With Emily Maitlis. The Article 50 bill is to become law tonight. What will Scotland do now? Who is David Davis? Paul Auster's new book.
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Do you worry that us leaving the EU would trigger a second referendum in
Scotland for independence? There is a concern. Look, I mean... It's all
panning out just like he said. They're not calling
it project fear now. I will now take the steps necessary
to make sure that Scotland will have a choice at the end of this process,
a choice of whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit or to become
an independent country. As we come on air the Article
50 bill is completing We'll discuss what the impact
will be on the Union. Also tonight, David Davis
is the minister for walking this I remember one of the Cameroons once
saying to me in exasperation that he's the only person he knows
who didn't go to Eton but has And listen to the childhood trauma
that inspired 4-3-2-1, the first novel in seven years
from Paul Auster. I'd never seen a dead person,
so I crawled beside him and I pulled him into the meadow,
and that was the moment when I understood that anything can
happen to anybody at any time. "Don't tie the Prime Minister's
hands," warned her Brexit As we go on air tonight,
Britain's Parliament has agreed to hand Theresa May a clean
Brexit Bill, creating a significant piece of constitutional
history as it does so. Earlier this evening,
the Commons threw out two amendments from the upper House,
paving the way for In the last few minutes, the Lords
have rejected their own amendments Tonight's momentous vote
was intended to be the starting gun, allowing the Prime Minister
to trigger Article 50. But in the event, Scotland's First
Minister fired her own, several hours earlier
and to the surprise of many. In an audacious power grab,
Ms Sturgeon seized the narrative laying out her plans for a second
referendum on Scottish Independence, explaining why the breaking up
of one union, may well lead We are live tonight in Parliament
and in Edinburgh with the latest. First to our political
editor, Nick Watt. What's been happening there in the
last ten minutes, talk us through it. One of Margaret Thatcher's
favourite Cabinet ministers has said it is irrevokable. As you said, the
Brexit bill has completed its final Parliamentary stages. The House of
Lords threw in the towel, after there was a minuscule rebellion in
the House of Commons. That meant that bill no longer has amendments
on guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens and amendments saying that
there should be a meaningful vote in this place at the end of the
process. What that means is that Theresa May now can trigger Article
50 and of particular significance to the Prime Minister, it means that
she has a clean bill, no amendments and Number Ten had said if there
were any changes to that bill, that could weaken the UK's negotiating
hand and be exploited by the EU in those Article 50 negotiations. The
only final stage now is that the Queen has to give this bill Royal
Assent, which naturally she will do in Norman French. I'm told there's
going to be no rush to ask the Queen to do that. When Theresa May stands
up here tomorrow at 12. 30pm, to give her statement on last week's
European Council, we may find that the bill will not have Royal Assent
by that stage. We'll be back there shortly. Thanks very much.
Well, what are the calculations on each side?
And how would that second referendum work in practice?
Chris Cook has been assessing who holds the stronger hand
between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon.
The SNP's manifesto contained a pledge:
if Britain voted to leave the European Union, Scots should
And today, we learned the Scottish Parliament will get a vote
to request permission for a fresh referendum next week.
If Scotland is to have a real choice,
when the terms of Brexit are known but before it is too late
to choose our own course, then that choice must be offered
between the autumn of next year, 2018, and the spring of 2019.
The evidence is that the Scottish people, the majority of the Scottish
people, do not want a second independent referendum, so instead
of playing politics with the future of our country, the Scottish
Government should focus on delivering good Government and
public services for the people of Scotland.
Some independence supporters tell pollsters they don't
want a second vote until they can be sure of a win.
At the moment, they don't have a steady lead.
In January 2016, the Unionists have reached a
Just after the Brexit referendum, the independence
movement took a 5% lead, but the latest
averages imply things are
neck and neck, a tiny 1% Unionist lead.
It's all in the balance, with 10% of Scots saying they are
Downing Street has two approve a referendum, and while the
Government sounds opposed to doing so, it will be hard to resist.
If they do approve one, though, when will it happen?
The options really fall into three boxes.
The first is they would have a referendum before
That's really what the Scottish National Party wants.
