21/06/2011 Daily Politics


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Morning, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics. He says it is not a


U-turn on sentencing policy. Perhaps the Justice Secretary knows


another way of turning a car around quickly. They were the worst of


times, they were the worst of times. Is there any point in being middle


class anymore? And could separating an MP from his dog be a breach of


All that in the next half hour. And with us for the duration George


Galloway, former MP for Glasgow Kelvin and then Bethnal Green and


the former leader of the Respect Party. The Arab Spring has yet to


turn into Summer in some countries across the Middle East. Long-


standing governments have fallen in Eqypt and Tunisia, there has been


violence but no regime change in Bahrain and Yemen. In Libya,


Gaddafi clings on. While in Damascus, the Syrian President


remains defiant, blaming widespread violence and unrest on saboteurs


armed with sophisticated weapons. More than 1,000 people have so far


died and thousands more have fled to refugee camps in Turkey.


Yesterday in a speech to the Syrian parliament, President Bashar al-


Assad made some vague promises of reform - a National Dialogue to


listen to the demands of legitimate protestors. But that has not


impressed the opposition. It is a part of the world you know well. In


2005, you praised Bashar al-Assad as the last Arab ruler. You


describe him as a breath of fresh air. I do not think I was the only


one. Up to a point. I was not alone in that. Everyone felt he was a


breath of fresh air, British- educated, British wife. Tony Blair


was all over him. He stayed at Buckingham Palace. He has had 10


years to reform and he has not done it. He has probably left it too


late. He has had three speeches to address the unrest in the country


and he has failed. For those who want to see his downfall, I would


say, be careful for what you wish. One characteristic of Syria is that


it is a remarkably potentially explosive place with Arabs and


Kurds and Sunni and Shia. It has always puzzled me, particularly on


the principle the apple never falls far from the tree that the British


Foreign Office, and other commentators, yourself, or gave


this guy the benefit of the Dove. My feelings were different from the


Foreign Office in this respect. I support the Syrian stand on Arab


national issues, on Palestine for example. It refuses to sign a


surrender peace with Israel. It demands its land back. It continues


to support the Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese for


that matter. Even though he was a pressing his own people? That is a


paradox. His own people had a lot fewer freedoms than Palestinians


have in Israel. I do not think that is true. The Palestinians are under


illegal military operation -- occupation. I think there should be


up by national state. Do you think Israel has the right to exist?


state has a right to exist. It is a political formation. Russia has the


right to exist but not communist Russia. What am arguing for is by


National state of Israel-Palestine, Palestine-Israel were all the Jews,


Christians and Muslims live. It would not be a Jewish state.


work for an Iranian TV outfit in London. Is it true when you


interviewed the ruler of around you began by saying, I require police


protection in London from the Iranian opposition because of my


support for your election campaign. I mention this so you know where I


am coming from. Her had not known I was on trial today. I thought you


wanted my expertise on Syria. We could quote some things from Fox


News. The short answer is, at no. I, like ABC, supported the fact that


he won the election. I did not support his election in any way.


said, because of my support for your election campaign. I could


give you my 1000 if you show me a tiny bit of support for his


election campaign. Did you say that? I said my support for the


outcome of the election. I mention this because you will know where I


am coming from. That is right. a big supporter of yours, I want


you to know that, before I begin the interview. It is very


conceivable on Fox News, you think because you support and are


associated with the right wing drivel that nobody will cast that


up. I knew the way you would reply to these questions would be playing


the man rather than the ball. are playing the man, Andrew. You


did not even have the grace... if I come on to your show, I would


answer your questions. You did not tell me this was the sort of


interview it would be. You should be ready for anything. I believed


you when you said you wanted to talk about Bashar al-Assad, dogs in


Parliament and sundry domestic matters. More fool me. We will


leave it on that. It is now time for our quiz. The question for


At the end of the show, George will Now, these are austere times and


nowhere is the financial pain being felt more than in the Daily


So we're incredibly grateful to Her Majesty's Government for its


consistent behaviour. And this morning they have again filled the


air with the stench of burning rubber. Which allows us to recycle


our favourite graphic. Theses U- turns may be costing the government


a lot of money but they are saving pots of cash here. Here's Anita


with the details. The Government published its Green Paper on prison


sentencing in England and Wales in December last year. Justice


Secretary Ken Clarke said the aim was to break the cycle of crime.


