28/01/2017 Dateline London


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28/01/2017

Foreign correspondents currently posted to London look at events in the UK through outsiders' eyes, and at how the issues of the week are being tackled around the world.


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Hello and welcome to Dateline London.

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How "special" is Britain's so-called "special relationship"

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And how wise is it for a British prime minister to try to get close

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to an American president - and end up with a picture

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My guests today are: Alex Deane who is a conservative commentator,

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Agnes Poirier of France's Marianne, Mustapha Karkouti of Gulf News and

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Jef McAllister, an American writer and broadcaster

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A British ambassador to Washington once told me -

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as we awaited the first meeting between the then British

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prime minister and a new American president -

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that they were "fated to get on wonderfully well."

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He meant that whatever the personal chemistry - or lack of it -

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the totality of the relationship between the UK and US was so

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But how well does that work with Theresa May and Donald Trump?

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It seems to me the most interesting thing about it is that it took place

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within the first few days? Yes, the first foreign head to be in to see

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the American presence, I think the quote from your former ambassador

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friend is right. These are two countries that need to work hard to

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get on and I don't think there is any secret that we struggle somewhat

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under President Obama who is not as well disposed to the British

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interest as the now president seems to be. I suppose my point is this,

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whether you agreed with Brexit or not, that is now the directional

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travel that our country is on. President Obama and his preferred

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successor Hillary Clinton set themselves Paul square against that

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so even if you voted against Brexit and power and ardent Remainer, you

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should now be happy, that we have a president who looks optimistic and

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positively at the path that we are set on. You may dislike Donald Trump

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or many other reasons and those reasons may be valid but on this it

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is good fry country that it happened, and went the way that we

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did. Do you see this as some British press sees it, as a danger that a

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Prime Minister gets too close to an American president. It was said that

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Tony Blair got too close to George Bush and that lead us into the mess

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of Iraq? When I watch the press conference, I thought the Prime

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Minister came out of that exceptionally well and if you think

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about anyone who's policy positions changed, it was Trump, not May. One

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week ago he was saying that Nato was obsolete, with encouragement of

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Theresa May it is now 100% relevant and he supports it. And maybe

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general Matias two. He said that he would step back, and support the

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general 's position. In the same way that he seems to be rowing back on

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torture as well. But he does seem to be bit double, and the other one is

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Ukraine. Where Theresa made straight that our country and there is has a

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significant position of difference and she didn't back down one bit.

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What did you make of it? Well I wish I could share your enthusiasm, of

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course he is the presidents of the United States, the used and nine it

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and we had to work with the man. On the other hand as a friend Britain,

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I felt, I was shivering, just seeing them holding hands which the British

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media paid Seo much of it. It is on every single newspaper. It was a

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temporary safety measure I believe, they were walking downstairs. He was

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being polite. He was being polite but I just don't see Angela Merkel

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being led the way that she is. I thought it was a bit embarrassing

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for Britain. Also, that press conference, the FT said that there

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was considerable warmth between the two. What I saw was considerable

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awkwardness, she was walking on eggshells of course and she managed

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to get him to say at least not on camera, that he was backing Nato

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100% and that is a in itself, but otherwise, she was going there, Ray

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few words from the president about the trade deal, but Article 50 has

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not been triggered yet so she's not actually cable or starting at entry

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negotiations. You can have talks of course but you didn't say anything

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on that trade deal apart from Brexit was the most wonderful things. To

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pick up on Alex's point, wasn't the most interesting thing about

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yesterday that whatever one may say about Donald Trump and a lot has

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been said all over the place about him, he appears to be pragmatic

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enough to listen to people who actually know what they talk about.

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If he listens to General Mattis four example is somebody with a long

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career in defence, it is very clear that he doesn't think that torture

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is a good idea. I know, but you can't actually ignore, the fact that

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an American president says that personally, you think that torture

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works. It is difficult to ignore. But you cannot ignore the fact that

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he said even if he thinks that, he will defer to someone else. I

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thought it was an interesting point. It is still to Moxon tip becomes a

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dictatorship. What do you make of it? I think Theresa May left

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Washington saying to herself, I cannot trust this man. I don't think

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she will trust this man. Because he is a man who changes his mind every

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day. And he is a loner in a way. When he stands up in the press

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conference and says, look, I am rich, very, very rich. As if he says

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I don't need this job and this money so I'm doing you a favour to be here

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in this position. You cannot trust this man in a way. Yes of course he

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said I'm with you 100% over Nato, but give him two or three months,

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easy going to stick to his position? I doubt it. And I'm sure Theresa May

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doubts it. That is interesting. You've seen lots of presidents at

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the White House, it has been quite an extremely weak for Donald Trump?

