JOHN HUMPHRYS: Michael Howard, is it time
to ditch Thatcherism and embrace the middle ground?
MICHAEL HOWARD: I think what we've not got to do
is to define our approach by reference to the past, by reference to whether
we are or are not going to ditch Thatcherism. Margaret Thatcher did great
things for this country, we were on our knees as a country in 1979, she
transformed the country, that was twenty years ago. We've now got to move
on and what we've got to do, I think, is very simply this, I don't think
that those people in Hemel Hempstead or elsewhere are going to take us
as seriously we want to be taken until we can show them that we will make
their lives better. And that means developing clear, credible and convincing
policies that will show them how we are going to deliver better health
care for them, better education for them. It is a scandal that at present
in this country, people are dying from illnesses and diseases from which
they would not die if they lived in France and Germany. That is the state
of affairs which we've got to tackle and I think we have certain advantages
over the present government, we are much more likely than they are to come
up with policies which are going to make people's lives better, that's
what it's all about.
HUMPHRYS: You have to show them
all that but you also have to show them, don't you, that you are different
from the perception that many have of you and the point that Gary Streeter
made, the Deputy Chairman of the Party, is that if you think of Thatcherism
as your Clause 4, in the way the Labour Party ditched its Clause 4, got
rid and said that's a break with the past now, then you may be able to
change that perception, that's the point really isn't it. So it's relevant
HOWARD: We have to change the perception
that people have of us obviously..
HUMPHRYS: And one way of doing
it is to say, Thatcherism is behind us.
HOWARD: ..we suffered a crushing
defeat at the last election, well I suppose I've just said that. I said
that what Margaret Thatcher did actually saved this country twenty years
HUMPHRYS: Sure you but agree with
Gary Streeter's view that..
HOWARD: ..that was twenty years
ago, we've got to move on and we've got to come up with policies which
people are going to see, are going to make their lives better. Let me give
you a practical example, one of the reasons why I came back into the Shadow
Cabinet, a set of statistics, in East Kent, in the area I represent in
Parliament. In March 1997, just before the '97 election, when we were still
in office, there were forty people waiting more than thirteen weeks to
see a cardiologist, with a heart problem, forty people who needed to see
a heart specialist - not proud of that, that's forty people too many.
In March 2001, after four years of Labour government, in East Kent, there
were two hundred and sixty-nine people waiting more than thirteen weeks
to see a heart specialist and many of them won't ever get to see that heart
specialist, they'll die before they ever get to see their specialist. That
is something which makes me very angry. That's something we've got to do
HUMPHRYS: And I want to come on
to the question of spending on things like the National Health Service
and Education in a moment. But let's just be quite clear what you are saying
about this Gary Streeter use of the expression Clause 4 in relation to
Thatcherism, you are saying you do agree with him that that is something
that you now have to put behind you.
HOWARD: I am saying we have got
to move on. Margaret Thatcher was actually a very pragmatic political leader,
she had principles, we have principles, she applied those principles very
pragmatically, we've got to apply our principles very pragmatically. We've
got to apply them in a way that will meet people's needs in the first decade
of the twenty-first century and that's a different decade.
HUMPHRYS: So you accept the Gary
Streeter analysis as it were, right. I don't hear you differ, so I will
accept that as a...
HOWARD: ...well I've put it in
my own words. I didn't see what Gary actually said, I've told you what
HUMPHRYS: Fine. We heard from
that lady in the focus group, saying that - I have made a note - "They
don't seem that they are a party from all walks of life. They are a certain
class or clique of people." That's a problem for you isn't it?
HOWARD: It is and we've got to
deal with that and we've already started to deal with that. I heard a very
interesting interview on the Today programme last week and I can't remember
whether it was you who was doing it with Dr Zaki Badawi, the Head of the
HUMPHRYS: Yes it was.
HOWARD: Someone I know well, whose
views I deeply respect and he was being interviewed in the aftermath of
what Margaret Thatcher said about the Muslim reaction to the events of
September the eleventh, of which Iain Duncan Smith has said he disagrees.
HUMPHRYS: And I take it you do
HOWARD: Of course I do. And
what Dr Zaki Badawi said was that Iain Duncan Smith should appoint a Muslim
adviser. Iain had already done that. He'd beaten Dr Badawi to it. He
has already appointed a Muslim adviser. And we absolutely take this very
seriously indeed, of course we've got to be representative of the country
as a whole, of course we've got to welcome every section of our national
community into the Conservative Party and that is indeed a very high priority.
HUMPHRYS: Well, he clearly sent
a very strong message by doing that, your new leader. Is he sending a very
strong message over the Monday Club as well? We heard that three MPs have
resigned from it at the request of the party. When are you going to say
no Tories should belong to the Monday Club. It is incompatible, membership
of that club is incompatible with membership of the Conservative Party?
