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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 April 2006, 12:32 GMT 13:32 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 30 April 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:

  • David Cameron MP
  • Tessa Jowell MP
  • Darren Johnson

David Cameron MP
David Cameron MP

Interviewed by Jon Sopel on Politics Show, David Cameron pointedly refused to call for Prescott's resignation.

He drew a sharp distinction between Prescott's 'personal matter' and the situation of Charles Clarke.

On Prescott:

SOPEL: It has been a terrible week for the government, in which you've called for the resignation of Charles Clarke. Should John Prescott go too?

DAVID CAMERON: I think what the John Prescott thing is a personal matter, and I don't want to make any comment on that.

On Clarke he thought it a resigning matter

DAVID CAMERON: But with Charles Clarke, I felt this was a different case and let me explain why. He had presided over a system that had manifestly failed.

Over a thousand prisoners, including rapists, murderers, paedophiles, released on to our streets when they should have been considered for deportation. He was then given the opportunity to sort it out because he was told about the problem last July, and yet the rate at which prisoners were released, increased after July.

The final straw for me was listening to him on television saying that after he found out about the problem, only very, very few people were released. That was misleading, and he also misled the Prime Minister, because as I found at Prime Minister's questions, under close questioning of the Prime Minister, he admitted that Charles Clarke had not revealed that to him.

Now, I think those three things, presiding over failure, having an opportunity to, to do something about it but failing and then misleading people about the scale of the problem, that is a resignation offence.


JON SOPEL: Mr Cameron, watching the film, you get the impression that you might be 21st century man, but there's still an awful lot of your party stuck in the Thatcherite '80s.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think Keith Mitchell is actually an extremely effective leader of Oxfordshire County Council. What he's done since taking over, is actually make sure that the increase in the council tax each year, is getting less and that's absolutely what the Conservative Party should be about, which is value for money for the taxes people pay, and then also, acting on people's priorities. (interjection) .. that I've spoken about in this campaign.

JON SOPEL: He says, (overlaps) and he say, he's for a small state, low taxation and being politically incorrect. I can't quite hear you saying it like that.

DAVID CAMERON: Well now, well, well the Conservative Party does believe in low taxes, I believe in low taxes. I believe that we've got to set a path where we can have lower taxes in this country. We've now got the highest tax burden we've ever had in our history.

But what I've said very clearly is we've got to put stability first; people want to know that their mortgage rates and interest rates will be safe and that we won't put that at risk, and we'll keep the Bank of England independent, in fact we'll enhance their independence and that's what we'll do. But actually, I've set out a path towards lower taxes by sharing the proceeds of growth between public spending increases on the one hand, and tax and (overlaps) ... debt reduction on the other.

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) But you're not going to make the pledges that were made in the 1980s.

DAVID CAMERON: I'm not going to make er, all the pledges we made at previous elections. You have to learn in politics from er, your defeats and we've lost three elections in a row. We've had a (fluffs), similar share of the vote each time and I'm determined we learn the lessons of those defeat and also something else - I think the British public want an opposition that looks back over the last eight or nine years we've had from Labour, and says, right, what did they get right ? - let's keep that. What did they get wrong? - let's change that. They want a party that's about 2006 and beyond, and is not actually fighting the balance of the (overlaps) ...

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) You've just mentioned the polls there, about how the fact that you've stayed pretty much level in the last three elections. I mean if you look at the polls to-day, even given the government's woes, you're flat-lining, you're not really moving up that much.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I've, I've never met a politician who was satisfied with his poll rating, and of course, I want us to be doing better. But what I recognise is the sort of programme of change that I'm putting through, does take time. People want to see that the Conservative Party has changed, they want to see it over a period of time, and then they'll reach a judgement.

JON SOPEL: And there's an interesting, your ... (unintelligible) ... poll of polls suggests you're at 33% at the moment. The figure for Tony Blair, for the Labour Party at the same time after he'd become leader was ...

DAVID CAMERON: I, I, I don't know, I'm not a ...

