25/02/2013 Daily Politics


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Afternoon folks, welcome to the Daily Politics. We've screwed up -


so says the Liberal Democrats' President, Tim Farron, over the


party's handling of allegations that its former Chief Executive,


Lord Rennard, behaved inappropriately towards women. Nick


Clegg insists he has nothing to hide after admitting last night


that his office had been aware of concerns five years ago but hadn't


been given specific allegations, which Lord Rennard denies.


Who's all at sea in Eastleigh? The by-election's on Thursday. We'll be


taking a look at the runners and riders. George Osborne's in the


dock over losing Britain's triple-A credit rating. MPs are expected to


debate the Chancellor's currency later.


And, they're young, some would say they're gifted, but are they our


political future? Giles has been finding out. My problem with people


who start politics from the start... Yes, yes, we all heard this before,


the problem is you think they're weird.


All that in the next hour. With us for the first half of the programme


we're joined by the future of politics, at least that's what it


says here, Rhammel Afflick, from the British Youth Council. Welcome


to the programme. First this morning, let's talk


about special relationships because the new US Secretary of State, John


Kerry, is in town. Yes, he's been let loose for the first time since


taking the job. And Downing Street is his first port of call. Do you


care about the special relationship? I do and I think many


other young people do and if they don't realise yet how important it


is and how much it affects us as a country they soon will realise. For


example, if you look at the UK's relationship with a lot of EU


countries, regarding economy, I mean, if you look at our


relationship with the US in terms of national security it's so


important and it affects everybody within this country, even whether


they don't realise it. In times of globalisation, do you think your


generation is also looking to other parts of the world that perhaps


Britain's focus hasn't been on, although it's beginning to now and


that America's importance is perhaps diminishing in your eyes?


The importance of certain countries has definitely changed and is ever-


changing but I think, you know, we are still looking at the US for a


lot of inspiration in a lot of things we do at the moment and I


think young people recognise that actually there are other countries


that are developing and becoming more important to industries like


technology, when you look to other countries that haven't mentioned


yet. I think that will continue to happen and evolve over time but at


the moment as you can tell, the main focus is on the EU and even


our US relationship, as well. about contacts, do you have


counterparts, equivalents in EU countries and America? The British


Youth Council does have membership to the Youth Forum and we do have a


programme called the UK Young Ambassadors where they look at


their equivalents and Councils that represent other EU countries, as


well. Thank you. Last week, Channel 4 News broadcast


allegations about the senior Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard.


They reported that women who worked for the party had complained in the


past that he had behaved inappropriately towards them. Lord


Rennard strongly disputes the allegations, but questions have


been raised about whether Nick Clegg and other senior figures in


the party did enough at the time, and whether they've been completely


open about what they knew. It could hardly have come at a worse time


for the party with a critical by- election in Eastleigh later this


week. Chris Rennard became well known around Westminster in the


1990s as the Liberal Democrats' election supremo - credited with


masterminding a string of by- election victories. Between 2003


and 2009, he served as the party's Chief Executive before standing


down - the party said, for health reasons. On Thursday and Friday


last week, Channel 4 News broadcast allegations that he had acted


inappropriately towards women working for the party - allegations


which he denies. One said she had been left feeling humiliated,


undermined and shameful. Nick Clegg launched an investigation but


issued a statement saying that he hadn't known about the allegations


until Channel 4 contacted the party last week.


Then, last night, he issued another statement saying he had been made


aware of indirect and non-specific concerns about Lord Rennard in 2008.


He says he asked his then Chief of Staff, Danny Alexander, to look


into the matter - the man who now sits in the number two spot in the


Treasury. We also know other Lib Dem MPs, including Jo Swinson - now


a Business Minister - did know about some of the specific


allegations at the time. Party President Tim Farron says they've


screwed up the process of investigating the complaints. But


Nick Clegg insists the inquiries he has set up will get to the truth.


The fact is we had a number of women who subsequently spoken out


with frustration, who now need to be listened to because they clearly


weren't listened to and we need to get to the bottom of the truth.


Until last week the specific allegations where we know which


women were concerned and what events they were allude - alluded


to were not made available to me or my office. The moment they were, we


set up the investigations. We now must allow that due process to play


itself out. Our political correspondent Robin


Brant can tell us the latest. Where are we in terms of Nick Clegg


having said he knew nothing, he has now said he did know something


albeit about so-called unspecific concerns? That change in stance


from the Deputy Prime Minister is probably the most significant


development, certainly over the last 24 hours. As you said, he said


he learned firstly about these allegations when Channel 4


broadcast them late last week. We now know that he was told about


these non-specific general concerns back in 2008. The problem for Mr


Clegg is changing of the stance and also that almost very leagueistic


ambiguous language. People will want to know more about these non-


specific claims. They're described as being general. The party


President said that Nick Clegg's office became aware of rumours.


