JOHN HUMPHRYS: John Reid, has the notion
of New Labour - emphasis on the "New" obviously - reached the end of its
JOHN REID MP: No, I don't think it has
and if you recognise what the new approach was and is, then it shows you
that it was actually quite a silly question because what was new in the
approach was to take the values, the permanent values of the Labour Party
and the decent values of people in this country about solidarity, rights
and responsibilities, community, opportunity and so on, and to find a way
of applying them, a new way of applying them in today's circumstances.
And since the only thing that is constant is change, the world will keep
changing, then you have to keep finding new ways of applying them and thus,
that new approach never becomes redundant because it's constantly a matter
of applying your values to these circumstances. And one other thing is,
when we have done that and we have found new bold ways of doing it and
we've been very radical, we've done things that previous Labour governments
have promised for a century, like the minimum wage and didn't do it. But
when we've been bold on the Bank of England, on PFI, on great constitutional
change, on the New Deal, we've been most successful. So what we have
to continue to try and do is to battle with ideas and find new ways of
applying those values as the world changes.
HUMPHRYS: Yes, some things are
constants, as you say change is a constant. But, as Neil Kinnock himself
said, "new" is a word that by definition gets old, you can't use it indefinitely
and what New Labour was, the two words stuck together instead of the Labour
Party, we had New Labour, it was a marketing tool and as Neil Kinnock said,
marketing tools have limited shelf life, that has a limited shelf life.
REID: I'm afraid it wasn't
a marketing tool. The..if we want a new approach and if the world constantly
changes, it follows that any sensible party has to continually find new
ways of doing things, that's why we're looking now at rights and responsibilities,
it's why we have policy discussions. So that newness is both an eternal
thing, it is permanent revision and secondly, you know the idea that somehow
New Labour was only a marketing tool which did not denote an underlying
change from the way the Labour Party had been applying its values for twenty-five
HUMPHRYS: No, I didn't say that,
I didn't say that.
REID: ...you know is a
HUMPHRYS: Yes, but I didn't say
REID: ...just how profound
the change was.
HUMPHRYS: No, I didn't say that.
What I was suggesting to you was that New Labour as a marketing tool, it
maybe other things as well, of course, I'm not disputing that for a moment,
clearly it was about other things, I want to get onto those other things.
But, it was also, along with the red rose and all the other bits and pieces,
it was a marketing device, quite clearly and that's what I am suggesting
to you, as Neil Kinnock was suggesting there, although I saw you nodding
in agreement with most of what he had to say. But he was suggesting that
that particular device has - he'd never used the word New Labour himself,
neither had many other people in the party - it's had its day, that's all
I'm suggesting to you.
REID: If you're saying
yes there was a profound and fundamental change in Labour's approach, that
it was philosophically based, it was value based and in addition, it was
one of the ways in which we related to the modern electorate fine. We can
have a discussion on marketing tools...
HUMPHRYS: Because you can't be
new forever can you, that's the point that Neil Kinnock made, by definition
you can't be new forever.
REID: Well, but if you
have a new approach, which is based on constantly revising and analysing
the world in finding new ideas, then that approach does not become redundant,
that's what I am saying and therefore we will have, year on year, year
in, year out, we will have not only the right line, the Conservatives who
criticise us to battle with, but of course we will have the extreme left
as well, who will tell us that, you know, somehow the policies that we
adopt today have to be tablets of stone, or even better, the ones we adopted
fifty years ago. I said recently, sometimes when I used to come to Labour
Conferences, I thought that Mount Sinai would be a more appropriate place
to have them than Blackpool because the same prophets would come down the
same mountains, with the same tablets of stone which are to be venerated.
Now, that's why we lost for twenty-five years, we lost contact with today's
working families and modern people and the modern electorate and we put
that approach aside and we are adopting a new approach and that is continually
relevant. Now, if you say, well, don't call yourself New Labour, call
yourself even newer Labour or new red Labour, the name doesn't matter.
HUMPHRYS: It doesn't matter then?
Because in fifty years' time you could hardly be New Labour still could
you? If you were New Labour in 2000 and...
REID: The name doesn't
matter, but do I believe that there are permanent values which we have
to apply and that we have to permanently revise and find new means of applying
them. The answer is yes. That approach is not only relevant today, it
will be relevant in five, ten or fifteen years' time and we have to be
ultra critical of ourselves and to discuss new ideas, because quite frankly
we have a value system, which at the moment is not contrasted with the
value system the Conservatives, because they are at such a loss to produce
anything that we have to have that discussion internally.
HUMPHRYS: They are contrasted with
what you once were, or were once perceived as being and the real point
here - put aside the question of the image of New Labour, is that those
values, those policies that made New Labour and were accepted, reluctantly
in many cases admittedly, but quietly reluctantly, they are now beginning
to run into trouble and people are getting concerned, audibly, volubly,
concerned about them.
