Andrew Neil with political news, interviews and debate. Andrew looks ahead to next month's budget and gets the latest on the horsemeat scandal.
Browse content similar to 15/02/2013. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Afternoon, folks, and welcome to the Daily Politics.
The horsemeat saga takes another turn as the government hits out at
retailers for remaining silent. They're waiting for the results of
tests on how widespread the crisis is. We'll have the latest.
The Budget is just over a month away. What can George Osborne put
in his red box to stop the economic rot?
Did Karl Marx predict the collapse of the banks and the subsequent
credit crunch? And, speaking of brainwashing, we
ask whether joining a political party alters your brain.
All that in the next hour of public sector Friday broadcasting at its
finest. And with us for the whole programme today are two of
Westminster's finest - Rafael Behr from the New Statesman and Anne
McElvoy from The Economist. First up today, an influential
group of MPs have criticised the government's clever wheezes that
are supposed to be injecting growth into the economy. The Public
Accounts Committee says quantitative easing - that's the
scheme the Bank of England uses to effectively create money - is an
expensive experiment, and that the Treasury has limited understanding
of its role. And they have criticised the Treasury's other
This comes from Margaret Hodge's committee. Is she not in danger of
lashing out at too many targets? I'm a great fan of the way she has
run the committee, made it quite irrelevant. I think this may be a
bridge too far. All of the things you say about quantitative easing -
we don't know what the outcome will be - are true. But anything you do
to stimulate growth is by definition untested. It is how you
test the government. The Americans have done the same thing on a huge
scale. We have done more than the Americans. The American economy is
five times bigger. That is not what she is criticising. She is
criticising the principle. I'm not convinced, given the committee has
come out for quantitative easing, I am not convinced that her committee
has the greater knowledge. One does sometimes want to put the question
back, OK, what would you do? The whole business of policy is
complicated. This is uncharted territory. You do wonder what the
public accounts committee brings to the table in this. Margaret Hodge
has carved out quite a big role. I respect that. You have the
executive doing its thing. There's often an accusation that government
just rubber-stamped what is going on. If you have parliamentarians
out there Making noise, saying, look, let's have this massive
policy experiment, I think that is quite good. It puts in the public
domain the question of the Governor waving a wand and creating all this
money. Nobody knows where it has gone. We do, actually! It is in
Barnes! -- bonds! She has made a number of important changes in her
committee. The criticism the committee makes of monetary policy
are very general. They are not specific. Anne's question - what do
we do next? That is the question. If the Chancellor had a theory
about what would happen to the economy and he pursued a certain
strategy and monetary policy was part of that, clearly it has not
worked. The economy is not growing. You don't know if it worked. You
can't know that. What worries me is that Margaret Hodge comes from the
left of the Labour Party. She is unlikely to come out in favour of a
monetarist conclusion. I would imagine see backs Ed Balls's
strategy. -- she backs. She is a powerful chairperson. She is very
well favoured. I think things do tend to end are being like the
chairperson wants them. -- end up. A lot of her reports have had a lot
of impact. We're only a month away from the
Budget. George Osborne has been in his country retreat of Dorneywood
this week, working on the detail with a small team of senior civil
servants and political advisers. He'll be keen to avoid some of the
issues which dogged last year's statement. Initially, last year's
Budget was well received. But within days the Chancellor was
mired in a series of tax rows. It started with the so-called granny
tax, a freeze in the age-related income tax allowance for pensioners,
which raised howls of derision and an e-petition to Downing Street.
Then there was the pasty tax row Then there was the pasty tax row
Then there was the pasty tax row Then there was the pasty tax row
Then there was the pasty tax row Then there was the pasty tax row
over plans to apply VAT to hot over plans to apply VAT to hot
takeaway food. After a backlash from the media and the backbenches,
there was a U-turn. And then there was the caravan tax,
which aimed to impose VAT on static caravans. Cue more outrage and a
watering down of the policy, He'll be hoping the so-called
omnishambles can be laid to rest on March 20th. But the economic
outlook is not good. The UK economy contracted by 0.3%
in the fourth quarter of 2012. And borrowing is not coming down. In
fact, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says borrowing will be �64
billion higher in 2014-15 than they I'm now joined by the editor of
City AM, Allister Heath, and the Associate Director of the IPPR,
Let me get you to lay out your stores. You are the Chancellor.
