BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 07.10.01

==================================================================================== NB. THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT 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 ==================================================================================== ON THE RECORD RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE DATE: 07.10.01 ==================================================================================== JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. The coalition is now in place and it seems the action is not far off. But are the aims less ambitious than we'd been led to believe? I'll be talking to Clare Short about that and about how we balance national interest against moral duty. We'll also be asking which direction is the Tory party headed in and I'll be talking to Michael Howard. That's after the news read by George Alagiah. NEWS HUMPHRYS: In the immediate aftermath of September 11th we were told by President Bush and Tony Blair that a great coalition would be created that would destroy terrorism wherever in the world it was based. You could hardly have a more ambitious aim than that. This weekend, almost a month after those terrible attacks, it all looks much more complicated... and perhaps rather less ambitious. The coalition is, more or less, in place. But you don't secure the support of such a broad range of countries without a degree of compromise. I'll be talking to the International Development Secretary, Clare Short, after this report from Iain Watson. IAIN WATSON: In the month after the attacks in the United States, Defence Department officials have been drawing up the military response. There was an expectation of swift retribution for the killing of a hundred-and-twenty-four Pentagon staff and a further five thousand people in New York; while initial presidential pronouncements were robust, the timing of any action has been more restrained. Gathering intelligence and deploying troops can't be rushed; but the apparent ambition of an all-out war on terrorism appears to be receding. LORD DOUGLAS HURD: I think that the early rhetoric of the first days which implied the US Marines would be enforcing all these kinds of measures against anyone who had a bank account or harboured or allowed to, people who were called terrorists, to live in their lands, I think that's faded away, we're talking about something which will take longer, we'll have to be equally energetic, but we'll have to be good bit more subtle if it's to be successful. SENATOR THAD COCHRAN: Appropriate action will be taken, and that can be not just military action. We've already seen an effort to shut down the flow of money to those who are responsible for this terrorism network's operations and activities. I think you can continue to see diplomatic efforts used, persuasion. WATSON: Memories of September 11th remain as vivid as the desire for justice; in Washington, there may be concerns over how to wage a wider war on terrorism, but when it comes to Afghanistan, diplomatic efforts are about to be transformed into military action. But a former British minister is echoing the call of international aid agencies for the US to delay any activity for humanitarian reasons. CHRIS MULLINS MP: The immediate priority in my view is to save as many as possible of the very large number of Afghans who face starvation this winter and nothing will undermine the international coalition more than the sight of thousands of starving, perhaps millions of starving people, that could easily damage the coalition, it may destabilise Pakistan and one or two other places that we don't want to destabilise. So, given it's only six weeks to go until the winter sets in, in Afghanistan, that in my view ought to be the priority for the international community and Osama Bin Laden ought to be left to stew for a while. WATSON: The Pentagon strategists are preparing their military plans but for the moment these can't be put into action. Both the American Defence Secretary and our own Prime Minister have both been indulging in last minute shuttle diplomacy to keep the international coalition against terrorism together. But has this diplomatic push worked both ways? As well as stiffening the backbones of moderate Muslim states over any action in Afghanistan, has it also made it much more difficult for the US to launch a wider war against terrorism? An effigy of President Bush burns in the streets of Pakistan - and the country's military leadership has no desire to share its fate. So their support for the US came at a price - namely, the lifting of sanctions. Such is their desire to build an anti bin-Laden alliance, America's transforming former pariahs into partners. So, when the UN voted to end sanctions on Sudan, a state officially listed by the US as a sponsor of terrorism, the Americans abstained. This has been welcomed by the organisation representing most Islamic states. AMBASSADOR MOKHTAR LAMANI: We do believe that the system of sanctions, it's a system that make a lot of harm to the people themselves and this is something that has to be seen again how to deal with it. LORD HURD: Up to now I do not think, I don't know of any deals or compromises which have been made which I would personally think are damaging. But we have to watch it, we have to watch it, we, we shouldn't go starry-eyed into this tent of our new colleagues, collaborators, because some of them have their own agendas, and some of them will be hoping and asking for things which it's not in our interest to give. WATSON: This is where coalition building gets tricky. Two weeks ago, Jack Straw became the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Despite Iran's continuing place on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, Britain