17/01/2012 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon. Welcome to the Daily Politics.


The trade unions launch a broadside against Ed Miliband. They're


furious he won't promise to reverse Government spending cuts if Labour


wins the next election. But Red Ed is unrepentant. The most powerful


forces in the land - the Prime Minister and the Daily Mail - join


forces to back a new Royal Yacht. As long as it's not paid for by the


taxpayer. But as Nick Clegg said yesterday, is this a case of the


haves and have yachts? Their lordships vote today on the


Government's cuts to the welfare budget. They've struck down cuts in


the past. Are they likely to do so again?


And attack ads American style. Why don't we have this sort of thing


here? He opposed the Contract with America, raised taxes. But now he


tells us trust me, I'm a All that in the next half hour, and


joining me throughout today's programme is the former Mayor of


the Royal Borough of Maidenhead and Windsor, Shreela Flather, who now


sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords. Welcome to the show.


And as the former leader of Her Majesty's local council, Baroness


Flather may be interested in the recent suggestion that the Queen


should get a new yacht to celebrate her Jubilee Year. Education


Secretary Michael Gove suggested the idea, but told the Commons


yesterday he wasn't in favour of I think the right honourable


gentleman should have been careful to look at the charts and to


navigate out of rocky waters. The letter I wrote to the Prime


Minister on 12th September clearly stated that I agree that the


project for a royal yacht was one, and I was quite clear, when no


public funding should be provided. Michael Gove making his thoughts


clear on the issue of the yacht and whether taxpayers should pay for it.


Should the Queen have a new yacht even if the taxpayers don't pay for


it? I think the time for it has passed and I'd think the Royal


Family itself will feel this is not the right period to get the new


yacht, at great expense, whoever pays for it. We also have to


consider how long it takes to get anywhere by sea. Would she want to


take that amount of time to get to Australia or Canada or one of the


Dominions? It is just not feasible any more. The government, no doubt,


has set out its stall about austerity, we are all in this


together, and then it doesn't seem appropriate. On the other hand,


business people might suggest this would be a good floating embassy


for Rule Britannia. When the Royal Family goes abroad, it costs a lot


anyway, why not have a yacht that you could invite important people


on to? In that case, we should take one of the existing ships and


converted for that purpose, but to provide a royal yacht from scratch,


I did think this is the time for it. I don't think it would look very


good, even to the Royal Family. used to prise the government is


even floating the idea? I am. why do you think they are? It is a


romantic idea. We are very short of romance at the moment. We are all


about cuts and things. It is a wonderful thought that there should


be a new Britannia and it should go from country to country and the


Queen should go on it. The age has passed. The age of ships has passed


as well. If they really want a floating embassy, they could


convert something for the time being, but I don't agree with that.


Let's see if it happens. I don't think so and I think the Royal


Family would be very embarrassed by Now, troubles continue for Ed


Miliband. Len McCluskey, general secretary of the trade union Unite,


and one of Labour's biggest financial backers, has said the


party is on the road to destruction and to certain general election


defeat. He's furious that the Labour leader seems to be backing a


freeze on public sector pay and refusing to commit to reversing


this Government's cuts to public expenditure. Writing in today's


Guardian, Len McCluskey singles out four Shadow Cabinet ministers who


he calls the "four horses of the austerity apocalypse". Liam Byrne,


Jim Murphy, Stephen Twigg and Ed Balls. The Shadow Chancellor


galloped into this political minefield on Saturday when he said,


"We cannot make any commitments now that the next Labour government


will reverse tax rises or spending cuts, and we will not." He said his


comments wouldn't make him popular with the unions and he wasn't


kidding. This morning, Mr McCluskey hit back, condemning this as a


"victory for discredited Blairism at the expense of the party's core


at the expense of the party's core supporters." He goes on to say, "It


also challenges the whole course Ed Miliband has set for the party, and


perhaps his leadership itself." This leaves Mr Miliband in a tricky


position, as union support is vital to Labour. They provide around 90%


of its funding. Although, as many have pointed out this morning, Tony


Blair managed to win a hatful of elections without praise from the


Labour left coming to him on a daily basis. Well, this morning, Mr


Miliband was sounding far from He is entitled to his view, but he


is wrong. I am changing the Labour Party so that we can deliver


fairness even when there's less money around. That requires tough


decisions, it requires tough decisions to put a priority on jobs


over public sector pay, for example. It also requires us to say we do


believe the government is going too far and too fast with their cuts,


but we will not make specific promises to reverse those cuts


unless we are absolutely sure we know whether money is coming from.


I think that is right, responsible and the way we will proceed.


Joining me now is our political correspondent Iain Watson. Is it a


good thing for Ed Miliband to be attacked by a leading union figure?


