12/02/2017 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate.

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Commons Speaker John Bercow is accused of compromising his


impartiality by revealing he voted Remain in last year's EU referendum.


The EU Withdrawal Bill clears its first Parliamentary hurdle.


But will the House of Lords be quite so accommodating?


Labour's Leader in the Lords joins us live.


And we report from Stoke-on-Trent ahead of a crucial by-election


later this month, where Ukip is looking to give


And coming up here: They formed an opposition in Stormont.


Now I'll be asking Mike Nesbitt and Colum Eastwood to set


out their own visions for moving into the Executive Office.


And with me a political panel who frequently like to compromise


Steve Richards, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Janan Ganesh.


I'll be trying to keep them in order during the course of the programme.


So, Commons Speaker John Bercow has insisted his ability


to act impartially is not damaged by reports that he voted to Remain


The Sunday Telegraph reveals that Speaker Bercow revealed his views


in front of an audience of students at Reading University


This may not be popular with some people in this audience -


I thought it was better to stay in the European Union than not,


partly for economic reason, being part of a big trade bloc,


and partly because I think we're in a world of power blocs,


and I think for all the weaknesses and deficiencies


of the European Union, it is better to be part of that big


Speaker Bercow speaking at Reading University earlier this month. Does


he not care is this I get that impression, he knows perfectly well,


it states he has to be particularly -- Parliamentary neural. Whether


there are going to be enough votes to force him out, the question, the


last speaker wept out with the 20 vote against him. You yes to have


the command of the support across the House. There is a Deputy


Speaker, waiting, who would be superb. I think even the people who


pretend to support Macis have had enough -- Speaker Bercow have had


enough of his ways. The reason I ask whether he care, he didn't just tell


the students that he voted to Remain, he then gave them a running


commentary on all the issues that will be part of the Brexit


negotiations, workers' rights, immigration, trade policy, everyone


maternity leave got a hat tip from him. He would be a very well


prepared Brexit minister if attendance needs a colleague --


David Davis needs a colleague. I don't think this story makes his


position untenable, what does is the wired pattern of behaviour of


excessive candour on his political views, going back years, this is a


guy who when the Queen visited Parliament described her as theical


lied scope Queen. He had a running argument with David Cameron. We know


his views on Brexit, we know his views on Donald Trump. . He has


given interviews, none of the views are illegitimate but the candour


which they are expressed with is scrupulous. Given Lyndsay Hoyle is a


class accuse. He is the Deputy Speaker. And a fairly ready


replacement, whether there is more of a movement to say, maybe not


force Bercow out but acknowledge he has had a few years in the job and


the question of successor ship comes into play. Has he concluded he is


untouchable? What I can definitely say, is that he is determined to


fight this one out, and not go of his own volition, so if he goes he


will have to be forced out. He wants to stay. Which will be tough. It


will be tough. Likely as things stand. I would say this, I speak to


someone who likes the way he has brought the House of Commons to


life, held ministers to account, forced them into explain thing,


whenever there is a topical issue you know it will be in the House of


Commons. He has changed that. He has. Time has been courageous, Ied a


mire the way he has been a speaker. I would say this, during the


referendum campaign, he asked me Nick Clegg, and Peter Hitchens to


debate Brexit if his constituency. It was a packed out meeting. He


chaired it. I said don't you want to join in? He didn't. He showed no


desire to join in, he was impartial. He goes out to universities and kind


of demyth GCSEs Parliament by speaking to them in a way, he


doesn't gets credit for it and stays on after and drinks with them.


Sometimes he, you know, it is clearly a mistake to have gone into


his views retrospectively on that referendum campaign, I don't think


that, did he try and stop Article 50 from being triggered in the House of


Commons? That would be a scandal. Even that would be beyond him.


Briefly, yes or no, could you imagine Betty Boothroyd behaving


like that? Not at all. None of the recent speakers I could imagine


doing that. It is good he is different.


The bill that will allow the government to trigger Article 50


and begin Brexit negotiations was voted through


Many MPs were in a difficult position - unsure whether to vote


with their conscience, their constituency,


Europe, once such a divisive issue for the Conservatives,


is now causing major divisions inside the Labour Party.


So, let's have a look what happened in a bit more detail:


Thanks to academic research carried out since the referendum,


we now have estimates of how each individual constituency voted.


It's thought that 410 constituencies voted Leave.


On Wednesday night, the EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill


was voted through by the House of Commons.


The bill left the Labour Party divided.


Jeremy Corbyn told his MPs to respect the result


of the referendum and vote for the government's bill -


But 52 Labour MPs defied Mr Corbyn's thee-line whip


That's about a fifth of the Parliamentary Labour Party.


Of those 52 Labour MPs who voted against the bill,


the majority, 45 of them, represent seats that voted Remain.


However, seven Labour MPs voted against the Article 50 Bill,


even though their constituents voted Leave in the referendum.


The Conservative Party were much more united.


The vast majority of Tory MPs, 320 of them, voted for the bill.


Just one Conservative MP, Ken Clarke, voted against it.


His constituency, Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire, voted Remain.


The bill will now go to the House of Lords -


peers will start debating it on Monday the 20th of February.


Joining me now is Matthew Goodwin, politics professor at


He's got a book out next month called


Brexit: Why Britain Voted To Leave The European Union.


