David Davis – Leadership contest would be ‘catastrophic’ for Brexit negotiations
After a tough few weeks for Theresa May, and amid speculation that Conservatives are rallying to replace her, Brexit Secretary David Davis spoke to Andrew Marr about what a leadership challenge would mean for the UK’s negotiations with the EU. Davis made it clear that he did not want to see a leadership challenge occur in the near future, though he didn’t entirely rule out a leadership bid of his own should the circumstances arise:
Marr: Would it be catastrophic for our Brexit negotiations for the Tory party now to have a leadership contest?
Davis: Yes… Let me be absolutely plain about this. Number one – I happen to think we’ve got a very good Prime Minister. I know she’s coming under a lot of pressure at the moment, but I’ve seen her in action – and I’ve seen a number of Prime Ministers in action over the years, I go right back to Margaret Thatcher – and I think she’s very good, she makes good decisions, she’s bold, she takes her time. There’s no essay crisis about this government. It’s very very very clear that she’s a good Prime Minister. That’s point number one. Point number two is, I want a stable backdrop to this Brexit negotiation. It’s hard work by the way.
Marr: So what’s your message to those Tories who are already ruffling around in the rhododendrons muttering about leadership challenges and groups and who’s going to take on who?
Davis: Don’t be so self indulgent is my message to those. In terms, stop being so self indulgent and get on with the day job… People put us here to deliver, amongst other things, a decent economy, to deliver decent lives for them, and of course to deliver Brexit… The more self indulgent nonsense you go in for, the more difficult you make it to do our proper job.
Marr: The self indulgence is coming from David Davis supporters too. you were at a meeting where… one of the MPs there said ‘You should be our next Prime Minister’ and there was either a ‘swell’ of applause or a ‘scattering’ of applause depending on who you read.
Davis: And I said afterwards, our job is to support the Prime Minister and make Brexit work. Not anything else.
Marr: That’s admirably clear. So you can say like Boris Johnson, you’re not going to stand against her until Brexit is done, and probably not ever?
Davis: I’m not going to get into it, I’m really not going… It’s self indulgent. Frankly the fact that we’ve spent two minutes on it…
Marr: It’s only two minutes…
Davis: It’s still two minutes too long.
Elsewhere in the interview, Davis commented that he was ‘pretty sure’ that Britain would walk away with a free trade deal at the end of negotiations with the EU, maintaining that the UK had to be prepared to walk away. He also admitted that he had been one of those who advised May to call the snap election, adding that he took his share of the blame for the result.
Debbie Abrahams – Labour would scrap welfare cap despite not having costed it
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams has stated that Labour would scrap the benefit cap limiting certain state benefits to a maximum of £20,000 (or £23,000 within London). Abrahams admitted to Andrew Marr that she did not know precisely how much it would cost to do so, but stated that it would not be ‘an astronomical sum’:
Marr: This week, we had a High Court ruling that it was unlawful and discriminatory to have a welfare cap on single parents, single families with children under the age of two. The Conservatives are going to appeal against that ruling. Labour’s position presumably is you just get rid of that cap.
Abrahams: Absolutely… We already know we have 4 million children living in poverty. This is adding to it. Our position is that it needs to change.
Marr: Can I ask you about the overall household cap? At the moment there is an absolute limit to the amount of money that you can get from welfare per household – £20,000 outside London, £23,000 inside London. Would you remove that cap?
Abrahams: We recognise that for some people listening to this that might seem like an awful lot of money, but the reality is what I just said. The implications for people in the poorest circumstances, the implications around child poverty which affects children not just while they’re young but for the rest their lives – it affects how their brains develop and everything…
Marr: So the answer is yes, that cap would go?
Abrahams: We would be looking to see how we would do that.
Marr: Right. So how much would that cost to remove that cap do you know
Abrahams: We haven’t costed it yet, but we know that, for example, the court ruling is about £50 million so it’s not an astronomical figure. And we need to make sure that when we’re talking about austerity Andrew, this is about making it fair. It’s not right that 4 million children, three quarters of whom are living in working families are subject to poverty.
Gerard Coyne – Labour should beware of ‘purges’
Another leadership battle that has featured highly on the political radar this year is that for the post of General Secretary of Unite, Britain’s largest trade union. Incumbent Len McCluskey secured re-election back in April after a bitter contest with the West Midlands regional secretary Gerard Coyne. Coyne was suspended on the day of the election, allegedly for ‘bringing the union into disrepute’, and he was sacked from his regional post on Tuesday. Speaking to Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics, Coyne warned other figures on the left may find themselves in a similar position:
Neil: Len McCluskey has been re-elected leader. Jeremy Corbyn… now rules the Labour party unchallenged. Andrew Murray, who you say mounted the ‘show trial’ against you was a key part of Mr Corbyn’s election campaign. I mean, it does look like you’ve lost on all fronts.
Coyne: The reality is that Jeremy did exceptionally well in the election. He reached out to new voters, he got the young people involved. And it’s not about left or right issues in terms of the party, it’s about where the party now goes. my fear is that the way that I’ve been treated will actually start to give an influence in the labour movement more generally and in the Labour party that starts to look as though purges are acceptable. The truth is, if Labour does that, the electorate will never forgive them for an internal battle rather than being the effective opposition that they need to be.
Neil: So, are you saying, just to be clear, that what you believe happened to you, could happen to other people now in the Labour party itself?
