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«THE ANDREW MARR SHOW” MUST BE CREDITED IF ANY PART OF THIS TRANSCRIPT IS USED THE ANDREW MARR SHOW INTERVIEW: (Presented by Andrew Marr) DAVID ...»

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PLEASE NOTE “THE ANDREW MARR SHOW” MUST BE

CREDITED IF ANY PART OF THIS TRANSCRIPT IS USED

THE ANDREW MARR SHOW

INTERVIEW:

(Presented by Andrew Marr)

DAVID MILIBAND, MP

FORMER FOREIGN SECRETARY

JULY 14th 2013

JEREMY VINE:

Now three years ago delegates at the Labour conference were waiting to find out the result of an intensely fought campaign. David Miliband was favourite to replace Gordon Brown, but in the event younger brother Ed pipped him to the prize thanks to support from the big unions. Since then David Miliband has been biding his time on the back benches, but he’s now resigned from the Commons and is moving to New York next month to head up a big humanitarian charity, the International Rescue Committee. Last night he made a key speech about foreign affairs, reflecting on the experience of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s said little about quitting British politics so far, but this week he spoke frankly to Andrew Marr.

ANDREW MARR:

David Miliband, it’s been a long time since we’ve been talking together and I suspect it will be a long time before we talk like this again because this is the moment when you leave British politics and you move to the US. So my first question is: for how long?

1

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well I think it’s probably wise to get on with the new job, which starts the day after Labour Day …

ANDREW MARR:

Right.

DAVID MILIBAND:

… in a few weeks time before I start contemplating my jobs after that. I think that it’s nice to be on this set because I know you’ve been to hell and back, and although viewers will be pleased to see me maybe - some of them - I think they’ll be even more pleased to see you. And I certainly join them in that pleasure, so welcome back.

ANDREW MARR:

Well thank you for that. Your new organisation, International Rescue, won’t be rescuing me (Miliband laughs) but you rescue refugees around the world.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Yeah.

ANDREW MARR:

It’s a very important organisation. It’s got a very strange political history because it was set up by kind of leftists from America in the 1930s, and you’ve got a family connection to that period of course.

DAVID MILIBAND:

It was set up by Einstein. And it was set up as a charity by Einstein for people fleeing the Nazis. Today it’s got 14,000 staff in 45 of the most god-awful places that are really struggling around the world to provide a home for people, and so it’s a charitable endeavour that goes into crisis zones to make a difference.

ANDREW MARR:

Set up by Einstein. You were always called the brains by people in the party …

DAVID MILIBAND:

2 (laughs) Not in that league.

ANDREW MARR:

… and it’s called International Rescue. The thunderbirds jokes are inevitable and you’ve heard them all before, I’m sure. But one thing that struck me looking up at International Rescue’s history is that in recent decades it’s been more and more associated with the policies of the State Department and indeed the CIA, and one of my questions is whether as boss of this organisation, you will feel that you have the complete freedom to do what you want or whether you will be in any sense a kind of proxy for American policy?

DAVID MILIBAND:

And I can absolutely guarantee you it is a proxy for nobody. I mean any conspiracy theories about the CIA - I don’t know who’s writing about that - are complete nonsense.

ANDREW MARR:

There’s an entire book on the subject, I think.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well it’s not one that’s on the recommended reading list because this is an independent organisation. It’s a humanitarian, non-governmental organisation. It’s in Mali, it’s in Mogadishu, it’s in Syria running not guns or political ideology; it’s running medical supplies into the most desperately dangerous places. And it’s there for a simple reason: they need help. And this organisation is a charitable organisation from right down to its core.

ANDREW MARR:

Turning to your recent speech on international affairs, you’ve talked about two wars which have produced huge numbers of refugees of course - those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Talking about Iraq, you say that the balance of advantage is now strongly negative. Looking back on that war, it was a disaster. You don’t use the word ‘disaster’ but that’s pretty clearly the implication of what you say.

3

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well it’s true that Saddam’s gone, it’s true that the Kurds are safe, but on the other side there has been massive loss of life, massive refugee flows, massive destabilisation and there’s continuing violence. That’s absolutely true. Actually International Rescue Committee is in Iraq helping some of those …





ANDREW MARR:Yeah.

DAVID MILIBAND:

… refugees also in Afghanistan. And I think there are some profound lessons from both of those engagements - lessons about the centrality of political power sharing, of political settlement; lessons about the regional aspect to these conflicts; and lessons too about how mobile, what I call mobile Jihadism, changes the equation in some fundamental ways. And I think it’s important we learn those lessons and don’t draw the wrong lesson, which is it’s nothing to do with us.

ANDREW MARR:

Or, to put it in blunter terms, we were very good at kicking the door down but we didn’t have a big plan for what happened after that.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well we won the war, but didn’t win the peace would be another way of putting it.

And I think that is central and in the end it is political power sharing that is essential to the legitimacy and accountability of any government.

ANDREW MARR:

When you were talking about Iraq at the time of the Labour leadership campaign in 2010, you were much more circumspect. If you’d been saying that kind of thing now, I might be talking to you as Labour Leader.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well to be fair to you and to me, you had me on your programmes and I used very much the same language and the same argument. Actually my position has always 4 been that if we’d known then that there were no weapons of mass destruction …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) We wouldn’t have gone in?