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For America? It is such a blizzard of things you can hardly even

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remember how it began, the speech at the CIA where he is standing in

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front of the wall of the fallen and uses it as a long talk about his own

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wonderfulness. Where he says that the news media made up his

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differences with intelligence agencies which was a lie. Two people

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for whom not lying actually matters because that is their jobs, trying

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to figure out things. And to say, that of course there was tremendous

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voter fraud and that was the only reason why I didn't get the popular

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vote. That was another lie and he said that to them. That was seven

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days ago. A long week. And the executive order that was in favour

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of torture, which has now been rescinded. But there is a law

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against it anyway so the executive order is irrelevant and James Mattis

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was against it. Theresa May, I think it is important for the president

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and the Prime Minister tried to get on, yes, there is a little bit of

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the supplicant trying to rush in but it's fine, this is an important

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relationship. If it goes well for the US it is a force multiplier for

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Britain, I would point to the relationship that Tony Blair and

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George Bush had in the days after September the 11th when it actually

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worked really well where Blair would go to Washington, he at the second

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highest approval rating of any public figure in the United States

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and he would come back to Europe and all of the European Prime Minister

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's would line up to have dinner with him because they wanted to

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understand what Bush was saying and he was kind of the ambassador. It

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all went wrong when he became too supplicant three over Iraq and he

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didn't pull back. So that is a danger, of being a Democrat in a

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Conservative thing. I think the worrying thing about this visit, yes

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it looks like a normal visit, but Trump is not a normal president. He

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does not believe in the Liberal International order, he believes in

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himself coming getting attention for himself. If you look at all of his

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biographers, they say he has never had any friends. He doesn't have any

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long-term friends, he discards his wise when they are not useful to

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him. He doesn't believe in alliances and long-term building, he believes

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in transactions and beating the other guy in a deal. Here we have

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Britain that has given away its European home and is looking for

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deals. Are you saying that these are two leaders that have got no mates?

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The British don't get on with the European friends and Donald Trump

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doesn't get on with anybody? But there is also a system in which they

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used to operate. I think if Vladimir Putin now takes advantage of say,

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lessening some sanctions, I don't think Trump is going to opposing

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like Obama did. Meddling in the elections and doing things the last

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of GDP concerning, I think this desire for Britain to be paying all

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of this attention to trade deals within individual countries, and the

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smallness of its ambitions it is going to feel like it is the wrong

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choice but it is going to fit in with Trump's. The there is false

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with what you say, I could agree -- disagree about what Trump was --

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agree with Trump speaking front of the wall and it was crass. But I

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disagree with you, in exception is with results. I'm not saying you

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particularly but the left often says that the result we have had is so

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bad that it transcends normal systems. When democracy sometimes

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you get results that you don't like and each side has to live with that

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result. But I'm so angry that this can't be normal, and therefore the

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result is whether it be voting to leave the European Union will Donald

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Trump the president must somehow be invalid. Li I don't think it is

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invalid, I think it is worrisome and it creates risks, and risks of the

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dissolution of the international order that has triggered peace and

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security for so many years is a risk. Both playing as not

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isolationists, it is I am best. I think it is a new world altogether,

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a new political environment, I think everybody is trying to find his or

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her place. Like Theresa May. How to deal with this man. It is a very

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worrying thing to do, because listening to his speeches, the day

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before, in Philadelphia, the mere fact that she was, repeating, the

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fact, the two great nations historically, and reminding. Brew

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wanting to lead together. The other point that I wanted to make, I'm

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very interested in your country's politics, in the enzyme bridges

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should because I'm most interested in how Britain fares. Our Prime

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Minister didn't choose this hand, she neither voted to leave the

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European Union nor did she have any say on Trump being president but

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she's dealing with hands that she is being dealt and I'm very proud of

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the way that she is conducting herself actually. One of the things

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I have wanted to bring up, it has been many years since I have read

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the art of the deal, Donald Trump says, or his ghost writer, says

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something like you make a better deal when the person in front of you

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is desperate to make a deal. That is the thing that I wonder about. Jeff

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was talking about Tony Blair and Bush, Tony Blair missed a historical

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opportunity at the time, because he did have leveraged over Bush and he

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was close to him and he could have done something which he didn't do

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and that was a historical mistake in many ways. He could have actually

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just before the invasion, he would have been able to tell Bush look,

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this was a mistake. Brew but he and colon Powell could have had a senior

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conversation. But also he and Colin Powell could have had a senior