Welcome to the programme. Has Brexit, how you voted in the


referendum and your continuing attitudes toward it, is that now


becoming the new dividing line in British politics? I think it


certainly is contributing to a new dividing line, in western politics


more generally, we know over the last ten years, that the old left


and right division has been making way for a new division, between


essentially social liberals and Conservative, and Brexit was a, an


incident a moment that really reflected that new dividing line, so


it wasn't just the case that Brexit has cut across Labour's base, it is


that dividing line, that deeper division is cutting across social


democracies more generally. Is there a possibility, no higher than that,


that it will reShane our party politics? I think it is too early to


know whether this is a fundamental long-term realignment. If we look at


what is happening in local by-election, what is happening at


by-elections, pictures a bit mixed but if you look at how some of the


Labour vote is responding, I think that potentially reflects the


possibility of a terminal decline for the Labour Party, it is going to


be incredibly difficult for Labour to win these voters back, these are


traditional working class, socially Conservative voters who are leaving


the party, don't forget, since the 1997 general election. It is not


just because of the referendum. If that was the case, Labour would


become more a party of the Metropolitan areas, and less of a


party outside of these area, is that what you are saying? What we are S


seeing across the west can social democracy that retrenchment into the


cosmopolitan, Metropolitan city area, university towns, you can


seeing in many European states populist right parties filling the


traditional socialist area, why are they doing that? Because they are


offering two message, economic and cultural protectionism. Social


Democrats are clinging to that economic protectionism but not


saying much about migration and multiculturalism and that sort of


stuff. Are there deeper forces at work than Jeremy Corbyn? He often


gets the blame for what is happening to the Labour Party now, but if you


look the way the Greek socialist party has been wiped out. The German


Social Democrats are in trouble. The Italian socialist party has lost a


referendum. The French socialist are coming close to being wiped out on


April 23rd, Labour's problems, are part of a much wider problem of


social democracy S Jeremy Corbyn is a surface problem, what I mean by


that is you could replace him tosh with another leader, they would


still have this fundamental tension within the electorate. They are


trying to appeal to two differenter reconcilable groups of voters who


think differently about the key issues of the day. It is very


difficult for any centre left party now to assemble the kinds of


coalitionses we saw in the '90s with Clinton and Blair and Schroeder.


Those days are gone. Does that explain why it is now Labour, rather


than the Conservatives, historically the party divided over the European


Union, does all of that help to explain why its Labour that now


seems, disunited over the EU? I think so, I think also that the


issue of Brexit, and the EU, is so immatly wrapped up with that issue


of immigration, if you look at who has been abandoned Labour since 2015


or the late 90s, the one thing those voters share is a rejection of the


so-called liberal consensus on EU membership and mass immigration. It


is difficult for any Labour lead eer co-bin or Clive Lewis on Dan Jarvis,


to bring those voters back unless they are going to move on that


cultural terrain. If they are not, they may not go to Ukip, they might


go to somewhere more difficult for Labour which is political apathy.


Thank you for that. Attention now shifts to the House


of Lords where peers will begin scrutinising the EU Withdrawal Bill


in just over a week. Brexit Secretary David Davis urged


the Lords "to do its patriotic duty" and resist the urge to tinker


with the legislation. Former minister Oliver Letwin


went one further - mooting the possibility


of the abolition of the Lords if it sought to frustrate


the bill in any way. Here he is posing the question


in the Commons on Thursday. Would he find time, in government


time for a debate, should the other place seek to delay beyond the end


of March the passage of our accession to Article 50, for this


House to discuss the possibility of either the abolition or full-scale


reform of the other place? And Oliver Letwin joins


me now from Dorset. Welcome back to the programme Mr Let


win. Before we come on to the Lord's, can I get your thoughts on a


matter that has been making the news this morning and John Bercow's


remarks about being a remain voter an giving something of a running


commentary on various Brexit issues, has he sqloefr stepped the mark as


speaker? -- overstepped the mark. I think this is slightly a fuss about


nothing. Every person who thinks about politics will have had some


opinion about great matters like Brexit, and I really don't see any


particular reason why his opinion shouldn't be known after the fact.


I, I was there throughout the five days of the Brexit debate, and I


have to say, I thought he was pretty scrupulously fair in the way he


handled the House, so, I, I don't really share the view that there is


some terrible thing that has been revealed this weekend. Let me come


on to what we are here to talk about, which is the Lords. Why have


you raised the threat of the abolition of the Lord for doing its


job of scrutinising what is coming out the Commons? Well, you know,


Andrew, this question of the job of the House of Lords and scrutiny, has


to be looked at carefully. There are all sorts of bills that come out the


House of Commons which are detailed things that relate to, finance, and


expenditure, and the criminal law, and all that sort of thing, and all


of that, I admire the work that the House of Lords does, as you say


scrutinising and we shouldn't use that word loosely, it means looking


carefully at the detail, line by line of complicated legislation,


hundreds of Paps in some cases, and spotting, using the considerable


expertise many, not all be many of the peers have, in any given field,


to identify things where the Commons has got it wrong in the sense that


the legislation wouldn't achieve what the Government of the day is


seeking to make it achieve. That is a serious proper role for an Upper


House and the House of Lords performs it pretty


Now this is a very different case. This is a two clause bill. The first


clause which is the operative clause says the Prime Minister should go


ahead and sign... I understand all that. We haven't got that much time,


this is becoming a monologue. There is nothing to scrutinise, Andrew.


There were plenty of amendments put before the Commons, none of them got


through, it is true. There are eight Labour amendments in the Lords, are


you resigned to this bill coming back to the Commons with amendments?


No, it should not come back with amendments. There were hundreds of


amendments literally put down in the House of Commons, they were all


drunk. They were all trying one way or another to derail the process.


This is a binary issue, should Theresa May sign the withdrawal or


not? What should the Commons do? The Commons has now voted in favour of


it. Node do should tolerate and unelected chamber forcing the


British people... The people voted in a referendum and the Commons


voted. The matter is now signed and sealed and should not be derailed by


the House of Lords. On Labour amendment wants confirmation that


when it is done, the potential Brexit agreement will be put before


parliament before any vote in the European Parliament, that has been


an agreed principle, what is wrong with that amendments? The government


has already agreed there will be a vote, but actually, what the


amendments were seeking was to give the Commons a further vote on


whether we actually leave or not. That is already decided. Neither the


House of Lords nor anybody else has a right in my view, despite the fact


I was a remain, to what the will of the British people. Nobody should


think an unelected chamber should now try to change the course of


British history by asserting amendments in a very effective on


clause bill which says go ahead and trigger Article 50. Are you


concerned that amendments by the Lords which would then have to go


back to the Commons for consideration, are you concerned


that could derail or delay the Prime Minister's timetable for Article 50?


