24/01/2014 Newsnight


Labour's promise to wipe out the deficit. Lyse Doucet on Syria. The secret brutality of the Ukranian state. Inside Google's secret research centre.

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Would you want a boss like this? Wearing a tie, "I value you at our


organisation Bob", it is not like that. The hierarchy is almost


non-existent. We take a work with Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots,


his actual job title, at the top-secret research centre known


only as Google X. Good evening, with the polls


consistently showing that voters prefer George Osborne to run the


economy over Ed Balls, Labour have finally decided to address that lack


of economic credibility. Mr Balls is set to make a speech tomorrow in


which he will promise that Labour will wipe out the budget deficit by


the end of the next parliament, if it wins the election. The deficit,


by the way, is forecast to be around ?11 11 billion by April, it will


legislate to make sure it does it what's more. There are no details on


tax rises or spending cuts they would have to make to achieve that.


No more Tory boom and bust, Labour said, they will balance the books


over time, they said, and then... . Came the banking crisis and the


biggest budget deficit since the Second World War. Here is the


question the Government would like you to ask yourself, do you want to


hand the keys back to the people who crashed the car? Labour's already


said it wants to get rid of the underlying deficit so that stripping


out the ups and downs of the economy the Treasury isn't spending more


than it gets in tax. But until now Ed Balls has resisted setting


himself a deadline. Tonight Labour promised if elected it will get rid


of the deficit completely by the end of the next parliament. The


difference between what Labour's promising tonight and what the


Government has promised is actually only a year. The Government said it


will get rid of the deficit by 2019, Labour is saying by 2020. But what


Labour says is new about this announcement is their commitment to


enshrine their deficit reduction plans in law. This week Labour's


strategy of attacking the Government on the cost of living started to


look unsafe. Business leaders gathering at Davos said it was in


danger of demonising business, and that wasn't all. Unemployment fell


far faster than expected to 7. 1%, figures were released by the


Government saying incomes last year grew faster than inflation, and the


polls showed a majority were confident about the economy for the


first time since 2010. We have had further good news both on borrowing


and also on jobs and we have seen the biggest increase in employment


in Britain's history, that's great news because every one of those jobs


is family more secure, and it is evidence that our long-term economic


plan is working. Labour's critics point out it is not the first time


it has promised fiscal rectitude, 20 years ago a young Ed Balls advised


Gordon Brown when he promised to balance the books, which he did for


the first parliament at least. Four years ago Alistair cap darling


brought -- Darling brought in the fiscal cap promising to half the


deficit in five years. And the new Government said they would scrap the


deficit by 2015 and the economy blew both apart. It is thought Ed Balls


wanted to avoid making a too similar announcement before the next


election. By attempting to convince the British public they are


economically safe, Labour are hoping they will be forgiven the last crash


and given back the keys to the economy.


Joining me now is the journalist Phil Collins, chief speechwriter for


Tony Blair, with him columnist and founder of the website


ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie. How significant is this? It is quite


significant, you see the arguments starting to tip on the economy.


Labour have had a really good run on the cost of living crisis. But they


have been aware some time this year that will be a less significant


question for them, as incomes start to rise. They are keenly aware they


have to address the problem they have got on credibility. They are


very good on compassion and cost of living but not so good on


credibility. This is an attempt to try to neutralise a big weakness, it


is an important moment and something coming for a long time. The big


question for Labour is when do you do the announcement. There are some


people, I'm one of them, who think that it should come much earlier and


it may be too late now. Ed Balls has calculated that you have to be


allowed to think you are responsible for the previous crisis first, and


you have to let them get over that, and there comes a point, which is


now, when you say but we have learned that lesson, that was


history and now in the future we are going to be very responsible. That


is what he's doing, it is an important moment. Do you think


voters are over that as it was put? I don't think so, I think a lot of


people still associate Labour with the errors of the past and still


haven't got over that association because there has never been an


apology for the fact that Britain did have the biggest of all the


deficits of the developed world when this crisis happened. So I think


Labour still have a credibility problem in that regard. And there is


a second credibility problem is on the eve of the election, just a year


or so to go they are now saying that they will be fiscally credible. A


through this parliament when the coalition are making very difficult


cuts they have opposed nearly all of them. All repent tenses are welcome,


but a dead -- repentances are welcome but a death bed one is less


convincing. This is a repentance out of desperation not conviction.


