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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 October 2005, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Leading contender
On Sunday 02 October 2005 Andrew Marr interviewed David Davies MP, Shadow Home Secretary

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

David Davies MP
David Davies MP, Shadow Home Secretary

ANDREW MARR: Now Michael Howard said yesterday that it is the hardest job in Westminster being leader of the opposition. After the Tories three election defeats, you might wonder who would want to do it.

Well luckily for democracy, the answer is that plenty of talented folk, as it happens, want to do it, including the bookies' favourite, David Davis.

Now there's such a long stretch of time before it's finally settled, and of course favourites don't always end up winning in the Conservative Party, so I suppose -

DAVID DAVIS: I think the last one was Anthony Eden actually.

ANDREW MARR: Anthony Eden - well that's a while back -

DAVID DAVIS: ... [TALKING ACROSS EACH OTHER]

ANDREW MARR: ... of course he got ... trouble before that.

DAVID DAVIS: I can't - I can't let one comment pass, before you go on, you know, I think the quote of the day is going to be, you know, party political broadcasts are nothing to do with politics.

ANDREW MARR: Well I - I think there is something in that, isn't there. We've seen many of those ...

DAVID DAVIS: Sorry to interrupt you anyway.

ANDREW MARR: I suppose the most obvious first question, David, is front-runner, does that make you feel happy or does it make you feel extremely uneasy?

DAVID DAVIS: Well, I used to - I can't any more because I crippled myself, but I used to climb mountains and the higher you got the more nervous you got.

ANDREW MARR: Right.

DAVID DAVIS: So there's an element of that about it. It's the opposite of where I was last time, I was trailing at the back and came up a little bit but I was at the back last time. It's, it's no different really.

You have got, we've got, we've just got to make the argument, this is an incredibly important leadership election, incredibly important conference, and we've got to make the arguments that will allow us to win next time and do a good job for Britain, and that's what it's about really.

ANDREW MARR: Sure. On the right of the party, the cornerstone group of MPs want all the leadership candidates to sign up to a series of things, including renegotiating Britain's membership of the European Union - you are a well-known euro sceptic - putting much more emphasis on family values and repealing the Human Rights Act. Would you be prepared to sign up to those?

DAVID DAVIS: Well what I've said to them, actually there was slightly overstated argument in this morning's Sunday Telegraph - but what I've said to them is actually I want to see an open Europe, I want to see us take powers back from Europe, but I want to see that for my own sake, as it were, for my own beliefs.

I want to see, well I actually initiated the commission to either reform or repeal the Human Rights Act, so across the board I have a lot of agreement, but what I've said to them individually, to Edward Leigh in particular, is that no would-be leader should put himself in hock, as it were, to any particular part of the party. You've got to lead the whole party. And they must take as read, or not, what my beliefs are. They're pretty public domain beliefs -

ANDREW MARR: You would want to repeal the act, though, wouldn't you?

DAVID DAVIS: I think, we've got to look at reform or repeal. The reason, it's a rather complicated argument but before the Human Rights Act was in place there was a case called a Sheelah case actually when Michael Howard was Home Secretary where we couldn't -

ANDREW MARR: Do what you wanted to do.

DAVID DAVIS: Couldn't do what we wanted to do there, so I mean it may be more than that and we may have to replace the act with something else, that's the point. But broadly, we want to change it.

ANDREW MARR: Because I suppose this, for a lot of people, is the confusion about your candidacy. If, if I read your speeches and your statements, frankly, some of the language could have come from Tony Blair. I mean it is very much centrist and you emphasise again and again all the people left behind and it sounds, if not centre-left, I think it sounds pretty centre, and yet others say well the thing about David is that he is viscerally, in the end, a man of the right and he will lead the party from the right and that is what we can expect when he becomes leader.

DAVID DAVIS: Well they're sort of both right in a way. I mean I deliberately, I deliberately took on the Blair argument. I made the speech at the IPPR, I was going into their territory - why? Because rhetorically Mr Blair has invaded our territory. I mean the things he's been saying for the last eight years could actually have been said by a Tory Party leader.

ANDREW MARR: You agree with them.

DAVID DAVIS: Yes, I agree with some of them.

