Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, debate and interviews, including chief secretary Danny Alexander and communities secretary Eric Pickles.
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And the new leader of the Ulster Unionists wants it to be a party
for everyone. I will be asking him if it is enough to reverse his
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1995 seconds
party's fortunes. Joined me in Hello and welcome to Sunday
Politics in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Party gathered
at Titanic Belfast for its annual conference this weekend. But
despite a series of election failures in recent years, there was
no talk of sinking ships. All eyes were on the helm and Mike Nesbitt's
plans to turn the fortunes of the party around. He made me realise
what a great future we had and that we have made a great decision.
fresh from his conference performance, I'll be joined by Mike
Nesbitt. Also on the programme, nationalists
have no confidence in the Social Development Minister. Will a debate
in the Assembly achieve anything? Here to discuss that, the deputy
leader of the SDLP, Dolores Kelly, and the News Letter'spolitical
correspondent, Sam McBride. Ending sectarianism, pledges on the
economy, reducing the number of government departments and
educational reform - just some of the themes Mike Nesbitt focussed on
in his 45-minute speech to the party faithful yesterday. We'll
talk to Mr Nesbitt in just a moment, but first, Chris Page reports on
the mood of those who turned up to hear from their new leader.
The choice of venue might have provoked an armada of maritime
analogies but the Ulster Unionist Party hope holding the conference
in Belfast's new iconic building would put them forward as a party
looking forward with big ideas. As everybody said hello on the ground
floor in the splendour of the banqueting suite, Mike Nesbitt was
preparing for his crucial first conference speech as leader. A long
shadow has been cast over the party as he spent his first six months
restructuring and undisciplined. Now he's limbering up to talk
action and policies. And he was being talked up by his colleagues.
I think it's been very good so far and we will see a very good
reaction to the leader's speech today, and it will move things on
for our party's fortunes. We are anticipating some planned for the
way forward and I am sure it will be exciting. So, would you live up
to expectations? It was not just his own party members he was trying
to connect with. Everyone who lives here, and I mean everyone, I am
appealing to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, everybody. Chinese,
Indian, Eastern European. This appeal is to everybody. Not all of
those groups were represented in the hall. This time, at least.
Several hundred were listening to some familiar faces from the
party's cast were absent. But he did look at how the issues from
Northern Ireland's past were being looked at. And he was critical.
say, no to painting if them as villains. That is a red line for us.
I say the Ulster Unionist Party has no problems saying thank you to the
RUC and to the UDR. Looking further back, he said his vision was the
same as that of the first leader. That was Sir Edward Carson. A
government for all. He has just made the most important speech of
his political career. Do they now believe today marks a turning-point
of a party and that this is a man who can generate electoral success?
I think it was exhilarating! I really enjoyed that. I thought it
was very good. Great hope for the future. He made me realise what a
great future we have and that we have made the right decision.
really pleased because I came away and thought, at last! It has been a
tough century so far for the party that has run Northern Ireland for
more than 50 years. Mike Nesbitt's task is Titanic and he hopes this
party conference will be remembered as the one where the tide turned.
Mike Nesbitt is with me now. The party faithful clearly enjoyed the
speech but was it really for them or was it for people outside the
party watching on TV? Well, it was for a bit of both, Mark. The key
target audience has to be the some 200,000 people who would largely be
pro-Union and who used to vote but are no longer voting. They have to
have something and someone to align themselves to, so it was a direct
appeal to that block of current no- voters. You want it to be a party
for all - Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, people of all faith
and none. Chinese, Indian, Eastern European. That's a big challenge!
With respect, most of those groups were not represented in the Titanic
sweep yesterday. Absolutely and that is a huge challenge. We do
have members but by no means enough, and that is the challenge. A nobody
is arguing the Ulster Unionist Party is a big beast of politics!
That is the challenge, to get ourselves back up. Up in the
process. There was a tweet yesterday saying, ask Mike if he
thinks the Union Jack flag to his left to is alienating some of
voters? We don't have to get into some kind of bland and come out in
some kind of a more fierce human form of a major! I'm talking about
mutual human respect. It may be one thing to say what is wrong with
respecting the Union Flag, but if you want those people to join and
vote for your party, they might be uncomfortable with the Union Flag
and feel they could be Unionists but they don't need that other
Association and it is a step too far. Is that not something you need
to look at? We don't believe that because the United Kingdom has the
Union Flag as it's black, and the same way the Republic of Ireland
has its flag. But you could find another way of doing it so you
don't defend the people who don't like the Union Flag and what it
represents, and perhaps using some other representation that brings
other people in. -- so you don't offenders the people. I don't see
it like this. Why is it an issue? The issues to me are about the
economy, health, education. And that is what we were doing
yesterday when we published our five policy papers for discussion.
