On the Politics Show, Sunday 13 May 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed John McDonnell MP.
INTERVIEW WITH: JOHN MCDONNELL MP
JON SOPEL: John McDonnell is with me now. How far are you along that road? Have you agreed yet?
JOHN MCDONNELL: Well we've had the first meeting, and we now know that between us we've got more than we need; so on Monday we'll then decide who's got the most and whoever's got the most will then go forward, the other person will drop out and encourage their supporters to endorse the other candidate.
JON SOPEL: You've got enough of what you need, I'd heard that you may have a problem where certain MPs may have said ?yes, John I'll vote for you' and have also said to Michael, ?yes, Michael I'll vote for you too.'
JOHN MCDONNELL: Yes you've met MPs before
JON SOPEL: Exactly
JOHN MCDONNELL: No we've resolved that, we've resolved that.
JON SOPEL: So there was some of that?
JOHN MCDONNELL: Yes there was, there were some duplications we resolved that.
JON SOPEL: Duplication or duplicity?
JOHN MCDONNELL: Look, get out a bit more you need to meet some more MPs to interpret that.
JON SOPEL: Okay, but even taking that into account there are enough people to get you over the threshold.
JOHN MCDONNELL: Yes that was the issue, we met to resolve that and then on Monday, hopefully we can then go forward and have a proper election, because our members want an election. The people who deliver our leaflets, knock on the doors, fund us through their subscriptions, they want to have a say in this, they want a proper debate.
JON SOPEL: Now you went into the last election, the Labour Party did with a very clear manifesto and unless I'm very much mistaken I don't think there was any reference to nationalising key parts of the industrial and financial sectors, getting rid of nuclear weapons, slashing defence spending and higher tax rates for the better off?
JOHN MCDONNELL: No that's true, that's why we need the debate, this leadership election is to enable us to stand back, see how far we've come over the last 10 years, see the positives, and also look at some of the negatives. We had a massive coalition supporting us in '97, a lot of that coalition has broken up. Now is the time to stand back and look at where we go from here for the future.
JON SOPEL: Okay, so if elected, you would not have a mandate to govern. If you beat Gordon Brown, you wouldn't have a mandate to govern, would you call a General Election immediately?
JOHN MCDONNELL: My view is like this: I think there needs to be a period of time in which you can demonstrate what you're doing and what you want to do, and then go to the electorate yourself...
JON SOPEL: Sorry to interrupt you. But you have agreed that what the proposition you would be offering the British people, if John McDonnell becomes Prime Minister, is something the British people did not vote for in 2005.
JOHN MCDONNELL: That's right.
JON SOPEL: So therefore you have to...
JOHN MCDONNELL: Well that's why I think there needs to be a period of time where you can set out your stall, set out those policies, start implementation as well and then go to the electorate after a reasonable period of time...
JON SOPEL: What do you call that ? three months?
JOHN MCDONNELL: Well I think the next election will come anyway within eighteen months to two years and I think that's reasonable. They want to judge you in office before you can go to the electorate itself.
JON SOPEL: Does the same apply to Gordon Brown?
JOHN MCDONNELL: I think so and we're going to have an election in about two years anyway.
JON SOPEL: But do you think Gordon Brown should call an early election ? do the same arguments apply?
JOHN MCDONNELL: I think the same argument does apply. That's a reasonable period of time where people can judge you on your record in office itself and I think that's what people will want.
JON SOPEL: Do you think Gordon Brown wants to have a contest with you.
JOHN MCDONNELL: I hope so, because what we shouldn't do is take our membership for granted. As I say, these are the people who support us through thick and thin, and we're a democratic party. Look, to give the Tories their due, they had an election, a range of candidates, a good debate and then after that, they united and actually went up in the polls.
The Lib Dems did the same. We're a more democratic party, we've got a more democratic tradition and therefore Gordon Brown and Labour MPs should welcome an election.
JOHN SOPEL: The mood music is that I think Gordon Brown would like to have a contest with you...
JOHN MCDONNELL: I hope so.
JOHN SOPEL: He can then slay you, as the left wing dragon and show how much the party has changed.
JOHN MCDONNELL: What's interesting, I've got every grass roots organisation within the Labour Party has endorsed my candidature and the first unions to nominate, have nominated me. On Friday, UNISON, the largest affiliate to the Labour Party in Scotland, passed a resolution saying ?we will nominate John McDonnell and no other'.
So there's a real grassroots support for my campaign because of the policies I'm advocating, not a personality thing between me and Gordon, it's the policies. Now, I think Labour MPs should respect that, nominate me, so we can have that election. What's the problem with that?
JOHN SOPEL: You talk about the grass roots, the organisations that are supporting you, that are rallying to you. Do you think the British people are ready for your policies?
JOHN MCDONNELL: Well I think so, because if you look ? I'm standing on the mainstream policies of the Labour Party, passed by a Labour Party Conference, passed by...
JOHN SOPEL: Well, not passed by ? not since Tony Blair became leader in '94...
JOHN MCDONNELL: What's interesting though, is actually, they hold the majority position in virtually every opinion poll in recent years. Iraq, I opposed the war in Iraq. I know I was swimming against the stream at that stage; a majority now recognise that was a mistake. Privatisation of our public services, particularly health.
Health workers marched out for us in '97; they're marching against us now. A majority of people advocate the same policies as me, opposing privatisation, wanting more investment, wanting nurses paid properly.
JON SOPEL: Wanting to pay more in tax?
JOHN MCDONNELL: Well I think the taxation issue we've got to resolve. It isn't about income tax, it is ? I don't mind about increasing... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: How do you explain this. Why do you think Tony Blair won in 1997, 2001 and 2005?
JOHN MCDONNELL: If you look at the work that John Curtice has done. John Smith won us the election in '97. We were twenty three points ahead. It was the Labour Party that won, not any particular individual. On the taxation issue, this is critical that we address this.
This isn't about income tax, this is not the big issue. The big issue on taxation is have we got a fair society and who's paying their way? The people who are not paying their way are the large corporations who we now know on Gordon Brown's own Treasury figures are avoiding taxation by a hundred and fifty billion pounds a year. On that basis, we're not talking about increasing income tax to pay for public services, we're asking for them to pay a fair share.
JON SOPEL: I just want to ask you another question. So far the hypothesis has been that you beat Gordon Brown. I'm now going to be rather uncharitable and suggest that you're not going to beat him and assuming that you don't, who will be the better Prime Minister, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown.
JOHN MCDONNELL: This is a David and Goliath struggle. I don't go in to this campaign to ? I don't go in waving a white flag. I think we can beat Gordon Brown, cos I'm advocating...(interjection)
JON SOPEL: I'm asking you to ? just assume ? bear with me. For the sake of the hypothesis, you lose, Gordon Brown becomes the next Prime Minister, will he be very different from Tony Blair?
JOHN MCDONNELL: Gordon has been the architect of most of the policies over the last ten years along with Tony Blair. I think we're in danger of sleepwalking in to the loss of the next General Election. We need a radical break with a number of those policies and on that basis, we'll need a new leader. That's why I'm standing.
JON SOPEL: John McDonnell, good luck. thank you very much indeed for being with us on The Politics Show.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH JOHN MACDONNELL
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The Politics Show Sunday 13 May 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.
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