17/12/2012 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Politics. President Obama


tells America "we are failing to protect our children". But has he


the power to introduce new guns laws following the terrible scenes


in Connecticut? Nick Clegg has been setting out how the Liberal


Democrats will act in the second half of this Parliament. But will


it be enough to stop his party slipping even further behind in the


polls? Is the Civil Service in danger of being politicised? We'll


take a look at Government plans to shake up the mandarins. And 'tis


the season to be jolly. But are Government cuts threatening our


Christmas lights? All that in the hour, and with us


for today is our special guest, the historian and cross bench peer,


Peter Hennessy. But first, America. Last week's


terrible mass killing at a primary school in Newtown, Connecticut has


touched the entire country and indeed the world. The newspapers


today are full of the pictures of the 20 children - most of them just


six or seven years old - and their six teachers, who were gunned down


by Adam Lanza. But this is a nation where many have deeply held beliefs


in the value of owning guns, and the second amendment to the US


constitution makes it very difficult to take them off the


streets. President Obama gave his reaction. The can't tolerate this


any more. These tragedies must end. To end them, we must change. We


will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that


is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the


world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But


that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better


than this. What can be done? Peter Hennessy is here and listening to


all this from our studios in Salford is the former American Talk


Show host, Charlie Wolf. What has he got in terms of power to


introduce new gun laws? If it is one of the great paradoxes that the


single most powerful person in the world can't prevail very often in


their own country, and the National Rifle Association is one of the


most effective groups in the world. The right to bear arms is


instinctive within many American people and I remember when I


visited the United States in 1968, just after Robert Kennedy had been


assassinated. There were calls for gun law control to be tightened,


but the Federal provisions of very inadequate. For someone who really


loves the United States as I do, it is unbearable to see these


tragedies - it is unbearable for anybody, but the constitutional


enjoyment is such that it will make it very difficult even for this


most persuasive of precedence on the back of this unspeakable


tragedy to shift the moving parts in such a way that something better


might emerge. Charlie, the numbers speak for themselves, something


like 62 mass killings since the 1980s. However powerful the gun


lobby is, surely new laws have to be brought in? I think that is a


myth. It is a deep-rooted feeling and a constitutional item. I am not


a gun owner but I do support the Second Amendment and I would not


give up that liberty not very quickly at all. Why not? In our


system of checks and balances, the power rests with the people. The


founding fathers knew that self- defence and the right to bear arms


was a natural more so this is as important to us as the First


Amendment and free speech and the fifth amendment on not being able


to self- incriminate, these are part and parcel of the power,


natural powers that we are endowed with by our Creator. If, in


situations like this, is there and acceptance that there will be more


killings of this nature because gums are in American homes? -- guns.


Not necessarily, I have been reading a study that says this


feeling that more weapons equals more crime, the evidence doesn't


support that. Of the last nine or 12 incidents we have had, all but


the one in Arizona were all in areas that have no gums available.


Connecticut has the fourth strongest come laws in America.


Then why was the home of Adam Lanza, why did it have so many in it? It


had a semi-automatic machine gun. semi-automatic is not a gun. There


were comes in that house. legally have the right to keep


those. It is agreed on all sides that you don't want to see the Adam


Lanzas of this world having weapons. It is a two-track system. On the


one hand you want to make sure the criminals, people there are not


mentally stable, and getting them, but at the same time you want to


make sure that responsible gun owners have their powers


strengthened to make sure they can protect themselves against these


people. How do you do that? It sounds to me like you need laws,


even if it is to limit ownership so that they are not regularly in your


average American house. I certainly think so, but the Federal provision


is week which means you can't keep them out of state. It is a free


flow of movement and the Federal come more is inadequate. We could


hold our governments to account perfectly well in the United


Kingdom without festooning ourselves with weapons. You have to


understand our system and our history. We were under the caution


of your government of King George the Third and we had to fight a


revolution to become free. It is important that one of the reasons


EC governments being held in power democratically is because people


have the power. I don't want to see a modern day Nazi Germany so it


does happen. It is possible even in modern history for these things to


happen so it is important for the American people that we hold the


power. It is a natural right of self-defence. Because one or two


people have violated the law... is more than one or two. It is


still a very small percentage. the basis, would you like more


people to have guns? It is part of a conversation that should be had.


