BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 29.09.02

==================================================================================== NB. THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT 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 ==================================================================================== ON THE RECORD RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE DATE: 29.09.02 ==================================================================================== JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. Has New Labour run into the buffers? That's the question we'll be raising here in Blackpool at the Labour Party Conference. We have our own survey of opinion in the constituencies and I'll be talking to one of the cabinet's strategists, John Reid. We'll also be reporting on the pressures Washington is exerting on members of the Security Council to back its new resolution on Iraq. And... that row over A levels rumbles on. Now the government's given itself a clean bill of health is the opposition backing off? That's after the news read by Darren Jordon. NEWS HUMPHRYS: America needs support at the United Nations for the war it wants to wage on Iraq. And they're not afraid to twist some arms to get it. And the government say there was no pressure from them to downgrade A levels. Are their critics convinced? But first, the Labour Party spent a decade persuading the country that it could be trusted not to turn Britain into some sort of socialist state. The pillars of Old Labour were demolished and replaced with the New Labour project. Out went any notion of trade union domination. Out went old-style nationalisation. Out went the old tax and spend policies and out went unilateralism. No more being soft on defence. But all that had been effectively achieved by 1997 and Labour had a new edifice... a new set of policies. And the voters liked them. But now it's beginning to look as though the new structure is getting a little shaky. The trade unions want to bring back some of those old policies. I'll be talking about that to the Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid after this report from Paul Wilenius. PAUL WILENIUS: Tony Blair brought the Labour Party out of the political darkness. He created New Labour, to show to the British voters that Old Labour was gone. Out went its negative image as a high tax, anti-war, union-dominated party - never to return. That's what he hoped. Now that highly successful political brand of New Labour may be in danger from its very own party. CONSERVATIVE PARTY ELECTION BROADCAST: New taxes, new job losses, new strikes, new mortgage rises, new lighter sentences and the break-up of the United Kingdom. New Labour - New danger. WILENIUS: In 1997 the Tories tried to demonise Tony Blair. Their controversial campaign implied that behind his appealing smile and image, was the red glow of Old Labour. Although the Demon Eyes' message didn't succeed then, now it may start to resonate as any drift to the Left in the party poses a growing and gathering danger to New Labour. DAVE PRENTIS: I think the Labour Party itself and the government have realised that the New Labour experiment that has gone on now for six years hasn't delivered everything that they thought it would do, and that perhaps they've got to come back to traditional values as well. PHIL WOOLAS MP: If we pretend to ourselves that we've converted the English public to being full blooded socialists then we are deluding ourselves. Slowly and surely, the values in this country's politics are changing, but we haven't got there yet. DENIS HEALEY: I warn you there are going to be howls of anguish from the eighty-thousand rich people. WILENIUS: There were squeals of delight from the party when Labour Chancellor Denis Healey said he would tax the rich until the pips squeak in the nineteen-seventies. It helped create the image of Labour as a party of high taxes, which contributed to four humiliating election defeats. It took nearly twenty years to persuade the electorate it could once again be trusted on tax and the economy. However, this year, Labour's old-style tax policies began emerging from the shadows. There was less stealth and more openness. Chancellor Gordon Brown slapped a penny on tax, through higher National Insurance Contributions, to pay for a better Health Service. And it's not just Gordon who's opening up this political Pandora's box. Even Tony Blair's talking about redistribution of wealth. Here in North Durham Labour Party activists are gathering in the local working men's club to discuss the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool. But their mood is markedly different from in previous years, as they now want the Labour leadership to start listening to their views. So what do you all feel when you heard Tony Blair use the "R" word - redistribution of wealth? UNNAMED MAN: I'd certainly have no problem with paying more tax. I mean I feel we earn a living, we demand the services, it's part of our remit to pay for the services and if I can get better education for my children, better services, you know from health care, better anything, I am more than happy to pay my way. WILENIUS: On The Record asked two hundred and two of the four hundred and eleven Chairs in Labour held constituencies if they support further rises in taxes to fund better public services. One hundred and eighty-nine said yes, only six said no. PRENTIS: I think we've definitely won the argument that taxation should pay for public services. And I think the way in which the Labour Party won the last election, on a platform of improving our public services and also paying for it through public expenditure, I think that was accepted by the electorate. JAMES PURNELL