Sunday shows: Starmer “definitely” a better leader than me, says Miliband

The Andrew Marr Show

Ed Miliband, former Labour leader and now Shadow Business Secretary, defended the decision to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey and said Keir Starmer is “already” a better Labour leader than he was. He confirmed that Labour backs ‘unlocking’ on July 4th, but called for an extension to the furlough scheme and more support.

On the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey…

  • On whether it was right to sack Long-Bailey: “It was. It’s important to explain why because Rebecca is a very decent person… The problem is that over the centuries when calamitous things have happened, Jews have been blamed.”
  • On whether Long-Bailey is antisemitic: “No, I don’t think she is antisemitic. I think she made a significant error of judgment.”
  • On whether the sacking was an ‘overreaction’: “I don’t think it was an overreaction. I don’t think there can be a sense of overreaction when you know the scale of the problem we face.”
  • On whether this is a ‘wider purge of the left’: “No, of course it isn’t.”
  • On Starmer: “He’s not about purges. He’s a principled guy, he’s a guy with integrity. He wants to change this country and he wants to change this country by unifying the Labour Party but also by not having the Labour Party mired in issues which provide a stain on us.”
  • On Ian Lavery’s call for Labour left members to ‘stay and fight’: “Good. Well, we should fight the Conservatives. Definitely. I completely agree.”
  • On divisions over policy: “I think in the Labour Party sometimes we’re good at burying our similarities… Keir wants a radical, transformative agenda for this country. We’ve got to focus on that.”

On the coronavirus recovery…

  • On whether Labour supports the unlocking on July 4th: “It does, yes. Because we’ve been constructive about this.”
  • On whether he wants the furlough scheme to continue: “I would, yes… The cost of not acting is greater than the cost of acting.”
  • On what Labour wants the government to do: “You’ve got to have a bridge between the end of the furlough and a proper job creation programme.”
  • On a VAT cut: “I think that’s one thing that should be considered. That’s not top of my priority list though.”
  • Emphasising that “this is a sectoral recession”, he added that a “turbo-charged version” of Labour’s post-recession Future Jobs Fund should be launched.
  • On reports that Boris Johnson will spend to recover: “Why do I feel a bit sceptical about the Prime Minister’s words? Because he’s very good at words, he’s very good at promises… The problem is there’s a Grand Canyon between his rhetoric and the reality.”

On Starmer’s leadership…

  • Asked whether Starmer is going to be a better Labour leader than Miliband: “Definitely. We’ve seen that already. I certainly never had his approval ratings. I think he’s made a great start. I think he’s shown not just competence but the kind of seriousness that this crisis demands.”

Ridge on Sunday

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds called for a “sector-specific” extension to the furlough scheme to avoid redundancies, and argued that Keir Starmer was right to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey.

  • On jobs: “We need to see the government get directly involved in the business of creating jobs. Something like the Future Jobs Fund, which we saw after the financial crisis.”
  • On redundancies and the furlough scheme: “We have over nine million people furloughed. As employers have to make contributions… the danger is many of those people will simply be made redundant.”
  • On extending support: “New Zealand has extended its furlough scheme, its wage subsidy scheme, to any business still affected by a loss of revenue from the crisis… That’s the kind of approach that we need.”
  • He added: “Alongside that, bring forward investment decisions – make sure young people are kept in education, otherwise 800,000 young people will enter the labour market this summer.”
  • Asked whether the furlough scheme should be extended: “Yes, it should be extended. Not in a universal way but in a sector-specific way.”
  • Asked whether Labour should have done more to reopen schools: “No, I don’t think that’s fair… Everybody wants schools back but the only way to do that is to convince parents that it’s safe.”
  • On whether Long-Bailey should have been sacked: “Yes, the sharing of an antisemitic conspiracy theory I’m afraid is not something that can be ignored.”
  • On whether Long-Bailey understood the comments were antisemitic: “I’m not sure, to be honest. When I saw the article that had been shared I gasped… I assumed perhaps it hadn’t been read and an apology would be forthcoming. I don’t know exactly why that is exactly still up there on Twitter. But there’s no doubt, it is an antisemitic conspiracy theory and we promised zero tolerance.”
  • On whether Labour is going to be “tough on benefits” under the new leadership: “No. I do not accept at all the kind of rhetoric we once heard from people like George Osborne.”
  • On contributions-based benefits: “Because the government has failed to up-rate legacy benefits alongside the increase in Universal Credit, the National Insurance level of support is lower than the means-tested level of support.”
  • He added: “That is completely unacceptable. £74 a week is not sufficient compensation for the national contributions people have paid.”
  • On creating a new benefit in its place: “When we talk about finding a replacement for Universal Credit, we’ve got to consider this aspect of it as well.”

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford discussed the reopening of schools and criticised UK government messaging on Covid-19. He warned that the crisis is not over, and that he would continue to issue a “more sober message” in Wales.

  • On reopening schools: “As from tomorrow all schools in Wales – other than in Anglesey where we have an outbreak of coronavirus – will go back.”
  • Asked whether teachers are at risk: “No, we worked very hard indeed with our trade union colleagues and our local education authorities… A huge effort has gone on by teachers and non-teaching staff to make sure schools will be safe.”
  • On the reopening of pubs and restaurants: “We are planning with our hospitality sector to see if we can safely reopen outdoor hospitality.”
  • On the UK government’s handling of the crisis: “My concerns with the UK government are sometimes less with the substance… I’m more concerned at the messaging – the way things are described.”
  • On his message: “I am very keen to continue to say to Welsh citizens: coronavirus has not gone away… And that’s a very different message I think to the message across the border.”
  • On communications from the PM: “The message seems much more: it’s all over and you can go back to doing everything as you did before… We’ve seen around the world how that leads to flare ups of the disease again.”
  • Comparing the approaches of the UK and Wales: “On substance, I don’t think we’re that far apart. We give a much more sober message to people in Wales because we are still in a coronavirus crisis.”
  • On testing: “We may have had to build up our system more slowly, but I think our system is now in very good shape and demonstrating every day that it is working effectively.”

Priti Patel also appeared, and argued that the actions of Dominic Cummings had not undermined government guidance on Covid-19.

She repeatedly refused to say whether Boris Johnson was involved in the Robert Jenrick ‘cash-for-favours’ scandal and had contact with the developer, reiterating the Prime Minister’s message earlier this week that “the matter is closed”.

Patel described as “racist” a recent letter by BAME Labour MPs that suggested she had used her “heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by black people”.

She said: “They clearly take the stance and the position that I just don’t conform to their pre-conceived idea or stereotypical view of what an ethnic minority woman should stand for and represent… That in itself is racist.”

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