03/10/2012 Newsnight


What is the future for Britain's railways? Plus, Kofi Annan on Syria, and where does red conservatism now stand? Kirsty Wark presents.

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Tonight, amidst chaos in the Department for Transport, should we


re-think the way the railways run in Britain. With the runnaway cost


to the taxpayer of at least �40 million, the award of the west


coast rail franchise is on hold. We ask Government what on earth has


gone wrong. We are joined by the opposition and the train operators


too. Tu,y shells Syria tonight, after a rocket launch from Syria


kills five people. In an exclusive television interview, Kofi Annan


issues a stark warning of where the conflict could go without UN action.


If the security council is not able -- the Security Council not made to


come together and work together, we are in a really hopeless situation.


Also tonight, the man who dreamt up the philosophy of the Red Tory,


launches a massive take on David Cameron's red credentials. Phillip


Blond is here along with former policy adviser to David Cameron.


We're in America hours ahead of the first presidential debate.


Tonight the wonks of Washington, along with 60 million potential


voters, will be tune anything to see their presidential candidate


goes head-to-head, is this Mitt Romney's last chance to prove he is


the man for the job. Good evening, the words "they


couldn't run a piss up in a buffet car" spring 0 mind. Three civil


servants were persuaded today over the West Coast Mainline deal, which


has been scrapped, at a cost of at least �40 million, and the fate of


a further two thirds rail franchises, due before the next


election, are in serious doubt. Is the whole tendering process flawed.


The last time the West Coast Mainline Khan fries was up for


grabs, it was 1996 and we were -- franchise was up for grabs, it was


1996 and we were all trainspotting. The then Government chose Virgin to


operate Britain's most lucrative rail franchise. Speed forward to


the last August, there is a Tory- led Government pulling the levers,


receiving an angry letter from a Richard in the Virgin islands,


saying passengers would suffer if the Westcoast franchise was award


today the First Group, two weeks later the Government did just that,


much to Richard's chargrin. We have heard our bit was ahead of them up


to 2020, and in the last three years, suddenly, they have worked


out that they can give the Government another �2 billion,


completely unIsrael itsic figures for the numbers of -- unrealistic


figures for the numbers of people they will magically get in the last


three years. Even if they doubled fares they wouldn't be able to


afford it. We are completely baffled. The soon to be ex-


Transport Secretary backed the process to the hilt. It is a robust


and fair process, the whole point is to make sure it is not politic


sized and handled fairly for all the bidder. Even when the new


Transport Secretary arrived, the fourth in three years, he too chose


to support his troops. companies went to huge amounts of


effort to try to win that bid. It was judged fairly by the department,


and it is our intention to proceed with the bid that the first of --


that Firs have made, I'm content -- first made, I'm content with the


way the contract was reviewed. Today he was forced to make the


kind of humiliating apology for those self-same civil servants,


rarely seen in British political circumstances. What is what has


happened is unacceptable, deeply regretable, and of course, I


apologise. We have made a big mistake, as far as the department


is concerned, and the people who have put bids in have done nothing


wrong. He has ordered two independent reviews into what went


wrong, the fruits which have will be heard by the end of December.


What actually went wrong during the tendering process? When Virgin


Trains were told they were losing the franchise, they sought a


judicial review. What that did is it forced Government lawyers and


senior civil servants to examine in great detail exactly how the


tendering process had been worked out. What they discovered was


nothing short of a schoolboy error. Inflation had been completely


omitted from the calculation. Over one year it may not be much, but


over the 13-year lifetime of the franchise, it could have amounted


to tens of millions of pounds. So now the whole franchising process,


which was itself overhauled when the coalition came to power, has


been shunted into the sidings, as two urgent and independent reviews


into this shambles get under way. Up to now, companies wishing to run


train services in Britain, were required to set aside a much larger


sum of money to repay the Government if they could no longer


afford to run the franchise. This happened on the Eastcoast line two


years ago. First said it would set aside �155 million, Virgin said it


should be three-times that amount. Apart from making both rich and


poor, what does it mean for the wider structural issues in Britain.


