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Interviewing Gordon Brown

Nick Robinson | 13:16 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2007

Martha Kearney, Evan Davis and Nick Robinson interviewing Gordon BrownJust been interviewing Gordon Brown along with my fellow BBC editors - John Simpson (world) and Evan Davis (economics) and World at One's Martha Kearney. Gordon Brown promises an EU referendum "if necessary" - which, of course, begs the question who decides what's necessary. The answer, naturally, is Gord himself.

There are also some interesting exchanges on Iraq, trust, cash for honours, the broken society, tax, control freakery and much besides. You can watch the whole thing at 1700 on News 24 and an edited version on Newsnight tonight at 2230 on BBC2.

UPDATE: Good news. The whole unedited interview will appear here soon after transmission.

FURTHER UPDATE: And you can see it in again at 2030 on Saturday 23 June on BBC News 24.

UPDATE: You can now watch the interview by clicking here, and read my post-interview thoughts here.


  • 1.
  • At 02:33 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Is the unedited version going to be available online anywhere (for those of us who are still at work at 5pm)?

  • 2.
  • At 02:36 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

What was Martha Kearney doing there?

I can understand the rationale behind having the political, world and economics editors together but why on earth was an individual programme - the World at One - present?

Didn't this needlessly dilute the time the 'big three' had to grill Brown in a coordinated and thorough way?

Why not Newsnight, The World Tonight, News 24, World Service etc, too?

Rather than this being a victory for WATO (and them being seen to be doing the big interviews) it actually makes them seem rather desperate and insecure.

  • 3.
  • At 02:46 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • dean yorwerth - stockport wrote:

How many people are able to watch the news at 5pm?

Seeing an edited edition will not provide a picture of the man.

  • 4.
  • At 02:53 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I note Mr Brown's pledge to reduce state control. Looks like Blair will achieve that by giving control to Brussels.

I always find it puzzling that people who desire power seem intent on giving it away at the earliest opportunity.

It wont be long before the prime minister's job is no more important than the leader of a district council.

  • 5.
  • At 02:54 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Colin Stevens wrote:

This interview is too important to be restricted to a single showing on a minority news channel. Like many, I'm at work when it's scheduled to be shown. Although the Newsnight version will be interesting, I'd like the opportunity to see the full interview. Why can't it be made available on digital TV via the red button & on this website?

  • 6.
  • At 02:56 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Oliver wrote:

We were promised a referendum on electoral reform. We never got it.

We were promised a referendum on the single currency. We never got it.

Why should the British people continue to believe these lies? I certainly don't.

How can anyone vote for a party that doesn't even carry out its manifesto commitments?

  • 7.
  • At 03:11 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Brown has learned his lesson on State interference and control freakery. Ah, so that's why I'm going to be ordered to attend a government registration centre to have my eyes and fingers scanned and details entered onto a national ID database.
Government should be accountable to the electorate, not the other way around.

  • 8.
  • At 03:32 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • r.muggeridge wrote:

Very disappointing response from Mr Brown on the EU Referendum issue.
It simply is NOT good enough that after 30 years of post-Wilson Referendum membership & given the continuing vast range of English Public opinion hostile to the EU that once again the Electorate has to wait on the whim of one Political entity.
This is a specific ENGLISH issue. Devolution has created a political legitimacy impasse in the conduct of the 4 nations of the UK; England has been the clear loser upto now. With the EU looming ever larger as a CONSTITUTIONAL THREAT to England it will certainly figure as a major voters' issue south of the border at the next General Election.
Either accept the will of the people or be removed from Office: Your choice.
At present you've lost my vote Mr.Brown.

Will it be as fawning as Andrew Marr's interview?

  • 10.
  • At 04:10 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Gerry wrote:

why is it, just as he becomes PM, Gordon suddenly sees the light and says he's a changed man. I supposed harden labour supporters will believe him, just as they believed his predecessor.

  • 11.
  • At 04:10 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • James wrote:

I do not think it is until Tony Blair is gone our country will understand what it has lost. Having Gordon Brown as our Prime Minister will be an extremely scary time and the sooner we can get rid of him the better. Time to start voting Conservative again.

  • 12.
  • At 04:10 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Oliver wrote:

Millions of us are going to resist that database, Michael, and Brown can't build enough prisons to hold us all.

