06/04/2014 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including a look over Maria Miller's expenses apology. With Labour's Caroline Flint.

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Morning folks. Welcome to the Sunday Politics.


Pressure on Culture Secretary Maria Miller mounts as the Tory press,


Tory voters and even a Tory Minister turn against her. That's our top


story. The economic outlook is getting


rosier. But Ed Miliband is having none of it. The cost of living


crisis is here to stay, says Labour. Shadow Minister Caroline Flint joins


us for the Sunday Interview. And we bring you the Sunday Politics


Gallery. But which former world leader is behind these paintings of


And coming up here... world


And coming up here... Has Peter Robinson crossed the line?


Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd and the SDLP's Alex Attwood debate the


deepening divisions within the Executive over welfare reform.


deepening divisions within the new London borough. A blue flint for


And with me as always, the best and the brightest political panel in the


business - Janan Ganesh, Helen Lewis and Nick Watt. Their tweets will be


as brief as a Cabinet Minister's apology.


A frenzy of betting on the Grand National yesterday. But there was


one book on which betting was suspended, and that was on the fate


of Culture Secretary Maria Miller, now the 2/1 favourite to be forced


out the Cabinet. She galloped through her apology to the Commons


on Thursday in just 32 seconds. But speed did her no favours. There's


been mounting pressure on her to resign ever since, especially from


Tories. And this weekend the Chairman of the Independent


Parliamentary Standards Authority, Ian Kennedy, said it's time MPs gave


away the power to decide how colleagues who break the rules are


punished. An inquiry into Maria Miller's expenses claims was launch


in 2012, following allegations he claimed ?90,000 to fund a house she


lived in part time with her parents. She had designated this her second


home. She was referred to the Parliamentary Standards


Commissioner, who recommended that she repay ?45,000. But this week the


Commons Standards Committee, comprising of MPs from all parties,


dismissed the complaint against Maria Miller and ordered her to


repay just ?5,800 for inadvertently overclaiming her merge claimants.


She was forced to apologise to the Commons for the legalistic way she


dealt with the complaints against her. But Tony Gallagher told the


Daily Politics on Friday: We got a third call from Craig Oliver who


pointed out, she is looking at Leveson and the call is badly timed.


I think if you are making a series of telephone calls to a newspaper


organisation investigating the conduct of a Cabinet Minister, that


comes close After that interview Craig Oliver


contacted us, saying there was no threat in anyway over Leveson. I


mead it clear at the time. Tony Gallagher is talking rubbish about


me, and you can use that. The Daily Telegraph have released a tape of a


phone call between Maria Miller's aid, Joanna Hindley, and a reporter


investigating her expenses claim. Joanna Hindley said:


Maria's obviously been having quite a lot of editor's meetings around


Leveson at the moment. So I'm just going to kind of flag up that


connection for you to think about. The Prime Minister is sticking by


his Culture Secretary, but this weekend's crescendo of criticism of


her presents him with a problem and he could be wishing Maria Miller


would just fall on her sword. Even over 80% of Tory voters in a Mail on


Sunday poll think she should go. On the Andrew Marr Show, the Work and


Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, defended his colleague. I've


known her always to be a reasonable and honest person. But is she doing


the Government or her any good by staying in office at the moment, do


you think? This is a matter the Prime Minister has to take


consideration of and she herself. My view generally is I'm supportive of


Maria, because if we are not careful we end one a witch-hunt of somebody.


And I'm joined now by the Conservative MP, Bob Stewart, and


the man in the white suit, former MP and anti-sleaze campaigner Martin


Bell. Welcome to you both. Stuart Stuart sturkts let me put this to


you, a Conservative MP told this programme, this is a quote, she has


handled this appallingly. Downing Street has acted like judge and


jury, for Craig Oliver to get involved is disastrous. She's been


protected by the whips from the start. What do you say to that? It's


not great, is it? The fact of the matter is the question one should


ask is, did she deliberately try to make money? Did she deliberately try


to obscure ate? The answer is she certainly didn't deliberately try to


make money, in the system, which was the old system, and with regard to


obscure ago, I wasn't there, but let's put it this way. She was going


through a quasi-judicial process and might have ended up in court, so she


has a right to defend herself. Hold on o you said she doesn't do it to


make money, she remortgaged the house a couple of times to earn more


interest to us, the taxpayer, and when interest rates went down she


didn't reduce the amount she was charging in expenses. Well, the


point is the adjudicator said there was ?45,000 she was owed. And then a


committee, Standards Committee, said actually it should be reduced. That


was mainly MPs but there are three lay members. Yes, but they don't


have the vote. OK, fine, that is where it is wrong and we've got to


get it sorted. Let me put another quote from our Conservative MP. He


didn't want to be named. None of you do at the moment. I'm being named.


