BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show


Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Sunday, 21 September 2008 11:40 UK

'I want to do better'

On Sunday 21 September Andrew Marr interviewed Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister, live from the Labour Party conference, Manchester

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

The Prime Minister tells Andrew he will take responsibility for his mistakes - but dismisses the idea that he could be forced from office this year.

Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister photographer JEFF OVERS/BBC
Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister

ANDREW MARR: Now he's been an MP for quarter of a century.

He's been Prime Minister for just over a year.

He's been praised by the last Prime Minister as "the most successful Chancellor for the past 100 years."

Right now he's in some trouble with the Tories, romping ahead in the opinion polls and a daily diet of his own supporters saying "it's time to go."

The pressure is on Gordon Brown to demonstrate this week that he's got what it takes to revive his leadership in the country. Prime Minister, good morning.

GORDON BROWN: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Let's start with the immediate banking crisis that you've been spending so much time on.

Is it fair to say that the country and the economy have been let down by people in the City?

GORDON BROWN: I think it's fair to say there's been a great deal of irresponsibility.

It's fair to say also that we're in a new world, and I think what people haven't appreciated is we've now got global financial systems but we've only got national regulators to cover them. And I've been pressing for some years, and I wish I could have persuaded other countries to do what I wanted, and that was to create a global system of financial regulation.

So the world is changing. We've got to recognise that mistakes have been made in the City, but principally in America. This has come out of America and we've got to take the action that's necessary and do it pretty swiftly.

ANDREW MARR: Well let's stick with the City to start with. Do you think people have been greedy?

GORDON BROWN: I think there's an element of the bonus system that is unacceptable. And I've been saying that when you get your bonuses and your salaries based on short-term deals that have no relationship to long-term performance, then you've got to look again at what the system really is doing because if it's encouraging the quick, the short-term fix and the deal rather than making the economy better in the long-run, then that's not only of course a lot of money lost but it's damaging the economy as well. So the financial service...

ANDREW MARR: What can be, what can be done about bonuses then?

GORDON BROWN: Well the Financial Services Authority is looking at that. And let's say you are regulating a company, a financial services company.

Take into account that they're taking these risks if you like twice over: by risking the capital, but also by building an incentive system around someone taking perhaps irresponsible risk. And I think we've got to deal with...

ANDREW MARR: Sorry, just to stop you there. Can you legislate to stop bonuses or big bonuses?

GORDON BROWN: I think it's, I think it's difficult to do that because you're dealing with a global economy. Look, you know bonuses have been provided in New York, in Hong Kong, in different parts of the world.

People can move round the world. I think what you need is international rules and I think what the lesson of this financial crisis is: we're in a new economy, a global financial economy; the world is changing very fast, but the governance of the global financial system has not caught up with it. And that's what's got to change. I think, I think out of the next few days...

I'm going to New York on Wednesday. I'm going to be meeting some of the international leaders and financiers to talk about this. I had put a series of proposals forward about how we make a global financial system work and I believe the time has come to implement them.

ANDREW MARR: Have you spoken to people like George Bush, to people at the Fed about this?

GORDON BROWN: I've spoken to George Bush in the last week, Angela Merkel in Germany, President Sarkozy in France, Barroso, the President of the European Union. I'll be talking to a number of other leaders round, round the world. You see we've got to...

ANDREW MARR: So this is something that might actually happen?

GORDON BROWN: This is something that's got to happen. You know I've been through the you know and Britain did pretty well surviving the Asian crisis, the American recession, what we call the dotcom bubble. We've been through all these things - the hiking of oil prices.

Now I think we can take our economy through these difficulties. It's not easy; these are testing times. But in the end, we not only need things to happen here, such as we've done this week - making it possible for mergers to take place or takeovers where it's necessary - but we do need this global regulatory system.

And that's really the answer that has got to be looked at by every, every single country. The world has changed and I want to see the world's response in a way that means we will not have this problem again. That's, that's what I mean about cleaning up the system.

