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Sunday shows round-up: Heseltine takes a pop at Cummings

11 August 2019

12:57 PM

11 August 2019

12:57 PM

Michael Heseltine – The UK’s agenda ‘is on hold’

Ed Conway took over the reins from Sophy Ridge this week, and began by interviewing Lord Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister and committed europhile. Heseltine has co-authored an article with former speaker Betty Boothroyd in today’s Sunday Times, calling a no-deal exit ‘the most grotesque act of national self harm committed in peacetime by a British government’. Heseltine expanded on this column:

MH: The union of the United Kingdom itself is at risk, as polls are now showing in Scotland. The economy has stalled, inflation is rising, and the pound is in serious difficulties and threatens to get worse. Investment is on hold [and] there is an atmosphere of total indecision and ineffectiveness at the heart of government… The whole of the agenda for running this country… is on hold.

‘There is no majority’ for a no deal Brexit

Conway put the point to Heseltine that leaving the European Union without a deal was an implicit risk from the point at which MPs voted to trigger Article 50 back in March 2017. Heseltine rejected this completely:

MH: When we [had] the referendum, it was clearly stated by the Leave campaign that they were not going for no deal. In March of this year, Michael Gove clearly said they did not want a no deal… That is not what Parliament voted for… There is no majority in Parliament and no majority in the country.

Government’s policy is ‘economic irresponsibility’

Heseltine does not have much faith in the new Chancellor Sajid Javid, labelling the Government’s increased spending drive to be a high stakes gamble aimed at winning a sudden election:

MH: The idea that you’ve got a government trashing money around the place like there’s no tomorrow – aimed very specifically at very clear electoral targets – is actually a policy of economic irresponsibility.

Dominic Cumming’s position ‘intolerable’

Heseltine also expressed his concern at the powerful role now assumed by Dominic Cummings, the former campaign director of Vote Leave who is now a senior special advisor to the Prime Minister. Cummings is seen as a powerful advocate of a no-deal Brexit whose current strategy could see the UK leave the EU without any further votes in Parliament:

MH: I think he sees himself as a revolutionary… We’ve got this guy who is… actually parading himself as the mastermind behind the government. That is an intolerable position for democracy. It is absolutely central that Parliament should be able to call to account people who represent them as ministers.

Kit Malthouse – Heseltine must reconcile himself to no-deal Brexit

Conway went on to speak to the Policing Minister Kit Malthouse. He inquired after Malthouse’s response to Lord Heseltine. Malthouse maintained that the government’s position was unchanged, despite Heseltine’s protestations:

KM: In the end, even people like Lord Heseltine… who have never quite reconciled themselves with the idea that we’ve going to leave… are going to have to focus on the fact that that’s what the British people commanded us to do.

Recruiting 20,000 new police officers is in early stages

The conservation turned to Malthouse’s new job, where he is tasked with delivering 20,000 new police officers across the UK over the next 3 years. Malthouse told Conway that the recruitment drive would be launched next month, and that their exact roles were still being determined:

KM: We have to have a conversation about the deployment of those police officers, and critically what they’re going to be doing… We need to address this general sense from the public they want more reassurance from their police officers.

I hope next election will be in 2022

Malthouse, like the majority of his colleagues, also downplayed any suggestion that the government was seeking a general election:

KM: I hope [a general election] won’t be until the end of the five year term, which is 2022, but who knows?

Rachael Maskell – No deal Brexit would be a ‘treacherous act’

Conway also interviewed the Shadow Transport Secretary Rachael Maskell. Maskell did not hold back when asked for her perspective on a no deal Brexit, going even further in her condemnation than Lord Heseltine:

RM: We know now that this treacherous act that the Prime Minister is about to commit by taking us out of the European Union with no deal. We must remember that Mr Johnson was elected by just 90,000 people – not even a mandate to destroy our economy.

We will campaign to ‘remain and reform’

Maskell told Conway that Labour is fully behind a second referendum and that the party’s policy was now to ‘remain and reform’:

RM: We believe that this question now needs to go back to the country so that the people can decide. And we’ve said that in a referendum, we’ll be campaigning not just to remain, but reform… The Labour party wants to see real reform and change so that the institutions work for people and our country.

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