tv Dateline London BBC News December 12, 2021 2:30am-3:00am GMT
hard work during the pandemic. it was when london was in lockdown and no social gatherings were allowed. scientists are warning that the uk faces a substantial wave of omicron infections next month that might overwhelm the national health service. the omicron variant is thought to be spreading quickly and health officials have renewed their call for everyone eligible to come forward for a covid boosterjab. now on bbc news, it's time for dateline london. hello, and welcome to the programme which brings together columnists on uk newspapers, bbc specialists and internationaljournalists who write, blog and broadcast from dateline london.
this week, party blues for british conservatives — how much trouble is borisjohnson now in? and joe biden says defending democracy is "the defining challenge of our time", but does vladimir putin believe him? to discuss those topics, we're joined by michael goldfarb, who's been a foreign correspondent for national public radio in the united states. his blog is called the first rough draft of history. the much travelled ian birrell, who writes for the mail on sunday. and damian grammaticas, who's been based in the past in beijing, brussels and delhi, and is now a political correspondent at westminster, is here in the studio. welcome to all of you. it is lovely to have you with us here. this is very interesting weekend in terms of domestic politics. let's begin there. we still don't know whether a party took place in downing street last christmas, nor whether strict covid rules which affected the whole of the country at the time were broken. yet, thanks to a video
leaked on wednesday, apparently by someone inside the british government, an allegation knocking around for more than a week has become weaponised. borisjohnson insists he wasn't in number ten at the time. if he fumbles this one, he may not be in there for very much longer. damian, how did an allegation about a party become a threat to borisjohnson�*s longevity as prime minister? well, i should actually say first of all, we have been told by quite a few sources that absolutely, there was a party. there's a lot of wriggling around the issue, but there was. this is last christmas in the run up, and the reason it's such a big issue is at the time, the government told everyone in the uk you could not meet indoors for an event like that, and many, many people at the time went to great lengths to follow the rules. they didn't visit elderly or dying relatives. yet what came out first of all was the news that there
had been this party, and then also the video. that's what really sort of put a rocket booster under this. and this video was not for broadcast, it was almost like a practice run of a question and answer session with the then prime ministerial spokesperson. this was last year, a rehearsal for a press conference. the hand—picked top advisers of the prime minister saying to her," how would you defend that?" and they were pretending... and she stutters and stumbles and says, "how would i defend this?" there is laughter and suggestions it was a business meeting. it was wine and cheese. more laughter, and it's deeply
uncomfortable for government and has caused huge anger. borisjohnson already said there was no party. he's now announced an investigation, and this story will keep going. ian, everyone who knows borisjohnson suggests his strength is communication, particularly ideas and policies. not necessarily in understanding detail. has that become a liability for him in a way it hasn't appeared to be in the past? i think it's less about detail and more about character and the type of person he is. the tory party has been prepared to overlook his personal flaws. he was sacked as a newspaper writer for telling untruths. he was sacked as a shadow minister for telling untruths about an affair. i think we are seeing a character flaw. there comes a point when they go into a tailspin and the strengths become weaknesses. the big question is whether that what's we're seeing,
whether these incidents, with the wallpaper—gate that's been known, doing up his flat. the questions were that these are not going to turn all the things which the tory party bought into. if he becomes election loser and the very things which made him strong as a candidate in connecting with people — his character, his jovial nature, jokes etc — becomes switched. that's a danger for the tory party. there's a big by—election coming up. if they were to lose that, then i think the letters would be flying in demanding a new leadership contest, because the tory party is ruthless injettisoning leaders when they think they won't win elections. quite a few tory leaders have bitten the dust in 30 years, starting with margaret thatcher. in detail, in truth, let's not find another word for it, the bit about
the party, about the assurances from staff, there's an extra complication because there's a story about what the prime minister said he knew to somebody rather important and independent looking into the redecoration of the flat he lives in above the office. yes, so this has also blown up and this potentially poses a significant problem. he was investigated... he has an adviser on standards to look into this whole matter earlier in the year. he used to work for the queen. brought in by borisjohnson, had to look into this because there were questions swirling around, how was the refurbishment paid for? we know now that it cost over £100,000. and what borisjohnson said at the time was he didn't know how he'd paid for it. it had come through a trust.
now what came out this week were messages suggesting that borisjohnson�*s messages suggested he may have known where this money was coming from. he perhaps doesn't know the exact source. but if he misled that advice, that's the question. that would be a very serious offence. michael, the day after the video emerged, and following a rather torrid session of prime minister's questions, plan b covid restrictions were announced for england. a tory mp accused borisjohnson to his face as using this as a diversion, but it's not particularly helpful because a lot of conservatives aren't very happy anyway. well, this is where realityj trumps the farcical nature of this particular government.