I think there's a scenario where it could have been helpful. If he is


trying to say Labour has economic credibility, we understand the


harsh economic realities, to have trade unions saying we are not


pleased about that not only creates a row for the media, it also allows


him to distance himself from being in the pocket of the trade unions.


The Unite union was crucial in Ed Miliband's Nehru leadership win.


Where it is not helpful is the language Len McCluskey was using


because it doesn't simply attack Labour's new policy to a -- stance,


he attacks the leadership itself. He says Ed Miliband's own


leadership comes into question. Given that Labour is now behind in


some opinion polls when many give its supporters believe it should be


ahead, and when some MPs are murmuring that they were not


desperately impressed by Ed Miliband's performance, to some


extent Len McCluskey knows what he's doing. He's not just putting


the knife in, but twisting it a little bit. If Len McCluskey


doesn't quite get the idea that Labour is still opposing many of


the Government's cuts, if he doesn't understand that, perhaps


many of the voters might not get that as well and some MPs are


scratching their heads and saying, I'm not sure Ed Miliband has


explained this change in policy clearly enough. Len McCluskey's


intervention is only helpful because we are starting to talk


about it and concentrating on luck -- on what Labour are saying.


With us is Harriet Harman. What is the difference now between the


government's and Labour's policy on the economy? All the difference in


the world. Not according to Len McCluskey. We are against the cuts


that are too far and too fast. is quite wrong for Len McCluskey to


say we are accepting the Government's cuts. We are fighting


the cuts. We fought against the cuts and we will continue to fight


against them in the number of police, educational maintenance


allowance and in the House of Lords today. Why not commit to reversing


them? We are also facing up to the harsh economic realities being made


worse by those government cuts. if you say the cuts are that bad,


they are damaging the economy, reverse them. What we are saying is


that as well as fighting the cuts, we have to face up to the economic


realities as we approach the next election. As the government says,


the deficit must be cut back and therefore those cuts are necessary.


Is that a recognition by you and Ed Miliband? It is a recognition that


because of what the government is doing, the economic situation, grow


flower, unemployment higher, will be worse in the run-up to the next


election and therefore we will have to make our proposals of what we


are going to commit to in the light of those economic realities. Whilst


we are fighting the government cuts now, we are clear they are too far


and too fast, when it comes to the next election and between now and


then, we are going to be absolutely hard-headed and realistic. Why are


you going along with the public sector if pay freeze? Why does Ed


Balls say he can't make any commitments now to reverse tax


rises? Why does Jim Murphy say if Labour were in government, they


would make cuts. There are three different questions. They are all


saying the same thing. They are different points. If one is about


the pay freeze and when we were in government, in 2009, we negotiated


with the unions to have a 1% cap on the pay bill because of the global


financial crisis. We are not opposing the Government's


continuing with that. One of the reason the government feels they


have to continue with that is because the economy is worse than


they predicted as a result of their bad handling of the economy.


are alienating public sector workers if you go along with the


pay freeze. We are prioritising jobs over pay. When it comes to a


difficult decision, tough choices, we are saying that what must have


priority is jobs rather than pay. If you look around the country,


Labour in local government is negotiating with their unions, how


can we make sure we keep our workforce and we don't have to make


too many redundant? That is about keeping a cap on pay and that is


being done through union negotiation. Does that sound like a


coherent economic message going out to the electric? I would say not.


On the one hand, there is this feeling that things are not


terribly good, therefore something will have to be done. On the other


hand, it is criticising what is being done. We don't know what


Labour will do if and when they win the election. But at the same time,


everything is room at the moment. You're having your cake and eating


it and that is how the electorate will see it. If Len McCluskey


doesn't understand your position, you say he is wrong, how will the


electorate understand it? It is complex to say the way you release


the deficit to is not by cutting so far and so fast that you increase


unemployment and you choke off economic growth. I'm sorry if that


is complicated but that is the economic reality. You can't reduce


the deficit by making cuts and savings, which would be logical,


you are saying we don't support the cuts, but we would not reverse them


either, that is not very logical. No, we are saying this scale and


pace of the cuts, and we agreed the deficit should be reduced by half


over four years, but if you go too far and too fast, or austerity is


self-defeating and you make the economy worse. Of course we can't


say now what we were promised in the next manifesto in 2015 because


we have to address the economic realities as they will be at the


time. Can I ask a question? Why didn't your leader say, like you're


saying it now? He did on the clip. He didn't. He didn't say the cuts


at the moment are not the right cuts. He did. Too far, too fast?


you are voter, that is a formula statement. It is not. The reality


is that if you cut so far and so fast that businesses lose work,


that people become unemployed, you have a downward spiral. If you look


at America... I accept that. won't you reverse the cuts? What


you are setting out on the one hand is cuts that have gone too far and


too fast, they are damaging, they are causing the deficit to go up.


