07:00 – 09:00 1 November 2012
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Last night David Cameron got something of a bloody nose in the House of Commons. He was defeated in a vote over Europe. MPs voted by a majority of 13 in favour of a rebel Tory call for a cut in the European budget .. Let’s speak to the MEP for the Eastern Region, Labour’s Richard Howitt .. There’s a perception though isn’t there that it’s just a massive gravy train, and that you know there’s expenses here and there, there’s people earning absolute fortunes for not doing very much at all.
RICHARD HOWITT: Well those feelings are because that type of language is used in the media.
PAUL STAINTON: So it’s the media’s fault, is it?
RICHARD HOWITT: Well, a “gravy train”, you know. I have voted ..
PAUL STAINTON: Well the Kinnocks have done very well out of it, haven’t they? I mean the Kinnocks have you know got hundreds and hundreds of thousands out of the EU. That’s the sort of thing that makes people cynical about it, when, you know, they’re so socialist they’ve earned hundreds and hundreds of thousands. You know that’s just one example.
RICHARD HOWITT: .. radio Paul. But you know that’s the line put by the Conservative tabloids.
PAUL STAINTON: Is that not true then?
RICHARD HOWITT: It’s certainly true that as the Labour MEP for Cambridgeshire I have voted on each and every occasion to cut the EU budget. I voted to cut my own salary. I voted to clear up accusations about fraud and mismanagement. And I will carry on doing so, because people that I represent in Cambridgeshire do want value for money from Europe. But people that I meet in workplaces, in voluntary organisations, in local authorities around the county, they don’t want what these Conservative Eurosceptics want, which is Britain leaving the European Union, threatening a veto before we’ve even started a negotiation, which is a very bad tactic. And they don’t want this type of language about obesity, gravy trains, bloated, because they recognise that there is a serious business to be done in Europe, on which our businesses and our jobs depend.
PAUL STAINTON: If there was a vote tomorrow Richard, you’d be out of a job, wouldn’t you? If we had a referendum tomorrow, the country would vote to pull out of the EU, wouldn’t it?
RICHARD HOWITT: Well firstly I’m deeply proud that when people did have a vote in the European Parliament elections, they voted for me as a Labour ..
PAUL STAINTON: Yes but I asked you a fairly simple question Richard. If there was a vote tomorrow, to pull out of the EU, you know the people of Britain would vote to pull out, don’t you?
RICHARD HOWITT: When we had a referendum of our membership of the European Union ..
PAUL STAINTON: Oooh yes. When was that? About 70 what 3?
RICHARD HOWITT: Paul, let me answer the question.
PAUL STAINTON: Sorry. Go on.
RICHARD HOWITT: When we had a referendum, polls were against before they started the campaign. And then on election day by two to one the British public voted for our membership of the European Union. And it was a Labour government that gave that referendum. I’m absolutely convinced that if there were a referendum, it’s a distraction. I don’t believe there should be at this time. But if there were, the British public would come to the same common sense view again. And Conservatives like the Peterborough MP would be on the losing side.
PAUL STAINTON: When you talk about Stewart Jackson, we’ve got to mention his Bill to strengthen the controls on EU migrants coming into the UK. Do you support that?
RICHARD HOWITT: Well I support a very multicultural community in Peterborough, where our faith groups, and where the anti-racist organisations and many in the public services are working to integrate different communities. Of course Labour believes that there should be strong and tough controls on immigration. There’s no difference between the parties on that. But I’m very worried sometimes when I listen to and read things that our Conservative MP says in Peterborough. He is fanning up the resentment and the division within the community he and I jointly represent. And I don’t support everything that he says on that. No.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you accusing him of stirring up racism? Is that what you’re saying?
RICHARD HOWITT: I’ve chosen my words very carefully. You know I think calling someone a racist is a very big call. But I do think that those of us who have public office, and therefore public trust, have a duty to lead public opinion. And that in Peterborough, which is a multiracial community, where there have been race crimes and race attacks, it is our duty to speak against them, and not in any way do things or say things that could excuse or even encourage them in the future.
PAUL STAINTON: Does he not have a duty to stand upfor what he believes in then?
