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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 11:25 GMT
Mainstream measures?
On Sunday 06 November 2005 Andrew Marr interviewed David Davis MP

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

David Davis MP
David Davis MP

ANDREW MARR: Well, the hunting season also began this weekend and of course the Tories are in pursuit of a new man to help them hack their way out of the wilderness and back to the high ground.

David Davis has said that David Cameron is leading at the moment but that his own highly principled approach would succeed - and David Davis joins me now. Welcome.

DAVID DAVIS: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: David, are you fighting to win, or are you fighting to be un-ignorable after this contest is over?

DAVID DAVIS: No, no, I'm fighting to win. I mean when you and I were at university we read sort of left wing authors - one of them, I think it was Ho Chi Min, said never fight battles you're going to lose - and that's what I'm intending to do, to fight a battle I'm going to win.

ANDREW MARR: And yet if you look at the opinion polls that have been taken of Tory members, you're still way behind. I mean the gap has narrowed a little bit but you're way behind and people are saying, you know, you're not charismatic enough or some people regard you as being too right wing. That's a heck of a thing to turn over.

DAVID DAVIS: Well if you believe the polls, and they will have some substance in the, we've moved 18 points in five days, that's not bad going, and I expect that to continue. As the argument, as, as Tory Party members, many of whom have not decided yet, focus on what this is about - this is actually about who's going to be the next Tory prime minister.

That's an extremely serious judgement and my view is that on that judgement they'll make a serious - take a serious view - look at the facts, look at the experience, look at the toughness, resilience, principles and strategy. I mean we are now coming to the end of the era of Blair - your programme so far has all been about the end of the era of spin, the end of the era of Blair.

What I'm saying is, now it's time for a different approach, a principled approach, a direct approach, a what you see is what you get approach.

ANDREW MARR: Do you believe the polls?

DAVID DAVIS: What the -

ANDREW MARR: The internal ones? It's quite a ...

DAVID DAVIS: Broadly - I mean the order of mag - in order of magnitude terms - they're about - they're probably about right. But they're changing very fast. What we see on the ground is, wherever I go and speak to ....

I invariably get a large number of converts to my side, and that indicates - apart from my own persuasive skills - it indicates a softer, a softer, softer outcome, if you like, than the polls can measure.

They can't measure that. They can't measure - they ask you who you're going to vote for you, they can't measure how determined you are.

ANDREW MARR: Well it is a fast moving ...

DAVID DAVIS: You're absolutely right -

ANDREW MARR: If you confound current expectations and win, what is defeated in the Tory Party - we know who is defeated but what is defeated?

DAVID DAVIS: Well what I'm arguing is that we should have a distinctively different approach - not just on policy but approach to Blair. Blair is a declining product, when I was in business, I was in business for 15 years, running serious companies, and sometimes it was right to have a "me too" product but never when the other product was obsolete. And that's what we're looking at now, we're looking, we're looking at -

ANDREW MARR: It's copycat Blairism that is defeated?

DAVID DAVIS: In, in essence - well that would be - that would be too cruel and unfair - but what I'm saying is that image-led politics is very dangerous. I mean last week -

ANDREW MARR: That's what, that's what you're accusing David Cameron of - image-led politics.

DAVID DAVIS: Well I - I think - I think there is some substance in that - you've actually got David on later, you can talk to him about that but the, but I think the point I'm making is image-led politics is dangerous. Last week we saw Tony Blair fire his second minister for the second time.

The, the image of Blair, now, of course is dominated by Byers, by Blunkett, by Mandelson, and what is very, very important, what the British people want is actually to be able, to be able to see very clearly both the principles and the outcome of an, of an alternative Tory government.

ANDREW MARR: You've tried to home in on specific policy choices.

DAVID DAVIS: Mm.

ANDREW MARR: Let me ask you about one, perhaps the most important of all, which is tax. Because you have laid out quite clearly that you want pretty dramatic tax cuts over time and where they might be, but that's all based on the economy continuing to grow well and we don't know what's going to happen. So the question is this, are you enough of a tax cutter to actually be prepared to make the reductions in public spending to achieve tax cuts, and if so where would you make them?

DAVID DAVIS: Well the point I was making in my growth rule last week, or a couple of weeks ago, was that you don't have to cut the public spending but you have to control it, prudently, sensibly, within a lower limit than the, than the growth rate of the economy.

Now even Evan Davis, the BBC economist, not, not known as a Tory front man, accepts that this will work. But - but there are two elements out of this you've got to understand. Number one is that growth is not an independent thing: if you reduced taxes growth goes up. Number two, this is a very long term strategy - I mean of course people say oh it's nine years away, or five years away.

The, the best recent example is Ireland. Ireland has been doing this year in, year out, for 20 years -

ANDREW MARR: They've been doing it - my question is more about the grit. Do you really believe in tax cutting sufficiently to take, if necessary, hard decisions on the public spending side, because it is actually easy to say I would like to cut taxes over time as the economy grows, it's quite - it's in itself a quite a bland thing to say - but it's a generalised comment. Where, if anywhere, would you be prepared to cut?

DAVID DAVIS: No, no - that is to miss the point of the argument, with respect Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: Everybody is for lower taxes and better public services and hey ho on we go -

DAVID DAVIS: No, no, no - no - no - we're at the highest tax burden for 25 years - let's just remember this point - we're at the highest tax burden for 25 years. As a result we're going into a halving of our growth rate. That, as a result, we're going to get a ten billion hole, black hole in the funding of public services.

