Andrew Neil and Peter Henley are joined by Baroness Smith and Oliver Letwin. The political panellists are Janan Ganesh, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Steve Richards.
Browse content similar to 12/02/2017. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
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
In the South: Reorganising local government in Dorset -
six of the councils are in favour of the plans but three are opposed,
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 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
It's just gone 11.35, you're watching the Sunday Politics.
We say goodbye to viewers in Scotland who leave us now
Coming up here in 20 minutes, the Week Ahead.
First though, the Sunday Politics where you are.
On today's show: Dorset council leaders this week asked
the government to let them merge into two unitary authorities -
A third of the councils oppose the plan, so where's
First let's meet the two politicians who'll be with me
Louise Goldsmith is the Conservative leader
Paul Harvey is the leader of the Labour group on Basingstoke
Local government finance was back in the news this week.
When's it ever left it, you might ask?
First we had Surrey County Council abandoning its plans
for a referendum on a 15% council tax hike, amid allegations
of a "sweetheart deal" being offered by the government to stop
And then the think tank the Local Government Information Unit came out
with a survey of local councils' finances in which one in ten
believed they were in danger of failing to deliver core services.
Councils are allowed to place a 3% precept on council tax
Nine out of ten say it's not enough money, it won't make up the gap.
Councils will retain 100% of the new business rates,
half of councils tell us they will be worse off under
The things they do want to do, increased powers over charging,
ability to raise hotel taxes or other local taxes,
revaluation of council tax bands, these things are off
On that survey, Southern councils, fewer of them thought
they would lose out on retention of business rates
Surrey County Council, Louise, any discussions
with central government about retaining business rates?
Any memorandum of understanding, any deal?
I will not talk about Surrey County Council.
Your council tax people might ask why you haven't had a conversation.
We have been working hard all year on our budget,
we have had huge pressures on adult social care and children's social
care, we are meeting those and will be going to council
on Friday with a proposed increase of 3.95%.
Which is about a ?50 rise for band E properties.
It is asking people to pay more but then your costs are going up.
Our costs are going up, as again adult social care
We respect our residents, it is their money they are giving us
and they are having pressures, they will have an eight or 9%
increase in electricity and gas, an increase in car fuel
and with the low pound, that will mean more money
we are paying for our shopping and we are are aware of that.
We did a survey that said people would accept 3.75 so we have
We are a traditional Conservative council and live within our means.
Would you have asked for 15 in Basingstoke?
It shows about adult social care, if those are the pressures
councils are facing, it's the same in Hampshire,
?55 million cut coming in adult social care,
then why is it that Surrey gets offered a secret deal?
If that is how the government goes about its business it's shocking
The texts are there for everyone to see.
Sajid Javid said they are running a pilot on bringing forward
the business rate tax in 2018, people will be invited to join that.
It was clearly on the website, that was on offer.
If this is how the Conservative treat social care, whether a deal
This is a serious issue and needs to be treated properly.
We are aware of that, we had a big debate in the county council
in December across all parties, we need a real review
I have had a letter back from Sajid Javid looking at how
they can start working on that so there are things going
on but we have had a high increase in demographics,
a lot of pressures for us and that is being put on us
at a time when we are having to look at costs.
Are you going to lose votes over this?
I think people understand we are trying to do our best
and we will continue to deliver that.
We are investing in adult social care but we are looking at how
we deliver those social care services, how we deliver
and a lot of this work is long-term preventative work with partners.
But it doesn't bring the savings as quickly as we would like.
Reorganising adult social care, I understand that, we want to see
the NHS working alongside social care, but like in Hampshire,
where a 16% increase in some residential care,
that is a massive figure, ?100 a week some residents
are being asked to pay more because of cuts
A lot of the South-east, we have a strong economy getting
workers into work in social care, it's a great industry to work
in and we are encouraging recruitment but we have almost full
employment here and that puts extra pressures on,
so the South-east has some particular pressures which may not
be quite so strong in other parts of the country.
It sounds like a special case to be made to someone.
We will keep pressing because this cross-party,
You might remember a couple of weeks back we were talking
about the new supposedly fairer funding formula for schools.
Well, at PMQs this week several MPs brought up with the Prime Minister
the unfairness of it, as they saw it.
And a group of Oxfordshire schools were warning that with half
of the county's schools set to get less money, it could mean
bigger class sizes or cuts to teaching hours.
Joining me now from our Oxford studio is Catherine Darnton
of the Oxfordshire Secondary Schools Head Teachers Association.
