05/09/2014 Newsnight


In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines, presented by Kirsty Wark.

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The rebels, the Russians and the Ukrainian leader agree a safe. I


give an order to the chief of my military to declare a ceasefire. In


half an hour's time. But will it last, we speak to one of the few


women to heads a country within the alliance.


And this: IMF research has recently found, this may not surprise you


that the typical forecast missed every single recession, all around


the world, every single time. An unblemished record of complete


failure. Why are we so bad at seeing the future, these two might know.


And a treat from our proms preview season, the celebrated clarinettist,


Dimitri Ashkenazy. Good evening, it was an outcome of


sorts, 1300 miles away from the NATO summit in Wales Vladimir Putin


orchestrated a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian


separatist. It endorsed an exchange of prisoners, the creation of a


humanitarian corridor for refugees and aid, but offered no clarity at


all in the future of the region. It is hard to imagine Putin's timing


was anything other than a desire to draw the light and the impetuous


from NATO, who announced a new rapid reaction spearhead force to boost


eastern defences with a no so rapid timetable. It will become


operational at the end of next year our diplomatic editor has been


speaking to the NATO secretary-general.


The summer ended as it began with the Ukrainian issue cast ago shadow.


There was a new rapid Reaction Force implicitly to come to the aid of the


Kremlin's next target, since Ukraine's President was here this


afternoon, conceding he has had enough. Calling an immediate


ceasefire. First of all I welcome any attempt to stop the bloodshed


and the violence and if this ceasefire is implemented in good


faith is could be the first step in a constructive political process.


One of the headline outcomes I suppose from the summit is this new


high-readiness tax force, you have called it a spearhead for FLAIT NATO


reinforcement for members who feel they are coming under pressure from


Russia. We have heard this afternoon it won't be ready for a year or me,


will that impress the Kremlin? We have already taken steps and we will


now enhance these measures to reinforce our collective defence.


But we hear that the enforcement of the new high readiness force isn't


started, is it one of those things that NATO like the principle but


look at their shoes when it comes to contributing forces? At today's


meetings I heard the first announcements of contributions to


this spearhead force and that's much sooner than we had expected. So it


demonstrates there is very clear determination to take the steps


necessary to provide effective deterrents and defence. On the


margins of this event, at the fancy dinners and in the hidden


bilaterals, the crisis in Iraq and Syria absorbed the leaders too. But


for all the Cummings and goings of John Kerry and Barack Obama, signs


that forming a grand coalition against the Islamic state is not


easy, despite the urgency of the cause. For Islamic extremism in


Syria and Iraq, what has impressed me this week is just how the


alliance has come together and realised we have all got to help


tackle this. We hear people using phrases like "there won't be


military action involving the UK for weeks at least", is that realistic


or could it happen sooner than that? There is a huge amount done already.


We have used the RAF to drop humanitarian supplies, both on mount


Singa and relieving the siege at Ameli. We have been asked to do


these things and we are willing to do that. We have a new Iraqi


Government, we hope being formed next week and the alliance committed


to making sure we do everything possible to help that new Government


in the decisions it is going to take, to help halt the advance of IS


and roll it back. If NATO sounds like an organisation launching its


sell simultaneously towards -- itself simultaneously towards two


and three different issues, the capability on display has to be paid


for. That means reversing decades of defence cuts and signing up to a new


ten-year target. This summit has been a clear demonstration of


resolve, unity, cohesion and Governments from 28 allies have


committed to reverse the trend of declining defence investment. And


also to develop the necessary military capability to address these


new security challenges. You know that some of these commitments, so


called, are interpreted in a pretty elastic way politically by some of


the members. When they talk about a 2% target for defence spending as a


proportion of their economy, in ten years time, do you think


realistically that NATO members will meet it? I think we will now turn a


corner and you will see a gradual increase in defence investments and


I would say the turning point is Russia's aggression against Ukraine.


