11/03/2014 Daily Politics


11/03/2014

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Afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics. It's been confirmed

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in the last couple of hours that Bob Crow, the Secretary Gerneral of the

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RMT, has died. We'll bring you the latest reaction Labour are calling

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it the hospital closure clause. We'll ask whether it's right for the

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Government to be given more powers to shut down hospitals. There has

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not been a totally fair and honest election since 2006, according to

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one returning officer, and postal votes are to blame. So, should they

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be banned? And is the dogs going to the dogs? We'll speak to one MP

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lamenting its demise. All that in the next hour. And with

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us for the whole programme today is broadcaster and publisher Iain Dale.

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Welcome to the show. First, the sad news that Bob Crow, the Secretary

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General of the RMT, died in the early hours of this morning at the

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age of 52. Tributes have been coming in from across the political

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spectrum. Here's a flavour of what's been said. No, we will go to that in

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a moment. We can speak to our political correspondent, Chris

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Mason. He was a larger than life character. He certainly fought for

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his members, didn't he? He was a huge character in public life. He

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was a campaigner for his members. When you look at statistics in

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London, when you look at salaries, he started -- he was undoubtedly

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successful in campaigning for members. For critics, he was a relic

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from a previous era - a socialist dinosaur. He regularly ground London

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to a halt with strikes on the London underground. We saw that a matter of

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weeks ago. People from across the political spectrum recognised his

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power and influence and recognised he was perhaps the most influential

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and well-known trade unionist in the country and perhaps the most

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well-known socialist. He was always willing to go into battle with his

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members and those who wanted to take him on. Here is a little excerpt of

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an interview he did with Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics a couple of

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weeks ago. Why do you run for London mayor? That has not come up yet. You

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are not ruling it out? Sky I am not ruling out your job on The Politics

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Show. You have got to put your feet up. I'm worried about your health as

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well. Shall we go on strike first? If you had my wages, you might not

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be able to afford to be on the beach. Nice to see you. He gave as

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good has he got. The interview touching on the fact he was a very

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successful negotiator. Undeniably, he was very successful. His critics

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acknowledge that. Plenty said that in private, when he was in the

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negotiations, he was a more subtle and thoughtful man than the

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caricature sometimes portrayed him. Here was a guy who had worked in the

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railways and then in trade unionism all his life. He started working on

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the row ways since the age of 16. He got into a dispute with his manager

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since the age of 19. He climbed his way up the union of row in men, as

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it was then. That merged with the Maritime union and became the RMT.

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He became its leader at 52 years old. He was due to be attending the

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meeting of the TUC yesterday. They were getting together and he called

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in sick. He had been expected to attend today. When those at that

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meeting had discovered what had happened overnight, his passing in

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the night, that meeting immediately was suspended. A very big gap left

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in the trade union world. From the perspective of the RMT, he is a very

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difficult man to replace. With me now is Mick Whelan, who is the

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General Secretary of ASLEF and the Labour MP, Jeremy Corbyn. It must

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have come as a terrible shock. I do not think we have yet come to terms

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with it. It has been an awful morning. We are concerned for his

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family. He was incredibly proud of his family. Looking at him, you are

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a friend as well as a work colleague, how would you describe

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him? Behind the cameras, he was a force. He was larger than life in

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personality. You cannot get to be general secretary of the RMT and run

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an organisation like that. We deal with pensions and all the things

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that when we are arguing from the other side of the table, we have not

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experienced. He was a very public figure, wasn't he? He could stand up

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soapbox style and talk like a firebrand. There were union

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meetings, campaign meetings, disputes, all kinds of thing will

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stop I used to give out leaflets for the nationalisation of the row ways

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with him. It is amazing all these people coming in from the Chilterns

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in nurse soothsaying, thank you very much, it is very kind of you. -- in

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their suits saying. He was likened to the great Harry Bridges. They

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loved him. Bob was an intellectual man. He was extremely well read. He

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was and extremely well-informed and a caring individual. There was an

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awful lot of depth to Bob. That is why he became general secretary.

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Running a union is not just in front of the cameras, it is a whole lot of

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other administrative things. Bob did all that very well. Let's get a

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flavour of some of the tributes we have received this morning in

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response to the death of Bob Crow. We may have disagreed on certain

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aspects of what he would have liked to have seen happen to the railways

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but both of us wanted to see the overall benefits of the railways and

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recognised it very important role that they can play. In certain

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areas, he was a supporter of various other things. Very shocked, very

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sad. 52 is too young to be taken away from a family. This is the

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death of a fighter. He was a proud trade unionist. Trade unionists were

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proud of him. I am sad to hear of the loss. A lot of people will be

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grieving today. RMT members loved him. He represented their

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interests. He worked himself into the ground. He was a committed row

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when man. He was committed to a decent railway service. --

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railwaymen. He built the union. This is a tragic loss for all of us.

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Tributes from both Labour and Conservative politicians. There are

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commuters who feel that actually the union and Bob Crow had them over a

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barrel, if you like, when it came to disputes and strike action. If you

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had a dispute they would like to have Bob Crow on their side. Is he

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the greatest trade union leader in Britain? He was a tenacious fighter.

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He was very difficult to interview. If you tried to sort of ask any

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smart ask questions or tried to provoke a confrontation, he would

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run rings around you. He had a twinkle in his voice. He had a good

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sense of humour. I think he will be missed, not just by people on the

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left but people on the right like a good adverse three. What about being

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sensitive to criticism? -- adversarial. In terms of the public,

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when he was out and about, what was the response? People loved to talk

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to him. He had a wonderful sense of humour. He was famous for his

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compassion. He was not, as sometimes put trade, the flat cap and whip it

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typical trade union leader. He sometimes did it to set himself up.

