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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2006, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Labour leadership
On Sunday 07 May 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed Gordon Brown MP

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Gordon Brown MP
Gordon Brown MP

ANDREW MARR: Good morning, thank you very much indeed for joining us Chancellor. What does renewal mean?

GORDON BROWN: It means we've got to recognise the world is changing.

Look, ten years ago when we came into power we had to deal with problems of economic stability and we had to invest and reform our public services.

Now we're looking at completely different problems. The world is changing as a result of globalisation, terrorism. Security is far more important to people.

The quality of life, the work, life balance, the environment, all these issues have got to be addressed and in the same way we proved ourselves relevant to the last ten years, we have got to renew to be relevant to the next ten years.

ANDREW MARR: Does that mean different policies?

GORDON BROWN: Yes, we've had a wake up call. We've had a wake up call in these local elections, we've got to recognise that we've got to win a new labour coalition yet again. We've got to build support where we have lost votes, we have got to understand that in 2005 as well as in 2006 we lost voters we want to have and these are natural parts of our new Labour coalition and if we put the right challenges to people and prepare ourselves properly for the future, I think there is a whole set of issues around security ...

ANDREW MARR: I was just going to say, just give us some examples of the new policies that you are going to need.

GORDON BROWN: You see I think people do see far greater mobility of people, they see fast changing communities and of course they see the threat of terrorism and what they want us to do is to construct the policies for law and order and security that essentially make them feel more secure. In the way that we were strong on stability, on economic stability, we've got to be as strong on security.

Now that means community support officers and police on the streets, it means far better neighbourhood policing and dealing with antisocial behaviour, but it also means that people must feel secure in their communities with threats of terrorism there and also they must feel that we are addressing their real core concerns. Now I can see in London for example, affordable housing is a huge issue and we've got to do more to address it. I can see also that other people are trying to take away the mantle of Britishness from the established political parties and we have got to show that we are the patriotic leaders of this country and that there are responsibilities that go with British citizenship as well as rights as well. So there's a new ...

ANDREW MARR: These have been talked about before Chancellor.

GORDON BROWN: Yeah, but if I may put it this way, a government after nine years has got two challenges, one is to renew in government and most previous governments have been able ... unable to do that, we will ...

ANDREW MARR: How will you do that?

GORDON BROWN: But the second thing is that the world is changing fast and we have got to respond to it.

ANDREW MARR: How will you renew in government?

GORDON BROWN: We will renew our party by new organisation and building up the membership again and particularly helping those counsellors who have lost their seats regain their seats. We will appeal to a larger and wider group of people across the country, because our policies are about economic stability, but also security as well and of course we will develop the new generation of policies that are necessary to win the next election.

ANDREW MARR: It'll sound to quite a lot of people like more of the same. I mean this is what people in the party have been talking about for some time.

GORDON BROWN: I don't think for example, Andrew if I just give you one example of how we deal with the constitutional problems associated with the building of trust is anything other than new. What we have got to do is show by the executive being prepared to give up some of it's power, that we can build trust both between parliament and government and between the public and government. And I'm of course, as I've said in a number of speeches, looking at how we can actually give ordinary individuals more say over the services which they have at a local level, but equally how the government can surrender power if you like, so that it is more responsible to the people of this country. Now these are big changes that will build trust in the way the political system works.

ANDREW MARR: Are you meeting the Prime Minister later on today?

GORDON BROWN: I actually met him on Friday, talked to him yesterday and no doubt will be talking to him today. We talk all the time. I think ... there's something about politics that doesn't understand that when you are Prime Minister and Chancellor, you talk almost every day, sometimes two or three times a day.

ANDREW MARR: Right, there's fifty labour MP's signed a letter saying ... calling on him to set the date for him going. They've done so in terms which are very similar to the terms that you used about an orderly and stable and transparent transition. Our colleagues on steam radio on the world this weekend have conducted ... contacted a hundred Labour MP's of whom exactly fifty said they wanted the Prime Minister to go.

GORDON BROWN: Well the vast majority of people want what Tony Blair wants himself and has said that he wants to achieve and that is a stable and orderly transition. I mean we are in quite a unique position. We've got a leader of our party and a Prime Minister who says he will not fight the next election, who everybody recognises has done a very, very good job, but doesn't want to fight the next election. He has also said that he wants a stable and orderly transition and that he wants the chance to be able to organise that. Now I think actually, and this is the mainstream position, we don't need out riders dictating the agenda. The mainstream position, what the vast majority of people in the parliamentary party want, what I want, what Tony Blair wants, what I think the vast majority of the public will want, is a stable and orderly transition and we proved that we don't make the mistake of parties¿ previous parties in that, that we actually do it in a stable in and orderly ...

