20/04/2012 Newsnight


What is The Omnishambles? What has it to do with cabinet splits over the European Court? And should the Bahrain Grand Prix be scrapped? With Gavin Esler.

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It's been yet another bad week for David Cameron's Government, rows


over extradition and Lords reform, coming after all that budget fall-


out, is fact following fiction? you, you're a BEEPing omnishambles,


you're like that coffee machine, from bean to cup, you BEEP up.


opposition stealing the line from a TV comedy, is David Cameron really


presiding over omnishambles. The latest outbreak of ill feeling in


the cabinet is from the European Court of Human Rights, we have some


fresh revelations. Inside the cabinet they have been


rowing and banging the table over whether to demand reform over the


court's powers, it is Keneth Clarke versus Michael Gove. Two


Conservatives who disagree on what is wrong with the coalition are


here. Given the catalogue of human rights


abuses in Bahrain, should Sunday's Grand Prix be stopped, should


Britain take a tougher line. We will hear from the Bahraini


Good evenings, every Government goes through the mid-term blues, a


few years in, unpopular decisions taken, and if they get it right, a


cople of more years, and then the wisdom is revealed and they are re-


elected. Sometimes it goes from bad to worse, in the view of David


Miliband it is going that way, he called it an "omnishambles",


something that owes itself to television comedy. The answer


Allegra Stratton will be finding out, the answer contains some very


strong language. This was in this building that


David Cameron invited people to join the Government of Britain.


is an invitation to the whole of Britain, we will give you the power,


be your own boss, sack your own MP. Nearly two years into power, the


prospect of people faking him up on that invite, if it was -- taking


him up on that invite, if it was ever credible, now looks a little


less. One of the things I take around with me today is the


Conservative manifesto, which indicates what they are delivering


and how much was in the manifesto. That is a notebook? It is the


manifesto from 2010. Conservative chairman's humour


reflects the mood inside Downing Street and the difficulties of


making coalition work. Conservative Party have some very


clear principles, the majority of the agreement, the coalition


agreement, and what we are delivering in Government, is part


of those principles, but then there are other principles, Lib Dem


principles, which do butt up against that. And yes, out of that


sometimes comes an incoherence. What is worrying for the Government


is the shifting sands of public opinion, those people who the


Tories they could once ask to join the Government, are settling. In


the first time in the history of a poll from YouGov, and any polling


kl 2007, Labour is ahead on points. For people inside Number Ten, life


is tense. That's great, that's fucking great,


that is another fucking thing right there, not only do you have a bent


fucking husband, and a daughter who gets taken to school in a sedan


chair, you are also fucking mental. You are a fucking omnishambles, you


are like that coffee finance, from bean to cup, you fuck up. So there


you have it, the word "omnishambles" first used in its


full glory. Since that programme, politicians of all stripes have


used it to describe things going their way as they might not like.


This week it was used by the leader of the opposition, David Miliband,


in the House of Commons. -- Ed Miliband. We are all pleased to


hear the Prime Minister's view, four weeks on from the budget, even


people from Downing Street, are calling it an omnishambles budget.


This week the events didn't let up, the dance with Abu Qatada might


once have been containable, but ministers fear the sight of Qatada


released could be a vivid image of impotence.


Coming in a week where attempts were suggested to change the


European Court of Human Rights, and rejected, it is thought that could


be lethal. Keneth Clarke gave a presentation on the reforms he was


going to get to the European Court, which, in the eye of some cabinet


ministers, tying their hands in the Abu Qatada case. Keneth Clarke said


the reforms were not going to be as radical as the Tories said they


would get. To the surprise of some, it was he had case secretary,


Michael Gove who said that was not -- Education Secretary, Michael


Gove who said that was not good enough, and Iain Duncan Smith and


others thumped support in this matter for the education secretary.


