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Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Sunday, 15 June 2008 15:25 UK

Andy Burnham interview

On the Politics Show, Sunday 15 June 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now by the Cabinet Minister, Andy Burnham, so up and coming we're told, that he's being tipped as one day a successor to Gordon Brown.

Although when that will be, who knows. Now, Andy Burnham, thank you very much for joining us on the Politics Show.

ANDY BURNHAM: You're welcome.

JON SOPEL: You heard Ken Livingstone there saying that actually, the whole issue of forty two days was political positioning by the government.

ANDY BURNHAM: Well, I just don't accept that for one minute Jon. I mean you have some of the most senior police figures in the land saying that this is necessary, and I don't think you can just brush that away. And that's really what I find so surprising about what David Davis has done this week. At first I just thought, well this is a, a self-indulgent stunt.

We know his views, why does he have to put his constituents through a by-election and waste public money in the process. But the more I've thought about it, the more I'm staggered by what he's done because he has now expanded it to include CCTV, which played a bit role in capturing the London bombers and he's also included the DNA data base. I could not go to my constituents proposing the removal of CCTV and expect to win support, they'd tell me where to go.

JON SOPEL: So go into the constituency and challenge that argument if you're so confident about it.

ANDY BURNHAM: Well I would, in my constituency, be ready to have that discussion any day; people are aware of my, of my views on these issues.

JON SOPEL: Do you think Labour should field a candidate?

ANDY BURNHAM: Well the decision will be taken in due course. There isn't a by-election.

JON SOPEL: What's your opinion.

ANDY BURNHAM: There isn't a by-election yet. As I say, I think this is a very self-indulgent thing to have done. I also think that it wastes, it wastes public money .. (interjection_

JON SOPEL: Sure, but .. you say you relish the argument. Well why don't you - is it your view that you should field a candidate.

ANDY BURNHAM: Well let me just make this point Jon. The NEC and the Party will take a view on whether to fight this election. We, we think it's an unnecessary by-election, that's our basic position. But let me just say this, David, I mean I've heard people saying in David's constituency ? (interjection)


JON SOPEL: I want to know whether you are in favour yourself of fielding a candidate.

ANDY BURNHAM: It's a decision, it's a decision for the party. I think it's a completely unnecessary by-election and those are circumstances on which the Labour Party finds itself in. But it's not principally about us, this is about David Davis and the Tory Party. He is saying that he wants to fight on these issues.

I don't think his Northern Constituency is that different from mine. And I think the views of his constituents about CCTV, the DNA data base, would be broadly in his constituency, broadly similar to people in my constituency. He says he's got David Cameron behind him. I think this is actually going to open up a, a dividing line between the parties here.

JON SOPEL: Well, if you're so confident that there is this dividing line, then surely the thing that the Labour Party ought to be doing is thinking, right, well let's have this fight, let's take it to it - we're ready for it.

ANDY BURNHAM: Well, the party will make its judgement in due course, about what to do. As I say, we would not. We think this is unnecessary, we think it's a stunt and actually, it will, I think put lots of people through an unnecessary inconvenience, but the party in due course will decide, if, I say if, a by-election is, is finally called.

But I do think it exposes an issue about the Tory position on these issues, where they, where people do support the role of the DNA data base in solving murders that have been unsolved for decades, horrific rapes that have been solved through the DNA data base.

If he, if he really does want to debate these issues, I'd be surprised if his constituents are completely with him on all these points.

JON SOPEL: You don't think that there's a danger that actually, MPs who have got a way of thinking about things, that they kind of live in their bubble in London SW1 and think oh, David Davis he's gone bonkers and that maybe whether it's on the Tory benches or the Labour benches.

But out in the country, it is resonating with people that they look at him and think, here is a man of principle, here is a man who's prepared to stand up for what he believes in, even if it costs him his political career.

ANDY BURNHAM: I've got a lot of time on a personal level for David Davis and I respect him in many ways. But as I say, on this occasion, I think he's been self-indulgent and actually and made a wrong decision that will back fire on the Conservative Party.

I take - I'm interested in your point about the Westminster Village. I think, when you test these issues, these - precisely these issues out in the country, you often get a very different response than you do within the Westminster village and that's where I think he's made a fundamental misjudgement because if you test in Haltemprice and Howden, the question of CCTV, do people want it or do they not want it.

You ask them, do they think the DNA data base is a useful tool for the police in fighting crime, my judgement is that people in his constituency will say yes, we do support these things and if David is really saying, let's purely debate these issues, I suspect he may end up ? (interjection) .. on the wrong side of the argument.

JON SOPEL: Very quickly, if you think that forty two days is such an important issue and you are defeated in the House of Lords, will you make this commitment that you will re-introduce the forty two days measure and if necessary, use the Parliament Act to get it through.

ANDY BURNHAM: Look, I can't make these commitments. Those are judgments for the Prime Minister but what you have seen is the government on these difficult issues, which do need to be debated fully. You have seen the government coming forward, taking the tough decisions and prepared to put the interests of national security above all things.

Yes, it is politically difficult, yes there is a difficult argument to make, but you do see a government that is still there, putting the difficult choices before the country, prepared to take a, a difficult decision and I find it odd actually that today's Conservative Party, when we were looking at the situation in Northern Ireland and the things that needed to be done, is now taking the position that it is.

JON SOPEL: Well let's talk about Europe for a minute. Why aren't you as a government prepared to say that this Treaty, as things stand, is dead?

