09/09/2013 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon, and welcome to the Daily Politics.


Labour and the unions trade blows. Is the report on an alleged union


stitch-up in the selection of an MP another union stitch-up?


Hague couldn't persuade his MPs, but can the US Secretary of State


visiting London today persuade congressmen to back military action


against Syria? MPs prepare to grill BBC bosses. Who


was it who authorised hundreds of thousands of pounds of licence fee


payers' money to be paid to departing colleagues?


And the queen of the party conference comedy circuit hangs up


her boots. It is a well-known truth that every


Lib Dem activist fancies himself in sequins!


Yes, the mind boggles! All that in the next hour.


With us for the first half of the programme today is Shadow Health


Minister and Labour MP Diane Abbott. Let's start with Chris Huhne. The


disgraced former Cabinet Minister has today claimed that the media


coverage which led to his downfall was what he described as "payback"


for his support for investigations into hacking by Rupert Murdoch's


News International. Mr Huhne lost his political career and his liberty


over his speeding conviction, a story that was uncovered by the


Sunday Times, a paper owned by News International. Mr Huhne told the


Today programme this morning that, at one time, he was being was tailed


by a full-time investigator. All I am pointing out is that the


way in which this was specifically done, was a very clear payback for


the fact that I had been a former journalist. I wasn't able to resist


going public on how the police should reopen the investigation into


voice Male hacking and the Murdoch press.


Your thoughts? My thought is politicians complaining about the


media is like ducks complaining about the weather. I feel very sorry


for his family particularly the children who got caught up in it.


What I would recommend to Chris Huhne is a John Profumo system,


quiet, good works, in long period of reflection.


He is not taking your advice. Is that because he is, somehow, trying


to brazen it out, if you like? He is certainly not taking good advice.


It worked for John Profumo, it will work for him. Years of silence.


It worked for John Profumo, it will Did News International have an


agenda? You know, is the Pope a Catholic? Of course they have an


agenda. Complaining about that as a politician... You get on with it.


He says rather than cheap skating on the proposed investigation on


hacking my phone, the News of the world put me under extensive


surveillance by a retired policeman. Is this someone tried to


fight his way back into politics? The truth is he did break the law,


that's why he went to prison. Rupert Murdoch is a separate issue.


Now it's time for our daily quiz. A report from Yale University today


suggests that politics can impair performance, but what does it make


you bad at? Is it: a) Relationships. B) Maths.


C) Grammar. Or d) Sports? At the end of the show we will give


you the correct answer. Now, a war of words has broken out


between union bosses currently gathered in Bournemouth for the TUC


conference, and the Labour leadership over Mr Miliband's


proposed changes to Labour Party funding. The Labour leader wants to


end the automatic affiliation of union members to the party. Members


would, instead, have to opt in to Labour, a policy change that could


cost the party millions. The changes were announced in the wake of the


controversy over the selection of Labour's candidate in Falkirk. The


Unite trade union was alleged to have packed local membership lists


with Unite members who were unaware they were joining Labour, in a bid


to get their candidate Karie Murphy selected. Ed Miliband suspended two


party members, including Karie Murphy, and put the Falkirk party in


special measures. And, in a speech, he castigated Unite and the Falkirk


saga, calling it: "Politics of the machine. A politics that is rightly


hated. What we saw in Falkirk is part of the death-throes of the old


politics." But then, on Friday evening, Labour


announced the two suspended Falkirk members would be reinstated, as they


were "not guilty of any wrongdoing". And Karie Murphy announced she was


withdrawing her nomination for the Falkirk seat.


Labour also said, "Key evidence has been withdrawn". The current Labour


MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce, has said the key witnesses were "prevailed


upon" to withdraw their statements. They may be keen to move on, and


they were criticised by Ed Miliband, he said there were serious


issues, labour besmirched by the behaviour of if you individuals. It


is wrong, the practices would not have Len McCluskey defending this


kind of machine politics. He made a big deal about this. Now we find


that evidence has been withdrawn and the report will not be published.


Should it be? Len McCluskey has said he is happy


he wants to move on and work with the Labour Party. This is a


Westminster story, ordinary people in Hackney are not talking about


this. Ed Miliband make a begin of it. He


launched his reform of the relationship between Labour and the


unions on this. The people around Ed Miliband feel


under pressure. They are determined to prove he is not a puppet. He is


not, that is a fact. That was then, this is now.


