tv Dateline London BBC News February 16, 2020 2:30am-3:01am GMT
the british tv presenter, caroline flack, has been found dead at her london flat. the ao—year—old had been due to stand trial next month for assault — an allegation she denied. her family say she took her own life. flack stood down from the dating show love island after being charged. much of western europe is being battered by a storm front that's causing severe travel disruption. in britain, winds have been gusting at up to 120 kmph. in the north of england, troops have been deployed in villages under the threat of flooding. now on bbc news: dateline london
hello and welcome to dateline london. i'm carrie gracie. this week: children die in the snows of northwest syria. will anyone do anything to stop a new grim chapter in this tragedy? a brutal and messy government reshuffle demonstrates the maxim that a week is a long time in british politics. and all sides agree that ireland has a new electoral landscape. but who will actually govern? that remains shrouded in fog. my guests today: agnes poirier of french news weekly l'express. irish writer brian o'connell. veteran new york times reporterjohn fischer burns. political commentator steve richards. welcome to you all. the syrian war will soon go into a 10th year with so much suffering for civilians that it's hard to imagine there could be a new low. but the current assault against idlib, syria's last rebel
held enclave, is a humanitarian catastrophe. the united nations says that many of the 800,000 people fleeing the town are children and some are now dying in sub—zero temperatures. john, can you start us off on this, damascus says that it is attempting to eradicate the terrorist threat in north—west syria right now. what is its strategic objectives as it also bombs schools, hospitals, shops? i'd like to answer you something of a personal apology, like so many people who see this devastation on the nightly news, it makes me want to weep. and with a particularly personal edge to it because i was among those who felt in 2003 that toppling saddam hussein at an acceptable cost would be a good idea. we now see 17 years later what a complete catastrophe
was triggered by the american invasion of iraq. and invasion of iraq. you trace assyrian events to that? absolutely, the times that the americans invaded syria was always a brutal dictatorship, but nobody could have imagined then the catastrophe that has ensured. invaded iraq? as a matter of fact, when i was running the new york times operation in baghdad with my wife, it was, there was an underground railroad by which we help staff members who wanted to get out of the devastation of iraq, the safe place to go was syria. fortunately some of them, not all of them, got out of syria and went west to the united states or the united kingdom, but many didn't and got caught up in all this. when you think of the vast expenditure of money, trillions of dollars thousands of american soldiers who have died, that it should come to this with the united states essentially standing on the sidelines by its own choice, i think it is an absolute tragedy.
we in the us have the financial means and we still have enough muscle, diplomatic muscle to do something about this, and it's past time that we did it. we will come back to that there a moment, the western role. sticking with the now, in terms of those people suffering in north—west syria, some of them, the children weren't even born when the 2003 invasion happen. —— happened. they need a solution and desperately need a solution now. what is the syrian strategic move there? is it simply to regain all that territory as fast as possible whatever the cost? of course, whatever the cost. we have seen before with his use of chemical weapons, the barrel bombing from helicopters and so forth which continued even this week, we saw a helicopter being shot down average bean barrel borrowing summer over idlib —— barrel bombing. i think there is no limit
to the brutality of assad, with his curious north london shyness, is prepared to espouse, assad. the key now is moscow. moscow, and brian, let me ask you about turkey. many of these refugees are heading north and coming to a close ——to a closed turkish border. is there any hope that turkey will budge? obviously it already has nearly four million refugees, playing host to them. but here are more in desperate need. i don't think the turks will be prepared to open that border. as you say, they have got around four million syrians in their country already. since december, ithink it is something like 800,000, over three quarters of a million anyway, have moved north and are all being funnelled into that little north—western bit of syria. this is, as far as assad is concerned, the endgame, and he is not going to stop,
asjohn suggested there. the only thing that can stop him as vladimir putin. let's talk about that... putin and a erdogan, between them they have the power to do it. the west is standing on the sidelines, the germans have talked about a safe zone which is a possibility on the border i don't think, as david miliband suggested this morning, i don't think anything will work without a ceasefire first. the former british foreign secretary and currently running a big ngo.