Perhaps that is why they have said they will legislate to convince


people. Will voters see through that? That is the importance of that


to say this is definitive and there is no getting out of it. This was


always coming. There was always going to be a moment which Labour


would then assert. Nobody has ever thought Labour didn't want to clear


the deficit, that is just a caricature. Of course there is the


job of the opposition to conclude that things the Government are doing


are wrong. I think Labour has suffered from the fact that it is,


as you put it "apologised", buff to remember Labour doesn't think it has


anything to apologise for, it doesn't think that the deficit is


the upshot of its overspending, it thinks the deficit is a result of


crisis in international banking which was not foreseeable and not a


Labour problem. That was a big part of why so many countries had


deficits, but Britain had the biggest deficit, that was because


spending rose much, much faster under Labour than any other country


in t world. Can I ask you both how they think they can achieve it


wiping out the deficit and achieving a surplus? That is the big remaining


question, what balance between tax rises on the one hand, and spending


cuts on the other, we don't yet know. Ed Balls has begun a


programme, not hugely publicised yet, which he calls the "zero-based


review", he's asking all shadow spokesmen to think hard about their


briefs and how they would find spending cuts. We don't know any


detail on that at all. Will we before an election. We didn't last


time before the election. Are they going to tell voters the details,


will they have to and will voters demand that? They will want more


detail from Labour because of the lack of honesty in the last election


that you refer to from all parties. Part of Labour's problem is up until


now the party under Ed Miliband has been incredibly united, largely


because Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have told the party what they wanted


to hear. How are the people on the left of the Labour Party, absolutely


committed to the public sector going to react if Ed Balls starts spelling


out the cuts. There is a lot of the left who really do think like Phil


has described there is nothing to apologise for. If now Ed Balls is


going to start in their eyes looking a lot like George Osborne, they


might react very badly to that and suddenly Labour have a different


problem. It might suit Ed Miliband to have another fight with the left?


It might, he hasn't had any fights with the left yet. It would suit


those of us who believe one of those would be welcome. There is a


get-out-clause where Ed Balls's promise is to borrow for the current


account not to invest. You could pledge to build a lot of house,


infrastructure, aviation capacity. Which means the Tories will be able


to say, look Labour are borrowing as they always have? The voters will


think and be very receptive to that 1992 election message that John


Major posed, the tax posters, that is what the Tories will frighten


voters with, because Labour hasn't the reputation for fiscal sanity. If


you talk about ?12 ?50 billion of tax rises to make up the gap, Labour


have a problem. Don't you think it would be good to invest in housing.


