01/07/2014 Daily Politics


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Politics. Is it time to shake up Prime Minister's questions? An


internet campaign is under way to allow voters to ask questions via


social media and new penalties for MPs who behave badly. Another day,


another Labour policy launch. Ed Miliband promises to unleash the


potential of England's cities by devolving ?30 billion of Government


funding. Union baron Len McCluskey says Unite


will stump up more cash for Labour's election campaign. We look at Ed


Miliband's relations with the unions. It's tough being a party


leader and trying to maintain an image, with less than a year to the


general election can they change how voters see them?


All that in the next 30 minutes. With me for the duration is the


Times columnist Phil Collins. Welcome. Let's kick off with what


the leader of Britain's biggest union, Unite's Len McCluskey has


been saying about Labour, here he is on Newsnight last night. There's


interesting debates taking place within the party. There are views


and thoughts from thousands of Labour Party members, including, of


course, trade unions. I think what's beginning to emerge is the


likelihood of a positive cohesive programme that offers hope to the


British electorate. Unite backing Labour and will put their money


where their mouth is, so they say, what will they want in return? They


were always going to get to this point, Labour's problematic


relationship with business means they've nowhere else to go and Unite


is the main funder these days and Unite recognises that as a position


of power. What they'll want is not quite so straightforward because


what they often get are people in seats. The control over the


personnel in parliament is often more important than the policies.


The process of getting a manifesto is a really complicated one and


interestingly in its own right we don't know whether that's going to


end up in a bold programme or a cautious one and that argument is


still going on. Unite are amongst that. It would be wrong to say


they're simply driving it. It's not true money produces influence in the


most direct way. What about strike action? They voted for strike action


one day next week, what does Labour do, condemn it? It's always


difficult for a Labour leader in that circumstance. Ed Miliband will


face a tough stance again. There will be voices on both sides of


that. Again he will have to calculate what does this look like


to the wider public, if I refuse to condemn something I would otherwise


condemn in the week they promised me a lot of money? The message of that


is obvious to everybody. He will have to judge it on the issue. He


will have to have the courage to condemn February wants to. How does


this stack up with John Cruddas, Labour's policy co-ordinator saying


Ed Miliband is shying away from radical reform? Well, John, you have


to remember, is trying to engineer a bold outcome. He is trying to


balance - the difference here is this is gone from a private meeting


to the newspapers. It's not unusual in itself that the leader of the


process is trying to get the leader to sign up to everything. Not


unusual either that the leader might think I am not sure about that, I


don't know how I will sell that to the public. There is an argument


going on about whether Labour should be explicitly left of centre and


bold or whether it should creep back a bit towards the centre. It's good


that argument is going on. I don't think we yet know the divided -


where it's going to rest. We have a few months to find out. It's time


for our daily quiz. David Cameron hosted a party for celebrities last


night in the Foreign Office. My invite must be in the post! Who


didn't turn up? Phil will give us the correct answer


at the end of the show because I am sure he knows.


Prime Minister's questions has been described as feeding time at the zoo


and now the campaigning website Mumsnet has had enough, branding the


weekly run-in as outdated and unprofessional, they have created a


we Tegs calling for the -- created a petition calling for the age-old


feeding frenzy to be reformed after a survey found 80% of their users


think it's ineffective. Half the respondents said the


spectacle actively damaged parliament's reputation. What's on


their menu for change? Out should go planted questions, scripted answers


and media soundbites and in should come questions and answers and


chances for the members of the public to throw in the odd morsel


through social media. These are all suggestions previously put forward


by the Hansard Society who have also called for a sin bin for badly


behaved MPs. Are the public still hungry for a rowdy PMQs or is change


afoot? Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts joins us now along with Nigel Evans.


Welcome both to the programme. First of all, one might say PMQs as it


stands is a ratings winner, why would you want to change that? It's


not a winner according to the Hansard Society, few people are


watching and lots of people turned off. We know there is a lot of


disaffection with MPs and politics and unfortunately what it means is


we see a lot of people saying it's just politics, it's not for me.


