13/06/2012 Newsnight


Are children in care being failed? Did an undercover policeman go too far? Russian arms to Syria. And Martin Amis. With Jeremy Paxman.

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Tonight, is the care being offered to children and young people


adequate, why are social service departments apparently dumping


children in towns and cities miles from where they live, which even


the local police don't know are being used as childrens' homes.


you have a situation where a sexual predator is sitting in car outside


a children's home, targeting the children inside this home, a home


that the police do not even know exists. The three key people


involved are here with us. The undercover policeman who was


supposed to be there to keep us safe, but is now accused by an MP


of carrying out a firebombing. The MP is with us, as is a former Home


Office Minister. The US told Russia again today to stop arming Syria


with weapons, including helicopter. We talk to the former presidential


contender, Callum Kane, who says it is time to take action.


Martin Amis, on the state of England, and whether he's become a


grumpy old man. When you hit 60, you think, this can't possibly end


well t will end in tears. It was one of the most troubling


police investigations of recent years. A group of predatory men


abusing some of our most troubled and vulnerable children. The


criminals in Rochdale are said to have sought out troubled girls for


sexual exploitation. When children are taken into care, the care


provided on behalf of all of us, they are supposed to be being put


into place of safety. We know where they are, don't we? It turns out we


don't necessarily. Newsnight has learned that according to estimates


based on police figures, there could be 4,000 incident as year of


children going missing from care in England.


It's a lovely place for day out, if the sun shines. But when the beach


and the amusement arcades empty in Margate, there are plenty of


outsiders left behind with no ticket home. Providing for children


in care from other parts of the country is an industry on the Kent


coast. They are looked after here in unusually large numbers, though


not always very well. Craig, not his real name, was sent


here from London five years ago, when he was 1. Now he's got his --


11. Now he's got his first job, at one time he was getting into a lot


of trouble. At first when they saw I was doing it they didn't cautious


that is when I got into trouble with the police for crime. I was


able to do that a couple of years ago when I was able to go out on


your own, they don't care about you, they sort of give up on you.


But the risk is not looked after children getting into crime, it is


those children becoming the victims of older criminals. Last month a


gang of men was jailed in Rochdale for the sexual abuse of teenage


girls, one of whom had been in a residential care home. What is to


stop similar crimes being committed again in places like this? As in


many seaside resorts, there is an unusual transient population here.


It is exactly the kind of place you might think, well you shouldn't be


sending vulnerable children, who need security more than anything


else. But in a system which depends


largely on private provision, it is not always the best interests of


the children that come first. They are sent where there are places


available. Councils are legally obliged to


place looked after children in their own area unless it isn't


reasonably practicable. Of the roughly 65,000 children in care in


England last year, about a third were placed outside their own


council area. Sometimes a long way away. Of the nearly 6,000 in care


homes, almost half are outside their own area.


Once grand resorts like Thanet, with its large, cheap house, are


among the places where fostering and privately-run children's homes,


are now an important source of income. The local MP says areas


like her's are the solution for the many councils, particularly in


London, who can't find enough places locally for the children


they care for. They aren't much of a solution for the children


themselves. I find it staggering that those


authorities then placed them in areas that they haven't done a


proper assessment of the safety for those children. They have been


taken out of traumatic environments, difficult families, and then, they


are placed miles and miles away from anything, any point of


reference, in an area that doesn't necessarily have the profile that


you would expect that a local authority should find for a child


who is already traumatised. Kent police recently identified a high


concentration of privately owned children's homes, in one small I


can't remember of Thanet, which also has a high concentration of


drug dealers, prostitute, probation hostels, and ropblgsterd


paedophiles, all in close prox -- registered paedophile, all in close


prox simty. Two years ago schools in Margate refused to take any more


looked after children from outside Kent, in protest of what they call


an immoral policy. We wonder why London Boroughs would want to send


their most vulnerable children to this part of the country. We find


it utterly extraordinary they would want to send their most vulnerable


children to an area with such significant social problems. We


think it is irresponsible of them. We also think it is cynical.


know there has been a high number of arrests in this I can't remember


for drugs, for soliciting sex. We know that is going on in this area


in Cliftonville, and yet we have still got children's homes set up


there, and children network with each other. Rochdale is waiting to


happen in Thanet, it could be happening already for all we know.


