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Hello and welcome to
the Daily Politics.
As Jeremy Corbyn casts doubt
on whether the poisoning of a former
Russian double agent
and his daughter was carried out
by the Kremlin, are the Labour party
split once again on matters
of defence of the realm?
Is Brexit going really rather well?
After a tumultuous year
for Theresa May, does
the Prime Minister have reasons
to be cheerful about the state
of the Brexit negotiations?
During the general election,
the Conservatives promised
to abolish the cap on the number
of children from one religion
attending Faith schools.
The idea was to allow more children
of faith to take up the places.
It hasn't happened yet.
And will the Kremlin be trembling at
the first big speech from Defence
Secretary Gavin Williamson? Judge
Frankly, Russia should
go away and should shut up.
More on that speech later in the
All that in the next hour
and with us for the first half
of the programme today
Rachel Sylvester from the Times
and we hope, LBC's Iain Dale.
First today, the Labour party
are split on Jeremy Corbyn's
response to the Russia spy
poisoning in Salisbury.
Yesterday the Labour
leader said "the evidence
points towards Russia" -
but in the Guardian newspaper today
he warns we should not "rush way
ahead of the evidence" and suggests
the poisoning could have been down
to "russian mafia-like groups".
He also questioned whether we should
trust international intelligence -
stating, in his words -
"flawed intelligence and dodgy
dossiers led to the calamity
of the Iraq invasion".
Mr Corbyn was a vocal critic
of the Iraq war and the intelligence
gathered at the time -
here he is speaking in 2003.
Kia Starmer was asked about this on
question Time last night.
were after Russia earlier this week
based on investigations carried out
by security and intelligence
services, and no answers have been
given, no answers have been given,
and that led her to the conclusion
that there was no alternative
explanation other than that
responsibility lies with Russia. As
you will have seen, Germany, France
and the US have joined her in that
conclusion, and that is the right
conclusion will stop and for that
reason, I think it's very important
that we support the action the Prime
Minister laid out on Wednesday.
Starmer, the shadow Brexit
We're joined now by Nick
Thomas-Symonds who is
Labour's Shadow Security Minister.
Who do you think was responsible for
the nerve agent attack?
I agree with
the assessment we have seen during
the week that the evidence
absolutely is pointing towards
Russia. It seems that there are two
possibilities within that - either
the Russian state deliberately
ordered it, or it is that it
happened negligently, where the
Russian state lost control in some
way of the nerve agent.
it is the Russian state, even if
they were negligent, as you say, in
terms of losing hold of that gas. It
is they who are responsible?
made clear in Jeremy Corbyn's
article published yesterday in the
Guardian, which sets out those two
possibilities. Of course, the second
possibility, losing control, Jeremy
Wright east, and I think you pointed
out, Jo, at the top of the programme
about the involvement of Russian
Mafia and organisations -- other
organisations, which is consistent
with the Prime Minister's with the
possibilities, and the evidence is
pointing to Russia.
Why is Jeremy
Corbyn equivocating in his argument,
saying we need to hold back before
we do categorically state it is the
Russian state, despite the fact that
there is now a coordinated response
from France, Germany, from Nato,
America, who all say the pattern is
clear and there is no plausible
alternative to it being the Russian
First, in terms of the joint
statement, that is obviously very
welcome and we want to build the
widest possible international
coalition. The statement's language
is clear in terms of accepting the
highly likely position that the
Prime Minister set out in the House
of Commons on Monday. I don't accept
this characterisation of
equivocation. I was there in the
House of Commons on Monday to hear
Jeremy's statement, and he quoted
verbatim what the Prime Minister
said, and then said afterwards that
we have to have a decisive,
proportionate response based on the
evidence. To me, that is an entirely
common sense way to proceed.
highlighted flawed intelligence and
dodgy dossiers led to the calamity
of the Iraqi invasion. Why is he
highlighting that at a time of
national security when there has
been an attack with a Cold War nerve
agent on British soil?
condemn the events in Salisbury. We
back the work going on from security
services, counterterrorism and
others, and it is important to do
so. If I may say so, all that is
happening is, the Leader of the
Opposition is raising some
reasonable questions. We always have
to look at the lessons of the past,
and they are to be considered,
thoughtful in how we move forward,
absolutely, and that is what we
should be giving as the evidence
emerges. The evidence at the moment
supports the measures the Government
has already taken. Let's see how the
investigation proceeds and act
proportionately too. Nothing wrong
with a considered approach.
Is it a
considered approach? Labour has said
it supports the sanctions and the
expulsions. If you support the
expulsions and the sanctions, the
punishment, and yet, you are not
completely clear as to who that is
going to be directed at, or you
don't completely trust the evidence
from the security services, why are
you supporting the sanctions and
There is no suggestion
we do not support the position of
the security services.
bringing up the Iraq war in saying
these things cannot be trusted
because it led to a calamity in
foreign policy 15 years ago. He is
making the point, Jeremy Corbyn,
that that might have happened in
There is a distinction
between the evidence from the
security services, and we support
them in doing that and they do an
excellent job, and help politicians
seek to interpret and act upon them.
