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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Leadership contest welcome
On Sunday 10 September 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Gordon Brown MP
Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer

ANDREW MARR: The man who can expect to be Prime Minister within months unless he's stopped by another candidate.

I spoke to Gordon Brown, it was his first television interview since this storm engulfed the party near his constituency home in Scotland.

And he talked about the leadership elections which now seems inevitable and many other subjects from the war on terror to his plans for a future Brown government.

Chancellor, it has been the most extraordinary week for the Labour Party. When he was giving the statement about his own position the Prime Minister began by apologising to the people of the country and the party.

Do you think perhaps you should join him?

GORDON BROWN: I think we should, and I think we should do better next week, better the week after and better right throughout the course of our government.

Sometimes in parties these things happen but it is not acceptable and I do believe that what people now want to do is to debate the future, about policy, and I think the issues about what Tony Blair will or not do are going to be left to Tony Blair.

ANDREW MARR: In the course of those extraordinary events there was a fatal letter. Did you know anything about the letter?

GORDON BROWN: No, there were rumours of course, about all sorts of things happening during the course of that week. If anybody asked me about the contents of that letter I would have said it was completely ill-advised.

And the reason, the reason is this, some people want to tell Tony Blair when he should finally make the decision that he has said he will make about when he wishes to go.

ANDREW MARR: And you're said to be one of those people.

GORDON BROWN: No, I'm not actually. I've always said to Tony, and I think this should be clear, and it was made clear on many occasions when I've talked to Tony. The decision is for him. It should be for him. I will support him in the decision he makes. I know he will make it in the interests of the party but also, most importantly, the interests of the country.

And I will support him in doing that, so there is a fundamental issue here because some people want to say to Tony it's our decision - I think given the service he's given to our party, given the quality of the man, given the fact that he's been perhaps a successful prime minister but certainly the most successful Labour prime minister for all time, I think he should be given the discretion to make that decision his way.

ANDREW MARR: So to be absolutely clear, you didn't know about the letter, you didn't know...

GORDON BROWN: No, as I say, during the course of this week there were so many rumours, letters, meetings, all sorts of things. You read more about speculation about them in the press.

ANDREW MARR: A lot of your colleagues believe there was some kind of coup.

GORDON BROWN: No, I don't think so. I think there was rumours, there was obviously letters although I haven't seen any letters. But I think there's a huge amount of speculation.

ANDREW MARR: Just looking at the events of this tumultuous week. Charles Clarke has said among other things that you could have lifted a finger to stop all of that happening and you didn't.

GORDON BROWN: No, I don't think, I mean obviously I was saying to anybody who asked me my view, because it's my view and I've held it for a long time.

ANDREW MARR: You could have gone out and said to people, shut it, stop it, this is undignified, this is causing terrible damage to the party.

GORDON BROWN: Well I did of course, I did of course. And I made that statement, and I've said very clearly again that this is my view. I actually wrote an article also praising Tony Blair's courageous leadership on terrorism, all of these things he's done.

ANDREW MARR: No. 10 people don't feel that you were really out there routing for him and fighting for him when he most needed it?

GORDON BROWN: Well Tony and I made our statements both on the same day. But contrary...

ANDREW MARR: By than he had been defeated in the sense...

GORDON BROWN: I don't think so at all. I think Tony will make his decision in his own way and that is what is the right position. I also think that amidst all this speculation it's quite important to get the right perspective. Tony and I were getting on with the business of government. When we met, contrary to what people say, first of all there was no argument at all...

ANDREW MARR: It wasn't a bad tempered meeting?

GORDON BROWN: Not at all, not at all. And I think there was only Tony and I there, despite some of the accounts that suggest there was an audience there. And secondly...

ANDREW MARR: Were you putting him under pressure...

GORDON BROWN: Not at all...

ANDREW MARR: To tell us, the country, when he was going to go?

GORDON BROWN: No, it wasn't that at all. I was making it clear to him it was his decision. If he wants advice from me he can have it. But that would be private advice. But we were talking about his trip to Israel, we were talking about all the issues of the day that we had to resolve.

ANDREW MARR: Not about this extraordinary situation?

