BBC Regional Politics Coverage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 22nd June 2020.

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Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education) 6:12 pm, 22nd June 2020

Once again, I absolutely agree. I think it was Tip O’Neill who was credited with the phrase, “all politics is local”, and in the last general election we saw that more strongly than ever before. I represent Chesterfield, an area that, as long ago as 2010 when I came to Parliament, was surrounded by Labour seats, but there has been a big change in our area. Similarly, in the cities there has been a change in the opposite direction. I am very conscious of that point, and as colleagues such as my hon. Friend Luke Pollard know, in areas where there is perhaps less representation from one party, it is particularly important that people still get to hear a voice from the Labour party, or, in areas where Labour is strong, a voice from the Conservative party. I think that “Sunday Politics” does that, and it is important to ensure that in areas where one party is in the minority, that voice is still heard in a local dimension.

As Member of Parliament for Chesterfield I have both the privilege and the slight irritation of being straddled between two areas. The majority of my constituents watch the Yorkshire version of “Sunday Politics” and regional news, but we are also covered by the east midlands region, and different people in my constituency watch different programmes. Because of that, when I have been on the two separate programmes, I have been minded of how different they are, and how they reflect the different issues that exist in West Yorkshire at one end, and Northamptonshire at the other end of the east midlands coverage. That gives me a strong sense of how different those areas are.

I would not say that my constituents appreciate my appearances, but they certainly respond to the appearances I make and appreciate that local coverage.

I noticed that the “Sunday Politics East Midlands” Twitter account has now been taken down. Someone at the BBC has made the decision, while the review is apparently still ongoing, to take down that account, to which people could go and see the coverage produced by the “Sunday Politics East Midlands” team. Recent such programmes have brought a local dimension to national stories: we hear a lot about HS2 on a national basis, but we have been able to debate what it means locally in the east midlands. Areas of the east midlands such as Chesterfield, Derby and Nottingham will be served by HS2, whereas in other areas HS2 provides a blight but will not provide a service. There is a perspective that is different from the national debate about HS2.

If “Sunday Politics East Midlands” disappears, I worry about how the people of the east midlands will learn about the latest prediction from Andrew Bridgen as to when the scrapping of HS2 is going to be announced. I do not know how they would ever find that out. Every six weeks or so, the hon. Gentleman comes on to tell us that it is about to be cancelled. I worry how people would find that out without the “Sunday Politics East Midlands” programme.