There is nothing wrong with being
reasonable and consider. Of course,
we need to respond as the evidence
emerges. It is a reasonable thing to
Is there consistency in what
Jeremy Corbyn wrote in the article
and what he said in the House in
terms of shoving supporters Theresa
There is. He is trying to say
that we can't be sure the Russian
state is to blame. As you point out,
he is also saying that we back
Theresa May in expelling the
diplomats. The only way that we can
do that is if you support the idea
that the Russian state is to blame.
It leaves the questions of whose
side is he on, and there is a
history of association between the
hard left and Russia, the Communist
Party. And I think these moments of
big national security crises are
tests of leadership, and at the
moment, Jeremy Corbyn is failing
that. A lot of his Labour MPs agree
that he is failing that.
What do you
say to MPs who have questioned it?
We have had a number on this
programme this week. There are MPs
who feel he is not giving his full
support by some of the comments he
has made, and that actually, people
like Keir Starmer, Emily Thornbury,
near gritters, on the front bench,
have been much more explicit. Is
there a divide now emerging in
I don't accept that
characterisation. Of course,
politicians can use different
language, but there is absolute
unity around the evidence pointing
towards Russia. Secondly, let's
build the widest possible
international coalition to deal with
this. Absolutely. Third, let's act
proportionately on the evidence -
three entirely reasonable decisions.
Did Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the US
President's support for Theresa
Is absolutely. It
accepts the position of the
They do say there is no
plausible alternative, serve in
other words, it must be the Russian
Sorry to cut across, but
certainly how the Russians have
responded is one of the things we
absolutely have to take into
account. That is one of the reasons
why it is proportionate at this
stage to be backing the steps the
Government has taken.
One of the
things Jeremy Corbyn raised earlier
in the week was money, and Russian
money and the fact that London and
the south-east is being used as a
bit of a playground for the Russian
navy. He was right to question that
even then, wasn't he, in the
immediate aftermath of the poisoning
of Sergei Skripal and his daughter?
There is an issue of dodgy money
coming into London and laundering
going on, particularly through the
property market. It is right for
that to be clamped down on. The
Government has said it will do that
with amendments. Actually, that is
one thing that would hurt Vladimir
Putin and his associates as much as
Nick, thank you very
Now, nearly 48 hours
after Theresa May announced
retaliation against Russia -
by expelling 23 diplomats
among other measures,
so far we've had no official
reprisals from Putin,
but speaking yesterday the Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
promised a swift response.
As we already
did some days ago,
we asked them to provide us
They replied, proof is not needed.
We asked them to send an official
request, as required by the
procedures of the Chemical
They told us, you know
the official request is included
within Theresa May's
speech in Parliament.
So, you understand the level
of seriousness when
communicating such things,
but the response will come very
soon, I can assure you.
That was Sergei lav wrath.
Oksana Antonenko is an expert
on Russian foreign policy
from the Institute of Global Affairs
- and she's with us now.
Russia has threatened a response,
and yet we have is not had one -
It is convenient to have that
crisis playing out a day before
elections, so we are likely to have
a response right after the election,
probably Monday or Tuesday.
You don't think it will come before
them? It sounds from a timing point
of view from Sergei Lavrov and
others that it would come
At the moment, I think
if they wanted to respond
immediately, they would have
responded yesterday. Clearly, I
think there if one looks at Russian
politics today the key thing for the
elections is to have a turn up, and
that will not increase if the more
liberal, middle-class Russians
really feel that we are entering a
period of new isolation and a new
crisis with the West, so I think
they want to downplay that for the
time being. I think the response
will follow next week.
Do you think
there are voices, then, around
Putin, trying to moderate him and
what he does in terms of a response
It is very difficult to
say who are the voices around Putin
now, because the Kremlin walls are
high, and today it is very difficult
to really understand how the
decision-making is being made, but
we really know that there are voices
in Russian society, opinion polls
showing that in the last year alone,
is a number of Russians will -- the
number of Russian supporting
improvement in relations with the
West has increased. There is more
demanding to normalise relations,
especially from young people. Any
modernisation and technological
development needs relations with the
most developed in democratic
countries of the world. These are
the people Putin needs to mobilise
to get out to 70% of turnout.
do you make of that claim that we
won't see any retaliation until
after the election?
It is entirely
possible. We might hear it in the
next five minutes as well, you can
tell? The key thing is the scale of
the response. If the Russians, say,
expel five or ten British diplomat
I had been told they are going
to be expelling British diplomats.
They have not said a number but the
news is breaking that they will
expel British diplomats. We knew
that would happen.
If it is five or
ten, that is different to 30 or 40.
Some of the language from Sergei
Lavrov has been interesting, where
he is saying that Gavin Williamson
is a young boy, insignificant,
swatting him away. It could be
swatting him away. It could be that
it is not that serious, but as I
understand it, Theresa May has a
second round of sanctions to
announce immediately after the
tit-for-tat now. I think that will
depend on how serious the
There has been
criticism of Theresa May, saying she
could have gone further with her
initial round of sanctions and
expulsions, and tougher on Russian
money in London - do you agree?
don't at the moment see what being
tough on Russian money in London
would do to actually put pressure on
President Putin himself. He has been
working very hard to repatriate all
the Russian money, and in fact, most
of his inner circle people already
have their money back. The type of
oligarchs we are talking about, most
of them either had been escaping
from Russia or they have a secondary
association. If their money is
targeted, for Putin, it will be just
a victory because it will make him
feel that he can have more
influence, and the money is coming
Tit-for-tat will just escalate
tensions - is that really what
Britain wants to achieve?
