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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 May 2007, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
Labour roots
On Sunday 27 May Andrew Marr interviewed Peter Hain MP, Northern Ireland Secretary

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

Peter Hain MP
Peter Hain MP

ANDREW MARR: Peter Hain told the Fabian Society that more of the same will not be enough to win Labour the next General Election...

...and he warned that unless they find a way of reconnecting with millions of voters, they will lose.

It all sounds a bit like the old John Redwood slogan when he challenged John Major "no change equals no chance".

Well Peter Hain is here, good morning Mr. Hain.

PETER HAIN: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Thank you for coming in. Let's start with the story that's been leading the headlines today. Tony Blair's called for the police to have new stop and search powers, or stop and question powers.

Now you've had these powers in Northern Ireland for some time, but how would you react to them being spread more generally across the country for the first time since the Second World War?

PETER HAIN: We've got to actually work out exactly what it is, and there have been no detailed proposals put to the Cabinet on this. We cannot have a reincarnation of the old suss laws under which mostly black people, ethnic minorities, were literally stopped on sight and that created a really bad atmosphere and an erosion of civil liberties.

But we've got to be very clear in balancing civil liberties, and jealously guarding them. I've fought for civil liberties all my life, and been clear that we've got to be very clear on protecting people's security.

ANDREW MARR: Because you've said in one of your campaign pamphlets for the deputy leadership that there's a problem with a sense of alienation which can act as a breeding ground for terrorism.

And presumably if Muslim people were being stopped or they felt they were being stopped on sight by the police and challenged, that would create the alienation that you're worried about?

PETER HAIN: We've got to be very careful that we don't create circumstances that are the domestic equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. And Guantanamo Bay which was an international abuse of human rights acted as a recruiting sergeant for dissidents and alienated Muslims, and alienated many other people across the world. So...

ANDREW MARR: This could lead in that direction if we weren't careful?

PETER HAIN: Not necessarily, we've got to be very careful that we are clear where there's a need to track down terrorists, to make sure that they don't dodge surveillance or risk evading the law, then we've got to be very clear we have the provisions to do that.

And that may well be extending stop and search powers, including stopping people on sight. But we've got to be very careful in the way we do it, that we protect people's liberties in a way that they don't feel justifies an appeal to people to come in and support terrorism.

ANDREW MARR: Mmm. Because some of your colleagues would see this as a rather Orwellian move, I mean they'd be concerned about that?

PETER HAIN: Well again, let's see what the detail is.

ANDREW MARR: Let's move on to the wider question of the deputy leadership campaign which you've been engaged in. You've based quite a lot of your campaign on the need for what you call a new radicalism, and you've talked about poverty and inequality.

Now, a lot of people say that in the modern world where the rich can go and live anywhere they like it's almost impossible to, if you like, squeeze the rich more in order to give more to the bottom. So what's your response to that?

PETER HAIN: I agree that in a global economy the idea of massive taxation on very rich people, or significant over-regulation simply won't work - they'll go elsewhere, and take jobs and investment and wealth with them.

So, what we've got to decide is what kind of society we want to be, and I believe very strongly that Labour's values are British values of equality and social justice and fairness and democracy and freedom. Those are our value and we haven't preached them and shouted from the rooftops enough about them and yet our policies are actually implementing them.

ANDREW MARR: You mean you've been redistributing money, as old Socialists would put it, but not really talking about that?

PETER HAIN: Well a bit of that as well, but you know, you take for example the problem of the 8.8 billion City bonuses to a handful of people. Now I'm not saying that they should be taxed out of sight or that they should be, some sort of compulsion should be on them, but I do think people living in a fair society as we want Britain to be say, look, this is out of proportion, we want...

ANDREW MARR: Shame them into giving some money to good causes rather than tax them in the old way?

PETER HAIN: Well I was asked by a financial journalist at my deputy leader campaign launch, that I wanted to appeal to their better nature, as if that was an offence. Yes I do. I do think people should be more, should give more of their wealth, especially that astronomic wealth, and invest it in universities, invest it in anti-poverty programmes, in skills programmes.

Give to others as happens right round the world. Bill Gates is a very good example of somebody who does precisely that. And this is all about having a modern Labour Party, not going back to an old Labour agenda of the 1980s which failed. But not having more of the same either, more of the same won't work, we've lost millions of voters, we need to bring them back, we need to enthuse people about our values. Labour values of equality and social justice.

ANDREW MARR: What about the elephant in the room, people talk about Iraq? If you had known then about weapons of mass destruction what you know now, would you have supported the war?

PETER HAIN: Look, I'm not going to wriggle out of my responsibilities or shirk my commitments. I was part of a decision honestly taken at the time that I thought there were weapons of mass destruction as everybody else did. Some of the deputy leader candidates that I'm competing with are changing their mind on that. I don't think you can credibly do that frankly.

