17/01/2012 Daily Politics


17/01/2012

Jo Coburn has the latest political news, interviews and debate.


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Good afternoon. Welcome to the Daily Politics.

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

:00:42.:00:44.

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

:00:45.:00:51.

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

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

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

:00:59.:01:02.

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

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haves and have yachts? Their lordships vote today on the

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

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the past. Are they likely to do so again?

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

:01:15.:01:25.
:01:25.:01:28.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flather may be interested in the recent suggestion that the Queen

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

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Secretary Michael Gove suggested the idea, but told the Commons

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

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

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

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

:02:20.:02:28.

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

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public funding should be provided. Michael Gove making his thoughts

:02:32.:02:37.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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business people might suggest this would be a good floating embassy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:03:59.:04:03.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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freeze on public sector pay and refusing to commit to reversing

:04:48.:04:52.

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

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Guardian, Len McCluskey singles out four Shadow Cabinet ministers who

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

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

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galloped into this political minefield on Saturday when he said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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but we will not make specific promises to reverse those cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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trying to say Labour has economic credibility, we understand the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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desperately impressed by Ed Miliband's performance, to some

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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intervention is only helpful because we are starting to talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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against them in the number of police, educational maintenance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:09:39.:09:43.

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

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

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

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

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

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

:10:05.:10:09.

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

:10:09.:10:12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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financial crisis. We are not opposing the Government's

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

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

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

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are alienating public sector workers if you go along with the

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

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

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

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Labour in local government is negotiating with their unions, how

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

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

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being done through union negotiation. Does that sound like a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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with regional pay bargaining and they are making it more perilous

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

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

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terms of choosing between Conservative and Labour. Would you

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

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

:15:09.:15:13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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different from what of the Conservatives are saying. The

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danger is that they push more people, including families with

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children, into poverty, they encourage -- precipitate a

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

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

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

:16:12.:16:22.
:16:22.:16:24.

They have been ongoing discussions. This policy was originally

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

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

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

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

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doing in both the public and private sector.

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

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

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than the decision to limit the amount people can claiming housing

:16:59.:17:02.

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

:17:02.:17:07.

Government wants it to start affecting existent tenants from

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

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

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to live in places most of us could not afford?

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

:17:23.:17:29.

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

:17:29.:17:33.

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

:17:33.:17:37.

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

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

:17:40.:17:44.

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

:17:44.:17:48.

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

:17:48.:17:53.

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

:17:53.:17:58.

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

:17:58.:18:03.

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

:18:03.:18:07.

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

:18:07.:18:13.

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

:18:13.:18:18.

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

:18:18.:18:22.

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

:18:22.:18:26.

a very expensive and difficult thing for the local authorities to

:18:26.:18:30.

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

:18:30.:18:36.

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

:18:36.:18:40.

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

:18:40.:18:45.

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

:18:45.:18:49.

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

:18:49.:18:54.

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

:18:54.:18:58.

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

:18:58.:19:01.

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

:19:01.:19:07.

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

:19:07.:19:12.

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

:19:12.:19:17.

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

:19:17.:19:21.

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

:19:21.:19:25.

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

:19:25.:19:29.

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

:19:29.:19:34.

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

:19:34.:19:39.

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

:19:39.:19:43.

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

:19:43.:19:51.

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

:19:51.:19:55.

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

:19:55.:19:58.

decreasing pool of cheaper properties. Everyone thinks

:19:58.:20:03.

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

:20:03.:20:07.

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

:20:07.:20:12.

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

:20:12.:20:14.

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

:20:14.:20:21.

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

:20:21.:20:25.

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

:20:25.:20:28.

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

:20:28.:20:31.

central London to other boroughs where there is already a problem

:20:31.:20:37.

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

:20:37.:20:41.

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

:20:41.:20:45.

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

:20:45.:20:50.

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

:20:50.:20:55.

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

:20:55.:21:00.

are working. They are not all claiming unemployment benefits.

:21:00.:21:05.

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

:21:05.:21:08.

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

:21:08.:21:11.

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

:21:11.:21:20.

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

:21:20.:21:23.

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

:21:23.:21:28.

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

:21:28.:21:31.

outer London boroughs or even outside London? But all young

:21:31.:21:36.

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

:21:36.:21:43.

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

:21:43.:21:48.

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

:21:48.:21:53.

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

:21:53.:21:57.

families. You have suggested an amendment to stop benefits once

:21:57.:22:01.

families have four or more youngsters. You have already

:22:01.:22:05.

singled out Bangladeshi, Somali and Pakistani families as groups having

:22:05.:22:10.

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

:22:10.:22:15.

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

:22:15.:22:20.

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

:22:20.:22:26.

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

:22:26.:22:30.

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

:22:30.:22:34.

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

:22:35.:22:39.

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

:22:39.:22:44.

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

:22:44.:22:49.

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

:22:49.:22:54.

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

:22:54.:22:58.

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

:22:58.:23:02.

cannot afford more than two children. Sometimes they have only

:23:02.:23:08.

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

:23:08.:23:12.

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

:23:12.:23:20.

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

:23:20.:23:23.

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

:23:23.:23:28.

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

:23:28.:23:33.

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

:23:33.:23:37.

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

:23:37.:23:42.

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

:23:42.:23:45.

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

:23:45.:23:49.

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

:23:49.:23:52.

of the most aggressive adverts have been made by Republicans about

:23:53.:23:57.

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

:23:57.:24:01.

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

:24:01.:24:06.

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

:24:06.:24:13.

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

:24:13.:24:23.
:24:23.:24:25.

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

:24:25.:24:35.
:24:35.:24:42.

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

:24:42.:24:45.

suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town of.

:24:45.:24:49.

We are now joined by Benedict Pringle, an advertising executive

:24:49.:24:54.

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

:24:54.:25:01.

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

:25:01.:25:06.

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

:25:06.:25:12.

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

:25:12.:25:16.

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

:25:16.:25:24.

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

:25:24.:25:29.

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

:25:29.:25:35.

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

:25:35.:25:40.

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

:25:40.:25:47.

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

:25:47.:25:54.

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

:25:54.:26:01.

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

:26:01.:26:08.

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

:26:08.:26:11.

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

:26:11.:26:14.

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

:26:14.:26:20.

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

:26:20.:26:23.

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

:26:23.:26:29.

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

:26:29.:26:35.

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

:26:35.:26:38.

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

:26:38.:26:42.

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

:26:42.:26:47.

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

:26:47.:26:51.

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

:26:51.:27:01.

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

:27:01.:27:07.

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

:27:07.:27:12.

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

:27:12.:27:18.

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

:27:18.:27:23.

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

:27:23.:27:27.

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

:27:27.:27:32.

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

:27:32.:27:35.

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

:27:35.:27:40.

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

:27:40.:27:44.

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

:27:44.:27:49.

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

:27:49.:27:53.

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

:27:53.:27:57.

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

:27:57.:28:01.

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

:28:01.:28:04.

stopping their supporters turning out increase. It compresses the

:28:04.:28:12.

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

:28:12.:28:17.

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

:28:17.:28:23.

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

:28:23.:28:29.

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

:28:29.:28:34.

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

:28:34.:28:39.

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

:28:39.:28:43.

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

:28:43.:28:48.

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