Head teachers Kent say they are often told nothing about the


complex needs of children from other areas. Social workers rarely


attend meetings, because it is too far to come.


Councils who move a child to another area are obliged by law to


give the host authority details of the child's care package. And of


any risks involved. But often, information's not passed


on. The child becomes invisible. Invisible sometimes until he or she


runs away, and the police are brought in. Philip Shakesheff, a


from West Mercia police, has helped collate a computer programme to put


together details of missing children. Details should be given


in advance. First time we find out is when they become a victim of


crime or, more commonly, go missing. We have to play catch up, it is a


complete shock to us that we have a child living on us who is high-risk,


from another area. Holly, not her real name, is 16.


She's run away many times in the two years she has been in care in


the West Midlands. Once, while missing, she found herself in place


where she feared other girls were being used for sex. But her care


workers, she says, don't really care at all. All they have to do


when you go mis, they just have to ring the police and say you are


gone, that is how you get dealt with, it is the police who deal


with it. They aren't trying to find you? No, they don't search for you.


They will try to ring you a few times. But they don't come looking


for you. If you say you needed to be picked up from somewhere, they


don't come and pick you up. Even if you ask them to pick you up? They


don't pick you up. You have to get back on your own. There was many


times when I used to go missing, I would say I'm stuck, I have no bus


fare, I can't get home. They were like you have to ring the police


and get the police to drop you back. But they are supposed to be caring


for you? Yeah. They are meant to, but... In my 31 years service I


have never had a phone call from a carer saying this child's been


missing for three days, this is what I have done to try to find the


child. What have you done? How can we work together? Many care homes,


up and down the country, are making significant amounts of money, up to


�200,000 a year to look after one child, and I think there are clear


issues in terms of resources, and I feel there is significant evidence


there that would suggest that the police are filling in the vacuum in


these resources. Dealing with a missing person report costs police


on average �2,000 a time. And police believe figures collated by


councils massively underestimate the scale of the problem.


England, there were two thirds, approximately two thirds of the 152


local authorities that said nil, there were no children in their


care who went missing for longer than 24 hours in their area. I


thought that is not a reflection on our experience in West Mercia. In


West Mercia we are dealing with about eight children who go missing


a day. The Government says 930 children in


care in England went missing in 2010 to 2011, it records only those


absent for more than 24 hours. But an estimate by the UK Missing


Persons Bureau, based on records from several police forces suggests


the total number of cared for children, who went missing, is


about 10,000. The number of incidents is estimated at 42,000, a


figure that's been little noticed until now.


But police can't tackle the problem of disappearances properly, because


they don't always know where the children's homes are. It is


important, of course, for the children's protection that the


homes aren't marked. But it is absurd, many think, that the


inspection agency, Ofsted, won't even tell the police.


That's one of the points made by a group of MPs in a hard-hitting


report on the care system, to be published next week.


Under the current system you can have a situation where a sexual


predator is sitting in a car outside a children's home,


targeting the children inside this home, a home that the police do not


even know exists. Sometimes you wonder who the care system is for,


whether it's for the children in the system, or for the


organisations that run the system. A system where, despite the huge


sums spent on care, children often feel they are on their own.


From the last year or two they have looked after me all right, but


before that I didn't think it was much of caring, it weren't caring,


they weren't them sort of people, they were there for the money. If


you had a little flip out, they would have a go at you, they would


always bring their problems into work, they wouldn't let you have


your outburst, but it was all right for them to have their problems n


and discuss it with the staff, and then be stressed off with you


because of their family problems. In a system dependant largely on


private provision, where it is easy to set up a children's home, the


role of the inspection agency, Ofsted, is crucial.


