George Galloway shares the secret of success with Jeremy Paxman, along with Tim Bell and Will Self. And the atrocities inside Burma's hidden ethnic war.
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This man created the biggest upset in electoral politics for years.
What does George Galloway's bulldozing of the Labour Party tell
us about what's gone wrong with British politics. Why are we so
disillusioned with mainstream parties? And the way that power is
exercised here? And the spin doctor, Tim Bell is
with us, has his profession done the most to poison relations
between politics and the public. And then we travel to northern
Burma, where foren observers are banned, as war rages between ethnic
rebels, and Government soldiers. TRANSLATION: Everyone was running,
but my mother didn't, and they shot her, I went back and found her body.
They had thrown it in a deep hole that had been dug as as pit, and
then I buried her. People are understandably sceptical
about politics, said the Labour leader, Ed Milliband today, one of
those remarks that you some how indicitively know will never make
it to the Oxford Dictionary book of quotations. Trying not to look like
a man who had been hit on the head by a large halibut, he said his
party would recover because it could make a difference. George
Galloway demolished the hold on what was a safe seat in Bradford.
But all the parties sense a growing public disillusion. Perhaps they
noticed it today, the eighth day of their Easter holiday
There was a certain predictability in British politics, don't like the
colour of the Government, wait a bit, it will change, as surely as a
traffic light. What's more, every now and then there is a Lib Dem
protest vote at a by-election to look forward to. But, as the old
three-party machine, has it broken down, putting in play lots and lots
of minor parties? Last week's victory by George
Galloway, in the Bradford West by- election, was hailed as nothing
short of a revolution. Most notably, of course, by the man
himself. The most sensational result in British by-election
history, bar none, represents the Bradford spring.
Recent pol polling makes grim reading for the established parties.
17% of voters said they would vote for another party. That is the
highest since 2009 and the European elections.
68% of voters think British politics is either "very" or
"fairly" corrupt. And when it comes to the performance of the party
leaders, David Cameron is assessed as "doing badly", by 53% of voters.
For Ed Milliband it is worse, 62%, and Nick Clegg, worse still, 69%.
And the public, it seems, don't trust the parties over their donors.
7% don't trust David Cameron over his donors, 64% don't trust Ed
Milliband over his party's donors. We have had the expenses row, that
has certain low put a lot of voters off politicians. Then -- certainly
put a lot of voters off politicians. Then the complaint in the 1990s and
the Nolan commit year, and the aspect of transparency, and
transparency, rather than increasing trust in politician, has
led to a whole bunch of stories about politicians doing wrong.
There is a real public cynicism about politicians.
But, hang on a minute, Bradford West was actually the seventh by-
election of this parliament. In all six previous by-elections, the
party that went into the by- election having the seat, came out
of the by-election having the seat. Five of those times, the Labour
Party. At Feltham and Heston, there was an increase in the margin of
the victory over the predecessor, although on a reduced turnout. That
doesn't, on the surface of it, sound like the death of the three-
party system. I do think there is something very strong about parties
that really are rooted where they are. They are not just structure,
they are not just national entities, but they are part of the community.
If you have parties that maybe haven't managed to keep those links
really strong, then it is very easy for them to be displaced, no matter
whether or not they have got the right policy solutions for an area.
Is part of the problem here that one of the tendencies in modern
politics is the national parties control more and more from the
centre, in a sense, leaving less space for local parties to feel
ownership? We see people going back to wanting to be connected to
something local, and be local, and have the parties responded to that
message and bridging a national message with a local message and a
skens of being local too I don't know if -- a sense of being local
too I don't know if we have done that to a point of reconnecting
people with politics. In the past, if voters were angry with the
Government, yet not quite ready to trust the opposition again, they
tended to vote for the Liberal Democrats, or their predecessor
parties. They were the natural home for disillusioned voters. Now, of
course, well, they are in Government.
And just look what's happened to their share of the vote as a result.
From just under a quarter, to bumping along between 8-10%.
