Andrew Neil and Patrick Burns are joined by Baroness Smith and Oliver Letwin. The political panellists are Janan Ganesh, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Steve Richards.
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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 in the Midlands, we're live from Staffordshire University
in Stoke Central with five of the candidates battling
to replace Tristram Hunt in the House of Commons.
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.
Hello again, welcome to the Sunday Politics in the Midlands.
And we have a specially-extended programme this week,
live, as it happens, in Stoke Central.
We've come to the Staffordshire University Students' Union building,
right in the heart of this constituency, thrust
centre-stage by Tristram Hunt's resignation as Labour MP.
And with me here are five of the candidates who are hoping
to replace him at Westminster, in a contest where there
Jack Brereton, the Conservative candidate, is a Cabinet member
Gareth Snell, for Labour, is a member and former leader
Paul Nuttall for Ukip is Nigel Farage's successor as party leader.
Dr Zulfiqar Ali, for the Liberal Democrats, contested
this seat in the general election two years ago.
And Adam Colclough, for the Green Party,
has also stood in council elections here in Stoke-on Trent.
Let's begin, though, by getting the feel of this place.
Our political reporter Emma Thomas has seven things you may not know
A statue of Josiah Wedgwood, one of the founding fathers
of the Potteries, stands outside Stoke's main railway station.
But production of Wedgwood moved out of the city in 1950,
the same year that the Stoke Central constituency was created.
A Labour MP has held the seat of Stoke Central
Which coincidentally fell on February the 23rd,
One of the city's most famous sons is Sir Stanley Matthews,
the Wizard of Dribble was born in Hanley, and it's the only
footballer ever to be knighted whilst still
The man who captained that fateful 1912 Titanic sailing,
Captain Edward Smith, was born right here in this
When the Bentilee estate was built in the 1950s,
it was one of the largest council housing developments in Europe.
But in last summer's EU referendum, 87% of people in this
The Shelton steelworks site used to spread across this valley,
But unemployment in Stoke-on-Trent is now above the UK average.
There are 66,500 eligible voters in Stoke Central,
but at the last general election, fewer than half of those made
We'll be hearing from Emma again later in the programme. We begin now
by inviting each of our candidates to make a brief opening statement of
intent. I say breathe, I'm going to challenge the maxim may be 40
seconds each. I think it would be a good to do it in general action
result order. So, Gareth Snell, you're defending the seat for the
of Stoke Central vote for your? of Stoke Central vote for your?
Because the Potteries is my home, my daughter was born here, it is where
I met my wife and built my family. I'm invested in this community. I
also want to make sure that whoever goes to Westminster is shouting out
for a properly funded, publicly run NHS. I want to make sure we get the
investment in our schools and roads and our public services are
protected. I genuinely believe what Stoke-on-Trent Central needs is a
strong, local representative in Westminster, and that should be me.
So your emphasis is on NHS rather than Brexit, because it seems to be
one issue or the other that is dragging headlines here?
an opportunity for Stoke-on-Trent, an opportunity for Stoke-on-Trent,
but the NHS is something lots of people are raising on doorsteps. The
hospital is understaffed and underfunded, we need a Brexit that
works for the people of Stoke and funding for the NHS.
Ukip finish second in the general election, it is you to state your
I think what Stoke-on-Trent needs is I think what Stoke-on-Trent needs is
a national leader, and national voice, a champion in the House of
Commons, someone who can stand up and be heard by other MPs and by the
Government. We know in their selection there's issue surrounding
jobs, homelessness, housing their problems that are there. Let's not
forget that 70% or people in Stoke voted to leave the European Union.
It became the capital of Brexit on June 23, we can make it the capital
of change in February the 23rd. You say it's Brexit Central, but
isn't the reality that health, in terms of the public mind here, given
the strains on the local hospital is more of an issue on the doorsteps
than the European Union? It's both. It's about making Brexit
work, getting real Brexit, that people voted for, it's about
controlling borders, being able to sign trade deals to get investment
in the area. But you're absolutely right, the local hospital is an
issue. The staff need more help and we need more money going into it.
Jack Brereton, the Conservatives only third narrowly behind Ukip, but
that makes it now your moment to make your case to the electorate.
I am born and bred in Stoke-on-Trent, I have that in the
city all my life, I'm the only candidate here who represents part
of the constituency in the local council. This election comes at an
important time for a start on Trent and our country. People voted
overwhelmingly to leave the European Union, and that must be respected.
