tv Dateline London BBC News June 27, 2021 11:30am-12:01pm BST
the death toll from collapsed apartment block in miami rises to five as rescue teams continue to try to search for survivors. grab a jab — half of all adults under 30 in england will have had their first covid vaccine by the end of the day. now on bbc news, dateline london with shaun ley. hello and welcome to the programme that brings together leading british columnists
and the foreign correspondents who write, blog and broadcast from the dateline, london. this week, borisjohnson and the art of political cross—dressing. have electoral cockroaches begun stripping him bare? is it safer to eat a british sausage than meet a british tourist? and as india warns there's a delta plus variant, what would a world living with covid long—term look like? joining me this week, eunice goes is a portuguese academic, author and journalist, steve richards has been analysing british politics for 30 years and thomas has spent the last half—century writing about british politics and more recently british history, trying to explain the british to his fellow native germans. welcome to you and welcome to eunice anmd steve. now, sarah greene is proud to call herself a cockroach. the newly—elected liberal democrat mp ousted the conservatives. the scale of her victory has alarmed some of borisjohnson�*s allies. she represents a leafy community on the north—west fringes of london. not bad for a party nearly annihilated by voters
during borisjohnson�*s general election triumph of 18 months ago. but like cockroaches, they are still there, she says. another by—election looms thursday, days after the health secretary was caught mixing business with pleasure and not observing the covid rules he is responsible for. has the prime minister, with an 80 seat majority, got much to worry about if the odd by—election goes against him? i think he has, because boris johnson's omnipotence — almost complete control over this government, is because he is perceived as an election winner. even his most ardent fan would not say he's a great master of detail who implements policy with rigid focus but he appears to be this great vote winner who will not only allow them to keep their seats at an election, but perhaps make more gains in the north of england.
that by—election where the conservatives lost by an unexpectedly big margin at least challenges that picture. even if the conservatives gain, as many think they will, the by—election next week in a red wall area of england, batley and spend, there will be a slight qualification on one level it's an epic triumph to make gains mid—term, but it will be seen as 0k, we are doing extraordinarily well in those areas that were once labour. how do we maintain a coalition stuffed full of contradictory elements? i do think it was significant. we talk about borisjohnson riding two horses. on the one hand he has made extraordinary gains in english midlands and northland seats that
were traditionally labour, although as steve would know, batley and spend has been conservative in the past, and labour at different times. it's labour at the moment. these seats are also seats that he has in his backyard as it were, southern england. is it possible for him to continue this successful act to satisfy both constituencies? i think it will be very difficult. when parties are in power, the longer they spend in power, the less palatable they are for voters. so far, he has, borisjohnson has benefited from delivering brexit, being in total control of the management of the pandemic with all its mistakes but, it means he is in charge of the communication strategy of the pandemic. millions of people on furlough, thousands of companies being helped by the british government, and successful vaccine
roll—out programme. all of that benefits the conservatives. but it's not going to last until the next election and that is when the problems will start for boris johnson. we started to see as we saw at the last by—election in chesham and amersham how the liberal democrats are starting to kind of break the blue wall in seats. in typical safe conservative seats. and as steve has said, it's difficult to create a platform that satisfies two very different sets of voters. here the big issue was a promise to build more housing, voters in leafy and wealthy areas are not so keen on seeing big construction going on there. they also feel neglected with all the focus in the north, and at the same time, they no longer fear the labour party
and a labour government that in 2019 the threat was a labour government led byjeremy corbyn, that threat is no longer there, so those seats are under threat and political scientists estimate around 23 seats in southern england the liberal democrats can win back. thomas, you will recall 20 years ago the lib dems did very well in this country, in by—elections againstjohn major, a conservative government. at the moment, is borisjohnson�*s biggest advance labour's continued perceived weakness? not so much weakness but the absence of public attention on anything other than the pandemic. he is lucky in the sense that there is a majority that steve referred to and secondly there is this overriding issue of the covid crisis, which keeps everyone on tenterhooks how it will end.