I think it
has got to show that it is strong,
you cannot let yourself be pushed
around by a bully and this is the
end of a long path which has
included interference in, you know,
the American presidential elections,
the "Brexit" referendum, there has
been a low-level, under the wire
interference in western democracy
and I think that we have got to say
enough is enough.
All right, thank
you very much, and we have to say
enough is enough on this discussion,
thank you for joining us.
Now, is Brexit going
really rather well?
Theresa May's Mansion House speech
calling for compromise
between the EU and UK was viewed
broadly as a success at home
and abroad, EU leaders meet next
week to finalise the terms
of the transition period and there's
whispers that the UK will be allowed
to sign free trade deals
during that time.
So, is there a renewed
optimism around Brexit?
Have you changed your mind?
haven't, no, and I think also the
renewed optimism is slightly. Is an
renewed optimism is slightly. Is an
idea, this, because we are talking
only about the transition period,
there is a long way to go on this
tricky path, wrote to Brexit is full
of potholes and roundabouts.
about this victory as the government
will see it if they are allowed to
sign free trade deals during the
increment Asian period, this was
seen as another bone of contention
between the UK and the EU. -- during
the implementation period.
be a good deal, but who with.
trade deals? Gloom and doom!
and doom, or a reality check?
don't know if this is a victory,
they cannot be fermented until we
leave, these trade deals, that is
-- they cannot be
Couldn't punishments be
levied? I cannot stop as having
negotiations, you can have a deal
ready to go, Day 1, and it would be
with all sorts of countries.
would it be with?
Liam Fox said that
they are in discussion with 12 of
the major countries the EU does not
have a track free-trade deal with,
Australia, New Zealand, Singapore,
South Korea, etc, etc, that is a
good thing, why would anybody think
that is not a good thing? I think
the thought that, as the fifth or
sixth largest economy in the world,
people don't want to do free-trade
deals with us, is for the birds.
There maybe some people who would
argue they will not sign free-trade
deals until they know and see the
shape of the deal being done with
the EU, you access that?
be by October, the free-trade deal
with the EU may take longer but in a
sense, that is really up to the EU,
to determine that, because we have
two also remember that we are their
second largest trading partner,
after the United States, so it is in
both our interests to come to a deal
and come to it quickly.
considerations on the economics and
politics, on the politics, do you
think there has been an achievement
in terms of holding the party
together? -- huge consideration. The
Tory party, reaching the end of the
first phase, getting a headline
agreement, even though there are
discussions about Ireland, and
possibly getting the transition
deal, is that not success?
held the party together but by
blurring the lines, and as soon as
you put more detail on to the table
and it becomes clearer and clearer
what exactly the negotiation is
agreeing, you will get more
differences between the Brexiteers
and the former Remainers, and I have
spoken with a cabinet minister
recently who said, on the Brexit
side, there is a spit between
pragmatists and the idealists.
Saying we must lot the perfect be
the enemy of the good, but quite a
lot of Brexiteers on backbenchers
who want to go in all guns blazing,
for a hard Brexit. And I think it is
going to be incredible hard for
Theresa May to get a deal on that
It is true that it has not
been resolved, the differences have
not been resolved. And do you agree
that it needs to be resolved? The
priority is what we call the Tory
rebels, siding with Labour, for the
customs union, or whether it is the
Brexiteers who do not feel it is
going far enough?
This sound like a
discussion from three months ago.
Are we in the same position? The
prime Mr Speaker, people wrote in
behind that, I accept...
conditional support from Jacob
I interviewed him, he
could not have been more
enthusiastic, you come from the
remain side of the argument, you are
always going to try to find
different, and there are
differences, of course, the
Conservative Party has the
coalition, I think we have got past
the danger point with Theresa May,
if Theresa May suddenly turns on the
customs union single, believe me,
Jacob Rees-Mogg would pull the
trigger and she would be toppled,
I'm absolutely sure of that.
I'm absolutely sure of that. But I
think the events of the last seven
days, they have cemented her
position over Brexit, she has shown
true leadership, possibly a
leadership people did not think she
was capable of.
It has strengthened
her position, for sure, but what is
still unresolved is how the racing
chip with the EU should be in the
longer term, how closely we should
be aligned to the regulations, how
much we should diverged...
put much more detail on it. That
speech, and at Chequers, the
agreement, it was likely over
reported, if you like.
I think the
cabinet may be signed up, I'm not
sure the Tory party as a whole is
signed up to that.
What about the
issue of the Northern Ireland
border, you say that this is a
discussion that we could have had
three months ago, these things have
not been completely resolved, and
your point about the customs union,
slightly hangs on this idea of what
happens between Northern Ireland and
Well, it does, and people
on the remain side of the argument
are clearly looking at Northern
Ireland, the Northern Ireland deal
to scupper the whole thing and
reverse Brexit, I am absolutely
convinced of that. The Dublin
government, the EU, and ourselves
saying that we want a frictionless
border. If all sides agree with
that, that is what will happen in
the end, it doesn't matter that
there is no precedent for that and
the rest of the world. -- in the
rest of the world. There will be
some agreement even if it is at the
Since 2010 new faith schools have
had to abide by an admissions cap
which prevents them selecting more
than 50% of their pupils
on the basis of faith.
