The government’s well-planned Sunday story about more investment in children’s mental health was thrown slightly off-course by the resignation of the entire board of the Social Mobility Commission.
As a result, Labour’s Hillary Benn lost his place on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, in favour of Alan Milburn, the former Labour minister who heads the commission.
He said he had “little hope” the current government was capable of making the changes necessary to deliver a more equal society and that Theresa May’s leadership was not strong enough to convert “good words” into actions.
But more of that later.
The Andrew Marr Show
The show had barely got underway before Nigel Farage, taking part in the weekly paper review alongside former Labour adviser Ayesha Hazarika and the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Kate Andrews, launched a staunch defence of Donald Trump.
The former Ukip leader claimed the president had no idea what he was doing when he retweeted Britain First three times this week, and therefore the planned UK state visit should still go ahead.
So that’s settled, then.
Oh, and Farage says he’ll still be claiming his EU pension, promoting the Lib Dems to call him a “shameless hypocrite”.
With those pleasantries dealt with, Alan Milburn was next up to talk about his Social Mobility Commission resignation letter.
He said the government’s preoccupation with Brexit means it “does not have the necessary bandwidth to ensure the rhetoric of healing social division is matched with the reality”.
He said he had no doubt the PM was personally supportive of social justice, but was lacking action, and that the board felt “there is only so long you can go on pushing water uphill”.
Milburn said in order to tackle increasing economic and social divisions in UK society, those who voted Remain in the EU referendum had to think carefully about why some areas with higher poverty levels backed Leave.
“We must be tough on Brexit, and tough on the causes of Brexit,” the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury added, in a less-than-subtle reminder he served under Tony Blair.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who appears to now be a regular fixture on Sunday programmes, popped up to talk about the Brexit divorce bill.
Next up was deputy Irish PM Simon Coveney, who said while Ireland had been essentially given a veto over Brexit negotiations, his country had no desire to frustrate the process.
“We want to be able to provide the kind of certainty that businesses in the UK and Ireland are calling for,” he added.
Coveney said his government was not looking for full details of future border arrangements, but wanted to be confident a solution could be found in phase two of the Brexit negotiations.
“That is not very much to ask,” he said.
Education secretary Justine Greening defended the government’s record on social mobility following Milburn’s intervention, but admitted the issue was a “generational challenge”.
She also confirmed the £300 million of extra spending on children and adolescent mental health care - aimed at cutting waiting times for access to treatment - was “new money”.
Asked about the ongoing investigation into the conduct of First Secretary of State Damian Green, who is alleged to have used his work computer to access porn, Greening refused to comment specifically on the inquiry.
But she ramped up the pressure on her cabinet colleague, saying: “I think it is important that we have high standards in public life.”
Peston on Sunday
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt was also out to bat on the government’s mental health announcement, but his most interesting comments came in response to questions on Brexit.
In what appeared to be a stark warning to hard Brexiteers in his own party, Hunt said: “The choice we face is not between this Brexit or that Brexit. If we don’t back Theresa May, we will have no Brexit.”
Meanwhile, German MEP David McAllister reckons talks only have a “50-50” chance of progressing to the next stage - when trade negotiations will be discussed in earnest - in December.
But Labour’s Jess Phillips made it clear her Birmingham constituents are getting a bit bored of the subject.
“They don’t talk about it half as much as we do, They talk about things like their children’s mental health,” she said.
And speaking of not talking, let’s definitely not mention the surprise appearance by Donald and Melania Trump.
Sunday With Paterson
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell was talking “sensible economics” while avoiding mentioning specific figures on Sky’s morning programme.
He said he wanted to be known as “the person who brought common sense to managing the economy”, but Conservative James Cleverly claimed it would be “ordinary working people who would pay the price for a shadow chancellor who doesn’t do numbers”.
Justine Greening, who had a busy morning, held the party line while discussing Donald Trump’s proposed state visit.
And returning to the issue of the Irish border, Sinn Fein’s Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane claimed “no practical solutions” had been put forward by the UK government.
BBC Sunday Politics
Tory grandee Michael Howard defended the government’s record on social mobility, before telling the programme he had “every confidence” Theresa May and David Davis would secure a good Brexit deal.
Labour’s Barry Gardiner - contrary to the apparent views of shadow home secretary Diane Abbott - reiterated his party has no plans for a second referendum.
“It is not part of our policy,” the shadow international trade secretary said.
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