So was it a mistake by Ed Miliband to go in as hard as he did, over


what he alleges what happened in Falkirk?


We are all going to move on. You Falkirk?


keep saying that but can you move on when there has been an


investigation, a report that has now not been published, when that


investigation has found the two suspended individuals have now been


proven innocent? We can move on. George Osborne is


boasting how well the economy is doing, but my stitch whence are


under the cosh in terms of living standards. This was a Westminster


bubble story. It was not, this was Ed Miliband,


his platform from which he launched his big reform of the relationship


with the unions. If Len McCluskey is ready to move


on, surely the media should be. Is Ed Miliband happy with the


conclusions, does he not need to demand that report is published?


Otherwise we can't make a judgement. He must want to address the big


issues, living standards, zero hours contracts.


Tom Watson has said those comments about unite should be retracted from


Jim Murphy. But no one will move on until this


squabbling in Labour, until some things are sorted out.


Should Jim Murphy beat apologising? There are far bigger issues, Syria,


living standards, what's really happening to ordinary people. We


have to move on. What do you say to the two people


who were suspended? Karie Murphy has agreed to stand down for the best


interests of the party. If someone apologised, that would


draw a line underneath it? I am not supporting those calls.


When asked about what was in the original report, he said this


enquiry says people were being signed up to the party without their


knowledge. He says people were being asked to sign up to the Labour Party


on condition they supported certain candidates, that is why we have


suspended to individuals. On Friday, it was announced no rules


were broken. He was from. You need to ask Ed Miliband about


that. Somebody was wrong here. Either the witnesses and their


account wasn't correct and there was a problem with evidence, which would


be very serious. Or they were telling the truth but have been


persuaded to withdraw evidence. What other explanation could there be?


There is no conspiracy here. You would have been persuaded to


withdraw evidence. What other explanation could there be? There is


withdraw evidence. What other no conspiracy here. You how to ask


Ed Miliband. As I understand, Unite did nothing in Falkirk that other


organisations weren't doing. So Ed Miliband was wrong to pursue it? Ed


Miliband is never wrong. It can't be that the unions weren't doing


anything wrong, and that Ed Miliband... You must ask him, maybe


there was a misunderstanding. Are you embarrassed? Nope.Why don't you


want to talk about it? People have other things they want to talk


about. There is an element of truth and element of trust. There is and


Ed Miliband and the trade unions are committed to modernising the way the


unions relate to Labour. Going well so far? You will see by the end of


the week. So, tomorrow, Ed Miliband addresses


the TUC conference in Bournemouth, So, tomorrow, Ed Miliband addresses


determined, apparently, to reform the link with the unions. But just


how money does Labour risk losing in these changes? Here's David.


I do not promise easy time. That was before he decided to reform their


links with the unions. They may be comrades but they are not always


friends. Ed Miliband may have won the leadership on the back of union


votes but it is clear he wants to reform the relationship between the


party and its biggest paymasters. What is not clear is the


consequences of that decision. A new beginning or the beginning of the


end? The consequences could be drastic. I am on record saying this


could be the gamble of the century, a political gamble. It could force


the financial meltdown of the Labour Party as it stands.


Here is why he is talking in such apocalyptic terms. Union members


have to watch out if they want to avoid paying an affiliation fee to


Labour. Last year, those fees raised £8 million, a quarter of its total


income. Under the reforms, members would have to opt in which could


cost dear. Last week, the GMB said its affiliation fees would drop by


£1 million to reflect the move. Unite reckons the party would lose


£3 million from its members. Big numbers but not enough to deter


those who crave reform. If you worry about something that needs to be


tackled as a matter of principle because you might lose some money,


you are looking at this from the wrong end. This is about a new type


of politics, after the expenses scandal, this is about a new


settlement. Ed Miliband's strength is he understands a need for a new


settlement. But that is the kind of armaments which antagonises people


within the union movement. The money the party is means -- receiving from


the union movement is the most transparent money in politics.


People have a right to be insulted by that. While the proposals might


hit affiliation fees, the unions could still donate. So things as


drastic as they seem? I would find it amazing, and many


unions are not affiliated, but they know their ambitions, their view of


life, it is very similar to the Labour Party. So I would be very


surprised if they did not contribute to those objectives.


TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady joins us now live from


Bournemouth. Welcome.