But something, the regulator itself -- some think, the regulator itself,


is failing. At no stage throughout have Ofsted approached us to ask us


about concerns for any home in West Mercia, pro-actively have they


approached the police and asked is there any concerns about any of the


homes. At no stage have they asked us to share with them data about


any of our homes and numbers of missing persons' op soweds that


they are reporting. I think it is - - I think it is amazing that a


number of missing persons have been recorded from a home, and Ofsted


can award a "good" inspection. That leads me to believe they are


checking box, not waiting -- weighting what care the home


provides in the case of what is important for the child.


Government accepts it needs better figures on missing children. It is


pressing for fewer out of area placements, and higher standards in


homes. But there can be no quick fix for a system that some


professionals think is broken. For children like holly it is too late,


she will be living semi- independently in her own flat,


leaving behind a home she believes never even tried to be a home for


her. I had issues, that is why I went missing. But to go back home


and have people, like, being off with you, like you don't belong


there, there is no point in you being there, that is what makes it


worse. We can now talk to the care home


provider, the care home inspector, and the local authority boss.


Jonathan Stanley is from the Independent Children's Homes


Association, representing the providers of 60% of care home


places in England. We have the director of social care


for Ofsted. And Andrew Webb, director of Children's Service at


Stockport Council, and Vice President of the umbrella work, the


Association of Children's Service. In the ideal world, if you had a


child in your care, how far away from their previous home would you


keep them? Some children need to be placed a fair way away, for their


own protection. Some need to be protected from their familiarly if


they have been removed because they have been abused. The majority, we


know, do best if they are kept as close as possible near their roots,


schools they have attended for years. The first thing I would want


to say about the film we have seen t reflects only a very small part


of the care system. The majority of children in care do very well, the


stability in their placements is improving all the time. It has


always been difficult to place teenagers. You don't dispute the


figure that half of children in care are not being in care near


their original home? I think it was a third in the film. No, and as I


say, the reason for those placements being out of area are


complex, many of them good reasons. Particularly in the urban areas,


you could be place add couple of miles across the border and be in


roughly the same communety. There isn't an issue of a third of


children -- community. There isn't an issue of a third of children


being placed away from home and in seaside towns. Do you assess the


sort of area in which they are going to be placed? No, we place


them in homes that have been registered and approved for the


purpose of placing children. I'm not sure how you could assess an


area. I tell you what you could do, one very easy thing to do, is talk


to the local police? I think what you have heard is the police don't


always know what is going on. You don't get a very good picture of


what an area from a single phone call. Are you suggesting that we


might create no-go areas for children in care, something like


that? I'm suggesting if you were told by the police that there was a


highly transient population, there was a great deal of drug use, there


was a hostel for paedophiles released from prison, that sort of


thing, that you might think twice about it? Yes, if the young person


was at risk. Would it not be a good idea to ask the police? I'm not


sure how wide would you cast the net, one street, two streets? The


idea is fraught with problems, as soon as you start trying to unpick


it. What we need to do is make sure the care prove vieders are capable


of managing -- providers are capable of managing the children


that are with them. You are acting as parents, effectively, and yet


children are clearly being put in places you wouldn't put your own


children? There are children, local children living in these areas. I


don't think it is reasonable to say you can write off a whole area and


not place children in them. I think there is a lot more sophistication


required to understand the nature of an area than simply ringing the


police. I'm wondering why you don't inquire? The police don't always


know where a children's home is, as you heard Ann Coffey MP explaining.


Can you help us here Mr Stanley, why is it that so many of these


children's homes are in seaside towns, with highly transient


populations and the rest of it? Before I answer that, I think there


is a very good reason, and a good way of knowing where the children


homes are. The social workers have to advise the children's homes and


the independent reviewing officers, twice a year. They will know where


the homes R the reason why we have homes where they are, it is a very


complex and historical journey we have been on, originally in London,


for example, the homes were placed outside the city by Victorian


philanthropists. The reason is, it is cheaper to get larger


accommodation there, isn't it? isn't always the case that


children's homes are placed in cheaper areas. I can take you to


places around the country. Maybe not always, but there is pattern


here, do you accept? We have can take you to places around the


country where providers have set up in select areas of towns, so they


get good access to schools and a good supportive nurturing community.


