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Page last updated at 10:07 GMT, Sunday, 7 June 2009 11:07 UK

Stop taking shots

On Sunday 07 June Andrew Marr interviewed Lord Mandelson, Business Secretary

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

Lord Mandelson's message to Labour plotters against the Prime Minister.

ANDREW MARR:

Lord Mandelson, Business Secretary
Lord Mandelson, Business Secretary

And on the note of Lords, my final guest this morning does have a long title: Her Majesty's First Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council, which is seventeen words roughly translated as Top Dog.

He was clearly crucial in stalling the push against Gordon Brown. The two have known each other for many years, but Lord Mandelson's private view of the Prime Minister, according to that leaked email we were talking about, is that - and I repeat the words - 'he is insecure, self-conscious, physically and emotionally uncomfortable in his skin and angry'.

And those things are true, aren't they?

LORD MANDELSON:

You're not going to spend the entire interview teasing me about my long title, are you?

ANDREW MARR:

Well it was a… It is a very long title. (Mandelson laughs) It is a very long title.

LORD MANDELSON:

I know, but it's a title with a purpose and it is to help the government get on bringing the country out of economic recession and building up our economic strengths and our competitiveness. It's a pro-business, pro-jobs agenda I'm leading and it's going to take all my time.

ANDREW MARR:

A very, very brilliant piece of deflection, if I may say so …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) What was your original question? What was your original question? (laughs)

ANDREW MARR:

I was going to put to you that lengthy series of things that you said about the Prime Minister in the email. We know …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) Can I just… Can I just say …

ANDREW MARR:

… one thing in private …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over)… Can I just say about the… No, hold on a moment. Can I just say this about this 18 month old email that dates back to the beginning of 2008? It was not hostile to or about the Prime Minister. What it said is that the Prime Minister needs to be what he is, be what he stands for and believes in and the values he has, the policies he is pursuing, and not listen to people who are trying to glue some artificial persona onto him because it's authenticity that works at the end of the day in politics. It is content …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But you did, you did say what you were reported to say?

LORD MANDELSON:

In my book, in my book it is content and policy grip rather than presentation that matters and that's what I said.

ANDREW MARR:

But that lengthy list of words that I read out …

LORD MANDELSON:

No …

ANDREW MARR:

… you did say that, didn't you?

LORD MANDELSON:

No and you're …

ANDREW MARR:

You didn't say that?

LORD MANDELSON:

… and you are misrepresenting the content and the context.

ANDREW MARR:

But can I just …

LORD MANDELSON:

But I'm not going to… But let me …

ANDREW MARR:

But just let me follow on …

LORD MANDELSON:

No, let me just say this. Let me just say this, if I may.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright.

LORD MANDELSON:

I'm not going to comment on every stray Chinese whisper, rumour or old email that other people want to make a mountain out of a molehill of. I think what we should concentrate on instead, Andrew, is what concerns the public, the viewers, and that's their lives - I mean their jobs, their public services and the future for their children and grandchildren. I think that would be a much greater service to our viewers than concentrating on tittle-tattle.

ANDREW MARR:

Well you say it was tittle-tattle …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) If you don't mind me saying so.

ANDREW MARR:

No, you're welcome to say anything you like. But you say it was tittle-tattle. These appear to have been your words and you're saying these are not your words?

LORD MANDELSON:

I'm not going to go into this email because…

ANDREW MARR:

The rea… I think the reason …

LORD MANDELSON:

… because it's been …

ANDREW MARR:

Can I just ask, can I just ask a question, just to come in briefly?

LORD MANDELSON:

… because it's been completely, because it's been completely misrepresented by the Mail on Sunday - no doubt aided and abetted by our political opponents for their own purposes.

ANDREW MARR:

It's a rough old world.

LORD MANDELSON:

It is indeed.

ANDREW MARR:

However, however …

LORD MANDELSON:

And I have a very tough skin.