GORDON BROWN: Yes, we were talking about these things, but we were talking also about the business of government. And don't let anybody go away with the impression, because rumours grow and grow and grow. We were getting on with the business of government, and most of our meetings were talking about these things.

ANDREW MARR: Because, let's be clear, the Prime Minister himself was looking at a later date, because he told people in interviews that he was going to be there for the G8 next year and he's made it, people around him had been talking about 2008 and he's always said I will never give you a firm date, I just can't do that.

And I can't give you a timetable, and then suddenly, last few days, he came out and did that because there was a series of letters, a series of resignations. It looked as if it was very, very carefully planned - one resignation every half hour and so on - to pile on the pressure, that the party was falling apart, the government was falling apart, and somebody must have been behind this.

GORDON BROWN: Well these, these are difficult events to chronicle because most of the things that you're talking about were rumours and speculation, and I don't think anybody's actually seen a letter although I'm sure that there is a letter that exists from all the accounts that have been given. But just remember, Tony Blair has still to decide for himself which is his date.

ANDREW MARR: Do you know it?

GORDON BROWN: No, I don't know it. And I will support him in the decision that he is making.

ANDREW MARR: So when Charles Clarke said, you know, your grin and your demeanour and so on were dreadful, dreadful, dreadful, you could have stopped this, you didn't stop it...

GORDON BROWN: This, this is when things get really out of hand. I mean there's picture of me smiling in the newspapers, and sometimes, actually, the comment is I don't smile enough. I was smiling. I was actually smiling, talking to one of my colleagues about my new baby.

We were just talking about nannies, babies and everything else. And that's what it was about, and it was nothing to do with politics, and I think people should give some recognition of the fact that with a newborn baby and everything else these are some of the things that happen.

ANDREW MARR: OK, talk us through the situation as you now understand it. Because the Prime Minister said he's going to go on, this is going to be his last party conference.

Almost everybody from all sides has been briefing that we're talking about the transition somewhere around the May elections, either before or afterwards, which talks about, which assumes some kind of an acknowledgement of the timetable in, say, February, you've got a Spring conference. Now, were that to be the timetable, would you personally be happy with it?

GORDON BROWN: Well, I don't know what the timetable is. All I say to you is I will support the decisions and the announcements the Prime Minister makes.

ANDREW MARR: If that's the timetable would you be happy?

GORDON BROWN: But I'm not going to get into that, because then you would set me against a potential announcement by Tony Blair. It's for him to make the announcement, not for me.

And I'm not going to speculate about what he's going to say. I'm going to be true to everything that I've said, that it's for him to ...

ANDREW MARR: So you don't want him to go earlier?

GORDON BROWN: No I don't.

ANDREW MARR: Right. Nonetheless we are in a completely new position now. Because we know that the Prime Minister is going within a number of months. Many people argue that once you're in that position as Prime Minister your authority gurgles away.

The civil service ceases to take you so seriously, other ministers are no longer looking at you with quite the deference and worry that they might be if you're going to be there for years ahead...

GORDON BROWN: I don't think so, by the way. I don't think so. Look, we're a government getting on with the business. There's an agreed agenda. The assumption you're making is somehow there's one agenda and then another agenda. There's an agreed agenda.

We've both got to work through the public spending review, we've both got to work through some of the difficult European issues. We've both got to consult with each other and of course everybody else, on foreign policy.

The whole Cabinet is in the same position, we're getting on with the business of government. The one new thing, I think, that is fascinating, is that we are now also thinking about the programme for the next five or ten years. And I think that is where I think the energies of the Labour Party, indeed the energies of the country, could best be spent.

ANDREW MARR: Is there going to be a Blair-Brown sort of transitional programme, as it were?

GORDON BROWN: I wouldn't talk about... there's going to be a debate in my view about the future. I do think that everybody should feel part of it, people of all views in the Labour Party. I would like it to be incredibly inclusive, not just of the Labour Party but of the country as well.

ANDREW MARR: And, this process clearly is going to involve an election of some kind. There is going to be the election in the Labour Party. Someone on the left is going to stand...

GORDON BROWN: Let me say I would welcome there being other candidates for the election.

