Sunday shows: Dodds, Powell, O’Grady criticise public sector pay freeze idea

The Andrew Marr Show

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds did not pledge Labour’s unconditional support for new Covid restrictions, said a public sector pay freeze “right now” would be “economically very damaging”, and described the row over Jeremy Corbyn as “frustrating”.

  • On whether it is good news that the national lockdown ends on December 2nd: “It will be good news if we can be moving safely into a different system of restrictions… But we’ve really got to learn lessons from what happened previously.”
  • She added: “I really hope that when the Prime Minister sets out that plan, there will be much more clarity around why different areas might end up in different tiers, what support will be available for businesses.”
  • On whether Labour will unconditionally support the government on restrictions: “No, because we need to see the detail of those proposals. Government needs to have learned from all the problems we had previously.”
  • On whether Labour could vote with Tory backbenchers to reject new rules if there is not sufficient economic support or clarity: “We’ll be assessing this very, very carefully.”
  • On the public sector pay freeze: “We don’t know if this is exactly what the government will put in front of us… What this measure would do is say to our firefighters, hospital porters, teaching assistants that they will have less spending power in the future. That means they won’t be spending in our high streets, small businesses, and that’s a good way of knocking confidence out of our economy.”
  • She added: “To be clear, I do not believe there should be that freeze right now. I think that’s economically very damaging. It’s an irresponsible choice. I believe it’s wrong for the Chancellor, if that’s what he’s going ahead with, to be pitting workers against each other.”
  • On whether Jeremy Corbyn is the biggest obstacle to Labour rebuilding trust with the Jewish community: “We saw in that EHRC report that this is a problem for all our party. This is something that the entire party needs to deal with… It is a matter of enormous shame.”
  • On Ian Lavery saying Keir Starmer seems to have a personal vendetta against Corbyn: “I don’t agree with Ian on that… We need to make sure that we demonstrate as a party to the Jewish community that we have learned from that EHRC report.”
  • On whether the Corbyn suspension is worth other consequences for Labour: “For me, the really critical thing is to ensure that we’re not in a situation where we’re investigated by the EHRC… That is more important than any other consideration.”
  • On the Corbyn ‘mess’: “Of course it’s frustrating. From my point of view, what I really would have wanted us to be doing – and I know Keir is in this position as well – is actually getting on with implementing the recommendations. This is about much more than any one person.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak could not give further details on plans for a tougher tier system after December 2nd, but hinted that the 10pm curfew would be altered following criticism of the policy before the four-week national lockdown.

Asked about the three million self-employed workers excluded from economic support, he said: “I would take issue with the idea that three million have been excluded.” He argued that the targeting was appropriate.

Sunak emphasised that the Universal Credit uplift was “temporary” and rejected the idea that people have not been able to afford self-isolation, saying: “Going to work is not the primary reason that people decide not to self-isolate.”

He defended government procurement contracts going to suppliers with political contacts but without the ability to provide the right equipment. “In that moment, the right thing was to act fast… I’m not going to apologise for us reacting in that way.”

On Priti Patel and bullying, the Chancellor said: “I don’t think shouting is an effective way to get the best out of people, but it is necessary sometimes to be direct in order to drive progress in an organisation particularly under stressful circumstances.”

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Shadow business minister Lucy Powell criticised plans for a public sector pay freeze as a “kick in the teeth” to the frontline workers in the pandemic and described Priti Patel’s position as “completely untenable”.

