travel for recreational shopping?

Jon Sopel: But do you understand that that is an area where you ... it leads to confusion about what your nationwide¿..

Menzies Campbell: No. (laughing) If I may say so, the confusion seems to rest in the minds of commentators. There's no confusion at all.

We believe that congestion charging has an important role to play in dealing with the problems of climate change. But you will not persuade people into that unless you can demonstrate that you have a practical alternative. The practical alternative has got to be good quality public transport.

Jon Sopel: So... let me ...

Menzies Campbell: And the particular problem here ... you see there's a particular problem here. There's the question of the Forth Road Bridge which is now sustaining traffic far beyond its design. There's a question of its replacement, of whether there should be an alternative.

There's a question about the extent to which rail is being used sufficiently for access to Edinburgh. There's a whole raft of issues connected with this. This is not, if I may say, a simple question of yes or no to congestion charge.

Jon Sopel: Right, let's move on and let's see if we can agree on something else. You've campaigned for the abolition of the council tax on the basis that it's regressive. In other words, it hits the poorest hardest, is that right?

Menzies Campbell: That's indeed so, pensioners in particular.

Jon Sopel: Okay, so why are you supporting green taxes which are even more regressive?

Menzies Campbell: No, that's not true. We're supporting green taxes for the purpose of meeting the environmental objectives which we all now accept, and indeed, if you look at Newcastle where the Liberal Democrats are in control, they have embarked - the local authority's embarked - upon a very considerable programme of energy renewal which has made the cost of energy very much less but in addition has met the necessary climate change objectives which we all now accept are highly desirable if we're going to preserve the planet for generations yet to come.

Jon Sopel: Well do you believe that taxes should rise sharply on cheap flights for example?

Menzies Campbell: I certainly think that we should deal with aviation, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's budget was entirely silent on that. And yet we know, for example, that ...

Jon Sopel: But how can you argue that's not regressive?

Menzies Campbell: Well we've been told on the last couple of days about the environmental consequences of the Prime Minister's flight to the Far East. The environmental consequences of the Prince of Wales' flights around the Middle East. All of these demonstrate that we have to deal with the problem of aviation.

It may have to be dealt with on an international basis or a European basis, I freely accept that. But there's no point trying to achieve the sort of targets which the Government set but doesn't look as if it's going to be able to achieve by 2010 if at the same time you're allowing another activity like aviation to go unhampered and unhindered with an adverse effect on these objectives.

Jon Sopel: Sir Menzies Campbell, you've now been Leader for a month. In that time what do you think is the biggest blow that you've landed on the Government?

Menzies Campbell: I haven't looked upon it in that way, but if you ask me what do I believe is the most effective thing I've done, I think the speech I made in the budget debate because, if you remember, Mr Cameron thought that this was an occasion to demonstrate the wit of his scriptwriters and did not deal with issues for example like pensions which are quite fundamental to the interests of many people in the United Kingdom. I dealt with that, I dealt with the question of the environment.

I pointed to the failure of the Government to deal with the issue of personal debt. If you ask me of what particular contribution I made I believe was the most effective, then I think that certainly is one that I would put forward. But if I may say so, it's for others to judge whether or not I'm landing blows. I don't like this sort of self-promotion which I think lies behind your question.

Jon Sopel: Okay, Sir Menzies Campbell, thank you very much indeed for being with us. Thank you.

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 23 April 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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