I'm just wondering if Gordon Brown enjoyed his trip to Damascus, at least he seems to have been on the road to it.

The trouble is I don't believe a word of it. He has been at or close to the reigns of power for a decade now. Why he should change now is beyond belief. The control freakery, the complex tax system, the almost unworkable tax credit system. All are down to one Gordon Brown. Are we really to believe that now he is PM that he will change his behaviour.

  • 14.
  • At 04:49 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Pete 'L' wrote:

I'm assuming that by EU Referendum you mean the EU Constitution issue?
I may be missing something here or simply being dim but when this was vetoed by France the debate in the UK seemed to focus on: -

1. Does the UK have a written constitution or not?
2. Do we want or need one in the form of a European Constitution?
3. Would we want to exercise our veto if our partners all supported a particular draft?

Now I seem to recall being reassured by our political masters that much of the EU Constitution was simply an amalgamation of previous treaty agreements that all partners already supported e.g. Maastricht. If indeed this is the case, and the sticking points relate to other 'new' proposals, then would it not be possible to draft an EU Constitution based on the previously agreed bits, and then insert any additions as and when they were OK'd by all parties? Individual nations could then decide whether or not they wanted a referendum on individual issues and that would be easier for their electorate to understand. Even if the UK agreed whole heartedly with everything in the current draft, trying to get everyone to understand and accept all the proposals is likely to be impossible with people voting 'NO' as they didn't understand a lengthy document and would refuse to support by default.

  • 15.
  • At 04:50 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

"If necessary" is an interesting choice of words by Gordon Brown. Indeed, it does depend. Very wise. The master strategist rules nothing in or out, moving according to the moment as the situation dictates. Some people will agree, some will disagree, some will follow the crowd. This is as uncertain as the wind but the leader appears to succeed by doing nothing, letting the people act as they will, directing with certainty but subtlety. At least, that's what the Tao says.

I have no idea if Gordon and his team have read the Tao but his recent economic initiatives and big picture opinions have a striking similarity. As the worlds oldest treatise on power, economics, and society, the Tao has proven to be remarkably resilient over two millennia. From the rise and fall of nations to average annual economic growth it remains as prescient and relevant as ever.

"A man of the highest virtue does not keep to virtue and that is why he has no virtue. A man of the lowest virtue never strays from virtue and that is why he is without virtue. The former acts yet leaves nothing undone. The latter acts but there are things left undone." Here, there are no right or wrong answers. To rule a particular action in or out ahead of time is a restriction that may prove to cause more harm than good.

Nice effort, Gordon. Keep it up. Glad you're paying attention.

  • 16.
  • At 05:26 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • michael miller wrote:

I hope that David Cameron seeks a right of reply if the BBC is truly "impartial".

  • 17.
  • At 05:50 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • J D Asher wrote:

Grilling? That was like being grilled over a candle.

Just one limp question about devolution.

Absolutely pathetic.

  • 18.
  • At 05:54 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Duncan wrote:

Thoroughly enjoyed this interview - Brown dealt with all the questions in an extremely competent manner including the twisted logic being used to try and stir up trouble over his attempt to bring Paddy Ashdown into a job that he is obviously well suited for.

Well done Gordon - look forward to seeing you perform as PM

  • 19.
  • At 05:57 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Iain wrote:

Of the questions people wanted ask along with tax and pensions bar far the most requested was the West Lothian Question, unfortunately this was reduced to a few questions put by Nick Robinson but cut short by Martha Carney. How can the issue be left un-debated when there are basic issues of democracy and accountability at stake? Brown says no English votes for English laws, and that is it? No questioning, no debate, Martha Carney moves onto another subject.

The West Lothian Question is a major issue, all polls show it to be a major issue with English people, yet it is clear the BBC is unable to give voice to English peoples concerns.

  • 20.
  • At 05:58 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Jim Guy wrote:

I was waiting for the question on a Scottish MP being PM and passing laws which affect English but not his own constituents. So, there was a referendum, really? I've had no say on Scots getting Ł1500 per annum more per head than the English.

His position is untenable!

