29/07/2014 Newsnight


Analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Robert Peston. NHS privatisation, Israel's opposition leader, OK Cupid, WW1, and will sanctions hurt Russia?

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Will President Putin feel any real pain from western sanctions? The


United States sim posing new sanctions in key sectors of the


Russian economy. Energy, arms, and finance. But if we really wanted to


hurt him, wouldn't we be targeting Russia's vast reserves of natural


gas? The only problem is that Europe needs all that lovely gas. Instead


it is the banking sector that will feel the burden, this could be


enough to tip Russia into recession. Another 100 Gazans are reported to


have been killed since last night by the Israeli Defence Force.


Why does the leader of the opposition in the Israeli parliament


support the onslaught. And the great First World War poet,


significant Fridayed Sassoon. Dark Claude are smalledering into -- dark


clouds are smoldering into red. Who and what determines how we see the


Great War. Do we see it clearly. Learly.


So after much huffing and puffing the European Union has finally


responded to the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner MH17, by


moving to so called stage III sanctions against Russia. There will


be ban on sales of equipment to Russia that would help it modernise


its huge oil industry. A prohibition has been put in place on exports of


technology that has actual or possible military use. Leading


Russian banks will no longer be able to raise money from European


investors. Is this the EU showing its teeth or just some flaccid gums?


And will these measures genuinely hurt President Putin so he thinks


again about his backing for pro-Russian rebels in eastern


Ukraine. Or, will the pain, if any, actually be felt by us?


We will hear in a moment from our economics correspondent, but here


first is a report from Moscow. Moscow's Gorky Park this evening had


a happy air about it. Life has rarely been so good in Russia,


soaring gas and oil prices have filled the coffers, and the


middle-classes are enjoying it. The fighting in Ukraine and the downed


flight seem far from here, it is hard to believe that sanctions would


sweep all of this away. But analysts of the Russian economy were already


detecting signs of trouble before today's news. Only in the last


several weeks have we started to see the strains emerging, so higher


interest rates, stubbornly high inflation, in June for example the


car sales were down 17% year on year. So you are starting to see the


cracks now appearing. Interestingly an opinion poll out today suggests


the number of people who are worried about sanctions in Russia has


actually dropped from over 50% back in March to around 35% today. The


number of people who are not too concerned or not bothered at all is


now over 60%. That poll was reflected this evening by Moscow's


young and carefree in Gorky Park. It all seemed a world away from


Washington, where President Obama was announcing more sanctions.


Russia is once again isolating itself from the international


community, setting back decades of genuine progress. And it doesn't


have to come to this. It didn't have to come to this. The sanctions did


make the Russian news today, but it wasn't the main story. And the


presenter said that Ukraine should be being isolated, not Russia,


because it had used what he called "weapons of mass destruction"


against its own people. The official reaction to the sanctions has been


one of stoicim. This was the Foreign Minister yesterday. TRANSLATION:


