07:38 Wednesday 25th September 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: We’re talking Ed Miliband as well. Full of promises in his speech at his party’s conference yesterday. He pledged to freeze gas and electricity prices until 2017, build thousands of new homes, 200,000 a year, cut taxes for smaller firms, give younger teenagers the vote, repeal the Government’s change to housing benefit. He went on and on and on. And all of that of course is if his party wins the next General Election. If. But it was his big energy freeze that grabbed the headlines. The energy companies though this morning warned such a freeze could lead to energy blackouts. Labour have rubbished those claims, and will write to the big energy companies to explain the policy in greater detail. But we can talk now to Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough, councillor Lisa Forbes, who’s with us and enjoying the conference. Morning Lisa.
LISA FORBES: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Did you enjoy yesterday? He certainly knocked out the bullets and the guns, didn’t he? Brought the big guns out yesterday.
LISA FORBES: Yes I think he did. And I think sitting in the conference hall it was an amazing atmosphere. And he said a lot of things that really appealed to our members. My phone was ringing off the hook yesterday as well. Some people responded to it who were watching the TV, and they seemed to think it was a great speech as well, and it really connected with them.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. You wait a long time for a Labour policy, and then you get twenty all at once.
LISA FORBES: (LAUGHS) Yes. Exactly. And I think talking to the people on the doorstep in Peterborough, it’s exactly what they want to hear. I’m pretty sure that when I go out on the doorstep now and I speak about policies that Labour are offering, that they’ll be happy with what I say.
PAUL STAINTON: A price freeze though? A price freeze, price fixing, repealing changes to housing benefit, we’re going back to the red old days aren’t we? We’re back to the ’70s, aren’t we?
LISA FORBES: Well I don’t know about that. I think Ed Miliband’s incredibly in tune with the people I speak to on the doorstep. We’ve had above inflation rises for years and years, and people are upset. They’re having to choose between heating their homes and putting a meal on the table. And I just don’t think we can carry on like that. And I think its’ brave of Ed Miliband to try and do something about that.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it brave, or is it foolhardy? How is it going to work? It’s alright throwing out these lines, and throwing out these policies, but how the heck is it going to work? Won’t energy (companiea) just put their prices up before he fixes them?
LISA FORBES: Well I don’t think the energy companies can threaten to hold the country to ransom like that, personally.
PAUL STAINTON: Well they’re threatening to pull out of the country if he fixes the prices. Where is that going to leave us?
LISA FORBES: I don’t think they will. I don’t think they will at all. And I think if you’ve got to accept that rising prices are the only way forward, then it’s all the more reason to develop greener alternatives. And that’s something that I would strongly recommend that we’re doing anyway.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. He also said yesterday he’s going to build 200,000 houses a year. Has he got magic in his bones? Is he magical? Is he a wizard? How’s he going to build 200,000 house a year?
LISA FORBES: Well, again, we’ve got a real housing crisis in this country. People are paying really high prices for rents. It’s something that needs to be done.
PAUL STAINTON: How is he going to do it though?
LISA FORBES: Well I think it deals with two things. It actually builds the houses we need, and it kick starts the economy. It gets people back into work. So I can’t see how we can’t do it.
PAUL STAINTON: Well there’s no funding. There’s no money. The banks don’t want to lend. Is the Government going to bankroll all of this?
LISA FORBES: I think it’s about different choices. We’ve got a Tory coalition government at the moment that are reorganising the NHS, spending billions of pounds. Quite frankly people don’t want a reorganisation of the NHS. So I just think it’s about making different choices with the money that we have.
PAUL STAINTON: He also talked about his vision of 50% of MPs being women. Obviously you’ve been selected in Peterborough on an all-women shortlist. Doesn’t he have to ask the unions’ permission first to do that?
LISA FORBES: No I don’t think so at all. The unions and the Labour Party go back to the beginnings, to the creation of the Labour Party. I don’t think he has to ask the unions’ permission to do anything at all.
PAUL STAINTON: Well haven’t we seen that in the past? Haven’t we seen the unions exert an inordinate amount of power on who gets picked to be a Labour Parliamentary candidate?
LISA FORBES: No I don’t think that’s true at all. It’s certainly not the case in Peterborough. There were allegations that my selection was fixed for instance, but ..
PAUL STAINTON: Does nobody back you? Do unions not back you?
LISA FORBES: Yes. I was backed by Unite and other unions. But all that means is that you can put their logo on your leaflets. And in fact ..
PAUL STAINTON: Do they not give you any money then?
LISA FORBES: Three candidates were backed in Peterborough. Unite was happy to work with any one of the three women candidates that came forward. And I was chosen by the members in a fair and transparent way. So no, I’ve got to problem with the way I was selected.
PAUL STAINTON: But unless the union backs you, you can’t stand, can you?
LISA FORBES: That’s not true. No.
PAUL STAINTON: Would you win the ..
LISA FORBES: The members decide. It’s one member one vote.
PAUL STAINTON: Do you know anywhere where a member has stood without union backing? Is there any potential candidate anywhere without union backing that’s going to stand at the next election?
LISA FORBES: I’m sure that there will be. Yes. I don’t know the ins and outs of all of the selections, so I can’t really comment on that. But I know the way my selection was run, and that the unions could endorse whichever candidate they wished. And as I said, United the union actually endorsed three candidates in Peterborough, and were happy to work with any one of them that won.
PAUL STAINTON: Ed had a lot to do before this conference, didn’t he? The polls weren’t looking great, considering the state of the country. He had a lot of doubters in his own party to win over. Has he done enough?