I don't think every school should be made into a fortress, but you


talk about a balance and an assessment of risk. This place had


security in place, a locked door policy but he shot his way in


through a glass door. There needs to be a wider conversation about


culture as well. Over half of the top 25 Gunning incidents have been


in the last 20 years. Something has changed in our culture, and I think


that has a lot to do with reality television, with the fact that


these kids have no empathy any more. You can blow someone up on the X


box and not think anything of it. Thorpe it is difficult to combat,


if that is the deeply held belief of so many Americans to have this


instinctive right. President Obama doesn't stand a chance if he wants


to change that. He is running against feelings that have been


powerful since the 18th century, but Charlie, we haven't threatened


you since you beat us in the war of independence. Our country has been


attacked physically with a scattering of bombs in the Second


World War but we don't have the same mentality is you. Can you


understand what you look like in your country? You are a patriot,


which has a wonderful thing to be, but can you begin to understand how


bizarre and ghastly these attitudes look to us in Europe? Small


correction, you haven't threatened us since 1812, a small point. 200


years ago, I think. Not that we have forgotten or anything. There


is a cultural difference, and just as we have to respect your culture


over here, you have to respect ours. Watching the coverage over here,


sometimes I think the press are trying to imprint or project their


culture on to America and we are not going to ban handguns, it is


not possible. There is a better chance of changing the laws of


gravity and it is better to look at the wider picture and say what can


we do? It is far-fetched to say they are ghastly the laws. We are


free and sovereign nation and that is what is important. A producer on


BBC Radio Scotland asked if the World Cup pressure America into


giving up their handguns. We are a sovereign nation and that is


paramount to us. Today, Nick Clegg celebrates his


fifth anniversary as leader of the Liberal Democrats. And today, half


way through the expected lifetime of the coalition Government, he's


been setting out how he expects his party to tackle the rest of the


term. Mr Clegg wants to show that act two of the coalition with the


Conservatives is going to be very different, and it certainly looks


like it could be rich with dramatic tension. Act one was all about


showing that the Lib Dems could get on with the serious business of


governing in the national interest alongside David Cameron's Tories


But Clegg is setting the scene for more disagreements with the


Conservatives and even Government policy in the next stage of the so-


called differentiation strategy Mr Clegg will make the point by


claiming to have blocked "draconian welfare cuts", and he'll say he


wants to means-test benefits for elderly wealthy people, something


David Cameron has resisted. At the moment this play seems to be


turning into a tragedy for the Lib Dems, with polls over the weekend


putting them in fourth place behind UKIP. And with local elections due


in the spring, Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes admitted


yesterday that there is a "bit of chatter" about Mr Clegg's position.


Let's have a listen to what Nick Clegg had to say this morning.


is at times like these that Britain needs a party rooted in the centre


ground, which anchors the country there. The Liberal Democrats are


that party. We are not centre ground Tories, the centre ground is


our home. Whilst all the parties Disa at the centre ground under


pressure, the Liberal Democrats have done the reverse. Under


pressure, we have moved towards the centre. Our political correspondent,


Chris Mason, was listening to the whole speech. What struck you about


the speed? Nick Clegg painting in loud shades of yellow, trying to


distinguish himself from the Conservatives and Labour, to say


there is distinct political territory that the Liberal


Democrats occupy. We have also heard the sound buy eight we were


here again and again. -- the sound bite. In terms of coalition, I got


a sense this was clear acceptance that a vote for the Liberal


Democrats is a vote for coalition. Yes, central to his pitch, he


didn't say this in as many words but it is ultimately obvious, that


the Liberal Democrats have to prove that coalition governments can work.


Much of the first couple of years of this government has been about


doing that, but at the same time they have to prove it can work


without leaving their party in a state where it is time the unlikely


they might be part of another government any time soon and


getting that balancing act right is rather tricky. We saw Nick Clegg


using the case-study of welfare reform which matters so much to so


many people because of the extent to which the welfare state matters


in people's pockets every week, to say there is a difference between


us and the Conservatives, and us and Labour. He spoke about the


fantasy world that he felt some of those on the Left occupied. You


could almost say his strategy was trying to fumble for a third way,


but I guess that term has been used With us now is the former Lib Dem


chief executive, Lord Rennard. Coalition, a vote for the Liberal


Democrats in 2015 will be a vote for a coalition government. I think


Nick Clegg was saying that coalition has been difficult for


the Liberal Democrats, but he is spelling out that an overall


majority for Labour or the Conservatives would be a disaster.


He was saying you cannot trust Labour on the economy, the Liberal


Democrats are working for a strong economy. You could not trust the


Conservative Party to protect the vulnerable, they do not support a


fairer society. So vote for the Liberal Democrats to stop the other


parties implementing what they want to do, all the more mad elements?


Certainly, the Liberal Democrats would stop the mad and immense...


