11/11/2011 Newsnight


With Kirsty Wark. What is really happening in the Syrian flashpoint Homs? Newsnight has fresh footage of life inside the beleagured city.

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From Arab Spring to European fall, in parts of the Middle East they


are making steps towards democracy, while this week in Europe,


technocrats are electing leaders. Does the right of Lucas Papademos


in -- rise of Lucas Papademos in Greece, show that European


democracy can't hand the british. Our diplomatic editors are there


with their take on the dramatic week in the eurozone.


Across the country millions fell silent to mark Armistice Day. Is


the poppy now a political symbol as much as a symbol of the fallen. We


will discuss if there is a better way to honour the dead. We will


read experts of Siegfried Sasson's unearthed poem. Stars flung forth


to lead you in the light. Good evening, perhaps it is because


Europe appears to be lurching from one crisis to the next, when


something truly seismic happens we approach it with something


approaching souscience. Two democratically elected leaders were


flung out for failing and replaced with two unelected techno crafts.


While Egypt is busy embracing the world of democracy. It is a


topscyture vee world where democracy seems to be eroding, our


diplomatic editor, Mark Urban reports. We saw the Arab Spring,


where people rose up to get rid of old men in favour of democracy. Now


we have the European autumn, which involves pushing aside democratic


leaders in favour of unelected old leaders in favour of unelected old


men? I think one parallel that seems to have emerged between parts


of the Middle East and Europe. We have had leaders not telling the


truth, trying to cosset their population in fake stories about


the Promised Land in the future. course, this is painting with very


broad brush strokes, just three out of a couple of dozen Arab


leaderships have been overthrown by revolutions so far. Just Greece has


appointed one of those grey unelected men as Prime Minister,


with Italy probably about to do so too, out of 26EU countries. But


there is a deeper point -- 27 EU countries. There is a point of


discontent sweepg across Europe, discontent with politics, sharpened


by the forces of global recession. As for either type of change


delivering, we are not sure. Egypt is still ruled by a military


Government, and plenty of people are frustrated by the slow pace of


reform. But elections will happen soon in Egypt, and have gone well


enough in Tunisia. So there Maysoon be democratic leaders, struggling


to match the 5-6% economic growth managed in the latter days of


President Mubarak. As for Europe, there are already


many happy to argue that the last thing Greece or Italy needs is an


election right now. Better to get austerity measures


through parliament, as happened in Italy today. The calculation seems


to be that unelected men like Lucas Papademos, swoorn in with his new


unity Government today, -- swoorn in with his new unity Government


today, can swoot bankers, if they - - sooth bankers. It maybe this


generates anger with the unelected arbiters of a nation's future. How


to retain support when the markets, social media or news channels all


seem to focus unhappiness or fear and amplify it. When it comes to


enhancing positive emotions or enabling change, those forces seem


to operate less effectively. So if a leader, as charasmatic as


President Obama, can get terrible approval ratings, and they have


been pretty bad recently, in this climate of recession, the question,


can any democratic leader hold on to his or her popularity in this


recession would seem to be, no they can. I think leaders will stand a


chance, right now I think people are not ideolgical about their


leaders. We have a potential socialist with a good chance of


winning an election in France. You have a right-wing Government with a


good chance in Spain. It is not right or left, it is give me


competence, give me a Government that can get us through this moment


of panic, then we will worry about the fuen tuning of whether you are


more in favour of -- fine tuning of whether you are more in favour of


spending or the market. In this European autumn, it is hard to


imagine an electorate surging into a more optimistic mood at any time.


The best we can hope for, politically, is the absence of


complaint. Mark Urban is here with Paul Mason.


Paul, the overall, the overarching idea here is that the economic


crisis brought a complete change to the nature of power, and who


actually exercise it is? It is not shocking to see this rather strange


sequence of crisis, bailout, imposed austerity package, and then


election to decide who implements it. We saw this in Ireland and


Portugal. There are elements of it in Italy and Greece. The shocking


thing was to see other Governments, avertly involved in the overthrow.