Yes, exactly. That would be the result of a prolonged bout of


ping-pong between the two houses, or much worse, if the House of Lords


failed to give way and the Parliament act had to be used. It


would really be intolerable. It is not good for our country. Those of


us who voted remain would prefer for that not to happen. The whole


country -- it is important for the whole country that this happens in a


rapid way and allowing the government free rein to negotiate,


that is surely in all our advantages? Deed think any efforts


to abolish the House of Lords, an issue you have raised, does that


make it easier because your friend David Cameron stuffed the upper


chamber with donors, lapdogs and lingerie designers? I was among


those who advocated for many years wholesale reform of the House of


Lords, to turn it into a serious elected second chamber. I think we


should have an upper house which commands legitimacy. This is a


second issue. Here we have not got such a House and it seems to be very


clear that it should not seek to derail on delay the action which has


been mandated by the referendum, agreed by the House of Commons, and


what we want to see now is a smooth orderly effect for this bill, so it


becomes law and Theresa May can go ahead and negotiate on our behalf.


One more question on the process, if the Lords to amend the bill and it


goes back to the Commons and the Commons sends these amendments back


again, take them out, how long could this ping-pong between the two


chambers go on in your experience? It is a very, very interesting and


complicated question with the clerks of the two ends of the Palace of


Westminster not always agreeing about this. But through certain


machinations of slightly changing amendments as they go, in my


experience this could carry on for an awful long time if clever people,


and there are plenty of clever people in the House of Lords, want


to do that and that is precisely why I think we should not tolerate it.


Oliver Letwin, thank you for joining us from Dorset.


Joining me now is Labour's Leader in the House of Lords, Angela Smith.


The Commons passed this bill without any amendments... There were


changes, the government did concede a couple of points. But the


amendments did not go through. Does that put pressure on the Lords to do


the same? I think the Lords always feels under pressure to do the right


thing. When I heard Oliver Letwin, I did not know whether to laugh or


cry. We will not frustrate, we will not wreck, we will not sabotage. We


will do what David Davis said was our patriotic duty. We will


scrutinise the bill. We have at amendments from the Labour Party. We


will look at those. It depends on the government response if we vote


on those. There could be amendments asking the Commons to look again.


That is normally what we do. It is not the wrong thing to do. But if


you do this and make amendments, it then goes back to the Commons. If


the Commons rejects the Lords' amendments, what do you think will


happen? I do not see any extended ping-pong at all. It is perfectly


legitimate. We are not talking about the outcome of negotiations, we are


talking about the process. The process of engaging with Parliament


and reporting to Parliament. It would be totally responsible for


Parliament to say, off you go, Theresa May, have two years of


negotiation and come back and talk to us at the end. The has to be a


process where the government can use the expertise of parliament to get


this right. But if you do put in some amendments, it has to go back


to the Commons, they may well say they don't want those amendments and


it may go back to the Lords, could that at the very least delay the


Prime Minister's Brexit timetable? I don't think so. She said the end of


March. Time has been built in for all the normal processes. I think


Oliver Letwin and others are getting a bit overexcited. This is the


normal process. Unless the government get things right the


first time every time, the has to be this kind of process. These are


reasonable amendments. This is a Labour amendment we are talking


about here, you want a vote in the UK Parliament before any


vote in the European Parliament if and when the Brexit deal is done,


the Commons and the Lords get to vote on it first. But the government


I think have already agreed to that so what is the point? It needs to be


on the face of the bill. It is over well if the government have agreed


it. Lord dubs had an agreement about child and look what happened to


that. Does not sound as if you would go to the wire on that? It is


important it is not just about the vote at the end, you have the


ongoing engagement. If it is going to be a bad deal, we need to know


long before we get to that stage? Is it something you would hold out for?


I don't know yet. It is about how the House of Lords votes, Labour do


not have a majority, we never had a majority in the House of Lords when


we were in government. It is wrong to suggest that we cannot debate


these issues... I don't think anyone is suggesting that. They are. It is


not unfair to ask the government to ask the House of Commons to look


again to look at those issues if that is what the House of Lords


decides. Bit of the House of Commons says we looked, we are sticking with


what we voted for, we rejected every amendment by at least 30 votes on


all occasions, the Lords then have to buckle, is that what you are


saying? Some point I think it is clear the House of Commons have to


have its say. I think it is inconceivable that having had a


referendum, which was not overwhelming, but it was a clear


result, the House of Lords has no intention of sabotaging that but


there are things which are not good about the process that we think


could be improved. We have not just have the result of the referendum


which voted to leave, but we have had the will of the Commons that


passed this legislation by a majority of 372. And I am not


contesting that for a second! Could you cite a precedent for the upper


house amending a bill which passed by 372 votes in the Commons? Quite


other things will come to the House of Lords with big majorities from


the Commons and quite often the amendments we get, with that then


forward and the government sees it could do better. Though not


necessarily saying the government has got things wrong, but they could


do things better. That happens time and time again and it is not


unusual. If you were seen to thwart the referendum result and the vote


in the Commons, the elected chamber of parliament, is the threat of


abolition hanging over you? I think that is really ridiculous and


absolute nonsense. We are not tying to what the decision of the House of


Commons, we are trying to do better. It is a bit rich of the government


and Oliver Letwin to complain about getting things through in time when


the House of Commons spent -- the government spent three months trying


to debate this issue. There have been some strong questions put to


the government from the House of Lords on all sides. I don't know if


the amendments have been passed or not. I think we have a good case for


the government to get debate the point. If a traditional MP like


Oliver Letwin is calling for the abolition of the hereditary and


appointed chamber, and the Labour person like yourself was trying to


defend that, that would not be a sustainable position, I would


suggest! We saw this with the Strathclyde report as well, this is


a government like no other. It is the first Conservative government in


history not to have an automatic majority. They do not like challenge


or scrutiny. But you get my point, Labour cannot go to the wire in


defending and an elected second chamber, can it? Actually, Labour


can go to the wire in saying the government does not get it right


every time. House of Lords is going to normal processes and people like


Oliver Letwin are really getting a little bit over excited, and people


who have been anonymously briefing. Who has been anonymously briefing? I


don't know, they are anonymous! I understand people want to make


amendments, that is the role of the House of Lords, but can I just for


the avoidance of doubt, is it still your case that whatever amendments


to make, whatever may go back and forward, it is not your intention to


stop Article 50 being triggered by the end of March? I have been saying


that, exactly that for months and months and months. It is


inconceivable that an unelected House will thwart the will of the


House of Commons and a referendum on this issue. But that does not mean


we will be bullied by Oliver Letwin and others. But the triggering will


happen by the end of March? I very much suspect so unless Theresa May


has second thoughts, I suspect that will happen. Thank you.