The second option is to have won after 2021.
That's what the Government want, because that would force the SNP to
win another Holyrood election before they
were allowed to call an independence referendum.
So, the likeliest outcome is probably the
third box, somewhere between the two, 2019-2021.
We know from different election studies that
attitudes to risk were a big factor in the first independence
referendum, and the people who were very willing
to take big risks in their lives for about 20 percentage
points more likely to vote for independence.
So what the SNP will want to do is either make
independence look less risky and appeal to those who are a bit more
risk averse or make staying in look more risky, so the question then
becomes, when over the next two years is staying in the UK going to
Independence campaigners are alive to riskiness as a factor.
There is a deficit obviously within Scotland and within the UK.
It has picked up a bit, but there will be worries that oil within
the Scottish economy still is a huge player, despite the fact that the
growth commission set up by the Scottish Government is trying to
project a future economic forecast for Scotland that doesn't even
include oil so that it can look at the underlying long-term
The Unionists have trouble too, not least who will lead them.
Modern politics is much more about the story politicians tell
rather than spreadsheets, and defending the union, painting a
positive vision of the union was difficult a few years ago, but it's
now considerably harder, obviously because of Brexit.
A caricatured view of the UK propagated by a lot of nationalists
is that it is run by a right-wing Tory cabals who don't
like immigrants and want to come out of the EU has of course more or less
There are lots of moving Brexit parts here too.
Whether we manage to keep an open border
between Northern Ireland and the Republic, for example.
Fears of a hard border between England and
Scotland were a major issue at the polls last time around.
All that's certain for now is that Britain
changed fundamentally on the 23rd of June last year.
We will come back to all things Scotland in a second.
Fresh from that significant Lord's vote we caught up with Peter
Mandelson, who joins us now. Thanks very much. You stuck it out through
both the amendments. Do you feel the other Lord's let you down? No. It
was a judgment for them. But for me, the issue of the rights of EU
nationals is a matter of conscience. I think it was right to stick to
that principle. I also believe that at the end of this negotiation,
Parliament should have the right to express a view, a meaningful view,
on what the outcome of that negotiation will mean for our
economy, our future prosperity and livelihoods in this country. That's
why I voted to insist on both amendments. What does meaningful
mean now it's been defeated? What happens now? Now it's been defeated,
to all intents and purposes, although people will say that there
are many procedural avenues that Parliament can pursue, to express
its view, I think that a very clear signal, I'm afraid, has been given
tonight that the Government can do as it wishes. I greatly regret that.
Because the course on which the Government is presently embarked are
hard and extreme, a harsh Brexit would involve considerable economic
pain, loss of growth, a threat to livelihoods in this country. I think
people are right to stand up and say that whilst they respect the result
of the referendum, they nonetheless oppose that sort of hard Brexit. I
hope that people increasingly will organise to make their voices heard.
You're confusingly on the same page as Nicola Sturgeon now with that
line. With her laying out of a time table now for a second referendum,
would you like to see the UK Government allow that to go forward?
