Jon Sopel spoke to the Home Secretary, John Reid on the Politics Show Sunday 06 May 2007...
John Reid says he will stand down from the Cabinet "towards the end of June".
Speaking to Jon Sopel, the Home Secretary said: "In my view it is better for the Labour Party, the leadership and the new Prime Minister, that he be given the maximum flexibility, in terms of introducing his new ideas, new agenda, the same direction but new policies perhaps in pursuit of that and certainly new people.
"A fresh start, bringing in younger people in many cases.
"And from my point of view, it is better to take the chance, having had nine jobs in ten years, to re-charge my batteries.
"So what I intend to do is to vote and support Gordon Brown, to put through the changes to the Home Office and then to stand down, as Tony Blair goes from the Cabinet and to give the maximum opportunity to Gordon, to bring in fresh talent, newer people."
Jump or push..?
Mr Reid denied he was jumping before he was pushed, and said he had discussed the matter with Gordon Brown.
He said: "He's made plain to me there is a position in his government for me, but he understands and he accepts my decision on this.
"I have made plain to him I will be there to support him."
Mr Reid ruled himself out of the leadership contest, saying: "I have considered very carefully the various options that are here.
"It is very clear to me that whatever the pros and cons of a contest for the leadership there is not an eagerness in the Labour party for that.
"There's an eagerness for us to come together. And I said last week to unite rather than to fracture. And therefore I have decided I will not put myself forward as a candidate for the leadership."
He also said he would continue to support the Politics Show.
INTERVIEW WITH: JOHN REID, MP,
JON SOPEL: And I'm joined now by the Home Secretary, John Reid. John Reid we'll talk about all the big political issues in a moment. We just started the news bulletin there with that story about a double shooting. Do you know any more about it?
JOHN REID: Well, we're trying to confirm the details. I heard about it as I was on my way here Jon, so I can't tell you exactly what's happened because, obviously, I want to be entirely accurate. The only thing I would say is this, day in and day out, I know from personal experience the risk to life and limb that is taken by those who serve in our police service and that is why I've constantly said that when something terrible happens, it should remind us to be a little more understanding of - when things go wrong, with either our police or security services and a little more eager to praise when they undertake, as they constantly do, operations or actions which put their own lives at risk, to protect us.
JON SOPEL: Okay, let's move on to the politics, the local elections on Thursday. Tony Blair said they were a spring board to victory - it's hard to really see that.
JOHN REID: Well, I can see why people would question that until they recognise that the results we got were 1% higher, in terms of our support, than the ones we got just before the last election, when in fact we did win the General Election; so we went up in terms of the vote and the other piece of good news I suppose is that they were nothing like as bad as were predicted.
Having said all that, of course they are very difficult results, but it does leave open the chance of winning the next election and there's everything to fight for and over the next few months we've got a chance of a fresh start and I believe that the Labour Party will take that opportunity of a fresh start and over the next couple of years, not least because I believe the Conservatives can be beaten, you know, where's the beef in the Conservatives - they haven't done the hard work we did under Kinnock and under Blair, the hard work we are doing now to develop new policies and that will make the difference at the end of the day.
JON SOPEL: Okay, well let's talk about your own political backyard - should Labour be seeking to form a coalition government in Scotland or do you, have you lost moral authority. Alex Salmond, he won more seats and more votes.
JOHN REID: Well the key thing for people to understand is that the Scottish Executive is formed in a parliament that is based on proportional representation, so it is highly likely that whoever becomes First Minister, whoever leads in the administration, will have to form a coalition administration, a coalition type of government; so this idea of the moral legitimacy lying with the SNP is completely wrong.
For a start they don't have anything like a majority, secondly, and this is the most important thing of all, the majority of votes, by far and the majority of representatives, members of the Scottish parliament by far, are absolutely opposed to the central plank of the SNP policy which is to rip Scotland out of the United Kingdom. So there's no moral legitimacy in terms of leadership, on the very central raison d'etre of the SNP, we'll have to see how the discussions pan out in terms of forming a coalition, but it is quite possible that Labour, and the Liberals in the course of these discussions, can form a coalition again, capable of... (interjection)...
JON SOPEL: That's very interesting.
JOHN REID: ¿ leading the Scottish Executive.
JON SOPEL: That's very interesting, so should, what would your advice be to Jack McConnell this weekend. Sit back and let the SNP have a go and see if they can form an administration, or actively start pursuing.
JOHN REID: Well, I think that Jack is doing exactly the right thing and that is he is having discussions with others at present, but the key thing here for people to recognise is that whoever forms the administration, will be legitimate, if they can form the broadest possible coalition in the Parliament, and the biggest handicap to that for the SNP, is that the overwhelming majority of people who voted and the overwhelming majority of people who've been elected are utterly opposed to the central plank of the SNP policy, which is to break up Britain.
JON SOPEL: All right. Let's talk about the momentous week ahead of us, with Tony Blair announcing his departure date. You said this would be the moment where you would clarify your position. What is it, what are you going to do.
