15/11/2013 Newsnight


15/11/2013

In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Gavin Esler, including David Cameron facing human rights protests in Sri Lanka.


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Every politician dreams of being greeted by crowds, but not like

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this. In Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister's motorcade gets mobbed by

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protestors holding up pictures of the disappeared. What does Cameron's

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response tell us about foreign policy priorities now?

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We ask the British diplomat who resigned over the Iraq War.

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Labour and the Tories were trying to delete their digital histories.

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Imagine what you would be missing out on if we had done the same. For

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once both parties seem to be gazing into the same crystal ball.

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Do we really want to lose our digital memories?

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Five London cyclists die in just over a week. Has the capital really

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got less safe? Newsnight returns to the very first cycle lane to find

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out. Good evening.

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We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies only to

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mangle the Palmerstone quote a little, national interests. So what

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should we make of the sight of our Prime Minister, mobbed by relatives

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of dead Tamils missing in Sri Lanka's civil war? The image has

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been a powerful boost to those who say the trip should never have

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happened. That Sri Lanka's abysmal human rights record should have made

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him stay away. Downing Street reports a robust exchange of views

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with the president there. But what can the visit tell us about David

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Cameron's current priorities in foreign policy and his balance

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between pragmatism and ideology? Mark Urban explains. The Prime

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Minister's trip to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka was an attempt to

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acknowledge the suffering of the island's Tamil minority while

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keeping an awkward diary date at the Commonwealth Summit. What all of

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this shows is, you know, after this terrible war ended, what we ne from

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the Sri Lankan Government is more generosity, in victory, bring the

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country togethers by making sure people have proper rights. Here we

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are in a village of refugees inside their own country. They have been

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here for 20 years now or more. They have had children here. Some of

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their children have had children. They want to go home and I think

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that is a very powerful message. But for this Prime Minister, the

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main business of this trip is business. His focus takes in the

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world's two great trading posts, India and China with Sri Lanka

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hanging like a limp hammock in between. If there is a simple way to

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categorise the Cameron foreign policy. When I became Prime

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Minister, I said to the Foreign Office, those embassies you have

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got, turn them into show rooms for our cars, and department stores for

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our fashion. Yes, you are diplomats and as William said, you are the

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best diplomats on the globe. But you also need to be our country's sales

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force. APPLAUSE

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But, of course, all manner of things can get in the way of a one themed

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foreign policy. In Sri Lanka the elephant outside the room is Human

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Rights. The Government was right to decide to attend, but it is not that

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we think that the Government is condoning the appalling behaviour by

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the Sri Lankan Government, but it is an opportunity to convey what we

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actually feel about what has been going on there to the Sri Lankan

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Government and therefore, they were right to go.

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And the Human Rights issue has proven problematic with China too. A

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decision to meet the Dalai Lama caused the Chinese to shut the

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British out for months. Now hot on the heels of George Osborne's visit,

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the Prime Minister will travel to China in a fortnight. I see China as

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a great opportunity, nots a threat. We want to sell more to China, but

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with he want more Chinese investment in Britain.

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Mr Cameron isn't the first PM whose foreign travels revealed a policy

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journey. Intervention in Libya brought a claim for backing

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democracy and thwarting oppression. But that warm glow was short-lived.

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The Libyan situation has deteriorated and his calls for

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military strikes on Syria were rebuffed by Parliament and by

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squelcing that military option, Mr Cameron has sent Mr Cameron back to

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the battle for exports. If we boycotted every country where we

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were concerned about Human Rights, we wouldn't be doing much trade with

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them at all. Look at China, Saudi Arabia, two big markets for our

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goods and we import a lot from those countries and if we didn't engage

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with them, then our commercial activity would be diminished.

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The Prime Minister's motorcade to today's summit was intercepted by

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protesters holding pictures of disappeared relatives. Even here

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though, calculations are being made in terms of cash as well as sorrow.

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Critics of Mr Cameron's attendance claiming that others led by China,

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have already driven on to seize Sri Lanka's best trading opportunities.

