Penny Mordaunt – Oxfam has failed in moral leadership
The International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt joined Andrew Marr this morning to discuss the allegations that aid workers employed by Oxfam had abused their position while assisting with the relief efforts in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. It has been claimed that up to 7 staff had been using prostitutes, and that when this was discovered the staff were dismissed or allowed to resign quietly without facing more serious consequences. Oxfam has said that it is ‘dismayed’ by what has happened in Haiti, and the scandal has potentially jeopardised the charity’s close co-operation with the Department for International Development:
AM: You say you picked up the Times and that was the first you knew of this story. What was your reaction?
PM: I think it’s a complete betrayal of both the people Oxfam were there to help and also the people that sent them there to do that job. It’s a scandal…
AM: Oxfam get quite a lot of public money from you. Is there any part of you that’s beginning to think ‘Maybe we shouldn’t be paying taxpayer’s money to this organisation?’
PM: Yes, I do think that. I’m going to afford them the opportunity to talk to me tomorrow. But I’m very clear. It does not matter whether you have a whistle-blowing hotline, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got good safeguarding practices in place. If the moral leadership at the top of the organisation isn’t there, then we cannot have you as a partner. I would also just note that there are enormous numbers of people who are doing good work and they are good people working for Oxfam, and they have been betrayed in this as well.
Referring to all aid institutions, Mordaunt said ‘we expect them to cooperate fully with such authorities, and we will cease to fund any organisation that does not’. When the conversation turned to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, Mordaunt expressed disapproval of his robust approach, telling Marr that ‘the other nations in involved in this are pragmatic and have not been impressed with some of the language which has been used’.
Anna Soubry – Tory rebels could block May’s Brexit plans
Prominent backbencher and vocal Remain supporter Anna Soubry also joined Marr to fire a warning shot across the Prime Minister’s bow. Appearing alongside Labour’s Chuka Umunna, who is chairman of the Leave Watch organisation, Soubry spoke of a ‘real shift’ amongst MPs towards favouring the ‘Norway model’ of EFTA membership, and warned that the Prime Minister could not be confident that Parliament would vote for a deal which saw the UK leave the single market and customs union:
AM: Your joint determination is that Parliament will have a clear decisive vote on whatever terms Theresa May reveals to the country?
AS: Yes, and all options must be available to Parliament as well. And the real thing is this – if this government doesn’t get this right, it will end up in a position whereby the majority of members of Parliament, putting their constituents first, will find themselves unable to vote for a withdrawal agreement.
AM: Do you really believe you have a majority in the House of Commons on the Tory side and the Labour side coming together to defeat the kind of Brexit the Prime Minister wants.
AS: If she’s not careful, yes… There is a real shift among what I call ‘Leaver lites’ and reluctant Remainers, who are seeing the attraction of EFTA.
Chukka Ummuna agreed, stating ‘I cannot conceive of circumstances where Labour MPs are marshalled to go through the lobby and vote… with the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’. Soubry added that she ‘genuinely didn’t know what is going to happen [but] I’ll tell you who might stop it, and that’s the people of this country. We won’t stop it. It is the people.’
John McDonnell – Better a general election on Brexit than a second referendum
Speaking to Robert Peston, the Shadow Chancellor said that it would be preferable to settle the future of Brexit through a general election rather than a second referendum. Remaining upbeat about his party’s apparent drop behind the Conservatives in the opinion polls, McDonnell outlined why he did not want to see another referendum on Brexit:
RP: Jeremy Corbyn said he was – at the moment – opposed to a second vote, but he absolutely refused to say that he was ruling out a second vote forever.
JMD: We’d never turn our back on democratic engagement but our worry at the moment is if you had another referendum it would divide the country again and at the same time we would open up the potential of that right wing xenophobia, part of which we saw in the referendum.
RP: But what happens in the Autumn when Parliament gets this meaningful vote, if Parliament says that Theresa May’s deal is not the deal it wants. In these circumstances, surely there will have to be a referendum?
JMD: Well, I think better we have a general election on the issue, and all the other issues because you then have a wider debate as well.
On the issue of nationalisation of the water industry, McDonnell told Peston that ‘Parliament will determine the value. That’s always been the case when we decide to bring things back into public ownership’ and claimed that the income received ‘would cover any borrowing costs’ needed to fund it.
Mary Lou McDonald – We can do business with Arlene Foster
The new president of Sinn Fein, who replaces Gerry Adams after 35 years, has given an interview to Sky’s Ireland Correspondent David Blevins. Blevins asked Mary Lou McDonald about the future of power sharing at Stormont, where the government was suspended over a year ago:
DB: Given what’s going on around the borer over Brexit, the fact that there is no power sharing in Northern Ireland, you’ve talked about the past repeating itself. Do you have a concern that could happen?
MLM: No, I don’t see us returning to the circumstances that fed such a long, protracted and deep conflict. No I don’t. However, I am aware that on the ground in the North there has been a level of polarisation that I regard as very dangerous. That’s why I very much hope we get the institutions back up and running. The issues are clear, the issues are resolvable, there is nothing insurmountable in my view. But if I’m truthful, they’re only sustainable in the long-term when some people step into the light of the year 2018.
DB: When you say some people, do you mean Arlene Foster? And when you say the light, what exactly do you mean?
MLM: I mean quite bluntly that it is not a sustainable position to argue that citizens can have marriage equality in the southern jurisdiction of Ireland, and in the UK. And somehow the North or Ireland remains cut off from this, and citizens living in the North are denied that basic right. That’s what I mean.
DB: Is there going to be an agreement there? Is Arlene Foster a women you can do business with?
MLM: I hope there will be an agreement. And yes, I think we can do business with Arlene Foster.
She dismissed accusations that she was Gerry Adam’s puppet, and stated that ‘the IRA has gone away, the war is over’. She also opined that ‘Brexit is absolute disaster. Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement are mutually incompatible’. When asked to sum up the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in one word, McDonald opted for ‘smarmy’.
Henry Bolton – It’s not over with Jo Marney
And finally, Henry Bolton, the embattled leader of UKIP who is trying to convince his party membership to maintain him as leader, has confessed that he still has strong feelings for the model Jo Marney. Marney hit the headlines last month after it was revealed that she sent a string of racist text messages about Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle. Bolton insisted to Andrew Marr that his feelings for Marney were immaterial and that their relationship did not compromise his leadership going forward:
AM: Are you still in love with her?
HB: There are strong affections there, yes.
AM: Because what your party want to hear is that this relationship is over, and you can’t tell them that can you?
HB: That’s not what the party have said at all. The NEC held a vote of no confidence, there were a range of reasons given for that. The general consensus was that there was problem with my judgment around that whole episode. But the point is, we are off the field and have been for a very long time… What we should be doing is shaping the future of this country’s independence, and that’s what we should be focusing on, not whether or not somebody, way before I met them, actually sent private messages that actually had nothing to do with me and I had no means of knowing about.