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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Head to head: Reviving the Tories
In the run-up to conference season, a right-wing think tank accused the Conservatives of neglecting their principles, while the party insisted it is forming policies to deliver its core beliefs.

Rupert Darwall, author of the Centre for Policy Studies report, and shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram explained their opposing views on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Here is an edited version of what they said.

Rupert Darwall, former special adviser to Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont

The Conservatives are terrified of coming into a studio and saying, 'Well, we believe in lower taxation' and then you will say, 'OK, what are you going to cut, which hospitals are you going to close.'

They are not really taking on the government on the ground of taxing and spending.

Gordon Brown is going to spend 130bn over six years, so it's a colossal amount and that is the big issue in politics and the Conservatives have to offer a better way to that.

What people want to know is where the party stands

Rupert Darwall
The better way is lower taxes, high growth, radical reform of public services so they actually deliver improvements.

That is not a question of back to the '80s, it's about looking at what countries like Australia have done, where they have got public spending down to 30% of national income - it's about 40% here.

They have higher quality services and a lower tax burden - they grow faster, they have better public services and that's surely something that Conservatives should be pressing.

Irish example

It's good to hear that the Conservatives want to reform public services and are looking at how others do it.

But I think trying to learn lessons from Sweden, which has the highest proportion of spending in the EU does not help that.

I don't know if they have been to Ireland, which is a fantastic example of a country that has cut taxes and spending - from 50% to under 30% - and now has overtaken Britain in terms of income per capita.

Dick Morris, former Clinton adviser
Issues, not vibes, count, Dick Morris told Clinton
The fundamental problem is that the Conservatives are saying: 'If we get people to like us, they will start voting for us'.

That's a fundamental fallacy, it's just bad politics.

Bill Clinton's political strategist, Dick Morris, once told him it's not image or vibes that get candidates elected, it's issues.

An issue-less party is frankly an irrelevant one.


Dick Morris has said you cannot go out and tell people you love children or you're for education. People, he said, think that's baloney.

The problem the Conservative Party has is that it's spouting baloney.

They say we are passionate about public services, we care about the vulnerable.

That doesn't mean anything to anyone. People sense it's phoney. It's just mood music.

What people want to know is where the party stands.

Michael Ancram, shadow foreign secretary

Iain Duncan Smith gave a lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies setting out in some detail the principles that we are following in the Conservative Party and how we are going to set policy for the next election.

What we are doing is talking about the things that people themselves are talking about.

We are talking about the health service, we are talking about education, about law and order and pensions.

This is not something that can be done overnight

Michael Ancram
I myself am talking about Europe, I'm talking about ,matters like Gibraltar and Zimbabwe, which are of public concern as well.

This isn't about centre ground, it's about actually talking about things which ordinary people are talking about.

We do believe in low taxation but low taxation which is consistent with the production of good public services.

Spending battleground

People want to see a good health service, they want to see good education, and we agree with them on that.

We've attacked the government because we are saying all the government's doing is saying: 'We are going to spend more and more money without reforming these institutions.'

These are buckets with holes in, money's going to pour out of the bottom, it's money wasted.

Michael Ancram, shadow foreign secretary
Michael Ancram says his party must aim at the next election
We want to look at how these services can be improved individually.

Some of it will involve more or less money being put in, some of it won't.

With the burden on teachers of red tape, the burden of over-regulation in the health service, we can get rid of regulations right across the board.

That's going to change those services without actually make any difference to the amount of money that needs to be spent on them.

Delivering promises

Once we know how to do it, then we can talk about how much money needs to be spent but it would be mad to talk about it before we have worked out how those reforms are going to work.

The failure of this government is going to be the failure to deliver on the promises they made. We are not going to fall into the same trap.

What we are talking about here is having clear principles: believing in the freedom of the individual; in choice; in the family; in giving as much decisions to communities and institutions as possible; believing in our country, which is something this government seems to have totally forgotten about.

What we are doing now is we are going to articulate the policies over the next two to three years which are going to deliver those principles in a way people can have trust in.

That is not something that can be done overnight, we have to work slowly and steadily towards it.

People are not going to believe us if we suddenly come along and say: 'Look, we've got policies a year after an election where you rejected us.'

They'll say: 'Why didn't you have those policies then.

See also:

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