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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. While
the world waits anxiously for the Americans to act, we'll be asking: what
are the options and how can the Government maintain support in this country
for our role? And I'll be talking to David Blunkett about what else we
should be doing to deal with the extremists here at home. And where do
the Liberal Democrats go from here. That's after the news read by Darren
HUMPHRYS: There is any amount of speculation
but only one certainty... no-one knows exactly what the Americans are planning
to do. An attack on Afghanistan seems inevitable, according to many of
the papers this morning, the SAS have already begun operating there, but
what form it will take we simply have no idea. Nor can we be sure how
much political support there will be in this country when the bullets start
flying and our own forces become involved. I'll be talking to David Blunkett
about security here at home and what new measures he might have in mind,
but first , Iain Watson reports on the options facing President Bush and
the political fallout.
IAIN WATSON: Letters of condolence for
the Protheros'. Any bereavement is painful, but, over the past ten days
this Somerset family has suffered as their hopes have turned to despair.
Their daughter, Sarah, is one of the six-thousand, three-hundred and thirty-three
people formally reported as missing - but presumed dead - as a result of
the terrorist attacks on New York's twin towers.
REVEREND DAVID PROTHERO: Everyone's emotions are raw at
the moment aren't they and everyone's reacting, and so am I, reacting with
a sadness and wanting to deny that it's ever happened and wanting to do
everything possible to make sure it never ever happens again.
WATSON: The destruction of the
World Trade Center devastated the lives of people in sixty-three countries
who've lost relatives and friends. Recent opinion polls, in the US, the
UK and in continental Europe, have shown strong support for a military
response and an international coalition is now being forged.
LOUIS MICHEL: We are ready to support even
military, of course, military support - we don't exclude anything.
LORD CLARK: I think it's right that we
try and assist our American allies and to weed out the people who perpetrated
this terrible crime and we join them in the fight against terrorism. It's
all our fight.
WATSON: The events in the USA have
united most countries in one response: this must never be allowed to happen
again. Something must be done. Tracking down the sources of terrorist finance
is - relatively speaking - the easy part. But it's much more difficult
when it comes to military action. Tony Blair spent much of the past week
helping to build a massive coalition against terrorism. But the question
is whether that coalition, not just between countries but also within countries
will hold, especially if we face a long and perhaps open-ended campaign.
PETER KILFOYLE MP: Hawks in the American Administration
I fear are trying to shape an agenda which settles old scores, rather than
meets the needs of a campaign against terrorism. If anything, they're
going to make matters infinitely worse.
MOHAMMED SARWAR MP: If Britain sides with America, then
there is a danger that terrorists will target Britain.
WATSON : Cruise missiles have been
the US weapon of choice in past conflicts, most recently in the Balkans.
But President Clinton's strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan three years ago
in response to attacks on US embassies had little effect. The pressure
on President Bush from the American people for action is getting through.
If he becomes tempted to launch similar strikes now, some experts say the
value is likely to be more symbolic than real.
COLONEL MIKE DEWAR: The last Cruise missile attack
on a Wadi in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan, we think had precious
little effect, apart from knocking down a few huts and killing a few goats
and maybe the odd individual.
DOUG HENDERSON MP: Well I don't think air strikes
would work, it would be like bombing Belfast to try and root out IRA terrorists.
That wouldn't work in Ireland and it certainly won't work in Afghanistan.
WATSON: Just how wide ranging are
American aims in their war against terrorism? The main focus currently
is on Afghanistan as the assumed hiding place of Osama Bin Laden, the man
the US and UK governments have named as their prime suspect in the attacks
on the United States.
This terrorist outrage
struck Lockerbie in 1988. A former M15 officer who was involved in investigating
the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, says that building up evidence can take
years - that sometimes early intelligence reports can point in the wrong
DAVID SHAYLER: If you look at the Lockerbie
case the initial investigation concentrated on Palestinian organisations.
As time went on and they started to gather hard evidence, it became clear
it was the Libyans. But it took over two years to get indictments against
two Libyans. So at the moment we cannot really say that Bin Laden is involved
with this because there is no hard evidence, and we are in danger of rushing
in feet first before we establish the facts.
WATSON: Doubts about the evidence
on Bin Laden have led to calls here for him to be handed over to an independent
court, and not to the United States.
SARWAR: No country can be accuser,
investigator, prosecutor and at the same time judge and jury. If there
is evidence against Osama Bin Laden, then that evidence should be presented
to the International Tribunal and I will support any call that Taliban
must hand over Osama Bin Laden to the International Tribunal and if he's
guilty, he must be punished and he must be brought to justice.
WATSON: Currently the niceties
of how to put Osama Bin Laden on trial don't arise. As the Taliban won't
hand him over - the allies face the problem of tracking him down.