RICHARD HOWITT: Well we all of us in politics have a duty to say what we believe. But I believe that we have a duty to represent the best interests of our community, and I’m afraid our Peterborough Conservative MP is representing the best interests of his own right wing ideology. And in the end I don’t think the people of Peterborough or Cambridgeshire will thank him for it.
PAUL STAINTON: Stewart Jackson MP for Peterborough is here listening that that. What’s your thoughts?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I’m really, with respect to Richard Howitt, not going to be lectured by a hard-left Harlow in Essex based MEP, elected with 14 per cent of the vote by Peterborough people on a rather strange electoral system back in 2009. I mean he is on the Euro gravy train. He is a hard-left activist, backed by the trade unions. He doesn’t speak for Peterborough. He’s out of touch. His agenda is to push the candidacy of the Labour candidate here, not listen to people. And the cheek of the man who said that he believes in strict immigration controls. Basically, Labour’s policy on immigration in the last ten years was let the doors open, have no controls, have no controls for non-EU or European Union migrants. And he’s just got no credibility. And to try and smear me as a racist is pretty low, even by Richard Howitt ..
PAUL STAINTON: He didn’t call you a racist. I did ask him ..
STEWART JACKSON: Well, he’s kind of implying that anyone who takes issue with large scale migration, unplanned, unfocused, without proper funding to cope with pressures on schooling, on housing, on health, is basically a racist. And what he does actually is give sustenance to people like the BNP, who realise that because of political correctness, people like me are being told to shut up and not represent our constituents …
PAUL STAINTON: Don’t you have to be careful though, in what you say?
STEWART JACKSON: Of course you have to be careful. And I am careful. I’ve never espoused racist views. You know, just a few weeks ago I visited the largest mosque in the city to talk about the film that was causing .. the video that was causing upset in the Muslim community. I’ve been elected twice in this city. Richard Howitt speaks for no-one but himself. And to describe us as sort of co-representatives of Peterborough .. he’s got nothing in common with Peterborough, and he should stick to looking after the interests of Harlow and Essex rather than pontificating on the democratically elected Member of Parliament, who is after all doing the job I was paid .. are paid to do, which is to represent my constituents who have some very serious and credible concerns about the legacy of Labour’s open door immigration policy.
PAUL STAINTON: What sort of response did you get, when you stood up in the Commons yesterday? Because it is almost a taboo subject, isn’t it? And if you do stand up, you do, if you mention any of these issues, it seems, if you stand up and put your head above the parapet, you are there to be shot at by people.
STEWART JACKSON: Yeah. And that’s what I’m paid to do, to articulate the views of people who perhaps aren’t as confident or articulate or don’t have access to people of influence. It goes a long way I think to make the point that there was no opposition to my debate and my Bill in Parliament. I mean there was one really pretty maverick Labour MP, Dennis McShane, who’s obsessed with everything European. And there was no vote. And I got strong support, and of course I had two Labour MPs supporting the Bill.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And you voted against the Government last night, didn’t you? You’re going to be popular, aren’t you?
STEWART JACKSON: I voted for my country of my constituents. I couldn’t look my constituents in the eye and tell them that I voted to give hundreds millions of pounds more of their taxpayer’s money to the European Union, which is a bloated corrupt entity.
PAUL STAINTON: Ooh careful. Now listen. You’re fuelling that. That’s not what Richard Howitt said. He said we’re doing this. We’re building it up to be that. It’s not that at all. It’s got some very important things to do. Julian Huppert would probably disagree with you as well.
STEWART JACKSON: Richard Howitt would say that, because he’s on the Euro gravy train. He’s an MEP. He’s going to get a big fat Euro-pension. Actually in his terms of condition of employment it says you can’t criticise the European Union when you’re retired as an MEP, because you won’t get your pension. I mean he’s hook line and sinker …
PAUL STAINTON: Is that true?
STEWART JACKSON: Yes. Absolutely. And that’s why people like Nick Clegg for instance are very wary about criticising the European Union, because they get a European Union pension. You know, he’s interested in defending Europe in the Eastern Region, Richard Howitt. I’m defending my constituents in Peterborough, and I couldn’t look them in the eye when I’m asking them to make tough decisions and say, oh, by the way, at the same time I’m going to ring fence expenditure and give more money to the European Union. I just couldn’t do it. And that’s why I voted the way I did.