MP: The danger of talking about redistribution is that it could be misunderstood on both sides. It could be misunderstood on the Left of the Labour Party, as a green light to go back to tax and spend or on the right, as a return, as a way of attacking the Labour Party on the sort of grounds they used to in the eighties. But actually the challenge and I think the reason that the Prime Minister has done it, is it gives us an opportunity to have that argument, to convince people on the left of the Labour Party that the New Labour agenda is the way of delivering on those values, but also to convince the British country as a whole that the progressive agenda which the Prime Minister is pursuing is the one that they want. WILENIUS: Union leaders filing in to Number Ten for beer and sandwiches with a Labour Prime Minister. Public sector workers on the picket line. The image of unions running the country did Labour terrible damage in the nineteen-seventies. The Winter of Discontent threw Labour ambition on to the political scrapheap for twenty years. New Labour shed that image, but today it's making a comeback. Britain is facing a rash of strikes on the Underground, the railways and even the fire service. Union leaders were feted by Tony Blair at the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party is increasingly dependent on union cash. Now the unions are demanding new laws to improve employment rights and they have the backing of many in the party. When asked - should British trade unions be given employment rights to match other European countries? - one hundred and seventy-six constituency chairs said yes, six said no. PRENTIS: There's no justification whatsoever that our counterparts in the rest of Europe should have better rights and we do really believe that the government should move on employment rights and I will be really surprised, very surprised if the....we don't get approaches from the government to actually rectify some of the anomalies, that we've lived with for many years. WOOLAS: I'm also very conscious that the role of the Labour government and of the New Labour creed is to say to the trade unions, you have your seat at the table, you have a legitimate point of view and we will and have to listen. But if we say you determine the policies, you decide what the law on employment rights is going to be, then we will be throwing the baby out with the bath water and we will go back to the days if we were to go down that course where the electorate said, who's running this country, the people I elected or the trade unions and that's a big, the biggest danger of that lies there for the trade unions. WILENIUS: A defining moment for Tony Blair was the ditching of Clause Four, which committed the party to State ownership of industry. Instead he embraced pro-market philosophy and eventually endorsed the privatisation policies driven through by Lady Thatcher. His controversial move gained critical support from the electorate and traditionalists in the Labour Party accepted it too. But now support for privatisation has been derailed. Railtrack hit the buffers and was reclaimed by the State. There have been renewed calls for re-nationalisation of other privatised industries. And now there are union demands for a moratorium on the use of private companies in the provision of public services, such as health and education. In fact, the Labour leadership faces defeat this week on the use of PFI, or Private Finance Initiatives, to deliver public services through the private sector. UNNAMED MAN: I'm very against PFIs, I think we are building up a problem for the future because they are built for profit. If someone is going to put money in, they want a good return out of it and in future generations this will go on for perhaps sixty years, paying for a hospital at a much higher rate than we would by providing the funding now. UNNAMED WOMAN: I don't fully support everything that Dave was saying, you know being totally opposed to all private finance initiatives because a lot of things that are happening, certainly within the County Durham, could not be happening at all if we weren't using Private Finance Initiative. WILENIUS: When asked should the government call a halt to any further Private Finance Initiative contracts, seventy-nine constituency Chairs said yes, ninety-two said no. And when asked if privatisation had reached its limit, a hundred and forty-three constituency Chairs said yes, forty-one said no. PRENTIS: In our motion we're highly critical of the government policy of using the private companies. We're highly critical of what's happening around PFI and we're very critical about what is happening to our members. Many low paid workers, mainly women workers, are being pushed into private companies so that they can make profits from them. And we'll take that argument into the Conference, we will be pushing our motion to a vote and we expect the Labour Party Conference to go along with the proposal that we're putting forward, that there has to be a major investigation into the use of PFI. NEIL KINNOCK: I really think that the trade unions ought to reconsider their position and say whether they don't want the immediacy of access to investment expenditure and say too, how long they're prepared to wait until these absolutely critically important improvements in hospital building for instance, and in education development, to take place. I'm certainly not willing to wait, I'd rather get on with it, using a combination of private investment and public resources, which is actually what is being done. PRENTIS: Within unions and my union in particular and we are the biggest affiliates of the Labour Party, there are questions being raised about our link with the Labour Party. Questions along the lines