But you are backing her. George young in cahoots. He's been leading


on the Standards Committee to find her innocent. The Standards


Committee is unfit for purpose. I think the Standards Committee should


be revisited. I think the system is still evolving. And I think actually


we ought to have totally independent judgment on MPs' pay and allowances.


We haven't have not got there yet and that is where it is wrong.


Martin Bell, have MPs interfered in the Maria Miller process and with


the current Standards Commissioner in the same way that they saw off a


previous Commissioner they thought was too independent? Andrew it is


exactly the same. Yesterday I looked at a diary entry I made for May


2000, I said, dreadful meeting standards and privileges, they are


playing party politics. One of them told Elizabeth fill kin to her face


the gossip in the tea room was she had gone crazy. Nothing's changed.


What this shows is most of all, what's the committee for? If it is


just going to rubber stamp what the party wants and its mates, I don't


see any point. But it hasn't rubber stamped. It's changed it. Well, it


has watered down. That's why we should make it totally independent


and it shouldn't be involved in the House of Commons. It is plus plus ca


change isn't it? MPs', scandal, and MPs closing ranks for one of their


own. Has the Commons learned nothing? And this is after the


expenses scandal, where everything was out for everybody to see, you


would think MPs would be careful. This is before the expenses scandal.


We are looking at an historical event, during your time, Martin, not


mine. I'm clean on this. You campaigned for him as an


independent. I did, he was a good friend of mine. And now you've


joined the club. And now you are defending Maria Miller? I'm


defending someone who hasn't been proved guilty of anything beyond the


fact she was rather slow to come forward with evidence. My point on


that, is I understand that. MPs are being lambasted the whole time these


days. There were a heck of a lot of them, Martin, who are utterly


decent. She didn't try to make money. We've just been through that.


I don't think that's right. The jury is out on that. What should have


happened in the Miller case, Martin Bell? I don't think there should be


a committee on standards. I think the Commissioner should make a


report. There has been to be justice for the MP complained against. Then


the committee of the whole House can consider it. But we are, the House


of Commons, then as now is incapable of regulating itself. That's been


proving yet again. She made a perfunctory apology. She threatened


and instructed the Standards Commissioner investigating her, and


her special adviser linked expenses to Leveson, when trying to stop the


Daily Telegraph from publishing. I mean, is that the behaviour of a


Cabinet Minister? Well, it's probably not the behaviour of


someone that's got time on their hands. She's a very busy Cabinet


Minister. Well, she had enough time to write lots of letters to the


Standards Commission ser. She felt under such threat. She had the time.


She had to make the time. Die know the lady is not trying desperately


to make money. I disagree but on that. The fact of the matter is,


this was an old, old system, that we've tried to put right, or the


Commons has tried to put right. I agree that MPs shouldn't get


involved in this. Should we get rid of this committee? It serves no


purpose except to cause trouble. The adjudicator has said that and it


should be the end of it. It shouldn't come back to the Commons.


Although her special adviser threatened them over Leveson she was


and is the Minister responsible for trying to introduce something like


Leveson and that is something a big chunk that the press doesn't want.


She is a target. It has a good record on this issue. It played wit


a straight bat. The facts aren't in dispute are they? Will she make it


to the next cabinet reshuffle and then go? Iain Duncan Smith said it


is a matter for the Prime Minister. In my view, as things stand, I


question did she deliberately want to make money? I don't think she


did. Should she go? No. Should she be reshuffled? I don't know.


Goodness me, you are asking someone who will never be reshuffled,


because he will never make it. I was only asking for your opinion, not


your ability to do it. This is a problem for Cameron isn't it? It is


a problem for Cameron. There is nothing wrong with returning to be


badge benches, as you know. Hear, hear. To that. Stick with me. Helen,


can she survive? Is I'm going out of the prediction game when I said


Clegg is going to win the date, so I owe Janan a tenner on that one.


Grant Shapps has supported her. She was ringed by Sir George young and


Jeremy Hunt... This is pretty devastating. On past form David


Cameron hates having to bounce people out of the cabinet. He will


want to keep Maria Miller until the summer reshuffle. This is a question


mark on whether she survive this is. This isn't damaging to the


Conservative or the Labour Party, it is damaging to everyone. This is


catastrophic damage to the entire political establishment. Every


single speech that David Cameron and Ed Miliband have given since 2009,


talking about restoring trust, they can wipe them from their computers,


because voters are going to look that there and say, this lot haven't


learnt anything. They are giving perfunctory apologies and then you


have MPs sitting in judgment on MPs and rather than paying back ?45,000,


she pays back ?5,800 after MPs have been into it. Damage is huge. Just


getting rid of one Cabinet Minister, you will need to do more than that.


You will notice that Labour haven't made huge weather of this. No,


goodness me, they have their own skeletons. Exactly. The person who


has made hay out of this is Nigel Farage, who has not been backwards


in coming forward. He doesn't seem to care about skeletons. The Prime


Minister has be-Gunby backing her, but that's not popular even with


Tory voters. How does he get out of this? This is the problem for him.