This gives us no pleasure, just as we know it gives European countries


no pleasure to impose the sanctions. But, I assure you, we can overcome


the difficulties that will arise in some parts of our economy. Possibly


we will also become more self-sufficient and more confident


of our own strength, this is also useful. While this evening Sergei


Markov, a political scientist with close links to the Kremlin, made it


clear that the new sanctions could have consequences. And now it is in


history that in the on the anniversary, 100 years since the


Great War, we are very close to world war three. The Kremlin appears


to have made a decision, it knows as the sanctions pile up, there will be


economic and then political consequences. But it seems to have


calculated that the political consequences will be much worse if


it is seen to give in to America and its allies in western Europe. So


joining me now is our economics correspondent. Do you think these


sanctions are remotely significant? I think they are very significant,


they have already been described as the toughest sanctions on Russia


since the end of the Cold War, I think that is true. If we go back


two weeks since before the Malaysian airlines was downed. The US brought


in tough sanctions, Europe brought in much weaker sanctions. Today


Europe has gone a lot further than the US did two weeks ago, much more


than anyone else was expecting, even this time last week. This is going


to in particular hit Russian banks who are already been locked out in


borrowing in dollars, and now locked out in euros as well, I think they


are significant. Do they have any kind of implications for us, I mean


it is quite interesting that we have danced around the whole energy


sector. Very little in the way that will damage Russia's huge oil and


gas industry. What are the implications for the UK and the


European Union? There is damage to the Russian oil industry, we have


deliberately not targeted the gas industry. The effect will vary


across the European Union. France is more exposed to arms sales and


Germany some of the high-tech energy equipment. In the UK there are two


things to bear in mind, firstly when the Russian banks come to raise


money they do it in London, we are talking hundreds of millions in lost


fees in the City. Secondly BP, it owns 20% of Rossneft, a big direct


investment, there is worries about that, their shares are down two. 5%


today. If you look however at sanctions that have had an impact in


the past, say on Iran, they tend to be actually rather more significant,


draconian, Iranian companies broadly banned from raising finance across


the world. Almost impossible for Iran to sell anything anywhere. That


had a major impact on that economy. Do we really think that these much


more limited punitive actions will make Putin feel any pain at all of


any serious sort? No, I think they will. I think you are right. These


are nowhere near as strong as the sanctions on Iran or Sudan


previously. There are two things to bear in mind. Firstly we have to


look at the underlying health of the Russian economy. If we look at


Russian economic growth over the last decade the first thing we can


see is that the Russian economy was growing at 6-8% a year, it slowed


after the recession, but last year the Russian economy only grew by


just over 1%, before anything happened in Crimea or Ukraine. This


wasn't economy that was slowing down. Secondly, now I agree with


you, the formal sanctions will cause some pain, they are not massive.


What matters more is the indirect effect. So three times this year the


Russian Central Bank has been forced to raise interest rates. Most


recently on Friday, to try to defend their currency. As well you know


Robert, the last thing you want to be doing when your economy is


slowing is raising interest rates. So I think the actual sanctions


themselves are not what's doing the damage. What is doing the damage is


the action they are forcing the Russians to take, raising interest


rates and a slowing economy, it never ends particularly well. Thank


you. Now joining me is a former British ambassador to Russia, and


the director of p the Russia Studies Centre of the Henry Jackson Society.


We are trying to see if this is largely cosmetic and the Europeans


saving facial in a difficult situation or it will have an impact


on the way Russia behaves in the Ukraine? I think the current round


of sanctions announced by the US and the EU today are deeply significant.