There will be more questions about exactly what are the detail of


those allegations, how did Nick Clegg's office come to know them?


Secondly, there is a real difference of opinion, certainly at


the top of the party today. It's no secret there are differences


between Tim Farron, the President, and Nick Clegg in terms of how


they're regarded within the party. Tim Farron on The Today programme


saying we screwed up, Nick Clegg refusing to accept that assessment


although he did concede in another BBC interview that he thinks


perhaps once these investigations are under way they may uncover


flaws in the procedures. There are now two inquiries under way. One


into the allegations themselves against Chris Rennard, secondly,


another one into how the party has dealt with them. Nick Clegg in a


difficult position, he has to let due process take place and that's


going to take time. We don't know exactly who is going to be heading


up both inquiries at the moment. In the meantime, he doesn't want to


rush to judgment. The key problem for the Deputy Prime Minister is


his curiosity or perhaps even his incuriosity. It was a label


ascribed to George Entwistle, director general at the BBC for 52


days and the fact he didn't ask various questions is something


being labelled at Nick Clegg. If he didn't know about these allegations,


didn't know details about them back in tweet, -- 2008 and people


weren't coming forward and didn't feel they could approach him then


why was that? Thank you very much.


I'm now joined by Mark Littlewood, who was the Liberal Democrats' Head


of Media when Lord Rennard was the party's Chief Executive. Had you


heard about the allegations? Not a whisper or a sniff or rumour


between 2004 and 2007 when I was there. None of these rumours that


have been circulated you hadn't heard about? Not a sniff of it.


Maybe I was an incredibly unobserveant press officer but


there wasn't even a call from the the journalist during that period.


By about 2008 I started hearing some of these rumours, but, frankly,


very often, certainly in my position, having left the party, I


dismissed them as tittle tattle. The more you hear from different


sources and different events the more you think is there something


in this? What do you think about the way it's been handled by Nick


Clegg so far, particularly this idea he said he knew nothing about


the specific allegations, but now has revealed he also heard rumours,


so far as to get Danny Alexander to talk to Lord Rennard? It's


incredibly confusing. They almost seem to be inventing a new language.


I am not sure what an indirect non- specific complaint is. There seems


to be an indirect non-specific complaint involving behaviour that


was unacceptable, that's apparently what Danny Alexander said to Chris


Rennard, how can something be indirect and non-specific and


totally unacceptable? That seems to be very confusing indeed. What


they've got to get out, apart from the allegations which Chris Rennard


flatly denies entirely, is what processes did they go through? Who


knew what when? And why did they close the file? My understanding is


that no one came forward with a specific complaint at that time.


Once the chat had happened between Danny Alexander and Lord Rennard


there was nowhere to go, what do you say to that? It's clear as well


that Jo Swinson, the Womens and and What did though do, the Chief Whip


and Womens and Equalities Officer? Do you think it's difficult for


them? I would have thought that was her job. She would have been an


obvious go to person, if you were a woman that believed you were unfair


ly treated. She would be high on the list of people to confide in.


Do you think the -- do you agree the party screwed up? What they've


got to set out pretty clearly is who knew what when, what they did


with it and if there was a screw-up where was that and why? Why do you


think the allegations have resurfaced now? The timing is


curious, bearing in mind we are talking about these unspecific


concerns dating back to 2008 and before? You would have to ask the


women who have come forward about that. I have never even met...


don't know either of them? It's possible that I might have bumped


into them once, but I have never spoken to them, to my knowledge.


Why did they come forward? The evidence seems to be that they were


concerned that Chris Rennard was getting involved in the party again.