Five years ago his reaction to the expenses scandal was seen by many


Tory backbenchers as excessive. They felt hung out to dry by a man who is


independently wealthy. To go from that to making a special exemption


to Maria Miller because it is politically suitable is more


incendiary and provocative. It is not just upsetting the voters and


the Daily Telegraph but a good number of people behind him. I think


they will get rid of her. I think the Government, to paraphrase


Churchill, will zoo the decent thing after exhausting all options, of the


European elections a reshuffle. The culture department has gone from a


baulk water in haul to one of the most politically sensational jobs


because of its proximity to the Leveson issue. She has to be


replaced by someone Lily skillful and substantial. Mr Cameron is not


short of smart women? Nikki Morgan, the education department, these are


absolutely outstanding women and the problem that the generation elected


in 2005, Maria Miller generation, there are some really good people


elected in 2010. You are not responsible for hacking into the


culture Department's Twitter account last night? I was out at the time!


They all say that! One so, Maria Miller is like a modern-day Robin


Hood... She robs the poor to help the rich. Which one of us has not


embezzled the taxpayer? I reckon it is the lady. You have the perfect


cover. We would not know how to, would we? You cannot tweet from a


mobile device, can you? Play it safe. No, do something dramatic.


Have lots of pledges. Have just a few pledges. Ah, there must be a


Labour policy review reaching its conclusion because everyone has some


free advice for the party about its message and the man delivering it.


Here's Adam. He is well liked by the public don't quite buy him as a


leader. The papers say he is in hock to the unions and the party has a


lead in the polls but it is not solid. Bartenders Neil Kinnock. That


is what they said Winnie who lost the 1982 election. The whole country


deserves better and we will work to ensure that the day will come when


with the Labour government, the country will get better. Someone who


was there can see some spooky parallels. The important lesson from


1992 is it cannot rest on your laurels and hope for the best, you


cannot sit on a lead of seven points because the election narrows that


and you cannot rely on the government not getting its act


together because the Conservative Party was well funded and organised,


the double whammy posters, the tax bombshell, but incredibly effective


and the message was unified and they beat us on the campaign. The lesson


for Labour today is this lead will evaporate quite possibly over the


next few months and we might go into the election behind in the polls.


But Ed Miliband is getting conflicting advice about how to


avoid 1992 happening. Be bold, be cautious and then, the idea that


Labour can squeak into office with just 35% of the vote, which worries


some people. Each month, the Labour Party meets around the country and


last week, everybody spoke about the dangers of this 35% strategy. They


were increasingly unhappy and it is very important that those people


around the leader naturally have a duty to protect him and they make


sure he gets this message that while there is total support for him, they


do want this key year in the run-up to the General Election to be


putting out an alternative which we can defend on the doorstep. The


doorstep where Neil Kinnock made his concession speech is crammed with


Spanish back hackers. The old Labour offices are no a budget hostel.


Labour headquarters is down the road and they are putting the finishing


touches to a speech Ed Miliband will give this week about the cost of


living and I am told he will drop hints about new policies in juicy


areas like housing, low pay, growth and devolving power. As for the


charge that they are not radical enough, his people say they want to


be bold but they have to be credible as well. They say that Labour is


more united than it has ever been but there has been some grumbling


that the cost of living campaign is not the same as a vision for the


country. And that Ed Miliband was not statesman-like enough at Prime


Minister's Questions and one figure who sat at the same table in the


Neil Kinnock years summed it up like this. Things are OK but it feels


like we're playing for the draw. Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline


Flint joins me now for the Sunday Interview. This 35% victory


strategy, it does not sound very ambitious? I am campaigning to win


this election with a majority government and everybody else around


the table is also. But we want to go to every corner of the country and


win votes for Labour and win seats, that is what we are working towards.


To avoid last time, the coalition bartering. But that 35% is a victory


strategy so are you saying there is no 35% strategy and that no one at


the heart of Labour is not arguing for this? We are working to win


around the country and to win all of those battle ground seats and we


must have a strategy that appeals to a cross-section of the public but


within that, that broad group Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and. You


could do that with 35% of the vote? There is lots of polling and


everyone looks at this about what we need to do to get seats and we want


to have a comprehensive majority at the next election to win to govern


this country. Last week, we have been reading reports of splits in


the party over policy and on tactics, even strategy. A struggle


for control of the General Election manifesto, we are told. What are you


arguing over? I said on the committee and just listening to the


film before, it is about being radical but also credible and we are


talking about evolution and that is an important subject but we are also


united and to be honest, in 2010 people were writing us off saying we


would turn on ourselves and that has not been the case. We are not


arguing about the fundamentals, we are discussing the policies that are


coming up with different colleagues and talking about how we can make


sure they are presented to the public and that is part of a


process. That is a discussion, not disagreement. The Financial Times,


which is usually pretty fair, reports a battle between Ed


Miliband's radical instincts and the more business fiscal conservatism of


Ed Balls. What side are you on? I am for radical change, I am for energy


and I believe strongly we must be formed the market and people might


portray that as anti-business but this is about more competition and


transparency and others coming into this market so our policy on this is


radical, not excepting the status quo. It is also for business.