Give me two or three of the big things you would do. I would dump
the current policies and embrace a more supply-side policy. I would
cut corporation tax to a level below Ireland, which would reduce
revenues -- increase revenues. I would pursue but of the regulatory
measures. And you were run a bigger budget? The deficit would increase
but I would anticipate spending cuts to anticipate that. And you
are the Chancellor. What would you I think the economy has to be
stimulated. The policies are not working. But differently, I would
look at the OBR and the IMF's analysis. Multiply as for spending
are greater than taxes. The government has only delivered 100
of its infrastructure projects. Let's be that up. Let's improve
energy efficiency in homes. If we are going to have a tax cut, let's
not give it to companies. The Chancellor has tried that. Foreign,
direct investment fell last year. Let's give it to working people.
What do you say to that? problem is, the Chancellor's
tactics have not had a big change effect. I would cut corporation tax
in half. It has already been cut 7%. I would make it 11%. It would make
the UK the most competitive economy in the world. It would send a
message that the UK is open for business. I would/or abolish
capital gains tax. -- I would cut or abolished. It is time for
companies to start investing. The return on investment would suddenly
become larger than it was before. Capital gains tax is a small part
of the overall government revenue. Peanuts. Would it - and it is only
28%. Lots of very smart accountants would start working out how what
was really my income was really a capital gain. It is a risk. We know
how to account for lot of those evasion measures. One would have to
do that. In one day, you would see a recruit -- return to investment
of around 20%. In one day, the bank for the buck was suddenly go up
drastically, making it more worthwhile for them to do that.
would run a big deficit, too? Absolutely. Look at what George
Osborne has done. People warn him about the rate of the deficit
reduction. Borrowing is going to rise this here relative to the
previous year. Of course we have got to bring down the deficit. But
the way to do it is to boost demand. That is the problem we have here.
You are talking about a Keynesian method. If your policy work, Japan
would be the world leader. It would be the booming economy. It has been
trying that for years, and it has not worked. The problem with Japan
is it brought down its interest rates later than we did here. We
were more stimulative on the monetary policy side. We have not
tried expenditure of the same extent. They have not tried the
kind of boost that we are calling for. The Japanese national debt is
around 200% of GDP. Borrowing twice as much has not worked. Japan went
into deflation. Prices started to fall. As a measure of GDP, their
debt rose. That is the reason for it. We have to anticipate that. We
don't want inflation to be too high but we don't want prices to start
slipping back. The problem you budget would face is one of equity
and of a sense of fairness. We live in a country now where people are
on below average earnings and they are suffering. The food prices,
enterprises are taking big chunks of income. There's also a sense
that this is happening because some rich people screwed up the economy.
They are still rich. The poor and the average are suffering. And you
are now going to put in tax cuts which will benefit the rich. You're
right, that is how it would be perceived. Two responses. The most
pro equity measure is to boost growth. If you do it back to proper
levels, you start to create great numbers of jobs and wages will
start to go up. Secondly, the biggest reason for the decline in
real wages, which is a catastrophe, is that inflation is far too high.
I think that is the main issue. Thirdly, we just need to forget
about the short-term distribution effect for once and focus on the
long run. How do we get the economy to grow again? I don't care how it
happens but we have to do it. do you say to me two Chancellor's?
They are good candidates for the job! Better than the incumbent?
That was hanging over the debate. Maybe we should do it, it X-Factor
style. Could be a good programme! Your idea, I fundamentally agree
with that. We are getting too much into distribution. What we really
need to do is get the economy moving and then everyone will
benefit. An interesting thing is you did not have a problem with the
deficit per saved. Your idea is a problem for the Tory government.
They have been saying that the deficit was a big problem. I'm not
surprised that you want to build a bigger deficit. No, it is cutting
the deficit in a different way. well, the Public Accounts Committee
might say that is untested. On the right, you are going in a different
direction to where the government is going. What is your appraisal?
Firstly, it is easy to say that you should not looked back the -- look
at the short-term impact. But there's an election in a couple of
years. A lot of those arguments were brought to bear on the 50p
rate, and that was a political disaster for the government. You
can understand why the Chancellor might think, actually, I have got a
bunch of people who are suffering and I need to show them that I am
on their side. That is his moral obligation. I also think it is
interesting - I agree there to need some kind of Big Bang and thither,
somebody to say we need something new. -- Big Bang manoeuvre. The
Chancellor has staked his reputation on that his cause was
the right one. It is hard to see $:/STARTFEED. You can bring some of
the cuts in in subsequent years. whole bunch of painful cuts. Very
painful and difficult. It's extremely difficult and painful,
but the economy's not growing, people's wages are falling and we
have a big, big problem. If you look in the international context
or the European context, we are not alone here any more. The figures
are out. Germany in the fourth quarter its economy went down 0.6%.
