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Sunday shows round-up: Tom Watson condemns anti-Semitic mural and apologises for Corbyn

25 March 2018

6:01 PM

25 March 2018

6:01 PM

Tom Watson – ‘I am very, very sorry’ about anti-Semitic mural

Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson has told Andrew Marr that he is ‘very, very sorry’ about his leader’s defence of a mural apparently depicting wealthy Jewish financiers playing Monopoly on the backs of enslaved members of the working class. In 2012, Jeremy Corbyn expressed disappointment that the mural, titled ‘Freedom of Humanity’, was to be removed by the authorities, comparing it to the destruction of work made by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Corbyn has since said that ‘I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic’. Marr queried Watson as to why Corbyn has backed the mural in the first place:

AM: You only need to glance at that to see what it’s about. It’s Third Reich propaganda. Anti-Semitism.

TW: That is why Jeremy has expressed deep regret and apologised for that, and has actually said that it is right that the mural was taken down.

AM: And yet, it’s taken years for some of your colleagues to get him to respond to this. Luciana Berger, who is a Jewish Labour MP… she’s still very very upset that he has not completely fully apologised for this.

TW: I am very, very sorry that people feel hurt by this and that is why I think it is right that Jeremy has expressed regret for it. He said that he didn’t see the mural, he was talking about free expression…

AM: Can I suggest to you that if this was a mural attacking black people, or any other ethnic group, that nobody in the Labour party would have had the slightest hesitation about condemning it?

TW: Nobody in the Labour party should have the slightest hesitation in condemning this mural. It’s anti-Semitic, it’s horrible, and I want Jewish members, as well as every other member of the Labour party to feel welcome in our party. I think it’s time we said ‘enough is enough’ on these anti-Semitic stories.

On Corbyn’s dismissal of Owen Smith for reigniting the issue of a second referendum on Brexit, Watson replied ‘I was disappointed to see Owen go … but he does know how collective responsibility works… If I’m being honest, I don’t think Jeremy really did have a choice but to ask him to stand down’. On the unfolding allegations that the Vote Leave campaign may have improperly declared their spending during the 2016 referendum, he said ‘Theresa May needs to make sure the Electoral Commission has the resources to fully investigate’.

Andy McDonald – Labour is trying to deal with anti-Semitic behaviour head on

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary went on to issue a robust defence of Corbyn’s character as a result of the mural furore, telling Sky’s Niall Paterson that his leader is ‘a man of good intent and decent standards’ and argued that Corbyn has been standing up to anti-Semitism ‘for decades’. McDonald also told Paterson that Labour was trying to deal with its anti-Semitism problem head on:

NP: Everyone makes mistakes, but the fact is, this incident doesn’t take place in a vacuum. There has been, in some people’s eyes, a pattern of behaviour on the part of Mr. Corbyn. The last time I looked, [there remains] a tweet of support from Jeremy Corbyn’s [Twitter] account for Sheikh Raed Salah, who used the blood libel… who referred to Jews as ‘germs’ and ‘monkeys’. Even if [Corbyn] is no anti-Semite, he does little to stop others from characterising himself as such. In fact, sometimes he sees to encourage it. Why on earth would he do that?

AM: No, I think that’s grossly grossly unfair. He does nothing of the sort, and I think we should publish the Early Day Motions that Jeremy has initiated since 1990… that show beyond any doubt where the man stands on such issues. And I think this is really unfortunate that we’re having this debate. We’re trying to deal with this particular issue head on, but it’s interesting that nobody is drawing attention to his proud history of standing up against anti-Semitism for all of these decades and that is the measure of the man… I think to traduce him in this way is totally and utterly wrong.

David Davis – No return to the Irish border of the past

The Brexit Secretary joined Marr in the wake of the latest round of negotiations between the UK and the EU. Davis was feeling distinctly under the weather while the interview was conducted, maintaining a sick bucket by his side for the entire duration. However, he managed to soldier through without mishap. Marr asked Davis about the Northern Irish border, a point of major contention that continues to create headaches for negotiators on both sides:

AM: What is a hard border?