This is bad for a Government who want to make private investor --


investments for the country. These are people who could go anywhere in


the world and invest in any industries in the world. We want to


get them here. They have to trust there is an administration that is


competent that they can deal with. That the policy risks and


regulatory risks are reasonable over the period of the contract,


which is quite a long time. This doesn't help build confidence.


So with one rail line nationalised and four on hold, many people


believe that since the franchise system began, almost 20 years ago,


profits have been privatised, but risk continues to be borne by tax-


payers. There is always the key issue about


whether risk was really transferred to the private sector. The


Transport Committee is in the middle of a major review of the


rail system, you think we will be looking at what options there may


be. It is essential that the public do get value for money, and that


the taxpayer does too. But it is also the case that rail has become


increasingly popular, more people use the rail, more goods travel by


rail, but the cost is too high and the fares are too high. It


certainly is a shambles, a shambles on the West Coast Mainline, and


potentially a shambles for the system. But we do need the results


of those investigations and to question those results, before we


can come to firm conclusions. So, a cash-strapped Government is


now paying out �40 million to all four companies, who bid for the


west -- West Coast franchise, and it could face more claims from


First Group. The passengers will have to wait longer for a change in


services and for the Government's reputation to recover.


Where should the finger of blame be pointed? It is really hard to tell.


Independent analysts I have spoken to say you can't really credible


place the blame at Justine Greening's door, these sums are too


complicated for the Secretary of State to comb through themselves.


They breakdown the cull paability in the Civil Service, --


culpability in the Civil Service, there are three suspended, they may


lose their jobs. If turns out the bidding process was beyond their


capability, then you bring in ministers, the people who devised


the system, then you come to Teresa Villiers, now promoted to Northern


Ireland Secretary. Having said that what is interesting, is you have


Conservative MPs who are saying Justine Greening should take the


blame for it, you have the cabinet responsibility, it was on her watch,


and the discrepancy between the first bid and the Virgin bid, was


so huge, she should have asked for other numbers. We have the Times


front page here, they are running a suggestion, the Times say they


understand, so it is not sourced, they say they understand that


Greening learned of a blow to the bid in the week before the cabinet


reshuffle. We have been talking in the office about this evening, my


sources don't think it is credible. The other things to think about is


Patrick McLoughlin who has her job, went to the Transport Select


Committee last week and kept to her line. Why did he do that. Was she


allowed to do that, if she knew. What damage will this do to the


whole coalition franchising policy, what they did is they changed


existing franchising rules and made a new franchising system? It is one


of the first things when you speak to sources in Government today, it


was one of the first things, that is not going anywhere, franchising


as a philosophy is the only way to do it. They say it was a state


mishap, it was Government civil servants getting it wrong, going


more in-house rather than out-of- house is mad. I would imagine it


will turn up massive bits of fine tuning. There is a problem for the


Government. It is the day after the leader of the opposition has had a


lot of fun saying the Government is incompetent, a shambles is a word


we have heard a lot. Then this happens, it is bad timing and


embarrassing. Earlier I spoke to Simon Burns, a new minister in the


Department of Transport, in fact, after the reshuffle last month,


they are all new ministers at the Department of Transport, bar one


Liberal Democrat minister. Simon Burns, the Government was warned


about this two months ago, it has taken until the day before court to


put your hands up, why? What happened was is Sir Richard Branson,


after the decision of made, sought to pursue judicial review. And at


that point we, obvious low, had had to look at what had happened --


obviously, had to look at what had happened, the franchise, ministers


did this. We were assured everything was done robustly and


correctly. Ministers looked at the figures? No, ministers working with


civil servants, were assured by the civil servants, who did the work,


that everything had been done robustly, had been done in keeping


with the arrangements for the franchising, and so, we took the


view that there was no justification for the judicial


review, initial low. Then, of course, as we a-- initially. Then,


of course, when we approached the time for a court hearing, more work


was done. Work that should have been done earlier? Work done prior


to the announcement of the decision. It was flawed work. It took lawyers


to find out what people in your department should have found out?