Now, just because it's parliamentary recess next week


There are two by-elections round the corner -


one in Copeland, and another in Stoke-on-Trent Central


where the former Shadow Education Secretary,


Tristram Hunt, vacated his seat to take up a role


as Director of the Victoria Albert Museum in London.


But Labour are facing a fight to hold onto the constituency


Seconds away, Ukip's new leader has stepped into the ring


as their candidate in a by-election bout to see


At the last election Ukip came second to Labour here


But now they are confident they can land a knockout blow,


because this place is packed with people that voted to leave the EU.


70% of people voted to leave the European Union.


I'm the only candidate standing in this election


who is a true Brexiteer, who has always campaigned to leave


the EU and therefore I believe I would be the best person


But he has had to fight off allegations


he wasn't living in the constituency when he entered the contest.


Explain to me what is going on with this issue about your house?


Well, we took up the lease the day before nominations.


Everything we've done is perfectly legal and within the law.


The Labour Party are trying to get off the real issues in this election


and focus on something which is banal nonsense.


And there's been trouble as well for the Labour contender.


He's been labelled a Remoaner after he sent a series


of anti-Brexit tweets, filled with words


I can't believe I'm about to ask this question in a nursery


on a Sunday morning TV programme, but did you really tweet that


I tweeted many things about Brexit, that's tweet is out there.


It was done quite after the referendum result and it


was my way of showing my frustration at the fact that months


after the result we hadn't had anything from the government.


Theresa May had failed to produce any plan,


she had failed to give any meaningful statement


about what Brexit meant other than bland statements


about Brexit is Brexit, and it's a hard Brexit, or a soft Brexit.


The context of it was it was out of frustration.


So you didn't mean to insult the 70% of the people who live here


I never mean to insult anybody and you know,


I've made it quite clear, if I'm elected as the member


of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central, I will absolutely respect


the wishes of the people of Stoke Central.


I will make sure my vote in parliament is to trigger Article 50.


While the Tories' man has done little bit of rebranding too.


I voted Remain and I've been open about that, but my top priority


is about the economy and to ensure we still have an


Theresa May has set out clear proposal to ensure we develop


a trade relationship with Europe and make that a success.


It means the Lib Dems and the Greens are the ones battling Brexit.


Well, when the Lib Dem candidate is actually here.


The candidate is a consultant cardiologist.


He is actually at work today doing very important heart surgery.


He will be back tomorrow, back on the campaign trail working hard.


30% of people voted to Remain and nobody else


is representing them, so, you know, it is still a live issue.


It is still something people care about.


We are only at the start of the Article 50 process


We are very a clear that we are standing up for those


who want to remain in the single market, who want to protect jobs


Labour have taken people for granted in this area for a great many years.


Ukip, I'm afraid, all Ukip can offer to politics is division.


I've covered a lot of by-elections where Ukip have come second.


We'll find out if they really got Labour on the ropes this


And here is a full list of all the candidates standing


in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.


They do atract lots of candidates. You can get that on the BBC website


as well. I was trying to think back, here we have the main opposition


party defending two seats in by-elections in the midterm of a


government. All the speculation is where the


opposition party can hold on, that is unprecedented. I can't give of an


equivalent. You wouldn't just expect them to win seats they have held


traditionally, you would expect hem to make inroads into seats held by


the other party, I wonder if they fail to hold on to just one of


these, whether it accelerates the momentum and criticism of the


leadership of the moment. I think they are interesting constituencies.


Matthew good win was talking about the left win coalition over the


years, almost being too broad for its own good, including places like


Primrose Hill and Hackney. Big university towns in Manchester,


Bristol. Diverse ethnically and included places like Stoke which are


more Conservative. With a small c. Less economically well-off, more


diverse, can the left hang on to both bits of country. Recent


evidence suggests it cannot and the opportunity for Ukip is to pick up


the second of those two types of community, the Stokes and the cope


lands. That what makes the by-elections interest I would


suggest. It is not just about Mr Corbyn's future about which we hear


too much, it is about this traditional Labour coalition, can it


still survive, particularly in places like Stoke? Europe clearly is


a test. I think it's a myth by the way that Labour are only split now,


over Europe and it has always been a Tory problem, last time I was on I


mentioned it. That is why we had a referendum in 75. That is why they


had a round then. But they were in chaos behind the scenes over what


they thought about the euro, skillful leadership can paper over


the cracks, and to address the wider issue of whether we are now in an


era where left right issues have disappeared, and there is more of a


regional divide, if you take Europe out of the equation which you can't,


but if you were able to, issues about health, transport housing do


split more left-right than a regional divide, so I think there is


still fundamental left-right issues, but Europe isn't one of them and


Europe has to be managed by a Labour leader skill fully and evidently


that hasn't happened now. How would you see the by-elections in the


current political context? Labour should be walking them, it should be


a sign of the March of the Labour Party taking on the current


Conservative Government. I don't think they raise any questions about


Corbyn's leadership because the people who put him in don't think


that winning elections matter, you have to remember this will be the


mainstream media, it will be our fault why any of those Labour


candidates don't win, the thing that is interesting is whether there is


is a role for Ukip. The argument after the referendum was Ukip has


done its job, it got the referendum, nothing to see here, I remember


speaking to put a Nuttall before he was


speaking to put a Nuttall before he speaking to put a Nuttall before he


was Ukip leader, on the day after the battle and he said this is Year


Zero, where Ukip starts now, and this, and this is the interesting


thing, does, do we see this one particular party having a role in


the future? And I think it is all to play for, they could not not have


stood in this seat. They have to win it to be an electoral force. The


Labour candidate in Copeland has made the NHS the issue for her in


this, that goes into the left-right, are we spending enough, are we not?