you don't change horses in the middle of a virus attacking you on a daily basis. our predictability is ruined. i'm reminded of an old jewishjoke which says if you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans. this is so much our situation. nothing will be as you planned it. that is hard luck for keir starmer because to carve out a profile for his party at a time when no—one is really listening for anything other than the current crisis is very tough on him. also the old labour refused to be so prominent in blair's time, and he arrived at the end of the long tory cycle. nothing like that obtains at the moment. we have a new political ball game. and the attachment of individuals to parties are very brittle and unpredictable. boris can ride his luck a little longer yet, i'm sure.
steve richards, the wider situation beyond england in the uk is very interesting. there are signs of perhaps a strengthening of welsh nationalism, but labour seems to be pretty secure in wales, judging by the results in the welsh parliamentary and welsh assembly elections, the senedd. we have scotland and the pressures on scottish independence. hard to know what that will have on the wider uk. in northern ireland you have a parallel system where none of the parties have a presence and therefore arguably governments don't take northern ireland voters that seriously. the whole package is very, very fluid at the moment. it's incredibly fluid and there are not really parallels with the �*80s, beyond the fact that this is another long serving conservative government for the reasons you suggest. in the �*80s, it's easy to forget, all power in effect
was centralised at westminster. there was no scottish parliament. there was no northern ireland and wales assembly. now we have this very diverse and fractured picture which adds to the uncertainty the other guests have been exploring at the moment. you have this bizarre situation where the tories are triumphing in seats that were solidly labour once, and labour actually in those local elections last month were on the whole doing badly, making substantial gains in areas that were solidly conservative in england, and meanwhile, as you suggest, you have these other developments, and one reason why the drama over brexit and the northern ireland protocol which we won't have time to go into. it's as you suggest. the traditional parties don't really contest those seats so there isn't as much highly
charged fervour around it. you accurately convey a picture without precedent, we are not used to this. the outcome is very uncertain in terms of the next election. i'm glad you mentioned the northern ireland protocol. it's such a complicated subject. we did have a meeting of the british irish council this week, for the first time in two years they have sat down, we had simon coveney, the foreign ministerfor ireland suggesting as he had suggested... do you detect any signs of a willingness in brussels to look for a compromise on this? because arguably, the distrust and bad politics between brussels and london could have really damaging consequences on the ground in northern ireland if it is not dealt with soon. if there is going to be, if there is an atmosphere
of trust, i do not know. there was a real upbeat mood between the irish foreign secretary and the northern ireland minister for the uk. there was the expressed desire to have more of these meetings and they are necessary to keep good bilateral relations. but with regards to the northern irish protocol, i think the eu and president macron expressed it very eloquently at the last g7 summit, there is a very great fatigue with brexit. the eu has spent four years painstakingly negotiating first a withdrawal agreement, then a new cooperation agreement between the uk and european union. for the uk within months or days of signing that agreement or weeks,
to starting to renage on some of those compromises so when the new united kingdom government decided to unilaterally extend the grace period, of the application of the northern irish protocol, while at the same time, it refused to recognise the eu's ambassador in the uk. this was all great irritants. the eu might concede another grace period of three months where the protocol is not applied for the meat, the famous sausage war, and this is very much in line with what the eu does so well which is kicking the can down the road, hoping for the problem not to be sorted. this is essentially the classic way the eu solves its problems. but there is a very strong fatigue. the eu wants to focus on other things and it also fears it is sending the wrong signs. it's starting to feel that the uk is not serious about its commitments
in its relationship with the european union. and it's also worried about what kind of message is it sending to countries like switzerland and norway and iceland, with which the eu has very strong relations. these are countries that are part of the european economic area, switzerland is a kind of not de facto but in real end reality, is a member of the single market, enjoys the benefits and these countries might say we also want bespoke agreements where we want a bit of this and a bit of that, because this is essentially what the british government is trying to do, it is having its cake and eat it. i think brussels are starting to be tired of having the same conversation over and over. there is something absurd about this, thomas, no one seriously thinks a sausage coming from great britain into northern ireland is going to end up in portugal to be eaten by a portuguese innocently and terrible food poisoning or something awful happens.