ANDREW MARR: Well not so far it might be said looking at the headlines of the last week. I mean a lot of people believe that that transition requires at least you to know when the Prime Minister is going to stand down, do you know?

GORDON BROWN: No, and the issue is actually, Tony has said himself ... Tony Blair has said himself a year ago that he wishes to.. to play his part in organising that stable and orderly transition. Now that's actually not a matter for me because we don't actually know who's going to be leader of the Labour Party, it's a matter for Tony and for the general ...

ANDREW MARR: But this is going to go on for the next three years.

GORDON BROWN: No, it's a matter for Tony and the Labour Party themselves and no doubt their people will continue to discuss this with him, but at the end of the day I get on with my job, I think it's very important that we don't loose sight of what the real issue of these local elections has been, that it is not only a wake up call, it's a warning shot that we've got to address and I believe that we will have them in play, not just new ways of running our own party over the next period of time, but we will set the agenda on the issues that I am talking about ...

ANDREW MARR: Did you ...

GORDON BROWN: I mean ... I mean for example, if you take the BNP and the racist party that we have in this country, we have again got to show that we can answer the responsible concerns of responsible ...

ANDREW MARR: A lot of your own people thought you'd let them down in those sorts of areas. Can I ask you ... can I ask you ...

GORDON BROWN: No, but we've got to answer these concerns and if I may say so affordable housing is an issue, the quality of jobs is an issue and we must not let a party like that steal the British flag from us, we must be the patriotic party in this country.

ANDREW MARR: Did you know about the details of the reshuffle before it happened?

GORDON BROWN: Where.. where it was relevant to me ... I talked to Tony Blair about it. But remember ...

ANDREW MARR: Did you know for instance that Charles Clarke was going to be sacked?

GORDON BROWN: I did talk to Charles before.. before he left.. left the government. But ...

ANDREW MARR: And do you think he's the kind of person who can come back again in due course?

GORDON BROWN: I think most people regard Charles as a very competent minister and these are long term issues, structural issue in the Home Office that have got to be addressed and I think he.. he ... honourably said that if he had to go he would leave the government all together. Now Charles is a very competent minister, I think most people accept that and he's also ...

ANDREW MARR: You'd like to see him back in due course?

GORDON BROWN: Well I think Charles Clarke could legitimately expect to come back into government, but obviously time will have to elapse.

ANDREW MARR: A lot of ministers are saying privately that both Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon were demoted because they were seen as being too close to you.

GORDON BROWN: Well I don't really want to get into discussing individuals. Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon are very good colleagues. Jack Straw actually I think has got a very big interest in constitutional reform and as Leader of the House he wishes to pursue that agenda and Geoff Hoon you know has been interested in European issues all his political career and I think will relish the chance of taking up these European issues. Look, it's not actually about personalities and individuals in the end, I think the lesson of the local elections and we've got to be pretty surgical and scientific about this, is that we must broaden our new labour coalition again. We have lost too many voters, we've got to win them back, we've got to address their concerns, we've got to show that we're listening to them and when I ...

ANDREW MARR: Half the party thinks that you need to come in as Leader for that to happen, and you think that too but you can't quite say so.

GORDON BROWN: But what I'm saying, Andrew, and we could go back on this issue of personalities, it's more than about an individual and it's more than about personalities. It's about the Labour Party presenting itself as able to address people's challenges and problems in the decade ahead and not just in the ...

ANDREW MARR: But it's also about a power struggle.

GORDON BROWN: ... of trouble.

ANDREW MARR: It's a power struggle going on, the Prime Minister has put in place core Blairite supporters around him to keep you and your people out and he's going to carry on like that for the next few years and in the end he's more aggressive, more ruthless than you are.

GORDON BROWN: I don't look at it this way. I look at it as all of us having to get together, Tony Blair, myself and others, and working at how we address these challenges. Look, if we fail to address the immediate law and order and security challenge that exists in this country because of what's been revealed, then we will be failing the country. If we fail to address the long-term challenge of economic change and the quality of jobs that people have as a result of global ... the global economy, then we will be failing the country. Now these are the issues we've got to address but I happen to think that looking forward, the new agenda is security, law and order as well as stability and economic growth, and we can actually prove that you can have security without interfering in a deleterious way with people's civil liberties and we can prove we can have competitiveness in a modern world without having to cut people's living standards. I think we can see living standards rise, even in ...

