15/11/2013 Newsnight


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


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


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


response tell us about foreign policy priorities now?


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


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


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


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


Do we really want to lose our digital memories?


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


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


out. Good evening.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Cameron's current priorities in foreign policy and his balance


between pragmatism and ideology? Mark Urban explains. The Prime


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


acknowledge the suffering of the island's Tamil minority while


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


categorise the Cameron foreign policy. When I became Prime


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


we think that the Government is condoning the appalling behaviour by


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


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


Government and therefore, they were right to go.


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


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


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


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


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


with he want more Chinese investment in Britain.


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


journey. Intervention in Libya brought a claim for backing


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


The Libyan situation has deteriorated and his calls for


military strikes on Syria were rebuffed by Parliament and by


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


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


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


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


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


with them, then our commercial activity would be diminished.


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


protesters holding pictures of disappeared relatives. Even here


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


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


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


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


resigned in 2004 after giving secret evidence on how the British


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


diplomatic advisory group, Independent Diplomat. Thank you for


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


mission particularly when you hear about the robust conversations that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


democratic South Africa said that the isolation of South Africa was


tremendously important in encouraging them and in pressurising


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


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


governments have engage in sort of constructive engagement allegedly


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


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


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


Rights. Well, that's interesting. You talk


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


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


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


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


that Governments should be about minimising suffering, the relief of


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


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


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


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


British people and indeed the welfare of others because in the


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


security and chick terms. -- economic terms.


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


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


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


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


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


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


promotion of democracy should take priority.


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


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


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


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


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


Government foreign policy made sense for a long time including the


previous Government. These governments talk about the promotion


of Human Rights and the Labour Government talked about unethical


foreign policy sometime ago and both have been inconsistent in the


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


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


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


difficult cases. Coherence and consistency comes from being guided


by consistent principles, not case by case.


I started with the quote about national interests and Robin Cook


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


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


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


disappointment to me that Government failed against its own standards in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


incomplete sentences into a search engine!


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


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


modern politics because so many people get their information here.


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


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


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


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


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


reporters began to talk about politicians harnessing the power of


information technology. Both would harness the power of information


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


quite concerning because it shows how fragile this historic record is


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


is public information, it is important public information and


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


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


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


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


Miliband became leader, however, because he and other Labour


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


websites blog forums and conversations, but not in your


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


go through in order to reduce the exposure of those particular


websites. It appears though the Conservatives had something of a


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


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


reappeared on the San Francisco internet archive website, including


that 2006 speech on the power of the internet!


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


cycling community has started a revolt. Boris Johnson is under


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


cycle lanes anywhere that wide in Britain now.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the number of cyclists has increased dramatically, what worries


campaigners is the cycling demographic is narrow. We still find


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


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


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


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


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


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


motor traffic and who feel intimidated by the current road


situation. When the road first opened, cycling


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


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


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


cyclists are taking rash decisions and endangering their lives, but


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


approach the first stop line. Advanced green signals for cyclists


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


particularly large vehicles and particularly dangerous junctions.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


specialise in the boutique bike builders from around Europe that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


several kilometres long. Thank you very much indeed.


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


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


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


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


Manila newspaper spoke of chaos and despair. Another questioned whether


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


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


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


land based. It is also happening above the clouds.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Philippines and you are asked to contribute information about what


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


consensus from multiple people making the same observation. This


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


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


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


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


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


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


sense of scale, we have had thousands of people contribute


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


hundreds of thousands of eyeballs helping to analyse the destruction


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


global community of people coming together to contribute to the


relief. So far, the typhoon challenge had


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


forward is the line in the Independent which has a little


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


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


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


early. Stay strong, a US envoy tells Britain.


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


that more people think a politician who fiddles their expenses should


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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