You have got some schools doing better, some schools doing worse.
That's what happens when you sort out fairness.
Unfortunately Oxfordshire has been one of the worst funded local
authorities for many years, we have worked hard with our MPs
to campaign through the f40 group for an increase in funding
and I don't think it had crossed any of our minds until the proposals
were published in December that the county would see such
You weren't campaigning for fairer funding, just saying more money.
We were campaigning for fairer funding.
We were in the bottom quarter of authorities by funding.
The range in the country was roughly 4500 per pupil to 6500 per pupil,
so if we were in the bottom 40 we expected an equalisation
so all pupils would receive roughly ?5500 each, but obviously with some
weighting for pupils with deprivation and low prior
attainment and additional needs receiving more,
But on average in Oxfordshire, funding will increase,
you have eight schools losing, 27 gaining or no change, according
to the government's assessment, and three of those gained over 4%
Those numbers are for the secondary schools
Overall across the whole authority there are 130
losers and 133 winners, but inflation is running at over
1.5%, pay rises are running at 1%, schools are being given the same
amount of money per pupil in flat cash terms since 2010
and the National Audit Office said before Christmas that schools
are facing an 8% real terms cut between now and 2020,
so offering Oxford schools 1.5% more will hardly meet the cost pressures
of just one year and we have already had seven years of cost pressures
What are the consequences if you don't get the sort
We have understood the need for austerity and since 2010 every
year because of inflation and pay rises and increases
in pension contributions and National Insurance,
we have to provide the same education for less money,
so the 20% of school budgets which are not to do with staff costs
have been cut and cut and there is nothing more
We have cut resources and IT, we have cut maintenance of buildings
and are getting to the point where we can only cut people
and if you are going to have fewer teachers, the only way you can
manage is for there to be either larger classes
We don't carry any slack, even in a secondary school,
we carry about two thirds of the teacher slack to make
the timetable build, we have nothing else and that is why
you cannot ask us to cut any more without having a demonstrable impact
on students' education and a consequent fall in standards
and that is why it is so important to fight for Oxfordshire
because we don't want to be a locality where we cannot go
We have improved our schools well in the past few years
These are proposals at the moment to sort out funding,
you must be concerned that they will have to last
for a long time and unless you get it right now you will be stuck.
That's right, I think this is a once in my professional career
opportunity for this to be sorted out right and it wouldn't be
overstating it to say when I saw the proposals I was devastated.
It hadn't crossed my mind that Oxfordshire wouldn't be
substantially better funded to the tune of 8% or 10%,
It's very hard when a proposal has been published which tells schools
what they could expect under the new formula, to challenge that.
They want to bring it in in April 2018 but we say they must
The consultation closes on the 22nd of March
and it is crucial that governors, teachers, headteachers,
parents say this is not the model they want.
Paul Harvey, you were also looking for fairer funding
for rural schools in particular, so would you say the budget needs
Yes, that is the reality teachers are saying.
Even on this formula, on the increase that has
been put on the table, it doesn't meet their cost
Hampshire is looking at taking ?51 million off its education budget
That is talking about teachers being sacked, schools cutting
One of my local primary schools is facing ?100,000
taken off its budget, a local secondary school is facing
?390,000 taken off its budget, that means teachers in classrooms
being made redundant and it is a huge issue
if you want to keep the quality of teaching, which we all
Louise, you campaigned for fairer funding.
We did campaign very heavily and joined the f40,
now we are campaigning to make sure it is fairer funding.
We are about 35% worse off and like many Shire counties have
similar issues to Oxford and I think we ought to have a Shire challenge
like the London challenge, but the point being made by our MPs
and teachers is that we want to go for the minimus, and that means
all schools have a basic cost, whatever it is to run a primary
or secondary school, the costs are pretty well the same
across the country, then you add on extra costs,
especially in an area with deprivation, that
would be a fairer way, a lot of MPs are backing that.
This consultation finishes on the 22nd of March so we have time
to lobby and put the case and I know our headteachers
I think this was a common theme across the Shire so hopefully
We will need more money on the table, we will have to.
Now, nine into two just won't go, say three of them.
OK, that sounds like gobbledegook, but it's all about the row brewing
over reorganising the nine Dorset councils into two larger
unitary authorities, thus cutting the number
of councillors and saving money, so it's claimed by those in favour.
Only problem is - three of the nine councils actually aren t in favour.