SHAYLER: Let's face it, we couldn't
beat the IRA in Northern Ireland and that's where you have got access to
where records of where people live and so on. The idea of trying to find
terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan is going to be impossible. There
is a very real practical issue here that if you start fighting terrorists
with terrorism you will increase terrorism.
WATSON: Special forces in training.
It's widely thought the task of rooting out Bin Laden will fall upon
America's Delta Force troops and Britain's SAS.
COLONEL DEWAR: Going in very quickly, either
eliminating their target or physically capturing it and taking it out of
Afghanistan. Now that is perfectly possible. British special forces have
operated in that area. US special forces are well equipped and well trained
to do a similar operation. Perfectly feasible.
WATSON: A former defence minister
doesn't doubt the ability of our special forces, but warns that deployment
of ground troops could cost British lives.
KILFOYLE: We seem to be moving
into a situation and I'd say it was certainly true of Afghanistan that
if we were to be engaged in any shape or form, there will be casualties
and whether the British public and, indeed, the American public, will countenance
that remains to be seen.
WATSON: The message from the US
administration is that they won't be satisfied with simply putting on trial
Osama Bin Laden. They also want to shut down his organisation, Al Qaida,
or in English, the base. It's known to have operated training camps in
Afghanistan. but it may difficult to take action against them without also
tackling the fundamentalist Taliban regime which has allowed them to operate.
Despite this low-rent version of a cold-war style military parade in Kabul,
the Taliban aren't an army in the conventional sense, but they are a very
effective guerilla force; so some experts say the West should fight fire
with fire and arm the home-grown opposition - the Northern Alliance - to
take on the Taliban.
DEWAR: They could beef up, if you
like, the Northern Alliance and help it expand out of its northern chunk
of territory, currently occupies some thirty per cent, up to thirty per
cent, of the northern part of Afghanistan. The aim might well be to expand
this into the whole of Afghanistan.
WATSON: But at this point some
of those who believe action should be taken against Bin Laden wouldn't
support toppling foreign regimes as a war aim - at least, not without UN
KILFOYLE: There are lots of appalling
regimes around the world and I think it's rather difficult for any one
nation or indeed group of nations to arbitrarily pick from amongst those
particular regimes that they despise and set out to overthrow. I mean
the last thing we need to do is to encourage a whole new generation of
potential suicide bombers.
WATSON: The message from the summit
of European Union leaders on Friday was one of unity. Behind the scenes,
there may be some doubts about ousting the government of Afghanistan, although
few would shed tears for the Taliban. But what may place the wider coalition
under increasing, perhaps even unbearable pressure, is if the US begins
to target even more Muslim states.
LOUIS MICHEL: We want of course a proportionate
reaction, and a targeted reaction, so they promised full consultation.
I think the United States allies will immediately feel if they should
react too strongly for instance, they will immediately feel that the European
Union cannot follow that, and so I think they will be prudent.
WATSON: The Americans have been
saying that the war on terrorism doesn't begin and end in Afghanistan.
Countries which harbour terrorists or sponsor terrorism could also face
reprisals. Iran was in the past seen as a rogue state but will be courted
by the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw this week . But their old foe, Iraq,
may suffer a different fate. Sudan and Somalia have in the past been accused
of sheltering terrorists as has Libya, though they denounced the recent
attack on the US. Some experts certainly believe there will be some form
of action beyond Afghanistan.
DEWAR: A more conventional war
in Iraq I think is, is a definite possibility. I mean links have already
been proven to Saddam Hussein's intelligence people who are known to have
spoken to one of the hijackers about a year before the events of last week.
So it, it is, it is very possible that Saddam Hussein and his regime will
become a target. Indeed, there has been much talk of the Americans wishing
to finish the job that they didn't finish in 1991.
WATSON: American fighter planes
aboard the USS Enterprise - a vessel with high name recognition for American
television viewers. It's reported to be in the Indian Ocean, while as
many as five-hundred US fighter aircraft are thought to be stationed on
land around the Middle east. The US is ensuring it's keeping its military
Britain will have its full complement of twenty thousand service personnel
in the Gulf state of Oman by the beginning of October. Although they are
on a military exercise, their headquarters staff have had their duties
changed to be on standby for any operation against world terrorism.
While some politicians don't rule out a wider conflict, others worry about
the potential consequences of British involvement.
SARWAR: My fear is that if British
government supported American actions outrightly, then there is a real
danger that the people and, in particular, the people in the third world
countries and Muslims, will regard Britain as the 'Yes' person of United
States of America.
MACKINLAY: Of course I and my colleagues
in the parliamentary Labour Party understand the gravity of the situation
and are also nervous, but the bottom line is that we know we have to deny
terrorists access to weapons of mass destruction which could be an atomic
weapon in a suitcase or, or a chemical let off in the London Underground
in a Coca-Cola tin. That's the issue.
