Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Parliament better without Bercow, says minister

Sunday shows round-up: Parliament better without Bercow, says minister
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Dawn Butler: ‘I’m the most experienced candidate’…

Sophy Ridge started her show by speaking to Dawn Butler, one of Labour’s five deputy leadership contenders. Butler, who was first elected in 2005, argued her case for being chosen:

"I am the most experienced candidate."@DawnButlerBrent MP explains her strategy to become deputy Labour leader, claiming that she is the "unity candidate".#Ridge

DB: I am the most experienced candidate. I’ve served under two Labour Prime Ministers and in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, and I am the unity candidate. I’ve got the temperament to work with everybody, and I’ve worked with everybody – all the MPs in Parliament.

…Jeremy Corbyn won’t be an issue next time…

Butler echoed many of her fellow candidates when asked about why Labour lost the general election last December, telling Ridge that the manifesto had overwhelmed the electorate with a surplus of complicated policies. Butler deliberately sought to avoid blaming Jeremy Corbyn for the defeat, but hinted that he had been viewed negatively by voters:

DB: We didn’t have a proper strategy in place, and the messaging of delivering our manifesto was too complex... and there was just too much of it... This isn’t about blame... Jeremy Corbyn is now stepping down... so he will no longer be brought up on the doorsteps.

…black people ‘are invisible’ as human beings…

Butler highlighted recent instances of being mistaken for her fellow MPs Marsha de Cordova and Bell Ribeiro-Addy by media organisations. She argued that newsrooms needed to ensure more journalistic rigour going forward:

DB: I’ve been in politics for a number of years now... and the fact that people are still getting me confused with other MPs is actually a disgrace, and it’s about... making an effort... We are hyper visible [as] black people, but then as human beings we are invisible, and that needs to change.

…and the government may be bullying John Bercow

Retired – though never retiring – Speaker John Bercow is facing allegations that he bullied his Commons staff during his ten years in the chair. The claims have come from former Black Rod David Leakey, among others. Bercow, who is also under fire for naming his staff against their wishes in his new autobiography, denies all claims. Butler defended his automatic right to a peerage, which the government has refused to grant:

DB: I suspect [the reasons] are to do with Brexit rather than anything else... We really do need to ask the Conservatives why is it that [they] haven’t... ensured that the Speaker of the House is given a peerage - otherwise I think that’s a form of bullying too.

Robert Jenrick: Parliament is better without Bercow…

Ridge went on to interview the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. Jenrick responded to Butler’s remarks about John Bercow’s non-existent peerage. Jenrick argued that Bercow had not been the greatest fan of convention during his Speakership and that the government was under no obligation to nominate him for a place in the upper House:

RJ: Personally I wouldn’t offer John Bercow a peerage. I think you’ve seen some very serious allegations of bullying and harassment from senior credible people... These are important things that need to be investigated before any decision like that is taken, and in my own experience, Parliament is a better place without John Bercow.

…‘we will do everything we can’ to limit coronavirus…

The outbreak of coronavirus in China has now seen a death toll of over 800, making it more deadly than the SARS epidemic from 2002-03. There are 3 confirmed cases in the UK, with 5 Britons in France having recently tested positive. Jenrick stressed that the government was doing all it could to halt the spread of the virus:

RJ: This is a very serious situation, but we have a plan and we are working very closely with partners all around the world. The NHS is doing a fantastic job... Nobody we believe has contracted it in the UK yet... We will do everything we can to keep the public safe.

…and ‘you need to wait for the Budget’

Ridge questioned Jenrick on a scoop by the Sunday Telegraph which claims that Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid have discussed ideas such as a ‘mansion tax’ (once touted by Ed Miliband) and cuts to tax relief on pensions, in order to free up funds for a significant public spending increase. Jenrick, himself a former Treasury minister, did not deny the rumours, but confirmed that borrowing would increase:

RJ: I don’t think it’s helpful for me to comment on that... You need to wait for the Budget on 11 March... What we’re going to be doing with infrastructure investment is taking advantage of historically very low levels of interest rates and using that to invest in the long term future of the country.

Jeremy Hunt: ‘Four babies die every single week’…

The former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has recently been elected chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, told Ridge that he would be investigating how to learn from serious mistakes in healthcare provision and ensure that they do not happen again in the future:

JH: We have about four babies dying every single week across the NHS... What we’ve never properly cracked is how we learn from those mistakes... Incredibly ethical doctors and nurses... find the system makes it absolutely impossible for them to do that.

