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Live debate transcript

On the Politics Show, Sunday 21 September 2008, Jon Sopel hosted a live debate on the future of the Labour Party. The panellists were: Former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, Former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke and Guardian columnist, Polly Toynebee.

Watch the full debate here...

Programme transcript:

JON SOPEL : Hello and welcome. This week, a special edition of The Politics Show, live from the Labour Party Conference here in Manchester. We have live studio audience who will be debating with a stellar political panel: Charles Clarke: John Prescott and the Guardian?s Polly Toynbee.

Now, Labour are way behind in the opinion polls so are they dead in the water. Is there any way for them to turn it round and the big question that everyone here is talking about, should the Labour Party ditch Gordon Brown. Well the Prime Minister makes his big speech to conference on Tuesday, what are people in our audience, many of them Politics Show Viewers, want to hear him say?

JON SOPEL: First though, let?s get you up to date with all the latest news. In London, Tim Wilcox. Tim.

JON SOPEL: Tim, thank you very much. So, does Labour have the right leader or the right policies to win a fourth term in power? We?re live in Manchester?s Bridgewater Hall, just across the road from the conference centre. Behind me there, the famous landmark of the Midland Hotel.

Now on our panel, the former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke. The former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott and the Guardian?s Polly Toynbee. Facing them, an audience made up of Politics Show viewers who?ve approached us and a whole phalanx of others who are here attending the party conference, who we have invited along and all of you, you are very welcome.

We heard there, Charles Clarke, Gordon Brown in the news saying, the country would not forgive us to be talking about the leadership. You are.

CHARLES CLARKE: What I said and I said in a piece this morning is that either Gordon has to do what he said in that interview he needs to do, which is to improve his performance, improve his leadership, give a clear direction to resolve all these issues, or we have to make a change. The one thing which I think is completely unacceptable is to ignore the real political situation in the country and kind of drift along assuming we?ll some how pull it around without doing anything. We have to act in one direction or the other.

JON SOPEL: And your belief is that Gordon Brown should probably stand down.

CHARLES CLARKE: I?m very sceptically personally about his capacity to pull it round and therefore I do think he probably should stand down. But I don?t rule it out. He?s a man of great quality, he was a very good Chancellor of the Exchequer and of course it?s entirely possible he might, but I am Jon, as you rightly say, a sceptic about his capacity to do that.

JON SOPEL: But you?re talking about there is inaction, drift and despair at the moment.

CHARLES CLARKE: That?s why I?m saying he has to change and that?s precisely the reason why I think there does need to be change and I think the thing which most worries me about the party at the moment, is the sense that here we are in this very, very serious political situation but somehow, if we just get our heads down, we?ll be able to get through to the end and it?ll be okay, so I think there needs to be change. I allow the possibly the change can be by Gordon himself transforming his performance, as was indicated in that interview, but I remain as you rightly say, sceptical about his capacity to do that.

JON SOPEL: Let?s be clear about this, Charles Clarke, you believe Gordon Brown should go.

CHARLES CLARKE: I?ve given you my answer to that question and I think the best to happen would be for us to face up to this question and not to just kind of drift along, thinking it will all come out right on the night.

JON SOPEL: John Prescott, you?re drifting.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Of course he?s saying he should go, that?s exactly what he means. The whole public see it that way. Look, the articles that have been written by Charles and I read one this morning, or by Polly, leave you the impression this is the wrong man in this job and he should go. What is clearly agreed, we don?t want the Tories back ? all three of us agree on that. We certainly, as Charles says, we?ve got the policies and we?ve got the right people to carry out those jobs, then it seems to me, all this is undermining the possibility of the election of a fourth term of a Labour government, and that?s what it?s really about. And Charles, you know and I ? we?ve been around for a while. You know that when Neil Kinnock was in government, you had great battles with the militant and people, it divided the party and you had to have that fight, no doubt about it, but it was division, it did undermine and we did lose the election.

CHARLES CLARKE: But only through the division did we actually get to a position where New Labour could be created and we could win the election. We needed to have the argument. You know very well, you were there, you were engaged in those arguments. Those issues, whether it was about position in the European Union, sales of council houses, unilateral nuclear disarmarmament, whatever issue you mention, we needed to have that argument.

JOHN PRESCOTT: I?m all for the argument, I?ve no problem about that. The Labour Party always has arguments, it?s had the Blairites and the Brownites, now we?ve got the Bitterites quite frankly, we?re in government now and that?s an essential difference. And if you, look, you want to argue about policy fine, let?s have those. But if you argue the leader is not good, why should the electorate support you and in reality, I don?t accept the proposition that he?s no good, he?s the best man for the global situation; you can?t say he hasn?t acted decisively this week and you and I know in Cabinet, he was the man always arguing to get these international changes for the financial framework, he?s the best man for the job at this particular time and all these arguments, all these kind of innuendos, are about undermining that and probably undermining the possibly of electing?(interjection)

JON SOPEL: John Prescott, are you saying that Charles Clarke is one of the bitterites, he?s bitter.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Of course he?s bitter. I mean Charles knows that. I mean Charles and I have been in the same room with Gordon and I?ve seen this kind of expression of bitterness and I?m sorry about that because Gordon

CHARLES CLARKE: John, I want to say to you you?re wrong and I won?t make any personal ? (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: Not that we were in together

CHARLES CLARKE: No, no, no. We were once

ALL TOGETHER

CHARLES CLARKE: ? I?m not going to make personal remarks about you but what I will say is that passion is important in politics, you know this and our passion ought to be and I think it is true for you as well, to be sure that we would not allow the Tories to form another government for perhaps a decade, because we didn?t face up to the question and I am passionate about that. I don?t think I?m bitter about it actually, but I?m certainly passionate about it and what I get bitter about, is people who just listen and watch and say it will all be all right, let?s get our heads down, it will be all right on the night. I won?t be all right on the night ? (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: (overlaps) ? might be all right if Gordon changes. Now the judgement before you ? (interjection)

CHARLES CLARKE: If. You tell me. You tell me.

JOHN PRESCOTT: I know, but if you?re arguing that, two years before an election is the longest period time. What you?re doing is arguing in the election period, whether you?ve any confidence and if we go through the election of it, which you say in your article takes three or four weeks, it takes longer than that, ten, twelve weeks last time, you?re right up to the Euro Elections, there would be a General Election. Given the circumstances at the moment, I?m prepared to say, it might be disastrous for us? (interjection)

JON SOPEL: Let me bring in Polly Toynbee now. Polly Toynbee, you initially had very, very high hopes for this government. Very high hopes for Gordon Brown.

