Murnaghan 3.03.13 Interview with Sadiq Khan, Shadow Justice Secretary

March 03, 2013


DERMOT MURNAGHAN: Well now, the Labour party were somewhat overlooked by the media following the Eastleigh by-election but they were also overlooked, of course, in that by-election by the voters. They came fourth with just about 10% of the vote, so what does that say about their appeal, their general appeal and of course about the general election in 2015? Well I’m joined now by the Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, a very good morning to you Mr Khan. You’ve got this double digit poll lead nationally, not translated in Eastleigh into the appearance of a government in waiting, you’re just waiting.

SADIQ KHAN: Well Eastleigh is 258th on our target of seats we want to win at the next general election. If we win Eastleigh in 2015 we have 510 Labour MPs.

DM: Yes, but a better showing. I’m not saying you should have won it but there was a big protest vote there.

SK: Nobody is happy when you come fourth but even in 1997 when we had a majority of 179, a landslide year, we failed to win Eastleigh, we came third in 1997. Of course we want to do better …

DM: I don’t want to rerun what happened on Thursday night but look, votes left the Lib Dems, they left the Conservatives, the protest vote went to UKIP and not to Labour.

SK: Yes. We increased our vote slightly, not enough, we need to do far better in the south. There should be no parts of the country where Labour doesn’t do well. There were some doors we were knocking on though that had never had a Labour canvass or knock on their door ever before, they were pleased to see a Labour face knocking on their door and we need to do much more of that. We were pleased of course when we won from the Conservatives Corby, that’s on the road to Downing Street, we need to do far better in the south and I’m not being complacent but I’m just putting it in the context of if we win Eastleigh in 2015 we’ve got more than 510 Labour MPs in the House of Commons which is something we’ve never had before.

DM: Okay, so work to be done there. One of the big things that came out of Eastleigh is this issue which I’ve just been discussing, you may have seen, with three Conservative backbenchers. Immigration loomed really large there, a lot of people who were canvassed who said perhaps voting UKIP for the first time, said we really feel that immigration is a massive issue here and I heard people on the television articulating, well Labour opened the floodgates. That is something, that is a perception you’ve still got to deal with isn’t it?

SK: Well firstly, people who talk about immigration aren’t bigots and people who support UKIP aren’t fruitcakes or racist, so it’s right for you to raise the issue and it’s right for people in the doorstep to raise the issue, it’s a legitimate concern and we’ve said, look, Ed Miliband has done something which leaders of parties don’t do, he’s fessed up and said we made a mistake when we were in government. We failed to have transitional arrangements for the EU accession countries like Poland, more people came from Poland than we predicted, we got the numbers wrong so we made sure we had in place full transitional arrangements for Romania and Bulgaria. We put our hands up and said we got it wrong.

DM: Just on that, that just defers it, that just kicks the can further down the road, transitional arrangements, because we’ve got to let them in at some point as we have reached with Romanians and Bulgarians in 2014.

SK: Sure but you criticised the Labour party for allowing too many immigrants in and I’m saying yes, because we failed to have even the seven year transitional arrangement for Poland, immigration from Poland was far quicker and in greater numbers than we had predicted or planned for. Now look, within the EU we have free movement of Labour, of capital and it leads to jobs coming to this country that otherwise wouldn’t come but also you have people coming and the trick is to make sure that you properly plan and put proper transitional arrangements in place so you can make sure there aren’t too many low skilled workers coming to this country, taking jobs from people here, you get the skills to people in this country so that they can properly apply and compete for these jobs. You have got to make sure you have a fair, firm immigration policy.

DM: I know Labour people in five, six and seven, the then Chancellor, I’ve heard Ed Balls saying that actually these people who were coming from these eastern nations who had recently acceded to the EU, that they were a boost to the British economy, of course they were. We’ve got an ageing population, these were young motivated, sometimes highly skilled people who were coming to help out our economy. Is that not what Labour’s saying now?