…war in Syria is ‘a forgotten tragedy’…

Hunt also expressed his concern about the Syrian government’s advances in Idlib, a province which borders Turkey. He regretted the West’s approach to tackling the civil war, with Bashar al-Assad’s tyrannical regime now essentially accepted as staying in place, and said that it was essential that the UK maintained a presence in the Middle East:

JH: This is the forgotten tragedy at the moment... The reason is because Western foreign policy has been inconsistent... Whilst we have that inconsistency, then I’m afraid the potential for these tragedies to go on and on increases... If we blow hot and cold on these things, then that gives [Iran and others] the opportunity to run rings around us.

…and US not treating UK like an ally over Sacoolas

Hunt gave his reaction to the Harry Dunn case and the flight of Anne Sacoolas, the diplomat’s wife who it has since been discovered has a background working for the CIA. The former Foreign Secretary said that he thought the United States’ conduct over the affair left a lot to be desired:

JH: I think it is totally unacceptable that [Sacoolas] is not facing justice in the UK... I think we just need to ask what would have happened if the boot had been on the other foot... I don’t think President Trump would stand for that for one second... We need to treat each other like allies, and that is not happening.

Andy Burnham: Labour isn’t embracing English devolution

The Mayor of Greater Manchester has called for the candidates in Labour’s leadership race to fully embrace the devolution of power across England and to recognise regional mayors as an active component of the party’s machinery. He gave his thoughts from Leigh, his former ‘red wall’ constituency which has since made a historic shift to the Conservatives:

AB: Myself and Steve Rotheram between us represent 5 million people... We’re Labour in office in that red wall... but we don’t get invited to speak at Labour conference, we have no nomination rights in this leadership election, we had no role in the recent general election... Labour needs to rebuild from here, from the bottom up.

Robert Buckland: We need to change early release law this month…

Andrew Marr interviewed the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland. Last Sunday, a knife attack was carried out on Streatham High Road by Sudesh Amman, who had been released early from prison having been previously been convicted for terror-related offences. Buckland told Marr that there were 50 criminals who were potentially in a similar position to Amman, and that he was hoping to use emergency legislation to prevent their early release from prison next month:

RB: We need the change in the law to happen this month. I want to make sure that we can get the bill... through both Houses, so that we can get it onto the statute book. It’s emergency legislation for that reason.

…‘chaos’ is a very strong word for state of prisons…

Marr confronted Buckland with a report from Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, which showed that levels of self-harm and suicides inside prison were ‘disturbingly high’. Buckland tried to deflect from a picture of ‘chaos’ in UK prisons:

RB: I think ‘chaos’ is, with respect, very strong...

AM: It is strong, but is it not accurate?

RB: No, I think that actually it denigrates from the huge work that is going on... in the system... We’re investing £100 million in airport style security mechanisms... We’re also investing over £2 billion in the new prison building system.

…and we have ‘a duty’ to deport foreign national offenders

Marr brought up an upcoming flight to Jamaica which will serve to deport some people who have lived in the UK for decades. Marr asked if it was right to be treating such people as foreign national offenders when they had so few tangible connections to the Caribbean:

AM: They came here as children, many of these people, and they thought they were British, and we are now treating them as Jamaican.

RB: We have always said that there is a distinction to be drawn between people who... have been part of our community... and people who commit offences... We have not just a choice, but a duty to make sure that we have a prisons system that has the capacity to deal with offenders here.

Rosena Allin-Khan: I would work with Tories on social care…

Another candidate for Labour’s deputy leadership, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, said that in contrast to some of her colleagues she was prepared to roll up her sleeves and work with the Conservatives when it came to tackling the UK’s long terms issues with social care:

RAK: At the end of the day, we need to do what’s right for our communities, we need to do what’s right for our NHS. Personally, I don’t trust the Tories with it, but if working together means that we effect the change that needs to be delivered, then of course I would.

… and Richard Burgon’s ‘peace plan’ is wrong

Allin-Khan also poured cold water on the proposal of her opponent Richard Burgon, who has recently suggested that any parliamentary vote on the UK taking military action should need to be confirmed by a ballot of Labour party members:

RAK: There are people whose lives depends on split second decisions, taken as a result of access to [intelligence] that is not suitable for pubic dissemination. It is not appropriate for people to have to wait for there to be a members’ ballot.

Liu Xiaoming: Boris Johnson should stick with Huawei decision

And finally, China’s ambassador to the UK has defended the Chinese tech giant Huawei’s planned role in the UK’s 5G infrastructure. Liu said that Huawei had been subject to a ‘witch hunt’, and argued that Huawei was independent from Chinese state control:

LX: China has run a market orientated economy. One third of the Chinese economy is private owned... Huawei is an independent company and they are the leader in this area... I do hope that the Prime Minister will stay with his decision.