What sort of manifesto commitment is that?! I think there are a lot


of people who want to stop the madness of the Conservatives and


the Labour Party, but there are positive things that people want to


see. They believe the way to a stronger economy is through a


fairer tax system, and the Liberal Democrats have been responsible for


making sure that by next April, people on middle and lower incomes


will be paying �600 per year less tax, and that will be a big boost


to our economy and a fairer society. In terms of differentiation, what


will we see over the next two years in terms of a different strategy


compared to the Conservatives? Lib Dems have first to show that


coalition government can be stable and can be strong and can take


tough decisions. Some will say that could not be the case, but what we


will see from the Liberal Democrats is continuing to push for economic


rejuvenation. Which has not happened, you admit, up until now,


so the whole raison d'etre of collision, working in the national


interest, they say they're going to miss all their targets, so that has


not worked. There has not been enough of it, but the pressure for


growth is coming from the Lib Dem side. At the same time, we want to


protect the vulnerable. People who cannot work should be protected. We


want to make sure it pays to work, a principal Labour did not have in


office. Your impressions of the speech, this idea of more


differentiation, and yet the backdrop for 2015 is that you will


get coalition government if U-boat for the Liberal Democrats. Not the


most inspiring message. It is not Mr Gladstone on stilts, is it?


Classic Liberal Democrat territory, which is we are the herbivores of


British politics, not red or blue. My dear friend Chris is the


incarnation of herbivorous values, and that is why everyone is fond of


him. It is fascinating for me, because essentially you have a


herbivorous party in with a carnivorous party. They did it in


the national interest, and I was in favour of the coalition, given the


parliamentary arithmetic of 2010. But it must be a terrible emotional


strain, and I understand the need to differentiate. But the pathway


to 2015, ideas have been floated that the differentiation will take


the form of the coalition breaking up short of that, and I would be


interested if Chris could guide us through the possibilities, a


confident and supply deal? With the Conservatives in the minority for


the last year? Or would it be an attempt to activate that remarkable


mechanism that you have got to go through in the Commons with 66% of


all MPs voting for the end of the government? That really intrigues


me as well. Beyond Nick Clegg's herbivorous speech, the usual


importance Of being Earnest, which he does extremely well, there is


the wider constitutional question, and we have never had to face that


before, because it is new. It is new in the UK, of course, but not


unusual to most of Western Europe. Will the coalition for...? It is a


five-year agreement, and we have a deal to fit in with that. In most


European countries, countries which by and large have done rather


better than as since the end of World War II, have had PR,


coalitions, and it is understood... Better than as in what sense?


Economic growth, delivery of healthcare systems, education. They


have done better than us, and they have done better when it is more


widely understood that parties work together where they agree and also


have differences, as Nick Clegg explained this morning. We often


hear the Liberal Democrat say that a slump in support is the price of


being in government, when is it a price not worth paying? I think in


2015, I hope we will have the leadership debates, Nick Clegg will


be able to say, a lot of things have happened in this country


because we were in government, tax cuts... But at what level of


support, below 10% fairly consistently, UKIP challenging you


for third place, in various polls, when does that become a price not


worth paying for the party and the grassroots members? I did a paper


for Paddy Ashdown in 1988, considering the possibility of


coalition, and I said the Lib Dems might well go down to 10% in mid-


term as a result of coalition. If you look at by-elections, the


elections last month in November, across Great Britain, the Liberal


Democrats gained a seat. Labour lost two, the Conservatives last


eight. In the most recent by- elections, the Liberal Democrat


polling has been dire, I mean it has been. If the Parling position


is where it is now after the 2013 local elections, cannot Nick Clegg


stay? If you look at the results in the Lib Dem seats, we have done


very well fighting the Conservatives. I do not think the


party... So you think Simon Hughes is wrong, chattering about


leadership. There is no chattering about a change of leader. Then


maybe people think, after Nick Clegg, after past 10 years, they


might become leader, but there is no chattering. Why is Simon Hughes


so wrong? He is the deputy leader. The talks to a lot of people, and I


think he has been listening to people saying, we are a great party,


we will hopefully be successful at the next election, and there will


be a leader after Nick Clegg. Everyone knows there will be a


leader after Nick Clegg. So Simon Hughes is wrong. What you say about


the chattering reported, Simon Hughes saying people are talking


about leadership, as a result of these very poor election results?