Specifically with Greece, but also with Italy, in the case of Angela


Merkel, who rang the Italian President, could ask could there be


a different Government. There is that, there is the underlying


economics of it are, that the economic orthodoxy of an entire


generation of politicians seems to be failing. They don't know what to


do. One looks them in the eye in Cannes and Brussels and all the


other various venues, you tend to see a slight absence of belief in


themselves. An absence of belief in themselves, mirrored with the idea


that somebody like Angela Merkel has to impose herself on Europe.


Yes, and it is interesting to see it from a UK perspective. Every


nation look at this there their own prism, the UK is be careful what


you look for. George Osborne and David Cameron have been urging on


the Central Bank, tighter fiscal union, more discipline, but this is


what it can look like. What we have seen this week, toppling of


Governments, putting unelected people in. To the Euro-sceptic part


of those same Conservative leaders is repugnant, and heightens this


disconnect between the measures needed to pay the -- pave the


economic position, and the legitimacy of the project.


legitimacy is what suffers, does national politics, national


Government sufrbgs or does the European project suffer -- suffer,


or does the European project suffer at the end of this? Mario Monti,


only made a senator two days a nod not even nominated yet, we believe


he will be the replacement for Berlusconi, he buys them time.


Italy isn't in a death spiral. They have had a premier who lacked, for


the markets, credibility, Greece, is in a social crisis. Greece a


month ago saw the communist party militia squad defending the


parliament against the anarchists, this is not the Europe that Olli


Rehn thinks he's running. That is the problem for them. They have


very little take on what to do about it. Even the technocrats, I


would argue. Also in the film there, your interviewee was talking about


the change again likely in future elections in France and in Spain.


And a different configuration? was saying people were being non-


ideolgical in Europe, listening to him, I was thinking, no, they are


just against the incumbent. Whoever that is. That is part of this huge


discontent with established political orders, that whoever you


are, you will get caned in the current crisis. We were talking


about the way that both Cameron and Osbourne had approached this,


obviously the Euro-sceptics here in the backbenches. But there was lsz


a move in Europe that is Britain- sceptic. You can clearly pick that


up whenever you have contact with European politicians. The Brits, we


are coming up to the autumn statement. The well laid plans, the


best laid plans to rebalance our economy, and to cut our deficit, I


think, as we speak, being redrawn. They have to be. We don't even know


how bad the, if we get the worst case scenario, an Italian debt


crisis, we don't know how bad the European credit crunch will be. It


could spoil everybody's plan. do you think this looks in Europe


from the Arab world? I can't say. We should really ask someone in


Cairo or Tripoli tonight. What is apparent when you are there, is


there is enormous enthusiasm, there is grass roots belief in democracy.


When you actually look at how it can be applied in those countries,


people are less sure. They have had 42 years of dictatorship in Libya,


they have had very, very oppressive systems. As the challenges come up


of trying to run these election, we have seen all sorts of curious


rules put in by the military in Egypt, trying to make it work and


then trying to deliver practical Government. It is possible that the


coalitions that overthrew those dictators can fracture under that


pressure. To discuss further where the


turmoil of this week might lead, I'm joined by the French-born


journalist, who covered the Arab Spring, by the Conservative MP Rory


Stuart, who returned from Libya, and the person who helped draw up


the Lisbon Treaty. Picking up straight away on the


whole question of how this looks, funnily enough, from the three


countries merging into democracies? This null liberated country, like


Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, they are way behind, necessarily, in their


expressions of democracy. In fact, they are still trying to establish


democracy. The Tunisia model, they have staged elections recently. I


think that gives us hope for the future of the region. But nothing


more than that. As we know, gunmen are not just the army, they are


still very much in charge of Egypt and Libya. And the Libyans are


aware that their own revolution succeeded through the immense fire


power of NATO, and it had nothing to do with that. Looking now, at


how this all looks, in Europe, it looks, funnily enough, of course,


that democracy, certainly the way it is being exercised in Italy and


Greece, simply isn't up to the task, or the financial crisis that Europe


finds itself in, or the global financial crisis? You are rather


assuming that the structures within the European Union, and


particularly in relation to the eurozone, were democratic in the


sense as we understand them. An ability to change the Government,


if you no longer like what the current Government does. The one


thing we should never underestimate is the ability of genuine


democracies to recover, and they have resilience. The deep malaise


which we are seeing at the moment, is that politically elite of 17


countries, particularly led by two big ones, holding on to a model


that simply doesn't work. The people who have to pay the price


for that, those countries in the periphery, like Greece, Portugal


and Spain, that are liquid. fact is that politics isn't up to


the economics, if you want to put it that way in these countries.


