BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show


Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 10:12 UK

No plot to oust PM

On Sunday 27 July Andrew Marr interviewed Harriet Harman MP

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman denies the rumours; it is 'in the best interests of the country' for Gordon Brown to continue in office.

Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman

HUW EDWARDS: Harriet Harman good morning.

HARRIET HARMAN: Good morning.

HUW EDWARDS: There's talking going on behind the scenes.

There's plotting going on behind the scenes.

What is your message to those people who think that Labour would now be better off with a new leader?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think the situation is that the Labour government and Gordon Brown as well as the Labour prime minister, the, the situation, the context is that the, of the economic problems which was, have largely arisen, or almost entirely arisen from factors that have happened abroad. I mean there's three things really. There's the credit crunch.

There's the food price increase and the petrol price increase which have all come together. And because they've created a direct impact on people's living standards then that has had political consequences. Because we're in government and therefore we've been the focus of people's concerns.

And I think it's hard to overstate how, how sudden and how deep this economic shock has been. And therefore that really gives a very big responsibility on us as the government to tackle those problems. But I think that's what lies behind what you see the vote in the Glasgow by-election for example.

HUW EDWARDS: Well all that is understood. And those factors are clear. And you've explained them very clearly today and in the past.

The trouble is you're not addressing the issue about Gordon Brown and the fact that people still this weekend are talking about possibly replacing him as leader. Now what is your message to those colleagues of yours who want a new leader?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well what I'm concerned is what's in the best interest in the the country and - for the country.

And what's in the best interest in the, for the country is that we have a strong and experienced prime minister who's been one of the foremost fime.. finance ministers of the world over the past ten years. And because a lot of these problems have got international aspects to them you need somebody who is respected on the world stage for their financial analysis.

And that is certainly the case with Gordon Brown. Now what would be wrong would be to respond to a very big political challenge by allowing it to turn - sorry, what is a very big economic challenge to turn it into a political crisis. 'Cause at the end of the day the responsibility - I mean it's a great privilege to be in government but it's a huge responsibility.

And we've got to ensure that especially those people who are working very hard and finding it a struggle to make ends meet which is you know above all Labour's concern that we protect people from what are events that have happened in the international economy. And that is what we're going to focus on. HUW EDWARDS: Are you aware that people are going around talking about possibly replacing Gordon Brown? You must be aware of that.

HARRIET HARMAN: Well at the conference this weekend that we've been having, I have to say that people's focus has not been on trying to create a political crisis out of an economic problem.

People have been very focused on looking at what the government is doing at the moment in our policies in terms of you know employment and public services and also looking to the future. And that is absolutely honestly the situation Huw as I can describe what's been happening this weekend.

HUW EDWARDS: Well it seems rather odd really that across a range of Sunday newspapers, of all kinds of colours, and all kinds of perspectives, they're all reporting Labour sources, across the board, saying that people are ringing up people and asking, canvassing support for various candidates who might run against Gordon Brown. Are you saying that all those stories are wrong?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I mean there's a lot of you know unattributable quotations which because they're unattributable I mean I can't comment on them. But, but

I'm telling you very clearly what I see the situation as which is that our responsibility is to focus on working at national level but also internationally to make sure that we see the country through these difficult economic times.

And I think you know we can be confident and positive about the fact that although there has been a severe downturn, all the independent commentators are pro.. predicting that the economy will still glow, grow, although at a much slower rate, that we will keep employment high, that we'll be able to keep interest rates low. You know at the end of the day that's what we're in government to do.

Not to watch our own backs. But to make sure we do a good job of what we've been elected to do which is when there is a sort of perfect international economic storm hits this country that we stand forward and deal with those problems.

And that's what people were saying when I was in Glasgow on the doorsteps. I mean there was no question that people were looking for Scottish independence. The focus of their concern was on Labour and they were saying they're worried about their living standards.

And actually earlier this year when I was in Scotland and I, I do this thing where I go out and about on high streets and just ask people you know how are things for you, how do you see the twelve months ahead for yourself and your family.

And as recently, at the beginning of this year, people were saying yes, you know I'm looking ahead and you know things are fine. And I think it's hard to underestimate how sudden this economic problem has been after ten years of very steady economic growth, it's been a very sudden shock to the economic system and a shock to the political system too.

HUW EDWARDS: Labour's poll atings are terrible. That is an objective statement. Gordon Brown's poll ratings are you know not impressive and that's putting it diplomatically.

You have lots of colleagues who are staring defeat in the face. You're not. You're in a very safe seat. But lots of your colleagues are staring defeat in the face if these poll ratings continue. What are you saying to colleagues who say to you look things can't go on like this. We need a change?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think that what the response of people in the Labour government and Labour MPs is, is to do what matters to people in this country which is to protect them from a difficult economic circumstance.