POLLY TOYNBEE: I did and I think most of the Labour Party did and that?s why there was very strong support for him and I think people are very bitterly disappointed and we could go over the details of why or what he could have done differently, but really that?s not the point. The point is that any party that is twenty points behind and facing the sort of calamity that you see in the Observer poll today, whichever party it was, would say we?ve got to do something about this. We can?t face an election like this and put our heads down. If you consider that Mrs Thatcher was thrown out the moment she became a loser, despite her having been the most successful Conservative Prime Minister, if you think how many leaders the Tories threw out after that, when they thought they?d got losers. If you look at the Lib Dems, having got rid of their leaders that they think are losers, I don?t think there?s anything about the law of politics that says, in the end, Labour will do the same if they think they haven?t got a winner. Whether they?ve got another winner, nobody could know, ?cos often, as we?ve discovered with Gordon Brown, you don?t know until too late, until somebody, the crown is descended on their head, whether they have the authority and the magic that it takes to be a good enough Prime Minister.

JON SOPEL: Let?s go out to the audience.

POLLY TOYNBEE: It?s up to Labour now, you know, do they really want to win or not and it?s a tough decision for them, but you can?t just say, this is not an issue when you?re twenty points behind.

JOHN PRESCOTT: But you believe he should go though Polly, though don?t you.

POLLY TOYNBEE: I think as things are ?. (interjection) ? I don?t think this is the right moment because the economic calamity that has happened, global economic crisis, we don?t know that it?s over. Some people are predicting that it might ? (interjection) ? this is not a brilliant moment at which to change your leader. I?m saying that, you know, whenever Labour decides to do it, one way or another, unless he recovers, I?m sure that they will get rid of him.

JON SOPEL: Paul Irwin, now you were a voter in the recent Crewe and Nantwich by-election.

PAUL IRWIN: Yes.

JON SOPEL: What has been your voting history.

PAUL IRWIN: (Politics Show Viewer) Well, historically I?ve been a Labour supporter and voter all of my life, not necessarily because of my background but principally because I believe in social justice.

JON SOPEL: Did you vote Labour in the by-election.

PAUL IRWIN: No. I voted Tory. I put my cross against the Conservative candidate.

JON SOPEL: Why?

PAUL IRWIN: Because I wanted, the bottom line is I wanted to motivate backbenchers, Labour backbenchers to begin a challenge to Gordon Brown?s leadership.

JON SOPEL: The gentleman there in the suit.

MAN: I want to tell the panel that Gordon made a great announcement today on nursery school places. Something that I can go back to Lewisham and campaign on. I think he made a great announcement on short selling last week, a great decision. I want him to score a hat trick at this conference. Got to be clear, like Theo Walcott and come out for us, but he has done well in this last week.

JON SOPEL: Ian Gibson, MP. I?ve heard you so many times saying, this is a terrible moment for Labour and this is Gordon Brown?s crucial test, this conference. Do you think he can make it.

IAN GIBSON MP, Labour, Norwich North: Well, I think he can. I think he realizes, he?s not thick, he?s not stupid, he knows that we?re in a bit of a bind and I think he knows how to get out of it too.

JON SOPEL: Hasn?t he got you in to it?

IAN GIBSON: Yeah, but it?s not just him you see, you?re making it personalities. It?s a cabinet, it?s a government that makes these decisions and finally it?s backed up in parliament. The vote goes through parliament. I think a little more disloyalty might have been quite good on some of the issues we had in the past, like the Iraq War, Tuition Fees and so on. I think there was dissention and that?s what government should be about, you know, being challenged and not just by the opposition, but within their own rank, there should be debates. I think Brown has got the message and when you see the financial industry caving in and doing things that Nick Leeson got six and a half months for, then I think Brown?s got the message. The public?s behind him on this issue of taking the City on and I?ll join him.

PAUL IRWIN: One of the fundament things for me that changed my mind, that motivated me to vote Tory was because of this 10p tax regime that Gordon Brown was the architect. He designed it, he implemented it and from designing it to implementing it, or rather from announcing it to implementing it, it was nearly twelve months. There was deputations from all sorts of people, trying to persuade them to do otherwise, notably Frank Field, that were all ignored and it was only a backbench revolt that made him change his mind and even then, there had to be a threat of another backbench revolt, for him to come up with the compensation package.

ALL TOGETHER

JON SOPEL: John Prescott, you are in a unique political position that this time a year ago, we were discussing when the date of the General Election would be and you were way ahead in the polls and now you?re way behind in the polls. Surely Gordon Brown has to take a large part of the responsibility for that.

JOHN PRESCOTT: It?s interesting what our colleague has just said there about the 10p. Gordon was on the television this morning saying he made a mistake. People make mistakes. It?s a pretty fundamental one, I?m going to agree with you ? (interjection)

PAUL IRWIN: ? for twelve months.

JOHN PRESCOTT: I know but never the less, you can draw a conclusion that he made the mistakes. People says he doesn?t say I?m sorry, he?s done that. In regards to the polls, well I?m afraid polls come and go quite frankly. Polly mentions the Observer, you could have gone to the Independent? to think we?ve gone from twenty five to twenty seven if you take that. But listening to what YouGov were saying basically, all governments, mid term, are in difficult situations but I?ll tell you what, this one hasn?t been for two periods of the election, it?s a unique thing. We think you can come out of it and the real point is you?ve got to have confidence to know whether you?re going to win the election. I hate it when I hear people say, I don?t hear any serious politician, Charles say it and others have said it, that they don?t think you can win. Of course we think we can win, but if you put yourself in the position of selling you short, cos that?s what these statements are doing, is selling Labour short. You?ve got to have the confidence to win. If we don?t believe it, why should the electorate?

POLLY TOYNBEE: I think that?s true. I think Labour can win. I think there?s a slender chance left. Although the pollsters say, no party has ever come back from here and certainly no leader has ever come back from being in such a deep hole. I think Labour does have one chance left. I think that it?s very difficult for Gordon Brown himself to say, he can say about the 10p, he got it wrong and he did reverse it very late in the day. But there is so much that?s happened. Since this economic crisis it has really emerged, the extent to which greed in the City and allowing the whole City system to inflate, allowing these outrageous sums of money to be paid to people, in bonuses, has caused this to happen. During that time, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair had nothing to say about it. Somebody new needs to come forward, who can actually put the past behind them and say, that was then, now we can start with a clean sheet of paper. We could really have a rather more radical look at this.