We have also seen voters learning to vote differently in different
elections. UKIP doing very well in the European Parliamentry elections,
the SNP going from a minor party to the majority party of Government,
in the Scottish Parliamentry elections. All of that loosens the
habit of voting for a particular party all the time. But, is another
explanation that people are finding new ways of doing politics that
don't involve the political parties. For example, the campaigning
organisation, 38 Degrees, is, well, let them explain. What we are
really about is people power, it is about over a million ordinary
citizens of the United Kingdom, coming together to decide on the
campaigns they want to run together, and then working together to make
change happen. We don't run for election, we don't cosy up to any
of the political parties, we are very much about staying independent,
listening to ordinary people, and using our pooled resources, as lots
of ordinary people all coming together, to influence politicians
of all stripes and persuasions. Since the Second World War, there
has been a decline in tribunal politics, to be replaced -- tribal
politics, to be replaced by consumer politics. Every now and
again the consumers stop shopping in the big brand name stores, and
go boutiques instead. George Galloway MP is here,
congratulations. Thank you. Are you going to be any more conscientious
representing the people of Bradford, than the people of Bethnal Green?
Don't start by insulting me, don't let's get off on a bad start.
true, you only attended 8% of votes during your time there. As I have
explained to you and others many times before, in the Commons you
can only vote for the Government's motion, or the leader of the
opposition's amendment, and I seldom wished to vote for either in
that five years. My attendance in parliament was daily. My attendance
in votes depended on what the issue under discussion was. Do you know
what Jeremy, I won, you have to get used today that, I won a great
victory. I have already congratulated you? Not sincerely,
evidently. Quite sincerely, I have said it was one of the most epic
victories in recent electoral business? Evidently the people of
Bradford West think so, they voted for me in an overwhelming number.
I'm quite struck by the phrase you used there, the "Bradford Spring",
it is an odd choice of word by a man who described President Assad
as the last stand in Syria. Please don't judge me. I think it is an
odd form of words? Evidently the people of Bradford West, who matter
to me far more than you do, are the judge of what I say and what I do.
And they judged in a democratic election, 18,000 of them, to put
their X next to my name. They evidently were not put off by your
misrepresentations about my views about Syria. I have seen the e-mail,
you did describe Assad's Syria as the last castle of Arab dignity?
did in 2005. 2010, in fact. wasn't. The 14th of August, 2010.
My speech in Syria was in 2005. are talking about an e-mail, not
your speech when you talked about what a good chap Assad was. That
was at the time he was sleeping in Buckingham Palace, in the Queen's
stair bedroom. He wasn't sleeping in Buckingham Palace in August
2010? The Syrian people are the last castle of Arab dignity, they
are the last stand to Israeli occupation, and imperialist
intrigue in the area. I don't think that was an issue in the Bradford
West by-election, or great importance to the people watching.
Why did you call it the Bradford Spring? A big uprising of people,
democratic uprising, unin theed by you, you didn't send -- unnoticed
by you, you didn't send anybody there, the London media didn't send
anybody there, and yet it happened, has to be characterised as
something new in British politics. They were not voting on my views
about Syria, neither on my views about how to vote in the House of
Commons divisions, which are largely meaningless to most of them.
Which is what this discussion should really be about. We will get
on to, that I want to get one other point with you, why did you say
"God knows who is a Muslim, and he knows who is not, I George Galloway
don't drink alcohol, and I have fought for Muslims at home and
abroad all my life". Why did you find it necessary? Because the
Labour candidate was going around campaigning on the twin basis that
he was a Pakistani and a Muslim. So I believed that playing, shameless
playing of ethnicity as an electoral card was something that
needed to be answered. And orderly, of course, if it weren't me that
were being accused of t you would be the sternest critic. I have
never had anyone ask for my vote by telling me how much I drink, I was
curious? I don't drink, and he does. Let's talk a little bit about what
this victory for George Galloway, it is a sensational result. Let's
talk about what it represents, Ed Milliband was talking today about
how your party needs to listen, why didn't he realise that before?
has always spoken about that. It was a sensational result, to be
honest, Jeremy, you do a disservice to the people of Bradford West, by
focusing on George, does he drink, what he said about this. I'm just
interested in what he chose to say? In a democracy, you have to listen
when people vote in those numbers. And clearly the people of Bradford
West, they were trying to get a message through to the political
establishment. I think the underlying message, it is not just
issues about Afghanistan, although whether you live in Bradford Orton
bridge wells, you wonder what on earth we are -- Bradford or
Tunbridge Wells, you wonder what on earth we are doing in Afghanistan.
