04/02/2013 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon, welcome to the Daily Politics. There has been a


dramatic turn of events in court this morning. Former Liberal


Democrat cabinet minister Chris Huhne has changed his plea to


guilty of perverting the course of justice and has resigned as an MP.


The first big parliamentary vote on gay marriages fast approaching. As


many as 180 Tory MPs look like they will refuse to follow David Cameron


and vote in favour. The Chancellor has been laying down the law to the


City. If the banks don't put a great big electric fence between


the bits that look after your savings and the bits that do the


risky stuff, he will step in and force them to split up. What does


Parliament have in common with 1970s rock legends Deep Purple, at


least according to the speaker? All that within the next hour. Our


guest of the day is the City analyst and financial blogger


Louise Cooper. Welcome. This morning's dramatic turn of events


at Southwark Crown Court first. Until now, former Energy Secretary


Chris Huhne was pleading not guilty to perverting the course of justice


in a case relating as to whether or not he got his former wife to take


points relating to a speeding offence. Within an hour, that


changed. I have pleaded guilty today. I am unable to say more


while there is an outstanding trial. Having taken responsibility for


something which happened 10 years ago, the only proper course of


action for me is to resign my Eastleigh seat in Parliament, which


I will do very shortly. That is all I can say today.


Chris Huhne speaking outside court not very long ago. James Landale,


our deputy political editor, joins me. Asda's legal journalist and


political commentator Joshua Rozenberg. That is a dramatic turn


of events. Only one week ago Chris Huhne was pleading not guilty, now


he is not. What a difference a week makes! He has been considering his


position and speaking to his lawyers. They will have told him


that if he pleads guilty before Ray Durie is sworn in he will get a


shorter sentence than if he pleaded not guilty and was convicted. He


thinks pleading guilty is the right thing to do and has been released


on unconditional bail pending the trial of his former wife Vicky


Pryce. How does the trial of his former wife affect the timing of


the sentence? He will not be sentenced until the trial of Vicky


Pryce is over. That is the priority for the courts. Once that trial


ends, Chris Huhne will be brought back. The judge may want to report.


He will then sentence Chris Huhne for the FMC has admitted.


Perverting the course of justice is a serious crime? Very serious, the


penalty is a limited, it could be as much as life imprisonment. I


would not say it would be in this case, but it will be imprisonment,


the judge has hinted at that. He told Mr Hoon, be under no illusions


about the sentence you will receive. I think the going rate is anything


from 12 months downwards. In similar cases sentences of 12


months have been passed, reduced to six months, four months. Can you


remind us are broadly of the events surrounding the case? The question


was who was driving the family car at the time that it was spotted by


a speed camera. The allegation is that Chris Huhne was driving and he


got his then wife to take the points, to say that she was driving.


She has said boot she is denying the charge of perverting the course


of justice and says she was coerced by him and has put forward the very


unusual defence of marital coercion. James Landale, he had to resign his


seat, even if there was a technical justification? It was not an


option? But for 511 votes, Chris Huhne could be Deputy Prime


Minister today. He was one of the Lib Dems' big beasts. They don't


have a -- don't have many of them. His career is now over. He realised


he had no choice but to go. You can get into technical arguments about


parliamentary rules, you can't be a sitting MP and sentenced to prison


for more than a year. I think he thought that regardless of those


rules, he had to go. The political significance is huge. We will have


the first by-election of this parliament where the coalition


parties, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, go head-to-head in


Chris Huhne's constituency. The majority is just over 3000, it is


eminently winnable for the Conservatives and already on their


target list. I think many Conservatives will see this as an


opportunity to throw the kitchen sink at the by-election. If they


win it it would be a good way for David Cameron to silence people who


are doubting his leadership. Many Conservatives at the moment feel


very angry and upset with the Lib Dems because of their refusal to


support the boundary changes. They might see this as an opportunity to


get their own back. What about the loss to the Liberal Democrats? Has


there been reaction from Nick Clegg? Nothing officially at. We


expected to make a statement, at some point he has to say something


about this. Chris Huhne, the Lib Dems wanted him back. And he said


so, Nick Clegg? He used the phrase, at the top table, something like


that. One Lib Dem said to me that Chris Huhne is a carnivore in a


party of herbivores. He took the fight to the Conservatives, he


would argue the toss with David Cameron over the Cabinet table, but


Conservatives' treatment of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems about AV.