JOHN REID: Well that is a fair comment. For not only months but years I have said I would not answer speculation or questions about Tony Blair's, what happens after Tony Blair goes until he's said I'm stepping down. He's now going to do that this week. I have considered very carefully the various options that are here. It is clear to me that whatever the pros and cons of a contest for the leadership, there is not an eagerness in the Labour Party for that.
There's an eagerness for us to come together and I said last week, to unite rather than to fracture and therefore I have decided that I will not put myself forward as a candidate for the leadership. Two things follow from that, the first is where I stand in relation to Gordon Brown. I will be supporting Gordon Brown, I will be voting for Gordon Brown, if asked nominate Gordon Brown.
Not just during these seven weeks, but in the months and years to come, because I believe that all of us now have the challenge of putting before the people of this country, the real decision, which is the choice between Labour, which will be under the leadership of Gordon Brown I'm sure and Gordon Brown as leader and Prime Minister and the Conservatives. And I believe the Conservatives can be beat.
I do believe that. It then raises the question, how can I best assist in this. And I've given this a lot of thought. In my view it is better for the Labour Party, the leadership and the new Prime Minister, that he be given the maximum flexibility, in terms of introducing his new ideas, new agenda, the same direction but new policies perhaps in pursuit of that and certainly new people.
A fresh start, bringing in younger people in many cases. And from my point of view, it is better to take the chance, having had nine jobs in ten years, to re-charge my batteries so what I intend to do is to vote and support Gordon Brown, to put through the changes to the Home Office and then to stand down, as Tony Blair goes from the Cabinet and to give the maximum opportunity to Gordon, to bring in fresh talent, newer people.
JON SOPEL: So the end of John Reid as a Cabinet Minister.
JOHN REID: I intend to stand down from the Cabinet towards the end of June, when Tony goes. That is a natural break period, because if I stay a year, and leave then, that will be misrepresented. Now I've done nine jobs in ten years and I think from my point of view, it's a good thing to be able to go out, to listen, to learn, to discuss, to get back to the grass roots, but also from the point of view of an incoming Prime Minister, I think the new Prime Minister should have the maximum flexibility. He needs space not just in terms of ideas, but in terms of new places and so on.
JON SOPEL: You know what question I suspect I'm going to ask you now is, are you jumping before you are pushed or have you discussed this with Gordon Brown.
JOHN REID: I have discussed it with Gordon. I've had a very good discussion with Gordon on a number of these issues. He has made plain to me there's a place in his government for me but he understands and he accepts my decision on this. I have made plain to him that from the Back Benches, I will be there to support him. It will not be a case of sniping, it will be a case of sustaining the Labour government and the new Prime Minister and incidentally Jon.
JON SOPEL: Did he try to dissuade you
JOHN REID: We have, I'm not going to go in to the details of the discussion but we've had a very good discussion and I can assure you that the one thing I will not allow to happen is this. There's a tendency in politics today, to try and analyse every bit of body language. Every nuance of every sentence and to find a focal point for opposition to the Labour Prime Minister; that has happened over the past few years. It is not going to happen with me.
I will not allow that to happen. I will support, as will the rest of the party the maximum unity of this leadership which I believe will be Gordon Brown, as the new leader and Prime Minister. And I truly believe that the best way I can do that is to give Gordon the chance to bring in new people, fresher talent, and also, I'll be quite truthful with you, having done nine jobs in ten years, each of which has had a steep learning curve, I need to re-charge my batteries to listen and to learn and to spend a little bit of time incidentally with my constituents, my family, my friends, football, all of the things I'm interested in.
JON SOPEL: Okay, just a final thought then, Gordon Brown's style has come in for a lot of criticism, and there are a lot of people who have expressed concern and unease and some of it has been attributed to you. What advice would you give him in the way that he conducts himself as Prime Minister, with this new young talent that is coming in to the Cabinet.
JOHN REID: Well, I don't think it's for me to give Gordon advice on how he conducts himself. He's the pre-eminent politician of Labour. He's got a record that is hugely enviable in terms of delivering better standards of living and the economy of this country and so on.
And I know Gordon Brown's talents as well as anybody. I'm probably his oldest political acquaintance. Despite everything you read in the press, we regard each other as friends, we are certainly colleagues and I will be absolutely supportive of Gordon, because I know his immense strengths and one of those strengths is his sincerity, his conviction and his absolute commitment to public service and to serving the public as Leader of this country and as Prime Minister, I have no doubt about that at all.
He has delivered huge advances for people in this country, both in terms of social justice, the minimum wage, all of the tax credits which bring a platform of decency to life, as well as dynamic economy. I'm sure he's a new Labour committed, the direction... be the same, but he should have the freedom to bring in his own ideas and his own people, in that direction.
JON SOPEL: Okay, Jon Reid. Thanks very much and even if you're not going to be in Cabinet, I hope you'll still come on programmes like this, to give us your views on the state of British politics today. Thank you very much.
JOHN REID: I will be as supportive of the Politics Programme, as I will be of the Labour government.
JON SOPEL: John Reid, thank you very much indeed.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH JOHN REID
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The Politics Show Sunday 06 May 2007 at 12.00 BST on BBC One.
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