Last week a group of senior
religious and humanist figures
published an open letter encouraging
the government not to drop the cap,
as was promised in the 2017
But has the 50% limit worked
to integrate children
of different faiths,
or does it lead to discrimination
of a different kind?
Our Ellie's gone back to school
to find out just how one Catholic
community has been affected.
Year 6 are learning about jazz
at St Albans Catholic primary
School in Cambridge.
Blissfully unaware of the noise
being made about faith schools,
although massively oversubscribed
in East Anglia in particular,
the Catholic church won't open any
until the Government removes the cap
which stops them selecting more
than half their pupils by religion.
For the church, it's a key
We want to ensure
that every Catholic,
canon law says every Catholic should
be entitled to a Catholic place.
The 50% cap could possibly put us
in a dilemma where we would be
turning away Catholics,
and that is not acceptable.
In place of non-Catholics?
In place of non-Catholics,
and that is not acceptable.
St Albans doesn't need
to adhere to the cap,
that only applies to
new faith schools.
But with only two Catholic Schools
out of 210 primaries
in Cambridgeshire, it means a lot
of Catholics being turned away.
Much to the frustration
of Angela Bennett,
a devout Catholic whose first four
kids went to St Albans,
but the youngest couldn't get in.
So what does it mean to you to not
be able to send your remaining two
children to a Catholic school?
Well, it is disappointing
because I feel like our
choices being taken away.
It's not just for Sunday mornings,
it's about living it.
So, you know, I think
about my faith when I'm at work.
The children, I think,
would benefit from thinking
about their faith when they're
at school, and talking about it
with their friends, learning
about it from their teachers
as well as just from me.
Catholic schools make up almost
10% of all primaries.
They educate 416,000 pupils.
The Catholic education service says
a third are non-Catholic.
We have almost 30 parents
who want to come to our school
who are not Catholic,
so that speaks volumes as well,
and we would like to meet
their needs as well.
Earlier this month, 70 politicians,
academics and faith leaders,
including a former Archbishop
wrote an open letter warning
that lifting the cap
would have a damaging effect
on social cohesion.
It's going to create almost
an educational apartheid system.
We wouldn't dream of dividing
the children by colour of skin.
It would be laughable, illegal.
And yet, we're doing it by religion.
But this does disproportionately
affect Catholic schools, doesn't it?
You know, I'm arguing from a faith
perspective against faith
schools because I believe,
as do others, love your
neighbour as yourself.
And you can't love your neighbour
unless you know him.
The Conservative manifesto in last
pledged to repeal what it called
the unfair and ineffective 50% rule.
But this week, the Department
for Education tell us there's
no date in the diary.
That's presumably because they are
expecting a ding-dong either way.
We are joined by the director of the
Catholic education service. Do you
accept what the rabbi said, that
lifting the cap will affect social
No, this is not about
segregation, this is about choice,
and as we know from the primaries
call, they have enough places to
supply the demand... -- they don't
have enough places to supply the
demand not just from Catholic
parents but others as well, a third
of pupils from outside the Catholic
faith and in most parts of the
country we are able to respond to
You say it is not about
segregation but it will lead to more
segregation, to increase numbers, if
one third are not Catholic, lifting
the cap will ensure that number goes
No, it will not, that is in
existing schools, where the cap does
not operate, the problem we have is
in areas where there is pressure on
places, and we need new places, we
cannot do it by expanding existing
schools. What is happening in those
places is those schools are coming
sadly less diverse because we are
not able to open new schools to
cater to all the parental demand.
take your point about existing new
schools but there is a fundamental
principle raised in that film, that
you are wanting to extend the right
to divide children up on the basis
of religion and label them that way.
It is not about that, it is about
the ability to cope with parental
choice, we only want to build
schools where there is a demand from
parents for places, that comes from
the Catholic community and come from
outside the Catholic community, we
want to be able to respond to the
demand. The 50% cap would mean we
have two build a school which we
would then turn away the very
children that the school was founded
to serve, that does not seem to make
any logical sense.
Does it make
sense to you, that actually, lifting
this cap will then give parents
particularly in this case Catholic
parents the chance to get the school
that they would
like for their child, a school of
faith? I think it is a false
argument, you should not have
parental choice to allow an
apartheid system to develop.
the biggest problems in society at
the moment is a growing segregation
between faiths, rowing sense of
volition, it seems completely crazy,
in that case, to separate children
out on the basis of their faith.
This is not just about Catholic
schools, it is about Muslim schools,
Church of England schools, Hindu
schools, as soon as you divide on
the basis of faith, you are bound to
increase division. You want to
increase a cohesive society, we are
blowing it by dividing children, we
want children to mix.
Would you say
ban any further faith schools?
think you cannot ban the existing
ones, as you say, but you should
have a moratorium on new faith
schools, I did a piece a couple of
months ago based on Ofsted
inspections of Muslim schools,
absolutely appalling literature in
the libraries, being taught to
children, women go to hell... This
included women with tall ambitions,
showing in gratitude to their
husbands, they were told that those
were the women that go to hell!
These values are not being
inculcated in schools at the moment,
we should not have any more until
that is enforced.