That seems to be one of the triggers for it. But he's been


involved in the party or has come back in after standing down for


health reasons in the last year. Why only a week do you think before


the Eastleigh by-election? I don't know these women, but what I saw of


them on Channel 4 News, it doesn't seem to they're attempting to


undermine the Liberal Democrat effort in the by-election nor would


Channel 4 News be doing that, I wouldn't have thought, if you have


a story like that and you are the broadcaster, I would think there


are unbelievable Is to dot and legals to go through, it's not


something you hear about on Monday and broadcast on Tuesday. My belief


would be it's taken Channel 4 a long time to put that together


before they were broadcasting and they were going to broadcast when


it was ready. What impact do you think it will have on the by-


election? That's definite to say. - - difficult to say. Although it's a


significant political story it is a Westminster bubble story and it may


be in Eastleigh people are actually more concerned about local issues


than what's going on here. But of course virtually every front front


page of every newspaper will be bad news for the Liberal Democrats. If


the Liberal Democrats now lose the seat, then this could well be the


explanation for that. Do you agree with that? What's important is they


get to the bottom of it and it's investigated properly now they're


aware of - and the specifics are now, - have come to light. That's


what's important about this and reviewing maybe the processes that


they have in place to deal with issues. What about Nick Clegg? It's


difficult for him to be embroiled in this even even accidentally, if


we are being kind to to him? course it's difficult. I don't


think he helped himself much with his statement last night. It's very


difficult to actually pick up a consistent thread of what the


Liberal Democrats were saying over the weekend. That morning Vince


Cable said, you know, he wanted to be absolutely clear that neither he


nor Nick Clegg knew anything. Suddenly we start getting into


highly complex words about general, rather than specific. Indirect


rather than direct. It's all incredibly confusing. Really, rings


of contorted language. He would have been better to tried to get


everything out or at least say when he was going to get absolutely


everything out in full detail about when he knew what ever it was that


he did know. He did also come across as slightly sort of petulant


actually last night. He seemed to be angry as if he was unfairly, he


and his party were unfairly under fire. I don't think that did him


any great favours, either. I am not saying he needs to go through


another so sorry moment, but I think that he probably should have


attempted to come across as being somewhat the more contrite than he


did. Thank you. The re-trial has begun today of


Vicky Pryce, the ex-wife of the former Cabinet Minister, Chris


Huhne. The original trial collapsed last week. Our correspondent is


outside the court. Remind us how we got to this point. This has been a


very, very long process to get to this point of retrial. Just over a


year ago both her and her now former husband, Chris Huhne, were


charged with perverting the course of justice over a very, very minor


matter, a speeding ticket back in 2003, the allegation had been that


Chris Huhne was caught speeding on the motorway back into London from


the airport ap that Vicky Pryce had taken points for him so he could


avoid a driving ban as he was preparing to fight the Eastleigh


seat when he originally entered parliament. A year and a day after


that charge he pleaded guilty here at Southwark Crown Court. He is


awaiting sentencing but the trial of Vicky Pryce continues on the


same offence. She denies it saying she was forced to take the points.


The original trial came to an end in dramatic circumstances last week


when the jury failed to reach a verdict but as these things happen,


the judge restarted this morning with a fresh jury. It's a retrial.


Does that mean they will hear from He told this newly sworn-in jury


that their job was to, "Pool their common sense and experience of life


to come to a true verdict, based on the evidence they will here before


them in court." He told them because of the collapse, it happens,


just to get on with it. Decide to ignore whatever they have heard


about the onlyal jury. The evidence in court will be broadly the same.


This is what happens in retrails. The prosecution will outline the


evidence, they will put their case. The prosecutor has told the jury


that at the heart of this case is a convenient decision between Chris


Huhne and his former wife, for her to take the speeding points, simply


because it was not a good idea for him to lose his license at the time


in 2003. It suited their purposes for Vicky Pryce to take the points.


He said she was not the kind of woman who would do as her husband


told her to do and her defence of marital coercion, that she was


bullied into taking these points does not wash. It is up to this


jury to decide, in the course of the coming week, whether it is the


case or not. Later today in the House of Lords, peers will decide


whether to create a press regulator by the back door. Earlier this week,


their Lordships decided to vote in favour of amendments produced by


Lord Puttnam, which effectively created a Leveson-style press


regulator. If the changes to the bill are passed, the Government has


threatened to throw the bill out, damaging its intention of trying to


reform the libel laws. With us now is Lord Lester of Herne Hill and


former, Charlie Falconer. You spent a lot of time working on this bill


- what was your original intention with this Defamation Bill? It is to


reform entirely the outmooded English law of libel, which is to


restrictive of free speech that President Obama signed a law in


America to prevent it being enforced in the States. No-one


disputes it needs reform. All three parties have worked very well


together in arriving at a bill, which is being looked at across the


common law world as a model. It is an extremely important bill. Is it


at risk of being dropped by a Labour amendment supported by Lord


Falconer to try and push through at the same time a Leveson-style press


regulator? I hope not. The thing about this country is we have a


spirit of compromise. Three political parties need to come to a


sensible view with the press on independent self-regulation, not


state regulation of a free media. Why have you attached these


amendments to the Defamation Bill? It's not me, it's the House of


Lords. The amendment was crafted by four people right across the House,


one being ex-Tory. The bill is excellent. What the amendment does


is it says there should be an arbitration service which people


can use free if they have a complaint against a newspaper, to


give access to justice to everybody and it needs an independent


regulator to determine whether or not it is a fair ash traig service.


