BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show


Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 10:12 GMT
Brown now 'firmly in the saddle'
On Sunday 10 February Andrew Marr interviewed Peter Mandelson, EU Trade Commissioner

He is 'getting on top of what it takes to be Prime Minister', says Peter Mandelson.

Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson, EU Trade Commissioner

ANDREW MARR: Welcome, thank you for ..

PETER MANDELSON: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Good morning. Thank you for coming in. It is a dangerous moment for the world economy isn't it?

PETER MANDELSON: Yes we have started two thousand and eight in a rather grim mood. There is nervousness and some fear about the course the global economy will take this year.

There is a threat of recession hanging over us. But the point I was making in my lecture in Cambridge on Friday was that the very worst response we could make to that would be to try to withdraw, to shelter ourselves from the global economy, to sort of hang on to what we have.

If we started reducing trade the down side of the economy this year would be far, far worse than it would otherwise be.

ANDREW MARR: You've talked about an openness boom around the world.


ANDREW MARR: But protectionism is a serious possibility, serious threat, as things ..


ANDREW MARR: .. turn down.

PETER MANDELSON: Well we have been, and we are, living in an openness boom. I spend as much time living in the world in my job as I do in Brussels. And I see just how integrated all our economies have become and how inter-dependent they are. Now the driver of globalisation or one of the principal drivers of globalisation, along with technology, is trade. Growing trade has brought us rising prosperity, living standards for us in the developed world but also amongst developing countries.

Now we have to look to politicians, to national and international leaders to explain why that openness boom is important to maintain. There are fears. There, there is, there are real insecurities associated with it. But that's why we need a, as it were, a better globalisation, a better policy mix to sustain globalisation. We're not better off without globalisation.

ANDREW MARR: Are you a bit concerned about the tone in America at the moment, during this presidential - it's been pretty anti-free trade actually.

PETER MANDELSON: It has been, not amongst all the candidates. I mean on, on the Democrat side the most anti free trade candidate, John Edwards has bombed out¿


PETER MANDELSON: .. of the race. And of course on the Republican side the most pro free trade candidate John McCain is leading and probably going to be the candidate for the Republicans. So that's good news. On the other hand ..

ANDREW MARR: Hillary and Barack ..

PETER MANDELSON: Well Barack less so than Hilary Clinton. I mean Hillary, you know she's a very tried, tested, tough, robust politician. And I would have, I would have put her into the sort of Clintonite sort of free trade camp. But now she's started to question the very principles on which free trade takes place.

She's said that she would take time out from future trade agreements and has even put a question mark over the World Trade Round. Now this is not what I would have expected from her ..

ANDREW MARR: Would you ..

PETER MANDELSON: .. because, because she's more an iso.. more an internationalist ..


PETER MANDELSON: .. than an isolationist.

ANDREW MARR: Would you prefer to see McCain in the White House therefore?

PETER MANDELSON: Well if I had a vote I'd be voting for the Democrats.


PETER MANDELSON: Whoever is the candidate.


PETER MANDELSON: But I have to say about John McCain, he is a multilateralist. Obviously he would pursue a foreign policy that was rooted very much in America's national interest, as you would expect from any president. But he's also, he's also a, quite a straight talking, tough politician who is prepared to say things which are unpopular and I think that's what makes him attractive.

ANDREW MARR: Let me ask you about Tony Blair because there's an interesting debate as to whether he would be the right kind of candidate to become President of the Council, assuming all the Treaty goes through and so forth in the various bits, because some people say on the one hand too close to the Americans over Iraq, Britain's not in the Euro, he's not the right person.

On the other hand you talked in your lecture about Europe wanting to project herself onto the world stage. Would you like to see him run for it?

PETER MANDELSON: Well I certainly want to see a Europe that projects its interests and values more effectively in the world. I'm a, in that sense I'm a projectionist, not a protectionist pro European. But I think in this particular job, which in my view would play a necessary role in making a Europe more effective on the global stage, I would like to see it filled by somebody, you know, who would approach the job in that way.

But you know we are months and months and months, way too premature to start talking about individuals. I know President Sarkozy has put Mr Blair's name out there. But I think there's a lot of discussion to take place first amongst European heads of government about precisely how they want to see that role fulfilled and therefore who would be most suitable to do the job. And that conversation ..

ANDREW MARR: Hasn't started.

PETER MANDELSON: .. simply has not even started. We haven't even got a Treaty that's ratified.

ANDREW MARR: Yeah. And yet at a personal level presumably you'd quite like to see him there wouldn't you?

PETER MANDELSON: Well what's more important is how other, you know, how European heads of government want to see that job being done. And I think there's going to be quite a debate about that. I think there will be some ..

ANDREW MARR: I thought you'd just say absolutely, of course I'd like to see him there. I'm interested that you know ..


ANDREW MARR: .. you're not quite so ..