ANDREW MARR: So not cleaning up the City itself. What can you do? What I'm wondering is what you can do because, after all, although this may have started in America, we have a huge part of the financial system based in this country.

You've agreed that there are greedy people there, the bonus culture has gone wrong. Perhaps also too much complexity in these things that are being traded? No-one seems to understand what they are?

GORDON BROWN: Well what really happened is that people didn't price risk properly, so things that were actually very risky products were not...

ANDREW MARR: Were just being flogged around.

GORDON BROWN: ...were being called what they call "triple A"; were being looked at as if they were the best investments you could ever make.

ANDREW MARR: So what can we do about that here is my point?

GORDON BROWN: We're looking at a number of things. I mean we stopped the speculative trading in what you call "short-term sales", which was causing a lot of damage, and that made a difference overnight. And then America followed and then France and Germany.

ANDREW MARR: That's only till January. Can you extend that?

GORDON BROWN: Well we'll look at what's got to be done there, but it was the right thing...

ANDREW MARR: It could be extended?

GORDON BROWN: Well it was the right... The right thing to do was to suspend and then to look at it during the course of the next few months and see what can be done. There's a number of practices relating to it that we've also got to look at - how pension funds, for example, were actually lending their stocks, their shares to hedge funds who were then making money out of trading these shares when they never even owned it. So there are quite a lot of things that have got to be dealt with, but this is the complexity of a new global financial system.

Look, my determination is first of all to take the British people through these difficult times fairly, and that's why we have intervened with help with heating because of the oil prices and housing. My next aim is to, is to make sure that the system once and for all is in the right place. Now that will demand, as I say to you, global reforms as well as national reforms; but it's based on this idea that if you have rights, you also have responsibility. We are a pro¿


GORDON BROWN: ...we are a pro-business market. We're pro-market.

ANDREW MARR: Sure. But what happened?

GORDON BROWN: It will help business best if we can clean up what has been wrong.

ANDREW MARR: What happened was that you had the mis-pricing of extremely risky products; you had a culture of greed; and you had banks sort of merging their identity - the old business of the retail bank and the merchant bank, all of that started to blur. And that all happened on your watch as Chancellor.

GORDON BROWN: Yeah, but the biggest thing you had happening... Let's be, let's be clear about. The biggest thing you had happening - and this affects everything else - is what used to be national financial markets, you know people would trade within London, became European financial markets and then became global financial markets. So billions of pounds or dollars or yen are trading across the frontiers every day. And we hadn't... And I say I have been pressing for this for many years.

ANDREW MARR: But you know...

GORDON BROWN: We didn't get the global financial system changes that we wanted. Now I think, because of the financial events that have happened, other countries that didn't support these changes before will now be ready to do so.

ANDREW MARR: It sounds almost as if you are saying when you were Chancellor you didn't have the powers to really clean things up.

GORDON BROWN: I think, I think the truth is in a global financial system you need to get other countries on board.

ANDREW MARR: Surely we have such a huge economy...

GORDON BROWN: Yeah, but...

ANDREW MARR: could have done more? I mean I'm thinking you are famously a pretty frugal man in your personal approach to things. You know you're not enthused about £3,000 suits and Maseratis and so on.

GORDON BROWN: Yes, that's true.

ANDREW MARR: Yet in the Brown years, there was quite clearly a culture of the super-super-rich swaggering around and all these complicated things happening in the City. Did you never think something's wrong here; this can't be right?

GORDON BROWN: Well, look, what did we do? We created the Financial Services Authority, so we brought together all the regulators. We've led the world in that, and that's why I think some of the problems you're seeing in other countries are not actually happening here.

What did we do when we saw problems? We had a windfall tax on the utilities and took the action that was necessary there. When we saw that oil prices were rising very fast, we raised the oil taxes to 50 pence. So we took action. But I tell you, you are...