these people are there because they are fleeing shelling and air strikes. until that stops, they are not going to stop. more and more people are going to... a ceasefire has to come first. the cruel irony is that we almost did something in 2013, and we could have, you could have been more efficient at the time, but the uk parliament voted against it. as a result, 0bama stood back and said well, we're not going to go. the french president at the time said yes, because he didn't have to ask the permission of the national assembly. we miss that moment and now we look completely, utterly powerless. interestingly, the current french president is trying to knock heads together in europe over strategic planning... he said you can't be both weak and defined at the munich international security conference, it is time for dialogue with russia.
that is macron's foreign policy, new strategy. look at the un, it has been successful in the past. at the security council, they will have russia. think about bosnia, of course it is a different case because america was actually bombing one side of the story, but in cyprus, the un is very good at peacekeeping. not at peacemaking. in that civil war there is no peace to keep. the un role... it was ceded to the astana process a few years ago. there is a current one, forgotten about him, trying to secure a new constitution, but nobody cares because he is not
going to achieve anything. stephen, on the question of where does this leave these so—called international rules—based order? because as agnes has explained, the un is ineffective on this at the moment. the us, asjohn has explained, is nowhere to be seen. and as brian has been saying, really, it is russia and turkey who are making the run—in with syria and iran, in terms of diplomacy. where is the rules—based order? the first time you said the so—called rules—based order. it has always been partly mythological. in reference to the war in iraq, that didn't get the famous second un resolution to legally give it the go ahead, the rules—based order, so when did the rules —based politics dominate global politics? in this case it is much
more complicated. what form should intervention to? i slightly disagree with agnes about the 2013 moment. 0bama has always insisted retrospectively he was pleased it didn't happen, because it wouldn't have worked. that the targeting would not have been decisive. it reflects also that british vote which went against in 2013, a reflection of what had happened in iraq and the ineffectiveness and counter productivity of intervention, so how do you intervene? we are at the moment where even if there was an answer to that, the us under trump are keeping their distance to the point of indifference. the eu can play a mediating role, but doesn't have its own foreign policy. britain has opted to become a sort of isolated island on its own. that is why vladimir putin is absolutely the key, because he has got the military might and the pull over assad, so he is the figure who can do something. trump too to be critical in this.
we have heard a great dealfrom him in resetting relationships with russia, it hasn't advanced very far. the us still has enormous influence if it chooses to use it. it doesn't choose to use it because... because they won't commit troops. the american public wants out. they are tired of seeing american boys killed, they are tired of the $2 trillion plus costs... we are back to the new... crosstalk if there is anybody who caused vladimir putin to think again, it would be trump, and if i may say so... it gives a bit of space perhaps... ..the british prime minister. in my estimation, most useful endeavours in international affairs of the second world war have involved one principal condition, which is the president of the united states and the prime minister of the united kingdom should act in concert in pursuit of a common end. if they chose to use their positions as a bully pulpit to engender public opinion, a wave of public opinion
and use their influence with vladimir putin, which would still be considerable, maybe that would be the way to turn this thing around. in the absence of that, the negotiations between turkey and mr putin will be in moscow this coming week, so we will watch this space there. we need to move on. last week a british prime minister told his government it was time to deliver. that's easier said than done. this government has to deliver not just brexit but also the levelling up that borisjohnson promised disadvantaged areas of the country in exchange for their votes. and whether by accident or design, he's just lost a key player in his delivery team. steve, was it an accident or design? i think it was an accident, i think he hoped the chancellor, as was sajid javid, would stay in post, but accept the humiliation of sacking all his special advisers.