BRUCE GEORGE MP: If there is evidence that any
state was providing intelligence to whoever the terrorists are or had provided
them with protection, provided them with passports, if a whole range of
criteria that had been devised are met, you know, then it may well be that
that country will be targeted but if they are targeted the same rules apply
and that is it must not be indiscriminate, it must be based on solid evidence.
WATSON: The war against terrorism
won't be limited to faraway countries of which we know little. It'll also
be fought on the home front. If effective action is to be taken to prevent,
rather than simply respond to terrorism, then some say we may have to face
profound changes to our everyday lives.
If destruction also breeds creation, then the events in New York may
prove influential in giving rise to new thinking on civil liberties. The
UK government is on the brink of introducing more anti-terrorist measures,
although Downing Street in a briefing note to MPs reassured them that the
European Convention on Human Rights wouldn't be infringed by new legislation.
But even a champion of open government now says there must be a new balance
between liberty and security.
LORD CLARK: We're gonna have to start rethinking
many of the ways in which we approach our civil liberties whilst trying
to protect them as much as possible. For example, ID cards, must be on
the agenda now. Must be debated. Airports - we've got to step up the check-in.
We've got to make sure that the asylum seekers that none of them can be
any way an excuse for a front for terrorist groups, and that can easily
be done, and these are the sorts of things we've got to try and do which
will affect the way we live, but may be necessary if we're gonna win the
fight against terrorism.
MACKINLAY: It's very important that those
drafting the legislation the Home Secretary's going to bring to Parliament
in a few weeks time, does ensure that for every limitation on liberties,
every curtailment there is a balancing safeguard.
WATSON: Those who have suffered
most have more immediate concerns. As the Protheros' remember their daughter,
they also fear that other people, as yet unknown, could be facing a similar
fate to those who died in America.
REVEREND PROTHERO: I hope that the gospel of reconciliation
will somehow find its way through the darkness and through, through the
desire for revenge which isn't going to achieve anything.
WATSON: The British government
have stressed that any action against terrorism mustn't be seen as a war
on Islam; that they simply have no option but take action against those
thought responsible for inflicting grief on the Protheros' and thousands
of other families across the world. But the methods they employ in their
battle, will determine whether they can maintain broad support - and continue
to occupy the moral high ground.
HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting there.
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Well the Home Secretary
David Blunkett is in our Sheffield studio. Good afternoon Mr. Blunkett.
DAVID BLUNKETT MP: Good afternoon John.
HUMPHRYS: Come to the question
of what we're doing at home in a moment, can I ask you first about what
seems to be, see whether you agree with this, a growing reservation about
what actions the United States might take, given that everybody seems to
agree that something must be done, there is serious reservation about what?
BLUNKETT: Well that something must
be done is absolutely hopeless unless people accept that that something
involves tackling sending signals to preventing the actions of terrorists,
so we need to take a deep breath and to reflect that immediately after
the terrorist attack on the 11th September people feared that there would
be an immediate, inappropriate and indiscriminate response. That didn't
take place. A great deal of consultation and thought has taken place since
and a great deal of preparation. Now I would have thought that would have
reassured people that we weren't simply lashing out, we were trying to
ensure that the response was both proportionate and targeted at those who
threaten all our lives in the future.
HUMPHRYS: Doesn't seem quite to
have reassured many quite senior people in your party, some very senior
people like Clare Short, and we heard from others, Peter Kilfoyle and so
on in that film.
BLUNKETT: Yes, Peter's a very good
friend of mine, but I have to ask him a question and I think it's one that
your own article in one of the Sunday's poses today as to whether there
are moral equivalents and we have to ask ourselves, because this is a fundamental
argument that goes on behind the scenes in politics about moral relativism.
If someone destroys the life of almost seven-thousand people, their families,
innocent people, not involved in Bin Laden's war against our state of life,
as well as the Americans but innocent people, do we simply sit back and
protect ourselves only by taking measures at home, which in themselves
are then criticised by the very same people who are worried about the proportionality
of the action we take against Bin Laden internationally, in other words,
we can't have it both ways.
HUMPHRYS: But do you share the
view and it's expressed at the front page of the Independent this morning,
the opinion poll that they've done and the many people that they have talked
to, that yes, to go back to that phrase, something must be done and targeted
action must take place, but they are very reluctant, people in this country
are very nervous about the implications of a wider assault that might for
instance lead to another war in the Middle East, or something.
BLUNKETT: Yes of course they are
and I think one of the great strides that have been taken over the last
ten days, and I hope my breath in terms of it lasting, is that there is,
at least some appreciation in the Middle East that the Israeli/Palestinian
situation has to be taken into account and hopefully over a period of time
resolved. People will be concerned, but they'd be even more concerned
if internationally and at home we didn't take the basic measures, firstly,
to strike back and to get the signal across that we're simply not prepared
to sit there and wait for the next creative and imaginative terrorist attack,
because it was, in the attack on the World Trade Centre and on the Pentagon,
but we are prepared to take action that seeks to protect our democracy,
whilst maintaining the right of free speech and maintaining the ability
to disagree, a right which those very terrorists would take away from us.
