07/03/2012 Newsnight


As six British soldiers are killed in Afghanistan, Mark Urban assesses the toll of Britain's operations in the country over a decade since they began. Presented by Jeremy Paxman.

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Six healthy young men cut off in the prime of their lives, executing


a task which would any way have been terminated on the orders of


politicians in a couple of years time. In death they are rightly


honoured, how can belief be maintained in a mission, that seems


as hazardous as it ever was. We will discuss it all with


politicians, a soldier and a relative.


At last some economic news, which isn't gloomy, out in the Wols,


something is stirring, and yes, it looks like something distinctly


like green shoots. A couple of years ago we were making 35 of


these gas turbines, next year it is 81, and next year 100. He has made


himself immensely rich, why can't Mitt Romney make himself appealing


to the people he needs if he's ever to make good on his bomb bast.


Tonight we are counting up the delegates for the convention, it


looks good, and we are counting down the days to November, that


looks even better. It is a very Mel collie milestone,


over 400 young people have been killed in Afghanistan, for what.


The six soldiers of the Yorkshire and Duke of Lancaster regiments


were on what is described as a routine patrol in an armoured


personnel carrier when they were blown up. British troops have been


in the country for over a decade, we are told the last combat


soldiers will return at the end of the year after next. Before we talk


about the mission, our defence editor has his assessment. At times


like this, people ask what is this for. More than 400 have died, and


thousands have had their lives irrevokably changed through injury.


The years become intangible, and it is hard to maintain public support


for the mission. Dan Jarvis commanded a group of paratroopers


in Afghanistan, and is now an MP. think it is hard, the events of the


last 24 hours, will inevitably contribute towards a fatigue for


our mission in Afghanistan. My constituents continue to question


why it is we are still involved in Afghanistan, ten years after we


first went there. A Government of whatever colour has a job to


articulate that stragically it is in this country's interest to


continue with the mission, to work towards a point at which we can


develop the capabilities of the Afghanistan force, to withdraw in


good order. The latest loss was caused by a


destruction of a Warrior infantry fighting vehicle. It is a heavily


armoured machine, which suggests a huge improvised bomb. The image of


destroyed hardware is one of great sensitivity in the war of


perceptions. The wreck was surrounded with other vehicles to


conceal it, and recovered at night to a British base. Commanders


insisted the loss wouldn't affect their day-to-day mission.


You feel it in your gut, it is a sickening blow. But one thing I


have learned over the years that these young soldiers are incred


plea tough and resilient. They -- incredibly tough and resilient.


They grieve and it is right they do, but it makes their resolve even


stronger. Today's incident was a shock, but runs counter to the


trend. The number of British troops lost in combat has actually fallen


steeply. Going from 108 in 2009, or 109 in 2010, to 46 last year, and


ten so far this year, including today's loss. That is due to new


tactics, the concentration of force in a smaller part of Helmand, as


well as handing over some of the most difficult districts, like


Sangin in the north, to the Americans. The problem for Britain


is British forces are making real progress where they are operating.


They are winning all the tactical battles and the battle for hearts


and minds where they are. As a country and alliance we are letting


the war slip away. We can't control what happens in Pakistan and the


way the Americans think about the war. The whole Afghanistan


enterprise is out of our control. All we can do is the best we can in


the areas we operate. They are doing a good job, but ultimately we


are win the battles in probably a war we will find difficult to come


away with anything other than a score draw. For the Prime Minister,


who has sought to extricate Britain from Afghanistan, as quickly as is


decently possible, today's loss required a statement of why young


men and women are still risking their lives there. Our mission in


Afghanistan does remain an issue of national security. We are


preventing a safe haven for Al- Qaeda where they might plan attacks


on allies. Our job is to equip the forces of Afghanistan with the


capacity and equipment to take care of their own capacity without the


need for foreign troops on the soil. But it is precisely in this area


that the last few weeks have raised renewed concerns in NATO.