ANDREW MARR: Some of them - not ... obviously but -

DAVID DAVIS: I mean - let's - the real area where this is most important is public services. I mean there are four areas where, where the big policy moves have got to happen but one of them is public services. And in that area I want a choice, freedom, autonomous, accountable, competition-driven set of reforms that will give better outcomes for everybody. I mean I tease him ...

ANDREW MARR: Well this is exactly what he says too, of course.

DAVID DAVIS: I tease him by using many not the few back at him. But it's for everybody. Why? Because, you know, I grew up in a council estate and on that estate there were people who were getting rotten health service, rotten - I mean - actually it was better in my day, frankly - but rotten health service, rotten education, poor crime outcomes, poor education outcomes across the board. So these are using -

ANDREW MARR: So what separates you then?

DAVID DAVIS: - these are using, in what you might term right wing or sort of right wing based principle policies to actually help everybody to ... our next agenda. What separates us, is he talks like a Conservative - I am a Conservative. His next-door neighbour vetoes every attempt at reform, my party believes in these reforms.

If, in four years time I'm prime minister, I won't have the handicap of a whole series of people saying 'oh no we can't do that, we can't upset the left, we can't upset the unions', we don't, you know, we don't say these things without meaning them. Mr Blair said -

ANDREW MARR: What you're saying - I mean David Cameron, I read, said of you this morning that as a progressive conservative, he's the real thing, vote Coke, and you're presumably Pepsi.

DAVID DAVIS: Yeah, I don't know but -

ANDREW MARR: I'll tell you.

DAVID DAVIS: I know I'm Mr Heineken. Two, two people - two things ... - number one, in 2001 I ran on modern conservatism - that was my leadership thing. Not, you know, there weren't any people around to sort of argue the case - Michael Portillo was a different sort of modernisation. But the second thing is, you know, you made a very good line about I, get the real thing, actually I mean it when I say Heineken, because what I want to do is a Tory Party that reaches the parts of Britain it never, never reached before.

I mean I'm from the north, I'm a, I'm a town boy. You know, I've won, you know, won, held and defended seats in, seats in the north under fierce competitive conditions, the last election not least, and succeeded in that. That was about we've got to recover Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Cardiff - places I've been in the last month to actually promote these cases.

ANDREW MARR: And you think you're better at that than he would be because you've been around a bit.

DAVID DAVIS: Look, let me just say something. I'm absolutely not going to criticise other candidates - I have actually said to my own team, you know, they will obey, Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment, thou shall not speak ill of fellow Conservatives, because I actually think we've got to unify in the end.

And I think there's a lot of consensus, a lot of overlap, to understand that. But, you know, of course I believe, I wouldn't be in this game if I didn't believe that I'm the best equipped to shape the agenda for change, to unify the party behind it, therefore to win the next election, therefore to be able to implement that change, that change to improve people's lives.

ANDREW MARR: Where do you stand on some of the sort of fiscal issues - notably the flat-tax one, George Osborne's been doing a commission on this?

DAVID DAVIS: Well I'm happy with the commission, I think it's, a flatter lower tax would be a good idea. I mean in June the commentators were writing about me and all of these things sort of flipped over in the course of the three months, but the commentators were writing about me 'he's the right wing one, he's the only one in favour of low taxes' - now everybody seems to be in favour of low taxes.

The reason is because I want an agenda for growth, to actually expand the size of the economy so that we can afford better public services, we can afford lower taxes and the most important thing that Mr Blair has got very badly wrong, we can actually improve opportunity for people who come from council estates, inner cities and so on. Social mobility has gone down under this government - actually it should be a mark of shame for a Labour government, it certainly won't be a mark of shame when I'm prime minister.

ANDREW MARR: You would like to see the state smaller - spending proportionally less.

DAVID DAVIS: Proportionately yes, that's the point, I mean -

ANDREW MARR: Yes.

DAVID DAVIS: - a smaller state - the way we -

ANDREW MARR: As a percentage of the national ...

DAVID DAVIS: - the way - the way we'd attack it is we would look to increase public spending at a slower rate than the growth rate so gradually, whilst it still goes up, two things happen: it becomes a smaller proportion of the state but the state expands faster - or sorry the economy expands faster. The best example in modern times is just over the water in Ireland: 55 per cent of their economy to 35 per cent, at the same time they doubled the size of the national health service.