Therefore, putting in a technocrat essentially is an erosion of


democracy? It is a righteous erosion of democracy. The answer is


to recognise that the 17 countries currently within the eurozone are


not economies that can function together. If the politicians were


really serious about resolving the problem, they would start by


drawing up plans that would allow some countries to restore


competitiveness, like Greece, and be allowed to leave the euro to do


that. On Europe, first, before we turn to look at the Arab Spring.


There is the possibility, obviously you can make an algs at the Arab


Spring and say there is the domino effect. You could say in Europe we


are not free of the domino effect in this crisis at all, are we?


course Italy is a much more serious threat in that way than Greece. But


I think we are still on the first phase of things. There is still a


very good chance at the moment that things can settle down and Europe


can muddle through. Despite the fact that European populations are


really angry. By and large, the parties in Europe, and the


Governments in Europe remain pro- European. The If it continues, if


Italy in crisis, something else may change, at the moment we are not


there yet. It is interesting, it looks as if politicians in way are


happy to sit back, and let the technocrats take the hit and sort


this out. Which presumably is not a good day for politics? My own view


is the realities of global economics do not sit happily with


democratic principles. It is time for technocrats to fix the economic


system, reassure the financial markets and to make sure the


continent competes with growing economic powers houses, like China


and India, for example. And on a purely practical level, I think it


is quite impossible to organise elections at this time. But the


point is, that what the electorate wants Governments to do, the


markets, the traders won't let them do. There is a huge disconnect here,


isn't it, it would seem the market, the people who call the shots on


the markets end up with the upperhand? I'm shocked to hear an


argument that says technocrats need to take over because we can't trust


the people. It is exact low in times like this you need to trust


in the recovery of democracies. Hold on, what got us into the


trouble, were the very technocrats, that didn't face up to economic


realities, who thought politicians could override markets. They caused


the problem, and now they are portraying themselves to be the


solution. I think this is great opportunity for politicians.


Because at the moment the public is divided. If you look at the Greek


population, they don't want to leave the eurozone, 80% of Greeks


want to stay in the eurozone. But 80% of Greeks don't want the reform


package. That is the classic area for politicians. A technocrat on


its own won't solve that problem. The technocrat is having to solve


the problems, because neither the Government in Italy or Greece were


sufficient to the task? In the end I don't believe that is sustainable.


Agree with the point there. Politicians need to explain to


people what's happening U need to sit down with the Greek people and


say you can't have it both ways. You can't lurch from populisim to


technocratcy. Although the Papandreou's referendum was madness


it was understandable, you have to engage with the people. If you


don't engage with the people there is a huge A discontent. Then we


have -- a huge amount of discontent. We have had huge demonstrations in


Greece, not the same as Tarango Syntagma Sqare, but where can


discon-- Tahir Syntagma Sqare, but where can discontent lead.


reality within the -- the messages put across by Twitter and Facebook


were far more important than the politicians' points. The hands of


the economy is very much in the hands of the money people, they are


far more influential than the politicians. You don't hold any


more influence? Politicians set the framework, democracy is the


framework within which the people express their collective will.


Politicians represent the people, and I really do think that we need


to trust those democracies. Just to come back y is Greece in the


trouble it is in. Because some politicians allowed Greece to come


in and join on the terms which were wrong and everybody knew. That that


is the root of the crisis, not democracy. I'm not saying we should


not trust people. Absolutely not. I'm saying at a particular time,


when we are faced with a crisis, it is unwise to go to the country.


This idea that President Sarkozy can sort the whole mess out over


dinner with Angela Merkel is absolutely ludicrous.


Where does it leave Britain? Britain needs to be very careful.