ANDREW MARR: You're the apostle of light touch regulation, and light touch regulation has brought us to this point.

GORDON BROWN: I think, I think light touch regulation is making sure that you have what we call "risk base regulation" in, in the right places.

And what's happened is we've come to have to realise that you've got to deal with wider issues because you're in an international economy and all the regulators are rushing to catch up with the changes that are taking place in the economy. Look, this...

ANDREW MARR: Do you think the FSA should have had more powers to start? Looking back - in hindsight and all the rest of it - don't you think the FSA should have had more powers?

GORDON BROWN: I think the FSA have said themselves that it's not an issue of the powers they had at this particular point in time, but what they did. So when Northern Rock happened, they had been looking at what you call issues of solvency. They should have been looking at issues of liquidity.

So we are going to look at what is necessary; and if there are changes that are necessary, we will make them. I said yesterday whatever it takes. Whatever it takes means that if the FSA needs new powers, they will get them. But don't forget this. We are a pro-business government. We rely on an economy that is pro-enterprise...


GORDON BROWN: ...and pro-markets, and what we are trying to do in the interests of business and enterprise and good markets is to clean up what is wrong in the markets and to sort out what is not working...

ANDREW MARR: When you...

GORDON BROWN: that they can work better.

ANDREW MARR: When you spoke yesterday about the bonus culture, and so did many other ministers, in the conference hall a lot of Labour Party members thought thank goodness, at last we're going to have a crackdown on the fat cats. But now you're saying actually you can do nothing about it.

GORDON BROWN: I'm saying that the Financial Services Authority is at the moment looking at these issues. We'll get the report. A lot of these things are culture of course - you change people's ideas about what's good and what's bad. Some of them can be regulatory and that's what they're looking at at the moment.

If the regulator for example says look, this is just taking far too many risks, if you're making your whole bonus culture based on someone taking a risk that you've got no guarantee that it's going to work - and that's some of the problems that have been created in the past - then that is action, that is action to change the problems. And I'm sure that everybody in the City now knows that there's going to have to be changes in that.

ANDREW MARR: Was it simply in the past that you thought if I put in tougher rules, these banks and capital will fly somewhere else so I can't?

GORDON BROWN: No, but you are dealing with a global system, I've been saying. The big theme of all this - you can take individual sort of instances of what's happening out - that people were taking risks that were excessive - and that was mainly in my view in America and we are paying a price for what has come out of America - but the big theme of all this is it's all global now. It's the Global Economy, Stupid, I suppose you could put it like that, and you've got to deal with things not just at a national level, but at a global level, and we've got to make sure that the things that we do in Britain other countries will follow, otherwise they could be undermined.

ANDREW MARR: So you said "whatever it takes" to clean up the City. Does that mean regulation? Does that mean new laws?

GORDON BROWN: Well we have just put in a new regulation about the selling of shares in financial markets.

ANDREW MARR: But we don't even know if that's going to stick for very long.

GORDON BROWN: We have... Yeah, but we'll review that. We have also put in place changes in the Competition Law to allow the merger of banks. It's a fundamentally different world. I said yesterday that the American government now is responsible and owns the mortgages of half of the homeowners in the United States of America.

Nobody could have thought that would happen three weeks ago. They're considering a 500 billion rescue of the companies that have got these bad, bad assets. So the world has changed and we are dealing with a cri¿ the first crisis of this new global economy. I believe we can come through that if we make the right decisions, but it is a testing time and it's a time for being tested on your judgement and tested on the values that you have.

ANDREW MARR: And it's a time for testing for lots of people worried about losing their jobs, for the homeowners who are going to have higher, more expensive fixed price mortgages as a result of all of this, aren't they?

GORDON BROWN: Well interest rates in the last world downturn were 15%. I think everybody remembers that terrible time. Interest rates at the moment, the base is 5... is 5%. Now we want...

