Emily Thornberry, John McDonnell and Gavin Barwell took to the airwaves today to discuss Brexit, Labour’s electoral prospects and housing.
Here are the key points from this morning’s television and radio interviews.
The Andrew Marr Show
The FT’s political editor George Parker was very much the calm between the storms today as he sat in between Tory Anna Soubry and Ukip’s Suzanne Evans during the paper review.
The look on Soubry’s face when Evans told her “well done!” for backing the Brexit Bill in the Commons on Wednesday could have melted stone.
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was the first guest proper, and the interview was – predictably – all about Brexit.
Thornberry did not give a particularly strong defence of Diane Abbott’s absence from the crunch vote (“I don’t know the details of this. All I’m told is, she was ill. That’s all I know.”) and also suggested it had not yet been decided whether the leadership would whip MPs when the Bill comes back to the Commons on Wednesday.
She also suggested that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Government refused to back any of Labour’s amendments on protecting workers rights or guaranteeing the residency of EU citizens already in the UK. Thornberry said assurances received through “back-channels” would be sufficient.
The outgoing Chief of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, warned a further squeeze on public spending could see police numbers falling further. While London’s policing levels had remained consistent, there are 20,000 fewer officers around the country since the global financial crash of 2008.
A report from the Transport Select Committee published this morning claimed the current system for awarding franchises is “no longer fit for purpose.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, whose department is responsible for the allocating the franchises, kicked off his response to the criticism by saying the “problem” with the railways is “they’re bursting at the seams; the number of passengers has doubled.”
One of Grayling’s solutions to the UK’s rail problems is to introduce more privatisation. He called for private companies to take over the railway infrastructure.
Peston on Sunday
Housing was the key item up for discussion on Peston. The Government is set to reveal its plans for how to tackle the crisis in a white paper on Tuesday, and Housing Minister Gavin Barwell did a tour of the broadcast studios to flesh out his department’s plans. As well as Peston, he was on Pienaar’s Politics on Five Live, the Sunday Politics on BBC 1 and a pre-record interview on Ridge on Sunday. For ease, the key clips for all the shows are here.
On Peston, he confirmed the Government would be looking to clamp down on developers who get planning permission but then don’t actually build the properties.
There’s no change to the commitment to protect the green belt, with councils only able to build on it when all other avenues have been exhausted.
On Pienaar, Barwell again reiterated there would be no change to the green belt policy, and said local councils needed to do more to create housing plans which would deliver the homes needed.
He vowed to give councils “more resources” to create such plans, and there would also be greater powers for authorities to take over land which has been given planning permission but is not being built on.
However, he did not reveal whether local authorities would be given extra cash to carry out these compulsory purchases.
On the Sunday Politics, Barwell defended his government’s house building record, saying last year’s low figures were because a new cycle of construction had started.
Back to Peston, and Labour MP Caroline Flint went in two-footed on Diane Abbott, saying the Shadow Home Secretary had developed her own version of man-flu: Brexit-flu.
Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Greens, said that she would have preferred if her party had not run a candidate in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election in order to give Labour a clear run at Ukip.
Sophy Ridge on Sunday
Harriet Harman is doing the media rounds at the moment to promote her memoirs, ‘A Woman’s Work’. On Sky News this morning, Labour’s former deputy leader dismissed calls for a “progressive alliance”, instead saying her party “really needs to sort ourselves out”.
Harman also called on Jeremy Corbyn to do more to tackle those who carry out online abuse in his name, urging him to show leadership on the issue.
Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith and Remainer Stella Creasy clashed in a heated debate on life after the UK leaves the EU. Creasy managed to get IDS to agree to “look at” Labour’s amendment calling for Vote Leave’s claim that £350million extra a week could go to the NHS after Brexit.
Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was in optimistic form on Radio Five Live this morning. The right hand man of Jeremy Corbyn declared Labour would be ahead in the polls by next year – despite currently lagging 12 points behind the Tories, according to Britain Elects.
He said: “Once we get past Brexit we’ll unite the Labour Party, we’ll be back on our agenda, and you’ll see I think that we’ll have a significant impact on the political debate in this country which means we’ll go back in front of the Tories in the polls over the next year.
“That’s what I think most of the Labour party members are actually campaigning for and support.
“We’ll be on the Labour agenda of protecting our economy. They [the Tories] are preparing for a fight even though they’ve papered over the cracks at the moment.”