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Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Sunday, 6 June 2010 11:17 UK

'Broken promises not broken Britain'

On Sunday 6 June Andrew Marr interviewed Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband MP.

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

David Miliband, Shadow Foreign Secretary

ANDREW MARR:

Only three days to go until nominations close for the Labour leadership contest. So far only three candidates have gained the required backing to stand. Out in front in this three-horse race so far is David Miliband, the Shadow Foreign Secretary - backed by a wide range of former Blairites. Yesterday he launched a major initiative in London to train more active citizens and he joins me now. Before we discuss all of that …

DAVID MILIBAND:

Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW MARR:

Good morning. … let's talk about Israel because you know in your past role - and indeed your current one - this comes in your purview. The Israelis really pretty unapologetic again this morning, saying that they had every justification for what happened. But it has been a catastrophe for them, as well as for those people and their families who died.

DAVID MILIBAND:

It's been a disaster for the people involved - obviously those many killed and injured - and it's also been a disaster for Israel. I think there have been a series of deadly and self-defeating actions by successive Israeli governments in respect of Gaza. There cannot be a Palestinian state and, therefore, there cannot be peace for Israel and the rest of the Middle East with Gaza isolated, with people unable to get in basic commodities, unable to rebuild their lives. And I'm afraid the marginalisation of Gaza has been a stain on policy right across the Middle East for a very long time.

ANDREW MARR:

Do you think they should lift the blockade?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Of course. I mean the Resolution 1860, the UN resolution that brought the Gaza War to an end - which I actually co-authored 18 months ago in New York - says very clearly that the arms trafficking into Gaza has to stop, but the blockade has to stop. And that's absolutely basic. But I think there's also something even more important now. What is corroding any confidence at all among Palestinians and Israelis that they are going to be able to find a way to live together is the absence of a serious political process to negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state. There are these so-called 'proximity talks'. That means they're not even sitting in the same room - the Palestinians and the Israelis. And unless that is jumpstarted - if not by the parties, then by outside parties, the Americans, the UN with EU support - then I'm afraid this is not going to get resolved.

ANDREW MARR:

Yuh. Your mentor, Tony Blair, was going to at least help sort some of this out with his initiative. What went wrong there, do you think?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well he's brought something very important, which is a bottom up determination to improve the lives of Palestinians on the West Bank. And the economic improvement on the West Bank - 9%, 10% growth rates every year - is good; but unless you have a political process driving towards a state, then you're not going to get the change. And that's a big responsibility, I think. Not just for the Americans - because the European Union has an important role to play, and I think unless we give and get the Arab states involved too, we're not going to get the sort of progress we need.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay. Let's turn to domestic policy. You must look at the opening stages of the coalition with mixed feelings. They've got quite a big wave of public support still behind them and they seem to have negotiated their first few weeks (apart from the David Laws thing) pretty featly.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well they've got a honeymoon. They've earned (in the Conservative case) the largest number of seats. But I think that there is breathtaking hypocrisy: in the interview of Nick Clegg in the Observer today saying he's going to have progressive cuts - cuts that he argued against while he was campaigning; and also David Cameron sat in this chair on 2nd May and promised you that any minister who came to him with a cut to a frontline service would be sent packing; it was only waste that should be cut. I was in Wolverhampton on Friday and Leicester on Tuesday. There are young people there dependent on the future jobs fund to give them a job for the future, and it's being cut. That is not waste that's being cut. The danger is we're wasting lives and we're repeating the mistakes of the 1980s. And I think it's very important that while we have a Labour Leadership election - which we are no doubt going to talk about - we don't forget that we have to be a fighting opposition as well, exposing some of what is being done, because it's broken promises that we're seeing; not 'broken Britain' that was talked about in the election campaign. It's very old politics that's being done by the coalition.

