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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 June 2006, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Jon Sopel interview
Interviews on Sunday 04 June 2006

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

On the Politics Show, Sunday 04 June 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:

Bernard Jenkin MP from Conservative Party website
Bernard Jenkin MP

Jon Sopel interviewed Bernard Jenkin

JON SOPEL: Well I'm joined now by the Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Bernard Jenkin, who I'm happy to say laughed at that last line.

Bernard Jenkin, I know there are different rules for by elections but what sort of signal does it send when you've got the first opportunity to select a candidate, very high profile, very public and you go for someone, white, middle aged, fifty three years old barrister.

BERNARD JENKIN: Well you say I've got the chance to select, it wasn't my selection. It was the Bromley and Chislehurst Conservative Party. It was the Bromley and Chislehurst Conservatives selection. But I think they've made a very good choice.

Here you have a guy that's already embedded in his local community. He represents this patch in the Greater London Assembly. He's a highly experienced politician, it's exactly what you need for a by election. And, and the idea that they haven't chosen the ideal candidate to fight a by election is absolutely ludicrous.

JON SOPEL: Sure, but aren't there hundreds of Bob Neills up and down the country, of people who are middle aged who are white, who are ex barristers or professionals in that (overlaps) ...

BERNARD JENKIN: Are you suggesting we should ban them.

JON SOPEL: Well I'm (fluffs) ... but David Cameron was pretty explicit about what he wanted.

BERNARD JENKIN: We're not replacing one stereotype with another stereotype. Er, this is a broad party. There is room for Bob Neill, there is room for Adam Rickett, there is room for Zac Goldsmith, there's room for a variety of people. What we're trying to do is broaden the choice of candidates, not narrow it down to a ... you know type of ...

JON SOPEL: But - sure, but Bernard Jenkin I mean David Cameron was pretty prescriptive about it. He wasn't just vague about it.

He was quite, let me give you this quote from when he set up the A list, 'From now on all target seats and Conservative held seats will be expected to select from this group of candidates to widen diversity. Well ...

BERNARD JENKIN: Carry on reading. It talks about the option of constituencies to select local candidates. And er, the important thing, particularly in a by election is you choose the candidate ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: But it also said, only in exceptional circumstances.

BERNARD JENKIN: Well, I think a by election is quite an exceptional circumstance, wouldn't you.

JON SOPEL: Then how do we judge the success of your a list strategy because ...

BERNARD JENKIN: Not on the basis of selecting one constituency and one by election. That the criterion of success is, is this. At the last election we had something like 25% of women on the overall candidates list.

We got 19% of women in to our target seats and Conservative held seats and yet when we'd got fifteen new MPs, we only had 12% of women being elected and that's not good enough. At that rate it's going to take us about three hundred years to catch up with the Labour Party in terms of broader representation. So what, what this is about is about creating a shop window of the brightest and the best candidates.

And incidentally, I should say about Bob Neill, we held a special panel for him to go on the candidates list. He wasn't even on the candidates list until Wednesday, last week, but the point is this, he passed with such flying colours they recommended that if he didn't get the by election, he should go on to the A list at the next opportunity. So, and they've chosen a very good candidate.

JON SOPEL: Okay, accepted that that - you've been gone out of your way it seems in the past week to try and assure local associations that actually, don't worry, it will still carry on as before, you can do what you want to do, I think you said it's extremely unlikely that we at central office would try to stop any associations interviewing a local candidate. That was quoted in the Financial Times. So does that mean that you're going to do nothing to ensure that there are more women and ethnic minority candidates.

BERNARD JENKIN: Well no, what we're finding, we're, we're meeting every association that's involved in selection and we're explaining to them the need for selecting from a broader pool of candidates, from selecting a, from selecting from a list of chosen - the bright and the best ... (interjection)

JON SOPEL: I suppose the point I want to get to is this, do you think that if local associations, continue to choose the people that, that they prefer, their traditionally preferred - the white middle class stereotype of Conservative Party of old, will you do anything to intervene, to coerce local associations in to choosing people from the A list.