Do you recognise
the risk of dog of a particular
religion being foisted on children,
in the way that has just been
described by Rachel?
Let's be clear,
a third of the schools in this
country are schools with a religious
character, 99% of those are checked
schools, almost all of them provided
by us and the Church of England,
when you talk about how to tackle a
problem, you need to identify what
is the problem. There is a problem
with monocultural school but that is
not a problem we have in our sector.
I know that you are at the
beginning, but won't it become more
like that if there is not a cap?
in some areas, the cap is preventing
us from keeping the diversity that
is already in the system.
Our schools are among the
most diverse in the educational
When you say schools
provided by us, who is paying for
these schools, who is paying for the
upkeep, the education, taxpayer or
the Catholic Church?
It is a
partnership with the state, whereby
the church makes a contribution...
Well, it depends, most of
most of the schools were divided
with land and buildings by...
today, 10%, 80%.
In terms of revenue
funding, it is funded by the
Catholics are taxpayers.
taxpayers who cannot send their
children to certain schools, why
should they be funding Catholic
schools or any faith schools?
seems reasonable that taxpayers
should fund a range of schools, to
allow taxpayers to choose from a
range of schools.
I range of
schools, not dominated by one
I agree with everything Rachel said,
so you won't get much of a debate
between us. In this day and age, to
say that we should have religious
schools which are funded by the
taxpayer, I don't see how we can
sustain that any longer. I'm not in
favour of closing down good schools.
I'm quite in favour of closing down
bad schools that have the kind of
things that Rachel has told us
Many faith schools are very
I am not saying they should be
shut down, but I think we have to in
the future minimise them.
think the lifting of the cap will
happen? It looks like the Department
may be more lukewarm than they have
It was a manifesto commitment.
Others have been dropped.
much hope that is one the Government
will stick to.
Thank you for joining
It was billed as Gavin Williamson's
first major speech
as Defence Secretary,
and the stakes were high,
given the government's
stand-off with the Kremlin.
Was it a chance to show
a Churchillian spirit?
A show of strength to
Britain's global enemies?
So how did he do?
Let's take a look.
What we will do is,
we will look at what Russia...
How Russia response
to what we have done.
It is absolutely
atrocious and outrageous
what Russia did in Salisbury.
We have responded to that.
Frankly, Russia should
go away, should shut
up, but if they do
respond to what we...
The action we have taken,
we will consider it carefully, and
we'll look at our options.
But it would be wrong
to prejudge their
Welcomer joining us now is Patrick
Kidd, political sketch writer for
the times. What did you make of it,
Patrick is Mike
I was surprised that
school has broken up this early.
is a few more weeks. -- Patrick?
put a tenner on Gavin Williamson to
be Prime Minister last summer before
I had seen him in action. There was
all this talk of him being Frances
Burkert, the Chief Whip knifing his
rivals. This wasn't good, it wasn't
diplomacy. They talk about Winston
Churchill marshalling the English
language and sending it out into
battle, but this was Gavin Williams
asking for a fight behind the bike
Your colleagues are Britain
excoriating articles and sketches
about Tim - do you think that is
fair? One person said he sounded
like a not very bright sixth form
student being asked to read out his
unfinished history essay in front of
It is there. You need
gravitas, and at times of national
crisis, you have to give a sensual
in command of the situation. It was
worrying, and it was delivered in
that squeaky Alan Bennett voice, and
he looks like a young Albert Steptoe
as well, not a reassuring...
hold back, Patrick!
from the Russian embassy was to call
him a vulgar old tart.
Maybe there was a whole list.
good-looking young man.
Gavin Williamson, obviously in
favour with Sergei Lavrov, who also
said all, the Foreign Ministry said,
it was political impotence. How does
Gavin Williamson since he
has been Defence Secretary has a
talent for attracting headlines, not
all of them positive, it has to be
said. I think this has been jumped
on by people for obvious reasons,
because it wasn't a very
statesman-like thing to say. You are
right, it wasn't part of the speech
but was an answer to a question, but
when you look at what he said, he
did not have the say it. He could
have stopped at the end of the
previous sentence, and I think a lot
of his colleagues will have had
their heads in their hands.
inexperienced? And perhaps we're
looking at it through a particular
To make Boris Johnson look
statesman-like is quite...
think there was a strategy behind
For the Defence Secretary, at a
time of tension with Russia, he has
to look serious and like a grown-up.
He has been a bit of a man in a
hurry, has had his ambition is on
his sleeve, as it were. All that
business... He played on his own
political genius, if you like, and
played that up. He is like becoming
a cropper under the pressure of a
big, important job.
Do you think he
will see the funny side of it?
hope so. I think you need to if you
are going to survive in politics,
but I just wonder... We are all
saying this isn't Churchill, but we
live in the age of Donald Trump,
where politicians do well if they
don't play by the rules, may be
people will say he sell stuff. He
doesn't look tough.
He does take the
Mickey out of himself from time to
time, so I'm sure we will see some
references in the future.
need a sense of humour, don't we?
For the next half an
hour, we will focus on Europe,
discussing the EU reaction to the
Russian double double agent
- social media,
and we'll talk about the man
they call 'rasputin'
in the European Commission.
First though here's our guide
to the latest from Europe -
in just sixty seconds.