What is wrong with that? It should be voted upon in the Commons. If


they don't like it, they should take it out. Why attach it to the


Defamation Bill? It is about defamation-related claims. I do


know that is right. Lord Justice Leveson made it clear


at the beginning of his inquiry that nothing he was doing would


affect the Defamation Bill. The bill is a bill to amend the law of


defamation. It is not on privacy. Leveson was about gross abuses of


privacy. It is all very well saying it was not your fault...


supported it strongly. It is the right thing to do. It is for the


House of Lords to take responsibility. I don't accuse you


of drafting it. You have pleaded not guilty to that. He was cleared


of that, was he? Leveson recommended that newspapers should


be published through punitive damages. Now when Charlie was - I


think he was in 2007. What month are you in? Let's not


worry about that? Now his Government rejected the idea of


extending damages, not once, but twice. And now all these QCs have


written opinions saying so. So there is a problem.... What is


wrong with a free arbitration service? Nothing is wrong...


you in favour? Of course. Why don't you support it? It needs to be done


by self-regulation. That is what the amendment is saying. It says it


is done by the press. Let's come back to the original point. Are you


prepared to pay the price for the Defamation Bill - that is the risk


and it is a risk because the Government is threatening that -


they will drop the bill and then you will have lost... Have they


said that Yes. Of course there'll be plenty of negotiations behind


closed doors. We're talking - cross-party talks are going on...


Shouldn't you wait for those? because the right thing to do is if


we cannot reach agreement at the cross-party talks and we are


desperately trying to, then Parliament should decide.


I think this is a form of bullying, I am afraid. Bullying?! Yes, they


have taken the bill hostage. haven't. You have taken... Wait a


second. You have taken it hostage at the moment. What is very


difficult is this - when it goes to the Commons I have no doubt that it


will be made in the Commons F Labour don't approve of that, there


is a serious risk it will not get through the Commons. There is a


serious risk it stays. If it stays then Mr Cameron... Before war is


declared, or you have declared it, in a very nice Lordship sort of


way! Your impression in terms of Leveson - would you like to see


some sort of statutory underpinning, to use that term, or is self-


regulation enough? It is important that we retain freedom of speech,


as has been mentioned already. It is important that there is


somewhere that people can go - whether it is self-regulated or not.


If they have concerns about the press. One thing that was miss from


the Leveson Inquiry that we campaigned on was actually an


amendment to the editor's code. At the moment it does not include age


as a form of discrimination. As you might know, young people are often


miss represented in the media. I mean, throughout the week f you


look at some of the stories that cover young people, actually how


many young people are actually involved in the stories themselves?


How many young people will be sitting on the sofas, like myself,


giving their opinions on those issues. That is something I was


disappointed not to see. What you are proposing seems to go further


than what was proposed by leve because you are talking about a --


Leveson, because you are talking about a regulatory system which


will mean publishers have to check with the system before they publish


a story.... Leveson suggested in considering what damages to award,


it would be relevant to have regard whether or not, before publishing


something, without going to the subject of the story, the press had


sought advice - that is what it proposed. Free clearance... It is


nothing to do with that. If you are given damages, allowed in the law,


if you have taken advice and they say don't do it without asking the


subject first, surely that is a factor. Max Mosely sought such a


thing. The English courts said no, that violates free speech. I know


of no democracy in the world... Hang on - I know of no system in


the world - it is coercive state regulation. I only know of five out


of 47 in Europe with such a thing. They are all former mens of the


Soviet Union. I am astonished... am astonished by how you have miss


represented that! I am sure you will continue this, fascinating


although it is. It is an odd thing about politics that youthful,


charismatic leaders seem the Holy Grail, whereas older statesmen have


to step down for being too old. Not like our two previous guests. The


eLord Chancelloror rate seem to distrust youngsters who have done


nothing but politics from birth. What do the young have to offer


political debate? Giles has been When it comes to age, politics -


the essence of youth... I think what he really means is that for


centuries, youth has not been allowed to have influence in the


world of politics. Yeah - what she said! You need experience to be


involved in politics. You need to have something you can bring. Some


stand point you represent. Young people is a stand-point. It is


being an experience in itself. Trying to find jobs, understanding


for graduates it is a difficult time at the moment. Young people


are being vilified in the press. That is an experience one can bring


to the political debate. It is just as valuable as any other background.


There are clearly savvy 20- somethings, but an MP at 23 - is


there too young for Westminster? was the most inexperienced,


incapable Member of Parliament in the House of Commons. I learnt very


quickly. 100,000 voters in a town, Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph,


Ian mag Greg gor and myself closing the steel works and putting 10,000


people out of work - my God I aged from 27 to 47 in a few months!


It is already for half of you, half of you won't be here in 30-40


years' time! My problem with people who start politics from the start...


Yes, yes, we have heard that before. You think they are younger pith the


younger, Prime Minister in his 20s. William Hague and that speech. All


I can say, is I think it is very judge mental! There is a difference


between being a -- between playing politics and if you are trying to


act like Prime Minister, that is- and-a-half. You have to be involved


in politics if you are young. old grey beards are back in fashion.


The voters want to look at them rather like I look at my solicitor


and my bank manager. I want him to be dull, boring and grey and full


of wisdom. The truth is, us youngsters do have much to learn


about life, but don't underestimate those, who from the start, have


something to say and say it well. have never felt so old!


