Harriet Harman on the Future of the Labour Party at the Book Festival

Harriet Harman on the Future of the Labour Party at the Book Festival

Former Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has welcomed her party’s call for the UK to remain part of the European Single Market and customs union for a transitional period.

“Obviously, the negotiations are in the Tories’ hands,” she said at the Book Festival, “[but] I think we’re broadly all welcoming that Keir [Starmer] is saying [that] we should stay in the Single Market for the transitional period.” But Harman added that her preference was to stay in “indefinitely…I’d like us not to be leaving the European Union."

“But we’ve got to inch our way forward, and I am just hoping that when people realise that we are going to pay in to the EU in order to be able to leave because that is our international obligation…[and that] we were never suddenly going to be able to produce £350m for the NHS, I’m just hoping that a lot of people will actually change their minds.”

Harman, who was twice Acting Leader of the Labour Party, was in discussion with event chair Ruth Wishart about her memoir, A Woman’s Work, and her 35 years as a Member of Parliament.  

She also reacted to newspaper reports that some activists want a “purge” of Blairites from the Scottish Labour Party. “I don’t think that’s generally where the party is,” said Harman. “I think that generally the members of the party want to get on with getting rid of the Tory government, getting rid of the disaster that’s happening now and not arguing amongst ourselves.

“I think there was a broad level of consensus around the manifesto and we made progress here in Scotland, which was incredibly welcome having had such a big setback in 2015, and…I don’t think we need to be, or want to be, derailing that by arguing yesterday’s arguments.

“I don’t think we’ll be having purges of Blairites, nor do I think that we will be having another leadership challenge, I think we’ll be going forward with as much unity as we can muster in the face of a very difficult circumstance for this country.”

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