Published On: Tue, Jun 11th, 2019

BBC Newsnight host grills Mark Harper over his less than ‘glittering’ record in Cabinet | Politics | News


After laying out his pitch to become next Tory leader and Prime Minister, in which Mr Harper said: “My argument is I’m the only person running in this contest whose got cabinet experience but hasn’t been part of the team that have sat around the Cabinet table and shared in making the mistakes which have got us to where we are now, Ms Maitlis used the opportunity to bring up Mr Harper’s record when he was in Cabinet, pointing out: “You failed to get through the House of Lords reform bill, you failed to hit the immigration target as immigration minister and then you got sacked from that job for employing an illegal immigrant.” Mr Harper choose to interject at this point to defend himself: “Just to be clear, no, I wasn’t sacked, I did make a mistake, I carried out the checks that other employers do, I actually left my position because I took the view that despite having followed the law, I felt that as a Minister, I should hold myself to a higher standard.”

Ms Maitlis responded by remarking: “It’s not glittering is it?”

The Forest of Dean MP then boasted he “took responsibility for it, which I think is the definition of leadership.”

Mr Harper resigned as Immigration Minister in February 2014 after finding his cleaner did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Ms Maitlas told him: “I think it would be incomprehensible for most people that with that kind of track record, you should assume you could be Prime Minister!”

READ MORE: Mark Harper: EU has interpreted Brexit Irish backstop to suit ITSELF

Having made the ballot for Tory leadership after speculation he would fall short, Mr Harper cited his record at pushing through several bills: “The legislation for boundary changes, the AV referendum which we won.”

He claimed he “fixed” the personal independents system as Disabilities Minister and said he pushed through the Conservative agenda after the 2015 election with “quite a modest majority” as Chief Whip.

Mr Harper concluded the interview, by saying that he would not push through a change to abortion law in Northern Ireland, regarding it as a devolved issue to be dealt with Stormont after the Northern Ireland assembly was “up and running” after a breakdown in trust in 2017 between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The 1967 abortion act has never applied in Northern Ireland, in England, Scotland and Wales, abortions are legal up to 24 weeks and are legal beyond that limit if there is a risk either to the mother or child.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is only legal if the mother’s life is at risk or her physical or mental wellbeing is in danger.

Opponents Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab had earlier said they did not want to see any change to the law.

Mr Harper, Mr Hunt and Mr Raab will be joined in the leadership election by Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Rory Stewart.

With the nomination deadline being yesterday Sam Gyimah withdrew, saying his late entry made it difficult to garner the support he needed to make it to the first ballot.

He is yet to endorse another candidate.

The first ballot is on Thursday with MPs requiring 5 percent or 16 votes to remain in the running.

Subsequent ballots will be held on June 18, 19 and 20 with candidates then requiring 32 votes or 10 percent to stay in contention.

This continues until just two MPs remain.

Figures within the party had expected the final two will be Mr Gove and Mr Johnson.

But Mr Hunt has seen an increase in support following Mr Gove’s admission he had used cocaine on several occasions.

A ballot of the more than 160,000 party members will be conducted over the following weeks with the winner expected to be announced on the week beginning July 22.

Until this point, Theresa May will remain as Prime Minister and acting party leader.



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