HOWARD: Well you are quite right
to say that three Members of Parliament have been asked to resign from
the Monday Club and they have. After
the Party Conference the Chairman of the Party, David Davies is going
to meet the Chairman of the Monday Club and they will have a discussion
on this. I am not going to pre-empt that discussion. One thing is absolutely
clear - there is no room for people with extremist views in the Conservative
HUMPHRYS: And you would accept
that some of the views expressed by the Monday Club in the past have been
extremist, support for voluntary repatriation for instance.
HOWARD: Yes, some of the views
expressed in the past have been extremist. There is no room for extremist
views in the Conservative Party.
HUMPHRYS: So therefore by definition
almost, membership of such an organisation would be incompatible with membership
of the Party, wouldn't it?
HOWARD: Well I've told you I am
not going to pre-judge the outcome of the discussions, the Chairman of
HUMPHRYS: ...no I was just interested
in your view, obviously as a very senior....
HOWARD: ...those matters will be
discussed at that meeting while I am making absolutely clear as Iain Duncan
Smith has already made crystal clear is that there is no room for people
with extremist views in the Conservative Party.
HUMPHRYS: The trouble with that
view, set against some of the other actions that Iain Duncan Smith has
taken since he became leader is that there seems to be an incompatibility.
He appointed well, he appointed Laurence Robertson to the front bench.
Now Mr Robertson is a man who supported John Townend, one of your MPs at
the time, who said black immigration has created a mongrel race. As a result
of that, he was cautioned by the Whips, as I understand it. He is now on
your front bench.
HOWARD: Well, I am not sure whether
you were quoting
Laurence Robertson or quoting John Townend ...
HUMPHRYS: John Townend's was the
quote, but Laurence Robertson was asked what he thought about it and he
thought it was broadly right.
HOWARD: Laurence Robertson, as
far as I am aware, made one injudicious remark, for which he apologised.
And that's an issue which has been dealt with and that's a chapter which
has been closed.
HUMPHRYS: But didn't it display
an attitude, I mean, if you made such a remark you'd expect me to say,
"Good God, you really believe that Mr Howard?"
HOWARD: And if I said "No, I don't
and I apologise for it" that would be an end of it.
HUMPHRYS: But did he say "I don't
really mean that"?
HOWARD: He said, he apologised
for it, and that's an end of it.
HUMPHRYS: Apologised for an embarrassment
of the Party perhaps, but apologising for your...
HOWARD: No, no, no, no, no. He
apologised for making the remark. Look, we can talk about this endlessly.
The fact is as I've made plain today and as Iain Duncan Smith has made
plain earlier, there is no place in the Conservative Party for people with
HUMPHRYS: Let's go to, you raised
the question of the Health Service a moment ago. Our Health Service costs
a great deal of money. One of the perceptions of that focus group that
we brought together there was that you don't, the Party doesn't care enough
about public services. Iain Duncan Smith has said that it is an aspiration
that you should cut public spending from forty per cent ish, which is where
it is at the moment, down to thirty-five per cent.
HOWARD: No, he was referring back
to something that John Major had actually said...
HUMPHRYS: ...with which he'd agreed?
HOWARD: ...in that quote. No he
didn't actually say he agreed with it, if you look at it very carefully.
I have no target for public spending as a proportion of GDP. What I will
say is this - other things being equal, it is better if taxes are lower,
not as some matter...
HUMPHRYS: ...oh well that's...
HOWARD; ...well, no, no, no, wait
a minute. There's a particular reason for my saying that, I'm not saying
that because it's a matter of dogma, or anything like that. If you look
at the evidence internationally, you will see that countries with lower
taxes, countries with public spending as a lower proportion of GDP do better
economically, grow faster, create resources more quickly, which is better
for everyone, and better for the public services as well as for individuals.
So other things being equal, the lower we can get public spending as a
proportion of GDP, the better, so long as that is not at the expense of
the public services that people want and expect. And our overriding priority
is that we will give people the health care that they need and are entitled
to, give people the education they need and are entitled to and the same
applies to law and order, and to transport as well. And let me tell you
why we are much more likely to achieve that than the Labour Party ever
is. The truth is that when actually push comes to shove, what do the Labour
Party do? They do the kind of deal with their trade union paymasters that
we saw Stephen Byers do in Brighton last week and they are captured, they
are still captive to their gut prejudice against the private sector. Now
what we say is, we want to harness all the resources that are available
in our society to tackle these pressing problems of healthcare and education
and the other public services.
HUMPHRYS: In just a few seconds
that remains, it is therefore possible that there would be no tax cuts
under a Conservative government, given all of that.
HOWARD: It is possible. It is possible.
I would like to see tax cuts, but we are not going to put tax cuts ahead
of the need to give the people of this country the healthcare, the education
and the other public services which they are entitled to and which they
are certainly not getting now.
HUMPHRYS: Michael Howard, thank
you very much indeed.
HOWARD: Thank you John.