people in brussels are angry that borisjohnson appears to be signing and not honouring it. they don't want to reward him, as eunice said, but there is a danger of not seeing the wood for the trees. surely what's more important is stability in a place like northern ireland, the border between northern ireland and the republic of ireland, stability that could be threatened and people would say actually the eu in the uk and the irish all have an interest in ensuring that doesn't happen? isn't that the basis why perhaps some might take a more statesman—like view and say actually even if we appear to be rewarding borisjohnson�*s bad behaviour, the bigger picture is more important, stability. it's not about rewarding either side for sticking to the negotiating outcome, this is a deal signed by the british and you can reasonably assume, but eunice saying how the eu kicking the can in the grass and waiting for something to happen, the british also have a way of doing
business which is muddling through. the downing street plan as it were never really focused on what the eu is, they have no understanding, they think it's the an idea plucked from the sky to have an integrated central market as it were. this is the be—all and end—all for the eu as a trading area. so compromise has to be made, but so does borisjohnson have to consider compromising. so far, he is making look like it would be a dent in british pride if he gave one iota and that's the danger, and that will really inflame motivations and feelings all over. if he portrays the need for compromise on his side as relinquishing british sovereignty, that is playing with fire. that is where he has to educate his people, something has to give. it's an opportunity because he has
angela merkel coming to chequers... she is coming in a week to discuss trade areas, trade problems and of course vaccinations and the rest of it. but borisjohnson has to get off his high horse, his grandstanding of sovereignty and british pride and what have you. if you have a compromise with your partner and that dents your very standing in the world. the opposite is the case. if you can eat humble pie in small area it will benefit him greatly and won't endanger his success with the british public opinion at all. he could serve sausage and mash for a lunch i suppose steve but seriously is there a way that borisjohnson could say ok, we will follow the eu veterinary standards for an unspecified period, he could do that and get away with it without brexiteers, people supporting brexit, crying betrayal? no, i think all hell would break loose.
it's relatively minor sounding because the uk are theoretically committed to high standards. but this is the brexiteer case. if they tie themselves to what is called equivalence with the eu, it defeats the whole point of brexit which is to have the freedom to negotiate trade deals elsewhere, unencumbered by legal commitments to the european union so i think it will be difficult because it would be a challenge to the organs he has framed. to the arguments he has framed. the arguments are strange because any trade deal is, the one with australia involves compromise and rules etc but they have made such a thing about being freed completely from the european union that i think all hell will break loose. however, there is no other solution because as thomas suggests,
the purity of that single market and it's not about out of date sausage ending up in portugal, it's about protecting that single market because britain has left so it's a really big problem, even though the examples sound trivial. last week, we talked about the g7 nations pledging to help the poorest by providing vaccine. this week, covax are priced out, half of them already running out undermining the effectiveness of vaccination as a route out of pandemic. south africa's president accused the rich of vaccine hoarding. india says it has identified cases called dealt plus. as it evolves, so must vaccines. south africa say they are trying to get production on the continent of africa, because they are vanishingly small.
is it enough for rich countries to say let's wave patents laws and people talked about that as an option or for the g7 countries to say look how generous we are, providing i million, i billion doses over the next year or so. is that any adequate response to the sort of problems being identified by a scheme like covax? no, the response of the west has been not only inadequate, it has been profoundly unethical because what happened was that as you said, the rich countries hoarded all the vaccines leaving the developing world without any choice and actually paying a very high price for the few vaccines that remain available, so i think the whole way in which the distribution of vaccinations were arranged in the last six months or even last year, because the british government
actually bought its doses of vaccines last summer, it showed it's actually very important to have a production side within your region of the world, because otherwise you are not able to access any vaccines and i think south africa is having the help and the support of the world health organization, because the whole question of patents that has to be reviewed, this is almost a form of neocolonialism, a way in which the super wealthy big multinational companies in the west ensured that the developing countries remain extremely poor. the pharmaceutical companies are profoundly hypocritical on this. because the pharmaceutical companies that develop the vaccines in the west are so reliant on public investment. in the united states alone, over $12 billion of public funds were invested in the research of the vaccines, which the
commercial pharmaceutical companies are now reaping the benefits. so this is a world problem, a pandemic that has as the name says, affected the entire world, patents laws have to be, have no place in this situation because the pandemic well only disappear when the whole world is vaccinated and when the pandemic is under control all over the world. since we are not in that position steve, and it doesn't look like we will be any time soon, how do we square that with the kind of huge public pressure that is appearing notjust in the uk though it's very visible in the uk, we see it obviously in international sporting events where we had people going, english fans going last month to porto, for the football for the champions league final when large numbers of infections reported there, countries like italy say we will have quarantine against angus travellers, the english meanwhile inviting uefa
