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Sunday shows round-up: Priti Patel – No confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK

26 January 2020

2:56 PM

26 January 2020

2:56 PM

Priti Patel – No confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK

Niall Paterson took over the reins from Sophy Ridge this morning and began by speaking to the Home Secretary Priti Patel. The first item on the agenda was the outbreak of coronavirus in China, which has so far claimed the lives of 56 people and potentially infected as many as 2,000. There have been concerns that the virus may enter the UK, with five people having been tested in Scotland. However, Patel confirmed that all five had been given the all-clear:

NP: As of this point… [there are] no confirmed cases of coronavirus?

PP: That’s right. That’s absolutely right.

We’re ‘looking at all options’ for Brits in China

Paterson then asked Patel about newspaper reports that the government was considering evacuating British citizens in China to safety, likely by offering airlifts to around 200 people otherwise stranded in the predominantly affected city of Wuhan. Patel did not deny the reports:

PP: It’s right that we look at all options, and that’s exactly what the government is doing right now.

Huawei decision will be based on the facts

Paterson moved on to ask about an entirely separate area of the UK’s relationship with China, that of the telecommunications giant Huawei, which may soon be permitted to build non-core parts of the UK’s 5G infrastructure. This possibility has caused ripples among several of the UK’s allies, who fear that the Chinese government may pressure the company to conduct secret surveillance, or otherwise compromise national security. Patel denied claims that she was angry with the government’s current position on this issue:

PP: My role is very much to protect the national security of our country… We base all our judgements [and] our decisions on information that we look [at] together and we review across government… I’m not going to give a view on what our counterparts are saying.

UK businesses ‘too reliant’ on EU labour

Patel also told Paterson that the restrictions on freedom of movement after Brexit was an invitation for British businesses to start recruiting more locally. Patel criticised the reluctance of some companies ‘to invest’ in their communities when they could rely on a cheaper alternative:

PP: British businesses… have been far too reliant on low skilled, and quite frankly, cheap labour from the EU, and we want to end that. We think it’s about time that businesses invest in people across the whole of the UK.

Len McCluskey – Labour ‘betrayed’ voters in Leave seats

The leader of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, told Paterson that he ascribed the blame for Labour’s election defeat almost entirely on the party’s switch away from backing Brexit. He argued that many of the party’s core vote has perceived the pursuit of a second referendum as a betrayal:

LM: Many of those seats that we’ve lost – virtually all of them – voted Leave. There was a feeling of betrayal, the Labour party have betrayed them, and we suffered the consequence.

‘Not fair’ to say Long-Bailey is ‘continuity Corbyn’

Unite has formally endorsed Rebecca Long-Bailey as their preferred successor to Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership race. McCluskey downplayed the suggestion that Long-Bailey was ‘continuity Corbyn’, but did not recommend that she departed too far from Labour’s current policies, which he argued were ‘extremely popular amongst the electorate’:

LM: I don’t believe it’s fair on Becky to talk in terms of ‘continuity Corbyn’. She’s her own individual… She’s able to take forward her vision. It will be her vision. She believes in the radical nature of Labour’s policies.

‘Utter nonsense’ that Richard Burgon should pull out of race

Paterson questioned McCluskey over Unite’s endorsement of Richard Burgon for Labour’s deputy leader. Burgon, who once infamously declared that Zionism was ‘the enemy of peace’, and fellow candidate Dawn Butler have refused to sign up to recommendations from the Board of Deputies of British Jews to combat anti-Semitism in the party. McCluskey defended their right not to do so:

LM: Both Dawn and Richard have made it clear they believe that there is a need for more debate and discussion about a couple of points that are in the… 10 pledges… For people to call for them to be kicked out of the race is utter nonsense.

Ian Murray – ‘People should take their heads out of the sand’

Ian Murray, another candidate for Labour’s deputy leadership, was much less forgiving about Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism over recent years. He pledged to make tackling the issue a personal priority:

IM: I think people should their heads out of the sand and just deal with this. No longer should the Labour party be walking on the other side of the street when minority communities in this country are screaming out for the Labour party to do something.

