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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 June 2007, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Prime Minister Brown
On Sunday 24 June Andrew Marr interviewed Lord Kinnock - former Labour leader and Kenneth Clarke MP - former Conservative Chancellor

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

Lord Kinnock
Lord Kinnock - former Labour leader

ANDREW MARR: And now to two men who know Gordon Brown very well, who've watched him mature as a politician.

One of his key opponents in the Commons and another who's been reviewing the British Constitution, the former Conservative Chancellor Kenneth Clarke.

But first, the man who spotted his talents early on and who put Brown into front line politics in the first place along with some lesser-known bloke called Tony Blair.

I'm talking about the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, Lord Kinnock, welcome.

Did you pick right first time?

NEIL KINNOCK Absolutely, the two of them on the same day, on the same front bench, because they were obviously young rockets both of them and Gordon I'd known before he got elected, and I was determined that as fast as I could I was going to put this man in front and fortunately there was another guy as well, Tony Blair.

ANDREW MARR: Back then when they first came to your notice Gordon Brown was the senior of the two, I think everybody agrees. Do you think the last, the politics of the last ten years would have been greatly different had he been the guy who inherited rather than Tony Blair?

NEIL KINNOCK Well that's a speculation too far for me. It's impossible to guess because, as you will recall Andrew, at the time that Gordon made the decision not to run for the leadership in the summer of 1994 he would have been a very considerable candidate. And I described it then and I would now as a great act of leadership for him to decide not to divide the Labour party at that juncture.

ANDREW MARR: Let's talk about Tony Blair, because there's obviously been good bits and bad bits, I would have thought, in your view, not an enormous enthusiast for every aspect of the Iraq war if I can put it like that.


ANDREW MARR: But talk us through how you, how you think history is going to assess this man?

NEIL KINNOCK Well I think in a very, very short time, however bumpy the immediate ride might be, history is bound to record a quite extraordinary level of success for Tony Blair. My hope is that that is taken into proper account in the weighing scales of history, as it were, and not utterly obscured for any great length of time by the tragedy of Iraq.

ANDREW MARR: And when you say a great measure of success what are we talking about? Britain becoming a more liberal society, more money for public services?

NEIL KINNOCK Yes. Better investment for public services, always can be improved upon. The management can always be improved upon. But first of all to manage you've got to have sufficiency. A much more liberal and tolerant society by any measure. And I think in many ways, most of all, the idea in Britain now that we've got a stable and secure affluence, it isn't universal obviously, there is much to be done. But this is the first time ever when we've had these years, a decade, of sustained growth and absence of stop, an effective management and expectation and an attitude arising round it which I find it very healthy.

ANDREW MARR: Now, and everybody agrees that things have got to change a bit in government. Where would you like to see the changes happening? What new directions would you like to see Gordon Brown taking the country?

NEIL KINNOCK I think first of all because Gordon is a different character, that there'll be a change in what could be called the style of government. I think that it will be more evidently a team work Cabinet government of a more conventional style...

ANDREW MARR: Would you welcome that?

NEIL KINNOCK ...than Tony conducted. I think it's time for it to be reasserted. I think actually if Tony was going on we would see this become more characteristic. Then in terms of directions, no radical new directions. Some acceleration and some change of emphasis which I think will demonstrate, first of all the freshness of Gordon Brown, but also the relevance, this is going to be the central word, the relevance of his approach to leading the country to the issues of now and the next five to ten years.

ANDREW MARR: And what about Iraq? I mean can anything radical enough to be noticed actually be done?

NEIL KINNOCK I'm certain that Gordon will sustain the schedule for gradual withdrawal, recognising that abruptness is not really an option. His concentration as he's made clear in recent weeks, but has felt this for many, many months, on the need to stimulate and develop economic growth and much more stable economic development Iraq, I think that will have a great emphasis...

ANDREW MARR: Money not soldiers?

NEIL KINNOCK ...and is - yes, certainly money but also assistance with enterprise, education, training, infrastructural investment that can give Iraq, or large parts of Iraq, a much more stable basis for development in the future. I think you will see initiatives in that area which will, combined with the process of withdrawal, offer the best hope of normalisation in a recognisable period of time.

Kenneth Clarke MP
Kenneth Clarke MP - former Conservative Chancellor

ANDREW MARR: Interesting.

Thank you very much indeed Neil Kinnock.

Let's turn now to Ken Clarke, who's in our Nottingham studio. You've been over the despatch box for many years facing Gordon Brown.

