Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Guardian Questionnaire


* Which of your political acheivements do you think makes you most qualified for the post?

Developing a new approach to politics with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown which made Labour electable in 1997. As shadow employment secretary, I  created our strategy to deliver the national minimum wage, embedding it in our national life so that no government could ever repeal it.

Leading the effort to increase the number of Labour women MPs from 10, when I entered Parliament, to 97 today, (while the Tories went from 13 to 117)

* What should our relationship be with the USA? What do you think of president Bush?

Our relationship with the US should be that of an independent, and where appropriate, critical friend – doing what is best for Britain, while promoting conflict resolution and poverty reduction in the wider world. The great challenges of this century, particularly climate change, cannot be tackled without US participation. We need to draw the US closer to our politics, rather than embracing theirs. Bush’s failure to plan for recovery and reconstruction in Iraq was a huge mistake which has only increased the threat of international terrorism. I just hope Hilary makes it to the White House.

* How serious a problem is global warming and what should we do about it? More nuclear power? Restricting air travel?

Global warming is the greatest threat facing the planet. Left unchecked, it will destabilize the climate, wreck developed economies, wipe out all progress in developing countries, fuel new wars over resources and cause unprecedented mass migration. We must act individually nationally and globally. As a priority the international community needs to develop a post-Kyoto plan based on carbon emissions trading and new technology transfer. No doubt nuclear power will be part of the response in some countries but the critical timeframe for reductions is the next 10 years. It would take that long to build new nuclear in Britain, so our urgent priority must be greater energy efficiency and more rapid progress on renewables. Aviation and shipping are international issues and must be brought into emissions trading. In the long term the only fair way of dealing with our individual contributions to climate change is personal carbon accounts. 

* Are you not ashamed by the Unicef findings on children in this country and what do you intend to do to rectify our abysmal record on this and more importantly, improve the life of children in this country?

I am not ashamed of what we have done to support families with children over the past 10 years - far from it.  but of course we have more to do.  As well as improving services for under 5's we need to have a high quality comprehensive youth service in every neighbourhood and we should act on what parents want - which is to help them have more time for their children as well as a decent standard of living.  that means stronger rights at work for all parents and all jobs to be available part-time unless  the employer can show that job could not be done part time. 

* As leader or deputy leader of the Labour Party how will you win back the core labour voters who have refused to come out and vote in the past few elections?

I will build on my personal experience. In my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham, an inner city heartland, we have built a campaigning party, increasing our membership to nearly 700 over the past four years. Last year in the council elections, against the prevailing tide, we took council seats back from the lib dems. Nationally we failed to communicate effectively and take people with us in making essential structural changes in public services. People ”bank” our achievements and only see new challenges. As Gordon Brown said: ‘The best way to meet people’s priorities is to involve and engage people’ – I’d make that a team effort.

* It’s notable that Labour has particularly lost support among women voters. Why do you think this might be, and what would you do to win back their support?  

Having a woman deputy leader working closely with our team of women MPs women councillors and women in the party and trade unions. setting a target to end unequal pay and tougher laws on domestic violence. 

* Who is the best James Bond?

None of them. Its time to let Miss Moneypenny drive the cars! 


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