Our Dorset political reporter Tristan Pascoe takes up
The idea is to merge Dorset's nine councils and create
two new unitary authorities - and that's the basis of the bid sent
But not all of the nine partner councils support the plans -
so would it be democratic for the Secretary of State to ignore
those opponents and to impose it on the county anyway?
This is a very crude map of Dorset's current nine council areas,
with the economic powerhouse of Bournemouth and Poole
keen to merge with its neighbour Christchurch -
and the other five councils all lumped together
But recently, three small councils that butt up
against the conurbation, Purbeck, East Dorset
and Christchurch borough, voted no to being merged
Despite the opposition of those three councils to being merged,
the government has the final say and could foist the deal
on the whole of Dorset - meaning those councils
and councillors opposed could be merely tilting at windmills.
And there has been considerable opposition.
Cheers greeted the merger plans being rejected by Christchurch
councillors and that may yet influence
I don't see the Secretary of State imposing a decision
against the will of three democratically elected councillors.
He says he'll do all he can to thwart the plans.
People want to keep control over their destiny.
Bournemouth and Poole could join together and meanwhile
we would have a combined authority which could deliver a strong
Several schemes to devolve powers from Westminster to councils
across the country have hit the buffers recently.
Not least because the government appears to be fed up with councils
and councillors unable to agree a deal between themselves.
In Purbeck the council vote on the mergers was split 11-11.
The plans rejected by the casting vote.
A consultation showed support from more than 60% of Purbeck
However, I couldn't find any on the beach.
I don't think we'll be represented, Poole and bigger councils will get
everything and we won't get anything done here.
I don't know the benefits, I can't see what they are.
I'm sure it will save money but at what cost to people?
The challenges that will be met by councils somewhere
like Weymouth will be different, I would imagine,
Economically it's a good idea, over the long term
it will save a lot of money, council money and buildings,
but democratically it will cause a deficit.
There will be less councillors so less representation
of the people, perhaps less diversity within the county
council and people will be less represented.
What will it do for the political map of Dorset?
It's likely to be a Conservative stranglehold, I'm not necessarily
saying that's a terrible thing but it also freezes out
But the man who may well end up leading the new Shire unitary
This is not rocket science, it works well in Cornwall
and Wiltshire, it is not a ground-breaking proposal.
We are following the lead of some well-run authorities
across the county in being as efficient as we can be.
Given that three of the six district councils, a third of Dorset
council have voted no, doesn't this make a mockery
One of them was very narrow, it's right they should weigh these
things up but I think we have to look at the bigger picture.
Nine councils cannot be the best arrangement of delivering
public service in a county the size of Dorset.
Ultimately the final decision rests with the Secretary
of State for Communities and Local Government,
and if he says yes, there is a group of concerned residents ready
to press go on a Judicial Review - and even calls from Greens,
Lib Dems and Ukip councillors for a referendum to give
the residents the final say on a decision that affects every
single council tax payer in the county.
It's the great hope for saving money.
Somehow you can be more efficient with mergers or combined
You think Sajid Javid will think he cannot make an omelette
without breaking a few eggs and force it on them?
I wouldn't know what he will be thinking but some of these councils
are small, as finances get tight they will have to look
We have a great model in West Sussex, they share costs, that is
But there will always be somebody opposed to something like this.
It would set a precedent if Dorset said enough of you are in favour
the protest will have to go by the board.
I think people are very sensitive to their place,
their identity and if that can be protected and they have
the reassurance of that, I think that would go a long way
And at the moment it's rejected, are you saying come up
with your own solution but it's not a veto.
You need to take people with you on this.
The point of being a councillor is you are accountable
to your community and in Hampshire it's difficult when Wiltshire
is so remote from Basingstoke, we see decisions being taken miles
away that affect our residents and we want to make those decisions.
But when it comes to issues like social care and education,
those decisions do affect local communities.
Hampshire are consulting now on closing one of our local
secondary schools, that's being taken by a councillor
from Gosport, so he will decide on a local school in Basingstoke
and that is out of touch with residents who care
So you want smaller sizes, not bigger sizes like people in Dorset.
I am a passionate believer in unitary authorities where weak share
Paul makes a point that sometimes it takes time to do consultation,
if you look at Manchester that got it right with the associations
Going slowly, having good conversations is the way
Now our regular round-up of the political week
Arrests in Portsmouth broadcast live on Facebook.
Can you see what's happening right now?
Protesters have been trying to prevent the City Council taking
control of an arts centre in Victoria Park.
Thames Valley and Hampshire Police are to use spit hoods
despite opposition from human right organisations.