Part of the reason that the Bank of England is putting money into the marketplace is to reignite the mortage market so that there is both competition in the mortgage market and of course that there's fair prices for people.

ANDREW MARR: But we can't afford as a country to throw the kind of money at this that the Americans have thrown because of the state of the public finances.

GORDON BROWN: Yes, but in relative terms we've done a huge amount. We have put a 100 billion and more into not grants and not handouts, but into loans effectively for the banks to take them through this situation. Now...

ANDREW MARR: As a result...

GORDON BROWN: ...America's talking about 500 and we put a 100 billion in.

ANDREW MARR: This "we", that's me, I mean that's everybody watching, and that means ultimately taxes are going to have to go up.

GORDON BROWN: That is, that is effectively loans, money that will be paid back over the next period of time.

ANDREW MARR: So taxes won't have to rise as a result of these huge sums being spent to correct the banking system?

GORDON BROWN: There are, there are issues of course about the effect on the public finances of what's happening, but...

ANDREW MARR: Which are that the public finances are going to deteriorate significantly.

GORDON BROWN: Yeah, but these, these are cyclical things. In other words, this is happening in a very different economic cycle and we've got to look at obviously the long-term effects of that, but it is right to borrow at the moment.

Those people who say that you should be cutting public expenditure or cutting public investment at the moment are wrong because to take this economy through these difficult times, these rather unique circumstances, it is right both to borrow and it's right that we use public expenditure.

ANDREW MARR: You can't raise taxes now, but someone's going to have to raise taxes before long.

GORDON BROWN: You've got to look overall at what the situation is in the economy. These are decisions for budgets. But I do say to you that every country is facing exactly the same problem; that because the world economy has slowed, they have to make a decision as to whether to borrow at the moment or to cut the public services.

Now we have made a decision that we will continue to finance our public services and our public investment. So you know today I'm able to say that even though we are in difficult times, our Childcare Programme can move forward and our plans to give thousands of young children at two nursery education will move forward and we'll have 3 million children by 2010 or so in Sure Start...

ANDREW MARR: Eventually, but there's no money in your timescale.

GORDON BROWN: I'm sorry, that's not right. We've put the money in so that this can start in the next year and we were taking £4 billion through to 2011 spending on childcare. So I just don't accept that.

ANDREW MARR: Alright, alright.

GORDON BROWN: Even in difficult times, you can do the right thing and the right thing is to boost the chances of every child in the country.


GORDON BROWN: Look, that is one of my missions in politics.

ANDREW MARR: Year after year, you stood on conference platforms and you said "No return to boom and bust", "No stop go," erm, "prudence". You could not say that. You could not stand up this week and say "No return to boom and bust" because there would be a sort of sickening silence.

GORDON BROWN: Yeah, but we were talking about 15% interest rates and 3 million unemployed, 10% inflation. That was the old days.

ANDREW MARR: But we had huge boom based on inflated property prices and we now have a bust.

GORDON BROWN: Sorry, sorry, we had a boost to the growth of our economy, but it was part of a fundamental improvement in the prospects of our economy.

The idea that you're going to rewrite the last 10 years in that way is completely wrong. We sorted out the instability of the economy, so we have lower interest rates. We had 15, 18% interest rates at one point. Our average is about 5, 6% interest rates and mortgage rates. We have...

ANDREW MARR: Highest unemployment for 10 years, highest inflation for 16 years.

GORDON BROWN: I'm sorr... I'm sorry, we have created 3 million jobs and that is, that is not correct. The inflation...

ANDREW MARR: Employment... unemployment figures are.

GORDON BROWN: The... the unemployment figures...

ANDREW MARR: The highest for 10 years.

GORDON BROWN: No, I don't accept that. The issue is that the unemployment figures are based on two separate analyses and more jobs have been created even as I accept unemployment is going up. As far as the other figures you mention, I think it's true...

ANDREW MARR: Inflation is the highest for 16 years.