BERNARD JENKIN: Well the process that we have at the moment is entirely about co-operation and persuasion, it's entirely about helping associations to understand why we need more women and ethnic minorities in parliament. And, and as Francis Maud said earlier this morning, we're getting absolutely no push back from associations on that question.

This is a change, this is a - people are suspicious of change and because it's been made a political imperative by David's leadership, people are feeling a bit of pressure for change. And though - some cases people are reacting against change, but broadly the penny has dropped - broadly amongst the Conservative activists.

JON SOPEL: (overlaps) ... hoping to select thirty candidates by the end of the summer, what should we look for by then. Could we judge whether the A list strategy has worked by then.

BERNARD JENKIN: Well, this is a very very small selection of seats amongst quite a wide variety of seats. I think it will be hard to make much of a judgement but by the end of the summer, let's see how many ethnic minority candidates and women, have been selected by the associations, and then we promise to review the situation.

JON SOPEL: So you might go to coercion if local associations don't adopt these people on the A list.

BERNARD JENKIN: There is no plan to go to coercion. There is no plan. I mean how, how would you go to coercion. You'd have to get a rule change though, in the party rules.

I think that would be extremely difficult to achieve. (interjection) But let me just say, I am confident that associations, Conservative associations up and down the country, understand the need to have more women in parliament. They need to have a fairer representation of Britain as it is today, to be a representative party, to function properly as a political party.

JON SOPEL: I just wondered why so many of the people that, who you've selected to be put on the A list, which you think would be a great feather in their cap are reluctant it seems, to apply for seats that are anything other than rock solid safe Tory seats. Look at the marginal constituencies, and no one is applying.

BERNARD JENKIN: This is, this is very early days. When you say margin, some of those are pretty long shot marginal and I think we're going to look at how this is working, we're going to evolve the system, there will undoubtedly be some changes to how it work, but the point, the point you're missing is this is one selection for a by election ... (overlaps)

JON SOPEL: I'm talking about ...


BERNARD JENKIN: But you've moved off, I know you're given up on that front, you're trying another front.

JON SOPEL: Well no, I'm trying to broaden the argument out in to how this is working.

BERNARD JENKIN: The real test of David Cameron's policy, is if in the next intake of Conservative MPs, whether we have a substantial increase in the number of women and a fair representation of people from the ethnic minorities. That is the test that counts.

All the rest is froth and bubble, and you sit me down after the next election and see if we've succeeded, that's the test that counts.

JON SOPEL: Consider it a date in the diary. Bernard Jenkin, thank you very much.


End of interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

Geoff Hoon MP
Geoff Hoon MP, Europe Minister

Jon Sopel interviewed Geoff Hoon

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now from Nottingham by Geoff Hoon, the Europe Minister. Geoff Hoon, welcome to you. Is the Constitution dead or not.

GEOFF HOON: Well, good afternoon first of all and we just had a meeting of European foreign ministers to in part consider that question and the ...

JON SOPEL: The answer is.

GEOFF HOON: Well the issue is how we take forward the proposals that were agreed in the constitution. We agreed, European foreign ministers agreed last weekend that there should be a further period of reflection.

Not least because there are some very strong views as to what should happen next and it is important that with twenty five member states, perhaps soon to be twenty seven, there is an agreement as to the best way forward. That agreement is not yet there and that's why we have to continue these discussions.

JON SOPEL: But the old constitution, parts of it are being implemented via the back door.

GEOFF HOON: No, I don't accept that at all. There are already powers that have been agreed by member states that can be implemented.

There are changes that can be made under the existing rules, but those rules will have been negotiated and agreed by all existing member states, so there's nothing new or unusual about that. What is important is that we continue to look at the best way of organising the arrangements for decision making, in the European Union for the 21st Century, and the British government have been leading the way in that.

JON SOPEL: Sure, but even Gisela Stewart, Labour loyalist who sat on the drawing up of the draft constitution, says that parts of it are being implemented and yet this comes after the voters said they didn't want it.

GEOFF HOON: Look, as I say, as far as the Constitution itself is concerned, we need to look at the best way for twenty five, perhaps soon to be twenty seven member states, to go forward with decision making in the European Union.

