16/03/2017 Newsnight


In-depth investigation and analysis with Evan Davis. Topics include the Tory expenses row, the possibility of another Scottish referendum, and Trump and postmodernism.

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For a party of law and order - indeed a party that makes


the law and order - the Conservatives have come up


short, fined not just for breeching election law,


but failing to co-operate with the authorities' investigation.


They have imposed a fine on the Conservative Party


and the Conservative Party will be meeting that fine, will


A report into the Tory battlebus and the way the 2015 election


campaign was accounted for makes damning reading.


Is this the next expenses scandal, or just the way political business


The main political parties didn't want to put anyone


But we do have guests to discuss how serious the Tory breech


And Scotland said no in its referendum two and half years


ago, Theresa May has said no to another vote, at least for now.


What the Scottish nationalists are suggesting is that they're not


the engines of uncertainty, of chaos -


with Brexit, the British government is.


Also tonight, is the accusation of racism bandied


We'll ask if majority white communities are racist


when they want the best for people like them.


So the Electoral Commission published a report on allegations


against the Conservatives today and the way they've accounted


for their spending in various recent elections or by-elections.


First thing to remember is that national parties are obliged by law


to keep records and receipts of election spending,


because there are national caps on how much they can spend.


There are also caps on what each local candidate can spend.


This was the national party affair, but several police forces have been


looking at various Conservative MPs as well.


Now, today's news from the Electoral Commission


was extraordinarily damning, finding the Conservatives


guilty on multiple counts, much of them exposed,


Failing to declare all their national spending.


Failing to keep proper accounts and records.


And, crucially, counting some local spending as national,


which may then obviously distort local battles.


The Commission said the then Tory Treasurer may have broken


criminal law in signing the election records off, and it condemns


the party for not even co-operating with its investigation.


Well, our political editor Nick Watt is with me.


damning report. Take us through some more of the detail. You cannot cross


this over. It is a bad day for the Conservative Party. That record


fine. The Conservative Party said we complied with the Electoral


Commission and they said excuse me, we had to go to the High Court to


get some of these documents out of you and the registered treasurer at


the time has been referred to the police because he may not have


filled in those forms properly. The Conservatives point out that a


similar thing recently happened to the Liberal Democrats. There are two


particularly important findings from this report off the back of that


investigation and the first of those is in Thanet South where the


Conservatives defeated Nigel Faia Raige. The report says that the


Conservatives should have declared some of the hotel costs for Tory


officials, they should have declared that as local spending. The


commission said it is located declared some of it as national


because the Tories have their anti-UKIP national centre there. The


reason why that matters is Nick Timothy, the joint Chief of staff,


he was one of the officials down there and the second thing that


matters is the same principle about you should have declared some


national spending as local applies to the Tory battle buses and that


matters because there are Tory MPs under investigation by the police on


that matter. We heard from one of those MPs last night. He is now no


longer under investigation. What are those Tory MPs with that cloud


hanging over them saying? The atmosphere has been dreadful. I


understand the atmosphere has calmed down and the reason for that is


there is a little noticed element in the Conservative Party statement


today and crucially it said that MPs in constituencies visited by the


battle buses would have no reason to consider whether it should be


included in their local return and then look at the last words, they


were directed that the bus would be visiting as part of the national


spending. The significant word there is directed at that has been


welcomed by MPs because that is the party acknowledging that it obliged


them to accept the buses. That statement comes after senior party


figures right up to the Cabinet were given a stark warning this week by


MPs under investigation saying that one of their central defences, if


this got to court, would be to say that feels campaigners, those are


the paid party officials, were told by CC HQ to accept a visit by the


bus and that would mean that all those connected, the campaigners,


the people who gave the orders, they would be brought into court and they


would be cross-examined by those MPs defence barristers. What are the


party saying about all of this? I spoke to one member of the Prime


Minister's circle who was bullish and said there was a cat in hell 's


chance of successful prosecutions and the reason for that is because


you would have to prove intent to deceive and they think that is a


hurdle that will not be met. Ministers are really annoyed with


the Electoral Commission and they say that there is no consistency.