You still look young though! Regular viewers will be delighted


to hear we have given Giles Dilnot the boot and replaced him with


eight-year-old Olivia. Let's pick up on that last point in the film -


people in politics want a representative who is older and


wiser. I think it's something that we, a lot of people want, but


actually if you look at it in history, there have been amazing


and inspirational people who have been young. I don't see any reason


why a young politician shouldn't become, you shouldn't become an MP


or become a local councillor, or even the Mayor of London. I would


encourage anyone who wanted to do that to do so. What is your


ambition in politics? personally, I am not looking to


become an MP just yet, but in the future, you never know. It may be


something that is I want to do personally. I want to encourage


anybody to think their age should not be a barrier. Which party would


you represent if you become an MP? Probably I would create my own


party and... Very diplomatic! diplomatic way of putting it. I


think there's a lot of change that needs to happen, so the parties are


more reflective of The Views of young people. Do you have any


influence in youth Parliament? Does it really matter? Does it have any


What was that related to in transport? Related to all aspects


of transport, particularly the price of transport and how much it


costs for young people. In London, for example, you get free transport


but there are parts of the UK where you have to pay a full adult fare.


They issued, just like any other Select Committee, you know,


recommendations that they felt the Government should take on. They got


a full Government response just like any other Select Committee


report. I would say they were very influential. It's more than just


playing at politics, what cynical older people, like me, would say


everybody who is interested in politics in their teens and early


20s, and then lose interest. think, you know, just like any


other subject you can lose interest and you can gain interest but what


everybody within the Youth Parliament and British Youth


Council believes is it affects everybody and no matter how much


you get involved it will affect your life. What about voting by


young people? Most people will know the voting turnout for young people


tends to be less. There's proof to show if you engage young people you


will get them to participate. A great example is the UK Youth


Parliament managed to get over a quarter of a million young people


to respond to a survey last year in response to saying what their views


were. If you engage young people you can get them involved. There


will be politicians who will say young people aren't voting enough


in their droves, they can't be that interested in what we are talking


about. Do you think young people are more interested in individual


campaigns than in party politics? Actually that's exactly something I


was going to mention next. Young people are more interested in


issues rather than party politics. That's what the UK Youth Particle


splt based -- Parliament is based on. It's about being passionate for


an issue that you care about which is the roots of politics in general.


I am sure there are a lot of politicians who had one issue that


triggered them to want to be an MP or councillor. Thank you very much


for being our guest and good luck. Thank you very much.


MPs are back at Westminster today after their short recess. I hope


they're well rested because there's plenty on their plate this week.


This afternoon, Labour are pushing for a debate on why we've lost our


triple-A rating and what it all means. And the horsemeat scandal


rumbles on. Ikea meatballs are the latest food implicated. European


Union politicians and officials are in Brussels to agree ways of


keeping horsemeat out of beef products.


Tomorrow, the new Archbishop of Canterbury - Justin Welby - takes


his seat in the House of Lords. And, on Wednesday, it's the weekly


Cameron-Miliband set-to in the Commons - Prime Minister Question


Time. Voters in Eastleigh go to the polls on Thursday to decide who


will replace Chris Huhne, who resigned after admitting he lied


about his speeding points. Well, with me now to discuss all that are


Isabel Hardman from the Spectator and the Mirror's associate editor,


Kevin Maguire. We have just heard the Speaker has granted Ed Balls an


urgent question relating to the Government's economic policy at


3.30pm. Let's talk about the credit rating, does it matter it's been


downgraded? It matters politically because Osbourne set such stall by


it, what's interesting is whether he is confident we can retain the


rating, I asked a spokesman and he wouldn't confirm. It is important.


Also, Tory MPs will start to put pressure on Osbourne to do things


like unfunded tax cuts to bring growth in. What can Labour say? Ed


Balls has said that actually you can't hold that much stock by the


agencies, they gave top billing to subprime mortgages at the time. So


Labour can't come down too heavily on this, surely? No, it's a great


irony of the triple-A rating disappearing so Labour say the


agencies are worth - useless and say now Osbourne's totally


humiliated while Osbourne who made a song and dance about the rating


is trying to brush it off. The truth is he will know, George


Osborne, he has failed on his own terms. His party will know he has


failed on his own terms and I suspect Ed Balls will dust down his


his alternative. In terms of the Budget, the timing I suppose


implicated that actually the credit rating agencies didn't think George


Osborne could do anything that would breed confidence so they cut


it now? Yeah, and one of the tests that rebellious Tory MPs have laid


down for Osbourne is a successful Budget. Another one was keeping the


rating, that's obviously gone. Another one is a successful Budget


and his focus should be as not having another omnishambles, and


having a Budget that doesn't fall apart weeks afterwards. On the base


to say doesn't fall apart -- basis it doesn't fall apart, he can't do


very much, one of the problems now are fears about the currency. The


pound is falling, looking very weak. There was talk at the weekend maybe


exaggerated, of a sterling crisis. Surely that's focusing his mind?


