The Tories' lead in the polls has been cut in half. Why can't you capitalise against such an error-strewn government?
We have been showing a solid lead for some time now, although because of the bias against us in the way seats are distributed, we would probably only be the largest party and not quite have a working majority. We need to use every minute of every day to improve our position. This Government has wasted one of the most prosperous decades we've ever had. Everything has been spent; nothing has been saved; and we are ill-equipped to cope with the pressures of global competition and the difficulties of an economic downturn.
After the revelations about Derek Conway paying his sons, why are the Tories caught with their snouts in the trough so often?
For three years or so before the Commons started publishing MPs' expenses, I placed all of mine, in detail, on my website. I try to run a model office which strikes the optimum balance between parliamentary duties in Parliament and in the constituency.
It is amazing how many people believe that we swan around in chauffeur-driven cars!
Why should the public trust a word politicians say when so many turn out to be liars and sleazebags?
Politics is a two-way process. It needs responsible MPs and similarly responsible voters. The tone of this question could perhaps be pitched a bit higher.
You stood for the Conservative leadership in 2005. Would you like to be the leader in the future?
Being Leader of the Opposition is the most difficult, and often the most thankless, job in politics. I see David Cameron in action, with all the pressures a leader faces, and sometimes ask myself how he does it and how he puts up with all the hassle. The closer you get to it, the less appealing the job seems.
How could David Cameron be doing better?
All of us can always do better. Because of the demands of day-to-day news management, we all tend to get sucked into short-term issues. All MPs would do well to stand back from the fray a bit more and map out some longer-term opinions and principles.
First the Post Office, then the Tube strike, now even policemen. Do you think we are facing a new wave of union militancy?
Gordon Brown has so wasted this last decade, he can't even plan for public sector pay. Yet at the same time, Labour adjusts its policy to suit the unions because they're the ones who pay for the Labour Party.
Is buying a "Fairtrade" product a good way to get a better deal for poor farmers, or just a form of charity? Do you buy any?
The Fairtrade set-up is a really good system. It stops exploitation, gives producers a start, and makes a serious contribution to the development of poorer countries.
Do you back the idea of making children stay in school until they are 18?
It's no good forcing them to stay on in artificial schemes. They need to want to stay on, and the way to do that is toimprove education in earlier years.
Should we be paying more children to stay in school to stop them leaving to find poor jobs at 16?
I'm not sure about paying them. Teaching them to read, write, count and, crucially, to speak properly are the foundations of the skills they need to command a better paid job. Teach them enterprise and aspiration.
Having studied in the best universities in the UK and the US, which was better and why?
I was at Oxford and Harvard. Harold Macmillan said that all Oxford needs to teach you is to know when a man is talking rot. Oxford teaches people how to reason; the graduate schools at Harvard are much more geared to the needs of business and law. Nothing beats going to both!
As someone who believes in a small state, do you think the Tories should ditch their commitment to match Labour's spending?
We left them an economy in really good nick. We stand to inherit one under serious strain. We must underpin people's sense of security and not just pull the rug from under them. George Osborne is right to put stability first.
As a former oil trader, when do you think we will run out of oil?
The peak oil debate is a pointless exercise. We should all assume that the day will come sooner rather than later. Complacency will come at a high price. We should all try to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, and encourage all possible alternatives.
You worked for Mark Rich while he was on the run from the US over tax evasion. Are you really fit to be shadow Secretary for Business?
Yes I am, thank you.
Who would you like to see as the next US President?
For the last 10 years or so I have been a Tory Democrat. But John McCain would once again make me a happy Republican.
Have you ever faced any discrimination in the Conservative Party for being gay?
Years ago, yes. And still in some parts of the "Tory" press. But not in the party any more.
Are there still a lot of MPs on both sides of the House of Commons scared to come out?
It's not for me to say. But at least it matters far less now than ever before. People are still entitled to be private about such things if they wish.
Do you think Tony Blair would be a good president of Europe?
As Margaret Thatcher might say: "No, no, no!" How can he be a good president when the job shouldn't exist in the first place?
You used to talk about a "Tory Taliban", the moralising social conservatives. Have you got them on the run, or are they regrouping andwaiting to strike back like their namesakes?
MPs can have a view on what is morally right and wrong. Indeed, they should do so. The issue is how you go on lecturing people and bossing them about. I don't see we have a problem with this any more.
Do you still support the legalisation of all drugs?
The trouble is that anyone, anywhere can easily get hold of drugs if they want to. I am permanently dismayed that by banning drugs we haven't actually stopped them. So we have to keep looking at every way we can to reduce successfully and, I hope, eliminate drug use.
Do you think the Tories should oppose the reclassification of cannabis as a class B drug? And when did you last smoke some?
I've never so much as ever smoked a cigarette. Goodie, goodie eh? The reclassification by the Labour Government has been entirely counterproductive.
Is the EU a good thing or a bad thing for British business?
The single market has been an entirely good thing. The free movement of goods and services has brought enormous benefits. The problem is that the EU makes too much of our law. The EU uses the single market as an excuse for doing things which shouldn't really be any of its business.
Will the Tories commit to scrapping stamp duty tax on share dealing?
We want to encourage wider share ownership and a healthy climate for investors to make decisions, but it will be for George Osborne, as Chancellor, to make decisions about stamp duty.
How did you feel on hearing about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, having been a close friend of hers at university?
I was shocked and deeply saddened. I had known her for 31 years, and she was the best, perhaps the only, hope for seeing a transition to democracy. Her assassination was a stab in the heart of democracy and a disastrous moment for a country which sits at the fulcrum of world security.
Do you watch Dragons' Den? Do you like it?
When I can, yes. And I like it. I hope it inspires lots of people to set up business and take a risk. Without risk takers, an economy stagnates.
You were voted the most stylish man in Westminster. Were you flattered or embarrassed? And who would you have nominated?
Thank you for such a generous-spirited question. It contrasts with one or two which came earlier. I was flattered. Maybe I see dressing well as making a stand against our unduly scruffy society. As for nominating someone else, er, that would be too invidious!Reuse content