of you know, how can you be funding a party which privatises your members? How can you be funding a party and our members be adversely affected by the policies of the government and I think the, you know we do have a selling job within our own union over the, over the coming year to keep the links that we've got. I believe that the union will stay with the Labour Party, but what has happened by the difficulties that we've had over the last six years, it has meant that we've had to review our link and to actually look at the reason for it and whether or not, you know, we ourselves get value for money from that link. WILENIUS: The Ban the Bomb marches of the 1950s and '60s were a visible display of the pacifist streak running deep through the heart of the party. Even Tony Blair was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. But the policy of unilaterally scrapping nuclear weapons became an political millstone. It took three electoral defeats before the Labour leader Neil Kinnock was able to ditch the policy which made Labour look weak on defence. Now the pacifist element inside Labour is getting more vocal, this time over the threat of war with Iraq. The anti war protesters were active outside Parliament last week preparing for yesterday's huge demonstration in London. Those calling for peace have the backing of many in the Labour Party. They've also got the support of Labour MPs, Ministers and even members of the Cabinet. The scale and depth of opposition to unilateral action is shown by our survey. Asked if Britain should join the US in a military assault on Iraq, even if there is no clear sanction from the UN, only eighteen constituency chairs said yes, one hundred and sixty-seven said no. CHRIS SMITH MP: If I am asked in Parliament to support the deployment of British troops in Iraq without a specific United Nations' mandate to do so, I would not be prepared to vote in favour of such a measure and I think there would be many others of my colleagues who would share that view. WOOLAS: The biggest danger to any government in a situation which might involve military action in my view, is that if the belief were to take hold, that that government was being directed by the forces within its own political party, rather than what is right for the armed forces and for the country as a whole, then the electorate will punish that government very severely indeed. WILENIUS: The danger for Tony Blair is that the old image of Labour as an anti-war, high tax, union-run party is beginning to creep back. If he takes on the forces gathering behind him, he could end up in a damaging battle with his own party. But if he gives too much ground, he may prove to the voters that the Demon Eyes attack was right all along. HELEN JACKSON MP: I've been around in the party for a long time. I joined in 1962 and helped in Harold Wilson's constituency. And I never really liked the term New Labour, I didn't feel 'new' myself, and so far as I'm concerned, I'm a long standing member of the Labour Party. I think the important thing is that time moves on. KINNOCK: I never used the term New Labour, I just think that there's an eternity of values, which clearly have to be adapted in changing dynamic circumstances, a political party that doesn't adapt to change is a dead party, I think we are witnessing that with the Conservative Party at the present time. And there was a period when the Labour Party, went through such a, a veil of tears, but I've never been bothered by the use of the term new, the adjective new, obviously it had a limited shelf life, as the word new always does. WILENIUS: There have always been those in the Labour Party who considered its re-branding as New Labour to be nothing more than a marketing ploy. But others wanted to abandon the Labour of the past completely and transform the party to its very soul. This week in Blackpool we might find out whether the ghost of Labour's past is about to resurface, and haunt the new face of Labour. HUMPHRYS: Paul Wilenius reporting there. JOHN HUMPHRYS: John Reid, has the notion of New Labour - emphasis on the "New" obviously - reached the end of its useful life? 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 years... HUMPHRYS: No, I didn't say that, I didn't say that. REID: know is a fundamental misunderstanding... HUMPHRYS: Yes, but I didn't say that. 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... HUMPHRYS: ...oh... 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 have to... 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 voted Tory... 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, 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:'ve mentioned, you made that point, yes. REID: ...all of those things have been in the grain of what we have done... HUMPHRYS: explicit. REID: ...if you are saying, well you didn't articulate those values throughout, although they were there you didn't... HUMPHRYS: certainly didn't articulate the value of redistributing wealth, absolutely you didn't, now you are. REID: ...perhaps we didn't. HUMPHRYS: Okay. 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... HUMPHRYS: ...right. 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 I heard... HUMPHRYS:, no I didn't suggest that. 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: 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 that, yes. 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:, 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... HUMPHRYS: ...sure. 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 education... HUMPHRYS: ...sure. 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 past 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 and hospitals. HUMPHRYS: No, they've not even suggested that and you know they haven't . REID: Well, you raised the question... 