  • 21.
  • At 06:00 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Richard Warner wrote:

Gosh Brown is a heavyweight. I'm a Tory and so is my wife. Watched the whole interview and was really very impressed. He has a phenomenal intellect and immense grasp of pretty well everything.

Apart from sitting there thinking what a relief it was not to have to listen to Blair's evasive spin, I was struck by wondering what on earth the Tories thought they were playing at by attacking Brown for all those months.

This man is a heavyweight Prime Minister. I think we may see him still in office after the next Election. A very very impressive interview.

  • 22.
  • At 06:07 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • John Kinson wrote:

So Brown says that Scots can please themselves whether they get rid of tuition fees for everybody but the English. We have tuition fees in England solely because Scottish MPs voted for them even though their own constituents were not affected.

  • 23.
  • At 06:09 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Seren wrote:

Well done, Gordon Brown. A relaxed and assured performance against vigorous questioning. You have been Britain's most successful Chancellor. You have the opportunity to be Britain's greatest Prime Minister. Appreciate the way you are trying move beyond party politics to bring in talent from other political parties. Let's have a more unifying politics.

  • 24.
  • At 06:33 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • R King wrote:

Same old Gordon Brown, one acception the smile he is trying. This is the man for the last ten years has controlled our lives from taking as much money of us, to telling us how to live our lifes. Now he expects us to forget about the past and think of the future..Only one problem he is not the future and never will be.
As there is no differents between the two main parties on policy ( brown stealing Camerons clothes, or trying to) both fighting for the centre ground, the next election will be fought on who can best lead this country into the future, with modern views and plenty of aspiration
and charisma does help.

  • 25.
  • At 06:41 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • mike wrote:

* 12.
* At 04:10 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
* Oliver wrote:

Millions of us are going to resist that database, Michael, and Brown can't build enough prisons to hold us all.

No you won't,you will all go along as before and do what you are told.

  • 26.
  • At 07:01 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Col. Mike Black-Feather wrote:

Brown stated in today's BBC News 24 live interview that it is "a good thing" that Iraq is now independent, and it's a "good thing that people have a right to vote".

I'm glad Brown agrees that it is a good thing to be able to vote, because we in England seem to have lost that right. We didn't vote for Gordon Brown to become Prime Minister. We need to become independent. Call a general election.

Col. Mike Black-Feather
West Sussex

  • 27.
  • At 07:07 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • L Stephens wrote:

A Scots windbag. Competent but boring. Will turn off most voters who are not actively political. Evasive and disingenuous over tax and West Lothian question and there were signs of irritation with further pressing on questions he didn't like.
It all goes to show that for all Blair's many faults he was an amazingly charismatic communicator, a real presence as an individual in the world of international politics. Thatcher and Blair could be linked, Brown and Heath.

  • 28.
  • At 07:29 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • waldo wrote:

Everyone I talk to in the real world in England is really angry that Scotland can afford those things which are denied the english.
It is all down to the unjust subsidy paid out of english taxes and to which the Barnet formula no longer applies.
Yet no one in the G Brown interview felt it needed an answer,New Labour will never win another election while this continues, plus his answer to the Lothian question will almost certainly be a minus.

  • 29.
  • At 07:42 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • waldo wrote:

Everyone I talk to in the real world in England is really angry that Scotland can afford those things which are denied the english.
It is all down to the unjust subsidy paid out of english taxes and to which the Barnet formula no longer applies.
Yet no one in the G Brown interview felt it needed an answer,New Labour will never win another election while this continues, plus his answer to the Lothian question will almost certainly be a minus.

  • 30.
  • At 07:56 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • r.muggeridge wrote:

re: Ian, "...the BBC is unable to give voice to English concerns (Scots MP as Pm, no English only vote..West lothian etc.).."
So, the BBC did not address the question on most English voter's minds! Well, if you can recall & point out the last time the BBC's supposed 'impartiality' in any way alluded to the 'English Question', i.e. why the huge majority of tax-payers of the UK, since Devolution, are disenfranchised in the London based Parliament, then you have a much longer memory than I & millions of others!?