If they are wrong now, they will be wrong next year. And the year after


and he should reverse them. By way of example, we have said they are


wrong to cut 16,000 frontline police officers between now and the


next general election. When we get to the next election, we won't


necessarily be able to say we will reinstate all 16,000. We will have


to make proposals based on the economic reality at the time.


you are saying to teachers, widowed and liked the cuts come if you vote


for Ross, I can't reassure you we will reverse them. What is the


voters' supposed to do? It is not true to say wait and see. We


strongly support the work the public sector does. We think the


way they are going about the pay freeze is unfair, we don't agree


with regional pay bargaining and they are making it more perilous


for public-sector workers by kibosh in the economy, by cutting too far


and too fast. I don't see what a public service work it is to do in


terms of choosing between Conservative and Labour. Would you


support the welfare cuts as they are now? The 26,000 cap on families


claiming benefits. His Labour- supporting this? There should be


responsibility for people at the bottom as well as the top. We want


people to be in work. We are fighting against, in the Lords now,


the fact that they are cutting support for people who are still


receiving chemotherapy. Across the board, we are saying the way they


are going about it is unfair and unthought out. Labour said they


were going -- not going to do similar things. Do you support that


cap on families claiming benefits? I think the realities are very


different from what of the Conservatives are saying. The


danger is that they push more people, including families with


children, into poverty, they encourage -- precipitate a


situation where people lose their homes. We think the way they are


going about this is unfair and we don't support their approach on


that. We don't support the Tory approach. Should you have talked to


They have been ongoing discussions. This policy was originally


established by negotiation in 2009. She should you have taught to Len


McCluskey about not promising to reverse the cuts? The retort to the


unions or the way along. But just as we fight the cuts, we have to


face up to economic reality. That is what trade unions themselves are


doing in both the public and private sector.


As we see on an almost daily basis at the moment, government attempts


to reform the benefit system are proving controversial, none more so


than the decision to limit the amount people can claiming housing


benefit. Although it was introduced last April for new claimants, the


Government wants it to start affecting existent tenants from


this month onwards. Opponents say the move will force families in


affluent areas out of their homes, but should the state pay for people


to live in places most of us could not afford?


Flat hunting in central London. Frankly, never fun, and certainly


never cheap. This is Maida Vale. I could not afford to live here,


because renting a two-bedroom flat around these parts will set you


back upwards of �300 a week. And yet some of the people who live up


the road manage it on housing benefit. But they may not be there


for much longer. In the past, the government paid the average rent


for the borough, no matter how expensive it was. But that has now


been capped at a maximum of �400 a week. That has left people living


in places like this with tough choices. We know there are 5000


local families whose rent is now unaffordable for them. It is too


early to know what those people will do. There are different


options. Some will move out, some will choose to overcrowd. There


might be several families moving in together into a single property.


And some will be forced to make a homelessness application, which is


a very expensive and difficult thing for the local authorities to


cope with. So why is the Government doing it? Be for the reform, you


could get up to �2,000 a week in housing benefit, �100,000 a year. A


lot of people who are working hard and perhaps commuting four hours a


day to their jobs might say, how is it fair to people who are not


working to get so much more than me in housing benefit and be able to


afford to live where I cannot afford to live? The government is


hoping, by starting to cap housing benefit, that they will bring down


rents in the private sector at the same time and save money. But is


that likely? I can't see landlords dropping prices. There is not


always a huge demand by private tenants which will continue to fill


those void properties. Tenants on housing benefits will end up being


squeezed out of the area and will have to look further afield to


cheaper areas where they can afford a property. So how far are we


talking? Perhaps somewhere like this, Wembley. It is seven miles


away. It is even on the same tube line. But critics say that is


missing the point. The problem is, this is a national cut in housing


support. It affects nearly 1 million families across the country.


And thousands of families will have to look for cheaper accommodation.


And we have a huge pool of low- income households, or chasing a


decreasing pool of cheaper properties. Everyone thinks


something has to be done about the benefits system. Everyone wants


fairness. The problem? Agreeing on who picks up the tab.


The welfare bill, which looks at this and other issues like


disability and employment allows us, is now going through the House of


Lords. Baroness Flather, this cap we were talking about with Harriet


Harman on what benefits can be claimed, the consequences as set


out by Labour would mean hundreds of families having to move out of


central London to other boroughs where there is already a problem


with housing? We do not know that yet. We do not know how it will


work for them. But it is a question of fairness, as you have said. It


is about a person on benefits living in a much grander place than


we could afford. But they would argue that key workers need to be


close to central London. But they are not working. But many of them


are working. They are not all claiming unemployment benefits.