You said earlier today, union money is the cleanest cash in politics.


Would it be more less keen if individual had two. -- had to opt


in? That is a matter for the Labour


Party. What do you think? The real dirt in politics hasn't been


tackled. People are far more worried about the grip that people in the


City have over politics, half of donations to the Conservative party


come from the City, than freely given from nurses, train drivers.


Ed Miliband has already made it clear the direction he wants to


take... What do you think?The TUC is not affiliated to the Labour


Party and most of our unions are not affiliated to the Labour Party but


we do share concern that we want an agenda for decent jobs, fair pay and


a fair share of the rewards as and when economic recovery comes. What


do you say when Ed Miliband will say, we need to build a party truly


rooted in the lives of all the working people in Britain once


more. What does that say about the efforts of the trade unions to do


the same? We represent 6 million people. I think we do a good job of


it. I don't think we would be talking about zero hours contracts,


the need for living wage and unfair pay if it wasn't for the trade union


movement and I am proud for that. Voters want a real agenda for a


fairer Britain and some answers about how we are going to get there.


There is also an opinion poll that shows the majority of unions are


backing Ed Miliband's plans to reform the relationship with the


unions and how they are funding Labour. A lot of union leaders have


already been clear about that. Len McCluskey has welcomed the


initiative to modernise and reform the link for the 21st-century. This


has happened over the Labour Party's entire history. There is


nothing new about that. Its rules are not written in stone, it is a


broad church and they will change with the time. Do you support... 100


relieved hands of Labour Party funding? That is a matter for the


GMB but the real issue that ordinary working people are talking about is


how to get that 1 working people are talking about is


people back to work, not any job but a decent job, how do we get fair


pay, and that when we do get a recovery it doesn't all go into


bumper bonuses in the city of but into people 's pay packets. -- in


the City but into people's pay packets. 86% of members of Unite


believe it is right to introduce a packets. 86% of members of Unite


cap on benefits but that is not the position of the unions. Our concern


about the benefit cap is that the majority of the benefits go to low


paid workers in work, who are dependent on tax credits to get by


when instead, and this is a key point, we should tackle the root


cause of low pay. I want those employers in those industries that


can afford to pay a fair wage and offer fair working conditions should


do so. We need employers and unions to get around the table, supported


by government, to get that right. Ordinary families have lost £30 a


week on average out of their pay back its troop cuts in real pace


since the financial crash that they did nothing to cause -- out of their


pay packets through cuts. Meanwhile top pay has gone through the roof.


People have a real appetite for fairness and politicians of all


political parties need to start listening. Except one could argue


you are not representing working listening. Except one could argue


people on the issue of welfare and the benefit cap because the majority


of Unite members support the benefit cap and you don't. I think if you


ask trade union members, do they want to see fair pay and employers


stopping offering zero hours contracts, you will get a very clear


answer. That workers should not have to rely on state hand-outs when


employers can afford to pay more. That is the way to get the deficit


down. The same goes for the housing benefit bill. Frances O'Grady in


Bournemouth, thank you very much. Last time you were on the programme


we asked you about angry comments from trade union general secretaries


and you laugh them off and said they did not mean what they said. Now


they have taken action. The GMB has withdrawn £1 million of funding to


the Labour Party. They are withdrawn £1 million of funding to


their money where their mouth is. The leadership of the major trade


unions, Len McCluskey, Paul Kenny, very strongly support the Labour


Party. Their problem is that on this issue they are a little to the right


than their activists but in all the unions there are a very large amount


of members who do not support the party. Dave Prentice did not sound


supportive to Labour. He has been a solid supporter to successive Labour


leaders. Trade union money is a matter for them but I do not believe


Ed Miliband... You think they will reverse the decision to cut the


money to the Labour Party? I am not saying that, no. It is like a family


quarrel but at the end of the day the unions will not see the Labour


Party destitute. That, I believe. But it is a natural conclusion to


what the Labour Party is proposing, so how will the party afford to run


the next election? No doubt the people around Ed Miliband have


factored that in. Do you talk to Ed Miliband much about these issues,


like Falkirk? You are a frontbencher, it sounds like you do


not have any discussions with him? I am very humble on the front bench.


So are you not in his inner circle? I am a very humble frontbencher.


