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Falconer transcript

On the Politics Show, Sunday 7 June 2009, Jon Sopel interviewed Lord Falconer.

former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer
former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer

Q: Joining me now the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer. Charlie Falconer, to paraphrase the Clash, should he stay or should he go?

FALCONER: I think we're moving moderately quickly towards the need for a change and that change may be a change in leadership.

What the country wants is a government focused on the renewal of trust in our politics, and on the economic crisis. I think at the moment they don't think we as a party can do it. We need unity above all.

Can we get unity under the current leadership? I am not sure that we can and I think we need to debate it urgently and I think probably it will need a change in leader.

Q: Sooner rather than later?

FALCONER: Well whether it's now or whether, as Martin Salter was suggesting, in October, I'm not sure. I think one shouldn't have artificial deadlines like Monday's meeting or this occasion or that occasion. There needs to be an urgent debate. The public are very, very keen for its government to concentrate on the things that matter, and our party is very, very keen to stop this internal dissent and I suspect the only way it can be achieved is by a change in leader.

Q: It's all very well saying that. How do you, what is the mechanism for that?

FALCONER: Well the mechanism is ultimately the Prime Minister has first of all got to consider what he thinks the mood of the party is. If he concludes that he should go then there will be leadership election. If on the other hand he concludes that's not the position, then in the light of what's been happening, somebody - and I think there will be more than one - can decide whether or not they would wish to seek the seventy signatures that would be required to challenge the leader. There's a -

Q: But if it drags on, but if it drags on, isn't that the nightmare scenario? David Cameron's just sitting there thinking this is fantastic!

FALCONER: What's the alternative? I think the alternative is a party that is currently behaving in such a way that it no longer is credible in relation to being a solution to the nation's problems. I think two things emerged from the events of last week. The Cabinet is incredibly strong in terms of personnel. Look at Peter Mandelson, Alan Johnson, David Miliband, Alistair Darling. They are first rate politicians. Look at the new people who've come into the Cabinet, Andrew Adonis, Bob Ainsworth is very much respected by the armed services. We've got the personnel. Look what the Tories have got in the local elections, 38%. If we could, if we could bring ourselves together we would stand a real chance of making the changes the country needs.

Q: In other words, you've got the Cabinet. You've just got the wrong Prime Minister?

FALCONER: We need to work out whether or not we can unify around the people we've got with the Tories in my view looking vulnerable.

Q: But that's not going to happen, it's clear from your arguments that that's not going to happen while Gordon Brown is the Prime Minister?

FALCONER: At the moment it looks very unlikely but the party's got to debate this in the next few days. We're going to get the European election results towards the end of today. We do urgently need to be a party seriously addressing the issues I've described. That's what the public wants to focus, that's where the members of our party wants to focus.

Q: But hasn't the moment passed when no Cabinet minister followed James Purnell?

FALCONER: I don't know whether the moment's passed or not. I think there needs to be a very open debate. I think this period of time is an incredibly important time for the Labour party. I believe profoundly that the Labour party is the right party to deal both with the constitutional issues and with the economic issues, and I am very, very worried that we are not going to be in a position to do that.

Q: And Charlie Falconer, Lord Falconer, you've never been a close buddy of Gordon Brown's, you've never been soul mates.

FALCONER: I've known Gordon Brown and admired him greatly. This is, there is nothing remotely about this being a personal attack on Gordon Brown. What needs to be done is to do what's best for the country and the Labour party.

Q: Yes so where has Gordon Brown, you've said, you were very clear in your first answer that that time has now come in your judgment.

FALCONER: Well, getting towards it is what I was saying.

Q: What has changed in your judgment about Gordon Brown then?

FALCONER: The inability to hold the party together in the current circumstances, and it's not, you know there will always be people that attack the leader of the Labour party but we've heard from James Purnell whose career was going upwards. We've heard from Nick Raynsford who's a very loyal supporter of the party. We've heard from Barry Sheerman who has often criticised quite legitimately the government on policy but never previously called for a change of leader.

Q: And who is the next leader?

FALCONER: I don't know, I think there should be a contest. That way we could rally around the person who then became leader. There are lots and lots of people of talent as I said at the outset.

Q: And with an immediate general election to follow? Because you can't just change Prime Minister again without letting the British people in on it.

FALCONER: I think that the general election would come earlier rather than later if that was the position but I think we'd go to the country united with policy solutions.

Q: OK. Lord Falconer, thanks very much for being with us.


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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

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The Politics Show Sunday 14 June 2009 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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