That will be a test of what you were saying to see if traditional


left-right issue, which at the moment would play Labour's way I


would suggest, are big enough to overcome all the things you have


been talking about and Matthew has been talking about. Maybe at this


particular junction they are not, but I don't think any of those


issues will go away, and that is why I question whether we are see the


end of a historic left-right divide. At the moment with Europe so


prominent, clearly these by-elections are unusual. And they


will be a test of leadership for Theresa May in the coming months if


not at the moment, as they have been in a way that he hasn't risen to,


for the Labour leader. We will be leave on BBC One on the


night, February 23rd off back of this week, we will bring you the


result of both these crucial by-elections.


It's just gone 11.35, you're watching the Sunday Politics.


Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland.


The campaigns have been launched and the gloves are off.


In this extended programme, we'll hear from the


Ulster Unionist leader, Mike Nesbitt, and SDLP


Has social media made the candidate mug shot on a lamp post redundant?


People know anyway without the posters. They don't need the


pollsters. They have been doing this for years since I was a girl, it


must have some effect on people. And with their thoughts


on all of the above and much more, my guests of the day are columist


Fionnuala O Connor and the political editor


of the News Letter Sam McBride. They've formed an opposition


together, spoken of their great working relationship and now


want to convince the electorate that they can do a better job


in Government than the DUP and But both the leader of the UUP


and the SDLP need to boost their election fortunes


on March 2nd. In a moment, I'll be asking


Colum Eastwood how all his talk of co-operation and compromise


with the Ulster Unionists is going But first, I'm joined


by Mike Nesbitt. Welcome to the programme. You are


running 24 candidates, you have said you are confident and can come out


as the lead Unionist party. How many of those 24 seat candy when? Nearly


all of them. We look carefully at last May and realise we need some


tactical errors and running too many candidates and probably knocked


ourselves out in a couple of constituencies. We have done the


strategy and thought very hard about it and we have just enough to get


there this time. When you see nearly all of them, what does that mean? We


have a strategy and was too weak till the election and you wouldn't


expect me to put the strategy out on the table. We have thought about


this very hard and we are confident if people react in the way we expect


them to react, we will do well. When I say react in the way we expect


them to react, this will be a test of how mature a democracy we are. In


what I would call in normal democracy, people would go to the


polls and Xavier going to reward the Government because I like what they


have done or I am going to punish them and give the opposition a


chance. This is the first time since 98 they have that opportunity to


give the opposition a deterrent. You say he would when nearly all of


them, although you did put number on the last time. Are you going to do


the envelope check? I have an envelope here. I am happy to give it


to you. You don't want to do that again. You got your fingers badly


burned last time. You said you would when 8919 and ended up with 16 which


is what you had the time before. You ran 33 candidates and 116 seats,


less than 50% strike rate. Seriously, you expect this time to


run 24 and when all of them are? The environment is different. People are


angry. They understand the RHI anyway they didn't understand react


to red sky or any of the previous scandals. This is ?85,000 today it


needlessly going up in smoke as it did yesterday and will do tomorrow


and tomorrow and tomorrow. On the doorsteps, I was expecting apathy


and I'm not getting very much. I am getting more anger than I had sense


I would get. Let's remember what I did EU PCN? Vote for us so you get


them in the First Minister's office. Those who could have voted last time


did not vote and we can assume they do not care who was the First


Minister but they do care about 85 grand a day up in smoke. The care


about money for education, the social investment fund. The DUP and


Sinn Fein said the plan to spend 80 million tackling poverty over a


three-year period and they spent less than five. What extra support


is going to come from the people who didn't vote last time rather than


from do you people chose? Last May, your party secured 87,001st


preference votes, 12.6% but the DUP 200 and 2000. That is almost 150%


more than you. I am not saying it's only coming from the 45% who didn't


vote last time but it is clear is significant number of those people


are angry enough to have registered or sent to media going to vote.


There are people who weren't registered you are registering. It


is like a confessional on the doorstep. You knock the door,


somebody goes, yet, I have been voting DUP. Are they going to switch


to the Ulster Unionist Party huge numbers? That's what I'm being told


on their own doorsteps. You think that will hold and on March two,


more people are going to vote and also people who voted DUP will


switch allegiance to the Ulster Unionist Party? With two and a half


weeks to go, it is positive for the UUP and that the SDLP. But there are


two and a half weeks to go. You are running 24 candidates, the DUP


running need to win every seat and the DUP me to have a meltdown for


you to overtake that party and become the pre-eminent party of


unionism. You accept is a huge mountain to climb. It would be


unprecedented in Northern Ireland. Every action and the anger to the


RHI is unprecedented. Since the last election, we have had Brexit and we


have had Donald Trump. Unusual things and unexpected things are


happening in the polling booth. You sit at your party conference last


summer, vote might you get Colum, but Colum and you get Mike. How hard


are you selling that on the doorsteps? I don't have to sell it


because people get it and wanted. We have had 19 years of dysfunctional


relationships in Stormont Castle. The DUP Sinn Fein have been there


for ten years. Let me go back further and acknowledge back in 98,


the relationship was not as good as it might have been. The recent


relationships between Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, Peter


Robinson and Martin McGuinness were not fantastic. I think people are


noticing there are quite nostalgic about the relationship between Ian


Paisley and Martin McGuinness, the chuckle Brothers. If you asked what


they achieved in terms of job creation or shortening waiting lists


in the NHS, I don't think anybody could tell you that the achieved


anything but what they did was they showed a willingness to work


together and people like that. They want it again and they would get it


from me and Colum. We will be willing partners and we will not


share the space of the Stormont Castle simply because the law says


we have too. We will do it because we want to share space and with it


the power and responsibility that goes with showing that space. You


have got to sell that relationship on the doorstep of its going to


work. You said previously in October if the opposition is going to offer


an add-on to to the current DUP Sinn Fein Government. The DUP your


opponents, the Sinn Fein are your opponents, you have got to sing that


from the rooftops. You have got to say vote UUP first and then


transferred to the SDLP. Are you saying that? If you don't vote


darling, you get Martin McGuinness. -- Arlene Foster. I haven't heard


you say vote for the Ulster Unionist Party and then give you a second


reference as SDLP. I am seeing vote for UUP and then vote for any


candidate you trust will deliver for your community and for this country.