I would argue that the earlier sanctions were in a sense symbolic


and it is Duncan said the greater impact they had was indirect in the


sense of the message they sent to international investors, and markets


and confidence and so forth. I would agree with you that this is just to


an extent a face-saving exercise. The EU needed to retain a degree of


credibility in the way it acts towards Russia, I do think the


sanctions will impact Russia and may bring about change in President


Putin's behaviour. If we look for example at the sanctions imposed on


the energy sector, we are already talking about equipment that may


have an impact on the efficiency of Russian oil companies in a few


years' time, but not damaging them in a major way now. If you look at


the restriction on Russian banks raising capital, well, they will


simply go to China, won't they, for that money. They have also a Central


Bank that can print money. Do we really think that in terms of what


the impact will be on ordinary people's lives in Russia that they


will see any difference? If we look at the past experience of sanctions


and the Russian regime, President Putin. If one considers for example


Russia's reaction to the United States adoption of the the act in


2010, sorry 2012, Russia's response was assertive, it was in a sense


defensive, and in one or two respects quite aggressive and gave


the impression indeed that America did take seriously, sorry that


Russia took seriously the sanctions and the impact that had it and its


behaviour. As somebody who knows Russia very well, how does President


Putin typically pond to these sports -- respond to these sorts of


threats? He's counter suggestible on things like this from the west and


he will be to this, and not respond in the way we want him to. He has


90% popular support in Russia, and the reason is because he's seen as a


great hero of the Russians against the intruding, humiliating and


encirleling west. Therefore he has little political choice, apart from


anything else, but to stand firmly against these sanctions. The


sanctions are, in my view, very unlikely to have their affect, and


unlikely to prove counter-productive in finding any solution to the


Ukraine problem. What in your view should the west be doing? This is


not a popular line of course, but the west needs to talk seriously to


the Russian, bringing the Ukrainians into the conversation about a


solution which protects what the Russians see as their assets in


Ukraine, which is to keep Ukraine out of NATO and protect the


Russian-speaking population there. If we could do a deal which


incorporates that, Putin can go back to his people and claim victory and


we can come down from what is actually at the moment a very


dangerous escaltory spiral. The west introduces sanctions, whatever


economic effect, they will not have a political effect. Russia maintains


its support for the separatist, and maybe steps it up a bit. The west


introduces more sanctions and more support for the separatist, and


sliding dangerously down hill. Do you see any way out of escalating


conflict? I would agree with Sir Tony that these are a gamble. Gamble


in a sense they bring about economic hardship, potentially economic


hardship against Europe and America, but they are also a gamble because


we don't know how President Putin will react to this. Sir Tony is


correct, what President Putin will need to get out of this is something


that he can present to the Russian people as a victory. I would, I


suppose, depart from Sir Tony in the sense that I think alongside


sanctions there absolutely should be diplomatic engagment behind the


scenes, and that may well be a way of bringing about a compromise which


will be difficult for the west to swallow, but it is better than the


alternative. Thank you very much. Is the great thing about the National


Health Service that no British person has to pay to use it, or is


it that most of it is provided by the public sector, by the state?


Labour's health spokesman, Andy Burnham said the role of the private


sector in the health sector has been growing too fast, he called on the


Government to halt privatisation until after the general election.


But is this the same Andy burn biamond Burnham who was Health


Secretary and saw a huge increase in private association with health


care. Does it map if a private company fixes your hip or screens


you for cancer so long as they do it cheaply and properly. I will speak


to him in a minute. First we have this.


When you hear about health privatisation, maybe it evokes


America and its health care system, a system built on private insurers.


Or, perhaps you think of privatising in the 1980s or 1990s, when publicly


owned companies got sold off, neither is quite right. I don't


think privatisation is the right word. We haven't seen large


transfers of ownership from being a public NHS hospital into the private


sector. What we have seen is more contracts going to private sector


operator, it is more like outsourcing than privatisation. This


has been driven by something called the new public management school of


thought. The big idea is that decisions are passed to local


managers who are then held to account by targets and market


forces. But to make all of that work you need alternatives to replace


weak services and create competition. And that's where the


private providers come in. This idea isn't new, Alan Milburn a Labour


Health Secretary said the hard thing about health politics is by and


large the thrust of policy over the 30, 40 years, with ups and downs all


the way, has broadly within in one direction, more diversity, were


youity and autonomy and better data. An increasing share of NHS spending


has gone to private providers under the coalition, whose reforms tilted


the health service that way. But outsourcing also rose under the


Labour administration, including Andy Burn ham's ten euro as


secretaries for health. What direction has it gone. Outsourcing


got better during the reforms So many difficult things were


happening at the same time, there was a lot of emphasis on targets,


there were new payment systems for hospitals and a lot more money until


recently some that have generated a big improvements in performance that


we have seen. One of the questions going forward when there isn't much


money in the systems and problems appear, is quite how the private


sector helps in that kind of environment. If Mr Burnham plans to


crunch down on outsourcing on the NHS, it is hard to say what effect


it would have, but it would affect services from cancer care to


cataracts. Joining me from Salford is Labour's


spokesman Andy Burnham. What exactly are you proposing? The first thing


is can I correct something in your piece there, to say that I did


something in Government and saying something different in opposition.


In Government I changed policy towards the NHS preferred provider


principle, because I was saying that the public NHS is important. A


service that puts people before profits. And my views haven't


changed. What we have seen under this Government... Is a very big


hang. Hang on a second. Towards forced send tendering of services.