That kind of big beast, parties don't have many. The Lib Dems had


very few and now one is gone. aid to Nick Clegg say he is shocked


and saddened by Christian's conduct. He telephoned Nick Clegg last night


to tell them of the decision to plead guilty. Even though they were


up against each other in the leadership contest, Chris Huhne


only just lost. It will also be a personal loss to Nick Clegg? These


guys were colleagues together in the European Parliament. They have


been knocking around as young friends and rivals within the Lib


Dems for many years. And to see a friend of yours like this go down


like this is something that I think he will clearly feel very


personally. But the challenge for Nick Clegg now is to work out what


strategy you'll deployed to try to protect his party politically,


because this will be a huge blow -- what strategy he will deploy. If


anybody wants to denigrate the lake -- the Lib Dems, they will mention


Chris Huhne and they hit will be made.


MPs will debate the Marriage Bill and House of Commons tomorrow. It


it becomes law, gay people will be able to get married for the first


time in England and Wales. The law would allow for religious same-sex


weddings as well as civil, but only if religious organisations opt in.


The Church of England and shirts at -- Church of Wales will


specifically be prevented from doing so. The Government insists


nobody will be forced to offer gay weddings if they don't want to, but


critics say those safeguards are not enough. And many critics are


within the Conservative Party. David Cameron has invited his MPs


to support his plans for gay marriage but it looks increasingly


that many want to leave them standing at the altar.


Bit is estimated that as many as 120 Conservative MPs will vote


against the Bill, and a further 60 could abstain. Less than half are


expected to vote in favour of. Yesterday 20 Conservative


constituency association chairman delivered a letter to Downing


Street warning of significant damage to the Conservative Party if


the Bill is enacted. But with the vast majority of Labour and Lib Dem


MPs set to back the plan, it should not have any problem in getting


through. The Prime Minister thinks most of the public on his side.


Polling figures vary but most have found Dave -- found a majority in


favour of same-sex marriage. One recent poll suggested 55% in favour


and 36% against. But a poll published at the weekend suggested


that 20% of people who voted Conservative would not do so again


in 2015 if the Government pushes ahead. Geoffrey Vero, the chairman


of the Surrey Heath Conservative constituency Association, one of


the people who delivered that letter to Downing Street, and a


Conservative MP who backed the plans, both joined me now. What


damage is being inflicted on the Conservative Party, in your mind,


because of plans to legalise gay marriage? It is difficult to


totally quantify but we know we have had a very considerable number


of e-mails and litres -- letters into the constituency office, and


directly to Michael Gove, who is our MP. He disagrees with you?


are fundamentally opposed, we have agreed to disagree. Everybody is


entitled to their own views, I would like to make it very clear,


but our fear is we are having resignations, activists saying, I'm


terribly sorry, but next time around I won't be sending out the


leaflets, I won't do stuffing or mocking up. It is very important,


in order to get selected at a general election, you need to get


the vote out. That is the risk David Cameron is taking. Gavin


Barwell, is it worth the risk? a Conservative because I believe


marriage is hugely important in our society. Providing there is


protection for religious groups who do not want to conduct same-sex


marriages, I would like to see the maximum of people be able to


benefit from this institution and exchange the same virus that my


wife and I have. The list that you just stated shows that it is


unlikely to have significance one way or the other, but it is about


the principle, not the boats. polls indicate that the majority of


the public are in favour of. And a majority of Conservative supporters.


So what do you say about the claims made by Geoffrey Vero but you will


bleed support in the party, grass roots will desert you? That is not


my experience in my constituency. Three vote issues are difficult,


they divide parties, there will be members of the party who have a


different opinion, and I respect that opinion, but if you look at


the wider picture in terms of all the things the Government is doing,


you will not see dedicated and committed Conservatives giving up


altogether. Louise, how does it look to you when you hear people


like Geoffrey Vero saying that it is turning off the grass roots of


the party? I think the vocal minority of grassroots Tories, out


shouting, as always happens, the majority are too busy paying their


mortgages, paying their bills, coping with financial crisis and


unemployment and they look at Westminster and say, what is going


on? You people are out of date and out of touch. Especially some of


these grass roots, church-going, playing golf on Sunday take people.


Out of touch with what modern Britain looks like. I'm afraid this


is the perception from the outside looking into this issue which is


convulsing the party. That will be more damaging than the activists


you might lose? This is a view expressed by people... This is a


complex issue. We are trying to overturn 5000 years of views on


perceived civilisation. We are a progressive country, we are moving


forward, and the presentation to the letter -- of the letter to


David Cameron was saying just slow the process down. We don't believe


it is in the manifesto or mandate within his government, we would


like it debated long and hard. The statistics are all over the place.


