Andy Burnham at the Labour leadership hustings. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Show Hide image

Burnham's cloth ears, commons bench wars, and the Durham Miner's Gala

Asked if the cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry could join the fun, the DMA’s general secretary, Dave Hopper, replied: “We’ve got nee problem with him. It’s the Labour f***ers we never see that I object to.”

To the 131st Durham Miners’ Gala, where Labour leadership wannabes jostled for attention amid the brass bands and banners. The lefty Jeremy Corbyn delivered a fiery speech from the main platform and Tom Watson waved to the parade from the balcony of the Hotel Royal County. The pair have been nominated for leader and deputy by the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA).

Asked if the cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry could join the fun, the DMA’s general secretary, Dave Hopper, replied: “We’ve got nee problem with him. It’s the Labour f***ers we never see that I object to.” Cue the arrival of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, to pose for photographs in the crowd.

Brooks Newmark, who resigned first as a minister and then as an MP over a newspaper report about a peep shot of the inside of his Paisley pyjamas, isn’t the only Tory who exposes himself to danger. An eminent author of historical fiction whispered to your correspondent that a horrified lady friend had shown her a private picture sent unsolicited by a Conservative member, captioned: “Look what you’re missing.” The MP felt, wrongly, that the bloated organ would impress the target of his desires. Instead, he is a figure of fun. Would the dishonourable member like to out himself?

Praises for the SNP 56 are secretly being sung by Tories. A cabinet minister informs me that the Nats are chummy with Conservatives in the privacy of the tearoom. I suspect the SNP doesn’t shout about that in Scotland. The minister observed: “I’m surprised how friendly the SNP [is] with us. Then again . . . we both hate Labour.”

Fresh details emerge of the declaration of Westminster that has ended the bench wars in the Commons chamber between the SNP and Labour. The deal is that Labour is guaranteed four of the nine places that may be reserved by prayer cards in brass name-holders, including Dennis Skinner’s corner slot, with the Nats allocated the other five. Everybody budges up to squeeze in a fifth Labour bottom (to ensure parity of numbers). If only the two parties got on so well in Scotland – or the tearoom.

At Labour hustings, the deputy “undercard” is more entertaining than the main event. Digs by Rupert Murdoch’s nemesis Tom Watson at candidates courting the Sun King included a pop at Caroline Flint. When Watson lamented the absence of Chuka Umunna or Rushanara Ali on all-white panels, she was overheard muttering, “I bet you stitched them up.”

Cloth ears, it seems, were to blame for Andy Burnham’s claim at hustings that petrol costs “160p” a litre. Mary Creagh, sitting alongside him, had muttered that it was £1.16 but Burnham misheard. If ever a favour backfired . . . 

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 16 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Motherhood Trap

Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Jeremy Corbyn: “wholesale” EU immigration has destroyed conditions for British workers

The Labour leader has told Andrew Marr that his party wants to leave the single market.

Mass immigration from the European Union has been used to "destroy" the conditions of British workers, Jeremy Corbyn said today. 

The Labour leader was pressed on his party's attitude to immigration on the Andrew Marr programme. He reiterated his belief that Britain should leave the Single Market, claiming that "the single market is dependent on membership of the EU . . . the two things are inextricably linked."

Corbyn said that Labour would argue for "tarriff-free trade access" instead. However, other countries which enjoy this kind of deal, such as Norway, do so by accepting the "four freedoms" of the single market, which include freedom of movement for people. Labour MP Chuka Umunna has led a parliamentary attempt to keep Britain in the single market, arguing that 66 per cent of Labour members want to stay. The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon said that "Labour's failure to stand up for common sense on single market will make them as culpable as Tories for Brexit disaster".

Laying out the case for leaving the single market, Corbyn used language we have rarely heard from him - blaming immigration for harming the lives of British workers.

The Labour leader said that after leaving the EU, there would still be European workers in Britain and vice versa. He added: "What there wouldn't be is the wholesale importation of underpaid workers from central Europe in order to destroy conditions, particularly in the construction industry." 

Corbyn said he would prevent agencies from advertising jobs in central Europe - asking them to "advertise in the locality first". This idea draws on the "Preston model" adopted by that local authority, of trying to prioritise local suppliers for public sector contracts. The rules of the EU prevent this approach, seeing it as discrimination. 

In the future, foreign workers would "come here on the basis of the jobs available and their skill sets to go with it. What we wouldn't allow is this practice by agencies, who are quite disgraceful they way they do it - recruit a workforce, low paid - and bring them here in order to dismiss an existing workforce in the construction industry, then pay them low wages. It's appalling. And the only people who benefit are the companies."

Corbyn also said that a government led by him "would guarantee the right of EU nationals to remain here, including a right of family reunion" and would hope for a reciprocal arrangement from the EU for British citizens abroad. 

Matt Holehouse, the UK/EU correspondent for MLex, said Corbyn's phrasing was "Ukippy". 

Asked by Andrew Marr if he had sympathy with Eurosceptics - having voted against previous EU treaties such as Maastricht - Corbyn clarified his stance on the EU. He was against a "deregulated free market across Europe", he said, but supported the "social" aspects of the EU, such as workers' rights. However, he did not like its opposition to state subsidy of industry.

On student fees, Corbyn was asked "What did you mean by 'I will deal with it'?". He said "recognised" that graduates faced a huge burden from paying off their fees but did not make a manifesto commitment to forgive the debt from previous years. However, Labour would abolish student debt from the time it was elected. Had it won the 2017 election, students in the 2017/18 intake would not pay fees (or these would be refunded). 

The interview also covered the BBC gender pay gap. Corbyn said that Labour would look at a gender pay audit in every company, and a pay ratio - no one could receive more than 20 times the salary of the lowest paid employee. "The BBC needs to look at itself . . . the pay gap is astronomical," he added. 

He added that he did not think it was "sustainable" for the government to give the DUP £1.5bn and was looking forward to another election.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.