Theresa May, our Prime Minister, has a clear plan to deliver Brexit, and
I'm backing the plan. You're in charge of the regeneration
aspect of the council. On that point, business hates uncertainty,
and isn't that exact they want you're delivering them in this
negotiation? It's important we have an economic
has, in her 12-point plan, put in has, in her 12-point plan, put in
for a ambitious trade deal with the rest of Europe, and that is in
making sure we do maintain those links with Europe to build business
and protect the important jobs in our ceramics industry.
Dr Zulfiqar Ali, this is your point now to put your case to the voters.
As you say, I am a doctor, I have worked for many years and as a local
councillor in a local ward. I live in the city. I know the problems
people face on a day to day basis. I fear that if we leave the single
market, there will be a loss of trade and jobs and I also fear a
loss of research coming to local universities. I was campaigning
against the lack of funding to the NHS delivered by the Government.
The Liberal Democrats have a tradition in this constituency of
finishing second, but at the last election and you fell back from
that. Is it not a danger you are going to be drowned out by the
others again? Not at all. We were in coalition,
and things did not necessarily go our way. We saw Zack Goldsmith's
majority in Richmond Park, we have also bitten into the majority in
David Cameron's constituency. Look what we have done in Sunderland, we
have won is seat from the Labour Party, a dramatic increase from the
previous election. Alan Colclough of the Green Party,
this is your opportunity. I was born in Stoke and I understand
it's area. We need to move on from a low-wage economy and bring jobs to
the city. We need to fix the city. We need to fix
infrastructure and end the mandatory -- misery of gridlock. Stoke is a
ceramic town, with the Green Party fighting it scores, we can prosper.
That is the distinctive message you have. Isn't there a danger that you
and a Liberal Democrats are fishing in the same pool. Voters are very
similar area of the market? No, the Greens bring a new message,
we are bringing an open and fairer type of politics, for the common
good. We aren't contaminated with the things that touch other parties
in terms of the way they are funded. We are there on the ground, working
for local people everyday. Thank you. It is clear from what was
said there, there are two issues that are really centrestage in this.
This is an area where something like 70%, perhaps more in some areas,
voted to leave the European Union. Gareth comedian made no secret,
putting it on strong times -- returns at times, what you think a
Brexit. Is that not the wedge that Webber has between someone like you,
and instinctive Remainer, you would just be presenting the Labour Party
with the same problem if you got selected to Westminster?
No, I think Paul Farrelly was wrong to vote the way he did, his
constituents given a clear steer and he voted against that. If I was
voted SNP, I am very clear that I would respect the vote given in this
constituency. The two MPs here have already been to London to trigger
Article 50. We have to have a plan that works for a Brexit, we have to
make sure that the opportunities now provided I been delivered here in
Stoke-on-Trent. We have to make sure we get the trade deals to protect
the ceramics industry. Better make sure we deal with the issues that we
know are affecting Stoke-on-Trent, Brexit provides us with an
opportunity to do that. Bearing in mind, Paul Nuttall, the
pottery industry itself, overwhelmingly, the industry voted
to remain in the EU. I was speaking to the industry the
other day, they now realise there are great opportunities outside the
European Union, because we can sign trade deals all over the world. Like
the majority of other countries on the planet. Don't forget, we're stop
the fifth largest economy in the globe. We have fantastic
opportunities now we outside of this slow tick box.
Isn't there a danger that the party is over, you got Mission
accomplished unweaving the EU. Your USB is no longer. The Tories are as
are the party of Brexit. We are delivering Brexit, that's the
key thing. We are the only party here has got a clear plan to the
liver Brexit. I met with the Prime Minister to discuss that plan, and
in Sherwood Armiger getting the best deal for Stoke-on-Trent.
Had a ceramics comments about plan? In terms of that ambitious free
trade deal, they are part of that trade deal, they are part of that
deal to make sure we link in with those economies and preserve the
free trade links with the rest of Europe to preserve jobs in the city.
The question was, what is the relevance of Ukip now? The thing we
know from Theresa May Thatcher has always been very good at talking the
talk, she never ever walks the walk. We need to make sure that you could
exist to hold the Government's feet to the fire and get real Brexit.
In a strongly Leave minded area, we have the Liberal Democrats
anti-Brexit message. That doesn't anti-Brexit message. That doesn't
select a great plan? And the only opposing candidates.
The Labour candidate was opposing Brexit after the referendum, and now
he is following the Ukip line. I was talking last week to the director of
a huge ceramics company, she was clear that the uncertainty of
leaving the single market would be bad.
Your party is calling for a second referendum on the EU. Who on Earth,
particular year, once another referendum?