Demonstrations triggered by the burning of Korans have shown the


mutual incomprehension between westerners and Afghans. They have


also cost the lives of NATO soldiers, who were trying to


prepare Afghan forces to take over. It is the failure of the Afghan


side in governance, general competence, or those incidents


where Afghan troops have murdered western soldiers who were trying to


help them, that have caused the greatest concern among those


planning Britain's exit. As for the record of this country's forces,


the military view tends to be, that after a shaky and costly start,


they have mastered operating in Helmand, and are doing their best


to move gracefully into the background. The reality is, we have


to have a incredibly close and carefully managed relationship with


the Afghan authorities. Let's be honest, that comes with a degree of


risk. Because the main enemy of the people of Afghanistan is not the


Taliban or Al-Qaeda, it is corruption. We need to do


everything we can to root out corruption where it exists in


Afghanistan. That is much easier to say than do. Increasingly the


weight of the western mission in Afghanistan is in the hands of


Afghans. NATO accepts that, but senior people are nervous about how


they will perform, hoping the sacrifices, like Britains today,


might -- Britain's today, might not have been in vain.


Our political editor and our diplomatic editor are both here now.


Does the Government sense the public mood is shifting?


Government has known for a while that the public mood is hostile,


that is why we have the deadline of 2015. They are moving towards that


next week, next week we have Cameron and Obama meeting and


timetables will be on the agenda. When it was last a big issue, David


Cameron had a slight fight with the generals and they talked about


wanting two fighting seasons. They got last summer, a fighting season


in Afghanistan. They get the next summer, this is this coming summer,


from the autumn we will begin to see the beginning of the drawdown.


What is fixed is they have to be out by 2014/15. What is less fixed


is the speed. There has been some discussion that by late 2013, this


was suggested by the US Defence Secretary, it is the American


leadership, or the faltering of it that is so critical here. With Iraq


America stayed to the end, Britain wanted out, two-and-a-half years


sooner, with Afghanistan we have seen other countries fall by the


way side. Canada going into a non- combat role, the Netherlands


withdrawing, France announcing, after four men were killed training


the Afghans that they are going sooner. Britain does seem to be


hanging on until the end. What is the strategy? The strategy is


Karzai was meeting Cameron in the UK in January, the strategy is as


much support as possible. They think the military strategy, the


sad six deaths, withstanding, is actually going OK. I was in


Afghanistan with the Prime Minister in the last summer, and at the time


they felt that the local troops were really not good enough. Those


same people are now saying they are getting better. The thing they are


very worried about is the political process and Hamid Karzai. Indeed,


the other great thing, that is making this so hard, this final


period, is the attitude of Pakistan. The civilian Government barely in


control, elements of the ISI seemingly want to make NATO's exit


as bloody and as unpleasant as possible, and doing things to


destablise the situation. It is a very difficult strategic picture.


To discuss the British experience in Afghanistan and what it is all


for, we are joined by Diane Dernie, whose son was severely injured in


Afghanistan, which Stuart Tootal who command add battalion in


Helmand, Menzies Campbell from the Liberal Democrats, and Labour's Jim


Murphy, the Shadow Defence Secretary. Your son is not one of


these 400 people who have lost their lives, but he was, he lost


his legs, he was severely brain- damageed. Your family have paid a


high price for this engagment, when you hear the news today what do you


think? We think we are the lucky ones. No matter what, we have got


our loved ones back. When we talk about the end of the mission, what


people have to understand is for these boys and girls coming back,


their war is only just starting. They will come back to a country,


particularly if they are wounded, physically and mentally, that is


not prepared for their return. An NHS that is not prepared, an MoD


that is not prepared. Employment, housing, these boys have got a


fight when they come home, make no mistake. Do you think troops should


still be in Afghanistan? I don't want to see one more boy injured,


one more family suffer. I don't want to see their sacrifice being


in vain. This is one instance where I'm very, very glad it is not on my


conscience, this decision. If you were still a commander in


Afghanistan, Stuart Tootal, what would you tell your men about why


they were there and why this was a sacrifice that was worth making?