It's forecast very little growth this year. France in the fourth
quarter down 0.2%. Its economy ended 2012 no bigger than it was in
2011 and it's not expected to grow in 2013. So for two years, more
stagnation, unemployment rises. Italy lost almost 1% of its GDP in
the fourth quarter and is expected to lose another 1% in 2013. Even
the Dutch lost almost 1% of their GDP. The Hungarians 2.7%, the
Czechs 1.7. There's one country that's done something a bit
different. That's America. They took a much longer time to bring
down their deficit, they postponed the cuts and are only now starting
to consider it and as a result they are growing at 2%. That tells you
what you need to know about the untested theory. They also have
something called the dollar which has changed. If you look at the low
cost of borrowing to the pound, there's been a similar effect to
the pound as there has for the dollar and our pound's depreciated
against the dollar. If you are borrowing in dollars, you could
pretty much borrow until the cows come home. Like has been in the
case in the UK, with historically low interest rates. The American
response is different. Different responses to the bank there is too.
Congress won't let them get there yet because state budgets were
skhrashed. -- slashed.
Gentlemen, thank you. I'll call Gideon now. We may have
to cut his salary. Call Simon Cowell first. Simon who? ITV, ssh h.
It's been a month since horsemeat was first discovered in meat
products and the scandal grows by the day. Three men were arrested in
abattoirs in Wales and Yorkshire of offences under the fraud act and
ASDA became the latest to withdraw meat products from its she-sms. We
are expecting results from hundreds of tests on minced beef products
stocked in UK stores. -- shelves. Last night, Downing Street launched
an attack on the smarblgts, saying it wasn't acceptable for them to
remain silent -- supermarkets. The Director General of the British
Retail Consortium is Helen Dick inson. She spoke to the BBC this
morning and defended the supermarkets -- Dickinson. We need
facts. That is why today is important because we'll be able to
see the collated picture of the results of all the testing that's
gone on over the last three weeks, much of which has been at the
instigation of the retail industry itself. We'll be able to see the
extent of the problem. What we do know is that any problems that have
already been identified to date, we have acted on them straightaway,
withdrawn the products and apologised to our customers.
We are joined by our Europe correspondent, Matthew Pryce in
Brussels, where the food safety experts from across the continent
are meeting today. Just mark our card here - what is the meeting
about? They are essentially following up
from the meeting of agriculture ministers earlier in the week of
which it was decided to increase both the testing of beef products
for horse DNA and also to increase the testing for this horse
painkiller which is believed could be -- which it's believed could be
many the food chain. They are looking at ways to efficiently set
up basically a much more faster moving system and far greater test
than they have at the moment. To get that done as soon as possible
with the results coming bay some time in April. I understand the
French company, Comigel, has issued a statement this morning?? It's the
other company. The other one, Matthew, sorry? Yes, the French
Government yesterday pointed the finger of blame at that company,
saying 750 tonnes of horsemeat incorrectly labelled as beef had
been sent out by that company over the last six months. One of our
colleagues has spoken to the sales director at the company today
apologising to British consumers but saying the mistake was not
theirs, that they did not mislead anybody, they did not label
horsemeat as beef and saying they've been unfairly hung out to
dry by the French Government. That is their claim at the moment. I
think what's also clear from the extent of this crisis across Europe,
some 16 countries have been involved in some way, shape or form
at the moment, is that this won't be the only company at the end of
this which finds itself having blame pointed at it.
Thank you for that. Just while Matthew was talking to us, we got
the latest results of the independent tests commissioned by
the Co-operative Group announced today. They've proven negative for
horse DNA in all of the 59 out of 102 own brand minced beef products
that were separate tested. No horses in them. It says we have had
68 results on Morrisons products as well. So far we have found no
contamination with horsemeat. The latest results there suggesting
that the horsemeat's not in the ones they've been investigating.
I'm joined by the chairman of the environment Food and Rural Affairs
Anne Mackintosh. Meat producers are forced to carry
out meat testing. How did the FSA let us down in this crisis? I think
it was surprising that they were on the back foot when the Irish FSA
informed the British FSA that they were doing DNA testing on a
particular line of products in November. We were surprised that
the FSA didn't ask more questions and perhaps conduct their own tests
at that time and we'd have had more knowledge and been much further
into the food chain than we currently are. You are the expert,
but in the processing plants where a lot of the different kinds of
meats could be brought together, that is not the responsibility of
the FSA is it? That is the responsibility of local standards
officials employed by local authorities? And their numbers have
been seriously cut in recent years? There are various layers that you
have to unravel. Whether the meat originally came from Romania via
France, Poland, Ireland, it's the responsibility of the exporting
countries authorities to test physically the content of that meat
and that the label says what the content is. Then you have
Environmental Health officers for district councils, Trading
Standards officers for county councils, they all have a role to
play. What we were surprised by was to learn that the FSA does not have
a statutory authority saying that they can compel testing to happen.
