On the Politics Show, Sunday 17 June 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Harriet Harman.
Labour Deputy Leadership candidate, Harriet Harman, called for increased government spending on families with young children.
On childcare Ms. Harman said: "I absolutely think that we've got to increase investment in supporting families with young children.
"I think that we need to make sure that everybody has the opportunity if they want, to spend that first year of a child's life with family care, whether that's the mother, the father or grandparents, we should support that."
Ms. Harman also called for a UN Security Council resolution against America over its treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.
"Do we think if it was any other country in the world, that there wouldn't be a Security Council resolution deploring it and saying that they either had to take them in to their own country and put them on trial or set them free?
"And I think that our foreign policy has to be consistent and it has to be even handed to have legitimacy."
Even US policy?
When Jon Sopel asked whether Tony Blair had been even-handed over his policy towards the US on this issue, she replied: "Well I think that if this had been a different country, other than the United States, many other countries would have actually taken forward a Security Council resolution.
"I think we stand up for human rights in this country and we should you know, we should actually make it clear internationally that we deplore these breaches of human rights."
In it to win it
She also refused to endorse Hazel Blears as her second preference in the Labour Deputy Leadership contest, saying "I'm not exercising a second preference. I'm just voting for myself on the basis as Hilary Clinton said, that 'I'm in it to win it'."
She added: "It doesn't follow that you have to do a second preference and I'm in the race, not just to be Deputy Leader but to actually change the political agenda and all those things that I've fought for 20 years.
"I want them to be at the heart of the party and the top of the government."
JON SOPEL: Harriet Harman welcome to the Politics Show. Just focusing on that report that we just saw there. Have your policies been too one-sided, too much encouragement maybe to get women back to work, but not actually giving them the facility to stay at home if they wanted to with their children.
HARRIET HARMAN: I don't think they have been one-sided but certainly, there does need to be more choice for families in the very early years of a child's life. You see, the national minimum wage was something which actually gave parents more time at home with their children because if you've got a very low wage then you have to work all hours to make ends meet. And one of the objectives of that national minimum wage topped up by the tax credit, was to give some families the opportunity, who otherwise couldn't afford it, to have one of the couple staying at home full time, or one only working part time and the reality is that the lower down the income scale you are, the less choice you've got. If you're high up the income scale, then irrespective of your housing costs and such like, you can make those choices and we need to support those families, who are constrained in their choice because it's hard for them to make ends meet.
JON SOPEL: I suspect the couple we saw in the film would be considered about half way up the income scale and they didn't feel that they had the choices. There they said they've got a mortgage, what can you do, you've got to go out to work full time, even though they didn't want to put their children in to group child care.
HARRIET HARMAN: Well it is a particularly difficult issue, certainly, within the first year of a child's life and if you look at the web sites like NetMums, which is all mums discussing on the internet these issues, that is the absolutely hot topic of chat between mums and some dads as well. And certainly, I think that we need to make sure that everybody has the opportunity if they want, to spend that first year of a child's life with family care, whether that's the mother, the father or grandparents, we should support that. But if there is going to be...
JON SOPEL: So what more should you be doing?
HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think that we've done a great deal with increasing, doubling maternity pay and doubling maternity leave. But I would like to see all families have the choice in the first year of a child's life, to have family care if that's what they want. But if they want to go back to work, we need to make sure that there is high quality childcare or well supervised child minding arrangements. So it's not for us to dictate in the first year of a child's life, you should stay at home, but we must listen to the facts that that's what many families say they want.
JON SOPEL: Would you favour a system like they have in Norway or where ever it is where you get something like 80% of your salary for the first year, would you think that that should be a priority for legislation.
HARRIET HARMAN: I think that we do have to make a priority investing in support for families because my view is that if you get the family part right, almost everything else is going to follow okay and this is not just a question of the individual desperately held preference of individual parents, it's also an economic and social imperative. The two most important things parents want to do is they want to provide an income for their family, and they want to bring up their children well and we've got to back them up, being able to do both.
JON SOPEL: Is that a spending commitment?
HARRIET HARMAN: I have, you know, I absolutely think that we've got to increase investment in supporting families with young children. Absolutely and I think we've also ...(interjection)
JON SOPEL: No, no, you've said, that's fantastic.
HARRIET HARMAN: Yes.
JON SOPEL: Let me just push this a bit further then.
HARRIET HARMAN: Okay.
JON SOPEL: What do you think it will cost?
HARRIET HARMAN: Oh well I haven't got a figure I can take out of the top of my head but I'm saying that we - that it must be a priority, but I also would add that there is another issue in terms of family life which is support for older people, because people are living longer, women are more likely to be working. We've got to make sure that we support older people to stay in their own home, rather than have future generations institutionalized. So the question between, about the relationship between the labour market and the family is a key issue for our time.
JON SOPEL: And one that David Cameron seems to be running with, saying that there should be more flexible working arrangements for people, so that they can do exactly this. Isn't there a slight danger that the Tories are actually stealing your mantle on all of this?
HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think it's hard to take very seriously what Anne Mackintosh or David Cameron are saying on this because different bits of the Tory party seem to be saying very different things. But as far as flexible work is concerned, what we've done is we've introduced a right for the parent to request flexible working, but I think that we should see it the other way round. I think that we should be saying that you've got a right to work flexibly, unless the employer can show that it would be unpractical for their business, because we should be recognizing that when parents are bringing up their children properly they are not, we are not just doing them a favour, that this is an economic and social imperative.
JON SOPEL: Okay. You've based your Deputy Leadership Campaign on the basis that it would be much better if there, with Gordon Brown as a leader, that there was a woman as Deputy Leader. Do you think that Labour has failed on some of its family, childcare policies because you've had John Prescott as Deputy Leader?
HARRIET HARMAN: No I don't. But I think that it is right for the future that we have a woman and a man in the top leadership. In fact, as long ago as the early 1980s, I said that actually, Labour was the party of equality, if we want families on the front of the agenda for the party, then we need a woman and a man in the leadership team. So I've always argued that and I think that that would be right now.
JON SOPEL: Isn't vote for me, I'm a woman, a pretty thin slogan?
HARRIET HARMAN: Well, when I was first elected to the House of Commons, there was 97% men and only 3% women. When I said that that was making sure that politics was a men only business, that things that were of concern to women, were not on the agenda, that's exactly what people said to me then. Oh, that's tokenistic. But actually, when we got more women members of parliament, more Labour women, we did change the law on domestic violence, we did increase maternity pay, we did get better quality childcare, so it's not just tokenism, it's about the substance of the political agenda.
JON SOPEL: Okay, now obviously, in this election campaign for leader you're going to be voting yourself as first preference, who's your second preference going to be for.
HARRIET HARMAN: I'm not exercising a second preference. I'm just voting for myself on the basis as Hilary Clinton said, that I'm in it to win it.
JON SOPEL: But shouldn't you be voting for Hazel Blears as your second preference.?
HARRIET HARMAN: N.. I'm just voting for myself because I'm, as I say, I'm in it to win it.
JON SOPEL: But if you don't win. Hang on, there's a degree of, isn't there a degree of hypocrisy there because if you think that it's the best thing that could happen is for a woman to win it, if you're eliminated, then surely, you'd want your second preferences to go to Hazel Blears?
HARRIET HARMAN: Well, that's predicated on your view, your prediction that I'm going to be eliminated and that is not my view. And in relation to anybody else who's supporting me, you know, obviously, it's a matter for them, who they vote for. But I'm not doing any deals, I'm .. (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Isn't there a - I'm just interested, because it seems, that would seem that there's a logical inconsistency there because you've got a preferential voting system, you have a chance to have a second preference, you've just argued that it ought to be a woman who should be the number two, the Deputy, then surely, your second preference ought to go to Hazel Blears?
HARRIET HARMAN: We no, that doesn't, doesn't follow at all. It doesn't follow that you have to do a second preference and I'm in the race, not just to be Deputy Leader but to actually change the political agenda and all those things that I've fought for for twenty years. I want them to be at the heart of the party and the top of the government.
JON SOPEL: Okay. We started on family, I want to go to big international picture stuff, with you imagining that you win as Deputy Leader. You've said that the US ought to be subject to a Security Council resolution over Guantanamo Bay. Is that really the first thing that Gordon Brown ought to be worried about when he becomes leader?
HARRIET HARMAN: Well if you, if you think about it, you've got to state which has got something like five hundred people, citizens of other countries, locked up for five years, and they're off-shore, because this is outside the rule of law of that country. Do we think if it was any other country in the world, that there wouldn't be a Security Council resolution deploring it and saying that they either had to take them in to their own country and put them on trial or set them free? And I think that our foreign policy has to be consistent and it has to be even handed to have legitimacy.
JON SOPEL: So you would be persuading Gordon Brown on the 27th or 28th when you're Deputy Leader and he's sworn in as Prime Minister, that actually, we ought to be working with our allies now, to get a Security Council resolution, condemning the US?
HARRIET HARMAN: Well I'm saying it right now without waiting till June 27th. I think if this was Iran or example or any other country in the world, that had taken citizens from other countries and had interned them, locked them up for a long period, up to five years, that you, you can't, you have to be even handed in how you deal with different countries and if they breach human rights ¿ (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Has Tony Blair not been even-handed?
HARRIET HARMAN: Well, I think that that's, this is what, what should happen is that we should, as Britain, we should take this issue to the Security Council.
JON SOPEL: Has Tony Blair not been even handed?
HARRIET HARMAN: Well I think that if this had been a different country, other than the United States, many other countries would have actually taken forward a Security Council resolution. I think we stand up for human rights in this country and we should you know, we should actually make it clear internationally that we deplore these breaches of human rights.
JON SOPEL: Okay, Harriet Harman, we must leave it there. Thank you very much indeed. We shall find out of course next week.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH HARRIET HARMAN
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The Politics Show Sunday 17 June 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.
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