I think we do need to start switching spending on housing


benefit, which is currently expenditure. The politics of it


would override the fact that this would be good for the country? It is


good for the country that we build houses and infrastructure and


airports. But you are still against it? It is more important to cut


current spending to afford that. It would be good but you are against


it? I'm in favour of cutting current spending to finance spending for


capital. There is chatter that Ed Balls is going to say something


else, have you heard any steer of what it might be and what it should


be? If there was something else it might be some very important


indicative cut. One thing he could do to really change the conversation


is to come forward and say, for example, we will cut this big item


of expenditure. Because as Tim said Labour has been very reluctant to


spell out anything. If it were anything else it might be that. My


example that have would be HS 2, very unpopular in the country, would


release billions of pounds to spend on housing and the other things that


Labour want to spend on it. Would be very popular with the public. Thank


you very much gentlemen. Now, 100,000 people dead and 9. 5 million


displaced. Enough incentive, one would have thought, for those at war


in Syria to get together in a room and try to end the fighting. That


was the hope for today's peace talks with ebbs had of the Assad


Government and Syrian opposition in Geneva. But it didn't happen. The


two sides "might" we're told, meet face-to-face tomorrow. We talk to


Doucet oucet, after she explains how we have -- Lyse Doucet, after she


explains how we have reached this point. Tomorrow we expect, we have


agreed that we will meet in the same room. It may not sound like much,


but in Syria's brutal conflict, getting warring sides to sit in the


same room in Geneva counts as progress. Even the UN's veteran


trouble shooter wasn't certain it would even happen. REPORTER: So if


in one sentence I could ask you, do you have the definite agreement of


the two parties to sit together tomorrow? Thank you. That is a very


good question. Yeah. It has taken him three days of shuttling between


delegations of the Government and the opposition just to get that


sorted. That arm-twisting behind the scenes came as soon as the cermonial


opening to these historic peace talks ended in Montreux on Thursday.


More than 20 countries gathered to call for peace, including the


players supporting rival sides, except one of President Assad's main


backers, Iran, it still hasn't signed up to the document that


underpins the process. It is called Geneva I, a reference to a meeting


18 months ago when world powers agreed on this Road Map for peace


talks. It called for the formation of a transitional governing body, a


national dialogue, the review of the constitution and the legal system.


And the holding of free and fair elections. Transition is a


diplomatic way to say President Assad must go. His delegation


insists that's not on the agenda. The opposition says then there is no


point to peace talks. In a country shatrd by war, where half the


population needs aid, and many are starving, there is a lot more to


discuss. They may start by focussing on issues like ending the siege in


some areas, and ending local ceasefires. But Syria's most


powerful opposition force, including Islamist groups linked to Al-Qaeda,


aren't in Geneva. Today the representative said peace talks were


about nothing less than saving Syria. That may be the only


certainty in this process. Here is Lyse Doucet, who has been


following every twist and turn of the negotiations to tell us the


latest. Do you think they will sit in the same room tomorrow? Maybe.


Even if they do they have made it clear they won't talk directly to


each other, they will talk only through the UN envoy Mr Brahimi,


they can't stand each other, even at the talks in front of the world's


cameras, they described the opposition as evil, and accused them


of incest and killing foetuses in the womb. The opposition calls the


regime butchers and war criminal, that is what they say in public. In


private they are more contemptuous. It is hard to imagine they will sit


in the same room for very long. Why have they both turned up in Geneva?


They both say they want peace. And the fact of the matter is and they


will admit it in private, they have been pushed there. The moderator,


with the west's backing, they have been told if they don't go to peace


talks we will withdraw support from you. When I was in Montreux on


Wednesday, someone from the Government said they don't want to


be blamed for the failure of this process. Russia and Iran put


pressure on the Government to go. And the fact of the matter is that


the main forces, at least on the opposition side, want nothing to do


with this. They have said anyone who sits at the table will be on their


death list. What are the chances of some common ground at some points


and by when? That's some point and that is a point very, very far in


the distance. I think... Years? Definitely years. There was one of


the lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process in which


unless both sides understand that there is no military solution, that


the military option is exhausted, only then do they sit down and talk.


And neither side in Syria is anywhere near that recognition. They


both believe they can gain ground on the battlefield. Even in the


five-star hotel in Geneva where they are trying to get the talks started,


the fighting continues and the it up humanitarian crisis continues. It


has been described as the humanitarian crisis of our time and


one of the worst wars. And it will continue in the short, medium and


long-term? Seeing them in Geneva sends a small signal that at some


point they will have to sit down and talk. But so far they are talking


about talking about talks. If Mr Brahimi can get some talk about


easing the siege that either side won't use food in the war or let


women and children suffer, that would be seen as progress, that


can't come too soon for the millions of Syrians suffering in this war.


The political crisis in Ukraine deepened further today as protests


spread from the embattled apital Kiev to yet more cities.


