08:38 Friday 1st March 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: So, the LibDems are cock-a-hoop this morning after holding on to Eastleigh in Hampshire in the Parliamentary by-election, caused of course by that resignation of former Cabinet Member Chris Huhne. Mike Thornton retained the seat with a much reduced majority, whilst their Coalition partners the Tories were pushed into third place by the rise of Ukip, who recorded their best ever Westminster result, made in Ramsey of course, master minded by Lisa Duffy. Labour finished an incredibly distant fourth. Well the LibDem’s Leader Simon Hughes was a relieved man. (TAPE)
SIMON HUGHES: I’m very pleased as well as relieved of course. We worked well. We didn’t squeak in by 50 votes or 500 votes. It was a majority of nearly 2,000. Mike was an excellent candidate. He had a credibility locally to fight a good campaign. It was a consolation that, in government, this was the first time since we’ve been in the Government, we defended one of our seats. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well, victory for the LibDems, but Ukip are claiming the moral victory, annd Ramsey councillor Peter Reeve hailed the result as a huge step forward for the Party. (TAPE)
PETER REEVE: Before, Ukip was very much seen as a party against the EU. But people are actually paying attention to what we’re saying. The media’s giving the coverage to what we’re saying. And I think when people look at us and actually get a chance to really appreciate what it is that Ukip are saying, they suddenly realise that, oh my goodness, there’s a party saying exactly what I think. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well as I mentioned, Labour finished a very distant fourth, a result they say is “impressive” considering their previous results in that constituency. So is this just a protest vote, or is it a defining moment in UK politics? Have people had enough of the status quo, and are beginning, like they are in Italy, to look for alternatives? Let’s speak to Stewart Jackson, the Conservative MP for Peterborough. Are you worried this morning Stewart?
STEWART JACKSON: No. I think the point is Paul that there’s always going to be, in the middle of a difficult parliament for a government dealing with the issues that this government is, Coalition government, there’s going to be a time when people are fed up. They’re not seeing a good future. They are disappointed at some aspects of the Government’s performance and policies, and they look for a protest vote. And hitherto it was the Liberal Democrats that were that protest vote. Now it’s Ukip. And you know I say to Ukip, fair enough. You know it was a good performance to put us into third position and come second. But you are a protest party. No-one believes that Ukip are going to be the Government. And for those people in Eastleigh, they’ve had an opportunity to poke David Cameron in the eye and not get a Ukip government, and not get Labour in No 10 Downing Street in the shape of Ed Miliband. So for all those reasons I think that it is a mid-term protest. Having said that, there are some lessons that I think David Cameron and the Conservative Party in a wider sense need to take on board.
PAUL STAINTON: What are those?
STEWART JACKSON: Well they’re essentially that you shouldn’t treat your most loyal supporters with disdain, and force on them policies that they absolutely loathe, such as gay marriage and side issues like Lords Reform, and that you should get back to focusing on things that people are supportive of, authentic Conservative policies. So, tax cuts for ordinary families, cost of living issues, reforming welfare and education, which we are doing, things that matter to people in their everyday life, and not the obsessions of the metropolitan liberal elite, such as gay marriage. I think that and Romanian and Bulgarian immigration are the two issues I think that drove the Ukip performance in Eastleigh yesterday. We’ve got to address that issue.
PAUL STAINTON: Your problem is, if Ukip replicate this across the country, it’s going to split your vote and put Labour in power, isn’t it?
STEWART JACKSON: Well, that is why I think David Cameron will be thinking very carefully about some of the policies that he has pursued, and refocusing. And I think the challenge for him now is particularly around Romanians and Bulgarian immigration. People are very worried about that. It’s only now nine months before potentially hundreds of thousands of people can come from those countries., We need, as I said in my Ten Minute Rule Bill in October in the House of Commons, we need proper controls on who can come here, to protect our public services and our employment market. He needs to look at that. And more importantly even than that, George Osborne needs to focus on helping ordinary families in the Budget later this month, because that is a crucial issue. In other areas we are doing a good job. We are reforming schools. We are getting to grips with Labour’s disastrous legacy in terms of the economy and deficit. And we are making efforts to make the health service better. That’s all very well and good. But there are areas that people are very concerned about, and one of them is clearly immigration.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you still confident David Cameron is the man to lead your party into the next election? Is he going to deliver victory and another term in office?
STEWART JACKSON: Well he certainly needs to raise his game, and I said that a while ago. He has a very short time in which to convince a lot of voters who would otherwise vote Conservative, and who do not want the disaster of an Ed Miliband premiership and Labour back in control. As I said to somebody the other day, you don’t give the car keys back to someone that’s crashed the car into the ditch. And people don’t trust Labour on the economy.
PAUL STAINTON: They trust them as much as they trust you, according to recent polls.
STEWART JACKSON: No, we’ve still got a significant lead on Labour over who you trust on the economy, particularly Cameron and Osborne against Balls and Miliband. But there is a lot to do, and you know basically slapping your own supporters in the face with something like gay marriage, which was hideously unpopular with Tory supporters, and voters to a certain extent, was a bad move. And it was gesture politics. Let’s put that behind us. Let’s focus on the future, the Budget, and outlining a very positive narrative of authentic Conservatism, which I think can and will lead to an election victory in 2015, if we play our cards right.
PAUL STAINTON: You mentioned the subject of Bulgarians, Romanians, Euroscepticism, all that sort of stuff. Yet the candidate in Eastleigh was a Eurosceptic, renowned, spoken out against immigration. She got a bloody nose.. She couldn’t even speak to the press because she was crying.
STEWART JACKSON: Well obviously Maria Hutchings was I thought an excellent local candidate, and it’s always very sad that really good people who are chosen to stand in by-elections are always caught in the crossfire of the national political situation. In her case she was beaten by a Liberal Democrats. Let’s remember of course that …
PAUL STAINTON: Which was a great result for them considering what’s gone on.
STEWART JACKSON: Well of course they’ve lurched from one disaster to another in the last few weeks.
PAUL STAINTON: Well it hasn’t stopped them winning, has it?
STEWART JACKSON: Exactly. And congratulations to them. They obviously fought a very spirited campaign. But they’ve dominated that area in local government. They’ve got virtually all the councillors in the constituency, and we’ve got none. That infrastructure obviously made the difference on the day, getting the postal vote out and getting their voters out on the day. Good luck to them. It was a well deserved victory. But we have a lot to do. I feel sorry for Maria Hutchings, but remember we’ve got over two years before the general Election, and a lot can happen. I just hope that David Cameron listens to the message from Eastleigh and gets back to popular authentic Conservative policies.
PAUL STAINTON: Stewart, thank you for that, and good luck with opening the food bank in Peterborough later on today, and we wish the food bank all the best with what they’re doing as well.