Opinion polls show that few people regard Ed Miliband as by Minister


material -- Prime Minister material. That has been true since he became


leader. And in some cases, they have been getting worse. Why is that?


Opinion polls say certain things about the personalities of leaders,


David Cameron is not great either. And they were not great when he was


in opposition. At this stage, he was getting 49% as Prime Minister real


material and Ed Miliband, 19. -- Prime Minister material. When you


look at certain questions that the public is asked about who you think


you would trust about being fair in terms of policy towards Britain, who


understands the cost of living crisis, they very much identify with


Ed Miliband. We are ahead in the polls. Ed Miliband has made that


happen. We have one more councillors, we have been running in


by-elections and we have held this government over the barrel over six


months on energy prices. That is to do with his leadership. The more


that voters save him, the less they seem convinced. In 2011, he had been


leader for one year, and only 11% regarded him as weird, by 2014, that


was 41%. Look at that! Look at that weirdness! What people need is to


know where the Labour Party stands on fundamental issues. And in those


areas, particularly the cost of living and fairness and people being


concerned that we are entering into a period where people will be worse


for the first time ever at the end of the Parliament, these things are


important and Ed Miliband is part of our success. Definitely. I think


this is ridiculous, to be fair, he is not a politician that says, I am


dying with the Arctic monkeys, I know who is the number one. He did


not play that game. -- down. He is not either there to portray himself


as someone who was with the children, I know everything about


popular culture. His authenticity is the most important thing. People do


not think he is authentic, unless they think we were at is authentic.


Is it true that his staff applaud him when he comes back after giving


even a mediocre speech? I have never heard that. I have never heard about


him being applauded. And I am pleased to applaud him with he makes


speeches, I have given him a standing ovation. You have to do


that because the cameras are rolling! No, he made a good speech.


Five minutes without notes. It took a long time to memorise I don't


blame him! The cost of living. Focusing on that, it has paid


dividends. But inflation is falling and perhaps collapsing, unemployment


is falling faster than anybody thought, as we can see. Wages are


rising, soon faster than prices. Retail sales are booming, people


have got money in their pockets. Isn't the cost of living crisis


narrative running out of steam? I do not think so and I should say that I


welcome any sign of positive changes in the economy, if anybody gets a


job in Doncaster, I am pleased by the end of this Parliament families


will be over ?900 worse off because of tax and benefit changes and the


working person is ?1600 worse off and it is the first government since


the 1870s where people will be at the end of the Parliament. We


believe the government made wrong choices that lead the rich off at


the expense of those on middle and lower incomes. -- let the rich. The


average family ?794 worse off from tax and benefit changes. That has


been backed up. They are those figures. But he has skewed these


figures by including the richest, where the fall in tax and the


penalty they pay is highest. If you take away the richest, it is nowhere


near that figure. Everybody agrees and even the government and


knowledges that at the end of their tenure in Parliament, people will be


worse off. 350,000 extra people who would desperately like full-time


work who are working part-time and 1 million young people unemployed and


the reason the cost of living has a residence is people feel that. I was


in a supermarket and at Doncaster and someone summed this up, he said


I work hard and at the end of the week, beyond paying bills, I have


got nothing else. If you take away the top 10% who are losing over


?600,000, the average loss comes down to around ?400, less than half


of what you claim. That figure is totally misleading. These are the


figures from the IFS. It still shows... Whatever way you shape


this, people will still be worse off, families worse off because of


these changes to tax and benefits and working people because wages


have not kept up with prices. Your energy portfolio, you back the


enquiry into the big six companies and you intend to go ahead with the


price freeze and reconfigure the market even before it reports. If


you win, this is a waste of time? Whilst we have had this process


before the announcement, we always feel if it goes that way, there


might be areas we have not thought of that the enquiry will also draw


attention to that we might want to add on. You are right, our basic


reforms for the new regulator, to separate generation supply, we will


pursue that. What happens if this report concludes that your plans are


not correct? You will still go ahead? I don't think so. Actually,


if you look at the report that Ofgem produced, some of the issues Labour


has been drawing attention to like vertical integration, they cover


that. I was asking about the Competition Commission? The report


last week is a result of working together and I think it is clearly


accepted in this sector, look at SSE last week, they will separate the


business. We are pushing at the open door. It has already pulled out of


gas. So it follows if you freeze energy prices across the market, it


might be the right thing to do but there will be a cost in terms of


jobs and investment, correct? Well, I met with SSE last weekand the


chief executive and talked about these issues. The jobs changes are


partly about them looking at how they could be more efficient as a


company. On offshore wind that wasn't really to do with the price


freeze. That was more to do with issues around confidence in that


area and therefore willing to put the money into it, as well as


technical issues as well But there'll be job losses. Is that a


price worth paying? We believe the reason we are having a price freeze


is these companies have been overcharging customers and haven't


been investing in their organisations and making them more


efficient. I do not believe a price freeze is linked to job losses.


