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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 April 2006, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Jon Sopel interview
Please note BBC Politics 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.


On Politics Show, Sunday 23 April 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:

John Prescott MP
John Prescott MP, Deputy Prime Minister

Labour did overspend on last year's general election, but it will pay back the loans it took out, the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, told the Politics Show this week.

"We would deal with those problems and we will pay back loans where there's a requirement to do so, and that's one of the conditions of loans," he told Jon Sopel.

"We are always difficulty in finances. I mean if you look at the Labour Party's finances for decades now, we've always overspent at the election and during and after the election, we build up our resources to get ready for the next election.

"So we will meet our commitments, that is not a problem for us."

His remarks were picked up by many of the national newspapers on Monday, as were his remarks about the local elections and negative advertising.

The Deputy Prime Minister urged Labour voters who were angry with the party over its policies on Iraq not to use the local elections as a protest vote: "I hear what you say in your programme there, that people are a bit upset about the national government on Iraq, and that may be the case.

"But we always hope that in local elections, they'll vote for a good local council." Mr Prescott dismissed concerns about Labour's latest party political broadcast, portraying the Conservative Leader, David Cameron, as a chameleon: "it's a bit of fun.

"You might call it negative, it's a bit of fun and I think that's what happened there. People will laugh about it."


Interview with John Prescott

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now in the studio by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, welcome to the Politics Show.

It comes to quite a pass isn't it when one of your best councils, in your view, Camden, is in danger of losing control.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well we'll wait and see but it's certainly a very good council. I think your film showed some - an interesting fact on British Waterways. I changed that around in 1997, so that they could work with the private sector and two billion pounds worth of investment have gone in to those canals, the Paddington Basin, and the renegotiation of the Channel Tunnel link has opened up the whole King's Cross, to massive rebuilding and refurbishment and I think to that extent, a combination of national government, working with local government, is what we have to put across in Camden, and Raj was saying that, all the money that has come in from central government has made a heck of a difference to the things - of becoming a very good council.

JON SOPEL: So then why are things so difficult if everything is so good.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I, well, when you say it's difficult, I'll wait to see the results, but of course it is said in Camden, I hear what you say in your programme there, that people are a bit upset about the national government on Iraq, and that may be the case.

But we always hope that in local elections, they'll vote for a good local council. In fact, if you put out that good Council, you'll go to perhaps being a Liberal or Tory one, cos we can contrast Camden with in fact the liberal Islington, and both of them are pursuing entirely different policies - an anti social policy, as I've just heard there now, on the regeneration, and on wardens etc and the results are that crime is lower and falling in Camden, but increasing in Islington.

JON SOPEL: But do you think that the unpopularity of the Government nationally, is affecting local councils because it seems that a number of councils didn't even want Tony Blair to come in to the area.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yeah, I hear that, but I also took - look at it, since you said we were going to talk about Camden, there are others who have been writing to the paper making very clear that a very good educational policy, which apparently people are coming in from other areas to come in to Camden is working very well for them, and they're praising and making that clear in the paper.

Some councils, (fluffs) ... gone on record to say, we welcome Tony Blair coming. So you do get some for, some against, but inevitably, what Tony Blair represents is a major regeneration effect on King's Cross, on Camden and a national government and a local government working together for the people there.

JON SOPEL: I mean just looking at all the leaflets, I mean we've got a whole pile of Labour leaflets here that have gone out. There's no mention, the word Tony Blair doesn't appear in any of these leaflets. A lot about Gordon Brown, a lot about Charles Clark, nothing about Tony Blair.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I don't know the context in which you're talking. You're maybe talking about Gordon Brown and the most successful economic economy we've had for an awful long time, which has meant a tremendous amount of increases for the local authority. In Charles Clark, probably about reducing crime, and pointing out how Camden has been more successful with the anti social order. (interjection)

JON SOPEL: I suppose looking at it the other way, what they're saying is, Tony Blair is no longer an electoral asset.

JOHN PRESCOTT: No, I think that's what you're saying actually. One or two councillors may say it there, I don't know, but the Leader clearly didn't, and others feel that that - what we ask you to judge us on, is basically what a national government has done to assist the local government. We allow them to make the decisions - again, compare Labour Camden and Liberal Islington, where the crime is going up, the education is not as good, this is a three four star local authority, and that is a combination of national government and local government.