First of all, they would understand the mission from the get-go. We


would be really clear on that. When a unit takes this level of


casualties. Remember the loss of one life is tragic and has an


impact. There is a shock, but actually there is also a very clear


determination to see a mission through, that is what professional


soldiers and servicemen and women do. While I take away nothing from


the tragedy of what happened today, our troops will be committee and as


focused. While a commanding officer will say all those things, his


soldiers will naturally respond to that. What is the mission? To leave


Afghanistan in a stable enough condition, where it can maintain


and sustain its own security, without the need for the direct


contribution of NATO troops. Murphy, it was your Government that


initially committed British troops there, I dare say you didn't


imagine them there ten years on. Do you understand what the mission is


now? I think Stuart has summarised it fairly well. As someone who has


served in Afghanistan. It is to make sure the country has a degree


of stability, so it has its own defence and police force, so itself


can't become an ungoverned space to allow terrorists and others to


attack our country. On a day like today, and other days, where we


have heard about Ben being so horrifically injured, I accept


entirely it is so much more difficult to make an argument, that


is so much more complicated than previous conflicts, the Falklands


and the Second World War. It is more complicated and more nuanced


as an argument. If we weren't there, that country would be jeopardising


the safety of citizens here and elsewhere. It is a difficult


argument to make and one we have to make very carefully. Do you is


sense that if there were a free vote tomorrow in the House of


Commons, do you think most MPs would think this is still a war


worth committing troops to? I think what they would think is what they


would vote for, and that would be to announce David Cameron's


announcement that combat troops will be all taken out by 2014. I


think we do that, of course because we are subordinate to the United


States. Their decision making, as we have heard, is based upon a


withdrawal then, and of course, other countries like France,


beginning to say they want to go early. Also, the whole thing was


endorsed by NATO at the Lisbon conference. 2014 is a post in the


sand. We are saying the decision is made in Washington. The decision


about how long British troops are there is Notre Dame I don't know?


decision is made thatness -- Is not David Cameron? A decision is made.


For a soldier, is it any easier to conduct a mission if you have some


abitary end time? You have to have something to go for, and an end


state. What I would say, this is the argument about blood and


Treasury. If incidents like today lead to an untimely exit, then we


are into the arguments that the sacrifice made will be in vain. A


former professional soldier, and I speak for most serving soldiers


today, I'm very conscious of someone like Diane who has suffered


a great loss and all those other people, my view is we have to see


this through, or give it our best effort, but it is understandable


that there has to be politically a line in the sand. Keith thing is we


will never tell where we will be until we get there. You say you


don't want the sacrifice to be in vain, you, doubtless, share the


view about seeing it through. Is that made any easier by having a


withdrawal date? No, no. Ben was deployed in 2006, we have seen the


mission change to many times, from the original statement, never to be


a shot fired, a rebuilding mission, to controlling the drugs trade, to


supporting the Afghan army. To support in education, for women in


Afghanistan. We have seen the mission change so many times to


support whoever, or whatever was being discussed at the time. It is


very difficult to see that a given date, and this will end. What we


are very interested in is what will be the state of Afghanistan a year


after that end date, will it be any different. If you take the argument


that you have to see it through, sometimes on the conditions based


exit strategy. You have to accept if conditions aren't right you will


stay. You can't do that if you have said you are going? Precisely. That


is why the fact that 2014 and that date has now been set pretty well


in political concrete, meaning that seeing it through, which


necessarily implies staying on beyond 2014, simply isn't an option.


I don't think there is a chance now to revisit the 2014 date, we are


working towards that. The first question you were asking is why are


we there. It is not enough to explain why we are there, tough


explain why we leave. That is a bigger question. We need, with


respect to Newsnight, Newsnight covers this subject very well, but


there is need for a public conversation with the British


public about what state we will leave that country in, what type of


political deal will there be with elements of the Taliban. How many


force also stay in a training role. We have to have a cross-party


programme involving charities with a proper grown-up conversation


about an acceptable state to leave Afghanistan. There needs to be a


political settlement. It is clear there is not a Nelson Mandela-type


character in Afghanistan, or even a Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness-


type character. How do you imagine history will judge this


entangledment in Afghanistan, Stuart Tootal? I think they will


look back and say the intent was right, I have always believed in


that. The initial concept was wrong, the rebalancing to the right


direction, with all the complexties and risks and no guarantees, is


something that we have landed on, arrived at, the right track and


right direction. It has taken a long time to get there, that is the


biggest risk. How do you think history will judge this? This


country has got a very nasty experience coming, when instances


of mental illness and PTS D come through. I think we will have a


small portion of a generation who are traumatised, and who are ill


equipped to deal with the aftermath of this war. That is in this


country, not in Afghanistan. I think there is a conflaigs in the


minds of many members of the public between Iraq and Afghanistan. There


was United Nations support and approval, and support and all that


in Afghanistan. Iraq is a very controversial subject, there was a


feeling it was illegal, and it involved staying too close to the


United States and not exercising sufficient independent judgment


about where our interests lay. As a result I think Afghanistan has been


drawn into the general public disillusionment with Iraq. That is


why any effort to depart from the 2014 date would have enormous


reprecussions so far as public opinion is concerned. What is your


verdict about the history? It is too early to say. It is depending


on the state we leave the country is. Stuart is right about the


intent and the right purpose of why we got involved, post-9/11 and the


worries about Al-Qaeda. Unless we leave at 2014 in a stable state,


and not threatening our security, and people see the progress been


made, unless that is irreversible the public will say what is it for.