fans to come and watch the european euros at wembley. we seem to have a kind of contradictory message on public health against pressures, whether it is for tourism, or for big sporting events or for the needs of business. i just wonder how we're going to find our way through this? it is messier than that. you highlighted the football where big crowds are going to come for the finals of the tournament, whereas festivals for music are being, even outdoor ones, are being cancelled. theatres and concert halls are still struggling with social—distance audiences. so it is all over the place. the answer is that i think it will remain a mess for some time. i remember during the g7, by the way, if they were going to announce bigger contributions then they won't happen, that was the stage to do it,
people like gordon brown warning we won't be free of this until everyone is vaccinated. there is a massive self interest in getting the vaccinations across the globe. but it didn't happen and it's not going to. that will have the consequences of us navigating through this maze of contradictory messages for some time to come. in a sense, thomas, it illustrates the problem the prime minister is experiencing with his health secretary at the moment, the public saying it is do as i say, not as i do, because that seems to be the case. then there's a big international event, we want to host the g7 or the football final, we kind of blur the rules. we find exemptions, reasons orjustifications for not doing what we have said everybody else has to do. it would be possible to live with contradictions for a little while, if they were more understanding of what the ordinary citizen this summer, last summer,
need to feel happy again to be able to travel, go on holiday. you are quite right in pointing out, the bigger problem at the moment is the lack of community in europe and i add here the eu, plus the uk, about each other�*s consulting about what to do with the virus and so forth. it's an unconscionable situation. at the moment, when britain puts malta on the green list, malta itself responds by barring british tourists from coming to their country, what does that say about the ability of politicians to foresight and foresee calamities down the road and in order to avoid that get—together, nowjohnson, merkel is coming tojohnson to see him at chequers, he should have done that much earlier. they should have sought each other�*s counsel. how to allow certain conditions to occur so people can travel.
for angela merkel to parade herself as the proselytiser to stop britain from entering their continent is the worst situation the german chancellor of all people could be in. she should instead overcome her anxiety that she has, rightfully about the coronavirus, the indian virus and consider how under the aegis of the double vaccination that british holiday—makers now mostly would bring to europe, a certain corridor of travel might be allowed. even the risks involved can be coped with by sticking to the statutory rules. instead, she goes around trying to make friends by making enemies with britain of all countries. so there should not be a shoot—out between the uk and the eu about how to deal with the vaccination with a travel problem, you should come together and devise a common policy, common approach, how to help the european citizen to get some
kind of holiday time in this year. let's hope that the football on tuesday between england and germany sets a precedent of good co—operation after a lively competition. thank you all for a lively contribution. thanks very much for watching. that's dateline. until next week, goodbye. hello. for the rest of today, for many of you that day remains dry. it is in the south where we will see further rain at times in the form of
some heavy and thundery downpours. low pressure centred towards north—western france. you will notice the cloud revolving around and we will get loads of that cloud push towards us, bringing the downpours. they will develop more widely across southern counties of england, may be south wales. north of it, i could not rule out an isolated shower. the best of the sunny spells in the west. temperatures reaching 21 degrees. 22 with any brighter breaks towards the south. there was heavy, thundery downpours continue overnight, pushing northwards into east anglia, parts of wales. wettest condition is tending to be in south wales. he air brought in towards the south—east. fresher further north but we start the day with some dry and bright weather on monday. high—pressure dominates. as we go through monday, tuesday and wednesday, with low
pressure towards the south, many parts of england and wales will still be susceptible to showers. that includes wimbledon. opening day could bring the downpour. they will be some plate but be wary of some interruptions. i would be some plate but be wary of some interruptions. iwould not be some plate but be wary of some interruptions. i would not rule out the odd rumble of thunder too. the day will begin wettest across parts of the midlands, wales. a few showers cringing into northern england. but on the whole, a dry day, sunny spells. some sunshine further south but we could see more heavy and thundery showers develop as we go through the afternoon. temperatures reaching 22 degrees, 21 in western scotland. there was heavy, thundery showers continue into monday evening and monday night they will be replaced by longer spells of rain pushing in from the east. they will be on and off through the day. wales, the south—west, it may be a little bit drier compared to the next 2a hours. the best of the weather, the north
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