ALL TOGETHER

JON SOPEL: Let me bring Charles Clarke in.

CHARLES CLARKE: I think there?s one point that really needs to be dealt with here ? the issues of what you are concerned about, disloyalty and so on John, they are issues, this leadership issue of the last three or four weeks, that?s what?s been happening. The opinion polls, the by-elections, Glasgow East, Crewe & Nantwich and so on, are issues that happened well, well before that. They were a response to things like Gordon?s Brown budget on the 10p rate and a whole set of other issues, so to say that somehow the political dilemmas which Labour faces now are the result of those people who are making criticism, saying we?ve got to face up to it, I think is completely not correct.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Oh, I didn?t say that. Can I just say

JON SOPEL: Very, very briefly. Ten seconds John Prescott.

JOHN PRESCOTT: I agree with what Charles just says, it has been damaging to us, there?s no doubt about it. But the point is, if you go from now, continuing just to argue the leader should go, don?t ? (fluffs) ? wouldn?t be surprised if the electorate feel, well he should go and the Party should go. That is selling Labour short and all the talking behind the hands to certain journalists and writing articles is undermining Labour. They say they don?t want the Tories, but they?re contributing to it? (overlaps)

CHARLES CLARKE: I don?t talk behind my hands, I talk directly and I?m criticised for that. But I think actually, if we?re in this position, it?s important to address it openly and directly, which is what I try and do, rather than, as you say, talking behind hands and all the rest of it.

JON SOPEL: Margaret Curran, Charles Clarke just mentioned the Glasgow East by-election

MARGARET CURRAN: (MSP) An unhappy experience.

JON SOPEL: An unhappy experience for you because you lost the Glasgow East by-election. Was Gordon Brown for you, an asset or a liability. I didn?t see him on many of your leaflets.

MARGARET CURRAN: No, but he was an asset, I mean I wouldn?t deny that. But I mean, I think Charles Clarke has a point, that when you face a by-election defeat, of that order, you have to take lessons from that and you have to be seen to be taking the lessons from that. I think the worse thing we could do in response to it though, is just to talk to ourselves about each other. I think voters get very angry with you when you do that. I think you have to address their circumstances. I think the childcare announcement, I think other announcements are very helpful about that but it?s not just about leadership, it?s about how people live and what they are facing and that?s where Labour is at its best. (interjection)

JON SOPEL: You campaign manager was the Scottish Minister of State who?s now quit because he believes that Gordon ought to go.

MARGET CURRAN: Well I don?t agree with that. I think that?s the wrong conclusion. I do think if politicians just talk about each other, voters get very angry with you. But I would say the voters were telling us something very distinct in that by-election; they were telling us to step up, they were telling us to address the issues of financial insecurities that they are facing. I think the circumstances we?re seeing this week are very serious and we need to have a response to that and you can?t just pretend that?s not there and Labour doesn?t need to respond to that. (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: ? it wasn?t the candidate, it was some of these issues. There?s no doubt of that.

JON SOPEL: Paul, you?re a Politics Show viewer, you?ve come to us because we had adverts on the web site about this; have you been convinced.

PAUL IRWIN: No and I think the situation that Jon describes that in the future, if we carry on the way we are, the electorate are going to desert us. Well what do you call a drop of 40 points over the last twelve months. Is that not desertion

JOHN PRESCOTT: It has happened to other governments. I mean you?ve got pollsters here who can tell you that we?ve been very low down. It is bad down at 20%, no doubt about it, but are beginning to climb up. The point is, do you lie down and die or do you get on and fight. I believe you get on

ALL TOGETHER

JON SOPEL: Let me just bring in David Cowling to answer that question cos David Cowling, you are Head of BBC?s political research and do a lot of the polling for us and look at these polls and analyse them. How bad do you think it is for Gordon Brown?

DAVID COWLING: (BBC Political Research Editor) Well first of all, we?ve been talking about there being no recovery from 20%. All of us have been talking about it. Something was rolling in the back of my mind, there?s a lot of empty space there and I went back to 1990 and there were two months, March and April, where sixteen individual polls, 1990, had Labour leads of between 21 and 23%, average leads and the Tories won the next election. Doesn?t mean to say that that?s going to repeat itself but there is a historical precedent for it. It strikes me that the public are clearly, enormously cross, they?re cross about rising prices of energy and other matters and food and it?s become a sort of poisonous cocktail that?s sort of fed in to Labour?s voting intention figures and shredded them but it seems also to me, looking at the polls, that the public hasn?t yet bought in to the Conservative alternative. The Conservatives are up, no doubt about that, but if you look between the lines, there isn?t that degree of certainty. But one thing is sure is that disunity, people don?t believe the Labour Party is united and it?s sure as anything, past polling tells us, if you?re not united amongst yourself, then actually you?re in deep trouble. But how you manage to have a mature debate and not appear disunited is one of the big challenges for the Labour Party.

JON SOPEL: You talk about the polls in 1990 where Labour had that massive lead. Didn?t the Tories win the next election by changing their Leader.

DAVID COWLING: There is a rumour to that effect.

JON SOPEL: Yes, I just thought it would be worth pointing out. They ditched Margaret Thatcher didn?t they Charles Clarke. Is that what you hold out as the big hope.

CHARLES CLARKE: I believe myself that Labour most certainly can win the next election. I agree very much with David that people aren?t pro Cameron; I think he?s there because of our absences. I also agree actually with Jon, that it?s about policy stance approach to political direction. I believe all of those things. I remain sceptical, which is the reason why I?ve written the pieces I have about Gordon?s ability to be able to create that sense of policy direction and clarity to carry it forward and what I say, exactly for the reason John argues actually, is we have to resolve this matter quickly. It?s no good it all drifting on, as you say till next June when people say, well let?s wait till next June and see what happens, I think, Christ, we absolutely can?t do that. We?ve got to resolve it quickly and we have to decide whether Gordon can do it, about which I?m sceptical or whether we make the change.

JON SOPEL: John Prescott, I want to put this question to you before we move on to look at wider questions. Does it not matter how bad the polls get, you stick with Gordon Brown, come what may, even if you are looking like you are going over the edge of a cliff.

