On the Politics Show, Sunday 08 June 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Tony Lloyd MP, Chair of Parliamentary Labour Party
Tony Lloyd MP, Chair of Parliamentary Labour Party
JON SOPEL: Joining us now is Tony Lloyd, Labour MP for Manchester Central and Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Thank you very much for being with us on the Politics Show.
You heard a councillor there saying it was a - a Labour councillor, saying it would be an act of political suicide.
TONY LLOYD: Well, the long term act of political suicide actually, is to do nothing about congestion because the real tax, not simply on the motorist but on the wider public, is congestion.
We know that congestion is bad for health. The pollutants in the atmosphere are particularly bad for young people, children's lungs.
We know that congestion is bad for the global environment and we know specifically in greater Manchester that we risk losing thirty thousand jobs over the next ten years unless we do something positive about congestion. Now within that, the tax, the real tax is the tax that congestion imposes and we can't simply say we're not going to do anything about that.
JON SOPEL: But you are operating in the current political climate and the political climate at the moment is that motorists feel very hard done by, that it's costing them a fortune to fill but their cars, their vehicle excess duty is about to go up. Do you think it's sellable at the moment, this charge.
TONY LLOYD: I do, of course I do. It's totally sellable because motorists like everybody else have members of their family and they themselves who want high quality public transport, which we've not go in Greater Manchester at the moment. We need investment there.
That's a major part of this double-edge policy. Investment in transport infrastructure, vitally important. We've had a row bubbling on in recent years in Greater Manchester about extending the tram, the local metro system. We're going to see that investment and that's a really important issue for people.
For the motorist, maybe 20% of motorists will be affected by this because this isn't a 24 hour a day or even all working day congestion charge that's being talked about, it's something very specific at peak periods and it's very limited in the areas where it applies, so yes, some people will be affected but in actual fact, those people who will be affected are as low in one in five motorists.
JON SOPEL: Tony Lloyd, you're not saying this because your constituents won't be affected in the fine city where you are in Manchester Central. If you were in Bury or somewhere else, maybe you'd be a little more anxious.
TONY LLOYD: Well I am fine sitting where I am, thank you very much. That's kind to say. My constituency is a great one. But bear in mind this, my constituents also drive cars. My constituents are the ones who probably are most affected by the environmental down-side of congestion, you're right to point that out.
My constituents though aren't the ones, because they live closest to the city centre, who will most benefit from high quality public transport. It is the people in the Burys and the outer lying areas of Greater Manchester, who will benefit most from that.
So, the idea of selling this simply as a penal attack upon a section of the population is simply not true. The overwhelming majority of people will benefit from the twin thing of investment in public transport and limitation of the damage and there is real, real damage that congestion now does in a conurbation like Greater Manchester.
JON SOPEL: Okay, so following on that argument of the benefits that congestion charging and getting more cars off the road brings, then presumably, you're utterly comfortable that the government should go ahead and introduce an extra 2p a litre on fuel in September, when it was due.
That they should go ahead with increasing vehicle excise duty and presumably, you think it's probably a very good thing as well that the barrel of oil is as expensive as it is.
TONY LLOYD: Jon, I think probably even you think that line of questioning is a little bit silly.
There is no read across from the present, no doubt anguish, that operates in terms of the price of fuel. We all know, I've just filled my tank of petrol this morning. I know how much it goes up. But there is simply no read across to say that congestion charging is the same nature. One of the things you said even about getting more cars off the road. Actually, even that's not accurate.
What we're talking about is getting more cars off the road at those times, when congestion is bad for the economy, bad for health and bad for the environment. Slow running cars really are not good for the motorist. That's actually, even in a limited fashion, is a tax on the motorist, the ability to drive comfortably in traffic that moves is not simply better on the nerves, it's a lot cheaper.
So, this is not comparable to the other issues that you raise. And I simply repeat what I said before, the real issue in this is how do we get both high quality public transport and how do we also manage that in a way that lets the motor car operate properly in a conurbation which needs motor vehicles, of course it does. But needs motor vehicles to move in a way that's acceptable to the motorist and acceptable to the wider public.
JON SOPEL: I just wonder whether we could turn now to the health of the government with your particular vantage point as Chair of the PLP. When Gordon Brown took over less than a year ago you stood at 40% in the polls and I think the latest poll this morning puts you down on 26%. Why?
TONY LLOYD: Well, we've certainly been through a rocky time, that's there for all to see, if I said anything else people wouldn't believe me. We've, as a government, have made mistakes. The 10p tax rate was probably the most obvious of that and we've hit the political squalls because of things, the issues you raised before.
Increasing world prices for things like food and energy cost. Those hurt my constituents, probably more than they hurt people in other parts of the country. So, those things have got the public in a very anxious mood and what this government has now got to do and is beginning to do, is to demonstrate that it has solutions to the problems that the country is facing. But we've got obviously, some way to go before we demonstrate that we're not simply the right government now, as we are, but the right government for the longer term future.
JON SOPEL: There's a Despatches programme going out tomorrow now where Ministers and ex Ministers, seem to raise questions about how good Gordon Brown is at taking decisions. That's a problem as well isn't it?
TONY LLOYD: Well, this I think is something that's become the kind of cultural flavour of the month. It's the same Gordon Brown who made an awful lot of decisions as Chancellor of the Exchequer. It's Gordon Brown, who a year ago, was being praised by people because, don't forget, when you said Gordon Brown took over on 40, he shot up, because of his decisive handling around issues like terrorism at the time, the floods, food and mouth. All those things he was being given bouquets and plaudits, about twelve months ago.
Now, this is the same decisive Gordon Brown, that you now want to have - I saw your little cartoon introduction - that you and others want to pile in on because it's an easy political target. But in reality, actually, what Gordon Brown has to do, what Gordon Brown will do, is to take the decisions that the country needs, not in a framework cast by journalists, or even by his occasional critic in my own party, but actually, in the interests of the nation, because that's what I expect and that's actually what my own constituents expect.
JON SOPEL: Okay. Tony Lloyd, thanks ever so much for being with us on The Politics Show.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH TONY LLOYD
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The Politics Show Sunday 15 June 2008 at 1200BST on BBC One.
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