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Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Sunday, 31 May 2009 11:24 UK

'It offends everything I believe in'

On Sunday 31 May Andrew Marr interviewed Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister

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

Prime Minister admits the expenses furore is 'appalling'.

ANDREW MARR:

Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister
Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister

These have been a terrible few weeks for politics in general, but for Labour in particular of course.

Gordon Brown and his party have so far taken the biggest hit it seems from the scandal over MPs expenses, and with the public furious there's widespread talk of complete Labour meltdown.

The Prime Minister has promised change, but we haven't heard yet exactly what he means by it and whether, with his party at historic lows, he really thinks there's time to pull things round. Mr Brown is with me now.

Welcome, Prime Minister.

GORDON BROWN:

Good morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Good morning. You came into power in 1997 and there was enormous hope - the end of sleaze, the end of boom and bust, a new start. And now we're here. The Labour Party has never been more unpopular, more disliked. The entire political class, which you head, is despised at the moment. People out there say of course lots of people are responsible for this, but you, Gordon Brown, are also responsible for this.

GORDON BROWN:

Well everybody's got to take responsibility. Look, the first thing we've got to do before you can talk about anything else is we've got to clean up the system. We've got to clean it out, we've got to open it up, and we've got to change it for good. So every MP will go through a star chamber, if you like, where...

ANDREW MARR:

Every single Labour MP?

GORDON BROWN:

Every MP, not just Labour MPs, will go through a process where their receipts and expenses for the last four years will be examined in detail. If there are any transgressions and any repayments or any discipline to be taken, that will happen. And then we will move to a new system, which I've proposed, which removes the power to decide expenses and salaries and pensions from Members of Parliament altogether. I want an Act of Parliament, a Constitutional Reform Bill. That bill will include a clause in the bill which sets out the responsibilities, the code of conduct for MPs, and then we will set up an independent external body that will manage these things from now on.

ANDREW MARR:

You haven't been...

GORDON BROWN:

There'll be no more of the gentleman's club self-regulation, the closed society. That was the 19th century politics. We need an open, transparent democracy where all these things are above board. And if I may say so, it doesn't just affect the House of Commons. It affects the House of Lords and it may affect all public institutions that receive taxpayers' money. People want to know that where taxpayers' money is involved, the right decisions are being made, so they've got to be made in an open, transparent and accountable way. That is the clean up that's got to start immediately.

ANDREW MARR:

But you say it was 19th century politics. For nine years of the 21st century, it was going on. And you know you were at the top of the system...

GORDON BROWN:

And this was historically, as we know, a matter left to the House of Commons. Governments never interfered. They let the House of Commons get on with it.

ANDREW MARR:

But you all knew what was going on.

GORDON BROWN:

That's what's got to change. To be honest, what I've seen offends my Presbyterian conscience. What I've seen is something that is appalling. I did not expect to see instances where there are clear cases, which may have to be answered for fraud. And what we've seen means that only the openness that came from the Freedom of Information Act, only that openness is the means by which you can find out what's happening and then you've got to have proper discipline. I'm appalled. I'm shocked by what happened. Now most MPs, most MPs are doing a good job - they're in for public service; they're in for what they can give, not what they can get. But where a few MPs have abused the system, they have got to pay back and there has got to be punishment and discipline. And I want to prevent that for the future.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Do you expect prosecutions?

GORDON BROWN:

Well that's a matter for the police. But the police will look at cases and also...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) David Cameron said he expects them and welcomes them

GORDON BROWN:

Well, of course, because everything's got to be cleaned up. There is no way that we can tell the public that we're leaving things as they are. It's got to be cleaned up. Historically, it was a matter for parliament itself. Now it's a matter that the whole public demands both government and opposition parties act. As I say...

ANDREW MARR:

Sorry, just...

GORDON BROWN:

...this whole issue of transparency will go not right... not just across the Commons. It will have to affect the House of Lords and it will have to affect public institutions, including the Health Service and all sorts of public institutions - including, I suspect, the BBC.

ANDREW MARR:

Be that as it may, there isn't at the moment agreement across the parties about what's going to be done.

GORDON BROWN:

(over) I think there's...

ANDREW MARR:

Are you, are you...

GORDON BROWN:

...I think we're getting near to agreement about things that need to be done.

ANDREW MARR:

Are you saying that you can make these changes before parliament breaks in July?

GORDON BROWN:

I think we can make these changes over the next few months. My proposal is...