JOHN PRECOTT: No, no, I don?t say that basically. (interjection)

BOTH TOGETHER

JOHN PRESCOTT: ? I believe he?s the best man for the job, I come from that stand. If I?ve seen him in cabinet for ten years, I?ve seen him in the talk and discussions I?ve been involved in. This is an able man.

JON SOPEL: But there might come a point.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Wait a minute ? excels itself internationally. If you want global solutions to global problems on oil, finance ? and he?s a man who?s been arguing before Charles and I in cabinet for this structure. Now people are wakening up to what he said. I think he?s the best man. Now you can still have the argument. There?s a process for it, we set it in. You have to get seventy MPs. Well if you can?t come up to the mark and get the seventy MPs and this man was endorsed, overwhelmingly by the party less than twelve months ago, so I see no reason to change. All I?m saying, while you?re debating it, you?re undermining him and the Party. You?re selling Labour short.

JON SOPEL: Polly Toynbee, a final word from you.

POLLY TOYNBEE: Well I think David Cowling said it all really that what happened when the Tories fell in to a hole that deep, they?re a very tough party, they said, right, get rid of Mrs Thatcher. Get rid of their most popular, election winning asset up until then. So when push comes to shove, I?m quite sure that Labour will come to its senses and say, it may be necessary, the time may come when we have to have another leader because we need a winner and not a loser.

JOHN PRESCOTT: (overlaps) ? not drift on, get it sorted out.

JON SOPEL: Right. Well we will return to that question and that though that John Prescott put but so much for the personalities, what about the policies, as Tony Benn would say. I?ve been out and about the conference centre, just out there behind me where they?re all bathing in the sunshine, to find out what some of the big players think.

INTO FILM PACKAGE

JON SOPEL: Okay, well let?s get some quick views from you. Who thinks that taxes should go up as a measure. This gentleman here.

MAN: Yeah, I think on that point, it?s definitely a time to actually stop what has been a free reign for fat-cats basically to actually dictate what they earn, when they earn it and without benefiting the economy and that?s the worse thing that can possibly happen and I?m afraid that Charles and Polly, their alternative is actually David Cameron, not another Labour leader.

JON SOPEL: We?ll bring them in a second. Yes, the gentleman there in the tie. Yes.

MAN: I think that this will be good news to John that we?ve really got to reconnect with social classes D & E. The work that John Trickett has done, has indicated that we?ve concentrated on the C2s, the skilled workers and really, there are still a lot of people wanting to hear a Labour message, effective Labour message out there, in terms of income redistribution and doing something for the basic people that support the party. We need to reconnect and that?s an urgent message.

JON SOPEL: Let me just bring in from the Institute of Public Policy Research, Carey Oppenheim, you agree with John Cruddas don?t you that taxes should rise.

CAREY OPPENHEIM: Yeah, I think Labour needs to be bolder about taxing some of the people that have really benefited hugely at the top end over the ten or eleven years, but in order to give really tangible benefits to both poorer households and middle income households, who are going to be facing the difficulties of the recession and so on. But I also think, now is a moment when Labour is about to make a really strong case for the importance of state intervention. You?ve seen financial markets really collapse and state intervention is key in this area, even though in other areas, you want to see it devolve.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Ben Soffa there. Do you agree with that.

BEN SOFFA: Yeah, totally. I think that the areas where Labour are strongest, is that we can say that we to have to manage the market and Tory approach is total deregulation and that?s the exact process that?s failing now. There are large areas, things like, I mean some of the policy debates that have happened through this, Charles I know is against Trident replacement, tax is another one. Things like the railways, the majority of Tory voters support renationalisation of the railways.

JON SOPEL: Is there anyone here who doesn?t think that taxes should rise for the highest paid. That?s interesting, not a single hand. John Prescott, what do you think.

JOHN PRESCOTT: I think there?s a damn good argument for having a fair tax system and a progressive tax system and we?ve moved partly away from it. But the damage caused by

JON SOPEL: What do you mean you?ve moved partly away from it.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Wait a minute. I mean the point is about the 10p, that was ? there?s a great move down to less tax on lower income people. But what the damage was, that when it was done in the way it was done, it looked as if we putting the weight on the lower income and the others who were benefiting were in the higher income. That wasn?t progressive tax, even if you argue about the tax credit, it was a real problem. So there?s no doubt about it. We need an awful lot more to be done to a fairer taxation system. (interjection) It?s not fair enough now and it needs to be done.

JON SOPEL: Charles Clarke.

CHARLES CLARKE: No question, we need fairer taxes. I think however the key priority is reducing taxes, including taking people out of the tax threshold at the bottom end. That is the key issue and that?s what we lost the fairness argument on the 10p ? (interjection)

JON SOPEL: And Polly Toynbee, very quickly as well.

POLLY TOYNBEE: Yes, I think that Labour now has the opportunity to talk to middle England, to people on median incomes, cos they?ve actually benefited very little from the last years growth. Recent figures show that actually, 80% of people have had very little growth, nearly all of it has been in the top 20% and most of that in the top 5. So when we talk about GDP per capita growth, people around the country are saying, hang on a minute, I don?t feel as if my income has grown that much and it turns out they?re right. And it?s for Labour to put that right and to draw that firm line between Labour and the Conservatives.

JON SOPEL: All right. We?re going to carrying on our debate here at Manchester?s Bridgewater Hall. Join us again, a little bit later on, if you don?t want to miss a moment of it and why would you, you?ll be able to see it in full on our web site after the show. But for now, here?s the Politics Show where you are.

INTO REGIONAL PROGRAMMES...

JON SOPEL: John Prescott, I interrupted you in midflow there and I?m sorry for having done so.

JOHN PRESCOTT: ? Polly, ? articles, some of them I disagree with fundamentally but she made a point about the red lines and it is that. If you look at the Tories and I?m talking, we?re going to give it you back out of growth and ? what they say, they?re going to cut ? public expenditure. There?s a good time as Polly was pointing out, to draw a red line between us and the Tories. And it is on tax that we can do that and I think that?s the one area you can make a real difference, cos it is quite scandalous how a lot at the higher income have got away with it for ?. (intejection)

CHARLES CLARKE: There?s a key problem here John. Making politics through dividing lines or red lines, I think, which is a Gordon characteristic, I think is a serious error. I think we saw it on the inheritance tax business, round the public, the pre budget report last year. We can?t define our taxation by what the others are saying, we?ve got to decide ? (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: (overlaps) But then you can draw the difference. What we forget often when we?re in government ? we do what we think we?re doing and we don?t point out the difference between us and the Tories. The Tories have been getting away for ages ? (overlaps) (interjection) ? Look at that thing of saying millions have got to leave the North, that Dr. Looney, whatever his name was. Millions have got to leave the North to come to the South. What was our response? Ask one or two MPs to say anything. Point out that the wealth of the cities and the development of the cities has been tremendous under Labour for the last ten years. Draw the line, show the difference.

