Andrew Neil and Richard Moss with the latest political news, interviews and debate.
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A warm and spring-like welcome to your local party official. Dust
like buses, you wait a long time for an election, and three come
along at once. A by-election South Shields, Amaia election and of
course the elections for the County Council For Ulster of joining me at
the table are the MPs for Carlisle and Stockton North.
We will also topped the Liberal Democrats, and we will be in... Let
us start with the funeral of Lady Thatcher. The Prime Minister said
we are now Thatcherites. Are you? That is the last thing I am, but it
was only right and proper that there was recognition of the
passing of a long-term serving prime minister. For me, it was a
lot of money that could have been put to other uses, particularly in
this region. Is it a vote winner for due to go around Carlisle
seeing you and a Thatcherite? have all the children of Fatah, and
I think she changed society quite dramatically. If you look back to
where we were in the 1970s to the early 1990s, she changed things for
the better. I also accept that she is a historical figure now, and we
have to move on to the politics of today and the issues that matter
today. We are seeing back with the present leadership. Our voters in
the north-east ready to move on? The voters moved on a long time ago,
but there were things happening this week not so good. But in the
north-east we have seen a rise in unemployment again. 12,000 of them.
I do not think they are Thatcherite. An election campaign has got under
way. Labour leader Ed Miliband was doing his bit for his party in
South Shields, which his brother represented for 12 years. A quick
visit to support his party's candidate in North Tyneside. One of
the battlegrounds will be the county council elections in Cumbria.
There is a new factor for them to consider, in the shape of UKIP.
At this museum, you will see Cumbria's rich history and conquest.
Now, during the elections there will be another set of insurgents
trying to batter down the fences. This is the leader of their legions.
Nigel Farage has footsoldiers, too. They fielded just four candidates
in the last elections. This year they have more than 50. The party
says it is on the marched. It is time for a change, for some fresh
thinking. We are 42% up in terms of members. You will see a lot more
people, Ex Conservatives, who are so fed up with the present
incumbent and the rest of the guys, that they will join us. I am also
very hopeful that we will continue to get people from the other party
is. The Conservatives had a big hitter of their own this week,
though. They would love to remain the largest party on the current
council, but are they worried that UKIP may be about to ruin their
charges -- chances? I am not worried but we mustn't
underestimate them. The message I have to my candidates is get out
there, campaign on local issues, on the issues you have worked hard on,
this is a Cumbrian election, not a national election, so we will fight
on our record of the last four years of what we can deliver.
Voters here believe there are issues that need tackling. Things
like cutting business rates to encourage business to fill up some
empty shop so. There are little places where people can go to.
Supporting the farmers, supporting the education of youngsters and
giving them something to do. will the opposing parties show that
they can offer as valid an alternative as UKIP? The Liberal
Democrat way of working is doing things with people, with
communities, which is a different way of doing things. It is about
involving people and being more local, about being less central. At
the end of the day, it is about engagement with people. The Labour
party is saying that you can trust us to seek to protect vital
frontline services where we can. We will not be adopting the slash and
burn approach of some of our opponents. They can trust us to do
the best for the whole of the community in Cumbria. There have
been blurred battle lines in Cumbria in recent years as the
county has been run by an unlikely conservative Labour coalition. For
now, all the alliances are off as the party's fight each other for
supremacy. We have representatives from all of
the parties. Let's start with UKIP. Everyone is impressed with the
number of candidates you got out. But if we are sad here in a couple
of weeks and you have won a couple of seats or none, that will not
amount to much the stock what we are looking at more than anything
is the share of flops. That we had a five-year plan, and we are
growing year on year. There was appalled recently that put us on
19%, ahead of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. We hope to
become the opposition. It is a five-year plan, so we are looking
at will chair. People are turning to us as a new and exciting of
eternity. If they take votes from you, you could lose seats. We have
got to get our message across, and attract people that may vote UKIP
your Liberal Democrat. I have to confirm that we work well at
national and local level. I think we have preserved many frontline
services in Cumbria, and that's what we will focus on. But the
problem is that UKIP have moved on to a lot of your territory and the
armed we ring people over. At the national level, they want to come
out of Europe and have a referendum. The Conservative Party declared we
will have a referendum in 2007 Dean. -- 2017. John Shipley, you have
fewer candidates than UKIP, suggesting they are on the way up.