Why are you not investigating the Labour Party which also had battle


buses? I understand that these concerns have been passed to the new


leadership of the Electoral Commission but I am told that if


this whole saga ends in no prosecutions, the Conservative Party


will go public and make a big song and dance about how the Electoral


Commission is not living up to its statutory obligations to act fairly.


Thank you. This is one of those gambles were everyone is at it


and... Well, is this one of those scandals


where everyone's at it and it carries on until suddenly some light


is shone upon it, at which point there is outrage,


followed by a reset The MPs' expenses scandal


comes to mind as similar, or the broadcasters' use


of premium-rate phone Chris Cook has been looking


at the thorny issue This week than Westminster election


spending bills have been in the news. Today we learned that the


Conservative Party has been fined a record ?70,000 and its former


treasurer reported to the police for breaching the rules on campaign


spending. This matters because campaigning matters. There is a


pretty good science quantifying what it takes to turn someone out. We


know that if you have a volunteer, a knocking on doors that forever 14


doors you not, if they have the right type of interaction you can


generate a Bolt. In certain types of direct mail, for about $50 per vote,


you can turn a nonvoter into a voter. These are things that have a


measurable impact. The spending rules for election are important and


they occupy a lot of time for candidates on the ground and the


type of people who work in places like Conservative campaign


headquarters. They keep the money from taking too big a role in our


politics and it makes it harder for an individual rich person to buy


themselves a seat in our Parliament. There is an important extent to


which the spending rules really are very otherworldly. A key principle


of these rules as they split spending into local and national,


local has tight spending limits, national does not. That is why the


Electoral Commission found itself investigating whether people bust


into marginal seats were promoting the local candidate or the Tory


party at large. If the leaflets have the local candidate's name on it it


counts as local campaign material. If they do not and have David


Cameron on, they would not. Political parties pay a lot of


attention to these rules, it affects the way they behaved but it


constrains the amount of money they spend mentioning local candidates


and consistent -- constituencies and the concentrate their money and


firepower on a much more presidential style of campaigning,


where they mention the national party, the leader of the party and


you can actually basically parachuting millions of pounds worth


of leaflets in theory, so long as they stay away from the local name


of the area. An important principle to political parties is everything


happens summer. National parties will often put on national events


for the national media that count against national spending. These


events are often much larger than anything a local party could ever


afford. These events, though, have to happen summer. Take the so-called


Ed Stone launch, it did not happen in either a rock-solid or a no-hoper


seat, these things are big local events in important marginals. And


actually, sometimes campaigners can drive national campaigns to avoid


breaking local spending limits. It is quite easy to dress up


effectively local campaigning so that it looks like a national


campaign. There are examples, like in Sheffield Hallam, the seat of


Nick Clegg, some of the unions invested a lot of money in these


enormous billboards criticising the Liberal Democrats. They were clearly


targeted at trying to cut down his vote in the local area but because


his name was not mentioned and it did not say Sheffield, a counted as


a national campaign. Still, our parties only spent ?38


million at the last General Election. Hillary Clinton spend ?100


million in just the last three weeks of her campaign. We managed to keep


our politics cheap, which is almost certainly a good thing. Generally we


find that once you get up into a presidential election, tens and


hundreds of millions of dollars, that marginal increases of the next


ten or $100 million are not doing a lot, mostly because people are


bombarded with information, a lot of it conflicting and contrary and we


know that it is very difficult to change the minds of people. The


Tories did break the spending rules so why aren't other parties pressing


them too hard? In short, it is because of this fuzziness in the


national and local rules and as the MPs expenses scandal shows,


sometimes everybody does it is not an excuse that the public will


accept. Let's talk about what this story


tells us about the purity None of the parties wanted to


discuss this. Let's talk about what this story


tells us about the purity or otherwise of our political


and electoral system with Phil Collins, commentator


for The Times and former speechwriter for Tony Blair,


and writer and comedian Ava Vidal. I consider you the political


outsider in this conversation. He is a complete insider. How does it


feel, what do you feel when you see what the Tories were doing? It is a


reasonably technical distinction, but do you think it is outrageous?