JON SOPEL: 61% for the Labour Party, four months after he became leader.

DAVID CAMERON: I seem to remember when he became leader of the Labour Party, the government that he was then facing was in, was in severe trouble and had been for some, some considerable time. But I think what's interesting is we are now seeing a Labour Government that is in decline. I think you know, everyone will be looking at the end of this week at you know, we've had er the shambolic situation with prisoners released, when they should have been deported.

We've had the situation of, of health cuts and people being sacked when money has been put in to the Health Service. We've had problems with tax credits. We've had problems with single farm payments. People will be looking at all this incompetence, but I think above and beyond that, step back from it, and what you can see is a terminal loss of authority from Tony Blair. (interjection)

JON SOPEL: In which case ...

DAVID CAMERON: And that is what's really changed.

JON SOPEL: In which case you should do extremely well on Thursday.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I'm hoping to do well. I mean I've said throughout these local elections, right back from the start, I've said, let's try to get back to having proper local elections.

You will have noticed with the Conservatives, we didn't have some great big national launch at the beginning of the campaign, we've been round the country helping our councils to launch their own campaigns, and I think that's the way we ought to go in this country, much more like that.

The one campaign we have fought very strongly is something all councils are responsible for, which is the environment.

All councils are responsible for recycling and clean streets and better parks and public spaces. We've put real priority on that and said, you know, if you vote Blue, you can go Green.

JON SOPEL: And you've made a great play on your personal commitment to the environment, cycling to the Commons for example.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I, I used to cycle to the Commons much more than I do now. My job now, erm, with many meetings in the evenings and such like, makes it more difficult; so I now try and cycle at least once a week, sometimes more, but I used to do it more. I miss it.

JON SOPEL: So what are we to think then when we discover that your driver, after you've left on your bicycle is following behind, with your shoes and your shirt.

DAVID CAMERON: Well it's not, it's not the shoes and the shirt. The point is my, my box, every night I go home with huge box full of work, you know, dozens of letters and papers to clear and if I can't manage to take those on my bike, which very frequently I can't, then my ...

BOTH TOGETHER

DAVID CAMERON: No, let me finish, well then my government car, does bring them along because I, you know I have to do the work at night. That's the time of day when I sign the letters and all of that.

JON SOPEL: But other cyclists who cycle to work don't then have a taxi running behind them bringing their stuff in.

DAVID CAMERON: No, I, I mean I recognise that. But I have a huge - look at the quantity, I'll show you the box, you can see it's a vast quantity of work. And so it isn't always possible to take that on my bike.

JON SOPEL: But, of course, but isn't there something more serious and profound about it that it, it does lay you open to that charge of Dave the chameleon, it's whatever suits, whatever wins you an election. It's on a bike but there's a car behind.

DAVID CAMERON: I don't know, I just think that's wrong. I mean look, I did bicycle to work a lot more, I don't do it as much as I would, as I wish I could now. But I like doing it. I like bicycling, I like walking, I like the outdoors, that's who I am. I mean you know, come spend a weekend and see what I do at the weekend. That's what I, you know - what can I say, that's who I am.

JON SOPEL: On substance, what about making fuel more expensive for example, making driving and flying more expensive. Would you commit to that.

DAVID CAMERON: No, what I think what we've got to do on the environment, is we've got to do the proper hard work of actually what would make a profound impact on climate change and the steps I've taken, which are substantial steps, are to say, unlike the government, we need to have binding annual targets for reduction in carbon emissions.

Cos otherwise you've got the far-off targets, for 2010 and for 2050, but no prospect of hitting them. Now I will be prepared to make tough choices when we've done all the work and done the research necessary, I won't duck those, absolutely not.

There are some tough choices but I do think Jon, we've got to try and get the environment back from the pessimists because a lot of the choices we will need to make are not gloom laden, actually you know, if you put solar panels on your roof you cut your electricity bill. If you drive a hybrid car, you cut your consumption of petrol. All our election broadcasts have been about what Conservative Councils are doing, up and down the country, to improve their local environments. This is not something they've suddenly invented. Five, look at the top five authorities for re-cycling. Four of them are Conservative.

