The Conservative leadership race continues in full force, with four contenders paying a visit to the TV studios today. Michael Gove has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after admitting to taking cocaine 'on several occasions' while he was a journalist for the Times. He expressed his remorse to Andrew Marr:
"It was a crime, it was a mistake"
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) June 9, 2019
“MG: It was a crime, it was a mistake. I deeply regret it... I was fortunate in that I didn't [go to prison]... I've seen the damage that drugs do. I've seen it close up, and I've seen it in the work I do as a politician... The mistake I made is not a mistake I would want anyone else to make.
I have never 'failed to tell the truth' about taking drugs
Gove's admission has raised a few questions, including about the occasions on which he has visited the United States, where having taken Class A drugs can result in a lifetime ban. Gove, who notably interviewed President Trump in New York shortly after he assumed office in 2017, insisted that he had always been honest about the matter when 'asked directly':
“I don’t believe that I’ve, on any occasion, failed to tell the truth about this when asked directly”
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) June 9, 2019
“AM: When you became a minister, did you tell the government you had taken Class A drugs..?
MG: I don't ever remember being asked in any way about it.
AM: Including on the ESTA form for travel to the United States?
MG: I don’t believe that I’ve, on any occasion, failed to tell the truth about this when asked directly.
Brexit delay would be 'weeks or days'
On Brexit, Gove, who has suggested that he could be flexible about the UK's deadline for leaving on 31st October, clarified that he would only be prepared to move the goalposts by a matter of weeks if it meant reaching a more suitable deal:
Michael Gove on how long he would delay #Brexit
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) June 9, 2019
“AM: Could, under Michael Gove, we still be in the EU next year?
MG: No... we want to make sure that we get out at the earliest possible opportunity... [That means] weeks or days after October 31st if we're on the cusp of a deal... Whoever is leading the Conservative party in a general election before we deliver Brexit would lose... You have got to be able to deliver it.
Parliament 'must vote' on EU exit
Gove dismissed the idea that Parliament should be 'prorogued' in order to secure a no deal exit without a vote, telling Marr that this was counter to what he stood for:
“MG: Parliament must vote in order to ensure we leave the EU... Proroguing Parliament in order to try to get no deal through, I think... would not be true to the best traditions of British democracy. I argued that we should leave the EU because I wanted us to take back control of our democracy... It is important that we respect that.
Esther McVey - I would 'use every tool at my disposal'
Marr spoke to another hopeful, Esther McVey about whether she would be prepared to suspend Parliament in order to get a no deal Brexit through. McVey was much more willing to entertain the idea:
“AM: As Prime Minister, you would be prepared to go to the Queen and say 'I don't want Parliament to sit'..?
EM: ...I would use every tool at my disposal, so that would include that. I'm saying it wouldn't be my priority and I wouldn't be looking to do that, but people frustrating the vote [have] ripped up 400 years of the rules.
'We don't need the Brexit party' after Brexit
However, McVey did not appear to countenance working with Nigel Farage or the fledging Brexit party, arguing instead that delivering a no deal Brexit would make them electorally redundant:
“AM: Your policy is exactly the same as the Brexit party's. Would you work with... Nigel Farage?
EM: We don't need a Brexit party once we've delivered Brexit. The whole reason this campaign came about is because we never got out of the EU on the 29th of March... What I will do is [not negotiate] because we need to be out on 31st October.
'You can't have people resigning'
McVey also justified her pledge not to include any Remainers in her initial cabinet:
EM: There's a limited time until 31st October, and we've got to make sure that the cabinet believes in leaving on the 31st October. If they voted Remain, but now believe in leaving [they can stay]... You can't have people resigning. You've now got to work together... and then once we've got out, anybody can be in the cabinet.
Sajid Javid - 'Lives are destroyed' by middle class drug use
The Home Secretary was Sophy Ridge's first guest of the day. With drug policy a critical part of Javid's remit, the conversation quickly turned to Michael Gove's past misdemeanours. Javid urged all recreational drug users to consider the knock-on effects of the illegal trade:
“SJ: It's not for me to pass judgement on fellow candidates... But when it comes to drugs... anyone who takes drugs needs to think about how they are not just hurting themselves, but how that are destroying so many countless lives on the way... They should be thinking about the impact they're having, especially on children.