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Joining me now from New York is Carne Ross, a British diplomat who

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resigned in 2004 after giving secret evidence on how the British

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Government had exaggerated the case for invading Iraq. He now runs a

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diplomatic advisory group, Independent Diplomat. Thank you for

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your time this evening. Let's start at the beginning. Was David Cameron

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right to go to Sri Lanka? Personally, I don't feel he was

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right. The scale of Human Rights abuses and atrocities in Sri Lanka

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are huge and I think the fact that the Commonwealth Summit is taking

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place in Sri Lanka and that the regime will be the chair of the

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Commonwealth for the next couple of years is a travesty and an

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embarrassment for the Commonwealth and I don't think Britain should

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have endorsed it. It is hard to argue this was a trade

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mission particularly when you hear about the robust conversations that

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have been reported by Downing Street? I don't think it was a trade

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mission. I think it was driven by some British desire that, you know,

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we need to keep the Commonwealth together. We need to keep it

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relevant and if the UK were to boycott it, that would be a big deal

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indeed and would put a question mark over the future of the Commonwealth,

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but I think there should be a question mark over the future of the

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Commonwealth. What is the point of it? If it is not about Human Rights

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and democracy. Indeed, the Commonwealth in 1991 said that that

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was the point of the Commonwealth so one can accuse the Commonwealth

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itself of great hip possibling crassy? -- hypocrisy. By staying

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away and not entertaining dialogue with countries that you don't like,

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you are not helping Human Rights at all, you are just making them into

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enemies? That's always the argument here and that was the argument over

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South Africa and apartheid and South Africa gave a convincing answer to

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that when apartheid ended, the ANC leaders, the supporters of a

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democratic South Africa said that the isolation of South Africa was

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tremendously important in encouraging them and in pressurising

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the minority white regime to give up. So I think that argument has

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been answered in that case and it is never true anyway, I mean these

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governments have engage in sort of constructive engagement allegedly

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over Human Rights, that's not their constructive engagement allegedly

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real motive, their real motive is other things like trade, security

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co-operation or whatever, it is a lie they are engaged in it for Human

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Rights. Well, that's interesting. You talk

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about trade as if it might be a dirty word and we heard the clips

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from David Cameron years ago, saying your embassies should be show rooms

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for our cars, diplomats should be our country's sales force. Do you

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find that encouraging or repellent? Well, I am rather unusual. I think

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that Governments should be about minimising suffering, the relief of

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human suffering at home and broad and the human -- abroad and the

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human suffering in Sri Lanka has been enormous ha that -- and that

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should have been the priority in this case and I don't think trade is

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the most important thing in foreign policy. I think the welfare of the

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British people and indeed the welfare of others because in the

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long run the support of Human Rights and democracy pays off in both

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security and chick terms. -- economic terms.

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So you would be staying away from China. You would be saying, "We will

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leave that to others." No, I don't think you say that. This was a

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symbolic event and it is grotesque that the regime should be in charge

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of it and that was in itself something that needed to be regarded

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in it's own right and a decision taken about engagement with chIn DNA

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is -- China is a different matter, but where Human Rights and the

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promotion of democracy should take priority.

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Let me ask you if you see a cohesion to the foreign policy over the last

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three years? Clearly, you have worked for Tony Blair and left

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because you disliked what he did. When you look at David Cameron now,

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whether it is a policy over Europe, over Libya, over what he tried to

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do, but didn't do in Syria, does it make sense? Well, I don't think the

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Government foreign policy made sense for a long time including the

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previous Government. These governments talk about the promotion

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of Human Rights and the Labour Government talked about unethical

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foreign policy sometime ago and both have been inconsistent in the

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pursuit of these things and very reactive. British foreign policy has

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lost its way in terms of what it is about, what we stand for, I feel it

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should be about a system of values which are promoted even in these

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difficult cases. Coherence and consistency comes from being guided

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by consistent principles, not case by case.