REID: Well, let me take
two things. First of all in the real world are those policies running into
trouble? I was fascinated by the advert, the political advert that you
showed with the Conservatives saying there will be higher mortgages. My
goodness, half and a third of the rate of mortgages people are paying under
the Tories. There will be more job loses, we've created a million and
a half jobs, you know if you go through literacy, if you go through the
great constitutional changes where we have empowered people. If you look
at the minimum wage, you know the abolition of hereditary privilege in
the House of Lords, things this movement has waited a hundred years for...
HUMPHRYS: And nobody argues with
things like the minimum wage, it's been done and they wanted it, but there
are other things that you are doing that they are less than enthusiastic
about, they are not afraid to say so.
REID: Now, John, you had
two contentions and I'm addressing both, the first was that we had not
been successful, what I am saying is we have been successful.
HUMPHRYS: I don't think I actually
said that. Go on.
REID: Your second contention
was that there are people on the extreme left of the party in particular
who are arguing that we ought to go back to the old ways, well nothing
changes. They have been quiet because they were the very people who fought
for twenty years against change on the basis that not only would we not
get elected if we changed. But having got elected, we'd never be successful
and they have been bewildered by the two landslides and the success we've
had and now what they are asking us to do, in some cases, is to go back
to the old ways. Well, we're not going back to the old ways.
HUMPHRYS: Well, you say you're
not going back to the old ways, that's arguable and incidentally I didn't
say the extreme left, I doubt you'd put people like Bill Morris on the
extreme left would you? But what I'm talking about is the areas where they
are actually winning the argument...
REID: ...alright, give
me an area.
HUMPHRYS: Okay, let's take a couple
of the areas, tax, tax and spend. You were not going to be the party of
tax and spend, you weren't going to be the party of redistribution, it
wasn't an expression that was used or, what we have seen, is that you have
effectively conceded the case on tax. Gordon Brown has put a penny on tax,
effectively on tax although it's painted in slightly different colours,
but that's what it amounts to be, and that is to pay for public spending.
Now an awful lot of people, I'm not suggesting for a moment that is a bad
policy, that's a matter of judgement, but the fact is, it is what Old Labour
wanted and you've conceded the point.
REID: Let me just take
those two aspects that you mention again. First of all the vast majority
of the money and there's huge investment going into the public services,
has not come from taxation, it has come from reducing the waste that the
Conservatives used to spend on mass unemployment and mass of national debt,
the debt repayment, something like seven or eight thousand million pounds
a year which we've saved. Put simply, the Tories used to spend almost fifty
pence in every pound of taxpayers' money on the dole queues and debt repayment...
HUMPHRYS: Right, but that was then
and this is now and I'm trying to move ahead of it.
REID: I'm talking about
now. The vast bulk of what we are putting in does not come from taxation.
And the second contention is that we were not committed to redistribute
in the Prime Minister's words, power and wealth and opportunity. We have
always been committed to redistribute...
REID: ...let me, let me
finish the question. From the beginnings of this New Labour government,
we've redistributed power, we've done it to the nations through the most
radical constitutional change, we have done it in other ways by giving
power direct to schools, by putting the money there. We have redistributed
income by giving guaranteed minimum income to the old age pensioners, we've
given a minimum wage in there. We have given power down through the 'Sure
Start' programme to help people in the localities, we've given them money
and we have redistributed opportunity. That has always been a part of what
we wanted to do...
HUMPHRYS: But, I....
REID: ...but, and this
the important point, but part of our ability to do with that is in a strong
economy and we will not raise taxation to the level where that economy,
which is where we produce the surplus wealth, to give people opportunity,
to give people a real sense of power, we will not put taxation to the level
it is in some other countries, which will damage that strong economy which
is the platform on which...
HUMPHRYS: ...even if that meant,
even if that meant cutting some of your spending pledges...
REID: ...well we don't
HUMPHRYS: ...because it might.
REID: ...because we're
running the economy...
HUMPHRYS: ...we are in the middle
of what looks like being a very nasty recession and the world is not going
to help us.
REID: And what is the strongest
economy in the world in terms of being able to exist in that? It is this
economy. That is because we have destroyed the myth under New Labour, we
destroyed the myth that if you wanted social justice and compassion you
voted Labour and if you wanted a competent management of the economy you
HUMPHRYS: ...but if you're...
REID: ...that is gone forever...
HUMPHRYS: ...but if you're really
telling me that redistribution has been a part of what you have been perceived
to be about for these past five years, I'd have to say that's absolute
non... I mean the number of times that I've interviewed Gordon Brown, probably
as many times as I've interviewed you, I've not counted, but I could never
get him to use the word redistribution, he would not use that word redistribution,
flatly refused to, this isn't what it's about, that's not what the point
of it all is. Then Tony Blair pops up and says at the Labour Party, he
says right, that's what we've got, now we'll want a bit more of it.