we can all have a chucklel as boris unravels precisely the way anyone who pays this amount of attentionl to politics, notjust_ westminster, knew was likely. he's a remarkably successful| person in politics, and i don't think he actually hides who he is. j he comes on as a buffoon. he knows his word is not worth anything, yet he still managesl to rise and rise and rise. but the pandemic is real and it's a tragedy. - the state of the tory party is real. - before party—gate bubbled up, you would still have had - the same backbenchersl
who are a perfect match for the hardcore brexiteers, the so—called libertarian - tories who would say with the arrival- of omicron and its really rapid increase, we can't have - lockdown, we can't have a plan b. - we've been through this, it'sjust with us, we have| to live with it. much of the country has three vaccinations now, | what more can you do? i think that whoever sent that, boris somehow... magicking a change of- discussion with plan b things with covid is disingenuous, he'd have been against it. i i think that's the case. what i think is interesting, - ian and damian spent a lot more time in westminster than i did. how is it possible thatl at a certain point, even the tory party, lovers of - political power that they are, didn't say this - is a bargain too far? it's like buying a cheap fur coat at the market. you know it's not reallyj going to be up to snuff. how has it been they've stayed
with boris this long? _ i think it says much more| about the governing party than even the man himself. i think it also says - a lot about their voters. in 2019, 80—seat majority, maybe ian can explain it, i people voted for him knowing full well what his flaws - were and whether they would suit the office of prime - minister. yet they voted for him. it wasn't a fur coat, but they liked itjust the same. i suppose after dominic cummings and his trip to barnard castle, matt hancock and his embrace with an aide when people were supposed to socially distance, is it looking...
do you think the public will wrap themselves in the borisjohnson comfort once again? well, the polls would indicate that the moths are eating very fast at the moment, to stretch the analogy well past where it should have gone. sorry, that's my fault! no, that's fine. but the polls are showing there's been a very fast downturn in public faith in borisjohnson. the tory party has suddenly slid between six and nine points behind labour. this also comes at a time when the labour party under sir keir starmer hasjust reshuffled and put a much more impressive group of individuals into the top jobs who, for the first time really since jeremy corbyn took over the party, look as though they could be an alternative group of individuals
in government. and also, this plays well for sir keir starmer, who is the exact opposite of borisjohnson. he's not a jolly guy cracking jokes the whole time. he's a serious guy, but he has the lawyer's background, as a former head of criminal prosecutions, and it's played quite well for him to be able to forensically take apart some of these things. so i think that's why it's dangerous that if suddenly people are seeing the reality of borisjohnson, the tory party is panicking because they've made a faustian pact to get through brexit, to win an election with someone that most of them knew was not suited to the top job. then along came the pandemic, exposing how he was not suited for the topjob, and now i think... i mean, i've spoken to tory mps who are extraordinarily concerned, and some believe and some hope that borisjohnson will be replaced pretty shortly after christmas. thank you all very much. let's move on.
on friday germany's chancellor, olaf scholz, travelled to paris and brussels, in part to discuss the seven—year—long standoff with moscow over ukraine. presidentjoe biden spoke to the leaders in germany, france, italy and the uk this week before his two—hour—long conference call with vladimir putin. the russian president insisted the thousands of troops he's stationed close to the border are no threat to anyone. the united states and its allies see things differently. a casualty could be nordstream 2, the now completed gas pipeline between germany and russia. ian, does olaf scholz have an opportunity, do you think, to reset relations with russia at this point? well, he's certainly in an interesting position. the coalition agreement that he's signed talks in stronger terms against russia. it stands up very firmly for the belarus opposition in calling for fresh elections, saying there shouldn't be
russian intervention of belarus. it stands up very firmly in favour of the territorial integrity of the ukraine. so that is interesting, and the greens, as we know, take a slightly harder line than a lot of german parties or politicians on foreign affairs and things like china and russia. time will tell. merkel was really interesting in the way she reproached russia. she took overjust after the iraq debacle, when germany had sided with france and russia opposing the iraq war. she spoke russian. she came from a soviet east german background, and was sceptical about the country. and i think she's moved back into the atlantic alliance at the same time she opposed the extension of nato to the ukraine. she flew to — if you remember, to try and settle the situation in donbass in 2015. she took a lead on that. but equally, she was presented with nordstream. it's interesting that she was presented it
