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.