Helen McEntee – Brexit is only ‘at half time’

Ireland’s minister for Europe Helen McEntee told Paterson that despite the pomp and ceremony that would be taking place on the 31st of January, she considered that the Brexit journey still had a very long way to go:

HE: Brexit is really only at half time. We have a huge amount of work still to do… The idea that we can negotiate a trade deal, one that is close, [and] comprehensive… within a 12 month space is very difficult.

Rory Stewart – I would triple police presence in London

Rory Stewart, the former Conservative MP and now candidate to be Mayor of London spoke to Paterson about his plans to reduce crime in the capital. Rising knife crime in particular has been of utmost concern. Stewart pledged to put more resources into the police, which he plans to fund through council tax rises:

RS: I would triple the number of uniformed police in the neighbourhoods, I would put the data behind them to make sure that they were in the right places at the right time, and I would put an absolute focus on the question of reducing violent street crime. Priority is essential to policing.

I would make use of facial recognition tech

Stewart also said that he planned to make use of controversial facial recognition software being trialled by the Metropolitan Police to help cut crime. The technology has raised concerns about civil liberties, especially as there have been questions over its efficacy:

RS: I think facial recognition technology is a very important tool. I pioneered it actually I what we were doing in prisons… I think there are challenges about how you… manage the data… but we must make London safer.

Len McCluskey – Labour ‘has changed forever’

The Unite boss popped up again on Radio 5’s Pienaar’s Politics. He told host John Pienaar that, for Labour, there was no going back to the way things were:

LM: The Labour party has changed forever… How many times did all of us hear people say ‘Politicians are all the same’?… What Corbyn has effectively done is create… an alternative to the Conservative party… The radical direction will not change.

Individuals ‘used anti-Semitism to undermine Corbyn’

McCluskey made it a clean sweep of the interview studios by appearing on the Andrew Marr Show. Marr quizzed him about his personal attitude to anti-Semitism allegations within Labour, and asked if he was guilty of trying to minimise it as an issue. McCluskey responded by saying that, while he took the allegations seriously, they also ‘provided ammunition for Corbyn’s enemies’:

LM: Individuals, who opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s election right from the beginning, used the anti-Semitism issue, which I think is quite despicable… to undermine Corbyn. There’s no doubt about that… Lots of people were genuinely concerned… but there were others who were disingenuous.

Stephen Barclay – More detail next month on UK trade

Marr also spoke to the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, who could soon find himself out of a job, with plans for his role to be absorbed by the Department for International Trade. Barclay set out the broad thrust of the UK’s goals for a future trade deal with the EU:

SB: We’re going to publish our objectives for the negotiation… There will be a speech from the Prime Minister after the 31st [January]… The objective is to have a zero-tariff, zero quota broadly ambitious trade policy [with the EU], but to do that in parallel in our talks with the rest of the world, and in particular, the US.

HS2 should go ahead

Barclay also gave his verdict on whether High Speed 2 should go ahead. The project, which has seen its projected costs soar from £56 billion to potentially over £100 billion, is currently under review, with the findings expected early this year:

AM: Gut feeling – yes or no?

SB: Yes.

Robin Butler – Reorganising the Civil Service is ‘expensive’ and ‘disruptive’

Marr went on to talk to the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Robin Butler, who expressed some bemusement at the latest plans to shake up the Civil Service as envisioned by the Prime Minister’s right-hand man Dominic Cummings:

RB: You always ought to be up-skilling the Civil Service… [but] I am a bit sceptical about throwing all the departments up in the air and resorting them, because that is an expensive process, it is a disruptive process, and the fact of the matter is, [Brexit] is going to be a really big job for Whitehall.

‘I don’t think I count as a weirdo’

And finally, Marr asked Butler about the blog put forward by Cummings calling for ‘weirdoes’ and ‘misfits’ to apply for new jobs as part of the Whitehall revolution. Butler told Marr that the Civil Service had always had a place for the sort of people Cummings was looking for:

RB: I don’t think I count as a weirdo or a misfit! I worked with plenty of weirdoes and misfits I must say when I was in the Civil Service… I [say] good luck, but you can’t do it all from No. 10.

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