by her predecessor, who came from the new chancellor's party. he scandalously took putin's money to push the project and push the whole system russia is using to extend control over europe. time will tell where we go on this, but so much depends on what's really going to happen in ukraine. will lukashenko in belarus keep using migrants as a weapon to unsettle neighbours like lithuania and latvia? a lot of those people want to come into germany, and i was in germany in the last few weeks to look at nordstream and look at these... i've been to belarus and poland and lithuania, and it's a very powerful weapon, this migration issue, that's being exploited. i think we got to wait and see how events go to really see
where the new german chancellor stands on these things. it's a very fraught time to come to power. it's certainly going to test him more than anything. michael, why is the us opposed to nordstream 2 in particular? but not prepared to impose sanctions? i think biden is taking - a step—by—step approach here, and i think— what's interesting is this whole story began to bubble up about a week ago, in a classic way. i an unattributed briefing | to the washington post, saying russia has this i massive build—up going on with the border with ukraine. - we had a very rapid couple of days of diplomacy, - and i think that was kind of forcing the issue - into the public domain. i think that's sort. of whatjoe biden is, what his approach is, frankly. to understand biden's approach to this kind of foreign policy- issue, potential crisis, - you have to remember he's basically a senator, - a senior senator, and he's always looking for the topic
you can talk about rather. than the crisis - you need to confront. so, i think that he's looking i to see where the areas we can talk about are. it's interesting because on friday, he was talking about gasoline prices in the united states, which is a good solid domestic policy issue. they worry about fuel everywhere. the germans are worried about gas supplies, not gasoline but gas supplies, and that's why they supported nordstream. the republicans seem pretty determined that something should be done about that because they see it as an advantage for russia that might make germany and others more malleable. i'm sorry? more malleable, more willing to toe the line with russia rather than confront it. no, i think that's wrong. the republican party-
doesn't have that much... it isn't that geopolitically sophisticated. _ i think that they, _ if they indeed felt that way, i think they're much more frustrated... i i know they were much more i frustrated by angela merkel's approach to russia, - which by the way, is not that different than biden's. they are of an age, - they grew up in soviet times, and merkel also felt - if you talk, if you're talking rather than provoking crises, that's a better thing - than trying to engage in brinkmanship. - just one less thing. 30 years ago this week was the conference in. which the soviet union . officially wound itself up. the treaty was signed on december 25. - ukraine, belarus and russia agreed there was no more l soviet union, there would bel something new called the cis. and it wouldn't surprise me if some of this pressure -
being brought by vladimir putin is in fact because he's aware i it's the 30th anniversary. ah. i think this means . something to putin. i don't think anyone _ in the west even remembers it. lukashenko is still in his home court. j ukraine no longer is. i think he's going to- make it uncomfortable. can you defuse it? the federation of independent states... paris, notjust the eu quarter, but the headquarters of nato. do either of those organisations have a clear position on russia? well, i think nato do. yes, clearly. we've been hearing from them today.
a nato spokesperson said when it comes to ukraine, there will be, he said, on ukraine, negotiations on the right for countries to choose their own path. that's ukraine, whether it would one day become a nato member, but that's really not actually likely for a very long time, partly because they know how difficult an issue this is and how problematic it is. one of president putin's demands seems to me, president biden is guaranteeing ukraine would join nato. it's interesting to see, why is president putin doing this? why has he put 175,000 troops on this border? creating extreme tension? deliberately ramped things up. yes. ambassadors who were there before say this wasn't an issue. he didn't think it was going to happen.
the idea that russia feels threatened is actually... it was not borne out by their discussions. the country that is threatened is ukraine by those russian forces, by russian support in eastern ukraine for the separatists there. the men and material that have flown in. the so—called green men. in crimea and eastern ukraine. the areas of the donbass there. so, why putin would do this is coming back to what ian was saying. europe is in a position where germany has a new chancellor. crosstalk. there is a moment of flux in europe, france is heading for elections. weakness that president putin can perhaps try to exploit. just a last thought on this. joe biden saying he won't send in troops to defend ukraine if it's threatened.
we know putin seems to have got a summit when he did this earlier in the year, he's got a promise from biden to have meetings with nato leaders. has putin given anything? no, nothing at all. putin has got away with annexing sovereign ukrainian territory. he's gotten away with effectively annexing two regions of eastern ukraine. the worry is, we know with putin, one thing, which is he is very good at exploiting other people's weakness. at the moment, there's a president who's not going to do anything and there's weakness in the three major powers in europe. germany with the new government, britain with the government in meltdown and france with an election coming up.