Because that has been a wake-up call, a reminder that we cannot take


our security for granted. That has led to a reconsideration in many


capitals, as regards defence spending. On his way home Barack


Obama dropped in at Stonehenge. NATO's partisans like to portray it


as monolithic in its resolve. But the impression of the past few days


is of a group of leaders who have just about agreed on some new steps


and now wonder how to sell those to their people.


As well as becoming Denmark's first female Prime Minister, Helle


Thorning-Schmidt shot to selfie infamy when she shot one with


herself and Barack Obama controversially at Nelson Mandela's


memorial. Now she's back with the subjects of a viral photograph as


well as other leaders in the NATO summit in Wales. I went to meet her


earlier. NATO has two big issues to grapple with, Ukraine and IS,


addressing questions of what NATO is about, an existential question about


what NATO is for. Can we deal first with Ukraine. A ceasefire set at


5.00 tonight, will that then mean sanctions will start to be lifted?


First of all to your question what is NATO all about, I think one word


sums it up, it is about solidarity. And what we have discussed here for


two days is basically how we show solidarity with the most vulnerable


countries, that is closest to the Russian border, this is what we are


going to do. We have shown resolve in order, in terms of doing that.


And in the coming weeks and months we will see that we are showing that


kind of resolve. Do you need to have sanctions imposed still? It is all


to Russia, I mean there's, now we need to see action on the ground.


There is a lot of words in this conflict, now we need to see action


on the ground, that will determine whether we need to turn up the


sanctions or not. It is interesting Putin signs the agreement and yet


doesn't admit to troops in Ukraine, proof that you cannot trust him? I


don't think it is so productive to go into that discussion, the most


important now is to underline that if there is a negotiated agreement


to stop using weapons then that is what we are hoping for. We will of


course still prepare the sanctions and what we need basically is not to


have more words but see action on the ground. Yesterday the Lithuanian


President told Newsnight if you don't deal sufficiently with


President Putin over Ukraine, next time it will be a NATO country on


President Putin over Ukraine, next Russia's border? There is a big


difference between being a NATO country and not being a NATO


country, and I'm sure that the Russians can see that difference as


well. What we have done at this meeting is really confirm our


solidarity, not just in words, but also in action, and that means, for


example, that we will have strengthening our NATO headquarters


in Poland. We are doing air policing already, Denmark is contributing to


that. And other ways of showing that we have that solidarity and that we


are prepared to show that to our most vulnerable member states in


NATO. Let's turn to IS, David Cameron was very firm last night


when he talked about the fact that countries that paid ransom allowed


IS to wreak havoc, is he right? He is right, ransom is partly what is


funding the IS, and we have to be very serious about the question. I


think he's right to raise that question. But we had a Danish


hostage who was a photo journalist, Daniel Rayortison with James Foley


in Syria, he came home alive. Did the Danish Government pay a ransom?


We did not, we never deal with terrorists and never pay ransoms to


terrorists. We will never do that. But we know the French do, how can


NATO act in concert when a key member does that? This is a relevant


discussion. I appreciate the British Prime Minister bringing it up. I


just want to say clearly from the Danish side we never deal with


terrorists, we never pay ransom to terrorists. And finally, as a Prime


Minister and particularly as a female Prime Minister you are always


under scrutiny, so have you taken another selfie with Barack Obama and


David Cameron here at the NATO summit? I haven't, I didn't feel the


need to because I have one already! Prime Minister, thank you very much!


Very good, I like that! Just to mention the fans of Borg can find


out what the Danish Prime Minister thinks of that show on our YouTube


channel. Ahead of the NATO summit President Obama announced that the


US had no strategy for dealing with Islam Islamic State, today he said


they posed a real and long-term threat to the alliance and he and


John Kerry would be working to build a broader alliance to deal with the


terror group in the region. Laura joins me now. First of all it


was very much IS on the margin because the focus was on Ukraine?