They are claiming housing allowances. It still has to be a


question of how much they are claiming. You cannot just say it


has to be unlimited. If they are working in Westminster, should they


be living next door? This is the problem. You cannot have people


living in accommodation which would never be possible for them. But do


you accept that the price of that could mean an exodus of people to


outer London boroughs or even outside London? But all young


people are in that exodus now. They cannot afford central London prices.


If benefits provide central London, first-rate accommodation, it is not


fair. Why should the taxpayer pay for people's accommodation? At the


other element of fairness which you have talked-about involves large


families. You have suggested an amendment to stop benefits once


families have four or more youngsters. You have already


singled out Bangladeshi, Somali and Pakistani families as groups having


more children. Do you stick to that? Of course. But it is a


sweeping statement. Absolutely, but people have a lot of children. It


is not just Bangladeshis and Somalis, it is also white British.


And single mothers. I am sorry in a way that I did not get a chance to


mention everybody. But the main point is that people are having


children because they get money for having children. Have you got


evidence for this? Yes, lots of it. The trouble is that people do not


want to come forward to talk about it. Is there an element of you


being allowed to say these sorts of things without much redress?


Because I am Asian? Absolutely. That is why I have stuck my neck


out to say this, because nobody will say it. A working person


cannot afford more than two children. Sometimes they have only


one, because they want to educate them and give them a good life etc.


But a person on benefits can have six or seven children. I think that


is wrong. There has to be a balance between the working person who is


paying for the person who is not working. Do you know how much


support you will get? I don't know. And that is not the important


factor. It is about voicing it in the first place, or write.


Now, we know American politics can get ugly and that US election


battles are often played out on the nation's TV screens. But the race


to become the Republican candidate to take on Barack Obama in 2012 has


shown that you do not have to be on different sides to get angry. Some


of the most aggressive adverts have been made by Republicans about


other Republicans. In a moment, we will discuss with British politics


could head down the same road. Here is a taste of what US viewers have


been seeing. One serial hypocrite exposed. He got paid to go the


other way. Now another has emerged, Rick Santorum, a corporate lobbyist


and politician with a record of Just like John Kerry, he speaks


For thousands of Americans, they are suffering again -- the


suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town of.


We are now joined by Benedict Pringle, an advertising executive


who runs a website called Political Advertising. Isn't this what a US


election is about? They are always personal. It is nothing new. It is


nothing new. There have always been negative attacks in US elections.


Yes, these ones seem to be particularly energetic, but it is


nothing new. What is the point in standing against a candidate if you


cannot say why you should not affect them? We do not see that on


TV adverts. Do you think it could come here? We do not have paid for


TV advertising for political parties in the UK, but we do have


press adverts, posters. And all the famous ones are incredibly negative.


Like the demon eyes, or Labour isn't working. There is a rich


heritage of negative advertising, mainly because it seems to work.


our politicians focus on their rivals? There are many applets, and


it is a particularly good medium, paid for advertising. These are


people within the same party attacking each other, that is the


interesting fact. In the end, does it just discredit the party itself?


Barack Obama can just watch them destroy each other. It is different


because in America, they have a much more candidate best way of


organising themselves. So yes, all these candidates are part of the


Republican Party. But it is not so tight-knit as it is in the UK.


do you think of that sort of thing, Baroness Flather? They are all


rivals. They are all backing for the same position. We do not have


that. If we have a leadership election, it is not done in public.


We do not ask the people to say who should lead a party. It was very


close between Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne. Yes, but not fought publicly.


It is within the party. The constituencies can have their say,


but you do not go beyond that. People do not go saying, I am


standing for leader. Isn't it becoming more presidential here?


Only with Tony Blair. Maybe it will die down now. I hope so. From an


advertising point of view, apart from those who we clearly remember,


it is surprising that the parties do not fully used -- used their


political broadcasts more to attack. They have done in the past. More


often than not, they use it as a platform for its positive message.


But they did mention day of the chameleon, where they boarded out


David Cameron changing his colours. Does it work? Negative political


advertising tends to compress the vote for the opposition. If you are


sending a negative message about another party or candidate, it does


not necessarily turn out well for you, but the chances of you


stopping their supporters turning out increase. It compresses the


vote. How interesting. I did not realise that happened. That could


change certain calculations. We do not like that sort of thing. We are


British. Do you think that is what will stop it coming in? Who can


tell what will happen in 10 years' time? But it is not the thing most


British people think is the right way to go. Thank you for joining us.


That is all. Thanks to our guests, particularly Baroness Flather.


Andrew and I will be back at 11:30am tomorrow ahead of Prime


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