Jeremy Corbyn – Anti-Semitism 'is a scourge in any society'
With the Labour party conference now in full swing in Liverpool, Jeremy Corbyn met with Andrew Marr for an interview. Marr was keen to challenge Corbyn about the accusations of anti-Semitism against him and the failure to effectively stamp out the problem within the party. Corbyn attempted to set the record straight:
AM: Jeremy Corbyn - are you an anti-Semite?
JC: No. I've spent my whole life opposing racism in every form and I will die fighting racism in any form... Anti-Semitism is a scourge in any society. I will oppose it all my life... Under my leadership of this party, we've been much more specific about the definition, we've set up much better processes for dealing with instances within the party and we're improving them even further... The party must be - and is - a safe and welcoming place for all communities.
When Marr referred to an incident with Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who had been threatened with disciplinary action after accusing Corbyn of being a racist and an anti-Semite, Corbyn replied 'The matter with Margaret Hodge is closed'. He expressed regret over appearing to support an anti-Semitic mural and claimed that his remarks about Zionist protesters not understanding English irony were 'not intended to be anti-Semitic in any way'.
On Theresa May's troubles with Europe, Corbyn told Marr that she was 'looking two ways at the same time'. He refused to be drawn on how he would vote in a second Brexit referendum, stating that his preference 'would be for a general election'. On his time as Leader of the Opposition, he said he was 'loving every moment of it'.
Dominic Raab - Salzburg summit 'a bump in the road'
The Brexit Secretary also featured as a guest on Marr's programme. With a disappointing week for the Prime Minister after an EU summit in Salzburg where her Brexit proposals were flatly rejected by the other 27 member states, Raab insisted that all was not lost:
AM: Isn't... this a catastrophic failure of British intelligence and diplomacy and politics as well?
DR: ...This is a bump in the road. We'll hold our nerve. We'll keep our cool and we'll keep negotiating in good faith... What we are not going to be is dictated to. And the UK is one of the biggest economies in Europe, if not the world.... We need some give and take from the EU, and I'm confident that as the fallout from Salzburg ebbs, we will make further progress.
Raab continued: 'We're not going to flit from plan to plan like some sort of diplomatic butterfly', adding 'There aren't any other credible alternatives on the table from [the EU], or anyone else for that matter'. He told Marr that 'the next landmark will be the October council'. Raab castigated the EU for 'a habit of spurning democratic votes', saying that this '[gave] rise to extremism'. He also dismissed rumours of a snap election this autumn as 'for the birds'.
Nicky Morgan – Canada style deal 'not an option'
The former Education Secretary and prominent advocate of a 'soft Brexit' joined Sophy Ridge to discuss where the government should go next. Though Morgan told Ridge that she did not believe the Prime Minister's Chequers deal could be pursued any longer, she also made clear her reservations about pursuing a free trade agreement along the same lines as Canada:
"Is there any life left in Chequers?" asks @SophyRidgeSky.
— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) September 23, 2018
SR: This week the EU made it pretty clear that they don’t think that Theresa May’s Chequers plan will work... What’s your view, is there any life left in Chequers?
NM: I’m not sure there is life left in Chequers. I think for whatever reason Salzburg did not go as planned on either side, and we ended up obviously with a bit of a stand-off, an unfortunate position... Some of my colleagues are going to launch this call for a Canada-style free trade deal tomorrow - that’s not going to get approved by Parliament. It has many flaws including not dealing with Northern Ireland so it is really a non-starter... The other issue is about having a customs union, the Prime Minister is right to say we can’t have the break-up of the Union and that again, the Canada option doesn’t deal with that.
Morgan rejected the idea of a leadership election as 'not in the country’s interests', blasting 'hard Brexiteers who absolutely want to bring the Prime Minister down'. Morgan also backed the Leader's Debates which have recently taken place in the run up to general elections, saying that it was 'a bit of an error really for parties now to not take part', adding that Theresa May's absence 'was something that was noticed at the last general election'.
Tom Watson - Labour will follow members lead on second referendum
Labour's Deputy Leader also joined Ridge at the Labour conference in Liverpool, where it is highly likely that delegates will vote to make a second Brexit referendum official party policy. Ridge asked whether the leadership would respect this verdict:
— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) September 23, 2018
SR: Should it be in the Labour party manifesto then that Labour would offer a 'People's Vote' or a second referendum if that’s what [your] conference votes?
TW: We decide our manifesto in the first few days of a general election and there are a lot of things you need to factor in... It seems to me inconceivable that if the Labour party democratically decides, Labour party conference decides it wants a manifesto pledge on a People's Vote that we would defy that decision but... I think we need to have the debate at the conference and see what our delegates decide to do.
When Ridge asked how Watson would vote in this second referendum, he replied 'I voted Remain in the last referendum, I think it is highly likely that I would probably vote Remain in the next one'. Watson was less enthusiastic about the prospect of the conference deciding on mandatory reselection for Labour MPs, saying 'it does make me feel uncomfortable' and referred it as potentially 'very destabilising for the party'. He also declared support for a female leader of the party, telling Ridge 'it seems to me that the time is right for Labour to choose a woman to lead us after Jeremy'.
Lisa Nandy - Labour leader should 'job share'
And finally, Lisa Nandy has had a more creative solution to Labour's lack of a female leader over the years. Responding to a ruling from Labour's National Executive Committee that the party should create a new deputy leadership post for women only, Nandy recommended going one step further:
LN: I really welcome this announcement from the NEC today, I think it's absolutely essential actually that we have got a woman somewhere near the top of the party. But I don't think that should stop at Deputy Leader. I think we should be looking at this sort of system for leader as well... I would like to see these positions open to job-sharing, a bit like the Green Party...
SR: Could you do it for Prime Minister?
LN: I think you absolutely could. Women do tend to lead in that way, collective leadership and bring people with them. Actually, when you look at the mess the country’s in at the moment, that’s exactly the sort of thing we need.