JON SOPEL: Would you agree that the run-up to these local council elections has hardly been ideal for you. The 'loans for peerages' row, allegations that you were trying to sell peerages in return for loans and ... (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yeah, I notice the point you put on allegations. Lots of allegations are made constantly. In fact I think I was here on your last programme, where the papers were making allegations, not true by the way, but a lot of enquires are going on at the presentation - at the present moment, let's have a look at that. But let me be clear about it, as Tony Blair has made clear today, there is a very good political issue about the balance of liberties and indeed protection and safety and security in our times on the anti social issue and I think he was writing today in the Observer, making clear that the anti social orders are something that can make a real difference, and we see that between Camden and Islington, and this basil.. this balance between civil liberties and liberties are something that we have to get right and Tony Blair has made it absolutely clear, he's on the side of the majority, those that are being intimidated by the minority.

JON SOPEL: Just on the loans business for a moment because you did, as you said, you did come on and talk to us about it before.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well you're just making allegations, why ...

BOTH TOGETHER

JON SOPEL: I'm not making allegations, I was going to ask you a specific question.

JOHN PRSCOTT: Okay, okay.

JON SOPEL: The specific question is this. There are a number of people who've loaned money, who say they want the money back, more or less immediately. Would the Labour Party be bankrupted by that?

JOHN PRESCOTT: No. No, we would deal with those problems and we will pay back loans where there's a required to do, and that's one of the conditions of loans.

JON SOPEL: Would it make life difficult for you if ...

JOHN PRESCOTT: Oh, we are always difficulty in finances. I mean if you look at the Labour Party's finances for decades now, we're always overspent at the election and during after the election, we build up our resources to get ready for the next election. So we will meet our commitments, that is not a problem for us.

JON SOPEL: And what about on the health service as well, as another, hardly ideal, the Royal College of Nursing talking about - there are thirteen thousand jobs about to go. And yet you have Patricia Hewitt saying this is the best year ever for the NHS. Would you describe it as the best year ever for the NHS.

JOHN PRESCOTT: I think the health service is in the best state it's ever been for decades. We've now got a hundred new and improved hospitals, we've got over a hundred thousand more nurses, consultants and doctors now working in to our health service.

We've doubled the amount of money that has gone in to health, yes, there are some problems on the margins, because we're requiring, in reform, to get adjustments and those debts you're talking about┐. (interjection)

JON SOPEL: But if your operation (overlaps) ... if your operation has been cancelled because staff have been laid off, you don't say, this is a problem on the margins.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Hang on, hang on, put it in perspective. We're now doing a million more patients on the National Health (fluffs) ... we did it before.

When I hear, was it either Davis or Cameron, talking about - what was the quote he used, about it wasn't good enough or it's worse or something like that - when you compare what we've done, to what in fact has happened under the previous administration, we have made major, fundamental changes, and we've kept to one very important principle, that the treatment is based upon need and you're your ability to pay. That's a success record, however you measure it.

JON SOPEL: Okay, you talk about David Cameron, you made a speech a few months back describing David Cameron as a chameleon, and then hey presto, we got a party election broadcast where that's all he is. He's a chameleon, what did you think of that.

JOHN PRESCOTT: We I think - when I did my speech, what I did, was trying to point out, he's says I'm a Liberal now, then he says he's a Tory, blue - and now he said if you vote Tony Blue, you can get Green, I just made a bit of a fun about the different colours, and I suppose now because he's been to Norway, watching him there, you could describe him as white. Look, it's fun in politics, a little bit of humour doesn't really ...

JON SOPEL: But it's negative, it's unremittingly negative.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well okay, okay. Let me just clear with that one. A little humour doesn't, doesn't harm the political system I think, if you can treat it that way. But there must be a very important political measure, measure, message in it and that political message undoubtedly is the one that he has different views to what he had before, and he keeps changing, and he identifies it with other political parties; it's hard to keep up with him, but at the end of the day he's set up these commissions, he says he's going to tell us what the policy is, and how he can be a good environmentalist, when he voted against the climate charge, charge levy, is the point we make - he changes. And even in that film that we had as a political broadcast, his tongue went out - what did he get, minimum wage. This was a man who fought against minimum wage and now says he accepts it.