The economy's had no growth in a year, living standards are falling


pretty sharply. On his watch the economy has gone into reverse.


Whatever his excuses or reasons, it's a poor picture. He has to do


something. He might as well go for growth otherwise he will be


remembered as a total failure. He lost the rating, the last Budget


was, well, it crumbled like a pasty and pretty quickly. If he wants to


get growth in that economy, he's got to restore it and if not - for


no other reason he has to do it to give the Conservatives a chance at


the next general election. Self- interest requires George Osborne to


do something. Liberal Democrat woes at the moment with these


allegations surrounding Lord Rennard. How do you think Nick


Clegg and his office have handled it? Not very well. I was speaking


to someone who works in crisis PR yesterday and they were saying they


always get clients saying we can't mention this and that, their


response is to you have to bring the detail out straight away. Using


strange language about indirect non-specific allegations, it's not


helpful to closing down the story. What do you think Nick Clegg needs


to do now? Vanish! This all goes away. It feels as if it would be


easier if those in the party who didn't know anything about these


allegations came forward, because we have Nick Clegg himself, we have


Alexander, Jo Swinson, you have Tim Farron saying he knew, it's become


a terrible, terrible mess. They set up two inquiries. They will take


their course. But at the same time, there's going to be a drip-drip of


allegations, more women may come forward making allegations. I


accept Lord Rennard disputes the allegations made but people are


coming forward nonetheless. Tory and Labour MPs are going to the


police. It's a real mess. Wye have -- I would have put a lot of money


last week on the Liberal Democrats holding Eastleigh and the by-


election, now I am not so sure. that betting note, we will leave


both of you, thank you very much. Joining me for the programme is


the Conservative MP, Priti Patel, the Labour MP, Lisa Nandy, Liberal


Democrat MP, Annette Brooke and UKIP MEP Gerard Batten. Welcome to


you all. Let's talk about the credit rating.


What you failed to highlight is that those same agencies have


pointed to our creditworthiness, which is in good order right now,


which would prevent interest rates from going up. So, the triple-A


rating has gone, we have to accept that and move on. The same has


happened in other international markets, including the US, as well.


But we are still sound in terms of our creditworthiness. It's the


political point that George Osborne held so much stock by it and he


repeatedly insisted it was so important to retain it. Was that a


mistake? I agree that there's been a great deal of political emphasis


placed on that, no one can deny that. The point is it's gone and we


have to move on and look at what we can do in terms of economic growth


and also still in terms of fiscal consolidation. Part of the reason


why our interest rates are low is because there's been a proper


programme and focus on fiscal consolicitor tkoeugs --


consolidation and deficit reduction. Which Labour wouldn't have


undertaken? A Chancellor who can say there are ten benchmarks by


which we should judge the economy and our economic success, the first


of which was the triple-A credit rating, to lose it and say we are


not going to change course seems fairly astonishing. So, actually


it's not a question of business as usual, it's this should be a real


wake-up call to the plan isn't working on his own terms and he


needs to change course. Is Labour really saying the market and the


credit rating agencies would respond more positively to a big


spending splurge or stimulus which is what Labour has outlined in its


plan. The economy would respond more positively to a spending


stimulus. So, Ed Balls announced recently we would use proceeds from


the 4G auction to invest in affordable homes, it's that sort of


thing that's going to get people's confidence back and get the economy


moving because the key test really is can you get people spending and


growth back into the economy? are saying that's more important


than any vote by the credit rating agencies? In other words, it's


really not important it's been downgraded? We always said that we


don't place the same emphasis on the rating agencies as George


Osborne had but it seems quite unbelievable that a Chancellor can


fail his own key test and still be in the job refusing to change


course. Should he still be in the job? He should be. It would be and


sourd to -- absurd to think we should change Chancellor. Even the


markets say this, we have inherited a catastrophe in terms of the state


of the economy and the deficit, as well. You could argue the plan so


far to repair that catastrophe, as you put it, isn't working?