  • Asked whether the Prime Minister’s Christmas proposal is a good idea: “Let’s see what those plans are, but I think what we now need – for the first time in this pandemic – is a lot more clarity.”
  • On what the government should do: “We need a blueprint, a route map to take us through from now through to next year, so that families know what they’re supposed to be doing when.”
  • On businesses: “There are still many, many businesses, which despite the briefings in the papers today, won’t know whether they can now stock up on food, whether they can start taking bookings again, whether they can plan to reopen.”
  • On her demands of government: “We need methodical, measured clarity. Not what we’ve seen before, which is over-briefing then pulling back the drawbridge at the last minute, mixed messages.”
  • On whether restrictions should be relaxed over Christmas: “We all want to be able to see our families in some way over Christmas but we don’t want to do that in a way that we then have to pay a heavy price in the following weeks.”
  • On the lockdown: “The whole point of this national lockdown was to have a reset moment, if you like, and I worry that we’ve lost two weeks of that now with the psychodrama going on in No 10 and the infighting in government.”
  • On the Chancellor announcing a public sector pay freeze in the spending review this week: “I don’t think he does need to consider that at this point in time because… when you’re in the middle of a crisis, you can’t cut your way out.”
  • On why it would be wrong: “Economically, it would be the wrong thing to do… But of course it would be morally absolutely a kick in the teeth, wouldn’t it, for all those frontline workers who’ve helped support us through the pandemic?”
  • Asked whether Labour will support a Brexit trade deal when it comes back to the House of Commons: “We’ll see the detail when it comes but our starting point is that we want a deal.”
  • On calls for Priti Patel to resign over bullying: “Her position is completely untenable… It’s appalling that the Prime Minister has decided to back her instead of sacking her. That’s what he should have done.”
  • On bullying in Labour: “Keir Starmer’s been very clear that rooting out antisemitism and taking a tough line on those who are antisemitic, or indeed those who are acting in a bullying way, won’t have a place in the Labour Party.”
  • She added: “It’s not that bullying can’t exist in all political parties – of course it can and it does. It’s how you deal with it.”
  • On whether Jeremy Corbyn should be a Labour MP: “Corbyn should apologise for that reaction [to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into Labour antisemitism] and then we can hopefully all move on from this saga.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called on the government to rethink plans for a public sector pay freeze and did not rule out strike action in response to the policy.

  • On a pay public sector freeze: “Millions of key workers cared for us during the crisis, and continue to care for us, and I think that it’s time we cared for them… I don’t think this would be the time to reward them with a real pay cut.”
  • Put to her that public sector pay is higher: “If you adjust for age and qualifications, actually the pay difference between the public and private sectors is zero. But it won’t help anybody if we end up depressing pay anywhere.”
  • On austerity: “The Prime Minister only in June promised that this was the end of austerity… Surely the government doesn’t think that it can reintroduce austerity for the very people who put their health and in some cases lives on the line?”
  • Asked what the government should do: “I would encourage them to think again. This is not smart politics, it’s morally obscene and it’s bad economics, too.”
  • On strike action: “Governments only seem to recognise the true value of labour when it’s withdrawn… Nobody can rule anything out at the moment but what I am saying is, and asking for is that the government stands by key workers.”
  • On the economic impact of wage suppression: “The worst thing to do, if you want to raise demand in the economy, is to cut their pay. They are the very people who spend their pay packets in local businesses and shops.”
  • She added: “I am appealing to people’s sense of fairness and justice here – that as a country we cannot look ourselves in the mirror and cut the pay of some of our hardworking key workers.”
  • On exemptions for the NHS: “That’s great. But let’s talk about social care, let’s talk about prison officers, refuse collectors, delivery drivers, shopworkers – all the people who have kept Britain going and should be rewarded for it.”

G&T on Times Radio

Speaking to Tom Newton Dunn on Times Radio, Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey stressed Labour’s support for increased spending on defence after the Prime Minister promised an additional £4bn a year for the department.

“We can’t afford not to,” Healey said. “National security always comes first.” Describing the increase as “welcome”, “long overdue” and “an upgrade that has been needed for some time”, he added that “we need to see the strategy on top of that”.

On whether Jeremy Corbyn should have the whip restored, Healey said: “That’s not a matter for me.” Asked if an apology would be enough, as suggested by Gordon Brown, he replied: “My personal view is not relevant in this.”

Although Healey said Labour “got derailed” by Corbyn’s reaction to the EHRC report, he also concluded that Brown “speaks with a great deal of authority” and that “a full apology would go a long way to help sort things out”.

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