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I started with the quote about national interests and Robin Cook

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talked about an ethical dimension to foreign policy. A lot of people

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listen and say you are being naive? Well, I helped write that speech for

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Robin Cook. I was his speech writer in those days and it is a

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disappointment to me that Government failed against its own standards in

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ill legally invading another country on a pack of lies. I think that, you

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know, you need to set standards for yourself. You need to declare your

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own values and stick to them and the most difficult cases are the ones

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where it matters the most slaouk Sri Lanka or indeed, Bahrain where

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Britain has pursued an ulterior set of interests namely as economic and

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security interests over and above the Human Rights of the people in

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Bahrain and I think that's wrong. Thank you very much indeed. Thank

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you for joining us. Thank you. Coming up: I am not an alcoholic. I

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have drank alcohol in excess. I am not apologising. I apologise.

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If George Orwell coined the notion of a non-person in his despotic

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1984, it fell to the Tories this week to create a new negative, the

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non-speech as it began to delete a decade of old files. They were

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trying to make their website more accessible. This evening, after

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public outcry, they reversed some of that decision. David Grossman, a man

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with an elefantine memory and some outtakes from the 1990s to match,

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asks what happens when we rely too much on digital storage?

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If you don't think politicians have an image problem, try putting these

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incomplete sentences into a search engine!

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The suggestions are based on what others have searched for. And they

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are not exactly flattering. Managing their online brand is a big part of

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modern politics because so many people get their information here.

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In the early 90s, if I wanted to chec out what a politician had

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previously said, I would have come to the BBC's political archive where

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the speeches are in files, colour coded. For example, here 1992,

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Conservative speeches on the top, one from John Major no doubt a

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humdinger and in the mid-1990s, young fresh faced political

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reporters began to talk about politicians harnessing the power of

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information technology. Both would harness the power of information

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technology. Quite! The speeches then went online. We thought forever.

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When in opposition, David Cameron said this innen net memory would put

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power in the hands of voters. It is the right word to use because by

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making more information, more available to more people, you are

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giving them more power. The power to get the best deal. The power to

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learn which you were speaking about in opening this conference. And

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above all, the power to hold to account those who in the past might

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of had a monopoly of power, whether in Government or big business or the

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traditional media. But try to search for that speech on the Conservative

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website and it is not there. The earliest one we would find was from

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January in year. Mark Ballard is the Computer Weekly reporter that broke

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this story that the archive has gone and the Conservatives have used what

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is called a robot exclusion to keep the material of search results and

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independent archives. It is rather to open Government. You know, it is

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quite concerning because it shows how fragile this historic record is

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on the internet that someone can put something in the public domain, it

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is public information, it is important public information and

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still relevant and still current and although it can still be in places,

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there are individual speeches that if you scratch around long enough,

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you might find one. You can find some of them, not all of them. But

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it takes hours. Labour's archive goes back further to 2010 when Ed

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Miliband became leader, however, because he and other Labour

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frontbenchers were ministers before that, you can find their speeches in

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the UK's National Archives. The Lib Dem archive goes back further to

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when Nick Clegg became leader to 200 7, clearing out the past is very

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important. Your own website, if you control that and if you have access

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to your own server you can delete information or you can make it so it

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is not visible by a search which happened with some of them. For

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third party websites, it is a more exhaustive process. The third party

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websites blog forums and conversations, but not in your

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control. It is a comprehensive strategy that you have to follow and

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go through in order to reduce the exposure of those particular

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websites. It appears though the Conservatives had something of a

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change of heart. The robot exclusions have been called off and

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tonight, what seems to be a full record of Conservative speeches have

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reappeared on the San Francisco internet archive website, including

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that 2006 speech on the power of the internet!

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Deaths in nine days. Just tonight came reports of one more. London's

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cycling community has started a revolt. Boris Johnson is under

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pressure to improve road safety. Lord Adonis has called for an

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independent review of cycling safety. Is London's cycle network

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safe? How do the numbers of accidents and injuries this year

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actually compare. Zoe Conway returned to London's first ever

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cycle route on the A4. Well, I declare this cycling track open.

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This is the Transport Minister in 1934 opening Britain's mirs bike

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path alongside the A40 in London. Of course, you will struggle to find

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cycle lanes anywhere that wide in Britain now.