GORDON BROWN:'s true to say that America has got much higher inflation than us, it's true to say that every coun¿ This is... This is the pro¿

ANDREW MARR: Well I know...

GORDON BROWN: ...this is the problem, Andrew. And you can have these discussions, but look the global oil price has trebled...


GORDON BROWN: prices have gone up quite dramatically, so people are paying more for bread and for milk and for eggs. Commodity prices everywhere have gone up, so inflation has gone up round the world.

When people are talking about inflation, you've got to ask is it an internally generated inflation like there's been a wage explosion in this country or something like that? Is it the fault of some macroeconomic mistake that's been made by the Bank of England or someone? Or is it due to world prices that we to some extent in oil have little control over? And that's the reason actually inflation is lower in Britain than it is in America and in much of the parts of Europe.

ANDREW MARR: A lot of your own peo¿ your own ministers and own Mps say that's the trouble; it's always somebody else's fault. It has not been a great year for you, it has not been a good year, and yet it's always somebody else to blame. You never seem to either apologise or confront the fact that you might have had some failures yourself.

GORDON BROWN: I don't, I don't accept that. I've said very clearly when we had the 10p tax problem that was my responsibility, and where there are mistakes made I will take responsibility. But what I do say to you...

ANDREW MARR: Have you been as good a Prime Minister in the last year as you hoped you were going to be?

GORDON BROWN: Look, the conditions in which you have been working are very, very difficult indeed. Nobody could have expected that out of this sub-prime market in the States, you'd have this world financial crisis. Everybody now understands it's a financial crisis.

ANDREW MARR: There's the sea, there's the weather and there's the captain. I'm asking have you been as good a captain as you could have been?

GORDON BROWN: Well I want to do better, obviously. I always want to do better. I mean my whole sort of ethos in life, my school motto was 'I will try my utmost'. I want to do better always. But I've got...

ANDREW MARR: Has it been harder than you expected, this job?

GORDON BROWN: But I've... Well I've got to deal with situations as they arise and you know when you have an international financial crisis... I happen to think I'm better prepared to deal with that than perhaps anyone because you can't deal with this with slogans or PR or by good soundbites. You've got to deal with it by the wisdom of the decisions you make.

And these are testing times for people's wisdom and for their judgement and I think what's remarkable is that at every point in this financial crisis the Conservative Party have made the wrong judgements and they've made the wrong choices and they've made the wrong decisions. At every point in this financial crisis, we've done what I believe is the right thing by the British people.

ANDREW MARR: So why is it then that as you've taken the right decisions and they've taken the wrong decisions, they have gone shooting up in the opinion polls? You have collapsed in the opinion polls to the point where a lot of Labour MPs down there think your party is going not to be beaten but to be slaughtered at the next General Election.

GORDON BROWN: But you know... But you know it's very interesting. If you look round the world in politics, most of the time now when governments are in power - and they're finding it in every other country of the world and it's true in Britain - it's a referendum on the government of the day. So people are asked what do you think of the government of the day, what are they doing? And if you've got an international financial crisis, it's clear that people...

And I understand people are paying more for their petrol, people are paying more for their food when they go to the supermarket. I understand also people's gas and electricity bills are high. Now I understand that, but when it comes to an election, you know, it's a choice. It's a choice between whether you favour the policies that are being put forward by one party or the other, and I'm pretty confident that when it comes to the choice - and I think this is the new phenomenon in politics - that really you have referenda for most of the parliament and it comes to a choice at some point.

And when people focus on the other parties' politics - the Liberals 20 billion spending cuts, the Conservatives wanting to cut huge amounts of money and being quite irresponsible in these financial difficulties that we face - when it comes, when it comes to that and that choice and people are faced with a choice, they've got to look well do they favour the sort of policies like on childcare that we're putting forward or do they favour the policies of the other parties? And that's what's going to happen.

