13/03/2017 Newsnight


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.

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