disagree, we have low and stable interest rates and those are


signals... As a result of quantitative easing. Those are


signals we need to make sure we have confidence in the system and


confidence of business, as well. Let's talk about living standards,


but first of all, we know - no growth, debt up and actually


borrowing, we will see if it's up and now downgraded, are you still


happy to be wedded to the Government? George Osborne made the


ratings so high stakes in the debate. As Vince Cable said, it's a


symbolic change but what's important is to get the right focus


following this and in the Budget. There are differences between the


Conservatives and the Lib Dems, we do believe that we have to have


deficit reduction, how we would achieve that would have a different


emphasis. There is a case for mansion tax, for example, to bring


in extra money. We are making our arguments within the coalition. I


want to see that house-building start. We are all agreed that this


would really get things moving. So we are asking within the coalition


for the cap to be lifted on local authority borrowing. I think that's


really important. Our job is to be putting our arguments strongly


forward. You are in the Government, if you don't get those what should


the Lib Dems do? We are going to do the best we can, pushing our


arguments, I don't want to see the poorest in society bearing the


bankrupt of the cuts -- brunt of the cuts. We have to get a really


good agreed package. It's very important the components, but


absolutely we agree not to go down the path of Labour, spin, spin,


speb -- spend, spend, spin. You do agree about a mansion tax? Labour's


come round to our way of thinking. That doesn't make sense. You have


said don't spend but you want local authorities to borrow, why do you


want them to borrow if not to spend to invest? I am saying we make


careful decisions in this, if we are raising some taxes, then those


taxes must be on those with higher income and wealth and that would


give us more man owe sraerability for spending. I don't want to see


is the rash spending, including that in the run-up to the general


election where projects which were going to favour Labour seats were -


projects were being signed off left, right and centre. Would you


thraoeubg see tax cuts -- like to see tax cuts? I am a realist about


the current situation. I believe in a low tax economy, because that


would... Wouldn't that boost growth? Your colleague is putting


it forward and seems to have support? The Chancellor has done a


lot in terms of reducing taxes on business, down to to corporation


tax, small profit rates tax and that has brought in confidence for


businesses to invest. Investment is key to create jobs. Businesses


aren't investing. They're sitting on a massive amount of cash because


they don't feel certain about whether to invest. That's a


sweeping generalisation. There are businesses doing that. The other


side, if you look at the schemes such as funding for for lending,


that's starting to works. When we get a new Governor of the Bank of


England the monetary debate will kick off again on what can be done


to bring money into the economy in How worried are your quairbts about


inflation? -- quairbts about inflation? The cost of living


affects everybody. We have to be mindful and I think the Chancellor


is mindful of the fact that people are hurting. The pound is getting


squeezed through energy costs and fuel prices. What does he do to


help them? He recognises that. At the same time we have to press the


energy companies to keep prices low and to be fair in terms of


competition as well. It is about the pressure we can apply. The last


thing we want to see is sterling come under acute pressure. Of


course that would have a knock-on in terms of food prices. One could


argue it is under pressure. should not create panic about this.


It has been hit over the past week - that was in anticipation of the


credit rating being lost. Let's turn attentions to a story which


has all the drama and intrigue of a soap opera. A former MP facing jail


and a cast of MPs seeking to be elected in Eastleigh.


Flem flem flem has been to Hampshire -- Adam Fleming has been


to Hampshire. Affairs, rivalries and boats - 80s'


TV favourite Howard's Way had it all! It was filmed here in


Eastleigh, which is now in the midst of a by-election of soap


opera proportions. This was a Tory seat until 1994, then the Lib Dems


seized it. Chris Huhne was the MP in 2005. We all know what happened


to that character. If Chris Huhne is the villain, then here is the


man trying to clean up the mess - the Liberal Democrat candidate.


He put his hand up for it. He should be punished. I would like


him to apologise to everyone here. Meet his closest rival and feisty


female - Maria Hutchings who has gone off on her own issues. This is


a fantastic place to live. It deserves somebody who understands


it and will be a good focal force in Parliament, supporting David


Cameron's clear message. Who is this? A mysterious new-comer - John


O 'Farrell. There'll be a general election in two-and-a-half years -


are you committed as-to-a life as MP? If they don't like me after two


years they can kick me out again. I will stand if elected. I am looking


forward to that exciting life. there is the previously minor


character thrust into a major plot line, the UKIP candidate. I have


had questions thrown at me, you know, you have to think on your


feet. Like what? A number of the interviewers were, are you racist?


Are you a bigot? You know - it's amazing that they still trawl that


particular line. And the theme continues at this local pub, where


they have a tribute to the cast of Howard's Way on the wall. Hang on -


that's given me an idea! Which soap opera character are you like in


real life? I heard Joan Tweeted I should be the lead in Borgen. I


don't watch it. I will be one of the Spooks girls. Which one?


Probably one of them they have killed off. One soap opera I


enjoyed watching is an American one - it was the West Wing. If I can be


even a quarter of the man the President was in that, I would be a


very happy man! Bet Lnych, serving pints to the


To be fair to this place, Howard's Way is not that realistic -


Eastleigh is actually an old railway town, but this episode is a


real-life cliffhanger. What will the consequences be? Will Labour


sink and UKIP swim? Stay tuned! Remember, you can see a full list


of candidates on the BBC website. We are joined now by Gerard Batten.