We have seen completely different pollings on this. I think it is


very important to respect some of the older people. We had a chat


earlier, this is a generational issue. A lot of people,


progressively over the age of 45 and 50, feel this is an attack on


many of their core beliefs and I think we need to have a much more


rational discussion than perhaps being dismissed as old fogies.


is an important point. If you look at the polling, it is perhaps not


surprising that older people and people of these are more concerned.


Just to dismiss those objections and say you are out of touch, you


don't get it, is not right. You have to understand their concerns.


But you will not change! But the legislation addresses some of the


concerns. Many of my constituents worried that their church, mosque


or synagogue would have to marry people they don't think they should.


We need to convince them that the safeguards are there. We either


live in unequal society or we don't. We either live in a society that


discriminates against people, or we don't. Yes, but it is the way we


conduct the debate, we cannot tell people they are out of touch and


dismiss their objections. The boat will happen on Tuesday and is most


likely to go through. It will do, but it is only one process. It has


to go to the Lords and then come back. You have to go through the


drafting of the bill. I think it is poorly drafted at present. We need


to consult more. It is not just an issue of equality. Why not? It has


complexities as regards teachers, children and everything else.


Equality seems to be the 53rd card in the pack, the joker which trumps


any arguments you have. If you don't like something, play the


quality card. It is more complex. Can you give us some examples of


some of the bad drafting of things you don't like? The drafting makes


a nonsense -- traditionally in marriage, the grounds for divorce


are none consummation and adultery. You can't have that in same-sex


marriage. It comes across as very bizarre. The new Archbishop of


Canterbury is seriously questioning what David Cameron is doing. The


Pope is totally against this. It is a complex issue and you are playing


with core beliefs in humanity. It is not purely an equality issue.


But I understand there is another point of view and we have to


There is concern that all teachers have a responsibility under the


Education Act to teach marriage. They will be required to teach


same-sex marriage similar to normal marriage. I know Michael Gove is


keen to try to give as many protections in at as possible but


there is arrest that teachers, who fundamentally disagree, may well


find they are isolated and may well lose their jobs because of


subsequent legislation overturning it in the European courts.


Listening to Geoffrey, he represents a section of the


Parliamentary Party. To what extent will this be a blow to the


authority of David Cameron when around 180 MPs vote against? I hope


more Conservative MPs supported than vote against it. I would like


every Conservative MP to packet. 10 years ago, you would not see


Conservatives proposing this type of thing. -- to back it. I hope


that as many of my colleagues as possible will support the proposal.


We know there could be about 150, 180 MPs who will vote against.


would be very surprised if the numbers voting against are as high.


I will not speculate on the figures. I hope more Conservative MPs would


vote for it than Against. Is it a matter of strategy? Is it the


climax to the detoxification of the Tory brand? As the strategy, I was


so just it is not working as he intended. It is about promoting


marriage. I hope the Government will quickly bring forward


proposals in relations to tax allowances. I believe marriage is a


key pillar of the society. Provided there is protection for faith


groups who do not want to conduct these marriages, I want to see as


many people as possible benefit. That is why legislation is a good


thing. I do not want the Government to tummy if I am married or not.


Promoting it by these policies, I think maybe I am more of a Liberal.


I want to be a were to run my life how a one to arrive children to be


educated in maths. Not whether marriage is a good thing for gay


people or otherwise. You are adding to some extent to the perception


which will only harm the prospects of the Tory Party. It is not an


issue we brought to the table. David Cameron brought it to the


table. There was no indication in his manifesto or mandate that he


was going to bring into the table during his current government. I


think he could handle the issue very much more carefully than he


has done. He could have rolled the pitch, or laid the ground, during


his current Parliament so that when you get to the next Parliament,


they could have been a vote. Let the people decide. I would prefer


there to be a referendum. If the majority of people and country are


in favour of it, so be it and we accept that. We do not believe that


David has a mandate for it in the current Parliament. Some people


will say to their MPs, Conservative MPs, but they could look homophobic.


What you say to that? That is very sad. -- what do you say to that? I


have been very keen that the debate be conducted so that everyone has


an equal view. Many of us have been criticised, prejudiced or bigoted.


It is not about homophobia. It is about the institution of marriage.


For many people, it is between a man and a woman. Thank you both for


joining us. If someone lends you money, they have got a bit of a


hold over you, and that applies as much to governments as it does to


you and me. In the case of countries, they raise loans through


bonds - a kind of IOU to investors which they promise eventually to


repay - with interest, of course. As a consequence, governments of


all stripes are very keen to keep the bond markets and the ratings


agencies, who opine on a nation's creditworthiness, sweet. But has


the current Chancellor, George Osborne, gone too far in his


The trading floor of rubber bank in the City of London. Not as busy as


they were in the boom but still powerful in the past. Men and women


on trading floors like this throughout the world still have a


huge impact on our Government's fiscal policy. That matters to


every one of us. That is because some of them trade on the


international bond market. That is massively important to the


Government's handling of the economy. It has become powerful


because of its huge size. Governments have deficits and these


accumulate every year into a big debt, which needs to be financed.