PETER MANDELSON: Look what I see him doing is fulfilling a role in the Middle East which is very important to him. He's preparing for the launch of his Faith, Faith Foundation. He's spending enjoyably much more time with his family. I mean I, personally I want him to be happy doing what he's doing.


PETER MANDELSON: Now I can't speak for him and say what would bring him the greatest happiness or the greatest professional reward. All I see is a man who is extremely focused on what he's doing in the Middle East and who's terribly committed to preparing this Faith Foundation.

And, and I think it would be a difficult judgment for him as to, as to whether he suddenly made a, yet, you know another quite big change in his life, having started what he's doing this year and since he left number ten.

ANDREW MARR: What do you say to all of those people - and there's a lot of them out there - who feel, from what they've about the Treaty and the Constitution, they really are in effect the same thing and that the country's being bilked of a Referendum that was promised?

PETER MANDELSON: Look the, the former constitutional treaty had all the trappings and tassels and thrills and consequences of, what to all intents and purposes was a constitution. This treaty, a reform treaty has, does not have those constitutional implications. What it's about, in a rather more modest way, is to make the European Union work more efficiently, to give it a more effective impact in the rest of the world. And that, Andrew, is needed.

You know Europe per Europe punches below its weight at the moment in the world. We have strong interests. We have very powerful values. People in the rest of the world look to Europe to give a lead because of what we stand for and because of what we put into the rest of the world. But we're not doing it as effectively and efficiently as we could and should be doing.

ANDREW MARR: Rather than the trappings and so forth would it help if Britain joined the Euro?

PETER MANDELSON: In what sense would it help? Would it help Europe?


PETER MANDELSON: I believe that ..

ANDREW MARR: And Britain of course, but I mean ..

PETER MANDELSON: I, I personally think that our future, economic future will be more secure in the Euro zone with that currency. But I've always accepted that the economic conditions have to be right.

ANDREW MARR: And no chance really of Gordon Brown launching that at this moment I would have thought?

PETER MANDELSON: I don't think there's any early prospect.

ANDREW MARR: Right. Okay. Speaking of which what do you make of - I mean it's been another rough few months. Charles Clarke in the Daily Mail yesterday launched a pretty ferocious attack on the Prime Minister saying that he was basically a coward, he was dithering, he couldn't take decisions, he didn't trust people.

PETER MANDELSON: Daily Mail is not my newspaper of choice on a Saturday morning so I didn't read ..

ANDREW MARR: Charles Clarke's an old mucker of yours.

PETER MANDELSON: He is indeed an old mucker and he's a good and senior politician. I mean I don't know what he said, I don't know whether he was accurately reported.

ANDREW MARR: So what do you think about Gordon Brown at the moment?

PETER MANDELSON: What I would - well, let me say what I've said first of all about Charles Clarke. I think he's a very able politician who probably belongs sort of in the government rather than outside it and ..

ANDREW MARR: I don't think that was a way of getting in ..

PETER MANDELSON: .. and, and ..

ANDREW MARR: .. to any government I've seen.

PETER MANDELSON: And I suspect that was as much a cry of frustration as it, as it is anything else. On the government, look the immediate transition from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown was handled really well. I mean they both played their part in passing the baton from one to the other. And it was a good transition from two individuals, from one generation of the cabinet to another. And indeed I hope from one version of New Labour to the other. Now they didn't have a brilliant run in the autumn. I think they've come back since the new year sort of having ..

PETER MANDELSON: .. as it were looked at themselves in the face or in the mirror and said right we've got to do things sort of slightly differently.

ANDREW MARR: And do you think Gordon Brown is a thoroughly New Labour as you would understand it?

PETER MANDELSON: And I think, and I think that's what you're seeing. I think - look, I think during the autumn you would have been forgiven for wondering whether this was going to be you know a transition from one version of New Labour to another.

I think that in what the Prime Minister has said since January, his interventions, his speeches and also what he's paving the way to say and do during this year is a strong indicator of a man who has found his bearings, who has his sort of political compass now firmly in his grasp and is getting on top of what it takes to be prime minister. That is not ...

ANDREW MARR: And yet ¿

PETER MANDELSON: .. that is, you know it's a hard adjustment to make.

ANDREW MARR: Sure. Sure.

PETER MANDELSON: And it has taken few months and I think he's now very firmly in the saddle, in his stride and I think he'll see the consequences of that for the government's performance during this year.

ANDREW MARR: But the other person who's clearly in the saddle and in his stride is David Cameron who I know you saw at Davos. He's ..


ANDREW MARR: ... purely professionally he's doing very well isn't he? As one professional looking at another?

PETER MANDELSON: Well you know he's not Michael Howard or William Hague or Iain Duncan Smith is he?


PETER MANDELSON: I mean you know, I mean so enough said. But I mean, I mean whether he has what it takes to be Prime Minister, what the depth of the man is, whether he has a really strong policy sense, I don't know. But he could not be doing any worse, could he, than his predecessors?

ANDREW MARR: Indeed. On that note Peter Mandelson for now thank you very much indeed for coming in.


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

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

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