These companies do need to be more efficient. Goal for all of us is


realising the fantastic opportunity for more jobs and growth from an


energy sector that has certainty going forward. That's what Labour


will deliver. Caroline Flint, thank you.


It's 1130 and you're watching The Sunday Politics. We say goodbye to


viewers in Scotland, who leave us now for Sunday Politics Scotland.


Coming up here in Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics


in Northern Ireland. Deadlock over welfare reform, differing accounts


about a deal, now a war of words between the First and Deputy First


Ministers. Sinn Fein was unable to get


agreement from their Party for the package.


The suggestion that I had said I would go to my Party to seek the


sanction and support of my Party for the discussions that we had with the


DUP is not true. So is it just another pre-election


stand-off, or is it a real crisis within the Executive? We'll ask Sinn


Fein's John O'Dowd and Alex Attwood of the SDLP if the situation can be


resolved this side of the election. And from difficult relationships at


Stormont to what has been called a "warm and positive one" between the


Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Martin McGuinness says


he'll dine with the Queen in London to honour the Irish President


Michael D Higgins's first official state visit to the UK.


Joining me to discuss all of that and more are PR consultant Sheila


Davidson and commentator Alex Kane. So, how bad are things between the


first and Deputy First Minister 's? Has this latest spat over welfare


reform brought their relationship to a new low point or is it just


electioneering? Peter Robinson up the stakes when he outlined what he


called one of his nuclear option is to hand back powers on welfare


reform to Westminster. Martin McGuiness hit back saying he had


crossed the line in claiming he had tried but failed to sell a deal to


his Party. We will hear from Sinn Fein and the STL P Enimont, but


first there is a reminder of what the First Minister told me on


Thursday. -- we will hear from the SDLP in a moment.


We had the removal of what was known as the bedroom tax for anyone in a


property in Northern Ireland, and we agreed that we should have a


contingency fund. We looked at putting aside some ?40 million to


deal with the special hardship cases. As with any other set of


negotiations, the Sinn Fein representatives had to go back to


their Party and I had to go back to mine. We got approval from the DUP


for the package. Sinn Fein was unable to get agreement from their


Party for the package, and in the 11 months since then they have never


come back to us to ask for any further changes, nor have they


succeeded in all of their negotiations with the British


government in getting any change to the process at all. Did you believe


that Martin McGuiness and his team locally here at Stormont had agreed


to a deal? I wouldn't take any part ice package


to my Party colleagues I was unsatisfied with myself.


So you felt he was satisfied with the compromises that were contained


in that agreement? I don't think either of us were


seeing isn't this brilliant? This was the best fist that could be made


of it, and it would provide the very best welfare package on the whole in


the UK. For a start, in terms of his


interpretation of the discussions that took place between his Party


and mine over the issue of welfare cuts, what he said on the programme


bore no reality whatsoever to the outcome. The suggestion that I had


said I would go to my Party to seek the sanction of my Party, the


support of my Party for the discussions that we had with the DUP


is not true. Martin McGuiness and Peter Robinson


with differing accounts of where we are with welfare reform. With me now


are Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd, education Minister in the Executive,


and the SDLP's Alex Attwood, a former member of the Executive.


Martin McGuiness says Peter Robinson has crossed the line. Is your Party


simply up in arms because the First Minister has now spilled the beans


on something that is embarrassing for Sinn Fein? Namely that the


Deputy First Minister could not sell the draft deal to his own Party?


Understands this, if Martin McGuiness had come forward to the


Party with a package and it had Martin McGuiness's endorsement, the


likelihood is any package would have gone through anyhow.


Martin McGuiness is a very thoughtful individual, he thinks


these matters through and his leadership is deeply respected in


the Party. If Martin McGuiness brought a package to our Party to be


accepted the likelihood is it would be accepted...


But it is absolutely in contradiction to what Peter Robinson


says. He says there was a draft package, he specifically signed off


on it with Martin McGuiness, Martin McGuiness went to his Party and


could not sell that draft package to them. He is saying that is not


correct. I am seeing it, Martin McGuiness is saying it.


There was no package brought to our Party.


What line has Peter Robinson crossed? If it didn't happen?