Investors buy the bonds. Because the market has become so huge,


investors have a lot of power. reason British government bonds are


so attractive is our AAA credit rating. George Osborne has tried


super hard to make sure it stays that way but has it worked? Many


people think that 20 their team will be the year that the UK loses


its AAA rating. -- 2013. The Government has had to admitted his


off-track at hitting a reduction targets. They are not as worried


had it happened -- as had it happened three, four, and five


years ago. Other countries have also lost theirs. Investors have


become used to renew normal. Perhaps they have to become used to


ratings being a bit lower. should not pay any attention to


credit ratings agencies was that they have been completely


discredited by their role in the financial crisis. It does not


matter Warnock what they say about UK government debt or not. -- does


not matter at all. It was unfortunate that government policy


was dictated by credit agencies. It was a big mistake. It led us to


tighten fiscal policy too quickly. The negative impact has been quite


significant, as we know. Some MPs believe that if you do borrowed,


you have to play by the Rules of the lenders. No one will like the


credit agencies determining what democratic governments do. If


democratic governments put themselves in the positions of


borrowing at these fantastic rates, they will be subjected to the


commercial decisions of rating agencies and markets. Can the


Government escape the grip of the bond market and the ratings


agencies? The Government should set out a long-term fiscal strategy.


That should involve fiscal tightening - cutting spending and


raising taxes over the medium to long term. We do need to balance


the books. If we do that, the bond markets will take care of


themselves and that will give us the freedom to run more sensible


policies in the short term so we can get growth back into the


economy. These guys may look too nice to be masters of the universe


but for as long as governments borrowed, people like them will


always have a big say in what they do. Joining me now is Brooks


Newmark. He is a Conservative member of the Treasury Select


Committee and used to be a senior partner at a private equity firm,


Chris Leslie, the Shadow Financial Secretary. Louise Cooper, a city


analyst, is still with us. How humiliating would it be for the UK


to lose its AAA credit rating? would have said before the US had


its downgrading and France had its downgrading, I certainly would have


been very concerned. The evidence is at least that it actually has


not had too much of an impact on the rate that people actually


willing to pay for bonds. Psychologically it is important but


the reality is, if it happens, I do not think there will be much of an


impact. George Osborne exaggerated hugely the importance of keeping


our AAA credit rating or the way from 2010 up until now? I do not


think he exaggerated. I am St Ewe, the reality years... The evidence


is it does not look like there will be much of an impact from investors.


Politically and psychologically, it is important. The markets, in


reality, I suspect, probably would not punish us as much as, for


example, when we had the emergency budget. That there would have


impacted us. Will the markets be kind to the UK if it loses its AAA


credit rating? Because of quantitative easing, effectively


because now the Government owns a third of its own debt, it is kind


of irrelevant. We are seeing the Bank of England distorting the gilt


market because it is buying so many gilts. That is what is pulling the


interest rate down on British government debt. That is what is


going on. That is not an indicator that the international investors


are that convinced of the UK. By the way, gilt yields have actually


been rising recently. As is happening in the US and Japan and


elsewhere. George Osborne made such a big deal of keeping debt interest


payments down. We're hearing, to some extent, interest payments will


go up. It has only gone up marginally. The point I am making


is, it is the actions of the Bank of England - distorting the gilt


market - it is not a reality saying, the UK is a great and safe place.


It is the Bank of England. This is an important point. For several


years, the Chancellor has been saying his particular path of


fiscal policy, the cuts agenda and austerity was the be-all and end-


all when it came to the bond markets. I think that Louise is


right. There are many more factors that come into play, particularly


when the Bank of England get the printing presses going and are


buying and purchasing so much of the nation's debts. Independent


monetary policy is key to the driving force. Had it not happened,


there would be a different set of drivers. The notion that George


Osborne is saying, it does not matter what is going on with the


AAA. It is important. Unilever won a general election claiming that it


was all about defending the AAA rating and credibility and all


these things. We never lost back under the last Labour government.


Would we have lost it had the spending plan continued? Would we


have lost it before quantitative easing and what they have judged


that Britain was a dodgy place? Lots of factors come into this.


Fiscal policy, monetary policy and also a growth. A lot of traders in


the City want now to seek economies that have an engine to generate


revenues so they can get back into balance. The deficit is going in


the wrong direction. It was up 10% on there -- at the beginning of the


year. The deficit is down by a quarter and is continuing to go


down. We will talk about the deficit and the debt. The Prime


Minister got himself into a little bit of trouble about paying down


the debt. Also the issue about whether the economy is distorted.