Not specifically the SDLP? Your Mac not specifically. Is that not a


mistake? How can you sit there and see this but you are not prepared to


clarify that the voters and say vote with the UUP and then vote for SDLP?


No one party has a monopoly of all the best candidates. Colum Eastwood


doesn't have a monopoly on good candidates? There is no logic to


what you are suggesting. What I am saying is people are going into a PR


election, they are going to cast their vote, one to seven and that


will go beyond the UUP and the SDLP and I am saying you should vote for


any candidate you trust will do the right thing for your community and


constituency and for Northern Ireland. They hired a preference the


more power the transfer has. If you want to get as many Ulster Unionist


Party is returned and Colum Eastwood to get as many SDLP candidates


returned as possible so you can be serious chance of moving into


Stormont Castle, you need to be encouraging UUP voters to vote for


the SDLP, not leaving it open ended otherwise it looks like a bogus


offering. It looks like you don't have the courage of your own


convictions really stand square behind the notion of an alternative


Government. I will be standing square behind that notion and


transferring from my UUP votes to the SDLP. You personally well? Hill


I don't think we should be talking about constituencies. In your


constituency you will vote UUP and then SDLP? Yes. But you will go as


far to see other Ulster Unionist Party should do the same thing? Your


premise for being in a Government actually is shot in the fruit. It is


not shot in a fit. I understand UUP voters you don't like being told


what to do or like vote management where it is situation where we want


you to vote for this UUP first and the other UUP second because we've


got a vote management plan in operation. You don't think that's


confusing? I am very happy. It's not that you want DUP transfers and


certain constituencies. Your Mac one of the last transfers was a man who


stood up and made it clear it would be very difficult for them over the


last ten years because they didn't even want to share power with Sinn


Fein. I am saying and offering something different willingly going


into partnership with the party of National is because it's the right


thing to do and it is the only way to make Northern Ireland work and


you will hear Colum Eastwood saying he wants to make Northern Ireland


work and we measured in the same way and if you want one word to sum it


up at his prosperity, economic prosperity and mental health and


well-being. That is what you talked about a lot and you have during the


campaign. There are differences between you and the SDLP on Brexit,


on the Irish language, on legacy. Last week you indicated you think


James Brokenshire is the man to chair talks but Colum Eastwood has


made it clear he is not an honest broker. Yaha everyone has made it


clear after the election will have to be a negotiation, talking about a


very long and detailed settlement. What this is about in my mind is our


away a proper democracy and if we are people who go to vote on the 2nd


of March will treat it as a referendum and how the two parties


at Stormont Castle have handled the RHI Tobacco more generally ten years


of Government is either led by the DUP Sinn Fein and existing


exclusively of those two parties. What about the Irish Language Act?


There is a clear gap between Europe future of an Irish Language Act


specifically and Colum's. He thinks there needs to be comic you are not


so convinced. You making difficult for him when he is trying to


persuade Nationalist voters to back his candidates and not Sinn Fein.


Clear gaps in the challenge. That is the challenge of a devolved


Government. Managing clear gaps. The way to begin is look for areas where


you agree and we and we agree we need to make Northern Ireland work.


The Irish language, I have no difficulty with people who want to


speak it, learn it, promote it, cherish it, it is part of culture


and I consider myself to be Irish as well as British. Nobody has told me


why we need an Irish Language Act. In those days when you were cooling


your heels during the talks at Stormont Castle, I asked Sinn Fein


particularly on occasions come and tell me why you want an Irish


Language Act and they never did which makes me quite suspicious. I


have been to the Irish language school, met Irish language groups so


I am building understanding of what they want and what they want


primarily is respect but nobody has persuaded me that it needs to be an


act to advance what they want to advance. There is a legal challenge


at the moment on his strategy and there is a legal obligation to bring


forward a strategy, if we are in power we will meet our obligations.


Do you want to see the ATT return to complete its job? You didn't think


it was given an opportunity to finish what it started? Your Mac I


can't do this. Dealing with the past can't be done that way. If you


did... If it wasn't finished by now, it would be close to it rather than


as set in your potentially looking for a new set of processes which,


when the begin, will take another ten years. My children could be


grandparents before this is all finished. Even though they were a


major criticisms of the H E T? Yaha which is why said it needed to be


reformed. Thank you for joining us. Let's hear what my guests


of the day, Fionnuala O Connor What what do you make of the


partnership approach on paper at least, between the Ulster Unionist


Party and the SDLP? It is a lovely idea and ideally it will work,


whether it will work for either of them in the selection is... The


circumstances are always wishful thinking and that is what it is.


There is the basic dichotomy of Colum and Mike Nesbitt wanting in


the end something which is a different end for politics in


Northern Ireland. They are taking the soft gentle approach of, let's


work together and let's not talk about the differences or as Mike


puts it, the gaps, clear gaps, those are the challenge. The Irish


language that you honed in on at the end is the main one. Mike Nesbitt


says I have every respect for people who speak it, it is part of me as


well, but you can't have what you say you want for it. He says Sinn


Fein couldn't explain to them why they needed an Irish Language Act. I


doubt anybody in the enterprise as he talked to didn't say they wanted


an Irish Language Act because they do because they cannot trust the DUP


Government to give the Irish language respect. That is the basic


reason. Let's talk about the electrical -- electoral challenge


Mike Nesbitt has here turnaround from the disappointment he had last


May. He says he is hoping to win 24 comment nearly all of the 24 seats.