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I famously was at a conference with him in Paris. I said, why do you do

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it? I know you are well read and well briefed. If you go back to

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London and ask them to name three trade union leaders, if they do not

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name me in the first two, they cannot name a third. The union was

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not actually latterly part of the Labour movement. He felt that

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connection had gone some time ago. Union and the Labour Party parted

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quite a long time ago. Bob had various political interests. He was

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a communist and supported the Socialist Labour Party. He also

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supported Labour candidates and Labour MPs. He came to an event in

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Islington last summer and gave us a bottle of Cuban rum! That was

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enjoyed by all. He was far more pragmatic politically than a lot of

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people thought. He knew all about alliances. Was there a bit of bluff

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and bluster? He was not a traditional left-winger. He was a

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devout Eurosceptic. He wanted there to be a left wing all tenanted to

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UKIP. He was quite anti immigration. -- all eternity of two UKIP. He

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stood up for women's rights and cleaners rights. On Europe, the

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point you making quite right. He wanted a Europe where there was

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public ownership. I would not put him in the duke it Eurosceptic mould

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at all. It was a different sort of Europe. -- put him in the

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Eurosceptic mould at all. He must be the B of other trade union leaders.

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His membership went up. -- he must be the envy. Trade union membership

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is going up. We are in a period of time where it is increasing. It may

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not go back to the heady days of the 70s but it is moving in that

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direction. He was very good at promoting the ideals of the trade

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union movement and the politics of it. That attracted a lot of people

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in this day and age. Was Boris frightened of Bob Crow? It would

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have been quite interesting to have a webcam. He will be difficult to

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replace. He has left a legacy. People need to make sure that legacy

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lives and grows but there is no other Bob Crow. People who stand up

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for others get remembered. The Government's Care Bill is back in

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Parliament today. And it's not without controversy. Health

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Secretary Jeremy Hunt has inserted a clause which would give officials

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greater powers to close hospital Accident and Emergency Departments

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and other services. This morning, there were protests outside

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Parliament, attacking what many have called the hospital closure clause.

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Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has warned that the plans will send

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a chill through every community in the country. However, the Government

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argues health services would be delivered best if reorganised over a

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wider area. Andy Burnham joins me now, along with the Conservative MP,

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Dr Phillip Lee. Clause hundred 19, whatever you call it, the clause

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that has caused so much controversy would only affect hospitals that are

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in the trust 's special administrator process. That is

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right, isn't it? At the moment no hospitals are in special

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Administration. Any trust could be. Lewisham had a successful trust,

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financially and clinically. It found itself wrapped up in a

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reconfiguration that had the Health Secretary saying we are going to

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take your accident and emergency department way. The Secretary of

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State was taken all the way to the High Court. He misused the powers of

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the last Labour government. The right thing to have done would be to

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back off gracefully and respect the court 's decision. He rushed forward

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these rules and is arrogantly expecting parliament to rubber-stamp

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them today. He must be stopped because no hospital in England will

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be safe from top-down closure if it goes through. You have used that

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example, which was very potent. Trusts are in financial difficulty

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all over the country. They will not necessarily go into that

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Administration. In terms of what you have would have done, how would you

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have dealt with it? That is a really important question. What we have

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taking place in south-east London before the last election was a very

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traditional, detailed consultation. It was going through the stages of

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local consultation, engagement with the help bodies on the council. That

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got derailed as the election was complete. The Government basically

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put it all into a moratorium on change, as they said. That made the

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problems worse. Then it had to come forward with this brutal

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Administration process to try and rammed through changes. They got it

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completely wrong. What would you have done if you had

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a trust losing ?1 million a week? The plans we put through were for a

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trust which had got into difficulty. The ability to get a new management

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team in quickly to keep the services going. It was never intended as a

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vehicle for the service change, the service reconfiguration. That is

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where this government has got themselves into difficulty. They

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tried to create an entirely new way of making changes to hospitals,

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excluding the voice of local people and driving these changes through.

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That is where they are wrong. What people will not understand and I do

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not understand, why would you take services and use it to plug the gap

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in another part of the trust which is doing badly? To make a decision

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on one hospital has an impact on another. Across the country,

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different services are offered on different sites. All this is

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essentially doing is if you're going to make a decision in extremist,

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this has only happened twice, it makes sense to me would also take

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into consideration the wider health economy. Why would you not close a

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failing hospital? Why would you take the good parts of another one to

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plug that gap? That does not make sense when you look at it on the

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face of it and probably will would not people in that area. It is

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geographical. If you are going to say we will concentrate on one

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hospital, we will forget that if it is not working, you leave an area

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not properly catered for. If you're trying to make a decision for a

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region, not a district, you have to take into consideration more than

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one hospital. Are you saying that no services should be closed. But in

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that situation you have to look at the whole area and see how the

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services are spanned across a geographical borough, constituency

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or trust. You say it is about the services and the people, surely that

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is the best way to look at it, to have a map where you say I can move

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that A service and that stroke unit and that will better serve the

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whole population? You are right. I made precisely those kind of changes

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before the last election. London used to have 12/ units. I reduced

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the number 28. We were advised that would improve patient safety and

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would improve lives. The clinical case should always drive these

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changes. Unless there is a clinical case for change, more lives saved,

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disability reduced, in denim I viewed these changes should not go

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ahead. -- then in my view, these changes should not go ahead.

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Management should not be calling the shots. This is all about trusts

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which are failing. If you have got a hospital which is failing, that is

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potentially costing lives. You cannot have a longer period of

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consultation. In ideal terms, you want to make a decision quickly

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because you are dealing with morbidity and mortality. You are

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dealing with patients here. There is a broader discussion about

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reconfiguration which Andy and I have engaged in both within the

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chamber and without. Looking at this legislation as I understand it, you

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need to have the ability to make decisions with respect to local

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commissioners who all have a say under this legislation. You need to

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make decisions swiftly. Isn't it a case and I have had endless

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politicians on here saying nobody campaigns for hospital closures, it

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is such a difficult emotive subject, it will always be hard to close

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services which is why the Secretary of State feels that there has to be

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some power that overrides local concerns. There are people who feel

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we should take the politics out of the NHS and I have never understood

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this argument because the NHS spends billions of pounds every year and

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there needs to be political accountability for that and for

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hospital closures. Andy Berner knows what it is like to close hospitals,

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he had to do it when he was Health Secretary. -- Andy Burnham. I think

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some of the language you are using is a emotional but if you are in

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power you will be in the same position. We did make closures to

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hospitals. I am not coming here saying never make any changes to

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hospitals but there is a right way to do things and a wrong way. The

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right ways to give local people a voice, put information before them,

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have a clinical case for change. But they will never close a hospital.