Are investors looking for evidence of gross? They are. The problem


with quantitative easing - buying gilts - it mask the underlying


problems. We call investors in gilts and double-deck that bond


vigilantes. Why do we say that? They hold governments and


politicians to account. They go through with a fine-tooth comb the


economic data - the statistics coming out of government finance.


As soon as they look horrid, they stop lending, or they demand a high


interest rate. We hate those investors. Actually, in the capital


world we live in, they occupy a very important place by holding


governments and their financial statistics to account.


Unfortunately, the problem with quantitative easing and what the


Bank of England is doing, the power of those bond vigilantes has gone.


It is about how much money the Bank of England will spend buying gilts.


That takes pressure of the politicians to take the painful


decisions that need making. I am not a big proponent of Q E.


The first �200 billion was fined...! After the first �200


billion, we should have stopped, we need to focus on issues such as


building confidence, growth and so on. The real reality on the ground,


as Chris knows, we have more men and women in work than ever before.


GDP figures are important but we know it is as much of a Mystic Meg


in terms of actually understanding the GDP figures. The real figures


on the ground for ordinary people is whether they have a job. More


men and women today have a job than ever before, that is what is


important. Let's come to the debt and deficit figures, these two


gentlemen arguing about whether the deficit last year has gone down,


and debt, which is rising. I'm a simple girl, I like the absolute


debt figures. Absolute debt, the amount the UK is indebted in


entirety, has almost doubled in the last four years, and it would


increase again. It has gone up from �811 billion to 1.1 trillion pounds


while this government has been in power. It depends how you cut the


figures. You are nodding... Yes, because Economics 101, which the


Prime Minister was trying to teach the shadow Treasury Minister, debt


is spending more than a you have coming in. He was told off! Just a


second. Well you have a deficit you are adding to your debt. This last


has a huge deficit. He would have continued spending more money than


we have, the debt figures would be much late -- much larger under


Labour. We have had a big speech from George Osborne, slightly


overshadowed by what has happened with Chris Huhne. Louise Cooper, if


a bank fails, if the investment arm of the bank fails, does that mean


it will not drag its high-street be to -- its high-street titbit with


it? He wants to ring-fence the supposedly safe banking from, and I


hate this world -- I hate this word, the casino banking. How much


outstanding mortgage debt do you think we have in this country?


Anyone want to guess? 1.2 trillion pounds is the outstanding mortgage


debt. It is more than the UK government debt. Any kind of


property price fall further from here, any economic pain, you start


to get bad loans on that mortgage debt. The losses are humongous. I


don't get that retail banking is saved and investment banking is


dangerous, and investment banks should be allowed to go to the wall.


If you look at the balance sheets of the big banks today and you mark


the assets on their portfolios, not just this country but particularly


France or Spain, they are completely under water. Certainly


the Spanish banks and big French banks. Our banks are getting their


house in order, which is why ordinary people are finding it hard


to get loans. The ring-fencing will not work, then. In the terms set


out by George Osborne, this will mean we won't have a similar style


crash that we experienced in 2008, that investment arms of banks will


not be able to drag down retailers? The jury is still out on ring-


fencing. This is one way of doing it, don't necessarily split them


but keep in reserve, and this is crucial, just in case, the power to


have full separation. He said, I will do the Reserve Bank by bank by


bank, but what we need in reserve is a power to have that separation


across the boards between retail and investment banking. If that is


not there, this is a lawyer's charter for banks to contest one by


one by one. If you're going to electrify it, and electrify it


properly. He has only partially been forced to climb down,


because... I want to deal with the toxic issue. The toxic issue of the


banking, lots of it was, unfortunately, derivatives trading.


Lots of the derivatives were being traded 200-1 in terms of the assets


underlying those derivatives to what the market was trading. That


is the dangerous part, wrapping up mortgages is a separate issue, it


is an issue, but I think what we need there is more transparency in


those pools of mortgages being wrapped up, so we understand the


assets underlined in those Pools. But the real danger of trying to


separate out his a proprietary trading of the investment banks,


and the derivatives trading. Willetts make London less


attractive as a financial centre? - - will it make London less


attractive? If we do it in the UK and other places don't, we will


lose out. The trouble is getting the regulation to happen all over


the world. Lots of countries look at the City of London with covetous


eyes, because it makes a loss of many in the good times. We can't


have the taxpayer being on the club again for what happened when the


banks over-extended themselves... That is why the leverage ratio... I


don't think the Chancellor will put a clause in the Bill on that.


so sorry, I have to say goodbye to you. And goodbye to my guest of the


day, Louise coup before stop we have a busy week in politics ahead


of us this week. The Right Reverend Justin Welby,


the former Archbishop of Durham, has formally confirmed as the 105th


Archbishop of Canterbury today at a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral.


