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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 July 2007, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Tory viewpoint
On Sunday 01 July Peter Sissons interviewed George Osborne MP, Shadow Chancellor

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

George Osborne MP
George Osborne MP, Shadow Chancellor

PETER SISSONS: The first days of this Brown government have been dominated by the threat of terror.

How do you rate the government's response?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well I mean I, we're absolutely full square behind both the government and of course the new prime minister.

In fact David Cameron has spoken to Gordon Brown and absolutely assured him that if there's anything we can do to help we will do that.

And indeed I think it's important that there is as much as possible a cross party approach, particularly we need to look at some future point at new security laws.

So in moments like this when we face a critical terror threat of course all politicians, whatever their party, try to work together and make sure that the country is safe and secure.

PETER SISSONS: What if Gordon Brown decides soon he wants those new security laws, he wants to detain suspects for up to say ninety or sixty days? Do you expect it to become a bone of party contention again?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well on the specific issue of how long you detain people, whether we go beyond the 28 days, at the moment we're not convinced. I mean we are very happy to look at new evidence from the police, the security services, from the prime minister himself. And perhaps he will tell us later in this programme whether he has that evidence. But at the moment we're not convinced but we're ready to listen to new evidence.

On other issues, in fact I'm delighted that Gordon Brown is taking forward some Conservative ideas. I think we need a privy council review of the use of intercept intelligence. Cos what we really want to do is convict these people and put them behind bars. And also issues like post charge questioning. This enables you to carry on interviewing suspects after they've been charged. That's another Conservative idea. And that's very much on the, on the table for discussion between the parties. So you know working together as much as is possible.

PETER SISSONS: Have control orders failed?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well they obviously haven't worked particularly well and indeed some people are on the run from their control orders. I mean what this begs is the question of being able to deport foreign terrorists which we're currently prohibited from doing in some cases by the European Convention on Human Rights. And I think that strengthens the case for a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Now Gordon Brown has said he's interested in constitutional affairs. I think this is a great moment to look at that and balance the risk of course that these people face when returned to different countries. But also the risk that they pose to British people by remaining in Britain. And I think perhaps the balance is too much in favour of the terrorist suspects and not enough in favour of the British public and their safety.

PETER SISSONS: On the specific issue of detention of suspects. You oppose ninety days but are you open to go above 28 days?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well at the moment we think 28 days is more than enough. And if for example...

PETER SISSONS: More than enough?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well for example in August last year when we had the alleged plot with Heathrow and the liquids on the planes, in fact the police were able to do all their work in a very complex case, under 28 days.

But we are prepared to listen to new evidence about going beyond 28 days. At the moment we have not heard that new evidence. We don't want to get into a situation where terror laws become a recruiting sergeant in some of our communities. So we have not yet heard new evidence that suggests we need to go beyond 28 days. But, but I do stress we are open to arguments.

We want to work with the government here and we want to on all these different security issues try and achieve that cross party consensus. And as I said the conversation that David Cameron and Gordon Brown have already had in the last couple of days I think from what I heard of that conversation that they are both keen on that cross party consensus and I hope that that remains the case.

PETER SISSONS: Let's talk about the, the government's strengths and weaknesses as far as one can tell so far. Someone pointed out one of the government's strengths would be that Gordon Brown has no Gordon Brown in his cabinet. All Brown's firepower now will be concentrated on you, the Tories. Would you agree with that analysis?

GEORGE OSBORNE: What as opposed to concentrating his fire power on his own colleagues?

PETER SISSONS: ... the governments, the government's, the governments stronger for not having the Blair, Brown feud at its heart.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well sure, if he can achieve a united cabinet that's better than having a divided cabinet. Look we, I've shadowed Gordon Brown for two years. I know his strengths but I also know his weaknesses. And the big question for him is can he be the change that the country wants. We have had local elections for example just last month and the country voted overwhelmingly for change.

And I think when they look at Gordon Brown, I mean let's try and separate the politics from the events of the last couple of days on the security issues, but over the long period when they look at Gordon Brown they will say well hold on, this is the man responsible for the crisis in the Health Service or the problems with our pension system or responsible for the policies that have contributed to social breakdown. How can this person who's been there at Tony Blair's right hand for ten years be suddenly the change that the country wants.

PETER SISSONS: You've said that Brown has been nothing but unpleasant in his dealings with me. You don't like him do you?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well we haven't had the best of working relationships. I hope with the new chancellor by the way, Alistair Darling, we can have a better relationship. And I've already written to him saying I'm very happy again to work with him on issues where we can agree. So I hope I have a better relationship with the new Chancellor of the Exchequer than I did with the previous one.

PETER SISSONS: The poll, the papers are full of predictions there's going to be a big Shadow Cabinet reshuffle this week. Is that the case?

GEORGE OSBORNE: That is above my pay grade. That is David Cameron's decision and yeah, he will at some point put in place the best team to take forward the Conservative approach. By the way there's some speculation in the newspapers that we might change our strategy. We are not changing our strategy.

Our strategy is to be in the mainstream of British politics, talking about the issues like the NHS, like social breakdown, like pensions that matter to people in this country. And that, it is that strategy which has made us really, real players in the political game that delivered those great local election results last month. There is absolutely no change of strategy.

PETER SISSONS: There's, there's speculation also that, Labour are putting it around that the Tories will panic, depose David Cameron and replace him with David Davis or William Hague.

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well there is absolutely no prospect of that. This, this comes from Ed Balls who probably is the least trusted source on Conservative leadership politics in the entire country. So you know one must, needs to dismiss this kind of speculation.

The Conservative Party understands that with David Cameron we have a Party Leader who has put us on the centre ground of British politics, who has been the change that the country wants, who has delivered fantastic local election results.

And of course if you look at what Gordon Brown is doing at the moment outside the security issues, why is he talking about change? Cos he knows there's an Opposition offering change. Why is he visiting hospitals in the first couple of days in office? Cos he knows we've been campaigning on hospitals for the last two years.

Why is he talking about the environment for the first time in his entire career? Because it's David Cameron and the Conservative Party that's put climate change and improvements in our environment at the heart of the political agenda. We have set the political pace in this country for the last two years and we intend to continue setting the political pace in the months and years to come.

PETER SISSONS: It says here in the Sunday Telegraph Labour is standing by for an Autumn election. A snap election with the polls in their present state wouldn't suit you would it?

GEORGE OSBORNE: Well actually we believe there should be a General Election when a new prime minister who after all has been elected by no one, not even his own Party would be the right .. PETER SISSONS: With two new polls putting, putting Labour in the lead ..

GEORGE OSBORNE: An election would be the right thing to do. We are ready for an election. We'd be ready for an election in three weeks time and we're ready for an election in three years time. We have fantastic candidates already in place. We have been successful at raising money to fight that general election campaign, a necessary part of modern politics.

Our policy reviews which for two years have involved all sorts of external people, outside people in making, bringing forward ideas. They are all coming to fruition right now. So we are ready for an election, whether it's this Autumn or next year or 2009. We are ready for the fight.

PETER SISSONS: George Osborne. Thank you for talking to 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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