Well, a lot of people talk about leadership or the time, because


that is what gets activists out of bed in the morning, the muttering,


the drizzle of complaint about life being so war. You can hardly blame


them. All three leaders have them rolling detractors, that is what


political parties are about, a displacement activity for the


disturbed. You should not be surprised that this is in the


background. It is not happening at all, and I know from my experience


as chief executive, when there is chattering, and there was with


previous leaders... It gets beyond chattering, though, it becomes a


roar before leaders go. It has in the past, but there's nothing


significance now. Nick Clegg was saying that the Lib Dems have


curbed the most draconian welfare cuts from the Tories. For example,


the idea that child benefit may be restricted to families with two


children. I think that is a pretty anti-family policy for the


Conservative Party. Also to protect young people leaving home, seeking


a job, so to suggest that you should not be able to claim housing


benefit and a 25, I think that would be wrong, so supporting


families and supporting young people. The Liberal Democrat have


supported every significant government welfare reform. It is an


exaggeration to say there is a huge difference between what Nick Clegg


thinks and what David Cameron thing somewhere fair, the universal


credit, Disability living Allowance, cap one House of benefits, Nick


Clegg is supporting one of those things, it is just a difference of


language. It is a difference of policy. A of those, that list,


which policy is different from the Liberal Democrats? You have listed


those things where we have agreed with the principles of things like


a cap on housing benefit and on welfare benefits. I think that is


fair and good for the country, and most people recognise that it


should pay to work rather than be on benefits. But at the same time


the Liberal Democrats are saying, and the Conservatives may not, if


you cannot work, you should not be penalised. You should be looked


after in work and encouraged us well and support it. We are going


to come back to this a little later. For now, thank you very much.


Who runs government? That question pitching the politicians against


the officials of the civil service has been serious debate and the


birth of magical satire from Yes Minister to The Thick Of It for


years. Today there is a lack of humour about, with signs that the


top officials in this government are getting increasingly frustrated


with the Jan and how the future relationship between the two should


change. -- the two. Giles has been wandering about in Whitehall.


Civil servants and politicians often accuse each other of pulling


in different directions, pointed out practical problems and policy


to Sir Humphrey is part of the job, but to a politician it is just


their way of saying no, Minister. In the season of goodwill to all


men, a distinct air of ill-will has borne into Whitehall. In Whitehall


and particularly here at the Cabinet Office, they boil battle of


chess is going on between the government and the Civil Service.


They are not talking about the little guys at the bottom, although


many have already been removed from the system. We are not even talking


about middle managers, although some have gone as well. No, we are


talking about the people at the top, and the most controversial thing is


that ministers want a say in who gets to the permanent secretaries,


and that, for the Civil Service, is a real problem. Since the election,


17 R 19 permanent secretary is have gone or moved, and plans for


ministerial says so in who comes next have been rejected by the head


of the Civil Service Commission, Sir David Normington, a former


permanent secretary. The problem that the Sir Humphreys and those


who want to defend that culture have is that the current system


does not work. Public administration and those who


preside over it ought to be publicly accountable. At the moment,


they are not, they are a world unto themselves, it is the Civil Service


Commission appointing people from the Civil Service, answering to the


Civil Service. It is a closed shop and needs to be opened up. We are


not dealing with something that is run for and by the Civil Service.