HUMPHRYS: Do you share reservations
about widening this beyond Afghanistan, to say, Iraq?
BLUNKETT: Well I think there's
been a very considerable discussion going on in the United States in the
Executive of the United States, which those in the know have not only known
about, but it's been written about, people are aware, that in traditional
terms there are hawks and doves. What our Prime Minister has been able
to do, not only by the tremendous stand he's taken, but by also ensuring
that Britain had a voice with the United States, is to ask the very question
that people will be asking who are viewing this afternoon, which is, "have
we evidence on where Bin Laden was aided and how he was aided, and the
financial, as well as the organisational backing? And did that involve
regimes?" And of course, that debate has led us to the pause that has
taken place over the last ten days, so I'm answering your question by saying,
of course they're looking at this and taking it into account, and the fact
that there hasn't been an immediate response and that those who wanted
a strike within days on other countries have been asked to hold their hand.
HUMPHRYS: So you're saying we need
to be cautious, in short?
BLUNKETT: I think we need to ensure,
as we've been saying from this country, the Prime Minister and the Foreign
Secretary have been saying, that we actually look to strike back at those
who are identified as being the terrorists or supporting the terrorists.
HUMPHRYS: Can we look at what's
happening here at home now. We know that some people are being held on
suspicion, clearly, you're not going to talk in detail about anybody being
held by the police but can I ask, if you can, just to clear up this single
area, those three people who are being held, are they being held on suspicion
of being connected with what happened in the United States or on suspicion
of something, of being involved in something that might have been planned
in this country.
BLUNKETT: They're being held on
suspicion of whether their actions and their contacts and the way in which
they behaved was involved with or contributed to the terrorist act. And
we obviously have to route here, not merely whether people have been involved
directly, but whether people have aided and succoured those who engineered
and took the terrorist actions, and that does of course involve quite wide
ranging inquiries. It's why time has been taken to identify and then to
pick these people up, and of course our securities as well as policing
services are doing that now on an hourly basis, so with the experience
we've had regrettably from Northern Ireland, we have good practice in terms
of knowing how to and where to look for these people.
HUMPHRYS: There are as we know
many extra police on the streets of our big cities. What are they doing.
I mean it's very hard to see how any number of extra police can wage this
war against terrorism, spot the things that are going on that we might
be concerned about, to protect us. What are they doing, all those extra
BLUNKETT: Well, there are two tasks
immediately. One is to protect any likely target and to have sufficient
surveillance to watch whether people are acting suspiciously in approaching
or in fact around those areas, secondly, to protect the people who may
be at risk. And as I met the Islamic leaders in this country on Friday,
giving support to the stance of our government, very clear in their condemnation
of terrorism, said to us, "Please ensure that we are protected, that people
who are at risk receive the necessary action" Now, that's true of anyone
whatever their race or religion in circumstances where crazy people are
likely to do crazy things, and sometimes are encouraged to do so by others.
So that's what they're doing. I want the policing operation not to frighten,
not to create insecurity because we need to live our lives. If we're going
to avoid our economy disintegrating we've got to live our lives as we normally
would, within reason, taking care of course, but we've also got to make
sure that people do feel that in those circumstances we as government are
fulfilling the traditional role of government, which is to provide that
security, that order, that stability.
HUMPHRYS: So what's your assessment
of the risk facing us. John Stevens, Sir John Stevens the Metropolitan
Police Commissioner said "We are the next biggest target". Do you agree
BLUNKETT: Well, I talked to him
on Friday after he'd been reported as making those remarks. He indicated
to me that he was answering a very specific question. We don't know where
the next target will be, which is why dealing with terrorists in this way
is both a bigger challenge and a greater laying down of the gauntlet to
us than we've experienced before, even when we were dealing with the IRA
who, we knew where they were and knew what their particular objectives
were at that time. With terrorism of this sort with suicide bombers, with
people who could strike at any time, we're dealing with a different enemy.
HUMPHRYS: Geoff Hoon, your colleague
in the Cabinet, the Defence Secretary, talked in an interview this morning
about us having been - he didn't use the word complacent I don't think,
but he talked about us not having taken warning, sufficient warning of
previous threats to us, not having taken sufficient note of those warnings.
Do you agree with that, have we been a bit complacent in the past?
BLUNKETT: Well, I don't know what
Geoff was referring to, maybe perhaps the attacks on the American Embassies
in Tanzania, in Kenya three years ago, but...
HUMPHRYS: I think in more general
terms. You know, where we've had our security forces, our intelligence
people have had a number of warnings that may or may not have been passed
on, but we've been a bit sort of lax in following them up. I think that
was the idea.