You have some other explanation, have you for the fact that there


are various seaside towns in this country, where there is a high


concentration of children's homes? I can understand how they arrive,


we have to go back to the historical roots. We saw Victorian


philanthropists set up outside the city, and regional planning set up


on the coast. As the councils closed their homes on the coast, so


people open them up as private homes. If we want to move forwards,


we have to understand how to get the children back from the coast to


the city, but that will mean us thinking of the economics of care.


Are you also able to provide some long-winded explanation of why it


is a child in one of your homes goes missing and the owner not


trying to find the child? I'm not accepting it is long-winded, I'm


accepting it is very complex and we can't go into that. When someone


goes missing, every local authority has a missing person's protocol,


which children's homes have to follow. They have to be reported to


regulators and social workers, it isn't the case that people do


nothing n all cases. Nobody says it is in all cases. But it does happen,


and it should never happen, should it? It should never happen. Is it


not reasonable for a child in care to expect that should they


disappear, get into trouble and whatever, that someone would try to


seek them? I'm saying that does happen, in the instances in your


film, clearly that didn't happen, in that child's experience, but it


does happen, because that is what the local authority protocols and


the children's homes protocols say must happen. These are homes


getting up to �250,000 a year, aren't the people of this country


entitled to expect that the people who take money in that sort of


volume, will, in all circumstances, exercise due care? As we were


talking earlier, we know that not all of the children are of that


level of need. There are some children that do need that level of


need, and with that package of care comes psychology, psyche kiery, and


high levels of staff who have been reporting that young person. From


the regulator's point of view. Why aren't the police told which houses


are children's homes? I agree with the person in the film, who said


that's an absurd position. The reason is, quite simply, is the law


doesn't allow us to share that information at the moment.


would like to? Personally I would very much support a change in that


regulation. At the moment the regulations pro-hib bit us from


sharing that information with -- pro-hib bit us from sharing that


information with anything but local authorities. Do you, as regulators,


assess the suitable of an area for children's homes? No, we don't.


Shouldn't you? We don't because that is not a basis within the


regulation that is are set for us that we have to work within. That


is not Within the boundaries of us shutting down or opening up a


children's homes. I think it is gaps and weaknesses in the planning


legislation. Will you do anything about it? It is not within our


power to take action on that particular issue, but certainly


taking part in this kind of debate, I accept there is a serious consen


racial of homes in particular areas -- serious consideration about


homes concentration in particular areas. The people best to decide on


these issues are local people and local authorities have a part to


play. There is a part planning legislation can be used in this


debate. That needs to be revolve and it needs to be clearer what


powers the local authorities have in these situations. What about the


suggestion of your own rating of homes. If a child disappears from a


home 100 times, how can that home be entitled to get a rating of


good? No home is entitled to get a rating of good. It is a question of


weighing up all the evidence and coming up with a judgment. That


would be a very rare event, you would have to know the


circumstances of the case to make a judgment. Where we might find a


home, where the staff are doing everything they conceivably could


do, to try to keep that child safe to track that child, to know where


that child is going to protect that child, liaising very actively with


the police and other agencies involved to try to protect that


child, but they simply, at that point in time, cannot crack that


very difficult behaviour. We would not necessarily say that home was


failing. Mr Webb, do you agree that you have two people here saying it


is time for a change in the law, do you agree? The Association of


Directors of Children's Service will stimulate a debate charting


next month on what care should be for. -- starting next month on what


care should be for. The model we have for young people is outdated.


