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Harriet Harman interview transcript

On the Politics Show, Sunday 5 October 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Harriet Harman MP.

Interview transcript...

Harriet Harman
It's a time of great national challenge on the economy and Peter Mandelson is admired and respected for the work he's done in Europe and internationally on the economic side of things
Harriet Harman

JON SOPEL: Well let's speak now to Labour's Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, who is with us in the studio. Thank you. Let's stay with that subject. Wasn't Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary right when he said, Peter Mandelson, coming back to the government, it's a risk.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I didn't actually see that particular interview but I think that what the Prime Minister has done is he wants to strengthen our economic team ? I mean it's a time of great national challenge on the economy and Peter Mandelson is admired and respected for the work he's done in Europe and internationally on the economic side of things. And you saw the reception he got when he came in to his department. There's obviously a lot of confidence in him. That's why he's brought back and I think there is a big challenge that's being faced and that's why he's there.

JON SOPEL: But a risk none the less.

HARRIET HARMAN: No, I don't think. I think the challenge, the risk is if you like, is, is not to stabilize the economy, to protect people from the effects of these economic challenges, whether it's in housing, small business, the cost of food and fuel. I mean that is what the problem is and Peter Mandelson has been brought back to strengthen the government's team as we help the country face those problems. Stabilize the economy, protect people, especially those who are most at risk and get things on a sure footing again. This is about economics, not politics. I mean I thought that David Cameron's shows that Tory HQ is obviously just a hot-bed of political gossip. I mean what we are focusing on is the economy.

JON SOPEL: But isn't there a point that you know, you want to focus on the economy and yet we get a briefing that appears in the papers that sort of Peter Mandelson virtually bit Gordon Brown's arm off because he was so desperate to get in and then Peter Mandelson comes on the television this morning and says, actually I had to think about it for some time and yes, I did speak to Tony Blair before I accepted.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I, I, you know I don't know what the, the briefing was that you are supposedly referring to. It's absolutely clear that Peter Mandelson is committed to doing this job. He's got the capability of doing this job and we want people of commitment and real competence at a very difficult time. And that's why he's strengthened the economic team and is bringing it together in the national economic council, which will meet in addition to cabinet, to bring together all the government departments, to protect people at what is a difficult time.

JON SOPEL: Sure, and we're going to come to the economy in a moment. I just wondered when you knew that Peter Mandelson was coming back to government.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think the Prime Minister makes the announcement of his cabinet and I don't think he makes it public, who he speaks to, when.

JON SOPEL: I just wondered whether you were aware of it.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well, I don't think the Prime Minister comments on when, who he talks to...

JON SOPEL: That sounds like a no.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well you know, I've been always consistent on this. You know, it's, it's actually - the important thing is the Prime Minister makes his announcement and then the team works together, it's not about who said what to who, when. I mean frankly, it isn't.

JON SOPEL: But they don't like each other do they. There's a fabulous bit in Alastair Campbell's diaries, where he says, We had a very good laugh when we imagined what it would be like to go out and deliver a true speech - conference, Gordon and Peter really do hate each other.

HARRIET HARMAN: Honestly Jon, I think if you're like the, businessman I met at the, Thanet, at a dinner, a constituency Labour party dinner in Thanet, well it's in Ramsgate actually, last Thursday, who's concerned about the fact he's got a perfectly viable pharmacy business, but he can't get a loan from the bank, although he will be able to repay it if he could get the loan. I mean quite frankly the issue about what was or wasn't in Alastair Campbell's diaries is not the point and I don't think anybody in government is under any misapprehension that these are serious, difficult times and we've got a top quality team to work together to tackle them. We're not going to be distracted by all this.

JON SOPEL: Fine. Just one other party question which is that he was asked this morning about did he know who was going to run the election and he said, Yes, but he wasn't going to say. Can you tell us who is going to be running the election.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well, the general election coordinator is going to be Douglas Alexander. Ed Miliband is going to continue to draw together work on the manifesto and obviously, I'll continue to, to chair the Party.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Thank you for answering that. On the economy, would you accept that we're at a time of national emergency.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well, I mean, you know, the terminology, whatever you say, it's clearly a gravely serious threat that is coming to the economy and we know that it started, not from - I mean David Cameron implied that somehow people borrowing on their credit cards had caused this problem. It isn't and I think it's wrong to blame them in the way he did.

This has come from what the financial crisis, that's come from Wall Street, it's come from the global increase in the cost of oil and the commodity prices, particularly food and that's what we have got to work together to ensure that we protect people from. So it's not true that this has been caused by people borrowing on their credit card. Nor is it true that it's been caused by government borrowing; we've been re-paying public debt since we got in eleven years ago, and that's why we are in a position to allow borrowing to rise a bit to help the economy during this difficult time.

JON SOPEL: Sorry, if you wanted to reassure people, why don't you do what the Greeks and the Irish have done and said, All of your deposits in all your bank accounts will be safe.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think we can reassure people by saying, nobody, no depositor has lost any money, because we've been prepared to take action. I mean this is market failure and we're saying, where there is market failure, we will take government action and we, obviously, we've already protected depositors in Northern Rock (interjection)

JON SOPEL: You said no one has, can you say no one will.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well, I think that what we're saying is that people can be reassured that the government will take, and you've seen Alistair Darling, the Chancellor saying it again this morning; the government will take what ever action is necessary to protect people in these difficult times. Now, the question of the banks - the guarantee that's given by the banks, which was two thousand, then it was thirty five thousand, then it's fifty thousand.

I mean we want to be one step ahead of that. We don't want to be actually having a situation where people are happy to be compensated 'cos their bank's gone down. What we want to make sure is that the banking system is stable. If changes have to be made, like they were with Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley or HBOS, we will facilitate those changes to protect depositors. So far, that is exactly what's happened and we'll continue to do that.

JON SOPEL: Harriet Harman, thank you very much for being with us.


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 5 October 2008 at 1200BST on BBC One.
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