Sunday 17 December 2017

Could this be the worst interview ever? British politician says she 'mis-spoke' in car-crash interview

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott

Sam Lister

Labour's Diane Abbott said she "mis-spoke" when she gave a string of incorrect figures during a radio interview about her new policing policy.

The shadow home secretary stumbled over the cost of plans to put 10,000 extra police on the street in awkward exchanges with LBC's Nick Ferrari.

In one attempt to come up with the bill for the flagship policy, officers would earn just £30 while a second go left them with £8,000.

Ms Abbott's assessment of how many new officers would be recruited in the first 12 months of the four-year plan ranged from 25,000 to 250,000,

The shadow cabinet minister told BBC Two's Daily Politics: "I do know my figures. I did seven interviews that morning and that was the seventh and I mis-spoke but I do know my figures."

Ms Abbott claimed she had repeated the figures correctly during the course of six previous broadcast interviews earlier this morning.

"If I didn't know my figures, I wouldn't have been able to repeat them correctly in six other interviews," she told Daily Politics.

Asked if she had been guessing the figures, she replied: "I knew the figures because I have repeated them many times this morning."

Presenter Jo Coburn said: "You haven't, I haven't heard you repeat them at all."

"Well, I can repeat them now.

"I'm concerned that you don't want to talk about policing, which is something the public is concerned in, particularly the rise in violent crime, and you do want to go over and over an interview," Ms Abbott said.

"But that's your fault, Diane Abbott," Coburn replied.

Ms Abbott said: "The public will understand that you are not willing to talk about the real issues and the real issues are that we have lost 20,000 police officers since 2010 and we are seeing a rise in violent crime."

Asked if she believed she had instilled confidence in voters over Labour's plans, she replied: "People that listened to any of the interviews I gave this morning, with the exception of the LBC interview, will know that I do know the figures."

Jeremy Corbyn said the policy would cost £300 million, and insisted he is "not embarrassed in the slightest" by Ms Abbott's gaffe.

"She corrected the figure and that's the figure and it will be paid for by not going ahead with the cuts in capital gains tax," he told Sky News.

Asked if it was embarrassing that Ms Abbott got the figures wrong, he said: "Not at all. We have corrected the figure and it will be absolutely clear now, today and in the manifesto.

"I'm not embarrassed in the slightest."

The gaffe was quickly seized on by the Conservatives, who claimed it showed that Labour's sums "don't add up".

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "Diane Abbott has laid bare the chaos that Britain would face if Jeremy Corbyn is voted into Downing Street.

"One of Corbyn's closest allies has clearly shown that Labour's sums don't add up, they would weaken our defences, and their nonsensical promises aren't worth the paper they are printed on."

Ms Abbott repeatedly paused and stumbled as she gave a range of figures for how many extra officers would be recruited and what the bill for the plan would come to.

She initially said the four-year project would cost £300,000, then revised it up to £80 million before finally landing on £718 million.

Although the plan is to recruit 10,000 officers, Ms Abbott said 25,000 new recruits would be brought in annually, before later saying 250,000 policemen would be employed in the first year of the scheme.

She told LBC: "Well, if we recruit the 10,000 police men and women over a four-year period, we believe it will be about £300,000."

Ferrari replied: "£300,000 for 10,000 police officers? How much are you paying them?"

Ms Abbott replied: "No, I mean, sorry, they will cost, it will cost about, about £80 million."

"About £80 million? How do you get to that figure?" he said.

Ms Abbott answered: "We get to that figure because we anticipate recruiting 25,000 extra police officers a year at least over a period of four years.

"And we are looking at both what average police wages are generally, but also specifically police wages in London."

Ms Abbott went on to say that in the first year of the scheme the party expected to recruit 250,000 policemen.

"The figures are that the additional cost in year one, when we anticipate recruiting about 250,000 policemen, will be £64.3 million," she said.

When Ferrari queried the figure of 250,000 policemen, Ms Abbott responded: "And women."