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Did she just slap you? ! How when we are saying localism is the thing we

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want and people wanting a greater say, how can we be justifying that

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we from London can impose from communities solutions top-down? When

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you conduct a consultation, you will never get local people saying this

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is a magnificent idea, let's close our hospital. You are wrong. We had

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a case in Manchester about maternity and children's services. The art

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that was put to people that it was say 50 lives a year. The government

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made that argument to people. There was a big debate and carried it

:21:43.:21:47.

forward. But they will not close our hospital. That was part of a

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hospital. Are there some that should be closed? Clearly politics is

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involved, a lot of money is being spent on the National Health

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Service. When there is a difficulty about consulting local people there

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is not a forum for 750,000 people to have their say and that is the type

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of population you need to support in a key hospital. You could see the

:22:11.:22:14.

need for having fewer hospitals. I want to see that because of the

:22:15.:22:18.

outcomes. As Andy has already mentioned, reconfiguring stroke

:22:19.:22:25.

services in London has already saved lives. Where I would slightly

:22:26.:22:32.

disagree in terms of party politics, I am persuaded that unless there is

:22:33.:22:36.

cross-party agreement where those acute hospitals should be cited, I

:22:37.:22:39.

do not think we will progress to what we all want which is a better

:22:40.:22:44.

health service. This is the problem. There needs to be more cross-party

:22:45.:22:49.

agreement. This clause actually damages that potential. It is about

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imposing solutions on communities rather than working with them. I

:22:54.:22:56.

think it is setting back the cause of making necessary clinical changes

:22:57.:23:02.

to the way hospitals are provided, rather than building a case for

:23:03.:23:07.

consensus around change. We will have to leave it there. Thank you

:23:08.:23:10.

very much. Now, should postal voting be

:23:11.:23:13.

scrapped for all but those who genuinely need it? Following a File

:23:14.:23:16.

on Four investigation, one MP thinks so. Conservative Andrew Stephenson

:23:17.:23:20.

has called for postal voting to be drastically scaled back, because he

:23:21.:23:24.

thinks it's marred by "real fraud". Since 2001, anyone on the electoral

:23:25.:23:27.

roll has been able to apply for a postal ballot. But, because voting

:23:28.:23:31.

takes place in people's homes, the Electoral Commission say there is an

:23:32.:23:37.

increased risk of fraud. In January they expressed concern about 16

:23:38.:23:40.

council areas in England, including Mr Stephenson's area of Pendle in

:23:41.:23:46.

Lancashire. Calls for the Government to re-think the postal voting system

:23:47.:23:50.

have been backed up by a judge, Richard Mawley, and a returning

:23:51.:23:54.

officer, Ray Morgan. Mr Morgan says he hasn't seen an election since

:23:55.:23:57.

2006 that was "totally fair and honest". But the Government have no

:23:58.:24:04.

plans to change the current system. Cabinet office minister Greg Clark

:24:05.:24:07.

says the number of cases of abuse in the postal voting system remain

:24:08.:24:10.

"relatively small" with "the vast majority of people using it in a

:24:11.:24:18.

law-abiding way". I'm joined now by Andrew Stephenson and Tom Hawthorn

:24:19.:24:26.

from the Electoral Commission. Andrew Stephenson, postal voting is

:24:27.:24:31.

encouraging people to vote. When turnout is falling, wouldn't it be

:24:32.:24:36.

crazy to get rid of it? In my area of Pendle we have seen concerns for

:24:37.:24:42.

about ten years ever since postal voting was opened up to anyone who

:24:43.:24:47.

wanted to vote by post as a lifestyle choice, really. I am

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perfectly happy for people who need a postal vote, who are away on

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holiday, in firm or serving in the Army, perfectly happy for them to

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have one. But in areas like mine, what you're seeing is a widespread

:25:01.:25:08.

perception of fraud. Is widespread? We have conflicting evidence which

:25:09.:25:13.

says it is relatively small-scale. You're punishing the bulk of the

:25:14.:25:17.

electorate for fraud which could be limited. I think we have to maximise

:25:18.:25:23.

voter turnout. The Electoral Commission have to make sure it is

:25:24.:25:27.

an accessible process for people. In Pendle we have seen in two or three

:25:28.:25:32.

wards, and across the country, we have the Electoral Commission

:25:33.:25:36.

identifying 16 local authorities, I think it is the tip of the iceberg.

:25:37.:25:44.

There is a perception that is undermining confidence in the

:25:45.:25:47.

electoral system. I think the perception of the problem is as

:25:48.:25:51.

damaging as a problem itself. It is stopping some people from casting

:25:52.:25:55.

their ballots because they no longer have confidence in the system.

:25:56.:26:00.