If he does that goes from 16 to 24. A 50% increase, a huge ask. Last


time he was predicting a 20% uplift and got nothing. If it happens it is


the story of the election and it is pretty unlikely. We are in a pretty


unusual situations in terms of the level of anger about the RHI


situation. This election is an opportunity and risk for Mike


Nesbitt. He has been leader for long enough now where he has created the


party and his image are in opposition with the SDLP. He has a


clear vision he has articulated of actually putting number two for the


SDLP after UUP candidates. That is a very significant thing for a


Unionist leader to see possibly without President in history of


Northern Ireland. He has said he will do that in his constituency.


But he has not specifically told Ulster Unionist Party that it's --


voters they should follow his example? There is a mixed message.


The more significant thing is as a Unionist leader is not saying


transfer to other. I think if that works, he will take the credit for


it, if it doesn't as happened last time the Ulster Unionist Party 's


level of opportunity in 2010 after the Robinson scandal, after that


election where they were expected to make big breakthroughs, the didn't


and the leader paid the price. Now, elections usually mean


lamp-posts plastered with the beaming faces of those


on the hunt for your vote. But in Lagan Valley, the candidates


have agreed not to put up We visited the constituency,


and one alongside it, to see if the voters feel


it makes a difference. I think the posters need to go up to


get it into people's mind to who they are voting for. Lagan Valley I


take no notice, I have no interest, it is a waste of time. We have been


doing this for years, even since I was little. I think a lot of social


media and people's opinions formed elsewhere and is quite nice to have


a social area that hasn't got bombarded messages about political


agendas. Lagan Valley if you want to go, you need posters up so people


know you are running. Most of the people in this area are very


politically aware and would know who most of the candidates are. We are


not stupid by any means and we are quite sure they have enough leaflets


coming in the door. People want to get in, they will ignore it. If


people do their thing on social media, they will be more attracted


to it on a look into it more. I don't use Facebook or Twitter. You


need to posters up. People should know anyway without the posters.


They don't need them. It is a waste of money.


Back to the main business of the day, and the SDLP has shared


power with the Ulster Unionists at Stormont before,


and now Colum Eastwood wants the electorate to give his party


and the UUP another chance. Colum Eastwood joins me now.


We have just heard from Mike Nesbitt who says he will transfer after his


own candidates to the SDLP but he will not tell UUP voters to follow


his lead. Is that he disappointment? We are campaigning to get number one


son number two is in constituencies and fighting very hard to gain


seats. Our job is to get people to vote for us, it is the same for


Mike. After that we are asking people to vote for change and it is


up to others and individuals to decide how they vote. We are not


going to convince people to vote... We also think it's important the


electorate comes out and vote this time. I understand why people have


been so fed up and frustrated and now so angry at our politics and why


they haven't voted in a long time. I talked to a man last night who


hasn't voted in 16 years and he was taking a registration form for the


two major he can vote this time because people aren't just fed up,


the other furious. I think if people want to see that happening and


continue to happen, they should vote for the Government parties but they


want to see something different, vote for something different. Mike


Nesbitt was clear about he wanted to do it. Let's see if you will be as


clear. In your constituency where you are voting, would you vote for


SDLP candidate and then give you a second preference to UUP? I will


vote for myself one, and then... You haven't decided? Yellow mac you are


puzzling yourself as an alternative Government and you cannot looked me


straight in the IMC will support a UUP candidate next? What it is it


about? Because it has a higher value. We are running to Ulster


Unionist Party that it is enough oil. You are putting yourself for a


writ as an alternative Government. If we are to take seriously the idea


that the UUP could replace Sinn Fein and the DUP the message you need to


send to people is vote for the SDLP and then vote for Everett would-be


coalition partner the UUP? You want to work out how people want to vote


and transfer. I want to test the plausibility of your offering as an


alternative Government. We are two parties that to work together and


you have worked together in opposition. We are not forced to


work together. There is not one opposition around the world who


actually work together and the joint motions down, very similar policies


on many issues, we did that because we thought it was important to show


an alternative. We will work with any party that wants to see changed.


In order to format Government, we need other people involved as well.


People have a choice. Vote for the same old and you get the same old


are you vote for something new and something different and I am asking


people to for change which will make a big difference. We need a


different type of Government about partnership and cooperation. We


struggled hard to get this type of arrangement. We have nationalists


and unionists in Government. Of course we are all different and have


different perspectives and ideas. I want to see a united Ireland and


Mike Nesbitt doesn't. That doesn't support is -- stop working together.


Vote for something people that can work together or vote for people who


have proven time and time again that they can't and even when they do


they don't deliver. Even before we get to a situation of having an


alternative Government or next Government in place after the


election on March two, there will be some period of negotiations and Mike


Nesbitt has made it clear he thinks James Brokenshire ire is the man to


cherish such discussions. You have made obviously disagree and you


think James Brokenshire I is not an honest arbiter, I think is the


phrase you used. Here are two political parties with different


policies, different manifestos, different backgrounds and visions of


the future. They have a disagreement on a particular issue. We know that


but you are also trying to tell people you can be trusted to work


together. You are doing my job for me. It would be ridiculous to


pretend we are the same party. We are not. What we are seeing is


despite the differences we can work together because we want to. We have


these systems are called power-sharing. We do what any other


coalition Government has to do, get together respectfully and honestly,


solve the problems. You can't agree on who should share the talks. Bell


is that the biggest issue? I don't think the British Government should


be sharing talks when they have acted as an activist in the last


number of weeks and months rent legacy. The biggest problem we face


right now is we either vote for parties who want to have a


Government or parties who are very clear that the heading towards


disaster. If you vote for Arlene Foster and Michelle, you're going to


get Theresa May. Vote for something different and people who want to


form a Government and get over their differences. Vote Colum, get Mike,


get -- vote Mike and get Colum. That seems like a joke now. You need to


do a lot better than you did last May. Let's talk about Mike Nesbitt


conceded the amount for the Ulster Unionist party to climate, it is an


even bigger amount for your party. The election last year was bad for


the SDLP, the worst result ever in terms of Assembly representation.


What chance is there if you're resting that slide in the selection?