It is a mistake to write off Bradford West, we need to listen to
the message. What is going on, do you think, in people's attitudes to
the mainstream parties? They are fall ago I way from them, we have
consistently lower attendances, the attempts of both the Tories and
Labour to launch themselves, in some sense, as mass membership
parties, has largely been a failure. I think the kind of tit for tat
business of politics, the liberals came into the last election, on the
face of it, with an honest desire to try to change that, and to try
introduce a more. They fooled us all. Yes, it fooled me, and in a
sense I didn't think they would be so feeble when it got to the
negotiating procedure. I thought it was a party that understood how
proportional Government worked, they might have been prepared to
sit down longer. It is over for the Lib Dems, every time there is a
sensational by-election, going back to Orpington, people say this is
the end of politic, as we know, funnily enough, the two parties are
still reinstating themselves. you notice it in the Conservative
Party as well? I think so, this has been a wake-up call for all the
political parties T may well be that a future by-election, even in
this parliament, that the Conservatives may have big problems.
Part of the issue was the way we do politics, everything is focused on
the marginal seats. What happened in Bradford, and what was
interesting, I don't think Labour had any idea about any data about
where the voting preferences where, come the close of polls, they have
thought we have won again like the last 40 years, that was why it was
such a shock. Did Tory polling predict George Galloway would win?
No it didn't. You were all caught out? I'm not making an anti-Labour
point, the whole focus of politics is on the 80-100 marginal seats,
where everything matters, and all the resource goes in. The small
armies of members that all the parties have are working. What is
your solution? There are not easy solutions to it, the reality is,
this is one of the difficulties, there was great excitement when the
coalition came in two weeks ago, about fresh politics. No there
wasn't. From some people there was. I detected none of that, I must say.
Any policies. You need to get out more. Part of the problem now is
essentially we have got diminished living standards in this country
for the next decade, it is going to be incredibly difficult. No
Government of whatever stripe is going to be popular, and no
opposition is going to be trusted, not least because we may well be in
a situation like the 1960s and 1970s, where we are chopping and
changing at each election going forward. It may be. Isn't the point
about Bradford, George was campaigning, when you were
campaigning you were saying there is this system among certain Urdu
people in the Labour Party, in Bradford, there is a system
essentially of patronage, it is good old style politic, there is
that kind of system operating at a national level as well. The
political class offers cynakures. George Galloway? It is a parallel
universe, Mark is a gentleman and expensively educated one. Free, I
was a grammar schoolboy, you would be pleased to know. He might be
from Mars to the streets of Manningham, there, youth
unemployment has risen 40% in 12 weeks and tripled in a year. The
mass of people are in poverty in British terms, not relative to
other countries in the world, but in British terms, mass poverty. And
these politicians, not Diane, but the political leaders, speak in a
different language to them, and about different things to them.
is a rather beautiful inverted world, isn't it, Bradford, George,
you have an enormous hole in the middle of your city, where there is
a westfield was meant to be, unlike the westfield on Stratford Marshes.
These are parts of the country that never recovered from the
deindustrialisation of the Thatcher years, and now the coalition is
slashing public sector spending, no wonder there is no hope.
interesting thing about George Galloway, even his critics will
acknowledge, that George Galloway gave people, who voted for him,
something to hope for. Let's hope? I think rather misguidedly.
George's problem and Respect's problem, they are in a coalition
with rather unlikely fellow travellers, who don't necessarily
want to travel with George. sounds like the Lib Dems and the
Tories. Namely the SWP, all of these groups, to some extent,
demand representation, and represent a part of the vote, we
don't have an electoral system capable of reflecting that level of
diversity. All due respect, no pun intended to George, what he had in
Bradford was a Cinergy between the conditions he -- synerg y between
conditions in Bradford, and the two issues that matter, British foreign
policy, and disafegs with the local Labour Party. It is not just
Muslims who were very disillusioned by the Iraq war. Professor Self
will want to hear this. The Bradford West is asset nick as it
can be, I won 8 -- as ethnically as it can be, I won 85% of the votes,
because your parties absolutely betrayed the university community,
who from this September will be paying �9,000 in tuition fees, that
was not a Muslim issue, that was a young people issues. How are you
going to reverse that. I'm not going to reverse it, but I will
speak out for them. As has happened already, I am heard when I speak.