ANDREW MARR:

Politicians say one thing in private and another thing in public from time to time. What struck me about those words is that there isn't a single person in the country who would dissent from them; that what you were saying was… You say Gordon Brown has great strengths, but, like us all, he has weaknesses too. You were describing the problems that he has in communication and in being emotionally open and so forth. That was a common sense, an accurate piece of analysis of the Prime Minister. Would it not be …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) And not in the least …

ANDREW MARR:

Would it not be …

LORD MANDELSON:

… and not in the least bit hostile, by the way.

ANDREW MARR:

But would it not be a service to the viewers and the public simply to say yes, that is what I think but there's another side of the story?

LORD MANDELSON:

No, no. Well certainly he has qualities that I admire. I like his calmness under fire. I like his values and I share them. I like the way that he has a very firm grasp not only of the big picture of the challenges facing us in our country but a grip on the policy detail. And of course I would like the media to concentrate on those things. But you know it's like asking you know the weather to change. I mean we are going through …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

LORD MANDELSON:

… in this country, as we are in our climate at the moment - great turbulence with occasional flashes of thunder and lightning. We have an enormous amount of hyperbole that passes for journalism - and I don't just mean on the BBC, but I mean throughout the media as well - and I think it would do a great service to the public if we concentrated on what concerned them instead.

ANDREW MARR:

Well let's, let's talk about what happened. You were actually with the Prime Minister on Thursday night when James Purnell contacted. Just talk us through what happened and then what you did.

LORD MANDELSON:

Well I'd much rather tell you what I think the government should do now.

ANDREW MARR:

Well …

LORD MANDELSON:

And I don't accept the view …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) We will get onto that. I just want to kind of… Because this was an extraordinary and historic moment in British politics. You were at the centre of it. Just fill us in.

LORD MANDELSON:

Well what I would like to concentrate …

ANDREW MARR:

Go on!

LORD MANDELSON:

… is on what the party, what the government needs to do better in order to repair this political situation that we face. You see, let me just give you my analysis, if I may.

ANDREW MARR:

Well …?

LORD MANDELSON:

I believe that the public believes that the Labour values and our beliefs and principles put us on their side. I …

ANDREW MARR:

That's not how they vote. That's not what they say in opinion polls.

LORD MANDELSON:

It may be, but let me finish my response to you and then you can question me about what I'm saying. I think the public thinks that we're on our side - our values and what we're doing and our beliefs - unlike the Conservatives who I think in the main they regard as a fairly uninspiring and unbelievable lot, except of course when it comes to the public service cuts that they say they would implement if they were in government.

But at the moment - and I think it is temporary - I think the public is sceptical about the parties and the government's ability to deliver on those policies. And what I say to my friend, Nick Raynsford, whose by-election I organised in Fulham in 1986 and who I've known ever since, and those like him, is stop taking shots at the Prime Minister because you're simply going to make the position of the party and the government even worse. What the public want to see us doing, they want to see the new ministers getting on with their jobs, they want to see us cleaning up the expenses system in Westminster, they want to see us intensifying our focus on the economy and getting out of the recession, and they also want to see us taking forward New Labour's public service reforms.

Now this is what we should be concentrating on. And I'm not saying, incidentally, that public opinion will turn on a sixpence, but if we concentrate on what we believe in, our policies and what we're good at, then we will be able to turn public opinion.

ANDREW MARR:

James Purnell is an old friend of yours.

LORD MANDELSON:

He is indeed.

ANDREW MARR:

Did you know what he was going to do before he did it?

LORD MANDELSON:

No.

ANDREW MARR:

Did the Prime Minister?

LORD MANDELSON:

Of course not.

ANDREW MARR:

Was he angry, as was reported when that came in, when he first saw that?

LORD MANDELSON:

He was both surprised and disappointed.

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah. You then, reportedly, talked to David Miliband, Alan Johnson and other people. What were you saying to them at that point?

LORD MANDELSON:

Well first of all I'm not going to comment on the speculation that passes for journalism in the media.

