Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: John Major - UK may need ‘a national government’

Sunday shows round-up: John Major - UK may need 'a national government'
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Emily Thornberry - May is 'out of control'

It is now two days since the UK was originally supposed to leave the EU, but with the government's withdrawal agreement being defeated in parliament for a third time, events look more uncertain than ever before. Sophy Ridge was joined by the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who wasted little time in blasting the Prime Minister's approach to Brexit:


ET: She's been taking the mickey... Even with just days to go she's still saying 'It's my deal or no deal', and that is not meaningful. That is not democracy. That is Theresa May stamping her feet and saying 'I want this! No one else is allowed to do anything else'. No wonder she's in trouble. She's out of control. She's not listening... It is a mess.

'We cannot trust the Conservatives'

Theresa May had pledged to resign as a condition of her withdrawal agreement successfully making it through the Commons. Thornberry went on to tell Ridge that this was one of the reasons why Labour could not back the withdrawal agreement as it stood:


ET: It's because it's so uncertain. It's essentially saying 'Let's leave, and then whoever is going to be leader of the Tory party next... [see] what it is that they will negotiate', and we cannot trust them... And business needs to be sure about where it is that we are going, and what it is that we are doing next... We should be in the customs union, no ifs, no buts.

Stop and search 'is protecting all of us'

In what is perhaps a surprise coming from a Labour frontbencher, Thornberry expressed a level of support for the controversial 'stop and search' powers used by the police to tackle knife crime:


ET: We need to everything that we can in order to protect our youngsters... I write letters and go round to grieving mothers and it's the worst part of my job... The police I think do need to have the power to essentially stop everybody, and so long as it is done in a way which is respectful... then it's protecting all of us.

James Cleverly - 'We're not seeking an election'

Ridge also spoke to the Conservative's deputy chairman James Cleverly about rumours that the Conservatives were gearing up for a general election as a possible route out of the current Brexit deadlock. Cleverly said that the government was trying very hard to avoid this scenario, but acknowledged that an election could be forced upon them:


JC: We have got a minority government in a turbulent time... We are not seeking [or] preparing... for a general election. What the government, what the party, what MPs are focused on for the most part - should be focused on - is delivering Brexit... We've got a job to do. We really should be doing it.

SR: ...But if there is a snap election... Theresa May could lead you into that election?

JC: That is the inevitable possibility.

Tom Watson - Labour 'on election footing'

In sharp contrast to Cleverly, Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson told Andrew Marr that his party was eyeing up a general election and putting all the necessary preparations in place:


TW: I've spoken to Jeremy Corbyn last night. He's putting us on an election footing. I'm going to be talking to our NEC members later today because obviously we need to reselect our sitting MPs ready for a general election.

Second referendum 'can bring country back together'

Watson also made clear that he was still fully behind a second Brexit referendum. This may be a source of contention within the Labour party over the coming weeks, as Labour figures have previous been less inclined towards holding a referendum if they should take over the negotiations:


AM: Are you in favour of another referendum in all circumstances? In other words, for a Labour version, for a customs union, Prime Minister's [deal], whatever...?

TW: I think that's the only way we can bring the country back together, and both Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer have said that this week... We need to move beyond Brexit and it seems to me that the only way we can do that is with a people's vote. A people's vote is the solution, not an option.

Watson even went on to say that it was 'inconceivable' that a commitment to a second referendum would not appear in Labour's manifesto if a snap general election were to occur:


Sir John Major - New Tory leader 'doesn't change arithmetic'

Marr also spoke to the former Prime Minister Sir John Major, who himself had severe difficulties over Europe during his time in office. Major warned that simply replacing the Prime Minister would not make an overwhelming difference to the current obstacles that Brexit faces:


AM: Do you think changing the leader of the Conservative party at the moment solves anything?

JM: I don't think it solves very much. Of course, a new leader may - depending on who it is - have less baggage than a Prime Minister who's had to fight for everything from the moment she went into Downing Street, but... it doesn't change the arithmetic. It doesn't change the instincts and the convictions of those both in the Remain and the Leave camps.

UK may need 'a national government'

Sir John went on to say that he believed that a government with a working majority was of the utmost importance for dealing with the issues the UK was now facing, even if it required somewhat extraordinary means to do so:


JM: If we have a general election in the autumn... and we don't get a government with a clear majority, then I think it would be in the national interest to have a cross party government so that we can take decisions without the chaos that we've seeing in parliament at the moment, where every possible alternative is rejected.

Gisela Stuart - The rules 'should have been much clearer'

And finally, the former Vote Leave Chair Gisela Stuart has argued that her organisation was not entirely to blame for its overspend during the referendum campaign. Her response comes as Vote Leave dropped its appeal against a fine it received for channelling £675,000 through the youth campaign group BeLeave:


GS: We were rule compliant according to the legal advice we were given at that time, and if money was the question, Remain spent far more money on the campaign than Leave did... The rules should have been much clearer. Our legal advice was always that that was the right thing to do.