They can request retailers and normally retailers will be nice and
say yes, we are prepared to test. We are saying they should have a
statutory authority to test, that it's the responsibility of
retailers to share the results of their tests. Will they be able to
do the testing in the food processing plant? The key is in the
words "Food processing". I mean if horsemeat is getting into our meat,
it's probably in the food processing plants? Most processing
takes place in other countries, so it would appear if there has been a
criminal act, it would potentially have been in another European
country. What I think we need to know is, we need to understand
better the whole food supply chain and I had no idea that the
ingredients were travelling quite so many miles through so many
different countries over a long period.
But the supermarkets who're the ones labelling the products, don't
they have a bigger responsibility for testing to make sure that what
the label says is the correct one? The testing regime that is set up
in the country is risk assessed and you are never going... I was
surprised to learn, you might be as well, that to test all the product
lines for one company, Tesco told us that in one year, it would cost
between �1 million and �2 million simply to do DNA test samples. We
also understand that we don't have the facilities in this country to
do all the tests. What's particularly ironic is that we seem
to have reexforted some of the contaminated meat to Germany where
they have the labs to test. You say Tesco claims it will cost �1
million or �2 million... That's just one company. Yes but the
biggest supermarket. Do you want me to tell you what their profits
were? Go on? �1.7 million. They can afford to do that. -- �1.7 billion.
They don't have to do everything. A random test would give you a fair
idea if the food chain was what it says it was or wasn't. So I put to
you again, haven't the supermarkets got more responsibility to take
better care of labelling the food they sell to us? Well, what I think
should happen is that we should source more of our food from the
British farmers where we have clobbered them with animal welfare,
traceability, inspection costs, labelling costs and what do we do?
We undercut them by taking this inferior meat. That would boost
consumer confidence overnights if, as Waitrose have said that they are
going to do, that Morrisons do most of their food that is sold in North
Yorkshire stores, they take from British farming produce. But there
are arrests at two British abattoirs yesterday? I think that
is shocking. It's not free from horses? What emerges there is that
the horse passport was not marked. This bute, it's not harmful to
human health in the quantities we are talking about. It is if you eat
60 Hamburgers a year? struggling at the moment to eat one.
But that passport should have been marked up as being infected with
bute and the horse should never have entered into the human food
chain. You cannot force anyone to buy British. You and I may agree
it's the west thing to do and we should support our own produce --
best thing to do. But under European rules you can't force
anyone to buy British. Until you can encourage us, and the
supermarkets, to source more from this country, I come back to my
point, I'm surprised at your reluctance to criticise the
supermarkets. They need to do more testing and better labelling?
we have learnt, as a country, from BSE and foot-and-mouth, we know
more about how to put your house in order and it seems ironic that
having clobbered our industry with those costs, we then undercut and
don't take their meat. So yes, the supermarkets have a role and I
would expect them to comment when we know the results of these tests.
But these tests will only tell us what's on the Shells now. It does
not tell us where the contamination entered the food chain -- shelves.
I slightly feel for the supermarkets on this one because
you are asking them to take more responsibility for the labouring
but the key labelling question was, it said it came from a cow and it
came from a horse. One might be reasonably expected to think that
if they think they are buying beef, it is actually beef. Now we realise
something's gone dreadfully wrong in the food chain. Cottage pie
delivered to 57 schools in Lancashire has been contaminated
with horsemeat - that's what I've just been told. People will be
feeling anxious. What I find fascinating is that inevitably when
this happens, people want politicians to respond because they
are our elected representatives and have to do something and you notice
from Downing Street, having a bit of a go at the supermarkets, that
actually, political power is quite dispersed here. There's not much
purchase they can get on it. If you are on the left, you could say,
global capitalism, spread accountability and sort of putting
pressure on the bottom line means we have all this junk in the food
chain and if you are on the right you might say the European Union is
taking power away and Brussels bureaucrats force feeding us donkey.
You can configure it whichever way you like, but the politicians, they
are faced with public anxiety and don't have any levers to pull to
make it go away. I have sympathy with Downing Street on this one.