Unfortunately, it's putting people off getting involved. That's really


important. That's a really important thing. It's a good show and I am not


saying take away the scrutiny, the scrutiny is fantastic but it's not


effective. It's stage-managed and putting people off the whole game so


it's not worth it and we ought to change it. Should it be changed and


how? The only thing I would change is perhaps putting it on at evening,


for the vast majority of people I agree politics is as interesting as


a sleeping stick insect but it's the most watched of all aspects of


parliament. For instance the Prime Minister is questioned in more


detail in a more mundane atmosphere with the liaison committee four


times a year when a chairman is able to ask five or more questions


indepth and in detail. Nobody watches that. Everybody watches


PMQs, every Wednesday, because there is the cut and thrust, there is a


liveliness about it. It's one of the most watched political programmes in


the United States of America because they find it absolutely fascinate


that the democracy is seen to be so vibrant. Do they actually consider


it important? Why is there so much focus on PMQs, is it that


representative of politics and parliament at large? It's not


representative, it is the gladiatorial spectacle, when you see


the leader of the opposition and the Prime Minister, this programme


itself judges it as it's happening and after. I believe that it's one


of the best-trending things on the internet following PMQs as what's


happened on the Daily Politics. We are not suggesting scrapping that


period of time when the Prime Minister is called to account by the


leader of the opposition. It's a fantastic thing. But the idea that


it has to be a bunch of people behaving like a group of... That is


the bit that people like. It's like watching a fight. And


disillusionment in our system. It's not a good outcome. Sometimes it


gets too much excitement in the chamber. I am against the sin bin,


it would be almost like a sport, we wonder who will be - wonder who will


be chucked out this Wednesday. I think there is a liveliness about


Prime Ministers questions and the fact so many people are watching it


is possibly something that needs to be controlled but not reformed. You


couldn't take your eyes off that questioning, the scrutiny and if you


could have questions coming from Select Committee, real experts from


real people as well involved, put it on later so over 55s could watch,


there are many reforms that could be done. Yesterday we had the statement


on Europe about David Cameron, but he was there for over an


hour-and-a-half having questions from 86 Members of Parliament.