Yes, I do feel outraged. I think a lot of ordinary people are going to.


You have the Tory party, they are constantly talking about having to


live to certain standards, the standards that they want to impose


on ordinary people, one of the things they talk a lot about is


benefit fraud which is actually minuscule, but they make a big deal


about it. They came up with the strivers and shirkers and you find


out that they are corrupt themselves. People are not going to


take that kindly. It is the principle of them breaking a law or


is it the particular thing? Are you thinking, these people should not


have won the last election because they cheated?


That is what some people think. Politician should be beyond


reproach. They are leaders in society, they are supposed to show


the way. We find out they are doing things like this. Of course people


will be angry and disappointed. Just on the narrow point and we have seen


it in the peace there, how serious or how egregious was it what the


Tories did? It was bad. They broke the rules and their attitude in


forcing the Electoral Commission to go to court to get their information


was foolish and stupid. It is bad and they have been fined and I think


it is a rather paltry fine and I think it should be more. That is an


issue. The fine could have been bigger. I think the fine should be


bigger and the fact that we take this case very seriously even though


I regard it as not terribly egregious but the fact we take it


seriously is one of the reasons why it is quite rare in British politics


that we have cases like this. Do you think the public care? Yes, they do.


We know that they do. That is why this is such a bad case. Although, a


bit like benefit fraud, this is also small, but it does not seem like it


when you have incidents like this. It gives people a reason to think


they are all in it for themselves and it is quite corrupt. That is a


thing. Is it a defence to say, one suspects that the fuzzy line between


local and national spending has been used or abused by other parties in


other elections? Does that make a difference? It makes absolutely no


difference. They keep speaking about it being a fuzzy line, I do not


think it is fuzzy. It is clear. It shows the way they go around it and


I do not think the fine is good enough either, especially for the


Tory party. I do not think it is a deterrent. They say SNMP is found


guilty of doing it, they will step down. That is not enough. We see MPs


walk out or lose their job and walk into the board of a business and


earn lots more money. How does that make sense?


Let's step back, because although this deserves the condemnation


you've given it, in the big scale of things our system is relatively


clean, and eyes that -- I defend that proposition. Yes, relative to


other countries and relative to our own history. The transparency do an


audit of corruption every year and we come tenth out of 176 measured


countries, so we are a relatively clean system. I think that's in part


because we are so vigorous in trying to police things like this, so we


are not deeply corrupt in our politics at all. We are relatively


clean. So is your line that this is not a particularly large offence? We


are right to make a big fuss about it but in the big picture of things,


this isn't, you know, people being given palaces and things? I think


most of the money parties spend on elections is wasted anyway! They are


wasting their money. We've seen so many lavishly funded campaigns that


lead to failure. Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush. Swimming in money for no


good at all! And I think that's true of a lot of spending in politics. So


we could reduce the spending and make no difference at all. Do you


think our political system has a sort of corruption at the heart of


it? People say it about the US political system, you know, you need


to be rich to be president of the United States. Do you think that's


the case here? I read the piece today and I thought it was a bit


naive, sorry to be rude. Today we have a relatively clean system here


is absolutely not true, and we are only just seeing the effects of the


bribery that came in 2010. It takes a while for the law to catch up. And


then you have the deferred prosecution agreement, so you have


that that is basically the government that doesn't look like a


government that wants to tackle corruption properly. It's basically


giving people an out cause. Sorry. Do you think the party with the most


money winds? Is it about money? The Conservatives have the most money


and they won. Is it the money or is it something else? The money as a


consequence of them being likely to win. It doesn't cause the victory,


it is because people think they will win, so it flows. Do you agree with


that? No, I don't. I don't want to get into the Jeremy Corbyn side of


it, but if you say we have one of the cleanest systems in the world, I


don't think so. This is not me saying so, these are


well-established surveys that go through all the countries and they


conclude we are tenth out of 176 out of a range of measures. That seems


to accord with what I know about British processes. Gas, I've read


them, the latest one I read was 2013, but if you look at the case of


Rolls-Royce, we're at the tip of the iceberg of the level... There are


lots of other aspects of our lives which may or may not be... Systemic,


which is actually going on. Thank you to you both.