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80 years on and the A40 is the busiest route out of north-west

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London. There is a bike path, but it is on the pavement behind me. The

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debate sparked by the deaths of so many cyclists in such a short space

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of time shows we are still wrestling with how to safely accommodate

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cyclists. On Wednesday, 1,000 cyclists held a vigil in protest at

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a roundabout in East London. Three cyclists have been killed here in

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the past two years. Redesigning the junction is a priority for

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campaigners, but for many, our cycling problems go way beyond the

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design of individual locations. The problem is that we still think that

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motoring is the only way of getting around and the reality is that in

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London, for example, car ownership is falling. Cycling is increasing.

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So we can continue to design for more cycles which is a more

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efficient use of the road space and for public transport rather than

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trying to pack as many cars as we can into roads like these.

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So how safe are Britain's bike riders? Well, measured in terms of

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deaths per 100 million kilometres travelled, we are less safe than the

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Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. But we are safer than America.

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Despite the recent deaths, Transport for London says the city's roads

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have got safer because the number being killed has gone down, whilst

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the number of cyclists has increased dramatically, what worries

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campaigners is the cycling demographic is narrow. We still find

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that the people who are taking up cycling are male. They are affluent

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and tend to be people who are relatively healthy, non disabled,

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relatively able to cope with the way the roads are in this country. The

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people who aren't taking up cycling so much tend to be older people,

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children, disabled people, women and people from ethnic minority groups.

:18:46.:18:49.

People who surveys show are more likely to value being away from

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motor traffic and who feel intimidated by the current road

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situation. When the road first opened, cycling

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groups were furious about it. The bike path experience is a grim

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one for many cyclist. They feel they are fighting for not just road

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space, but their reputation. Boris Johnson said this week that some

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cyclists are taking rash decisions and endangering their lives, but

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didn't lay blame with any of the recent victims. Cyclists should

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approach the first stop line. Advanced green signals for cyclists

:19:31.:19:33.

is one way Transport for London are trying to make it easier to keep

:19:34.:19:38.

cyclist apart from cars. Other vehicles will get a separate green

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light... Critics say the reforms won't necessarily work. They say

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nothing less than remodelling the roads will protect cyclists. You can

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see changes in some of the better designs that Transport for London is

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proposing. For example, a bus stop by-pass which means that cyclists

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don't have to overtake buses and move into general streams of

:20:04.:20:10.

traffic. A bus-stop by-pass means that cyclists can go inside the bus

:20:11.:20:14.

and not mix with the traffic. This is common in the Netherlands.

:20:15.:20:29.

There maybe many good reasons to get on your bike, even if startling the

:20:30.:20:35.

cops isn't one of them, but even cycling's biggest supporters can see

:20:36.:20:41.

why many are deterred. Joining me now, Mark Ames, editor of

:20:42.:20:44.

Ibikelondon, safety campaigner and Jonathan Cole co-owner of the cycle

:20:45.:20:48.

shop, Velorution. Gentlemen, thank you to for coming in this evening. I

:20:49.:20:52.

wonder if Mark you can explain what you think has happened? This

:20:53.:20:56.

terrible spate of accidents in the last week or so. We have had a

:20:57.:21:02.

critical density of indents over the past week or so, but they are not

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that unusual. Nearly all of the cycling fatalities in London involve

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particularly large vehicles and particularly dangerous junctions.

:21:12.:21:14.

This is a known thing. But unfortunately, we don't seem to

:21:15.:21:19.

being in anything about it. That Bow Junction which has seen three

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cyclists killed in two years. Are things changing there now? Or not?

:21:25.:21:31.

No. Bow junction is part of cycling's super highway two. Five

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people have died on that route altogether in two years. There is a

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problem with the actual design of the road. Encouraging people to ride

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on some of London's busiest roads waut creating safe space for cycling

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there is irresponsible by Transport for London and they need to act.

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Do you think, because we have had a spate of politicians coming in with

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thoughts. Is a cycling summit the answer? Is what Boris Johnson is

:21:58.:22:04.

saying the right thing or, I mean, do you want to get the cyclists

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right away from the cars? Or do you think there is a place for them? Of

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course, there is a place for sharing the road and all road users in

:22:13.:22:16.