Which are the authorities that have the cleanest streets, they're Conservative authorities. We've got a strong record here. We've fought a positive campaign. The Labour Party has fought the most unbelievably negative campaign with this wonderful cartoon character that my daughter enjoys watching before she goes to bed at night.

And you know, it's just tragic that after nine years they have got nothing positive to say about local government or national government and after a week, in which they've you've know admitted to letting a thousand dangerous offenders on to Britain's streets, that's why I say, there has been a terminal loss in their authority, quite apart from the incompetence that we've seen in terms of the government.

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) And undoubtedly, it has been a terrible week for the government, in which you've called for the resignation of Charles Clarke. Should John Prescott go too.

DAVID CAMERON: I think what the John Prescott thing is a personal matter, and I don't want to make any comment on that.

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) But but if it is shown that he has broken the ministerial code of conduct, and that his behaviour by all accounts seems to have been inappropriate, not in terms of any relationship, but in terms of the use of maybe of Dawny Wood, of a civil servant appearing on a Labour Party battle bus, then should he go.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think the ministerial code is important and ministers have to meet that and the Prime Minister himself has said in the past that breaches of the ministerial code should have very serious consequences, but I haven't, I have to say, I've not read every last word in the newspapers about what he, he is accused of, of doing in terms of the ministerial code, but there are strict rules there and they should be followed.

JON SOPEL: But I mean a number of Tory backbenchers are pursuing this, are they right to pursue it.

DAVID CAMERON: Well, Jon, the way I approach these things is I don't believe in, in waking up every morning and thinking, right, which minister shall I ask to resign to-day.

If you look carefully at the way I've run the opposition, actually I didn't call for Ruth Kelly's resignation over the paedophiles in schools affair. I thought it was important actually we got on and sorted that issue out. I didn't call for Tessa Jowell to resign over the frankly, quite bizarre mortgage arrangements and all of that.

But with Charles Clarke, I felt this was a different case and let me explain why. He had presided over a system that had manifestly failed. Over a thousand prisoners, including rapists, murderers, paedophiles, released on to our streets when they should have been considered for deportation.

He was then given the opportunity to sort it out because he was told about the problem last July, and yet the rate at which prisoners were released, increased after July. The final straw for me was listening to him on television saying that after he found out about the problem, only very very few people were released.

That was mis-leading, and he also misled the Prime Minister, because as I found at Prime Minister's questions, under close questioning of the Prime Minister, he admitted that Charles Clarke had not revealed that to him.

Now, I think those three things, presiding over failure, having an opportunity to, to do something about it but failing and then mis-leading people about the scale of the problem, that is a resignation offence.

JON SOPEL: Let's just come back to where we started because I'm sure a lot of Tory supporters who are listening to this interview will be a little uneasy. Why aren't you going for certain of these ministers, why aren't you calling for more resignations, why are you taking this kind of more inclusive approach.

And I just wonder whether on Friday, if the Tories do not perform as well as maybe they might have done, then maybe the people who oppose what you're trying to do, will be a little more noisy.

DAVID CAMERON: Well you know, I've - that's up to others what noises they make. I'm very clear about the direction in which I'm leading the party and incidentally, it's not a direction that was suddenly discovered after December 6th. I stood for the leadership of the party on a platform of saying, we need a better balance of candidates between men and women, so that we represent better the country that we want to govern.

I stood on a programme of saying we needed to change the party in terms of some of our policies and our approach.

Not throwing the baby out with the bath water, we still profoundly believe in individual responsibility and in a strong nation and in those things that make us Conservatives, but we want to reach out and win new support and I ran on the platform of change, I'm leading the party on a platform of change. We've added twenty thousand new members.

We've been doing well in council by elections. I've been campaigning very hard in these local council elections and I'm looking forward to further campaigning before the results on Thursday.