There will be a lot of interest in his views on gay marriage, because


MPs will vote on that issue for the first time tomorrow. Wednesday will


see the publication of a landmark report into the failings leading to


the deaths of dozens of people in the care of Mid Staffordshire NHS


Foundation Trust. On Thursday the Prime Minister goes to Brussels for


two-day talks on the future of the EU budget. Joining me from College


Green up up a career from the Evening Standard and Ben Duckworth.


But first, here is what the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, said


about Chris Huhne. Chris Huhne has pleaded guilty this morning and


announced he will be standing down as an MP. This is obviously an


extremely serious matter and it is essential that the legal process is


now allowed to run its course. I am shocked and saddened by what has


happened but I believe that Chris Huhne has taken the right decision


in resigning as an MP. Nick Clegg, the leader of the Lib Dems.


Pippa, what is your response to today's events with Chris Huhne?


took us all by surprise. We have had weeks and weeks of self-


confidence coming from both a man and his associates, I think we all


expected a long week of it in the courts this week. Everyone is taken


aback at Westminster, it is a huge story. The next step will be the by


election, the first one which will have pitted the Conservatives


against the Lib Dems in a really winnable seat since the election,


so I think it will be gloves off. Ben Duckworth, this will be the


first time Tories and Liberal Democrats are up against each other,


coalition partners, since the government began? Yes, and the


conservative MPs are baying for Lib Dem blood after they kiboshed the


boundary changes last week. They will be looking to take a scalpel


over their Lib Dem partners. -- a scalp from. Nigel Farage is making


his way around the constituency, which is the area he is MEP for.


For the Lib Dems, depending on how Chris Huhne is sentenced, they have


to recover from that and the test is whether they will be able to


hold the seat. Nigel Farage has not ruled himself out. Pepper, in terms


of the loss for the Lib Dems, how do you gauge Chris Huhne's


departure? He was a heavy hitter for a party which is lacking in


them. Had he been acquitted and come back into mainstream politics,


he would probably have ended up in Parliament again and would have


been a leading contender for the leadership after the election,


should Nick Clegg stand down. Nick Clegg may be privately relieved


that he is no longer around to oppose that threat, leaving Vince


Cable the main leader in waiting for the Lib Dems. If we move on to


the issue of Europe, never far away, Ben, and we have these two-day


talks on the future of the EU budget, is there any good feeling


left from David Cameron's speech on the in-out referendum? It had a


very short honeymoon indeed, particularly with the gay marriage


vote tomorrow, I think there will be a sense of a renewed and even


strong expectation from Conservative MPs that it has to be


something symbolic from these two days at the end of the week, where


David Cameron goes to Europe and basically sticks its European


counterparts. For David Cameron, I think he needs something symbolic,


whether it is a supportive gesture or quotes from Angela Merkel,


something which shows that after the speech he is being taken


seriously on that stage, and the idea of Britain being able to come


to a new settlement is a possibility. If it will be


difficult to get any kind of concession? It is a huge problem,


he has 26 EU leaders to persuade and inevitably he will have to tone


down his rhetoric in private conversations with them. If that


feeds back into Britain and Westminster, the Euro phobic wing


of his party which so far has reached some sort of accords with


the Prime Minister since his speech will be at it again, they will be


snapping at his heels and desperate for concessions. He has said there


will be a referendum but he is not legislating for it in this


Parliament, and there will be a lot of pressure for him to do that.


Joining us now is our Monday panel of MPs, Conservative Alan paints,


Anas Sarwar wire of Labour and a Liberal Democrat, who drew the


short straw on the day that Chris Huhne charged -- changed his plea,


Tessa Munt. What is your reaction? I am amazingly shocked. Chris has


had a very long career both in Westminster and as an MEP, he has


been a fantastic constituency MP. I am stunned. I heard the news on the


way you this morning. His political career is over? I think so. He has


finished it himself, which is the right thing to do, no question.


heard Nick Clegg saying he is shocked and saddened. We all are.