ANDREW MARR:

What about keeping parliament there until they're made?

GORDON BROWN:

Well that's... We're waiting for the Kelly Report. I actually asked you know months ago, I asked the Kelly Committee to investigate this. Then I tried to propose to the House of Commons, before even the Telegraph started on this, that we have a new system that was a better system. Now we've got to get it right and so I propose that we put in a Constitutional Renewal Bill, both the responsibilities of MPs - that's a code of conduct and set up the external if you like supervision that is no longer left to MPs to make their own decisions, which was a gentleman's club arrangement, and puts it to an independent Commission...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Could you not have...

GORDON BROWN:

And that will be done as we can reach agreement on the details, but we'll have to wait for the Kelly Report.

ANDREW MARR:

Could you not have external supervision before parliament breaks in July?

GORDON BROWN:

There is external supervision being introduced immediately because as we review the four years of expenses of MPs, it's independent auditors who do it. So we are bringing in people from the National Audit Office, chosen by the National Audit Office, who are independent who will do it. Look, every step that needs to be taken, surveying the expenses over the last few years - not just allowing a newspaper column but the whole thing being looked at in detail over four years; then creating a new regulation where it cannot be done by MPs alone; and then opening up the other institutions to the transparency, the light of public inquisition. That is the right thing to do.

ANDREW MARR:

You're presenting this as if it was something that the government intended to happen and wanted to happen all along. Had it not been for the...

GORDON BROWN:

(over) Well constitutional change is what I want to do, yes.

ANDREW MARR:

I'll come onto that. But had it not been for the Daily Telegraph and a leak, the public would not have known most of the most embarrassing details which are now tumbling out because it would have been redacted.

GORDON BROWN:

(over) They were all, they were all going to be published under the Freedom of Information Act.

ANDREW MARR:

Well but with big, black lines through the interesting bits.

GORDON BROWN:

Redacted I think only - but that remains to be seen - redacted only where there is personal information about your bank account, your tax number; all these things that if they got into the wrong hands - you know your private addresses. That was what was to be redacted. I don't know what people tried to redact, but that was the only thing that ought to have been redacted.

ANDREW MARR:

Well the Commons seemed to try to block all the disclosure and was caught out, and that's...

GORDON BROWN:

(over) Right, I don't know about that.

ANDREW MARR:

...obvious.

GORDON BROWN:

This is the response to a Freedom of Information Act that was created by a Labour government. We wanted there to be free information. The House of Commons is now subject to this freedom of information. Others will have to follow. In a free society, open information and open society is the key to a proper democracy being accountable. I've always supported that. Obviously what we've seen in the House of Commons has surprised everybody, surprised me. It offends everything that I believe in. But if you are going to sort it out...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Do you regret not getting on top of this earlier though?

GORDON BROWN:

Well I proposed that Kelly look at this a few months ago. I also...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Yuh, but this has been going on for many years.

GORDON BROWN:

You remember I went to the House of Commons even before the Telegraph began to talk about it and said we should change the system. Now we've got the Kelly Committee looking at it. These things were going to be published anyway. The key thing now is well it really doesn't matter how it happened because clean it up, cut it out, make sure that you open it up for good and then change the system in a way that the public has confidence.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) And perhaps say sorry

GORDON BROWN:

And I've said sorry because this is...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Well you've said sorry on behalf of all the political parties, which is like me saying sorry on behalf of Sky News. It's not appropriate.

GORDON BROWN:

Well it's... sorry but I feel that I have managed my affairs personally with the utmost integrity. I feel that...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) What about your party that you lead?

GORDON BROWN:

...And I feel... And I feel that where people have made mistakes, they've got to answer for them. And I feel also where punishment has got to be meted out, it will be meted out. We've already had two members of our party who've been suspended. We've also had one minister who's already stepped down. I don't think any other party is in that position at the moment where they've suspended people from their parliamentary party and a sitting or shadow minister has had to step down in this way. But that is what we've done. If there is more to do, Andrew, we will do it. Cleaning up the system is absolutely the priority because I want to get onto the other big issues.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

GORDON BROWN:

The other big issues include the economy, which people want us not to forget...

ANDREW MARR:

Right, okay.

GORDON BROWN:

...and we have issues about Europe we're discussing this week.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

GORDON BROWN:

But cleaning up the system is the first stage.