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 got one. 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. JOHN HUMPHRYS: America and Britain have drafted a new resolution for the United Nations that would mean war with Iraq unless Saddam Hussein accepts a deadline of seven days to allow UN arms inspectors to go about their job and another thirty days to tell them where all his nasty weapons are stored. But the other three permanent members of the Security Council (Russia, China and France) are uneasy. It needs a veto of only one of them to halt the resolution in its tracks. By this weekend the draft should have been agreed - and it hasn't been. As Iain Watson reports, America is piling on the pressure ... offering carrot AND stick. IAIN WATSON: While George Bush and Tony Blair say they want a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis, it's becoming clear that preparations for war are continuing. The Americans are stepping up their presence in the Gulf, while both the UK and the US want agreement from the united Nations that Saddam will face military action if he doesn't disarm. but as memories of the 1991 Gulf War fade, the International Community appear reluctant to fall into line behind the Anglo American vanguard This trophy of war was captured in 1991 during Desert Storm. But British intelligence have found that it has a rather chilling modification. Down here, a barrel of chemicals could be attached; the chemicals would then be sucked up through this pipe which runs the full length of the vehicle; the chemical agents would then be expelled through the system's exhaust as the tank cut through enemy lines. Now no-one should be surprised that Saddam has the capacity to wage chemical or biological warfare, but many in the International Community remain to be convinced that he poses a clear and present danger AHMED ABOUL GHEIT: We do not feel at all threatened by any, anything I mean anything for, for from Iraq. I think the episode of 1990 is behind us. WATSON: And a former Foreign Secretary is warning that Saddam may be a greater danger if he's provoked SIR MALCOLM RIFKIND: If the whole purpose of American intervention is regime change, getting rid of Saddam, then he's got nothing to lose. You can't deter him from using any of the powers at his disposal, because the alternative from his point of view is even worse. So the risk has to be, and it's more than a possibility, it's I think a likelihood, is that faced with defeat he would launch an attack on Israel with chemical missiles, the Israelis would feel obliged to respond, and what was an American Iraqi war would become a Middle Eastern war WATSON: In 1991 more than thirty nations joined the coalition against Iraq, but this time not nearly as many countries are keen on military action. The US and UK want to broaden support. and are putting a resolution before the UN Security Council which would give Saddam one last chance to allow weapons inspectors unfettered access to his country. But agreement is far from certain. Although British officials have told On The Record that the wording of the US and UK resolution is designed to maximise support, it appears to be too hard-line in its present form to get backing from Russia, France and China - the three remaining permanent members of the UN Security Council. The Draft Resolution would give Saddam seven days to declare what weapons he has and to give a commitment to disarm, and thirty days to allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country. Failure to comply with the resolution will lead to the use of 'all necessary means' against Iraq -a euphemism for military action. The Iraqis have already said they'll oppose the US and UK resolution as currently drafted, but the British government say tough talking is the best way to ensure a peaceful outcome. MIKE O'BRIEN MP: The paradox of this is that the tougher the resolution, the greater the chance of avoiding war because if he gets a clear message from the UN that you must not breach international law or else there will be consequences, then hopefully he will allow the inspectors in, and he will disarm, he will get the message in other words. WATSON: But the hawks in the US administration see the resolution more as a means of giving a green light to military action; if Saddam doesn't declare - within a week of the resolution being passed - what weapons of mass destruction are in his armory, they say there's no point in even sending in weapons inspectors - it's time to send in the troops instead. RICHARD PERLE: Saddam must give up his weapons of mass destruction immediately. And if he doesn't then, we will be free, the International Community or those members who are willing to bear that burden, we would be free to take action against him for that reason. Now we know that he has weapons of mass destruction, so if such a resolution passes, and then Saddam continues to deny that he has any weapons of mass destruction, he would be in clear violation of that UN mandate. WATSON: But the French have told US officials they would veto any resolution directly linking Iraqi non compliance on weapons, to the threat of military action. they want a two stage approach - a new UN resolution compelling Saddam to re-admit weapons inspectors , and then a further resolution on military action if, and only if, it was clear Saddam wasn't complying. The British Government aren't ruling this out. O'BRIEN: The French are saying they want to see two resolutions, we would prefer to see one resolution, we'll be discussing with the French how we work our way through these issues, the important thing though is that the resolution is a tough one because we must get the message over to Saddam Hussein