There is a wider weapon that says let's not do anything again beyond


our shores. Some people might conclude we might stay longer?


don't think that is feasible, the worry after this, for some people,


a conflict arises, something beyond our shores again, such as Libya.


There could be an ambivalence of not getting involved again. It is


not just Afghanistan that will condition decisions in the future,


we are going through a reduction in the defence capability of the


country. It may well be in the future there may be occasions when


people might feel motivated to intervene and engage, we won't have


the military resources to do so. Oxford the other day, I was


approached by three attractive young women, who said the only


reason they switched on Newsnight was to watch Paul Mason, he's so


exy, they said. In all respects they seemed perfectly normal. Feast


your eyes girls, here he is, the thinking woman's Brad Pitt. In


contrast to his usual fare of graphs and gloom, wondering whether


there are reasons to be cheerful? hope you told them to get a better


television or pair of spectacles. think they were serious, Brad?


that note, keeping the moral tone of the propbl high, as it always is,


the recovery. Let's talk about it, tomorrow, in the European Union, we


are about to see, hopefully, some kind of closure on the Greek crisis.


We hope the Greeks get their debt swapped and that goes well. That


Greece no longer looks like a ticking timebomb that blows up the


rest of the European economy. If that is so, attention turns to what


is happening in America. Let's have a look at the graph. This is never


a bad sign, never a bad index of what is happening in the US, the


stock market, the Dow Jones, as you can see the back end of last year


and beginning of this year, it has really recovered. This is another


graph, this is new job claims in the United States, and it is looks


pretty good having looked pretty awful. Early 2012 we are seeing the


new unemployed people falling. The US has created nearly two million


jobs since the US Federal Reserve intervened. If Europe goes quiet


and cold for a bit, there is a chance that the USA and the soft


land anything China, could draw the rest of the world into something


like a recovery. The question is whether which can be part of it,


and whether our role in it can be sustainable. That is why I went to


Lincoln yesterday to have a look at it. It doesn't look like the


throbbing heart of industrial revival, Lincoln can look a lot


like gift shop Britain. But the city is home to the people and


places that are driving something precious, spectacular economic


growth. At this factory they make high-tech bits of metal, bearings


to go in aircraft landing gear, helicopter rotars and trams. The


machines are operated 2446 hours a day, because the world -- 24-hours


a day because the world can't get enough. Globally people have


started spending money again, and aircraft are being purchased.


is happening now that wasn't before? There is a confidence and


availability of money. We have had significant growth in the last 12


months where we have increased output of the order of 30%. From


regular running levels of the year previous.


In fact, the firm can't grow fast enough, there is a waiting list for


the stuff they make. If we had the human capacity to do it, we could


grow by 25% immediately. Manufacturing is not the only thing


growing, consumer spending edged up again last month, prompting the


idea that the worst may be over. Certainly, on the streets of


Lincoln, it looks very unlike a recession, that is because the town


has things that insulate you against a downturn. Foreign


students, farming, tourism, and there is a lot of relatively high-


paid work. Lincoln is where the German engineering giant, Seimens,


makes gas turbines. The company has poured money into this factory,


they export nearly everything they make. It is the global recovery


driving things. A couple of years ago we were making 35 of these gas


turbines a year, this year we will make 81, next year we are looking


at whether we can make 100. We are seeing a doubling in the amount of


work we are doing, that is going worldwide, exporting to Middle East,


Australia, and we are seeing everywhere customers are coming to


Lincoln. Because Seimens is global, it can raise finance without


worrying about British banks, it has also invested heavily, German-


style, in training, it is not held back by a skills shortage. It is


driven by a combination of the global economy and the


competitiveness of the staff. It is not a UK market, we don't work in


the UK predominantly, we export 85% of what we are doing. At the


university, where they have just opened a whole near engineering


school, paid for, you guessed it, Seimens. They are all too oh aye


what's that then ware of the flip side, what what -- aware of what is


happening to the flip side. What is happening to the small businesses.