It was party night on Wednesday, a Cameroon leaving do, for the man


who dreamt up The Big Idea society, Steve Hilton has temporarily left


the Government, many think he has left a hole, even his enemies. His


departure marks the end of the first part of the coalition


Government, now there is a phase where everything has to be agreed,


with fraught negotiations. With no second programme of Government on


the horizon, the Government has created a vacuum. Looking to find


mid-term blues for the 1997 Government is pretty useless, they


basically govern in benign times. Looking at the 1979 Government is


more interesting, they only get their poll lead back in the time of


the Falklands War. Some of Cameron's allies point to this


period suggesting the best is yet to come. Things may be bumpy, David


Cameron's aides admit, ruefully, but soon the Prime Minister will


point out few people are argue beg their core policy, definite


reduction, and that, they think, is the key to the 20 15 election.


Today backbenchers are newly upset about money going from the UK to


the IMF. Few are sure whether they are dealing with mid-term blues, or


a longer term darker Hugh. My guest suggests that the Government is


fundamentally on track, and many of the problems are stirred up by the


website, Conservative Home, and calling it narrow faction. The


website's editor is with us. Do you accept that omni shambles is real,


and many problems are down to a basic lack of confidence?


really, I think the reporting of this crisis, called, has been


hysterical. It is very interesting, if you analyse where the criticisms


are coming from. It is not being created by the opposition, it is


coming from the Conservative Party right, and within that, it is from


a very small number of very deliberately offensive voices, that


are attacking the Prime Minister personally, and accusing Cameron of


some kind of betrayal. Did you mean him? What I argued in my piece in


the Telegraph, was that Conservative Home gave a lot of


credibility to this proposition. I think the half-a-dozen or so voices


on the Tory right really, they don't represent the mainstream


Conservative view, but they are given weight by Conservative Home,


which presents itself as the voice of the mainstream Conservative


Party, but is actually, under Tim Montgomerie, a brilliant man,


actually, really influential, but he actual low is a small right-wing


faction. Tim? I think we are returning the compliments here, I


think Peter is a brilliant columnist, but in terms of personal


attacks, Peter, it wasn't so long ago when you wrote in your


Telegraph column that until now it was easy to argue that Mr Cameron


was properly grounded with a decent set of values, but unfortunately it


is impossible to make that assertion any longer. I have never


made an take on David Cameron as strong as that. I think the


Government is facing serious difficulties, I think it is very


important for a website like our's, I love the Conservative Party, I


want it to succeed, to voice the concerns, not just of a few people


in Westminster. What we exist to do, and we have a panel of nine-and-a-


half Conservative members across the country that we regularly poll.


I put a lot of time into talking to Conservative MPs and others. There


is huge concern out there, it is not a crisis, it is fixable, but


there is a lot of concern. Peter said it is magnified by people like,


talking about a handful of these voices, serial attenders of think-


tank breakfasts, spectacular immaturity, waging a campaign


against Baroness Warsi, and you are stirring it up, it is


unrepresentative of the Conservative Party? We are far from


unprep presentive, I spoke to two - - unrepresentative, I spoke to two


people this week, who said half of the people are worried about


problems in David Cameron's leadership, and some are as worried


as in the John Major years. You mentioned the polls, UKIP taking


chunks out of the right flank. I think it is sortable, I think the


Government is doing many good things. It would be wrong to be


complacent at this time. Isn't it refreshing to hear some of


this, instead of the discipline of the Conservative Party falling in


line, it is a party that seems to be confident enough to have a row


with itself? I think there is a lot in that, I think that it is one of


the reasons why Labour, new Labour, couldn't produce something which


Tim has done. Because they were so on message that it wouldn't produce


the eclectic voices. You joint by he represents a meaningful strand


do you? If you lock at my readers, broadly Conservative, they are


people who read the newspapers over breakfast, they get on the commuter


train. They are civic-minded people. Lord Oakeshott, the great


Conservative fill loss fear of the last century, saying Conservatism


is about enjoyment, civic engagment and living life to the full. My


criticism of Tim is I think his website is very representative of a


small, very small group of very keen political obsessives. For them,


every political development which Allegra Stratton's brilliant


comment earlier portrayed, is a matter of intense importance. Now,


for the average Telegrapher, who is the mainstream Conservative voter,


he's thinking about his job, his family, the opera he's going to,


where he will spend the evening. There is a small group of


hysterical young men, very few women, who get terribly obsessed by


the latest political. Let me hear from the his kal young --


hysterical young man's leader? column written tomorrow by Peter


saying the wheels fell off the car ran have a of the coalition this


week. I'm not -- caravan of the coalition this week. I'm not sure


who is the most heir ter kal. Only -- hysterical. Only 10-15% of cuts


necessary have so far been made, we need a coalition focused on


economic competitiveness, and then we can sort these problems out.


