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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2006, 12:04 GMT 13:04 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 07 May 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:

Lynne Jones MP
Lynne Jones MP

Jon Sopel interviewed Lynne Jones

On the infamous 'letter' from back-bench MPs Lynne Jones said: 'I was aware that there was the idea of having a letter circulating.'

"I'm one of the usual suspects so I think it's probably best that I'm not involved in this process because I think it's ... Jon Sopel: You have seen the letter? Lynne Jones: No, I haven't seen the letter. I was aware that the idea of sending a letter had been mooted. I understood ... Jon Sopel: Was it meant to have been kept secret? Lynne Jones: ... it was supposed to be confidential and I certainly haven't talked about it. "I'm afraid the Labour Party is a pale shadow of what it was even in the 80s, and so long as Tony Blair remains the leader, that will be the case."

Jon Sopel: Lynne Jones is one of the local MPs here in Birmingham.

I think it's probably fair to say that she's not one of Tony Blair's biggest fans. She joins me now. Welcome to the politics show.

Lynne Jones: Good morning Jon.

Jon Sopel: The letter published in this morning's Sunday Telegraph, which has apparently attracted 50 signatures, key passage of which is: "We asked the NEC in consultation with the Prime Minister to lay out, no later than the end of the current parliamentary session, a clear timetable and procedure for the election of a New Labour Party leader. Have you signed this?

Lynne Jones: No I haven't. I was aware that there was the idea of having a letter circulating. I'm one of the usual suspects so I think it's probably best that I'm not involved in this process because I think it's ...

Jon Sopel: You have seen the letter?

Lynne Jones: No, I haven't seen the letter. I was aware that the idea of sending a letter had been mooted. I understood ...

Jon Sopel: Was it meant to have been kept secret?

Lynne Jones: ... it was supposed to be confidential and I certainly haven't talked about it. But I'm certainly not one of the prime movers behind this and I don't think any of the people who would be seen as the usual suspects are involved.

Jon Sopel: Why?

Lynne Jones: Because we know that by people like me calling for circulating a letter is less likely to get support from people who perhaps are seen to be more moderate within the party, although I do regard myself as quite a moderate individual.

Jon Sopel: This is quite an interesting point you're making. So you're saying that the 50 people who have signed this letter which you knew about but which was meant to have been kept confidential.

Lynne Jones: Well I knew about the idea.

Jon Sopel: Okay, okay. But the 50 people who've signed it are not the campaign group, they're not the left, but it's the people who are considered to be more mainstream.

Lynne Jones: I think so, yes. Yes, I think.. you know.. we have heard people like Andrew Smith and Nick Raynsford, I don't know whether they've signed it, but those are the sorts of names that we are hearing about within the context of the need for us to move on now after the local elections.

Jon Sopel: So what's going to happen?

Lynne Jones: Well I can't predict what's going to happen. It will be a very interesting week when we get back ...

Jon Sopel: Well you can have a punt.

Lynne Jones: ... when we get back to Westminster. I mean I made it clear a year ago that I thought that Tony Blair should find an opportunity to have a dignified exit whilst the going was good, whilst we'd won the third term, you know.. a record third term, and he should really have been looking to move on whilst everything was looking good.

Jon Sopel: But it's only a year ago since you went into that general election on a new Labour Manifesto, with Tony Blair as the Prime Minister. Who are you to say when the British people have voted for him for five years, that he should go now?

Lynne Jones: Well I fought that election and I was obviously active in the local elections, and there are many ex-party members even, and certainly Labour voters who say they will not vote Labour whilst Tony Blair is the Leader, and if we are going to have a renewal of the Party, we have to attract those disaffected people back. I'm afraid the Labour Party is a pale shadow of what it was even in the 80s, and so long as Tony Blair remains the leader, that will be the case.

Jon Sopel: Okay, Lynne Jones, thank you very much indeed.

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.


Dr John Reid MP
Dr John Reid MP

Jon Sopel interviewed Dr John Reid

Of his new posting he said: 'Well I've always been prepared to do anything that people feel is a benefit to the Labour Government.'

"That's why we're in politics to do what we can for the party and the country, not to fulfil personal ambitions and therefore when the Prime Minister asks me to do something, I do it."

On "plots" to remove Blair from office, "You can't just pick an arbitrary date and tell them, well now that you've voted for us I'm going, you'll get whoever the Labour Party chooses.

Secondly because they give a date, one of the few prerogatives that a government holds, to give a date if you're serving a full third term is also to give a big advantage to the Tory Party, because you're giving away the potential run up to a general election.

And thirdly because this isn't actually about a date, this is about forcing Tony Blair out, stopping the reform programme and moving his, in the words of one of these circulated letters which has been publicized everywhere, moving the Labour Party back in direction, changing direction back to old Labour.