DD: A hard border is a border with customs posts on it, a very visible border… What we’re going to do is ensure that the border that exists now, which after all is a border for excise, tax, and even currency, will continue to exist… but it won’t be visible and there won’t be any return to the borders of the past.

AM: So no guys in peaked caps and high-vis vests? No cameras, no booths, no wire, no nothing?

DD: That’s right. Basically, we will do as we do now. We have got a whole load of new technology now… There are ways of dealing with this, you can’t just say ‘we haven’t done it anywhere else’ – we haven’t attempted to do it anywhere else… The simple truth is, we have said from the beginning, from day one, we will preserve – at all costs – the Good Friday Agreement. That’s what we’re going to do.

When Marr asked about the possibility of the ‘backstop deal’ included in the legal text agreed between the UK and EU, where Northern Ireland remains in the single market and customs union, Davis replied ‘What we’ve agreed is that we will find an ‘Option C’… but that isn’t the backstop that the Commission has laid out’. He added ‘The overwhelmingly likely outcome is Option A… we get a free-trade agreement, we get a customs agreement – all of those make the Northern Ireland issue much, much easier to solve. Not easy, but much, much easier’. On a potential ‘no deal’ outcome, he commented ‘You don’t expect your house to burn down – it’s less than a one in 100,000 chance – but you have house insurance anyway’.

Jeremy Hunt – Increases in NHS spending may mean higher taxes

The Health and Social Care Secretary appeared with Robert Peston to talk about his proposals for a 10 year funding deal for the National Health Service. A 10 year settlement would be unusual, but Hunt has argued that ‘given that it takes seven years to train a doctor and three years to train a nurse, you need to have something that gives you the ability to look ahead’. Hunt’s request has surfaced shortly after the Sunday Times carried reports that the government may be planning to announce up to £4 billion a year in additional funding. Peston asked Hunt about where any extra funding for the NHS might come from:

RP: You personally have not ruled out the idea of a special earmarked tax – what people call a hypothecated tax – for the NHS. Do you think that will happen?

JH: I think it’s a bit premature to talk about that. If you ask the public about the NHS, they are very clear they would like to see more money going to the NHS, they would be prepared to see some of their own taxes going into the NHS, but they are very clear they want to know that money is actually going into the NHS and social care system, and they want to know that the NHS is going to reform and tackle some of the inefficiencies.

RP: But it sounds as though you’re quite attracted to the idea of a badged bit of tax [for] the NHS. [Conservative MP] Nick Boles has said national insurance should be renamed the ‘national health insurance’ tax. Do you like that idea?

JH: We are a taxpayer-funded system, so in the end if we are going to get more resources into the NHS and social care system, it will have to come through the tax system and also through growth in the economy.

Hunt also derided the ‘crazy way’ that the NHS had been funded over the last 20 years, ‘which has basically been feast or famine’, adding that ‘in 10 years time in this country we will have a million more over 75s and the question is, do we want to approach that challenge in a strategic way… and I think if we do that we will get a much better deal for taxpayers’.

Ben Bradshaw – Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have questions to answer

And finally, the Labour MP and former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has attacked Boris Johnson and Michael Gove after a Guardian interview with Shahmir Sanni, a former volunteer for the Vote Leave campaign. Sanni has alleged that Vote Leave was guilty of breaching spending limits imposed by the Electoral Commission and covering it up. The then campaign director of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings, has written that Sanni’s claims are ‘libelous’. Sanni has also found himself ‘outed’ as gay by Stephen Parkinson, another Vote Leave figure who is now a close aide to Theresa May and with whom he was in a relationship at the time:

RP: Stephen Parkinson’s defence is that he had to disclose his relationship [with Shahmir Sanni], otherwise he would have been holding back something material. What do you think about that?

BB: I think it’s very telling that rather than addressing the allegations and the very serious questions that are raised by this incredible journalism, a No. 10 [aide] is going out and outing someone whose family is thereby put in danger, and Boris Johnson is claiming that there’s nothing there. With all due respect, it’s not up to Boris Johnson to decide. It’s up to the Information Commissioner, the Electoral Commission and the police to decide whether there was any illegality. And it’s interesting that in the article, Boris Johnson is clearly implicated, because the whistleblower says that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove knew exactly what was going on.

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