ANDREW MARR: Well let's pick up on ...

GORDON BROWN: ... communities facing big change.

ANDREW MARR: Let's pick up on the security agenda in a slightly wider context. What about Iran? Do you agree with what Jack Straw said on this programme when he said that the idea of using small nuclear bombs or attacking Iran by the United States was nuts?

GORDON BROWN: I agree with what the Prime Minister said about this, that there are no plans for military action against Iran. We hope that we can get a Security Council agreement. There are obviously issues today with one or two members of the Security Council, and we must move to trying to get a diplomatic solution to these issues, and I think if you look at this whole area of foreign policy, whether it's how we deal with Hamas and the Middle East, how we deal with Iran and how of course.. and let's face it, this is a terrible tragedy in Iraq last night, where we have British soldiers killed, I'm reassured that law and order has been re-established, but my thoughts are with the families who have lost people. Now these are big issues where I think we have got to show that we can exert leadership in the international stage.

ANDREW MARR: When it comes to Jack Straw, how would you respond to the suggestion in a few of the papers today that effectively he was fired by George Bush, that Washington lost patience with him, particularly over Iran, and that's why he was removed.

GORDON BROWN: No, I don't accept that . Look, there's a lot of gossip in the papers (laugh) today.

ANDREW MAR: Yes ... but it's all interesting gossip.

GORDON BROWN: If I were to believe that everything ...

ANDREW MARR: Go on, gossip.

GORDON BROWN: ... that was in the papers today, then I think the world would look very, very different from where we are. The central fact that's in the papers today is that Labour has got a wake up call. We've got to do better. We've got to broaden our constituency. We've got to win those voters who voted for us in 1997 and 2001 who now have some doubts. I don't happen to think they're enthusiastic about any other party. I think they're challenging us to come up with the answers for the future.

ANDREW MARR: They just think it's been a terrible mess. I mean they think at the top of government it's been a bit of a horlicks and for instance they look at something like the position of John Prescott and one of your own MPs is writing in the papers today that he's kept his salary, he's kept all his houses, he's kept his title, but he hasn't got his department, and that's an insult ...


ANDREW MARR: And that's an insult to Labour people, and a lot of Labour women in particular are cross about it.

GORDON BROWN: I think we're all sad about what's happened. This is a personal issue.

ANDREW MARR: Yes, some are sad but some are cross.

GORDON BROWN: But I think you'll find that John Prescott is not only conducting the work of deputy Prime Minister as the Chairman of the Cabinet Committees, just like Willie Whitelaw and Michael Heseltine did and that was the main things that they did. But I think you'll find announced that he's undertaking quite big projects to do particular work that will yield very specific results for ordinary families in Britain. Now I think you'll find announcements over the next few weeks ...

ANDREW MARR: If and when you become Prime Minister, how are you going to deal with the perception that ministers have ... I'm not saying they've been on the take or anything like that, but they have lost touch with ordinary Labour voters, they're behaving in a way that ordinary Labour people find alien?

GORDON BROWN: Well we must never do that, and where there are breaches of the code we've got to deal with that. There is of course this case for strengthening the ministerial code and I and others in the Government have been looking at this. We've now appointed someone outside the traditional Civil Service ranks to be an adviser on the ministerial code, but I think it's right that people want a government, and we must be competent, we must show high standards of behaviour, and where things go wrong we must sort them out.

Where the problem emerges we must deal with it quickly. There is an issue about the effectiveness of modern government in a very changing world, and look, we've got to prove that we can deal with all these challenges of the future, and I'm confident that just as we dealt with the problem of stability and economic insecurity and jobs - we've got 2 ½ million more jobs in the economy in the last ten years - we can deal with all these problems in the next ten years. But I'm not complacent. It is not, in a sense, business as usual.

We have got to get on with the business of improving ourselves and renewing ourselves for the future, and I don't think there's any doubt that most people up and down the country who are councillors who've lost their seat or ordinary members of the public who thought it not worth voting for Labour on Thursday but had voted for Labour before, they're looking for us to be a far more effective ... explain to people far more effectively what's happening and then act on it so that we build for the future.