ANDREW MARR:

Well you say "passes for journalism". I'm trying to find out what's happened.

LORD MANDELSON:

Well I didn't speak to Alan Johnson, as it happens …

ANDREW MARR:

Right, okay, but you spoke to …

LORD MANDELSON:

… but I mean you know so …

ANDREW MARR:

… so you spoke to David Miliband. What did you say to David Miliband?

LORD MANDELSON:

But I mean you know so all these sort of little sort of whispers …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Yuh, but you have the chance …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) … little rumours that pearl and swirl around.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) There's no whispers here. You're talking.

LORD MANDELSON:

I tell you what I said to them. I said to them what I've just said to you. You know we've got … Look, our credibility as a government is going to be restored by the decisiveness and boldness of our policy agenda. It's going to be restored by us pursuing those economic policies to speed our recovery. It's going to be restored by us repairing and reforming the political and democratic system in this country. It's going to be restored, Andrew …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

LORD MANDELSON:

… by giving, by giving people who depend on public services even more greater accountability and even greater power over the delivery of those services. And I might say in the context of the European election results today, it's going to be restored by us cooperating in Europe and not isolating ourselves as the Conservatives would do. That's what I'm going to say.

ANDREW MARR:

You, you have had plenty of time now to talk about the Prime Minister's qualities and what you want to see going ahead …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) Yeah and I've described them. And I've described them.

ANDREW MARR:

And I'm going to come back to the other side of the picture, which you have described in private in the past. Lots of ministers have talked about it in the past. Is it not fair and open to address these because the country can look at the Prime Minister and see the same things? Why don't you just address some of the things that you talked about in that email …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) But look …

ANDREW MARR:

… because you know people say …

LORD MANDELSON:

… But the Prime Minister … You know the Prime Minister is a politician, not a pop star. I mean he concentrates on getting his policies right, not on being a showman. Now I'm very sorry you know if that's …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But he can't, he can't communicate, can he?

LORD MANDELSON:

… I'm very sorry if that doesn't appeal you know to the theatricality of political reporting by the media in this country, but he's got to be and continue to show the public what he is, what he believes in and the policies he is pursuing. And if we get the policy agenda right and if it's sufficiently bold and decisive, then the public will take a different look at us.

ANDREW MARR:

And if he …

LORD MANDELSON:

At the moment they're being entirely distracted by noises off, by people who are not keeping their nerve, who are not appreciating that what is at the root of the public's concerns about the government are the fears they have as a result of the economic recession that we're going through, but also the anger and the emotion they feel about the expenses and allowances at Westminster, which they see as operating one law for MPs …

ANDREW MARR:

Yuh and rightly so.

LORD MANDELSON:

… and one law for everyone so.

ANDREW MARR:

And rightly so.

LORD MANDELSON:

And they feel, and they feel it's very unfair …

ANDREW MARR:

Right.

LORD MANDELSON:

… and they want it cleaned up, and that's what we're going to do.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. There's been a lot of people now who've come out. You say that James Purnell has got it wrong, presumably Hazel Blears has got it wrong, Barry Sheerman's got it wrong …

LORD MANDELSON:

Sorry, what's Hazel Blears said?

ANDREW MARR:

Well Hazel Blears …

LORD MANDELSON:

No, what has she said?

ANDREW MARR:

… has left, has left the government and made it clear that she doesn't like Gordon Brown's style of leadership.

LORD MANDELSON:

No, she didn't.

ANDREW MARR:

Did she not?

LORD MANDELSON:

No, she said no su… Well what did she say? Quote me.

ANDREW MARR:

Well …

LORD MANDELSON:

Quote me.

ANDREW MARR:

I've talked to Hazel Blears …

LORD MANDELSON:

No, quote …

ANDREW MARR:

… and I know what Hazel Blears says.

LORD MANDELSON:

… quote to me what she said. What she said was that she was leaving the government - and we all know why …

ANDREW MARR:

Why?