What we don't want is to have it stitched up by William Fox, Boris
Johnson and David Davis. -- Liam Fox. We want the people to have a
final say. You are an anti-Brexit party as
well? We are the party who has voted
against rushing into triggering Article 50. Because only this week,
the House of Lords highlighted within the Brexit agreement there
was no mention of disabled people. A hard Brexit will damage the most
vulnerable people, and an area like Stoke, and I see this as a tragedy
worker, that will have devastating consequences on people but everyone
sees in their surgeries. -- as a charity worker.
This weight on to the theme of the NHS, and the very long trolley waits
at the Stoke Royle. This has to be a crushing embarrassment for your
campaign given that Jeremy Hunt said only this week that it is
unacceptable? We had to the health services are
dealing with more patients than ever before. We have issues we need to
improve, that is why we are committed to investing additional
?10 billion by 2020. With audit created over 10,000 more doctors.
This Select Committee disputes that figure, doesn't it?
There are far more nurses as well. Let's look what is happening in
Wales, where in charge, cutting the budget by 8%, the only part of the
UK where they are cutting the budget to our health services.
Let's focus on Stoke-on-Trent rather than Wales.
Jack very clearly forgets it was the Tory Government for the last seven
years that has been slashing our NHS, but an incredible strain...
1.3 billion less at the last election for our NHS.
the Tories, we always clear up the the Tories, we always clear up the
mess. The fact is we have NHS in Staffordshire that is struggling,
underfunded and understaffed. We need more cash for doctors and
nurses. Ukip, you had your difficulties
here. I remember Farage during the election having to pull back from
the suggestion that private insurance might be away into the
funding difficulties of the NHS. You have yourself spent a lot of time
fending off the suggestion that you've called for privatisation of
certain aspects. Let's get your version of how Ukip would deal with
this and deal with those suspicions two back in 2011 I was speaking
the NHS, particular in the area of the NHS, particular in the area of
procurement, when the NHS was spending far over the odds for
certain drugs. Ukip has never had any manifesto
comment on privatising the NHS. Our policy at the 2015 General election
was somebody that we want to see 3 billion a year extra for the NHS.
The key to this is Ukip is committed to keeping the NHS public and free
at the point of delivery. The manifesto that Paul promoted as
the national organiser in 2010, called for more marketisation in the
NHS. Your name was on that, it went to the electric and they did not
accept it. You are on record supporting privatisation.
We as a party at a debate between 2012 and 2014 and we fell upon the
policy that the NHS should remain public and free at the point of the
livery. The only party that can tell you where the money will come from,
Zulfiqar Ali, URL cardiologist, you Zulfiqar Ali, URL cardiologist, you
speak for professional expertise? I have fought in the front line for
many years. The Labour Party has provided some new buildings locally
through PFI. That has lowered our members by 400, that is a dramatic
loss of numbers for any hospital for any requirement. Nationally, the
number of medical staff by publishers much higher than here.
Compare to Germany, it is the numbers are much higher. The problem
has been compounded by PFI. Adam, your protection for the NHS?
Labourer describing themselves as defenders of the NHS. We're losing
it and 54 Community Hospital beds. The Green Party is the only
political party that puts forward a recent case against it. -- 254
committee hospital beds. We have challenged this ECG and will carry
on doing so after this election. The Labour Party has been protecting
beds at the local hospital, we have let that campaign, we have been at
the public meetings and you rock before an election saying you are
the defenders of the NHS. That is unbelievable.
Let's put this fighting in perspective. The costs -- the
hospital cost millions to build, it cost ?58 million in the trust last
year, it's insane. We will go on, but let's pause for
breath and give ourselves a moment of reflection as far as other
candidates are concerned. There are five others battling it out, as well
as the ones that are here this morning. They are standing on an
assortment of policies. More now from Emma Thomas,
who's been talking to some of them. From the Armed Forces to politics,
Godfrey is a retired Navy officer. I believe that the man of God
is the one that's properly qualified to run a city and a country,
because it says in the Bible, it does not lie in man who walks
to know how to direct his steps. A seasoned candidate, David also ran
for London mayor in 2016. The British National Party
is the only antiestablishment Voting for me, David Furness
of the BNP, will send the strongest possible message of protest
to the out of touch and corrupt A first-time candidate,
Barbara's a housewife and book-keeper from
Draycott-in-the-Moors. I want to abolish the Magna Carta
and bring back the monarchy to be head of Government,
because they can do worse than what to be head of Government,
because they can't do worse than what the politicians
have done before. I want to bring back
all the industry that we've lost, that's been sent abroad
to other nations. We've lost everything,
all because of the politicians. Calling himself the Shadow Minister
for the Abolition of Gravity, this is the Incredible's
fourth by-election. I used to be a werewolf,
but I'm all right no-oo-oo-ow! I would put piranha
in the River Trent to make Bishop to C5 and knight
to D6, checkmate! Vote for the Monster Raving Loony
Party, you know it makes sense. And one other candidate is standing
in this by-election. Mohammed Akram is running
as an independent. We invited him to take part
in Emma's report, but he wasn't There are more details
about all the candidates on my blog. You can find that at
bbc.co.uk/PatrickBurns. Adjusted to resume with some of the
wider political issues that are involved in this. Of course, the
awash with speculative about your awash with speculative about your
leader, Jeremy Corbyn. When you were re-elected to Newcastle Council you
said that your success had nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn. That
suggests you're not a great fan of hers. And get you're the man
carrying the flag for him and? I actually said the success my
council by-election was because of the effort of local people, that was
the point I was making. You tweeted about his support for
the higher radio...? We had a very fracture summer and
leadership election. We had a very fracture is leadership
election over the summer, Jeremy has election over the summer, Jeremy has
now been over Wembley elected by the membership of the party. He has been
up to support me, I'm very grateful for that. I will be supporting him
when he makes his bid to be the next primers to the Labour -- reality
kingdom. But your biting your lip?