ANDY BURNHAM: Well I think, the first thing I want to say there is that you can never explain away a referendum, as you know, there is no question at all that that could happen. But at the same time, let's worry about our own game before we start telling other governments how to do things.

We have a ratification process here in this country, that we have devoted an enormous amount of parliamentary time to because of concerns in the country about the issues and we need to see that job through before we start telling other people what we think they should do.

JON SOPEL: Understood. So would you agree then that as things stand, this Treaty is dead.

ANDY BURNHAM: Well, what I would say is it needs all members of the European Union to ratify it, if it is to come in to force. That is a fact, there is no getting away from that fact.

But I think principally, the Irish government needs to reflect on the events of the last few days and as David Milliband was saying this morning, it would appear that other domestic issues have played a part in the vote.


ANDY BURNHAM: But then, there also clearly needs to be a discussion at the European Council later this week and I think after those two things have happened, we'll be clearer about the way forward.

JON SOPEL: Then so the simple answer to my question, as things stand, the Treaty is dead, is yes, it is.

ANDY BURNHAM: There is a process to be gone through now and there is ..

JON SOPEL: Why can't you say it.

ANDY BURNHAM: There is a need, there is a need for a discussion next week in the European Council. I couldn't say it more clearly could I.


JON SOPEL: You could say, as things stand the Treaty is dead.

ANDY BURNHAM: It needs all twenty seven countries to ratify it and these are precisely the things that people are now going to discuss.

But I think Ireland was in a similar position over the Nice Treaty, some years ago. Now, I'm not suggesting at all that you can explain away or wipe away the vote in Ireland, I'm not saying that.


ANDY BURNHAM: But I am saying that Europe collectively, need to look at its options now and decide on a way forward.

JON SOPEL: And when we were talking about CCTV and forty two days and DNA data base, you were citing the views of your constituents. What do you think your constituents think of this.

ANDY BURNHAM: Well I'd make a very, I would always be prepared to make an argument, a pro European argument in my constituency because my constituency has received money from the European Union to fund economic regeneration.


ANDY BURNHAM: Well I think it's - one thing that is clear here and perhaps the Nice example in Ireland shows it. That when you have a commitment to always put these votes to a referendum, these are very complex and technical matters, I don't think they lend themselves particularly easily ?

JON SOPEL: You're not saying your constituents wouldn't understand it are you.

ANDY BURNHAM: Oh, certainly not. Not at all. I've said, I would always be prepared to take discussions ..

JON SOPEL: Well, are you saying the Irish didn't understand it then.

ANDY BURNHAM: No, I'm not saying that. But David Milliband was clear this morning that it would appear that issues around taxation, I think he mentioned abortion too, have played a role in the, in the voting in Ireland.

I'm not close enough to Irish politics I'm afraid Jon, to say precisely how, how that vote played out. But I think these are issues and ? urgent questions to be considered in the next few days.

JON SOPEL: Let us move on and talk about your own government's direction. Last September, you wrote, 'what the Labour Party stands for isn't as clear to young people today. There is a need for a new expression of our aims and values'. Well, nine months on, are we any clearer.

ANDY BURNHAM: I think so, I think we've got a government now that is beginning to really put before the country, a clear way ahead. It's only part of the, part of the landscape that I've been proposing.


ANDY BURNHAM: ? issues to do with sport and physical activity in the country. The proposal around free swimming. Yeah, it's been a difficult time for the government but I think in politics, what matters, you have ups and downs, the question is, how do you handle them, do you have some togetherness within the party and in the cabinet, and I think we do.

And I think we've - particularly on these issues that we were discussing earlier, the Labour Party has a real and distinctive programme to put to the country and we'll carry on doing that.

JON SOPEL: Well what is the big idea.

ANDY BURNHAM: The big idea is around, in my view and Gordon's been very clear on this point, is around aspiration, opportunity. In the first ten years of this government, I think we were righting lots of real wrongs in terms of the crumbling state of our schools, the appalling state of our NHS and we've had a programme of ten years investment in this country.

When Gordon came in as Prime Minister, he said the next phase is about talent, ambition, opportunity. I look at my constituency today and I believe people can now have bigger ambitions about our local community and their own lives and that is the ground on which Labour should speak to young people and put forward a vision for the country. JON SOPEL: There is something that's slightly counter-intuitive about this.

You said that in the past nine months it's become a lot clearer what we stand for and in those nine months, you've gone from a position where you broadly ahead in the polls to twenty four points behind.

Maybe you should have been obscure, it was obviously suiting you better.

ANDY BURNHAM: I'm not going to say that the polls don't matter. Obviously, we've been through a difficult few months but when you say, what do you stand for, we have taken a stand over forty two days, you can't criticize us for that Jon.

We have put a very clear position, we've stuck by our guns and we've prepared to take a difficult matter to the country.

If this was a political party with no courage left, no ability to make a case to the country, then we were quite - folded that issue away and walked away from it. We've not done that and we are prepared to put forward what we think is in the national interest.

And I believe you've still got a government here that has togetherness, that has a collective vision for the country and we - yes, perhaps we need to do more to make the case for it, but you will see that from people like me in the month's ahead.

JON SOPEL: Andy Burnham. Thank you very much.

ANDY BURNHAM: Thank you.


Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

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The Politics Show Sunday 22 June 2008 at 1200BST on BBC One.
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