We have a system. Why are people cautious? They are asking why it is


necessary to change and what are the risks. Those seen to be the


politicisation of an impartial system and a weakening of their


perceived role speaking truth to power. They are not meant to be


there as Yes, Minister, saying yes all the time. They are meant to


have a challenge. There is a risk that people will see their careers


being dominated by political process, they will team up with


buddies with whom they have an affinity. How can it be right,


Conservative or Labour, or a government elected by the people to


find that it needs the permission of the permanent officials to make


it happen? We need a system that allows reformers to commend, for


ministers to select senior civil servants who want to make change


happen. But the service Cisse merry-go-


round of minister and official bodies together and dropped into


departments they do not really know as the creation of in permanent


secretaries. For experienced hands, that is a bad mix. The fundamental


problem at the moment is not that he did it does not have enough


volatility, it has far too much movement of both ministers and


officials. This tension in government has switched back and


forth for years, but right now some suggest that tension has developed


the potential to snap. That was Giles reporting, and we


are joined by Lord Reid, who held any number of cabinet portfolios


under the last government. Why does this matter? One of the great


virtues of the British tradition of government which comes from the


Victorian era is that we believe in Crown Service, that up against


elected ministers we have people recruited and promoted on the basis


of merit. What they know, rather than what they believe. This is the


governing marriage which has such does -- which has served us very


well. As that very good film showed, those who get the equivalent of


tenure by being Crown servants, their first duty is to speak truth


and to power, tell ministers what they need to know rather than what


they wish to hear. They do not want little echo chambers, ministers are


all good ministers do not, they do not want people who will tell them


about the beauty of their political thought. Only weak ministers need


what Edmund Dell, a very tough labour minister, called the comfort


blanket of politicised people around them to tell them how


marvellous they are, only the deeply insecure would want anything


other than the Crown said as we have got, and we are in danger of


losing that. I am presuming you are not a deeply insecure minister, but


you said the Home Office was not fit for purpose, the implication


being that the Civil Service had not done their job falls but I was


entirely in accord with my top civil servants. The words are used,


and you quoted part of them, about the deficiency in systems and so on


were provided for me by the top civil servant in the Home Office at


the time. I asked him to be honest enough to give me an appraisal of


the condition of the Home Office when he went in, and he did so, and


that was actually reading what he had written to me. So Peter is


absolutely right, I mean I had nine ministerial positions, eight of


them at the Cabinet, some very tough permanent secretary is,


including David Norman's son, including Richard, who has just


been speaking. And on occasion, of course they would tell me things I


did not like, but only weak ministers blame their civil


servants, and there is a difference in roles. The ministers are there


to lead. Civil servants are there to manage, they are there to speak


truth and to power, there to absorb the technicalities of it, and if


you cannot take people with you, do Would you have liked to say in the


appointment? No, never. You never thought it would be useful to have


a say during Tony Blair's time? if you want special advisers,


people who are politicised, let them be known to be special


advisers, let them be on short-term contracts, and when you go let them


go as world. In the government which I served, it was contrary to


what is implied by the Conservative spokesman, there was cued reform of


the House of Lords, the Scottish parliament, it brought in a minimum


wage, reformed the whole of the public services, and it did that


with the permanent Civil Service, and it did it because ministers


lead. Civil servants are there to manage the direction in which you


move and tell you the downstream consequences. Are you saying they


are never a brake on reform? Never a block? No, the government agenda


should be put forward by ministers, that is what leadership is about.


The Civil Service are there to give a degree of stability, to be


neutral and impartial. I was deeply worried at the beginning of this


government when suddenly it was announced they were getting round,


or it was announced there would be early retirement for the Chief of


Defence Staff. I have dealt with people who are Chief of Defence


Staff, and that is the next step once you start crossing that red


line. Charlie Guthrie, Mike Jackson, you know, these people were not


horny-handed Socialists by any means. I suspect they may not even


sure my political opinions but they were more oil and impartial. Maybe


it does come down to the quality of the top level of the Civil Service.


Is it time to look at wider pool of talent? It is quite a restrictive


process for career civil servants In the civil service reform the UN,


the idea of greater ministerial say, in the same bit of it is the same


requirement and this will be a temptation for them, that when they


feel they have a gap in expertise and knowledge, they can bring in


people on short-term basis. The danger at is that that will be used


as camouflage for bringing in The problem is a bit wider. The


special advisers are the way to do it, the politicised bid. I have


always been a great believer in then knowing things, rather than


believing things. What can pay a 23-year-old with a political


science degree teach my friend? Getting in people who really know


the subject is a good idea. What depresses me, Jo, the governing


marriage, there is the permanent Civil Service, the transient


politicians and now at the special advisers. The relationships between


the three parts have never been as poor as they are at the moment. It


is very scratchy, and two and a half years into government there is


a tendency to scapegoat. You blame the press office first, but these


are tossers who cannot do it! Then you blame the career civil servants


if you are an inadequate minister. It is almost choreographed, almost


exactly to the day we have this civil service reform white paper.


Two years into the coalition, blaming the staff. I can understand


it must be frustrating, because it is a tiring business being minister,


and in the Treasury just after the war Hugh Dalton, the Chancellor,


had a great outburst. He caught the Treasury men... You need congenital


snack pandas! It is not that simple, we have been here before, had good


ministers know how to deal with that. The governing marriage needs


serious marriage counselling. They What about the news the Queen will


be an on server in Cabinet? Up they may get some useful contributions


for a change if she is involved. There was advice given by Gerald


Kaufman 30 years ago, and it was very succinct about the


relationship between ministers and civil servants. Civil servants


dislike two things about ministers - one is a minister who doesn't


know what he wants to do. The second is a minister who knows what


he wants to do, but will not listen to potential criticism and


explanation of the downstream consequences. If you get a minister


who knows what he wants to do, can assimilate information, can analyse


it with the degree of intellectual rigour, and communicated in a way


that carries people with him, that his leadership. It sounds like the


Sir Humphrey model is completely wrong then. Thank you.