It doesn't assess the complexity of the interaction between the youth


justice system and the care system. It doesn't pick up the issue of


preventing young people becoming detatched from their communities in


the first place, and so on. It is time for a debate about what, as a


society, we should be doing for our more troubled young people.


would all like to see that? There is unanimity, everyone agrees it is


not working properly? It is not just a strategy, it is meeting the


needs of children with high level needs. Some need national resource


force the specialist care they need. I agree it is not working properly


for all children, that is what we should expect. The saddest thing in


the film is the two young people who said quite separately "they


didn't care", that is bad home, a failing home, and an inadequate


home. It is important to say a description of every children's


homes in this country, many are doing a very good job. Nobody will


say that was a skriings of all homes? That is the picture put


across by the media. We know most of our homes are good in Ofsted


ratings. Could it really be possible that a policeman took part


in a firebombing causing millions of pounds worth of damage, that he


did so on an undercover mission, on the public payroll, and never


caught by colleagues and the police. According to the Green Party MP,


Caroline Lucas, it is certainly possible. Today in Westminster,


around the cloak of parliamentary privilege, she named the man


concerned. Summer 1987, the early hours of the morning, and three


firebombs light up three department stores. Later that night there is a


call to the BBC, the Animal Liberation Front has claimed


responsibility. Those attacks, 25 years ago, were serious and


effective, eight million pounds worth of damage was done to


Debenhams stores, and the chain was forced to drop all its fur clothing


a policy that still holds today. Only two of the arsonists


responsible for the attacks have ever been caught and convicted.


Today's allegations centre on this store in Harrow, North London.


Using parliamentary privilege, the Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas,


named the man alleged to be responsible. Not extremist animal


rights protestor, but a serving police officer, Bob Lambert. There


is no doubt in my mind, that anyone planting an incendiary device in a


department store, is guilty of a very serious crime, and should have


charges brought against them, that is absolutely anybody, including f


the evidence is there, Bob Lambert, or the people supervising him.


This is the man she's talking about. Lambert was unmasked as a police


spy last year, but these angry members of London Greenpeace.


you proud of what you did, it was abusive to people, it was damaging.


He spent much of his career undercover, working for the met


police, he ended up running the whole unit responsible for


infiltrating protest groups, and is now a respected axe dem ib. Back in


the 198 -- academic. Back in the 1980s with long hair and a cheap


bedsit in London, he went by the name of Bob Robinson. He was Bob


Robinson, someone I really liked, I got on well with, I thought he


really liked me. Maybe he did. But he was still willing to put me away


for over four years of imprisonment. This man did go to prison for the


Debenhams attacks, he was caught, redhanded, making firebombs on his


kitchen table. It was Geoff Shepherd's allegations about Bob


Lambert that were raised in parliament today. Caroline Lucas


quoted his statement. "Three Debenhams stores had attacks on


them, including the Harrods store. Straight away I knew Bob had


carried out his part of the plan. There was no doubt in my mind


whatsoever, that Bob Lambert placed the incendiary device at the store


in Harrow". Since unmasked, Bob Lambert admitted he did work


undercover, and has apologised to law-abiding protestors for some of


his actions. He denies planting an incendiary device in the Harrow


store. Since Mark Kennedy was he revealed as an undercover spy last


year, there has been other allegations against undercover


officers. This is a serious alleged criminality by the police, but it


fits into a pattern of apparent misconduct, at all levels of the


police and the prosecution, in all sorts of different ways.


Lambert was promoted after the Debenhams fires, and eventually led


the police's undercover operations. One reason why the allegations are


being taken so seriously. Seniority of the officer at the


centre of these latest allegations is incredibly important, because it


shows that this is not the result of a one-off rogue officer acting


alone, but it is systemic and it is cultural, it is approved, and it is


authorised. Geoff Shepherd says the police


could have arrested the Debenhams arsonist, when they collected the


insendry device on the morning of the attack of -- incendiary devices


on the morning of the attack. met on the morning where we picked


up two incendiary devices each, and each person went off in a separate


direction to their particular store. The key question, that still hasn't


been answered, is why, if the police knew about these attack, if


they knew about the planning, they didn't stop them in advance, when


they had the chance. One question was answered today, Bob Lambert is


one of a group of undercover officers, sued by women, who say


they were duped into having sex. Senior police officers said that


should never happen, today the Government disagreed. To ban such


actions would provide a ready-made test for the criminal group target


today find out whether there was an undercover officer deployed amongst


them. Once minute, today's allegations have led for calls for


fall public inquiry into the actions of undercover officers. The


Government says there is no need for that. And the guidelines now in


place are tough enough to protect the public.