LORD MANDELSON:

Because she could not stand - and I perfectly well understand it because she explained it to me on the day that she …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) … she was totally unacceptable in her behaviour by the Prime Minister.

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) On the day … on the day she resigned, she called …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) The Prime Minister himself said that.

LORD MANDELSON:

Andrew! Just listen for a moment. She rang me, told me why she was leaving the government.

ANDREW MARR:

Nothing to do with the Prime Minister?

LORD MANDELSON:

She did not criticise the Prime Minister and she did not express those sentiments in her letter or in public or since.

ANDREW MARR:

If Gordon Brown makes it through the next …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) You might, you might, you might want her to have done that because it would suit the story …

ANDREW MARR:

If Gordon Brown …

LORD MANDELSON:

… but you're factually wrong …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, okay. If Gordon …

LORD MANDELSON:

… and I'm glad you're accepting that.

ANDREW MARR:

No, I'm not. If Gordon … (Mandelson laughs) I'm certainly not. If Gordon Brown makes it through the next 24, 48 hours, whatever it is, is he going to be behaving in exactly the same way as he was behaving before? Are we going to see more of the same, exactly the same?

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) I think first and foremost what the Prime Minister has got to do is continue getting the policy agenda right. What's more important than anything else is speeding Britain's recovery from the economic recession and all the consequences that have flowed from the banking collapse …

ANDREW MARR:

So more of the same?

LORD MANDELSON:

… of last year. But the reason why you know he's put two government departments together to create a stronger economic ministry is because he knows that we have got to pursue an even stronger pro-business, pro-jobs agenda than we've been doing at the moment.

The reason why he's opening up a whole new agenda about political and democratic reform is because he knows that whilst we have made many changes as a government, we have perhaps not been radical enough. And the reason why, as you will see in the coming week, further policies to take forward our public service reforms is because he believes that's in the public's interest as well.

ANDREW MARR:

But I mean the way he handles his government …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) Now get that, now get that right …

ANDREW MARR:

… there is going to be no change at all?

LORD MANDELSON:

Get the policies right …

ANDREW MARR:

He's not going to change? It's too late.

LORD MANDELSON:

Get the policies right …

ANDREW MARR:

Yuh.

LORD MANDELSON:

… get the whole government and the cabinet working as a team …

ANDREW MARR:

You've had years to get the policies right.

LORD MANDELSON:

… and we have done and that's why we have to build on them. Get the cabinet and the government working together as a team and get the party behind us and we will be able to restore and re-demonstrate to the public that credibility …

ANDREW MARR:

Can you ser …

LORD MANDELSON:

… that we have had through three terms of office.

ANDREW MARR:

Can you seriously look me in the eye and say that Gordon Brown got the cabinet reshuffle he wanted?

LORD MANDELSON:

Yes, I can.

ANDREW MARR:

He didn't want Ed Balls to go to the treasury?

LORD MANDELSON:

Well fortunately we have in the cabinet more than one person who's qualified to be Chancellor of the Exchequer and Ed Balls is one of them. But what he decided to do, in view of the excellent job that Alistair Darling is doing, is to keep him in that post following the reshuffle.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So the story about you having a row with … That's more media flim-flam?

LORD MANDELSON:

Yes, it …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, well …

LORD MANDELSON:

Yes it is, Andrew. And let me tell you this. Ed and I talked on the phone yesterday and just laughed out loud about this stupid fabrication in one of the Sunday newspapers today. It's complete artifice and it's mischievous artifice. But, look, are you going to hear me you know complain about the media and the state of the newspapers in this country?

ANDREW MARR:

Yes!

LORD MANDELSON:

No, you're not.

ANDREW MARR:

We've had nothing for the last …

LORD MANDELSON:

No you're not, you're not.

ANDREW MARR:

… twenty minutes but complaints.

LORD MANDELSON:

It's like, it's like …

ANDREW MARR:

You've been complaining for twenty minutes about it.

