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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 June 2006, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Jon Sopel interview
Interviews on Sunday 18 June 2006

Michael Meacher MP said all the current candidates for the Labour leadership were from the right of the party and called for the left to find a candidate: ... I think it is for those in that position to consider what they're going to do, and indeed that is exactly what we are doing ...

Theresa May MP, Shadow Leader of the Commons, discussed reform of the House of Lords, and defended David Cameron saying he puts his family first: ... I think actually, most people would welcome a politician actually saying something like that because an awful lot of people fear that politicians are just in it for the politics and for themselves, rather than thinking about, about their family and about others.

And somebody who says, no actually, I put my family before politics, I think is important, and I think it's very refreshing that he's willing to say that.

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

On the Politics Show, Sunday 18 June 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed:

  • Michael Meacher MP
  • Theresa May MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons


Michael Meacher MP
Michael Meacher MP

Jon Sopel interviewed Michael Meacher

JON SOPEL: Michael Meacher, the former Environment Minister, joins us now.

Mr Meacher, welcome to the Politics Show. So which do you think, sooner rather than later that he should go.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well as you say 70% of members and it was a poll of thirteen hundred, so it's pretty accurate believe that he should go by conference next year.

However, it is also true that two thirds said that he should not be forced out and that he ought to be given the chance to take the decision to stand down himself. I think that's a mature and reasonable and balanced attitude on behalf of the Membership.

JON SOPEL: Right, so when do you want him to go.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well I, I think that's the view of the Membership and they're the ones that count.

JON SOPEL: I'm asking you your view.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Yes, well I think, I think their attitude is a perfectly reasonable one. I think the Prime Minister will take account of this poll, he certainly should, but I think it is also true that he shouldn't be forced out but that he should go in his own time, bearing in mind what party members have said.

JON SOPEL: There's a lot to talk about. Just very briefly, I want to pin you on this one. Do you think he should go sooner rather than later. ie within three months, which is what over a third of the people said or by Party Conference next year.

MICHAEL MEACHER: I think we're looking at Party Conference next year. I really don't think he's going to go in the next three months, but I think he should be taking soundings and looking at leaving at around that time - but it is his decision.

JON SOPEL: Okay, you spoke at the Compass Conference yesterday in which Neal Lawson said that Tony Blair had moved so far to the right that David Cameron is now filling the vacuum in the centre. Do you see Tony Blair as to the right of David Cameron.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Er, well I don't know what David Cameron actually believes in so it's very difficult to know.

JON SOPEL: You know what I mean by the question.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well I suppose I do but I don't think we have really genuinely much idea of what kind of Conservatism David Cameron stands for and I think we're going to find it a considerably more hard line form, if and when he ever gets in to power, so I don't think it's actually a very useful question but if you're saying, have we moved to the right, there's no question we have, we have been very loyal in supporting that move over the last ten or twelve years, but I think there is a widespread feeling in the party which I share, that if we continue like this, we are not going to win the next election, and I do think now is the moment, the watershed when we have to take stock, to have a debate in the Party about the direction in which we go. I think there is clearly a demand for it, shown by the Compass Conference yesterday. I think the same is undoubtedly true amongst the Trade Unions and certainly the centre and left of the parliamentary party, so we need that debate now.

JON SOPEL: And you would like to see government more accountable to .. (overlaps)

MICHAEL MEACHER: I would certainly like to see government more accountable, one of the things we have seen, it started with Mrs Thatcher, it's been taken a lot further by Tony Blair, namely that power is over-centralised, it is - all the big decisions are really taken by Number 10 and the rest of us are simply expected to follow. I mean there's a good example at the pres ... (overlaps)

JON SOPEL: So how would you, how would make, how would you make the government, Number 10 more accountable to Labour Party members then.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well first of all - well, there's the parliamentary accountability and the Party accountability. First of all in parliament the question is who cabinet ministers are responsible to. Shouldn't they have to be ratified by parliament, not just appointed by the Prime Minister. Shouldn't we have select committees who do hold the government to account, elected by Members of Parliament, not selected by the Whips on the say-so of Number 10.

JON SOPEL: But what about Party accountability.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well party accountability, first of all I think we need to see conference decisions respected. If the government simply cannot accept a conference decision, I don't think they just walk away from it. I think they set up a committee with the proposals of the motion and the representatives of the government to continue to discuss until we reach a far compromise.

JON SOPEL: This reminds me of the campaign for Labour Party Democracy in the early 1980s, the Bennite resolutions, that led to Labour being in the wilderness for eighteen years.

MICHAEL MEACHER: I, I think that's nonsense. First of all this is not about going back to the 1980s. We're all modernizers, we all want ...

JON SOPEL: Conference mandates.

MICHAEL MEACHER: I didn't talk about a Conference Mandate. I said that ...

BOTH TOGETHER

MICHAEL MEACHER: .. when there's been a democratic decision by the whole of the Party, it should be taken very seriously by government, if you're a democratic party. The opposite of that is autocracy and I don't think people want that. But no one is suggesting we got back to the 1980s, let's make that absolutely clear. But New Labour is just one variation on a modern Labour Party. There are others and we need to discuss those.