ANDREW MARR:

Let's talk about the Labour leadership campaign then. Yesterday you were involved in an initiative to train people for citizenship. What's that got to do with the Labour Party and your campaign?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well the Labour Party succeeds when it is a movement for change in communities, not just at Westminster. And we saw this in the General Election campaign. I went on Friday night to the victory party of Gisela Stuart in Birmingham, Edgbaston - a remarkable result achieved not just by members of the Labour Part but the wider community who came together to support her. And what I'm saying in my campaign is that for the Labour Party to become an effective fighting force at Westminster again, it needs to be a fighting force right across the country; not just in the Birmingham Edgbaston's of this world.

ANDREW MARR:

So how do you persuade people to get involved in politics after all this time?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well people are passionate about affordable housing, safer streets, decent jobs, and what I …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) They're not passionate about sitting in party meetings.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Exactly, and that's what I was addressing yesterday. Because there's been a historic breach between a tradition of community organisation, which is where the Labour Party started a hundred years ago, and traditional politics. And what I said yesterday was that as part of my campaign for the Labour leadership, I'm going to devote funds that I raise for the campaign to train at least a thousand community organisers, learning the best of the Labour movement tradition and of the community organising tradition. And that may be good for my campaign, but - win or lose - it will be good for the Labour Party that only succeeds as an electoral machine when it's a living, breathing movement for change in communities.

ANDREW MARR:

You mentioned some of the issues that were sort of coming up on the doorsteps before and how perhaps the Labour Party wasn't listening properly. Ed Balls, one of your other challengers, says in the Observer today that far too many people came in from Eastern Europe. Do you agree with that?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well that was the policy that we recognised in the last government. Alan Johnson and Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, recognised that the entry of the eight countries in 2004/5 wasn't handled right, and that's why for Romania and Bulgaria - who are the new entrants into the European Union - we have this phased access …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) So you'd agree with Ed Balls on that?

DAVID MILIBAND:

We certainly need to have phased access for new entrants to the European Union. I mean immigration was a big issue on the doorstep - in communities where there were a lot of immigrants and where there weren't. But I think that there were some, there were some deeper issues raised. You see …

ANDREW MARR:

What would you do differently on immigration policy …

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well I think …

ANDREW MARR:

… because all the Labour candidates are talking about immigration. I'm not clear what actually any of you would do.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well what most people, what most people said to me on the doorstep was we think you're doing the right thing with this points based system; we think you're doing the right thing with the phased entry of Romania and Bulgaria, but why did it take you so long to get round to it? And have you really understood the impact on housing and on other issues? I mean one example I'll give you. For wages at the bottom end of the labour market, the Agency Workers Directive, which prevents undercutting of wages, that's not yet been brought in. We should have brought that in earlier. And I think that there are lessons because often when people are talking about imm…

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Are you still against the cap?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Yes, I think that a cap on skilled migrants from outside the European Union - which is the Tory policy - either is meaningless because the cap is so high that no-one's caught by it, or it's worthless because it will catch people who this country needs. Remember if you're unskilled, you're not allowed into this country from outside the EU now.

ANDREW MARR:

Let me try you on another policy. You said that you have to look again at the banking system and banking regulation and the City. What would you actually do differently? I mean we're going to get a commission report pretty soon, I suspect, on the future of the banks. Ahead of that, what's your proposal?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well one of the things that I was talking about this week is the importance of Europe taking this far more seriously. For example, the idea of a banking levy is something that we've been pushing for some time, but actually it's not yet got traction around the European Union and it needs to. In November 2009, we started arguing for this at the St. Andrew's meeting of the G20, but it's clear that national regulation is not going to be enough to address the big issues that we face. And what I think the Labour Party has to do if it's going to regain the trust and confidence of people is become that great reforming movement to redistribute power and opportunity again; and it's in that context that we should be addressing both the policy issues and the way that we do politics.