Well, what I would like to do is in her letter to the European Union,
triggering Article 50, let's take this one stage at a time, I would
like to see the Government take a much more constructive approach than
the one they've hitherto signalled. I think it's very important that we
negotiate to end up only one step away from the single market, so that
we continue to maximise our trade in it, to much pies the prospects for
growth, for prosperity, for investment in jobs in the country. I
regret right from the beginning the Government has ruled out any
participation by Britain in the single market and has indicated that
we should leave the customs union as well. That is a direct threat to
jobs and prosperity in our country. If I can just press you though on
Scotland. Would you like to see the PM allow that second ref to go
ahead? Would you campaign for the union and would you like to see
Jeremy Corbyn campaign for the union? Well, the first referendum in
Scotland showed, in my view, a decisive result. That was for
Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom. But two things have changed
since then. One is the referendum on EU membership in which Scotland
clearly voted by an overwhelming majority to stay inside the European
Union. And secondly, the Government has demonstrated that it is
absolutely determined to head for a hard Brexit, which will maximise the
economic pain and costs for Scotland as well as the rest of the United
Kingdom. I rather fear that strengthens the case for a second
referendum in Scotland. I regret that. Because I think, although the
case is not made for independence, I'm afraid we have to accept that
the Government's determination to inflict a hard Brexit on Scotland
does strengthen the argument of those who want to revisit the
original question. OK, thanks very much indeed. Sarah Smith joins us
from Edinburgh. Can you just pick up on that point, what choice can
Nicola Sturgeon actually offer people in Scotland this time round,
in terms of EU membership? Well, Scotland's place in the European
Union, if it were to become an independent country, is certainly
not guaranteed. EU officials recently have been reiterating that
an independent Scotland would have to apply again for membership. But
the SNP politicians, ever since the EU referendum have been travelling
around Europe, talking to as many EU politicians as they can. They say
they are getting a murch, much more sympathetic hearing since the UK
voted to leave the EU, than they did when they were talking to people
before the 2014 independence referendum. You'll remember back
then, people campaigning for the union said an independent Scotland
wouldn't be able to join the European Union. They told Scottish
voters, if you want to stay in the EU you have to vote to stay in the
UK. Well that has now become a major argument for the SNP, saying that's
the reason why you can't trust the union and in fact, if you want to
stay in the EU, your only hope is in an independent Scotland, who they
think would have a much better chance now of getting EU membership
and that's one reason why Nicola Sturgeon is going to try to insist
that a referendum is held before the UK leaves the EU, because she thinks
that would make that much easier for Scotland to get in much quicker and
not have a lengthy period outside the European Union. Your sense,
briefly, is there is nothing that would change her mind at this point,
aside from membership of the single market for Scotland? She said if the
UK Government come and talk about the compromise proposals Nicola
Sturgeon put forward that would allow Scotland to stay in the
European Economic Area and stay in the UK, she's prepared to talk about
that. That seems extremely unlikely. Short of that happening, she wants
another independence referendum. of the SNP, and I asked him
what the SNP would do if the UK Government tried
to block a referendum. Is the UK Government a functioning
democracy? I cannot see how a democratically elected UK Government
will say to a democratically elected Scottish Government, elected on a
mandate to hold a referendum, where the governing party has more votes
than the Labour Party and conservatives combined, where the
SNP holds all the Scottish seats in Westminster bar three, and after 62%
of people in Scotland voted to remain, one is not going to allow a
democratic vote? Is it the 21st or what? It does not sound like you
have accounted for quite a lot of people who have voted for Brexit. I
think of the prospect is a Scottish Government and parliament in charge
of all the powers, I think people will view it in a different context
and the Brexit referendum, where people were promised they would be
able to take back control, but as we have learned in recent weeks, there
is no prospect of the UK Government passing on all the powers from
Brussels to Holyrood. They were sold a pup on that, as they were on ?350
million to the National Health Service every week. I think people
who decided to protest in the Brexit referendum, when given the chance to
vote for Scotland to have all the relevant powers and... Hold on, what
about the people who voted yes to independence and for Brexit in the
referendum? That could work against you substantially. The polls have
shown that support for independence is up compared to 2014, and given
that we started in that boat on a base of 28%, I will take starting
50-50 as a good base camp for the referendum that is coming in the
next two years. This was hugely divisive last time round, and people
are only just starting to repair the wounds. Now they have to look at
years more uncertainty and antagonism from a nation that just
once you to get on and rule. The biggest uncertainty people in
Scotland faces being taken out of the EU against the will of the
people. In a normal democracy, you vote for what happens. In 2014,
people were told to vote against Scottish independence to protect
their place in Europe, and many did, in good faith, and then work out
voted two years later in a Brexit referendum. It could look
opportunistic for you. We have two options. One, to sit in the back of
the Tory Brexit busts, shut up, say nothing and disregard the 62% of
voters who voted to remain and see the Prime Minister drive us off a
Brexit cliff, or we have the opportunity of the people of
Scotland having the power in their hands in a referendum about our
country's future. I know what I would take. What power do they have?