The banks are not as interested in small ventures as perhaps they


could be, as was agreed through project Merlin. We do get reports


by most businesses about constraints in formal finance from


banks. We also have a place in places like Lincoln is a


significant number of family businesses, generating growth


through retained profits, year on year, and do have resources and


savings. For the butcher, the baker and cappuccino maker, the recovery


is a bit two speed, the question is raises once you get beyond one firm


and one city, can it be saend? shows the number of hours worked in


manufacturing, it is at the highest levels. Graham Turner was one of


the first economists last year to declare the US recovery under way.


He thinks the UK data is nowhere near as promising. Despite the


stellar performance of some manufacturing firms, there is still


a mountain to climb. We have a strong recovery in manufacturing


output. We have only recovered half the losses sustained during the


downturn of 2008/09. Other countries like Germany have clawed


a larger share of the lost output back. We have to focus on that if


we want serious rebalancing. We need a much quicker reduction in


the trade deficit. We devalue the pound, and yet our trade deficit


carried on going up for a good couple of years, it is only now


starting to improvment those are the indicators we are looking at,


to see if there is a serious restructuring to make the recovery


sustainable, like we are seeing in the US. It is this statement that


led Vince Cable to say the Government lack as compelling


vision of where the industrial strategy is heading. The idea that


ignore the shoots are there, but that they are so isolate. If these


are the early signs of recovery, the downsides are that the economy


shrank during the recession and the Treasury will command money out of


it for the next five years. I think it shows where the British economy


is exposed to global traditions and new technology, it does better than


we expect. But that is no consolation to the pie shop and the


school leaver. What non-global, low tech Britain needs, is simply for


the credit crunch to be over. Should the Chancellor be singing in


the balt and giving us all the stuff about the - bath and giving


all the stuff about green shoots of recovery. My guests are here. What


does it seem like for you? I feel for some months there is a return


of what is called animal spirits amongst entrepeneurs, I think there


are signs of confidence. Partly, as Paul says, America is definitely


recovering, and generally speaking, Britain follows what they. Do but


also because after four years of tough times I think there is


inevitable cyclicality about it. How does it feel to you? As it did


last year and 2009. That good! we have been getting, Jeremy, are


these little spurts of growth, and little spurts of confidence that


come up against the buffers of the financial system, which is still


broken. We have little spurts of growth and then we go back again.


If if you look at the chart about the economy plunging, what happens


in the past is it recovers quickly, now it is going up a bit, sideways


a bit, and then there. It won't go back up to where it was before, as


Graham Turner clearly said. Paul Mason produced several witnesses in


the film saying the banks are the problem. Does it feel like that to


you as a businessman? I think lack of credit is an issue and will


continue to be. They are gradually repairing their balance sheets.


There are new banks appearing, I'm on the board of one. There is new


capital flowing into the system. Over time it will feed through into


industry and help create jobs. is overly optimistic, the fact is


the banks are effectively insolvent. We are finding the European Central


Bank, for example, is printing money to pump into the banks. They


have had a trillion euros since December of cheap money. I'm a


small business woman, my bank said to me if I deposit any money with


them, I would be lucky to get 0.3%. But if I were to go into an


overdraft it would be 28%, on average overdraftings are 20%. How


can small businesses cope with that if their overdraft is 28%. The bank


is borrowing at 1% from the publicly-backed central banks of


Europe and Britain. If you are one of the three million without a job


it doesn't feel that good. I don't get the sense talking to people on


the street that they do sense things are getting better and the


clouds are lifting. Do you feel something different? I do, I talk


all the time to entrepeneurs and investors. There is, I feel, a


sense that costs have been cut and restructuring is done in business,


and industry as a whole, has many hundreds of millions to invest, it


has an all-time high levels of cash. Gradually companies will deploy


that money into new investments, and that, in itself, will drive


demand and growth. We can't run the economy on the


basis of anecdotes, the fact is, there is a lack of demand out there,


these companies are hoarding their cash because they are afraid,


because customers are not through the door. They are deeply worried,


about the banking system not being fixed yet, the Government insisting


on austerity, we have savage austerity in Europe, that is our


big market for the exports we saw in Lincoln, for example.


Businessmen, rightly, are hoarding that cash, really afraid. So we may


hear and story here and there, Paul is right to identify those. That


doesn't make up for the fact that the whole economy lacks demand.