Here to discuss this are the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, who


raised the subject in Westminster today, and Tony McNulty, who was a


councillor in Harrow at the time of the bombing, and later MP for the


area, and minister for policing and security under the last Labour


Government. You don't object to the idea of undercover policemen, do


you? I don't, what I do think we need to be clear about, as the


rules governing that undercover behaviour. There are more and more


concerns about what exactly is allowed, who is being held to


account and so forth. We have the story you have just reported there,


and we have these eight women who have been duped, not just into


having sex, but having long-term relationship, including children,


with undercover officers. I think that means we really do need to


have a public debate about what limits, if any, there are to the


activity of undercover police people. If you think about the


furore, if you think about the furore over hacking phones, or


internet snooping, how much more intimate is it for somebody to come


into your house, into your bed, share your life but. We need a


public debate about how much the police get involved with that.


Nothing wrong with public debate and setting the rules, and making


it clear? No, I'm glad Caroline accepts in a democracy, undercover


policing has a role to protect T I think to besmirch a police officer


under the cowardly cover of parliamentary privilege, based only


on the assertion of a convicted arsonist is terrible. She merely


read out a statement? With nothing other than this individual's


assertion, that is an abuse of parliament. Can you ask me a


question of why it is, that if the police know in advance of an


intended firebombing why they choose to let it happen? No in


these circumstances, bearing in mind that I was probably shopping


on a regular basis in this department store, I would be


interested. As I would be in catching perpetrator. The actions


under the cloak of parliamentary privilege have prevented, that I


don't know. The notion that there should be a substantive debate on


the perameters around undercover policing to prevent extremism and


public disorder, violently, I'm with her. You think there should be


an inquiry? I think there needs to be a comprehensive public inquiry


into the whole issue of undercover policing. We have up to now 12


secret inquiries going ahead, so people can't challenge what is


being said. One of the concerns of the eight women bringing legal


action against the police right now, is at the moment the police


solicitors are saying that the evidence will be held again in


secret, the women won't know what is being said about them, by the


people that they are accusing. This needs to be really in the fresh


light of day, so that we can have this debate, and say, OK, in our


society, we are happy to have undercover police officers working,


but these are the rules under which they operate, and these are what we


do when they step outside that. would accept that? The Met are


carrying out a review of their work from 1962, should that be broader


and carry the concerns that Caroline has, I would agree, and


the commissioner needs to look at that, hissor clee. Aspersions


against police officers does not -- assertions and as St Petersburgs


against police officers does not -- aspersions against police officers


does not include in that debate. You are looking for clear rules?


These things don't happen in a vacuum now, there is clear rules,


there is the Ripper legislation and other aspects. Of course there are


elements an the edges. The point about personal relationships and


how deeply embedded and for how long someone is embedded undercover


raise serious issues. You are not right to say that the rules are


clear on. That I raised with the ministers today and asked about


whether or not it is right that an undercover police officer can get


into such an intimate relationship with children and it is completely


unclear. It is clear, whether that framework and issues should be


further explored in public debate I agree. Not by using the sanctity


and privilege that is parliamentary privilege, that is an abuse you


should be ashamed of. It is not an abuse f it is used in the context.


I asked you in the Green Room, what have you done so far to work with


the police, CPS and others to stand up to the assertions that this


individual can be saying. You have gone straight from a chat with him


to parliamentary abuse of parliamentary privilege. I replied


in the Green Room to say that I don't know if the person is guilty,


of course I don't. I do know this is something that ought to be


investigated, that was the point of raising it in the context of


parliamentary privilege and parliament to say we need a proper


comprehensive inquiry that we haven't had until now, until now


the police have been brushing it under the carpet? Not true, Dennis


O'Connor, the Chief Inspector, set clear perameters in a clear report


on undercover policing, the shame is this Government want to put Tom


Windsor into his place who has no experience. We can agree on that.


