Murnaghan Interview with Owen Paterson, Conservative MP, 10.05.15

Dermot Murnaghan


DERMOT MURNAGHAN: Now then, David Cameron called the election result the sweetest victory of all but let’s not forget that he has a wafer thin majority which means he is going to have to listen very, very carefully indeed to all of his backbenchers.  Well one of those is the former Cabinet Minister, Owen Paterson, and he joins me now from Ellesmere in Shropshire and a very good morning to you, Mr Paterson.  Well, as I say, he has got a wafer thin majority, you know that very well and therefore he has to keep the party in line.  One way of doing that is that he decides on the make-up of his government, he has got a lot more jobs to hand around than he did when you were in coalition.

OWEN PATERSON: Well good morning.  First thing to state is that this is a remarkable victory, completely confounded virtually the whole political establishment, the pollsters and the press and it’s a real victory for Conservatism, offering lower taxes, less regulation, getting people back into work, welfare reform, more choice in education, health.  It’s really worked and what I think we ought to do is to push on in this government and make sure there is a broad spread across the ministries.  It’s great that we can get really vital ministries back like Energy where we frankly got a disastrous long term energy policy led by the Liberal Democrats where there was a real problem the lights might go out, so it’s a really, really great opportunity now to get common sense Conservative ministers in there and really push on over the next five years and really consolidate on this tremendous victory.

DM: And how does he push on and bring common sense into relations with Europe that will satisfy people like you and many others in the Conservative party?

OWEN PATERSON: Well I think we’ve got to give him the time and the space, as I said in the Sunday Times today to push ahead with his idea that we can get what we want through a renegotiation and we have to let him have a real crack at it.  Remember, I was very closely involved in all the negotiations on CAP reform, we’d never have got it through and on that last night when I was speaking my best Bavarian in the German offices, we worked very closely with the Germans and I think there is a real will on their behalf to come to agreement.  There is very broad agreement I think in Britain that we moved to join a market, all this rubbish, the EU and the three million jobs, it’s the market that delivers what I suspect are many more than three million jobs. There are five million jobs in Europe depend on trade with us, it’s the trade we want and they are going to leave us and set up a new country in order to fix the horrors of the Eurozone in order that they can transfer funds legally between the wealth creating areas like southern Germany, southern Holland down to the difficult areas southern Spain and Italy so they are going to leave us and effectively form a new country.  We have a great opportunity to have a completely new arrangement based around a market and we can withdraw from the political and the judicial arrangement but we have got to give the Prime Minister time, he’s got to set out his vision. I mean I have a tremendously optimistic vision of where we could be, regaining our role on those really important international bodies that ultimately decide regulation but let him have a fair crack and give him time.

DM: But that’s the point though, isn’t it Mr Paterson, that if his vision doesn’t coincide with your vision and others’ vision and he can’t do it in the time available, he’s got to hold that referendum before the end of 2017 and a lot of parallels have been drawn with 1992 from the point of view of your party, the surprise election victory but of course we know what then happened to John Major is his so-called awkward squad over Europe that in the end tore the party apart.

OWEN PATERSON: Well this is the press narrative you are all hoping is going to happen.  I think we wish the Prime Minister well …

DM: It did happen.  

OWEN PATERSON: Don’t forget, the European, the 27 partners will have seen this, they will have a seen a very, very resounding statement by the British people to back the Prime Minister’s programme.  He goes there with a real mandate and I think we have got to give him the time and space to deliver.  There is very broad agreement across the Tory party and as we’ve seen, there is broad agreement with the small c conservatives who have been completely ignored by the metropolitan media and the pollsters and spoke up.  They have very broad agreement for moving towards an arrangement where we enjoy the benefits of the single market but we are not bossed around by the political and judicial arrangements.  Every day in DEFRA when I was doing it, I had to make judgements as to how far we could push a decision in case we got infringements and infractions and ultimately fines from the European Union.  We have just overtaken France, we are the fifth biggest economy in the world, we can run our own show and we can get back on those world bodies  and really re-galvanise world free trade because the lack of free trade and the fact that stalled is causing these horrendous problems in very unstable parts of the world like Middle and Northern Africa.  So I see a really positive role for us and we have got to give the Prime Minister with his massive mandate the very best shots to deliver.

DM: Are you available to make these arguments back in government if you were asked?

OWEN PATERSON: That is entirely down to the Prime Minister who is making his choices as we speak but I have been re-elected here with an increased majority, I am delighted to say this part of the world is all blue for the first time since 1970 and I’ll be playing my full role representing small c conservatives and their views in the new parliament.

DM: But willing to serve if required?

OWEN PATERSON: Obviously yes, everyone would.  We want this government to success at last.  We’ve got rid of the ball and chain of the Lib Dems, we can crack on with a really positive common sense programme so we need to deliver the boundary changes where you’ve been held back by this nonsense that John Major got 14.1 million votes and a majority of 21, Tony Blair got 13 and a half and got a majority of 179, we’ve got to even that out.  We’ve got to resolve the issues of English votes for English laws and we’ve obviously got to work closely with the Scots, make them feel welcome in the Union and my belief is on the Scottish issue they should be responsible for raising the money that they spend and suddenly you change the dynamic.  We’ve got a great leader of the Scottish Conservative party, suddenly you have competition in Scotland between parties to deliver lower taxes and better service.

DM: We are hearing from Chris Grayling who is going to be, we understand, looking after those issues concerning Scotland that Scotland should have the strongest devolved powers of any on earth, how far can that go?

OWEN PATERSON: Well referring back to my previous comments, at the moment, I knew all along that this devolution settlement was totally lopsided and asymmetrical and behind me, that view behind you is Wales, there are decisions made on health in Wales by a bad Labour government in Cardiff right up here affecting me in North Shropshire and I can do nothing about it.  We always knew this was asymmetrical and what’s happened is the Scottish referendum has woken the English up to that and the Scots cannot treat England as some piggy bank which can be raided so that excessive amounts of money are taken from England without responsibility and the Scots can run around promising free healthcare, free this, free holidays in Lanzarote and expect the English to pay.  There has to be a resolution so that English matters have to be decided by English MPs and the fair thing is to give the Scots real responsibility.  I would be happy to see them raising the money that they spend and then you re-establish that link between how you vote.  You’d think really carefully in Scotland, are you going to vote for effectively a Marxist SNP or would you vote for a prudent Scottish Conservative party offering lower taxes and better service?  And suddenly you change the whole dynamic of politics of Scotland within the UK.

DM: Okay Mr Paterson, good to talk to you, thank you very much indeed for joining us.  Owen Paterson there in Ellesmere in Shropshire.