ANDREW MARR: Right, OK. Let's look at a couple of other big policy areas. One of them is the National Health Service. A huge amount of money has gone into the NHS, a lot of people say there hasn't been enough change. What would you like to see happen next?

PETER HAIN: Well, we've got into a position where we have trebled spending on the National Health Service, from 30 billion to around 90 billion. We've recruited tens of thousands of extra doctors and nurses and other hospital staff...

ANDREW MARR: But yet if you go out there and talk to people they often say they don't see much of a change?

PETER HAIN: Well we've done all of that. Actually when you talk to people their individual experience of the National Health Service is very good. They all think the nurses and the doctors were brilliant. But there's a perception that we haven't got it right. How can we have got ourselves into a position where the Tories are now ahead of Labour in the polls?

ANDREW MARR: So what's the answer?

PETER HAIN: Well I think we have to do two things. We have to have a moratorium on organisational and structural change. A permanent revolution in the National Health Service isn't going to get to where we need to be, we need to have things settled down, we need to have the nurses and the doctors able just to run the Health Service and not have this constant diet of change imposed upon them.

The second thing we have to do, to reassure everybody that this is a public service according to Labour principles, we invented the National Health Service after all, that there ought to be a clear limit on where the private sector and market forces operate. I think people feel that we don't have...

ANDREW MARR: Has it gone far enough, do you think? I mean there might be involvement in the private sector?

PETER HAIN: Well, I think what people are concerned about is what's next. Now I think we should establish a series of principles. The first should be that in general public services are better provided in the public by the public sector. But there is a role for the private sector, in Northern Ireland for example I brought in private surgeons to clear a massive waiting list backlog.

And we've used that in the National Health Service too, waiting times now instead of years under the Tories, now coming down to a few weeks. But we mustn't make a dogma of the fact that private is always better than public.

I think that if we reassured staff about that, reassured the unions, found a new consensus about, yes, the sensible use of the private sector, but not just everything must go private which is the sense that there is in the NHS at the moment. Then I think we can create not just a better-run Health Service, but also much more support for Labour with millions of people coming back to Labour.


PETER HAIN: Because they know where we stand.

ANDREW MARR: And across the piece, you believe that if the Labour Party doesn't change it's going to lose the next election?

PETER HAIN: We face a very tough fight against the Tories. The Tories are hungry for power in they way that they haven't been for a very long time. They've got millions and millions of money more than we have. They've got a lot of the media on their side.

And the way we're going to win this is by getting back to our roots, our belief in social justice, our belief in civil liberties, our belief in democracy and equality. And say yes we want a modern Britain, we can't go back to the old policies but just more of the same is not going to work either. Now if we do that I think we can win people back to Labour and I think under Gordon Brown we can win the next election.

But it's going to be tough, and that's why we need to go in a new direction that isn't reincarnating all the problems of the past, of the old Labour policies that failed, but is saying look we need a change now.

After ten years in power you need to change, you need to renew and above all you need to reconnect with the grass roots which is why I'm standing for the deputy leadership.

ANDREW MARR: And one final process question on all of that. You've got union support, some of the other candidates have got union support.

The unions are putting out ballots with, you know, "Vote Hain" or whoever it might be. Some of the candidates who are not backed by so many unions feel that's unfair, that there's already an unfair tilt in the propaganda, if you like, inside the Labour Party?

PETER HAIN: Well look, it's absolutely right that union executives should take a democratic decision to back who they like. So far three unions have backed me, the builders, the train drivers, bakers and also two big regions of the GMB union. Now we'll see how the nominations go.

I think I've got more support to come. But in the end it's the individual members of the trade unions and the 3 million of them, and the hundreds of thousands of party members who'll make the decision who they want to be Gordon's deputy.

ANDREW MARR: But those hundreds of thousands of party members are going to get in the post a ballot paper which just tells them about you, or one of your other rivals. Doesn't tell them about the rest of the candidates, not terribly fair is it?

PETER HAIN: Look they, individual union members who'll make the decision on their own, in their front rooms, after receiving a ballot paper, a secret vote. I think they will want to know what their union executive has decided.

I've got support from the unions, I've got support from party members, I've got support from business people who're supporting my campaign. I really think I am the person to bring the party back together, to reconnect the leadership with the grass roots and to win next time.

ANDREW MARR: And we'll hear more of all of that on Newsnight, I think, on Tuesday night when you and the rest of them are up with Jeremy Paxman.

PETER HAIN: I look forward to that.

ANDREW MARR: That should be very entertaining. Thank you very much indeed.

PETER HAIN: Thank you.

ANDREW MARR: Peter Hain.


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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