Yes, because we did not know it was flawed. All through the long


franchise process, ministers were being advised by civil servants who


were doing the work, ministers kept seeking assurances, that it was


being done in the correct way, that everything was working to the right


arrangements, they received those assurances. On that basis, with the


advice they were given, they then took decisions. We have got, you


know, all the ministers bar one have been shuffled on very


conveniently, if you look at Teresa Villers and Justine Greening is an


accountant, she was saying it was robust. Does the minister not have


a duty to say to civil servants, it is not going to be Virgin, it is


going to be First Group, that is a big change, let me see the figures,


if you are an accountant? I can assure you everything was done,


ministers were constantly seeking assurances and information that


everything was being done to the proper procedures, and those


assurances were given. You have a situation where the Institute of


Government talks about the fact that the Department of Transport


has taken 20% cuts in man power, these are highly complex franchises,


the problem is you have cut the feet from under the civil servants


and now they are taking the rap? don't agree with that. Because we


have some very fine civil servants in the department of the transport,


they work extremely hard. But three of them have been suspended? They


have, in the light of what has now transpired. You have two inquiries


to look at this, if I can give you two names here, Ed Smith, and Sam


Laidlaw, they are leading the inquiry into the flawed process?


They are looking into what happened, what went wrong and why it did.


This is an independent inquiry, but they are non-executive directors on


the Department of Transport board, would they not have signed off on


the deal? No, it was signed off by ministers. So, wait a minute, the


non-executive board of which these two men are members, had absolutely


nothing to do with the signing off, or even looking at who would get


the franchise? The ultimate decision on it was taken by


ministers. One final question, the model for costing for the high-


speed service, you are sure that has been worked out, without flaws,


so there haven't been any civil servant errors in that? What I have


said, is the method, the methodology is not flawed, it is


the way in which it was used. it been flawed in the high-speed


rail? But we have this inquiry, the Brown inquiry to look at the whole


area of franchising, what went wrong, and where we can learn. Of


course, that will cover the whole realm of network and implications.


The high-speed rail, the costings for that, based on that model,


because they may have had a problem with inflation and so forth, they


could be wrong? No, because the methodology was not wrong with the


franchises. In terms of the high- speed rail costs, how do you know


the right figures have been put in? Because I am confident that is the


case, because it has been looked at time and time again, by, not simply


the Department for Transport, but also HS2 itself. Minister, thank


you very much. Here to discuss all this are Tom


Smith, the chairman of the Association of Train Operating


Companies, and veteran of several franchise negotiations mark Wallis


from the Institute of Directors, and from the Labour Party


Conference, we are joined by the shadow Transport Secretary, Maria


Eagle. Maria Eagle, first of all, you heard the minister saying every


check and balance of made by ministers, everything done that


could have been done was done? just don't think it is good enough


to put the blame on civil servants, and there are matters arising now


in the newspapers where there are suggestions that Justine Greening


knew there was a problem with the franchise before the reshuffle. I


think we have to get the facts out there now. We need to hear from


ministers who knew, what, when, was the Prime Minister aware of the


problems before he decided to remove all of the Tory ministers in


the Department for Transport, or was he not. We need to hear from


him and get to the bottom of this, as well as looking at what is


technically going to be done to put this right in future. Let's lock a


bit of that, first of all, from the point of view of the taxpayer, the


taxpayer we know will pony up �40 million to the four different


companies. The Government has shown itself to be less than competent,


how do we know that the taxpayer is not going to have to come up with a


lot more money before this is over? It is a bad error that has been


uncovered today. The Department for Transport has quickly moved to say


they will look into it, and find out what has gone wrong. It is very


important not to get too gloomy about it, because the reality is


Fran chietsing, in which private companies -- franchising, in which


private companies bid for the right to run services, has been very


successful over the years since it has been introduced. It has


overseen improvements in trains and stations, and a growing number of


passengers, to record levels. you buy the ministers point of view


that it is nothing to do with the Government, all to do with civil


servants? That has come to come out of the review that will come out in


the next month. They will look at that in great depth. What decisions


were made and at what level must whab we learn from that. On the


immediate question of what happened on December 9th, the Government can


either put it over and run the service itself or Richard Branson


can do it, what is your preferred option? I'm going to try to look at


it from the point of view of passengers, who use the service.