Richard Mawley has said he came across 14 different ways the postal

:26:01.:26:04.

ballots could be manipulated, that is indefensible, isn't it? I think

:26:05.:26:10.

the important thing to recognise is some of those relate back to

:26:11.:26:15.

elections in 2004 and since then a lot has changed. We realise putting

:26:16.:26:23.

in place a more open system without security checks might be a mistake

:26:24.:26:28.

so now people have to provide identifiers which have to be

:26:29.:26:33.

checked. It is shocking that you said you did not think there had

:26:34.:26:37.

been a truly honest election, that will be a great shock to people that

:26:38.:26:41.

you are talking about more recent cases or alleged cases of fraud. The

:26:42.:26:46.

problem is, if it happens in people's homes, how can you

:26:47.:26:51.

safeguard against it? I think it is difficult to safeguard in every

:26:52.:26:54.

single instance but the thing to make clear is every single police

:26:55.:26:58.

force across the country has a dedicated officer who understands

:26:59.:27:01.

electoral law and processes, who will investigate allegations which

:27:02.:27:07.

get raised. They will bring people to justice and people have been sent

:27:08.:27:11.

to prison for electoral fraud. It is a serious crime. Isn't that a better

:27:12.:27:16.

way to approach it rather than trying to ban it? They trebled

:27:17.:27:26.

between 2001 and 2005. In 2010, almost 7 million postal votes were

:27:27.:27:31.

issued. That is a lot of postal votes. You would risk them not

:27:32.:27:36.

voting rather than tackle the problem at source. I welcome the

:27:37.:27:40.

steps taken by the Electoral Commission, I welcome the steps

:27:41.:27:46.

taken on individual legislation. We have had some interesting proposals

:27:47.:27:51.

on ID being required at polling stations. I think the elephant in

:27:52.:27:55.

the room remains on demand postal voting that is wide open to abuse.

:27:56.:28:00.

Do you think it should stay on demand bearing in mind it has only

:28:01.:28:05.

started fairly recently? I think until the whole system of voting in

:28:06.:28:08.

this country is changed, it probably needs to. Why don't we modernise the

:28:09.:28:14.

system so we do not all have to vote on one day? Why don't we vote over

:28:15.:28:19.

four or five days? Then we would not have to have postal votes. We all

:28:20.:28:23.

work in a different way than we did 30 or 40 years ago. You cannot go

:28:24.:28:27.

back to just having one if you are on holiday, most people work away

:28:28.:28:33.

from home for a lot of time now. In some by-elections, 30% of the votes

:28:34.:28:38.

cast are postal votes. It is quite clear that a lot of those are

:28:39.:28:48.

fraudulent votes. Is it a problem -- is it a case of being a problem in

:28:49.:28:53.

certain areas? We know that a lot of people have expressed genuinely held

:28:54.:28:59.

concerns that electoral fraud is more of the problem in certain South

:29:00.:29:04.

Asian communities. We have not seen enough evidence to back that up. It

:29:05.:29:08.

is come to back that up. It is a consecrated picture. We are doing

:29:09.:29:11.

more research this year with academics in some specific

:29:12.:29:14.

communities where there have been allegations of electoral fraud to

:29:15.:29:17.

understand what is going on there so the returning officers and the

:29:18.:29:22.

police can look at what voters who might be more vulnerable. How many

:29:23.:29:28.

cases do you know of? This is the thing, it is hard to prosecute and

:29:29.:29:35.

it is people from every community. In my area we have had certain wards

:29:36.:29:39.

where we have seen lots of anecdotal evidence, we have seen people

:29:40.:29:43.

turning up at polling stations with 50 or 60 ballot papers to hand in on

:29:44.:29:48.

polling day. There are clearly serious questions to be answered

:29:49.:29:52.

here. But we do need to look properly at how we can encourage

:29:53.:29:56.

turnout. Should we go for weekend voting voting over more than one

:29:57.:30:00.

day? I think there is a real issue we need to address but simply at the

:30:01.:30:05.

moment, I have no confidence in the current postal voting system. In

:30:06.:30:09.

terms of things you could do, what is most likely to change, do you

:30:10.:30:13.

think between now and if not the next election, the one after that?

:30:14.:30:24.

There has been evidence that liberalising the voting process

:30:25.:30:27.

could improve convenience. There is no evidence it would improve

:30:28.:30:33.

turnout. It would be costly as well. Schools would have to close for more

:30:34.:30:37.

than one day. Most countries vote on a Sunday. Something to think about.

:30:38.:30:43.

European and American officials are meeting in London today to discuss

:30:44.:30:47.

which sanctions can be imposed on Russia in the wake of the crisis in

:30:48.:30:50.

Ukraine. Under discussion are visa bans, travel restrictions and asset

:30:51.:30:53.

freezes, although President Putin will be exempt from any

:30:54.:30:58.

restrictions. The sanctions will be imposed if Russia refuses to engage

:30:59.:31:00.

diplomatically with the new Ukrainian government and any

:31:01.:31:03.

decision will be made after the Crimean referendum, which Western

:31:04.:31:05.

leaders have branded as illegitimate.

:31:06.:31:10.

At a news conference in Russia this morning, the ousted Ukrainian

:31:11.:31:14.

President Viktor Yanukovych described the new Ukrainian

:31:15.:31:15.

authorities as a gang of fascists. That I remain not only the only

:31:16.:31:31.

legitimate president of Ukraine but I am also the military commander of

:31:32.:31:36.

Ukraine. I never stopped my authority. As soon as the

:31:37.:31:41.

circumstances allow me, I am sure it will not be long and I will be back

:31:42.:31:47.

in here. I say that the elections in Ukraine that were announced to take

:31:48.:31:55.

place on 25th of May by those who take their power in Ukraine, they

:31:56.:31:59.

are not legitimate and they are not legal. With me now is the London

:32:00.:32:05.

Bureau chief of the Voice of Russia, Dmitry Linnik. How is the conflict

:32:06.:32:11.

being seen by Russians? Do they think they are on the verge of war

:32:12.:32:18.

with Ukraine? The emotions are running high, obviously. The

:32:19.:32:25.

strength of the links between Russia and Ukraine, between Russians and

:32:26.:32:30.

Ukrainians, goes back centuries. It is essentially one nation that is

:32:31.:32:34.

separated sometime in the 13th century. We joined a game in the

:32:35.:32:42.