BLUNKETT: Well I don't think anyone
perceived a suicide attack of the nature that we saw against the World
Trade Centre. I don't think we'd envisaged that people in taking theirs
and other peoples' lives on the planes and in the offices would actually
do such a thing, so I put no blame on people who did not imagine other
than in dreams and outrageous films that nobody would for a moment have
taken any notice of in real life....
HUMPHRYS: No, but in general terms,
have we been a wee bit complacent?
BLUNKETT: Well, we do take our
democracy and our freedoms for granted, and I shall be saying more about
this later in the week because I'm publishing a little book where I say
that we need to secure our democracy in depth, we need to develop people's
appreciation of what they've got to lose and at the same time, provide
that security, that order, that stability, that mutuality, internally and
across the world, that enables us to live together. We're interdependent,
we can't isolate ourselves either as individuals and families, nor as nations,
and that really does bring us back to the beginning the question we just
had, which is, that you can't separate out the moral imperatives here.
The need to appreciate that interdependence globally as well as at home,
leads us to have to both strengthen our own democracy, to engage people
with it so that we know what we're defending and why, and to be vigilant
in taking difficult measures to protect ourselves, and that second part
is going to be the crucial balance that I've talked to you about on the
radio twice over the last ten days where, of course, we must take action
that involves avoiding people literally making a monkey out of us, literally
abusing democracy, but we must try and do so proportionately as we are
in striking back against the terrorists.
HUMPHRYS: So what is the purpose
of the new anti-terrorist legislation that you are proposing to introduce
quite soon we're told?
BLUNKETT: Well the Prime Minister
is examining at the moment the package of measures from a number of departments
and I don't wish to pre-empt what he might wish to announce except to say
that, whatever we do will take time to put through parliament, even with
emergency measures, and there may be more than one necessary bill, the
drafting of those in a democracy and to be able to put them through parliament
coherently is a tremendous challenge so nobody need talk about recalling
parliament this week or in the following two weeks to pass legislation.
It will take us time to get this together. The purpose firstly, obviously,
is to provide mutual recognition and to align what we are doing with our
fellow European Union members so that we can recognise their judicial and
policing systems in their own democratic system, secondly to be able to
make sure that people who are at risk to us are dealt with decisively and
that includes those who may be trying to enter the country, and thirdly
to balance those against maintaining free speech and the rights that we
take for granted so that the terrorists don't achieve their ultimate goal
which is to destroy our economy, our democracy and our way of life.
HUMPHRYS: But it is possible, isn't
it, inevitably, that some of the measure proposed, might, if they are going
to be sufficiently Draconian, sufficiently effective is perhaps a better
word, might fall foul of the Human Rights Act, and therefore present us
with a problem.
BLUNKETT: Well there are two things.
Contrary to general belief, the incorporation of the European Convention
on Human Rights into our own Human Rights Act will at least allow our judiciary
to make judgements related to our own act, albeit that Article, I don't
want to lose the audience at this point, but Article 3 of the European
Convention of Human Rights as I've discovered over recent weeks is very
difficult indeed to deal with in these circumstances, but yes there will
be a balance to be struck, there will be tensions between the ECHR and
the Human Rights Act and the necessary protection that we seek, and of
course, in looking at these of the last week or two, I've actually found
out that these tensions were there in the Second World War, that judgements
had to be made by a judiciary, they did so of course with an eye to the
political realities around them, and I hope that in getting this balance
right we can accept one fundamental tenet of our system, which is that
it is elected representatives who can be removed and who are accountable
in a democratic open and transparent parliament who should be the prime
concern, the prime protectors of our rights, rather than having to rely
on the judicial system, which by its very nature, might protect us against
authoritarianism but isn't accountable.
HUMPHRYS: So is it possible that
we might have to try and find a way of amending our Human Rights legislation,
difficult though that may be?
BLUNKETT: Well far be it for me
to enter into these very difficult areas on a television programme, important
as it is, and with time that you've given me to explain it. I think we'll
have to find an accommodation which allows us to ensure that we take the
kind of actions that prevent those terrorists undermining and doing away
with the most basic freedoms of all, the freedom from insecurity, from
fear and of course from taking of life.
HUMPHRYS: So you would take whatever
action is necessary to prevent that happening, in other words, to prevent
that ultimate sanction by the terrorists against us, that is more important
at this stage in our history or at least, that takes priority.
BLUNKETT: That is the objective.
The means of getting there and maintaining those balances are precisely
the discussions that we are and will be having over the next few weeks
both in terms of government and then subsequently and openly in a parliament
that can debate these issues, only free to do so because we protect ourselves
from having to take even more Draconian measures by allowing the terrorists
to act against us freely in the belief that somehow that moral equivalent
exists that I talked about at the beginning of the programme.
HUMPHRYS: So you would do those
things even if it meant the Human Rights legislation having to be amended
in one form or another, however it were done?
BLUNKETT: I am not making a judgement
at the moment until...
HUMPHRYS: ...but it is possible?