I'm conscious there is a large on- line petition in support of Virgin,


what it suggests to me is passengers would like continuity


and Virgin running the services rather than an artificial change to


a short-term option. Maria Eagle, would that be your view too?


don't think it is possible, if there is going to be a


refranchising of this, for the department to favour one of the


potential bidders against another. They might open themselves up to


even more litigation. So I think it would be sensible, and we would


support this, for the not for private profit Government-owned


company that currently runs East Coast, and returned last year


almost �200 million to the taxpayer, to step in and run this line whilst


this is sorted out. Is this a stocking horse for


renationalisation, if you were in charge, would it be? With the


amount of money, at least �40 million poured down the drain over


the last evening. We don't want to do something that will make it


likely that even more litigation may succeed against the Government.


It is prudent not to choose one over the other, when there is


potential for this process to be rerun. What does this say for the


whole franchise procurement policy of this Government? It doesn't say


we need to renationalise the railways. The idea the Civil


Service make a mistake, therefore the Government should start running


all the railways, is a bizarre logic. More troubling it says that


actually the skills in Whitehall simply aren't there to negotiate


and properly run these processes, at the moment. And we have seen


these problems, not just in the Department of Transport, but also


in the MoD with commissioning, and the NHS database, and the lessons


still haven't been learned from business yet. If you were looking


to pick up an airport contract, or a nuclear contract in Britain,


would what happened today affect you, do you think, or would you


just think this is a blip, it has been an accounting error, they


forgot inflation and got the passenger numbers too high, it will


be OK? This is undoubtedly something that will impact


negatively on Britain's noble reputation. We already know there


is too much uncertainty on the future of airport xas a nuclear


power stations, we need to raise this money and this will deter


investors. Can I clarify something Maria may have misunderstood. When


I talked about should happen on the 9th of December, I mean it should


be agreement reached with Virgin on a short-term basis until another


competition is held. Clearly there has to be a competition. I don't


think it would be helpful. She was meaning you shouldn't favour one of


the potential bidders by giving them an extension? That bid is over.


The franchise, the services have to continue in some way. Until the new


competition is held. Talking about a complete rebuilding process, for


the West Coast Mainline, we are talking about delaying the next


three franchise options, we are talking about a full examination of


the system, as Mark Wallis says, it doesn't look good for British


industry? It is essential the two reviews are conduct. That it


engages with everyone with a state in franchising, especially our


members who bid and run the franchises, and they come to clear


conclusions that restore confidence in the way the process is run.


Would you be calling for a review of the franchising overall, or


indeed transport generally? Yes, I think that the flawed franchising


process that this Government have designed, and implemented, this was


the first one they tried to tender, it does need to be looked at, in a


wider sense than the review announced by the Transport


Secretary. We need to see what lessons can be learned for the


future, we need better value for money for passengers. I think


ministers and the Prime Minister have got questions to answer here.


The Prime Minister said when he was in opposition that ministers should,


that presided over systematic and serious performance failures in


their department, should be held to account. And they should not seek


to shuffle off responsibility. There is a direct quote, that is


what we seem to be seeing today. They have been reshuffled off?