DAVID MILIBAND:

… there wouldn’t have been a war. The peace was not won even though the war was won very fast. And I can remember both in this studio and from Pakistan where you did an interview with me going through exactly the same argument, and I don’t shy away from that. I was in the Government, I voted for it. I’m not running away from that, but I think it’s also important to be absolutely clear about the consequences.

ANDREW MARR:

So when you were very clearly very irritated at that time about people applauding your brother for attacking the war, was that a question of kind of personal honour not wanting to dump on your former leader, Tony Bair, or what?

DAVID MILIBAND:

I don’t remember that. I mean leadership elections are obviously passionate affairs …

ANDREW MARR:

Yeah.

DAVID MILIBAND:

… but the passion was about how do you rebuild the Labour Party as a fighting force that can govern the country. And it wasn’t actually a leadership election filled with irritation. It was actually extremely comradely among all the - even brotherly, you might say …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Up to a point, yes.

DAVID MILIBAND:

5 … among all those who were involved with it. So I think it’s important to be open about that. I continue to believe that the choice that countries like Britain face about how it engages in this much more complex world are fundamental to our economic and political future and we should have those arguments out.

ANDREW MARR:

Because moving onto the next war, the Afghan War, you are almost as pessimistic about that. You say that the possibility of a civil war breaking out is still hanging in the balance and the Afghans could face many more years of war ahead.

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well my frustration is real. I mean I … as Foreign Secretary, I was given the instruction by Gordon Brown to do everything I could to bring that war to a successful close. That was my mission. And the strategy that I had was to argue for a political settlement - advocating talks with the Taliban (secret and open) from the start of my tenure as Foreign Secretary, arguing for the regional settlement with Pakistan and others that’s so important. And the truth is it’s only the imminence of the withdrawal of NATO forces that has led to anything like the degree of commitment to that political solution, and so I think that anyone looking at Afghanistan now would say yes there’s an end date for NATO operations but there isn’t yet the clarity of end game, and that’s very serious.

ANDREW MARR:

So we’re leaving it in a terrible mess. To all those people looking back at that very, very bloody, seemingly endless war, which has cost Britain - never mind anywhere else - so much life and blood and treasure, was it worth it?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well it’s certainly worth it if you are one of the Afghan schoolgirls who’s getting an education - seven million in school now, one million … less than one million before.

ANDREW MARR:

So we’ve had our fingers burned twice badly - in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Then we turn to Syria and you talk about “international paralysis” when it comes to Syria again a dreadful conflict becoming a civil war, huge numbers of people dying, and at the moment the Assad regime on the offensive successfully. But you suggest the time has already gone past when just putting in a few more arms would actually turn the tide.

DAVID MILIBAND:

I fear it’s too late. I really do. Because I was doing an interview with you 18 months ago saying look, the burden of proof is now on those who oppose intervention because you can see where this is going. Assad is strengthening, the opposition splintering. That’s happened. It’s become a regional proxy war. Now the debate about “arming the rebels” - I mean Douglas Alexander’s made this point well - it’s a bit beside the point because the one thing Syria is not short of …

ANDREW MARR:(over) Is guns, yeah.

DAVID MILIBAND:

(over) … is the right arms, it’s not short of guns. The real truth is neither side can win.

That’s what a stalemate is. And the prospect is of a very long-term stalemate with the country divided, with sections of the country being training grounds for global Jihadism. That’s what the Head of British Counter-Terrorism has now said.

ANDREW MARR:

Let’s turn to the other great crisis at the moment, which is Egypt. Now Tony Blair has defended the military coup on the grounds that millions and millions of Egyptians wanted a change of government. But to a lot of people, particularly around the Muslim Brotherhood and so on, it’s going to appear as if the West’s view is we’re in favour of democracy, we’re in favour of free elections until they produce a government we don’t like - in which case we’re happy to have the old guys back.

DAVID MILIBAND:

We can’t just have the old guys back. I mean it will be a disaster of really huge proportions if Egypt 2013 is added to Algeria 1992, Egypt 1954 as cases of the destruction of democratic government because, look, the people who are appealing to 7 the argument that the Arab world can’t have democracy is al-Qaeda. That’s what they say - don’t trust the ballot box. So I think we’ve got to be clear this was a coup; that the entry of Islamist parties, so-called political Islam, into the democratic process is a good thing, not a bad thing; that political prisoners need to be released and genuinely democratic politics restarted in Egypt now.

ANDREW MARR:

You would stand shoulder to shoulder in a sense with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in this great tactical battle of the generals?

DAVID MILIBAND:

(over) Well I think that the real complexity of this is that they staged their own coup last November. They were elected at the beginning of last year. In November President Morsi suborned his own constitution. He put himself above the constitution.

And that’s really what’s precipitated the total collapse of the Egyptian state remember fifteen, twenty million people on the streets. Now I think the key now is whether or not the army fulfil their initial commitment, which was to restore democracy. Political prisoners need to be released …

ANDREW MARR:

Morsi should be released too presumably?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Look, you can’t have a situation where you’re locking up people who want to be involved in democratic politics, however incompetent they may have been.

ANDREW MARR:

Right. And the Muslim Brotherhood given full rights to come back into the process?

DAVID MILIBAND:



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