BLUNKETT: ...I had the opportunity
with colleagues...it is possible that we will have to change the balance
in terms of ensuring that that most basic right of all, the right to live
freely in this country, is maintained.
HUMPHRYS: Let's look at that question
then of living freely in this country, and that's identity cards, we've
spoken about this past of course and a number of other people have raised
it. You'll have seen, the public seems overwhelmingly to support the introduction
of identity cards, and they feel that this should be given a higher priority
than it seems to be given at the moment. Are you impressed by that?
BLUNKETT: Well I'm giving it a
fairly high priority in terms of the discussions and the consideration
behind the scenes. What I've said before, and I repeat again this afternoon
is that it would be quite wrong for me to make a snap announcement or to
do so with my colleagues when we haven't had the chance to properly think
through the implications and of course to do so on the back of the attack
on the World Trade Centre. There are much broader issues about entitlement
and citizenship and not merely security in terms of some form of identity
card which we are looking at very seriously indeed.
HUMPHRYS: And are you looking a
compulsory ID card or something voluntary?
BLUNKETT: Without pre-empting the
decision of government, because this needs to be taken not just by myself
but by other colleagues with me, without pre-empting any final decision
I do think it's worth me just saying that I think a voluntary card in the
present circumstances would not be a great deal of help.
HUMPHRYS: We have many people who
would say entirely pointless.
BLUNKETT: Well you've just said
HUMPHRYS: Right. And as far as
compulsory cards are concerned, if they were to come in, the worry again
that many people have, and this will something that you've considered
yourself quite clearly is that they can be easily forged, so that given
that, given that they may prove ineffective, the potential loss of our
liberty in that narrow respect would be something that you'd be concerned
BLUNKETT: Well of course the technology
has changed. The ability to have thumb or fingerprint cards, or even the
iris of one's eye, is very different now in terms of people potentially
forging the cards, it's partly why the deliberations have to be about entitlements,
not just security, this should not be seen in the discussions that are
undoubtedly taking place, and I've seen the newspapers this morning, should
not be purely on the basis of some sort of police state. We don't have
a police state, nor will we have a police state so long as we can combat
the kind of terrorism that we saw two weeks ago.
HUMPHRYS: And one of the things
that worries many people about that is that within the country there are
many organisations that have been proscribed as a result of the relatively
new legislation, but they are still out there, their supporters are still
out there, and they hate that, and they're scared of that.
BLUNKETT: Yes I understand that
very well. The Terrorism Act came in, it was passed last year, the twenty-one
organisations that are proscribed were dealt with by my predecessor Jack
Straw at the end of February. Those organisations and those who belonged
to them are being monitored, and action will, I promise everyone, be taken,
the moment any of those individuals steps over the line.
HUMPRHYS: But defining steps over
the line is a bit tricky isn't it? And many other countries accuse us of
BLUNKETT: Well it's tricky only
because of the very democracy that people are seeking to defend and others
are abusing, so we have this genuine problem of making sure that we have
due process of law, but we have due cause, not only to pick them up, it
would be very easy for me to say to the police and security services, pick
them up, but actually to take them through to prosecution, one individual
for instance who has been shouting his mouth off lately, was picked up
in 1991, '96, '98 but was not adjudged to have taken sufficient steps to
warrant prosecution. In the first case, he had actually threatened the
life of Margaret Thatcher, so you know, we do in a democracy have restraints
and structures that are neither respected by, nor understood, by the people
we are now dealing with.
HUMPHRYS: Right, but your first
priority as you have acknowledged in this interview is to protect that
democracy and many say if it means changing the law to make it easier to
pick up these people and hold these people, then do it.
BLUNKETT: Yes they do and I am
hearing it and I say what I've said before that my instincts are the same
as the men and women who are sat in their lounge this afternoon watching
this programme but I have a responsibility to make sure that whatever with
the Prime Minister and my Cabinet colleagues we bring forward to parliament,
not only stands up to scrutiny, but actually is effective in dealing with
the terrorists in protecting ourselves and ensuring that they ..that the
measures stand up to scrutiny in years to come. My instincts are to ensure
that we take whatever action is necessary to prevent those engaged in terrorism
abusing our democracy in order to destroy it.
HUMPHRYS: So your instincts are
possibly to change the law?
BLUNKETT: My instincts are to ensure
that the law is proportionate to dealing with the threat and that where
the law failed in very different times, without the threat of suicide terrorist
bombers, suicide actions that threaten the lives of civilians, not of the
military, that we actually take the necessary steps to ensure that we get
HUMPHRYS: Home Secretary, many
thanks for joining us.
BLUNKETT: John, thank you.
HUMPHRYS: The Liberal Democrats begin
their annual conference today... overshadowed of course by the terrible
events in the United States but buoyed up to some extent at any rate by
their successes at the last election. The problem for them is what strategy
do they adopt from here if they are to achieve the ambition many have for
them.. and that is to become the main party of opposition? As Terry Dignan
reports, they are divided on whether to move to the left... or to the right.