has been keen to encourage its more moderate leadership to continue down the road of re-engagement with the western world, and has been calling for the US to follow suit. DOUG HENDERSON MP: Well our advice for some years now has been that America needs to have a new approach to Iran, to look at how you can build a relationship with Iran to make it a more positive contributor to the international community. Now is the time where that's got to happen and I hope that the Americans will recognise that if the number one priority is a war on terrorism then they've got to build Allies with those who they need support to carry through that task. Iran is one of those countries and therefore I think that the United States will have to try and rebuild its relationship, relax sanctions, try to help the Iranian government. WATSON: This wider coalition building is causing controversy within the Bush administration. While the secretary of state Colin Powell, the veteran Gulf War commander, wants as many countries on board to fight bin Laden, a hawkish pentagon adviser warns the US not to take too much advice from Britain. RICHARD PERLE: I think the British policy is profoundly mistaken in this regard. There is, unquestionably, a division within Iran between those Iranian leaders who support terror and those who support it less. I haven't seen anyone denounce it. WATSON: Iraq may also be, at least a temporary, beneficiary of coalition building. The Jordanians suggested that they'd been given assurances, to quell a restless populace, that there'd be no military action aimed at Saddam Hussein's regime. But, sooner or later, the US administration will want to take action. But there's a disagreement between those who believe that non -military means will be the key to bringing rogue nations to heel; and those who say that 'might' is more effective PERLE: I mean, what sort of war on terrorism is that, where we know support for terrorism is present in a number of Arab states, if, if they are immune from attack? They'll go on supporting terrorists. Now I don't think we have to attack them all. I think that once it becomes clear that the price you pay if you support terrorism is that you yourself are vulnerable to attack, a number of countries will get out of the terrorism business. SENATOR GEORGE MITCHELL: This may be a conflict - people use the word a new war rather loosely, but in fact in this effort military action, while the most visible and most publicized, may not be the most significant area of activity. Economic, diplomatic, legal, financial and others will play a significant role. WATSON: Just over a week ago, in just three minutes flat, the UN Security Council agreed its most far-reaching and apparently hard-hitting anti-terrorist resolution ever. Member nations were given just 90 days to report back on what they're doing to weed out terrorism in their own countries. That may sound tough, but in practice, any member of the Security Council - and that includes Russia and China - could veto any military action against unco-operative states. So there are those who argue that this whole process shouldn't negate America's right to self-defence. COCHRAN: The United States has been attacked. We know who did it. We're now beginning to take action against them to keep these things from being repeated. We have a right to disrupt and defeat those efforts. The United Nations doesn't have to give us permission to do that. HURD: I don't believe it's necessary in international law to get UN endorsement, any more than it was for Desert Storm. We were advised then and I think clearly ministers here are advised now, that Article 51 of the charter which provides for self defence, cover this situation, just as they covered what we did to free Kuwait. WATSON: America has seven rogue nations in its sights. But some say tackling the unedifying symptoms of terrorism isn't enough; the virulent causes must also be removed. Some influential voices are arguing that, in the Middle East, this means a lasting solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There's been a change of tone recently from President Bush - he's talked explicitly about a Palestinian state. But any shift from rhetoric to reality could cause the toughest tensions yet within the US administration. The latest Palestinian uprising -or Intifada - has just entered its second year. When the group representing fifty-seven Islamic states, the OIC, convenes this week they will not just condemn terrorism but demand a clear definition of the term - one which would include Bin Laden but exclude people such as the Palestinians who are fighting for their own homeland. LAMANI: We have to make a distinction between terrorism that everybody is condemning, and as you know some of our member states were the first victims of terrorism and they are still fighting a lot of terrorist acts and when it comes to struggling for ending the occupation if there is an occupation and I think this is legitimate when people are fighting for - against the occupation of their land. WATSON: Any move in that direction by Washington would upset Israel which has already accused the US of travelling down the road to appeasement. And President Bush could find this spat between two allies is a mere foretaste of a much larger argument at the very heart of American politics. PERLE: It would be a great mistake, a profound error, now, in the aftermath of an attack on civilians in this country, to alter, in any way, our policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute, because that would reward terror. What it would say to the terrorists is, if you wish to gain the support of the United States in applying pressure to Israel, don't attack Israel, attack the United States. MITCHELL: Even if this terrible tragedy