Wherever this is going, Britain's interests are the stability of our


economy and the stability of Europe. We need to try to help Europe to


settle down. We have to recognise that this isn't the moment to be


talking about Britain's in and out. It is about stablising the economy


and helping Europe to stablise. It is also, just to come back to this


conversation we are having, it can't be about bankers and


technocrats weighing in to Greece and Italy, telling the people. We


have seen the IMF do that all over the world, it is a disaster. A


backlash will follow, people won't put up with it. We have seen it in


2008, there was nominal anger at Gordon Brown's Government. But the


real outrage was really reserved at financial institutions and indeed


banks who had gambled away the fortunes. Thank you all very much.


Millions of people fell silent at 11.00am today, marking the moments


the guns stopped firing on the Western Front in 1918, many, many


more are wearing a poppy as a mark of respect for those who died then,


and in wars and conflicts since. But has the poppy become more than


a token of remembrance and respect. David Cameron insisted this week


the poppy transcends politics, it is not an issue of left nor right,


nor even if someone is in favour origins a particular war. Can that


be right? We will discuss that in a moment, first here's Steven Smith.


The poppy has been associated with combat and sacrifice since the


Great War. This week it seems to have been at the centre of a


political and cultural battlefield. On remembersance day, newly


restored footage of the Battle of the Somme, from the imperial war


new seem, and a previously undiscovered verse by the Great War


poet, Siegfried Sasson. "you in the winds ride out together. Your


company the world's great weather. The clouds your plume, the


glittering sky a host of swords in harmony with the whole lovelyness


of light, flung forth to lead you through the fight". Siegfried


Sasson found it very difficult to give us ideal of war, his ideal of


the glory of war, the shivery of fighting, link that goes back to


legend, he found it very difficult indeed to do this. In Afghanistan


the Defence Secretary laid a wreath of poppies.


There, and all over the qu., a two minutes silence was -- UK, a two


minutes silence was observed. England's footballers will play


Spain at Wembley tomorrow, wearing poppies, after a diplomatic


incident, involving world's footballs leaders, as well as


Prince William and the Prime Minister. As the players, we do a


lot of work with the military boys. You will see a lot of them here,


and at every England game. If we were running out and not showing


our respects in way we would be letting them down. It has emerged


that the row was diffused thanks to a Tory MP, who is also a qualified


referee. He looked up the rules and found a loophole, permitting


symbols on armbands. It is not a political symbol. It is a sil


symbol of remembrance. It is also a symbol of respect for those serving


the country at this current time. Once you have spent a couple of


minutes explaining what the poppy means to your average Brit,


everybody gets it, they know it is not political.


Not far from the sen staff in Whitehall, 17 -- Cenotaph, in


Whitehall, 170 supporters of the right-wing English Defence League


were arrested, to prevent a breach of the peace. They were reportedly


planning to go to St Paul's, the site of an anti-capitalist camp.


Last year EDL supporters clashed with police on Remembrance Day,


after members of a banned extremist group set fire to poppies. For some,


who insist on the poppy, as well as for others who are more equivocal,


the emblems become political. is it not possible to just give


money to The Royal British Legion and not wear a poppy. Because they


have become de facto, compulsory, it seems absurd that we have to


wear them now. It has become compulsory. I think really, if I


just took this poppy off, that would become a political statement,


that would be absurd. I have more than one jacket. Do I have to buy a


poppy for every jacket, do I have to remember to bring it wherever I


It is reported tonight that there have been record sales of poppies.


Perhaps because of the controversy surrounding them. Or perhaps, in


spite of it. There will be another chance to


hear a discussion of the newly discussed Sigfreid Sasson's poetry


tomorrow. I'm joined by my guests now. Do you


detect a change in atmosphere about the poppy? I think it is becoming


an almost compulsory thing. I think it is a great shame. It should be a


matter of choice. What it means is that, once a year, we give some


money to the British Legion, which does a tremendous amount of work


for servicemen who are injured and fall on hard times, we remember all


the people that we, the country, have sent off to get killed, in all


wars. We say, thanks, chaps, and chappesss, we haven't forgotten you.