ANDREW MARR: Would you welcome a candidate, as it were, from the Blairite, would you welcome another Cabinet minister standing against you, an Alan Johnson or a John Reid, or somebody like that?

GORDON BROWN: Well they should be free to put both their views forward and to stand if that is what they want to do.

ANDREW MARR: Would it be good for the party if that happened?

GORDON BROWN: Well, I think it's good for the party if there's an election. I've got no difficulty, and certainly there's no personal issue about other people standing. I think it's important that we resolve the issue of leadership when that happens.

And I think what's even more important is that that debate that is inclusive and wide-ranging, that can see us as a government of all the talents, in a party of all the talents, where all the talents have got to use in looking at new ideas. I think that's the message that we can send right across the country. And I do believe that this is an inclusive process. If people wish to stand for the leadership party they should be encouraged to do so.

If we can have the debate about new policies and ideas at the same time, I think that is a good thing for that to happen for the future of our country. And I look forward very much to putting my ideas and my views about how this future, well the future of this country, how we can protect and safeguard our way of life in Britain. I think that's an important issue now. And I would like to talk about Britishness and the future of Britain.

I think people who come to Britain must learn the English language. I think they should be taught the history of this country. I think we need a stronger sense of citizenship and of the contribution that people must make as citizens. I believe also that we will need a policy of managed immigration in the future. We will have to look at that in the context of Bulgaria and Romania. But that's only one of the agendas. The Constitutional Reform agenda, when I...

ANDREW MARR: Would you like to see an elected House of Lords?

GORDON BROWN: The House of Lords has certainly got to be accountable. And I think the main other principle is that the House of Commons has got to remain the main legislative body of our country, nothing should take away its power to be seen as the elected body, a principal elected body.

But, yes, we will be discussing election. You know, when I made the Bank of England independent I think what's fascinating about this is we decided to restore confidence in economic policy. The government had to give up power, the executive had to hand away power. So I gave up power, so all this talk about control and everything, we gave up power.

ANDREW MARR: Well since you raise it yourself, let's turn to the character question, because Charles Clarke's language might have been extreme. He talked about you being a control freak, and being nervous actually, being unable to get on with people in government.

But there are lots of people round government that you've been a bit of a bully frankly, in the Treasury, that you are difficult to work with, and that if you're going to into Downing Street, if you're going to go into Downing Street you're going to have to behave in a different way.

GORDON BROWN: Look, every chancellor who's got... a chancellor's got to control public expenditure, and then people complain that you're controlling public expenditure. Some people say that you're not tough enough when you're dealing with some of these issues.

I can't think of any chancellor that hasn't been criticised for trying to be strong, and trying to exercise, if you like, discipline across the public expenditure field. And, you know, sometimes I've got to say no. And I do say no.

ANDREW MARR: But what about your personal relationship with colleagues? I mean, are you going to, if you become Prime Minister, are you going to run government in a different way? Is it going to be more collegiate, is it going to be more Cabinet, is it going to be more traditional in those respects?

GORDON BROWN: Well, you know, my favourite sport at school was rugby. And all the sports are team work, but rugby particularly is about team work.

ANDREW MARR: Yes.

GORDON BROWN: And I think team work is the essence of this. But you have to deal with some difficult issues at the Treasury. And when people complain that you control public expenditure it's because the country wants public expenditure controlled. And if that means sometimes people are bruised by it then I'm sorry but it's what you've got to do in the interests of the country.

ANDREW MARR: If there's going to be any possibility of binding the wounds of the last week and more, and they've been very serious wounds, and we look at the opinion polls and more people now say that this party, this government, is divided than thought the same about John Major's government back then.

You're going to have to bring in quite a lot of people seen as Blairites, seen as people, if you like, on the other side of a lot of these arguments. Can I ask you directly, would you have John Reid in your Cabinet? Would you have David Milliband? Would you have Charles Clarke in your Cabinet?

GORDON BROWN: Well of course these people should be in office...

ANDREW MARR: Charles Clarke as well, despite what he said about You?

GORDON BROWN: Charles Clarke is someone who did very well as an Education Minister. He ran into problems at the Home Office. I'm not going to hold against him statements that he made.