What I'm saying is ... different strategy to the ones we've formed so far, let's not kid ourselves, it requires discipline, it requires not throwing money at everything, it requires growing -

ANDREW MARR: But if you think the state is too big, then you've got to do something about that, and what I don't hear from you is where you're going to do that, where you're going to make the cuts.

DAVID DAVIS: Well, what we're talking about is reducing the proportion of the state to about 40 per cent of the economy. The state is too big isn't, is actually, I hate to say it, it's an ambiguous comment, too big as a proportion, too big as an absolute. The argument -

ANDREW MARR: Which?

DAVID DAVIS: Well - it's too big as a proportion, in my view.

ANDREW MARR: Right.

DAVID DAVIS: Now the point I'm making is that if you run a growth-driven agenda - that's what this is about, it's a growth agenda - if you run a growth agenda, you end up with a smaller proportion of the state, as it were, as smaller proportion of the economy in the state, but you actually end up with larger public service ... -

ANDREW MARR: But if you -

DAVID DAVIS: - and that's - and that's the lesson actually of many, many other European countries, and certainly every other English-speaking country in the world ...

ANDREW MARR: But if you win this election and then a general election and become prime minister, it's very likely to have been against the background of economic failure, so things are going to be difficult -

DAVID DAVIS: Okay.

ANDREW MARR: - and I'm just, I'm just concerned, everybody is so sunny about it, it's all going to be terribly easy to cut taxes -

DAVID DAVIS: No, no, no, no. People have put this question another way round to me, they say well what are you going to do in a recession. Well the last thing you do in recession is put taxes up actually, you reduce them - now of course you're going to have to borrow in the short term under those circumstances but you don't, you know, it's not about recession, it's about the long term strategy.

Now the reason I put numbers on this - and I knew that would expose me to attack - the reason I put numbers on this is because I want to make people understand this strategy and it takes more than four weeks to do it. What have we done in the last couple of elections?

Three or four weeks before the election we have said this is what we'll do, this tiny, rather timid small tax cuts. What I'm saying is no, no, no - in the longer run this is a much more significant issue and we've got to be determined about it and we've got to go through the fire of arguing this case for three or four years because people, quite properly - as you're sort of implying - won't believe us on it if we don't do that.

ANDREW MARR: Your suggestion about David Cameron is that he's a bit bland, we're not absolutely sure where he stands -

DAVID DAVIS: I've never called him bland -

ANDREW MARR: Well we're not sure what he stands for, he's, you know, he's - it's all a bit too general - what his people say about you is that David Davis is going for the hard core, old right wing Tory vote in the constituencies, because that's the instincts of the Conservative Party after three election defeats he's lining us up for a fourth.

DAVID DAVIS: That's, that's ... from people who don't even know our own people. If you go and talk to Tory audiences, they're not hard right wing audiences actually, they're, they're the people who go and help Oxfam and Save the Children, so they're actually people with a social conscience and social justice and tomorrow night, actually, I'm making a speech about social justice. So, let's, let's, let's be clear about -

ANDREW MARR: Are you a centre right politician? Are you towards the centre?

DAVID DAVIS: It's - it's - look - it's hard to make a single dimension, so give me two sentences on this because it's quite important. I've always said the test of a Tory policy is what it does for the bottom quarter of society. Tax cuts - right wing policy, people say. Actually, who pays the highest proportion of their income in taxes?

It's the bottom quarter. Proposals on public sector reform - right wing policy, I'm told. Who gets hurt most by public service failure? The poorest , who have the highest crime rates, the poorest have the lowest education ...

ANDREW MARR: Well this sounds, I mean this is - Iain Duncan Smith would have said all of that.

DAVID DAVIS: He might have done actually, he might have said. In fact I mean -

ANDREW MARR: I'm just saying there's more continuity in you than there is in David Cameron.

DAVID DAVIS: Oh yes - well continuity, maybe, I mean you have to ask David, I refuse to be the person who characterises David - he'll characterise himself. But the, the point I'm making is that the continuity is less important than what it's aimed at doing.

It's aimed at saying to the people of Britain as a whole, we passed the decency test, we actually want to help everybody, not just a small group. We want to actually solve the problems that afflict the people on the council estates and in the inner cities.

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

DAVID DAVIS: Now the policies used can be right wing - they can be - but they're actually aimed at helping everybody.

ANDREW MARR: One of here, today and now's policies - have you spoken to Charles Clarke -

DAVID DAVIS: Several times.

ANDREW MARR: - about the 90 day thing. Do you think that 28 days is where you stick or is it going to be between 28 days and 90 days?

DAVID DAVIS: Oh it won't be between 28 days and 90 days. I mean the House of Commons has basically ... 28 days - ... it might be less - I mean the, the point about this -

ANDREW MARR: You don't think he can get 90 days through under any circumstances?

DAVID DAVIS: Absolutely not, no. He can't get it through the Commons and he certainly can't get it through the Lords either, and what's more, whatever Mr Blair says -

ANDREW MARR: And you, I'm sorry, and you wouldn't accept a day more than 28 would you?

DAVID DAVIS: Well I'm not going to get into a negotiation on air but it's not ...

ANDREW MARR: But you said, I asked you between 28 and 90 -

DAVID DAVIS: I said there's no way near, no way we're going to do that. The simple truth is that 90 days will actually do harm, it would help the terrorists not harm the terrorists.

ANDREW MARR: All right, David Davis, thank you very much indeed.

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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