The Andrew Marr Show
Last week it was Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, this week it’s Leader of the Commons David Lidington who danced across the Sunday Politics shows. His first appearance of the day was the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, where the host pressed him on whether he had confidence in Bercow, or if he was sympathetic to those Tories who want him gone.
Lidington towed the Government line that this was a matter for MPs, and certainly did not come across as someone agitating for the Speaker’s removal.
The Leader of the Commons gave his views on the so-called ‘other place’ – the House of Lords – if peers tried to block Brexit. This for some reason prompted Marr to slip into a mockney hard man impression.
With the Sunday Times and Sun on Sunday reporting that the Labour leadership was engaged in “succession planning” by focus grouping members of the Shadow Cabinet, Deputy Leader Tom Watson was quizzed over the party’s future.
He conceded that “the polls aren’t great for us”, but insisted the leadership question was “settled for this parliament”.
After being confronted with the latest polling, Watson said that Corbyn “knows what he has to do win an election”, and reiterated that “this is not the time for a leadership election”.
Peston On Sunday
One of the best bits of Peston on Sunday is the MP panel, and it often throws up little nuggets of information and analysis away from the main interviews.
Former Cabinet Minister John Whittingdale, who campaigned for Leave in the referendum, said today he was led to believe John Bercow had backed Brexit in the referendum – and was therefore surprised by the video which emerged which showed he voted Remain.
Whittingdale did not quite call for Bercow to step down as Speaker, but said the “scoresheet is mounting up” against him and he’s “coming to the end of his term in any case”.
Labour’s Baroness Chakrabarti came to the defence of Diane Abbott after claims David Davis tried to kiss her on the cheek after the Shadow Home Secretary backed the Government in the Brexit vote.
Chakrabarti, who was in Strangers bar with Abbott the night of the alleged incident, compared her friend’s reaction to Davis with Theresa May’s response to Donald Trump holding the Prime Minister’s hand.
On the rumours of the party holding focus groups to find a successor to Jeremy Corbyn, Chakrabarti said the exercise was actually about finding which messages go down best in “the North”.
Former Head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake delivered a withering assessment of the Treasury, saying it had been damaged by its involvement in “Project Fear” ahead of the EU Referendum. He also warned the department might not be able to cope with the Brexit workload.
A now tieless David Lidington insisted David Davis was “embarrassed” by the leaking of text messages about Diane Abbott, and had given an apology to the Labour MP.
Sophy Ridge on Sunday
Labour’s Chuka Umunna was grilled by Sophy Ridge on Sky. She cheekily asked him if he was “chicken” for pulling out of past leadership contests, but despite repeated questioning Umunna would not call on the party’s current leader to stand down if Labour lost the upcoming by-elections.
Umunna defended his decision to vote for the Article 50 Bill this week, despite believing that Theresa May’s plans for Brexit are an “act of self-harm that would tank the economy”.
In a genius bit of broadcasting, the Ridge on Sunday team paired up Labour’s Jess Phillips and Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg for a Gogglebox-style look at the week’s news.
It’s very much like the bride’s mum and groom’s dad sitting down for a pre-wedding getting-to-know-you meal. Phillips has a good line in raising her eyebrows at someone slightly off screen, while Rees-Mogg always pitches just on the right side of self-parody.
On Radio5 Live, John Pienaar got the best line of the whole day out of Labour’s new election coordinator Ian Lavery. When asked about the upcoming by-elections, Lavery said losing the two rock-solid Labour seats would be a “hiccup”.
He also explained more about the polling of Shadow Cabinet members with focus groups, and said “there are plenty of leaders to pick” from “if and when” Corbyn decides to stand down.
Sir Oliver Letwin – one of David Cameron’s most trusted lieutenants when he was Prime Minister – was very clear on the Sunday Politics that the Lords should not try to alter the Brexit Bill.
He insisted the Bill “should not come back with amendments”
Labour’s Shadow Leader of the Lords Baroness Smith said peers have “no intention of trying to sabotage” the Bill, but when it comes to amendments, she clearly feels the Upper Chamber has a mandate to try to introduce some changes.