of September 11th had not occurred, it makes sense for the United States to be actively involved in trying to achieve a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So that's an independent, valid basis in and of itself and secondly, it's quite clear that the administration believes that will be helpful in building a coalition among those Arab nations which are favourably disposed to the United States. And I believe that's a legitimate basis as well. WATSON: On this side of the Atlantic, some politicians are saying that Britain should bolster those in the US administration who want to see a settlement in the Middle East, even at the expense of irritating Israel. MULLIN: Certainly if America wants to win friends and influence people in the Arab world - and indeed hold its head up in the wider world - they have to start using their considerable influence with Israel, to persuade the Israelis to negotiate seriously. And negotiating seriously means withdrawal from some of the settlements on the West Bank and the end to the colonisation of the West Bank. WATSON: The Prime Minister returned home last night after a frantic round of diplomacy during which the occupant of number Ten had been described as the chief ambassador - for the United States. But those with government experience, on both sides of the Atlantic, believe our influence with America over how to fight terrorism, or to tackle its underlying causes, will be strictly limited. HENDERSON: Ultimately America makes its own mind up. Sometimes Britain can influence the degree with which the argument is put or the timing of the action but I think when it comes to the decision America will make that itself and hope that it can persuade others including Britain to back it. PERLE: We work closely with our friends, but we cannot yield the most fundamental of governmental responsibilities, the protection of our citizens, to any other authority. So we listen carefully to what everyone has to say, but at the end of the day, we have to act in our own defence. WATSON: Although military action in Afghanistan seems to be getting closer, Washington appears far less settled on how to wage a wider war on terrorism. It may be some months before it's clear whether the US really does favour arm-twisting over armed intervention. HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting there. JOHN HUMPHRYS: Tony Blair told the Labour Party conference that we have morality on our side in the fight against terrorism. Most people would agree that it is in our national interest to combat terrorism. But can we really claim the moral high ground? After all, the coalition being assembled by George Bush and Tony Blair includes a number of countries that themselves harbour terrorists and that are guilty of serious human rights abuses. Then there's the question of refugees within Afghanistan, the aid agencies fear that they are suffering even more as a result of threatened military action. Well Clare Short is the International Development Secretary. Come to the question of the refugees in a moment if I may Ms Short, but this question about balancing national interest against our moral duty. It is difficult isn't it? CLARE SHORT: I think there are less contradictions than there used to be as the world has integrated to make the world safe for your country and even your country's business. You need a world where there is prosperity, where there is stability, where there isn't constant warfare, where there isn't the dangers of massive terrorist incidents. So, I mean I argue this, it's in my White Papers, it is in Britain's national interest to have much more development for the poor of the world. To remove injustice, to give people the chance to have a better life 'cause we'll have more stable world that uses the environment better, then the next generation from our own country will have a better future. So I think the contradictions are less, there are always contradictions but less than there used to be when the nation state was seen as much more separately, that you had to look after UK interests against all others. HUMPHRYS: But there are contradictions, or difficulties, use that word perhaps, in this situation that we now find ourselves in, aren't there. I mean if you look at our dealings with Pakistan at the moment, they are very different from what they were after the military coup in Pakistan. Then we cut off all military co-operation with them, we agreed that they should be suspended from the Commonwealth, now we are making friends with them again because it is in our national interest so to do. SHORT: No, I've argued ever since the military coup and this was a coup that was welcomed right across the Pakistan people, right across the people originating from Pakistan living in our own country, because both previous parties, so-called democratic governments had been horrendously corrupt, plundering the country. The economy was not going anywhere. There were no public services for the people and I have taken the view...there's a lot of technocrats and reformers being brought in to this government, that we needed to ensure that it was a transition to better economic management, better social policy and real democracy and we've been engaging with them in that kind of technical support. They've run local elections, a third of women elected in villages right across Pakistan that wouldn't have happened in the past. For the first time in the history of the country just completed an IMF programme. So my view is that both for the sake of the people of Pakistan and before this crisis, to prevent Pakistan imploding into a Talibanised type regime and Pakistan with an unresolved conflict with India over Kashmir, above countries nuclear capable, it was in our interest to engage with this military Pakistani government and