One thing I noticed early was the way the blame was immediately
passed along the line. I didn't get the impression the supermarkets
were saying, we'll stand back and loots mp look at where our
responsibility might lie here. It was like we had a supplier, they
have a supplier and we had another supplier. They all pride themselves
on corporate social responsibility, they have expensively paid people
being employed to do this and yet when push comes to shove, they put
up big signs in the supermarkets saying all the great things they
are doing, the labelling is a farce. It's made to look as if we are
being given information, but when it comes to it, the information
isn't there. I think the supermarkets do bear a lot of the
blame and after this, they will have to do more, whether they
resist it now or not. Anne Mackintosh, this story's
cranked up a notch now that we have found out that horse has gone into
the food chain in schools in Lancashire. Your reaction to that?
It's deeply worrying. I'm not saying there is any health aspects
but it comes to the basic point that we need to find out where in
the food Hain the contamination is taking place. I'm not convinced
it's taking place in the UK. I believe, particularly the evidence
we heard from Tescos, that there was a degree of complacency that
yes, they went to huge lengths when they set up a new supply chain, but
once that supply chain was in place, they didn't revisit it often enough
and I don't think we'll see that Is capitalism doomed to failure?
Marxists have long thought so. But the global financial crisis has
even got some economists wondering whether Marx was right. So can
Marxism do it any better? If the Soviet Union's anything to go by,
probably not, and socialist states like Venezuela haven't been spared
from having financial troubles. Susana Mendonca has been speaking
to one Marxist thinker, though, who thinks the tide is turning.
Meet Alan Woods, a Welshman in east London whose writings have
influenced a nation. He is a founder of a campaign called hands
of Venezuela. He had the ear of the President, Hugo Chavez.
He did not describe himself as a socialist, let alone a Marxist. It
was not in his programme. I think he has evolved. Without wishing to
exaggerate my own role. Venezuela's revolution has not put
an end to unemployment and poverty. Its inflation rate is one of the
highest in the world. There are serious problems of crime, of a
certain dislocation of the economy. But I would say the reason is not
so much that they have preceded too fast and too far with
nationalisation of the economy, but on the contrary, they have not
proceeded far enough. He would like to see them and the rest of the
world go the way this man suggested. Karl Marx. He was buried here in
Highgate cemetery back in 1883. In his lifetime, he argued that
capitalism was unfair and therefore doomed to failure. 130 years on,
the current crisis has led some to wonder whether he was right all
along. The capitalist system inevitably
involves crisis. One prominent American economist, Nouriel Roubini,
said recently that Marx was right. We thought that the market worked.
It does not. The global financial crisis has been met by anti-
capitalist protests. This village outside St Paul's was one example.
A sign, according to Allen, that Marxist ideas are resurfacing.
You have the Occupy movement. You have the events in Spain. Even in
sleepy old Britain, there's the beginnings of a movement. At the
very least, you could say, there is now a question about this system
and its values and the way it is run but was not there before.
By it if Marxism is the answer, why did the Soviet Union for? Wife has
China embraced state capitalism? don't defend the Stalinist regime.
But what it did show, as in Russia, was that by nationalising the means
of production, the Chinese people achieved what they never did in the
past. So, Marxist theory lives on. But despite predictions of his
demise, capitalism is still with us for now.
Susana Mendonsa reporting. We're now joined by Dr Madsen Pirie of
the Adam Smith Institute. It may be a long shot to say that
Marxist ideology is making a comeback. But the sense that the
rich are another country, that they have brought a lot of badness in
recent years and that ordinary people are getting a rum deal, that
has taken root. It is prevalent at a popular level. When Marks of
aside that the destiny of capitalism was to of press the
workers, he was wrong. Capitalism has done more to lift the standard
of the common man than any other force. It is one of the most benign
things that people have done. now. In this country, the median
wage is now back to where it was in 2003.
British -- which is further ahead than it was 10 years earlier.
Capitalism has some crisis, but it is flexible. Always, we come back
with an improved version and start to generate wealth again. Even on
the right, you see an awareness of class politics. Mr Cameron is
uncomfortable about talking about having gone to Eton. The Chancellor
is anxious not to be seen as part of a coterie of well-off by public
schoolboys. On the Labour side, you see a class rhetoric. Class in the
Marxist sense is back in our politics. It is not necessarily an
equation with wealth. Class in Britain is not the same as wealth.
It's part of background, education, culture or choices. Britons have
always been obsessed with class. But this is not necessarily anti-
rich. But there and anti- rich movement, isn't there? But when the
rich get richer, the poor get richer too. It is the best thing
that can happen to poor people. the rich are getting much richer.
am not worried about the gap. It is capitalism that allows the advance.