ANDREW MARR:

Well if you want to clean up the system, is it remotely acceptable that these MPs who've been suspended from the party, so bad are the charges against them, are then able to sit in the House of Commons for another twelve months or whatever it is, taking public money, and then get a great big pay off at the end of it? Should they not be stepping down as MPs? Should we not have by-elections?

GORDON BROWN:

Right, they've got to go through proper process. We don't have a recall system in this country.

ANDREW MARR:

Should we.

GORDON BROWN:

Well that's something that people might debate. Look, what happens is if someone's convicted of fraud, they're out; there's a by-election. If someone becomes bankrupt, they're out; they're a by-election. If someone is before a committee of the Labour party or before a committee of the House, then the House will decide then what the punishment is.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

GORDON BROWN:

So you've got to look at all these things for the future.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So mean time scores of people who have been...

GORDON BROWN:

(over) No, I don't think so. They're all going...

ANDREW MARR:

...have been in the papers...

GORDON BROWN:

...they're all going through a proper process. And if... Look, if anybody's broken the law, they will end up not just out of the House of Parliament but will end up facing the consequences of the law. And I you know do not shrink from that because these are discoveries that nobody expected to find happen...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) There are lots...

GORDON BROWN:

...and once they've happened, we've got to take action.

ANDREW MARR:

There are lots of people who will not face prosecution but who are frankly in disgrace. And they're in disgrace in front of the public for very good reasons and they're going to sit in the House of Commons and carry on taking public money and then get a nice fat pay off.

GORDON BROWN:

Well, I...

ANDREW MARR:

That's not cleaning up politics.

GORDON BROWN:

Well I don't think that when the Kelly Committee reports that this thing will be as it is. Because we've asked Kelly to look at all these things. This is Sir Christopher Kelly...

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah.

GORDON BROWN:

...who we asked, I asked actually the Committee of Standards to look at this thing. Included in that is severance payments for MPs. I think it's only fair to let an inde...Look, if I decided what the severance pay was, people would say it's not fair. Let's let an independent committee look at this and let them come back. And that's what they're going to do.

ANDREW MARR:

And what about...

GORDON BROWN:

Look, I'll just say, Andrew, every area that you're worried about - and people are rightly worried and people are rightly annoyed, I'm annoyed - but every area, I've tried to find a way that we can actually deal with it with due process because due process...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Is that why...

GORDON BROWN:

...is necessary in the British Constitution as well.

ANDREW MARR:

Is that why people think you've dithered a bit on this and been a bit slow? I'll give you an example.

GORDON BROWN:

I don't think I've been slow because I wanted to get it right.

ANDREW MARR:

Well Hazel Blears. Hazel Blears, "totally unacceptable", you said, and then you appeared to back her. And then we read that she's going to go in the next reshuffle. That kind of will she, won't she...

GORDON BROWN:

(over) I don't... I don't think...

ANDREW MARR:

...seems to be, seems to be slow footwork.

GORDON BROWN:

I don't think it helps to comment on individual people at this stage when we're looking at the principles of the system. But what I would say to you is this. Where something has been wrong, I have not hesitated to point out it's wrong. But equally at the same time, people have got to go through due process. If there's an investigation being carried out...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But you...

GORDON BROWN:

Hold on, hold on. If there's an investigation being carried out by the House of Commons into these MPs, let's get the full facts. Not the partial facts we got from the Telegraph. I haven't seen all the returns. The Telegraph has seen all the returns. Let's get the full facts and let's go through due process.

ANDREW MARR:

Well "totally unacceptable" wasn't my words. That was your words. And if it was totally unacceptable for her, a lot of people say well what about James Purnell, what about Geoff Hoon, what about Alistair Darling, what about Ed Balls, what about lots of other ministers?

GORDON BROWN:

Yes, but...

ANDREW MARR:

What makes them different?

GORDON BROWN:

But I think... Look, I think if you were to go through every individual case, which is in a sense what's impossible on a programme like this, you would find that every case is absolutely different from the other and you've got to look at the details. There's got to be due process. These things are being looked at by what you might call the Committee of the House of Commons with independent auditors.

They are looking into this matter. Where there is wrongdoing, it will be exposed. Where people need to be punished, they will be punished. Where repayment needs to be made, it will be made. I did not come into politics to allow a situation to develop where MPs ran away with money that they didn't deserve. You know I was brought up... I've got to tell you...

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So why do you think the public blames the Labour party?

GORDON BROWN:

Well I've got to tell you, I was brought up in a household where integrity and telling the truth and doing everything honestly was what really mattered.