People are paying attention to what I'm saying, because of this result.
But essentially you will be sideswipeing actual parliamentary
parties, you are a lone MP in this. That question George Galloway
raises, how the Liberal Democrats behaved on a very public pledge, in
the first sniff of power for decades, they immediately renege
upon, that has destroyed a tremendous amount of trust? It is a
political supooku. You backed them? I voted for them, I wouldn't say I
backed them. Gullible Professor Self. Who else would I vote for!
They are heading for the knackers yard. It is over. I wonder if this
sort of behaviour is the consequence of coalition, what
happens when you have coalition Governments? There is an element of
it, we are not used to them. After an election a coalition agreement
is reached, a tablet of stone, rather than manifestos put to the
public at large. That is a problem and will cause a sense of
disillusionment. There is no legitimate mandate for quite a lot
of what is going on. A lot of that is driven by the economic situation,
by which, again, none of the political parties, Labour,
Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, levelled with the public about how
it was. There was all this �6 million being the difference
between Armageddon. There were some of us who said at the time it was
not the way we go about it. disillusion, perhaps not
disillusion, but the fact that the voter has become more promiscuous,
more volatile, more changable, it is something that has been going on
for 40-50 years. Why is that? Coming up in the next election,
with the diminish of vote for the two main parties. Will probably go
up to the next election because of the collapse of the Liberal
Democrat vote. But I don't disagree with what you are saying. The clip
earlier on was very interesting, actually what you have is a lot of
small, single-issue protest groups, who basically are very targeted,
and they deliver. The feeling is the political class make as lot of
promises every time, and partly because of global factors, and the
power of international business is not able to deliver. You can take
your concerns elsewhere, to a charity, you can tweet, join a
pressure group? Talking about 38 Degrees, if they have a million
members, that is hundreds of thousands more than any of the
political parties have, the Stop The War coalition moved millions in
the run up to the Iraq war. People are in CND and all sorts of things,
they no longer trust parties. not one or the other, sing-issue
pressure groups or political parties, they work together. None
of this feeds into legislation, you can be as mean as you like about
the Lib Dems, and the reality of it is, if you are a Lib Dem party
member, in theory you have a say in what goes into the manifesto, that
is why the Lib Dem betrayal looks so bad F you are a member of the
Tory Party, you wake up to find you are introducing legislation about
the reorganisation of the National Health Service, which you had no
part in and you didn't vote for. They also cut the top rate of tax,
and they are happy about that. disconnect of being part of the
Tory Party and the Government. are a less democratic party in that
sense, in the sense we have always taken the view to get on, and we
want to get on into Government and the team get on and do it. Unless
you want everyone to disappear in thisg loop of civic mindedness and
internet voting, people want to feel they have a stake in
legislation. Tory voters haven't been delivered to, of course they
delivered for key story voters, cutting the price of tax and
pasties. This is a Tory Government, Tory-led Government. Kept in power
by the Liberal Democrats. There is a long-term issue whether we have
distinction between executive on the one signed and legislatures,
the Members of Parliament are legislatures to vote on, not being
whipped through as quickly as there is. Let's let George Galloway have
the last word? Will is on to the point, there is a pardigm shift,
the system has failed, the Tweedledy and Tweedle dumb, if a
back side could have three cheeks, they are sitting in the House of
Commons, and shake opposition, they all stand for the same things, neo-
liberal economics, expenditure, and war abroad, that has to be smashed
into. It always used to be said that
whatever you thought of individual politician, by and large British
politics as a whole were pretty clean, and by comparison with
somewhere like Italy and Nigeria they are, but they are tarnished,
"cash for questions", cash for honours, cash for dinner with the
Prime Minister. At the heart of many scandals are the lobbyist,
retained by companies to promote their interests in parliament. A
bad smell, or essential element in a modern democracy, as they call
themselves. We will talk about that with Lord Bell shortly. First we
report. Accusations of cosy dinners, party
cash and a voice at the top table. Peter Cruddas resigned as
Conservative treasurer ten days ago now, after the Sunday Times caught
him apparently peddling Premier League access to senior politicians.