This week, MEPs voted in favour
of setting up recommendations
for a future relationship
with the UK, the draft text has now
been sent to London.
Meanwhile, European Commission
president Jean-Claude Juncker told
parliament that the UK would regret
Brexit, to the amusement
You will regret the decision.
It's emerged a European Parliament
delegation has been conducting
secret talks with North Korea
to try to persuade
them to end their nuclear programme.
Elsewhere, Slovak PM Robert Fico
resigned after weeks of turmoil
sparked by the murder
of an investigative journalist
who had raised questions about his
judgment after it was alleged
a close aide had links to the Mafia.
And millions of Europeans may have
been running late since mid-January
following an electrical dispute
between Kosovo and Serbia,
causing clocks to lag behind by up
to six minutes across 25 countries.
Let's picked up after that. Ian,
Jean-Claude Juncker says we will
regret Brexit. What do you say?
Yellow McKee has to say that because
the EU has now we do otherwise there
might be other member states that
might want to follow suit, so of
course he will say that. Some of the
reaction has been slightly over the
He has to say that because...
We would expect him to say that.
Should he not give that line a rest?
It is true, we do expect it to some
extent, and this idea that we don't
want to see others go the way of
Britain, as the European Commission
would put it, but otherwise we
should drop it?
He is probably
right. It is already proving much
more complicated. The economic
implications are becoming clear, all
of that, but I think he is the worst
possible person to say it. It sounds
so arrogant, exactly what everyone
voted against is being told what to
do by the EU and some bureaucrat.
Maybe he is right, but he should
shut up, as Gavin Williamson might
And go away, to finish the
phrase. The think it stiffens the
resolve every time he said something
like that, or do you think people
have priced it in?
I think people
factor in. I think that guy the
hostel at -- diva horse that is...
Some of his statements over the past
few weeks are different to what he
was saying six months ago. Much more
interested in getting the right
deal, more positive, more
constructive than he has been he was
one of the first people to come to
Britain's support over Russia as
well. I think the people on my side
of the argument need to recognise
that there is a bit of a change
among some people in this, and I
think we should also be very open in
thanking European countries for
their support over Russia, because
that wasn't necessarily a given. If
France and Germany had not come out
so strongly, and Denmark there was
another one, then of course, Rachel
would be writing very learned
Let's discuss the EU reaction
to Russia and UK's relations with
them. There has only been one big
story in town this week, that of the
of Sergei Skirpal in Salisbury.
The British government has responded
by expelling diplomats and we await
the Russian retaliation.
But, what will the EU do?
What do you make of the EU response
to the Sergei Skripal poisoning?
are going to see very different
approaches, because some of the
countries would be criticising
Russia very severely, and at the
same time, I think almost a clear
majority will feel themselves very
much pushed in a direction where
they have to stand up for the values
and four member states, even if it
is a member state who is about to
leave. So I think we are going to
discuss this in the Parliament in
the next session, and I think the
verdict will be pretty harsh.
harsh in terms of the stance against
Well, we have a lot of
indications in this case. Russian
security agencies have killed their
former agents earlier. That's almost
a question of honour for them. So
the only one who could actually be
interested in getting rid of Skripal
is the Russians. We won't find a
person with a smoking gun going in
or out from the Russian Embassy in
London. We would find that, I'm
pretty sure. When you kill persons
like this, this is a very cynical
killing, because they didn't even
care about Sergei's daughter. My
guess would be that there will be
middlemen, and there can be a lot of
them, in between. From my point of
view, I think Russia should be very
interested in clearing this,
interested in clearing this, because
the Novichok poison, the only source
for it could be Russia. In the 90s,
there were weapons depots in Russia
that were taken apart because the
state could not pay the wages, and
the military to what they could,
almost all the AK-47s in Europe come
from these depots. There is a
possibility that this also had this
Because of your
proximity to Russia in Finland, are
you afraid of Russia and Russian
retaliation in general?
retaliation in general?
probably the only country in Europe
having had a war with Russia and
still staying an independent nation,
so I think we have... Our
credentials in this respect are
pretty good, and I don't think we
are afraid of them. What we should
be slightly scared of in Europe in
general is not very rational
behaviour in Russia, because it's an
unstable system for the moment. You
have somebody up there, Vladimir
Putin, and you don't actually have a
machinery on which you can put any
much trust. The system as such is
unstable, and that's the problem.
What about concrete help from the
European Union? What concrete help
can Britain expect?
can Britain expect?
It depends what
you need. As I said, we have a lot
of indications about the source of
this murder, but as I also said, we
won't find a smoking gun, so what
would Great Britain need in these
times from us? I think, if you go
back to what we could offer, we
could offer all the knowledge that
our services could find. And if
Russia is retaliating even more in
regard of Great Britain, then of
course, we have to follow suit. We
have to do something just to show
our solidarity. This might go
Do you think that there
would have been any difference...
Nils, I will come back to you in a
moment. Do you think there would be
any different in the EU response if
Brexit wasn't happening?