LORD MANDELSON:

It's like a sailor complaining about the choppy waters in which he has to sail his boat. So I'm not going to do that. All I'm saying is you should …

ANDREW MARR:

You've been a complaining helmsman is all I can say.

LORD MANDELSON:

What I suggest is that you introduce a little bit more perspective and a little bit more proportion.

ANDREW MARR:

Well it seems to almost everyone …

LORD MANDELSON:

(over) Now what do you want to ask me next?

ANDREW MARR:

It seems to everyone …

LORD MANDELSON:

What do you want to ask me next and I'll answer?

ANDREW MARR:

I want to ask … Okay, well I'm delighted. I want to ask you the same question again, which is can you really say that this was the reshuffle …

LORD MANDELSON:

Well I've answered that question.

ANDREW MARR:

… that the Prime Minister wanted?

LORD MANDELSON:

I've answered that question already. Give me an example …

ANDREW MARR:

He wanted … He wanted James Pur…

LORD MANDELSON:

If you have such great …

ANDREW MARR:

He didn't want James Purnell then?

LORD MANDELSON:

If you have such great insight, tell me what …

ANDREW MARR:

He didn't want to move you to the Foreign Office? He didn't want to move Ed Balls into the Treasury?

LORD MANDELSON:

First of all, I didn't want to go to the Foreign Office and he didn't want me to go to the Foreign Office. Secondly, to answer your question, of course he wanted James Purnell to remain in his job, but he chose not to do so. What was the third one? I can't remember.

ANDREW MARR:

Well we could go on to this business of a two-tier government.

LORD MANDELSON:

It's so silly, isn't it? It's so silly because …

ANDREW MARR:

Let's talk about two-tier government.

LORD MANDELSON:

… because what people want to hear us talking about …

ANDREW MARR:

Let's talk about what Caroline Flint said.

LORD MANDELSON:

What people want to hear us talking about is what concerns them. But go on if you want to.

ANDREW MARR:

Well Caroline Flint said on the record, you know in plain black and white and in her own voice, that this was a two-tier government; that women were used as window dressing and that there were people kept outside and there was a small inner circle. And a lot of other ministers would agree that that has been part of the problem and it seems to me that's a fairly obvious point to make.

LORD MANDELSON:

Actually I'm rather glad that we've got the feisty and experienced Glenys Kinnock in the job as European Minister. I think she'll do an excellent job. Now, look, you know would it have been possible to keep Caroline in that post? Yes it would. Indeed she was invited to attend the cabinet in that capacity.

ANDREW MARR:

Very, very occasionally.

LORD MANDELSON:

No, every week.

ANDREW MARR:

Well she said she was asked once since October.

LORD MANDELSON:

No, she was offered by the Prime Minister a post as Minister for Europe and to attend the cabinet every week. And the reason I know that is because I too spoke to Caroline on the telephone and repeated the offer. But it wasn't good enough for her. Well that's fine, that's her choice.

And instead we have in Glenys Kinnock somebody who has huge expertise and experience and I'm rather glad to see her in the government.

ANDREW MARR:

What concrete, new measures are we going to actually see in the next few weeks?

LORD MANDELSON:

You're going to see much greater and tougher government action to build on our economic strengths and our competitiveness in the future. Secondly, you're going to see tough action and legislation put in place to reform Westminster.

Thirdly, you're going to see wider political and constitutional reform taking place if a consensus can be built in favour of it. And, lastly, you're going to see further reforms in our public services, in the delivery of our education and health services, for example, in order to increase … Let me finish if you don't mind.

You asked me the question. … In order to increase the public's personal service from the public sector. You're going to see tougher anti-crime policies from Alan Johnson and you're going to see policies of really further engagement and cooperation in Europe. Now that is what is in Britain's interests. That is where our credibility will come from …

ANDREW MARR:

Right, you've …

LORD MANDELSON:

… and that's the boldness that we've got to display.