ANDREW MARR: And yet, for whatever reason, those messages aren't cutting through at all at the moment. Putting... I now it's a big put. Putting the economy to one side, I mean is there not a failure of politics? Do you not have to do politics in a different way if you are going to persuade your party and then the country to back you?

GORDON BROWN: Well I've been trying to say for some time that politics in this new digital age, this new Internet age is going to be quite difficult. You know everybody...

ANDREW MARR: Is it not more about tone, is it not more about language?

GORDON BROWN: Yes, but isn't it... Everybody is in a position to put their view. They can blog, they can email, they can put their view. I mean the Chinese Premier was telling me this, that this was happening in China. And I think it's the duty of our politics when people put their views to respond, and we've got to find better ways of listening to people round the country, of learning from what they say and showing them that we res¿

We had our cabinet in Birmingham and so we said to people there and then that we hear what you're saying and we will respond directly to you, so everybody will be written to with answers and with issues that are raised by that meeting and so we need a new form of politics where people are able to respond and people feel that they get a response...

ANDREW MARR: So that's...

GORDON BROWN: ...from those people in the government.

ANDREW MARR: ...that's if you like functional, that's the system. But what about you? Do you not have to give a different kind of speech than you've ever given before this week? Do you not have to find a new way of connecting to people?

GORDON BROWN: Well I think you'll see what I, what I say on Tuesday. I think the important thing is that I want people to be in a position to understand what I'm trying to, trying to do. I want to be people to be in a position that they understand where I, where I come from, you know. I'm a pretty ordinary guy that managed through an ordinary school to get to university and then I was in a position to do the things that I've been able to do, and my whole commitment is to public service. I mean I only wanted to be in politics to do public service. If I couldn't do that, I wouldn't want to be in politics. So that's what it's all about now.

ANDREW MARR: And if you were persuaded that your leadership was not working for the Labour Party, are there any circumstances in which you would say okay, fine, I've given it my best shot; over to somebody else?

GORDON BROWN: But look, Andrew, I was Chancellor for 10 years. I'm in a position to deal with the international and national events that are happening.

ANDREW MARR: Should know.

GORDON BROWN: Well I've got the experience to deal with these events and I think you have seen over the last few days that we have been making the right decisions, sometimes ahead of other countries because Alistair Darling and I have anticipated events as they're happening. And I think if you're looking at the conditions that we face, this totally new world... And it's not just a new world in economics. It's a new world for parents, it's a new world for elderly people...

ANDREW MARR: Okay, what I'm saying is new world...

GORDON BROWN: ...we can deal with these issues.

ANDREW MARR: world, new Prime Minister. Whether the Prime... the new Prime Minister is called Gordon Brown or somebody else.

GORDON BROWN: But look new world, new solutions; and new solutions are about the policies that are being pursued. Look what pensioners want to know - and let's just see this through - is the pension has been changed, but what are we going to do about long-term care? What mothers want to know is what are we going to do about childcare? What parents want to know is what we're going to do about making education more relevant to the aspirations of their children?

ANDREW MARR: And what they all think is you've spent so much money over the last 10 years and the public finances are in such a state that you can't give them very much.

GORDON BROWN: I don't think that is correct. In the last 10 years, Andrew - and this is yet another myth that I've got to puncture today - we've reduced the share of the national debt. We've reduced it from I think 44% to 37%, so we are in a position to borrow because of our good housekeeping to take us through difficult times. Now other countries are not in such a privileged position. Other countries will be running up deficits because it's right to borrow in this time and I wouldn't subscribe to the Conservative myth. We have actually low debt in this country as a result of a deliberate decision I made to pay off a lot of debt in the last few years.

ANDREW MARR: During the last Conservative government, there was a famous battle cry which came from the back benches - "No change, No Chance" - and there wasn't a change and they were slaughtered. People are saying the same thing now - not perhaps in the same phrase but your own cabinet ministers are saying this: there has to be a change; something has to change. And they're really talking about your performance.