Marked a dams is the lobbyist who tipped off the paper, the claim in
this case was influenced for party donations. Few things shock me in
politics these days. It is not the way I believe politics or lobbying
should be done. I was certainly surprised by it, and thought it
merited further investigation. When the Tory treasurer quit, it
was the latest in a long line of lobbying scandals, involving party
big wigs, the public seems to believe that politicians are
willing to do favours in return to cash. Whether that is into the
party's coffers, or straight into their own bank accounts.
And, is politicians are both sides -- it is politicians from both
sides of the cabinet that have been caught out. Three Labour members
were suspended in 2010 for a scandal, Stephen Byers was filmed
as saying he could be a cab for hire. Before coming to power, David
Cameron promised to shine a light on the business and the scandal.
is the next big thing waiting to happen. It is an issue that exposes
the far too cosy relationship between politics, business and
money. That was before Defence Secretary Liam Fox was forced to
step down, not over cash, but because of his cosy relationship
with lobbyist Adam Werrity. The wider question hanging over all
this, is just how much power big- name lobbyists really have, and how
much is just sales bluster. Calls for stronger regulation intensified
last year, when undercover reporters taped executives from a
public affairs company, boasting of What concerned me is the way they
were decribing that they could have a quiet word with people inside
Number Ten, and inside Government, who would sort the problem out.
That again is not the way that lobbying, in my view, should be
done. Newsnight understands the body that
represents the PR industry, will tomorrow clear the company of
breaking its own voluntary Code of Conduct. Even so, calls for Britain
to put in place statutory regulation are now getting louder.
I think we have seen that it is the next big scandal, that keeps on
coming out of Government. We see it with the donor scandal, we saw it
with the claims that Bell Potting er made, the MPs saying they are
like cabs for hire, and Lords that will accept cash. The solution to
it is to open up lobbying, to public scrutiny, to allow people to
see what influence people are having over what policies, and
crucially how much money they are spending in the process. While
there is still the suspicion and not knowing who is influencing who,
then we will continue to get scandals. The Government is now
planning to make some lobbyist reveal exactly who they represent.
Critics, though, claim the new rules lack any teeth, and won't
stop the scandals. Here to discuss this is Lord Bell, chairman of
Chime Communications, and the parent company of Bell Potting er.
When you talk on President Assad's wife and others, do you think here
is a misunderstood person, or here is money? I never worked for
General Pinochet. I worked for the Pinochet Foundation, which is not
the General. In terms of Mrs Assad, we were asked to set up a
communications office. In terms of the Pinochet Foundation, we were
asked to stop him being wrongly extradited to Madrid. And your
motivation is? I work for clients. Business? Yes. Is there anyone you
wouldn't accept? I wouldn't work for anybody I couldn't do a good
job for, and anybody that wouldn't be prepared to do what is necessary.
You wouldn't object on moral grounds? I'm not a priest, I have
my own personal morality, which is mean, I know the difference between
right and wrong. What is your job when you are representing them?
are effectively messengers. We devise strategy, and the
methodology, and the way things work, we talk about the opportunity
people have to change things, if they don't like the way they are
going. We advise them on who they should talk to. We very rarely talk
to ministers themselves, we nearly always ask the clients to do it.
You saw on the piece of tape, one of your colleagues both boasting
about having a conversation at 2.30? You haven't seen all the tape,
it is 3.5 minutes, out of an hour- and-a-half's tape, if you think
that is a fair representation you are deluded. The reality is, what
he said was, he was asked if he could get a message to Downing
Street, by 2.30 in the afternoon, because James Dyson was going with
the Prime Minister to China, and they wanted to bring up the issue
of copyright, he said he was able to deliver that message within an
hour. He boasted he delivered it, and that the Prime Minister then
raised it with the Chinese Prime Minister? It rather shraoints the
way you discuss the thing, both -- slants, the way you discuss the
things. Boasting and discussing it is not the same thing. How come you
don't say to me, why did the business of investigative
journalism pretend they were a group, give us credentials and
create a website. Probably the only way to get inside your
organisation? Last week a member of the BIJ asked me a series of
questions about lobbying, I answered him, he didn't like what
he said and asked me could he exaggerate him, I have a copy of
the interview. You can talk to me about that, or this, which is
rubbish, and in the mid-of a PCC complaint, and upheld by the PRCA.