That's a lot of scrutiny there. The real problem is the party control


over it. This is spectacle rather than politics. You make a good point


about the liaison committee, it's forensic and it's boring. But it's


important. Very much so. PMQs is rarely boring, but is rarely


important either. It's sometimes showcasing leadership but usually


doesn't, get the choreographed responses. I remember I got elected


in 92 and John Major had gone to Brussels, he was going to show


Brussels what it was all about. Then he capitulated at whatever, I can't


remember the issue, at Prime Ministers questions that day when


normally there is a lot of choreography that goes on, a lot of


whip management but the fact is only one person stood up on the


Conservative side to ask a question off the Prime Minister. The


pro-Europeans and the anti-Europeans were very unhappy with John Major in


equal meshure and I think that showed -- measure and I think that


showed the House telling the Prime Minister we are not happy. When was


that? That was a long time ago but I remember it distinctly. Of course


one would say you need more memorable PMQs in that respect. You


have agreed the evening might make it then more appealing to a broader


audience. Let's look at the planted questions. They really are ex-cruise


ating, should they be taken away? A lot of constituents watch the


questions and if you are too sycophantic then there would be


groans around the chamber and the country. Even though you expect


mostly the Conservatives to support their Prime Minister, doesn't happen


all the time, and the people on the other side to attack the Prime


Minister, doesn't happen all the time, you get some who actually ask


questions - I have asked questions about constituency cases about a


child dying, or extra housing and you do ask constituency-based


questions, you have to. If they stripped out - constituency-based


questions are different to planted questions, if you did strip out the


planted questions and more questions through social media that they had


to answer off the cuff would that improve it enough for you? I think


it would improve it a great deal. I think it's a cultural as well. A lot


of leaders are given lip service. Actually we know there are MPs who


go in with the express intention of barracking. What are we going to do


today? It's crazy. If they had the will to change it, they could. Nick


Clegg does that LBC thing once a week and people can phone in and ask


what they like. There is one other thing it does, it tote rip dominates


the week -- it totally dominates the week of the Prime Minister who has


to spend ages preparing for it. With a busy Prime Minister preparing for


a pantomime every Wednesday is the best use of time? Tony Blair got rid


of one of the weekly sessions so it's not to say you couldn't


radically change it, could it be ever be got rid of it No, absolutely


not. Tony Blair changed it from Tuesdays and Thursdays, quarter of


April hour to half an -- quarter of an hour to half an hour ones win --


on Wednesday. It allows the opposition six questions. The Prime


Minister found it easier to just dismiss the questions from the


leader. - the opposition. Some female MPs told the Speaker they


were no longer taking part because of the atmosphere, that's a


dangerous precedent. It certainly is. The fact that only 22% of the


House is female is something that I am really concerned about. I hope


that's something that we can address properly to get more females - to


get more... How would you address it in the House as it stands at the


moment in PMQs? I have to say no female member of parliament has come


up to me and questioned the fact that it's as it is, the females I


sit around really stick it to either the Prime Minister or the other side


as much as anybody else in the House. They actually do punch their


weight in the Commons. How far are you going to push this? The petition


is there for people to sign you going to push this? The petition


is there for people to if they want. I think it - we are not trying to


get rid of PMQs but it could be effective and a better use of the


Prime Minister's time and less offputing to other groups that look


and think this is nothing like me and it's not normal and not for me.


For journalists is it still the key event, how many Newslines do they


get out of it? If they move it to the evenings I can not watch it in


the evenings rather than not watch it in the afternoons. It's not


particularly important. It occasionally drama tieses a


leadership question, apart from that I get nothing from it. On both


sides. People question the quality of David Cameron and Ed Miliband,


Nick Clegg, it's all there. Thank you very much.


Ed Miliband was going "local" in Leeds this morning, for the launch


of another Labour policy for the next election.


He's promising to unleash the potential of England's


cities and regions, creating "economic powerhouses" to rival


London. Here's some of what he had to say.


Let's transfer ?30 billion worth of spending out of Whitehall, over a


Parliament. Let's transfer it out of Whitehall and let's transfer it to


local areas to make those local decisions about transport, about


skills, about support for businesses, about how to get people


back to work. Why? Not just because we think it is good for local people


to make those decisions but because they will make better decisions


because they have much more of a sense of what the local needs are.


And if you can involve local businesses in those decisions, you


are much more likely to succeed. With us now is the Shadow Business


Minister, Toby Perkins. Welcome to the programme. Ed


Miliband says a if you tour Labour Government would need to act because


80% of recently created employment has been in London at the expense of


the rest of the council try. -- future Labour Government. What is


the evidence? It came from the Cities report based on the business


register and employment survey, showing where you look at where the


net jobs have been created. That more new job than those lost, 80%


were based in London. How much of this is new? I have lived through


Enterprise Partnership, Regional Development Agencies. They are all


put up as an attempt to try to spread the wealth and focus of


Government spending. It never seems to work? I think the difference with


this is that it is about where the responsibility lies and where the


budget goes. If you devolve this budget to combined authorities at


city and county regions working together, combined with local


enterprise partnerships, you actually send the money there,


rather than accepting some Whitehall civil servants that will now have a


Leeds postcode, you actually send the money and give local areas the


opportunity to actually influence business support, infrastructure


skills. All these things. What is the motivation for the local


authorities to spend the money in the way you would like it to be


spent, on businesses and not, for example in other areas, that they


may feel is a priority? The specific budget is being devolved to them. It


would be about combined authorities working together, remember than the


vowed local authorities and working together on things like


infrastructure, transport, skills, business support, all things that


are vital to their local economy. So I think that what we are doing here


is devolving specific frunds Whitehall, down to - or up to the


regions, and this can only be a good thing. If you have phrases like a


long-stem national framework for an innovation policy - whatever that


means t sounds like a state-run industrial policy T harks back to a


time of picking winners, if you like. -- it harks back. I think it


is Duchess of Cambridge approach. It is about a revolution in devolution.