Will I am seeing is the trade unions will not see the Labour Party


destitute. -- all that I am saying. You said Ed Miliband had a mission


to detoxify the label Red Ed. I did not say that. The talk in the


newspapers is nonsense, that he is Red Ed. But not that the union


supported him and that is how he won. The unions voted for


supported him and that is how he because they wanted to block David


at all costs, that is what that was about. Thank you. Don't go away.


It is set to be a tough week for Barack Obama who is trying to


convince the US Congress and Senate to support military strikes in


Syria. On this side of the Atlantic, this morning the American Secretary


of State John Kerry and William Hague have discussed Syria, with


William Hague insisting Britain and America are closely aligned. A


little earlier John Kerry explained why there should be support for


action against the Assad government. I think it would be good to hear


people saying to a dictator, keep your hands off chemical weapons that


kill your own people. Protect your own people. I think it's important


for us to stand up as nations for civility and against actions that


challenge notions of humanity and decency and appropriate


international behaviour for almost 100 years. The world has stood


together against the use of chemical weapons and we need to hear an


appropriate outcry as we think back on those moments of history when


large numbers of people have been killed because the world was silent.


We have our special correspondent in New York. Andrew. Welcome!


Good afternoon on a beautiful New York morning.


One does wonder why, when Great Britain is going to be joining


forces with America, John Kerry was standing shoulder to shoulder with


William Hague. This will make no influence, it is


not even being watched over here. If This will make no influence, it is


the vote was held in Congress today, the president would lose. He


might squeak through in the Senate, although I am not sure of that. He


would certainly lose in the House. 227 members of them have already


said they would be against a strike and you only need 217 for a


majority, so if it was today, it would go the way of David Cameron in


the House of Commons. How much has he got to do to


persuade enough people to make the certain of success?


He is not certain of success and he has a mountain to climb. He is


giving interviews to six networks today, which will all appear on


prime time tonight. He is addressing the nation from the Oval Office


tomorrow life and there is a massive lobbying campaign going on in


Congress. That is a powerful business. The president is up


against a more powerful machine, public opinion. Senators and


congressmen are coming back from their constituencies over the


weekend reporting huge public opposition to any kind of strike


against Syria. One Congressman's said to me, to say 99% of my people


are against it is to overestimate the support for it. Those that have


electoral ambitions are against it, like the senior senator, Democrat,


for Arkansas. It will be very hard indeed. At the moment the president


is staring defeat in the face. What will that mean for his


presidency? For him, politically? The stakes are high.


It will be devastating for the president if he loses because it


will show that he has not got the power to get his way in Congress


when it comes to major issues power to get his way in Congress


foreign policy and indeed, the elephant in the room is not Syria.


The strongest briefing we are getting from the administration is


that if the Americans do not agree to a strike against the 9/11


regime, by the way Assad has appeared on American network


television this morning reminding Americans of the difficulty of their


past experiences in the Middle East, but the line is that if the White


House does not respond to the chemical attacks in Syria, the


Iranians will not believe any threats they make against them. If


he loses this, my feeling is we will have a lame duck president for the


rest of his tenure. Second terms are always very difficult for American


presidents, they do not have pulling power to bring people along. If he


loses this vote in Congress, he will be even more of a lame duck


president. What about the timetable of these


events? What about the timetable of these


We are beginning to get procedural motions this week and there could be


a substantial vote on Friday but I do not think the House, and he needs


to win in both the House and the Senate, I do not think they will


come until sometime next week and these long delays, he let Congress


comeback after those summer holiday in the natural way, delaying any


possible attack, it is like he has done a save the date card to Assad


saying, I will get to you in September. The fact there is this


delay also means that many in Congress to not think the president


is really serious about this and they are not going to go along with


it. Presumably if Congress does not


support this, even though he could go ahead with military action as


commander in chief, he wouldn't. It is inconceivable if he loses the


vote in Congress that he would proceed with military action. He


will not say so in public but White House aides are sailing Congress


will have to vote and if it doesn't, there will not be a strike -- are


saying. I will bring you back a present if


you get Diane Abbott to answer a question.


It is a deal! Answer the questions or I do not get the present! It


looks now as if any military response is hanging in the balance.