The public relations association. You can dismiss it, and belittle
anything you want to. But if you want to have a fair argument, don't
discuss what people on there, like Marked a dams, who had nothing to
do with us whatsoever. He makes a complaint. Why not a register of
lobbyist, so we know who you are and who you represent? By all means.
They exist all over the country, we work in Washington, we sign up to
it and declare all the relations. Can we know all your clients?
can know all of them, except the British and American Government,
with whom we have had contracts, over which there is a requirement
of confidentiality. A mandatory register would ensure transparency,
wouldn't it? Not of what you want. It would tell you who works with
what chiend client t would never be up-to-date. It would be impossible
to manage. It has been tried before. It doesn't work in America. You
should know this, the BIJ claimed what they were doing to us was
based on an investigation done in America, where they have had a
statutory register of lobbyists for 45 years, that investigation was
done five years ago. Where on earth is the logic of that. When David
Cameron says, as you heard him say, a bit of his speech there, a PR man
himself, indeed. They don't know who is meeting whom, and they don't
know if any favours are being exchanged o which outside
influences are wielding an unhealthy interest? You should ask
him. He's a former PR man? That is not a lobbyist. You don't have the
faintest idea what a lobbyist is or not, nor does the consultation
paper. Was it a sensible thing for him to say? I don't think it was a
senseable thing for him to say, I'm sure he regrets it. So it wasn't?
No, because he given a hook for everyone who wants a statutory
register of lobbyist, that is what everyone wants, it is what Marked a
dams is fighting against, and what the Independent numbers wants. They
are lobbying for a statutory register of lobbyists and they are
paid for it. Aren't they entitled to know who is getting the ears of
ministers in a Government they elect? Absolutely. You wouldn't
have a problem? We have no secrecy about our client list, it is
published on the website. It is available to everybody. We have
never, ever said we won't publish our clients, nor have we ever been
untransparent, if there is such a word, about the things we. Do we
ask questions about lunches we hold with politicians, dinners we hold
with politicians wrecks openly declare them, the politicians
declare them, we tell people what they are about, and tell people
what the rules are. We even have sessions with politicians and
journalists present. We sit there and let the journalists write about
it. All this rubbish about the lack of transparency is just that,
rubbish and claptrap, put up by people who want to prove that
something unpleasant is going on, or you so charmingly put, that we
smell. Actually I don't smell! I said, some people say rb there is
a bad smell. OK, yes. We don't see you very often. No you
doint. But I love seeing you. beginning to see why.
I'm beginning to rather regret inviting you. Don't be like that.
I'm serious, when you lock at the state of the Conservative Party now,
from your long experience, what do you think, what advice would you
give them if you were doing your old job? I think the problem was
summed up in that discussion you had with George Galloway et al, it
is the problem of the coalition Government, there is not a majority
Government in place, the majority of people are not satisfied. You
have lot of people voting Liberal Democrats who don't like what is
going on, and people who voted Conservatives don't like what is
going on, a lot of people who voted Labour didn't like Labour and what
they Z you have lot of dissatisfied people, plus you have a terrible
period of austerity, where people are having a bad time, everybody,
were the top to the bottom is having a bad time, compared to five
years ago. The fact that where they were on five years ago was based on
borrowed money they have forgotten, as we all. Do it is a troublesome
world, you have a hell of a lot of strange things going on, the risk
of nuclear war in Iran, problems all over the world, protest
movements everywhere. Which the Internet causes and creates, there
is a great big gutter of protest in the Internet. People can publish
all sorts of claptrap on it, and frequently do, about you and me,
your Wikipedia entry isn't so great either, any more than mine is. This
goes on, it is a phenomenon, and we have to cope with it, it makes
communications very difficult to deal with. As far as the party is
concerned, they should have a proper chairman, like in the good
old days, somebody who is active. They should try to separate the
positions of the Conservative Party as a political entity from the
Government, which is not a Conservative Government, it is a
coalition Government. If they could achieve that separation, and
actually bring some people into communication work in the
Government who know what they are doing, then we might actually end
up with a different situation. Thank you very much.