'I want to level the playing field'
When asked about his priorities as leader, Javid recounted his past experience of poor careers guidance and inadequate A-Level provision when he was a teenager, and highlighted how this had shaped his philosophy:
“SJ: What I want to see for this country is for people that have similar challenges to those I've had, I want to level the playing field. I want them to have much more equality of opportunity. I want them to know that if they have a go, they can succeed.
I will slow down debt repayment to boost education
Javid continued by saying that his education had been of utmost importance to his achieving high political office, and outlined how he would find the money to pay for greater provision:
“SJ: I would slow down the rate of government debt reduction as a proportion of GDP. Debt would still be coming down - I think it's important that we head in the right direction - but by slowing that down, it could free between £15-25 billion a year of spending... There's enough there to reinvest.
Jeremy Hunt - We need a Brexit deal to avoid an election
Ridge moved on to the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who made clear that he was determined to renegotiate the current withdrawal deal with the EU. Burnishing his own credentials, he argued that without a deal, Jeremy Corbyn was destined for No. 10 - at least if the result of the Peterborough by-election was anything to go by:
“JH: My argument is as someone who has been a negotiator all their life... I've negotiated big deals in government... I have that experience. If we can get a deal, that is the only way we will avoid a general election... If [not] we will see what happened in Peterborough happening on a national scale, which is the [right-wing] vote split and Labour coming though the middle.
If it is 'the only way', I would leave with no deal
However, Hunt told Ridge that if the only way to leave the EU meant leaving without a deal, then he would feel honour-bound to pursue that course of action:
“JH: If the only way to leave the EU was without a deal, then I would do that because we have to honour that referendum result. But I would do so with a heavy heart, because of the potential risks to business and the Union, and I wouldn't do it if there was a prospect of a good deal.
We 'can learn' from President Trump
When asked what he thought of President Trump, who enjoyed a three day state visit to the UK last week, Hunt said that whatever the protestors may think, Trump had his positive points:
“SR: Is he a good President?
JH: He is a strong President. There are things I fundamentally disagree with him about - climate change would be one, the Iran nuclear deal would be another... [But] he's an effective communicator... he takes a lot of time to talk to the American people, and in modern politics I think we have to learn from that.
My government wouldn't hold vote on abortion
Hunt also said that he would like to see the legal termination limit for abortion reduced from 24 weeks to 12 weeks, but added that he would not bring the vote before the House of Commons:
“JH: What I can guarantee is that this will be a matter for the House of Commons... It won't be a government policy to change the law in that respect... If backbenchers choose to have a vote, we'd have a free vote and everyone would vote with their conscience.
James Cleverly - I'm supporting Boris
The Brexit minister James Cleverly pulled out of the crowded Tory leadership race last week, and has now endorsed Boris Johnson for Prime Minister. He told Ridge why:
“JC: I'm going to support Boris Johnson... I've worked with him in London, I've stood shoulder to shoulder with him on two election campaigns... I've seen him reach out to audiences and voters that the Conservative party would not normally expect to be on side. And I know he can run a successful executive operation because I was part of the tam that did that when we were in London.
Jonathan Ashworth - We have 100,000 vacancies across the NHS
Labour's shadow Health Secretary made an appearance in a schedule dominated by Conservative, and warned about increasing NHS staffing and the consequences for waiting times:
“JA: We're finding that people are waiting longer - nearly 260,000 people [are] waiting beyond 18 weeks for treatment... It is because we've had years now of the NHS being underfunded quite desperately... but also because we have 100,000 vacancies across the NHS. We're short of 40,000 nurses in the NHS... That ultimately means standards of care falling backwards.
Sian Berry - Lib Dems 'can't hide from their history'
And finally, Sian Berry, the co-leader of the Green party, which is holding its conference in Scarborough this week, told Ridge why there was no chance of her party teaming up with the Liberal Democrats in order to maximise their vote in the Peterborough by-election:
SB: Certainly we're working with them on the People's Vote campaign... But they can't hide from their history and their record... Austerity was an enormous mistake that's caused huge amounts of harm right across the country... And they are not going back on that policy now.