You must be pleased but listening to John Kerry, it will leave the Assad


regime unpunished. I will not comment on American policy but I


will say this. Bombing Syria would almost certainly make things worse


and it would suck us into a Syrian Civil War and that is why the


majority of the British public and the American public are against it


and that is why it would be very unwise to bring the issue back to


the House of Commons for a second vote. You think it would be a


mistake. Cameron must think so as vote. You think it would be a


well otherwise he would not have been so emphatic. Even more of his


own MPs will vote against the first time and that would be a


humiliation. Let me try again, is Ed Miliband minded, if circumstances


change dramatically, William Hague there said there was a possibility,


that a second vote could be had in the Commons? Would let Ed Miliband


support it? Really, there has to be a United Nations resolution. If


Congress... Would that not be enough?


If there is a UN resolution, of course we would support it. But


failing that, and a great many of us believe that to get involved in


bombing Syria and getting sucked into a civil war would be a big


mistake. If David Cameron manages to get Ed


Miliband on board, would you be on board?


Not unless there is a UN resolution. The BBC Director-General Tony Hall


sent an email to all staff this morning saying today's going to be a


"tough one" for the corporation. Yes, another one.


This afternoon, no fewer than seven former and current BBC bigwigs will


appear before the Public Accounts Committee in the Commons. And all


eyes will be on former Director General Mark Thompson and BBC Trust


Chairman Chris Patten, who have been trading public blows over who knew


what about controversial severance packages for departing executives.


Mark Thompson says the trust knew about the hundreds of thousands


being paid out. But here's what Chris Patten told the committee back


in July. For us, we asked for this report


because we were concerned about the overall size of severance payments,


and wanted to see if we could reduce them, albeit the fact that they were


contractual, it was a question of shock and dismay for us to discover


how many had been beyond contractual, and even higher than


they needed to be. Where they can seek -- exceeded


contractual obligations, should the trust have known?


Yes. And if you recall, The Conservative MP Chris


Heaton-Harris is a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and will


be questioning BBC bosses this afternoon. He joins us now.


It is unusual to speak to all of the witnesses simultaneously, if you


like, why? Because they are contradicting each


other, so it is easier to whittle out a tiny bit of the truth by


having them all answer each other's questions. It will be an interesting


dynamic, there is no love lost between certain members of the


panel. Chris Patten has said he hopes it


will be reasonably dignified, what are the chances of that? It should


be. Everything we do is reasonably


dignified. What the panel does to each other, who knows?


Did you have problems persuading them to appear alongside each other?


It was relatively smooth in sorting out the logistics.


What do you want to hear from Mark Thompson today?


We want to hear from the trust and Mark Thompson what actually happened


with these very big payoffs. We have conflicting versions.


We want to find out the truth, the committee has not had access to BBC


accounts before 2010. Every time we have scratched the surface,


especially at the top, this is about the top echelons of the BBC and


nothing to do with the general rank and file of staff. At the top, there


are definite issues about how public money has been spent.


Rob Wilson said if it turns out the trust approved excessive payments it


is not tenable for Chris Patten to continue. Do you agree? It depends


if he knew about them. There is a scenario that Mark


Thompson and Chris Patten are telling the truth.


Mark Thompson has evidence he claims that the trust, including Chris


Patten, did know about the payments being made. He might have sent an


e-mail to Chris Patten or the trust office which could have been generic


and not specifying detail. That is something we are going to


ask this afternoon. You're not expecting a definitive


answer if you are conceding actually both could be right.


I have just given you a scenario where this could possibly be that


both of them are telling pretty much where this could possibly be that


the truth. Are you hoping to get to the bottom of it?


I am expecting so. The chairman Margaret Hodge is very good at that


sort of thing. There are MPs on the committee who are very good in


visitors. Lucy Adams has already admitted


misleading the committee over an e-mail that she didn't seem to


remember at the time, but then admitted she took part in drafting


it. Is there a punishment for that? She has said she will leave the BBC,


it might speed that up. It depends on what Tony Hall thinks about this.


A man who has come in to do a job, not expecting it to be such a choppy


ride as he has had since coming into post. I think he was quite reliant


on Lucy Adams doing this. Losing that key member of staff in that H R


position and then finding the evidence she gave to the committee


was whether a deliberate untruth or a mistake, incorrect, must be very


disappointing. Is there a punishment for misleading


disappointing. the committee? There is but I don't


think we will be giving her a public dressing down.


Should she go early though? Do you as a committee member think she


should? Personally, I think she should, yes.


What do you think? I think it is an internal BBC


matter. We know that 99% of you are not getting millions of pounds. She


matter. We know that 99% of you are says, bitterly!


