this is bbc news, the headlines: the british prime minister, borisjohnson, has insisted that holding an early general election is the only way progress can be made on brexit. at the end of another difficult day, mrjohnson said he'd rather be dead in a ditch than ask the european union for another delay. the health minister of the bahamas has said hurricane dorian‘s impact on the country's northern islands has been unimaginable, and the final death toll will be staggering. at least 70,000 people are said to need urgent help.
the storm is currently off the east coast of the united states. german chancellor angela merkel is on a three—day visit to china to push for greater access to markets there. over the past year, germany has called on the eu to adopt a tougher line on china, but analysts believe her government may be softening its stance to avoid economic damage. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk. stephen sackur interviews lord falconer. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. british politics is in full—on meltdown mode. prime minister borisjohnson has lost a series of key votes on brexit, and he's lost his parliamentary majority. he is now seeking a general election in mid—october to let british voters decide whether brexit should happen,
come what may, at the end of next month. but will the labour 0pposition agree to a snap poll? well, my guest is former labour cabinet minister lord falconer. is labour in any fit state to win an election, amid britain?s brexit chaos? lord falconer, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. prime minister borisjohnson right now is intent on ending the protracted brexit turmoil, crisis, call it what you will, in westminster.
and your party, the labour party, appears to be intent on drawing out, prolonging, that crisis. why? well, i think the conflict between boris, the prime minister, and jeremy, the leader of the opposition, is that before there's any election, the labour party is keen to secure that there cannot be a crashing—out of the european union with no deal. hence the need notjust for this deal that is currently going through parliament, that requires the prime minister to ask for an extension, but that parliament should stay in place to ensure he actually sends the letter. and then, and only then, should there be an election. because otherwise borisjohnson, the prime minister, will have achieved what he set out to do, which is having got us out of the european union with no deal, and the public having no say in a general election on that issue.
well that, as you know, is not borisjohnson‘s intent. his declared intent is to negotiate a new and better agreement with the european union. and the one thing he says he needs more than all else to get that better deal is to have the leverage of telling europe that if they won't do a deal with him, then britain is prepared, if necessary, to leave without a deal. and labour is, i come back to it, intent on undermining that negotiating strategy. labour is not intent on undermining that strategy. the first thing you would need for that to be true, what the prime minister is saying, is that he has something to negotiate about. what offer is he making to the european union? because presumably any negotiating strategy must involve putting something to the european union in place of the backstop. and although borisjohnson says things are going well in these negotiations, every european capital and brussels, where the european commission is based, says we have heard nothing from david frost, who is his main negotiator. well, with respect, as they would, because this is a negotiation. both sides are seeking
to maximise their own interest, so they're hardly going to start talking warm and friendly before the crux of the negotiation has been entered. but surely, in any negotiation, you would set out what your position is. and so far, even though he agreed with mrs merkel that there would be 30 days, and even though half of that period has gone, he still hasn't said what is his negotiating position. my experience of doing negotiations with the european union, which i did when i was a justice minister, involved you setting out your position. you might well make compromises, but you do have to set out a position, and he's just not doing that. and therefore i'm very — personally, very unconvinced that he has got a negotiating position. well, as you can imagine, we have tested that proposition, not leastjust a couple of days ago,
with a senior conservative who is still very loyal with borisjohnson. i, here with you, must test labour, and the strategy being pursued byjeremy corbyn. of course. because if labour gets its way, manages to thwart, absolutely thwart, the idea of a no—deal brexit happening on 310ctober, the inevitable question for you and your senior labour colleagues is, what on earth are you going to do with another extension, it seems until 31 january? you have these new three months, but you don't appear to have any new idea of how to resolve britain's brexit crisis. if there is an extension until the end of january, then the position will be there will also almost certainly be a general election between the end of october and the beginning of the end of january. after the new government is elected, and it may well be a labour government, then what the labour government would do is see what terms were on offer from the european union, and see what terms could be negotiated, and then let the public decide, in the light of those terms, do they want to leave the european union in accordance with the first referendum, or do they want to remain,
now knowing what the terms are? well, there are several issues with that. first of all, we know what the european union's offer is, because a deal was done with theresa may. and as far as we can see, the european union... it was a very complicated deal to do. the european union is convinced that at its core, that deal is the only deal — that being the phrase used by barnier. no, that is not what monsieur barnier is saying. monsieur barnier has said specifically that if the red lines were changed, then the deal could change. so, for example, if the position were that we were willing to stay in the customs union, or if for example we were willing to stay in the single market or some modified form of the single market, then the position would be that that would change, for example, the need for the backstop. so the red lines changing, and we would have a different position. we would be much keener on a softer deal than mrs may was, or borisjohnson appears to be, if he is in truth waiting for any deal at all.