have been reshuffled off, but the new transport ministers have also


given assurance this was a proper and robust processes. There are


many questions the Prime Minister and ministers, and previous


ministers in the department need to answer. We're not hearing those


answers tonight. In terms of looking at it from a business


perspective, if this drags on, what we are talking about here, Tom


Smith saying they have put in place -- it is impertinent that the two


inquiries proceed quickly. If this drags on and there seems to be


problems with the high-speed rail issue, then what will the damage


be? The damage grows the longer this lasts, and the uncertainty is


the real harm to Britain's reputation. If we are uncertain of


our future, if companies can't be sure when they put in an


application that if they win they win and if they lose they lose,


where will we be in five years to replace more national


infrastructure. NATO ambassadors are meeting tonight, following a


Syrian mortar attack into Turkey that killed five people. In a major


escalation, a few hours ago, Turkey retaliated, firing artillery units


into Syria. Just before we came on air, the US Secretary of State,


Hillary Clinton, gave this statement. We are outraged that the


Syrians have been shooting across the border. We are very regretful


about the loss of life that has occurred on the Turkish side. We


are working with our Turkish friends, I will be speaking with


the Foreign Minister. To discuss what the best way forward would be


I will discuss that later. This also comes down to a regime that is


causing untold suffering to its own people, solely driven by their


desire to stay in power. As Hillary Clinton said, this came as at least


31 people were killed in Aleppo, and dozens more injured in a series


of suicide bombs. I spoke to Kofi Annan earlier today, in an


exclusive TV interview, he told us the conflict coin flame the whole


region, and said, -- could inflame the whole region, and said if the


Security Council didn't pull together the situation could get


much worse. I was speaking to him about his memoir marking his five


decades at the UN. Kofi Annan said he has spent his life seeking peace


across the world. Pressing the flesh with world leaders and


working in intractable conflicts. His work won him the Nobel Prize in


2001, the committee said he received it for a better organised


and more peaceful world. But his career has been punctuated by


failures. The Rwandan genocide that tok place in 1994 was committed


whilst -- took place in 1994 was committed whilst Annan directed


peacekeeping operations, in what was one of the worst genocides in


living memory, 800,000 Tutsis were murdered. Kofi Annan admitted after,


he realised after the genocide that there was more he could have and


should have done to sound the alarm and rally support. He also


described the massacre in veb nieceia in the Bosnian war, derb


Srebrenica, that occurred in the Be Your Own Bossia war was not good


for the United Nations. He look -- Bosnia was not good for the United


Nations. He claimed the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam


Hussein was illegal, and said the decision to invade Iraq should have


been made by the Security Council and not unilaterally. Recently he


has been working to end the bloody war in Syria as UN-Arab League


envoy, he had a six-point plan for Syria intended to bring an end to


the fighting. It was never fully adhered to by either side. He quit


the role saying when the Syrian people needed action there


continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security


Council. It looks as if the inaction is set to continue in the


UN he leaves behind. This afternoon I met Kofi Annan in


London. What are you most proud of in your


50-year career at the UN? Well, I think making it to the top, without


really expecting to get there. Because no staff member had had


ever made it to the top. The organisation always looked outside


for a leader. But once I was in I was extremely pleased with the work


we did on the millennium goals to fight poverty around the world.


David Cameron addressed the General Assembly, the blood of these


children, and we know again today that there is 31 more dead in


Aleppo, that the blood of these young children, in Syria, is a


terrible stain on the reputation of the United Nations. I hope when


Prime Minister Cameron says it is a blot on the reputation of the UN,


he is saying, in shorthand, it is a blot on our reputation, we have


made mistake, not the bureaucracy that is the UN. With the members of


the Security Council, we know that Russia has been supplying hardware,


ships, engineering parts for Sadek, we understand, we think -- Assad,


we understand, we think the Americans are supporting the


training of the FSA in Turkey. This is the Security Council supposed to


be doing nothing to inflame the situation. If the security is doing


that, why should anyone believe the UN can fix things? You are right


that the divisions in the council really hurt the search for a


solution. That was one of the reasons I resigned, as you know.


But I think the challenge is to overcome those divisions. To get


them working, I tried at the beginning they came together, they


supported the six-point plan, but it was not sustained. If the


Security Council is not made to come together, or find a way of


getting them to work together, then we are in a really, really hopeless


situation. And Syria will descend further into


war? It could get worse, it could get much worse. It could affect the


region. How do we solve the problem? As I have said, my choice


is that it has to be a political settlement. And if the


militarisation or intervention in my judgment will make the situation


much morse, in my opinion. We raise the issue that Syria will not


implode, but possibly explode, and beyond its borders. Bringing in the


whole region. What do you foresee happening if Syria explodes?