What has this done to public trust in the corporation? I don't think it


helps. It gives the impression that everyone in the corporation is


overpaid. The issue is important, the infighting is not edifying.


But the issue itself is important, if there were over payments that


were not contractually necessary. If this was a private sector company


it would clearly be what they wanted to do. But the BBC, it gets


attention from scrutineers, like Chris. As I say, it is sad, it


reflects poorly on what is actually a great institution.


There are suggestions the trust could be abolished. It will set up


under Labour. Should the regulator be Ofcom?


I think we are moving towards that. You do. I think so.


They keep the organising and changing but it doesn't seem to


work. What about you?


I am not sure. The National audit report stresses there are government


issues at trust level. And, unfortunately, for the BBC as a


whole, the BBC Trust has maybe done some inaccurate and bad things, and


now the BBC gets a public bashing for it. That is slightly unfair.


But, this is the way we work in media, you get plenty of attention


when something bad happens and not media, you get plenty of attention


so much attention otherwise. Whoever it is, Ofcom, there will be


politicians who find something to criticise.


So, time now to look at what's on the political agenda this week, and


it's shaping up to be a busy one. Tomorrow, Labour leader Ed Miliband


faces a key test of his leadership, addressing union leaders at the TUC


conference in Bournemouth. On Wednesday, Parliament's Public


Accounts Committee holds a hearing on the Iain Duncan Smith's troubled


Universal Credit plans for benefits. This follows last week's criticism


of the system by the National Audit Office.


On Thursday, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, gives


evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on the August quarterly


inflation report. And party conference season begins this week.


The Greens are in Brighton on Friday. And this weekend, the Lib


Dems gather in Glasgow. We're joined from College Green by


Pippa Crerar of the London Evening Standard, and the Daily Mail's


Andrew Pierce. No doubt really looking forward to


the conference season. Pepper, is Ed Miliband doing the right thing in


terms of reforming the relationship with the unions?


He may well be but there's not much he can do about it because there is


no going back. Having made such a big deal about reforming the link


with the unions, he has two see it through. Can you imagine if he said


he made a mistake? It would send a message of weakness within the party


and to the unions. The bottom line is the majority want to see the link


performed. Ed Miliband, having had the union support, has always been


seen as being in thrall to them. So it is important to show that he is


able to create some degree of separation, and modernise the


relationship. That is not to say not to have a strong link but to make


sure it is not seem as if they have an overbearing influence on policy.


This row was a gift for the Conservatives.


The majority of trade union members are backing Ed Miliband. Could he


come out of this stronger? Only if he wins. If he doesn't, he


will look like a lame duck Labour leader. This is a futile scrap with


the unions. A knee jerk response to Falkirk. He overreacted, telling us


there was evidence of wrongdoing. Then on Friday night, there is


nothing wrong in Falkirk at all, suggestions there may have been


union manipulation. It has wrong-footed him and made him look


weak. He has already lost money from one of the unions. He needs a


coherent alternative economic strategy which they are miserably


failing to do. He is petrified he may not win. The British public


don't give a hoot about this. On the economy, how difficult is


this for Labour? George Osborne arguing Labour has been proved


wrong. Growth is back. It is a tricky strategic decision


George Osborne made in his speech. He has decided that he wants to


hammer home the message the economy is moving thanks to the column --


the Conservatives. But there is a danger of things not progressing as


fast as he would like. Recovery has been slow so far. And there is a


danger of him appearing complacent. We remember George Bush after the


invasion of Iraq saying, mission accomplished. There is a long way to


go and Ed Miliband would be do well to do this, to hammer home the


message that, for working people, things are not better yet, even if


the economy is heading in the right direction. Living standards,


household budgets are high, there is the spectre of another house prices


bubble. People are feeling the pinch. Wages are lower than when


David Cameron took power. Labour will be hammering home that. The


economy will have centre ground closer to the general election.


How careful does he have to be or is he sounding more confident about the


economy and himself? He is, a poll yesterday suggested


if... There is this just G of talking up the economy. I can see


the point of that. The Daily Telegraph says, I have saved the


economy, which is over the top. Gordon Brown said he saved the world


or the banking system, I can't remember which. It is putting


pressure on Labour. They said all along austerity doesn't work, you


have to spend your way out of recession. Statistics are still


fragile but looking more positive. And beginning to show the austerity


programme is working. Some Tories today have said if only he had been


more vigorous on austerity and cut public spending more, the economy


would be looking even better. Enjoyed the converse is, thank you


very much. I'm sure we will try hard.