We want a Europe that concentrates on the things that matter to the European people; on the economy, on completing the single market, on protecting our environment, on helping developing countries. Those are the issues that people care passionately about and we need to ensure that the European Union is seen to be involved in those decisions.

JON SOPEL: I asked you about whether the constitution was dead or not and you gave me an interesting answer but you couldn't seem quite able to say yes or no to the question.

GEOFF HOON: Well I don't believe that we're in that position and that is why a year ago, the governments of the member states agreed on what was described then as a period of reflection, it is why, last weekend, it was recommended, it's a matter now for the European Council in a few weeks time to decide to extend that period of reflection, to ensure that we have the best way forward in the interests of all twenty five member states. As I say, this is a complex issue.

I don't think it's capable of being resolved by, if you'll forgive me saying so, a yes or no answer to your question. What is important is that we find a way forward that's in the interests of all twenty five member states.

JON SOPEL: But just looking at the areas of law and order, the EU evidence warrant, a body of EU prosecutors strengthening Europol ... cross border police pursuits, now that was something that was envisaged in the original constitution. The constitution was rejected on the strength of the Dutch and French referendums, and yet it is still happening.

GEOFF HOON: Well I listened in particular to last contributor and what is interesting about what was being suggested there is that somehow or other we have to choose, either there is a European solution, or there is a national solution.

The truth is, in these areas, I've mentioned a couple of them, environmental protection is perhaps a really good illustration. We need strong British legislation but that needs to be complemented by strong European legislation. We can't protect our environment properly unless all twenty five member states sign up to the same rules.

Equally therefore, we need to recognise that these decisions are complementary, and in relation to justice and home affairs, these are the same principles that we need to apply. We need tough British legislation, but that needs to be placed in the context of tough and effective European legislation. It's not an either or, these are complementary decisions that ... the interests of Britain, but as well in the interests of Europe.

JON SOPEL: It's now a month since the reshuffle when you were made Europe Minister, I bet you feel vindicated in giving up your grace and favour apartment at Admiralty Arch don't you.

GEOFF HOON: I don't think it's a question of being vindicated, it was a, a choice that I felt was right in the circumstances. It's something that I've been considering for a while and I felt that it was in the best interests of me more than anything to return to the place where I lived before.

JON SOPEL: Would the government's problems have been a lot less had John Prescott reached the same conclusion.

GEOFF HOON: I, look, these arrangements have existed for a very long time for government ministers. They've existed for years and years under Conservative ministers and that never apparently was an issue, not least for the Conservative Party.

I think it's a shame now that it has become such an issue. The truth is that Ministers, particularly Ministers who have, as John does protection, do require a degree of er privacy, that these kinds of arrangements allow for, and I don't think that's at all inappropriate and it was never inappropriate before, it was never a challenge or questioned before.

JON SOPEL: I'm sure some people would say that privacy to play croquet. Let's move on from that. Do you think he can carry on, now that he has become a figure of fun.

GEOFF HOON: I've seen John operating extremely well, extremely successfully, chairing a series of cabinet committees and I think actually people under estimate the responsibility that that brings with it because, I've mentioned environmental decisions just now.

When we have difficult decisions on how to best protect our environment, that necessarily involves a number of government departments who will have strong views and what John does extremely well at the heart of government is to bring those views together, recognising that there are differences of opinion and then find a way through.

JON SOPEL: And what, what do you say then to all the jockeying that seems to be going on among your colleagues for the Deputy leadership.

GEOFF HOON: Well I think - I must say, I think this is extremely interesting for the journalists but perhaps not terribly interesting for the great majority of people reading what they're writing. I've seen exactly what Alan Johnson said, it was perfectly sensible, perfectly straight forward. He said, there was no vacancy, if there is a vacancy, he might be interested in the job later on.

JON SOPEL: Do you not accept that their friends are briefing and maybe that is not very good for the government.

GEOFF HOON: Well I've, I've not seen any of that briefing, I'm not aware of that. I recognise that one day there will be a vacancy. John Prescott, until then I'm confident will continue to be an extremely effective Deputy Prime Minister. Someone that I know plays a vital role at the heart of government.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Geoff Hoon, thanks very much for being with us.

GEOFF HOON: Thank you very much.

End of interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday 11 June 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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