You cannot go promising Scotland it will remain in the EU. What power
argue giving them? The power of the people to decide to be part of a
Brexit written or whether they are going to be a southern Scotland. I
do not believe in a month of Sundays that the people of Scotland will
vote for the same kind of harebrained Brexit plan we have seen
the UK Government propose. I think the people of Scotland will choose a
different course, much more in line with the politics of the European
continent, where we are prepared to work together, share sovereignty and
citizenship rights and not have them taken away by a right-wing Tory
Government which seems intent on the most extreme form of Brexit. We are
long way off, clearly, but there will be people looking at your party
tonight and saying, look, to lose one could be considered misfortune,
but you lose two, when push comes to shove, that would have to spell the
end of your party, wouldn't it? We have no intention of losing. Thank
you. Joining me now Gisela Stuart
and Nadhim Zahawi - both unionists - who fought to keep Scotland
in the UK and both Brexiteers, but Nice to have you here. This is a
massive day for Brexit, for Brexiteers, for a campaigner like
you. Yes, and the real headline is that the UK, which voted to leave
the EU on the 23rd of June, today in a Parliamentary process gave the
Prime Minister the authority to trigger that. I think it -- I think
what we see in terms of Scotland is a very interesting attempt at
grabbing the headlines, but this was a nationwide referendum, and the
United Kingdom decided to leave, and you just can't have one part of it
deciding on a retrospective change to the rules. It is interesting that
you start by talking about the United Kingdom. Nadhim, if you were
told in June that the result of Brexit would trigger a second
Scottish referendum, something you tried so hard to stop, would you go
for it again? Well, what you have to understand about today with Nicola
Sturgeon, the imagery looked stateswoman like, but the words were
nowhere near it. It was being opportunistic of the worst kind. It
makes Ruth Davidson looked like the only serious heavyweight politician
in Scotland who cares about the well-being of all of the Scottish
people. Remember, 40% of Scottish people actually voted for Brexit.
That is a significant number. Many would have voted for the SNP, but I
think the SNP have overplayed their hand. None of that matters. If she
is standing there saying, as Scotland's First Minister, I am
giving the country the chance to choose again and I am calling a
second referendum, none of that matters. When they considered the
question last time around, they couldn't answer the question about
currency. This time, it will be about the deficit. You will be
outside of Nato, outside of the EU, you will have to reapply. Spain will
block you. We can't provide any answers anyway over Brexit. You can
provide the answer that if they remain part of the UK, we are a very
strong economy. Look at what we have done since last June as an economy,
together. That is the question they will have the answer which I think
they don't have the answer for, and they will be punished at the polls.
Gisela, I wonder how you approach this referendum, a long way off, but
you were such a passionate campaigner for the Leave campaign.
Would you throw yourself into saving the union? I have always stayed
there is a good union and it is the United Kingdom one. It shows you can
have a supranational identity and it can work. It might be coming to an
end. I think that is why we have to make sure it doesn't. What should
Theresa May do? To ask why Nicola Sturgeon is doing this. It stops her
from having to look at the fact that the Scottish economy is not
performing as well as well as it should, that its education system
and health system is not running as well as it should. You heard Angus
Robertson - they had no choice and they are doing it to give Scottish
people a chance. There are a significant number of people who
voted for Scottish independence will also voted to leave the EU. I think
there is a moment of massive opportunity for National renewal. We
have a unique opportunity in peace time to rewrite the bulls on how the
UK relates to each other and to the EU. That will hold us together. --
to read/write the rules. You can't just have Better Together again and
go out and fight for it, can you? Some unions that have coherence,
they have democratic checks and balances, that is why the United
Kingdom union works and why the European Union didn't work, because
it didn't have those checks and balances. I completely agree and I
would go further and say that Ruth Davidson and the Conservatives in
Scotland are going to fight to stop the SNP doing this. So they should
just be Ruth Davidson, not Theresa May? -- so this should just be Ruth
Davidson. She should not be playing fast and loose with the future. We
had about tonight in the chamber and it went to the Lords. One of the
toughest things in any negotiation is the walk away option, and no
Government wants to take that option. In terms of the mechanics of
how this would happen, because it is intriguing because of all the
different political colours we are now seeing. Would Ruth Davidson
fight this for the Tories? Would you want Jeremy Corbyn becoming your
voice, whatever the Better Together campaign is? I think my party has to
