Amber Rudd – Boris should not ‘back-seat drive’ over Brexit
The Home Secretary took to Andrew Marr’s sofa in the wake of the Friday’s failed terrorist attack on a London Underground train at Parson’s Green station. However, the topic swiftly turned from security to Boris Johnson’s latest 4,000 word essay published in the Telegraph on Saturday. The Foreign Secretary laid out his vision for Brexit – days before the Prime Minister is due to make a crucial speech in Florence. Rudd defended Boris’ intervention, but made clear that she did not want the Foreign Secretary to be in charge of the UK’s negotiations:
AM: Do you think that this article generally was a helpful intervention or an error of judgement?
AR: I have the great good fortune to work with Boris. I know what an irrepressible enthusiast he is about Brexit and what he’s done is set it out there. I think it’s absolutely fine. I would expect nothing less from Boris.
AM: You said very famously at the time of the referendum that he was the life and soul of the party but not a man you would want to drive you home at the end of the evening. What did you mean by that?
AR: What I meant by that was that I don’t want him managing the Brexit process. What we’ve got is Theresa May managing that process. She is driving the car, to continue the allegory. I am going to make sure, as far as I and the rest of the cabinet is concerned, we help her do that…
AM: This is back seat driving, in effect?
AR: Yes, you could call it back seat driving, absolutely. But I’m very clear that the cabinet and the government supports Theresa May, that this is a difficult moment to get the best result for the United Kingdom, but I’m sure we can.
AM: He has a clear vision for Brexit, which is not to be right be right beside the rest of the EU… but to look out to the rest of the world, to look out to America, to look out to the Commonwealth, to cut taxes, to cut regulations. It is a separate view of where we are going. Is that your view as well?
AR: I don’t think it’s wholly separate to what we are doing. He has also said… that he supports the Prime Minister and she’ll be doing her speech on Friday and he’s behind that… I certainly think as we leave the EU we need to have close international relationships not just with the EU and with Europe but with other countries like America… and other international countries.
Rudd refused to be drawn on Johnson’s revival of the infamous ‘£350 million a week’ claim, but added that the government wanted to ‘bring as many of 48% with us, to unite the 52% and as many of the 48% as we can’. She also rebuked the Donald Trump over a tweet the President had sent in the wake of the incident at Parson’s Green, stating ‘It is never helpful to have speculation about an ongoing operation and I would include the president of the United States in that comment’.
Vince Cable – I could be Prime Minister
With Theresa May on the ropes and Jeremy Corbyn something of a Marmite figure, Sir Vince Cable has suggested an alternative candidate for Prime Minister – himself. As the Liberal Democrats party conference is getting underway, Sir Vince insisted to Andrew Marr that it was ‘perfectly plausible’ that we could see him in 10 Downing Street in the near future:
AM: How would that possibly happen?
VC: I think it’s perfectly plausible.
AM: Take us through it.
VC: As leader of the third UK party, my job is to be the alternative Prime Minister. I think British politics is in a remarkable state of flux when you’ve got the Conservative party now in open civil war, a complete breakdown of discipline; you’ve got the Labour party in a suppressed civil war – they’ve had a good election, Jeremy Corbyn’s currently riding high – but we know under the surface, there is enormous discontent about the extreme left. I and my party are the alternative.
AM: So you seriously think that you can go from a party that’s getting 7% of the votes to a party that wins an overall majority in the next couple of years.
VC: It’s possible –
AM: Very, very unlikely.
VC: – that we could break through. If British party politics starts to break up, if the traditional structures start to break up then it could well happen. We’re extremely well positioned with moderate sensible policies, a good track record of government – we have government experience, good experience at local level. I think you may find that there is a big shift of opinion in our direction, so I’m very confident talking about being an alternative Prime Minister.
Sir Vince called Boris Johnson’s intervention ‘a terrible situation [that] puts Theresa May in an impossible position’ and stated that on Monday morning ‘the Prime Minister should fire this guy, otherwise her own credibility is reduced to zero’. He also reiterated his support about the a second referendum on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, saying: ‘There is a difference between setting out on a journey, which is what that vote was about, and a destination when you know what is going to happen.’
Damian Green – Theresa May ‘is the driver’ of the Brexit process
Marr was not the only one to raise the spectre of the Foreign Secretary. Sky’s Niall Paterson pressed the First Secretary of State Damian Green over Boris’ behaviour, and whether the Prime Minister could have asked him to defer his Telegraph column in the wake of Friday’s attack:
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) September 17, 2017
NP: Ruth Davidson has said that ‘at times like this, your thoughts should only be of service’. Instead, what we get from Boris Johnson, at a time when people are being treated in hospital, when the terror level is at ‘critical’ meaning that an attack is imminent and lives could be lost, he chooses to bang on about Brexit. Is there no one within the Conservative party right now who can tell the Foreign Secretary to shut up?