Challenged again on the figure, she said: "No, we are recruiting two thousand and - perhaps - two hundred and fifty."

Ferrari asked: "So where did 250,000 come from?"

Ms Abbott responded: "I think you said that, not me."

He replied: "I can assure you you said that, because I wrote it down."

Ms Abbott then said: "What I am saying about the cost is that in year one, obviously, we are getting ready to recruit.

"But in year two, the cost will be £64.3 million. In year three, the cost will be £139.1 million. Year four the cost will be £217 million. And year five, the cost will be £298 million.

"And that can be amply covered by reversing the cuts in capital gains tax."

Starting salaries for police officers in England and Wales range from £20,000 to £23,000.

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Here is a transcript of shadow home secretary Diane Abbott's interview with LBC radio's Nick Ferrari on Labour's plans to recruit an additional 10,000 police officers:

NF: Where will the money come from Diane Abbott? Good morning.

DA: The money will come from reversing some of the tax cuts for the rich that the Tories have pushed through. And the tax cut we're specifically identifying to pay for the 10,000 policemen is the cut in capital gains tax.

NF: Policemen? So we can't have policewomen then?

DA: Policemen and women.

NF: That's alright, just checking. Strange it falls to me to correct you, Diane, but do carry on.

DA: Let's talk about the real issues of crime which people are worried about. What people are worried about is the rise in violent crime. We've seen in the Met, for instance, gun crime go up by 42% and knife crime go up by 24% and we believe that more community policemen and women are part of the answer to this.

NF: So how much would 10,000 police officers cost?

DA: Well, if we recruit the 10,000 policemen and women over a four-year period, we believe it will be about £300,000.

NF: £300,000 for 10,000 police officers? What are you paying them?

DA: No, I mean, sorry...

NF: How much will they cost?

DA They will cost, it will cost about, about £80 million.

NF: About £80 million? How do you get to that figure?

DA: We get to that figure because we anticipate recruiting 25,000 extra police officers a year at least over a period of four years. And we are looking at both what average police wages are generally but also specifically police wages in London.

NF: And this will be funded by reversing, in some instances, the cuts in capital gains tax. But I'm right in saying that since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the party, that money has also been promised to reverse spending cuts in education, spending cuts in arts, spending cuts in sports. The Conservatives say you've spent this money already, Diane Abbott.

DA: Well the Conservatives would say that. We've not promised the money to any area, we've just pointed out that the cuts in capital gains tax will cost the taxpayer over £2 billion and there are better ways of spending that money. But as we roll out our manifesto process, we are specifically saying how we will fund specific proposals. And this morning I'm saying to you that we will fund the 10,000 extra police officers by using some - not all, but just some - of the £2 billion.

NF: And the £80 million is the figure we use?

DA: Yeah, yeah.

NF: But I don't understand. If you divide £80 million by 10,000, you get £8,000. Is that what you are going to pay these policemen and women?

DA: No, we are talking about a process over four years.

NF: I don't understand. What is he or she going to get? Eighty million divided by 10,000 equals 8,000. What are these police officers going to be paid?

DA: We will be paying them the average...

NF: Has this been thought through?

DA: Of course it's been thought through.

NF: Where are the figures?

DA: The figures are that the additional cost in year one, when we anticipate recruiting about 250,000 policemen, will be £64.3 million.

NF: 250,000 policemen?

DA: And women.

NF: So you are getting more than 10,000. You're recruiting 250,000?

DA: No, we are recruiting two thousand and - perhaps - two hundred and fifty."

NF: So where did 250,000 come from?

DA: I think you said that, not me.

NF: I can assure you you said that, because I wrote it down.

DA: What I am saying about the cost is that in year one, obviously, we are getting ready to recruit. But in year two, the cost will be £64.3 million. In year three, the cost will be £139.1 million. Year four the cost will be £217 million. And year five, the cost will be £298 million. And that can be amply covered by reversing the cuts in capital gains tax.

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