JON SOPEL: A very brief other question, do you think that there is anyone else of the Leadership contenders who would offer a radically different way of governing to Tony Blair. I mean you look at the policies that are being advocated by John Reid by Alan Johnson by Gordon Brown of course and others, it all looks very similar.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well it may because all of those candidates come from the centre right of the Party and it is very significant that as a result of Mr Prescott's position, there has been a discussion about a Deputy Leadership Campaign and those who put themselves forward at the moment are all on the centre right. There is of course a large gap in the centre and the left and I think it is for those in that position to consider what they're going to do, and indeed that is exactly what we are doing.

JON SOPEL: Okay Mr Meacher, we must leave it there. Thank you ever so much indeed.

End of interview

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.


Theresa May MP
Theresa May MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Jon Sopel interviewed Theresa May

JON SOPEL: I'm joined by Theresa May, the Shadow Leader of the House.

Do you agree with Geoffrey Howe, that you don't need an elected element in the House of Lords.

THERESA MAY: My personal view is that we should have a significant elected element in the House of Lords. When the votes came before the House of Commons, I think we had seven options. I voted for a majority elected House of Lords.

JON SOPEL: So what percentage.

THERESA MAY: Oh I voted for 80% and obviously there's a debate. The Party itself has, as was indicated on the, on that particular package that you had. David Cameron himself has, for a long time talked about needing an element of elected members in the House of Lords and the party has for some time now been saying that.

JON SOPEL: And what about the Geoffrey Howe point that frankly, that if ain't broke, don't fix it.

TERESA MAY: Well I think that's one of the questions that needs to be given to the Government at the moment because as you know, there are two issues the government is looking at, they're looking at House of Lords reform, but they've also set up this joint committee on what are called the conventions, that is the, the arrangements that exist between the House of Lords and the House of Commons and there is some evidence that the government may be looking to try to reduce the powers of the House of Lords and certainly while I'm in favour of an elected element of the House of Lords, I'm certainly not in favour of reducing the powers and neither is the Party. We want to strengthen parliament, not see its powers being restricted.

JON SOPEL: Okay without getting in to the technicalities of things like the Salisbury Convention, I mean essentially though, if you put something in your manifesto, and you have won a General Election, that is the view of the people. Should the House of Lords for example, like ... identity cards, have the right to bounce it back.

THERESA MAY: Well I think the House of Lords should have the right to bounce it back because the House of the Lords is a revising chamber. The House of the Lords has a right to say to the House of Commons, Okay, you've presented this particular bill, this particular proposal, but have you thought about this.

We don't think is going to work, we don't think this is a good idea, have another look at it. That's what the House of Lords does. The government hasn't lost any legislation that is a result of manifesto commitments (interjection) through the House of Lords arguing with it about what, the best way in which something should be done.

JON SOPEL: But you do get a log jam and you get this sort of ridiculous game of parliamentary ping pong going on. I mean surely, there has to be something that, if you're going to have an elected element, otherwise you're just going to have two chambers, competing, both saying, we've got as much legitimacy as the other.

THERESA MAY: Well let's look at this argument you've put about the problem of the log jam. I think most people would say how, most voters would say, well thank you to the House of Lords, they're actually standing up against the government on things like trail by jury and on issues like whether or not identity cards should be compulsory and you - one party ...

ALL TOGETHER

JON SOPEL: Isn't it easy for you say when you're opposition. If you were in government and you were suddenly finding the things that you had put in the Tory Manifesto, being held to ransom by the House of Lords, I'm sure you'd be pretty irritated.

THERESA: Well the last Conservative government found many occasions on which the House of Lords sent things back to the House of Commons, That's the job of the House of Lords. The House of Lords isn't there to rubber stamp what the Commons is saying.

There are very clear guide-lines, the Conventions, which say that the House of Lords won't stop a Manifest0 - legislation that's a Manifesto commitment, from going through. But they do have the right and if you're going to have a second chamber, it seems to me that it is absolutely crucial that the second chamber is able to say to the House of Commons, think again on a particular issue, we don't think it's going to work for this reason, we think it should be done better, we think this challenges fundamental liberties, that's what the House of Lords say, it goes back to the Commons and says, no you must think again. And that's right. We don't want a Commons that simply grabs at legislation to get a headline and ends up with bad law.

JON SOPEL: Okay a couple of other issues, I mean David Cameron has made his, written an article today on Father's Day, talking about how his family is more important to him than reaching Downing Street. I mean it has a good riff to it, but isn't that the sort of cynical, I don't know, fatherhood and apple pie kind of thing that makes people sceptical of him, that where's the substance there.

THERESA MAY: Well no, I think actually, most people would welcome a politician actually saying something like that because an awful lot of people fear that politicians are just in it for the politics and for themselves, rather than thinking about, about their family and about others. And somebody who says, no actually, I put my family before politics, I think is important, and I think it's very refreshing that he's willing to say that.

JON SOPEL: Doesn't it leave a bad taste in the mouth?

THERESA MAY: No, I don't think it leaves a bad taste in the mouth and of course, what he's doing is, is not just saying that. He's actually making a speech on the importance of family life and how family life contributes to the general well-being of the population of our society and that we shouldn't simply be looking at numbers, but actually we've got to look at families and their importance.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Theresa May, thank you very much indeed for being with us.

End of interview


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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday 25 June 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.

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