JON SOPEL: David Cameron, thank you very much.

DAVID CAMERON: Thank you.

End of interview


Tessa Jowell MP
Tessa Jowell MP

Interviewed by Jon Sopel on the Politics Show, Tessa Jowell hesitated when asked under what circumstances a Minister should resign.

JON SOPEL: Well the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, herself the target of resignation pressure only a few weeks ago, joins me now. Tessa Jowell, when should a Minister resign.

TESSA JOWELL: Well, er, a, a Minister should resign if they have er, told untruths and er, have been culpable in that, in that sense. I think that you know, in the present context and in what has been undoubtedly a been a difficult week for the Government, but Government is difficult. Er, the important thing is ensuring that er, the right people are leading the departments where there are problems that need to be sorted out.

She did not answer directly when asked what had become of being 'whiter than white'

JON SOPEL: Where does this leave being whiter than white.

TESSA JOWELL: Well, I think that you know, to go back to what I said at the beginning, er, you know, this is not a government of er you know Ministers who are on the make, Ministers who are, you know liars; this is a government of Ministers who are genuinely doing their best with problems that day by day are revealed as difficult; the process of government is difficult and I think that a time like this, is a test for the character of the Government and the leadership of the Government.

You know, we see erm, the Tories all over the place. I mean, do the Tories have you know, answers to some of these problems that face the country (interjection)

She expressed her sympathy for John Prescott being 'own worst critic' and on 'it must be hell being John Prescott this weekend'

JON SOPEL: But what about those Ministers themselves taking responsibility for their own actions and the embarrassment and some would say shame that they've brought to the government.

TESSA JOWELL: Well Charles Clarke has been - absolutely clear about that; he takes full responsibility, not only for what's gone wrong but he also takes full responsibility, as I believe and his Cabinet colleagues believe he should, for sorting this problem out. It, I mean to take John Prescott, I mean there is nobody who will have passed harsher judgement on John Prescott than John Prescott himself and I think sometimes it's easy to forget that politicians are also human beings and what he must be going through, what Pauline and his family must be going through is to is close to hell and I think they should be given privacy to sort that out.

JON SOPEL: Well the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, herself the target of resignation pressure only a few weeks ago, joins me now. Tessa Jowell, when should a Minister resign?

TESSA JOWELL: Well, er, a, a Minister should resign if they have er, told untruths and er, have been culpable in that, in that sense. I think that you know, in the present context and in what has been undoubtedly a been a difficult week for the Government, but Government is difficult. Er, the important thing is ensuring that er, the right people are leading the departments where there are problems that need to be sorted out.

JON SOPEL: But some people might, listening to that, think there is never grounds then for a Minister to resign. I mean, you've seen the shambles in the Home Office over the release of two hundred and eighty eight prisoners, even though Charles Clarke was aware of the problem. The Deputy Prime Minister. who, according to the person who's in charge of these things, may have broken the Ministerial Code, a Health Secretary who's lost the support of health workers, I mean when does anyone resign.

TESSA JOWELL: Well look, I think if you take these, er, each of these one by one. I mean it's important to, to create a bit of a sense of perspective and one of the er, the most important things I think is to step outside the frenzy of the Westminster media, and the Westminster village. Go and walk the streets of er London, which I've been doing over the last few days, taking to people. Of course people, er have registered what's going on but they are more forgiving, er they are er taking a more measured view than some of the more hysterical media headlines would suggest.

JON SOPEL: But what about those Ministers themselves taking responsibility for their own actions and the embarrassment and some would say shame that they've brought to the government.

TESSA JOWELL: Well Charles Clarke has been - absolutely clear about that; he takes full responsibility, not only for what's gone wrong but he also takes full responsibility, as I believe and his Cabinet colleagues believe he should, for sorting this problem out.

It, I mean to take John Prescott, I mean there is nobody who will have passed harsher judgement on John Prescott than John Prescott himself and I think sometimes it's easy to forget that politicians are also human beings and what he must be going through, what Pauline and his family must be going through is to is close to hell and I think they should be given privacy to sort that out. And you know (interjection) ...