It is about sending the responsibility to those great


It is about sending the responsibility to those cities that


should be the economic powerhouses but actually have been held back too


often. Right, I mean they should be the powerhouses, why have they never


been? Toby makes a great point. In the past there has never been money


flowing, it has been a bureaucratic devolution. If you get the money,


that changes it. But your question is a very important one - will the


money come with strings attached? Will there be a central requirement


of the locality? If there is not, if it is a straight-forward taking of


the money from the centre to the locality that really is quite a


change. Still reasonably small at the moment but it has the potential


to grow bigger. The crucial question is whether you get strings attached.


The tendency of central Government is to think - you are not doing what


we expected or wanted you to do, let's pull the control back, buts of


genuinely letting go, I agree it has to be a good then. How is it


different from what George Osborne was talking about, he talked about


supercities in the north and a new high-speed rail link joining up


cities. Is it any different? The point he went to Leeds


cities. Is it any different? The point he went to and said - we can


build you a train line, it point he went to and said - we can


build you a train line, is not devolution, it is about investing


money. That was a plan dreamt up in response to opinion polls. I think


what this is actually about, the difrns is it is not about talk, it


is do devolving money and responsibilities. Philip is right to


say - if you devolve that, you have to accept you don't control


everything it gets spent on but it is about saying to the local


authorities, work with within your areas with the local business


community and partnerships. Work on the infrastructure, collectively on


your transport. That's something that politicians have not done in


generations. Was that a spoiler, do you think by George Osborne last


week? Was he trying to pre-empt what Labour has said this week? It is


much more about the skefbs thinking they are not win in the north of


England and they have to do something to breakthrough. --


Conservatives. Now we are not against trainlines in the north of


England. It is probably that a local consortium would decide they did


need good train infrastructure between the cities. The question is,


who is in charge? You have this alphabet soup of people involved. I


wonder after the announcement and Andrew Dennison's work, who


ultimately will make the decision T can be difficult to get this work


done. As you know infrastructure problems are blighted by taking


years. I wonder in the end, who is in charge? The other problem for


Labour at the moment is the figures on economic competency are not


improving. Do you think this is the sort of announcement will that help


do that? That people will trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls more with the


economy when you bring out announcements like this or will this


pass them by? I think it'll make a difference, people will look at the


warm welcome it has had from the C bi. And the Engineering Employers


Union but it is about a broader programme, the kind of economy we


want to be, about getting more manufacturing into the economy,


about spreading the growth. The devolution of business rate growth


we have spoken B I think as people investigate this -- spoken about. I


think as people investigate this, they will see this as real change.


Another day another announcement. It is only aier ago people were saying


Labour have no policies. -- it was only a year ago. Now we have decent


policies. I think it is important we sell them to the public. Isn't it


because they are being worried about being antibusiness, that they are


worried about the economic competency. Do you think that's part


of it? ? In 2010, Labour went into the election with no business


support at all and they are clearly worried about doing the same in


2014. 24 week is about trying to address that. -- this week. We also


have an an opportunity Labour with Europe. The Conservative Party is


vulnerable with business on Europe. A sensible pragmatic pro-European


policy I think is exactly the right one and could help. But, underneath


it all is the problem you suggested. Which is the stubborn numbers of


economic competence. Can you win an election with figures like that on


economic competency? It has never been done before a party with


figures like that, plus its leader trailing the Prime Minister so far,


has won. That would have to be done for the big time. Any big businesses


supporting Labour so far, putting their money behind your campaign?


Time will tell on that. One of the important things is that Ed Miliband


set out in the start of the leadership is to make Labour Party


the party of small business. Small businesses have been ignored for too


long. And bringing forward proposals has revolutionised our relationship


with small businesses and they are just as important as big businesses.


Do you have trouble eating a bacon sandwich?


Or do you find that students boo you in the street?


If so, welcome to the world of the party leader,


who - despite the best efforts of a coterie of advisors -


face a daily battle to control the public's perception of them.


So what to do if you find you have an image problem?


Politicians trying to project a positive image can be... Gold medal.