  • 31.
  • At 08:54 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • phil.coles wrote:

Colonel Black-Feather ( is that a real name )perhaps has forgotten ( which no doubt suits him )that after Thatcher, Major was foist upon us first time also..Great interview,plenty of life and ideas from Gordon,who knows one day he may be as big a global statesman as Tony.good Luck G.B

  • 32.
  • At 11:20 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • tony goodman wrote:

Having watched the edited highlights on Newsnight I felt that GB pontificated and obfuscated as usual and trio of interviewers repeatedly let him of the hook.

Europe - we can have a referendum if the red lines are breached - but he will decide were the red lines are placed.

West Lothian question - so anything that goes on in Scotland is ok because there has been a referendum on Devolution - sorry, did anyone in England get a vote? If the Scottish Government spend money in one area then they have to cut in another - except the Barnett formula gives Scotland more funding per capita than England - This situation is nothing but discrimination and GB's position as an MP for a Scottish constituency gives him no authority to lead a Government in taking decision applying to England and Wales (as opposed to the UK)

Taxation - he screwed us, but it ok because he told everyone he was going to have a review. And btw was the income generated from the increases in NI hypothocated to the NHS?

Dissapointing performance from the interviewers, GB - for all the gloss we aren't getting clear answers, only soundbites approved by the focus groups.

  • 33.
  • At 11:47 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • B Smith wrote:

It remains to be seen whether Scotland can afford the "things which are denied the English". The Scottish National Party are more of a worry to the majority of Scots than a man of Gordon Brown's intellect should be to the English, or indeed the UK as a whole.

Gordon Brown put our economy on an even footing and it has grown over the last ten years. How many of you remember the economic recessions under the previous Conservative administrations? How many of you remember the 3 million + unemployed under Margaret Thatcher?

If Gordon Brown applies himself to the role of Prime Minister the same way he approached his job as Chancellor, then we should be in very safe hands.

We shall all be able to make an informed decision at the next General Election. I just hope that the electorate doesn't vote against him purely on race.

  • 34.
  • At 12:57 AM on 23 Jun 2007,
  • Joan wrote:

To reply directly to L Stephens (no. 27 above. )Well, yes, he is a bit boring - I yawned loudly twice during this interview - the question is- does it matter? I don't remember yawning once during a Tony Blair interview and look where that got me. And you. If I was intending to marry Gordon Brown, or go out to dinner with him or acompany him on a long train journey, 'boring' would matter. But from a PM I want somebody hard working, intelligent, honest, decent and etc. Gordon Brown seems to me to have those qualities. If I can live in a decent country that isn't dominated by spin, sleaze and contempt for the ordinary person I'm willing to get my excitement elsewhere. Yawns apart I enjoyed the interview. I wish him well.

  • 35.
  • At 01:31 AM on 23 Jun 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Let me be straight to the point on my assessment of Gordon Brown. Do I like him? No I don't. Do I think he will make a good PM? Surprisingly, yes I do. Why you may ask? Well I may not like the man and I do have to agree that he is extremely boring but I have a real respect for this man. He may not have kept all of his 'promises' or many thing that he has said that he would do, but it really does take a stronger man to admit that they were wrong and to change their mind. Many people that have worked with him have him have said that he is difficult to work with and will not listen to their views. I don't believe that this is true. I think that he won't simply be swayed by one persons viewpoint, rather listen to many and then make his own descision. Finally, and I believe the younger people especially will agree with me on this, I believe that it was both right and extremely brave of him to ask Paddy Ashdown to be in his cabinet. The majority of parliament is too busy putting opposition members down and do not give enough recognition to those members that they really do respect. Paddy would have been very good for the job and it is a shame that he couldn't have swallowed his pride, like Gordon has, and did what was best for the people of Northern Ireland. All the best Gordon, and I wish you all the best.

  • 36.
  • At 09:39 AM on 23 Jun 2007,
  • Oliver wrote:

No I won't, mike!

  • 37.
  • At 10:51 AM on 23 Jun 2007,
  • Neil Sterrett wrote:

To the most difficult questions Gordon Brown's reply was always and simply " i cannot not agree with that"
Pathetic responses and as it has already been stated he continually showed how tetchy he can be when faced with questions he does not like.