this can get complicated. you have just referred to the backstop which, for all of our viewers and listeners around the world, we must remind them is the proposition that, whatever happens, we have to maintain an open border between the republic of ireland inside the eu and northern ireland, which if we brexited would be part of the united kingdom. very well put. thank you very much. but it goes beyond process. the labour position appears to me to have a fundamental weakness, illogicality, at the centre of it. you, according to keir starmer, your brexit secretary, are a party clearly committed to remain. he wants a second referendum, and he says in that referendum labour will argue to remain inside the european union. so you are telling me a labour government, if they were to win an election, would send negotiators to brussels to get a new deal with the european union, and would then advise the british public in a referendum vote to ignore the new deal and vote to remain inside the eu. that position, if i may say so,
it makes no sense whatsoever. it exactly the position taken by the government when there was the first referendum. not the one three years ago, but the one in the mid ‘70s, where the labour government renegotiated with the european union as to what the position was. they then said to the public it's for you to decide. the government will take a neutral stance. it is perfectly reasonable... to go back to the 1970s... well, i'm not suggesting we go back to the 1970s. well, you are struggling to find a justification. i am not. why would anybody in brussels, or indeed in the united kingdom, take seriously a negotiation conducted by people who are committed to actually ignoring their own negotiated deal and telling the public to do something entirely different? now, you've rather subtly changed what the policy is. the policy is, find out
what the deal is, then leave it to individual members of the labour party as to how they want to campaign on this. it would then be for the public to decide. and there's a logic to that. well, if i may, we get to a disagreement here inside the labour party. i wonder which side of the fence you are on. keir starmer, i have referred to him, shadow brexit secretary, quite clearly said any outcome to a negotiated deal must be subject to a referendum, and in that referendum, we in labour would campaign for remain. he said it is not an issue. whatever the deal is, we in labour will campaign for remain. we are a remain party. jeremy corbyn, on the other hand, just a couple of days ago said this. he said, listen, if the deal that is on the table in a new referendum is a no—deal against remain, we will argue for remain. but if there's another deal on offer, then the party's democratic processes will decide what to do.
so what is it? is labourfully remain, or isn't it? there are differences between those two positions, as you have rightly identified, and i don't know precisely which position labour will adopt in relation to the manifesto. so labour is still — after more than three years, all of this torture, labour doesn't know what to do. you exaggerate and overstate the position. what they're saying is we will negotiate the best deal that we can, and then, in some way or another, the public will get an opportunity... for myself, personally, i would be much happier if what we did as a party is negotiate the best deal that we could, which i think would be a much softer deal and much closer to the european union, and then we didn't have a referendum at all. but you're asking about labour policy. i am, and i think you're being very frank about the degree of confusion in labour today. we are just weeks away, you agree with me, weeks away from a general election. yes. whether it is this side of 31 october or the other side, it's very, very imminent. yes.