ANDREW MARR:

… you've had plenty of time to lay all of that.

LORD MANDELSON:

Well you asked me. (laughs)

ANDREW MARR:

What about part privatisation of the Post Office?

LORD MANDELSON:

Yes.

ANDREW MARR:

I asked you about specific policies and you gave me some general answers. So that's going to go ahead, is it?

LORD MANDELSON:

Well it is. Although I make no bones about it, the economic uncertainty …

ANDREW MARR:

And when will we see the vote on that?

LORD MANDELSON:

Well let me answer, answer the question …

ANDREW MARR:

It's a straightforward question.

LORD MANDELSON:

Well I'm answering it.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

LORD MANDELSON:

The problem we have in this legislation is not getting it right - it's already gone through the House of Lords. It mirrors exactly what we were recommended to introduce as a result of the Hooper Review - sorting out the pension deficit, which is huge, reforming the regulation of the Royal Mail, bringing in a strategic minority partner that will bring much needed capital and management expertise and confidence. All this was recommended and these measures will stick together.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, alright.

LORD MANDELSON:

The problem we have …

ANDREW MARR:

Constitutional reform.

LORD MANDELSON:

No hold on a moment. I'm sorry …

ANDREW MARR:

Sorry. No, no, I've got to get through …

LORD MANDELSON:

The problem we have …

ANDREW MARR:

… You're giving me some very long answers here.

LORD MANDELSON:

Well … (laughs)

ANDREW MARR:

Constitutional reform. I just want to know, are we going …

LORD MANDELSON:

People want to hear the answers, Andrew.

ANDREW MARR:

… are we going, are we going to see a constitutional reform bill before the summer? Are we going to see …

LORD MANDELSON:

Yes, yes.

ANDREW MARR:

… measures on cleaning up expenses before Commons breaks for the summer?

LORD MANDELSON:

Yes. Yes and yes.

ANDREW MARR:

You can promise that?

LORD MANDELSON:

Yes and yes.

ANDREW MARR:

And part privatisation of the Post Office …

LORD MANDELSON:

Well we've dealt with that.

ANDREW MARR:

Are we going to … No, you haven't told me when you're going to put the bill through the Commons.

LORD MANDELSON:

(laughs) I'm sorry, I was answering it. I was answering it when you last interrupted me.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, well very simply when is it going to come through the Commons?

LORD MANDELSON:

In due course. Next? Yes?

ANDREW MARR:

So you can't give me an answer to that?

LORD MANDELSON:

I can't give you the day on which the second reading will take place because I'm not in charge of the House of Commons business. What's your next question?

ANDREW MARR:

Do you expect any other members of the government to resign next week?

LORD MANDELSON:

No, I don't. Next?

ANDREW MARR:

Do you expect there to be up to a hundred Labour MPs signing a motion against Mr Brown's leadership next week?

LORD MANDELSON:

I have no reason to tell either way.

ANDREW MARR:

And how many MPs would it take to trigger, in your view, the Prime Minister reconsider his position seriously?

LORD MANDELSON:

It would require somebody to stand against him - somebody who's raising their standard and saying that they could do a better job. And we don't have that person. And I think one of the reasons we don't have that person is because in the cabinet people think highly of Gordon Brown and are united against him; and, secondly, they know full well that if we were to have a third leader in a single parliament …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, okay.

LORD MANDELSON:

… the pressure to hold …

ANDREW MARR:

You said "united against him", which I know you didn't mean …

LORD MANDELSON:

I meant united behind him.

ANDREW MARR:

Helping you …

LORD MANDELSON:

And they know that if we were to have a third leader in a single parliament, it would mean irresistible pressure to hold a general election …

ANDREW MARR:

Now.

LORD MANDELSON:

… before we were able, before we were able to carry out the changes in the economy and public services and Westminster that people want to see from us.

ANDREW MARR:

Lord Mandelson, as ever thank you very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS


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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