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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 October 2006, 11:38 GMT
Stalking horse?
On Sunday 29 October, Huw Edwards interviewed John McDonnell MP.

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

John McDonnell MP
John McDonnell MP

HUW EDWARDS: Good morning to you.


HUW EDWARDS: Thanks for coming in.

When that election happens and people will ask you for your main points of the campaign ..


HUW EDWARDS: What would a McDonnell leadership mean in policy terms, which after all is the most important thing.

What will that be?

JOHN MCDONNELL: I'm largely standing on the policies that have been agreed by Labour Party Conference and there's majority support within our party.

Things like we're a party that's in favour of peace not war.

So I voted against Iraq and I'd withdraw from Iraq. We're in favour of public services, not privatisation.

So I'm opposed to what Gordon Brown has been doing in the NHS in terms of privatisation, so has the majority in the country I have to say. I'm in favour of decent pensions, increasing pensions, restoring the link with earnings, exactly as we promised in Opposition. I'm opposed to pushing pensions onto means test.

I'm in favour of free education so I oppose tuition fees. I'm opposed, I'm in favour of comprehensive education. I'm opposed to all these academies and Trust schools and the pressure that we're applying to our teachers. I'm in favour of a decent environment. So I'm in favour of alternative energy sources. And I'm opposed to nuclear reactors. I'm opposed to spending seventy six billion pounds on Trident.

I want that invested in our public services. It's those sorts of issues. But I'm standing on the policies that Labour Party Conference has largely agreed. But also they're policies that have majority support in the country as well by opinion poll after opinion poll.

HUW EDWARDS: I mean it may seem to some viewers that you're saying forget New Labour, okay, forget all of that. It's been a bit of a nightmare. We're going back to old traditional Labour values.

JOHN MCDONNELL: I, I don't like this "Old Labour", "New Labour". I'm not New Labour, I'm not Old Labour. I'm Labour. I'm the mainstream of the Labour Party.

And I've been doing these meetings all round the country which has been great fun, listening to people again. And it is going back to listening.

All these techniques of advertising, wasting money, taking loans so you can spend all this money on advertising campaigns. I'm going back to listening to people, engaging people in politics.

And at, at the meetings I've been doing round the country you'll hear as much laughter as you will applause where people are engaging in discussion and having fun and enthusiasm about politics again.

HUW EDWARDS: Let's just pick up one or two specific things. On Iraq you'd pull out, regardless of the consequences? You'd just pull the troops out and let them get on with it?

JOHN MCDONNELL: Of c..., of course not. The issue for us now is to recognise we've made a mistake in Iraq. I voted against it and I, a lot of us argued - and you'll be interviewing Ming - and other people across party argued that this was a, a wrong, a mistake.

What we should do now is accept we've made a mistake, go back to the United Nations and appeal to the rest of the world to help us in engaging in that withdrawal.

And that does mean tackling the other issues within the Middle East as well. It does mean looking at how we resolve the Palestinian, Israeli pro.., problem. We've got to restore our credibility as a peace maker in the world. I wanted Tony Blair's legacy to be Northern Ireland. He's done a fantastic job in bringing about peace. The tragedy is it's going to be Iraq.

HUW EDWARDS: Could, could Gordon Brown not restore the Party's reputation as a peace maker?

JOHN MCDONNELL: This isn't about personalities.

HUW EDWARDS: But could he? Do you think he could?

JOHN MCDONNELL: Well I think it's about saying what about, will there be any policy change? Gordon Brown has been the architect of New Labour's policies in the same way as Tony Blair. And I think the Labour Party and the country want a radical break with New Labour.

They want us to have a new vision for the country which is based on ... more equal society. Labour Party being a peaceful role in the world, playing a peaceful role. Investing in public services, not privatising them.

HUW EDWARDS: Renewing Trident as a nuclear defence system, would you do that?

JOHN MCDONNELL: No. There's been different estimates on the cost. Twenty six million's what, billion is what the government's saying. The newspaper said three weeks ago it's up to seventy six billion pounds.

I think that's a waste of resources on a weapon we'd never use and doesn't, actually doesn't defend us even.

HUW EDWARDS: Now what will you say to those people in the campaign who'll say to you you're basically a very good friend of the trade unions, nothing wrong with that.

But actually what you're about is changing the law back to favour the trade unions in the way that the country may have backed different kind of approach over the last ten years.

JOHN MCDONNELL: This is a really interesting point because if you look at the history of the trade union rights in this country, we're now back to a situation where trade unions in this country have less rights than they did a hundred years ago when the first trade union legislation was introduced.

That means that people are not being protected at work. My constituents were Gate Gourmet workers. They were sacked by megaphone, hoarded into a shed, buckets up the side of the hall because there was no toilet facilities. We shouldn't be treating people like that in this day and age. So we're trying to save ... people need decent rights in their community and at work.

HUW EDWARDS: Now to get onto the ballot paper you need what forty four Labour MPs?

JOHN MCDONNELL: Forty four Labour MPs, yes.

HUW EDWARDS: Is that going to happen?

JOHN MCDONNELL: It's a hell of a hill to climb. No doubt about that. But my campaign is not about me as an individual. It's about the policies, about building momentum in the constituency parties and our affiliated trade unions. And I think given time the momentum will build up that support in parliament. I'm confident.

The, the Guardian a couple of weeks ago said I've got about forty one supporters, the Times said forty two. I don't know. I think I'll, I think we've got the support in the Party and I think that will be translated into Parliament.

HUW EDWARDS: I mean very difficult for you obviously, if you're, if you're seen to be scrabbling for the votes of your ..


HUW EDWARDS: .. parliamentary colleagues that obviously will undermine your appeal in terms of going out to the country.

JOHN MCDONNELL: No I don't think it's a matter of scrabbling for that support. It's giving Labour MPs the confidence to nominate someone. Most Labour Party members want a ballot.

We don't do assassinations in the Labour Party. That's why I opposed what Gordon Brown and others tried to do a few weeks ago to Tony Blair. I want Tony Blair to go with dignity. But we don't do coronations either. We elect people to our positions on the basis of policies, not personalities.

HUW EDWARDS: Could Labour defeat David Cameron in the next election with Gordon Brown as leader, in your view?

JOHN MCDONNELL: I, I think we're sleep walking ourselves into a defeat if we're not careful. People out there want a radical break. We built a coalition of support in nineteen ninety seven in the same way we always do, to get elected. That coalition's breaking up.

We've got people who marched out in nineteen ninety seven against the Tories because of hospital closures and privatisation and cut backs and sleaze. They're now marching against us. We've got to bring them back into the fold.

HUW EDWARDS: John we'll be talking again no doubt. But thanks for coming in today.

JOHN MCDONNELL: Thanks a lot.

HUW EDWARDS: Thank you.


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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