TERRY DIGNAN: The Liberal Democrats begin
their annual conference today... overshadowed by the terrible events in
the United States but buoyed up to some extent by their successes at the
last election. The problem for them is what strategy do they adopt from
here if they are to achieve the ambition many have for them and that is
to become the main party of opposition? As Terry Dignan reports, they
are divided on whether to move to the left... or to the right.
In a quiet Surrey suburb, a group of Liberal Democrats attend a Tandoori
night. Following the horrifying events of September the eleventh, the atmosphere
is, understandably, sombre. But, on the domestic front, tonight's special
guest feels supremely optimistic.
EDWARD DAVEY MP: "Because I think we will be in
Government in Westminster within the next ten years."
DIGNAN: Although the Liberal Democrats
have tasted electoral success, they say the 2001 campaign was just for
starters. They want the top table at Westminster which means overtaking
Labour and the Conservatives. But to achieve that aim they may face painful
decisions about where they really stand on the big domestic issues, like
taxation and the management of public services.
DAVEY: "Seven seats saw....."
DIGNAN: Liberal Democrat MP Ed
Davey says simply continuing to target Conservative seats won't be enough
to win power. Instead Liberal Democrats should make their goal Labour's
urban heartlands where, it's argued, dissatisfaction over public services
has lowered turnouts. Their positioning to Labour's left on tax and spending
is seen as a strength in this regard.
DAVEY: When people use those terms,
they're talking about the tax and spend debate. Now I'm very comfortable
with the Liberal Democrats' current position, which in those old-fashioned
terms of left and right, does put us to the left of Labour. Therein lies
an opportunity for us. Because a lot of those abstainers were people who
didn't like Labour. They couldn't ever bring themselves to vote Conservative.
But they didn't like the fact that New Labour was, in many ways, aping
the Conservatives and adopting a very centre-right position.
DIGNAN: Yet on election night,
the Liberal Democrats under their new leader celebrated gains made, yet
again, mainly at the expense of the Conservatives.
CHARLES KENNEDY MP: "We are very much the party
of the future."
DIGNAN: But are they? If the new
Tory leader alienates some Conservatives by moving rightwards, it could
be a lost opportunity for Charles Kennedy if his party goes in the opposite
MARK OATEN MP: I think that would be wrong,
that would be dangerous, and this current climate where we have an enormous
opportunity to benefit from a, a right-wing Conservative Party, we'd be
foolish to position ourselves in the left, in that sense.
VOICE OVER: "From the BBC. This is Five
DIGNAN: In the broadcasting studios,
with military conflict looming, the politicians respond to voters' anxieties.
But normal politics still intrude. The voters want to know where the Liberal
Democrats are heading. Because what they stand for now is higher taxes
and higher public spending.
EVAN HARRIS MP: People actually trust more
a party that has a menu with prices rather than one, as we've seen Labour
do, saying, everything'll be fine, and no-one will have to pay any more
tax. It doesn't add up, and I think the mass abstentions at the last election
showed that people realised it didn't add up.
LORD CLEMENT-JONES: I think to his enormous credit
Charles Kennedy went for the fifty per cent above the hundred thousand
disposable income taxation bracket in order to pay for education and health,
to improve our public services, and I think that was a very popular policy.
After all, we were the only party that significantly increased our representation
at the last election.
DIGNAN: The Winchester MP Mark
Oaten first came to prominence after beating the Conservatives in a by-election
landslide. Now chairman of Liberal Democrat MPs, he worries about the party
having a left wing image and says the pledge to raise taxes may have to
OATEN: One of the political dangers
is that the commentators will increasingly see us as a populist party which
is to the left of the political spectrum, that wants to constantly put
taxes up and hasn't got any creative thinking. Now I don't think that's
where we are. I think that we've been honest in the past about saying that
we do need extra funds, but now it's a time to question that, and to say,
well, if we want to improve our public services, maybe there's a different
HARRIS: I don't think it's a question
of left or right but if to the left of Labour means we are in favour of
the NHS as the best way of providing fair, good quality care, then, yes,
and we'll certainly take our chances being identified as the party for
decent public services.
OATEN: "Ingrid, do you want to
look at the diary."
DIGNAN: But Mark Oaten fears that
at its next appointment with the electorate the party will have become
too attached to higher spending and taxes, even though the idea may be
popular with Labour voters.
OATEN: "Good. Alright."
DIGNAN: He wants the party to consider
using the private sector to improve services.
OATEN: Critically this Party has
to make its mind up. Do we want to put the consumers at the heart of the
debate? Do we want to come up with a form of delivery which means we have
the best hospitals and schools for our constituents? Or are we going to
just purely say, no, it must always be the public service which does this
because we believe in public services and local authorities. I argue that
the consumer should come first, and our own beliefs about how it should
be delivered should come second.