The French Foreign Minister has called for the United Nations


Security Council to threaten the Syrian Government with a no-fly


zone if they don't adopt the international peace plan. But there


seems little prospect that have august body taking any action. As


Russia and the United States continue to trade insults. The


Russians have denied American claims they are supplying attack


helicopters to the Al-Assad regime, and have accused them in return of


destablising the renal. Some in Washington are calling for action.


As you found a little earlier when I spoke to Senator John McCain.


Senator, what do you make of the Russian reNile that is they are


supplying arms to President Assad? It is a return to the old kind of


Cold War rhetoric, that Russians used to use denying the undeniable,


it is very obvious that Russian tanks and artillery, and helicopter


gunships are being used by Al-Assad. The Russians are the main supplier.


To call it a civil war is the wrong description, it is an unfair fight.


Even though some arms are coming in from some other countries, not the


United States, to help the rebels. The Russians, of course, say the


United States is supplying the rebels. I wish the United States


was, I think we should. I'm absolutely believing that we should


provide a sanctuary, that we should provide them with a, particularly


anti-tank weapons, with which to depend themselves. Here are people


demonstrating peacefully, now being massacred in the most brutal and


atrocious fashion. But creating safe havens might require the use


of American force, might it not? could require the use of the United


States and other countries' air power. But if you told Bashar Al-


Assad, that if he attacked a sanctuary, that he would pay a very


heavy prie, I think it is very possible he would -- price, I think


it is very possible he would not do T the best way for Bashar Al-Assad


to be motivated, with the help of the Russians, to leave Syria, is if


he thinks he can't win. Right now, on the battlefield, he is


prevailing. Why is Syria worth risking the life of a single


American serviceman? First of all, I don't think we would be risking


the lives of many, because I don't believe there would be American


boots on the ground. But, second of all, in the words of our military


experts, the fall of Bashar Al- Assad would be the greatest blow to


Iran in 25 years. As you know Syria is a client state of Iran. This


would free up Lebanon, it would be a huge blow to Hezbollah and have


enormous effects. Second of all, people are being massacred, people


are being tortured and raped and killed. I went to a refugee camp on


the Turkish-Syrian border, it is a horrible thing to hear these


stories and meet these people. These wars are a lot easier to get


into than out of, aren't they? I heard the same thing about libia.


We helped in Libya, -- Libya. We helped in Libya, Gadaffi came down,


and on July 7th they will have their first election, which I would


view as reasonably free and fair. They said the same thing about


Bosnia and Kosovo, they said the same thing about Rwanda. So. They


said the same thing about Afghanistan and were ignored, 11


years on, troops are still there? That's right. We cannot forget that


we went to Afghanistan because it was the place where the 9/11


attacks originated, and we had no other choice. Because the Al-Qaeda


was there. That is where the attacks came from that killed


several thousand brave, innocent Americans. That is why we went to


Afghanistan. But, it is still 11 years on, and on going military


problems in which lives are being lost. That is the big danger can an


intervention like this in Syria, isn't it? As I said, I do not, and


I know none of us who want intervention and want boots on the


ground. This is a multinational effort, the Turk would play a very


lead role. America should lead, that is the Americans job, that is


to lead, this President won't even utter a word on behalf of these


people who are being slaughtered and massacred, as short a time ago


as Friday. That is not what Ronald Reagan was all about, I will tell


you. Thanks thank you.


Can you work out where this is? It has a life expectancy on a par with


Djibouti, and a fertility rate somewhere between Millauy and Yemen,


dead before 60, an average of six children per family, or single


mother. It is the fictional state of Diston, conjoured up by Martin


Amis in his latest novel, Lionel Asbo: State of England. He has the


disposition of someone more violence than most. He wins the


lottery. In Diston everything hated


everything else, and everything else in return hated everything


back. Everything soft hated everything hard, and visa versa,


cold, fought heat, heat fought cold. Everything honked and yelled and


swore at everything. All was weightless and all hated weight.