London should look out for each other, but on the busiest roads, we

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don't need to reinvent the wheel, we need to look across to the

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Netherlands and Denmark and to learn from the best. They have been it

:22:27.:22:30.

successfully for years. It is all safe. Jonathan, the density that

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Mark was talking about, I guess is visible when you are selling stuff,

:22:36.:22:40.

right? Do you see... We see a big shift into what we call sit up and

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beg bikes, where you can look around, you are not moving as fast

:22:45.:22:49.

and you have more awareness. I think, I think the mayor's office

:22:50.:22:54.

are doing a fantastic job on the infrastructure in London, but it

:22:55.:22:56.

will never happen overnight. One death is too many. The sit up and

:22:57.:23:02.

beg bike makes cycling safer because your head isn't down? You are not

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down. You are not powering on. Is that what you recommend people buy

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in London? Do you step into the conversation? Absolutely. We really

:23:13.:23:16.

specialise in the boutique bike builders from around Europe that

:23:17.:23:22.

make 500 to 2,000 bikes a year out of love. They like the bikes on the

:23:23.:23:27.

walls around here. The video you were showing of the 1930s, they make

:23:28.:23:36.

bikes which, they launched a new bike that looks like a bike from the

:23:37.:23:39.

1930s and people love it and they are buying them in good quantities

:23:40.:23:44.

from us. And when people come in and they are buying, you know, the

:23:45.:23:48.

racing bike, the fast bike, something that's lighter. Does that

:23:49.:23:53.

worry you? Do you actually redirect them? There are two types of

:23:54.:23:59.

cyclists. You have the guys who are in the sporty groups, they go out on

:24:00.:24:03.

the weekends and they go out with their friends and long rides and

:24:04.:24:07.

there are the people who are doing the commute to work and riding a

:24:08.:24:11.

bike around London is fantastic, if you are in the centre of London you

:24:12.:24:15.

can go through the parks and you can go down the canals and from one part

:24:16.:24:20.

of London to another without seeing traffic because of the quiet routes.

:24:21.:24:24.

The problem comes as, you know, as Mark says, you get on to a big main

:24:25.:24:31.

road with an HGV vehicle beside you and a bus and it is scary. There is

:24:32.:24:35.

no doubt about it and that has to be a separation. Are you ever going to,

:24:36.:24:40.

you are not going to keep HGVs ot of London... I propose, why not? If you

:24:41.:24:47.

look at Paris, they have many more cyclists in their city centre than

:24:48.:24:51.

we have in London and yet, in 2012, they they had no cyclists killed and

:24:52.:24:55.

that's because they have what is called a lorry control scheme. They

:24:56.:25:00.

make sure that Heavy Goods Vehicles can't access the city centre at peak

:25:01.:25:03.

times, when children are cycling to school. In London, we have a

:25:04.:25:06.

night-time ban which means that all the lorries come roaring out of

:25:07.:25:09.

their goods yards, just in time for the morning rush hour. It is

:25:10.:25:13.

madness. It is something if you wanted to, the mayor could change

:25:14.:25:16.

tonight. Do you think the tipping point has not yet come? We are not

:25:17.:25:22.

at a stage yet, yes, car ownership may have gone down, but we are not

:25:23.:25:25.

at a stage yet, where more people are choosing to cycle? Well, in

:25:26.:25:30.

London perhaps we have, you know, there are so many journeys on

:25:31.:25:34.

bicycles in Central London. If we were to give up riding tomorrow,

:25:35.:25:39.

London's cyclists would fill 300 Tube trains and over 6,000

:25:40.:25:45.

double-decker buses and if we got in a car, we would form a tail back

:25:46.:25:53.

several kilometres long. Thank you very much indeed.

:25:54.:25:58.

It's one week since the Philippines was hit by one of the largest storms

:25:59.:26:03.

ever recorded and yet people in some of the worst hit areas have received

:26:04.:26:06.

little or no help. The government's response to this national calamity

:26:07.:26:09.

has been bitterly criticised by the country's media. An editorial in one

:26:10.:26:13.

Manila newspaper spoke of chaos and despair. Another questioned whether

:26:14.:26:16.