REID: Well they're the
two different things...
HUMPHRYS: ...the trade unions...
REID: ...there's two different
things there. One is, has the redistribution of power, this is not just
a matter of...
HUMPHRYS: ...no, no, but I'm talking
specifically at wealth, I notice you turning it into power all the time,
but I'm trying to stick on the issue of wealth.
REID: No I'm not turning
into, I'm using the words the Prime Minister used...
HUMPHRYS: ...he used the three:
power, wealth and opportunity and I'm sticking on the wealth bit.
REID: ...right, so you're
asking me about what the Prime Minister said, I'm telling you the words
he used and if you look at the redistribution of power, wealth and opportunity
since the first day this Labour Government came in, and the huge radical
changes we made about power, I mean giving power back to Scotland, giving
power back to Wales...
HUMPHRYS: ...you've mentioned,
you made that point, yes.
REID: ...all of those things
have been in the grain of what we have done...
HUMPHRYS: ...now explicit.
REID: ...if you are saying,
well you didn't articulate those values throughout, although they were
there you didn't...
HUMPHRYS: ...you certainly didn't
articulate the value of redistributing wealth, absolutely you didn't, now
REID: ...perhaps we didn't.
REID: Perhaps we were overcautious
about the experience of the past twenty-five years where people used rhetoric
and slogans and pretended it was somehow a value system...
REID: ...or perhaps we're
coming to recognise now that the values which have been in everything we've
done should be articulated more...
HUMPHRYS: ...fine, and what I'm
what suggesting to you is that the reason you are now making this concession,
adapting if you like, your vocabulary, your terms of expressions, is because
you have no choice, because the unions, not the extreme left, but the unions,
are beginning to feel their feet again. They were quiescent for a very
long time. Now they're saying, look we're maybe not going to get back into
the driving seat in quite the way that they used to talk about exercising
power, but they're saying, you know we financed this party. This party
is in financial trouble. We make it possible, we want them to do things
that are in our interest. And I'm suggesting to you, that you are giving
in, inevitably, because you've very little choice to those pressures.
REID: Well, again there's
two things, I'm sorry, you're asking complicated questions, allow me to
give a complicated answer, but it's.... I think gets to the nub of the
problem. First of all the myth that somehow there is huge union strikes
HUMPHRYS: ...no, no I didn't suggest
REID: No, no, but your
introduction did, that we were at, you know, a level of the Winter of Discontent.
We, we, we lost last year three hundred and fifty thousand days....
HUMPHRYS: ...you needn't even deal
with the issue, I didn't raise it, I don't want to raise it and I fully
accept that we're nowhere near the Winter of Discontent.
REID: Absolutely, no, we're
nowhere near it. Three hundred and fifty thousand days lost through strike,
twenty-seven million lost under the Conservative...
HUMPHRYS: ...alright, but we are
seeing a potentially nasty strike coming up with the Fire Brigade and all
that, but anyway, okay, we're not at the Winter of Discontent, I accept
REID: ...well let's get
rid of the idea that the trade unions are running about rampaging about
here in an attempt to impose their political will...
HUMPHRYS: ...no, but they're imposing
their will through the fact that they are the paymasters, that's the point
I'm trying to get to.
REID: But, but times have
changed John. The reason that our relationship with the trade unions has
evolved is not a marketing tool, not a reason just to, to go out and re-advertise.
It is because the world has changed over the past century. When we were
.......the trade unions, who are the organisers of the producers could
have a huge influence in our manifesto to the electorate, precisely because
the electorate we were appealing to were nothing more than producers.
They had no more, a worker had no more money than would keep him as a producer.
And it was quite appropriate then that they would have a dominating influence
as producers organise the trade unions in our platform when we appeal to
the working families of the country. A hundred years later, workers are
for the most part not just producers, they are consumers...
REID: ...and therefore
they want more choice. Now it is the job of the trade unions to argue their
case, as they do, for the protection of their workers as producers. It
is the job of the government to act on behalf of the country as a whole...
HUMPHRYS: ...of course.
REID: ...and all those
working families who are also now consumers who want the best quality of
REID: ...the best quality
in health, and we do that through the public services, not through the
government services, or the trade union services, but the public services...
HUMPHRYS: ...but you see...
REID: ...and the ultimate
arbiter of what is right and good there is the public, not any of the people...