ANDREW MARR:

But...

GORDON BROWN:

And hold on, and hold on. And if your conscious dictated that you'd done something wrong, you actually sorted that out immediately. I think people do have higher standards for the Labour party and I think we've got to meet these higher standards. And it's to meet these higher standards that we brought in all these due changes that I think you're surprised to hear are as detailed as they are already.

ANDREW MARR:

Well let me go through some of the wider proposals...

GORDON BROWN:

Absolutely because...

ANDREW MARR:

...that have been made about political reform. Fixed term...

GORDON BROWN:

...remember it's transparency and changing the system for good...

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah, well let's...

GORDON BROWN:

...so transparency is the essence of this...

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister
Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister

GORDON BROWN:

...and this will apply to all public institutions.

ANDREW MARR:

Fixed term parliaments - yes or no?

ANDREW MARR:

So no?

GORDON BROWN:

Well the big issue is the…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Well…

GORDON BROWN:

Hold on. Let's see what the big constitutional issue is. What people are worried about is the disengagement between the public and those people who are in power. So parliament has got - and the executive - have got to be more accountable to the people, and the rights of people have got to be better protected than they are at the moment.

Now how do you do that? It's quite major and surgical constitutional change that is necessary. And I started this process two years ago, I think you would admit, when I proposed a major constitutional reform. We took powers away from the executive. We gave them frankly to parliament. Parliament has now proved that it has got to be better at representing the public. So I'm looking at the Bill of Rights. We're looking at whether there's a case for a written constitution.

I'm looking at the case for votes at 16. I'm looking for the case for extending freedom of information. The House of Lords cannot stay in its present form. And all these issues which would come to making - and you've written about it, Andrew - a new constitutional settlement, these are the issues that are now on the agenda because it's about parliament's accountability to the people.

ANDREW MARR:

Let…

GORDON BROWN:

You can look at fixed terms in the light of that and you can look at all sorts of other things like recall in the light of that…

ANDREW MARR:

Yes.

GORDON BROWN:

…but the major issues…These are the sort of headline grabbing issues, but the major issues are how do you make parliament more accountable to the people of this country between elections as well as at elections.

ANDREW MARR:

Let me pick up on a couple of those things. The House of Lords can't carry on unelected, I suggest to you, and for years and years and years your party and other parties have dithered and done very, very little about changing the House of Lords radically.

GORDON BROWN:

(over) Hereditary…

ANDREW MARR:

The hereditary thing's gone, but nonetheless you've got an unelected second chamber. Are you going to go ahead with that? We hear that fifty Labour MP's are asking you to give them lifeboats effectively into the House of Lords.

GORDON BROWN:

You don't believe everything you read in the newspapers. (laughs)

ANDREW MARR:

No, but I'm asking…I've got the opportunity to ask you is that…

GORDON BROWN:

(laughing) It's simply not true.

ANDREW MARR:

It's simply not true?

GORDON BROWN:

It's simply not true. I do not recog…

ANDREW MARR:

I also…

GORDON BROWN:

…I do not recognise that story at all.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay. I'm also told - just since we're on the same subject - that there is a kind of lavender list of senior Labour donors and friends and all the rest of it who've been promised positions into the House of Lords.

GORDON BROWN:

I don't have lavender and I don't have a list.

ANDREW MARR:

Can you promise, can you promise people watching, that you will not put people into the House of Lords in its current unreformed state; that we won't find just before the election there's a long list of people going into the House of Lords…

GORDON BROWN:

(over) What I will promise you…

ANDREW MARR:

…with your name at the bottom?

GORDON BROWN:

No, but hold on, what I will…I'm not interested in the House of Lords. What I…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) No, but see I question…

GORDON BROWN:

…the idea that I'm going to put myself into the House of Lords is just…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) No, not you. No, sorry, that you are going to approve a list.

GORDON BROWN:

I am not interested in being in the House of Lords.

ANDREW MARR:

No, no, I'm not…but that's not the question I'm asking.

GORDON BROWN:

The idea, the idea…

ANDREW MARR:

The question I'm asking is whether you're going to…

GORDON BROWN:

The idea…

ANDREW MARR:

…whether you can say that you're not going to put people into the House of Lords in the old way?