I know you naturally have an interest in my speech but we have
five key speeches from spokespeople yesterday. $WHITE You say social
deprivation is a key policy area. "We'd agree an absolute income
level that we don't want a family falling below. We would add two
specific deprivation measures and attack that sector. It's not the
whole answer, it does not help everyone, but it tackles those most
in need. What will that cost? Who'll pay for it? What does it
mean in reality? The reports coming back have no targets in them and
there is a whole range of targets you could set in terms of tackling
child poverty. You can have their relative income or absolute income,
so we are saying, let's figure wrapped an absolute income level
below which we do not want things to drop. -- figure out. In terms of
hot meals, clothing, meals with meat involved, let's Dick two of
those so we have an absolute, nailed on black-and-white target. -
- let's pick two of those. We haven't costed it because we are
not in government in that department. What we are saying is,
wouldn't it be great if the Executive agreed something that is
black and white so you know whether you have achieved something you set
out to achieve or not. But we haven't costed it. The but you have
a clear policy that you can table to the Executive and say, these are
the figures. What I am saying is, there are five papers for policy
discussion. We are not at the end of the road yet. An interesting
point that you are not in government yourself. Is it not time
you sate yourself at the Executive table and showed people what you
are capable of, and demonstrated another side of your leadership?
Firstly, I have said as a matter of principle I think it would be good
for the Ulster Unionist leader to be poignant at the next election.
And that would be me. We do not know how long the mandate will be.
It was supposed to end in 2015 but now which will go to 2016. But I
won some certainty on that. Because I might think twice and have more
time. So I can't tell you until somebody tells me how long the
mandate will be. And I don't think it is right to extend the mandate
until the electorate has had its say. And you want to cut after the
next election the number of departments to eight but not using
civil servants. Our I never said wait. I say, get on with it! That
is an internal working and you don't need a mandate to we just a
putt government departments. We have a mandate for all the devolved
issues. -- we don't need a mandate to readjust government departments.
But the Cabinet is, don't panic, civil servants, you are not going
to lose your jobs. -- the caviar at. What we're talking about his
efficiency. What we did in 1988 was created government that was
inclusive but not necessarily efficient. The next stage is
inclusive and efficient. The big theme of the speech was lost
opportunities. Why would you want to put thousands of people on the
dole and give them a life of lost opportunities because you want to
cut things. Which departments would you want to cut? We have been in
discussion with all the party leaders and you have to negotiate
this through. But the ones we would be looking at would be decamped,
but the big single thing to do to kick-start the economy is to have a
single department for the economy and it would include some of the
functions of Del. All of that is for negotiation with the other
party leaders. What about the Mid Ulster by-election? In the autumn?
Would you stand aside to let it unified candidate run? It is
speculation at the moment. The by- election has not been moved. It
could be moved very soon. I will give you a guarantee - the people,
the Ulster Unionist people of Mid- Ulster, will have the opportunity
to vote for somebody with Ulster Unionist values in that by-election.
Why it happens? Yes. And finally, you set out your stall in
opposition but is that what you were saying to people - vote for me
next time around and put me into opposition? And no. I want to get
to a normalised society and for that, we need for an efficient
opposition to stand. A coalition, cross-community government. Which
you would be leader of? Well, no... May be look at the next time and we
will be closer to defending everything. Thank you very much
indeed. Do stay with us for a little while longer. Let's move on.
The SDLP and Sinn Fein claim the Social Development Minister, Nelson
McCausland, has broken the Ministerial Code by failing to
condemn loyalist bands who breached Parades' Commission rulings in
North Belfast last month. The party has tabled a motion of no
confidence in Mr McCausland which will be debated in the Chamber
tomorrow. The SDLP's deputy leader, Dolores Kelly, and the News
Letter's political correspondent, Sam McBride, are with me.
Dolores, why are you bringing this? Explain your thinking. Well, I
think many people across the North were dismayed at the behaviour of
Nelson McCausland over recent weeks and people want to see high
standards in public office. And surely as a government minister, he
must be held to account for his failure to condemn the behaviour of
the young Conway band and his duty within the pledge of office to
promote community relations. I don't think his behaviour and
admissions have done anything to improve community relations. Peter
Robinson says Mr McCausland has no case to answer? It's a delicate
situation. Why up the ante in the week of the Covenant Parade? Don't
accept that. Our party believes the issue is much wider than that. We
are dealing with community divisions in the North and we are
seeing a failure of leadership by the DUP in particular. We are
dealing with sectarianism. I don't think anywhere else a Western
democracy would a government minister be able to behave like
Nelson McCausland. He says he has been crystal clear on the matter
and he doesn't support the breaking of the law. He is fully in support
of the rule of law. It need cross- community support so it won't
happen. You don't have that. think it is putting down standards
in public office. And then we have to hold ministers to account. Let's
wait and see. Our party is meeting tomorrow with the Alliance Party.