Theresa May has told Nicola Sturgeon there won't be an independence


That leaves us in a new constitutional place -


a real argument between Westminster and Holyrood about the legitimacy


There's no doubt about the law - it's the UK Parliament that governs


But Nicola Sturgeon called it a democratic outrage today


that the elected Scottish Government is being blocked.


It felt like quite a significant day. Is that right? Yes, this is a


really big move by Theresa May, and, as you say, her mantra today was,


now is not the time, and she was saying how on earth can you expect


the voters of Scotland to decide to leave the UK when they don't know


what the Brexit deal for the whole of the UK will be until 2019?


Ministers believe they are on very strong ground, because Alex Salmond,


the former First Minister, signed the Edinburgh Agreement that created


the grounds for the last referendum in 2014, and in that agreement, he


agreed to abide by what the result was, whatever it was. Alex Salmond


said his resignation believe the Scottish Government of its duties


under the Edinburgh Agreement, however, and Nicola Sturgeon is not


bound by it. But the Prime Minister's take today did not say


whether she would reject a referendum right up to 2020, which


means maybe there could be one after Brexit. But I spoke to one Cabinet


minister who floated the idea of actually rejecting the referendum


for the whole of the UK Parliament and essentially challenging the SNP


and say, go ahead, get a mandate in the next Holyrood election in 2021


for a referendum, and hope that because they lost their majority


before, they would lose even more seats and not be in a majority for


independence. The SNP were very cross as they hold their conference


now. They are officially crossed but I spoke to one member in private who


said they are delighted. They have said Theresa May has walked into a


trap laid by them and it might actually leave both sides of the


issue feel they are being denied a vote by Westminster. So she could be


feeding a sea -- a sense of grievance. There is a big tent --


contingent at Westminster who can disrupt business there, let's not


forget. Parnell was able to drum up business in the late 19th century


and here's a of Alex Salmond, and UK ministers no one crucial bit of


Brexit legislation, the great repeal bill, which takes all that EU law


into UK law, that will need the permission, ministers believe, a


legislative consent motion in Holyrood, and they could cause


trouble there. Thank you. Well, John Sweeney has been


in Edinburgh and Dundee over the last couple of days,


to see how the referendum Are you for or against Scotland


staying in the UK? What do you think? I'm asking the question. From


BBC News. I think Scotland should be a country that is part of the world,


and because Westminster has put Scotland in such a terrible


position, Scotland is going to want to be independent. Two and a half


years ago for -- a referendum voted to stick with the UK. We don't want


to go through that process again. Do you detect any change in the


position of your friends? Both ways. If you want independence at all cost


then another referendum is a good thing, but there are those who were


pro-independence who are thinking, this is too much, too soon. On


Monday, Scotland's First Minister opened fire. I can confirm today I


will seek the authority of the Scottish Parliament to agree with


the UK Government the details of a Section 30 order. It is a procedure


that will enable the Scottish Government to legislate for an


independence referendum. UK Government was clear in 2014 that an


independence referendum showed in their words be made in Scotland by


the people of Scotland -- should. That is a principle that should be


respected today. Nicola Sturgeon's ambush was a great piece of


political theatre and it was rude, too. What the Scottish Nationalists


are suggesting is that they are not the engines of uncertainty. -- was


shrewd. . With Brexit, the British government is. Once Scottish


technology lead the world. The dream of the Nationalists is that


independence will make Scotland great again.