be clearer when it says the United Kingdom is a union we fight for and
support. That is shot across the bow is to Jeremy Corbyn. I think once
Article 50 is triggered, in Scotland, there will be a dividing
line which between unionists and nationalists, and labour and the
Tories, we have to be clear that we other side of the unionists. The
point I was trying to make is that you will see the Theresa May after
tonight, because she has a bill that has gone through that allows her all
the options, in 2018-19, when, as I think is likely, we will be seeing a
good deal emerge for both sides, the EU and the UK, it would make the SNP
look irrelevant. They will look silly in the eyes of Scottish
people. If we had that deal as England Wales, Northern Ireland and
no Scotland, will it have been worth it? I don't think that's where we
will be. This Scottish people will look at it and say, we're better off
in the family of nations, a strong, dynamic United Kingdom. We are
negotiating as a United Kingdom. Nothing will happen to the United
Kingdom until that is completed. We have run out of time. Thank you very
much indeed. Well, when Theresa May does
write that letter - yes, signed off by the Queen in French -
all eyes will be on David Davis, the man she has charged
with handling what are fully expected to be some of the most
complex negotiations After losing out on the Tory
leadership to David Cameron in 2005 and then quitting the Shadow Cabinet
in 2008, many predicted that his career in front
line politics was over. Now he finds himself
at the forefront of the crucial Nick, you've been taking a closer
look at the man they call DD. Yes, well obviously Theresa May will
finally trigger Article 50 in the last week of March. As you say, that
means David Davis will enter as the chief EU negotiator. I thought I
would top his friends and colleagues of his to find out the character of
this former SAS reservist, and what he will be like in those
negotiations. Interestingly, I've picked up from the other 27 EU
members that when he sits down with his counterpart, Barnier will not be
asking for a specific figure on the highly contentious divorce
settlement, the money the UK has to pay. Barnier will say that we have
to sign up to the principles, which means that the UK has do abide by
commitments and undertakings it has taken as a member state and accept
its share of EU liabilities. Emily, this is my film.
It's a daunting challenge that only the bravest of the brave would
attempt. After accepting a death from fellow Tory diners, David Davis
sauntered along the crumbling ramparts of the castle. One false
move would have been a -- would have meant a sheer drop. David Davis
cemented his reputation as a fearless hard man. He also showed
that he is prepared to take risks but never in a reckless way. And
that shows the approach he will take to the Brexit negotiations. He takes
pride in his ability to take risks, but only after making a very careful
assessment of all the options in front of him. In David Davis's 's
mind, the black Root was a walk in the park compared to one of his
proudest achievements - a stint in the SAS reserves. When it came to
finding his way through university, he did it by joining the military.
He became a member of the Special Air Service, the Territorial Army
regiment, which means that he knows how to kill people, but only at
weekends. He won the respect of his military comrade after a deprived
and troubled upbringing in south London. One night, we got to bed
absolutely shattered in the barrack block from an injury in March, and
we got to bed at midnight. At 4am, suddenly, though wash-outs and
yells, the lights came on, everybody out, on parade! Underpants only, get
on the track! The last man to the top of the Brecon Beacons and back
will fail. That's pretty standard stuff coming from the instructors
but on this occasion, it was David doing shouting. Will you expect the
status quo, capping and capitalism? Although he had been interested in
politics since his student days, David Davis embarked on a business
career spanning two decades after leaving university and ended up on
the board of Tate Lyle, a suitable position for a sugar addict. For
scoops of sugar in his tea on a good day. After renting parliament at the
age of 38 in 1987, his business and military background provided the
perfect training for the assignment that made his name as a senior whip
pushing through the Maastricht Treaty. He may have been the
enforcer of the integrationist EU treaty, but he was no starry eyed
pro-European, as a former colleague can attest. His first contact with
Europe was as a businessman with Tate Lyle. What the common
cultural policy did was essentially disadvantaged it from French sugar
beet growers. What David Davis saw was a very distorted policy that her
British interests. It seemed commercial the village and wasteful
of money, and it was anti-British, which affected his initial judgment
about Europe. So his colleagues say that there should be no surprise
that the enforcer of Maastricht is now the man guiding the UK out of
the EU. Maastricht was a long time ago. The European Union has become
much more integrationist since then, and the flaws in the project have
become much more apparent. David Davis hoped to replace Michael
Howard as Tory leader. But a less than scintillating speech paved the
way for the next generation. Friends at mitted this failure highlighted