ANDREW MARR: That's fine when things go well, everyone can do that, but when things go badly - we may be heading for a downturn - you then do get some very, very tough decisions: do you cut back spending in order to -

DAVID DAVIS: Well - sorry - but wake me up here. I mean the last eight years things have gone pretty well. I mean Gordon Brown had a very good economic inheritance to take over.

ANDREW MARR: Yes.

DAVID DAVIS: And what's he done in that time? He's done the reverse of what I've described.

ANDREW MARR: But you may, if you become leader, inherit in due course the consequences of that, you have to take some hard decisions.

DAVID DAVIS: Well and under that circumstance you've got to use borrowing, frankly. But I mean what Mr Brown has done is taken a 30 billion surplus -

ANDREW MARR: So you would be a Keynsian to that extent, you would borrow rather than cut spending -

DAVID DAVIS: Well Keynes is rather old-fashioned and simplistic, if you'll forgive me, but, you know, he's taken a 30 billion surplus and turned it into a deficit of much the same size - in good times. The result is if we go into bad times then who knows. We don't know. If we go into bad times we'll have a disastrous circumstance.

ANDREW MARR: Yes.

DAVID DAVIS: And we've got China and India competing at that moment on manufacturing, but very soon on services too - Eastern Europe the same - we will not be able to afford the Brown strategy which is simply of spend too much in good times and starve in bad times.

ANDREW MARR: You're so far ahead, in terms of the number of MPs who have declared for you, that you can effectively choose who you fight when it comes to the constituency, can't you? You can, some of your MPs can go out and knock out somebody or knock out -

DAVID DAVIS: I'm not going to do that. Not going to do that.

ANDREW MARR: ... trick - no?

DAVID DAVIS: I don't believe in that nonsense.

ANDREW MARR: No.

DAVID DAVIS: I mean I really don't. I mean I, I think -

ANDREW MARR: I mean in a sense there would be nothing wrong with it. I mean if you can do it, why not?

DAVID DAVIS: Well I mean I'm told it's happened in previous leadership races but I -

ANDREW MARR: It has.

DAVID DAVIS: - I don't really believe in that. I actually think - one of the problems we've had, over time, is people haven't had the choice they wanted.

ANDREW MARR: Yes.

DAVID DAVIS: And I want the party and the country to have the choice -

ANDREW MARR: So you want a proper -

DAVID DAVIS: - ...

ANDREW MARR: - you'd prefer it to be clear -

DAVID DAVIS: Oh absolutely.

ANDREW MARR: - ... and don't ... yourself ... Ken Clarke or whoever it is.

DAVID DAVIS: Whoever the parliamentary party chooses, that's who it should be, because, I mean, you know, three months ago the press was saying well of course they're trying to change these rules to stop Davis - now the rules have not been changed, they're saying it might stop Davis. Well, who cares. You can't do those things. I mean all we can do, in a democracy, in a democratic party, is put the best case forward -

ANDREW MARR: And then see what happens.

DAVID DAVIS: - and then see what happens. I only want it on those terms. I do not want this job on any terms. I only want it on terms -

ANDREW MARR: If you win it fair and straight after a proper argument.

DAVID DAVIS: - win it straight. And also the party can then unify and win, because if it doesn't unify, it won't win.

ANDREW MARR: Speaking of unifying - William Hague's going to come back, isn't he?

DAVID DAVIS: Well that's up to him, isn't it?

ANDREW MARR: You've talked to him, haven't you?

DAVID DAVIS: I would certainly welcome him - I - there's no deal - let me be ...

ANDREW MARR: No, no I'm not saying there is but possible shadow chancellor, possible shadow foreign secretary -

DAVID DAVIS: Look, William, William is one of the great debaters of the century, frankly, he's a great mind and actually he was, I think he had an impossible time, I think he was a good leader, but I think he's an even greater man now - I'd love to see him back - but as I say it's his corner.

ANDREW MARR: And you've got Margaret Thatcher, I read, backing you as well. I wonder if that's a good thing or a bad thing in a modern Tory Party, but David Davis, either way thank you very much.

[BREAKS FOR NEWS] - INTERVIEW ENDS


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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