I mean being in government is not about protecting our backs or looking to our own circumstances, it's actually doing the job, our public duties. And that is, is the duty which Gordon Brown will be stepping up to. And he is the person with the best experience.

I mean the Conservatives - I know what game they want to play. They, they want to encourage a political crisis. And they don't have any alternative answers to the economic problems that face this country. And they lack Gordon Brown's commitment and analysis and, and frankly principles that, that he's got that they don't ..


HARRIET HARMAN: .. have so I mean there is just one thing for Gordon to be doing and that is what he is doing which is focusing on what in practice is necessary for this government to do. And it's not just government as well bringing together the different government departments.

It's also the role that needs to be played by the banks, by the utility companies, by the supermarkets. I mean everybody's got to play their part in, in seeing through this difficult economic circumstance.

HUW EDWARDS: I want a direct message from you Harriet Harman to those colleagues of yours who are going around talking about a change in the leadership. What is your message to them?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I'm saying very clearly that this is an economic problem. We all know that. All of us ..



HUW EDWARDS: Despite Gordon Brown's ratings ..

HARRIET HARMAN: Yes I don't think ..

HUW EDWARDS: .. people don't have faith in him apparently and you say it's an economic problem.

HARRIET HARMAN: No Huw I don't think for one moment we would have lost that by-election in Glasgow had it not been for people being concerned about their cost of living. I mean that's what they said on the doorstep. That is why we lost. Now our response which is our response anyway is to address those concerns. That's what we're going to do.

And actually nobody needs a message from me because we're all completely focused on the fact that we want to make sure that people can still be secure in their jobs, that interest rate and inflation stay as low as possible and that the economy is therefore in a position once the economic situation internationally starts to improve, we're in a position to take the benefit of the upturn in this country.

HUW EDWARDS: Are you confident that the right team is in place or would Gordon Brown be well advised do you think after this summer break, however long that lasts, to, to try to reshuffle the team and present a new face for this government which as we all know is struggling?

HARRIET HARMAN: We've got a very strong team. Not only in the Cabinet ..

HUW EDWARDS: So no reshuffle?

HARRIET HARMAN: .. but amongst minsters. Well you know reshuffles happen from time to time. But I think we have got a very strong team indeed both in the Cabinet amongst ministers and in the parliamentary Labour Party. And our strength is based on two things.

Our experience but also our commitment to actually focusing on the concerns that people have. And also a belief that although Britain is more prosperous than when we took over it still needs to be more prosperous. And although it's fairer than when we came into government it needs to be fairer still.

HUW EDWARDS: I'm just trying to draw the strands together Harriet. And you're basically saying Gordon Brown's the right guy, despite the polls.


HUW EDWARDS: He is the right guy to ..


HUW EDWARDS: .. stay in the job. And there shouldn't be a reshuffle. And I'm just wondering what is ..

HARRIET HARMAN: I'm not saying, I'm not saying anything about a reshuffle. That's not a matter for me. But I am saying that we've got a very strong team and we've got to get on and address the issues that are our day to day concerns.

HUW EDWARDS: Well I'm just wondering, over and above what you've said already - and they're very familiar things about policy - what is it that is going to convince voters that you deserve another term in office?

HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think that the first thing we've got to focus on is not the general election you know which, which will be some time in the future. The first thing that we've got to concentrate on, what's happening in the here and now.

But what we've also been looking at this weekend in Warwick at the National Policy Forum is what are the, what are the challenges that face the country in the future. I mean we've done a lot of work to help families who are both holding down a job and bringing up children with childcare and maternity leave.

But the next kind of demographic revolution is the aging population and needing to enable parents not only to be going out to work, bringing up their children but also caring for older elatives. We've also been looking at the prospects in a changing economy for environmental jobs, green collar jobs as we call them.

And the expectations that if we invest in technology and environmental manufacturing we can have one million more green collar jobs in this country. So we've got to focus on the day to day concerns. But we're also looking ahead to the future.

HUW EDWARDS: Just a final thought Harriet if I may, so that people are very clear at the end of this interview. It's a, it's obviously a difficult time for the government. And we all recognise that.

You're saying today very clearly that if anyone thinks the party would fare better under Jack Straw or under you or anybody else they're wrong?

HARRIET HARMAN: I'm saying absolutely that. That the, that our best chance of getting through difficult circumstances, that we are very fortunate to have somebody who's not only got experience nationally in the Treasury but is well respected internationally.

I mean you know people ring up Gordon Brown to get advice on, from all around the world, on economic circumstances. He is well respected and therefore well placed to take, to precipitate the international action we need as well as take the action we need here at home.

HUW EDWARDS: Harriet Harman, good to talk to you this morning. Thank you for joining us.


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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