Demonstrations began two months ago after President Yanukovychian


decided to pull out of a landmark treaty with the European Union. The


Ukrainian people are no strangers to protest, they have been taking to


the streets in one way or another for the past ten years. This is the


first time they have turned deadly. Two demonstrators were shot dead


during clashes in Kiev earlier this week. And what's emerging now, are


stories of horrific brutality and intimidation, away from the main


squares. And as we report, some believe the state is behind that


violence. Central Kiev has become a fortress


of defiance. A citadel of barricades, of burnt out buses and


of sandbags, stuffed with ice and snow. A car mechanic sprinkles met


toll on a pile of -- petrol on a pile of tyres to keep the riot


police at bay. During the orange revolution, a decade ago now,


Ukrainians showed the world that bad Government could be removed without


violence. But this week protestors were killed. So now they are


impro-sizing, making catapults and other medieval weaponry, out of


whatever they could find. This could kill something and it could change


the dynamic? People kill us, and so what. These people kill us. These


are Molotov cocktail, we have seen hundreds of them, hidden in the


tyres behind the final barricade. Beyond it wait the police, freezing


cold and nervous. This feels different now, much more serious,


much more menacing. The police and the protestors are just metres away


from each other and now there have been casualties on both sides. This


feels like a stand-off at the moment with no obvious way out. Away from


the overt antagonism of the barricades the battle is taking on a


more sinister and perhaps more brutal character. In the early hours


of Tuesday morning ignore was abducted and savagely beaten. He had


driven to hospital with a fellow activist Uri, who had been injured


during the protests. Before they could get treatment they were


bundled into the back of a van by a group of unidentified men. They


brought us to the forest, they put us on the ground and they started to


ask and beat, ask and beat. From there style I realised that they do


that like all the time. They were very experienced. Igor believes the


men who abducted them were acting with at least the tacit approval of


the state to intimidate the protestors? It will show the face of


people who have power in Ukraine. That they use such very method, very


criminal methods on pressing on the protestors. After being beaten and


interrogated, bound and hooded for almost 24 hours, Igor was separated


from Uri, and dumped in the forest, left for dead. Even with his dad


low-injured leg, Iing I managed to drag himself out and to safety, not


so Uri, he may have been unconscious or unable to walk any further.


Whatever the case is 24 hours or so later his dead body was found in


these woods, frozen solid. Uri was a father, 51 years old, a size


pollingist -- seismologist and keen sportsman. His brother told me the


death certificate, it gives cause of death as hypo hermia. His face was


covered in bruises, he told me, after visiting the morgue, he


couldn't bring himself to look at the rest of his brother's body. The


Government has denied responsibility for any of the deaths that have


occurred since Sunday, and says it is battling extremists and


terrorists among the protestors. But on Independence Square, activists


say that Igor and Uri's abduction is part of a growing pattern, the


pattern of a state losing control. People are disappearing, we have


dozens of claims of that, we have dozens of claims that people are


attacked or beaten in the street by undefined persons. If they are not


policemen, who are they and who controls them? If they are not the


policemen, it is not excluded that we shouldn't admit they are well


trained and well equipped and acting with the security at the end of the


police. With the knowledge of the authorities? With the knowledge of


the authorities, definitely. As night ball falls the temperature


plummet to below minus 20, protestors will stay out here all


night, warming themselves with free cups of borche. They talk of taking


back a country that's been hijacked by a corrupt elite. TRANSLATION:


Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. This man has been stirring


this pot of borche every night for almost two nights. He and his fellow


protestors effectively now control the centre of Ukraine's capital.


They say they will stick it out to the bitter end.