ANDREW MARR: You described this as a wake up call a few moments ago. If the Labour Party or the Labour Government doesn't wake up, what happens?

GORDON BROWN: No government can be complacent and guarantee itself a power. I believe that the challenge for us is to see this as a warning shot, a shot across our bows ...

ANDREW MARR: But is the next shot straight into the engine room?

GORDON BROWN: To see ... no. To see that we've got to do better. We all must take responsibility for what happened last Thursday and for actually not getting as high a vote at the last general election as I believe we could have and should have. And we've all got to play our part in extending our reach to people who used to want to vote for us who haven't, to young people who've never voted in the past, to people who are tempted by extremist parties or protectionist policies which are wrong for Britain, we've got to explain to them.

You see what's actually happening around the world, you see it in America, you see it in Europe, you see it in Japan, is because the pace of change is so rapid, the number of jobs lost, the off-shoring, the threat of mobility all the time, terrorism, that people could easily resort to xenophobia, to protectionism, to sort of blaming the company for a loss of jobs. We've got to explain to people that these global changes can actually take place to the benefit of people, that they can be better off not worse off as a result, but while it is ... we used to talk about the culture of contentment, we now have a more insecure word ...

ANDREW MARR: We have a strong culture of discontentment ...

GORDON BROWN: We have ... exactly ... it's a more insecure world and we've got to show that we can deal with these insecurities.

ANDREW MARR: So all of those Labour MPs and others who are calling for a time table for transition from the Prime Minister to yourself, your people, people who speak your language, what's your message to them?

GORDON BROWN: The vast majority of people, mainstream opinion in the Labour Party and indeed right across the country in my view, want what we've talked about which is a stable and orderly transition. Because we're in a ...


GORDON BROWN: Because we're in a unique situation where the Leader has said he is not going to stay on, then that stable and orderly transition which Tony Blair has said that he wishes to manage, I think people will look to him to ...

ANDREW MARR: But to get that they need a timetable.

GORDON BROWN: I think people will look to him and it's a matter not for me because it's not essentially a matter for me, it's a matter for him and for the Labour Party.

ANDREW MARR: You see a lot of people think that he will be watching this and he will be saying: "That's fine, I'm going to be here till 2009, I'm putting my people in, we'll see what happens then, but I'm bringing other people up through the Government. Gordon Brown is going to have a bit more of a fight at that time, but in the end, he's a decent chap, he never really comes to the front of the ring and tries to knock me out ... "

GORDON BROWN: I think stable and orderly transition is what people actually want. You know, I've been in politics long enough and I've seen throughout the last 25 years when the Labour Party divides and extremist takeover, and the moderates lose control, that is a recipe for disaster. People want unity, they want politicians like myself to show that we can move things forward in a unified way. What Tony Blair has said is he will organise a stable and orderly transition. Now I know he's talking to people about that and these talks will ...

ANDREW MARR: Is he talking to you about that?

GORDON BROWN: Of course we have talks about all sorts of things but I'm not going to go into personal confidences ...

ANDREW MARR: And you have no idea when that's going to happen, it could be years ahead.

GORDON BROWN: It's a stable and orderly transition. He said last year that's what he wanted to do and that's really a matter for him and for the Labour Party and that's what the vast majority of people actually do want.

ANDREW MARR: They said of Rab Butler, the Tory politician, that he was somebody who always played the game and always lost it.

GORDON BROWN: I'm just telling you this morning that we've had a wakeup call, that we've got to change, that we've got to renew, that the Labour Party has got to listen to what people are saying over the country and I believe that we can develop and my task with others is to develop the policies and the organisation for the future that can give people security as well as prosperity, can bring quality of life improvements as well as material improvements ...

ANDREW MARR: And you don't see the last ...

GORDON BROWN: ... and I can play my part ...

ANDREW MARR: And you don't see the last few days as a Blairite coup?

GORDON BROWN: What I see the last few days actually is the electorate telling us we've got to do better, and we are going to do better, and I am determined that in the next stage of my political career I make sure that New Labour broadens its coalition so that we've got a wider group of support and we answer the real problems like affordable housing that people have brought to us over the course of the last few weeks, people know ... have a right to know that we not only listen but show we have listened and respond to them, and I think out of this you will see a new Labour coalition that is stronger, perhaps than even before the last election.

ANDREW MARR: We will watch with interest. Chancellor, thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning.


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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