I do not think that is true. It is not great and a counter like
Cumbria to have less candidates and UKIP. But what matters is winning
seats, and we have a good record in Cumbria and Northumberland and
Durham, of winning seats. I think it is reasonable for us to
concentrate our resources. Alex, I will come to you. Labour would love
to make this referendum on the government and cuts, but it does
not get us very far because at the end of the day, you have to come up
with a new idea of how to make these councils are work. That is
very much the case. We must not ignore the challenge from any other
party, but as far as UKIP are concerned, we have to make sure
people get under the Veneer of what they are about and some of their
right-wing policies and friends they keep. I am worried about some
of that. Whilst we go out there with our own message and talk about
developing service or preserve service, we have to make people
understand the reality of what they are facing. Name one policy that
you think is far right? I consider the decision to try to stop
maternity leave and paternity leave is quite a right-wing policy. What
use is that two families? I want to talk about the election campaign.
Let me raise your manifesto. It has a whole page dedicated about
talking about the numbers of people who are going to come from Romania
and Bulgaria. Even if you got all 50 people elected, the answer is
you could not stop many of those coming to live in Cumbria, could
you? If you are talking about making this a referendum on cuts,
let us make it a referendum on about -- on the number of people
coming to the country. The amount of people who come put strain on
councils. The biggest industry in Cumbria is tourism. 27,000 people
unemployed in the tourism industry in Cumbria, and 67% of those are
migrant were Acres. If you look at those to the stereos, unemployment
virtually does not exist. -- look at the tourist areas the stop but
we need to sort out high youth unemployment in this country.
A lot of your supporters find that appealing. Your policies have not
stopped people defecting to UKIP. accept there are some people
flirting with UKIP, but I would say to them in Cumbria that the only
two party's dogma and -- the two parties... Be are not flirting!
Which party do they want running local services to make sure council
tax is kept down and delivering services? I think people will think
the Conservative Party will do that, not the fringe parties. Alex,
should Labour not be the party of protest? We always have been! We
need to speak to voters and be clear that the message. There is no
good protesting about the Government doing this or that, we
have their back at the moment and we have to make the best of what
they give us. People need to be aware of what is happening. We need
to protect services for vulnerable people, and the schools. There is
nothing you can actually do about the amount of money coming from
central government. The perception is that you just moan about it but
do not come up with positive solutions. If you look at my own
local authority, there will be some 1,000 jobs going in Stockton, but
they have consolidated the number of buildings they have got. The
Labour council are working hard to try to protect services essential
to people whilst protesting along the way to the Government's. John,
there is a strong likelihood that you will lose more councils this
time. How many councillors can the Liberal Democrats lose before it
becomes a depressing that people think the game is up? We are
defending one-fifth of the seats, and bear in mind that the last
elections were 2009, four years ago, and that is when Labour was on its
last legs, so we made a number of games. However, we have a live in
net gains in local government by- elections since November. We're
incredibly strong. -- 11 net gains. Are you going to keep all of your
seats? There is a strong chance we will make some gains. It is
possible that in some places where well known candidates have stood
down, there may be some problems, but in the main, we think our 40s
very steady. Can I just say about UKIP, withdrawal from Europe loses
jobs from other region -- from our region exporting. It loses �700
million in European development money that this region has so
effectively spent. I have to answer this. Are you trying to say we
would stop trading with Europe of which came out of it? Of course not.
People would not set up in the region because they would not be
inside the single market and they would not have access to EU's trade
agreement. We did sign our own trade agreements. -- could sign.
That would take several years the stock we're getting off the point
here. Have you got any targets for the amount of seats you want to
win? We have internal targets, and we hope to take at least 25 seats.
Anything beyond that is a bonus. Cumbria? No, across the country. It
is a five-year plan. That is half of the poling of the Liberal
Democrats. We're going to use this as a springboard to go on and win
the elections later. We want to concentrate on local government and
who is going to deal with Cumbria. But there is a long game. And UKIP
know there is a longer game. Your seat is a marginal seat, and it
only takes a couple of 1,000 people to say, we will vote for UKIP, and
you have got. But you are reverting back to national politics. In two
weeks, it is a local government election which is what we are
concentrating on. The people of Cumbria want to know who are going
to be representing them. Give us one Cumbrian policy you have got a
sell to people. Cumbria has more wind turbines than the rest of the
England altogether. We will put a stop to that, as they are scanning
the landscape. But you cannot do that, can you. The decision goes to
government. But the planning decisions are made at a local level,
and frankly they need to be stopped. Thank you.
The Green Party are fielding more than 30 candidates and we will be
speaking to them about this next week. The mayor of Hartlepool
Stuart Drummond has just over one week left in his job before the
post is corrupt, and in his will -- Middlesbrough Ray Mallon wants a
vote at the end of his term to decide whether to do the same. Has
Whitley Bay has plenty going for it, certainly plenty of charm, but in
recent decades some of that charm has become to wear just a little
thin. Who could restore a place like this to its former glory?