There are a number of lines he has crossed. The confidentiality between


Martin McGuiness and Peter Robinson has to be sacrosanct, because those


men have to be able to work together and trust each other and have


discussions with each other. To misrepresent Martin McGuiness's


position is crossing the line. It makes it extremely difficult for


that trust to be held between two senior people in our Executive if


one is misrepresenting another's position.


Isn't this embarrassing for Sinn Fein? Actually, Peter Robinson's


version of events is the correct version of events?


Does the Party strike you as being embarrassed two why would Peter


Robinson say that? We are talking about this instead of


talking about the past talks, -- the doctor has to talks. Instead of


talking about Peter Robinson's constituency of east Belfast. All of


those things are not being discussed, but one line from Peter


Robinson is being discussed. That is why he said it. All of those things


are no longer in the media. We're now having to sit and talk about


that conversation that did not take place. We should be talking about


how we as an Executive approach the British government and bring to an


end the worst elements of the Welfare Reform Bill.


How do you respond to this charge that your Party is economically


illiterate? At one stage in the interview on Thursday night he said,


I will explain it very simply encase anyone from Sinn Fein is watching?


He is arrogant beyond belief. Those who coined the phrase


economically illiterate were from the Dublin regime, that prod the


economy in the south to its knees. -- that brought the economy.


Our policies are credible across the board. Our policies in relation to


the budget in the South have been cause of disagreement in the South.


Economically they are credible. Peter Robinson was equally scathing


about the SDLP's position on welfare reform. You whether social


development Minister that started negotiations with the Treasury on


this matter and nothing has been agreed, that was back in 2010, four


years ago. First of all, let me deal with this


Peter Robinson issue. There was a deal done between Martin McGuiness


and Peter Robinson and Gerry Adams pulled the carpet out...


You are agreeing with Peter Robinson, you are saying that John


O'Dowd is not telling it as it is? The deal was pulled by Gerry Adams


and I was told by senior people in and around the Irish government,


that is probably corroboration. The more worrying thing is that Martin


McGuiness did that deal with Peter Robinson because that deal did not


deal with the issues of welfare reform and cuts. It was a weak deal


done in the image of Peter Robinson, with Martin McGuiness


being a cheerleader from the side. What we have to do now, however, and


this is where I agree with John, is that in parallel to the two


governments, with the American government close by, after the 22nd


of May bringing to a conclusion the doctor has its use, there should be


a parallel discussion with London over this issue. -- bringing to a


conclusion the Haas issues. They have the measure of Nelson


McCausland, because he is more interested in any parade and credit


goes and what it does and does not do in north Belfast than he is on


welfare. Welfare reform has to be negotiated by the Executive, by all


parties and in a process parallel to the conclusions of the Haass


negotiations, if not before the 22nd of May then immediately afterwards.


I am sorry, I have to go back to John O'Dowd, how do you respond to


Alex Attwood who says he believes Peter Robinson's version of events?


To make matters worse he says that has been corroborated by the Irish


government. Thankfully, Alex is not a member of


Sinn Fein so he would not be aware of any discussions within Sinn Fein.


Alex is electioneering here. He is a former member of the Executive.


But he is still not a former or president -- present member of Sinn


Fein. Alex is sitting here seeking votes, rather than a resolution to


welfare reform. There is no point in me fighting with the DUP author DUP


fainting with Sinn Fein or me sitting fighting with Alex.


He is a former social development Minister.


Yes, there is comedy brought forth bills that damaged and afflicted the


poor. What we need to do is present a united front to the British


government and work on this as a collective, rather than niggling at


each other and... But this is fairly embarrassing for


Sinn Fein, isn't it? People don't believe your version of events.


Citizens will make up their own minds on these matters.


Alex? A number of things. On the 24th of


February in the Assembly, I outlined at length the SDLP approach to


welfare reform saying that we would limit the damage to the block grant.


Now if we estimated the negotiation to an Executive level and outlined


what that looked like, unfortunately Simon Hamilton, the finance


minister, did not even bother responding to a better strategy to


deal with this issue. Given that the biggest damage in any part of


Britain and Northern Ireland in part -- in terms of welfare cuts has been


here. How do you resolve welfare reform


now? It seems impossible for this circle to be squared?


First of all, Peter Robinson is electioneering. He is telling the


truth about welfare reform. But he is election nearing. He is beating


his chest because he wants to have this election defined in terms of


poking Sinn Fein and the SDLP in the eye. This is how we as -- this is


very important. In parallel to negotiations if not before then


after the 22nd of May involving the two governments in the parties and


the American government close by, you have a negotiation to bring


Haass to a conclusion. At the same time you have an all-party approach


to deal with the issue. In one sentence if you would, Peter


Robinson, how do we restore trust between the first and Deputy First


Minister is? -- First Ministers. There are challenges in the heart of


the Executive and on the streets, which Unionism has to lift up to,


and the leader of Unionism, Peter Robinson, has to live up to that. He


has to be talented, as well. Only on Thursday we found out that the UVF


are organising a campaign of intimidation towards minorities.