GORDON BROWN:

The idea for reform of the House of Lords demands a consensus at the moment that we haven't been able to get. In our manifesto, we said there would be a free vote on the matter. The House of Commons voted for very radical reforms 80-100. The House of Lords refuses to accept that that is the way forward. I personally do not accept the case for an unelected House of Lords.

I think in the 21st century people have got to be subject both to election and to accountability, and that cannot happen in that situation. But we have got to get agreement on change to move that forward and that is what has eluded us over the last two years.

ANDREW MARR:

You're bound to have an election in a year. Can you guarantee…

GORDON BROWN:

It's possible.

ANDREW MARR:

…that these changes will be in front of the House of Commons well before that?

GORDON BROWN:

I can guarantee you that within our election manifesto, there'll be radical changes of the House of Lords.

ANDREW MARR:

That's afterwards.

GORDON BROWN:

Yes, but I can also say that if we are prevented from getting these changes through by the House of Lords or Members of the House of Commons refusing to accept them, that's why they'll have to be in the manifesto.

Look, what's the debate in politics at the moment? How you can give more power to people in our country because they feel disengaged. And that…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) They feel more than disengaged. They feel furious with the political elite.

GORDON BROWN:

Yuh, furious and disengaged. And we have got to show that we are changing the system and that's why it's a new constitutional settlement I want. I've always wanted this. I said two years ago we wanted this.

We are now in a position to move towards this, so you will see a National Democratic Council or a National Council formed over the next few weeks. We will look at all these major changes afresh.

ANDREW MARR:

Who will be on this council?

GORDON BROWN:

This will be a council of ministers initially, but you will…

ANDREW MARR:

So not the opposition parties?

GORDON BROWN:

You'll be interested to see how it will develop over the next period of time. Just as I put my attention to the economy, I created…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Isn't that too much the old politics…

GORDON BROWN:

Hold on, hold on.

ANDREW MARR:

- a group of ministers getting together to…?

GORDON BROWN:

Hold on, hold on, hold on. You'll have to wait and see, Andrew. Just as I had a National Economic Council, which we brought in people from the outside who were experts from the outside - joined the cabinet, some joined the government, some joined as advisers - we will do exactly the same thing in the Constitution.

We will be the reforming party on the Constitution. It's always where I've wanted to be. I think you've known me for twenty years and you know exactly what my position has been on these issues and can acknowledge that, and now we're in a position to move this forward.

ANDREW MARR:

What we haven't seen are actual changes, dramatic changes happening, until the newspapers…

GORDON BROWN:

But hold on.

ANDREW MARR:

…have caused such a problem for the government. Can I, can I…

GORDON BROWN:

Hold on, hold on.

ANDREW MARR:

Let me talk about specifics. Let me nail down a few specifics.

GORDON BROWN:

We've got a consultation on a whole series of issues, Andrew…

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, there's lots of con…

GORDON BROWN:

…that you're refusing to recognise.

ANDREW MARR:

Well there's lots of consultations and there's lots of delays and so on, but we haven't had…

GORDON BROWN:

(over) Well Andrew, really you've got to give us credit…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) You're against four years.

GORDON BROWN:

Hold on, you've got to give us credit. We brought in devolution. We brought in freedom of information, which is what's produced these results. I've changed the royal prerogative. Parliament can only decide peace and war, parliament can only decide treaties. Appointments are no longer appointments with the patronage of the Prime Minister. Now we've got to go further and get more accountability of parliament to the people.

Now that's what I'm proposing to do and that's where you'll see the measures happening. But don't go for the headline gimmicks that people have that suddenly you've changed the constitution if you've simply got a fixed term parliament. That's a possible conclusion, but it's not the beginning of making things more accountable to the people.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Things, as you know, are moving very fast at the moment.

GORDON BROWN:

So they should.

ANDREW MARR:

What, therefore, about voting reform?

GORDON BROWN:

That's an issue that I've always been interested in because, look, there are three issues in voting reform that have got to be resolved and no system does it perfectly. Not one system in the world. First is, in my view, you've got to have a link between the constituency and the Member of Parliament.

And you know you've seen over these last few weeks the importance of that link because MP's have had to explain to their constituents why they've done what they've done and people want to feel that their geographical area is represented.

Secondly, the balance of an election has got to be fair and therefore people have got to think that the way the votes are counted are fair. And, thirdly, you've got to get out of this government that can govern, so you've got to get some form of democratic stability out of an election.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) This is very interesting because…

GORDON BROWN:

These are the three criteria.

ANDREW MARR:

Which would add up to a system for the nerds who know about these things called AV Plus pretty much.