and you're saying to me that the leader of your party and his key spokesman on brexit are completely at odds about whether labour is actually a remain party. you have used the word "completely." what i am saying is there are differences that need to be resolved, but the ultimate and crucial element of this is there will be a negotiation. we will see what deal that we can get, and the labour party, one way or another, is then committed to giving the public some opportunity... and borisjohnson is going to be your opponent in that election. he is going to have a very clear message. he will say this is about the people versus a useless, prevaricating parliament, that has let you down for three years. i am a tribune of the people on this matter. the people voted for brexit, and brexit is what i will deliver. and you think labour's confused message can compete with that. well, that is exactly — you have described exactly what boris is going to do. how has he managed to get to that position? by basically evicting from his party 21 members of parliament who were tories. you can always get to clarity by basically evicting, sacking and removing everyone
who disagrees with you. my experience of politics, and the way that british politics has worked successfully previously, is that compromises have to be made within political parties, which means that you are able... when you do things, you do it by taking into account a lot of people's views. now, boris has — you're exactly right, he has the benefit of being able to say it's my view and my view alone, and all of my enemies within my party have been removed. well, let us not suggest for one moment labour has any sort of unity on this issue. you've lost more than half a dozen mps already, who went off to form an independent grouping. their choice, their choice. you've got many other mps, substantially more, who sit in constituencies, many of them in the midlands and the north of england, which were predominantly leave—voting constituencies. and i'm thinking of people, i daresay political friends of yours, like caroline flint, who are absolutely adamant that
if labour does insist in the next few weeks on portraying itself as a remain party, they will not only lose a host of important seats in the north and the midlands, but they will in essence call into question the very future of the labour party. i don't think that's right in relation to the brexit issue. i think obviously people like caroline flint, who is a member of parliament for don valley, which is near doncaster in england... one of a host of mps who have leave voters as a majority. and they have held onto their seats. even though labour is much, much more a party close to the european union, and not leave party, they held onto their seats in 2017. to be honest, two years on, the story may well be very different. may well be very different. but in this case, and caroline flint is a very good example, she got 50% of the vote in 2017. why did she get over 50% of the vote in 2017?
because don valley, near doncaster, will not vote tory. let us perhaps get away from the detail of british politics today and lift our eyes to a wider horizon. there was, like it or not, a referendum in 2016. 52% of the british people voted to leave the european union. we still have not left the european union, and we have seen more than three years of frankly sometimes embarrassing, maybe even at times humiliating, argument and divisiveness at the heart of british politics in westminster. what do you think the public of this country now make of our national politics? i think many of them are very surprised by how poor the last three yea rs appears to have been in terms of performance by politicians. on all sides? on all sides, yes. i think they are extremely disappointed about what has
happened. as you say, this country voted by quite a short margin to leave the european union. i was against that, but if we had done it well as a group of politicians, then we could have stood tall in the world. as it is, it's become a symbol both domestically and internationally of britain losing, or losing its grip, as a country that is well governed, with sophisticated and effective governance machinery. what we now have is a political system dominated by two parties which i think it is fair to say have moved to the extremes on the brexit issue, but perhaps other issues too. we havejeremy corbyn, who is a self—avowed socialist, and whose associates tend to be from the hard left.
that's in the labour party. the tories are now led by borisjohnson who has removed at least 21 mps of the more moderate persuasion, soft brexit persuasion, if i can put it that way, from his party. and there is a feeling, that there is a space in the centre ground of british politics which is currently wide open, and perhaps people such as yourself, moderates within the labour party, ought to be moving into that space. many colleagues have already. are you tempted ? not at all. the way that our politics has worked and the way that i hope it will continue to work is that labour is the great coalition, the coalition of a range of differing views, but all on the left. if we want to make serious change in this country, then the labour party is the machine to do it. well, tony blair has serious doubts. he says he has a lot of sympathy with those in labour who left to form the independent group, some of whom who have since gone to the liberal democrats.