help it be a reformer that brought Pakistan to proper democratic government rather than collapsing into the sort of chaos that would threaten everybody. HUMPHRYS: But there has been a clear change in our policy towards Pakistan and there are perfectly understandable reasons why that should be the case and you wouldn't suggest, would you, that we now like the Pakistani military regime if you look at what Amnesty International has said about the way it has behaved in the past year - human rights violations including torture and death in custody have increased and of course they are harbouring Taliban trained Kashmiri separatists, terrorists in many people's minds. It's a pretty unsavoury bunch of people. SHORT: I don't think that's true. I mean no country is perfect, I haven't seen the Amnesty report, I'm not aware of it, but I'm not aware of anyone alleging there's been sort of an increased abuse of human rights. The government in Pakistan is complying with its law, you know people are being treated with..under martial law, they've been engaging in serious economic reform, as I said they've just had these local elections, they've committed themselves to parliamentary elections by the date set down by their own court. They are a transitional, reforming regime, if they are a success and I believe it's in the interests of the people of Pakistan and in Britain and the world to help this military government be a transition to better governance in Pakistan. We were working at that right through...I mean the one change that's been made is military collaboration but all the rest, economic reform, increasing aid to help the reform process and better economic governance, I've been working on that for a long time. HUMPHRYS: Well, you may well have been but many people regarded them as a pretty unsavoury bunch of people but still, let's take another country - Iran.. SHORT: But you see people like to posture, don't they, military regime - bad. Well of course, nobody wants a military regime but what about totally corrupt plundering so-called democratic regime and that's what Pakistan had before. So you don't get perfection in this world but working with the change to get Pakistan to proper democracy, I think that's the right thing to do, in practice and in principle. HUMPHRYS: Even if it means chucking out a democratically and imperfectly elected as you say, and they are certainly an imperfect government, even if it means chucking them out with the military.. by the generals taking over? SHORT: But that's what happened and the people of Pakistan right across the country celebrated and the people of Pakistan origin in our country and there are quite a lot in my constituency, celebrated. We cut back all our aid programmes to review what we should do... HUMPHRYS: ...suspended them from the Commonwealth. SHORT: Indeed because it was a coup and then anyone looking hard-headedly at what had happened in Pakistan before and what could happen if things went wrong, if Pakistan became the pariah and the Talibanisation spread would be a disaster for Pakistan and the world and then engaging in supporting the reform effort to get Pakistan back to democracy and into better economic management was the right thing to do. HUMPHRYS: Alright, take Iran then, where Jack Straw went in order to improve our relations, again for entirely obvious reasons.. SHORT: And let's remember Robin Cook was planning a visit to Iran, so this isn't just on the back of this crisis, I can't remember now why it got cancelled, I think there was a trial but that's been planned for some time. There's been a lot of change taking place in Iran, a lot of big increase in the youth population, a lot of people voting in Iran for reform, again it's surely in the interests of the world for Iran to open up, to have better relationships with the rest of the world, not to be a pariah and cut off. HUMPHRYS: But this is one of those countries that harbours some of the very nastiest terrorist organisations, HAMAS, for instance. These are people who go into Israel and blow up children in pavement cafes, men, women and children in pavement cafes. Now, we are saying, we can do business with you in effect, and we are having to put that to one side for entirely pragmatic reasons, but it's a balance again, isn't it, it illustrates the balance between a moral approach and a pragmatic approach. SHORT: Well morality isn't perfection, as all of us, if, I mean, just let's be clear about what morality is, as each of us tries to be a moral human being in our own life. It doesn't mean we are all saints, it means we all keep trying to do the right thing, so you don't say, I can only have a relationship with a country if everything about it is perfect. Now in the case of Iran, it got cut off from the rest of the world, I don't personally have any detailed knowledge of support in an organisational way for groups engaged in terrorism in ... HUMPHRYS: No, but there is absolutely no question that they are... SHORT: ...against the Israelis, there's no doubt about that's the way they speak... HUMPHRYS: doubt at all, and they have not condemned Hezbollah and Hamas, that's the point, nobody in Iran ... SHORT: ...that's my understanding, but anyone who follows matters at all knows that a major change has been taking place in Iran, that the people have been voting for reform and liberalisation, that there's now a conflict in the regime between the reformers who do want to reform the economy and open up to the rest of the world and those who don't. Now surely, it's beneficial to Iranian people and the rest of the world to engage with the reformers and to hope that we can help Iran to join the community of nations and abide by all the conventions of the world in relation to terrorism and everything else. HUMPHRYS: I just wonder how you can say