Hitchin MP Bim Afolami makes first appearance on influential BBC politics programme

PUBLISHED: 14:27 05 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:10 05 July 2017

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami made an appearance on the BBC's Daily Politics show. Credit: Danny Loo.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami made an appearance on the BBC's Daily Politics show. Credit: Danny Loo.

Danny Loo Photography 2017

New Hitchin MP Bim Afolami made his first appearance on the BBC’s influential Daily Politics show this week.

Labour's John Hayes on the campaign trail in Hitchin last month. Credit: Layth YousifLabour's John Hayes on the campaign trail in Hitchin last month. Credit: Layth Yousif

New Hitchin MP Bim Afolami made his first appearance on the BBC’s influential Daily Politics show this week.

Mr Afolami appeared on the lunchtime political debate show on BBC2 on Monday and discussed a range of issues including the controversial public sector pay cap, as well as slamming the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

When presenter Jo Coburn questioned him about the contrast between the Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership and that of Mr Corbyn, Mr Afolami said: “I, like lots of other people expected that we [the Conservatives] would have a majority.

“It was a difficult night for us – it’s been a difficult few weeks subsequent to the election for us.

“I think that what we’re not hearing is that the fissures and the divisions within the Labour Party are still deep and are still quite substantial – in particular about Trident and around their economic policy that effectively the hard-left leadership within the party wants to pursue but that a lot of parts of the party don’t want to pursue.

“It’s a bit odd if your leader doesn’t agree with the party policy.

“Yes, he [Jeremy Corbyn] may look ‘safe and secure’ now – but when we start to see these divisions open up he will be less so.”

John Hayes, who was Mr Afolami’s Labour rival on the campaign trail in Hitchin and Harpenden, has responded to his comments.

Speaking to the Comet, he said: “In the broadcast Bim came across as polite, well spoken and quite affable. But sadly, his responses lacked a degree of depth or detail.

“Regarding his comments about splits in the Labour Party, it’s laughable when you consider the Tory civil war now raging – all of them desperate to pin any and all Conservative political failings to the Prime Minister before she is overthrown.

“A weak performance, making up policy on the hoof – but unsurprising given the state of his parliamentary party.”

Mr Afolami also defended the public pay sector cap during his TV appearance, after voting with the government on the contentious issue last week.

Mr Hayes, the head of a London school, said in response: “Following his recent vote against a move to lift the public sector pay cap he tweeted that the Labour amendment was a ‘political stunt’, and that the right time to debate such things was when the budget is announced.

“Yet this week he supported the Labour Party manifesto pledge to increase public sector pay. The swiftest U-turn I’ve seen from a backbencher.”

Mr Hayes went on to say that on the show the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden had supported the idea of acknowledging the numerous public sector pay review bodies – but without mentioning increasing public sector budgets.

Mr Hayes added: “Lifting the education pay cap is a great idea but impossible for schools to implement if it doesn’t come alongside a considerable increase in budgets.

“Mr Afolami also failed to mention how the government – who have long argued for austerity to meet deficit targets – can suddenly agree a spending increase without a taxation increase.

“Clearly austerity was a political ideological position all along. He fails of course to mention that the Labour manifesto had a costed plan and is upfront about how we would generate the increased expenditure.

“We know we have solid popular policies, a resolute and inspiring leader and a huge team ready to fight the next general election and win.

“We are ready for the next few months when another round of voting seems increasingly likely.”

• Speculation is growing that if there is to be another General Election called this year, the Liberal Democrat candidate Hugh Annand would not contest the Hitchin and Harpenden seat again.

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