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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 May 2007, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Derek Simpson interview transcript...
On the Politics Show, Sunday 06 May 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Unite.

Derek Simpson
One minister said to me during the course of the campaign in Scotland, that if Gordon's not got the message now, what needs to be done, he never will
Derek Simpson

Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Unite, the new superunion, issued the following warning to Gordon Brown about listening to the concerns of the trade unions:

"I think that there is a case for looking at employment laws because I think it's too much tilted in the favour of employers but what's increasingly of concern is that employers now are global employers and governments seen, as well as trade unions to have very little chance of an equal position with those organisations. There are things that Labour could do.

"They could for example fully sign up to the European legislation, that would give the same protection to UK workers, where there's that growing uncertainty, because of globalisation, not just in manufacturing, in finance, where we have the off-shoring. If Labour could introduce that it would go a long way to ease the frustration and concern.

"I also think that Gordon is not stupid. Gordon must recognise and indeed one minister said it to me during the course of the campaign in Scotland, that if Gordon's not got the message now, what needs to be done, he never will."

He also warned that Labour had to rebuild its working class base of support following last Thursday's elections: "It's the middle ground that's actually remaining with Labour, it's the core traditional working class areas and votes that are moving away."

Transcript of interview

BBC1 POLITICS SHOW 06 MAY 2007

INTERVIEW WITH: DEREK SIMPSON, General Secretary, UNITE

JON SOPEL: Well UNITE's General Secretary joins us now, thanks very much for being with us. Tony Blair said he saw the results on Thursday as a spring board for victory. Do you see it like that?

DEREK SIMPSON: Well I've just been listening to John Reid explain the answer to that, I think he made the best show of what you could say. It's difficult to describe losses as good news, but I think it is true that Labour didn't do as badly, difficult that that might be to explain, and I think what people will really look at the General Election is not the proportion of votes and what's happened now but the state of the economy and if you think back to the argument when the Conservatives were doing badly, the economy and everything else was a great deal worse than what it is now and I think that's the thing that will influence people at the next General Election.

JON SOPEL: Yeah, you've said the last thing Labour needs right now is to cut itself adrift from the organisations which more than any other, connect it with its disillusioned core vote. Who are these disillusioned people?

DEREK SIMPSON: Well I think there's a lot of working people questioning why it's still easier and cheaper to dismiss UK workers, there's a lot of people in the health service wondering why they're not getting the full settlement, as recommended by the independent body. There's a lot of people looking for housing which is moving now out of the range of most ordinary people in costs and I think that Labour needs to address these questions.

JON SOPEL: But you could analyse the results from Thursday and say actually, the people that have abandoned Labour are the middle classes, in the South of England, and they're the ones that have gone. They were the ones who were the spring board for Labour's massive victory in '97. You need to go to sort of more modern policies, to embrace the middle class even more, not working class voters.

DEREK SIMPSON: Well, it's a bit ironic because that's contrary to the evidence that we've polled. It's the middle ground that's actually remaining with Labour, it's the core traditional working class areas and votes that are moving away.

JON SOPEL: Then why is the retreat so wholesale in the South of England. If you look at the map, there are whole swathes of Councils where there are no Labour councillors on them - which there were in '97.

DEREK SIMPSON: Well, there's always been a tendency to be conservative in the South of England and Labour in the North and I don't think that the underlying trend has changed. But in terms of loss of support, it's taken place amongst the traditional areas and that's our evidence.

JON SOPEL: You've got a lot of members, a lot of clout and I dare sense that the Labour Party looks at its empty piggy bank, they'll be thinking, a lot of money too. What do you want in return from Gordon Brown, in terms of policy.

DEREK SIMPSON: Well in return for money, nothing. I mean we've got a deep conviction that only a Labour government can serve the interests of ordinary people, if I can use that somewhat strange phrase. We provide money to the Labour Party, to help it win elections, not to buy policies. We will have a debate about policies.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Leave that to one side. What are the areas of policy where you believe there needs to be change. I mean for example, Tony Blair has been very unwilling to reform any of the Thatcherite union laws. I mean is that something you'd like Gordon Brown to look at. I don't know, secondary picketing, secondary strike action.

DEREK SIMPSON: Well I think that there is a case for looking at employment laws because I think it's too much tilted in the favour of employers but what's increasingly of concern is that employers now are global employers and governments seen, as well as trade unions to have very little chance of an equal position with those organisations. There are things that Labour could do.

They could for example fully sign up to the European legislation, that would give the same protection to UK workers, where there's that growing uncertainty, because of globalisation, not just in manufacturing, in finance, where we have the off shoring. If Labour could introduce that it would go a long way to ease the frustration and concern.

JON SOPEL: I think Bill Morris has been saying something like that for years, but I mean, do you see any signs that Gordon Brown is going to go in that direction.

DEREK SIMPSON: Well, I think that Gordon's likely 'a' to be Prime Minister and 'b', likely to want to be so after the next General Election. And I also think that Gordon is not stupid. Gordon must recognise and indeed one minister said it to me during the course of the campaign in Scotland, that if Gordon's not got the message now, what needs to be done, he never will. So I believe that there will be some addressing of these concerns, at least I've got to be optimistic on that view, and that's what we would be pressing him to do.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Derek Simpson, thanks very much for being with us here on the Politics Show.

END OF INTERVIEW WITH DEREK SIMPSON


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.


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The Politics Show Sunday 06 May 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.

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