Sunday shows: Labour demands full inquiry into Downing St flat donor claims

The Andrew Marr Show

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, talked about the Tory ‘sleaze’ accusations engulfing Downing Street, particularly the fast-track for ‘VIPs’ seeking contracts during the pandemic and the Downing Street flat refurbishment following serious allegations from ex-adviser Dominic Cummings of “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” behaviour by Boris Johnson.

  • Rayner said the questions around privileged access to Boris Johnson, the allegations of undeclared donations for a £200,000 Downing Street flat refurbishment and other recent issues have “really undermined the institution of government” and there are “serious questions now that the Conservatives need to answer”.
  • She confirmed that Labour is calling for the Prime Minister to come to parliament on Monday to address the flat refurb allegations, for the latest list of ministers’ interests to be published, for the list of VIP contracts during Covid to be published and for a full public investigation into the VIP list for public procurement. The party welcomes the Electoral Commission probe into the refurb.
  • On the VIP list: “There were many companies in the UK who wanted to help who didn’t have the Prime Minister’s WhatsApp, didn’t have that avenue in… The VIP list inhibited the process because people who were not vetted were pushed up because they were mates of ministers, so actually it didn’t help the situation at all.”
  • In response to Marr saying the VIPs came from contacts from across parties: “Well, I didn’t have Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp, Andrew, and I couldn’t get any companies locally to be able to get up that list.”
  • On Labour’s electoral position: “The most important thing I have to say about Labour is many people are starting to realise that Labour has changed. We’ve got new leadership and we are listening.”

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader, explained his campaign message of unity and why he believes the May 6th Holyrood contest is a “pandemic election” rather than one focused on constitutional questions.

  • On whether Scots have the right to determine their future: “Absolutely it’s for the Scottish people to choose their own future, and that’s why this election is so important… I’m recognising this is a pandemic election.”
  • On whether SNP have a ‘moral right’ to another independence referendum if they get a majority: “I’m a participant in this election campaign, I’m not going to commentate on the result. I’ve got 11 days to try to persuade people across Scotland that we can choose something different. We can choose to not have the next five years being about a Nicola Sturgeon/Boris Johnson fight. It doesn’t have to be about the constitution – it can be about you, your family and our national recovery.”
  • On the idea that the Scottish Tories are ‘safer unionists’ than Scottish Labour: “What you just proved there Andrew is that not just politicians and political parties, but actually the wider political bubble, is obsessed about the referendum, obsessed about the constitution, and forget about the pandemic… The political bubble keep wanting to talk about independence. Why? Have they not noticed the crisis facing our country?”
  • He added: “I wish our politicians were as bright as the population.”

Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, would not say whether a Tory donor provided the money for the Downing Street flat refurbishment before Boris Johnson personally covered the cost.

On when all relevant texts between the Prime Minister and James Dyson will be released, she replied: “I don’t know, but I’m sure if he says they will be published they will be published.”

Highlighting that the register of ministers’ financial interests should be published twice a year, Marr asked Truss whether she had “any idea” why it had not been published since July 2020. She replied: “No, I haven’t.”

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Labour frontbencher Jess Phillips confirmed that Labour will ask an urgent question in parliament this week about allegations that Boris Johnson’s flat refurbishment was funded by a Conservative donor, and called for an independent inquiry into it.