GORDON BROWN: We're a team and we're facing difficult work conditions and facing them in a way that we ensure that people will come through this fairly. You know I think Joseph Conrad was the author, and when he said when you're facing a storm and it's an economic storm, an international storm, what do you do? The best way to deal with that storm is, he said, facing it, facing it. I think all the cabinet and all the government are of the same mind.

ANDREW MARR: Captain Macwhirr as I recall.

GORDON BROWN: We would be letting people down. We would be letting people down if suddenly we walked away and said we bail out. What we do is we keep doing what is right for this country and I believe that the decisions we made in the last few days, but the decisions we will have to make in the next few days, demands judgement and demands wisdom and I think it's very important that we make the right decisions for the country.

ANDREW MARR: If you lose the Glenrothes by-election, cabinet ministers are likely to come into you and say, "It's time to go". What will you tell them?

GORDON BROWN: By-elections are by-elections.

ANDREW MARR: So the Glenrothes by-election is not a fair test?

GORDON BROWN: We've been... we've been through it. I think the first two by-elections when I took over, we won very well when people had expected that we might lose at least one of them. But by-elections are part of this electoral cycle. If there's a¿

ANDREW MARR: Can you survive cabinet resignations?

GORDON BROWN: I think we've got a pretty united cabinet.

ANDREW MARR: I don't, if I may say so.

GORDON BROWN: Well that's your view. I think people in the Labour Party want the cabinet to work together, to deal with the economic problems we face. I think really there's a sort of disjunction in our conversation because on the one hand...

ANDREW MARR: I would agree with that.

GORDON BROWN: Yes, but on the one hand you're admitting that there's a global financial problem that's got to be solved and at the other hand all you're saying is that people are interested in the personality politics. What people are interested in - and I saw it in the conference hall yesterday - is in a government that actually gives its undivided attention to solving the economic and social challenges that this country faces.

ANDREW MARR: Yes. The small matter of who is Prime Minister is personality politics?

GORDON BROWN: The polit¿ the political commentariat may want to talk about this and that and everything else, but I think the country would not forgive us if we spent time talking about ourselves instead of talking about how we are going to deal with the challenges that people face. And when people go home at night and look at their television, they're looking at what's happening in the financial markets and how they worry it's affecting their lives. It's my job to take people through these difficult economic circumstances and that is what we're going to do.

ANDREW MARR: So all those people, all those people who say there has to be a change in leader inside the Conser... inside the Labour Party, they are coming up to you... I don't know whether they're doing it in private or not but they're certainly talking about it all the time down below us - your message to them, I put this rather brutally, is "bog off"?

GORDON BROWN: Look, I don't think there's ever been a time in the history of any party when people haven't been talking about personalities and talking about who's up, who's down and this sort of thing. But the truth is what I think - and I saw it in the Labour Party members I met yesterday - that I think the country, the country wants us to deal with the problems in hand.

These are testing times. You are challenged by the judgements you make. I think people will see us taking this country through difficult times. They see what's happening in America, they see some of that could hurt the British economic system and people here and they want us to do the right thing. That's their primary concern and that's mine, to be honest.

ANDREW MARR: This is an awesome personal question for you, isn't it, because if you get this wrong you could destroy the Labour Party, it could be the beginning of the end of the union between Britain and Scotland, it could transform our relations with Europe? I mean these are huge, huge stakes. Are you really when you look in the shaving mirror in the morning absolutely sure you're the man for the job?

GORDON BROWN: Well that's exactly why I want to face these challenges ahead. These are testing times. You're ab¿

ANDREW MARR: There's no part of you that says maybe they're right, these people.

GORDON BROWN: You're absolutely right that there is pressure from Nationalism, you're absolutely right that the European Union has got to choose the right road for the future, and you're absolutely right that people in this country face the challenges of having to pay their food bills and having to pay too much at the petrol station for their petrol and they're worried about the gas and electricity bills. These are the things that people are worried about. But we have I think pretty clear policy.