JON SOPEL: Okay, so top rate of tax at the moment is 40%. Should it go up.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well I?m not against it going up, no. If you talk about the top rate, where it is, if you look at what we?re going to spend. If we?re going to look at the problems with rescuing the finance industry for, the whole business of public expenditure and taxation will have to be assessed because hundreds of billions of pounds are being put in to save a load of bankers who created the problems for us.

APPLAUSE

POLLY TOYNBEE: The trouble is John, when you were in the cabinet, were you saying that. What happened during the ten years when some of us were saying this. Look, for heaven?s sake, look at these outrageous sums these people are paying to themselves, mostly out of shares that are pension funds and at that time, neither Gordon nor Tony Blair would say one word about it. ?We?re supremely relaxed about the filthy rich?, said Peter Mandleson. You know, I think that it?s quite difficult to draw a line over the past, where every time that Gordon went to the Mansion House or to the City, he went on bended knee, bringing them presents and never talked to them about their rights and their responsibilities. Now of course, after all this chaos, it all seems a bit like, you know after the event.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Polly ? (overlaps) ? ten years ago. I mean your dineer parties may have told you certain facts ?. (interjection)

POLLY TOYNBEE: Not my dinner parties, what I wrote in my columns. What I was writing over the last ten years ? and now you agree.

JOHN PRESCOTT: (overlaps) ? you weren?t in the cabinet. You have all those little people who was putting to your ears what we said and what we didn?t do. I?ll tell you what we did those ten years, I?ll get my card out again. We promised a stable economy, we put a lot more money in to public expenditure, we got three million people and more in to jobs. That?s what we were doing with the money. Not like the Tories, putting it in to the dole. We put it in to Health, we put it in to Education. That?s what we did in the Cabinet, that?s why we won three elections and if we continue the same policies, we?ll win the next one.

JON SOPEL: John Prescott, why didn?t you.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Hang on, fair pay. We were the first government to bring in minimum wages, right. I would say that was a major step towards reducing poverty and brought in by a Labour government. That?s what it is.

JON SOPEL: Obviously this audience supports the whole idea of

ALL TOGETHER

JOHN PRESCOTT: They?re a very sensible audience.

JON SOPEL: And they?re behind you on minimum wage. But what about the point that Polly Toynbee put to you. Why didn?t you raise the top rate of tax then because I think, I suspect Tony Blair and Peter Mandleson, your great mate

JOHN PRESCOTT: I don?t think he had much influence on me actually.

JON SOPEL: ? would argue that part of the reason that they won three elections was to say, we keep the top rate of tax at 40%.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Oh, there?s no doubt about it. In the political consensus and Polly has written about this before, the business about being centred of about raising tax, certainly for those who are in the different higher groups, right, it did play a part in those election, for those group ? (?) turned Labour from 20% share of the polls that we used to get under the last election, Neil Kinnock?s time, it was difficult. Then we got to the forty odd ? why? Because those sort of lessons were given that we weren?t taxing. I think now what has happened in the global economy, the money you?re putting in to the banks, you cannot go ahead without re-assessing what is going to happen to taxation policy.

JON SOPEL: Okay. Gentleman in the front row. Justin. I think you are not a Labour voter, am I right in saying that.

JUSTIN: Sorry, I?m not.

JON SOPEL: You?re a Tory yeah. And you are welcome here all the same. What do you make of the argument.

JUSTIN: This is nothing to do with being fair, it?s to do with this hundred and forty two billion pound budget deficit we?ve got now. You?ve spent more than you?ve actually taxed over the past ten years and now you?ve got to pay the price. You?re not talking about tax rises out of fairness, you?re talking about it because you need to raise money you?ve spent without having.

JOHN PRESCOTT: (overlaps) ? debt, I know the central office put that out and no doubt you?ve had a hand out. But let me just tell you, when we came in, the percentage of debt was about 42%, it?s now down to 37%. (interjection)

MAN: That?s libel ? that?s untrue.

ALL TOGETHER

JOHN PRESCOTT: Hang on you?re a journalist, I?m not ?. (interjection)

MAN: No, the official ?. Statistic, last Thursday it was 44%, higher than it was in the

BOTH TOGETHER

MAN: That is untrue. You cannot say this on national television John, it?s untrue.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well the Prime Minister said it on

MAN: And he was lying. You guys cannot lie to the public

BOTH TOGETHER

JOHN PRESCOTT: ? the proportion of debt when we came in, you know, under the Tories was up in the

MAN: It was 43.2%. Last week it was 43.4. It?s higher John. That?s a black and white fact.

JOHN PRESCOTT: And we reduced it. And do you know why it was so high. Cos you had three million unemployed instead of putting them back to work that we did.

MAN: Oh yeah, your three million new jobs ? It?s all fantasy.

ALL TOGETHER

MAN: ? these are just fantasy figures. Three million new jobs. How many of them are immigrants John, broadly speaking, would you think.

JOHN PRESCOTT: How many what.

MAN: How many of those three million new jobs are actually imported, are immigrants.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well that?s it, you?re ? saying that the three million jobs have gone to all those immigrants. Why do you say

MAN: How many do you think have gone. How many of those three million, broadly speaking.

JOHN PRESCOTT: ? we don?t know.

MAN: Yes, I do know. The office of national statistics tells us. Two thirds of them are imported. We have got five million people on benefits John. Five million. After these ten years of growth ? (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: ? make the point, we don?t know the exact figures. But you know what ? (interjection)

MAN: Yes we do. We do, the figures are there.

BOTH TOGETHER

JOHN PRESCOTT: ? you always want to turn on to immigration, you people in the Tory party. When it ever comes to jobs. I?m delighted that Paul may be getting a job or somebody from

BOTH TOGETHER

MAN: Are you delighted there are five million Brits on benefits John. Are you delighted there are five million Brits on benefits.

JON SOPEL: Charles Clarke, let me bring you in.

APPLAUSE

JON SOPEL: Charles Clarke, the problem of knowing the number of immigrants I think may have ? you may have had close experience of

CHARLES CLARKE: Very much so.