to... SHORT: I mean take China, it's the same issue. Pick, you know, there aren't free trade unions in China... HUMPHRYS:, we deal with China because it suits our national self-interest. SHORT: Well I don't take that view. I mean China is a fifth of humanity, its economy is now growing... HUMPHRYS: Might is right. SHORT: No, don't be so cynical. HUMPHRYS: No, it isn't. This isn't being cynical, it's being entirely practical. SHORT: No. Well. A fifth of humanity. In the last ten years the economic reforms they've engaged in have seen a vast reduction of poverty for some very very poor people. Think of what happened when China behind closed doors in the cultural revolution, in the great leap forward there was horrendous suppression. China's opening up, wants to grow its economy, joining the World Trade Organisation. We're engaged again with trying to help them reform and improve education and so on for their poorest people. Of course the way they treat religious minorities and so on, I completely disapprove of, but I think it's right to engage with China... HUMPHRYS: ...and political opponents with their regime... SHORT: ...indeed, but I think things are improving. I think they are a lot better than they were in the days of the cultural revolution. And I think it would be crazy to say no-one will talk to China as China is opening up and changing. I think we should engage and try and support the reform effort and China joining the community of nations. HUMPHRYS: I just wonder how you can reduce this to a human and understandable level. I mean, I may be wrong about this, but when people see the Prime Minister making a speech when he talks about the moral community and all the rest of it, moral order and the world community operating under a moral order - if you were the mother of a child who had been blown apart by a Hamas guerrilla in Israel for instance, wouldn't you be pretty cynical, you accused me of being cynical, wouldn't you be pretty cynical about that sort of language, and aren't we entitled to be at least sceptical... SHORT: ...I hope, I hope if I was that mother, we all understand when people are angry and very upset they want revenge and so on, but I hope if I was that mother I would say, I want this sort of thing to stop, I want to stop Israeli's killing Palestinians and young Palestinian suicide bombers killing young Israelis and I hope if I was that mother I'd say, how can we stop all this conflict and horror and mutual hurt, and how can we get a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis because in the end those two peoples have got to live with each other, and any wise mother that wanted further children not to be blown up would favour some kind of just settlement. That's what all the sensible people must back. HUMPHRYS: But if there aren't any moral absolutes, is it wise... SHORT: ...there are moral absolutes, they're very diff... HUMPHRYS: ...ah, you seem to be suggesting there aren't... SHORT:, no of course there are moral absolutes but... HUMPHRYS: are saying it all depends. SHORT: No I am not saying that. But I'm saying, each of us in our own personal life, let alone in foreign affairs, there are moral absolutes - thou shall not lie. Is there a journalist in the world that adheres to that? HUMPHRYS: I very much doubt it, although it depends how you define lying. SHORT: But it's still true we shouldn't lie, but there's big lies and small lies. HUMPHRYS: Right. SHORT: There's an absolute, but then we've all got to struggle to try and do the right thing. HUMPHRYS: So in other words it is relative isn't it? SHORT: No... HUMPHRYS: is relative. In which case it is risky for a Prime Minister to take a moral high ground without qualifying considerably, that's really the point I'm trying to make, doing what you've just done, and qualifying it and saying, well, you know, there are grey areas here. SHORT: Well my own view is that in this increasingly interdependent world our own national interest depends on a more stable and safe world, and to achieve that we have to really focus on the systematic reduction of poverty, the degree of inequality in the world is dangerous for the future. It leads to conflict, environmental degradation, the spread of diseases that come and hurt everyone, and similarly great injustice in the world that creates bitterness and conflict endangers all of us. So there's no doubt, I agree with analysis in Tony's speech, it's not easy to achieve it, of course not. HUMPHRYS: And it requires sacrifice from us. SHORT: It requires dedication and commitment to those objectives, and we can do better and more. We have put much more focus on the reduction of poverty. More needs to be done, Britain can't do it alone, but we need to mobilise the international system but we can do better. HUMPHRYS: If we are going to war for moral purposes, and that's the essence of our argument, and you've certainly said that in this interview, how do we square that fact with the fact, the ineluctable fact that there are going to be a vast number of people dying as a result of that war who are not involved in that war, who are entirely innocent in the best sense of that word? SHORT: I think it's now agreed and I think the delay in taking action and preparing for real action that breaks up this really monstrous terrorist network means that we are not going to all-out war, we are going to use all the different instruments we have, the exchange of information and therefore arresting people, money laundering, military action tightly focussed on those who are responsible for training and nurturing the terrorist activity and at the same time, we are engaging in a massive and humanitarian effort because the truth is, in Afghanistan, people are more in danger of dying from hunger than from any military activity. HUMPHRYS: And we increase