ANDREW MARR:

You are in a sense the Blairite candidate. You were very, very close to Tony Blair and a lot of …

DAVID MILIBAND:

(over) I'm the Milibandite candidate, if you don't mind.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Or the Miliband. D. candidate. I think that it's very important that we have a political process where people define themselves by who they are, and that's what I'm trying to do in this campaign …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, well speaking of which …

DAVID MILIBAND:

… in which we've got a range of candidates, all of whom have got their distinctive talents and offers …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) You've got a small range of candidates at the moment. I mean people like Diane Abbott and John McDonnell don't seem to be able to get into the race. Would you lend either of them some of your backers to broaden the number of people standing?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well we have a system in the Labour Party where you need 30 …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) I know.

DAVID MILIBAND:

… 33 Labour MPs to get a nomination, and every Labour MP has to make their own choice. I've said that I haven't nominated anyone yet, and the one vote I do control, the one nomination I control is my own. So if another candidate gets to 30, 32 nominations …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) And needs that one extra …

DAVID MILIBAND:

… and needs one extra to get onto the ballot paper …

ANDREW MARR:

… okay, alright.

DAVID MILIBAND:

… I'll give them mine.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay. Would Ed Miliband make a good Leader of the Labour Party?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well I'm not going to say anything other than that I think we've got a fantastically talented range of candidates right across the party. But it's very …

ANDREW MARR:

But people have to choose between you …

DAVID MILIBAND:

They do and I …

ANDREW MARR:

That's the nature of the contest.

DAVID MILIBAND:

And I'm going to talk about what I will bring, and I'm not going to go in for any of the negative campaigning or diminution …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) I'm asking you a positive question: would he be a good leader?

DAVID MILIBAND:

… diminution … diminution of other candidates. It's really important that we talk positively about what we can bring. And I think it's very …

ANDREW MARR:

So a positive question: would he be a good leader?

DAVID MILIBAND:

I'm going to take an absolute omerta on this because it's so important that the Labour Party …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

DAVID MILIBAND:

… shows the country that it's ready to be a fighting opposition and an alternative government. And I'm running … I tell you what, let me put it this way. If I thought either Ed Miliband or Ed Balls or Andy Burnham or Diane Abbott of John McDonnell would be a better Leader of the Opposition or a better Prime Minister than I, then I would be running their campaigns. But I don't, and that's why I'm running my own campaign.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. As you know, the thing said against you is that you are too cerebral, that you don't have the common touch, that you come from the sort of policy wonk North London sort of centrist kind of politics and you're not out in the country enough and you haven't developed a sort of fluent populist style that leaders these days need. Is that true?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Too much time on the Marr programme; not enough time on Talk Sport. Is that what you're saying?

ANDREW MARR:

No, never too much time on the Marr programme.

DAVID MILIBAND:

I think that the formative years that I spent were outside Leeds between 1973 and 1977. They were years that taught me the value and importance of community. They were years that taught me what hard work and the dignity of work, but also the aspirations that people have really mean. And I think that when you combine that with the work I do in South Shields as the MP for South Shields, this is not the North London intelligentsia debating amongst itself whether it be me in South Shields or Ed in Doncaster or Ed Balls in West Yorkshire.

ANDREW MARR:

Sure.

DAVID MILIBAND:

We have got Labour MPs who are rooted in community and that's what drives us forward.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. One final question quickly then. The other thing that people say about you is that you flinched. You flinched last summer and the summer before that. When people said to you Gordon Brown is going to lose Labour the election, you said no and you didn't stand against him when you might have stood against him. And he did lose the election, so up to a point you're responsible for what happened.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well we all have to take our share of the responsibility, but I'm never going to make a bad situation worse - and that's what I was being asked to do last summer and the summer before. We lost a very good colleague, James Purnell, when he resigned from the cabinet and I …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) And it never occurred to you to follow him?

DAVID MILIBAND:

I wasn't going to make a bad situation worse. As I said to you on this programme when you asked me the same question in January, I am a battler for the things I believe in; not a bottler when it comes to the big decisions.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright. David Miliband, thank you very much indeed.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Thank you.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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