Grant Shapps - No 10 and 11 should be working 'hand in glove'
Sophy Ridge's first guest was the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. On Thursday, Boris Johnson carried out his long planned cabinet reshuffle, which saw the shock resignation of the Chancellor Sajid Javid. It emerged that Javid had been told that he could stay in his job on the condition that he sack all of his special advisers, something which he was not prepared to countenance. Ridge questioned Shapps about this development:
When asked about Sajid Javid's resignation, @grantshapps says he thinks viewers would likely want advisers to "be working hand in glove" with Number 10.
SR: If you had gone into your meeting with Boris Johnson last week and he'd asked you to sack all of your advisors, would you have gone along with it?
GS: ...I'd be pretty concerned if my advisers weren't working hand in glove. That would be a concern to me, let alone to No. 10. I want to get things delivered for this country, and... I want us all to be working in the same direction.
New Chancellor 'may want time' for Budget
Javid's replacement as Chancellor is Rishi Sunak, who was previously the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The Budget, which would have been Javid's first, was scheduled for March 11th, but Shapps now hinted that the date could be pushed back:
GS: The new Chancellor may want time. I haven't heard whether the date in March is confirmed as yet. He's probably looking at it, I should think, this week.
'I'd be cautious' about BBC shake-up comments
The Sunday Times have reported comments from Downing Street insiders who have signalled their intention to oversee a major restructuring of the BBC and how it is funded. There are plans for a consultation on moving the BBC towards a subscription based model of funding, and for forcing the organisation to sell off several TV and radio channels. Shapps downplayed the remarks:
"I'd be pretty cautious of some unattributed comments"
When asked about a newspaper report quoting a "senior Downing Street source" saying there should be a "massive pruning back" of the BBC, @grantshapps says there is no "preordained decision" about the corporation's funding pic.twitter.com/KpZMKZPvOY
GS: I'd be pretty cautious about some unattributed comments... It's just a consultation at this stage... It's simply not the case that there's some pre-ordained decision about the future funding of the BBC.
UK still has second most diverse cabinet in history
Thursday's reshuffle attracted criticism in some quarters, as the relative diversity of the new cabinet has decreased. Shapps defended the current makeup of the government, arguing that the broader picture should be taken into account:
"This is still the most diverse cabinet we've ever had, apart from the last one"
When asked by a drop in the number of women and people from ethnic minorities in Cabinet, @grantshapps says below cabinet level there is a 50-50 gender balance
GS: In terms of diversity in cabinet, this is still the most diverse cabinet that we've ever had apart from the last one... We've now got 50% women [on] the lower rungs of the ministerial ladder... The best of those people will be future cabinet ministers, and who knows, perhaps the third female Prime Minister.
Keir Starmer - Dominic Cummings 'has all the power'
Ridge also interviewed Sir Keir Starmer, the current frontrunner for the Labour leadership. Touching first on the Prime Minister's reshuffle, Starmer quickly pointed the finger at who he thought was the architect behind it:
"He's actually holding all the power"
Labour leadership candidate @Keir_Starmer tells @SophyRidgeSky he's concerned by the power wielded by the PM's advisers, saying that like Prime Minister's Questions "we're going to have to have DCQs for Dominic Cummings".#Ridge pic.twitter.com/Xty0wYvNir
KS: Dominic Cummings is just getting more and more power. I know Boris Johnson doesn't much like coming to Parliament - he does at least come for PMQs. I think we're going to have to have 'DCQs' for Dominic Cummings before too long.
Labour's Brexit policy was the right one
During the 2019 election campaign, Labour's Brexit stance was that it would hold a second Brexit referendum, with an option to Remain. Jeremy Corbyn then said that he would stay neutral and allow his ministers to choose between that option and Labour's renegotiated deal. Ridge asked Starmer if he still thought this was the right course of action in retrospect:
KS: I thought we should have gone on... and said which side we would be campaigning on...and I warned our party that if we looked indecisive, we wouldn’t look like we were leading on this issue...
SR: Do you still think it was the right policy?
KS: Yes, of course, because what we were doing was fighting against a deal that we thought would be very damaging for our country.
I don't need 'Corbyn' or 'Blair' tattooed on my head
So far, Starmer has managed to avoid being pigeonholed as a candidate of the left or the right, and has sought to rise above such labels. Ridge tried to get a sense of which former leader - Tony Blair or Jeremy Corbyn - Starmer would be closest to in his approach, but Starmer refused to be drawn:
"I don't need someone else's name tattooed on my head"
Labour leadership candidate @Keir_Starmer says he's aiming to unify the Labour party. He also refuses to say if he's closer to Jeremy Corbyn or Tony Blair, saying he won't "hug a historical figure" to win power.#Ridge pic.twitter.com/2dGDE4sAL0
KS: I don't need somebody else's name tattooed on my head to make a decision, or to hug a historical figure. My message to our members is... the next stage of the journey between now and the next election is for us.
'My responsibility' to rebuild trust with Jewish community
Labour's struggles with combating anti-Semitism have been frequently in the spotlight under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. One opinion poll two months before the election showed that only 7% of British Jews were even considering voting Labour. Starmer told Ridge that he would invest himself personally with trying to win back their trust and support:
"I would take a different position as leader of the Labour Party"
Labour leadership candidate @Keir_Starmer says that Jeremy Corbyn "should have been stronger" in tackling antisemitism.
KS: I don't want to point the finger at one individual. We failed on this... I would make it my responsibility to rebuild trust with the Jewish community... If the person at the top of the organisation says 'I want to know what's going on'... things change pretty rapidly.