I think there is a good chance. Back it up with evidence. The evidence


will be on March the 2nd and third and fourth. I can only tell you what


I am hearing. People are fed up with politics and thinking there is an


opportunity to do something different. We have a strong


offering, a fantastic team who have proven themselves. You don't have a


new team. You have had to go back to people who have retired and bring


them to stand yet again. I don't want to be a jest, but Dolores Kelly


standing at 57, John Dallat at 69. The hardly represent fresh blood.


You have got a row in East Londonderry about your outgoing MLA


and a previously outgoing MLA who wants to come back again. It is


hardly perfect preparation to do well at the polls? Yaha can you


imagine, a political party has a selection route. Sinn Fein have


people running against them in North Antrim, West Tyrone, right across.


Those things aren't talked about. We have competition, that is neither


the SDLP. There are new people right across the north who have been


standing up for the public and standing against the ravages against


the public purse in the last number of months. People are so fed up and


angry at what's going on. How many seats are you going to win? I have


made predictions before and they don't do that any more. I think we


are working very hard to retain and gain seats in a reduced Assembly we


can do very well. You have got it all order to come anywhere near Sinn


Fein. Last May, Sinn Fein 167,000 votes, 24%, 28 seats. Look at the


SDLP, half the number of first preferences, have the percentage


points, 12 seats, fewer than half the seats. You won't come anywhere


near close. Lets see how we do. People are very angry at the DUP


Sinn Fein not delivering. Sinn Fein are outputting posters about the


anchor -- Irish Language Act. They have the opportunity last May to


create a programme for Government that would help those things. We are


bringing through the Assembly before it collapsed. Arlene Foster says


there will never be an Irish Language Act. That is why you should


never vote for Arlene Foster and why we need a different type of


politics. We can argue with her about the merits of an Irish


Language Act but it is not acceptable for hire or anybody else


to talk about the Irish language and culture in the way that she has. If


we can inject stability into the conversation we can get over these


hurdles. The problem isn't that we disagree about a particular policy,


the problem is that she treats people who care about the Irish


language like the second class citizens and that is not in any way


to do Government. If people want that again they should vote for


that. What is your position on Arlene Foster's potential role in


terms of Government? Michelle O'Neill was on the view on Thursday


night, she said her party will not support Arlene Foster having a road


and the Executive Office unless or until the RHI enquiry is reported


and cleared her name. Yellow like I said a few weeks ago Arlene Foster


should not be the First Minister. That looks to the DUP trying to have


an influence over who lead their party. I would take part in a


Government were Arlene Foster refuses to step aside until the end


of the public enquiry. She has done nothing wrong, she says. Let's see


what happened to step aside until the end of the public enquiry. She


has done nothing wrong, she says. Let's see what happens in. This


public enquiry is something we called for along with other parties


which Sinn Fein refused to call Fat Andy ended up into such a difficult


position it had to call for it and now we have... -- refuse to call for


it. People are fed up of that. Do you believe in your heart of hearts


we are more than likely looking at an extended period of direct rule


after the selection? If people vote with the DUP and Sinn Fein in the


same numbers as last time, of course that's where we're heading. It seems


to meet Sinn Fein now strategically wants to have the Tories running


Northern Ireland. I want a Government to get things done here


and all the challenges we have, Brexit, let's get down to dealing


with them because that's what people care about. The word about the


waiting lists on the NHS, access to the GP, their children having to


leave Northern Ireland to find a university place our work. Those are


things we need to deal with. If we form a Government we can deal with


them but if we don't, if we go back into an argument with the DUP Sinn


Fein, and inevitably direct rule, doesn't anybody want that. What is


somebody gives first preference to the SDLP voting for in the


selection? Some issues there is not a blade of grass between yourselves


and Sinn Fein, on other issues there are big differences. The voting for


the SDLP policies. What makes the SDLP unique? We are a party that


wants to work with unionism. Sinn Fein has just been working with


unionism in the Executive Office. I am getting trolled on Twitter by


Sinn Fein supporters saying it's ridiculous I am even considering


working with the Unionists. We have all signed up to this process which


means that Catholics and Protestants, Unionists have to work


together to solve our problems in our common interests. No matter how


difficult it is, no matter how new differences we have, we have to work


together. That is the only tell of future I believe in, the only take


the future the public believe in and it gets is over that hurdle and


begins to deal with some of the problems.


Let's hear what my guests of the day make of that, Sam and Fionnuala.


What do you make of May Eastwood's take on the relationship between the


Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP? It would be lovely if it worked. But


like Mike Nesbitt's pitch, Mike Nesbitt's pitch depends on how DUP


do is break this time and Colum's pitch depends on how Sinn Fein


voters vote. They both say if people want to change the to vote for us


but people say they are angry and then they look again at the


respective strengths of the parties. How Mike Nesbitt's pitch with May


Eastwood affects voters is hard to say and is the reason why he won't


call for transfers publicly because he knows Mike Nesbitt might dammit.


Colum is careful on that. When you pushed him on Colin for transfers,


he made a good case about who he is going to transfer to, but when it


comes down to the differences and similarities, I see the big


difference between the STL P and the UUP in that the Ulster Unionist


Party are meant to be and are a Conservative Party and the SDLP have


always said the social Democratic and more to the left. I can see big


difficulties there for them in working anything together on the


Irish language and mutual respect. What about the issue of both Mike


Nesbitt and May touched on it, the 45% of people who historically have


not voted? They are critical. One of the frustrations I have is a


political journalist is when you hear people saying they are all the


same, there is no choice. We have an array of choice in Northern Ireland,


hard-line socialists to Jim Allister to everything in between. There is


more choice than there has ever been in the selection as you are voting


for a Government, opposition, a whole array of opposition parties.


It is very interesting that Mike Nesbitt and May Eastwood or openly


presenting this is not a joint ticket. If people want that and the


vote that that is significant but I don't think people will be able to


do after the selection turn round and say the politicians drive us


into a certain position. People have a choice and history shows us the


likely to go what they've gone for before. It will be interesting


between now and voting day. That's it from Sunday


Politics for this week. I'll be back on Thursday night


with The View at 10.40pm on BBC1 when I'll be talking to the DUP


leader, Arlene Foster.


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