What is he doing to challenge that? He makes allegations towards his


partners in government. Let us hear what my guests of the


day make of all of that. Joining me is Sheila Davidson and Alex Kane.


Alex, could you see your way through that disagreement?


It is the same old, same old. It is the same story since 2011, Alex and


John attacking the DUP and each other, then bringing in Haass and


the UVF when they are supposed to be talking about welfare. This thing


has been going on for three and a half years, it is not new. The


government announced this in 2010, yet here we are three and a happy


years later and they have not agreed anything. They are having separate


talks the Exchequer. We do not know for sure because we


were not there on that particularly sad -- particular Saturday morning


when Martin McGuiness, apparently, called Peter Robinson in to say he


could not sell him this package. We have two competing versions of


events. How do we explain this fundamental disagreement on what


happened? They do not like each other. The


core of this agreement is the two parties do not like each other or


share the same agenda. We have had this before going back to the maze


prison. Martin McGuiness said publicly he thought he had agreed a


deal with Peter Robinson which Peter Robinson reneged on. The same now


with welfare. People need to understand that


ordinary members of the public are watching this debate and have not


got a clue who do believe other than the parties they support. There is


no logic to any of it that ordinary members of the public can


understand, but what they do understand is the bleeding in the


newspapers about what is happening in England and Wales where people


who are making this new welfare reform are finding difficulty in


finding places to live. Iain Duncan Smith was on Andrew Marr of this


morning talking about people being able to live. People here are


watching that not one politician here is talking about what they want


to talk about. They are talking in big figures, talking in politics,


and everyone is electioneering at the moment. People understand that


but we are going to switch off and not vote. We have to leave it there.


No meeting of minds, thank you all very much for coming to join us.


Let us pause for a round-up of the political week in 60 seconds with


Martina Purdy. As the stalemate over welfare reform


rumbles on, the First Minister warns Northern Ireland faces and nuclear


option. Two of the parties in the five Party


coalition are prepared to take the tough decisions, therefore you have


to take this office. We no longer want to have devolved to as these


issues. The controversy runs on as a former


senior police officer gives his side of the story.


I would not see it as a cultural thing in the Northern Ireland Office


to share that Republicans were not prosecuted.


The health service still under huge strain, the minister comes in for


criticism. Will the Minister now be considering


his position? An entirely Northern Ireland pork --


property portfolio is sold to US investment firm. And as the Assembly


waves goodbye to double jobbing one MLA raises a smile.


The minister come as a junior minister, was also a counsellor and


some thought he may be drove a taxi at


Martina Purdy reporting. Now we know after weeks of will he, won't he,


Sinn Fein has announced Martin McGuiness will attend events during


next week's state visit to Great Britain by the Irish president,


Michael D Higgins. After what was seen as a hugely successful visit by


the Queen to the Republic, what will this visit bring?


Joining us this morning is Brian O'Connell, thank you for joining


us. I suppose the focus must now be on the fact that Martin McGuiness


has confirmed he will attend proceedings, including the state


dinner. Are you surprised? No, I am not. It would probably be


bigger music Martin McGuiness was going to boycott this. I personally


think that Sinn Fein missed a trick when they boycotted the Queen's


banquet in Dublin Castle in 2011. I think they realised it afterwards.


Yes, they did have some problems with their core supporters. They


will still have problems, because Martin McGuiness has accepted this


invitation, but I think, as John O'Dowd was mentioning there, Sinn


Fein have a broader agenda south of the border, as well. They are


increasingly significant Party in the Dail, they are going up in the


opinion polls and it would have liked other strange coming up to


European elections if they had not attended some of the events that the


Irish head of state was attending. -- it would have looked rather


strange. Is there a sense of anticipation


with one week to go, are people watching developments keenly?


There certainly is amongst the Irish community here in Britain, and Irish


people, the Irish are probably the biggest ethnic minority in Britain


at the moment. Outside of that community, I do not think that the


state visit has actually raised an awful lot of interest at the moment.


It will then it happens, when it starts on Tuesday, when the Queen


greets President Higgins in winter. -- in Windsor Castle. People are


probably now considering the longer term, looking forward the


relationship is probably more about trade and economic issues as much as


it is about Northern Ireland and the issues we have been discussing


earlier. Brian, thank you for joining us.


Let us hear the final thoughts of Alex Kane and Sheila Davidson.


Sheila, quite a photograph of Martin McGuiness going into the state


banquet in his right eye and coat-tails two -- white tie.


I think we are seeing Sinn Fein move into an entirely different era in


how they approach this. They are trying to be more statesman-like. I


do not know how it will play with the recent past and of the John


Downie issue and how that will affect the mood music of how people


will commentate on that? Is it all about southern politics,


Alex? I think it is bigger than that. It


is a perfect and balance of what is happening in Northern Ireland


between all the parties. Sinn Fein and the DUP need to be aware that


London and Dublin will -- are getting on very well at the moment.