Coyne: I think there’s a real danger of that. The reality is that the people who were involved at the very top of Unite, who were involved within the disciplinary process with myself, they are significant and influential figures in Labour, and part of my campaign was about the fact that Unite is too intrinsically linked at the top of the Labour party, and actually what we need to be focusing on is a much stronger industrial agenda for the future.
— DailySunday Politics (@daily_politics) June 25, 2017
Stella Creasy – Northern Irish women should be able to seek abortions in England and Wales
Prominent Labour backbencher Stella Creasy spoke to Sophy Ridge about an amendment she is proposing to the Queen’s Speech concerning the thorny issue of abortion in Northern Ireland. Her bill would allow pregnant women in Northern Ireland to receive an abortion if they make the journey to England and Wales to do so. This proposal comes at a time when the Conservatives are still trying to court the Democratic Unionist Party for their support in Parliament. Creasy explained the reasoning behind her motion to Ridge:
Creasy: This month, our Secretary of State [for Health] Jeremy Hunt, went to the High Court to defend his right to refuse to let Northern Irish women have an abortion if they come to England and Wales for that procedure. So let me be very clear, this amendment is not about the rights and wrongs of the Northern Irish Assembly in deciding that they do not want women in Northern Ireland to be able to access abortion in Northern Ireland. This is about what happens when UK taxpayers come to England and Wales. It seems to me completely unacceptable that a woman can come from Northern Ireland to England and maybe need an emergency appendix operation and we’ll do that for free, but if she comes for an abortion the doors are closed and we treat her as a second class citizen. And what the court said is ‘Absolutely, we are discriminating against United Kingdom citizens’. Now the government said they’re doing this out of respect for the Northern Irish Assembly, but what about respect for UK taxpayers? What about respect for Northern Irish citizens when they’re in England and Wales? Why do we treat them differently in this way?
Ridge: Now, you’ve been trying to say that this is what happens when people travel over to England, to Wales, to Scotland, not about what happens in Northern Ireland. Of course, the reason they’re travelling over is because of the abortion laws in Northern Ireland. And it just seems interesting that nothing’s been done by Labour before on this. In 2008, Harriet Harman actually blocked moves in Parliament to liberalise abortion laws in Northern Ireland. So why are you talking about this now?
Creasy: But what’s so critical is that we’ve had this judgment on the 14th June that says that our Secretary of State has the power to let these women have an abortion in England and Wales if they wish to do that. The courts are very clear that the Secretary of State has a right to do this. So this is about that judgment that has been made this month and about what happens as a result of it. I think there’s also a question for all of us. Look, the DUP has form for intervening a kind of reverse devolution. We know, and we understand from Scotland that DUP politicians were trying to stop Northern Irish people who were part of a civil partnership having their marriage recognised in Scotland. Again, this is not about what happens in Northern Ireland, this is about what happens on our shores. And frankly, if the government is going to try and keep Nigel Dodds and Theresa May in the same voting lobby, what does this mean for the kind of policies that we might not see progress on?
— SophyRidge On Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) June 25, 2017
Lord Patten – Cameron and May have left UK in ‘a hell of a mess’
Finally, the former governor of Hong Kong and Tory grandee Chris Patten told Robert Peston in no uncertain terms what he thinks about the current state of the country after the muddled Tory general election campaign and the outcome of the Brexit referendum:
Peston: We’ve had the most extraordinary few months in Britain. A general election where the outcome was certainly not what the establishment as it were thought would be the outcome. Even the Labour party an hour before the election though that they’d lost rather worse than it turned out that they had lost. The appalling Grenfell disaster. Four terrorist atrocities. In your conscious lifetime, can you remember, any period as chaotic, in some ways as tragic as the period we’ve living through?
Patten: Well, the 1970s weren’t great because we wondered whether Britain was still governable, partly because of the abuse of trade union power, which the Wilson government, the Callaghan and then a Conservative government tried to deal with. But I think in some ways this is worse and I think it’s the worst time since Suez, though maybe even worse than that because Suez was the end of an era, the end of our colonial aspirations. We had the knees cut from under us, the legs cut from under us by the Americans. The European Union was our replacement for that colonial role. And thanks to the calamitous errors of two Conservative Prime Ministers in a row, who thought that they could manage the unmanageable English nationalist right wing of the Conservative party were in this hell of a mess and it exposes all sorts of other things…
Peston: Now Theresa May is not really a people person. One of the striking things about the election is how uncomfortable she always seemed to be, either in media interviews, but strikingly when out talking to people on the streets. Do you understand why somebody becomes a politician, how they get to the top of a party when they…
Patten: It’s like becoming a doctor and not liking the sight of blood. It’s very odd that people go into politics and unlike somebody like Bill Clinton don’t actually like people very much. I don’t think it’s very seemly to dance on Theresa May’s grave… I don’t think she’s what the stock market would call a strong hold. But why is that the case? It’s the case because if she goes, there’s chaos. There’s chaos in the Conservative party and there’s probably chaos in Parliament. And what we’ve done thanks to a completely lamentable general election campaign is to make Jeremy Corbyn into a political giant.’
Patten also gave Peston his two cents on the DUP, describing them as a ‘toxic brand’ and opined that the Conservative party ‘has got itself back into a situation where it looks like the nasty party’ by trying to enter into an agreement with them.