A, a bill prone to wondering off script. About, caught out by events


out of their control like being egged and C, simply standing in the


wrong place at the wrong time. And there is no shortage of advice for


political leaders. Like many before them, these three all have their own


individual image problems. The you will vulnerabilities they have is


for David Cameron he is arrogant and out of touch.


will vulnerabilities they have is for David Cameron he is For Ed


Miliband, quite the same that they are weak and out of depth and Ed


Miliband has an associated problem with that, which is that some people


find him a bit weird. Oh dear, weird, out of touch, weak, that


doesn't sound good. In the world of communications and PR, there are


some key buzz words and phrases politicians need to be associated


with if they want to be a success. Think strong, and perhaps gravitas.


I Think strong, and perhaps gravitas.


think if spin doctors could design a politician, they wouldn't design me.


That perhaps is why Labour recently advertised a vacancy, as head of


leader's broadcasting, tasked with advicing Mr Miliband and improving


his TV appearances. Expertise which could have been useful in May at


this early-morning media convenient. There is undoubtedly bullying going


on in the media. People take photographs of Ed and try to make


him look weird or not norm A he has to ignore all that -- not norm A he


has to ignore that. He has to play to his strengths. Which are out on


the ground, on a doorstep on soapbox he convinces and connects with


people. The question is who will look prime ministerial and do the


best for the country. It is on the doorstep that Nick Clegg is said to


be toxic, bruised from being in coalition and advice - brutal


honesty. Nick Clegg is a politician, he comes from the political class.


He has been involved in politics in one thing or another for decades


now. He very much understands the political system. That's a weakness


if you tray to pretend you are somebody else but it can be a real


strength. If you say - I have been there, I understand what the system,


how it works I want it change and I can do that. And for David Cameron,


playing the part of PM, it is about turning weaknesses into strength. If


he is arrogant and out of touch, is David Cameron also quite


firm-minded? Does he have a plan he is prepared it stick to? Leaving up


to strategist's buzz words like "credible" isn't easy being human,


hopefully not too difficult. And plumping for a relaunch now, is


like admitting you have already failed.


So, Phil, we talk about these things in the lead-ups to all elections but


however much party leaders and their advisors like to talk about policy


and the message, it is still important in the age of television


and democratic politics, it is about instinct and your ability to


connect, isn't it? It is, but there is a lot of information contained in


those images. Theismcations when we say someone has an image problem is


somehow the imaction is false and beneath the image there is a truth


which the public has somehow not understood. That's rarely true.


Usually when someone has an image problem, they have a problem, and


the image is telling you something which is true, not false. I think


you can see that in all three party leaders at the moment. Their images


are exaggerated versions of themselves. They are in a sense a


caricature. But a caricature is defined by the thing which is true


about it, not the thing which is false. So when Ed Miliband has an


image of being geeky and sometimes a bit indecisive and sometimes a bit


left-wing and the swirling parts don't add up to a picture, it is


quite a good component part of what he is. David Cameron's image so much


the same. He has an image of being arrogant, out of touch, as was said


in the film but at the same time that staples translates into being


quite authoritative and again there is a lot of truth in that. Neglect's


image, when they say students boo him in the street. That's not


because of an image problem, it was a substantive policy problem on


tuition fees. These snippets we get through images tell us something


important about the leaders. You have talked about all three of them.


You have talked. It seems that Ed Miliband has more of a problem trab


transcending his image, if you like. Is that true? It is for but for real


recent. I I don't think there is a magnificent under the radar and they


send out this character from a cartoon to go on to the TV. I think


what you get through his visual representations is a snippet of what


you are getting in policy terms. So my own view is that the Labour Party


are camped in the wrong position and that that sense, not particularly


well-defined, is coming out through the image that Ed Miliband portrays


on TV. So it is not that he has an image problem, in my view, it is


that he has a problem. All right. Let's leave it there. There is time,


before we go, to find out the answer to our quiz. The question was:


David Cameron hosted a party for celebrities last night


in the Foreign Office but who didn't turn up?


Was it a) Cilla Black, b) Claudia Winkleman


c) Noel Gallagher or d) Bruce Forsyth?


Kew I think it is a trick question. I think you are expecting me to say


Noel Gallacher. I think you are expecting to me to say all of them.


No, the trick was it wasn't a trick question, it was Noel Gallacher.


Thanks to Maurice Saatchi and all my guests today.


Andrew and I will be here at 11.30 tomorrow with


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