President Benigno Aquino was up to the job. An American aircraft

:26:17.:26:20.

carrier has arrived to help with the relief effort. Britain has sent a

:26:21.:26:24.

warship to distribute supplies. But the ongoing aid effort isn't only

:26:25.:26:31.

land based. It is also happening above the clouds.

:26:32.:26:37.

These before and after images from satellites show how whole towns were

:26:38.:26:44.

destroyed, but with over 7,000 islands, and about half the

:26:45.:26:47.

population living in rural areas, the photographs can also be used for

:26:48.:26:53.

another purpose. Using five of the highest resolution sat fights in the

:26:54.:26:58.

world -- satellites in the world, this website asks users to identify

:26:59.:27:03.

damaged roads, and buildings. It is the kind of visual analysis that

:27:04.:27:11.

humans find easy, but it is harder for computers. When you come to the

:27:12.:27:16.

website today, you will see a small image of the affected region in the

:27:17.:27:20.

Philippines and you are asked to contribute information about what

:27:21.:27:24.

you see. Now, we don't trust only one person, so we are looking for

:27:25.:27:28.

consensus from multiple people making the same observation. This

:27:29.:27:33.

allows us to create a map of the cre under, showing just the affected

:27:34.:27:38.

features. So destroyed buildings, destroyed roads, bridges, large

:27:39.:27:42.

commercial facilities. This data is conveyed to people on the ground.

:27:43.:27:46.

People who can make use of the data get access to this. The satellites

:27:47.:27:51.

are run by a commercial company, but during natural disasters, they

:27:52.:27:55.

release the tag data for free to support the aid effort. To give us a

:27:56.:27:59.

sense of scale, we have had thousands of people contribute

:28:00.:28:03.

hundreds of thousands of views on to the imagery. We are talking about

:28:04.:28:07.

hundreds of thousands of eyeballs helping to analyse the destruction

:28:08.:28:11.

in the Philippines and enabling first responders. We are seeing a

:28:12.:28:16.

global community of people coming together to contribute to the

:28:17.:28:19.

relief. So far, the typhoon challenge had

:28:20.:28:29.

90,000 views and 60,000 tags. Tomorrow's front pages.

:28:30.:28:35.

There is a picture of Prince Charles and the President of Sri Lanka in

:28:36.:28:39.

the Times, but their story is that the Prime Minister says Britain

:28:40.:28:43.

should keep cutting carbon emissions. He says a swipe at the

:28:44.:28:50.

sceptics there. In The Daily Mail, pick a GP where you like. This is

:28:51.:28:53.

the news that patients will be able to register at any doctor's surgery

:28:54.:28:58.

they like from next October. They can register near work or school,

:28:59.:29:03.

how and when, surgery hours, please them or help them. The great leap

:29:04.:29:07.

forward is the line in the Independent which has a little

:29:08.:29:12.

Chinese toddler with his dad as championship that, of course,

:29:13.:29:16.

decides that it is going to relax its one child policy.

:29:17.:29:21.

In the Daily Telegraph, hospitals fear the winter crisis is here

:29:22.:29:26.

early. Stay strong, a US envoy tells Britain.

:29:27.:29:33.

That's all for tonight. A poll from YouGov this week found

:29:34.:29:37.

that more people think a politician who fiddles their expenses should

:29:38.:29:40.

resign than one who smokes crack cocaine. Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, is

:29:41.:29:43.

currently road testing the proposition on his voters. If you've

:29:44.:29:46.

missed his progress, here's the pass notes version.

:29:47.:29:51.

Do not use crack co Ian nor am I an addict of crack cocaine. Yes, I have

:29:52.:29:56.

smoked crack cocaine. I have nothing left to hide. I can assure you I am

:29:57.:30:02.

not an alcoholic. I have drank alcohol in excess. So if you are

:30:03.:30:08.

offended, I am not apologising. I apologise. (BLEEP) I never said in

:30:09.:30:19.

my life to her. I would never do that. I am happily married. I have

:30:20.:30:20.

In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Gavin Esler, including David Cameron facing human rights protests in Sri Lanka. Who is wiping our digital memories? Is cycling getting more dangerous? Mapping the Philippines disaster.


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