JON SOPEL: ? when you were at the Home Office. What do you make of this particular argument though about levels of unemployment and levels of taxation as well. I mean do you support there being a change in the way people are taxed.

CHARLES CLARKE: If you take taxation, I think people are missing a key point in the discussion. What actually happened, John remembers it very well is that the Reagan, Thatcher, political consensus over the whole of the Western World for a considerable period of time was that parties that went in to elections saying they would raise taxes would lose those elections, in particular in ?92, with the shadow budget of that issue, that was a view. That view was held very strongly by both Tony and Gordon, through the process of this government, right or wrong, I?m not going to get in to that discussion now, right or wrong, but the key increase that we made was the NI increase to put money in to Health, which was an absolutely key area that came around. I myself believe that actually, during the middle of this parliament, between 1997 and now, we should have shifted this to a much clearer fairness based issue because I think fairness has gone up the agenda for a whole set of issues we?ve talked about.

And I think the decision in the 2007 budget, to reduce the income tax rate, the main rate by 2p, to get the plaudit of being a tax cutter, which is what was done and to finance that by getting rid of the 10p rate, was an absolutely fundamental political error at that time, which came out of that way of thinking. Now, I say, now, we have to get back to fair taxation. I say you target on the lower earners, by a variety of different means. I?m not against a higher rate for people earning above a hundred and seventy five thousand or whatever, but there?s an illusion there. That?s a symbol rather than something that really changes the public finances, in terms of what comes through. I?m not against the symbol, there?s a case for the symbol in that regard, but we shouldn?t believe we?re sorting out our fiscal problems by that issue. The core issue is actually to lower taxation at the bottom end of earning.

JON SOPEL: Right. Let me get a few more audience views there. The gentleman in the back there with the blue tie. Yes Sir.

MAN: Hello, yes, fairness, people use it all the time, fairer taxation, fairer whatever. I think that word has become almost meaningless because everybody uses it now. It?s become just a bland statement that can be attached to anything. What I?m concerned about in terms of taxation and in terms of the general policy, as a socialist, is moving towards greater equality and what?s happened in our society I?m afraid, and I was a great supporter of Gordon Brown, I looked forward to him being elected and I?m very disappointed that we haven?t had an agenda, that has actually started to move this society towards a more equal society. Fairness is a nice phrase, it actually now means virtually nothing, so I?m very disappointed in that.

JON SOPEL: So ditch the word fairness, let?s start talking about equality is your message.

MAN: Talk about equality and talk about, for example we?ve had it with the bankers. Instead of all this cosying up to the bankers or being afraid of them or the masters of the universe and light regulation, let?s start doing what?s already now been doing, let?s start regulating them and let?s start making sure the greed can be kept under control.

JON SOPEL: Polly Toynbee.

POLLY TOYNBEE: I?ve just written a book about this, I?ll give it a plug ? it?s called Unjust Rewards and it is about the trajectory we?re on, which is driving us towards greater and greater inequality. I used the image of the camel train, which David Cameron stole from me. To what extent ? almost everybody agrees, whether they?re a Conservative or Labour supporter, that at some point or another, society gets so stretched that it?s no longer really the same society. The people at the front have disappeared over the sand dunes at the front. People at the back, so far left behind.

But we?re now getting these splits in the middle and a lot of people in the middle are feeling very squeezed and uncertain and can?t understand what?s happened because the money has been sucked upwards and you?ve got a Labour government that?s been the most redistributive of any, that has tried harder than any, but they?ve been running up a down escalator and it?s very, very hard work. They have got a lot of children out of poverty, not as many as they wanted. It?s incredibly difficult. You have to be able to have this conversation with the public. You have to be able to say, that?s where we?re going, at what point do you think enough is enough and to have a grown up conversation about this, and I think that you will get all the political parties to agree, they might set it at different points, but that something has to be done about growing inequality, unless we want to become first American and then Brazilian.

JON SOPEL: Gentleman in the white t-shirt.

MAN: I agree with Polly. I think what we?ve done over the last eleven years is run on economic growth, more inequality. We?ve moved in an American direction, a foundation built on sand. What we need is to move more towards a Scandinavian economy, where people are more equal and there?s less social division, we spend less on locking people up, life expectancy goes up for everybody, the middle classes benefit from a more equal society, just as much as the poor do.

JON SOPEL: Gentleman here.

MAN: Look, I think we are going through a difficult time right. The bottom line is effort is being made, just? (?) look, six hundred thousand children they were taken out of poverty, so I think look we have to move forward, the real crisis is the economy stupid, we need to focus that, we?ve got Gordon Brown, who is the best leader, who?s in my opinion, is probably the best leader globally, who is equipped to deal with the problem which we have. So we need to really and my message to the Chancellor is this really, we need to remain united, we need to be focused in serving the people of Britain. If we don?t, we will lose this next battle.

JON SOPEL: How much can Gordon Brown do about the present economic crisis. John Prescott, you made the argument that he?s the man best equipped and people have talked about the obscenity of City bonuses, there?s not a lot he can do about it.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Well we made the start with the short-selling if you like. But look, I think in this debate here, it?s interesting from Labour Party people?s point of view, we?ve moved away from the language of what was social justice really. Fairness has almost taken over as if we get growth in the economy, we can get sufficient, we?ll pull it in to the public services and therefore we?ve got economic progress and social justice. I think the language has changed and perhaps fairness is part of it, instead of the equality and I think the whole business of the finance now, is going to fundamentally change that. We have to go back to using that language. If you want to put some heart in to our people, talk about the language that we?re in the party for, which is about equality, it is about fairness, fairness has come along side it.

So, yes, we?ll need to have more political coverage to do that and that?s what Charles was saying about some of it. I think the tax argument he gave was absolutely right, we rather got mesmerized. We won three elections, we?d only ever won one or two, so we didn?t have two terms. Now it?s the time to readjust and the public is changing about it to argue it is equality because the Tories aren?t going to argue ? put that case, make no mistake about it and we have to draw a distinctive line. Part of it is ideology, part is the practical reality of bringing equality, cos you won?t have consensus in a society, if they basically feel it?s unfair and that?s partly what?s happening now.