SK: Look, you can break it down in a number of ways, Dermot. The economic benefit to this country, the social benefit, the cultural benefit but also at the same time you’ve got recognise that you’ve got to properly plan for this. I’m the son of immigrants, my father came here in the 60s and worked for more than 25 years driving buses in London, contributed hugely to this economy, paid tax for more than 25 years as indeed are his children. You’ve got to properly plan for migration, you’ve got to properly plan to make sure that you don’t encourage a certain type of migrants, the low skilled people who may take some of the jobs that we can be doing here but also you make sure you have employers in this country who are able to properly recruit the skills we need from overseas.

DM: Let me ask you some more, there is a European dimension perhaps flowing from Eastleigh and we were reading today as I was discussing earlier, we’ve got the Home Secretary, the Justice Secretary, talking about dimensions of the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act, perhaps getting rid of one, both or either, I can’t quite work it out but do you think that flows from Eastleigh and is a mistake.

SK: You’ve got a government at sixes and sevens. David Cameron, the Prime Minster, has said in today’s newspapers, one of them, that he will not lurch to the right. Two of the very senior members of his Cabinet are doing just that but they are at sixes and sevens so you’ve got Theresa May who wants to be the leader, saying that she will withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights, Winston Churchill one of the founding fathers of the European Convention, not even Margaret Thatcher sought to remove us from the European Convention and the European Court. You have Chris Grayling who wants Theresa May’s job, saying we will abolish the Human Rights Act. William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard, none of them said they would abolish the Human Rights Act and what they have got to explain to your viewers is which of the Human Rights Acts would they abolish? Article Two, the right to a fair trial? Article Three, the right not to be [inaudible] to prevent Gary McKinnon, the Asperger’s sufferer, going to the US? Article Six, the right to a fair trial which stops the victims of rape being cross examined by the rapist? Article Eight, the right to privacy in family which keeps couples in residential care homes together? Article Ten, which gives you guys the right to properly scrutinise journalists freedom of expression? Which one will they get rid of?

DM: Okay, we would expect you to know about that but we therefore hear from Labour then, leave it all alone, it’s all good?

SK: No, we say of course there are concerns about the time it takes to get a case to the European Court, of course there are concerns about the filtering process. Less than 2% of cases taken to the European Court against this country are ever successful, we never hear about those, we only hear about the vexatious claims brought that are thrown out. Look, be confident and proud of your history, don’t lurch to the right because you’ve been hammered in Eastleigh, be confident about the values we have. One of the greatest exports we’ve had are our human rights.

DM: Tell me about something that seems to have flowed from Eastleigh, there we have the Conservatives offering eventually a referendum, an in/out referendum on the European Union, it didn’t seem to have any effect on dealing with that threat from UKIP to them. Has it put Labour off offering one? I know you’ve talked about it, haven’t you?

SK: Another good example of the dangers of a Prime Minister being all over the place and a government being at sixes and sevens. Six weeks ago he makes this major speech giving the British people a possibility of a referendum in four or five years’ time, leading to huge uncertainty where foreign companies now are not sure whether to invest in this country, British companies are not sure whether to keep investment here. We said all along, you have a referendum when it’s in the interest of the country, to say four or five years in advance you may or may not have one is madness. You know, last year when Alex Salmond said he wanted to have a referendum in Scotland in 2014 what did David Cameron say? It was madness to have two years of uncertainty in Scotland. What has he done? He’s created four to five years of uncertainty in this country, no electoral benefit to him and it demonstrates that this is a Prime Minister who’s panicking.

DM: Just lastly we have to get to, Mr Khan, I know you are very worried about the issue of secret courts, it’s coming up this week in the House of Commons, the third reading of this Bill. The security services say well we need to paraphrase or to have certain secret hearings because there’s some information we’ve gathered that we don’t want to air in public, what is wrong with that?

SK: Well another good example of where the government is at sixes and sevens. So the government’s own independent reviewer on counter-terrorism legislation says there are a small number of cases where it’s worth having proper checks and balances in place so we can have closed material proceedings. The House of Lords, cross benches, Labour, Liberal Democrat peers, vote to put in safeguards. This government secretly upstairs in the committee corridors of the House of Commons, removes the safeguards put in by the House of Lords and we will tomorrow vote to try and reinsert those safeguards that the House of Lords put in to make sure we can have the proper checks and balances.

DM: Okay, Sadiq Khan, thank you very much indeed, the Shadow Justice Secretary there.

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