"It's got to do with Iran" - Chief Rabbi caught off guard on the Today programme

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says Gaza conflict is "to do with Iran" after not realising he was still on air.

There was an amusing moment on the Today programme this morning when, after delivering Thought For The Day, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was asked by presenter Evan Davis for his thoughts on the situation in Gaza. Not appearing to realise he was still on air, he sighed and replied, "I think it's got to do with Iran, actually", a moment of candour that prompted co-presenter Sarah Montague to whisper, "we, we're live!"

Sacks then delivered a more banal response offering a "a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region. No one gains from violence, not the Palestinians, not the Israelis. This is an issue here where we must all pray for peace and work for it."

One wonders: did Sacks not finish his point because he thought it was inappropriate or because he thought Today thought it was inappropriate?

You can listen to the exchange in full above.

Update: The BBC has apologised for catching Sacks off-guard. A spokesman said: "The Chief Rabbi hadn’t realised he was still on-air and as soon as this became apparent, we interjected. Evan likes to be spontaneous with guests but he accepts that in this case it was inappropriate and he has apologised to Lord Sacks. The BBC would reiterate that apology."

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.