JON SOPEL: Charles Clarke, I was listening in the conference hall yesterday to Ed Miliband speaking and he was using the language about we?ve got to tackle inequality and that was the big issue. I wonder whether that was as change because the previous view was

CHARLES CLARKE: I don?t know if it?s a change but certainly, it?s right to use the word equality, but there I think we have to be not limited, simply to the financial question ? tax and benefits, there?s massive issues about the quality of education and the quality of health care and so on across the society, where actually, I think that Labour has a good record, but some of our most controversial issues, for example, secondary school academies in the least performing educational areas were very controversial, but actually, what you have to do is to say, how do you give an equal chance to everybody in the society and when Ed was telling his story about the miner?s grandchild he was describing, the question in his constituency in Doncaster, is what real educational opportunity is there. What real primary health provision is there. Actually, I think our record has been very good. Sure Start is a very good example and I agree with the remark that was made earlier about Gordon Brown?s announcement on that today.

JON SOPEL: Do you think the tax payers have had good value for money, for all the billions that have been pumped in to public services.

CHARLES CLARKE: I would say there are obviously areas where you could say it could be done better but fundamentally, I think tax payers have had good value for money in the increased resources in Education and Health, have improved the quality. I find this very strange. In my constituency, every school you go in to, there has been physical change over the last ten years, more staff and everything and that is as a result of the money going in. Does it make a difference, I?m absolutely certain it makes a difference.

JON SOPEL: Christine, you?re a nurse.

CHRISTINE: I am indeed yes.

JON SOPEL: Obviously, you?ve seen a lot of money going in to the Health Service.

CHRISTINE: I have yes, I have.

JON SOPEL: Money well spent.

CHRISTINE: They?re creating a lot of jobs that are not necessary I think.

JON SOPEL: Like what.

CHRISTINE: Well managers. Managers, I think there?s quite a lot of managers there and where we need people to look after the patients, you know, there?s hardly any nurses there to look after the patients.

MAN: You?ve got to look at the bigger picture ? at the end of the day, look at the Health Service the Tories left us with. It?s the biggest building programme which is going. When I go to hospital and look at it, you know it?s excellent there. Yes, more needs to be done but I think a lot of good things are happening there.

CHARLES CLARKE: Jon, there are issues about red tape and bureaucracy, that?s true, it?s always been true and will always be true, but they?re absolutely on the margins, compared to the absolute resources which have gone in, for example for more nurses, more doctors or whatever it might be and so that?s why when Nick Clegg does his thing, ?I?m going to save twenty billion?, it is a snake ? salesman?s job because he can?t specify, because actually, there isn?t a twenty billion to be saved, unless you?re prepared to see lower quality schools, lower quality hospitals or whatever, but I?m not saying there?s no change, I think there are serious issues about red tape. Some of the issues about management, I agree. Some of the perpetual change there?s been in some areas. There are big issues, I agree but to say that that will solve, that can be solved ? and to reduce taxes, is just wrong.

POLLY TOYNBEE: He did mention Trident and a couple of aircraft carriers, which gets you quite far towards twenty billion.

CHARLES CLARKE: Indeed.

WOMAN: I think there needs to be a more honest debate about where Labour has been successful, in terms of investing in services and where it hasn?t worked and I do think there?s a really big issue about top-down measures, rather than handing power over to communities, handing power to local authorities or to individuals and I think that needs to be part of the debate. What has worked, what hasn?t worked.

CHARLES CLARKE: I did actually do a speech on this a year ago, trying to precisely draw this out because I think there are serious issues that Carey has just raised which are very important and they do need to be properly addressed and this takes us Jon, in to the problem that if you do it as a policy speech, as a chapter in a book, as a serious discussion about what was good, what was bad ? we have a Labour Party in my opinion to say, we?ve done some things very well, but we?ve done other things ? we?ve done badly and we?ve got to make an assessment and then decide what we say to the British people about how to improve what we?ve done well, how to put right what we?ve done badly.

POLLY TOYNBEE: And incidentally, there?s no point in changing leader, unless you have a new person who is capable of doing that.

CHARLES CLARKE: I agree.

JON SOPEL: Gentleman there.

MAN: I think on the point you just made about public services, I think it?s really important that we get out of talking about top down approaches. I think there needs to be much more engaging citizens in public services, schools, hospitals, police. I don?t see why we can?t have elected Chief Superintendents. I can?t see why we can?t have local councils taking over services from unelected Chairs of PCT Boards and things like that. I think that whole approach needs to change.

JON SOPEL: Gentleman behind.

MAN: I totally agree with Charles that we?ve made massive improvements but I think the one thing that we don?t do is we don?t say that we make them. We kind of suggest that they just happened and they didn?t. They happened because we wanted them to happen and we did them.

JON SOPEL: Margaret Curran, I just want to bring you in here because talking about Health inequalities.

MARGARET CURRAN: Huge issue.

JON SOPEL: In the constituency where you just fought in Glasgow East, massive differences in life expectancy.

MARGARET CURRAN: I would have to say in all honesty and I think this would be shared by the, the people of the East End of Glasgow, is we?ve put huge amounts of money in to the Health Service and it is benefiting, there?s no argument about that. No other party would put in that scale of resource, but we?re not getting the return on it and I think there is an issue about, it is not reducing inequality, in a way that it should and we also need to have a grown up debate about the balance between universal services and targeted services. If we?re serious about inequality, we really have to be prepared to marshal services to those who need it most and all of us have to be up for that, otherwise the political support for that ?. (interjection)

POLLY TOYNBEE: ? (overlaps) inequality in health outcomes is virtually nothing to do with the Health Service. The Health Service is simply measuring

JON SOPEL: Polly, I?m going to stop you there for a moment.

POLITICS SHOW RETURNED FROM THE REGIONAL PROGRAMMES

JON SOPEL: Hello and welcome back to the Bridgewater Hall here in Manchester where a lively debate is taking place on what direction the Labour Party needs to take if it is to win a fourth term in office. John Prescott, let me come to you, you?ve known all about those big set-piece speeches that you have to do, and you had to do the wind up speech at the end of party conference ?.

JOHN PRESCOTT: ? not going to do it again.

JON SOPEL: What has Gordon Brown got to do on Tuesday.

JOHN PRESCOTT: He?s just got to be Gordon Brown and he?s got to put across what he believes. He?s got the experience, he has to put that across and I think these last few days, he?s shown that he?s got an ability to deal with real financial difficulties, that?s the pressing thing at the moment. Oil, prices, finance and he?s just got to put that across.