But I'm not going to because I'm neither the leader of the Labour Party nor the person choosing a Cabinet, speculate about who's going to be in the Cabinet. But these, when I say these should be considered by a high office. I mean considered for high office.

ANDREW MARR: Would you be happy to embrace these people?

GORDON BROWN: Embrace...As I've talked about an inclusive party, of all the talents...what makes me tick, I think people have got to understand that and all these questions about what people are about and everything else. I've got my moral compass. It really is a moral compass that came from my father.

You work hard, you take responsibility, you treat people fairly, you work with people, and you work, if you like you don't walk by on the other side. You support people in difficulty both as a government and as a team player in an administration.

Now that's my moral compass. I think I do try to treat people fairly. I think in this case when you're talking about an administration, you're talking about a Cabinet that can draw on all the talents. And I think perhaps politics has been too narrow, sometimes we draw only on party talents and there is a case for looking wider than that as well.

ANDREW MARR: So when people say, paint a picture of you in the press, as they have been doing as somebody who is very controlling, who bears grudges, who's difficult to get on with, you don't recognise that?

GORDON BROWN: I don't. I do recognise that in a period of government, you ask any previous chancellor, you're going to run into difficulties. You've got to tell someone no, and you do have to say no. And that is sometimes, that is sometimes difficult.

ANDREW MARR: Paint a picture for us, about how a Brown government will feel different. What will be different about it?

GORDON BROWN: Well, I mean, I, my character is one where perhaps people say I don't concentrate enough on my image and everything else. But I want to get down to work. I'm not going to speculate about being Prime Minister or being head of the government.

But I will say that I want to address the challenges of the future in a most inclusive way, with people of all the talents as I've said, perhaps not just in the political party. And I'd want to do it by looking at each and every one of these challenges that we face ahead.

ANDREW MARR: These are things that you might have been able to say as the chancellor in a Tony Blair government. But we're talking about a Gordon Brown government. And what I'm really asking is what's that going... what is the difference, that ordinary people will notice in a Gordon Brown government?

GORDON BROWN: We're dealing with a refreshed government obviously, under a new leader, with new challenges. I see that politics in this country is too narrow, as too much a specialist sport, as too remote from the people of this country, as not involved enough in the communities of our country.

I see political parties as becoming obsolete because they are not networks, in other words they are simply organisations, when what people want are bodies that can link into every part of a community.

And I would see a community approached at this that would be quite different from what we've traditionally thought of politics 50 years ago or 20 years ago. And I would see the constitutional reform that flowed from that as actually being incredibly important also, as to the future of how people saw the way our country is governed.

ANDREW MARR: What about Iraq - would you bring the troops home?

GORDON BROWN: I'm holding to the policy, as I would, as you would expect me to do, that the Cabinet has agreed. And that is that these decisions will have to be made in the light of events.

Obviously we would like to lower the number of troops. Obviously we would like to see many of the incidents that are taking place in Iraq not taking, but we will make that decision as it becomes possible according to events.

ANDREW MARR: And what about George Bush? You're not going to say to me that you're going to be as close to him as Tony Blair was?

GORDON BROWN: I think the important thing we've got to recognise in all this is that the values of the American people, liberty, opportunity, freedom, democracy, are very similar to the values that are held by...

ANDREW MARR: Are they well represented by President Bush?

GORDON BROWN: Well President Bush is not only the President of the United States of America, I think he deserves support in the fight against the way, the fight in the war on terrorism. And I think we'd be making a very silly mistake if we forgot that after September 11th the world did change.

ANDREW MARR: So to all those people out there who feel that the Iraq war was a disastrous mistake, that Iraq is going to hell in a handcart, who are worried about the number of British troops being killed in Afghanistan at the moment, and who cannot stand the relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush - you're saying under me it will be just the same?

GORDON BROWN: What I'm saying is we learn lessons all the time. I think Tony himself made a speech about learning the lessons of Iraq. Afghanistan is a very difficult situation but we're accepting international.

ANDREW MARR: So what are the lessons?

GORDON BROWN: The lesson of Iraq is we didn't prepare enough for the transition. The lesson of Iraq is that the economic improvements in Iraq should have been more widely spread across the population. The decisions that were made in the early days could and perhaps should have been different. The lesson of Afghanistan however is that there is a terrorist war being fought. We have responsibilities.

