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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 October 2007, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Liberal reformation?
On Sunday 07 October Andrew Marr interviewed Simon Hughes MP

Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Simon Hughes MP
Simon Hughes MP

ANDREW MARR: Now the postponement of the election, perhaps for a couple of years, presents the Liberal Democrats with a bit of a problem, or perhaps with an opportunity, because the latest opinion polls are quite frankly appalling.

So will those who've been muttering about a change of leadership now have time to debate their future, and that of their leader?

I'm joined the party's president, Simon Hughes. Welcome, thank you for coming in.

SIMON HUGHES: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: I described the polls as atrocious or appalling, or something similar. That's a fair description, isn't it?

SIMON HUGHES: No, it's not a fair description. If you look at the average of the polls we're in the mid teens there have been higher and lower ones.

ANDREW MARR: Eleven per cent in one...

SIMON HUGHES: In one, but much higher if you take the average. In all elections apart from one in the last five elections, we've gone up significant numbers of points during the election because we get a fair shout in an election, we get equal coverage and equal treatment.

And the reality is we would expect as we have done in past elections to go up in numbers of seats, and in opinion polls and all the last elections you've seen us come out as a bigger party than before.

ANDREW MARR: But you're a fair-minded man...


ANDREW MARR: ...and you wouldn't sit there and say to me this is all unfair media coverage. You know that David Cameron has been putting the squeeze on you, and you can see what he's been saying on things like tax, and the reaction to that.

A lot of Liberal Democrat voters too don't like the level of inheritance tax, a lot of Liberal Democrats voters are worried about stamp duty, and there's your leader saying that he's going to hammer anyone over 70,000 a year.

SIMON HUGHES: No, we said very clearly in the key tax message at our conference is that we would reduce income tax by four pence in the pound, it would come down to 16 pence for the ordinary, average, hardworking family.

ANDREW MARR: That matters more than inheritance tax, in your view, or stamp duty.

SIMON HUGHES: Well, not more, but it's a central tax that everybody pays. Not everybody pays inheritance tax. I'm not pretending that the Tories didn't have a good conference, they did, their leader did, we did, our leader did.

And the messages that were anti-Labour messages, that the opposition parties were going to be tax-cutting parties, whereas Labour has been a huge tax-adding party came very clearly. So we've come out of the conference season with Labour absolutely on the defensive about tax, as they should be.

ANDREW MARR: And at the same time the Conservatives have been reaching out and scooping up, certainly as far as the opinion polls are concerned, large numbers of your voters. A lot of people look at the condition of your party and say, fine man in many ways though Sir Ming Campbell is, he's not right. And you now have the option to change party leader?

SIMON HUGHES: Well, I don't hear that. Journalists often...

ANDREW MARR: Do you not?

SIMON HUGHES: No. I don't hear that. Journalists often mention that, you know that journalists like to find a single simple argument. But that wasn't the case, the case that's been argued over recent years we chose Ming fairly, we have a fixed term for our party leader, unlike our parliament which should have had a fixed term, maybe the argument for a fixed term will be much clearer after the events of the last few days.

And let's just quickly, because it's against the background of what's happened - we've had a Prime Minister who's clearly in the end made a party political decision in the interests of the party ...

ANDREW MARR: In the interests of your party too, Simon Hughes, given where the polls are. SIMON HUGHES: No, no, absolutely not, we were ready for an election. We believe we will do well in an election, we expected to win seats in the election from the Tories and from Labour.

We then had the fiasco of yesterday, with great respect to you sir, with an ambassador extraordinary coming out and telling us there was no election in the name of Mr. Andrew Marr, and no prime ministerial statement, I know we're going to get an interview today - extraordinary events.

And we've now ended up with the Prime Minister who is clearly going to be tarnished in terms of his reputation for integrity...

ANDREW MARR: And you are happy as the party president to go into the next, perhaps two years, come through the next two years with Ming Campbell leading, absolutely no question of a change of leader, absolutely no question of a change of tactics despite, I repeat, in one poll this weekend your party being at a grand total of 11 points? SIMON HUGHES: Of course I'm happy to go ahead, because that was the basis of the decision the party took and the only criticism that was ever made was that you couldn't have a party leader who was at a certain age, and Ming addressed that on head-on in the conference, he made the point that when it comes to crucial decisions it's experience that counts.

We would not have had Ming Campbell making announcements about soldiers in Iraq, playing party games with soldiers in Iraq, saying that we were going to bring five hundred, a thousand home when he actually had already made half the announcement.

You wouldn't have Ming Campbell making announcements about hospitals that were going to be opened that had been announced before.

So you have a leader with experience, internationally and nationally. And the party has chosen him for a fixed term and for the next election, whenever that is.

ANDREW MARR: All right, well thank you very much indeed for coming in, Simon Hughes.

SIMON HUGHES: Thank you.


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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