That is what it means. It mustn't be a symbol to posture on.


totally agree on that, when you make it compulsory, it robs the


symbol of the power, the power is in the voluntary wearing of it and


making statement. The poppy has always been political. I'm wearing


a white poppy, going back to the 1920s and 1930s, women losing


fathers and sons, approached the red poppies and said will you make


a commitment to peace, President Clinton no more -- print no more


war on the poppies, we think that is how those who died would want to


be remembered. Surely it is a life lost in vain, if we don't make the


commitment. They said no. Clearly there are values. Even when David


Cameron made his statement saying the poppy is not a political symbol,


in the next breath he said it is about the pride of the nation state.


He made a political statement afterwards. Is it about the pride


of the nation state? Partly, there is nothing political about being


proud of what you are and what you have done. Do you think, actually,


because there is a change in the atmosphere about the poppy, it is


becoming almost compulsory, that people should actually have


different symbols for certain conflicts. People know about the


poppy at school, because it is really originally about the First


World War, and extends to the Second World War, do you think


there is a difference. Everybody gives their life in battle, we must


remember them, do you think there is other conflicts and other


remembrance for other conflicts? think the nice thing about the


poppy is it remembers all those who died. Actually now, the other


people who have died, not just the world wars. The British Legion says


it is only about the soldiers, it makes a valued judgment, it says


those who have laid down their lives for our freedom. Framed by


World War I, and every conflict subsequently has to fit into the


framing. Many people won't leave that soldiers in Afghanistan,


whilst respecting them, in Iraq, and Northern Ireland, have laid


down their lives for our freedom, and they are asked to make the


judgment by wearing the poppy. Most people don't, but that is what the


legion says. It doesn't ma if you agree with the war or not, but you


the country have sent them off to die. And therefore, you should


remember them. Whether you approve of the war or not is irrelevant. Do


you approve of the man who has gone out and died, possibly for a cause


he didn't agree w but nevertheless it is we who have sent them out to


die. Would you wear a white poppy? I probably wouldn't, I don't have


any objection to a white poppy. I think it is a bit like wearing a


little ball of leather in the hope that England will win the World Cup


rugby, but knowing they won't. In the real world we will always have


conflict. That is interesting aspect about both the pass visit


tradition and the just war tradition, both see war as evil, in


the just war you say it is a lesser evil than the alternative. There is


broader issue about who you remember about the poppy, the red


poppy son-in-law about Armed Forces and our Armed Forces, it is not


about civilians and people who have killed. Harry Patch, just before he


died, went to lay a wreath on German graves. He said remembrance


must be about his quote, "people on both sides of the line". Absolutely,


I think we would all do that. I was in Normandy, I laid a wreath and


said it was not just for our soldiers but the German dead.


has been politicised by the EDL, last year and this year. It is very


hard, isn't it, once they have a grasp of that, how do you move


away? Ignore them, they are lunatics and dangerous, just as


dangerous as the people who want to ban poppies. Ignore them. If you


make them important they become important. Has it become jingositic


where it was never meant to be? have no problem with jingoism, if


somebody wants to make it that, that doesn't mean it is right, you


ignore them. It has become associated, from the Prime


Minister's mouth, nationalism, you can say it is good or bad, but it


has. You can see in Northern Ireland the association with


Protestant loyalism. For Catholics in Northern Ireland it is a


difficult symbol to embrace. I don't think we understand in the


controversy around FIFA that it doesn't have the international


recognition. In some places it isn't recognised and other places a


negative symbol. I asked if it is time for a different symbol to


remember different conflicts. We are going into a new century, it


will be 100 years in 2017, a Sunday in 2017, Armistice. Do you think it


will be a time to move on and create a new symbol for conflict?


would like to see, 100 flowers flourish and let many symbols come


forward. When I suggested this a few years ago that churches should


make white poppies available alongside red poppies, it was


treated with quite a lot of controversy, let's say, in the


press and media. But I think we do need to have more inclusive


remembrance, we have migrant communities might be uncomfortable,


they might have relatives killed by British forces. We have people


producing purple poppies there are war memorials to animals and


conscientious objectors who have only got recognition. And also


about the language, one more point, we need to recognise that people


did die in vain, that death isn't glorious, moderating the language.


They didn't die in vain, they died because we sent them off to die, we