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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 May 2007, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Deputy leadership campaign
On Sunday 20 May Andrew Marr interviewed Hazel Blears MP, Labour deputy leadership candidate

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

Hazel Blears MP
Hazel Blears MP, Labour deputy leadership candidate

ANDREW MARR: Good morning to you Hazel Blears.

HAZEL BLEARS: Good morning Andrew. Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Good. Let's start by trying to get one thing straight. Are you the Blairite candidate?

HAZEL BLEARS: No I've been really clear. And I said it at the first hustings last week, that I think what the Labour Party really wants is unity.

I've said no more Blairites, no more Brownites. We're all Labour. And that's the way that we've got to go forward.

ANDREW MARR: Do you not think Tony Blair would be watching this, if he is and thinking et tu Hazel?

HAZEL BLEARS: Not at all. He'd be thinking Hazel, you're absolutely right. What we need to do is build on the last ten years of Labour government. I think we've actually got a really good record.

There's some new challenges coming up. Gordon Brown's going to be a brilliant prime minister. And I think the whole party now wants to come together. And what they really want to do is take the fight to the Tories.

I was with party members last night in Nottingham where we actually won Labour seats at the local elections and they are really up for it. And what they want to do is be proud of our record of course. But also say there's some new challenges out there and it's Labour that's got the answers, not the Tories.

ANDREW MARR: It's funny how everybody thinks Gordon Brown's going to be a wonderful prime minister inside the Labour Party just now. But your supporters include people like John Reid and, and Mr Hutton who are very much on the Blair wing of the party. Isn't that actually your USP? Isn't that what distinguishes you from the other candidates?

HAZEL BLEARS: No I think it's really very heartening to have the support of the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. These are serious politicians. I also have the support of Andy Burnham, Kitty Usher, Paddy Tippin, members of Gordon's own campaign team. And I think you know what it says about me ..

ANDREW MARR: So what does distinguish you?

HAZEL BLEARS: .. is that I've got support right across the party. What distinguishes me is two things. One is that I believe the job of deputy leader is about working for the Party. Taking the message out relentlessly over the next two years, full time, focused on building the Party and winning the next election.

But also what distinguishes me is that I am prepared to talk about some of the tough issues. I spent three years in the Home Office doing crime, antisocial behaviour and counter terrorism. And I think people want us to tackle immigration. They want us to tackle crime. I think people now work harder than probably they've ever worked before ..

ANDREW MARR: Well ..

HAZEL BLEARS: And they're prepared to do that but they want to know that the system is fair ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

HAZEL BLEARS: .. as well.

ANDREW MARR: Let's, in that case, let me put to you something that Margaret Hodge is reported as saying in today's papers on one of those tough issues. She says that indigenous white families who've been waiting for housing should go ahead in the queue to some of the immigrant families who on paper might have stronger cases in order to reassure them that the system isn't biased against poor white families. Do you agree with her?

HAZEL BLEARS: Yeah I think this is a really pressing issue for us. Housing is probably more important now than it was in nineteen forty five. Right across the country young people are finding it hard to get housing. I think we've got to tackle it. But we've got to tackle it in a way that doesn't ...

ANDREW MARR: And specifically sorry, do you agree, do you agree with Margaret Hodge on that specific?

HAZEL BLEARS: Well I think you have got to look at allocations policies to show that they're fair. It's just the same as the welfare system. You've got to show that that's fair as well. I think people in this country have a real sense of fairness. They're prepared to do their bit. But they want to know that the system actually works for them. So I do think that we need to tackle these tough issues.

ANDREW MARR: Well let me ask you about another tough issue and a question of fairness which is the House of Commons decision to vote itself out of the Freedom of Information Act, something that's caused a great deal of surprise and indeed anger outside the world of Westminster politics. You weren't there to vote I think. How would you have voted and what's your message to fellow MPs?

HAZEL BLEARS: Well as you know Andrew the government was neutral on this bill. I think there were some serious issues raised. A lot of MPs have been really outraged that their constituent's private business has been revealed to various authorities. I think that we n.., do need to protect that.

But at the same time I'm not interested in, in protecting you know the special privilege of MPs. I've never been the kind of politician that thinks that MPs somehow are removed from the rest of the constraints that the public have. Absolutely not.

ANDREW MARR: That leaves me slightly confused if I may say so as to which way you'd vote.

HAZEL BLEARS: Well as I say the government wasn't taking a position on this. But I do think it's right that where constituents have got personal and private details those are not disclosed but I don't think that MPs should be above the law. I never have and I don't agree with that.

ANDREW MARR: One, one last, one last try. Which way would you have voted?

HAZEL BLEARS: Well I, I wasn't voting on that specific legislation. I would have voted to protect constituents' information, I would not have voted ..

ANDREW MARR: So, so you'd have ..

HAZEL BLEARS: .. to protect MPs.

ANDREW MARR: But you didn't have that choice. You'd have had to come down on one side or the other. Tough choice.

HAZEL BLEARS: Well ..

ANDREW MARR: But you'd have had to make it.

HAZEL BLEARS: Well it's a tough choice and I would have voted to protect MP, constituents' information. I would not have voted to protect MPs cos I don't believe we're above the law.

ANDREW MARR: Well you, in that case you would have voted to exempt the House of Commons from, from, from the Freedom of Information Act. Let me turn one more time to the question of the actual hustings here and the process. You have to win over ordinary party members as well as MPs and so on.

I notice that you're rising slightly at the moment in the, in the bookies' chart for this. When people say to you after ten years of power the Labour government has lost touch with its own people and like yourself, all those involved are partly responsible. What do you say back to them?

HAZEL BLEARS: Well I think the reason we won the last three elections was entirely because of that, that we were in touch with people, we understood that life was still tough for people working on a minimum wage, balancing work and family life. And we've got to get back to that position.

Last year I persuaded most of the Cabinet to go out and do some front line experience in the community. Not a visit, not looking at what was good but actually seeing what wasn't working as well. I, I spent three days personally in Tesco supermarket working on the till, trying to find out what was going on and I think that government, MPs, ministers, councillors have got to be in touch with the public and that's the way we'll win the next election.

ANDREW MARR: Would you be offended as we read Alan Johnson would be if you won this, you were elected Labour's deputy leader and then Gordon Brown appointed somebody else, shall we say Jack Straw, as Deputy Prime Minister?

HAZEL BLEARS: Not at all. I've said right from the outset that the job that's on offer, the job that I want is as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. And that means building our organisation, campaigning, having some pretty tough politics, being prepared to take the fight to the Tories and the Lib Dems and winning that next election for Labour. That is the overriding focus of my campaign and I think it's exactly what Party members want.

ANDREW MARR: And looking at the sort of image of the top of the Labour Party do you think it's important - Harriet Harman clearly does - that a woman gets this job?

HAZEL BLEARS: I think it would be great to have a man and a woman at the top of our party solving problems. I think that reflects people's everyday lives at work.

But I don't think it's a woman just for her own sake. Again I've said right from the outset it's the person with the right politics, the right campaigning skills. And if it's a woman as well it's a bonus.

ANDREW MARR: Hazel Blears, enjoy the hustings.

HAZEL BLEARS: I certainly will.

ANDREW MARR: And thank you very much indeed for joining us.

HAZEL BLEARS: Thank you.

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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