No, I don't
know what other response that could
have been. They have been as
supportive as they can be. The fact
that France, Germany and the US
signed this strong letter, this
strong statement, I imagine that a
lot of the other countries would be
happy to sign up to it too, so I
don't know what else we could
Tony Britton said after the
lip in Janko incident, Europe showed
solidarity but there wasn't much in
terms of concrete members. Are we
expecting EU nations to expel
Russian diplomats and put further
sanctions in place? Should we expect
these things from the EU and the
I think there could
be more economic sanctions, but I
think the show of solidarity and
strength is in itself very
important. That is a statement that
a multilateral approach is important
and does work. Even as Brexit is
going along, we are not ever going
to be able to live and operate in
splendid isolation. We will always
have to rely on allies in Europe, in
America, and I think that's
incredibly important as a reminder
at this very critical moment in the
negotiations to both sides. Read hi
and this is a big story in European
countries. I did an interview on
Danish television yesterday, and it
is the number one story week. Some
people are thinking this is a story
in a small town in England, but it's
Finally, the Neils, it is a big
story in European countries?
countries, is at the case, and is it
a big story in the European
It is a big story, yes,
indeed! White, well, because it is a
very cynical murder, and, all the
indications we have are pointing at
Russia. We should demand of them
some very honest and some very clear
answers, and if they are not able to
deliver those answers, then we have
to think about further measures, and
those measures should be European
measures, not just UK measures,
Finnish measures, Belgian measures,
they should be European measures.
has described it as a murder, Nils,
but we should say that they are
critically ill in hospital, Sergei
and Yulia Skripal., they are not
It's been described as a coup
and the European Union's
very own House of Cards.
Brussels beaurocrat Marton Selmayr,
who used to be Jean Claude
Juncker's Chief of Staff,
has been promoted to be the head
of the EU's civil service.
The EU Commission has argued
Mr Selmayr's appointment
as Secretary General
was all above board
but some MEPs are furious.
Here's Adam Fleming with more.
There's something about Martin. He
has found himself in the front row,
either for his slightly scary
reputation or accused of leaking
details of a "Brexit" dinner in
Downing Street, now, it is because
of his promotion. Martin Selmayr has
been going up in the world, he
applied for and got the job of
Deputy Secretary-General, then, in
the same meeting, Secretary-General
announced he was replying --
retiring, and Martin Selmayr I was
transferred into his job. Summoned
by M EPs to blame, the Commissioner
for HR, Gunther Oettinger, said it
was all above board.
was all above board. -- MEPs.
has all the necessary
altercation to take on the task
of the commission, he has lengthy
experience in key positions
within the commission,
he is an excellent legal expert,
he is excellent at communication
and 100% suitable for this position.
But, members from across
the political spectrum lined up
to criticise the appointment.
all the credibility
of the European Union as a champion
of integrity and transparency
in public administration, at times,
when public trust in the European
is low, this is devastating,
Mr Oettinger, and the fact
that the commission remains deaf
until the day of today
to criticism shows just how
disconnected it is from reality.
You should do your best to come out
with something which is trustworthy,
and you should avoid any feeling
or any impression that
it was a preprepared,
allegedly motivated nomination,
and unfortunately, I don't
think that in this case
you did your job perfectly.
You can see the defeat
etched in their faces,
this is the morning after,
and these were the European
it brings back memories of 1999,
when a report accused
one of Jacques Santer's
commission of cronyism
and they all resigned en masse.
I arrived here just after the fall
of that commission,
and I would say this to you,
Ukip would never have won any seats
in the European Parliament had it
not been for the nepotism
of the Santer Commission
and so I've always been very
grateful to Jacques Santer.
Does this at all feel
like that period?
Could this be the start
of that sort of thing.
What's interesting is,
you would have thought
the appointment of an official
to a big job would be a story that
would have stayed within Brussels
and Strasbourg but actually,
it is out there, it has been talked
about in the French media,
it is trending on Twitter.
There's a lot going on in this
Martin Selmayr story,
some score settling,
some anti-German sentiment, some
opportunism, some genuine concern.
And now his promotion will be
the subject of a Parliamentary
enquiry, with the vote in Strasbourg
at some point in the future.
Good luck in the new job, Martin!
Alex Barker, all this fuss about
Martin Selmayr, is it overplayed,
this is politics, so, Celts appraise
Saga is a
what makes it special is
that he was a political appointment
and politics is moving against him
and so, it has brought him into the
limelight in a way that for once,
he's not particularly comfortable
-- quelle surprise. EU
Jean-Claude Junker's man, how
powerful is see in this new role?
don't think his new role makes much
difference, is it ordinary powerful
in terms of the Chief of staff or
top aide to a European Commission
president, you have to go back to
the days of the law and his team to
have anything equivalent to this. --
De Lors. And he micromanage is, his
cursive is over every document that
emerges from this place, what Sting
wishes him is his willingness to
take on a public profile, I asked
him once his method was so tough on
things, he said, I cannot run the
commission like a Montessori school
and his methods, is micromanagement,
his energy, has really made him
stand out in terms of a bureaucrat
You have met him, what is he
Is good company, news quite
funny, is absolutely determined, he
can turn against you quite easily,
and, he runs the place like a tight
ship, he surrounds himself by people
who are loyal to him. His top
appointments in the commission have
been people who are loyal to him. I
think the pressure he is facing is
partly a function of unease about
his boss, really, Jean-Claude
Juncker hasn't got the energy that
some MEPs would hope European
Commission president would have, and
yet the commission is powerful at
the same time so attention is
turning to his aid, and he is
absorbing some of the criticism.