GORDON BROWN:

It might not, it might not. But it could add up to a debate about change that is a fair debate to have in this country.

ANDREW MARR:

And you're open to that?

GORDON BROWN:

I've always been open to debates…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Because you kill…I mean you killed off Roy Jenkins' - may he rest in pieces - version of this ten years ago.

GORDON BROWN:

But, look, we've got PR in European Elections, we've got alternative vote system for the Mayor of London, we've got a PR plus system in the Scottish Parliament. The Northern Ireland Assembly is elected differently and we've got the single vote system and the constituency vote system in the House of Commons.

The idea that we don't have a range of electoral systems in the United Kingdom is ridiculous. We have them at the moment. The question is what is best for a House of Commons where people still want, in my view, to see that constituency link. I am the Member for…

ANDREW MARR:

Sure, I understand that.

GORDON BROWN:

…Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. I want to continue to be a member representing a geographical area with which I have responsibilities to meet.

ANDREW MARR:

With Gordon Brown at the top, could AV or a similar system be introduced for the House of Commons?

GORDON BROWN:

Well let's, let's see how the debate goes. But what I'm saying to you is that there are a whole range of issues in this debate that are prior to that about how you organise the Constitution.

ANDREW MARR:

There's an awful lot of long grass over there, if I can say that, where you're kicking…

GORDON BROWN:

We proposed a Bill of Rights. Are you interested in that? We proposed that we could discuss and debate the question for written constitution. We're proposing votes at 16 as an issue that young people should look at themselves.

We're proposing big changes in the procedures of the House of Commons, so that people are more accountable at a local level as MP's during the period they're MP's. Now these are the issues of disengagement amongst which people…which people are raising with us. Not just the ones that you're raising. A whole series of other issues. People want to think that their MP is accountable to them.

They see power concentrated in a few institutions and they want that power to be democratically accountable to them. And they want their rights protected in a way that sometimes hasn't happened. (Andrew tries to interject) This is a big debate that I will be leading because I am determined that we not only clean up the system as we found it, but I'm determined we make the democratic progress that's necessary and that rules out nothing.

ANDREW MARR:

But it's going to be more than talk and it's going to be in the House of Commons before Christmas?

GORDON BROWN:

You will have a Constitutional Renewal Bill, which will include many measures, and you will have a big debate within the country on these issues because that's the right way to proceed. Now I have tried to get this debate going two years ago.

I am trying again to get this debate moving forward. But it's about a new constitutional settlement that will mean that the people are empowered. And not just a few gimmicks. The people have got to be empowered. They've got to have more rights and they've got to feel that their institutions are more accountable.

ANDREW MARR:

So why do people not hear this message from you? Why is it that you're down at 16% in the poll today and facing - I don't think you'd contest the word - something close to a slaughter in next week's elections?

GORDON BROWN:

Let's look at what's happening around us. We've got an economic crisis. We're dealing with this. I believe when people see the action that we've taken and the results that have come from it, people will see that this is a government that has acted faster than other governments and taken action that's necessary.

And incidentally because it's European Elections, I believe that people will see that cooperation in Europe…We've got 3 million jobs dependent on Europe. We've got 60% of our exports go to Europe. 700,000 companies depend on Europe. And we've got the Conservative party, UKIP, the BN…all wanting to disengage from Europe and our…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) They're very different of course.

GORDON MARR:

Yes, of course. But our economic recovery depends on being part of Europe. So I will not hesitate from putting forward the strong economic message we have. It's been drowned out in the last few weeks by what's happened in parliament.

We've got to correct what's happened in parliament. But I believe when it comes to the next year people will look at what we've managed to achieve in getting Britain out of what has been one of the worst world recessions we've seen.

ANDREW MARR:

Almost every newspaper now joins the opposition parties in saying that what people really want is a General Election.

GORDON BROWN:

I think what people want is to clean up the system first.

ANREW MARR:

Well the polls say they want a General Election.

GORDON BROWN:

No, well I think the polls are quite varied on this. But I think people want us to clean up the system. What's the point in electing a new parliament if you haven't got plans to clean up the system?

ANDREW MARR:

Get rid of a lot of people from the old parliament is one of them.

GORDON BROWN:

Well my plan is to clean up the system and make sure that by the time we have an election, we have shown people that we can clean up the system. My plan is also, by the way, to get us through this economic downturn. I think if we had chosen, if I may say so, the policies of the opposition party on this recession, it would be deeper, longer, more debt, more deficits, more businesses lost, more unemployment.