Nobody had any idea this was coming. It is very shocking. We need to try


to look forward, I suppose, from the mess that there is here and see


if we can ensure that the people of Eastleigh have another good


constituency MP. Let's think ahead to the by-election, an opportunity


for the Conservatives? I'm sorry for Chris Huhne, he has taken the


right course of action. The press were predicting that the CPS might


drop their case just a few weeks ago. The by-election will be


extremely interesting, it is a Lib Dem/Conservative battle with the


Labour Party a bit further behind, but when there is a low its -- a


low turnout, anything can happen. I am confident we will take the fight


to the Lib Dems and Labour. How do you rate your chances? If people


look at what Chris did for his constituency in Eastleigh, I think


they will look to a Liberal Democrat MP again. It is deeply


saddening what has happened today, but he has been fantastic. He did


some very good things as a cabinet minister. But on policy grounds


come I suspect the people of Eastleigh would be more inclined to


be conservative thinking, as a result of the changes made? Do you


not feel let down by Chris Huhne over this? And his constituents


etc? I would be mad to say they didn't feel that. But it will be a


different candidate, different circumstances, lots of chaos. There


will be lots of things coming into play and we have to see what


happens, but he has pleaded guilty. You won't be that involved in the


by-election? The Labour Party? Nobody revels in the personal grief


of anybody, so our sympathy is with Chris and his family. It is


interesting that the coalition are already arguing about the by-


election, although not surprising. The Prime Minister had the grief of


his party being torn apart around the EU issue, then there was the


referendum issue this week to try to oust the Prime Minister, now the


coalition are fighting a by- election. I think the Prime


Minister and Deputy Prime Minister will be worried today. I am not


sure what he is talking about when the Prime Minister walked in after


his speech on Europe, he was received with the warmest


recognition and applause he has ever been in the Times that I have


been in the Commons. I don't understand what you mean about


being torn apart. Why are there I have heard of things but I think


the reality is it is pipe dreams trying to ascertain what sort of


support there might be. The reality is there is no support for a


challenge to the Prime Minister. He is there and doing a very good job


in very difficult circumstances. I would bet my life he will be the


leader of the Conservative Party coming up to the next election.


What is driving these plots? If you say there is nothing in them and


their support to challenge the leadership of David Cameron, how


can you say that so categorically when there are plots being talked


about and they are all over the papers? I remember the plots about


Gordon Brown and Tony Blair but they never came to anything. Some


individuals feel they should be in government. It is probably down to


personalities. What is driving it? Egos is fine. Is there a


satisfaction with David Cameron on the backbenches? I do not take that


battle. A few weeks ago, when he came in after his speech on Europe,


the applause and the noise was louder than it has ever been before


in recognition of what he had done. The important point is David


Cameron making a speech on Europe was not acting in the interests of


the country. At a time when you have an economic storm, rather


having a government and Prime Minister to pull the country


together, you have a political party pulling itself apart. Why is


it not in the interests of the country? If it was in interests, it


would be held now. It is a ploy and a waiter tried to win the next


election, to appease backbenchers. -- a way to try to win. The Prime


Minister's demonstration of putting the country's interest first is


demonstrated in coming together with the Lib Dems in the interests


of the country. That proves he puts the country before party politics.


Do you believe it is in the interest of the to have the


election -- the interests of the country to have the referendum?


is entirely up to them. What would you like to see? There are a lot of


people who would like to build to answer a question. It is important


to understand what that means. There are huge numbers of


businesses and farmers in my area. The last thing they want is to pull


out of Europe. What I think is quite interesting is, since the


Prime Minister has spoken on the subject, quite a lot of


organisations have come out in favour of staying in Europe. They


are clear about the fact they do not want to rock the boat at this


stage. So much about income, lots of farming takes place and


associated business. The Lib Dems wanted 10 in/out referendum.


need to make sure people realise what that will mean on a day-by-day


basis. People need to understand exactly what the impact is in the


case of the Scottish referendum. you agree with most of what David


Cameron said in his speech? It seemed to give an impression of


being behind the EU are wanting to keep a central role in the European


Union in the feature and reforming our relationship with the European


Union? -- in the future. Absolutely. That would be my personal position.


We do not the door Europe. We think it is a sensible business


arrangement. -- knocked the door Europe. A friend of mine, who used


to be an MEP, he has actually put together 10 things he would change


about the EU. There are things we need to straighten out and make


sure it works better for us. It is pointless sitting outside of Europe


and hoping. It is a risk, isn't it? We have the eurozone. They will


need to come closer together. There were need to be treaties. -- there


will need. This is an opportunity for Britain to reshape Europe that


we want to be part of. It will give him the opportunity to renegotiate,


as Europe changes itself. Labour will be given the chance to offer a


referendum just before the next election, I would guess? 50% of the


Business the UK does is with other EU countries. Just as 50% of the


business that Scotland has is with the EU. What would be better would


be if the Prime Minister would have a meaningful negotiation and a


meaningful discussion about what membership of the EU means. He is


playing for his cards. If he does not get the right deal, will he


come out of Europe? Is that his plan? Do you think he should


campaign to come out? Let's see what the Delia's. There was the


Swedish Prime Minister, the Danish Prime Minister, who has absolutely


understood what the Prime Minister was talking about. -- who


absolutely understood. David Cameron is talking about further


opt-outs. They are the sorts of things that other European nations


have said, we are not going to agree to that. It is negotiation.