We will see how it develops, in the short-term we have a budget coming


up in a couple of weeks time. What do you think George Osborne ought


to do, give us one measure each, or one rhetorical statement he should


make, or some action he should make. I would have him sharply deregulate


for smaller companies. Those that can't afford a professional HR


person. I think if it were made easier to hire and fire staff, I


think entrepeneurs would be more willing to take on people and that


would cut unemployment. I think small businesses should be helped


as well, we tax employment and that is good, and make it hard for small


businesses to employ. I think we face a bigger problem, I think the


Government should be investing in one of the biggest security threats


we faced, energy security. Oil prices are rising, it is going up,


we will have to rely on the Russians for others for gas in the


future. We need to insulate our homes to make them more energy


efficient so we can cope with with what will be deep energy insecurity


in the future. The Government should lead this, at the moment


they are not taking that seriously in the Department of Energy. That


would generate jobs for small businesses and construction


companies, here and not in China. If you were in America today you


wouldn't have been able to hear youself think to young men


contesting they will boot Barack Obama out of the White House come


November. Super Tuesday,'s bumper crop of Republican speeches failed


to rouse anyone. It is only March and plenty of people are sick of


the whole thing. Super Tuesday is designed to be


super-decisive, we are supposed to, by now, have a pretty firm idea of


who will face Barack Obama in November's election. But, at the


moment, the safest prediction we can make is, the Republican


candidate will have a four-letter, one-syllabel first name, still in


the hunt are Mitt, Rick and Newt. Each has attractions to the


Republican voters, but each with a downside. The big winner from last


night was Mitt Romney, of the ten states up for grabs, he took six,


but a narrow win in Ohio, has led to a sense from the pundits that he


hasn't done enough to make the job his. He, of course, doesn't agree.


We will take your vote, a huge vote in Massachusetts s and take the


victory all the way to the whout White House.


As front-runner, Mitt Romney gets the most heat, for being a


calculating flip-floper. Noi he tells us, trust me, mime he -- now


he tells us, trust him he's a conservative. From being a


linguist? He speaks French too. it gets worse, being mean to dogs.


You took your Irish setter on a 12- hour road trip, tied to the roof of


your car, question, what were you thinking. Jo this is completely air


tight kennel, mounted on the top of the car, he climbed up there


regularly and enjoyed himself. has led to a campaign using


pictures of dogs, with the slogan, "I ride inside". He doesn't come


across as a regular guy. Pockets of the Midwest don't like Mitt Romney


and other areas. He might be able to win the nomination without


fixing the problem. Barack Obama had a skim later problem he never


fixed. It would be hard to say he would drop out, unless they tell


you they have Achilles heels but five open spots in the armour to


attack. For the top three this is how it looked before Super Tuesday.


Mitt Romney out in the lead. After Super Tuesday, not much has changed,


except Mitt Romney is a little further down the road. He is,


though, well short of the delegates he will need if he wants to be the


nominee. In second place is Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania


senator who has a neat line in tank tops, and Conservative Christian


politics. His would be a crowded White House, seven children, and if


he gets there, he will have proved the perceived wisdom wrong, that a


social Conservative can't win a majority in America. Newt Gingrich


is not running on family values, that is just as well, as he's on


thinks third marriage. He was accused with charges of democracy,


because at the time he was leading the moral charge against blilt over


the Lewinsky affair, he was having an affair of his own. It has never


got past him that he would alienate people with his personal story.


may not know who will be in the driving seat, and who will be


strapped to the roof rack for a month.


The big question, has this Republican contest been so fra,, so


damaging, that whoever wins is destend to be the loser come


November. The current opinion polls all put the Republican hopefuls


well behind President Obama. White working-class voters, across the


industrial Rust Belt across America, may decide the election. To discuss


how it might go are Thomas Frank, author of What's The Matter With


Kansas, and Pity The Poor Billionaire. And the writer of The


Grand New Party. Gentlemen, Thomas Frank, first off,


he is now Mitt Romney the candidate, is he? Pretty much, he will be the


Republican nominee. That is my view. Do you think that too? I think he's


the most likely winner, yes. Do you think it is possible, either of you,


that he can actually get the support of the white working-class,


seems to have a lot of trouble doing it? He really doesn't do the


populus thing very well. Also, you no -- you know, we have seen Mitt


Romney for a number of months, we know his strengths and weaknesses.