Perhaps what I can add to that is that I see it also as a battle for hearts and minds but we must separate the reformists from the extremists in the Islam community. And I believe perhaps there'll be a greater readiness in the next few years for that debate and dialogue, rather similar to the dialogue that won the Cold War, to take place in these countries, but also in our own country as well.

ANDREW MARR: And in our own country what about ID cards, what about the 28-day detention? If that has, if the police want that extended are you going to be as hard line, in the view of many people, on those sorts of issues, as Tony Blair, or even more so?

GORDON BROWN: Well I can say on 28 days, I've looked at this as Chancellor because of the sophistication of terrorist work and the need for complex investigations. And there's no doubt in my view that in certain cases a greater than 28-day period is needed. But the difference I think in my thinking is...

ANDREW MARR: Will you go to the House of Commons and get that through?

GORDON BROWN: Yes, I think we would. Because the difference in my thinking from the previous discussion during the Bill is that I think we could build in far greater parliamentary accountability. Look, look, it's stupid to ignore that there is a security problem. There is a greater security problem. The police need to undertake more complex investigations. The sophistication across international borders requires them to do far more. But it is possible also to protect civil liberties by reporting properly to parliament, by a better system of parliamentary accountability, by an annual report, by an individual who would look at every instance beyond that 28 days and report to parliament. And I think that's the British way of doing it.

ANDREW MARR: Staying with the domestic agenda. Mr. Prentice and other trade union leaders ahead of your - I assume you're returning, you're attending the TUC as normal. I'm looking...

GORDON BROWN: I will be speaking on Tuesday, but so till Tony so we'll be speaking together on the same day.

ANDREW MARR: Together as always. They say that they're looking to hear from you, a repudiation of the endless march to marketisation, market mimicking, private money, being used particularly in the Health Service, but also in education. And they want to hear that you have a little bit of the true socialist blood still in your veins.

GORDON BROWN: Well I introduced the private finance initiative, it was done under a Labour Treasury which I led. I think it's worked very well in building far more hospitals than we ever could have done otherwise, and far more schools. And I do say to colleagues in the Trade Union movement that reform will continue, it has to continue. In some cases it has to intensify quickly, because our duty to the country is to ensure that we have the best standard of healthcare in the modern world. I think of the National Health Service as the best insurance policy in the world.

ANDREW MARR: You see a lot of people listening to what you've said on terror, the terrorist issue, listening to what you've said on schools and hospitals, listening to what you've said on Iraq, will conclude that if you become leader what the country will get is ultra-Blairism with a Scottish accent.

GORDON BROWN: I think what people will get is someone who's completely focused on the challenges of the next ten years.

ANDREW MARR: But in terms of direction...

GORDON BROWN: Internationally and nationally. Completely focused on applying the principles which guide my approach. In other words I want to see in every situation a new individualism where the individual is given the chance to realise their potential more, whether it's in the provision of public services or education, or simply owning assets. But at the same time I think we have uniquely in Britain this sense of civic duty, our responsibilities to others. We don't walk by on the other side, that's the moral compass I have.

ANDREW MARR: Is that the difference?

GORDON BROWN: ... and I think we can combine a new individualism in our country which recognises rising aspirations with a new sense of community which recognises that arising from that we must have the best public services and reform to make sure these best public services happen.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think there has been a bit too much micro-managing, both in the welfare system and generally, particularly I have to say from the Treasury?

GORDON BROWN: I don't accept this, because after 1997 what we had to do quickly was get investment into our public services. We waited for two years so that we could get reform in at the same time.

But we had then to move the literacy targets in schools down from the centre. Now we can have far greater local accountability and local management. That's what's happening now. That is what the agenda is about for the future.

ANDREW MARR: Do you believe that in a year's time you will be Prime Minister?

GORDON BROWN: That's really not a matter for me, it's a matter for the British public, but initially a matter for the Labour Party. A matter for the Labour Party electorate.

ANDREW MARR: All right, assuming you do become Prime Minister, you're going to have to open up a bit, aren't you? You're going to have to loosen up a little bit with people. You talk about policy, you talk about the vision, you talk about morality. But you don't talk much about yourself?

