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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2006, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Tory triumph?
On Sunday 07 May 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed George Osborne MP

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

George Osborne MP
George Osborne MP

ANDREW MARR: Now, the Conservatives are trying admirably hard not to sound too triumphalist after the local elections but there was no mistaking their delight at achieving that magic figure of 40% of the vote.

Five months into the job of leading the party David Cameron and his famous Notting Hill mob no doubt see the result as a vindication of their strategy, controversial as it's been.

Now I'm joined by the Shadow Chancellor, Chief Mobster, George Osborne. Welcome and thanks for joining us. George, that 40% did matter to you, didn't it.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Yes, I think it did. It was a psychological barrier for us to pass through but the significant thing really is that on the ground we have many, many more councillors, we're running many more councils, people now in large parts of the country have Conservative local authorities and I hope they're going to see Conservative local authorities delivering for them, delivering good public services for better taxpayer value, and of course that's important when you're in opposition. It's very difficult to demonstrate that you can actually make the country better, and so it's important now that we are the largest party of local government and that people will be able to see in their own local authority how the Conservatives are improving their lives.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think that this success helped yourself and David Cameron see off some of the people inside the party who've been saying: "We don't like this new mood, we don't like this new image, we want old-fashioned Conservatism."?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well to be fair there hasn't been that much of that. I think it is, as you said, a vindication of the approach that David Cameron and the new leadership have taken, tried to broaden our appeal, talk about new subjects like the environment, trying to take us to the centre ground of British politics, and I think that is one of the reasons why it worked.

Of course people have been upset with Labour and let down by Labour, but the striking thing about these elections is that they came to us, not to the Liberal Democrats who had a very bad election result, and I think that is because we were offering a positive, modern, compassionate alternative to this government. And David Cameron now says he wants to go further faster which must make a few people out there in the party kind of clench their teeth.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well we are going to press on with change because change is working and change is necessary to make us this electable alternative to a government that is so obviously failing.

ANDREW MARR: Where are you going next?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well later this week, in the coming week, David Cameron will be talking more about our priority list of candidates. This sounds rather technical but what it's about is getting more women into Parliament; getting people from different social backgrounds into Parliament; getting people of different ethnic minorities into Parliament; we will be setting out how the priority list is going to work; introducing people to some of the people on the priority list.

We're going to press on with the Green Agenda - it's very important for the people to understand that's not just an election slogan, that is something we are deadly serious about developing more policy on and showing we're committed to, and indeed I think tackling before you ... you may bring this up, tackling the fact that although we did well in some urban areas in the north ...

ANDREW MARR: You're a mind reader.

GEORGE OSBORNE: We did not do well enough in places like Central Manchester and Central Newcastle and Central Liverpool, and I think it's very important that we learn from that small problem ... you know.. I say small problem, that one part of the result that didn't go as well as we had hoped. And that says to us, look, we need to make more effort in our cities, get into community politics in our northern cities, and so we take the election result as a spur to more action in that area.

ANDREW MARR: It might be that a lot of people up in the northern cities where there are some economic problems still, and so on, look at the environmentalism and the cycling and the whirlybirds on top of roofs and think it's all a bit southern, it's all a bit soft, we want to hear more on the economy, we want to hear more on welfare, we want to hear more on public services than we're hearing from Conservatives at the moment?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well first of all I take issue that environmental issues don't matter, you know, north of the Watford Gap. They matter tremendously throughout our country and some of our deepest environmental problems are in our most urban areas in the north of England, so we will continue with that. I think ... it's interesting, if you look at Manchester ...

ANDREW MARR: It's add on rather than instead of I'm talking┐

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well no, but if you look at Manchester which is near where my constituency is, we have made progress in greater Manchester in places like Wigan, Tameside, Rochdale, not places you traditionally associate with the Conservatives, and we have to understand why we've made progress in those areas but not in central Manchester; and sure we need to get into urban politics, into community life in these cities, look at things like the entrenched poverty in our urban areas in the north and how a Conservative Government may be able to offer very different solutions from those which Gordon Brown has offered.

ANDREW MARR: Maybe you have an image problem up there as well which is that, with respect, you all look and sound a bit the same. I mean you're all well spoken, privately educated, generally male - you're wearing a tie which is kind of not allowed I thought these days, but by and large you look a bit the same. You don't have a varied array of accents and types at the top of your party.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well first of all I dispute that, you know.. people like William Hague and David Davis right at the top of our party have very different backgrounds. Yes, of course I want people of different backgrounds into the party, I want more women in Parliament, that's one of the reasons why next week we will be setting out the changes to candidate selection, precisely to achieve that point.

But you know in the end I don't think it's how you look or indeed how you sound that matters, people want to know are you interested in their lives, do you understand the problems of their cities and we are determined to show that we do. I mean there has never been a time in my adult life, Andrew, when it's been more exciting to be a Conservative, when there have been more new ideas floating around, more new people getting involved, and we're determined to build on these tremendous results and show the country that we can offer a real alternative to the failing Labour Government.

ANDREW MARR: What about Europe because you're still unable to find partners to sit in the European Parliament with. Is that something that you're now prepared to look again at?

GEORGE OSBORNE: No, we have a clear commitment to that. David Cameron is very clear about our commitment to leave the European People's Party which is what you're referring to. We are making pretty good progress actually with finding ...

ANDREW MARR: Tell us who you've found then.

GEORGE OSBORNE: I'm not going to tell you who ...

ANDREW MARR: Have you found anyone?

GEORGE OSBORNE: We have found ... we are in active discussion with serious parties, not ...

ANDREW MARR: A single Polish gentleman of ...

GEORGE OSBORNE: Not Latvian peasants and all that, but actually serious governing parties in Europe who are very interested in forming a new group with us and that of course is something we need to progress in the months ahead, but we're not resigning from the commitment that's been made because, actually, the problem with Europe is this, that it's not addressing the big central problems of how we compete in the age of China and India, how we make this ...

ANDREW MARR: Okay ...

GEORGE OSBORNE: ... three and the European continent more competitive.

ANDREW MARR: Talking about big central problems, out there an awful lot of people feel overtaxed and over-governed and also feel that they're not getting a clear message from you yet that you're going to cut taxes, how you're going to cut taxes. Now I accept that the detail is for nearer the election but they just don't feel they're getting that basic Conservative message.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well the message is clear. First of all economic stability must come first, and once we've ensured that, we will move in the direction of lower taxes, that is a different direction from that which Gordon Brown is pursuing.

I think it's essential if places, not just like the City of London behind us, but the rest of the country are able to compete in a modern global economy. So you will see us developing that economic policy that reverses this long-term decline in our competitive position in the world which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has presided over.

ANDREW MARR: So a lot done, a lot to go: "still to do" as the Labour Party keep saying. Do you feel that you're genuinely on course to actually win a general election with a majority so that you can govern by yourselves?

GEORGE OSBORNE: I think psychologically one of the most important things about the local election results was that we feel we can win the next election, that the country is interested in what we have to offer, and of course the other story, which you will be talking about later in this programme, is the near terminal collapse of the Labour Party.

If they can't govern themselves, how on earth can they govern the country, and you will have the Chancellor of the Exchequer on talking about renewal, but this is the man who has caused so much disunity in the Labour Party through his factional politics. This is a man who stopped Tony Blair and others developing a public service reform agenda for the future; this is the man who's ideas are trapped in the past. So we are confident, and the sooner he takes over the better from our point of view.

ANDREW MARR: We know he's your real target. George Osborne, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

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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