His biggest weakness by far is that, well, first of all, he loves to


boast about how rich he is, and second of all, he had the career


where he made all the money was at a vepture capital outfit. --


venture capital outfit. None will play well with the demographic you


mentioned. You are shaking your head? I don't think he likes to


boast about it, but it is one of the central parts of his life to


being a turn around artist in private equity, he would take


failing business enterprises and try to make them viable, in some


cases he didn't succeed. That has always been a central proposition


in public life, when he ran the Olympics in 2002, and ran for


Governor of Massachusetts, later that year. He was advancing himself


as one who could fix these very, very thorny problems, because he


has done it in his private life. Because he is successful, it is


hard for him to talk away from because it is deeply in his


biography, I don't think he's boasting, but acknowledging it is a


central part of his life. It will be a lightning rod and


controversial. It is not obvious that he will fail,'s turning it


into strength. We have many weeks to the American election.


What about the jibe, that said he looks like the man who fired you?


Exactly, that was four years ago when he said that. It sticks, and


what I said about Romney boasting about his wealth. It is amusing. It


just slips out, the other day he was talking about what kind of car


he drove, he mentioned his wife drove not just one Cadillac but two.


Somebody asked him about stock car racing, a popular sport in America,


he doesn't follow it. He knows several guys who own stock car


racing teams. This kind of talk. He wanted to bet one of the other


candidates 10,000 -- $10,000 of all other things. This kind of talk


slips out, it is who he is and he can't help it, this will be his


great witness. You accept he has to appeal to a broader constituency he


currently appeals to? That is absolutely right. That is


inevitably a process of the way the presidential elections work. You


have this long drown out primary process during which core member of


the two respective parties are making the determination, they have


their maximum leverage at this point. When you think about the


folks turning out to party conferences, in Blackpool or


Brighton, these are not the people that David Cameron or Ed Milliband


are going to be competing for in a general election. Rather, they are,


shall we say, the eccentrics, the true believers and those who turn


out. In the United States we have a month-long process during which


these people, this relatively small universe of primary voters are


pressing their advantage and talking about their issues. They


want to make sure any presidential candidate will be a true believer,


so they can be relied on to not deBrae them, while in office. That


is the job for political activists on the left or right in this


country. That is why they are pushed in one day or another. It is


a liability, but you pith it once you get to the general election,


and that is where we are likely to see it as well. Something has


happened to the Republican Party since the last election? Absolutely.


Look at Mitt Romney himself, four years ago he was at least trying to


sell himself as the Conservative alternative to John McCain. Now


he's the guy everyone wants the tie to Conservative is. He's not even a


Conservative. What I would describe what is going on in America, this


is especially the case for the Conservative movement. The search


for awe then sis at the, this is a group of voters in a political


movement that has attached its idea to the idea of authenticity for


years and years. Now they have got this going on, you have Newt


Gingrich saying he's the real candidate. And Mitt Romney who just


can't seem to make the sale. understand the way the Republican


Party's shifts have been perceived to much of the blik, certainly to


much of the public -- public, certainly to much of the public in


the UK. On the substance of policy issues, the Republican Party has


moved to the centre, on tax, health policies. There is a new consensus


about the set of ideas that are very Praguementic. In health there


is a set of ideas endorsed by Democrats during the late 1990s,


yet the Democratic party has moved away from had a and the others have


moved towards. When you look at the substance of issues there is a


shift to the centre. In terms of rhetoric, there is a sharper,


harder edged rhetoric, that is because it is something you see on


both sides of the political divides in. United States. That is all from


Newsnight tonight. Kirsty will be in the chair tomorrow night. Lucky


old you. old you.


A colder night tonight, last night bringing a chillyo start to


Thursday. Most of us, -- chilly start to Thursday. Most of us


starting off with sunshine. Showers to the North West, wet weather


throughout the day across Scotland. A dry and bright day, the cloud


will increase a little bit to the east of the Pennines. In the weak


sunshine temperatures reaching double figures. After that chilly


start, because of the winds being lighter and they have been through


the day today, it will feel warmer. South-West England in the same boat,


a sunny start, but dry and bright, as it it is across most of Wales. A


grey afternoon on the west coast. Breezy, in Northern Ireland, but


overall it is dry, if rather cloudy, a hint of brightness in hilly


places. Northern Ireland keeps the thick cloud and outbreaks of rain,


it should stay dry. Haen of us will be dry on Friday, a weather -- many


of us will be dry on Friday. A weather front will bring rain.


Temperatures could be higher, despite it being cloudy. Central


and oorn parts of England, most likely to see sunshine during


In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Jeremy Paxman.

As six British soldiers are killed in Afghanistan, Mark Urban assesses the continuing toll of Britain's operations in the country over a decade since they began.

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