and moving to a two resolution approach may actually enable us to do that WATSON: But the Americans are holding out for one clear uncompromising UN resolution; and are trying to convince other Security Council members it could be in their economic interest to back regime change in Iraq. This could mean guaranteeing French companies a share in rebuilding a battered Baghdad, while the Russians might like to see some hard cash; they're owed around five billion pounds by Saddam's regime. PERLE: No two countries ever have identical interests and the Russian interest is a little different from ours. Parts of it is similar but they would like to be sure that the significant debt, Iraq's significant debt will be repaid, that may be something that they insist upon. Frankly, I think they're a lot more likely to be repaid by a liberated Iraq than by Saddam who's chosen not to pay them all these years. SIR MALCOLM RIFKIND: Mr Putin will have his price in terms of something he will wish from Washington, I've no doubt Washington will be able to provide that price, and therefore the Russians at the end of the day will acquiesce. The more difficult one to predict is China, if the Arab countries as whole are deeply hostile, then China will join them. If the Arab countries have come in to line, the Chinese will be more likely to abstain. ACTUALITY WATSON: A few days ago George Bush senior was in Britain to commemorate the us and UK standing shoulder to shoulder during World War Two; during his presidency, the two countries built a Gulf War coalition encompassing an impressive number of Arab States. The British now believe progress in the Middle East peace process is a way to re-establish these harmonious relations. O'BRIEN: The Arab countries in the Middle East want to know that the United Kingdom and the United States, regard these issues as important, do see international law here as indivisible, that there are UN resolutions in relation to Palestine and Israel, which do need to be complied with. WATSON: To help build an anti-Saddam coalition the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will raise the prospect of a new Middle East peace conference during his tour of the Gulf States next week. Arab nations are angry that, in their view, Israel has gone unpunished for ignoring the UN by demolishing the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank. They want to see the UN's will enforced here before considering a new front against Saddam. GHEIT: There is a resolution from the United Nations calling for Israel to stop all activities and all measures that are applied in Ramallah and around the compound of President Arafat and that is a problem that has to receive priority and I think the, the Arab group within the United Nations would be doing particularly that, during the next few days. WATSON: During the Gulf War George Bush senior saw American troops joined in combat by several Muslim nations but a highly influential Labour backbencher who has just returned from the Gulf is sceptical that George Bush junior will take a strong enough line with Israel to ensure a repeat performance. CLIVE SOLEY MP: It actually is quite difficult to see whether the United States has the political will to deal with the Israeli question, particularly in issues of fundamental importance like the Israeli settlements in Arab lands, that sort of thing ought to be a very clear no no from the whole International Community, including the United States and they don't seem to be able to deliver that. WATSON: If in the end the price demanded by UN Security Council members to agree a tough resolution on Iraq is just too high for the Americans, then those close to the US Defense Secretary and the US Vice President - the so-called hawks -say it's time to by pass the united nations entirely and take on Iraq in their own right. PERLE: If we cannot get the United Nations to recognise that the United Nations itself is on trial, having failed to insist on implementation of its own resolutions, then I think the United States in its self defence, will have to take whatever action is appropriate to limit the threat from Saddam Hussein. WATSON: Military action? PERLE: Military action. ACTUALITY WATSON: If that's the line the US does pursue the ranks of the anti war movement in this country may grow if Britain opts to remain shoulder to shoulder with the US, rather than the UN. The real danger to Tony Blair's position doesn't come from die hard anti war protestors but from more moderate elements in Labour's ranks- those who would countenance military action against Iraq just as long as the UN gives its approval. The wider electorate seem to share the same concerns of many within the Labour movement; recent polls suggest two thirds of voters would make common cause with these demonstrators if action were taken only by the US and UK, without wider international backing. SOLEY: Military action without the United Nations support and without movement on Palestine, would produce a major problem for the prime minister and for the Labour Party, there is no doubt about that. Frankly I would very very strongly advise don't do it, because I think the situation could get dramatically worse and you could end up with the situation in the Middle East being infinitely worse. WATSON: This fly past is in honor of US and UK victories in war; but the battle both countries are now fighting is a diplomatic one, to convince the United Nations to take a tough line on Iraq. If they fail, and America then decides to go it alone, Britain may have to choose between the special relationship, or damaging relations with the wider International Community. HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting there. JOHN HUMPHRYS: The government has got itself into the