think the neighbours will be drawn in. Already we are seeing thousands


of refugees going into Jordan, some are in Lebanon, and they are in


Turkey, Iraq is worried with cross- border Jihadist elements coming in


across the border. So, the whole region could get inflamed. Do you


think now the only solution is for Assad to go? There is no doubt that


he cannot stay, you cannot kill that many people and remain


legitimate. That is not the solution, that is maybe part of the


solution. What happens when he goes? We need to make sure that the


right institutions, the security forces work, that you don't get


into a chaotic collapse, this is part of the problem. But do you


think, with hindsight, that when you took up the role for Syria, you


should have been, as it were less even-handed at the beginning,


should have just said right from the get-go, Mr Assad, you have to


leave? That is not a negotiator's role, I was brought in to try to


bring the parties to the table. As you have yourself indicate, even


the big powers have not been able to do that. For the mediator to


walk in and think he can do that, he would be dreaming. In your book


you talk about the genocide in Rwanda. You say that the world


failed Rwanda. Is there a way you think you yourself failed Rwanda?


Maybe, I could have shouted louder. As I indicate in the book, we made


lots of attempts to get troops we didn't get. Maybe I could have use


the press more. At that time the UN was media shy. In fact, the only


person who spoke to the press was the secretary-general. I was the


under secretary-general, I think we were too timid about engaging the


press. Now I know better how to work with the press. But when


General Delere sent the memo saying it looked as if there was a


massacre ahead, and the memo went back with your signature and saying


do nothing, tell the ambassadors of the other countries. Do you regret


that now? No, there was a situation in the organisation when you put


things in context, we just had the disaster in Somalia, which led to


the withdrawal of thousands of peacekeepers. We were worried that


if they got in there, and they were confronted in the same manner as


Somalia, that would be the end of that mission, and you wouldn't have


troops on the ground to do anything. Is there a danger that nobody


actually can finally take responsibility. It is such a


complicated messy thing. I'm finding you don't want to talk


about him, that he kept everything close to him, and you a different


approach. The point is nobody fess up when there are mistakes? First


of all, there two were two major reports, by, one of them, I


commissioned, the other one, the General Assembly commission, on


Rwanda and Bosnia and Srebrenica, in particular, where we laid out


the failures, our mistakes and others, I apologised on my own


behalf, and on behalf of the entire organisation. Thank you very much


indeed. David Cameron was casting around


for big ideas to kick start a new kind of, and kinder Conservatism,


he alighted on the ideas of Phillip Blond. Red Tory Boy, who gave The


Big Idea society Tory clout, was a One Nation Tory too. Now he is


disillusioned, his plans for relocalising the economy,


recapitalising the poor, and remoralising the market, have


turned to dues dust in the hand of David Cameron, if his words. In an


article for the Guardian tomorrow, he says Ed Miliband is The One Show


man now. -- is the One Nation now.