At photograph of Martin McGuiness going in, that will be very


significant, will it not? I think it will be. It is theatre


here. It is a sign they are still in the process.


here. It is a sign they are still in Dobson. Tim Donovan is back in the


chair the process.


Like the process.


chair next week. And with that, back to Andrew. Welcome back and time now


to get more from our panel. So they can justify their meagre patents.


This cost of living mantra will last all the way until the election.


Cannot? Ed Miliband leaves he is onto something and for most of this


Parliament, inflation has outstripped wages. That is going to


go the other way and wages will rise, to which you say Ed Miliband


has nothing to say. He says if you think people are going to feel


better in the blink of an eye, you are a Conservative and do not


understand the depth of this and he is taking the message from a


presidential election in America in 2012 and make Romney was ahead on


some of the economic indicators but Barack Obama was ahead on the key


one, do you believe this candidate will make your family's life


better? The message that Ed Miliband will try to say is the next election


is about whose side are you on? And he believes Labour will be on the


side of more voters than conservatives. It would be crazy for


Labour not to talk about the cost of living because even if wages exceed


inflation next year, it is not as if voters will walk around feeling like


Imelda Marcos, they will still feel as if they were struggling and not


just compared... Retail sales are slowing? That is not the sign of


palpable disparity. Circumstances are better than three years ago but


not better than five years ago. The Reagan question will still be


employed, are you better off than at the last election? But things in


America were actually getting worse when he asked that. I covered that


election, that is why it resonated and they did get worse. The


Ayatollah had quadrupled the price of oil. This is based on things


getting relatively better, after a very long wait, so the cost of


living critique will have to adapt? It will but it gets out of a very


sticky spot and the IFS says wages will not outstrip inflation and by


that time they can start talking about other things, plans for the


railways and tuition fees and at the moment, everything is up for grabs.


Labour know that every time they talk about something they want to


do, the question is, how do you pay for it? They can talk about the


economy and they don't have substantial things to say. Is it


true that Mr Iain Duncan Smith was going to make a major announcement


on benefit cheats? Or something to do with that this morning? But he


decided against it because of the tobacco over Maria Miller? It would


be very odd to go on to The Andrew Marr Show to have a chat and see


what he is having for lunch. Patrick went from the Guardian said he was


going to set out higher financial penalty phase for providing


inaccurate information in claims. This is a bad day to do that, given


that MP expenses are treated far more lenient the than any one from


Joe public. That would be fascinating, if true. And he is


making a very big speech on well for tomorrow and this tweet from Patrick


went at the Guardian, he has proper sized on welfare matters and he


tends to know what is going on. But it would be deeply unfortunate if


that was the message today. How can he make a speech that has anything


about cracking down on benefit claimants? Not today but I am not


sure tomorrow. Do you get the impression that nobody in both main


parties is very confident of winning in 2015? I column last week said the


result, the most likely result from one year on is another hung


parliament and which government results from that depends on the


mathematical specifics of whether the Tories can do a deal as well as


Labour, leaving everything in the hands of Nick Clegg or whether one


party can do a straightforward deal but I do not detect any sense of


exuberance or confidence in either camp. And the Tories are still


shooting themselves over losing the boundary commission reforms because


that was going to net them 20 seats and they lost that because they


messed up the House of Lords reform and there are still furious with


themselves. The former US President, George W Bush, has been a busy boy


and here at the Sunday Politics we thought you'd like to see the


results of his artistic endeavours. Time for the gallery.


I was a prize to find myself saying, some of these are not bad! --


surprised. Vladimir Putin? I like the one of Tony Blair but his early


ones of dogs, to be in the presence of the master is to see his portrait


of a Joanne Love. He is not of the Turner prize but I was surprised. He


gets the mask of Vladimir Putin, also Tony Blair. I was impressed


that he did not allow personal or political grudges to influence his


artwork. Jacques Chirac, he comes out of this incredibly well! And


Angela Merkel comes out astonishingly well. Quite generous


as well. Tony Blair is the best one and the reason is he had the closest


relationship with them and he has talked about this portrait, saying


he was quite fond of him and you can see that. These are awful, they


would not get you an A-level but you must admire him to have the guts to


do this, and display them publicly! An A-level? Just doing joined up


numbers gets you that these days! What do you do when you retire? This


is less embarrassing than some of the other things people have done.


As good as Churchill? I don't know... No! Churchill was brilliant!


And on that! That's all for today. Tune into BBC Two every day at


lunchtime this week for the Daily Politics. And we'll be back at the


later time of 2:30pm next Sunday after the London Marathon. Remember,


if it's Sunday, it's the Sunday Politics.


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