Tomorrow night here in the studio, the Mayor of London mud wrestles
with people trying to take his job from him. Aung San Suu Kyi's
victory in the Burmese by-election set off more celebrations, more
predictions of a prop transition to democracy. But in the state of
Kachin, the elections didn't happen, cancelled because of fears about
security, and the war between Kachin rebels and the Government
forces. Neither aid agencies or journalists are allowed into Kachin,
but our Sue Lloyd Roberts managed to get there for Newsnight.
"We can defeat the enemy" sing the new recruits to the army, at their
training ground on the slim area of land they still control.
While freedom and democracy are being celebrated elsewhere in the
country, their's is one of several ethnic armies, who have been
fighting the Burmese army, off and on, for the last half century.
For the Kachin, the fighting is very much on going. Training has
been cut from three to two months, to get these men and women to the
front, with real guns, in a hurry. TRANSLATION: Burmese army soldiers
came into our village, they werefying their guns, shooting at
the old people who couldn't -- were firing their guns, shooting the old
people who couldn't win, they raped our women and set fire to our homes.
I'm old, I'm 42, but that's why I signed up.
The landscape is now littered with burned out villages, from where
people fled their homes, with their lives, and little else.
TRANSLATION: We don't have enough food. We left with nothing. And so
my husband crept back to the village to get some rice. When he
didn't return, I went back, and found his body.
They had shot him in the chest, and stabbed him in the face. When they
hear the Burmese army is on its way, they run. This man's wife had given
birth just days earlier, and couldn't keep up.
TRANSLATION: The next day I went back to look for her, and found
they had killed her with the spear. Entering through her rib cage on
the left, and all the way through to her arm on the right. I found
our baby, barely alive, lying next to her mother. I just grabbed her
and ran. TRANSLATION: Everyone was running,
but my mother didn't, and they shot her. I went back and found her body,
they had thrown it in the deep hole that had been dug as a cesspit. It
took ten of us to get the body out. And then I buried her.
survivors, tens of thousands of them, are now crowded into
makeshift camps, where there aren't enough basics like food and water,
let alone any hope of counselling for the trauma they have endured.
We have grown accustomed to hearing report of brutality, about the
military dictatorship that has ruled Burma for 50 years, but all
these recent stories of atrocities, have taken place within the last
few months, even though the allegedly reforming Government held
elections over a year ago, and promised change. The people of
Kachin, and others, can be forgiven for being confused.
The Burmese Government don't want the outside world to see these
people, because their might contradicts the new, caring, image
they want to present. They are restricting aid getting in from the
international community, although it is desperately needed.
The administrator says there is more than 1800 people in this camp,
and there is not enough food, medicine or shelter.
The children might find it all a game now, he says, but when the
rainy season starts, it will be a nightmare.
TB has broken out in the camps, and malnutrition is prevalent.
My son isn't recovering from his illness and isn't growing, she says,
because she has nothing to feed him with.
Another mother, with four children, fears for her unborn child.
TRANSLATION: The children say they are hungry all the time, and I'm
not getting the nutrition a pregnant woman needs, we long to
return to our villages, but how can we. The Burmese hate the Kachin
people, and their army will only attack us again.
Both sides blame the other for starting the fighting in June last
year. With the Burmese army using artillery and mortars, against the
Kachin, who are armed with AK-47s and home made weapons.
The fighting intensified in December, at about the time the
American a second, Hillary Clinton, arrived in Burma, to encourage the
Government with its reform programme. Land mines cause them
most casualties, among the Kachin army of some 20,000, who are now
struggling to hold out against the Burmese army's half million.
Over 100 soldiers have died, hundreds more have been injured,
and no-one knows the number of civilian dead. This 31-year-old
lost his leg in December, and says he wants to get back to fighting.
The doctor in charge of the military hospital says that
soldiers get the best treatment available, but that's not up to
much. TRANSLATION: We lack medicines,
prosthetics, everything really. They want me to get these men back
to the front, but considering the facilities we have here, that's
just not realistic. The frontlines are just a few
hundred metres away from the hospital, and from where people are
living. We can see the Burmese position on the hill opposite, and
no-one's too sure when they might attack next.