Now, stop drinking the mulled wine and pay attention. If you hadn't


realised, there's still almost an entire week of parliamentary


business left. Here's what to expect in the week ahead. The Prime


Minister begins his week by updating the House of Commons on


one of his favourite subjects - Europe. Last week a summit kicked a


decision on closer fiscal and economic integration into the 2013


long grass. But finance ministers did manage to agree on the creation


of a banking union within the eurozone. Tomorrow, the Queen will


attend Cabinet as an observer. This is believed to be the first time


this has happened since Queen Victoria's reign. And, in case you


wondered, it is expected that she'll sit beside the Prime


Minister. On Wednesday the Prime Minister and Ed Miliband come face


to face for the last time this year, though don't expect there to be


mince pies and brandy. It's also the day that Nick Pollard inquiry


into Newsnight's aborted investigation into child sex abuse


by Jimmy Savile is expected to be published. On Thursday, MPs pack up


as the House rises. And on Friday, if the Mayans are right, it's the


end of the world. Joining us from College Green outside Parliament is


Kevin Maguire from the Mirror and Emily Ashton from the Sun. Kevin


Maguire, one gay marriage, the backbench rebellion is clear but it


will still pass the Commons, I would hazard a guess. What lasting


damage, if any, will this do to David Cameron? Am sure it will pass


the Commons because a sizable minority, not just a slim majority,


will back this. I think it will cause some lasting damage because


of the depth of the ill-feeling on his own side. It is getting people


out of bed now, his right wing, and we saw him signing this letter with


the House of Lords and some Labour MPs and it will keep on coming. It


is the last bit of that caring, compassionate cream Wash he had


during the election. He has shot the huskies, and it is only gay


marriage he has got left so he can't back off and neither will his


opponents so he will have to crush them at some point. On that basis,


is this David Cameron being brave, doing the right thing as he puts it,


modernising the party even if sections don't like it? It is a


personal call for David Cameron. If he wasn't bothered it would not be


worth the hassle but he obviously feels very strongly about it. It is


a noble aim to push it through, and he will do even if it chokes up


Parliament for months on end. As soon as it gets into the Lords, the


Conservative Peers will not like it one little bit and they are saying


there was no mandate for this. In no manifesto, it was in no


manifesto so they can't force it through. A has there been chatter


about Nick Clegg's leadership? There has been for some time. I


don't want to say there will be a challenge, but the Liberal


Democrats know they are struggling. Some polls show them in fourth


place. We will be going to the general election in just over two


years and they are struggling to give themselves a clear definition.


Nick Clegg gave his speech today, wanting to claim some victories but


at the same time he wants to say we are different to the Conservative


Party. It is a difficult path for him to tread and he should have


started down saying we will have a business relationship rather than a


lovey-dovey relationship. I think he has left it too late. Do you


think so, or is there time to make this differentiation work for him


in the next few years? I think there is time. You can see him


thinking I really need to sort this out, and differentiate what the Lib


Dems stand for and what the Tories stand for. He reined back the cuts,


and he has also done it on the drugs - backing a royal commission


on drugs which David Cameron doesn't want and that is part of a


grand strategy to differentiate the party for the -- from the Tories.


It is an interesting strategy, as I was talking about earlier, to say


we will soften the madder elements of the Labour Party and


Conservative Party, but they don't want to alienate Labour completely


at this point if they have to end up in government with them. Labour


has always felt two weighs about the Lib Dems, we saw in 2010 a


large part of the Labour Party didn't want to scramble a deal with


them. They dislike the Liberal Democrats, very tribal. Then you


get those Lib Dem friendly MPs like Lord Adonis, who says are not sure


I would favour a coalition with the Lib Dems, I would favour a minority


Labour government. Nick Clegg is in a very difficult position, and as


austerity continues to buy eight, he might say a royal commission on


drugs but that may not pass muster with the population with the


decline of living standards. What can pass muster with the


population? They have to show they are on the side of the working


classes, and really want to put money back in people's pockets.


With this benefit rise, the 1% rise in April, it is interesting they


have suddenly started to back the Tories on that. It is an


interesting manoeuvre they have achieved. Given most of those cuts


will be on people in work, they could fall into their own benefits


trap. Nearly the end of the parliamentary year, PMQs


performances. Ed Miliband has got a lot better. The best bit of PMQs is


watching David Cameron, who does not like to be challenged, and Ed


Balls just really knows how to wind him up with his hand signals, flat


lining economy, and insults from a seated position. That has been the


best bit. The score from you, Emily? Last week's PMQs was so


raucous on welfare, I'm not sure it will be that raucous on the end of


term this week, I may be wrong, but Ed Miliband has shown he can


perform most weeks now, although David Cameron has done well in


recent weeks. Thank you. We had a lovely backdrop behind you.


With me now is our Monday panel of MPs. The Conservative, George


Hollingbery who is also Parliamentary Private Secretary to


Theresa May, the Labour MP for East Lothian Fiona O'Donnell, and the


veteran Lib Dem Sir Malcolm Bruce. Is it beneficial for Nick Clegg to


be making a speech criticising siren voices amongst Conservative


about draconian cuts? With is an internal issue, they have got to


create some differentiation. Different tuition works two ways,


doesn't it? We are clear where we want to go, but it is only right


for me to a knowledge that the Liberal Democrats have had to take


some difficult decisions and they have been brave about things like


tuition fees, but to point out there are differences that this


stage is entirely to be expected. What about the claims they are


moderating the cruel aspect of the Conservative Party - is that how


you see yourself? There are large numbers of Conservative MPs who


understand the next general election will be won on the centre


ground. The says you are not the centre ground. I think he is wrong.