There is one other difference between you two, you would Mike


David Cameron to be more ideolgical, and you -- would like David Cameron


to be more ideolgical, and you would like him to appeal more to


everyone. If you go back to the Labour Party in the 1980s, there


was the Campaign Group, they were very dogmatic, they were aridly


doctrineated, and Neil Kinnock had this wonderful phrase, I remember


in the mid-1980s, when he said politics is too important to mess


around with people's lives. I think this very, in a way, a politically


obsessive approach. Not good enough on this line. David Cameron is some


kind of right-wing story, who is as pure as the driven snow. Can I come


back on this. Let him come in on that? What we need to do as part of


the Conservative Party is walk and chew gum at the same time, it is


perfectly OK to be euro-sceptic, tough approach to immigration and


crime, the things that perhaps Peter would characterise as right-


wing, on the website we have also advanced much more involvement of


northern candidates in the party, when there was room for tax cuts


they should be focused on the low paid. We have taken something that


Peter criticised, we have been critical of the hyperactivity of


the coalition, unsettling the National Health Service, it is the


wrong time to reform the National Health Service. I think a blue


collar Conservatism, not a right- wing Conservatism, is the future of


the party, I think Peter was a little bit unfair about how he


characterised our position. Let's bring in Zoe Williams, do you think


Labour is missing a trick in not having a Labour Home? I have a lot


of sympathy with both of your positions, with the proviso that I


think you are all wrong! Neither can summon the quintessential Tory,


all you are doing is summon the Tory you want to summon. Neither of


you say you can speak for Conservatism, I wouldn't say. Now,


there is, you were talking about building a narrative, and how that


is telling a story, I agree with that, there is a fictionalisation,


when you build a narrative, there is also, it abides by a narrative


verity, there is a purpose to attacking the party, there is a


purpose to Conservative Home, it is a corrective to a party that's in


power. There would be no purpose to it for Labour. He used the word


"magnifies" the problem, that could be detable stablising it?


destablising it? The power in the press was suppressing it. Now, that


is no longer the case because of the internet, you can't put the


genie back in the box and say the press can suppress division, if the


press suppresses them, somebody like a website will air them. You


can't say this is hysterical young men who is briefing the young men.


Lord Ashley is oneing the show. -- Lord Ashcroft is running the


show. He supports the website generously, but he doesn't


interfere. You can't say on the one hand it is hysterical young men,


and then on the other say it is the old men locked out in the cold.


You made a reference to the health bill, you seem to think it was a


serious misjudgment for Conservative Home to attack it?


is very effective in attack on the health bill, it was the timing


which was so strange. It was pretty well on the third reading stage.


And suddenly, Conservative Home had a fit of nerves or a fit of


hysteria, perhaps, and demanded it should be dropped. It was


catastrophic if it was dropped stage. There was three cabinet


ministers on that. It was a good story. It was sourced in three


cabinet ministers. Let me get to this, the idea has got about that


Conservative Hope, particularly among BBC pro-- Conservative Home,


particularly among BBC producers, and that sort of person, that


Conservative Home represents the mainstream of the Conservative


Party. It represents a very, very, and I was just wanting, just to


produce a corrective, so that we understand that Conservative Home,


for all its merits, very, very interesting analysis and so forth,


represents a small group of quite intelligent, and completely


obsessed right-wingers. To be fair, I mean there is a point


here, you can't on the one hand say that Cameron isn't demonstrating


leadership, and he's being a front man and a sales person, and on the


other hand amplify the divisions in his party, it does weaken him, and


this stuff is self-fulfiling, if you attack the guy for being weak,


he will become weaker. The trouble with the idea of


keeping politics out of sport, is sport is so important to so many


people around the world, it can provide a platform for disconand


protest. The Bahrain Grand Prix has been scheduled for Sunday, and


there have been renewed calls for it to be called off. The glamour,


the speed, the daredevilry of Formula One, brought to a country,


seething with anger. On the track, tyres span today.