With me now for the rest of the programme, the cream of 2010 intake:


Labour's Anas Sarwar. The Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt.


And the Conservative MP Chris Skidmore.


Welcome to the programme. Let us talk first about the


economy. The Chancellor George Osborne has been making a speech


today in which he said the UK economy is turning a corner.


If economic collapse was even worse than we thought, preparing it will


take even longer than we hoped. But we held our nerve, when many told us


to abandon our plan. And, as a result, thanks to the efforts and


sacrifices of the British people, Britain is turning a corner. Many


risks remain. These are still the early stages of recovery. But we


must not go back to square one. We must not lose what the British


people have achieved. At PMQ 's Ed Balls used to do the


famous flat-lining gesture to show the economy was not moving. Last


week they had their own gesture to show we are returning to growth. Ed


Balls's economic strategy has been undermined. The Chancellor has been


doing this for three years and now he is trying to make it positive.


Let's take the experiences of our he is trying to make it positive.


friends and families. They will see every day we do not have the right


types of jobs, we have youth unemployment at record levels, too


many women are out of work, the quality of jobs and the rise in zero


hours contracts, low wages, too many people below the living wage and...


That is Labour's new economic case, fine. But we have sat here for the


past three years listening to Labour politicians saying austerity would


choke growth. It has been proved wrong. Labour has to admit that


before moving on. We had growth wrong. Labour has to admit that


the economy when the Tories came into government and unemployment was


falling, and then unemployment started to rise when they came in


and we had a double dip recession. George is right to say this recovery


is built on the back of the British people. 29.7 million people


employed, more than in any other age. But is it as a result of his


policies that recovery has come? I think so. The deficit has gone from


11% to 7%. And is now flat-lining. Mortgage rates have remained stable


so working families campaign the bills. Why did Labour opposed the


coalition policy of ensuring that the £10,000 remains tax-free so that


we took 1.2 million people out of income tax altogether. Why did you


oppose also... Reports clearly show that people are earning less by the


end of this government and they were earning at the beginning of this


government. Petrol is 10p cheaper. Your constituents not feeling the


pain because mine are? Living costs would be worse if Labour are in


power -- were in power. But you admit, prices are rising, wages are


not rising, people do not feel better off. Do you accept your


constituents do not feel better off? As George said, it is a slow


recovery. We need to ensure that the only way to get wages rising in the


longer term is to increase the economy overall. You are accepting


it has got worse under this government? It would be even worse


under Labour. Don't talk over each other because it is difficult for


viewers. Chris Skidmore, it saying it would have been worse under


Labour. IU supporting the plan to spend £12 billion to boost recovery


-- are you supporting? That was a major part of the plan. Absolutely.