When they stop spitting, the spit guard will be removed.
Teachers are using body cameras in the classroom.
Getting a child to look at their behaviour.
I have a camera on my car, it's the same principle.
But they're reducing technology with raw milk straight
from the cow at Northville farm dairy in Buckinghamshire.
From the shack to the shed, men's shed project near Andover
offering man the working environment they might miss when they retire.
Because they haven't anything else better to do.
Absolutely not, that is why men's sheds, all but community
where people can get together, we learn a lot from each
other and that is a great side of human beings.
The two things that scare me, Donald Trump's tweets,
Politics, shaking hands, meeting people, talking about their issues,
engaging face-to-face, that is where real politics is done.
That's been Sunday Politics in the South.
Thanks to my guests, Louise Goldsmith and Paul Harvey.
We're off next week for half term but back in a fortnight
For now, though, it's back to Andrew.
After the excitement and late nights in the Commons last week,
MPs are having a little break this week as we head into
But there's still plenty in the diary in the near future -
let's just remind ourselves of some key upcoming dates.
There they are. We have the two by-elections on February 23rd. The
budget is 8th March. That will be the last spring budget under this
Government because it moves to the autumn.
That round of French elections narrows the candidates, probably
about eight or nine, down to two, the two who come first and second,
then go into a play off round on May 7th. That will determine the next
President. Steve, listening to Oliver Letwin and to the Labour
leader in the House of Lords, is there any way you think that end of
March deadline for Mrs May could be in jeopardy? No, I don't. Andrew
Smith couldn't have been clearer with you they would do nothing to
block not just Article 50 but that timetable, so I would be surprised
if they don't make it. Given her, Theresa May's explicit determination
to do so, not to do so would have become a problem for her, I think
one way or another... No before this vote last week there was a vote nor
the deadline, to agree the deadline by all sides. Plain sailing do you
think? There is no serious Parliamentary resistance and it
would be a personal embarrassment, I think for the Prime Minister to name
the the end of March as the deadline and to miss it, unless she has a
good excuse. I I reckon it will change the atmosphere of politics
for the next two years, as soon as the negotiations begin, people in
our profession will hunt for any detail and inside information we can
find, thing also be leaked, I think from the European side from time to
time, it will dominate the headlines for a solid two years and change
politics. Let me just raise a possible, a dark cloud. No bigger
than man's hand, that can complicate the timetable, because the Royal
Assent on the current timetable has to come round the 13th. I would
suggest that the Prime Minister can't trigger that until she does
get the Royal Assent. If there is a bit of ping-pong that could delay
that by receive day, the last thing the Europeans would want, they have
another big meeting at the end of March which is the 60th anniversary
of the Treaty of Rome. They don't want Article 50 to land on the
table... It would infuriate everybody. My guess is she will have
done it by then, this is between the Commons and the Lords, I mean Andrew
Smith couldn't have been clearer, that they might send something back
but they didn't expect a kind of a long play over this, so. The Liberal
Democrats, they are almost an irrelevance in the Commons but not
the Lords, they feel differently. Now, we don't know yet what the
European Union negotiating position is going to be, we don't know
because there are several crucial elections taking place, the Dutch
taking place in March and then the one we put up, the French, and, at
the moment, the French one is, it seems like it is coming down, to a
play-off in the second round between Madame Le Pen who could come first
in the first round and this Blairite figure, independent, centre-leftish
Mr Macron, he may well get through and that, and the outcome of that
will be an important determine napt on our negotiations. -- determinant.