JON SOPEL: Is the Cabinet united behind him.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Yes, I think it is. Well I don?t go ? they don?t chat to me much right. I certainly see that they should be united. I think they are united. Nobody says publicly they?re disunited, but I wish a few of them wouldn?t talk you know, a bit behind their hand saying, yes, I really can?t do this or I really do feel that, and then people quote it probably cos they?ve been told that, but in the main, they?re undermining and so they should remember, careless talk costs lives they said in the war, now it costs votes.

JON SOPEL: I wonder if we could bring in Fraser Nelson here, who?s the Political Editor of the News of the World and the Spectator. Do you agree that the Cabinet is broadly united.

FRASER NELSON: It is united but against Gordon Brown, that?s the thing. I mean pretty much everybody believes he should go and they have coded ways of saying it. The favourite construct is we shouldn?t have this debate now, implication, we should have it later. Alan Johnson says, not today and the strange thing is this debate is happening in the cabinet, out there, just not at Labour Party Conference. They should be having some kind of ex factor talent show here to find the next talent and there?s so much talent in the Labour Party but it?s being suppressed instead of ? this kind of fake unity rally, it will not help Labour in the long run.

JON SOPEL: There?s a forest of hands gone up. Lady at the end there.

WOMAN: I?m sorry, I think the members I know within the Labour Party are tied of this constant debate about who our leader is and who isn?t. We just want to focus on what we?re here to do, which is to govern the country. And I don?t think you know what you?re talking about Fraser. I think it?s completely untrue, I honestly think it?s completely untrue and I think it?s the press like? this fixation with the leadership but it?s not the membership ?. (interjection)

JON SOPEL: Next person along.

MAN: I was going to say it?s no surprise that something from the News of the World showed that Labour were disunited but I think what people want to really know about is what are we going to do about schools, what are we going to do about hospitals. We spoke about that before, that?s where we?re strong, that?s where we?ve got new ideas and that?s where we take on the Tories.

MAN: ? two years after the election, the News of the World would have rubbished them completely.

JON SOPEL: Right, I don?t want this to turn in to a debate between the News of the World and the rest. Let me just bring in Emily Benn. You?re a prospective parliamentary candidate.

EMILY BENN: Yes I am yes at East ?. (?)

JON SOPEL: Yes, I remember John Prescott saying after the ?97 election, Labour Worthing. Is it going to remain labour.

EMILY BENN: Is Worthing going to remain Labour.

JON SOPEL: Well is Labour ? it?s the south coast. The south coast you did very well

EMILY BENN: The thing is in the South Coast is that everybody has the same problems and issues as everyone else. They are worried about their schools, they?re worried about their hospitals, they?re worried about their house prices, especially in the South, especially in East Worthing and Shoreham and really, I think the question is, what are we going to do about them. I think when I went to you know, talk to people on the doorstep, they?re less interested in the Labour party fighting with itself, they are far more interested in the fact that you know, we are actually building schools for the future down there. That?s what we should be talking about because I?m not here to just have internal politics. I don?t want to get in to you know, people in the Labour Party are here for equality and they?re here to help the people that we?re here to govern.

JON SOPEL: Margaret Curran. I just wondered how important you think the next by-election test is, Glen ? not a million miles from where you fought in Glasgow.

MARGARET CURRAN: Well obviously any by-election is important because it?s an opportunity for the electorate to give a message to government and they ceased that opportunity. And I think, as I said before, we need to step up to that, we need to show that we?re listening to what people are experiencing and are prepared to respond. We can?t just give clichés that we?re doing well and everything is fine, cos everything isn?t fine otherwise we wouldn?t be losing by-elections. But we can change.

JON SOPEL: Okay, and if Gordon Brown rang you up and said, Margaret, what?s your advice, should I come and campaign in this by-election or stay in Downing Street.

MARGARET CURRAN: Well, it?s very close to where he represents, so I think he will be very near to it. As I said, in my own by-election ? I think he?s likely to, I don?t know. But as I said in my own by-election, ? Prime Ministers don?t do it, but it?s not about just Gordon it?s about the people of Glen R? and what we say about them and I was fed up, people just talking about, should one person visit. It?s about the people you?re there to represent.

JON SOPEL: It?s very interesting, we?ve got very little time left and the view you pick up is that these people here, they don?t want to talk about the leadership, they want to talk about schools and hospitals and all the rest of the public services. If this is going on, isn?t it better that you do a John Major, clear the air, put up or shut up. If you?re big enough, come on, bring it on and then just get the whole ?. (interjection)

JOHN PRESCOTT: You mean have a row for the next six months about who the next leader is going to be. Take us right up to the Euro Elections, come on, that?s an argument for disaster. It will be followed by a General Election. I?ll tell you what they want to do and that?s what we?re saying today, campaign for a fourth term. Be proud of what we?ve done and tell people about it. Get out and actively support this government, encourage greater participation in the debates, but don?t forget, organisation is equally as important as ideas. So get organising and highlight the damage done by the Tories. Campaign for a forth victory.

JON SOPEL: Charles Clarke.

CHARLES CLARKE: I?m very strongly in favour of campaigning for a forth term, I think that is the central responsibility of everybody involved in Labour politics. The price of failure is just too great but an absolutely key precondition for winning that fourth term, is understanding the state of mind of the British people and I don?t want to defend Fraser, but it?s not just the News of the World. The fact is it?s where the British people stand. It wasn?t the News of the World that decided to have people vote in Crewe & Nantwich or in Glasgow East. The fact is that we have to understand that. The problem is and it?s certainly a problem for me, because I agree, everybody in the party wants to talk about schools and hospitals rather than internal political issues, I couldn?t agree with that more. The problem is, how do you have that discussion in order Jon, to win the forth term, in a way that is not divisive.

JOHN PRESCOTT: Be clear about it, you can?t sign up for the fourth term and have six months rowing in the party. Absolute nonsense. Absolute nonsense.

CHARLES CLARKE: I?m not talking about six months and John is quite wrong in his timing. The point is, what John is suggesting is don?t discuss the question, walk in to a wall.

JON SOPEL: There we must leave it. All of you, thank you very much indeed for being with us. That?s it from here at the Labour Party Conference. If you missed part of our debate, you can see it in full on the web site, BBC.co.uk/politicsshow. Next week we?ll be looking at the Conservatives as their conference gets underway in Birmingham. But until then, from all of here in Manchester, a very good afternoon. Goodbye.

END OF RECORDING


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The Politics Show Sunday 21 September 2008 at 1200BST on BBC One.

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