It is taking the NHS into new territory, large contracts being


offered for sensitive services such as older people's care and cancer


care. Suggesting this Government sees no limits on the use of the


private sector. My big point is who gave this Prime Minister permission


to put the NHS up for sale in this way. Because if you remember Robert,


before the last election he said there would be no reorganisation of


the NHS, then he brought forward the biggest-ever. It is really not what


I think, the British public have never given their consent for their


most valued institution to be broken up and sold off in this way. Hang on


a second, who gave Labour permission before the election in which you


were Health Secretary, because in that period actually privatisation


on your definition went up by 60% and it has gone up only 20% under


this Government. Where was the permission that you had? I'm not


sure you have your figures right. These are official statistics? Let's


explain the different role, Labour used the private sector in a


supporting capacity, to provided a decisional capacity to bring down


NHS waiting lists. Our mandate was to bring down NHS waiting lists and


we did, to the lowest ever level. I'm saying that this Government has


changed that. It has forced tendering on the NHS and we are now


seeing huge contracts being put out. The FT will report tomorrow that


there is currently ?6 billion worth of the NHS out to open tender to be


signed before the next election. I don't think that is acceptable when


the public have never given their express consent for the NHS to be


broken up and sold off in this way. But you explicitly said in 20009


nine and I will quote you that we can move beyond polarising debates


of public and private sector provision, were you wrong that


distinction is an artificial one? I said at the beginning I introduced


the NHS preferred provider, I saw a role for the other providers the


voluntary or private providers supporting the public NHS. So you


were wrong, if you let me make the point, you changed your mind? No


because I explained to you what I said. This Government sees a


replacement role, so it sees the core public NHS being replaced by


private providers. That is to take the NHS into new territory. And I


put it to you again, that the British public have never given


their consent for that policy. That is the crucial issue here, if David


Cameron wants to pursue that policy he must explicitly go to the next


election and say this is the kind of health service we want. I have put


out the vision for a different health service under Britain, a


public integrated service based on the principle of the NHS preferred


provider. At the end of the day that matters. I'm passionate about the


public NHS and what it represents, it is a service based on people not


profits. I'm not clear why you think it matters, actually when people are


polled, what they say the NHS is about is free at the point of use.


People frankly seem to be very neutral about who provides that


service. So long as the quality is there. You have for example, hang


on, we have, as you know, some of the worst, the worse worst mortality


rates for cancer of any rich country. Why not try the private


sector to see if we can improve the mortality rates? Let me answer the


main point there. This is the crux of it, isn't it. I think people


value the service that we have, that as I say is based on people not


profit, that means when people walk through the door of the NHS it is


you that matters, it is not your bank balance or the views of


shareholders that are the important thing. That is the essence of the


service we have, and I think that is what Danny Boyle was celebrating at


the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. Now you mentioned cancer


care, I have shown today how cancer care has gone backwards under this


Government, we're seeing the national cancer target missed for


the first time. So you know the Government's reforms aren't making


things better, they are making things worse. The NHS has gone


downhill under David Cameron. So I think this is the crux of the debate


we have to have at the election. This is the choice we have to have.


Do we want an NHS that continues on people not profits basis, or do we


want a very different service. I'm very clear that I think the public


want to see the NHS continue, if we carry on allowing the inexable


advance of the market into the NHS, in the end it will devour everything


that is precious about it. Just so that I can grasp what it is you are


saying here, I just want to return to your period as Health Secretary,


there was a hospital that failed under Labour, in Cambridgeshire, it


was moved down the runway to privatisation when you were Health


Secretary, it is now perceived as a private low-run hospital for the --


private low-run hospital for the NHS to provide private treatment, would


you reverse that private sector management? I don't think you can


just reverse contracts that have been signed. Let's be clear on that


example. I was seeking an NHS provider for that hospital under my


provider principl it was this Government that signed the contract.


The NHS was unable to bid? Let me make the broader point, in the end


you have to decide what kind of health service you want, if you look


around the world, market-based systems cost more not less than


systems like the NHS. They also do something different to the quality


of care what they lead to is greater fragmentation of the care, when the


future demands integration of care. I'm quite clear that the market is


not the answer to 21st century care. I'm setting out my stall, you may


disagree with it but I'm pretty clear that is the principle which we


should build our health service going forward and those are the


foundations on which I'm developing Labour's vision for the NHS in the


21st century. Many thanks. Now Israel intensified its remorseless


bombardment of Gaza today. There were more than 60 air strikes and an


estimated 100 Palestinians killed, including seven families, according


to the Palestinian health authority. That would bring the total to well


over 1100 Palestinian deaths since hostilities began on July eighth,


compared to something over 50 killings of the Israelis. Gaza's


only power plant was hit today, making living conditions even more


miserable for the territory's one. Eight million people. What are


Israel's real aims and what are the prospects for peace.


We're joined from Tel Aviv now. What has been happening today? Well, as


you just said today was one of the bloodiest days in Gaza, according to


Palestinian officials, as you say, more than 100 killed, Israel says it


was Hamas-related targets that it was attacking. But local people


there say a school was attacked and as you say a tank shell from an


Israeli tank hit the only power station, taking out supplies there.