alastair campbell, another friend of yours, the director of communications for tony blair, is now gone from labour. he was thrown out and says he does not want to go back because he cannot abide the current leadership. i dare say that you say you have more in common with people like alistair campbell than people likejohn mcdonald, jeremy corbyn, len mccluskey and seamus milne. these are the hard left. do you really have anything in common with them? i have much in common with them in the sense that i am a member of the labour party. maybe membership of the labour party is becoming meaningless. i don't think it is meaningless at all. you refer to the fact that many of my friends have left or been thrown out, like alistair was in fact thrown out. he doesn't want to go back. he was thrown out, he did not want to go back. these are really great people who have left because they feel they cannot stand the labour party.
that is not a choice that i am making, because we're not in this for a year or two. we need to stick with it over a long period. just to correct you, you said labour moved to the extremes on brexit. i don't think they have. i think the labour party remains trying to get a moderate solution to the brexit issue, and by a moderate solution imean something where an agreement can be reached. labour says the public then need to approve it. but we're still trying get a sensible deal which involves staying close to europe. no, when i referred to extremism in labour, i was not referring to brexit. i was thinking primarily about current economic thinking and party policy, but also of particular problems the party has faced, that you have been intimately involved with. in my mind right now is the question of anti—semitism inside the party,
and the party's institutional failure to root it out. that is an incredibly difficult and i believe an existential issue for the labour party. i've referred to the fact that it may be that the institution of the labour party does not at the moment appear able effectively to deal with anti—semitism, and i believe — and i mean by that that there are so many clear cases of anti—semitism by labour party members, the numbers there may be a dispute about, but there are significant numbers. people have talked of 1,000 or more. at the current time i believe it is around 15 members of the party have been expelled. so over 1,000 allegations, serious allegations, but only 15 members expelled. before we get into the detail of the few troubling cases, how could it be that anti—semitism, in the words of so manyjewish mps, let alone jewish members of the party, has become institutionalised and systemic in your party? how could it be?
because we as a party have failed to be absolutely unequivocal and clear that we will not tolerate any sign of anti—semitism. we appear to be lost in some legalistic morass, which means that our disciplinary process is not sending out the message that we have to absolutely stamp on it. it's from the top down, right? well, i believe that if a clear message came that we cut through the legalism and just get rid of those people who are guilty of anti—semitism within the party, life would be a lot easier on the anti—semitism front. when i talk about the top down i am mindful that margaret hodge, again she was with us not that long ago, she personally accuses jeremy corbyn of being anti—semitic, and she says there is now a place in the party that permits a pernicious form of racism, that is anti—semitism. do you agree? i don't agree, from my dealings with jeremy corbyn,
that he is anti—semitic. indeed, my dealings withjeremy corbyn make me believe that he is very, very anti—anti—semitism. but here is your problem. you know that an election is coming. you said in the recent past that we could not win a general election, nor would we deserve to, unless we are seen to be tackling the scourge of anti—semitism. one case to put before you which you followed closely, that of the national executive committee member pete willsman. he's a self—styled protector of corbyn, that's what he calls himself. videotape emerged a few months back of mr willsman talking about the allegations of anti—semitism in the party saying one of the things about anti—semitism that they're using, they're using it to whip up people. and i'll tell you what he said. this is off the record,
but it is almost certain the people behind these allegations towardsjeremy — almost certainly it was the israeli embassy. and pete willsman has been suspended and after all of this, has not been expelled. and he is an incredibly good example of why we have got a problem with anti—semitism, his case is. i think i said previously there is absolutely no reason why that should not be dealt with within14 days because, as you say, there's a tape, so there's no dispute about what he said. if the tape is forged or fraudulent, then he can say so, but i doubt that's the case. and then a panel can decide whether it is anti—semitic or not. speaking for myself, if the position was that a member of the ruling body of a party said complaints of anti—semitism were manufactured by the israeli embassy, i would have thought, as a member, as a person of the jewish faith, i would think that i would never get a fair trial there if somebody treats me in an anti—semitic way. you think he should have been expelled months ago. i think — i find it difficult to imagine
