On the Politics Show, Sunday 07 October 2005, Jon Sopel interviewed George Osborne MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
JON SOPEL: I'm joined now in the studio by the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, Mr Osborne, welcome to the Politics Show. Isn't there a danger that you are seeing this as something massive, when in fact the British people will see this as a bit of a storm in a teacup, they knew there was no need for an election, people will forget about this.
GEORGE OSBORNE: Well, I don't know whether people will forget about all the things that Gordon Brown has done to stoke up anticipation of a General Election, but what we see it as, is an opportunity to go on making an argument about the real change the country needs.
Real arguments about how to improve the health service, the education system, how to help home owners in the way that I set out with taking first time buyers out of stamp duty and lifting the inheritance tax threshold to a million pounds; so I think we just see it as an opportunity to get on and make that argument, not in a General Election campaign, which was clearly planned, but has now been pulled off, but instead, in the normal day to day events of British politics, and I think the lesson for us, from the Conservative Party Conference is that if we speak with clarity and strength and we address the issues that people face in their lives, then people warm to that and they like what we've got to offer.
JON SOPEL: I suppose the point I was trying to make is that won't people judge Gordon Brown by the way he runs the country, and if you look at what's happened with you know, foot and mouth, terror attacks, floods, that people will say, even his critics would say, well actually broadly speaking, he's been rather competent.
GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I, I question that judgement. I mean for example, foot and mouth was caused by a Government laboratory. It was declared over and then they had to deal with a second outbreak, but put that to one side, I think people will judge Gordon Brown by the way he runs the country and what we've discovered in the last couple of months is that we've got a Prime Minister who was more interested in spinning himself into a General Election campaign, than actually governing the country.
So key decisions that affect real people, some of the most serious decisions that government has to take, for example on Iraq or on the future of the health service or Alistair Darling's pre budget report - these were all brought forward, some of them announced in the middle of a Conservative Party Conference, rather than to parliament, and it was all done to prepare the ground for a General Election campaign that was supposed to start next Tuesday, and if that is how the Prime... (overlaps)
JON SOPEL: So why isn't it starting then.
GEORGE OSBORNE: Well he's not starting it because he's pretty sure he would lose and if you've got a Prime Minister literally fixing the government timetable around the latest opinion poll, then that is a sign of enormous weakness and indecision and I think that has been the revealing nature of these events.
JON SOPEL: Don't the polls show that Gordon Brown is seen as infinitely preferable to David Cameron as our next Prime Minister.
GEORGE OSBORNE: Well that's actually not what they say, I mean we can trade opinion polls but clearly, looking at today's opinion polls. (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Headline figures, yes are very good for you, but who would make the better Prime Minister.
GEORGE OSBORNE: But I think what people have shown, looking and what people have seen over the last two weeks is they've seen a Prime Minister who stood before his party conference, had nothing really of substance to say in terms of an argument about the way the country should be governed or how we meet the future challenges that the world will throw at us and a Conservative Party leader, yes who, didn't use an autocue, didn't use a script written by his speech writers like Gordon Brown, but the real difference was that David Cameron was making a real argument about Health, Education, the Economy, the Environment, and that is what people have seen. Gordon Brown was weak and indecisive, David Cameron has been strong and shown clarity and when confronted with that, the public have made it pretty clear which one they prefer.
JON SOPEL: He can be a pretty intimidating figure. Do you now see Gordon Brown differently?
GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I've shadowed Gordon Brown for two years before I started shadowing Alistair Darling and you know, he is not what he pretends to be. He is an incredible factional politician. He is a very calculating politician. He is obsessed with the minutiae of the political game and I think he might have got away with that as Chancellor, although there were times when it came back to haunt him, but actually, as Prime Minister you cannot behave like that and people have seen through it.
All the stunts and gimmicks of the summer, which the press liked at the time, are now seen as part of the problem for Gordon Brown
JON SOPEL: Right. You got a lot of credit, we saw in the film there the huge applause you got when you announced the changes to the level on inheritance tax. Isn't the reality that now that there's going to be nearly two years before an election that in some shape or form, the Labour Party is likely to adopt that policy and shoot your fox.
GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I can't speak for Labour budgets or Labour Chancellors, they have to speak for themselves, but they've had ten years, indeed the person who is now the Prime Minister, was the Chancellor for ten years, so anything they do on inheritance tax or indeed on non domiciles, has to be seen through the prism of the fact that they've had ten years to do these things and indeed, even in March when the Prime Minister gave his last budget, when he was in the Treasury, he set out inheritance tax rates to 2010, so if those rates are changed people will know he's only doing it because we're setting the lead, and you know in opposition, you've just got to get out there and set your stall out, tell the country what you believe, tell the country how you're going to change things. If the government are going to play follow ship instead of leadership, then so be it.
JON SOPEL: Okay, George Osborne, thank you very much indeed.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE OSBORNE
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The Politics Show Sunday 07 October 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.
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