But another goal was to save money by cutting the number of people who


are locked up - Mr Clarke argued that for many criminals prison is


costly and ineffectual. The biggest change would have seen sentences


halved for defendants who plead guilty early. The proposal caused a


row - made worse when Mr Clarke suggested that some rapes were less


serious than others. The plans were backed by Nick Clegg but David


Cameron was unhappy and a partial U-turn was mooted. The 50%


reduction would be limited to minor offences. It now looks like the U-


turn is complete. The plan has been scrapped altogether. There will


also be new restrictions on early release. And tougher rules on knife


crime. The changes will please critics who said the Government was


turning soft on crime. But Ken Clarke will now have to find


savings of something like �130 million elsewhere. Here's what the


Prime Minister had to say a few minutes ago. There will be no


change to the current position on early guilty pleas in any category


of case. The money that would have been saved would be saved through


greater efficiency in other parts of the ministry of justice Budgett.


That was the Prime Minister. This is David Davis. Welcome back to the


Daily Politics. If it looks like a U-turn, talks like a U-turn, I


suggest you it is a U-turn. It is a U-turn that is a good U-turn. They


put out a green paper, green peppers are supposed to be the


basis of discussion. This one proposes 50% reductions for guilty


pleas. It was a bad idea. People would have been on the streets more


quickly. The other ones would have been piling criminals who would


continue their lives of crime. The Prime Minister did the right thing.


Didn't Ken Clarke have a point which was swept away by tabloid


newspapers? For a lot of people, prison does not work. There are


categories which I do not think have been mentioned this morning.


Prisoners with psychiatric conditions who should be insecure


wards rather than prisons. Hopefully that will happen. One or


two other categories. The primary proposal that people would take


more community sentences rather than prison sentences in the hope


it would get a better rate of rehabilitation does not stand up.


Part of the reason he was doing it would save money. He has to save


over 100 million from his part of the Budget. Where does the money


come from? I hunch is, you have got about 11,000 foreign prisoners in


UK prisons. It is an extraordinary number. I suspect, I know they are


trying very hard, to come to arrangements. Judges will have


something to say about that? They may. There is nothing -- wrong


about sending people back to their own countries, the French back to


France for instance. Two prisoners come to -- from places where Louis


would argue human rights were in danger? If that were the case, you


could send 11,000 back. They would be lucky if they get 5000. That is


a lot of money. It would cover most of the issue. The Prime Minister


said this morning before we came on air that he had covered some other


sentences by life sentences. He said life is popular - people know


what is meant by a life-sentence. I put it to you that people do not


know what is meant by a lad sentences. I do not know what a


life sentences. In many cases, I do not know. It is a term of art is


what it is. The other issue which is important as well, which was up


for grabs in a green paper, was the idea of an indeterminate sentence.


You keep people in for a length of time to be sure they are safe. That


has also gone. That is the nearest thing we have now to the old-


fashioned idea of a life sentence. You are not lead had until you are


safe. Is there not a case, as happened under the last government


and has happened and have this one, will try to get penal policy on the


treats -- cheap? We do not see what is going on inside prisons. We put


people away. We have still got Victorian slums, or the modern


equivalent, in pretty bad conditions which become colleges of


crime. The sensible policy would be to build bigger and better prisons


where people were treated with dignity, serve their punishments


but also be given the help to get back on to the straight and narrow


when they got out. You are right in one respect. The previous


government tried to do things on the cheap. For example they


multiplied by 20 the number of people who had suspended sentences.


31,000 of them are still on the streets. Quite a lot of that is


cosmetic justice and not real justice. You are right but we need


to do more in prison. The point about the Green Paper was the idea


of making prisoners work. A typical prisoner is in his twenties. He


does not read, write, he does not have the skills to hold down the


job. He is probably on crack Cockayne. He steals from his mother


to feed his habit. All of those things have been let happen. None


of this is happening because of overcrowding. Whereas you can't


What you describe does should be as expensive, but not as expenses by


as having the biggest prison population and the highest


reoffending rate in western Europe, which cost society more, both in


the re- imprisonment of the people but also in the crimes and


devastation left behind. I am four fixed-term penalties, I am not any


kind of liberal. They should be strong penalties, but you should be


able to work a discount downwards from good behaviour and application


to education. The more you train and educate yourself, the better


you behave, the sentence would slowly go. You are right, the cost


of being out of prison for a professional criminal is 10 times


to society the cost of being in prison. But one of the problems


with the discount system is everybody gets it. George was


saying you have to work for the discount. David would not know this


but the others on the front bench of the Tories would, it is more


expensive to keep a man in prison for a year then to send a boy to


Eton. Do you send your boys to Eton?! A point well made.