Richard Burgon - Labour mustn't ditch socialist policies
Unlike Starmer, Labour's deputy leadership candidate Richard Burgon nailed his colours (red) firmly to the mast. He blamed Labour's defeat in December on the campaign becoming 'the Brexit general election which Boris Johnson wanted', and vowed to fight for a continuation of Corbyn's policies, regardless of who won the contest:
"Even in the aftermath of this devastating defeat, we can't drop our socialist policies"
Labour deputy leadership candidate @RichardBurgon insists Labour's "socialist policies" were not the reason for the defeat in the 2019 general election
RB: The socialist policies in the manifesto were not the reason we lost the general election... I'm clear that, whoever is elected leader of the Labour party, they don't have a mandate to ditch a single one of those socialist policies... without the express permission of Labour members.
We should engage 'across the Jewish community'
Ridge questioned Burgon about why he had not chosen to sign up to the ten pledges put forward by the Board of Deputies of British Jews in order to tackle anti-Semitism. Burgon raised his objection to numbers 2 and 8. He argued against adopting an independent disciplinary process, and that signing the pledges would stop the party consulting with 'fringe' Jewish groups:
Labour deputy leadership candidate @RichardBurgon explains why he didn't sign up to the Board of Deputies ten pledges on antisemitism and insists he is committed to tackling antisemitism in the Labour Party.
RB: I think it's important we engage with groups right across the Jewish community... and that's one of the reasons I wouldn't sign the ten pledges. Most of those pledges I agree with. Also... I'm yet to be aware of any organisation that successfully outsourced their disciplinary process.
This is 'not the end for Jeremy Corbyn'
Earlier in the week, Burgon suggested that the next Labour leader should keep Jeremy Corbyn on in their shadow cabinet, ideally as Shadow Foreign Secretary. Comparing Corbyn to his kindred spirit in the United States, he impressed upon Ridge that age was but a number:
"It's not the end for Jeremy Corbyn"
Labour deputy leadership candidate @RichardBurgon says "whatever Jeremy wants to do, he's got a big contribution to make to our party".
RB: It's not the end for Jeremy Corbyn. He's got a long political career ahead of him should he wish. He's ten years younger nearly than Bernie Sanders, who also has a big political career ahead of him.
Andy Street - We want what you've got in London
The Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands also joined Ridge and put the case for investment in regional transport across the country, in the weeks leading up to the budget:
AS: Investment in regional transport is critical... Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool... all relatively underperform economically compared to their sister cities around the world... So we basically want the same sort of connectivity you enjoy in London, putting it very bluntly.
Rebecca Long-Bailey - I'm sticking by our 2019 spending plans
Andrew Marr interviewed Rebecca Long-Bailey, the left's standard bearer in the Labour leadership contest. The party was attacked for being reckless in its spending commitments at the 2019 election, and Marr asked Long-Bailey is she still supported the principle of spending £98 billion extra per year by 2024:
AM: Do you stick by that?
RLB: I do, because we weren't being radical in terms of our public spending plans. In fact, we were way behind other leading industrial nations on this... We should never be ashamed of public spending and investing in our public services.
I don't remember Corbyn being anti-Semitic
Marr challenged Long-Bailey over her consistency in standing up to anti-Semitism. He read out a statement put forward by Jeremy Corbyn at a meeting of Labour's National Executive Committee in October 2018. The statement claimed that calling the foundation and history of Israel 'racist' would not be anti-Semitic:
AM: Jeremy Corbyn arrived and read out that statement as a proposed addition to the Labour party policy. You must have been horrified when that happened... Did you speak out against it at the time?
RLB: ...I don't recall that statement being made, but I'm very clear on us not questioning the right of Israel to exist, and certainly not saying in any way that it's a racist endeavour.
Right to self ID should be 'enshrined in law'
Marr bought up the controversial issue of self-identification for people who are transgender. Under the Equality Act of 2010, a person cannot legally change their gender without obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate, which can often be a lengthy process:
“I want the right to self ID and I want that enshrined in law”#Marr asks if Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey will reform the 2010 Equality Act which upholds the right to single sex spaceshttps://t.co/98s1CEmj0Y pic.twitter.com/wEHVElNX73
RLB: I want a right to self ID for trans people. It's not an easy journey to go on as a trans person... and we know the mental health issues that many within our trans community face... I want the right to self ID and I want that enshrined in law.
I've not asked China to build HS2
Grant Shapps cropped up again this morning, and Marr asked him about High Speed 2. It has emerged that the Chinese government, which already has significant experience of building high speed rail links at home and abroad, has offered to step in and take on the mantle. Shapps stressed that any such correspondence had not been with him or his department:
GS: They have clearly had a letter sent to HS2 Ltd. There's been no conversation with me as a minister, as the Secretary of State... Obviously, I'll be asking to see what the communication has been.
You can take our manifesto 'to the bank'
Marr also asked Shapps if the Conservatives could be relied on to stick by their spending pledges in their manifesto, especially after the swift replacement of the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer:
AM: Will debt be lower at the end of this Parliament than it is now?... What about borrowing to fund current spending? Will you rule that out as well?
GM: The manifesto - you can read that document and take it to the bank.
Angela Rayner - RLB will 'take us into government'
And finally, Angela Rayner, the overwhelming favourite to be Labour's deputy leader, explained why she was backing Rebecca Long-Bailey:
AR: I think it's about time we had a woman leader of the Labour party, and that's why I'm backing her. She's no continuation Corbyn, she's no man's property. She will be the leader that takes us into government I believe.