DIGNAN: Bill Newton-Dunn was a
Tory Euro-MP before defecting to the Liberal Democrats.
BILL NEWTON DUNN MEP: "Getting cold?"
POLICEMAN: "Very much so. Good evening,
DIGNAN; Looking favourably on private
sector involvement in schools and hospitals might encourage other pro-European
Conservatives to regard the Liberal Democrats as their kind of party.
NEWTON DUNN: The idea of bringing in private
finance would be attractive to the, the floating voters and even professional
Tory MPs who are disaffected. Yes, they see that as a sensible way forward.
DIGNAN: But moving rightwards just
to accommodate the views of Conservatives uncomfortable with their new
leader Iain Duncan-Smith would be unpalatable to many Liberal Democrats.
And especially if it meant downgrading the pledge to raise taxes in favour
of a bigger role for the private sector in managing public services.
HARRIS: Even if the analysis was
right that we could compete for right-wing votes with an increasingly right-wing
Labour Party and an extremist Conservative Party, then I don't think that
can be done by Liberal Democrats with conviction.
DIGNAN: Liberal Democrat officials
may struggle to attract the media to Bournemouth this week when most eyes
will be on another part of the world. Yet domestic politics won't be completely
UNNAMED WOMAN: We do have quite a lot of photo-ops
arranged as you know, but .....
DIGNAN: Liberal Democrats calculate
that tensions in the Labour Party over public services will worsen. Having
ended co-operation with Labour, they're well-placed to exploit them. Here
at Liberal Democrat HQ, the party will undoubtedly be looking for ways
of trying to win over disaffected Labour supporters. Indeed, some argue
the Liberal Democrats now have a golden opportunity to try to weaken Labour
decisively by, for example, co-operating with Labour-supporting trade unions
who oppose private sector involvement in public services.
LORD CLEMENT-JONES: I do see it as quite historic,
because I do not see that certainly the New Labour ethos is pro-union in
any sense of the word. If anything, they're much closer to business. That's
why we are, you know, having discussions with the unions because, quite
frankly, we agree with them and we're much closer, they're much closer
to us, on these sort of policies than they are with the Government.
DIGNAN: Tony Blair is accused of
moving rightwards because he wants hospitals like this one to embrace the
Private Finance Initiative. PFI allows companies to build and manage hospitals
in return for a fee. Liberal Democrats say they don't rule out private
sector involvement in public services. Yet their criticisms of the idea
echo those made by trade unions and Labour backbenchers.
HARRIS: It is effectively at the
price of no more efficiencies, taking money out of health care and into
profit for shareholders and we wouldn't blame the private sector for that
- that's the job of the private sector. So, the case for the private sector
in health care, particularly PFI, is unproven and, at worse, the evidence
is that it's counterproductive.
DIGNAN: Party policy documents
call for evidence that PFI gives value for money. But some want this week's
conference to back tougher opposition to PFI.
LORD CLEMENT-JONES: PFI needs to be properly evaluated
for all the hospital building projects so far. Until that evaluation takes
place, then we shouldn't proceed with any more.
DIGNAN: So the party should be
LORD CLEMENT-JONES: Yes, I think they should. I
don't think that the party will be hostile to that amendment at all. I
think it goes with the grain of the way that they see the controversy going
over their local hospitals.
DIGNAN: In seats like Winchester,
where many Conservative voters have switched to the Liberal Democrats,
there's a fear of the party being typecast as a pale version of old Labour.
The last thing the Liberal Democrat MP here wants is a set of policies
which might well appeal to some disillusioned Labour voters but at the
expense of deterring potential Conservative defectors.
OATEN: I accept that we would be
turning away some of those individuals if they saw us as being purely a
party of the left, a party which supported trade unions, and said the only
solution to difficulties was putting taxes up. I don't think that's where
we want to be in the next year.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes, we do take payment by credit
card. I'll put you through to somebody. One moment.
DIGNAN: Others argue that even
losing some votes to the Conservatives would be a price worth paying if
large numbers of Labour voters switched to the Liberal Democrats.
HARRIS: I think that would be more
than compensated for by the vast majority of people who recognise the potential
that the health service and our state school system have to deliver high
quality public services.
OATEN: Charles Kennedy described
our Party, if it were to go down to the left, as moving into the biggest
cul-de-sac in British politics, and I think he's right there.
DIGNAN: When these Liberal Democrats
re-assemble at the Claygate Tandoori in just a few weeks, it's likely the
talk will again be of events far from home. But the dilemma over which
direction they should take on the big domestic issues won't have gone away.
Until it does, the prospect of there being a Liberal Democrat Prime Minister
will remain little more than a dream.
HUMPHRYS: Terry Dignan reporting
there. And that's it for this week. Don't forget about our Web Site if
you are on the Internet. Until then, good afternoon.