Aren't you worried that your government is getting a reputation


for you turns? You are now facing this confrontation with the public


sector unions, something nobody in this Government has ever had to


place. Of course there is an issue. I think if the Prime Minister


thinks he has got it wrong first time he should change his mind. But


there is an issue about vested interests, who approve most


progressive policies, they would suddenly feel more muscular as a


result of these changes and some of the people defending government


policy might feel less inclined to do so. I did what the Prime


Minister hanging on desperately to a policy when he thinks it is wrong


-- I don't want the Prime Minister hanging on.


Home-ownership, foreign holidays, sending the kids to university or,


indeed, to Eton. But as we feel the pinch, are these middle-class


aspirations moving out of the reach of those on middling incomes? We


will debate that in a moment, but Here is a question - how do you


know you have become middle class? You wake up and smell the coffee.


According to the pollsters, you know you're middle-class when you


enjoy nothing more than a nice cafetiere of freshly brewed filter


coffee. But what with rising taxes and falling house prices, cuts in


benefits, tuition fees, dodgy pensions, is there actually any


point being middle-class any more? Recent research suggests more than


70% of the electorate think they are middle-class. Right now, they


are under pressure. I think being middle-class has got a whole lot


harder over the last couple of years. Our survey shows that 46% of


people who self to find his middle- class say that it gets harder and


harder these days to make ends meet -- who define themselves as middle-


class. But two groups which are hardest hit are the bargain hunters


and the squeezed once. Those people really feel their family finances


are on the edge and they could tip over to the wrong side at any point,


they are very emotional about it, they are not whingeing, they really,


really feel things are difficult. It is a bit dreary being middle-


class right now, but last time I looked, it was not much fare being


anybody else, really. Why should we care? I think to be middle class is


the finest day you can being. If you value reading, family,


stability, keeping the law and paying your tax, all those


unglamorous things that make society work, you have the rich


with their fancy lawyers and the poor who do not pay so much tax. If


you are concerned about what goes into the Treasury, you'd better


look after the middle class. If you are feeling the pinch, help is at


hand. Actually, I think the middle classes are in a very, very strong


position to be domestic servant to the rich, because they could be


tutors, my son, for instance, in his gap year, is cleaning up as a


tennis coach to the brick nations and all his friends are tutors. You


can still make a living, you'll be pleased to hear. That is a relief.


It is easy to poke fun at the concept of being middle-class, but


it is something most voters either are or aspire to be. Politicians,


ignore them at -- at your peril. Mary Ann Sieghart from the


Independent joins us and George is still with us. Do you cried tears


for the middle classes? Jimmy Durante he said I have been rich, I


have been poor, being rich is better. Being middle-class is


definitely better than being amongst the working class or, worse,


a month those who have fallen out of the class system and are long-


term unemployed and desperately poor. I don't quite tears. If I


pretended to, you would see through it -- I don't cry tears. If you


take the middle classes out of welfare of -- support, they will


find things uncomfortable, but people on lower incomes will find


poverty. A George is right, it is always worse if you are poor.


Imagine, I am agreeing with you! But that is not to say middle-class


people are not feeling very, very stretched at the moment. The median


income in this country is �20,800 a year, it is not huge. When you see


newspaper editors inveighing against attacks on the middle


classes, they are talking about top-rate taxpayers, only the top


10% of income distribution. feel the squeezed middle exists?


The squeezed middle exists. It is roughly either side of the median


income. Those people are very squeezed. They are losing tax


credits, prices are going up, wages are not going up as fast as


inflation, they are seeing real wage cuts, life is very difficult.


The party the EU were once very much associated with, what do you


make of their appeal, do they understand it in the way that Mary-


Ann does? We need a definition of middle-class that we can agree with.


I don't think they are the people on �20,000 a year, that might be


Mary Ann's definition, it is not mine. That is middle-income. You're


talking heads, some of them known very well to me, a long-time friend


of mine, one of them, they are not living on �20,000 a year, or even


five or seven times that. We need to be careful about what we mean by


middle-class. But there is no doubt that mortgages are at an historic


low and have been for an historic length of time, so the more you are


into the mortgage market the better, relatively, you are doing. The


people looking for a council house, for example, have never found it


harder to get one. Your long-term friends, you don't


think, know where the middle class is. But those people making policy


for a party, banking and electoral future on this, do they understand?