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) But isn't it a bit, isn't it a bit more than that. Isn't it that he has brought the Office of Deputy Prime Minister in to some disrepute; there is a question mark over official premises were used for inappropriate purposes and now it's just the general loss of authority.

TESSA JOWELL: Well he has been absolutely clear that he regrets er, what has happened. Er, he's also made clear that he believes that you know, there are aspects of er, of claims that have been misrepresented. But I think that the, the best and most important thing is to allow John Prescott to do his job as Deputy Prime Minister, and his private life is his private life and he and his family have to sort that out.

JON SOPEL: And here was John Prescott, the person who made jokes at the expense of Steve Norris, the person who kind of would, made jokes about what the Tories understood by ethics etc.

TESSA JOWELL: I think that er, it must be pretty awful being John Prescott this weekend and I think that it's important to remember that politicians are also human beings with human frailty, but er, John Prescott will, you know, more than anyone else have the, the resolve and the desire to put this behind him and to put it behind his family too.

JON SOPEL: Where does this leave being whiter than white.

TESSA JOWELL: Well, I think that you know, to go back to what I said at the beginning, er, you know, this is not a government of er you know Ministers who are on the make, Ministers who are, you know liars; this is a government of Ministers who are genuinely doing their best with problems that day by day are revealed as difficult; the process of government is difficult and I think that a time like this, is a test for the character of the Government and the leadership of the Government. You know, we see erm, the Tories all over the place. I mean, do the Tories have you know, answers to some of these problems that face the country (interjection) ...

JON SOPEL: No . (interjection)

TESSA JOWELL: .. whatever, whatever the er, the circumstances ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: Of course, no one doubts that government is difficult.

TESSA JOWELL: ... no they don't.

JON SOPEL: No one doubts that government is difficult, but it's just gauging you against what you said you would do when you came to power in 1997. That quote about being whiter than white and purer than pure seems a million years ago.

TESSA JOWELL: Well, I think that if you look at what we've actually done, I mean, we have raised in many respects, the standards of transparency and accountability. You know, a much tougher ministerial ... (interjection)

BOTH TOGETHER

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) There's a peerages investigation going on. There's John Prescott and all of that, there's Charles Clarke having failed, presided over the most extraordinary systemic failure in the Home Office, and nobody resigns.

TESSA JOWELL: But to go back to what I said at the beginning. I mean these are different kinds of circumstances. You know I think the one which presents the greatest challenge to the government, and the greatest challenge to the people of this country is the er, is, is the release of foreign nationals and Charles Clarke has, is gripping that, is addressing that and the judgement has to be, who's the best person to do that. His cabinet colleagues believe that he, Charles, who has accepted responsibility for what has gone wrong is the best person to do that and to put it right.

JON SOPEL: Isn't the one thing that unites all of these things, whether it's Patricia Hewitt with the health workers, John Prescott, it's a sense of being out of control. And many people have said, well the solution is, and the only way that you're going to kind of clear the air is when Tony Blair announces a timetable for his departure.

TESSA JOWELL: No, I mean I think that is absolutely ridiculous and you know, if you go back to the question of integrity and doing what we said we were going to do, you know, before, almost a year ago, before we were re-elected for a third term, Tony Blair made it absolutely clear that if the Labour government was re-elected, he would serve for a full third term, he would not stand for election for a fourth term, and people expect him to do that. And you know, this is a question of who's the best person to lead the country, with all the difficulties that government faces.

JON SOPEL: So he's a better person than Gordon Brown to lead the country at the moment?

TESSA JOWELL: Look, that, that, that is not the question. Tony Blair is the Prime Minister. There will, in due course be an election for the Leadership of the Labour Party but Tony Blair, a year ago, was re-elected as the Prime Minister of this country, leader of this government. He should be allowed to get on with that job and do what is most important to the people who'll be voting in the local elections on Thursday. Do what is most important, which is to deliver on the manifesto commitments that we made - better public services (interjection)

JON SOPEL: Okay.