Imagine working for an organisation where you were positively encouraged


to try new things and be responsibly ir esponsible. And if you failed


then you were positively encouraged to try again. And again. Place where


you weren't hauled over the coals when things went wrong, because even


if you failed it meant you were experimenting, and taking risks was


a good thing. Our technology editor has been to meet Dr Astro Teller,


whose job title is Captain of Moonshots at the tech giant Google's


top-secret research centre in San Jose, known as Google X. Real


failure is trying something, learning it doesn't work and then


continuing to do it any way. That's my definition of failure. One of the


reasons we don't talk to the press more is I'm concerned that it comes


off, not as a genuine attempt to have a conversation, but as some


GIEND of arrogance on our part that we think we can solve the world's


problems. We say how could we make things, not just a little better,


but a lot better for a lot of people. Maybe we won't succeed but


let's aspire to that. You get a lot of people want to work


here? If I tell you, you can come here and be the best possible


version of yourself, that I want you to create and take risk, I will get


the best people, because everybody wants to do that. And then, because


I get the best people we're going to make more progress per dollar than


if I had tried to put the screws down on you and make sure you didn't


mess around. I'm asking them to be responsibly irresponsible. I'm


asking for each of the projects that we are working on, for each of the


groups to explore, to take risks, to run experiments, to learn from those


things and then repeat. And doing that really productively is


uncomfortable. Wearing a tie, "I value you at our organisation Bob",


it is not like that. The hierarchy is almost non-existent. I spend most


of my time trying to be a coach. It is like being President of the World


in a way. You get to pick the world's problem. What problem are we


going to solve today or try to solve? That is what I was saying.


That picking the problem is actually a lot of what's hard about it. So


what problem would you pick? Sincerely, we worry about this all


the time that we are not picking the right problems. You said TV, that is


a good one. That's not the one I would pick, that's the one I would


pick for my job. But you pick the ones, water, in the world, that is


what Bill Gates is doing. Getting people fresh and clean water? So it


turns out that clean water he, degeneration of clean water is not a


totally solved, but a relatively solved problem. It is actually the


corruption problem. I think being afraid to fail is almost a guarantee


of glass ceiling on the success that can be achieved. If I tell you that


you must make at least 10% progress over the next year he will only make


10% progress. There is no chance that you will be 10-times as good,


on any front a year from now. Independent of which company you


are, what you are working on, there is zero chance. This is the best


company in the world, you better succeed, you better make every


effort and win, and you have got to succeed, if you don't succeed you


are out? Yeah, I suppose that's how they could run it, but that is not


what they do. It is part of what they do. It is not what they are


good at, honestly. It takes a lot of emotional intensity and a special


kind of skill to be able to fire people effectively. That is not a


skill that Google has developed. If we expect a viper's pit of


politicalness, that is what we are going to get. And if we just don't


tolerate politics, if that's what counts as failing, if that's what


counts as looking stupid. If enough of us drive transparency in the


organisation, we try to act when any of us tries to act political it will


just look ugly and embarrassing, and you won't do it any more. You don't


have to stay with your manager if you don't want. If you are done with


the project you are on, you can go to a different part of Google. You


don't have to have your manager's permission. The result is, if your


manager an asshole, not only will you leave but everyone will leave,


you know what that guy will find himself having been voted off the


island by his own people. In a very bottoms up, very soft power kind of


way, people who aren't friendly, who aren't good managers get voted off


the island. If you feel stupid, if I make you feel stupid because you


tried something new and it didn't work out, you are never going to try


something new again. But if I create a culture, if we can create a


culture together where you feel stupid because you haven't tried


something new this week, you're going to try something new every


week. You have a lot of buildings? Quite a few, yeah. Wonderful, is


this where we say goodbye then? Sure. That was Astro Telle. Time for


a quick look at tomorrow's newspaper, the Guardian's lead


story: That's all for tonight. We leave you


with a beautiful film by Rino Stefano Tagliafierro called Enigma


of Beauty. Anwar animated film of the Old Masters.


In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Victoria Derbyshire.

Labour's promise to wipe out the deficit. Lyse Doucet on Syria. The secret brutality of the Ukranian state. Inside Google's secret research centre.

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