17th. You cannot imagine the strength of feeling about this. Are

:32:43.:32:48.

they angry about what is going on and what happened to pick 2 yen or

:32:49.:32:54.

are they wanting to see Vladimir Putin seems strong against the West?

:32:55.:33:02.

Putin has been strong on a few occasions. That cannot probably be

:33:03.:33:13.

denied. As for support for President Yanukovitch, I do not think you will

:33:14.:33:19.

see a lot of that. Do the Crimean support the idea of a referendum?

:33:20.:33:27.

160 years ago there was a war with Russia over Ukraine, not with

:33:28.:33:35.

Crimea. Crimea is and has been predominantly Russian despite the 20

:33:36.:33:39.

years of Ukrainian independence and the whole procedure of signing

:33:40.:33:45.

Crimea over to Ukraine has not really been accepted by the Russian

:33:46.:33:51.

people. They never really accepted that idea. Is it a case of taking

:33:52.:33:58.

back what was ours? In the minds of the Russian people and the Crimean

:33:59.:34:04.

people. There must be families that are split and divided. How is that

:34:05.:34:09.

impacted on Russian sentiment and individual families and people? --

:34:10.:34:17.

impacting. There is a much maligned phrase by President Putin about it

:34:18.:34:24.

being a political tragedy. That is what is meant when 25 million people

:34:25.:34:28.

found themselves outside of the country they lived in. They found

:34:29.:34:35.

them abroad. A lot of people in Ukraine would like closer ties with

:34:36.:34:42.

Europe and not with Russia. Ukraine is not united. Do you see it

:34:43.:34:49.

splitting? I hope it does not. The way things are going in Kiev, it may

:34:50.:34:55.

well be at some point in some form, at least it will be a struggle as a

:34:56.:35:04.

single country. At the heart of this is Russia 's total disregard for

:35:05.:35:08.

international borders. It is quite clear that the troops in Crimea are

:35:09.:35:12.

Russian, even though they seem ashamed to show their badges. If

:35:13.:35:16.

Russia had a case to annex Crimea, which is what is going on, surely

:35:17.:35:22.

they should have gone to the United Nations and used established

:35:23.:35:28.

international procedures to do that. Russia might go to the United

:35:29.:35:33.

Nations. It is a bit late now, isn't it? If you talk about punishing

:35:34.:35:42.

Russia, there will be no dialogue. Barack Obama has already said he

:35:43.:35:47.

understands the concerns of Russia. I am not sure he does. I have yet to

:35:48.:35:54.

see any evidence of Russian speaking people in Ukraine being abused or

:35:55.:35:58.

beaten up. If that was happening, I would be the first to say the

:35:59.:36:02.

Russians have a legitimate area of interest. That has not happened. We

:36:03.:36:08.

are referring to what has happened in Kiev as a revolution. But entails

:36:09.:36:12.

the emergence of a different country. Crimea, not Russia, does

:36:13.:36:19.

not want to be part of that country. Do they have a right to their own

:36:20.:36:25.

revolution? They should have their referendum. -- own referendum.

:36:26.:36:35.

Organising it within ten days, we all know what kind of referendum it

:36:36.:36:43.

will be. We all know that about the election in Ukraine scheduled for

:36:44.:36:46.

20th of May. One part of the country, the western part, hold sway

:36:47.:36:51.

over the entire government and Parliament. If people vote in a

:36:52.:36:57.

certain way in the election, a majority vote in a certain way in

:36:58.:37:00.

the election, a majority votes 1-way... You are doubting the

:37:01.:37:06.

validity of the Crimean referendum, Russia doubts... If there was a

:37:07.:37:11.

referendum in three months' time, you could understand that being

:37:12.:37:15.

quite valid but not within ten days. You cannot organise a referendum

:37:16.:37:21.

like that. It is impossible. We go back to at least 1992, 1993, when

:37:22.:37:29.

the wishes of Crimean people were expressed quite clearly. That is why

:37:30.:37:37.

Crimea is an autonomous republic. What about giving the Chechens vote?

:37:38.:37:44.

You would be surprised, Putin and unity with Russia would probably get

:37:45.:37:52.

90%. Not because people are oppressed or anything. I am sure we

:37:53.:38:01.

would all like to see the results of that. It looks as if sanctions will

:38:02.:38:08.

be imposed. Would Russia care? We are talking about contracting the G8

:38:09.:38:13.

to D7 and that will make it even less relevant. Travel bans,

:38:14.:38:18.

investment, OK, some Russians will suffer but so will the city of

:38:19.:38:25.

London, I suppose. You are talking about gas in a longer term. Russia,

:38:26.:38:39.

5%, 6% of Russia 's export revenue comes from gas. We are talking

:38:40.:38:44.

geopolitics. Barack Obama said it is not about that but it is. Tomorrow,

:38:45.:38:49.

we will have an interview with the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK.

:38:50.:38:53.

Forget the Oscars, the Emmys or the Booker Prize. Here, in Westminster,

:38:54.:38:58.

there's another awards ceremony that's got everyone talking, the

:38:59.:39:01.

Political Book Awards. It's a big business from biographies to

:39:02.:39:03.

fiction, although those two categories sometimes might have more

:39:04.:39:06.

in common than they should. But what makes a good political book? Here's

:39:07.:39:08.

David. All human life can be found on the

:39:09.:39:22.

shelves at Waterstones. If you are a political junkie, there is plenty

:39:23.:39:29.

here to feed to your habit. This brings you the benefit of the wisdom

:39:30.:39:34.

of great writers, thinkers and even MPs on politics. What makes a truly

:39:35.:39:39.

great political books and out from the rest? There are all sorts of

:39:40.:39:44.

things you might want to look for. Telling you about things you know or

:39:45.:39:47.

introducing you to something different. You might want it to

:39:48.:39:52.

guide you. When I first became A Minister, I read a book by Gerald

:39:53.:39:55.

Kaufmann on how to become A Minister. It was sort of the

:39:56.:40:01.

handbook that you used. That is the kind of book the professionals read.