Look, you can have a politics that looks at the moment sometimes as it's based on soundbites and slogans and a few personalities and a few photo opportunities and you say that you don't like what the government's doing and that's fine, so vote for me. That's a referendum. Or you can have a politics that's based on real choices and real choices are what you have to do in given situations. So you have to vote on saving Northern Rock. The Conservatives vote against it. Surely everybody now realises that was the right thing to do.

You have to make decisions about speculative share trading in the stock exchange. Conservatives against it. Every other country that's serious about these matters has followed us in doing it, so we did the right thing. That's what...

ANDREW MARR: What people might say about the Conservatives...

GORDON BROWN: ¿ That's what the big decisions are about.

ANDREW MARR: What people might say about the Conservatives is that they sound up, optimistic, confident about this country; whereas your government sounds and looks tired, heads down, grim...

GORDON BROWN: Hold on, I don't think the slogan "Broken Society" is of a party that is confident about their country. That is a party that is pessimistic about the country.

That is a party that doesn't understand the good voluntary work, the charity work, the community work that makes up for us being one of the great countries of the world. And at the same time, when you look at the Olympics and the great successes of the Olympics and you have a Conservative Party that talks about "broken society", that is not where people are.

They know we've got problems and they know we've got challenges, but the optimistic view of the world is the one that we're putting across - that we can meet these challenges, that we're up to it, we're equal to it, we can actually lead the world in meeting these challenges. And there's inner strengths in our country that sometimes have to be shown in difficult times which make us one of the most successful economies of the future because of the difficult... If I may say so...

ANDREW MARR: There are a lot of people... Can I just say there are a lot of people in the Labour Party listening to it, a lot of people watching listening to that and saying yes I can hear part of what Gordon Brown is saying.

What I want to hear is some sort of acknowledgement that he understands that it has not been a good year for him, that he is changing, that he is learning lessons and that he has the ability to turn this around personally as well as those great, big decisions which are always there to be taken. And they're not hearing that.

GORDON BROWN: But I've just said that. You asked me had we made mistakes and I said yes.

ANDREW MARR: Have you made mistakes?

GORDON BROWN: I said yes.

ANDREW MARR: It's the "we", it's the Royal "we" that I was wondering about.

GORDON BROWN: It wasn't the Royal "we". It was "I", I think when I talked about it previously. And, yes, that is... that's true.

ANDREW MARR: And do you have to do better or the election has to?

GORDON BROWN: Of course I always want to do better and I will do better because we are dealing with challenges that I think we're dealing with in the right way. But that's for people to judge in the longer term. Look, I just, I just say to you look round the world at the moment, look at the challenges that every government is facing.

Look how we are meeting these challenges compared with some, some other countries and then look at what we're doing to try and help people in difficult situations with their fuel bills, getting into the housing market and also with their jobs. And look at a government that understands we're in a world downturn, but is trying to take people through that world downturn fairly.

ANDREW MARR: That's the positive message - you're looking ahead. Is there anything to say sorry for when you speak to the party?

GORDON BROWN: Well I've just... I've just explained that I think we' were so focused on a number of different groups - families with children and pensioners - that when we did the 10p change, we didn't do enough for some of the other groups who were affected and that's now been rectified.

And I think there is always lessons that are going to be learned. I don't think people would see me as anything other than someone who wants to learn the lessons.

I'm never complacent, always vigilant, always wanting to test what we're doing against what we've done previously and to learn lessons from that. I mean that is the business of government.

But I think the perspective in which we look at politics at the moment has got to be one that recognises that there are these challenges all around the world. How are we meeting them? That is for people in the long run to judge.

ANDREW MARR: And you will be here by Christmas?

GORDON BROWN: Yes, of course.

ANDREW MARR: Alright. Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed 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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