Thats That is absolutely right. There is clearly an ambition for


action there. There were plenty of conversations taking place. The


question of practicalities and the optics here. We understand that


there is now a coalition of ten countries, countries like France and


Australia who have indicated that they are willing to participate in


some form of action. But crucially, for example, France expressed today


going public that they would be willing to take action against IS in


Iraq, but not in Syria. Also crucially important to America is


that what someone in Government described to me as respectable


regional partners are also involved. But significant today that the U


Knighted Arab Emirates was at the NATO meeting. They are not a member


but they were there, and they made a public statement saying unified


action was very important. On the home front are MPs being canvassed


very quietly about air strikes? There are conversations about


willingness to take some kind of action. This is rolling the pitch


rather than putting specific proposals or trying to tally the


numbers for any kind of vote. There are two very important conditions


for the UK Government. Like the Americans the UK is determined that


you have to have respectable regional partners involved and also


that a stable, or what looks like it might be a stable new Iraqi


Government will be in place, there would not be sectarian leadership.


In the diary, we have a significant British event the Scottish


referendum on the 18th, it is unlikely the Government will push


anything controversial before that. But that is a second order issue, if


you like. The two other big conditions are ones that would have


to be met and this is all before President Obama sets out his vision


at the UN and that's not for another couple of weeks. Thank you very much


indeed. If you had said at the beginning of the year that Brazil


would hose 7-0 in the World Cup or the British economy would be the


fastest growing in the G 7 you would have been laughed out of the room.


These are interesting times, why do the forecasters not forecast the big


stuff and get the little stuff wrong. We peer into the world of


political and economic forecasting. Consider the vital human subject of


economics and politics that so engage Newsnight's discerning


audience. When it comes to such matters we're terrible at making


forecasts. Why? Why is it that the fancy


forecasts we keep hearing from the Government, City economists and the


International Monetary Fund simply aren't very good. IMF research has


recently found, and this may not surprise you, that the typical


forecast missed every single recession, all around the world,


every single time. An unblemished record of complete failure.


Sometimes you just need a friend, someone close to you, someone plain


speaking to tell you what everyone else is thinking. In this case it


was the Queen, after the banking crisis she visited the London School


of Economics and asked its great academics why did no-one see it


coming? It is fair question, and not only for the economists, who


predicted the Arab Spring, the drop in crime in Britain, the impact of


the internet and the smartphone, the fall of the Berlin wall. Bad


forecasts matter. Governments and businesses are always trying to peer


into future. Forecast influences our foreign policy, the size of the army


or police force, resources for school systems, border controls and


billions flowing around the stock market. Why are forecasters so bad


at their jobs. One reason is that the world is a complicated place,


you can't see the future of Ukraine any more than you can see how many


Conservative MPs will defect to UKIP. It is foolish to ask for


predictions about the fundamentally unpredictable. A second reason is


that when forecasters make predictions, they are not trying to


see into the future. They are prone to bias. They are trying to say


something original, or they are cheering for their side in an


argument, or they are selling a product. Economic and political


forecasts are like horoscopes, horoscopes aren't accurate because


they are -- popular because they are accurate but they are engaging and


seeming plausible at the time. We don't have to give up on the whole


forecasting issue, a group of psychologists in America have been


running a vast geological competition with thousands of


participants. They have discovered a select group they call the "super


forecasters", they are uncannily good at making predictions. They


also know what can and can't be predicted. They know when they are


speaking with insight and when they are just randomly throwing darts. So


how do they do it? Here are three secrets to super forecasting. One,


feedback. Forecasters make predictions about casualties in Gaza


or the next move in Ukraine and they quickly see if the predictions are


right. The feedback comes again and again, so the best forecasters soon


learn what they can and can't predict. Two, work in teams. Super


forecasters are even better when they are working in teams, they


challenge each other. Three, prove yourself wrong. Super forecasters


actively try to prove themselves wrong. They try to see the opposite


side of any argument, probing their own thinking for weaknesses. To be


honest, that sounds like exhausting, thanksless, anxious work, but at


least now we might be able to see some things coming and that might


please everyone. Governments, businesses, even the Queen.


