Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: ‘I don’t like the idea’ of proroguing Parliament, says Boris Johnson

Sunday shows round-up: 'I don't like the idea' of proroguing Parliament, says Boris Johnson
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Boris Johnson - We should increase borrowing for 'great infrastructure projects'

Sophy Ridge began the day by interviewing the man who many are expecting to be the UK's next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The interview began with how Johnson expected to finance his campaign commitments, which include £4.6 billion for education, 20,000 more police officers, improving transport in the North and extending full fire broadband:

SR: Are you prepared to see borrowing go up?

BJ: If it's borrowing to finance great infrastructure projects... and there is the opportunity to borrow at low rates to do things for the long-term benefit of the country, then we should do them... Overall, we will keep fiscal responsibility... but you can do that with sensible tax cuts that stimulate growth.

SR: What tax cuts are you talking about in particular?

BJ: ...We should be talking about lifting people on low incomes out of tax, lifting the thresholds for National Insurance, and that's where my priority is.

I believe in 'expanding the Living Wage'

Johnson also said that he wanted to see an increase in the National Living Wage, though came a little unstuck when asked what the current rate was:

SR: What is the Living Wage now?

BJ: It's at or around £10 or so.

SR: It's actually... £8.21... That's quite significantly lower.

BJ: I was talking about the London Living Wage, forgive me... I believe in expanding the Living Wage where it's possible.

No Brexit means 'political extinction' for both major parties

Turning to Brexit, Johnson maintained his pledge to leave the European Union by the current deadline of 31st October, and explained why he felt this promise must be kept:

BJ: What we will face is a political extinction, and... we will have a drift away from, not just the Conservative party but both the main parties, which will be disastrous... I think [we] will suffer very considerably from an electorate that feels that they can't trust politicians to deliver on their promises.

A disorderly Brexit is not in EU's interest

Johnson remained optimistic that as Prime Minister he would be able to secure a renegotiated deal with the EU, despite repeated protestations from several European leaders that they have no desire to reopen May's Withdrawal Agreement. Ridge asked Johnson for his reaction to their statements:

BJ: I don't think they are going to want a disorderly Brexit of any kind, and it's not in their interests. There's no reason why they should want the sudden imposition of tariffs and quotas... At this particular stage in the negotiations, you'd expect them to say that kind of thing... Let's see.

'I don't like the idea' of proroguing Parliament

Johnson has come under fire for refusing to rule out suspending Parliament as a final resort to secure the UK's exit by the October deadline. By proroguing until a later date, a Johnson-led government could stop MPs voting down a no-deal Brexit and seeking another extension to the Article 50 process. Johnson told Ridge that he would rather not go down this route:

BJ: I don’t like the idea of proroguing. I'm not remotely attracted to it, but MPs have got to understand it’s their responsibility to get this thing done... I don't want to prorogue Parliament, and nor do I expect to.

I feel 'deep sense of anguish' for Zaghari-Ratcliffe

The conversation turned to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman imprisoned in an Iranian jail on charges of espionage, a case that was exacerbated when Johnson remarked to a select committee that she had been 'teaching journalists'. His words were used as evidence in her trial, possibly resulting in increasing her sentence. Ridge asked if Johnson felt responsibility for her suffering:

BJ: I feel a deep sense of anguish for what she has been going through... When it comes to responsibility... I think it is incredibly important that we in the UK do not give aid and succour to the people who are really responsible... The people who are responsible are the Iranian Revolutionary Guard... They are [holding her] illegally... and they should release her and others.

My words have been 'wrenched out of context'

Ridge bought up the issue of Johnson's past colourful language in various newspaper columns, some of which are returning to haunt him in his race to become Prime Minister. Johnson rejected the idea that his articles should be used as ammunition against him, and argued that his actions were more important:

SR: You'll just say anything to get a laugh...

BJ: If you look at each and every one of those columns... you'll find that the quotations have been wrenched out of context, in many cases made to mean the opposite of what was intended. And actually, look at my record... I take full responsibility for everything I say and do... Everything.

John McDonnell - I want an economy based on socialism

Ridge went on to speak to the Shadow Chancellor, who argued that the current system of capitalism was not working, and that the UK should undergo a large economic transformation to correct it:

JM: I want to see a transformed economy, so not capitalism as it now operates... I want to see... an economy which is radically fairer, radically more equal, radically more democratic... where the rewards from that economy... are shared by everyone.

SR: Is that socialism?

JM: Yes... I think we have to evolve into a system which is based upon that model.

Government 'has to intervene' in a climate emergency

McDonnell also said that he would create a 'sustainable investment board' to work with the government and the private sector to help the UK transition to a carbon-neutral economy. He added  that companies which did not meet a Labour government's environmental standards should expect to face 'sanctions':

JM: If there are companies that aren't fulfilling their environmental responsibilities, that are undermining everything that we do, putting our planet at risk, there have to be some sanctions... and that's regulation... Government has to intervene in a climate emergency.

Jo Swinson - Lib Dems 'could be better than kingmakers'

Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful Jo Swinson joined her rival Sir Ed Davey in raising her ambitions for the party at the next general election:

JS: We could be better than kingmakers. There was a poll out yesterday that said that we could actually, in one scenario, win that election.

SR: Genuinely, you think there's a chance that you could be in No. 10 if you lead the Lib Dems?

JS: Yes. I think our politics is volatile at the moment... I do not put any limits on our ambitions.

Jeremy Hunt - I would opt for no deal 'with a heavy heart'

On the Marr Show, the guest of the day was Jeremy Hunt. Like his rival Boris Johnson, Hunt has committed to leaving the EU without a deal if the circumstances demanded it, although he has been less concerned with the date of the departure. Andrew Marr questioned whether Hunt was  prepared to go through with this, given that it could result in difficulties for businesses:

AM: Are you really prepared to say [to people] you're going to lose your job..?

JH: I would do so, but I would do it with a heavy heart, precisely because of the risks... We are a country where politicians do what the people tell them to do... I would do that, but I would find support for those companies to help them weather the storms.

I will not drop corporation tax pledge

Of his campaign proposals, Hunt said that he was most determined to pursue his desire to cut corporation tax. He argued that it would be especially vital in the case of a no-deal Brexit:

JH: Of [my] commitments, the one that I would not drop is the one to reduce corporation tax... [It] would fire up the economy in a way that would be helpful in a no-deal context, because... putting money in the pockets of businesses in that moment would, I think, be the right thing to do.

I would never allow the Union to break up

Hunt also told Marr of the importance of the United Kingdom to him personally and of his reluctance to do anything that might jeopardise the union:

JH: I am a unionist to my fingertips, and I will never allow our union to be broken up... Of course there are risks: you think what someone like Nicola Sturgeon would do politically if we had a no-deal situation. We would have to get through that, and that is why a no-deal Brexit is not my first choice.

Len McCluskey - I'm 'comfortable' with a public vote

And finally, the leader of the Unite Union Len McCluskey has said that he would now be comfortable with a referendum on any Brexit deal, having previously been a very cautious voice on this matter:

AM: [Jeremy Corbyn] has moved... He said very recently, ‘it is now right to demand that any deal is put to a public vote'. Any deal.

LM: I think that’s perfectly understandable in the current situation. And I’m comfortable with that.