that risk don't we by our military activity, even if it is, as you put it, focussed. Difficult to focus military activity as we discovered in Iraq at the .... SHORT: Actually before September the Eleventh the situation in Afghanistan was terribly serious. Three years of drought and all the years of war. HUMPHRYS: And it's even worse now. SHORT: And the behaviour of the Taliban which makes if very difficult for the UN to work, for women doctors, you know without the UN colluding in what they do we've had difficulty after difficulty. Before September the Eleventh I'd allocated more resources from the UK because of the situation, and the problem was to spend it inside Afghanistan because of all the difficulties they create. So the people of Afghanistan were in trouble because of the horrible government they've got and the same horrible government was nurturing forces that were spreading killing and disorder across the world. You can't leave that for the sake of what happened in America and what's happening in Afghanistan, so now we need intelligent action, we need to focus down on those who are responsible, we need to make sure we bring real relief to the people of Afghanistan and then of course the most hopeful scenario is a crumbling of the Taliban regime and there is some evidence of that. HUMPHRYS: Ah well. SHORT: And transition with limited military action. HUMPHRYS; Given that there is that possibility, that the regime will crumble as a result of the various things we've been doing, that have so far not involved military action, military build-up yes, but... SHORT: Preparation for it... HUMPHRYS: Indeed, the preparation has that intention, no doubt, but given that would it not make sense to say, well let's hold off a bit longer. However long it may take even, in the hope that it will collapse from within? SHORT: No, my own view is that now the strategy we've got is absolutely right, and that those who are deliberately training people and infecting them with hate and misrepresenting the teachings of Islam, killing civilians - I was in Kenya just after the bomb there too - hundreds of poor Africans were killed in that incident and many thousands of Indians. This has been going on systematically, he's building a network with a capacity to do this in more and more in more countries. For the sake of everyone, including the people of Afghanistan we've got to target all of that and take it apart,....but you've got to do it in a focussed way and absolutely avoid civilian casualties if you possibly can, and that is now the commitment. But the real risk of death in Afghanistan is hunger and therefore we've got to at the same time increase the food going in, and we are doing that, but we need to do even better. HUMPHRYS: But twenty international aid agencies, as you well know, have said don't attack until the aid is there. Chris Mullin said much the same in our film a few minutes ago, so surely there is an argument for holding off until you've got the aid there, and then it may even mean holding off a little bit longer in the hope that the regime collapses. SHORT: No, the Taliban have brought their people to this. The Taliban were saying local workers can't be on the telephone to UN agencies, the Taliban raided world food programme stores and took the food that was meant for hungry Afghans. There's no way you can say leaving it to them will help the poor of Afghanistan, we should do both, and the eighteen aid agencies made an appeal to everyone including the Taliban and the Northern Alliance to cease any military activity. Now that would be lovely, but I don't think it's very likely to happen and therefore what we've got to do in the real world is both stop the people who are planning the horror of the sorts of events that took place in America and get food through to the people, and that's what we're working on... HUMPHRYS: The UNHCR says... SHORT: And I'm increasingly confident that we will succeed. HUMPHRYS: But the UNHCR says doing the sort of things that we're doing at the moment does risk increasing the number of refugees, perhaps by a million and a half people SHORT: That's the UN appeal, positive that. Actually the number of people moving..... HUMPHRYS: Well, I spoke to someone from the UNHCR just yesterday. He confirmed that figure. SHORT: Yes, that's the figure in the appeal, but actually the number of people who've been moving out of Afghanistan has been less than was expected. HUMPHRYS: So far. We haven't started fighting yet. SHORT: Well we haven't started our targeted military action. We all expected far more people to flow out across all the borders. There were more people out of Afghanistan in the war between Russia and the local people than there are at the moment. We have to prepare for that and we've got camps for that, but we've got to get more and more food into the country and we've been getting in this last week five hundred thousand tonnes a week in, and we want to double that in this next week and if we can achieve that we're getting in the kind of stores that are needed to feed the people of Afghanistan through the winter. HUMPHRYS: Clare Short, thanks very much indeed. SHORT: Thank you. HUMPHRYS: The Conservative Party begins its conference in Blackpool tomorrow. It's likely to be every bit as sombre as the Labour conference last week for the obvious reason - but also pretty gloomy because they seem no closer to restoring their electoral fortunes now than they were five years ago. They have a new leader but in which direction will he lead? I'll be talking to the new Shadow Chancellor Michael Howard after this report from Terry Dignan. TERRY DIGNAN: The Hertfordshire town of Hemel Hempstead deserted the Conservatives in 1997 and has shown little desire to return. Indeed, at the last election, Labour actually increased its