Lionel Asbo, the protagonist of our book, is a aggressively ignorant,


he's violent, he's a lout, and the book is subtitled "State of


England", are you saying he some how represents the state of


England? I'm not saying anything, all I'm saying is the book, all 270


pages of it. This is not strict realisim, this is a sort of


fairytale world of abitary rewards and abitary punishments, of nursery


rhymes. That's the imagery of the novel. It is not a frowning


examination of England. But you have chosen to put State of England


as a subtitle? I sometimes regret that. When people say that this is


a pretty scathing attack upon what we used to call the working-class,


what are you saying? That is not an attack on the working-class. He is


not a member of the working-class, he's a member of the criminal class.


A member of the unworking-class? The residuals, it used to be called,


the underclass. It is not even an attack on that. It is, novels don't


come out of negative feelings. You couldn't write with disgust and


contempt, they are you will erotic and embracing feelings. But Lionel


Asbo represents something, doesn't he, he represents a particular sort


of human being, whom many of the middle-classs in this country live


in terror of? I don't know if he represents it, he's an example of


it, and is then comically magnified by a stroke of luck. He joins that


considerable strata of English society who are famous of being


famous, in the trite phrase, and yet, some how, capture the


imagination of England. You wonder what kind of shape the imagination


of England is that it is captured by the marginal, and as you say,


undeserving figures. What do you conclude about the imagination of


the state of England, by the fact it is so obsessed with celebrity


and material success, unearned very often? I think you could make the


labourious historical case that we have been in decline for 70 years,


and what are the consequences of that in the public mind. They are


not going to be obvious, they are going to be subliminal. The


obsession with triviality is one of the symptoms of decline. We lead


the world in decline. America is just embarking on that, they are


children in the matter of decline, we have been doing it longer than


anyone else. We rose earlier than any other country, with the


exception of Holland, perhaps. We had our revolution a century before


the French and the Americans. We were further along and we're


further along in decline. Do you like England? I'm as attached to it


as you would expect after living here...I Don't know, having read it


I don't think you are attached to it at all? Having lived here for


half a century, it is affectionate, not scathing. England, it seems, it


getting and you yourself are getting more sensitive about


criticism from without. Do you think England is above reproach?


of course not, nowhere is above reproach? I'm connected to England,


not only through habitation, and having lived here, but through its


literature. I'm proud of being English, I'm proud of coming from


the the country of Shakespeare and others. You are not a bitter man a


jolly man? I think my love of life has increased. When you hit 06, you


think it can't possibly end well, it will end in tears. Very quickly


you begin to value life as much as you did when you were a child. If


this is a second childhood, it is good fun. You have a leave-taking


point about you. Not anger, and not reactionry anger, I don't want to


turn the clock back. That is the idlist kind of inquiry. I want to


see what is there, and see what comedy is there in it.


She says let's seal our pledge with a jobby in the limo. That's all


tonight, Kirsty is in the chair tonight, Kirsty is in the chair


tomorrow night, good night. Hello there we are still expecting


another dose of a wet and windy weather to sweep northwards across


the whole country, Thursday night and Friday. Ahead of it is fairly


quiet for most of Thursday, after a bright start cloud will increase. A


scattering of showers but fairly light. Some sunny spells, in


northern England, not too bad here, we will see the cloud increasing in


the Midlands. That could give us one or two showers. Some sunshine


hanging on across East Anglia, cloud amounts increasing in the


south-east of England, the wet and windy weather arriving in the south


west of England during the afternoon. The weather here going


downhill, as the wind picks up in Wales, so the cloud will increase


in the afternoon. Light showers ahead of the main rain which,


arrives in the evening. A scattering of hours for Northern


Ireland. Sunshine inbetween. Temperatures much as they have been


over the past few days, 14-15. Pleasantly warm in the sunshine in


Scotland. Many parts will be dry. It looks pretty good in Edinburgh,


with sunny spells around here. Notice how the weather changes as


we head into Friday. It is Thursday into Friday as the rainband moves


south-west wards northwards across the whole of the country. The main


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