Now to force Tony Blair out, to stop the reform programme, to start to move back to old Labour, any one of those would be a disaster, taken together they would be a catastrophe for this party, which is why it is not going to happen.

He continued " ... the best thing we can do is to do what we promised the people of this country. Blair here for a full third term, a reforming new Labour agenda, listen to the lessons of last week where those parts of the country who came to New Labour, because we were New Labour, are getting worried and going off from us and reinforcing that reform programme and making sure that it's backed by every single member of the leadership and that's why I agree with Gordon Brown this morning when he said we have to renew our policy and reach out to that New Labour coalition.

"But those people who are trying to shove Blair out, change the direction, use the situation to put us back to old Labour, they're not going to win, there is no going back for this party, if we go back, we're walking into the wilderness."

Jon Sopel: Well I'm joined now by John Reid the former Defence Secretary, former Health Secretary, ex Northern Ireland Secretary, ex Scottish Secretary, one time Party Chairman and Leader of the House and of course now the new Home Secretary. John Reid, Who's Who must struggle to keep up to date with your CV.

John Reid: Well I've always been prepared to do anything that people feel is a benefit to the Labour Government. That's why we're in politics to do what we can for the party and the country, not to fulfil personal ambitions and therefore when the Prime Minister asks me to do something, I do it.

I can't say that I was lobbying to get the Home Office, it has been a pretty difficult task, but it's vitally important for the people of this country to feel that they have got a legal system, an immigration system, an asylum system that is fair to the majority of people and I think that people feel that that isn't always the case and even if it was fair it is ... isn't always administered well. So that's the task I've got and that's what we do when we come into governments.

Jon Sopel: Okay, and let's look at the wider political context of this, we've just heard from Lynne Jones saying that the sooner he goes the better, you'll say she's one of the usual suspects, but we also know that it now goes far wider than that, we heard it in our film, we heard Lynne Jones saying the fifty signatures are not the usual suspects.

John Reid: Yeah, well Lynne Jones of course has said that since 1994. Let's be quite clear about a date and why this has been pushed about. A date for three reasons is not only not of any advantage to the Labour Party, it is positively a disadvantage.

First of all because Tony Blair promised the people of this country, before the election, part of the deal, that if you vote Labour you'll get a Blair led Labour government for a full third term.

You can't just pick an arbitrary date and tell them, well now that you've voted for us I'm going, you'll get whoever the Labour Party chooses. Secondly because they give a date, one of the few prerogatives that a government holds, to give a date if you're serving a full third term is also to give a big advantage to the Tory Party, because you're giving away the potential run up to a general election.

And thirdly because this isn't actually about a date, this is about forcing Tony Blair out, stopping the reform programme and moving his, in the words of one of these circulated letters which has been publicized everywhere, moving the Labour Party back in direction, changing direction back to old Labour.

Now to force Tony Blair out, to stop the reform programme, to start to move back to old Labour, any one of those would be a disaster, taken together they would be a catastrophe for this party, which is why it is not going to happen.

Jon Sopel: Very senior Labour sources ...

John Reid: The basis ... let me just finish Jon. The basis for keeping our promises to the electorate, both in content and in Tony Blair's duration as leader and creating an orderly transition, is a untied leadership behind a radical reform.. reforming New Labour programme and of course we must renew that, we must look at opportunity as well as security and so on, so that the public know that when and if Tony Blair goes, whoever takes over from him will still be leading a modern reforming Labour Party, that is the basis for renewing New Labour.

Jon Sopel: Right, very senior Labour sources have said this morning there is clearly a plot to oust Tony Blair, you clearly agree with that.

John Reid: There's no doubt that what is going on is calculated and planned. I mean it has been run ...

Jon Sopel: Are Gordon Brown's supporters involved in that?

John Reid: Well I can tell you who seems to be behind it. It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to discover who's on television publicising and pushing this and this is the old Labour lobby group compass.

Now there are others who are popping up from time to time, some of them have wanted Tony Blair out, like Lynne, since 1994, some of them have opposed big elements of the reform programme, good colleagues of mine, but they've been against reforms like Estelle, but the whole thing has been generated by people who want to push Blair out, they want to stop the reform programme and they want to change direction back to old Labour.

That would be a complete catastrophe for the Labour Government and the Labour Party, the best thing we can do is to do what we promised the people of this country.

Blair here for a full third term, a reforming new Labour agenda, listen to the lessons of last week where those parts of the country who came to New Labour, because we were New Labour, are getting worried and going off from us and reinforcing that reform programme and making sure that it's backed by every single member of the leadership and that's why I agree with Gordon Brown this morning when he said we have to renew our policy and reach out to that New Labour coalition.

But those people who are trying to shove Blair out, change the direction, use the situation to put us back to old Labour, they're not going to win, there is no going back for this party, if we go back, we're walking into the wilderness.