You have to get the right type of borrowing. There is no point... You


should increase borrowing to increase capital investment,


increase quality jobs right across the country. That is what will get


the economy moving and living standards up. Not the current


scheme. Do people feel better off in your constituency? A number of


people feel better off because of the things the Lib Dems have


brought, we have made sure that £700 people have more in their pay


packets... Even though their wages are falling and their fuel bills are


packets... Even though their wages going up. We are making sure there


is a tax cash back for people, £2000, various things in motion to


make sure we ensure that job stay in the economy. There is a million more


private-sector jobs. We want to create another million. Governments


do not create those jobs. We have got the regional growth fund to


do not create those jobs. We have structure more money into the


regions for businesses, the business bank, the green investment bank, we


regions for businesses, the business have invested in wind power we have


made sure the structure is there to support various different


industries. Company still complain that banks are not lending. Of


course. Our bank has committed to 700 million. The point you have


made, you have caught the Labour Party out. They spent three years


saying we should go down a different plan but the reality is they dropped


that message at the beginning of the summer and slowly, things look as


though they are going in the right direction. We need to be cautious,


because it is only two quarters that things have been going better, we


because it is only two quarters that have to go carefully, but things


because it is only two quarters that will get better. We need long-term,


well-paid, full-time jobs and we are seeing zero hour contracts,


part-time jobs on the rise, and speak to any business in any


constituency, they still feel the squeeze. There is a commitment to


spend 700 million. We don't need a commitment, we need people spending


that money to create wealth and jobs. Not continued pledges from the


Chancellor. Tests, it is interesting said things will get it. Things get


better, nothing to do with government policies. And it is


fragile, you said yourself. Yes, and it would be mad to say it is all


sorted because I am not sure that is sensible. We have to make sure we


keep helping businesses to create jobs. Is it risky for George Osborne


to save the economy has turned a corner? I would not say that but I


am not the Chancellor! I would not say that. There are a number of


other fact is that could change. So this is a high risk strategy. Your


coalition partner is saying growth is very fragile. All the signs you


have seen show this is a balanced recovery. Manufacturing is at its


highest level for 19 years. You cannot deny that there are positive


signs but that does not stop us from being complacent. We must fight


harder to get more people into work. We want to make sure hard-working


people are rewarded. Now, the Liberal Democrat conference starts


next week, but with Sarah Teather announcing that she's going to stand


down at the next election, who's going to do the stand-up? I thought


I wouldn't keep you for too long tonight because I want to get back


to my hotel room to watch Strictly Come Dancing but coming back to


George Osborne, I heard he wants to Come Dancing but coming back to


do a line dance on the show. Brave of Sarah Teather. I take it you will


not replace her in that? I do not do comedy! You are set to lose a woman


MP. Add news for a party -- bad news for a party that has more men than


women in Toluca Micro. Yes. Sarah has been a fantastic member of


Parliament. She should be very proud of the work she has done. She fought


for special needs young people and their parents and did a fantastic


job as Minister for education. But she said she left feeling desolate


and catastrophically depressed by some of the lip Dem policies. I did


hear that quote. I would take a different view. My job is when


something is wrong, to make people know about it. Is she alone in


feeling like this in the party? I think it would be an unusual


response. If I feel something is wrong, I knocked on doors of the


ministers. They put their nameplate on. That is the point of being in


coalition. The power that we have a disproportionate, as I am sure many


of Chris's colleagues would say, but we can influence. She felt she


of Chris's colleagues would say, but couldn't influence even as a


minister, on things like immigration. She felt depressed


minister, on things like about the benefits cap. Is that


because she has been more principled on Liberal Democrat policies than


others? Absolutely not. I am as good as the briefing I get from my


constituents. I have my own opinions but I very often depend on my


constituents to tell me what they feel strongly about. We need to get


our voice heard in government. Nick Clegg, in his defence, he cannot


mind read what 57 of us are thinking. She made her views pretty


clear. But do you think that as Ming Campbell said, she could not take


the heat? He said that coalition was not for the faint-hearted and that


is right. She has a different way of dealing with things. We went into


coalition to sort the country out and that is what she is trying to


do. Is she going to defect? I feel sorry for her. The bigger point is


this is a politician choosing to jump before the politicians per


share. This is a seat that Labour needs to win. I think she has


probably seen that. This is the time when everybody makes their


decisions... I will have to leave it there.


We were told HS2 had the potential to transform the economic shape of


the UK, but this morning the Commons Public Accounts Committee has said


estimated benefits of the planned high-speed rail link are dwindling


as costs rise. Margaret Hodge, the chair of the Committee, has


explained why she has changed her position. I have looked at the


detail of the project. I have moved from being a supporter to thinking


this is not the right place to put £50 billion of money. I am not


alone. There are a growing number of voices who are sceptical about this


project. I think the government needs to listen seriously, not leave


this as a vanity project. We must increase rail capacity to ensure


overcrowding does not take place. We had these debates probably when


Isambard Kingdom Brunel was building! I welcome the fact the


Labour Party are still having a cross-party position to support


this. Alistair Darling is withdrawing his support. I still


support High Speed Two. The West Coast Main line in Scotland will


reach capacity in ten years. We need millions off the road, to free up


space. That is a plus. Connectivity is a big thing. The further north


the line goes, the more value it is is a big thing. The further north


for us. I have always been a massive supporter for investment in rail and


public transport but I do not think it will do much for the West


Country. It is not just HS2, we are investing elsewhere.


There's just time before we go to find out the answer to our quiz.


The question was this: According to Yale University research, what does


politics make you bad at? Relationships, maths, grandma or


sports? I will say sport.It is maths. Thank you both very much! All


three of you! That's all for today. Thanks to our guests. The one


o'clock news is starting over on BBC One now. I will be here at midday


tomorrow. Goodbye.


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