Does the gap not matter at all? When the gap is so large, the
globalised rich live a life and a style just totally beyond most
people. It is part of the process of development that initially, when
a country goes from relatively poor to affluent, part of the process
involves income disparities increasing. This has been happening
in China. There are more billionaires in China than America.
This affects the world figures. The result will be that the ordinary
people in China will benefit, as they have done spectacularly
already in these last two decades. Where are you on this? Capitalism
is not really going anywhere. If you look at the leader of the
Labour Party, who is to the left of Tony Blair, and what he wants is a
kinder, more gentle capitalism. It is not useful to discuss it in
terms of whether anybody is going to junk capitalism. This point
about the super rich is about political consent. It is hard for a
government to achieve things if it is felt to be for the benefit of a
tiny number of people. fundamental question is, do count
conditions lead to a revival of Moxon? -- current conditions.
would be dubious about what will Marxist in the film was saying. He
was saying that Marxism is a good way of articulating discontent. The
problem with relying so heavily on Karl Marx was that he predicted a
lot of things that did not happen. I don't really see where it takes
you. Unless you are prepared to sign up to his agenda or support
deranged autocrats like Hugo Chavez, how do you bring it into the
political system in a democracy? On the other hand, I think you are
complacent to say that it does not matter that you have a massive
wealth gap. It does make life more difficult to put across a good case
of capitalism. To say you are not interested in it is not convincing.
I don't think it is as important as people think it is. The important
thing is to have economic growth. Deeply in an expanding society,
that see their future as being better off than the past are more
likely to be happy. -- people. you don't care about relative
wealth, when a lot of people do. this end of the? I think that is a
reasonable response. I would not dismiss it. If you see a Super
Class pulling away from you, this is going to be a problem. As the
left and regroups after the crash of 2008 and tries to evolve
policies for a post-crash world, are Marxists playing any role in
that? I don't think they are, substantially. The interesting
point about the tented village is not that it existed but that so few
can -- few people rallied to it. If you look at the point about what
makes people cross, the stagnation of ordinary people's wages started
in 2002. That was before the big crash. This disparity, I'm speaking
on behalf of ordinary middle-class people, it is hard to do
politically when you see a small number of people taking more of the
pie for themselves. And that is bought raw anger.
-- that his middle-class anger. Wages have been stagnant for a
while in this country. Some estimates suggest average real
wages today in America are not higher than they were in 1973.
Corporate profits have gone through the roof. There is something not
functioning for the majority of people here. It is not that the
balance has shifted from wages to profits. The difference has been
made by taxation. It is government share that has increased. That is
what has made the difference between the two. Share of profits
as a percentage of GDP was higher in recent years than in the 1950s
or 1960s. We are in a crisis of capitalism, people say. But nobody
is suggesting we go back to state- controlled planning. Whenever we
have this crisis, everybody says, it is over. But it always comes
back in a different form. On your optimism, we will leave it there.
Now, we all like to think that our views are the right ones. Or the
left ones. But can you tell someone's political views just by
looking at their brains? Well, scientists from the Universities of
California and Exeter observed 82 people gambling. And from the
results they say left wing and right wing people use different
parts of their brains when they make risky decisions. So someone on
the left, like Ed Miliband, would show significantly greater activity
in the left insula - as you all know, that's the region associated
with sociability and self-awareness - and someone on the right - David
Cameron, for instance - would have significantly greater activity in
the right amygdala, which is, of course, the region involved in the
body's fight-or-flight system. The scientists say affiliating with
a political party may alter the brain. Well, we all knew that.
Joining me now are Dr Jonathan Rowson, director of the Social
Brain Centre at the RSA, and Lucy Beresford, who's a psychotherapist.
Do you buy this? Yes, but it is not surprising. I'm not sure what
people think where we would hold our values if not our brain. Your
brain shows activity when you eat horsemeat or think of Karl Marx. It
is not, in itself, news. Is a chance to reflect on where people
are coming from. It is a chance to renew democratic debate. It is a
chance to say that Ed Miliband and David Cameron come from a different
place. Do they come from a different place because of their
brains? The brain is there when you are thinking and walking and
talking. People tend to use the brain as if it is innate and fixed.
The brain is plastic. It responds to experience. Just because it is
in the brain, doesn't mean it is fixed. What do you think? I agree
with Jonathan in that this report is reductionist. It implies that
people can't change their mind. We only have to look at what is
happening in Eastleigh. A whole group of people are descending on
Eastleigh with the sole purpose of trying to change the mind of
another group of people in the idea that people can be swayed in the
political appellations. -- affiliations. They're not entirely
wasting their time. Politics is more than just the personalities.