He said Tories should be Red, being associated with policies normally


associated with the left. Now Phillip Blond claims he is


disappointed and disillusioned with the direction David Cameron has


taken. Disillusionment with the Cameron project from someone like


Phillip Blond, will that worry David Cameron, or is it something


he can shrug off? I don't think he can shrug it off, Phillip Blond was


associated when Cameron was at its peak, as one of the biggest cheer


leaders. He came up with the incredibly potent expression called


Red Toryism, the media found him a fascinating figure, he became an


important part of the Conservative Party for David Cameron was


different and changing. If David Cameron looks like he's losing a


supporter like that, it is not good news. But he was never as central a


figure in the Cameron project as perhaps some presented. So it's far


from a serious or a fatal blow. Big Idea society was David


Cameron's big idea. Introduced rather late in the 2010 election


campaign, that left many baffled. Phillip Blond fears it has been


quietly dropped now as an idea, particularly since its champion


inside Downing Street, Steve Hilton, has left. There were widespread


reports that he was frustrated at being sidelined. Is Phillip Blond


right, has David Cameron abandoned, if you like, his earlier enthusiasm


for devolving power down to communities, and squandering this


opportunity to reshape Conservatives? Not at all, it is


very much happening on the ground. If we lock at what is happening in


Dover, with the people's port project, to take over the port of


Dover, we are expecting a decision in the next month. Schools changed


into academies and being able to control their affairs much more


effectively than through departmentss and local authorities,


and also the experience of the doctors being able to take more


control over the NHS. They know more about their patients than


centralised NHS in Whitehall. I think that is a really positive


thing about this Government, that has been devolving, decentralising


across the board. Phillip Blond believes there is already evidence


that Labour is moving on to this territory, that David Cameron


should be worried, that in his conference speech, yesterday, Ed


Miliband delivered a similar message to the one the Prime


Minister had once articulated. Is that something to worry David


Cameron, if Ed Miliband becomes a convincing voice for this kind of


idea? The Conservative Party cannot afford to be complacent, the


Conservative Party need to ensure it is not just the party of


economics, but also the party of compassion. But I think most people


know the Labour Party has a heart, and Ed Miliband hasn't addressed


the fundamental Labour weaknesses, which people are not sure that


Labour have quite the head, the understanding of how to run an


economy. The understanding how to make things work and repair the


mess that Labour left behind. Ed Miliband gave a good speech this


week, but his problem is not that Labour is seen as caring, but it is


whether they are seen as competent. I have got to know Philip and Hayes


work a little bit over the past few years, while I wouldn't say I agree


with everything he has said or everything he and his think-tank


are going to say. You can say that again. Although the Prime Minister


has more to worry about right now than one disappointed think-tanker.


Phillip Blond's criticisms will be in theed. And ahead of the party


conference next week, will have the capacity to wound.


Phillip Blond is here, along with Sean Worth, former policy adviser


to David Cameron in Downing Street, and who now works at the at this


tank Policy Exchange. Aren't you just acting like a bit of a spurned


roufr? Goodness, what a thought -- Lover? Goodness, what a thought,


not in the slightest. Rather I'm acting for a vision I believe in,


and I think the majority of the British people believe in. And if


we want a Conservative Party that spweeks to the majority, and


doesn't -- speaks to the majority and doesn't do minority politics,


it has to speak to its One Nation tradition and element. The


sacrifice of that appeal will condemn the Conservative Party to a


permanent minority. Conservative Party with a permanent


minority because they didn't follow through? The implication here is


that the Government has some how lost the reforming zeal, the social


vision. That is exact low what Philip is saying in the article? --


exactly what Philip is saying in the article? Look at the policy and


fronts of reform, they are the most radical and far reaching since the


Second World War. That is an objective fact, not just my biased


opinion. In terms of what is popular with the voters. I look at


this, I don't look at this as an issue of dropping a social agenda,


I look at it as a Government in mid-term. This particular period in


the electoral cycle. You focus on issues like jobs, and growth,


because you know that. If you throw it away, Phillip Blond seems to be


seeing, and the expression you are using is re-tokifying the Tory


Party, that is an important point? It is not that I disagree with this,


some of the policies are radical, I would like them to be more radical.


If Dover does get its people's port, brilliant. It is very clear from


the outside and inside that the Government has lost its central


focus and its central focus has to be a vision. You organise your


party and policies. It is OK when you are in opposition, someone like


you in opposition gives them the big overarching report, but then


the reality is they have to get the deficit down, that is what they


have to see as their primary concern? What has happened, this is


a great tragedy, is means have eclipsed ends. Deficit reduction is


a means, but to what end. Until the Government can rearticulate and


give a vision, at the moment they are not offering a positive account


of the type of world we want, and the type of world we need. And the


strength of Ed Miliband's speech as he did that, and the shame is


that's Cameron's territory. What I would like is Cameron to move back


and give us the vision that will give a majority.


First of all, on Ed's speech, it was great, it was a brilliant


speech, probably the best he has delivered. But it didn't have a


great deal behind it. There was a lot of excitement, from a press


pack that want a battle of ideas. You are not going to get policy


this far out? This is my point about where the different parties


are at different parts in the parliamentary cycle, Ed Miliband


needs to communicate vision, and Cameron needs to look at the


voters' top priority, and they have to focus on those things. Of course


there is a social mission. I think, unfortunately, that is completely


wrong. The great shame is that Number Ten has lost the policy


vision. It has surrendered it to departments, the Treasury is more


powerful than Number Ten. believe he's in hock to George


Osborne? I don't believe that, it is surrendering policy issue to the


Treasury. What has happened is what they like is a cacophony of voices


in Number Ten, many different versions, but you can't deliver


like that. Successful Governments need clear principle and need to


ensure that every part of Government follows that principle.