majority here. The Conservatives, it seems, marooned in their southern English rural heartlands, have lost the knack of attracting support from all classes and regions If Ian Duncan Smith can't win over the voters in places like Hemel Hempstead, then frankly he doesn't have a prayer. What's required, say some Conservatives, is a total transformation of the party's policies and its attitudes - to women, for example and to ethnic minorities. And it would do no harm, it's argued, if the Conservatives tried harder to shed their image as the nasty party. A group of former Conservative voters gather at a house in Hemel Hempstead to form a focus group. They're here to share some thoughts on the party they used to support: VICKY: Thinking about the Conservative Party today, what would you say its main strengths are? ELAINE: I suppose just tradition. But I mean they really need to change. They've really got to look at their image because they're not attracting any youngsters at all. REBECCA: The only things that I was made aware of was that they wanted to keep the pound. LYNN: I think Labour have a more modern image and are more in touch with the nation, I guess, really, whereas the Conservatives have a more sort of traditional, almost old fashioned image really. FRANCIS MAUDE MP: People both inside the party and outside the party sympathise with the party, who desperately want the party to modernise. DIGNAN: Francis Maude, ex-shadow Foreign Secretary, has got the message. He's teamed up with like-minded Conservatives including Archie Norman to prepare plans for a new think-tank. The view of former party strategists that the Tories need new ideas to widen their appeal is now accepted. MAUDE: We look narrow. We don't look as if we represent a broad swathe of the nation, of the country. Either geographically, or socially or in terms of our ethnic mix or in terms of the number of women, who are prominent in the party and that has to change. ANDREW COOPER: Unless the British people feel the Conservative Party has changed to the point that it shares their values, that it's able to engage in the debate about the things that matter to them and that it's a party of decent people not of nasty people, then it will just continue to lose votes and to lose elections. DIGNAN: But here in the London suburb of Romford Andrew Rosindell rejects this analysis. He's a rarity - a Tory who won a seat from Labour at the last election. He says there's nothing much wrong with the Conservatives other than that they don't fight hard enough at grassroots level for what they believe in. ANDREW ROSINDELL MP: I don't believe that we should say we've got it all wrong before, let's start afresh, I don't believe that we need to reform the party from scratch. We've got the right ideas, the right principles but a wrong image and I think that in the next couple of years, we need to focus on getting ourselves the kind of image that is seen to be in touch and in tune with people but also by rebuilding the party at grass roots, being very active locally. DIGNAN: But according to our focus group in Hemel Hempstead, many people feel that the Conservatives don't want their support. REBECCA: They don't make it seem like they're a party for people from all walks of life. It seems like it's a certain class or clique of people. They sort of need to be more inviting and welcoming if they want to have more friends. DIGNAN: These views come as no surprise to those in the party who feel the Conservatives are particularly unwelcoming to women and ethnic minorities. But how to tackle the problem may cause quite a stir. MAUDE: We are under-represented by women, you have all these conversations within the party, lots of lovely people who say well of course, we know we must have more women candidates and more women MPs and it's a really good idea but it wouldn't quite work here. That's got to change. And change quickly. DAVID CURRY MP: Let's be honest about this, I think we may have to do some positive discrimination to get more women into the Party. I think we may have to do some discrimination to be able to get more blacks and ethnic minority people into the Party. ROSINDELL: I think that's a very dangerous route to go down and I think that will backfire on us. I think we should be certainly inclusive. But you do that by treating people the same. You don't do it by dividing people up in to categories. DIGNAN: During his campaign to become party leader, Iain Duncan Smith toured areas of Bradford hit by riots. He said he wanted to win over Asians here who shared Conservative values. Yet his supporters included the Conservative Monday Club which wants the voluntary repatriation of immigrants. Some Tories want the party to disown such attitudes. CURRY: Where you do get excrescencies which go to extremes, then I think the Tory Party would well take the opportunity publicly to have a couple of show trials and actually say well they're no longer part of the Party, and we had the opportunities in the last Parliament and they weren't taken. DIGNAN: It looks as if Tory HQ agrees. To symbolise the Conservatives' commitment to a multiracial society, the party, it appears, has decided to ditch the Monday Club. On The Record can reveal that three Conservative MPs, including Andrew Rosindell, have been told to resign from the Monday Club. We understand the party intends going further by making party membership incompatible with belonging to the Monday Club. It could be a sign that Iain Duncan Smith accepts that the party's image amongst ethnic minority voters must change. But others warn the move could be divisive. ROSINDELL: The symbolic action that the Conservative Party need to take is to prove that we as a party, want everybody to support us and to join us and to be candidates. I don't think we should single out one