One week on – the parties find their feet

talks17:39 Friday 15th May 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: They say a week is a long time in politics. Since the election results were announced last Friday we’ve had twists and turns, ups and downs, from all of the political parties. And our political reporter Hannah Olsson has been trying to keep up. She joins me in the studio now. It’s been quite a week, and today, well, the drama of the Labour leadership contest took another strange turn.
HANNAH OLSSON: It certainly did. Now since Ed Miliband announced he was resigning as Labour Party Leader after to his party’s disappointing defeat in the General Election last week, contenders have been throwing their hats in the ring. We’ve had Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh, all saying they wanted to enter the race. But then today Chuka Umunna surprised us all by announcing he was withdrawing. The reason he gave in a statement was that he wasn’t comfortable with the level of pressure and scrutiny that came with being a Leadership candidate. Now Chuka Umunna is a polished media performer, and was seen as a real contender for the job, so the announcement will come as a big shock for many people within the Labour Party. But former labour Leader Lord Kinnock says he has probably done the right thing.
LORD KINNOCK: If he felt in his soul that he wasn’t prepared to subject himself, and more importantly his family, to the kind of attention which is fairly typical sadly these days, he has done absolutely the right thing. There’s no point at all in inflicting avoidable unnecessary misery on those that you love most.
HANNAH OLSSON: Candidates must secure nominations from 34 colleagues, that’s roughly 15% of the Labour party’s MPs, by 15th June, to make it onto those ballot papers. So we may see more twists and turns in the race before then.
CHRIS MANN: Let’s move on to talk about UKIP. Yesterday I spoke to Patrick O’Flynn, who had very publicly criticised the party’s Leader Nigel Farage, calling him ‘thin skinned and aggressive’. Has there been more reaction to that?

HANNAH OLSSON: Well as promised, Nigel Farage appeared on Question Time last night, and he came back fighting, refusing to step down, and telling the audience he still has a phenomenal support.
NIGEL FARAGE: Don’t think I’ve ever been photographed without a pint of beer, and generally quite a big smile. General elections, you’re under a huge amount of pressure, and particularly it’s like a boiler room, a pressure cooker. The election’s over, people letting off steam, and we’ve seen one or two people fighting personal wars against each other.
HANNAH OLSSON: But then today he had a very cryptic message. He was basically saying in his message that everyone supported him apart from one person in the party, who he didn’t name. So we’ll see what happens there. He says that his party isn’t divided. From our point of view it’s looking increasingly divided at the top, so we’ll see what the coming weeks bring.
CHRIS MANN: Now what about the LibDems? They’ve had a quiet week licking their wounds after their very disappointing performance in the election.
HANNAH OLSSON: To an extent yes. But there has been much talk about the future of the party, as you’d imagine, with some figures saying the party could take decades to recover. There’s even been talk of the party rebranding. But they’ve got more pressing measures at the moment, because they’re without a Leader, after Nick Clegg quit the morning after they lost fifty MPs. Now nominations for the leadership opened on Wednesday, and so far only two people have put themselves forward. They are former Health Minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, and the party’s former President Tim Farron, who today has said the party must be saved. We’ll know the result of that election in the middle of July. In the meantime though, there does seem to be a glimmer of hope for the LibDems. More than 10,000 people have applied for membership of the party over the last week, the fastest rate of growth in the history of the party. And Cambridge actually was in the top five areas in the country for signups, with more than 100 people here becoming members in the last week.
CHRIS MANN: A bit late for the election of course. Now I’d love to have been a fly on the wall in this meeting. David Cameron has been holding talks with Nicola Sturgeon.
HANNAH OLSSON: Yes, the Prime Minister has been in Edinburgh today, visiting SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon. We were told their conversation focused on more powers being devolved to Scotland, with David Cameron hinting he’s willing to consider going further than current devolution proposals. But he doesn’t want to go as far as giving the Scottish Government responsibility for all areas of tax and spending, except defence and foreign affairs, because he says it would leave a financial black hole for Scotland.
DAVID CAMERON: I don’t want to ask Scottish people to find another £7 billion in taxes or make £7 billion in additional cuts. I believe in the solidarity of our United Kingdom, where all of the United Kingdom taxpayers stand behind the Scottish pensions and Scottish unemployment, where we support each other in our times of need. That’s the sort of United Kingdom I want to build.
HANNAH OLSSON: Now what we’ve got to remember with all these twists and turns is that we weren’t expecting any of this to be happening this week. Whatever the parties may have said before the election, they and us were fully prepared for a week of coalition discussions, which makes all of this all the more remarkable.
CHRIS MANN: Now what about locallY?
HANNAH OLSSON: Well our new MPs Daniel Zeichner, Heidi Allen and Lucy Frazer all had their first weeks in the job. But there’s also been some developments here in local politics. We had new leaders of the County Council, with Lucy Nethsinga taking the lead for the Liberal Democrats, and Ashley Walsh leading the Labour councillors. We’ve also seen John Holdich elected the Leader of the Conservative Group on Peterborough City Council, after the departure of Marco Cereste. Next week we’ll find out who the overall Leader of the Council will be. It looks as though it will be a battle between John and Ed Murphy, leading a cross-party coalition. We’ll bring you news on that election as soon as we have it.
CHRIS MANN: Hannah, thank you very much indeed.