A large number of my colleagues will talk to me about the issues


that matter to people across the country, and to characterise us as


the stranger to the right is Do you accept that the Lib Dems are


moderating Conservative policy on welfare reform? That is what Nick


Clegg was claiming today. I expect he is making a case. I would like


to hear how he mitigated tuition fees. What we have had �12,000 per


year for tuition fees? He talked about and enabling society, and


education is key to that. What did he do on that issue? I hope we will


hear what they have been doing, and on VAT as well. He apologised,


didn't he? The thing that went some way in terms of explaining what


happened with tuition fees? -- do you think? It may explain it, but


it does not excuse it. In terms of benefits, the cap of 1% is


completely wiping out the benefits of raising the tax threshold,


giving with one hand and taking away with the other. On that point,


you say the Liberal Democrat have perhaps moderated conservative


excesses on welfare reform, so why are you signing up to that cap?


think the Conservatives would not have had any increase at all.


that true? The Lib Dems are making sure that the poorest and most


vulnerable are protected to some degree. But they are not. Many


Conservative MPs are not like George, very many of them take a


much more hardline, right-wing, uncaring stance, and I think the


country would be poorer if those Conservatives prevailed. Monstrous


characterisation of the Conservative Party. Even some of


those MPs who are more of the right are extremely caring people,


dealing with trafficking and all sorts of different issues that


really matter. Is it that just because they have a particular


political point of view and the economy and how it will work better,


the fact that it is fair that people on benefit should have the


same sort of crisis in income as people live and work, it is


monstrous. It is the right thing to be doing at this time. Do you agree


with the characterisation of people sitting with their blinds down


while others go out to work? When you stigmatise people like that,


particularly disabled people, sometimes some of the language is


very unfortunate and makes people feel much worse, people who support


voluntary organisations feel less inclined to give, and sometimes


disabled people... You have signed up to it. We want to protect


disabled people who cannot work. That is not happening. Why is it


not? It is not happening for a start because a mother or father


staying at home as a carer to look after a disabled adult, son or


daughter, is going to be worse off because of what the Government is


doing, and the Lib Dems are signing up to that. You cannot make


everybody better off. You said people with disabilities, you're


not protecting them. I am distinguishing between people who


cannot work and people who need support to get into work. Some


disabled people need support and want to work. Sometimes it is


people simply looking for a job, like the under 25s, who might not


be eligible for housing benefit if the Conservatives had their way. If


they move home looking for a job, they should be encouraged.


parent of a profoundly disabled young man or woman cannot go out


and look for work because they are full-time carers. The other thing


is they are contributing a huge amount to society and saving your


government money by staying at home and looking after them. Many people


would feel Labour has not had the courage to deal with the huge


welfare bill, right from the outset. It is all very well talking about


some of the details, but just the broad principle that Labour is not


signed up to wholeheartedly in terms of universal credit and a cap


on welfare. No, I don't agree. We were clear in the manifesto for the


last election that people who can work, choosing not to go to work


will not happen, but you have to create the jobs. And you need a


scheme that works, whereas the Government's work programme is


letting down the unemployed. marriage, do you agree with those


who are accusing the Prime Minister of acting without a mandate on gay


marriage? First of all, we had the contract for qualities in which


this particular promise was made, the examination of the issue of gay


marriage, and it has been looked at, and the Prime Minister is convinced


that this is something he has to deliver. Do you agree with it?


matter of principle, absolutely I do. Gay people should be allowed to


call themselves married. What you save your colleagues to say that


there is no mandate, this is not an issue that is important, and we


should not be pushing it through? do not think you can say that


equalities issues are not important. What you say Jon Collins? I cannot


speak for all of my colleagues. There is a balancing of rights. Yes,


it is important to create the qualities, but at the same time we


have to understand that people on both sides of the argument are


passionate about it, and I have written to my constituents who have


corresponded with me, saying I want to be convinced that is not


something that can be overturned in court, particularly courts which we


do not control. I think the quadruple lock went a long way


towards that, but I will wait to hear the arguments on both sides.


Was the Government right to make it illegal for gay couples to marry in


the Church of England or Church of Wales without consulting either


church? I think it was strange that the judges were not consulted. I


take the view that if you are against gay marriage, you should


not marry somebody of the same sex! It is about religious freedom. I


personally think that any church that wants to be able to marry


people of the same-sex of different sexes should be able to do so.


it was wrong of the Government, which surprised a lot of people, to


bring in this illegality element, so the Church of England will not


be able to marry gay couples. did surprise me, and the Lib Dems


take a simple view that the government should not be able to


determine who adults are able to love or marry. That should be a


matter of personal conscience and choice. I think it should before a


judge to decide if it wants to marry people of the same sex will


only people of different sexes. I think that should be a matter of


religious freedom. Ed Miliband urged David Cameron to fast-track


legislation. If he is so committed, why isn't he within Labour MPs?