No, the Labour Party is the only party it would offer an alternative
to the Conservatives. We have a bust up, dust ourselves off, and we will
they trim at the next election with Jeremy as our leader.
Paul Nuttall, we spoke a few weeks ago and Sunday Politics, and
challenged you about the fact that, so early in your leadership of Ukip,
given that Nigel Farage's shoes are very big ones to fill, you are
taking a real risk. I'm going to pressure on this, because if you do
not win here, so early in your leadership, you will get the sense
of having a loser tag around you? I'm not considering losing this
election. However, it will be close, I suspect.
BELL Still be only 12 weeks into my
leadership, it will be a long-term project. I believe have a great
opportunity, not only because people are attracted to Ukip's cause and
policies, but the Labour Party at this moment in time represent a
samples. They have a leader that has nothing in common with people in the
constituency. -- a shambles. They have a front bench people who sneer
at the fly, won't sing the national anthem, and support the IRA. They
have nothing in common with the people of Stoke-on-Trent, they have
more in common with the people start Newington in London.
Your the Cabinet member responsible for regeneration, bearing in mind
there is a high unemployment, you have a job on, a real challenge when
you look at the encouraging economic news first average as a whole, but
spreading that generally across the city, you've got a big job on?
I been responsible for delivering over ?509 of investment in the city.
We have ready created thousands of jobs and will create 8000 more over
the next five years. -- ?500 million of investment. When I produce it
great not just more jobs, but better skilled jobs and better paid jobs
for local people. What is going to take to do that? We
hear about an industrial strategy, where is the money for it?
I think it is important, having that strategy. That is getting more and
better skills in the city, better jobs. But thing we need to continue
the investment, attract more private investment as well.
Adam, I can see you can want to get in on this?
If we bring jobs to this city, but we need to fix infrastructure. The
council wasted millions of pounds on a failed a bid. We could use the
site as a hub for a tram system that would bring training, skilled jobs,
engineers, electricity, administrators, it would bring
advertisement to local companies - that is how I would drive the colony
forward. Talking about industrial planet, Mrs made's plans to enter
the catchphrases. Do you have a message?
The Labour Party and I own an alliance, and that by leading the
European single market, we wouldn't have enough trade with the European
Union, we would be out of competition. There would be less
investment within the country and city. There are many jobs in the
constituency would be at risk as well. To have investment in
Stoke-on-Trent, we need to have a... Zulfiqar Ali brings your party are
going to take the city on the path of destruction?
I respect your position, at least your honest on where you stand. The
simple fact is that we have a trading deficit with the European
Union. We are the German car manufacturers' biggest marketplace,
they need a free-trade deal more than we do. They need us more than
we need them. Path to destruction?
If Dr Ali was the top about dodgy alliances commented remember the
five years his party spent with the Tory Government. One of the things I
have been speaking to the ceramic industries about is that they need
stability. They need to know what is going to happen, not just once we
leave the EU, but what is going to happen on day one and a two. We need
a plan for the Potteries, that works were stuck on Trent, which means the
businesses we have can make decisions about investments, create
the jobs they can, and we can see the city flourish.
What do you say? What we are doing is actually
delivering. Other parties might promise, we're and treat delivering
with Theresa May's clear plan that will ensure we make a success of
Brexit and respect the will of local people.
Anyone who is then five minutes in this city knows it's a city with a
very, very strong sense of local identity, which is why everybody,
obviously, has a real challenge to make sure that they speak
convincingly here. You are the local man, Adam, you grew up here. What
are your credentials, particularly two I was born here, I have been
active in local charities. And the cherub trustees for the
local mental health charity, I cherub support group. I meet local
people every day and listen to their problems. -- chair a support group.