How damaging to Lib Dem prospects is the way the party have handled


allegations that have been denied by Lord Rennard? I found as I was


in the constituency last night at a hustings there was not one question


about it. I had spoken at a constituency dinner on Saturday


night. I spent over an hour on questions and not anybody there


asked me a question about it. It is certainly a big issue in the


Westminster puddle. As far as I am concerned, and I can say quite


categorically, I had never heard of these allegations either first-hand,


second-hand at all. I have been a female MP for 12 years. So, I think


that is very significant. I'm not pleased, as a female, to think


these were not investigated and dealt with properly at the time. I


am straight to the investigations. I think all this speculation, who


said what, where and when is ludicrous. Let's get on with a


proper inquiry. For me, we are looking at culture. Cultural


problem across the Church, the BBC - we could go on and on. What about


the culture in the Lib Dems? As a woman MP, you say you have been


there many years - what is it like? Do you say you are not pleased hu


they dealt with it at the time? culture aspect - was there an


element of an important person going through. Did we have the


right structures in place? If we find we did and they were all there,


why didn't they apparently work properly and therefore we've got to


look at whether people are in the right places. I am confident with


the Chief Whip. A very professional chief executive. Total confidence


in where we are going from here. As a female, I certainly feel that I


want to know why, how and to be able to stand up and say, this will


never happen again in our party. Priti Patel, do you accept that the


Eastleigh by-election result will be a verdict on David Cameron's


leadership and the coalition? don't. By-elections, particularly


mid-term, yes people will vote whichever way they want to vote,


but I don't think any sitting Government should take it as a said


verdict on them because people vote because they are disillusioned,


unhappy about things going on. I have been involved in by-elections


for a long period of time. So, it's flux - yes, there is a lot of that


in by-election. By-elections do play some importance, but more


often than not you will find a local candidate... What about UKIP


in terms of taking away Tory voters and handing the by-election to the


Liberal Democrats? I am not convinced. There is a national


spotlight on by-elections. All the parties will throw everything into


them. They will try and maximise their share of the vote. When it


comes to UKIP claiming they are the only party on Europe, I disagree


with that. Isn't that what you are hearing on


the doorstep - actually, don't worry Mr Batten because the Tories


are giving us what we want, so we will not vote UKIP? I have not


heard that at all. I have heard disillusioned people. People are


coming over to UKIP. We're not just taking votes from the Tories -


that's a myth. We take them from Labour supporters. We take some Lib


Dem votes sometimes. But not often? I don't have a scientific analysis


for you, but we do take, because a lot of Lib Dem votes are protest


votes, in Eastleigh any way. People who have protested by voting for


the Lib Dems no longer feel it is a worthwhile thing to do. The latest


figures is we can be neck and neck with the Tories. The polls out at


the weekend said we are on 21%. They looked at how people's


previous voting - how they voted last time. If you take it out of


the equation, we could be on 25, the Tories on 26. Labour risks


coming behind UKIP in this race? are not complacent about this at


all. An old railway town, this should be a three-way margin, a


four-way margin. People are feeling the squeeze as much as elsewhere.


We are fighting this by-election hard. We are fighting it hard


because it signalled something about Ed Miliband's Labour Party,


which is we are not just interested in Governing for one section of the


population. When he said, we want to be the one nation party, he


meant it. That is why we're on the doorstep, trying to garner support


n a seat we have traditionally not won. Is the candidate taking it


seriously? I think he is taking it seriously. He is a stance believer


in social justice, as am I. He cares about the situation of people


who are seeing their living standards falling as a result of


the disastrous handling of the economy. You see light-hearted


humour from him. In the general circus that Eastleigh seems to have


become I preferred the brand of humour than what is going on at the


moment. Has it turned into a dirty fight? I didn't see that last night.


I have been out on the street as well. I would argue that, at this


stage, the Liberal Democrats are not looking for a protest vote.


What they are looking at is a track record in the town with holding all


26 council seats. They could not have been doing bad things over so


many years - it is remarkable to hold all the seats. A local can r


candidate. As they have some local credentials. He has the track


record. Well, good for him! Stay with us. We are nearly at the end


of the programme. We are joined from Westminster but someone you


will all recognise. Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall. What is the fishiest


outfith you've had? We've had squid, jellyfish. It's been the most


fantastic carnival atmosphere. We have close to 2,000 people here.


They are here because they share the passion for protecting the


marine environment. We have a very, very loud siren going on behind me.


We are used to it. Battle with it. I don't want to dampen anyone's


enthusiasm here. There is a consultation about marine


conservation. Our Government has asked to hear from us. We want to


see action. You want to see action. Have Government ministers agreed to


meet you? Are you getting anywhere? I have met with our fisheries


minister on several occasions to discuss this issue. It is - fair


play to him - he is engaged. Having set up a period of consultation


over two years which cost �8 million, DEFRA came up with a


proposal for a network of 127 Marine Conservation Zones around


the UK. That is a good, healthy number. The current disappointment


is they have announced they will only look at 31 of them. That is


what we're talking about here today. We want to see a time frame to


extend that number for a proper consultation on the full 127.


will let you go back to your fishy friends. Good luck! That is all for


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