You o couldn't have two more different candidate, you have a
national a front candidate and on the other hand the closest thing
France could have you to a liberal President. With a small l. A
reformist liberal President. It would be the most French thing in
the world to elect someone who while the rest of the world is elected
elitist, to elect someone who is the son of a teacher, who has liberal
views, is a member of the French elite. It would be a thing for them
to elect a man like that which I why I see them doing it. If it is Le
Pen, Brexit becomes a minor sideshow, if it is Le Pen, the
future of the European Union is? Danger, regardless of whether we are
were in or out. I suggest if it is Mr Macron that presents some
problems. He doesn't have his own party. He won't have a majority in
the French assembly, he is untried and untested. He wants to do a
number of things that will be unpopular which is why a number of
people close to Mrs Le Pen tell me that she has her eye on 2022. She
thinks lit go to hell in a hand basket under Mr Macron. He hasn't
got the experience. What I find fascinating. It is not just all to
play for in France, it is the fact what happens in France and Germany,
not so much Holland I think but Germany later on in the year, how
much it impacts what we are going to get. How much which ex #i78 panting
on them. And at the time we are trying to, withdrawing ourself from
European politics it is fascinating how much it will affect us. You see
what Matthew was talking about earlier in the show, that what we do
know, almost for sure, is that the socialist candidate will not get
through to the second round. He could come firth but the
centre-right candidate. If we were discussing that monthing a we would
say it between teen the centre-right and the national fronts. We are to
saying that. Matthew good win who spent a time in France isn't sure Le
Pen will get into the second round, which is interesting. It is, I mean,
it is going to be as important for the future of the European Union, as
in retrospect the British 2015 general election was, if Labour had
got in there would have been no referendum. That referendum has
transformed the European Union because we are leaving and the
French election is significant. We will be live from Paris on April
23rd on the day France goings to the first round of polls. Tom Watson, he
was on The Andrew Marr Show earlier today, was asked about Mr Corbyn,
this is what he had to say. We had a damaging second leadership
election, so we've got The polls aren't great for us,
but I'm determined now we've got the leadership settled for this
parliament, that we can focus on developing a very positive clear
message to the British people So Julia, I don't know who are you
are giggling. I find it untenable that, he is a very good media
performer and he comes on and he is sitting there so well, you know,
things are bad but don't worry we are looking at what we can do to win
2020. The idea that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were sitting in their
offices or on TV screens at this time in the electoral cycle thinking
well I wonder if we can come up with a policy the British people might
like. It is a nonsense, this is Tuesday night book zlufb. I am going
to ask you the question I was going to before. I would suggest that he
the right. The deputy Labour leader Tom Watson is violent the leadership
is settled, with one caveat, unless the Corbynistas themselves to decide
to move on Mr Corbyn, if the left of the Labour Party decides then it is
not settled. Settled. If that doesn't happen that is That would be
the worst situation if you are a Labour moderate. The Corbynistas
would be saying the problem is no Corbynism, it is Corbyn himself, if
we a younger person leading the process we can win the next general
election, which means you have another itration of this, another
five year experiment. And that is worst of all. If you are a Labour
moderate, what you want is Jeremy Corbyn contest the next general
election, possibly loses badly and then a Labour not moderate runs for
the leadership saying we have tried your way, the worst would be Corbyn
going, and a younger seven version of him trying and the experiment
being extended. I see no easy way out of this. That is why he radiated
the enthusiasm of someone in a hostage video in that interview.
Maybe he has the Stockholm Syndrome now. The Labour moderates have had
their day in the sun, two days in the sun and they lost. I suggest
they are not going to try for the hat-trick again. Is there any
indication that on the more Corbyn wing of the Labour Party, there is
now doubts about their man. Yes, just to translate Tom Watson, what
he meant was I Tom Watson am not going to get involved in another
attempted coup. I tried it and it was a catastrophe. That is question
enhe says it is set selled. It is because there is speculation on a
daily basis. I disagree, Julia said I think this lot don't care about
winning, I think they do. If the current position continue, one of
two things will happen. Either Jeremy Corbyn will decide himself
will decide he doesn't want to carry on. He half enjoys I it and half
hates it. Finds it a strain. If that doesn't happen there will be some
people round him who will say, look, this isn't working. There is another
three-and-a-half years. There is a long way to go. I can't see it
lasting in this way with politics in a state of flux, Tories will be
under pressure in the coming two years, to have opinion polls at this
level, I think is unsustainable. Final thought from you.? Yes, the
idea it St another three-and-a-half years is just madness, but the
people we are putting up at replacement for Jeremy Corbyn, and
they have been focus grouping them. Most members wouldn't know who most
of people were let alone most of the public.
Angela rain? They are not overwhelmed with leadership
potential at the moment. Very diplomatically put. Neither are the
Tories, but they happened to have one at the moment. All right. That
is it. Now, there's no Daily
or Sunday Politics for the next week But the Daily Politics will be back
on Monday 20th February and I'll be back here with the Sunday Politics
on the 26th. Remember if it's Sunday,
it's the Sunday Politics... Just back from
a very long shift at work...
Andrew Neil and Peter Henley present the latest political news, interviews and debate and are joined by shadow leader of the House of Lords Baroness Smith and Conservative Oliver Letwin. The political panellists are Janan Ganesh from the Financial Times, Julia Hartley-Brewer from talkRADIO and journalist Steve Richards.