On this side of the border missiles from Gaza continuing to rain down on


Israel, one for example intercepted this evening over Jerusalem by the


Iron Dome system. And on the political front the security cabinet


delayed or postponed its meeting from today until tomorrow amid


continuing deep divisions in the cabinet about how exactly to pursue


the war. I think increasingly the Prime Minister Mr Netenyahu squeezed


very much between hawks and between public opinion, which is very much


in favour of prolonging the war, on the one hand and America, the UN and


other powers on the other hand pressing very strongly for a


cease-fire. What is the point of the bombardment, the military action,


where does it all end? Well it is hard to say, certainly Israelis are


very shocked by the number of soldiers now 53 that they have lost


in the last two weeks. And they are also very shocked by the discovery


of more and more tunnels leading under the border into Israel. Now


Hamas today put out a video which it says shows some of its militants


Protestantsing into Israel, we cannot verify this, but certainly


the idea for the Israeli army they confirmed there was an incident of


this sort, and yesterday five Israeli soldiers were killed when


Hamas militants came out of that kind of tunnel. So far these losses


only seem to have stiffened the Israeli public's demand for a


continuation of the war. But what is interesting is increasingly now


there is a debate here about whether the demilitarisation of Gaza, as Mr


Netenyahu puts it, can really be carried out in the context of a war


by the Israeli army or whether there will have to be some kind of


internationally sup advised de-- supervised demilitarisation.


Involving some kind of carrot or big, big investment of funds into


Gaza, how that mechanism could work, it is a long way off. It is proposed


by a former Defence Minister. Mr Netenyahu has certainly shown


interest in it, it is an idea gaining more and more traction here


now. Many thanks. Earlier I spoke to the leader of the Israeli opposition


Labour Party, I asked him how with the Israeli left's tradition of


trying to reach a peaceful solution with the Palestinians he could


support Israel's onslaught on Gaza? These are tragic events, and believe


me most Israelis feel extremely sorry for these tragic events, but


we are simply defending our people. I'm going to the same shelter that I


have been at as a child. I have been shot at every evening and every


morning by missiles, like most of the citizens of Israel. Simply put,


so when you are trying to uproot the missiles, after absorbing and


absorbing and absorbing and you warn the citizens and you alert the


civilians and you send leaflets and SMSs, in the end you fight, you


fight to save your own people and you want to know something, I lead


the Israeli opposition, I lead the peace camp in Israel, if you want to


make peace you have to be ready for war. We are yearning for peace, but


we have to make peace with those who are unwilling to sit down -- we have


to make peace with those willing to talk to us, not those calling for


our destruction and killing our citizens every day. They may be


calling for your destruction but Hamas does look extraordinarily


weak, no longer getting the support of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood,