Because it is a matter of conscience, and we're all going to


agree on this, on both sides of the argument people have sincerely held


convictions, and I think, you know, it would not be appropriate to whip


Labour MPs on this issue. Right... Just one other thing, briefly,


before we go, we sport about the polling, and on UKIP, Eric Pickles


suggested UKIP should be taken seriously and the Conservatives can


win back support by engaging with it, but the Transport Secretary


told the Sunday Politics he would only start worrying when UKIP


started winning by-elections. Conservative politician who does


not take the threat of UKIP seriously is being foolish. Any


number of seats with small majorities, we have to engage with


the arguments, and I have been clear for a long time that it is


not a matter of pandering to their views, but explaining to people


where the weight of the argument sits on the key things that face


the country, the economy, welfare, education, and all those issues


which actually bother people every day. The government has been doing


fantastic work in all those areas, and it is up to us to make that


argument and it tell people that if they want to see a country in 10 or


20 years' time they can be proud of, then a UKIP vote is not one to make.


Are you looking forward to next week? The festive atmosphere on the


high street with carol singers and Christmas lights? Would it spoil it


for you if the limited Father Christmas was brought to you by


Coca-Cola, McDonald's or Toys R Us? Austerity cuts are making councils


think long and hard about giving their lights over to advertising.


This week Eric Pickles will tell local authorities how much money


they can expect, and he will not be mistaken for Santa Claus. Two years


ago they were looking at cuts of 12%, and further savings are likely.


For the Sunday Politics and the North East, Mark Denten has been


Christmas lights in Newcastle, sparkly, pretty, a cost to the


council here of �140,000 per year. But with �90 million worth of


savings divined, the council is looking to cut the cost of


Christmas. It will continue to pay for the light until 2013, but after


that it will be up to commercial sponsors, and that means if you are


a company, your name could be of there. The council says both brazen


monument and the Tyne Bridge could carry temporary sponsorship to pay


for the sparkly, twinkly things. -- Ray's Monument. We cannot turn away


any support financially that will help our city. If you have got a


business proposition to help keep the lights switched on, we want to


hear from me now. In the past, we might have considered naming


companies to be a bit gaudy, but to keep the lights switched on, it


will have to be a little bit gaudy. Private companies already provide


�50,000 every year towards the Christmas lights in the city. But


what people want to see sponsors on local landmarks? I think it would


be a shame, a real shame. I can see the position they're in. I suppose


it would be all right. If it is not too big, if it does not fill up the


whole Monument of the Tyne Bridge. It depends who is sponsoring its.


It is not just Newcastle looking closely at the cost of Christmas


lights. On South Tyneside, the budget has been held at �200,000


this year. In Redcar and Cleveland, the budget has fallen to �50,000


from �90,000. Carlisle's Christmas decorations now cost �37,900 this


year, compared to over �51,000 last year. Sparkly, pretty and for our


cash-strapped councils, increasingly unaffordable.


Are you prepared for gaudy to keep the lights on? Oh, definitely. I am


not going to spoil the Christmas party, it is all part of the


experience of shopping in the dark of the winter months, I am all for


it. So you would be happy for company names up in lights? I was


in Oxford Street the other night, and Marmite are sponsoring that,


love it or hate it. Is that what it says? Absolutely. A price worth


paying? By love Christmas lights, my nephews and my mother-in-law


love the Christmas lights. Piccadilly Circus is very well lit


up with sponsored advertising, so I see no problems with having


suitable sponsorship to keep the lights going. But what is suitable


sponsorship? We do not want to go down the line of Greek football


teams which now have a brothel and an undertaker sponsoring them, I


would not like to say that on Christmas lights. That would give


it a certain shyness a choir! Where you draw the line in who can have


sponsorship questionnaire presumably it is a matter for local


councils. If local businesses want to make contributions, well,


fantastic. They are quite expensive, looking at the prices. They are


more expensive than I thought they were. With local authorities in


great difficulty, it is a sensible thing for them to decide themselves


which local sponsors could do it. Often you see on roundabouts, you


see very nice garden decoration sponsored by suitable companies.


Why not for the Christmas lights? What about your new year's


political resolution? I know it is a bit early, but I bet you have


thought about it. I have indeed, and for me it will be about


standing up for the most of vulnerable people in my


constituency who will be affected by welfare reform, starting with


East Lothian. Sticking to the line very firmly! To do the job for my


boss at the moment, to make sure I get as much of that right as I can!


Who is your boss? In this case and talking about the Home Secretary.


The best thing we can deliver is a thriving economy. And finally, last


but not least... Well, to try to get fitter than I have been! If I


can, to hold my head up high and feel proud of what the Liberal


Democrats are doing in difficult circumstances, which I think we can


show positive achievements as well as the negative things we have


prevented. It sounds like you have all practised this, I thought it


was going to be a surprise question! I have not going to -- I


have not got a new year's resolution yet, but I have got time


to think about it. The One O'Clock News is starting over on BBC One


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