  • On Cummings claiming the Prime Minister may have acted ‘illegally’: “Whether I back Dominic Cummings’ view or Boris Johnson’s view, what we need is a proper independent inquiry where it isn’t about two boys fighting.”
  • On whether Labour will table an urgent question on the issue in parliament: “I believe so… Whether we actually get answers that actually mete out any real transparency or integrity in the long run is very difficult to say.”
  • Put to her that the ‘sleaze’ attack line from Labour has not played well in the polls: “I don’t wish to skewer Boris Johnson for electoral gain. I wish to skewer him as a taxpayer and somebody who wants to see politics made honest.”
  • On the polls: “Keir Starmer has taken over the Labour Party, which was in a terrible position in a very, very difficult time where the country is focused on getting back to work, getting to feel healthy…” She added: “It’s not a surprise that opposition politics is difficult at this time, but there’s a long time before the 2024 election.”
  • On Starmer being accused by a pub landlord of not holding the government to account on Covid: “I don’t agree with the thrust of what the publican was saying, as if somehow lockdowns weren’t necessary… The government has U-turned many times throughout this crisis and it’s not fair to say that that isn’t because of the actions of the likes of Keir Starmer and his team.”
  • She added: “The sleaze conversation that we’re having is a partnership between very good investigative journalism and Rachel Reeves on the Labour frontbench.”
  • On Starmer’s ‘instinct’ faced with the pub landlord: “I’m not sure that if, I don’t know, Keir Starmer had tried to lamp the landlord that would be cutting through!” She added: “Keir was incredibly calm in the face of a difficult situation which is actually what I want from my leaders…. He is a calm and safe pair of hands.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar faced questions this morning over how his party would fund Labour’s proposed Covid recovery plan for the country and declared that he is “absolutely” tough enough to take on Nicola Sturgeon.

  • Asked whether Scotland needs greater powers to recover from Covid: “There’s certainly more need for more devolution… People in Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff feel that just like they do in Glasgow.”
  • On independence: “It’s politicians who want to talk about independence in this election campaign. It’s the Conservatives and the SNP who want to make this election campaign about which side you were on in a referendum in 2014.”
  • On the centrality of Covid in the election: “Covid did not choose between yes, no, Leave and Remain. The aftermath is not going to choose between yes, no, Leave and Remain. This is a pandemic election, not a normal election.”
  • On Labour candidates’ previous comments on a referendum: “What people are talking about there is of course Scotland has a right to choose its own future, but what we are all united on… is that we do not support independence, we do not support a referendum.”
  • On the SNP and independence: “Whenever there is a failure, the SNP simply either says it wouldn’t have happened if we had independence or, worse still, what they say is it might have been bad but look at that mob over there – at least we’re not as bad as them – pointing at the Tories.”
  • On the election: “This election campaign has got to be about the next five years, and how we make what has been a really, really difficult year – how we come through it… Not going back to those arguments.”
  • On IFS comments that Scottish Labour would have to raise taxes to fund its recovery plan: “We dispute that because there is an overlap in some of the spending commitments we have made. So some of the spending commitments we have made we have allocated the full budget but there are overlaps in terms of smaller amounts of budget that the SNP have allocated.”
  • Giving an example: “We have published the most ambitious and largest job creation scheme in the history of the Scottish parliament… And I’m not shy about the price tag. It will cost £1.2bn. But we have billions of pounds of unallocated recurring and non-recurring spend available to us in the Scottish budget. What are we waiting for? We need to be using that right now.”
  • On tax: “I support a more progressive tax system. But I believe we can use the billions of pounds that are unallocated, alongside that I want to create a new tax that targets those big online giants like Amazon.”
  • On tax for individuals: “We have made a commitment that we will not look to increase personal taxation over the course of the parliament, but if in the later part of the parliament if we do have a deficit… we would only consider tax rises in the first instance of those earning over £150,000 a year.”
  • Asked whether the proposed new tax on online tech companies can pay for his proposed jobs plan: “The £1.2bn we already have. The £1.2bn is already available to us in terms of our first year of spend.”
  • Asked whether he is “tough enough” to take on SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon: “Absolutely I can take her on, and I’m standing directly in her own constituency as a demonstration of that.”
  • Asked whether he would be interested in forming a coalition with the Lib Dems: “No coalitions with anybody, but I’m happy to work with any individual political party or any individual on one-off issues.”
  • He added: “On individual issues, I’m happy to work with anyone. Because if we can’t come together at a time of national crisis, when can we come together? So that’s the challenge I lay down to every other political party.”

Government minister Liz Truss also appeared. She insisted that the costs of refurbishing Johnson’s Downing Street flat have been “declared in line with the ministerial code” and that the Prime Minister has “met the costs”.

The Secretary of State for International Trade told viewers this morning that she has been “assured the rules have been complied with” and added that Johnson has “acted completely in line with the rules”.

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