TRANSLATION: We could attack their position and probably overrun it,
but we don't want to go on the offensive. We wait for them to
attack us. It's quiet here today, the captain explains, because the
fighting has moved further north, where the Burmese army is attacking
daily. Shortly after Hillary Clinton's visit, and under pressure
from the international community, Burma's new President ordered the
Burmese army to stop fighting. Why haven't they? TRANSLATION: I think
there are two reasons, the first is that, under the new constitution,
the President doesn't have that much power over the army. And
secondly, the President doesn't have the support of the army
generals because he wants to reform the country and they don't.
Burmese generals have, for a long time, enjoyed the wealth of these
border areas, which are rich in timber, gold and Jade. If they are
at odds with Burma's President, this could slow down both reform
and a solution to Burma's long- running ethnic conflict.
The mainly Christian Kachin say they don't want independence from
Burma, they want equal treatment within a federal Burma. Their
political party was excluded from the elections in 2010, and the
Burmese Government have postponed by-elections in Kachin state,
blaming security problems. TRANSLATION: What the Kachin want
is equal rights. If they were to offer genuine democratic union,
then this conflict could be solved. On going peace talks between the
Kachin and the Burmese Government are taking place in China. The
border between Kachin and China runs through the main town year,
and China is weary of the on going war on its doorstep. With the
delegates returning back through the border post, after the latest
round, say they have failed to get agreement, why? TRANSLATION: To get
agreement, the Burmese Government is being asked to withdraw their
troops. Politically the Government is making advances towards
democracy. They have included the Burmese opposition, under Aung San
Suu Kyi, released political prisoner, and they say they want to
reach an agreement with the ethnic groups, but there will be no
progress with the ethnic peoples, if their troops keep advancing.
Until the conflict is solved, the situation here in the camps will
get worse. Those who have been here since June,
say they are praying to go home, but more immediate low, they are
praying the food doesn't run -- immediately, they are playing the
food doesn't run out before they. In this camp of 5,000, the ration
is down to one cup of rice per day per child, and two cups for an
adult. Aid agencies who want to get in to help say they are struggling
to get here. The British Government has pledged
�2 million in aid to help these people supplement their diet, and
when the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, was in Burma Earl
yes this year, he said -- Burma earlier this year, he said
sanctions shouldn't be lifted until the Burmese Government allowed the
aid to get here. There is huge pressure from business interests in
the UK and America for sanctions to be lifted. People here hungry and
home lesson the edges of the country, fear they will be
forgotten amid calls for trade to be resumed, with a country that is
so rich in natural resources. As the Kachin army took us on
patrol, along a frontline that stretches hundreds of miles through
the jungle, the commander told me that they are grateful to the
British, whose army they fought alongside during the Second World
War, for giving them the model on which to build.
But, over the intimacy of a campfire at night, there is
bitterness about their former military ally. TRANSLATION:
British shouldn't forget us in our time of need. When they needed us
we fought for them against the Japanese. We are now suffering
horribly. Surely this is the time For now, they sing of defending
their land from exploitation by Burma.
Knowing full well that they are running short of weapons, man power,
and support. That's all from Newsnight tonight,
more tomorrow with that mayoral What a day it's been, the day that
winter bit back. The worst of the wintry conditions now heading
southwards across northern England, and North Wales. Snow over the high
ground causing problems. Gale force winds blowing it around. No great
improvements across the heart of England and Wales through the day.
Further rain and snow, most of the snow in the high ground, a bleak,
raw-feeling day with a strong north-eastly wind. Southern most
counties, relatively mild, but slow-moving sharp showers, don't
get caught out. It is not going plain sailing by any means here. We
run back into that cold and wintry weather across the heart of Wales.
Most of the snow up over the highest ground where it could cause
problems locally. For Northern Ireland brighter prospects through
the afternoon, there will be sunshine. Don't expect a heatwave,
it will be a chilly-feeling day. In the sunshine out of the breeze it
shouldn't feel too bad. For Scotland a much better day. Apart
from the odd shower from the north. It should be dry and bright with a
steady thank you. Looking ahead to After a frosty start this is the
picture, rain clearing away from the south. More rain heading into
George Galloway shares the secret of success with Jeremy Paxman, along with Tim Bell and Will Self. And the atrocities inside Burma's hidden ethnic war.