[C]HRIS MANN: What does one of our leading local MPs feel about the Conference and how it went? Stewart Jackson joined me, the Conservative MP for Peterborough.
STEWART JACKSON: Well I think what it did was to throw into sharp relief the big battles ahead. Because two or three weeks ago I think the people of this country thought it was going to be a battle about who could manage the country better, in terms of you’re all the same, you promise the same, you all look the same. And I think that that’s been blown out of the water now. We now have the biggest ideological battle I think for the future of our country since 1992. Two very stark competing visions of what Britain will look like after the next General Election, between principally Labour and the Conservatives. And I think that’s good for democracy …
CHRIS MANN: (GRUNTS)
STEWART JACKSON: … and it’s given people a clear choice.
CHRIS MANN: Is it the choice between a party with compassion, that’s Labour, and one, the Conservatives, who don’t really care about people at the bottom of society?
STEWART JACKSON: Well that’s completely untrue. What we are about is actually clearing up the mess that Labour left us. There’s nothing compassionate about Stafford Hospital, the disaster of needless deaths in the NHS. There’s nothing compassionate about five million people parked on out-of-work benefits. There’s nothing compassionate about children leaving school not able to read and write, and innumerate. You know, Labour talk a good game about spending money. We’ve actually delivered new jobs, 1.4 million new jobs. We’ve capped benefits. We’ve got more young people into apprenticeships. We’ve cut the deficit by a third.
CHRIS MANN: The Prime Minister talks about a land of opportunity, but that’s not for all, is it? Because your policies are about picking on those at the bottom of society. You picked on the unemployed this week. The disabled of course, with the new hoops they’ve got to jump through. The low-paid. And just today announcing more things against the under-25s
STEWART JACKSON: No, what it is ..
CHRIS MANN: If you’re at the bottom, the Conservatives aren’t interested in you.
STEWART JACKSON: No that’s not true. And in fact if you look at the figures from the Office of National Statistics, the people that have been hit hardest since 2008 in the economy are the richest fifth. And the people who are better off are the poorest fifth, as a result of the last five years financial policies, not just us but Labour. So the idea that we’re you know discriminating against poorer people, it’s completely untrue. We want to give them better educational opportunities, better work opportunities. In terms of welfare, our policies are hugely supported by the population. It’s not about being uncompassionate. It’s about saying to people, we’re not going to treat you as second class citizens, parked on welfare, leading aimless and wasted lives. We’re going to actually help you get educated, get skilled, get trained and get into work, for you, for the community, for your families. And I think there’s nothing other than compassionate in that approach.
CHRIS MANN: You make the claims as if the whole country is behind you. But you’ve had industrial action this week from the teachers. Last week from the firemen. Not much said about solving those issues. Shouldn’t that have been a priority?
STEWART JACKSON: Well less than a third of the teachers voted for industrial action. It was about defending what are already very very generous pensions.
CHRIS MANN: The majority of those who did vote voted for it, obviously.
STEWART JACKSON: Well they did. But they were a tiny minority compared to the whole membership of both the unions. And the other thing of course Chris is the public don’t support the teachers. They don’t think they should be going on strike. They don’t think they should be damaging children’s education. They don’t think ..
CHRIS MANN: But shouldn’t the Government be intervening and solving those issues, rather than .. we’re heading towards a National Strike it appears, with these rolling regional strikes continued.
STEWART JACKSON: Well the fact is, when people are reasonably well paid, they have good pensions, and they’re complaining about changes that have hit people in the private sector over the last five or even ten years, then the public is not sympathetic, and will not give them a blank cheque to go on strike. Most teachers in the Peterborough area worked. Most schools were open. They do not have the public support. As for firefighters, it’s the same issues. Very generous pensions. There has to be some change in their working practices, not least because we’ve got the lowest number of fires for fifty years. So there are ways that we need to go forward ..
CHRIS MANN: But why is this Government continuing, upsetting large groups of professionals? Yesterday it was the GPs of course, by announcing, it appears, without much consultation, that you were going to extend their hours, open at weekends, and out of hours. GPs said fine, but you need to give us more money. Something else has got to give.
STEWART JACKSON: Well the answer is always more money Chris, because at the .. let’s look back in recent history. GPs got a very very significant rise for doing less work, under the Labour Government. Only the Labour Government could be so financially incompetent to give a very significant rise, I think a 27% pay rise, for doing less work. Their out-of-hours contracts were a disaster for patient care. What we’re saying to people is you know you get a good salary. You are professionals. You’re well respected. But you have to work around people’s working hours.
CHRIS MANN: But they say they’re happy to do that, but you need to .. something else has to give, in order to free up that time. Isn’t that reasonable?
STEWART JACKSON: Well it is reasonable. But it’s also reasonable to say to them, look, a lot of people need your services, to take the pressure off Accident and Emergency, in the evening and at the weekends. You’ve got to adjust your hours, like thousands and millions of people in the private sector, who have to deliver what their customers want. GPs are in the same situation. Their patients, a lot of them need to see them in the evenings and at weekends, and they’ve got to adjust their working practices, given that they are pretty well paid.
CHRIS MANN: You said earlier in the interview that you think the next election is going to be between you and Labour, as if no-one else is involved. Of course you’ve got partners in the Government at the moment. But UKIP of course very strong in Cambridgeshire, very strong in your area. Breaking news today that the former Tory Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine has described the UKIP party as racist, and he says it’s right-wing and racist. UKIP have said his comments are baseless and repugnant. Are they racist in your view?
STEWART JACKSON: No. And those are stupid and foolish comments by Lord Heseltine. And I think he should spend a bit more time with his arboretum, given that he hasn’t won an election or fought an election for sixteen years. I think giving advice to the Tory party is probably not his strong point.
CHRIS MANN: Is that an embarrassment to you?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I think it is, because, you know David Cameron has made quite clear that we have to have a civilised debate, and that name-calling is not the way that you address people’s legitimate issues.
CHRIS MANN: (GRUNTS)
STEWART JACKSON: And I don’t think that Lord Heseltine got that memo. And therefore if he can’t conduct himself in that civilised way, then he shouldn’t be intervening. And he certainly doesn’t speak for me, and the vast bulk of Conservative Party MPs and members.
CHRIS MANN: Because just on Monday Nigel Farage held out an olive branch. He said potentially he would talk to individual Conservative MPs about doing deals over the next elections. He says he’s had approaches from some. Are you one of them? And would you do a deal?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I don’t think I would, because as I said at the beginning I think this is going to be a key issue essentially, that if you want a Labour Government with Ed Balls and Ed Miliband in charge, higher borrowing, higher debt, higher taxes, higher bureaucracy, a backward looking approach back to the ’70s socialism, then you need to vote UKIP as well. Because UKIP is basically a way for Labour to get in through the back door. And that’s the message I’ll be putting forward in Peterborough to people who share my values and beliefs, UKIP voters and supporters. You know, I will vote and campaign against our continued membership of the European Union. I voted for a European referendum. I voted against increasing the EU budget. We are as one. Having a position where you vote UKIP to punch David Cameron on the nose will do nothing but deliver a Labour Government, which is exactly the wrong thing, because you’ll never get an EU in-out referendum if that happens.
CHRIS MANN: Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough, thank you for joining me.
STEWART JACKSON: You’re welcome.