Jon Sopel: But what do you say to those ... and it.. coming from Gordon Brown's supporters, the people like, I don't know, Andrew Smith, Nick Brown, Doug Henderson, all say we have to set a date.

John Reid: I say that is not only a total irrelevance, it is a disadvantage. Setting a date means Tony Blair breaking his pledge to the people of this country that he would serve a full third term. It means handing a huge advantage to David Cameron and it means ignoring the real problem and the lessons, if we were listening last week to the electorate, which is illustrating that there is a united Labour leadership ... a united Labour leadership behind a reforming New Labour agenda.

And when you mention, you know the polls and all the rest of it, let me remind you that yesterday and last week there were two polls scientifically carried out, not a random selection of anonymous MPs who may always have been against Tony Blair, but among the public where almost half of the public not only wanted Tony Blair to serve a full third term, but actually wanted him to go into a fourth term. So it would be a disaster for the Labour Party if we illustrated that instead of united around a new ... new Labour agenda, looking at all the issues of security, opportunity, pushing forward the reform and putting public services really under the public's control and so on, that is what we ought to be doing, but not playing into the hands of those who are using the circumstances to try and get rid of Blair, stop the reforms and move us back to old Labour, that way is the way to disaster.

Jon Sopel: Dr Reid, I'm struggling to get a word in edgeways here. I just want to ask you this question, do you believe that the words that we've heard from Nick Brown, Doug Henderson, Andrew Smith are with the support of the Chancellor, because you're saying they are an irrelevance and damaging?

John Reid: I listened very carefully to Gordon this morning. I don't disagree with a word that Gordon said. There are some things I would have added of course because it is true that Tony promised an orderly transition, he also promised the people of this country to serve a full third term, but I agree with Gordon very much on security, not only globalisation, the managing of change, the breakdown of community cohesion, international terrorism. I would go further, I would say individual opportunity, showing that the state is not imposing things on people but enabling them through their own efforts to get on.

I would mention a fair, legal asylum and immigration system where the majority feel that they are not being penalised for being responsible. But.. so I would go slightly further on the agenda but I agree with everything he said this morning. Separate to that is the question about whether we push Tony Blair out. If we push Tony Blair out we will all regret it, please believe me.

Jon Sopel: Right, so you believe that.. I don't know, come the next counsel elections this time next year, Tony Blair will still be there?

John Reid: I do believe that would be a good thing for the Labour Party because apart from anything else it's what we all promised the electorate. You see, people ask us to do what we say and say what we do.

What we said before the election, 12 months ago, is that we would have a radical new Labour agenda where we would reform our public services, we'd carry through the big reforms for quality control by the public of Health, of Education, where we would make sure that we had opportunity for people instead of a state sitting on top of them, and it would be led by Tony Blair for a full third term.

Those were promises to the public. Is that compatible with an ordinary transition? Yes it is. How do we achieve that orderly transition? Everyone in the leadership sits down and agrees a programme for the rest of this Parliament where we are totally united behind a renewed New Labour effort, not going back, not pushing Blair out, not breaking any of our promises, but a totally united leadership ...

Jon Sopel: Okay ...

John Reid: ... and then the public knows that when and if Tony Blair goes, they're still dealing with a new reforming Labour Party.

Jon Sopel: Right. Dr Reid, let me put this to you ...

John Reid: That is the way to ...

Jon Sopel: ... please, we haven't got very much time. Let me put this to you. We don't have a lot of time. You have chosen to characterise those who are calling for a timetable as being 'Old Labour'.

Doesn't it spread far wider than that when you've got people like Estelle Morris, Alan Whitehead involved, apparently ... you know.. other sort of people who've been ministers who would consider themselves part of what was New Labour saying Tony Blair has to give that timetable.

John Reid: Jon, let me correct you, I didn't ... I said, and I chose my words carefully, most of the people who are calling for a date are either people who want to push Tony Blair out or are opposed to the reform programme, or are people who want to shift back to Old Labour.

Alan Whitehead, incidentally, did not come on your programme and say Tony should give a date or go now, he actually said that shouldn't happen. Estelle, of course, is somebody who has opposed a reform programme on Education. Lynne Jones, who you quoted, fell into the first category.

She's wanted Tony Blair to be out from the day he was elected. So what I'm saying is that most of these people are actually asking for a process that would push Tony Blair out, that would stop the radical reforms we're carrying through and would ultimately "change direction", the words used in the letter, so that we go back towards Old Labour. Any one of those would be a disaster for the Labour Party.

Taken together they would be an electoral catastrophe for us, for the people who worked so hard in putting the councillors in the front line, and more importantly for this country. Why don't we get on with governing the country rather than continually talking politician to politician about the future of politicians, why don't we go on and govern the country and talking about what people out there are concerned about which is their ambitions, their future, not the future ambitions of us.