:40:02.:40:07.

What do they really get up to behind closed doors? You know what they

:40:08.:40:11.

said about the Harold Wilson Cabinet. They were all too busy

:40:12.:40:19.

listening to the arguments array -- because they were busy writing that

:40:20.:40:24.

own diaries. They contain the frank expressions of opinion of a

:40:25.:40:28.

particular time. Who thwarted you in the cabinet? Who can you not trust

:40:29.:40:33.

over a piece of legislation you are trying to pilot through? Who is the

:40:34.:40:37.

rising star in the party who is sporting your ambitions? What about

:40:38.:40:42.

the authors, usually politicians, who want to dish the dirt on their

:40:43.:40:48.

rivals? Fun? Are they the best books? There are a few political

:40:49.:40:55.

biographies that are more about self-justification and settling

:40:56.:40:58.

scores than they are really about eliminating anything for anyone. In

:40:59.:41:05.

those cases, I just wish you had kept these things to yourself. We

:41:06.:41:09.

can all think about people like Crossman, Clark and Machiavelli, but

:41:10.:41:16.

how does the Chandra stack up these days? There is a greater requirement

:41:17.:41:24.

for research. So much is on the internets. It is much easier to

:41:25.:41:30.

retrieve information. You get more detail. Now is as good a time as

:41:31.:41:35.

any. We're in a strained in. We are in a government. In terms of

:41:36.:41:41.

questions, we are looking at British identity with the Scottish

:41:42.:41:50.

referendum. These issues can all be addressed. We live in interesting

:41:51.:41:57.

times. Chances are something someone is writing today will become a

:41:58.:42:00.

political classic of tomorrow. And joining me now is the Conservative

:42:01.:42:03.

peer and novelist, who has a book up for an award, Michael Dobbs. Second

:42:04.:42:12.

year of the political book awards. How important is it that a

:42:13.:42:20.

competition like this exists? A lot of people think it is dusty and very

:42:21.:42:27.

boring. We wanted to celebrate it. It is not just about great works of

:42:28.:42:33.

biography or autobiography. It is political fiction. I think it is

:42:34.:42:37.

very underrated. If you look back over the years to some of the great

:42:38.:42:42.

political writers, Disraeli wrote novels. Douglas Hurd wrote some

:42:43.:42:49.

outstanding novels. I do not think people appreciate this enough. Do

:42:50.:42:54.

enough people read them? They may be very good books but it is about

:42:55.:42:58.

accessibility to a wider audience. How do you make political fiction

:42:59.:43:06.

reach a wider audience? Introduce Michael Dobbs! I want to endorse

:43:07.:43:10.

everything that Ian says about this. He does. He is creating a bigger

:43:11.:43:16.

interest. We all have to bang a drum occasionally. We are all far too

:43:17.:43:21.

busy to do that. We left it with and die on the vine at times. The whole

:43:22.:43:27.

point about political fiction is that people think it is about

:43:28.:43:34.

politics. -- we let it with and die. It is about people and relationships

:43:35.:43:41.

and what drives us. When you think about Westminster in that sense, you

:43:42.:43:45.

realise it forms a better and more colourful backdrop for a great piece

:43:46.:43:49.

of writing than any other circumstance. It does not have to be

:43:50.:43:55.

fiction. Real politics can sometimes make quite an interesting read in

:43:56.:43:59.

terms of relationships and policies if you like in certain areas. Are

:44:00.:44:07.

you talking about Damian McBride? That is one of the books up for the

:44:08.:44:11.

main award. I published it so I have an interest in it. Anyone who has

:44:12.:44:19.

read it, it reads like the drama. There are literally jaw-dropping

:44:20.:44:23.

moments on every page. It is not a dry, political autobiography. There

:44:24.:44:28.

are many more examples like that. Rather like the diaries of Alan

:44:29.:44:33.

Clark. They should never have been written because they were

:44:34.:44:37.

disgraceful, outrageous. They were great to read! You talk about books

:44:38.:44:43.

gathering dust on the shelves but there are a lot of dry, political

:44:44.:44:48.

books. Jacqui Smith said, this idea that actually everyone is thinking

:44:49.:44:53.

about their memoirs. Everyone is thinking about self-justification

:44:54.:44:57.

and where they fit in the historical legacy. Use a dry, political tomes.

:44:58.:45:03.

A lot of people would consider them dry, political tomes. Most

:45:04.:45:07.

politicians have experienced something interesting in their

:45:08.:45:10.

careers. If they have not they should never have gone into

:45:11.:45:13.

politics. It is good when they write them down. When I get offered

:45:14.:45:19.

political autobiographies, I am writing this for my grandchildren,

:45:20.:45:22.

it is said. You are also writing it to get your side of the story into

:45:23.:45:29.

history. It is about putting, why I was right!

:45:30.:45:35.

I think it was Norman Tebbit who said I wish the biographies would

:45:36.:45:43.

concentrate on the lies which were told at the time rather than those

:45:44.:45:51.

they wished but were. It is a work of fiction about yourself. So many

:45:52.:45:57.

books were written about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and there is a

:45:58.:46:00.

feeling that in a lot of those books they did not tell us anything we did

:46:01.:46:05.

not know already. I absolutely disagree. If you read all of them,

:46:06.:46:11.

and unfortunately I have! You will find something new in every single

:46:12.:46:15.

book. You do not even need to look that hard. It is very rare that

:46:16.:46:19.

someone writes an absolute turkey of a book. There is usually something

:46:20.:46:25.

to come out of them somewhere. What do you look for in a good political

:46:26.:46:30.

book? I look for inspiration, ambition and an element of

:46:31.:46:35.

wickedness which is essential for a great political career. The least

:46:36.:46:41.

said about Peter Mandelson's oil graffiti! Moving swiftly on, thank

:46:42.:46:47.

you. -- Just who does the Conservative Party represent?