DG: Nobody wants to avoid any kind of debate about what is one of the most important issues facing Britain for decades to come…
NP: I’m going to take that as a ‘no’ then. There is no one, including the Prime Minister who can tell Boris Johnson ‘Do you know what? On today of all days, might you want to push that article back into next week? Might you want to talk about the fact that yet again we have a terrorist attack on the streets of London?’.
DG: The timing of an individual article is much much less important that the ultimate result – that everyone in government is actually working towards the best possible Brexit deal, because that is what will matter to the British people… They will want to see at the end of this process that we’ve got a deal that enhances our prosperity, that keeps close links with our friends, other democratic countries in Europe, but also enables us to strike trade deals with the rest of the world. That’s what’s important.
NP: So Boris Johnson is not a back-seat driver of this Brexit process? He’s not in the front seat fiddling with the Sat Nav?
DG: The driver of the this Brexit process is the Prime Minister. That’s her job… We are all absolutely determined to make sure that’s the best deal that we can have and the Cabinet is absolutely united on that.
Green told Paterson that Boris would not be sacked for his actions, saying ‘I can’t say there’s anything surprising in it’ and adding that everyone should ‘calm down’.
Dawn Butler – Public sector pay won’t rise in real terms under Labour
Dawn Butler, the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, spoke to Niall Paterson about Labour’s policy on public sector pay. Butler was highly critical of the government’s proposal to increase the pay cap above the previous 1% limit, but was grilled by Paterson over Labour’s offering of an extra £4 billion a year, which Paterson objected was still not enough to deliver an above inflation pay rise:
NP: Aren’t you [and the government] both saying exactly the same thing? You’re slightly verging in terms of the figures but you’re saying it is bad that in essence the government is forcing a pay cut upon the public sector, but on your own figures £4 billion a year wouldn’t be enough for you to do anything other than offer them a real terms pay cut.
DB: £4 billion is enough to make sure that public sector workers – and remember… we are a government in waiting. We’re not the government. When we’ve got the books in front of us, we’ll be able to then decipher what else we’ll be able to deliver for public sector workers. But we need to see the figures and the books…
NP: You’re just guessing them aren’t you?
DB: There’s no guesswork.
NP: The IFS says that if you want to give a real terms pay rise to the public sector, it would be £7 billion a year minimum. So you don’t have the money to do it, and you’re shouting at the government because they don’t have the money to do it?
DB: I’m not shouting at the government. What I’m saying to the government is, you’ve got all this rhetoric in terms of what you’re saying, but when it comes to delivering, you’re not delivering at all for public sector workers… They deserve not to have the pay cut that they’ve has for the last 7 years, to be 20pc worse off than they were in 2010. Our public sector workers deserve more than that.
Butler also repeated the current Labour position on the single market which is ‘we will be in the single market for as short a time as possible but as long as is necessary’.
Progress Director – Labour party could change ‘in an historic way’
Richard Angell, the leader of the centre left Labour faction Progress, has told Sarah Smith on the Sunday Politics that the Labour party could be about to undergo major changes as their party conference now approaches. In particular, Angell was concerned about rule changes which would allow party policy to be considered by the entirety of the party membership:
— Daily&SundayPolitics (@daily_politics) September 17, 2017
RA: The leadership are… pushing these rule changes and Momentum are determined to change Labour party rules while they’ve believe got an advantage… We don’t even know what’s being considered at this year’s conference. The idea that a half a million membership can consider the motions that are being put to the NEC on Tuesday is ridiculous, but it is about one side of the party pushing their advantage and trying to change the Labour party not for the public, but for their internal faction.
SS: And do you fear what the results of that will be?
RA: I think it might change the Labour party in quite a historic way. We are a party previously committed to parliamentary socialism. That means our MPs have a role in choosing who not just stands in Parliament to speak for us, but who seeks to replace the government on those green benches and that’s really really important.
Sarah Smith – Are you Theresa May’s Willie?
And finally, Sarah Smith has now taken on the mantle of the Sunday Politics from Andrew Neil. One highlight of Smith’s first episode was her question to the Prime Minister’s de facto deputy Damien Green:
— Daily&SundayPolitics (@daily_politics) September 17, 2017
SS: In your job basically as Theresa May’s no. 2, you will remember how heavily Margaret Thatcher used to rely on her deputy Willie Whitelaw and she even said ‘Everybody needs a Willie.’ Do you see yourself as Theresa May’s Willie?
DG: I was a huge admirer of Willie Whitelaw in my youth and absolutely I would be very content to have him as a role model.
Well put Mr Green…