Described as anything from a monster
to Rasputin, in the UK press, their
I ask them that, he
said, Jean-Claude Juncker is the
good guy, and I am the bad guy, he
is in., and for some member states,
they are pleased he is paying the
role, this is a big unwieldy place,
30,000 bureaucrats here, and he
delivers for them, at times, when
they have a special favour to ask
when they are in a particularly
politically difficult problem, but
it also means that he upsets a lot
of people, and so, there are people
upset that there are too many
Germans into top positions, the
Germans are upset that Martin is not
There are those that would prefer
this to be a civil service, and not
run by, effectively, a political
appointees. The coalition of the
upset(!) is growing, and he is under
You cannot please all
people all of the time, or even any
of the time, Alex Barker, thank you
very much for joining us.
relations have fallen
to their lowest level in decades,
a very new type of diplomacy has
been playing out on Twitter.
The official account of the Russian
embassy in London have frequently
goaded the British government,
so much so that they've been called
professional trolls by some.
When Theresa May called Russia's
reaction to the Skripal
affair one of "sarcasm,
contempt, and defiance,"
she could well have had their social
media output in mind.
After the expulsion of 23
of their own diplomats this week
"the temperature of
Russian-British relations drops
to minus 23 but we are not
afraid of cold weather."
On Tuesday they said:
"Any threat to take 'punitive'
measures against Russia
will meet with a response.
The British side should
be aware of that."
With a handy diagram
to explain their point.
This post asked,
a week after Sergei Skripal
and his daughter were poisoned,
"Does Russia's dialing code 007 make
James Bond a "Russian spy"?
And last month when the UK
was battling the beast
from the east, their poll asked,
"What Russian customs should Brits
adopt with this snow blizzard?"
The most popular answer:
Drink more vodka.
And joining us now is journalist
and Twitter meme expert
Mollie Goodfellow and Russian
comedian Konstantin Kisin.
Welcome to the both of you, to a
British audience, these tweets are
pretty bizarre, even offensive,
given the current context, are we
missing the joke?
I don't think so,
these are cheesy and slightly
unoriginal, I would say, but that is
where Russia finds itself, trying to
fight a war of words, and one of the
interesting things in terms of
difference, we don't have the
concept of banter, in Russia, the
idea that you would say horrible
things to your friends as a sign of
affection does not exist, so when
you see these attempts, they are an
attempt to undermine the West's
message, that Russia is doing this
through humour. How effective this
is, I don't think we really know,
but that is what is happening.
think it represents a Russian sense
of humour, even if it is not very
good and clumsily done.
the kind of jokes that you write
when you have not heard jokes
He says, crushingly! Are they funny?
I think some people find humour in
them, look at the Job tweets they
do, against the straight
ambassadorial tweets they do, I
think you get far more sense of
engagement. -- look at the joke
tweets. So people are finding it
funny, and that kind of disconnect
between this is a very serious
political unit, against, being like
a troll, and they are tweeting in
the way that tweeters tweet, which
is, looking at a political account
is quite rare!
Using the medium and
the current context, very serious,
but actually, the king at what has
been written, they are not bad, in
an attempt to dare I say, break the
ice... -- looking at what has been
written. But, really...
Unbelievably, unbelievably, that
came off the top of my head(!) I
think it is such a serious
situation, three people in hospital
having been poisoned with a nerve
It is not a time for silly
jokes on Twitter, and again, this
is, there has also been Russian bots
interfering in western democracy
around the world, I think it is not
a laughing matter.
No, it is a
deflection tactic, that is what it
is, I think they are quite funny in
some ways, but we all pay attention
to them, we are discussing them here
now, we would not be doing that if
they had not done that, it's like
when the Liberal Democrats press
office did similar tweets, we all
followed the press office, which we
would never have done before!
with the Russian reaction be to
these kind of tweets from an
official British account? Well, I
wouldn't know, but in terms of the
Russian reaction to these tweets.
The Russians will be quite enjoying
this trolling, and in terms of
seriousness, Russian people tend to
be a lot less squeamish and a less
politically correct on these issues,
so when most Russian people see
these tweets, they would be enjoying
it and saying, well...
offer them your services!
this works in their favour, because,
it is that dichotomy between the
strict parent, telling Russia to
stop it, and the child pointing
their tongue out and blowing
raspberries. It works in their
Plane to cultural norms,
like the Russia, and the Russian
weather, and vodka, is that an
attempt to reach out?
It is a stable
of my comedy, absolutely(!) you have
to play with this but it is a
question of what you are trying to
achieve, and in this case, in terms
of rushing humour, we are not quite
as self-deprecating as British
people, when we make fun of someone
else, it is to undermine and
question what they are saying to
make a point, this is a continuation
of politics by other means.
and Russian comedy differs
completely, there is no meeting of
I do think that there is.
are the meeting of the minds!
Isn't this what Twitter is for, to
do this sort of thing?
yes, absolutely, and politically,
the Russian Embassy is probably the
account that is doing the best in
terms of in terms of understanding
the Twitter trolling hive mind.
Minister of defence Twitter account,
when it starts doing that, then it
really does become a war of words!
On that, we will have a different
war of words.