What's your advice to David Cameron as he squares up to him next week?

KENNETH CLARKE: Well my advice is to carry on as he's been doing. I mean David Cameron can't possibly go in for a sudden change of style, and I would advise him to carry on working on putting the Conservative Party on the centre ground, by exploring new areas of policy for the Conservative Party, and making the Conservative Party look electable because I think the public will want to change away from new Labour and Gordon Brown and the whole circus, once they're satisfied that David Cameron really has got what it takes to take over and be better. So, I hope he won't be too distracted, not least because it now looks as though we're not going to have any dramatic change of direction on any subject at all from the new Prime Minister.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think that what's happened in the polls today is something that David Cameron should be a little bit alarmed about? I mean he's down, way below the rating that Gordon Brown's getting?

KENNETH CLARKE: Well, we have only just slipped a little and I think the polls are in a most peculiar state at the moment, and it just shows, quite accurately I'm sure, that the public still have to make their mind up two or three years away, exactly what they feel about both the parties and the people who are before them.

This has been a very a very strange period, this seven-week handover, it's been a bit of a farce actually. I am rather affronted by Tony Blair doing the final act of a personal, presidential, head of government, by touring the world at public expense, visiting his old friends. And Gordon, rather to my amusement, remains his usual self, he's very secretive.

I did think that perhaps in seven weeks we might discover from Gordon a little more of his views on key subjects, and perhaps a little more clearly what he might want to do that's different from Blair, once he took over. And quite honestly, I don't think he's actually revealed that at all, he's kept his cards close to his chest, and I can't remember someone becoming Prime Minister when most of the public haven't the faintest idea what his real views are on most of the big issues of the day.

ANDREW MARR: Well he does seem to want to have a wider debate, including about the constitution which is something that you've been looking at for the Conservatives.

If he said to you, now look, you know, party politics to one side, I'd like to get serious-minded people round the table and get some kind of agreement on a revised constitution. Would you be prepared to sit round that table?

KENNETH CLARKE: On a proper discussion about the constitution and collective government and strengthening the House of Commons and Parliament again, I hope people from all parties would sit down and discuss that with him. And I think there is a chance that we might have some constitutional advance with the changeover.

I mean, Brown does think in terms of political theatre, he's got to distance himself from Blair in some ways. And I think Brown will want to step away from the Clinton-style, personal, presidential, sofa government style of Tony Blair. Not least because he, Gordon, can't do it, but secondly because he does affront people. So we have an opportunity for the new Prime Minister possibly to get in, to running his government on a more collective basis, and to accepting that it's got to be accountable to a modernised House of Commons and House of Lords again.

And if he wanted to do that I hope all parties would co-operate with him. I suspect given that Gordon is notoriously himself rather cautious, rather private, doesn't trust people, not very good at delegating. If he reformed the constitution he'd probably hate it after a bit, because he really is a control freak at heart. But at the moment I'm sure he intends to try to demonstrate he's going to change the constitution. And if he does it needs an all-party approach.

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely. I'm sure you've been leafing through the newspapers, as I've been. Do you believe that Blair and Brown have betrayed the British people in this, in this latest agreement?

KENNETH CLARKE: No, I don't. I do think the Daily Telegraph and the Murdoch papers are doing their best trying to flog this on. I mean, the treaty contains all the things we had to do when we enlarged the union, you can't have a rotating different president every six months, you can't have two spokesmen on foreign affairs, you can't have the Maltese vetoing the space programme, and all these things.

And the nuts and bolts are obviously quite essential and some of the Eurosceptics wil have demanded a referendum just about the date on the top of the piece of paper, but they are flogging away, I think, at a dead horse. What we have now is far less important than Maastricht. I didn't think we should - I'm against referendums, I mean going back to constitutional reform we never had referendums we had parliamentary government, and we've only had referendums when either some party's been split and the leader can't manage things, or when the right wing press have demanded a referendum.

If Parliament's to mean anything Parliament has to decide on things like the rotating presidency and so on. I think the idea we have a referendum, and we all go out and campaign amongst our constituents saying "what do you think about the Polish deal on the voting system in the Council of Ministers" is frankly absurd. This treaty's far less important than Maastricht.

ANDREW MARR: All right.

KENNETH CLARKE: Far less important than single act. We never had referendums on those.

ANDREW MARR: Ken Clarke, parliamentarian, thank you and Neil Kinnock both very much indeed for coming in.


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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