some character flaws. He works incredibly hard but he likes to take
August off. The trouble was that he needed to use August to tell the
country why he wanted to be Prime Minister back in 2005. David Cameron
kept his rival on as Shadow Home Secretary, but David Davis never
felt entirely comfortable. He ended his frontbench career when he
triggered a by-election, which he won on a point of principle on civil
liberties. Cameron regarded this as a vain act of folly. He's an
extraordinary optimistic and self-confident person. I remember
one of the Cameroons once saying to me in exasperation that he's the
only person he knows who didn't go to Eton but has the same level of
self-confidence you get from an Eton education. I fleefully retaled this
to David Cameron who hooted with laughter. There's a sort of
Churchill element to the journey. He hasn't actually changed parties but
he's had his wilderness years. He's a very unusual politician, a man of
great principle, as we see, a man prepared to go into the wilderness,
but a man who reinvents himself and comes back. At the time of the EU
referendum, David Davis had an inkling that he might be called up
by a desperate David Cameron if he'd stayed on as Prime Minister after
losing. So David Davis campaigned on the Leave side, though in a low-key
way. I remember on the night of the referendum, I was at ITV. I can
remember I was actually with Liam Fox in the studio with Tom about to
do an interview, when it was officially declared, that's it,
there's no way Remain can now win. Fox looked stunned. Then we left the
studio after doing the interview. David Davis was there. He just went
up to Liam Fox and said, "We've done it." He looked like he was really
kind of celebrating. The call did come but from a new Number Ten,
whilst he was catching up with an old colleague. He listened to his
voice message. He said, oh, looks like Number Ten want to see me. Off
he went up Downing Street. I went to the pub and watched him walk up the
street from the screen. The next thing I know, he's standing out the
front and we're going for a pizza. It was a completely ordinary evening
with something slightly extraordinary happening in the
middle of it. Theresa May took a gamble in appointing David Davis. In
the past they've clashed on civil liberties and they're not exactly
natural political soul mates. But David Davis has won the trust of the
Prime Minister. The word in Number Ten is that he's coming into his own
on Brexit and he's even turning into something of an elder statesman, no
such praise for his fellow Brexiteers, Boris Johnson, and Liam
Fox. Just down the street in his office in number nine, David Davis
puts his success down to two factors - silence and what he calls
proximity. He's avoided talking out of line and he's ensured that by
squatting in the building next door, he can saunter into Number Ten if
any problem arises. APPLAUSE
As a priority we will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement
with the European Union. The extent of David Davis' influence was shown
when the Prime Minister set out her overall negotiating approach in a
speech in Lancaster House earlier this year. Theresa May said she was
prepared to walk away from a bad deal. With his belief in taking
risk, but never acting recklessly, David Davis had told the Prime
Minister the EU will only take the UK seriously if it shows it is
unafraid of no deal. Obviously, it would be better both for the
European Union and for the UK if a sensible, constructive deal is
struck. But if, for whatever reason, they don't want to do that, we'll'
be fine without a deal. We can manage without a deal. Better with
one, but fine without one. David Davis knows such a path would be
fraught with danger, a marked change from his tone during the referendum
campaign, when he appeared to suggest Brexit would be
straightforward. His EU counterpart believes British talk of a walkout
is a bluff. I think the British Government, everyone in the British
Government know that a non-deal is going to be a simple catastrophe. So
if you want to walk out of the negotiations you'd better have good
negotiating cards. Britain doesn't. So in that sense I hope that we
never get into that state. The former Finnish Prime Minister
advises David Davis that Michelle Barnier will expect him to agree to
the principles, though not the exact sum of a financial exit bill. The
landing zone for this negotiation is that you come up with the principles
of the finances in the beginning. You see what the bill is then at the
end of the day. Then you start the negotiations at the same time on
Britain's new relationship. In these negotiations, because there's so
many vested interests you will have a clash and a few of those clashes
at the beginning. He also suggests it would be wise for David Davis to
rebuild the personal rapport he established when they were fellow
Europe ministers in the 1990s. I think they should go for quite a few
glasses of wine and glasses of pints just the two of them to sort things
out. The tough path of leaving the EU will finally be under way in the
last week of March, when Theresa May triggers Article 50. That is a bit
of a blow to David Davis, who had hoped to move this week. But the
ever confident Brexit secretary carries on serenely. He's the only
man I know who can swagger sitting down, one Tory grandee says.
