Jo Coburn is joined by Labour shadow minister Diane Abbott to discuss all the main political news of the day, including the latest on Syria.
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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
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