Perhaps the elected mayor of North Tyneside. Over the last decade,
successive mayors from different parties have tried to regenerate
the seafront. On the 2nd May, voters will get to decide who
should do a job for the next four years. The some of the voters think
elected mayors have been good for the area? The council should be
able to do the job. I do not think he has done much good. I do think
so, but her problem is that she has not got the majority on the council.
In the mayoral election campaign, the issue of the post of mayor has
become an issue in itself. One candidate wants to abolish the post
he is seeking to win, arguing it is fundamentally flawed. The mayor of
North Tyneside gets to choose the Cabinet, even when they have a
relatively small group of councillors. They get to choose the
budget even when they only have a minority. We have got 60
councillors here, and 48 have got very little influence. Another
candidate promises residents are saying the future. I promised I
would consult with the residents and look at the system and see what
is the best way forward. I think it is the residents' Joyce how we run
North Tyneside, which is about democracy. -- residents' choice.
Consulting is different from holding a referendum. Would you
hold a referendum? I would ask if they wanted a referendum.
Conservative has been in the job since 2009, recently running a town
hall with the Labour opponents making up the majority of
councillors. She does not favour a return to the previous way of
running it. If you had the old system, what happens is the leader
of the council then has to go to their grip, then they have to go to
Council, and it may take years and years to get anything done, but
equally you might never get anything done. It led us to being
the worst performing council in the country. So does the system have a
future as it drifting slowly out of sight?
-- or is it drifting slowly out of sight.
John Stephenson, you're on the record of being -- as being a fan
of the system. But is it not over now? I am extremely supportive of
it, and I would like to see them all over the country along with
unitary authority. They are transparent, there is greater
accountability, and local people know who is in charge. So why do
people not want them? Some people have not been given the opportunity
for them. I accept it has not taken root in the way that I would like
to have done, but I hope that in due course, you will see more local
referendum, and people will start to -- other places will start to
pick up on the idea. Of the 12 cities we wanted to have a mayor,
three did become that. Only 140. But to others went down that route.
-- only one of them faltered. Alex Cunningham, you have one on your
doorstep in Middlesbrough. These were introduced by Labour in the
first place. Do you favour them? have never had strong feelings
about them. The people should decide. We all agree that the
people should decide whether or not they should have an active and
there. -- an active mayor. The system does provide people who have
strong promises to deliver on. sure people would disagree on that!
John, you backed the idea in Newcastle, but the voters rejected
it. It was a reasonably small margin. I agree with Alex that it
is up to local people, but I do believe that there is an important
issue at stake, which is the accountability that John referred
to, which is, given that government is devolving so much more to local
government, from where does the leader's power derived? You were
the leader of a council. Did you not have a mandate? On the course
of that, the powers were extended. Broadly speaking, a council's
leader's power were today is the same as a mayor's power. The
leader's power were should derive from the electorate as a whole.
Paul Russell, this could be good for UKIP. Instead of having a build
up of councillors, you could have someone in control stayed away.
straight away. As long as there is a referendum first. In Liverpool we
have one foisted upon us without a referendum. If the people vote to
get rid of them, I am fine with that. UKIP believe in referendums.
But we do not want to see on whether you have one or not.
you get one to stand in North Tyneside? I do not know that much
about it, to be honest. It is probably disappointing for some of
the people. I want to see referendums on many Moorish is.
John Stephenson, you want reform for local government as well. Could
you have a mayor for the whole of Cumbria? I do not see why not. If
you had a unitary, everyone would know who is in charge. How do you
have so much power in one area of? Boris Johnson does it in London, so
why can that not be extended to Cumbria? Thank you very much to all
of you. Away from that election campaign,
what else has been going on? It is Unemployment went up by 12,000 in
the north-east between December and February, and stands at 10%. There
was better news in Cumbria, where the number of people claiming
jobseeker's allowance fell by 274. The future of children's heart
surgery was debated in the Commons. A local MP said there had been
anger and confusion over the decision to suspend operations at
Leeds. The Tyneside MP urged ministers to make sure armed and
war veterans are being assessed and treated for health problems. --
mental-health problem is the stock they are expecting a surge in
referrals as troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
Vince Cable brought a gift in the shape of compensation schemes to
help steelworks cope with carbon taxes.
This out Shield by-election will take place in May, but you have
lost your chance of you wanted to be a candidate.