that is an opportunity, but what we don't know with putin is his own state of mind. he's been in power now for 21 years. he has eliminated all opposition and is surrounded by yes—men. the question i guess it is really, after the orthodox new year, is he really going to do something and invade? because he knows there won't be a military response from the west. fascinating questions. sanctions after crimea didn't last long. we will watch this. chance now for you to remark on something that you don't think has had enough attention. michael first. early this week, when - the party—gate reared its ugly head again, one of the leadl stories was a whistle—blower in the foreign office had - published a report saying that in afghanistan, during the chaos of august, i as the last flights _ were leaving kabul to safety as the taliban took over, - somehow, animals, rescue dogs, were given priority on flights out. - to afghan staff who worked at the british embassy. - when i read it, myjaw dropped. it'sjust beyond belief.
i'm all for saving animals, but in that situation, - you prioritise humans - who risked their lives working for your embassy. you don't even think about the dogs. - the westminster- story had more legs. i do hope someone can revisit that and nail it down - because it's an absolutely disgraceful thing. - ian birrell. i would say it's the second anniversary of the pandemic on wednesday, december 8th. if you believe china
and the official world health organization, that was the date the first person, a 41—year—old accountant in wuhan fell ill. it shows the duplicity of china. thank you. we know that's a flawed narrative and cases documented going back to middle of november, so it raises the question as to why china has been allowed to get off the hook for lying and deceiving people over the origins of the pandemic. thank you very much. damian, finally. i'd like to go to china, too, and the situation in xinjiang. severe repression of uighur people, culture, one million peple there. i think what's significant, chaired by seniorjudge tribunal like... not a formal court, found this amounted to under any legaljustification, genocide. thank you all very much. that's dateline for this week. we'll see you next time next week. goodbye.
hello there. the second half of the weekend is going to remain fairly unsettled. a lot of cloud around on sunday but one thing you will notice, particularly in england and wales, is it will be very mild indeed. further north there will be outbreaks of rain tied in with this area of low pressure, keeping a watch on this area of low pressure, it is going deepen as it passes the north—west of the uk to bring gales, even severe gales, to the far north—west of scotland. but it will bring some rain to the north and west and it
will scoop up very mild air across much of the country, particularly for england and wales. we start sunday on a rather cloudy note. some mist and low cloud, a bit of drizzle as well, some brightness breaking into the afternoon. particularly across eastern areas, we have but rebound pushing across areas of the irish sea and eventually pushing up into central parts of scotland by the end of the day. north of here, the far north—east of scotland will be quite cool, but very mild for the time of year, further south, could see 1a or 15 degrees. sunday evening onto sunday night, we see this deepening load bring a swath of heavy rain and gales to the far north—west of northern ireland and certainly for western scotland, especially the hebrides, that is where we will see the strongest of the winds. it will push into the north of scotland by the end of the night, leaving a legacy of blustery showers and slightly cooler air. england and wales will continue to see this weather front bringing outbreaks of rain, particularly across wales and in towards the south—west.
here it's going to be mild, it's looking a bit for monday, we start the new week off on a bright note across the northern half of the country, here we will have some blustery showers, wintry on the hills, england and wales will be plagued by this weather front so it could be quite cloudy and quite wet in parts of wales and into northern england, i think the south—east quadrant could be a bit drier, perhaps a little bit brighter. very mild here, a bit fresherfurther north. that weather front clears away from england and wales into tuesday, we start to see high pressure building in the south, but you will notice low pressure to the north of the uk. that will bring wet and windy weather for a time, but after wednesday, certainly thursday and friday, it looks like that area of high pressure will win out, push northwards and clear the wet and windy weather away from the uk, and we will all be in the mild air. this upcoming week is looking pretty mild for this time of year. we will start off unsettled, particularly in the north, then it will settle down. it's likely to be really cloudy with limited sunshine and some mist and fog overnight.
welcome to bbc news. our top stories: president biden pledges federal aid as tornadoes devastate a string of us states, flattening whole towns and killing at least 70 people. i'm monitoring the situation very closely, since early this morning. this is likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history. a warning that the uk faces a substantial wave of omicron infections next month that might overwhelm the national health service. piling the pressure on the british prime minister — a newspaper publishes a photo showing borisjohnson did take part in a virtual downing street quiz last christmas. and it's going to be a nail—biter! max verstappen beats lewis hamilton to pole position for sunday's formula one title decider in abu dhabi.
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