Off it t they went up in smoke. Last year's Bahrain Grand Prix was


cancelled, after the kingdom's police battled pro-democracy


protestors at the start of the Arab Spring. Today, the Crown Prince,


owner of the rights to the events, insisted this year's would go ahead


on Sunday. Cancelling the race empowers extremists. For those of


us trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the


race allows us to build bridges across communities, get people


working together. It allows us to celebrate our nation. Bahrain's


western-orientated rulers are highly image conscious, the Grand


Prix was intended to show a country returning to normal, ironically, it


has ended up reminding the world about the unrest. Today, tens of


thousands blocked a major highway, to demand that the race be stopped.


This sport, especially Formula One, is the ruling elite sport, it is


the Crown Prince's sport, it is the son of the king's sport. You know


you are in a country that does not have institutions, does not have


systems. The ruling family are everywhere, they are the rulers,


the economy, the politics, everything. What was our demand, is


for Formula One not to help the ruling elite to come out of


isolation. They have committed a lot of crimes and they should be


politically punished for those crimes. They should not be helped.


Now Formula One is coming, it is not a good message for the people


in Bahrain, or the people who lost their loved ones. According to


Amnesty International, there have been at least 60 protest-related


deaths, since the uprising began in February last year. At least five


people have died from torture in cuss towedy. At least 500 civilians


have been convicted in military courts.


Now, 11 members of the security forces are known to be facing


charges for human rights violations. But as far as is known, none of


them hold senior positions. Theless, the appointment of an


Independent Commission of Inquiry, which reported last November,


proves, the authorities say, that they want reform. If we hold


internal investigations with external investigators, and we say


that we are not perfect, then I hardly think we are trying to gloss


over real issues that exist in our country. And Bernie Ecclestone,


Prince of Formula One, thinks there is no problem with freedom of


expression in Bahrain. I don't want to be rude at all, but I think


sometimes it is a little bit silly putting the race on, it has given


the protesters an incredible platform to talk tou. They say they


talk about democracy, which is freedom of speech, they say, they


have had all the freedom in the world to talk to you guys.


In the impoverished villages outside Bahrain's capital, the


country's largely Shia Muslim population, resentful of the elite


says freedom is a long way off. Amnesty International say they the


ruling powers haven't committed themselves to human rights. Bahrain


is not Syria, and there is a process of reform under way, and


that Government backs and wants to promote the reform. Behind that


aspiration, is there a desire to maintain good relations with a


stragically placed king, in which the United States and UK have had


strong military links. Half a million of UK licenses were revoked


last February when the uprising began for equipment that could be


used against protestors, since then a further �1.5 million have been


licensed, including items that can be used in dealing with civilian


unrest. Such as body armour, weapons sights, small arms


ammunition, rifles and silencers. The Commander-in-Chief of the


Bahraini army recently told a local newspaper that Britain had been one


of several countries trying to put pressure on Bahrain by curbing arms


sales. But he said he personally phoned a senior person in the


British army and threatened to cancel military co-operation in


Bahrain, unless the curb on arms exports was lifted. According to


him, he boasted the policy had been changed within a month. I don't


know if the time frame is right, but it seems that pressure had some


impact. The British Government would deny any such pressure, as


for the authorities, they have been firm in dispersing protests, this


man was hit in the face with a teargas cannister. Any activists


detained in the last three or four days, to clear the way for Formula


One, many of those activists were tortured, some were kids. Now only


I have just come from the house of somebody, 14 years old boy, who has


bleeding in the brain, because of the torture he had by the security


institution, and he's in a critical condition.


Opposition leaders say they won't try to stop the race, but


demonstrations will continue. Not surprising, perhaps, then, that


there is increasing nervousness on the part of some teams and sponsors.