Does the Miliband camp understand the squeezed middle? They are


having to appeal to the whole country, having to attend to the


loss of support among us to... And this is what Blue Labour is all


about, the loss of support amongst working-class people. Would I be


right in saying maybe it is expedient to fudge it a little bit?


National parties competing for power in the nation, you have to


have something for everybody. Because nobody admits to being


upper-class any more, the definition of middle-class... Very,


very few people at the very top... You know, these people earning


�100,000, say, they are certainly at the very upper end of the income


distribution, but because nobody admits to being upper-class, the


definition of middle class has gone far too far up the income stream.


You would say middle class is... From the median rate to...? Below


the top rate of tax. Basic rate tax payers. It is not about money. I


learned a very, very much more than that, but I am still working class.


So is Andrew. How are you working class? You are winking. How are you


working class? It is difficult to define but easy to recognise. I


feel socially inferior to Mary Ann Sieghart, for example. You a much


more than I do. It is not about learning. I know she looks down her


nose at me, even though I am very much more than her. It is much more


complex than money, class. If John crust -- Prescott can be middle


class, I don't see why George can't be. He was definitely wrong about


that. I would love to revisit this, fascinating. Then queue for being


with us. Now...


By did you write that? I did not! Are cats middle-class or working-


class? What a segue! A very bad one!


I know you know a thing or two about feline behaviour, George. It


seems Larry the Downing Street cat has been working very hard. The


Prime Minister revealed in a radio interview yesterday that he is a


smashing mouser. Busy eradicating the rodent infestation in Number


Ten. He is a good mouser. I think he has


got three. He has caught three mice, verifiable.


Larry is not very keen on men. He was a rescue cat and I have a


feeling he had some bad... He loves all the women but he is a bit


nervous of the men at Number Ten. Familiar enough, he liked Obama.


Obama stroked him and he was all right with him. But he is doing


well. -- funnily enough, he liked Obama.


Concentrate! That was Larry the Downing Street


cat. For reasons of impartiality we could not have done an item about a


cat without mentioning dogs. The Conservative MP Matthew Offord is a


dog man, such a dog man Matti wants to take his dog Max to work. The


parliamentary authorities will not let him. He intends to use human


rights legislation. Just as well we have not got a depression, a war in


Libya, that we can get to these important issues! Matthew joins us


now on his lonesome. Why just Parliament? If you really took this


seriously, wouldn't you want legislation that allowed people to


take dog to work wherever they were? You are over-egging the


pudding a little bit. Never on this show! The whole issue arose because,


in jest, I said to somebody who kept quoting health and safety,


under Article 8 I had a right to a family life, including my dog.


are you doing this because you would think you out to discredit


human rights legislation? Human rights legislation has discredited


itself. One thing which has emerged over the last couple of days is


that there are thousands of people using the Human Rights Act and


Article 8 to ensure they are not removed from this country. What is


more important to you, getting your dog into Parliament or discrediting


human rights legislation? Addressing the human rights


legislation... Discrediting, I said. Addressing and removing it. As a


former BBC employee, I know that you need a pet to get an issue one.


The dog is being used, you don't care if he gets into Parliament or


not. He could be kept at home, endlessly, unloved, because you are


trying to prove their point rather than trying to getting into


Parliament? As a serious politician, it is about the Human Rights Act.


The number of people using Article 8 to prevent themselves from being


deported, many after they have committed serious crimes. Have you


favour of human rights legislation. He might be, but it does not apply


to him. But the import of point is article 8 and the �12 million we


are spending on people using Legal Aid to defend themselves on article


8 in this country. You are lonely without your dog? An MP is never


lonely. Have ours! He is called Patch, look after him. To the MP


for Barking?! A quick thought, George? Working dogs only. The best


dog story I ever saw, the week before we broke up for the 97


election, David Blunkett's dog leads him into the chamber and led


him to the government side, uncannily aware that in just a few


weeks' time Labour would be the Government. True story. Not a


shaggy-dog story. He is so nervous about being seen a photograph with


our dog that he has put it behind the sofa.


We will get the dog back, we are We will get the dog back, we are


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