what his defence should be, on the basis of that tape. but the point is that the machinery had not even kicked into gear to have that decision made. and i am amazed by that. and to come back to your sentence — we cannot win a general election nor do we deserve to, unless we tackle the scourge. how can labour go into an election with this in their midst? well, it's going to be a real problem for us, and it should be a real problem, because i am not saying that we cannot win, but i think... but you are saying we cannot win. if we cannot finish of anti—semitism is a problem in our party then how can we hold ourselves up as a party of moral fibre? and yet you say you still are determined to stay in this party? i am determined to stay in this party, because i believe a properly running labour party is the best engine, indeed probably the only engine,
for change in this country. and you wantjeremy corbyn to be the next prime minister of the united kingdom? well, i wantjeremy corbyn to be the next prime minister rather than boris johnson. and i make it clear, i do think the institution looks tainted by anti—semitism because we cannot deal with cases like pete willsman, but i don't thinkjeremy personally is anti—semitic, and i think he would be a better prime minister than boris johnson. lord falconer, we have to end there, but thank you very much for being on hardtalk. hello there.
this week has been very changeable, up—and—down temperatures, one day sunny, the next day windy and wet. it looks like we're ending the week, in fact, on friday with wetter and windier weather for many. but as a band of rain slips southwards, we will see return to sunshine with blustery showers as well. all courtesy of this next area of low pressure moving in. just to the north of scotland, you can see the isobars closer together, so windy conditions through friday and this band of rain first thing friday morning will be across more central areas, spreading slowly southwards and eastwards as the day wears on. eventually becomes confined to southern counties of england, the odd heavier burst on it, but behind it, skies brighten up. plenty of sunshine around, but also blustery showers. some of these will be heavy in the north—west, and it will feel cool once again, with temperatures generally the mid to high teens celsius. it stays breezy as we head on into friday evening. that weather front clears away from the south. skies clear, in fact, for many. one or two showers around,
mainly across coastal areas. 0therwise sunny spells, and with the cool air in places it will be a fairly chilly start to saturday. and temperatures in single figures for many, particularly out of town in the north. but high pressure builds in for the weekend. for both saturday and sunday, it looks like it should be mainly dry, thanks to this big ridge of high pressure. lighter winds, too, but the air will be on the cool side. so we start saturday off on a chilly note, plenty of sunshine around. still breezy and windy down the eastern coastal areas with feeding in a couple of showers. otherwise, for most, apart from an isolated shower, it should be dry through the afternoon. sunny spells, temperatures the low to mid teens in the north, maybe 18—20 across the south. high pressure still with us, then, on into sunday. the weather front may bring a bit more cloud to the north—west corner of scotland. most places will be under the influence of this ridge of high. but it really will be a chilly start on sunday up and down the country. but bright, plenty of sunshine around. like i mention, that front could bring thicker cloud and more
of a breeze to the far north—west, most places shall see sunny spells. a bit of fairweather cloud bubbling up during the day. again, those temperatures after a chilly start reaching the mid to high teens celsius. as we head on into monday, it looks like we've got another weather system pushing in from the north—west. that'll bring a band of rain, the winds will pick up once again. so quite a messy picture for monday. outbreaks of rain, some of it quite heavy, moving across scotland and then into england and wales. it brightens up behind the rain band again, blustery showers following on. slightly cooler air, too, 14—16 degrees.
this is the briefing. i'm victoria fritz. our top story: britain's prime minister says he'd rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask the european union for a further delay to brexit. "unimaginable destruction" — the bahamas health minister says the number of people killed by hurricane dorian will be staggering. the women targeted by their ex—partners and the websites that won't take down so—called revenge porn. in business, is the future of smartphones finally about to unfold? samsung's flagship gadget goes on sale after months of delays caused by broken screens