Imagine if every story on Newsnight was told in four different ways.
I'll wait for a second to let that delightful thought sink in.
But the American novelist Paul Auster has attempted just
that in his new book, 4-3-2-1, a what-if story about
the unfolding of an American life in the mid-to-late 20th century.
Although Auster started work on his 900-page epic
when President Donald Trump was still only a gleam
in his barber's mirror, critics are calling it prophetic.
You might remember that when the writer talked to me
for Newsnight just before the US election, he was very gloomy about
We sent Stephen Smith to see if he could cheer him up.
Like that was ever gong to work to work.
You've landed us after so many gamine, elegant books,
Don't drop it on your foot, that's the only advice I can give you.
Paul Auster's new novel had to be big because it imagines one man's
The writer's been preoccupied about the unexpected
turns our lives can take, since a tragedy involving a thunder
storm at summer camp, when he was just 14.
The boy directly in front of me, in other words, his feet
were about that far from my head, as he was halfway through the fence.
Lightning struck the barbed wire, electrocuted him on the spot.
So I crawled beside him and I pulled him into the meadow.
I stayed with him for an hour trying to warm him up.
That was the moment that I understood that anything can
It's an experience that has haunted me all my life.
I've thought about it probably every day.
It was the single most important thing that ever happened to me.
The multiple lives of Auster's protagonist Ferguson
unfold against the events of the mid-20th century.
"Those were the only two subjects that seemed to exist any more,
Ferguson wrote in an letter to his aunt and uncle in California.
The expanding bloodshed in Vietnam and the Civil
White America at war with the yellow people of South East Asia.
White America in conflict with its own black citizens,
who are more and more in conflict with themselves, the movement that
had already split into factions was splitting further into factions
of factions and perhaps even factions of factions of factions.
The lines drawn so sharply that few dared step over them any more."
Well, we seem to be in that state right now
It is eerie how 50 years later, we're living through
a new wave of racial problems and another divided country.
Suddenly, after the election, a new wave of activism that has not
happened in this country since that period of my book, the '60s.
He told Newsnight last year that he had no time
We wondered what the president's whirlwind start had done
My daughter showed me the tape of our interview,
my interview with the BBC just before, and I look like a man
I was stuttering in ways that I don't normally,
I am, well, along with millions and millions and millions
of other people in America, I feel as if I'm
We've gotten somebody who is, I think, deranged.
He's a demented, incompetent, unqualified person.
In British terms could there be a sense that this is a class thing?
That he's the brash, vulgar guy who's turned up
on the street with his funny hair and gold bathroom, and he just
He has a demonic talent for inciting crowds and getting
His gibberish, it's utter nonsense that comes out of his mouth and yet,
he has his loyal followers who are loving everything that
But no, more seriously, what he is proposing to do
is dismantle American society and the choice of his
We were hearing that Trump has no sympathy for Nato.
But he's appointed people who are pro-Nato and says that he's
He's contradicting himself continually.
I don't think he even knows what he thinks.
That's all we have time for this evening. Evans here tomorrow. Till
then, good night. Hello. It's been a mild start to the
week. No frost overnight. Mild again for Tuesday. Plenty of cloud around
first thing, mind you. A lot of thick cloud through Wales,
In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Emily Maitlis.
The Article 50 bill is to become law tonight. What will Scotland do now? Who is David Davis? Paul Auster's new book.