group or another group and say we don't want you or we want you. We want everybody in our party but we're not going to start, and if we do start this, it's going to cause us great difficulties in the long term. But we're not going to start going down the route of political correctness. DIGNAN: Our focus group regard big domestic issues like tax and spending as no less important than how to make the Conservatives more representative. It seems that cutting taxes is no longer as big a vote winner as the Tories believed. JOHN: Rather than cut taxes for the individual for those that are high earners and so on and so forth, you know, to try and put more back into health and education and so not cut taxes - keep the taxes the same and spend the money in those areas. REBECCA: They are still going to need the money aren't they? JOHN: Of course. REBECCA: They all say that, so where's the money going to come from? It's got to come from somewhere. ELAINE: Make sure you're with BUPA or HSA or whatever and the National Health is just, let it slip by nicely and quietly without anybody kicking up a fuss. MAUDE: I think one of the things that the party has to do is to show that we are absolutely committed to the National Health Service, which doesn't mean to say that we think it should all be set in concrete and preserved without amendment for ever. But, I think the public don't, by and large, feel that the Conservative Party is committed to that. I think they're suspicious of us. CURRY: We impaled ourself really on a dilemma we couldn't escape from as we approached the last election. We felt obliged to match Labour's promises as far as expenditure on the public services was concerned, but simultaneously we wished to remain true to the Tory tradition of cutting taxes, and people said hang on, the sums don't add up and quite frankly they didn't really. DIGNAN: What do you think the Conservative Party should do under Iain Duncan Smith? DR ANTHONY SELDON: I think it has to really get back and remember what the Tory Party has always been about. DIGNAN: Historian Dr Anthony Seldon - the Headmaster of Brighton College - says the Tories dominated the last century because of their pragmatism. In a pamphlet published tomorrow by the Centre for Policy Studies, he says, they could learn from Tony Blair's Labour. SELDON: They saw that the key to the Conservative dominance of that Conservative century was that there was an appetite for power, a hunger for Office and a pragmatism that allowed the party to jettison values and beliefs that were no longer in tune with the public and to adopt new positions, centralist positions, moderate positions that allowed it to capture the core middle vote in British politics. DIGNAN: The party, it is said, lost its preference for pragmatism over ideology under Margaret Thatcher, seen here campaigning in Romford at the last election. But many in the party would be loathe to move to the moderate centre if it meant, for example, abandoning a Thatcherite tax-cutting philosophy. ROSINDELL: Margaret Thatcher won three election victories with very large majorities, it's only when we appeared to lose our direction, it's only when we seemed to become very unsure of ourselves, and rather wishy-washy that we began to lose again. I think that we should stand by what we believe in, be true to ourselves. CURRY: We have not been able as it were to close the door on that Thatcherite period and it is still haunting us. What we need to do is to be able to say Mrs Thatcher was a glorious part of our history, we now need to look to our future. DIGNAN: The current priority for the new Tory leader is to show support for Britain's armed services. UNNAMED MAN: Welcome to HMS Lancaster. DIGNAN: But with an eye on domestic politics, Iain Duncan Smith says he wants to move on from Thatcherism and create a more tolerant image for the party and new policies for public services. But time is not on his side. ANDREW COOPER: There are a lot of constituencies in this country where at the last election it was pretty hard for local parties to perform the most basic functions of a Party, delivering leaflets and knocking on doors, and without an influx of new young members by the next election it is not an exaggeration to say there will be seats where that can no longer be accomplished, so the Conservative Party unable to attract younger support simply is going to die. DIGNAN: In the glory days of Margaret Thatcher Hemel Hempstead backed the Conservatives. Yet the voters here now feel little nostalgia for Thatcherism. That's why Iain Duncan Smith is under pressure to learn from Labour, become a pragmatist and lead his party to the centre ground of British politics. HUMPHRYS: Terry Dignan reporting there. 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 to today. 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 ago... 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 something about. 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 I think. 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 Muslim College. 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 as well? 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 Party. 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 the Party... HUMPHRYS: 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 extremist views. 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: 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. HUMPHRYS: And that's it for this week. Don't forget about our website if you're on the internet. Until the same time next week, that's half past twelve again, our normal time is twelve o'clock of course, half past twelve next week. Good afternoon. ...oooOooo... 25 FoLdEd
NB. This transcript was typed from a transcription unit 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.