My interview with Nick Robinson, Today programme, 1st September 2016

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Click here to listen to the full interview (starts at 1:48)

NR:                Morning to you                       

EB:                Good Morning            

NR:                I looked at your Twitter profile this morning not a mention of the fact that you are or were or ever had been a politician. So how do you see yourself no? Player, spectator, celebrity gameshow contestant?

EB:                Well yesterday I got home at one in the morning after recording the first live show for Saturday night for Strictly. I spent the day on the phone with our Chief Executive at Norwich talking about the transfer window

NR:                Because you’re Chairman of Norwich City

EB:                And also preparing for this interview so quitter a lot of juggling, wuite a change from my past life. But after 20 years in politics it’s good to do some different things and try out some new skills

NR:                But in the book you have had a word or two to say about politics so let’s begin with that. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership style is described in the book as a leftist utopian fantasy. What do you mean?

EB:                I was making a broader point than just about Jeremy; I was talking about what we are seeing in America with Bernie Saunders and with Donald Trump. An issue of left and right and saying that it is a complex difficult world in which populations are angry incomes haven’t risen people are worrying about identity the globalisation of labour and there is a tendency for some to pedal a simple solution and say look we can just solve the problem its all the fault of the bankers, or immigrants, or a neo-liberal conspiracy or welfare scroungers and I don’t think that’s enough I think people won’t in the end trust a simple solution but they also won’t trust just caution people need to know there is going to be change but it’s got to be a change they can trust in

NR:                And yet are you prepared to accept that maybe you helped create Corbynism, you say in the book that maybe you didn’t deserve to win the last general election and that look you are really not prepared to admit that Labour spent too much in the past because you don’t believe it but frightened to make big bold promises of spending a great deal more

EB:                I think that in the end the electorate decides and the electorate decided that they didn’t think we were ready to be in government and that’s a choice which we have to accept and they did so because in the end when it came to the crunch and I think elections come down to this the centre ground vote has to decide will they take the risk on change and they decided with us the risk was too great

NR:                But you understand why Labour members, many who have joined now, they wanted something, a banner if you like that they could march under. They wanted to be excited they wanted to believe that you would be very different and they ended up concluding that you were just a pale imitation of the Tories

EB:                I am afraid it’s a great delusion in a constituency like mine to think that people who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 and went to the Conservatives in 2015 did so because they thought Labour wasn’t radical enough. In the end it was a matter of trust on the economy and whether we would spend the money wisely. But I am afraid that in the election campaign those adverts that said that said that Labour would be in hock to the SNP who would determine our spending priorities in the end that was a thing which was such a problem for us because people thought in the end will Labour, will Ed Miliband be tough enough in the face of those kind of pressures and they decided that we wouldn’t be. But the idea we weren’t to left wing enough I am afraid is just nonsense

NR:                 And Ed Miliband who you tell us called you how many times during the general election campaign?

EB:                It was for Ed to decide how he ran the election campaign

NR:                Twice in the entire period

EB:                Yeah twice and I would have preferred it if it was more. I’d rather have been on the inside of that strategy

NR:                I’d assumed you’d speak at least every day possible several times a day in an election campaign. You are saying twice during the entire campaign

EB:                Different people do things differently in the year of Brown and Blair even when their relationship had become difficult when it came to elections everybody came together and they were speaking once more than once a day that wasn’t the case in our election campaign

NR:                Just before we talk more about you personally a word of advice for your former colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Many as you know are thinking of a breakaway, not a formal SDP split, but if Jeremy Corbyn gets re-elected, which as the figures suggest that he will, of saying well he’s not really our leader we didn’t really vote for him, we sit on these benches on our own with our own leader. Good idea?

EB:                I think my advice would be that would be a disastrous thing to do. I think one of the messages of my book is that to walk away from challenges is a mistake. You have got to stay round the table whether that’s in Europe arguing your case, whether that’s as a minister when you don’t get the job that you want, you have got to stay and prove that you can make the change and I think at the moment people would think it was crazy for people to walk away from Labour’s history, its tradition, its values. I say stay in and continue to fight to make the Labour Party the voice of working people in our country but I don’t think that can be done from the extreme  s

NR:                So not even, briefly, not even a breakaway with a which is not a new party but just sitting on the benches as the Parliamentary Labour Party. Saying we’re the we’re the real representatives?

EB:                Look I think we could be facing a general election in months and I think the Labour Party is going to have to think hard about how it organises for that. But I think at the moment to walk away from our responsibly as MP’s and as a party to be an effective opposition when we have got such big decision to make on Europe, I think that would be a terrible thing to do

NR:                You talk about the messages in the book, I think what’s striking having read it is it exposes a vulnerable Ed Ball. It exposes a much wider man; you know you talk about your marathon running and your enthusiasm for sport and your enthusiasm for baking that we saw in the British bake off and not dancing we will come to that in a second. But on the stutter for example, many people remember you being taunted when you got your speech wrong in a particular budget debate was it a hard thing to admit publically, that there was actually something literally in your brain that contributed to that?

EB:                It took me a long time to realise that to talk about my stammer publically was part of the solution for me rather than something which would expose me. I think it was in this very studio when Sarah Montague asked me did I feel I had let people down in that statement response that I said well actually it’s just because I have a stammer its part of who I am and I can’t deny that but I don’t think that it makes any difference I can still do my job. I think one of the things that I wanted to say in the book is that none of us are perfect, no one gets 10 out of 10 in political leadership and what you have to do is be open about what you are good at and also the fact that sometimes you have to learn and sometimes you have flaws and I think to talk publically about that is helpful

NR:                Well you wrote this book before we knew about this [Strictly Come Dancing music]. The Strictly theme tune of course. Got to ask midlife crisis going on here?        

EB:                Definitely a midlife crisis but I think you have got to embrace it and enjoy it and I am having a great time I miss the purpose of government and politics but a new challenge, I enjoy a challenge and this is really really hard

NR:                 Can you actually dance?

EB:                I don’t know yet

NR:                I think a few of us have seen you on a disco floor but the idea of a kind of formal cha–cha-cha or the waltz

EB:                Well I can do line dancing but unfortunately there’s no category for that. I’m quite worried About the jive because my hips don’t really move in quite the right way but I’ll have a great professional partner, I’ve got three weeks to train. It’s a chance to say that politics is about human beings and that those of us who come out of politics in my sort of retirement faze I can do new things and its quite exciting but we will see whether I get to something big again in the future but in the meantime what could possibly be bigger than going on Strictly

NR:                It’s a bit harsh to say it but you were fired by the electorate rather than choosing to retire. You’re not yet 50, the truth is people are seeing a different you now there just a little bit of you which thinks you know what in a year or two five ten who knows your still be young. I’ll come back?

EB:                Well there are lots of politicians who lose and try and come straight back but that’s not what I’ve decided to do. I’m out as you said because the electorate deicded that, I’ve got a chance to do some new things, some exciting things, some challenging thing, some risky things. To write a book which says to my 27 year old self what I would like to have known when I started, to tell my mother-in-law why it was important to do politics and I’m having a good time and we will see what happens in the future but back to politics I think it’s pretty unlikely


Posted September 1st, 2016 by Ed