LISA FORBES: I think he has. Yes. And I think it’s the people that are going to decide who governs the country at the next election. And I think that Ed Miliband is offering a One Nation vision. And I think that people want, from the conversations that I’m having on the doorstep, people want someone that will stand up to powerful vested interests. And Ed Miliband has proven that he can do that. And I think that people will see him as a potential leader after the speech that he made yesterday.
PAUL STAINTON: Do I need to get some candles ready for a couple of years time? Are we going to have the lights out, or are we going to be alright do you think?
LISA FORBES: No I don’t think the lights will go out at all. I understand that the energy companies won’t be happy with what Ed’s said, but I’m pretty sure that the people of this country will.
PAUL STAINTON: Thank you very much Lisa. Thank you for coming on this morning. Lisa Forbes, councillor Lisa Forbes. She’s standing for the Labour Party as a prospective MP for Peterborough at the next General Election.
08:11 Wednesday 25th September
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: Well Ed Miliband yesterday spoke with passion and purpose, without notes. Looked like a man fit to be Prime Minister. Conservative MP Stewart Jackson is on the line. Are you worried Stewart?
STEWART JACKSON: No, I’m not worried. I think we should all be getting our Bee Gee’s records out and flares, because we’re going back to the ’70s, the sort of hard-left socialist programme that brought this country to its knees until Margaret Thatcher stepped in and rescued us. This is a programme about grabbing land, price controls, re-nationalisation, votes at 16, politics of envy, high taxes, high regulation. If they want to fight an election on that, then I think, to quote a former Labour Minister, it’s the second longest suicide note in history really.
PAUL STAINTON: Others would say however that he’s doing what people want. He’s attacking these people that have been making people’s lives a misery. Energy bills are the bane of people’s lives. He’s intervening in the market. He’s trumped you hasn’t he? Because that’s what the Conservatives normally do.
STEWART JACKSON: Well no. We’ll fight the election on our record in government. And our record in government is creating 1.2 million new private sector jobs, cutting the deficit by a third, cutting tax for working people, £600 for 24 million people, and taking 2 million people out of tax. Our approach is pro-business, pro-jobs, pro-growth. Theirs is as I say high taxes, bashing business, the politics of envy. And really I think it’s a sign of desperation. Because the question people keep asking about Labour and Ed Miliband is why should we give the keys back to the guy that crashed our car into the ditch? Because that’s what they’re asking you to do. And because they haven’t been able to answer that question, ie we can be trusted on the economy, they’ve lurched to the left with a series of policies. And you’ve got to think that when they face the electorate in the Spring of 2015, we may very well be in the position where we’ve had a year or more of steady growth, household income is rising .. in fact the bottom fifth of working people now are actually better off than the top fifth richest. So the idea that the bottom fifth have lost out is not true.
PAUL STAINTON: The cost of living keeps going up. And people have got less in their pockets, whatever you say. We’ve had to make some tough decisions. You’ve only got to talk to people on the streets and watch people in the shops. They’re very careful about what they buy. They only buy what they need to buy, which is why shops are struggling. And these policies will resonate won’t they with people?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I think the key thing is .. I’m not saying that people have not had a tough time. We’ve seen real wages and household incomes take a real battering over the last four or five years.
PAUL STAINTON: And he’s doing something about it. There you go.
STEWART JACKSON: Well I don’t think he is, because he’s not thinking through the policies. Price control didn’t work in the ’70s, when Labour last tried it. It’s about the state making incursions into people’s lives, telling them what to do, re-nationalisation, anti-free schools. We are the party that is paying down the deficit, that is reducing taxes for working people, that’s reforming the welfare state, that’s creating more free schools and driving up standards. And the thing is that at the end of the day the problem Ed Miliband has is he doesn’t look like a Prime Minister. And these policies I don’t think are a prospectus for the Labour Party to win a General Election. He’ll get a short term boost, potentially. But the underlying factors which is that you’ve got to drive growth and jobs through creating wealth and enterprise has been totally lost on Ed Miliband, and I think the fact is people will come to that conclusion at the General Election.
PAUL STAINTON: He’s made something of a breakthrough here though, hasn’t he, with his personality and his policy? He’s set out where Labour are. He’s set the bar for your conference. David Cameron’s got to pull something out of the bag, hasn’t he?
STEWART JACKSON: Well he does. And David Cameron always rises to the occasion. As you know Paul, I’m not his greatest fan, and I don’t always see eye to eye with him. But he looks Prime Ministerial. He looks statesmanlike. He’s made some tough choices, because actually, when you scratch below the surface and ask people some key questions, who’s best at running the economy, who’s best at making the tough choices, who will make your family better off, and the country better off, ultimately the Conservatives are ahead of Labour.
PAUL STAINTON: Won’t some people have changed their minds today though? It’s not about looks, it’s about policy, isn’t it Stewart?
STEWART JACKSON: Well it is, but .. the BBC had a focus group in Crawley, which is a marginal seat in Sussex earlier this morning, and it didn’t change people’s minds. They don’t see Mr Miliband as being a potential Prime Minister. They don’t see his leadership qualities. And they haven’t really changed their minds. There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before we get to the General Election. I personally think a lot of these policies will fall apart under scrutiny, and then he’s back to square one. So he can have his day in the sun. But essentially I don’t think the British people have changed their view. They’ve made up their minds that Ed Miliband is not a Prime Minister in waiting, and Labour have not got the policies to carry on growth and jobs to get this country out of the mess that Labour plunged us into when they were in power.
PAUL STAINTON: Well that’s the Conservative view from MP Stewart Jackson.