Let's wait and see what happens. it possible you might support this?
Sinn Fein is going to support the SDLP. With have broad concerns
about the actions of many government ministers. We have
concerns and we put in an urgent question... This motion of no
confidence? We think a debate being run is timely within the bubble of
Stormont but we are coming up to more support in decades for
unionism. And we don't want anything that is going to upset
people on the ground because there is tension out there. I will meet
with Alastair McGonnell tomorrow morning. Is there air any support -
- possibility you will support the motion? -- is there any possibility
you will support the motion? I were to talk to him tomorrow. I think,
where do you draw the line? Who has to condemn what a what sort of
standard is he setting? It is vague and it will be interesting to see
how it is set out in the debate tomorrow. But it is unusual to have
the discussion about somebody not condemning something when he says
he did. And on the wider issue of the bigger political picture, what
are you hearing about how difficult the motion will be tomorrow and the
debate around it and how hard it will make things for the parade?
This one flashpoint area around St Patrick's Church, there have been
attempts to broker things and perhaps there will be some more
action this week. But it is not something that is not going to do
anything to defuse that. Nelson McCausland is a representative and
is central to some of the discussions. It will not make the
loyalist side any more likely to back down in any of the demands.
Dolores Kelly, are you concerned you will give a platform tomorrow
for some heated exchanges, when what people really require is the
opposite and you need people to be making conciliatory comments? And
forcing a debate like this will not do that? I agree that timing is
unfortunate because Nelson McCausland's behaviour has been
pretty poor by anyone's standards. But we are working hard on the
ground towards compromise. And we want to support a motion to engage
in direct dialogue with residents. For and you. -- thank you to you
all. Dolores and Sam, stay with me. We'll hear more from you both in a
moment. Let's take a look now at the political week in 60 seconds,
with our political correspondent, Martina Purdy.
The Speaker's patience snapped. He vowed to name and shame those who
didn't turn up to ask questions. Dolores Kelly, she is not in her
place. And launching his road safety campaign, the minister was
in no mood for any nonsense either. The air are no excuses for bad
driving. It's so what is the excuse for probing into the conduct of
Peter and Iris Robinson taking more than two years? -- so what is the
excuse? This was not down after Stormont forced owners to sell up
for redevelopment but the debts are still standing. Bets for MLAs.
Don't assume your party is behind you. Trevor, you will never walk
alone while Mike Nesbitt is around! Now has try!
-- nice try. Dolores Kelly, you were named and
shamed by the Speaker on Monday and we just saw it there. For not being
there to deal with your question that had been asked to their
minister. What happened? I was at a meeting on the third floor of
Stormont and I looked at the time and I had five minutes, so I
thought, I will go down. I made a run for the stairs and ended up
being two minutes late. Unfortunately, the question before
Andy had two supplementary is where there are normally three. -- only
had. Will you embarrassed? To do apologise? Eyes certainly did. I
never did it before and I will certainly not do it again.
McBride, you were at the Ulster Unionist conference party yesterday.
What did you make of the way Mike Nesbitt handled his speech as
leader? It was very polished and you would expect that from here.
Reading an autocue, the inarticulate, being good with words
and able to sell things. -- been articulate. That is his background.
A lot of content and policies and he had been criticised for not
having policies. A lot to other issues were touched upon but was
there enough of the detail and costings people want to see? Is it
was 45 minutes and I think if he had gone into any more detail
people would have been nodding off! But he has made a start and, quite
significantly, the DUP have released a statement attacking him.
He will be pleased with that because for a while, the DUP had
not even been responding to some of what he said. Peter Robinson, in
the meantime, pates Civic dinner. - - at a civic dinner. If everything
was settled back in 1998, why do so many people refuse to use the term
"Northern Ireland"? For some, it is interchangeable but a good
agreement could settle who chose to regard the North as part of Ireland
and could work towards reunification legitimately. But
there it is a separate issue. is about the names we use and the
words we use. You are a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Do
you say Northern Ireland? Summed times. Sometimes it is the North. -
- sometimes. I think many people who aspire to the reunification...
The common and celebrates a rebellion by loyalists Against the