Tim Harford, who not, coincidently has an article in the Financial


Times weekend magazine about how to best predict the future. Who would


predict I got the score wrong, it was 7-1, Brazil versus Germany. We


have Ben Lauderdale of the LSE who has developed a model to predict the


next election, and Jackie Stevens from Northwestern University joins


us too. Jackie Stevens your argument is that it is just a bad thing to


try to predict the future at all? That's correct, I don't see a lot of


value from the kind of short-term forecasting that social scientists


have been relatively successful at, or the kind of selection modelling


that doesn't seem to be especially useful, and the kinds of important


events about which the public would have something at stake, political


scientists and social scientists have not fared very well at


predicts. For example election modelling, you would say withdraw


funding for that kind of prediction that political scientists undertake?


Well I wouldn't say withdraw all funding, my argument is that funding


should be distributed on the basis of people having political science


PhDs by the NSF in the United States, on a random basis and not


based on particular social networks or past peer reviewed publications.


Here in the studio we have Ben Lauderdale a daily bread forecaster.


What is your general election forecast at the moment? Our best


guess is Conservatives 301 Labour 295. However one of the things we


try to emphasise in the forecast is uncertainty. The fact that we don't


know that number. The margin of error is plus or minus 50 seats


either side of that for both of the two parties. What that tells us is


not this particular number will happen on election day, it would be


foolhardy, but instead more likely than not there will be a hung


parliament. But given what we know from history, geography and


demography and polls available bringing that information together,


there is fairly good evidence that a hung parliament is likely but either


party could still manage a majority. Dr Stevens point is that is useless


for the public, that information doesn't help the public, we should


be concentrating on forecasting things that will actually make a


difference? I won't claim that forecasting the next general


election is the most important task for social scientists, I do think it


is interesting and important. There are lots of stakes to the next


general election in the UK, for a range of policy areas, there are


stakeholders in those areas, people who care about immigration policy,


who care about social welfare. So often you get it wrong? It is


whether we get it wrong or right on any given case, it is a worthwhile


exercise to try to get better at these forecasts. Is it a worthwhile


exercise to get better at that, is it also a worthwhile exercise to get


better at economic forecasting given what Tim Harford said, that it is so


often wrong? Well, I think there is opportunity cost in the ways that we


invest our resources in the social sciences. And so to the extent that


we put our money into trying to guess the next general election we


are not putting our money into developing let's say the kind of


symbolic or cultural or other kinds of litties that might be important


for helping the public orient themselves from Elementary School on


ward to understand how events interact in a complex world. And


instead by reducing our questions to those that can be answered by


quantitative methods we foreclose real opportunities to try to enrich


our understandings more generally. Would that not be more productive? I


think having a range of topics under consideration is important. I don't


think it is a very compelling argument to say we shouldn't do any


of this. I certainly wouldn't recommend that everyone be engaged


in these kinds of forecasting projects but they have an important


role to play in checking that we know what we say we know. What about


Tim Harford saying that super forecasters do different things.


They review their work all the time. They work in teams and actually the


predicting the, the wrong predictions are as valuable as the


right predictions you are not drilling down? That is absolutely


right. I work in a team with colleagues at the University of East


Anglia, and Durham, we do bounce ideas off each other and we go back


to 2010 to see how good the predictions are, we are not perfect,


we miss lots of seats, we do as well as anyone at the time or maybe a


little better. At the end of a week when opinion polls in the Scottish


referendum have tightened from just a few points from a commanding lead


for the Better Together campaign, Freeland emits a howl of pain at the


possibility of Scotland leaving the union in less than two weeks time,


he writes if Britain loses Scotland it will feel like an amputation. He


worries that a poll might show a small lead for yes, and he says the


British will become an extinct term. To get reflections on the last two


weeks of campaigning Jonathan Freeland is here, and joining us


from Scotland is Professor Philips O'Brien, part of the yes campaign.