:46:48.:46:50.

A recent survey asked voters what they thought of David Cameron and

:46:51.:46:53.

the most common description people chose was "posh and out of touch",

:46:54.:46:57.

while 51% of voters believe that "the Conservative Party only

:46:58.:46:59.

represents the interests of the rich". But one Conservative MP is

:47:00.:47:03.

determined to re-brand his party into the party of the workers.

:47:04.:47:07.

Robert Halfon is calling for a "radical change in the very nature

:47:08.:47:10.

of the party" so that it represents what he calls white van

:47:11.:47:14.

conservatives. He believes they should stand up for public sector

:47:15.:47:17.

workers with a strengthened minimum wage and the introduction of a

:47:18.:47:21.

living wage. Mr Halfon, who's a member of Prospect union, says the

:47:22.:47:24.

Conservative Party should call itself the Workers' Party, and swap

:47:25.:47:28.

its logo from a tree to a ladder to represent what he claims is the the

:47:29.:47:31.

"moral mission that has always provided the foundation of

:47:32.:47:36.

Conservative values." Robert Halfon is with us now along with the Labour

:47:37.:47:45.

MP Ian Lavery. Welcome to you both. Robert Halfon first of all, your

:47:46.:47:50.

leader is seen as posh and out of touch. 51% of people think your

:47:51.:47:54.

party only cares about the rich. Best of luck for your trial to get

:47:55.:47:59.

it to a worker 's party. Actually, I think the government are doing a lot

:48:00.:48:06.

to ensure we do represent the people. We have taken money out of

:48:07.:48:14.

income tax, we have helped with fuel duty and extending right to buy. Why

:48:15.:48:18.

did 51% think you only care about the rich? If we are the part of

:48:19.:48:24.

hard-working people, that is why I think long-term we should change our

:48:25.:48:29.

name to Workers' Party and have the symbol of a ladder because we have

:48:30.:48:33.

always been about helping people into work. You brought issues like

:48:34.:48:39.

petrol duty to the fore but the Conservatives are committed to

:48:40.:48:42.

shrinking the public sector, they froze the pale public sector

:48:43.:48:47.

workers, they cut the 50% -- 50p top rate of tax. But we have increased

:48:48.:48:54.

apprenticeships, we have increased jobs by 1.5 million, we have cut tax

:48:55.:49:01.

for lower earners. We have cut taxes for 25 million lower earners. We are

:49:02.:49:04.

extending right to buy so people though incomes can buy their own

:49:05.:49:10.

home. People might say it is people on middle incomes who can benefit

:49:11.:49:14.

from that. Ian Lavery, what you make of Robert Halfon's attempt to

:49:15.:49:20.

rebrand the party? Fire macro I think it is laughable. To think the

:49:21.:49:22.

Conservative Party would change their motto to a ladder and call

:49:23.:49:29.

themselves the workers party. It is an absolute joke. They are quite

:49:30.:49:35.

simply not a workers' party. I'm not sure what the ladder seems to

:49:36.:49:42.

indicate. The fact that Robert insulted tens of thousands of my

:49:43.:49:45.

constituents in the north-east region two weeks ago, for daring to

:49:46.:49:49.

come to London to watch a football game, castigate them for being

:49:50.:49:59.

soccer hooligans. That is what they think of working class people. Is

:50:00.:50:05.

Labour still the party of the workers when all we hear from Ed

:50:06.:50:09.

Miliband is about the squeezed middle. John Cruddas whose leading

:50:10.:50:16.

Labour's policy review a couple of years ago, was that Labour targeted

:50:17.:50:22.

a mythical Middle England. We have taken the working class for granted

:50:23.:50:25.

and many of them now are seeking solace in UKIP. I hope the manifesto

:50:26.:50:32.

would give some great ideas, some ideas which are quite different from

:50:33.:50:36.

what the Tories are looking at at this moment in time, which would

:50:37.:50:41.

encourage these voters back. We lost 5 million voters at the last

:50:42.:50:45.

election. The job of Ed Miliband and the Labour Party is to encourage

:50:46.:50:49.

those voters back to the party. The only way to do that is with

:50:50.:50:54.

manifesto pledges which affect hard-working ordinary people. We

:50:55.:50:58.

have got to get rid of food bank Britain, zero hours and

:50:59.:51:04.

underemployment. How will you attract those working class voters?

:51:05.:51:09.

The problem with the Labour Party is they used to be the workers party

:51:10.:51:12.

but now they have become the party of the safety net. What the

:51:13.:51:17.

Conservative Party and the Conservative led coalition has done

:51:18.:51:21.

is give people ladder is. If you want to work, they help you into

:51:22.:51:26.

work. If you are working, they give you better schools, they increased

:51:27.:51:29.

apprenticeships, they cut your taxes specifically if you are lower

:51:30.:51:34.

earners. They do not keep people on dependence. We are about aspiration

:51:35.:51:37.

and they are about the safety net. That is the big difference. Do you

:51:38.:51:43.

think the Tories have lost their white van man appeal? To an extent I

:51:44.:51:50.

think so. If you think back to the 1980s when workers' conservative, if

:51:51.:51:58.

you can call it that -- workers' conservatism, if you think back to

:51:59.:52:01.

the 1980s, who was it who gave the working class people a chance to buy

:52:02.:52:06.

their homes or buy shares? I could go on. That was a long time ago. I

:52:07.:52:14.

think that has changed now in that the Conservative Party is considered

:52:15.:52:17.

to be for the rich. You have five out of the six people drafting the

:52:18.:52:25.

next Tory manifesto having been to Eton. And they are all men. How was

:52:26.:52:30.

that allowed to happen? Nick De Bois is going around the media saying the

:52:31.:52:36.