Jon Sopel: Okay. Dr John Reid, thank you very much for being with us on the Politics Show.

John Reid: Thank you Jon.

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.


Caroline Spelman MP
Caroline Spelman MP

Interview with Caroline Spelman

Caroline Spelman said: 'I am in favour of an elected upper House because I think the appointment system has become so discredited by this government.'

"Specifically by the number of appointments that Tony Blair has made.

"It's one of the things I think reflecting their unpopularity at this set of local elections. But what an extraordinary thing this government has done, this New Labour project which as a top priority saw its need to dismantle the Lords as we know it without ... not actually knowing what it wanted to put in its place.

"To me that speaks of the incompetence at the heart of the Labour Government and that is what the electorate have just punished them for."

Jon Sopel: The Conservative Party Shadow Secretary of State for local government, Caroline Spelman, joins me now. Welcome to the Politics Show.

Caroline Spelman: Thank you.

Jon Sopel: A 40% share of ... a projection of the national share obviously very good, but it's only 2% up on two years ago.

Caroline Spelman: But two years ago we were also on a high watermark amongst these urban councils. These elections were predominantly held in Metropolitan councils. I think we'd accept it has been difficult territory for us. We had a very good result in 2004 but we've done even better, and a number of commentators used that figure of 40% saying that if we succeeded in getting 40% of the vote share, David Cameron could quite rightly claim the positive impact of his leadership on the party. So we've achieved that, in fact John Reid himself on election night said: "Well unless you get to 40% you can't really claim victory" so that was a barrier that was set for us which we have managed to surmount.

Jon Sopel: And Lord Tebbit writing in the Telegraph this morning says well actually to only get 2% more when the Government has been going through the most grizzly few weeks in its history, suggest that actually don't uncork those champagne bottles just yet.

Caroline Spelman: Well I think I'd say to Norman, you know.. cheer up, that was a very good result, a very clear result for the Conservative Party under David Cameron's leadership, improving on the vote share achieved by his predecessors, I certainly think he must take the credit for that as must all our workforce who work extremely hard because this was the first test of his leadership.

Jon Sopel: When you were last in power there was a Conservative MP in Sheffield, Newcastle as well. Now you have no councillors. I mean can you possibly return to government without winning seats in those sort of areas.

Caroline Spelman: We have plenty of councillors. We're the largest party in local government, but I think the point you're trying to make is in certain cities ...

Jon Sopel: In the cities ...

Caroline Spelman: Yes, in certain cities, but we're here in Birmingham which we run, and in fact we took two seats from Labour in this city last Thursday. We run Leeds. It's a question of which cities and we accept that we have more programme to make in Liverpool, Manchester and New Castle. But one point I would make about a city like Manchester council is in fact the inner city only. Here we are in Birmingham which is both the inner city and the outer suburbs. That helps to explain why we're well represented in places like Birmingham and in Leeds. But the point is about Manchester, that we took control of Chorley, we made great progress in Bury, we control Trafford, so we are coming back in the suburbs of Manchester and I would argue that you have take the suburbs before you take the city centre, and it's a long-term project to which we are totally committed.

Jon Sopel: Are you perhaps still a bit too white, southern, middle class, posh?

Caroline Spelman: Well I don't agree with that. I'm a Midlands MP from Birmingham. We made good progress here in the Midlands. We took control of Coventry for example for the first time in 28 years. This is what is changing our base. We are clearly making progress back into Britain's cities because we have an agenda for those cities. David Cameron chose to fight this election on local issues and on environmental issues. We know that people living in cities are concerned about the quality of urban life, and we have a commitment with our cities taskforce chaired by Lord Heseltine to really address the quality of life in Britain's cities and bring regeneration where it's needed.

Jon Sopel: I see that David Cameron is also choosing a bit of a fight with the House of Lords with the peers saying that he believes the House of Lords lacks authority and legitimacy. What should he do with it?

Caroline Spelman: Well he has put Ken Clarke in charge of this question of constitutional reform, and it is up to Ken to look at the question of what configuration our upper House should ideally have, and each member of the Lords is entitled to their view on that matter. Well I find ...

Jon Sopel: Do you support directly elected peers?

Caroline Spelman: I'm in favour of an elected upper House because I think it has become ... the appointment system has become so discredited by this government and specifically by the number of appointments that Tony Blair has made. It's one of the things I think reflecting their unpopularity at this set of local elections. But what an extraordinary thing this government has done, this New Labour project which as a top priority saw its need to dismantle the Lords as we know it without.. not actually knowing what it wanted to put in its place. To me that speaks of the incompetence at the heart of the Labour Government and that is what the electorate have just punished them for.

Jon Sopel: Caroline Spelman, we must leave it there. Thank you very much indeed.

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.


Let us know what you think.

The next Politics Show will be on Sunday 07 May 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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