The desire whole constellation of things that makes people change
their mind. -- There is a whole constellation. Run-through how
joining a political party alters the brain. From early on, Ed
Miliband is left of centre partly because of his father. As that was
happening, his but -- his brain was changing. David Cameron was
undergoing different structures. I don't see why that is surprising.
It is something we have known for a long time. The brain functions as a
kind of touchstone. If Ed Miliband had been born with the same brain
but brought up in David Cameron's household, he would be leader of
the Tory party? Not necessarily, but the point is valid. We have our
brains, which are not just a blank slate. They are organised in
certain ways. But the impact is $:/STARTFEED. This research implies
everything is fixed and never changes and it simplifys the way
that brains work. The problem with this kind of research for me is
that it grabs the headlines and perhaps attracts more money, more
funding for the scientists, but it can be so easily unpicked that it
denigrates really important research, for example, looking at
the way brains function for gamblers in particular, the way
that they are attitude to risk can help clinicians predict relapse for
example. That's really important research. This kind of research
grabs the headlines, states statements that are obvious. I have
top political brains with me. I bet you are a bit sceptical of this?
Funnily enough I disagree slightly because I've seen similar research.
The Economist with whom I work for wrote about this. There's
disposition, some inherited. Jack Straw is his dad. Occasionally you
get a push back against that but there is a grain of preference
against left or right which runs strongly in families. Attitudes to
risk or the big state versus individualism, they seem to get
fixed quite early on many people. But it doesn't mean that they turn
necessarily Labour or Conservative. A Blairite might have a view of a
smaller state and be a bit like a Conservative to that degree and on
other things, they are have been Labour. What is coming out of the
broader mass of research is that political dispositions are possibly
more accounted for by this kind of newer science than we might have
thought a few years ago. question you would have to ask is,
how useful... You were born with the left-wing brain? I very much
doubt it. Were you born with a brain? It's in there somewhere, I'm
very confident about that. If you are practicing politics, how is
this useful to you? As Anne says, there's evidence that there are
arguments that Conservatives are better at appealing to emotion and
fear. You take an argument that there might not be an obvious left
right position on, say Scottish independence, do you frame that
argument in terms of your view that we are terribly afraid that the
country will go to rack and ruin if we go along with this, or do you
build rational arguments about where GDP will fall. That might
tell you whether you are appealing to people on the left better or the
right. That's strategic as to how you frame an argument. Let's assume
this research is right. Where do we go from here? What does it mean?
means politicians are coming at issues from different angles. They
may agree with you because they have a different sit of assumptions.
To some extent it being lodged in the brain is not the story, the
story is we start from somewhere and we should come from that point
that comes in a good place that's different from ours and not always
assume that they are wrong all the time or immoral.
Never assume that they are wrong or immoral, at least not all of the
time but part of the time. Thank you. A council is introducing �80
pont spot fines for anyone caught spitting or urinating in public.
It's true! David Thompson's been out and about in Walthamstow. That
is the place asking if the new fines leave... I'm not going to say
that, let's just run the tape. Spitting. Bob Carol gees and spit
the dog did it. If they come here, they could be in for a nasty shock.
A quick gob could land you a fine of 80 quid. It will be enforced by
the civil enforcement officers who'll get you for urinating in
public or dropping litter. From the feedback we got when this was
announced yesterday, we think we have tapped into a real national
mood that set, spitting, gobbing in public is disgusting, ruern naiting
up against houses and shops is disgusting and someone needs to do
something and here in Waltham Forest we are doing something --
urinating. Believe it or not, there was a pro-spitting lobby and they
were ready to gob off about the council's plan. It's. Some people
are used to it, you know. �80 is too much. If you are pregnant or
sick and you want to get something out, sometimes it suddenly comes
out, don't it? I would say yes there should be a restriction on it
but I wouldn't agree with charging �80 for spitting on the street.
you think it's a good idea? I spit in the street all the time. She's
from North Carolina, mate. However, North Carolina aside, there were
those who wanted to make Waltham Forest a spit-free zone. What's
next, the world? Not sure if it would work but it's a good idea. It
would be nice if it worked. Spreads germs and looks foul. I don't know
why people do it. It's a good idea. You have to enforce certain things.