the Iron Dome, a tremendous protective cover for Israelis. On


that basis isn't the Israeli army going massively over the top in


Gaza? But that's not the full picture, with all due respect. It is


a very distorted picture. First of all they have been sending thousands


of missiles on Israel. I urge you to be here one day or be anywhere and


live under missile attack. I mean any normal human being wouldn't


accept it. But secondly, most importantly of all, they have dug


tunnel, they have taken money from European tax-payers, and they have


spent it instead of on relief and helping their citizens in Gaza, on


tunnels which have been dug under our homes in southern Israel in


order to breakthrough one night, kidnap thousands of Israelis and


drug them, torture them, kill them or abduct them to Gaza, and in the


most incredible thing that paradoxically all of these kibbutz


and villages on the border are part of the peace camp in Israel. This is


the absurdity of it all. We have spoken to a former soldier today who


nonetheless says that the Israeli army has become more hardened and is


acting in a more aggressive way than it would have done in the past. And


you will have read similar testimony from former soldiers on the


Internet. This is a widespread complaint and concern of former


members of the military. Do you believe that the Israeli army is


behaving in a more aggressive way? No, not at all. I think it is


behaving actually in quite a cautious way. There could be errors


and mistakes, but I can describe to you dozens of events constantly that


depict what I'm talking about. Every unit has indepth legal council, we


are one of the only armies in the world that is clearly having legal


counselling involved in every part of the operation. A few days ago in


a school in BethHanun, the army uncovered a launching pad of 24


missiles, what are we supposed to do when somebody fires from his home,


from his shelter, from his school, from his mosque, at the end what do


you do, and you want to know something, in most cases, even major


European powers, even major international powers acted in fact


in a much more brutal way than the Israelis. But with more than 200


children already killed, what is the solution, what is the end, at what


point does the Government say we have achieved what we want to


achieve? OK, so first of all I'm the leader of the opposition, and my


line is that whilst we protect our citizens, and we wanted not to go


into this operation at all, nobody. We believe, we, Labour and the peace


camp believe that we should be very much proactive on moving on peace


with Mahmoud Abbas, with the Palestinian Authority, and weaken


Hamas. We are in the midst of a clash of extreme Islam versus


moderate nations and a coalition of moderate states that sees Szczesny


ISIS on the east, and Hamas on the south, and Hezbollah in the north,


that is the real battle in the region. And the battle in the region


is a confrontation of a coalition of nations that believes in being in


fighting terror and moving towards peace and combatting extreme terror


organisations that do not see Israel as the only stop on the way to


Europe, and other elements in the free world. Is there really hope of


peace if you, as the opposition, think there is no possibility of


negotiating with Hamas, which plainly has significant popular


support among the 1. 8 million people who live in Gaza? So that's


again to be questioned. I mean the people of Gaza are under gun


threats. They are not really free to express their opinion. Gaza has been


abducted by Hamas in 2005 and they have killed and tortured their


colleagues from Fatah and kicked them out and took it over. And they


are operating like a base of terror. I do not rule out the possibility


that Hamas will kind of revert into becoming a political party within


Palestinian politics, but they can't have both. You cannot be a political


party on the one hand, and on the other hand having an army of your


own do whatever the heck you want, terrorise people all over the region


and undermine the whole notion of peace. Hamas refuses to agree or


accept a peace agreement with Israel. Thank you very much. Thank


you very much. If you use the Internet you are the subject of


hundreds of experiments at any given time on every site. That's how


websites work. So said the dating site Okcupid today in response to


the allegation it has been manipulating their use ires by


setting up unsuitable people on dates. It comes after the news that


Facebook had conducted a secret psychology experiment on 700,000 of


its users. Although some of us might think the best marriages are perhaps


always those between people who seem whole low incompatible. This


question arises, are they messing with our emotion, when is.


I'm not looking for stardom, but really, thank you. She's a hot


singer-songwriter, he's a charmingly dis-he willed record executive. Of


course Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffelo get it together in this