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conversation. But Britain is very important on the chessboard and can

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make a real difference, but what I so, yesterday in Washington, the

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British Prime Minister who of course needs to do what she has to do but

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she also, there was an element of desperation and she felt really sink

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a frantic. I'm a Tory and I love blaming Tony Blair for anything, on

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that one it is the job of the new Prime Minister to make sure that we

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are close to our closest ally. I want to point out that some of the

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bases, for the cooperation is intelligence and offence. Many

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things that are part of this regardless of who the Prime Minister

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is. But British spending on its own defence has decreased, the number of

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aircraft carriers and planes on aircraft carriers, the number of

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submarines, the size of the Army. Actually it is getting to the point

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where Britain is not gain to be able to make the kind of contributions

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should there be a gulf of land war. And I think that is important for

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the future. Theresa May does not have as many cards in her hand. A

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lot has been made in this side of the land sick about these executive

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orders. I'm tempted to ask, so what? Didn't Obama signed an executive

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order eight years ago this month. And whatever happened to that? What

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I'm trying to get at is the totality of the relationships between Britain

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and the United States also involves Theresa May talking to the

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Republican party, that went down very well. It is not just about the

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president, but whatever you say about all Trump, his freedom former

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mover is more limited than people think. I think that is fair if you

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look at the executive orders, they are mostly public relations, they

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are intended to throw red meat to the base and signal a directional

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travel but they are not legally valid because they contradict

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legislation or because they are easily provoke a ball or because

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there are conditions that haven't come to pass, or they say things

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that are already law but people don't remember that Obama has

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already done about immigration policy for instance. This is a

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common tactic of new presidents, to issue a flurry of executive orders.

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I think we have two get used to, Trump doesn't care as much about the

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substance. Obama a constitutional law expert cares about doing the

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right thing. What Trump always cares about his being at the centre of the

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news and getting adulation for it and if it takes executive orders

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that don't add up, or end up in the heap on the floor he doesn't care.

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How is he viewed in the Middle East in particular on the guv, I was

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talking to a golf specialist and they say do you know what, there is

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a fair wind but I'm Trump in Gulf nations partly because he recognises

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the threat as they see it from Iran and that is a big story in the Gulf?

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That is true, I think it would please the Gulf. People in general.

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Of his stance on Iran. If he does what he says, they will certainly be

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relieved, no doubt about that. This is only one point. You need to think

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of stability in the long term, in the entire region, not only,

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assuming he launches a war if you like or attacks, hitting the nuclear

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facilities or whatever. That is what talking about. Will it be limited to

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that part only? Would it threaten the entire region itself? They are

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worried, a lot more than Iran, about extremism, fundamentalism in the

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region itself. It is proper either first priority as far as politics in

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the region. Ease Trump prepared to do anything about that? He did say a

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few things about Muslims just if you days ago yesterday.

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And also his team started talking about building a database of Muslims

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inside the US. And barring people from certain countries like Syria

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where you are from. Exactly. And that made a person like Madeline

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Albright threaten to convert to Islam if he does that. Is that a bit

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of froth? I don't think it is froth, we should listen to people around

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the world. On the other hand, he is far less interested in intervening

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around the world, it will be not very interesting to liberal

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interventionists but it would be much more agreeable to people who

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don't want interventions from superpowers. On the other hand,

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Balmer dropped hundreds of thousands of bombs, on Muslims, and was widely

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regarded by the foreign affairs lobby as a hero. There is a

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difference between these two things, would I find it more difficult to

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find Davies in the United States will get a bomb dropped on me? Brew

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Trump is stopping the drone programme and he will be doing the

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same thing -- Trump is not stopping the drone programme. How do you know

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that? Brew he hasn't told me, but it is essentially inevitable, that is

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what the entire Establishment has been looking to do. And there are

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not very alternatives if you want to be a tough guy and if you want to do

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things from Washington. The danger is, let's say that he makes the deal

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with Russia, sanctions gone in return for cooperation. The problem

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with Russia as a ally against terrorism is, they have created a

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lot of people from Chechnya who go to Syria because of the tactics they

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have used. They kill eight times as many people in the bombing as

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American strikes, and if you look at Trump's executive order banning

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Muslims, it is from countries none of which sent any of the 911

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bombers, the most it affects is Iran. As one Iranians foreign policy

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official said, Americans have created more people going to Isis

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than Iran has. They have two create this notion that you are actually

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increasing radicalism if you team up with the Russians. Your point about

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the orders and restricting travel is reasonable, the Ven diagram between

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countries that have sent citizen between 911 and the countries who