Once enforced, people accept them and then there's no reason why
anybody ends up paying an �80 fine. Sadly, the man who was made for
this job, my colleague, Adam phlegming, was made unavailable for
comment! The BBC would like to apologise to
our many viewers in South Carolina if they took offence at the
gratuitous remarks of your lovely state.
A lot of people might say yes, good on Walthamstow Council trying to
raise the level of behaviour and reduce the yobbish behaviour on our
streets? I'm complete lit with them. I can't see what the problem is,
unless you have to be sick if you are pregnant and you are discreetly
sick, you won't be brought to book for that. I like the idea of the
council taking responsibility and saying a lot of people don't like
this and it's a sort of low level antisocial behaviour which builds
into worse behaviour like extreme drunkenness. What do you think?
tend to agree. I question the quif lens of urinating and spitting,
they are not equivalent. Perhaps the councils have different levels
of fines. What about hanging for those who spit chewing gum out on
the pavement? You would probably have to have... Is that too far?
You might need to have... It costs a fortune to clean it up? It does.
The other way you could go about it is a nudge thing where you make it
easy for people to throw away the chewing gum and have more reminders.
There's a lot of chewing gum in some places. I think urinating and
spitting shouldn't be on the streets. Tax the chewing gum
companies and they can have the chemicals put in that make it
easier to get off the pavement. thumbs up for Walthamstow Council
from our panel? Three thumbs from me. Three thumbs you have. Strange!
It's been a week of Popes and pancakes, abattoir raids, political
tirades and an unwanted spaghetti ready-made meal. Here is jiels to
serve it up within 60 seconds -- Giles. Holy smoke, God's elect, the
Pope resigns over failing health, a bold move since the last time the
Pope gave up for lent was 1415. He'll leave at the end of the month
to withdraw from the world. Glory glory, President Obama gave his
State of the Union address saying his second term will focus on
immigration, gun control and the economy.
Holy cow. Actually, holy horse. 100% beef products turned out to
have nagging doubts about content. My concern is that many of the
answers may contain 100% bull. businesss in the UK are raided.
Horsemeat is seize and the Chancellor is offered a hot meal,
though not a pasty. Ed Miliband makes a speech. He reinstates the
10p tax and uses a mansion tax to pay for it. He thanked the audience
for being with him and Ed Balls for Valentines. Tuesday was flat. For
some, the week just got better and better.
How long can it be before some Government minister's stuffing a
beef lasagne down? Yorn didn't look very pleased. -- George Osborne.
Parliamentary mid term break - well it's in recess now for all of next
week. A few things have happened and they are not necessarily
supporting each other. David Cameron's laid out the European
policy, but secondly, Labour's lead in the polls has consolidated and
grown? Yes. Very interesting? Ed Miliband looks to me like a much
more confident performer watching him speaking this week. I think he
really feels he's now got command of his part and that's a good step
to feeling very sure of yourself. He doesn't have a lead on
immigration, the economy or welfare, so the worry among strategists is
it's very encouraging but very soft. Also on basic deficits. The public
is still very divided, more so than you might expect, given the lack of
growth. What have we learned since the Christmas break? The people who
care passionately about a European Union won't be bothered when David
Cameron stands up and gives them what they want which is significant.
I agree the Labour Leader is very weak or soft largely because of the
economy. The budget might change that either way. Strengthened
though? But still weaker than you think it should be? Single issues.
When you drill down what people care about, they care about the
economy, immigration, welfare spending being got under control.
Those are things were Labour are weak. What they don't care about
that much actually is the European Union and the Prime Minister's
biggest political gambit of this political term so far was on that.
It hasn't done anything. I don't agree with that. I think this
referendum had to have been offed. He would have been dead meat. If
you can't sort out your own party, you are not going to be Prime
Minister for long. And you are not if people think your only care
about your own party. I don't agree with that. His problem arises if he
wins the election he has to campaign for a yes-vote. It gets
him through and cuts often UKIP where it was beginning to advance.
He had to do it, not because anybody else cares but his own
party needed it. People who care enough about this to really care
about the referendum and hate Brussels with every fibre in their
being, remember David Cameron's made promises like this before,
those people will still vote UKIP. Who has the vote? Lib Dems. UKIP.
The people I've spoke to have no idea, don't care or say the Libs
have done good why let Chris Huhne spoil it for the rest of them.
for Mr Clegg but not Mr Cameron. They got the wrong candidate. Could
have been a liberal seat. We'll hold on to that and if they are
wrong, we'll rerun that. A full list of candidates for the
Eastleigh by-election is on the BBC website. That's it for today.
Thanks to all the guests. The One o'clock news is starting on BBC One