11/03/2014 Daily Politics


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


weeks ago. People from across the political spectrum recognised his


power and influence and recognised he was perhaps the most influential


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


meeting had discovered what had happened overnight, his passing in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


soapbox style and talk like a firebrand. There were union


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


grieving today. RMT members loved him. He represented their


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


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


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


Tributes from both Labour and Conservative politicians. There are


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


a communist and supported the Socialist Labour Party. He also


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Secretary Jeremy Hunt has inserted a clause which would give officials


greater powers to close hospital Accident and Emergency Departments


and other services. This morning, there were protests outside


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


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


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


argues health services would be delivered best if reorganised over a


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


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


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


in the trust 's special administrator process. That is


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


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


financially and clinically. It found itself wrapped up in a


reconfiguration that had the Health Secretary saying we are going to


take your accident and emergency department way. The Secretary of


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


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


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


these rules and is arrogantly expecting parliament to rubber-stamp


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


got derailed as the election was complete. The Government basically


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


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


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


completely wrong. What would you have done if you had


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


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


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


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


where this government has got themselves into difficulty. They


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


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


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


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


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


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


different services are offered on different sites. All this is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


services are spanned across a geographical borough, constituency


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


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


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


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


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


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


would improve lives. The clinical case should always drive these


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


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


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


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


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


potentially costing lives. You cannot have a longer period of


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


because you are dealing with morbidity and mortality. You are


dealing with patients here. There is a broader discussion about


reconfiguration which Andy and I have engaged in both within the


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


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


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


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


politicians on here saying nobody campaigns for hospital closures, it


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


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


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


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


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


there needs to be political accountability for that and for


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


outcomes. As Andy has already mentioned, reconfiguring stroke


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


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


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


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


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


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


imposing solutions on communities rather than working with them. I


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


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


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


very much. Now, should postal voting be


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


from the Electoral Commission. Andrew Stephenson, postal voting is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


There is a perception that is undermining confidence in the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


so now people have to provide identifiers which have to be


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


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


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


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


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


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


force across the country has a dedicated officer who understands


electoral law and processes, who will investigate allegations which


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


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


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


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


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


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


steps taken by the Electoral Commission, I welcome the steps


taken on individual legislation. We have had some interesting proposals


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


more research this year with academics in some specific


communities where there have been allegations of electoral fraud to


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


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


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


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


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


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


polling day. There are clearly serious questions to be answered


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


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


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


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


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


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


There has been evidence that liberalising the voting process


could improve convenience. There is no evidence it would improve


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


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


European and American officials are meeting in London today to discuss


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


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


freezes, although President Putin will be exempt from any


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


diplomatically with the new Ukrainian government and any


decision will be made after the Crimean referendum, which Western


leaders have branded as illegitimate.


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


President Viktor Yanukovych described the new Ukrainian


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


years of Ukrainian independence and the whole procedure of signing


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


they should have gone to the United Nations and used established


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fiction, although those two categories sometimes might have more


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


David. All human life can be found on the


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


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


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


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


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


introducing you to something different. You might want it to


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


biographies that are more about self-justification and settling


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


questions, we are looking at British identity with the Scottish


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


political writers, Disraeli wrote novels. Douglas Hurd wrote some


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


point about political fiction is that people think it is about


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Clark. They should never have been written because they were


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


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


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


about their memoirs. Everyone is thinking about self-justification


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


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


politicians have experienced something interesting in their


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


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


political autobiographies, I am writing this for my grandchildren,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


conservatives. He believes they should stand up for public sector


workers with a strengthened minimum wage and the introduction of a


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


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


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


"moral mission that has always provided the foundation of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


petrol duty to the fore but the Conservatives are committed to


shrinking the public sector, they froze the pale public sector


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Conservative Party would change their motto to a ladder and call


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Miliband is about the squeezed middle. John Cruddas whose leading


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


manifesto pledges which affect hard-working ordinary people. We


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


underemployment. How will you attract those working class voters?


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


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


Conservative Party and the Conservative led coalition has done


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


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


apprenticeships, they cut your taxes specifically if you are lower


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


complete myth that many of the UKIP voters and supporters are


disgruntled conservatives, they are all leaving Labour. Especially in


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


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


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


complacency there. Now do you enjoy a flutter? I


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


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


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


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


soapbox. This is Newcastle greyhound track.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


third to fourth most obtained spectator sport after football,


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


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


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


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


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


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


Greyhound racing employs thousands of people and with ?2.5 billion


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


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


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


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


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


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


young people proper apprenticeships with an education and scale and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


starting now. I will be back tomorrow. Goodbye.


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