Jonathan Freeland, first of all, do you think the tone you are adapting


is one that should have been adopted from the start? I'm not sure it


would have been helpful for the campaign, the effect on people like


me outside Scotland isn't the criteria by which the electorate in


this contest are deciding. The choice they are making is what kind


of Scotland is better for Scotland. One that is independent or one part


of the union. So the effective break-up on England and Wales and


Northern Ireland isn't th germaine. You seem to have not necessarily


woken up but feeling it more viscerally now, do you think in the


next two weeks that there will be a different atmosphere in England? I


hope so. I have been writing on this for quite a long time. I haven't


just woken up to it, but the prospect of a yes vote will


concentrate the mind. So far it hasn't been concentrated, I think


people have thought it is important but it will be a no vote. Now there


is the prospect of a yes. I attached you to the yes campaign, which I


shouldn't have said but I should have said you are a yes supporter?


I'm an academic and tried to be evenhanded about the whole campaign.


You are trying to be neutral in this, tell me what you think about


the emphasis on the economy as the balancering ram of both sides --


battering ram of both sides? It was always going to come down to that


any way. Ultimately if people vote, one of the most interesting polls


from years ago if you were going to be ?500 worse off you would vote


against independence, if you felt you would be ?500 better off you


would vote for it. The economy would be the defining issue of it. I think


what has come down now is they are trying to sell two very different


visions of what would happen after independence, the yes campaign's


vision is things would get better. That Scotland could go off on its


own and the unionists are saying it is simply too risky. Now we are in a


situation where things are going to perhaps get you know pretty angry,


in these last ten days a number of events are going to happen that


perhaps will increase it. Where do you think that the key moments will


come. What would be the key issues, what we are having now is we are


having a ride north by everybody from John Prescott to David Cameron,


probably together in the same bus? I would say angry would be really bad,


if it gets angry then that would not be good for the no campaign. I think


if you look at the Canadian experience what you want is a real


love bomb, and not from politicians and celebrities. I think what's


happened up in Scotland is there is letters from celebrities, there are


politicians saying stay in the union. The interesting thing in the


Canadian experience is average Canadians outside of question beck


weretation -- Quebec, were saying please day, we want you to. That


would be more effective than politicians and celebrities. In the


Quebec case you had the emotional tightening of the vote in ten days


and in the end it didn't deliver, there is a lot to play for? The last


ten days are crucial, the fact that people are coming up, there may be a


feeling in Scotland that will say what took you so long now you come


up in the last two week, some of the messages could be


counter-productive. In six days out from the referendum there is the


prospect of a UKIP rally in Glasgow and in Edinburgh a very strong


loyalist Orange Order march, both big events. I mean putting your own


politics aside, looking at the impact of UKIP on a Scottish


electorate what might that achieve? It is troubling for the no campaign,


because that will tar them with the brush they don't want to be tarred


with. UKIP did pretty well in the elections in Scotland, 10% of the


vote, but that is a small constituency, what they need to know


that may turn off, huge numbers of other Scottish voters who think it


is little England nationalism they don't want any part of. If I was in


the no campaign I would be telling Nigel Farage and the Orange Order to


stay away. Absolutely, one of the things that showed that Scots could


vote for independence if they believed the United Kingdom would


leave the EU. If UKIP comes and brings a big thing about the union


they are more likely to help break it up. Behind you you have the


Clyde, in the hydro, one of the big new event places on the 11th


September, there will be a BBC debate that has either 10,000 or


12,000 new voters in it. That's going to be broadcast on BBC, the


impact of first-time voters it was thought to be the great vote winner


but that hasn't proved to be the case at the moment? I think it will


be an extraordinary turnout. I think it is one of the things we can't


really use previous models, I was interested in your earlier


discussion. Because the turnout is so heavy, it is impossible to say


what the key constituencies are going to be, will it be the young


voters, older voters, people who haven't voted before. We are simply


into a grey area because it is such an important vote and will have such


a high turnout. Thank you very much indeed. That is just about all for


this week, we leave you with another live preview of next week's prom,


this time with a renowned clarinettist, Dimitri Ashkenazy,


he's performing the final melody from the end of Sir Peter Maxwell


Davies's Strathclyde Concerto No 4. Good night.


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