  • 38.
  • At 12:49 PM on 23 Jun 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

It is clear to anyone who reads this blog, the Have Your Say pages and various other web sites, that the growing anger in England over the unfair devolution arrangements in the UK is a political time bomb. The excessive funding received by Scotland (when their own parliament has tax-raising powers which it chooses not to use), and the right of Scottish MP's to vote on English matters, often being used to force through expensive and unpopular measures which will not apply to their own constituents, is untenable. For Gordon Brown to simply dismiss it so lightly is a huge miscalculation which serves to make him look both arrogant and out of touch. The English (who have to pay the lion's share of devolution costs through taxation) were given no say in the referendum which was only held north of the border. This has nothing to do with dislike of the Scots, good luck to them if they can get better public services, but is has everything to do with equality and democracy.

Every voter in England should write to their MP demanding to know if they will suppport a restriction on the right of MP's from Scottish seats voting at Westminster on English matters which for Scotland have been devolved, and for the Barnett formula to be scrapped, all home nations getting an equal share per head of population from the UK exchequer. Threatened with the loss of their seat at the next election if they oppose such changes may concentrate a few minds on the question. If Gordon Brown finds himself unable to vote on domestic issues in England, having already lost the right in Scotland, he may well realise what a giant dog's dinner the present devolution settlement really is.

  • 39.
  • At 02:03 PM on 23 Jun 2007,
  • John wrote:

I think on the west lothian question you could have been a bit sharper. You put it in terms of unfairness over the disparity in payment of higher education and his response was basically that such decisions where taken democratically at a local level. Devolution was decided by vote and tuition fees were then decided by regional elected governments. You then came back with the question about him as PM taking decisions on policy that would never effect anyone who directly elected him and he said he recognised the possibility that the constitution might evolve and that he would be sensitive to english voters.
The point might have been more forcefully made by following up the first question on tution fees by accepting that in scotland fees are set in a democratic manner but in England they are not (in terms of constitutional theory). A majority of english MPs could be in favour of removing tution fees but could be out-voted by scottish MPs voting against.
I think the issue is not about the PM being Scottish; it is more to do with whether his Majority in the commons depends on Scottish MPs votes (when the legislation is "England-only"). Perhaps he meant he would be sensitive to that situation. Personally I'd rather depend on my vote than a politicians ability to be sensitive. I hope that's sensible rather than cynical.

  • 40.
  • At 09:50 AM on 24 Jun 2007,
  • Iain wrote:

Malcolm, part of the reason English people are now constitutionally second class citizens is the result of our supposed representatives being so completely useless and failing to fight our corner. Having English votes for English laws will not address this situation, for the lobby fodder will continue to do as they are told by the Executive, and if that Executive is Scottish run, they will do what their Scottish masters tell them to do. The only workable solution is to have English interests embodied in an institution, and that means having an English parliament.

Unfortunately though this debate that is much needed, its not a debate we are likely to get, for two of the British political parties are run by the Scottish Raj, and the other, the Conservatives are still trying to support a Union which has gone. The only other area where this debate might come from is if the media run with it, but again, as we saw in this interview with Brown, the BBC has institutional problems of its own in giving English people a voice.

  • 41.
  • At 10:36 AM on 24 Jun 2007,
  • John Atkins wrote:

Gordon Brown does not understand what is going on in the great outdoors.

He says in his BBC interview that in reducing top down government, "He will involve ordinary people in HIS decisions".

He has not understood that what is required is to let the decisions be taken as far down the tree as possible and for the decisions to be those of ORDINARY PEOPLE not his

  • 42.
  • At 09:09 PM on 24 Jun 2007,
  • Dave L wrote:

Less state control ? Less government ? and please less Gordon Brown as well !!

He gets such an easy ride in TV interviews I just switch off or switch over these days.... reckon he will be as rivoting as John Major when it comes to Prime Ministerial tele appearances !

Will he drop his catchphrases like 'prudence' and the now classic 'we have found additional government money.... ' Nice ! I like governments to spend 'their' money and not waste any of ours !!

  • 43.
  • At 11:05 PM on 24 Jun 2007,
  • ed corbett wrote:

Watched the interview with interest,This is the new Gordon Brown,well dressed smarly turned out and with full on answers to many of the questions,quite impressive.However I note that to many questions we had several
"I don't accept that " answers from Brown.This and his tendency to "Obfuscation" suggests that basically nothing has changed ,by any other name it's still called spin.
Ed Corbett

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