How important is it to come from this part of the country?
I came to this part of country to work at the local hospital. I made
this place my home. I live here, my children go to school locally. I
know the problems local people have. I know there is a huge degree of
fear. We were given the information that we would not be leaving the
single market, now we are told we are. We taught there would be ?350
million a week coming back, where is that? There is no money coming back.
People need to have another say and what final deal we want to have.
The question of luck on this is an issue, because I would suggest to
you that the business of registering a local address on your nomination
papers landed you in a bit of bother that you have subsequently had to
move? I had to, because people try to
break into the property. In the post-Jo Cox area -- era, I am a
high-profile politician, I don't feel safe. I would say, this isn't a
council action, this is to elect an MP. Winston Churchill wasn't local
to Dundee, Harold Wilson wasn't local...
Had as a Scout is a good and in the Potteries?
These are very similar community is. The local MPs are from Scotland and
Birmingham. An MP is a national voice and figure.
Are the nominal Russian papers lawful?
There are no legal problems whatsoever. Absolutely within the
rules. Newcastle-under-Lyme, just up the
road? My house is three miles away from
where we are now. I had never hidden the fact that I wasn't born here,
but I hope you'll forgive me, that is not something I had much say
over. I've that in the area for 13 years, my daughter goes to local
school, she was born at the hospital. My wife has worked in the
city. I've worked in the city. Paul has referenced the other local MPs.
They came here because they wanted to help the city. I live here
because I want to help the properties. I believe Paul this is a
pit stop on his way to Parliament. This is a means turnover him. He has
showed no interest in Stone before, now he is.
You name all the six towns? Only two are in this area.
HE NAMES THE TOWNS. He did it. There is a sense of
warfare year. Places say that investment goes to other towns.
There is tension? I have already been delivered new
locally. I been delivering as part of this constituency for six years,
delivering as a cabinet member. I am delivering for the city, born and
bred locally, got married in Stoke-on-Trent, lived in the city
all my life. As we knew the end of this
programme, I am going to remind you that the biggest challenge is
getting the voters to turn out. Just under half at the General election
did not. This is the moment where you guys have to get those guys to
the polling booths. What are you going to say to them to get them out
of their armchairs, and vote on February 23?
I think this election matters more than most, because the world is
looking at Stoke. We need to send a clear message that this is a
progressive city, where the politics of the far right are not welcome.
This by-election could be history making. This could be paving which
way the UK is going. We could have a hard Brexit, if we vote for the
Liberal Democrats, we will have another say on which way we want to
go. The town was already over the
referendum, the town is engaged. I'm the only true Brexiteer standing in
a selection, hopefully they will vote Ukip. One word we're getting on
the doorsteps is change. If you don't go out and vote for the Ukip
adds it to get me a elected, nothing will change.
I would say to local people, they need to think carefully about how
they vote. I would say we need a strong local voice to stand up for
Stoke-on-Trent. At came here to make my family, Poole -- Paul Kenya to
make his name. I want to be a strong voice in Parliament.
This is about sending a strong message that the referendum result
must be respected, I am backing Theresa May's plan to mention that
result is delivered successfully. An overarching thought now, anyway,
you all a you're going to when Matt. How do you think this is going to
impact on life across the country? I think it is great empire
significantly. It is an important election, particularly for
Stoke-on-Trent. Making sure that someone is voted that is born and
bred is important. I think this will show that the
Labour Party is the particle standard for working people in this
country. It will stick the assessment of the
core if I win mag. -- win. Things will change quickly.
And should people will be listening where other by-elections happen.
This by-election is going to pave the direction of the UK's future.
We think it will drive through building infrastructure to make this
a greener city and the city were better jobs.
My thanks to all the candidates here and the staff at Staffordshire
University for making us welcome. This debate may be at an end,
but the campaign is far from over. There will be another
BBC by-election debate this Thursday evening at 7pm
on BBC Radio Stoke. Before we go, a reminder
that there's no We'll be back in two weeks' time,
on Sunday the 26th of February. By then we'll know who's been
elected to be the new MP For now though, goodbye,
and have very good afternoon. The staff are losing -
they're just giving in. Panorama goes undercover
to reveal the real cost OK, everyone, have you got
your bamboo sticks?
Andrew Neil and Patrick Burns 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. Plus live leadership hustings. The political panellists are Janan Ganesh from the Financial Times, Julia Hartley-Brewer from talkRADIO and journalist Steve Richards.