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Hague on Zimbabwe recount

On the Politics Show, Sunday 27 April 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed William Hague

 William Hague
William Hague MP

William Hague Interview transcript

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now from Newcastle by a man with a keen interest in this week's elections, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and I'm sure Mr Hague you were listening closely to what John Sergeant was saying, it's not the same is it, what Labour are facing now compared to when you were a member of John Major's administration.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well we'll see at the next General Election whether it's the same. There's certainly the smell of decline and chronic indecision and demoralization about the government and there is a lot of anger out there on the doorsteps, be in no doubt about that, including up here in the North of England, people really do spontaneously raise the issue of the 10p tax as soon as they open the door and they express their dissatisfaction with Gordon Brown. 'When are you going to get rid of Gordon Brown' as soon as they open the door, so there is a lot of disillusionment with the government now, out there on the doorstep.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Labour have committed a U-turn this week but does it really matter if the government ends up in the right place and having to rid of the worse bits of the policy that were causing that anger.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well it's not clear how complete this u-turn has been. Of course, they're now very unclear about whether everybody who is losing out as a result of the abolition of the doubling of the 10p tax band, is going to be compensated and when they are going to be compensated.

There will be a further debate about this in the House of Commons tomorrow and I don't think people are going to be impressed with the idea that they might get some of the money back in a year and a half's time or something like that and they know that Gordon Brown has only given in on this because he had to; not because he actually was persuaded that lower paid people were being hit by his measures, but because he was forced by the Conservatives and his own backbenchers, in to a change of tack, so I don't think he's going to get a lot of credit for that.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Even if we accept what you're saying, that people are flogging shares in Gordon Brown, they're not exactly rushing to buy stock in David Cameron either are they.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I think they are. Well, again, we're going to see some evidence of this I think on Thursday, but I think they are. I have certainly found ' here in the North of England, we are now better organized and more active than we have been for many years, perhaps several decades.

For instance in Yorkshire, every single ward being contested by a Conservative Candidate, even in Barnsley, Sheffield and so on, Conservative candidates everywhere and moral is very high and so I think David Cameron and our whole team and the Party are steadily winning support and that's shown in opinion polls, for what opinion polls are worth, but more importantly, it just feels different out there. When I go and speak to a student gathering now, as I did at Manchester University a couple of weeks ago, large numbers of students turn up and they're not throwing bottles at the Conservative politician, they're listening, they're asking, they're being supportive, there are many of them voting Conservative, there is a change steadily, happening out there.

JON SOPEL: Okay, so you talked about that change then, give it ' you heard what we were saying with John Sergeant a moment ago, how many gains are you going to make.

WILLIAM HAGUE: That's not a game I'm going to get in to of how many gains are we going to make and it's a complex set of elections, as John Sergeant was quite rightly pointing out. I think we will make gains and I think we'll make gains in many parts of the North of England as well as in the South. In parts of the South of course, there are no Labour seats left to gain, which further complicates interpreting the election results. But, no I, we are optimistic about Thursday night, we're getting very good canvassing returns and in particular, as I say, we're getting them here in many parts of the North of England and I think that it will be a very important advance.

JON SOPEL: That answer was as misty and vague as the skyline behind you.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Yeah, well the question was as very specific and not one that we can possibly answer. I can't sit here and say we'll make this many gains, this is the number ' of course we don't have a clue and you know that in asking the question just as I know it in answering the question.

JON SOPEL: Yes, but it's not unreasonable to kind of give us some idea of what you think the bench mark is. Where is the bar set so we could judge whether it's been a good night or bad night for the Tories.

WILLIAM HAGUE: We're not going to ' of course, we're not going to set a bar, the experts will extrapolate from the results what the equivalent shares of that national vote are, compared to last year, compared to the last General Election, that will obviously be taken as one of the indications of these results, but there's no point whatsoever, setting ourselves a bar, we want to know that we're going forward and I think we will be going forward, but I'm not going to set a statistical bar in a very complex set of elections.

JON SOPEL: More than a hundred gains.

WILLIAM HAGUE: I'm really, you're not going to get me to set a statistical bar Jon. No point in going on with that one.

JON SOPEL: To a much more serious subject if you don't mind me describing it in that way. The situation in Zimbabwe. The government at the start, the British government seem to have a rather softly softly approach, it then became slightly more belligerent. Do you think that the British government has been sending mixed messages over the elections in Zimbabwe.

WILLIAM HAGUE: They did have a softly softly approach to begin with but I fully agree with what Gordon Brown and David Milliband have said over the last couple of weeks. I think it's very important that Britain helps to focus international attention on the outrages that are taking place now in Zimbabwe, so I don't want to get in to criticizing the government on this. I think there are one or two additional things they could do that would send an even clearer message.

For instance I think more can be done now to prepare for the day after Mugabe, to get ready and to show the people of Zimbabwe that the world is ready to welcome them, to help them when they are set on a path to democracy and to respecting the rights of all the people of Zimbabwe. So I think we could do more on that side. But I don't think they're sending mixed messages, I think they've been saying the right things over the last two weeks.

JON SOPEL: And although the situation, terribly troubling, it does look like these recounts are proceeding in a way that confirming it would seem that the MDC were the victors.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Yes. It does indeed look like that. There's something a bit mystifying about this of course because clearly the Mugabe regime has been going to get lengths to hold these re-counts, to hold them in seats that the MDC won, so they seem to have taken a great deal of preparation to rig these results, and then not succeeding in rigging the results.

Alternatively, they may just be playing for time. I think there's been a lot of internal debate in the Mugabe regime about what actually to do. There's some evidence that he wanted to give up and to leave the country, but the people around, whose whole income and standing in life in Zimbabwe depends on Mugabe, persuaded him to stay, so they may be playing for a bit of time. But if they manage to confirm themselves in office, well then we have to do everything possible to intensify the pressure on them, through South Africa and other neighboring states and through the African Union.

JON SOPEL: Okay, William Hague, thanks ever so much for being with us on The Politics Show.



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 Politics Show Sunday 4 May 2008 at 1200BST on BBC One.
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