summer's romcom Begin Again. You have my number, right. What about


the rest of us, some put their details on dating sites like


Okcupid. Hi there, these old threads, just a little bit of sports


casual. So subscribers signed up in good faith, you know the kind of


thing, GSOH, all my own teeth! Except Okcupid were deliberately


setting some of them up on bad matches, where on paper at least


they only had 30% compatability. Although they were told by the site


it was more like 90% compatability. Parental advisory, a match with Niki


Inaj -- Minag, I didn't see that. I'm concerned about the way these


sites are manipulating people's mind and emotion, how far are they going


with the experiment, the only thing missing it seems to me is a cage. In


another one of its called experiments, Okcupid ran profiles


with photos but no text and visa versa, and guess what, people went


on looks alone. So shallow. Okcupid said: Most ideas are bad, even good


ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out. If


you use the Internet you are the subject of hundreds of experiments


at any given time on every site. That's how websites work. This comes


after Facebook was accused of being unethical for trying to influence


the emotions of almost 700,000 users through the news feeds they were


exposed to. I think we are just touching the tip of an iceberg here,


what went on with phase book again was incredible, dealing with


people's psychological problems and here we are people with dating


problems. People go on these dating programmes and dating sites and they


are already suffering emotional situations and to put them through


it again is cruel and unkind. I used to describe some of the sites


as a human petri dish in an environment where they didn't feel


they were being observed. There are regulations and guidelines in place


within an academic environment to deal with that. What we are dealing


with now is we are dealing with commercial organisations, for whom


they do not have a responsibility to protect their customer, their


clients from harm. Frankly, you have signed your life away as soon as you


tick the box and say you agree to all the terms and conditions. The


rules are being rewritten, or as my date Nikki says, maybe your weird is


nigh normal. 100 years ago today the first shots


were already being fired in war that would wreck much of the world and


leave nine million people dead. Centinary events are under way


around the country, but how do we remember that terrible conflict. For


most of us poetry has conditioned what we think and how we see those


terrible days. Owen and Sassoon, the geniuses among the war poets, have


their names inscribed in Westminster Abbey and many of our hearts. Why


does poetry loom so large in our memory of the war. Does it reveal


truth or give a distorted view. We will discuss that in a minute. Here


is Sassoon at his most evocative, animated by Newsnight's Aslan


Livingston The actor David Harewood reading


very well there. The author of Faithful Year, about 1914 is here


with an historian who has written extensively about German military


planning in the run up to 1914. We do, I think, see the First World


War through the prism of Owen and Sassoon, as that period when the


flower of England was wiped out in this most futile of all wars. Is


that the correct way to see the First World War? No, and I think the


problem is that since the 1960s schoolchildren have been taught


about the First World War largely through the prism of poetry, it


isn't just the poetry, it is the prose literature which started


coming out at the end of the 20s, which also portrays a disillusioned


view of the war. Of course Sassoon's view of the war has value, but it is


an individual response for the war, written for all sorts of reasons,


political, class reasons and even sexual reasons, Sassoon's homoerotic


impulse conditions the way he takes his mens' side against their


officers, and of course he's one of the officer class himself. So we


need to look at it as historical evidence. One of the things I hope


will emerge from four years of commemoration of the First World War


is the idea we should have a non-know lithic -- man know lithic


view of the -- monolithic view of the First World War. There were so


many people living in this country with different views about going to


war and enlisting. Up until this point we have had a very sort of


black and white view of how the war was. How is the war seen in Germany?


Completely differently to how it is seen in this country. The prism that


you described is a different one, the prism is the Second World War


and everything that happened before the First World War is just not as


important. I have to say until quite recently that was the case. The


Second World War which was so much more destructive and horrific for


Germans than even the First World War has only recently featured in


the popular imagination. In anything resellbling the enthusiasm --


resellbling the enthusiasm that exists in the First World War in


this country. What do you mean by that, how has that view changed,


what sort of enthusiasm do we now see in Germany then? The enthusiasm


is primarily around discussing, yet again, the origins of the war, the


responsibility. Who is to blame? Who is to blame. What is the prevailing


view in Germany? Until probably a year or so ago I would have said


most people would agree that Germany was more to blame than others, after


decades of debate, historians and the general public had agreed, I


think, on that. But with recent publications on the origins of the


First World War that has really shifted again. And there is among a


large section of the German public and among historian as real relief,


if you like, that finally we can brush aside this guilt, at least,


not the guilt for the Second World War, but finally after 100 years we


can say we did not cause the First World War. But does art condition


the way the Germans see the First World War in the way that the poets,


thGreat British poets condition the way we see it? Much, much less so I


would say. There isn't this tradition of looking at the famous


war poets, or the idea that would you teach those kinds of poems at


schools, as you mentioned, that doesn't exist, that is partly


because after the first world war there was a much more fractured


memory of the war. Obviously when we look at the war poets we realise


that is one view and there were others, but it has been boiled down


for most people to one view, that never happened in Germany, it was


always a fought over memory. So, help us out here, the war poets are


wrong, what is the right way of seeing the First World War? The war


poets are not wrong, but they only represent one point of view. What


historians in Britain are particularly exercised about is the


idea that the war was completely futile, when we get to 2018 it will


be interesting to see exactly what national commemoration will take


place of the 100 years, the 100 days of Britain's march to victory,


because historians are exercised that 1918 is a forgotten victory in


Britain's history because Britain won the war.


Just to be clear about this, what is your own view about who was more to


blame for the origin? Good gracious! Nice easy question? Well I suppose


it is the ministers around the Kaiser I think are to blame. They


had a very strong idea of the need to go to war as soon as possible. I


think you sort of agree with that don't you? I would say they are more


to blame than others but not exclusively so, you can attribute


blame to other Governments I would definitely start in Germany and


Austria and Hungary. That is it for tonight. We leave you with the work


of the photography artist Greg Siegel who took pictures of family


and friends lying down in a collection of their own rubbish, is


this a metaphor for my debut on Newsnight. I fear it might be, good


night. Hello there, I think for most of us


tomorrow a similar day, which means northern parts of the UK, brisk


winds blowing in from the west, bringing a scattering of showers,


best of the dry and sunny weather the further south you are. So


through the afternoon, I think across Northern Ireland, still the




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