That is why Benny's to be time for it. We need to develop allies on


Denmark and Sweden, as many as the leaders have also shown sympathy


towards. Now, Prime Ministers Question Time. We watch it


religiously on the Daily Politics but what do we really learn from


it? The half-hour session gives Members of Parliament the chance to


hold the person in charge to account. But MPs on all sides are


widely derided for their childish behaviour, which many say is


putting the public off politics altogether. The Speaker John Bercow


seems to have lost patience and says the decibel level exceeds


anything that Deep Purple would have exceeded! You are a


distinguished practising barrister will start you would not have


behaved like that in the courts. Do not behave like that in this


chamber. Calm yourself and be quiet. The decibel level is far too high.


What a savage indictment of this I can see he enjoyed that. Order!


Order! Order! Order! Order, I say to the Children's Minister, tried


to calm down and behave like an adult. If you cannot - if it is


beyond you - leave the chamber. Get Do you ever get used to that racket


in the House of Commons? No. I think it is absolutely awful.


Completely unnecessary. We could take a good leaf out of the Book of


most of the councils in this country when you can be heard and


had your chance to have your say. Frankly, I just find it... It is


ludicrous. On occasions, I have been asked on one of your sister


programmes to comment on Prime Minister's Questions. I have gone


to the studio at 1pm. If I sit in the chamber, I cannot hear the


questions, not the answers. If you go outside and listen on the radio


or television, you can hear what is going on. In the chamber, you have


to sit back and listen through the speakers. That does sound rather


pointless, doesn't it? I am showing my age! I do not know about Deep


Purple. I think it is the theatre of little. Those within the


political class probably do enjoy it. Those looking from outside will


probably think it is a bunch of middle-aged men shouting at each


other and not discussing things that are relevant to their lives


every single day. It is entertaining. We were all laughing


when we were watching that. Does it attract some people to the holes


Theatre Of It All? You could argue it is the only time in the week


that the chamber is jam-packed. With Prime Minister's Questions,


people do not realise and appreciate about it. The Prime


Minister has said, it is the one time a week that he gets to know


everything that is going on in every department. If something is


going wrong and has not been brought to his attention and there


is a risk of it being brought up at Prime Minister's Questions, he


wants to know. There is a need for it. If you are the leader of the


opposition, or if you are the Prime Minister, standing there and it is


absolute silence behind you, it is a very lonely place, I can imagine.


Some of the noise is about support to back your leader, saying he or


she is doing the right thing. no good if you cannot hear what is


going on. The whole point is, as we said in the introduction, to hold


the executive to account. Can you hold the executive to account in


Prime Minister's Questions? I think not. The media is partly to blame


on this. Depending on the noise and the one-liners it impacts on how


could a writing you get I am not. You get. You cannot hear most of


the questions are almost of the answers. People want a genuine


cross-examination of the Government. That does not happen at Prime


Minister's Questions. There should be real questions. Patsy questions


should go, shouldn't they? you're going to hold someone to


recant, do it. One thing I would say is on that particular occasion,


what you do get is a sense of the quick-witted miss of some people


who perform. That is a delight. Sometimes I cannot stop but not


because someone has said something very funny. The humour of the


situation is very good. When people can react like that under extreme


pressure, that is fantastic. That goes for every Question Time that


we have at the beginning of every day and not just Prime Minister's


Questions. Nick Clegg is not involved in the Prime Minister's


Question combat. What is it like? It is not the same. Wouldn't it be


nice? There are only 57 of us. We cannot rule the world. It is


important for people to understand that Prime Minister's Questions is


only that one session of the week. Most of the other questions offer


much better scrutiny. Coming back to Prime Minister's Questions, if


there is that killer question exposing something the Prime


Minister does not know, it really does serve a purpose. We have not


had that in recent times was a nothing that jumps to my mind


whether Prime Minister has been exposed. -- in recent times. That


is the scrutiny that is offered the stub the Prime Minister is accused


of not answering questions put to him. -- that is offered. Sometimes


questions from his own side are more tricky. Sometimes members of


the coalition are not prepared to accept the political reality.


partly the noise, not answering the question and sometimes people


showed their childish side and get angry. I do not think that projects


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