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are banned, do not overlap one bit. Saudi Arabia is of course the

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largest single one. And I wanted to return to your Russia point, because

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on the one hand as they showed in Syria, the Russians, brutal and

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effective, RGB only on the narrow interpretation of what you think

:20:50.:20:52.

should happen. The Americans and indeed the rest of us. Well meant

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and well-intentioned and utterly ineffectual. You have got to pick

:20:58.:21:01.

your preferred option. Doing peace with Russia, I think there are many

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people who will look at that and would say that I would rather that

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Russia got on better with United States. If you listen to Theresa May

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before she talked to Trump, she was always -- already showing signs that

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we should have a different attitude to Russia. Perhaps we will keep

:21:25.:21:28.

sanctions on the Ukraine but there is room for improvement. This is

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happening, if France with you is elected French President, he is for

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the moment best placed to be the French president, -- Fillon. There

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will be a complete the other side to French foreign policy. It will be a

:21:47.:21:49.

new era of Franco Russian friendship. And indeed in other

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countries in Europe, I think we are going there because we know, Obama

:21:54.:21:59.

didn't do much. In the sense that, the US has retreated on the

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international scene, and with Trump it is going to continue being

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isolationist. So basically there is so much room in part of the world in

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the Middle East for Russia to play its card and the one is going to

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stop Vladimir Putin. So this is where, slowly we are slowly getting

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there. Just to return to the torture point. It now seems to have been

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shelved but one of the fundamental worries about that, apart from the

:22:27.:22:31.

inhumanity of torture, is that if you torture one person, you may

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create a thousand others who take the same view. It seems to be a very

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headline grabbing way of saying something, to talk to his base but

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something that will offend, not just many people but make many people

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much more likely to be anti-American? I think that is

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right, I think torture is always morally wrong, the question now is

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whether it is effective or not is secondary. I also wonder to what

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extent these are deliberate ploy is to demonstrate a toughness, that is

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meant for your political audience rather than for your wider

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international audience. I have no doubt that the signals from the

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Trump campaign on that went down well with its domestic audience, and

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if your primary aim is to get elected, if you remove morale at you

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from the question, that is a sensible thing to do. Even if it

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alienates people who are not American citizens outside your

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country. One question I wonder about Jeff, is the question of Congress

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and the Republicans in Congress, the Democrats are in a mess in various

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ways but if you are a Republican in Congress facing the election in two

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years which is the entire house of representatives, how close would you

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be to Donald Trump. Would you say, I would better get very close because

:23:54.:23:57.

he's the president and he this mandate. Or would you say, this

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could come seriously unstuck? Brew so far all of the indications are

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that the Republicans have made the bed I happily or not. However

:24:09.:24:16.

bizarre his pronouncements or offensive about grabbing the private

:24:17.:24:23.

parts of women. Saved just basically rolled over. The base, the people

:24:24.:24:27.

that voted for them and that they are scared of, to unseat

:24:28.:24:36.

Congressman, they cannot afford to get out of the way. Foreign policy,

:24:37.:24:41.

it probably won't matter a lot, it is Obama care that is perhaps going

:24:42.:24:46.

to matter. Obviously the Republicans are now showing concern, they have

:24:47.:24:51.

said repeated so many times and now they are actually responsible for

:24:52.:24:56.

its becoming Trump care. They lot of the initial proposals would end up

:24:57.:25:00.

on insuring 20 million people who would have terrible sob stories, and

:25:01.:25:05.

against them. Now they are starting to feel the pressure. But Trump to

:25:06.:25:11.

who is not actually really a Republican, he is a deal-maker, will

:25:12.:25:16.

be glad to come up with a compromise and I think there is room for him to

:25:17.:25:21.

work with the Republicans. And all of this stuff about impeachment and

:25:22.:25:24.

all of the horrible things that he is doing, all of these impossible

:25:25.:25:28.

things that he keeps doing, they will not get in his way. Foreign

:25:29.:25:34.

policy is what is worrying as far as the Middle East is concerned.

:25:35.:25:38.

Because foreign policy is bottom of the list, no doubt about that. That

:25:39.:25:43.

would give the Russians freedom to do whatever they want in the region.

:25:44.:25:50.

In fact, they are now running the peace conference in Kazakhstan. And

:25:51.:25:58.

they are the arbiter but they are also, the attackers at the same

:25:59.:26:03.

time. That is how they are perceived in the region. That is it for

:26:04.:26:08.

Dateline London for this extremely busy week, we are back the same time

:26:09.:26:14.

next week, you can of course comment on Twitter. Goodbye.

:26:15.:26:18.