GORDON BROWN: Well I am happy to talk about myself. Maybe I have been an over private person, maybe because as your chancellor people are more interested in the decisions you make than who you are. But you know I am happy to talk about myself.

ANDREW MARR: Tell people who are watching, who want to know how you've changed in those years in office. What's happened to you?

GORDON BROWN: I think it's being a father that's changed me more than being a Chancellor. But I think I'm more optimistic about the future than perhaps I was in 1997, because I see what can be done both internationally and nationally. I'm more idealistic I think about what can be achieved because I can see how when people come together they can make a difference.

As a father, any time I see a child suffering, any time I see a child neglected, any time I see a child whose talent is being wasted and not fulfilled, I feel that's not just something wrong and a stab at our conscience. It's something that is a waste for our whole society. It's a stain on the soul of our society. So if I were to do anything in the rest of my political career it's to ensure it's always possible that every child in our country has the best possible start in life.

Now perhaps I've come to this from being a father more than before I was a father. But it's the essence of the good society that every child, none left behind, none left out, every child should have the best start in life.

ANDREW MARR: There isn't anyone watching who believes that your relationship with the Prime Minister has been smooth, easy, happy and cheerful all the way through. What went wrong do you think?

GORDON BROWN: I don't think it has gone wrong. And I think yes Tony himself would say that. I think any political relationship goes through phases. I think when people look back on the 20 years but particularly the last ten years of government, they will say it's remarkable because it hasn't happened before.

ANDREW MARR: But despite...

GORDON BROWN: That you've got a Prime Minister and Chancellor who are in the same places for nearly ten years. I'm after all the longest-serving Chancellor for 200 years so it means that it hasn't happened before. And of course there are ups and downs and of course there are difficulties. But if you look back on the history of these offices..

ANDREW MARR: The changeover between you, it hasn't been great has it?

GORDON BROWN: I think it's been pretty good most of the time. I think Tony would look back on it and say that was a case ...

ANDREW MARR: Do you think?

GORDON BROWN: But, you know, he's made his decisions about what he's going to do and now it's for the Labour Party and the country at some stage to make their decision.

ANDREW MARR: At Robin Cook's memorial service you gave a very moving eulogy and in that you said that you'd had, you'd fallen out with Robin Cook and then you'd made up. But you wishes you'd made up earlier.

GORDON BROWN: I said, I said I think friends at the beginning and friend at the end, but regrettably, not enough friendship sometimes in between.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think you'll ever say the same about Tony Blair?

GORDON BROWN: Of course, of course, and some friendships are the casualties of having to make difficult decisions, some friendships you're careless with. I like to think that I try very hard with my friends, I value my friends.

I myself have had some personal tragedies in the last ten years, it's been very, very difficult for me and for Sarah in many, many respects. But we, I think, better understand some of the problems that other people have as a result of that. And that makes you I think a better politician in the long run.

ANDREW MARR: Are you ready to lead this country?

GORDON BROWN: I'm ready to make the decisions for people, and to work with other people to make this country the great country it is at all times.

And I'm ready, I think, to help this country move into its new generation where I think the challenges we face are ones that because of the values which bind us as a country together we are uniquely able to say that we are going to be one of the great global success stories of the future.

ANDREW MARR: And if between now and then there are groups of Labour MPs or ministers who are preparing further challenges to Tony Blair to be more explicit, to say something more about when he's going to leave office, are you prepared to say that such people are your enemies too?

GORDON BROWN: Well I've said what I've said, that Tony Blair should be able to make the decisions he wants. I will support him in doing that and that means that I will not support those people who say the opposite.

Now, I think people will come to that understanding and I think in a sense the debate that has been held in the last few days which hasn't been salutary for us, I think people will come to recognise that this is the...

ANDREW MARR: It's very damaging hasn't it?

GORDON BROWN: It has been both damaging and has got to be avoided in the future. And I think the lesson that comes out of the events of the last few weeks is we've got go do better next week.

ANDREW MARR: Gordon Brown, thank you very much.

INTERVIEW ENDS


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

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


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