Earlier I spoke to representative for Bahrain's information affairs


authority, and the son of -- the son of a jailed dissident. Bahraini


forces have killed 60 people, and tortured five to death in the last


year, why should you be allowed to stage the Grand Prix? I take issue


with the figure of 60, the independent report listed 35, five


were members of the security forces. Amnesty International's report says


otherwise, we won't quibble about the figures, you have killed a


number of protestors and tortured five to death, why should the world


let you pretend everything is normal in Bahrain? The Government


abhors torture of any kind, it stands against human rights


violations, that is why it has commissioned the Independent


Commission of Inquiry, which made its findings very public in a


public ceremony. It was accepted by His Majesty the king, it is


available on-line in Arabic and English, many say it is damaging


for the Government. The Government has acknowledged its mistakes and


taken responsibility for the wrongs and has been fast in implementing


measures and the report's recommendations. You are not a


normal country, you use shotguns against protestor, political


opposition is banned? No, actually, the largest opposition party, just


resigned 18 seats in parliament. It had 17 seats in the last


parliamentary session. I mean, one must not forget that we are a new


transitioning democracy. Our parliament is on its third session.


You say you are in transition, should we wait until the transition


is more peaceful before allowing the Formula One Grand Prix to give


you this great political boost? have made great leaps over the past


ten years. We have had the national charter, the bicameral parliament,


and constitutional reforms are coming as a result of the dialogue


in June, that have gone through the lower house. Have they made great


leaps? Let me just mention that the Bahraini regime has not killed only


65, they killed more than 80, and they arrested doctors and nurses


and they destroyed more than 35 mosques, and Bahrain is now under


occupation since 17th of March 2011, and they are still oxfied. At the


moment now...He Made the point that they have admit add lot of mistakes,


and allowed to open themselves up to scrutiny. This Grand Prix will


turn the spotlight on the issues you are talking about? At this time


more than 20 villages by the police forces. Right now, you mean? Right


now, at the moment. I mean every day they attack their people. I


want to mention as well, that teargas made in the UK, and I want


to mention that, I mean, unfortunately, the UK Government


supports Bahrain by ...Making teargas and other things. Let me


put that now, the attacks on villages are still going on, they


are going on now, he says? Again, I mean there were a few allegations


there on the past comments that I don't necessarily agree with and


believe to be true. Such as Bahrain being under occupation or invasion.


Now the right approach -- the right to protest is guaranteed to the


citizens, this right has been exercise, non-stop, since the


events of last year. But you are shooting them? Come on, that is


really unfair to say. We have had very large protests, you know, some


numbing in the tens of thousands, gathering every week without


disruption, or without interference by the police. There is a line


between peaceful protest and legitimate expression of opinion,


and violent assaults against policemen. The point is, you want


the overthrow of the Bahrain Government? Is it wrong for people


to demand to elect their Government. It is wrong to attack and shoot


police officers? No, we didn't attack anybody. We don't have any


arms. Since 14th of February, we have moved peacefully, as the BBC


will say, and CNN, and amnesty international mentioned that the


protestors were peacefully moving, and the Government, as Bassiouni


said in his report, they tortured the youths in prison, and they


killed them. Would you accept that the Formula One, grand pro-, which


you want cancelled? Yes. Wouldn't you accept it has done the world of


good for the opposition, because everybody is looking at Bahrain


because it is going on, it is a good thing? Everybody knows what


happened in Bahrain, that is why they should stop, what the police


force is doing, they attack every village. Are you saying that is not


true, that while the Formula One preparations are going on, your


forces are not attacking any villages? Won coming to protest, it


is important to say that -- when coming to protest, it is important


to saying, there are protests happening before Formula One, and


will continue during. I have to say that many people, especially in the


opposition, have expressed strong support for the Formula One, they


have acknowledged its use to the economy and will not act as a


weapon against it. Only a small minority offer a risk. Kirsty is


standing by with the review show. Two of our finest actresses, Glenn


Close and Janet McTeer, go head-to- head in Nobbs, and Anjelica Houston


and others bring magic to Smash, my guests are here, join me in a


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