this is a very interesting development. on one level, it is soap opera. and a familiar one in british politics. it is downing street senior advisors not liking the chancellor's special advisers and just wanting to prevail over them and get rid of them. on another level, it is much deeper. here is at number 10, theoretically anyway, pursuing spend, spend, spend, boris, infrastructure, infrastructure, railways, bridges, huge money into the nhs. and the treasury will be instinctively cautious. and the treasury on one level is more numerically powerful than number 10. johnson has policy advisers, he hasn't got a big economics department working with them. the chancellor has the whole of the might of the treasury. this has been an attempt to redress that balance. 0ther prime ministers have tried it — it has never worked. but there is a theoretical merit
in addressing that imbalance, because number 10 want to spend, spend, spend. and they have got to have the treasury on board. we are in a very interesting position, a lot of the conservative party remains committed to a kind of thatcherite approach to economics, but they are pledging to do something very different. they haven't explained how, where the money is going to come from. it is a very interesting junction in british politics, and hovering over it all still, brexit. and whether that so diminishes is the economy. brian, where'd you stand? i agree with everything that steve said. what i doubt is that your average voter. . . this is really for political scientists and political nerds and political correspondents... i think your average voter doesn't really care, as long as the railway gets built
or the universal credit get specs or what tiers or housing or the health service and so on. having said that, i think that borisjohnson does love infrastructure, he loves the idea of h52 and, if it works for him, if he can do it without squeezing the lemon till the... what was it gordon brown used to say? until the pips come out. by increasing taxes, it will be fine. as it comes to the trade talks on the get deep into those and realise how tough it will be, boris johnson will need a bridge or a railway to say look at this nice new shiny thing over here, don't worry about that, that will be fine, we have our sovereignty back, that is why we are building a railway even if it is the chinese or whoever. how do you like the bridge? i don't think it will work. this is the mayor of london who decided to spend... agnes, how credible is this
going to be with the market? i don't know, but what i know is that it is watch very keenly by the french right, because how red a tory can you be? if borisjohnson manages to be that sort of right—wing figure, he will have really achieved something, and it really gives ideas not only to probably the french right, but actually to all those centre—right parties that have sort of collapsed and disappeared in the last few years. what is the idea that it gives them, exactly? well, the fact that you are socially conservative, but the politics, are at least on the economy, is going left. the end of austerity and all those public services that people a re really
relying on and one more of. you could talk about the yellow vest movement in france, they want more public services, is it possible in the country that actually gives so much public service, more than any other country in europe? but this sort of red tourism is very interesting, because you need to finance it. and they might achieve something that labour actually wanted to do. so, are they going to go french and have a mansion tax? because they will have to either borrow, but perhaps borrow or tax the rich? fury will come from traditional conservatives who just want low taxes and smaller government. it's fascinating to watch. john, you can only borrow to spend rather than tax to spend if rates are low, it becomes a lot harder and if you're doing long—term
spending on bridges or railways or whatever it is. i have a narrow perspective on this. in borisjohnson we have a prime minister who has famously and single—handedly won this sweeping election victory with a fairly clearly stated programme about levelling up in the northern powerhouse. he needs to be in control of his government. what he did in the case of mr sajid javid the other day was dramatic, but it does at least put him squarely in control of fiscal and economic policy, and i think that he is watching the clock. five years, and some people suggest ten, unless the labour party can put its house in order, five years is going to go by very quickly. he may find himself at the end of this year with an impasse of his negotiations with europe. he needs to show progress of his negotiations. it seems churlish to deny him the right that any prime minister
has to have a firm control of his own government. now, ireland — healthcare and housing — two of the great public grievances that triggered an electoral earthquake in ireland last weekend. many voters turned away from the familiar two—horse politics of fine gael and fianna fail to support the nationalist party sinn fein. but neither sinn fein nor any other party has enough seats to govern alone. so, what next? it will be difficult for anyone to form a government. sinn fein don't have the numbers. they didn't run enough candidates. if they had run twice as many of candidates they probably would have got twice as many seats. they did exceptionally well. the got the larger share of the popular vote, although they got one seat less than fianna fail did. so even if you put all the other
independents together and the smaller left—wing parties together, you still don't get to an overall majority. you have to go into power with fianna fail. they are still saying they want it. fine gael have also said they won't do it, and they do mean it. the big question in irish politics now is, can martin be persuaded to go into some sort of agreement with sinn fein, although he promised voters that he wouldn't? tell us briefly why wouldn't he? there is this kind of bogeyman about history and ira lengths, this is a relatable woman who takes tv camera shopping with her. she really and ira threat? no. most of the support that this surge came from people under 35, who were very young when the good friday agreement
was signed. people who are 60—65, you know, do still feel that that link that you talk about to the ira and the past would stop them voting. but for me, hall martin, the leader of fianna fail, the big problem is that their policy agenda is not compatible. sinn fein are a left—wing party, fianna fail art centre, ce ntre— right party. to tackle the problem is that mid—on has been accusing the other parties of ignoring, she will have to put up taxes, housing, talking about crumbling public health service, the high cost of childcare. apparently ireland has amongst the highest childcare costs in europe. so, all of those will
require more money. that has to come from taxation because fianna fail... stephen, shirley the point that all of those tweedledee and tweedledumer, as sinn fein called them, old—style parties, they have to respond to what they both aside, even if they don't like sinn fein, don't they? the result is a challenge for all the parties, because i know brian thinks could well be another general election if they cannot form a government in the coming weeks. so the result remind me, or certainly the performance of sinn fein, reminded me a bit of the british election in 2017, when no—one expected jeremy corbyn and labour then to do as well as they did in that election. and it was over, younger people voting about housing, tuition fees at universities and so on. and a promise of sort of radical change on that agenda. so the thing that they have to address is, can they retain this momentum? because corbyn, they lost it afterwards.