JON SOPEL: But isn't it because he's doing so well and that you've become rattled that you don't about your nine years in office and what you've achieved, you just attack Cameron.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well why didn't you ask me about the nine years then.

JON SOPEL: I've asked you about the record ... (interjection) ..

JOHN PRESCOTT: (overlaps)

JON SOPEL: I'm asking you about your record in Camden and now I'm asking you.

JOHN PRESCOTT: And I've just tried to give you that.

JON SOPEL: Quite specifically ... about the one party election broadcast we've see and it's unremittingly negative.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well, no, it's a bit of fun. You might call it negative, it's a bit of fun and I think that's what happened there. People will laugh about it. But they will judge us on the positive things. Now we got three broadcasts to have right - let's see what the range of those broadcasts are. We will stay. The big issue, as I've been trying to say is the anti social orders.

I'm told that's a threat to the liberties. Why don't we have those kind of discussions which have been opened by the Prime Minister today, who's now made it clear that he's on the side of the majority that is being intimidated by a minority, where one family can make it a real terror on the streets in a particular area, and he wants to act strongly against them, and he's for the majority. And he is right. Blair is right to be for the majority, being intimidated by some minorities JON SOPEL: Okay, just on terms of the results of these elections. What constitutes success.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Er winning.

JON SOPEL: And so what's a bad result. Losing? How many?

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yes, well I don't know, we'll wait and see what happens but we always want to put our case, and if the people then decide, and as you have already been making clear from the beginning of this programme, sometimes unfairly, the national policies are interfering with local.

In Camden where we've used an example, they've undoubtedly got a record you should be voting for them. If they've got difficulties about national policies, it's not fair to put it on the local authority, but it's not unknown.

JON SOPEL: So manage ... your expectation here - if you lose more than a hundred and fifty seats, is that bad or is that to be expected.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well we want to win as many seats as we can and we're fighting to win as many seats as we can, and these elections come every year. Next year there will be the local elections, and the devolution in Wales and Scotland. And we'll judge it as it comes. But for a government of course, our elections won't come till four or five years will it.

JON SOPEL: You talked about the last time you were on the programme when you said about Tony Blair, the whole loans business could speed up his departure from Downing Street, and you said, I think the timetable is ...

JOHN PRESCOTT: I didn't say that by the way.

JON SOPEL: You said the timetable in people's minds is still reasonably the same.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yeah.

JON SOPEL: Whose minds are ... (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well (fluffs) it was nothing to do with the loans affecting. I - you asked me about the timetable. What you were suggested there, somehow the loans affected it. I didn't say that at all. What I did say, the timetable is still in its order. When the Prime Minister made clear he wants to go, we'll make the appropriate, take the appropriate ...

JON SOPEL: When is that.

JOHN PRESCOTT: ... decisions to replace. Well that's for the Prime Minister to tell us.

JON SOPEL: Do you know.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Er, no, I will er, I know what it is frankly, that is that it must come before the next election.

JON SOPEL: Right. And that's as much as Gordon Brown knows as well

JOHN PRESCOTT: Er, that's - what we all know until the Prime Minister makes his decision.

JON SOPEL: And the local elections won't have changed anything.

JOH PRESCOTT: No, I don't think so. We'll go on implementing. Twelve months ago we fought ...

JON SOPEL: A disastrous result doesn't change anything

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well wait a minute, wait a minute. Twelve months ago, we had a manifesto, and we had to get on with implementing that manifesto.

And if you look at the Tories, quite frankly, do you remember before - going back in to the early '90s, they had some very, we had some lousy local election, good election results, and the Tories went on to lose it.

JON SOPEL: Okay.

JOHN PRESCOTT: To win it, sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

JON SOPEL: John Prescott ...

JOHN PRESCOTT: Not my day today.

JON SOPEL: John Prescott, well we're glad to have had you on the Politics Show, thanks very much indeed.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Okay.

End of interview


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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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday 30 April 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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