TESSA JOWELL: And safer streets.

JON SOPEL: Tessa Jowell we must leave it there. Thank you very much.

TESSA JOWELL: Thank you.

End of interview


Darren Johnson
Darren Johnson

Interview with Darren Johnson

JON SOPEL: Well, their former candidate for London Mayor, Darren Johnson joins me now, and welcome to the Politics Show. Are you flattered or frightened that all three main parties seem to be on the Green agenda now.

DARREN JORDAN: Well I think it's great that we're having for the first time a contest with all the political parties arguing over who's greenest, erm, that's great in terms of getting the issue high up the agenda.

In terms of what they're actually promising, and their record in Local Government, pretty abysmal from er, from all three main parties; so the Greens certainly have a lot to offer and a lot of people are seriously looking at the Greens now. And we have got seventy councils, as you say, we're hoping to get more.

JON SOPEL: But doesn't it mean there is no need for the Green Party if you've got everybody firmly on the Green agenda.

DARREN JOHNSON: Well they're firmly talking about the Green agenda but if you actually look in local councils, it's erm, you know, you, you still hear erm, Labour and Conservatives and Liberal Democrats backing new supermarkets that are closing down local shops and creating traffic; backing road building schemes, opposing wind farms, all, all these sort of issues whereas Greens are being absolutely consistent. All year round Green councils are actually delivering and being consistent.

JON SOPEL: Well hang on, the Conservatives said if you look at the councils that are best in terms of recycling, they're Conservative Councils, not ones where the Greens are involved.

DARREN JOHNSON: Yeah, they, they might be better in some, in some councils at recycling, but if you look at the whole range of, of Green issues, they've been - had a pretty appalling record on issues around traffic and erm, and pedestrians and cycling, where they've actually been cutting funding for, for schemes like that.

They've opposed new public transport schemes, opposed congestion charging and all these things that will really help to make our local authorities much greener.

JON SOPEL: Do you believe in David Cameron's greenness.

DARREN JOHNSON: Well not at all. I mean I think he's done us a great favour in, in many ways by getting the issue high on the agenda, and people are certainly hearing his Go Green message, but I don't think anyone's really interested in his er, Vote Blue message; people are thinking Go Green, Vote Green, that's the obvious thing to do on May 4th.

JON SOPEL: But in Lancaster you're in coalition with your cabinet member responsible for recycling. And yet the record for recycling and composting there is not that great.

DARREN JOHNSON: Well it's erm, it's different in different local authorities but we have, we have delivered with, with only 70 local councils in, in the country and a handful of, of councils actually in leading positions on Cabinets, we have delivered some, some amazing schemes.

In Kirklees for example, where we hold the er, balance of power there and they're in the, in the Cabinet, there was very little done at all on renewable energy before the Greens got elected. Now it has been acknowledged as the leading authority in the whole country on Green energy. They've got a target of 30% renewable energy over the next five years.

They're having a massive programme of getting solar panels in all new council, in all council buildings and refurbishments for, for example, so not only saving consumers money, but helping the environment as well.

JON SOPEL: We tend to think of the Green Party as being concerned about I don't know, nuclear power, road building programmes - but those aren't the jobs of local government.

DARREN JOHNSON: Well these are really serious issues and local road building programmes are a, are a local issue and we need to find the alternatives at local level to a whole new round of nuclear power stations, which, which certainly the public don't want.

But erm, the solutions are actually at local level; micro generating, getting, getting solar panels and mini wind turbines on er, on all homes and using the planning process to insist that new buildings are equipped with er, with green energy, there's plenty for Green councils to do. Not only in terms of the environment, but also in terms of protecting public services and we've seen the er, the three main parties (interjection)

JON SOPEL: Okay.

DARREN JOHNSON: ... privatisation and cuts where Greens have been very much standing up for public services. JON SOPEL: All right. Darren Johnson, we must leave it there. 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 07 May 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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