Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: PM should resign if he broke Ministerial Code

Sunday shows round-up: PM should resign if he broke Ministerial Code
Douglas Ross said the PM should resign if he broke the Ministerial Code. (Photo from BBC)
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Douglas Ross – PM should resign if he broke the Ministerial Code

Andrew Marr’s first guest of the day was Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives. With potentially crucial elections being held all across the UK next week – including to Holyrood – the row about the Prime Minister’s arrangements to pay for the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat continues to rumble on. Marr asked Ross if he thought Boris Johnson should consider his position if the Electoral Commission finds him to have broken the Ministerial Code over the issue:

DR: Of course. I think people expect the highest standards of those in the highest office of the land. And that’s why I think people are looking at the investigations that are currently ongoing and waiting for the answers.

Dominic Raab – I trust the Electoral Commission to judge PM’s conduct ‘the right way’

Marr put the same point to Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary. Raab was rather less frank in his response:

DR: The one thing I’m not going to do is speculate about what the outcome of various different reviews are… I think the right thing for me to do is to respect the integrity of those reviews…

AM: … Do you have complete faith in the Electoral Commission?

DR: … I trust it to look at these things the right way.

Geidt review into PM ‘will be fully transparent’

Sophy Ridge also interviewed Raab, who refused to be drawn on reports of a second potential donation to the cost of the Downing Street flat, or that the Prime Minister had asked party donors for help with his childcare costs. Focusing instead on the review by Lord Geidt, the new independent adviser on ministerial standards, Ridge asked if such a review could genuinely have sharp enough teeth to make any difference:

SR: When it comes to this investigation, the Prime Minister is effectively judge, jury and executioner for his own trial?

DR: No, because… he’s going to be fully transparent about it, he’s going to be accountable to Parliament… and then ultimately the ballot box. That’s the way it works.

There will be ‘some safeguards in place’ after 21st June

On Covid-19 and the gradual winding down of the lockdown restrictions, Raab confirmed that the government was looking at keeping some measures in force even after the initially planned final deadline of 21st June:

DR: There will still need to be some safeguards in place… We will look at things in the round… Particularly I think it will be around distancing, maybe there will be something around masks, but I don’t really want to prejudge.

UK will do ‘whatever we can’ to help India

India has been experiencing the ravages of Covid-19 especially severely over the last month, with Boris Johnson notably cancelling his planned visit as Indian officials confronted one of the latest strains of the virus. Raab said that he was in regular contact with India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, and that the UK was listening to and acting upon India’s calls for aid:

DR: We’ve said that we’ll do whatever we can… We’ve given them oxygen concentrators… We’re going to be sending out another package of 1,000 ventilators very shortly… We’ve also looked at these oxygen generators… We are doing everything that our Indian friends need in their hour of need.

‘Very difficult’ to argue that Zaghari-Ratliffe is not a ‘hostage’

Marr asked Raab about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian dual national who has been sentenced to another year of captivity in Iran. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has deemed the decision to be ‘clearly a negotiating tactic’ by the Iranian authorities. Marr asked Raab if Nazanin was indeed a hostage:

DR: I think it’s very difficult to argue against that characterisation… Nazanin is held unlawfully in my view… I think she’s being treated in the most abusive, torturous way… There is a very clear, unequivocal obligation on the Iranians to release her, and all of those who are being held as leverage, immediately and without condition.

Lisa Nandy – ‘We don’t know who the PM is beholden to’

Ridge also spoke to the Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, who wasted no time in attacking the Prime Minister over the Downing Street flat refurbishment. She argued that Johnson’s conduct was important because, as put more succinctly by her colleague Margaret Hodge, there was ‘no such thing as a free lunch’:

LN: [The PM] seems to believe that we don't deserve to know the truth about what goes on in government. This really matters, because at the moment, we don't know who the Prime Minister is beholden to. We don’t know if he’s promised them anything in return… This is about integrity… It is just simply not good enough.

UK should not pause vaccine rollout for India’s benefit

Marr asked Nandy if Labour thought it would be the right thing to ease up on the progress that the UK was making in its efforts to vaccinate its own population, and export some of the doses to India. Nandy did not agree with the proposal, as advanced by Professor Peter Openshaw of Imperial College London:

LN: I don’t think that we should pause the vaccination programme here… [Openshaw is] right though to say that the UK has ordered more vaccinations than we need, and there will be surplus doses that we can make available to India in due course.

Local elections ‘will be very difficult’

Nandy also offered some highly pessimistic expectation management for her party ahead of the elections this week:

LN: It doesn’t feel like 2019, which was the worst election I can ever remember fighting in my lifetime. I think people have understood that Labour is under new management… Whether that translates into good results at these local elections I’m not sure… I think they’re likely to still be very difficult for us.

Adam Price – Wales needs to be ‘put on a different economic trajectory’

It has been speculated that if the electoral arithmetic is favourable to them, Plaid Cymru may try to extract a referendum on Welsh independence as part of their condition for supporting another Labour administration in the Senedd. Marr challenged Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru, over what Wales’ economic situation would be like after independence:

AP: The Welsh economy has not been able to realise its potential… If the economy is underperforming, you don’t get the tax revenue… What independence requires… is to put [Wales] on a different economic trajectory.

Peter Openshaw – ‘There is an argument’ for vaccinating children

And finally, Marr asked Professor Peter Openshaw, who advises the government’s Nervtag committee, if he thought it would be a good idea to vaccinate children against the coronavirus. Raab had said that this was not something the government had made a decision on at the moment:

PO: I think with some of the more transmissible variants, it does seem that children may be playing a bit more of a role in spreading the virus, and they made do so innocently, without knowing they are infected. So there is an argument for spreading vaccines into younger ages groups.