It is Remembrance Sunday, and the party leaders put their politics aside this morning as they gathered around the Cenotaph to lay wreaths and honour those who lost their lives in times of war. However, in the TV studios, the political debate still carries on with as much vigour as before:
Sadiq Khan – Boris Johnson has ‘got to go’
The Mayor of London joined Andrew Marr today and within minutes Khan had called for Boris Johnson to be dismissed from his post as Foreign Secretary. Marr raised the subject of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British national who is currently serving a five year jail sentence in an Iranian prison. During a recent select committee hearing, Johnson had suggested that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists while on holiday there, leading to accusations that he may have condemned her to serve another five year sentence in the country:
AM: I wonder what your reflections are on what now needs to be done and whether you’re thinking of getting involved in this story yourself?
SK: …I think it’s important that Boris Johnson clarifies the huge error that he made because he’s been prayed in aid by Iranian state TV and others to say that because of what he said, it’s an admission on the part of the British government to what Nazanin is alleged to have done. So I’m hoping that he clarifies his position, apologises, and helps Richard and the family get Nazanin back home in London where she belongs.
AM: Do you think that Jeremy Corbyn saying that he must now resign or be sacked is going too far?
SK: This is the latest in a long list of gaffes made by our Foreign Secretary. He’s offended the Libyans in relations to what he said about Sirte being the new Dubai should they get rid of the bodies, he’s offended the Americans by saying President Obama is anti-British because he’s part Kenyan, offended the Spanish, offended the Sikhs – what he said about whisky tariffs in the Gurdwara. I think he’s got to go. I think he’s our Foreign Secretary whose job is diplomacy and representing the best interests of our country, and if Theresa May was a strong Prime Minister she would have sacked him a long time ago. There’s questions about why she appointed him in the first place… But now surely he’s [done] enough to go?
Elsewhere in the interview, Khan called on the Chancellor Philip Hammond to implement a freeze in rail fares in the upcoming Budget, and declared that ‘we have a housing crisis in all parts of London… not only [for] the lowest paid, but also start-ups, chief executives, head teachers as well’.
Michael Gove – ‘I don’t know’ why Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran
Michael Gove has also landed himself in hot water after claiming that he did not know what Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran at the time of her arrest. This is at odds with the official UK government position which is that she was on holiday and innocent of all charges. Gove immediately corrected himself when prompted by Andrew Marr, but that has not protected the Environment Secretary from criticism that he had still compromised Zaghari-Ratcliffe by suggesting the government may have doubts over the official version of events:
AM: What was [Zaghari-Ratcliffe] doing when she went to Iran?
MG: I don’t know. One of the things I want to stress is that there is no reason why she should be in prison in Iran as far as I know. No evidence has been produced that suggests that she should be detained. We know that the Iranian regime is capable of abusing human rights of its own citizens. It appears here to be harming the human rights of someone whose plight necessarily moves us all.
AM: You say that you don’t know what she was doing. Her husband is very clear that she was there on holiday with her child.
MG: In that case, I take exactly her husband’s assurance in that regard.
AM: So was she training journalists?
MG: Her husband said that she was there on holiday and her husband is the person who should know. Her family are the people who should be in our thoughts at this time. But one of the things I just want to stress about the line of questioning that I know you want to go down, is that there is an effort somehow to shift attention and direction away from who is really at fault here, and it is the Iranian regime. They’re the people who have jailed Nazanin. They’re the people upon whom our focus should light. There is no reason, no excuse and no justification for her detention, and she should be released.
He continued: ‘There is nothing the Iranian regime would like more than for the attention to be shifted off them and on to us’. Gove claimed that after Brexit, British food would be ‘increasingly in demand worldwide’, stating ‘the trend overall globally is toward greater quality and British farmers are in the best position to meet that.’ He also poured scorn on the idea that the UK would lower its environmental or animal welfare standards in order to secure a trade deal with the United States, stating ‘we’re not going there’.
David Davis – Why would you want to sack Boris?
The Brexit Secretary has leapt to Boris Johnson’s defence after the earlier intervention from Sadiq Khan, as well as a polemic from Jeremy Corbyn in the Observer which also called for Johnson to be sacked. Davis mounted a defence of the government more generally, dismissing the administration’s current run of misfortune and telling Niall Paterson that such mishaps happen to all governments, including the most successful ones:
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) November 12, 2017
NP: You can’t not concede the fact that there is a chaotic quality to the government at the moment. You’ve lost two Secretaries of State, you’ve got the Foreign Secretary potentially adding years to the sentence of a British national whose release they were trying to secure. On the topic of Boris Johnson – is he unsackable?
DD: Why would you want to sack him? He’s a good Foreign Secretary. The thing to understand here – you’ve got a flurry at the moment of things happening in politics. But this happens to all governments at some point or another –
NP: Towards the end of their lifespan, mostly.
DD: No, not necessarily. I suggest you have a look at Churchill’s government in the early 1940s before they went on to great success, won a war. Or other ones. I served in John Major’s government for a long while and we had flurries there, to say the least. And Tony Blair’s had flurries and David Cameron’s had flurries, so all of them have issues that come up and go. That’s the nature of politics. It’s one of the things that makes it exciting of course! But it is the nature of politics. The trick in it all is to keep your eye on what you’re supposed to achieve, and my task, my job – I’m immodest enough to think it’s important – I’m very focused on that, and not on anything else.
On Brexit, Davis also claimed that the government would ‘find other ways around’ the possibility of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, claiming that a hard border was ‘not an option’ and speculated that the Common Travel Area between the two countries would probably still be in place well beyond the end of this century.
James Dyson – ‘If you walk away, they will come to us’
And James Dyson, the billionaire entrepreneur and darling of the Brexit campaign, has slammed the EU demands for a so-called ‘divorce bill’, arguing that the UK should leave without a deal instead of paying sums that he described as ‘outrageous’:
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) November 12, 2017
AM: As somebody who is very optimistic about Britain after Brexit, how confident are you that this government will actually deliver Brexit? Given the way things are at the moment…
JD: I don’t think it’s the government’s fault, I think it’s a problem with the people we are negotiating with. I think demanding billions and billions to leave is quite outrageous and demanding it before we’ve negotiated anything is outrageous. So I would walk away. I think that’s the only way to deal with them. I have been dealing with the EU and EU countries for the last 25 years on IEC standards and energy labels – there is no way to deal with them. You have to walk away. And if you walk away they will come to us because they want to export all of their products to us… We are in a very strong position, and incredibly strong position. We shouldn’t give them any money. We should walk away and they will come to us.