HUMPHRYS: Alright, but you see when, but
when people like Dave Prentis uses the kind of language he used in that
film, he says we're reviewing, we have reviewed our links with the trade
unions. The implied threat of course, is that they give you a great deal
of money, it is the most powerful public service union that there is, and
we're reviewing it in the light of and this is a very important phrase
'whether we get value for money for that link'. Now it appears to many
people when they look at what is happening that they are beginning to get
value for money because they are seeing concessions being made by you now
and potentially promised for the future, that have not been made in the
REID: First of all, the
trade unions give the Labour Party about thirty per cent of our money,
if anyone thinks and anyone is under any delusions that by contributing
towards us, they will somehow buy that money direct what we do, rather
than us being directed for what is good for the country, then they better
get rid of that delusion, it isn't going to happen. The second thing is,
yes we have done a great deal for trade unions, we have not done it because
the trade unions, like many others contributor to us, but because it is
right, it is right that there should be a minimum wage to combat poverty
wages. It is right that people should have a statuary right to holidays
and a maximum working week. It is right that part-time workers should have
the same equality when it comes to hourly rates. It is right that GCHQ
trade unionists should have their rights given back or they should now
for the first time be a legal member of ....
HUMPHRYS: ...but the point is, and all
of those things, absolutely, all of those things they went along with,
because you were giving them things both the public and they wanted, but
now you see they want more. Okay, you'll say nothing new in that, they
always want more, but they are going to start making life very, very difficult
for you if they say we will have no more PFI projects for instance or we
want to moratoria them, I mean we're going to have a vote now aren't we?
This weekend whether it's going to happen or not, whether the vote's going
to happen in the way we expect it, it's not quite clear at the moment,
but it's going to make life very difficult for you if Conference says we're
ain't going to wear this PFI thing, we hate it.
REID: Well, first of all
you say the trade unions want more, who doesn't want more. Now, if the
job of government was just saying yes to everybody who wants more, it would
be a much easier job than I certainly have found it to be, so it isn't
a case of just saying well the trade unions want more, they're going to
have it. On PFI for instance, what is the starting point we have because
of the values we inherit. It is to say that every child in this country
has the right to reach their potential through education, everyone who's
in pain has the right to have first class Health Service and we are therefore
as a government are putting in a huge amounts of public money, but in addition
to that if we can lever in private money which gives us a hospital today
more people treated today than would otherwise been, better schools for
the kids today we're going to do that ...
HUMPHRYS: Yes, but you have not persuaded
the unions that that is the right way to go about it for all sorts of reasons
which we don't have time to argue about now, we could go on for another
twenty-five minutes on that alone as you well know, and what they're saying
is we are not going to wear it and what I'm suggesting to you is that this
sort of argument is inevitably going to do damage to the whole old idea,
if old idea it is of New Labour, and you risk being seen as the old party
again, because here you are locked in battle with the unions who are still
the paymasters, as you say thirty per cent, but you're ten million down
the tube at the moment, you need another ten million pounds to cover your
debts, and they're saying we're not going to give you that money unless
we get what we want, now this is looking very much like a battle between
Old Labour and New Labour isn't it?
REID: No it isn't a battle
between New Labour and Old Labour. It is trade unions trying to protect,
to the best of their ability, the rights of their workers, and it is the
government saying we will govern on behalf of the whole country. Now as
far a moratorium is concerned, we're not going to stop building schools
HUMPHRYS: No, they've not even suggested
that and you know they haven't .
REID: Well, you raised
HUMPHRYS: No I didn't, they've not suggested
that, they haven't suggested stopping building schools. They've said,
we don't want anymore new ones, that's what they are saying.
REID: Yes, well a moratorium
actually means that you stop what you're doing by definition.
HUMPHRYS: Moratorium of new projects is
what we're talking about.
REID We're not going to
stop doing that, when you go to the, you know the four hundred and fifty
schools that are being modernised and the sixty-eight hospitals that are
either being built or are going to be built. This means a real change in
life for people. I mean nobody tells someone that they have to suffer pain
longer or that their child can't be educated as well as they might be because
people have an ideological objection to the way the money is raised. That's
not going to happen. Therefore people should be under no doubt that the
approach that we have taken all along, which is to get the values, educate
people, take people out of pain. That approach in applying in today's circumstances,
our permanent values will continue
HUMPHRYS: And a final very quick thought
then, it's this isn't it. You're saying we are still New Labour, we're
not wedded to the 'new' word in front of Labour, one day that may go, but
you're saying quite clearly to the trade unions you want to fight, you've
REID: No, I'm not, I'm
saying quite clearly to everyone that if anyone thinks that there is a
future for the Labour Party of this country in the past by clinging to
the old ways where we were out in the desert, in the wilderness for twenty-five
years. They are badly mistaken on both counts. Change will never finish,
we have to continually reapply our old values in today's context and that
is something that will continue indefinitely
HUMPHRYS: John Reid, thank you very much
REID: Thank you John.