most almighty mess over 'A' Levels. Not that it's really anyone's fault, or so they're saying, even though the man who chaired the Qualification and Curriculum Authority has been sacked. But because of the shambles over downgrading some exam results, tens of thousands of papers will have to be re-graded and the government will have to take another hard look at the whole system. The Conservative Party had called for the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, to resign. What are they saying now? The Shadow Secretary is Damian Green. Mr Green, the government has had an independent inquiry as you wanted, concluded that really no one was to blame although Sir William Stubbs has been fired, so you're satisfied now are you. DAMIAN GREEN: No, because what Mike Tomlinson's inquiry said was that he, he acquitted the Secretary of State Estelle Morris of malice, she hadn't directly interfered, but he convicted her of incompetence. He said that the problem lie in decisions taken by the Department for Education and the QCA, the exam watchdog. Now the head of the QCA has gone, the head of the Department for Education is staying. And what we've learnt since that report came out on Friday is that Sir William Stubbs said he explicitly warned ministers that this was a disaster that was going to happen, indeed, Mike Tomlinson's own words, this was an accident waiting to happen. So what we have now is a minister who was warned by her own senior official that if she carried on with the policy she wanted this would result in damage, potential damage to thousands of young people. That's precisely what has happened and I really do think she still should be considering her position. HUMPHRYS: Even though there was no political interference? So you're saying she should go because she's incompetent instead of politically interfering. GREEN: That's right. I mean I think it's the way she's run the department and the effects of that, that she was warned that this was going to happen and yet here we are sitting this week-end with tens of thousands of young people at the end of September not knowing whether they've got a fair 'A' Level grade or not, therefore affecting their entry into university, some of them will have already have gone off to university, they don't know if they're going to be re-graded and maybe they should then accept another university place next year, these are decisions that will affect these young people for the rest of their lives. The system has been messed up by the government and the Secretary of State was warned explicitly that this might happen. HUMPHRYS: So given that that warning was issued by Sir William Stubbs, or we believe that warning was issued by Sir William Stubbs, are you saying that he ought to be re-instated. GREEN: No I think clearly relations between him and the Secretary of State and the department have broken down irretrievably, that in itself I think is something that we should consider when we ask if the ministers involved are fit to do their jobs. But what the most important thing now is to do is to clear this up, try and treat as fairly as possible the young people who have been affected by this, and restore some confidence in the exam system, because if you step back a bit, 'A' Levels have served us well for about fifty years and by reforming them, to use new Labour's own words, which we've been hearing a lot during the course of this programme, the government has completely destroyed credibility in them. We now have, I mean it's interesting, you were talking about tens of thousands of young people, the Department for Education is still putting out figures of about five-thousand people who've been unfairly marked. So we don't even appear to know the scale of the problem yet, let alone how we're going to deal with it, and that seems to me to be the urgent thing that needs to happen over the next few days. HUMPHRYS: But given that there are those structural problems, does that mean that you would get rid, structural problems with the AS Levels in particular which have the knock-on effect that we've seen over the last few months, would you, would the Conservative Party get rid of AS Levels? GREEN: Yes, we said that some time ago, even before all this scandal broke. I said that AS Levels were doing more harm than good because they were putting young people on an exam treadmill after sixteen. I think we do too much examination in this country, I think particularly post sixteen where we're driving people away from other things like sport and drama and music that they should be doing and enjoy doing, and that education has become too focussed just on passing exams, so that's one thing, so I would get rid of them, but clearly long-term, the whole A Level system needs to be reformed. The other immediate reform I think would help would be to give the QCA, the exam watchdog, the same sort of independence that the government gave the Bank of England. I'm taking one of the government's own ideas. I think at the root of a lot of this is the fact that ministers and officials at the Department for Education interfere in grade setting and in exams because ministers feel their political lives are on the line if exam results don't get better and better year by year. That's a nonsensical state of affairs to be in and the way to avoid that is to have a genuinely independent exam watchdog, and that I think should be a matter of urgency. HUMPHRYS: Damian Green, Shadow Education Secretary, many thanks. HUMPHRYS: And that's it from Blackpool, and that's it for On The Record for this week. We'll be back, same time, next week. Don't forget about the web-site. Good Afternoon. 25 FoLdEd
NB. This transcript was typed from a transcription unit 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.