And I think there will be a chance when there is a choice in these matters to get that message across as well. At the moment people see this as a referendum. It's actually a choice. What kind of country do you want? Do you want 10% cuts in your education services at a time when young children, teenagers need more education? Do you want 10% cuts in your policing at a time when we actually need to give people visible police presence in their communities? Now these are the issues on which we will fight at General Election.

ANDREW MARR:

We could talk a lot about the economy…

GORDON BROWN:

I'm very happy to.

ANDREW MARR:

…and no doubt will again. If cabinet ministers came to you and said, "Listen, candidly we've got more of a chance of saving some seats because we're going down for terrible defeat the next General Election if you stood aside?", would you stand aside for the sake of the party?

GORDON BROWN:

No because I'm dealing with the issues at hand. I'm dealing with the economy every day. I'm spending my time…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So you'd take the revolver and shoot them?

GORDON BROWN:

…with the Chancellor…No, I'm dealing with the issues and I'm also dealing, as I've explained to you, with these constitutional issues. And I'm leading a debate on that, but it's got to be thought through. There cannot be gimmicks. It's got to be serious, it's got to be ordered and it's got to be done in a calm way.

ANDREW MARR:

But you're a realist. You're a political realist. You've been in the game for a long time. Does no part of you look at what's going on, look at your own personal ratings and think actually this game is over; the country is never going to warm to me as Prime Minister; I'm causing my party real problems; I've given it my best shot and it is time to stand aside and let Alan Johnson or whoever it is come in and have a go?

GORDON BROWN:

You know, Andrew, look things go up and down. You have periods when things are going…

ANDREW MARR:

Mainly down at the moment.

GORDON BROWN:

Well I would say that we've had good periods and we've had difficult periods, but we're going through the most difficult economic circumstances the country has faced. People are angry - rightly - because they are worried when they see taxpayers' money wasted on MP's and they are finding it very difficult for them in a difficult economic situation. Now I am trying to answer the economic problem.

I think people know that we have taken action which is almost unprecedented in the history of this country. These are bold decisions. We'll take equally bold decisions on the Constitution, by the way. But when the moment arises and we have an economic crisis, we have acted and we've taken what I believe the world recognises as the best and we were praised for being the fastest to act during this recession by the IMF itself.

ANDREW MARR:

After the slaughter of this week, are you going to recast your government?

GORDON BROWN:

I think the important thing, Andrew, is you fight for every vote until an election happens, and I don't think it's for the BBC to try and presume the results of an election. I think people will want to make their own votes and not be told by you what the results are going to be. And I think the important thing is this.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

GORDON BROWN:

People are voting on how we are doing on the economy and trying to get through this. I accept that people have still got to see some of the results from what we've done and people are voting on a party and a leader that is determined to clean up this system and they're voting on a leader who has got the experience, who has taken people through economic difficulties before.

ANDREW MARR:

One final point. It's a disgrace, is it not, that the Queen is not going to be representing us at D-Day, at those commemoration services in France. How did that come about?

GORDON BROWN:

I think you have to ask the Palace and get their statements on this. I have simply done what is my duty as a Prime Minister. I've accepted the personal invitation of Mr Sarkozy. I think you know that Mr Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister is going.

And I think in these circumstances, this particular event was…one of these events was one that the President wanted to be for Prime Ministers and Presidents. But if the Queen wanted to attend these events or if any member of the Royal Family wanted to attend these events, I would make that possible.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. Prime Minister, for now thank you very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS

NB There have been newspaper reports suggesting that a number of MPs on each side of the Commons have questions to answer about their financial affairs, including "Flipping" which home was registered as principle residence or the level of Capital Gains Tax paid when a home was sold.

During the interview with Gordon Brown, Andrew Marr referred to a Labour Cabinet Minister who has chosen to pay back money she saved on tax when her home was sold:

"Well Hazel Blears… "totally unacceptable", you said, …your words. And if it was totally unacceptable for her, a lot of people say well what about James Purnell, what about Geoff Hoon, what about Alistair Darling, what about Ed Balls, what about lots of other ministers? …What makes them different?

Some newspapers have implied that Ed Balls may have benefited himself in relation to "Flipping" or CGT.

The Guardian has printed a detailed clarification (26.5.09) making clear that Mr Balls has not benefited in this way.


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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