There isn't a clear principle at the moment, what type of


Conservative is David Cameron. We need to hear that, we need it to be


a Conservatism. He's not a red Tory? He needs to be if he wants to


win a majority. Does he? If it is a question about what do people want,


I don't think The Big Idea society was top of the list. Let's be


honest. I'm not opposed to it, I believe in the vision of changing


the nature of the state. I think actually towards the election,


there will not be a stronger focus on the social. What I would say is


that there are really important reform agendas, as I mentioned


earlier, they probably need to be turbo charge that doesn't mean you


have lost sight of any social vision. Incertainly and external


people think the Government has lost its way. It has done that


because we don't have a defining vision from the centre that can


structure the rest of policy and departments. It is not clear what


sort of Conservatism we have. Is it austerity or 20th century poverty.


People don't ask the kind of past you have, they say do you share my


value, are you focusing on the things I care about. Jobs and all


that? The trouble is, Conservatism is now actually creating


economically clash with cash in a huge way. We are creating monoplies


and cartels, let's have a radical Conservatism that distributes power


and property to all. That is what the Prime Minister needs to convey.


In the early hours of the morning on the other side of the Atlantic,


the US presidential election will finally catch fire for millions of


Americans. Denver hosts the first of three live televised 90-minute


presidential debates, for the first time President Obama and Mitt


Romney come face-to-face. Romney goes in trailing in key states, but


the debates can make-or-break a candidate. In this election how


important will these debates be? Very, very important if you are the


host broadcaster, I suspect. CNN is talking like it is Christmas. They


are expecting 60 million viewers for the presidential debate tonight.


And every commentator, everyone you talk to, is saying it is crunch


time and it will be the most important thing. Newt Gingrich has


said this is the most important moment of Mitt Romney's political


career. You have to take a step back and say, for Newsnight viewers,


these aren't exactly debates in the spirit we know them, they are


staged. Here are the commentators talking about having to watch with


reptile brain, people not listening out for content or spotting policy,


these are gaps and things to be talked over for years ahead. People


remember the moment when depush senior glanced at his watch, just -


- George Bush glanced at his watch, when they had gone to see an


unemployed woman. That showed the difference between an engaged


Democrat politician, and someone aloof as if he didn't have time for


it. Those things are important to watch. Really, when you talk to


people, eight out of ten of them said they have already decideded,


they know which candidate they are backing, and they don't. Sorry.


that case, what does Mitt Romney have to do to rescue things?


sense is, if he does badly it is all over. If does OK, it is


probably still all over too. He has to come out, reemerged and


reenergised. In that unfortunate phrase of his wife, he has to come


out unzipped. He has to be more specific, he has a 59-point plan


for the economy and another five- point plan, yet no-one understands


what he would do. He has talked about being anti-Government, and


brought in Paul Ryan, yet there is very little mention about moving


away from we are welfare and Government dependency, when he was


talking in the Florida convention. Has to put the specter of the two


numbers to rest, 47% and 14%. Why did I pick those out? Because 47%


is in the tape, the number of voters who would never vote for


them. 14% is the amount of tax he pays, it isn't a lot at the moment,


but it isn't very presidential. He needs to make people want him.


That's all from Newsnight tonight, I will be back tomorrow, until then


good night. Hello, it will be a cold night


tonight, close to a frost in many rural areas. We start bright and


sunny for the most part in the morning. A scattering of showers


near the west coast, a few wandering inland during the day.


Very hit and miss, not as dry. Not as wet in northern England as it


has been today. Light showers in the afternoon. A God chance of


staying dry, showers not amounting to much in the Midlands, or East


Anglia, south-east should be dry. With the winds lighter not so cold


in the afternoon. The cloud increasing and the sunshine turning


hazy in the afternoon. Not that many showers, most in the morning,


a few may linger around the Bristol Channel, and possibly across Wales


as well. This should be some sunshine too. The showers arriving


in Northern Ireland could be sharp, but they are late in the afternoon,


really, a scattering of showers in Scotland, some sunshine as well.