40p tax threshold should be raised. It allows the Labour Party to paint

:52:37.:52:41.

the Tories as the party which is trying to help the better off

:52:42.:52:46.

people. In reality, we have said we want a decent increase in the

:52:47.:52:50.

minimum wage, we have frozen fuel duty and council tax. The national

:52:51.:53:01.

living wage... Will Labour support the living wage through all

:53:02.:53:05.

industries and the public sector? I think it is something that should be

:53:06.:53:08.

a minimum demand as far as I am concerned. How happy are you, you

:53:09.:53:15.

talked about the number of people at the top of the Conservative Party at

:53:16.:53:20.

Eton, or who went to Eton, they are not still there, but what about the

:53:21.:53:24.

Labour front bench? They also part of the elite, the Metropolitan elite

:53:25.:53:29.

many of them, and political careerists, do they have anything in

:53:30.:53:35.

common with your constituents? I think where people are educated has

:53:36.:53:40.

little to do with it. So Eton jives... You have not heard me

:53:41.:53:48.

criticise anyone from the Burlington club. It is policy is not people as

:53:49.:53:57.

far as I am concerned, not where you were educated. The other macro what

:53:58.:54:00.

people want to know is that we are on their side. Howl worried are you

:54:01.:54:09.

both of you by UKIP? You made those remarks and you said they made the

:54:10.:54:18.

-- you said they did the Conservative Party a favour. Many

:54:19.:54:23.

UKIP voters are people who are Eurosceptic and I am Eurosceptic. We

:54:24.:54:30.

have to address the concerns on issues like immigration. It is a

:54:31.:54:38.

complete myth that many of the UKIP voters and supporters are

:54:39.:54:42.

disgruntled conservatives, they are all leaving Labour. Especially in

:54:43.:54:47.

the north. That is a myth. The people who are leaving political

:54:48.:54:54.

parties to join UKIP are mainly from the Conservative Party, not the

:54:55.:54:58.

Labour Party. Of course we have got to focus on UKIP. The voice of

:54:59.:55:04.

complacency there. Now do you enjoy a flutter? I

:55:05.:55:09.

personally prefer popping down to the bookies to place my accumulator,

:55:10.:55:13.

none of this online betting. Whether it's the dogs or the horses the UK

:55:14.:55:18.

has a long history of racing. Ian Lavery thinks more needs to be done

:55:19.:55:21.

to encourage young people to be interested in the dogs. Here's his

:55:22.:55:24.

soapbox. This is Newcastle greyhound track.

:55:25.:55:43.

It is a thriving greyhound track with five meetings per week.

:55:44.:55:47.

Unfortunately, that is not the case for other greyhound tracks in the

:55:48.:55:52.

UK. Greyhound racing was first legally staged in the UK in 1926 in

:55:53.:55:57.

Manchester. It proved an instant hit. Particularly with the working

:55:58.:56:04.

classes and there were crowds of up to 50,000 people. Working men would

:56:05.:56:07.

go to the track straight from work to place a bet. But in the 1960s,

:56:08.:56:13.

when off-course betting shops were legalised, people did not have to

:56:14.:56:17.

visit a track to have a flutter. That is not the case now with the

:56:18.:56:22.

Internet. I have been involved in greyhound racing for 30 years, just

:56:23.:56:28.

before the miners' strike. I have had some fast dogs, some not so fast

:56:29.:56:34.

dogs and some slow ones. I currently have seven dogs which are racing.

:56:35.:56:38.

The number of stadiums has dropped from 80 to 25 in England over the

:56:39.:56:44.

past 25 years. Portsmouth, Reading and Milton Keynes have all closed

:56:45.:56:49.

following a fall in profits. Greyhound racing has gone from the

:56:50.:56:56.

third to fourth most obtained spectator sport after football,

:56:57.:56:59.

horse racing and rugby. The sites are owned by property developers and

:57:00.:57:06.

earmarked for homes. The average age for a greyhound trainer is 65 years

:57:07.:57:11.

of age. We have to make sure to make sure we have a sustainable future is

:57:12.:57:14.

to encourage young people into the sport. We need apprentices who are

:57:15.:57:19.

paid a decent wage, a living wage, these other who make sure these

:57:20.:57:25.

wonderful animals are run so well on the track at every meeting.

:57:26.:57:28.

Greyhound racing employs thousands of people and with ?2.5 billion

:57:29.:57:34.

raised at races each year, it generates huge sums for the

:57:35.:57:39.

Exchequer. We need to make sure this magnificent sport flourishes well

:57:40.:57:43.

into the future and gives as much pleasure to thousands of spectators

:57:44.:57:48.

as it has two me. Should we be encouraging young people to bet?

:57:49.:57:53.

That is not what I have been saying. They want to be involved in

:57:54.:57:57.

this wonderful sport, evolved with animals, have a decent job. Giving

:57:58.:58:03.

young people proper apprenticeships with an education and scale and

:58:04.:58:06.

talent, that is what I would be advocating. What about the dogs

:58:07.:58:12.

themselves? You do hear stories that once they're racing days are over

:58:13.:58:17.

they are not very well treated. I have had countless dogs. I

:58:18.:58:20.

understand there have been welfare problems and I would not try to

:58:21.:58:24.

dismiss that but there is a lot of good work going on behind the scenes

:58:25.:58:28.

with various trusts which are re-homing dogs and making sure they

:58:29.:58:32.

have got a fantastic life when their career is finished on the track. The

:58:33.:58:37.

dogs I have had have all had a fantastic life after they have

:58:38.:58:41.

finished racing. That is the sort of thing we need to be concentrating

:58:42.:58:47.

on. Thank you very much. Thanks to our guests. There were a lot of

:58:48.:58:54.

them. Thank you particular you, Iain Dale. The one o'clock news is

:58:55.:58:59.

starting now. I will be back tomorrow. Goodbye.

:59:00.:59:03.

Jo Coburn is joined by radio presenter and commentator Iain Dale to discuss all of the day's political news, including shadow health secretary Andy Burnham on hospital closures, the decline of dog racing and what makes a good political book.


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