and for the other parties, i bet there will be, if there is another election, a much greaterfocus on pledging various things to address the concerns of under 35s, because that is clearly where sinn fein sought. but i was speaking to a very senior figure in the snp the other day, and they made an interesting observation or posed the question, ‘why is that the parties of the left who also advocate a national agenda, independence of various forms, do well, whereas other parties on the left don't?‘ i know you don't think that played a big part in the sinn fein success, but both the snp, which is an effective party of the left, and sinn fein are nationalist parties doing well, and other left parties are doing badly. i think that is interesting. let's go back to brian briefly on that question of the unification agenda. yes. that's been the chief pledge of sinn fein, are they going to insist on a referendum if they move into some sort of coalition?
well, it wasn't a huge issue on the doorsteps. all the other stuff like housing was the big issue. but if you asked mary lou mcdonald, she would say we have a five year plan, going to do it properly not next year or thereafter, it will take five years. according to the rules, mary lou mcdonald, even if she was taoiseach, couldn't decide if the people of northern ireland should or shouldn't hold a referendum, that is the british government. and under the good friday agreement the british government will only do that, according to the wording of the agreement, if there is a possibility that more people may want reunification than not. let's leave that issue and go back in a way to what stephen was just saying, which i think resonates with what you're saying about the red right—wing, that in a way the establishment parties have got to think about how
to appeal to what is a left—wing nationalist vote. completely. but it is interesting that you don't think unity had anything to do... i'm not suggesting that, i'm saying the main reason was... it looks as if, i remember very well just after the referendum on brexit in 2016, almost four years ago, we thought on the continent that the logic, the inherent and historical logic to brexit was, the independence of scotland. which sounded completely fantastical at the time. the unification of ireland, and now it is not a fantasy anymore, it's a growing possibility. what the northern irish voters would be voting on, is not only the unity of ireland,
but de facto a second referendum on brexit. there also has to be a referendum south of the border as well. of course, but is very different from the scottish, who will have to go through joining the eu. that is interesting. everyone is nodding here, we have 30 seconds left, john? if i can take license, given my scottish and irish heritage, to say there could be worse outcomes for ireland for the next year or so, than the belgian solution, like when you don't have a government and muddle through. it does strike me as somewhat odd that the tweedledum—tweedledee parties in ireland are reluctant to sit down with sinn fein north of the border. and they have just established that power—sharing agreement. and they have just established that power-sharing agreement. sorry to cut you short. that's it for dateline london for this week.
we're back next week at the same time. goodbye. hello again. storm dennis continues to batter britain. looking back at saturday, well, it was windy everywhere, wasn't it? it's worse before they get better. 0ver it's worse before they get better. over the next two hours the heaviest rain hits parts of south—west england, definitely wales, the west midlands are times in northern england, too. these are areas that already have a number flood warnings out in force so it could get quite nasty here as we had to sunday morning. eventually our brand of rain pushes upwards and is good but
it could be even slower, so there is the potential for some it could be even slower, so there is the potentialfor some rain lingering across southern and eastern areas well into the afternoon. it is going to be a windy day again, in than gusts of 50, 60 miles an hour, 70 on the coast. that could bring some trees down. it gets even windier through sunday night in scotland. that is your latest weather.
welcome to bbc news — i'm simon pusey. our top stories: china says deaths from the coronavirus epidemic have now passed 1,600 — and in france, an 80 year old chinese tourist becomes the first european, covid—19 fatality. at least eight people are killed as a bus carrying football fans from ecuador plunges into a ravine in peru. canada leads renewed calls for iran to hand over the black boxes from the ukrainian airliner brought down over tehran in january. the popular british tv presenter caroline flack, has been found dead at her london home. her family say she took her own life. troops are deployed in the north of england, as storm dennis hits the uk and northern europe.
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