Never mind this new rubbish, this is the great classic of Scottish


engineering. So what do the descendants of the people who built


this great thing, people who live here in North Queensferry, think


about the new Scottish referendum? I really do not want to be out of


Europe. Also, I feel... That in Scotland, we have a lot more


ecological thinking, I like the way the SNP has combined with the Green


Party, in that they share a lot of use. The referendum gives you hope


because it makes you feel safer? Yes. So you are safer out? I just


think Scotland has grown very far away from England in terms of the


viewpoints. And we are a country. Scotland is a country. Are you


pleased not pleased about the referendum? Very not pleased. It was


supposed to be once in a generation with the referendum and that's not


the case. I voted against Brexit but I support the vote because the


majority voted that way. Unionists like him can take succour from the


Prime Minister's remarks today. There is a proposal that has been


put forward by the SNP Government in Scotland that wants to start


talking now about a second Now is not the time,


because if we were to put energies We want to be coming together,


working together, because that's the best opportunity we've got


to get the right deal for Scotland, the right deal for the UK as we're


negotiating with the European Union. Theresa May has just said now is not


the time for a second Scottish referendum. What, right this moment?


I would disagree personally. Disagree that she's blocked it,


because it's taking away from the autonomy of the Scottish Parliament,


personally. Are you in favour of leaving the UK? Yes, now that


Britain is leaving the EU. I did vote for independence only for the


sake of my children, because they were all for it, and I thought we


might not be here in ten or 20 years, so to help them, I voted for


independence last time. Will you do so again this time? Probably.


Our wholly unscientific sampling found no great enthusiasm for


another referendum. But also perhaps that Brexit is


weakening the glue that keeps the kingdom united.


If you've spent the last few months trying to work out why Donald Trump


won the American election and how he gets away with as many


inconsistencies and inaccuracies as he does, you're not alone.


The journalist and writer Peter Pomerantsev has been giving


some philosophical thought to the President, his


We asked him to set out his theory for us, and in return we put


These sorts of ideas have been prevalent among philosophers


for the last few decades, often described as post-modernist.


Originally meant to help unseat those in power to bring


in previously repressed voices into the political debate,


they are today being used by a new breed of leaders


Meet the post-modern politician, who doesn't just bend the truth


like his predecessors, but fundamentally subverts the idea


that there is any knowable or objective truth at all.


He happily contradicts himself, for example, boasting that he had


once pretended to pose as his own PR man and then denying it.


He asserts things that most sources claim are just false -


that the crowds at his inauguration were bigger than Obama's


Putin has the same disdain for facts.


As his army blatantly annexed Crimea, he went on TV and,


with a smirk, told the world there were no Russian


Meanwhile, Trump maintained that we will never really


know who shot down MH17, despite all the evidence pointing


Putin and Trump's undermining of the possibility of establishing


They thus remove the space where one can make a rational


Criticism becomes lost in a fog of unknowing.


Indeed, maybe Putin and Trump's post-modernist disdain for objective


Facts are, after all, unpleasant things.


They tell you that you are going to die,


that you might not be good-looking, rich or clever.


There is a rebellious joy in throwing off the weight of them.


Trump's disdain for the truth is an anarchic liberation


He comes from the fantasy land of the reality show -


that magical space where ordinary people can burst through the usual


glass ceilings of class and brains to attain fame and fortune.


So is the post-modern politician unbeatable?


Whether one is building a bridge or a new society,


facts are necessary to prove you're achieving your vision.


It's no coincidence that both Trump and Putin are backwards-looking,


selling fake memories to make America or Russia great again.


Nostalgia has an emotional appeal, but to bring back facts,


What one paradoxically needs is the imagination to envisage


Well, that's Peter Pomerantsev on Donald Trump's


Well, among the President's preoccupations today has


been his travel ban meeting new legal obstacles.


It's an example of populism in action which divides opinion


between those who say it's racist and those who say it's quite


reasonable to listen to the concerns of ordinary people.


In a way, populism has opened up a debate about the word racism.


Can a majority white community assert its interests as a community


Or is that just to use the word too widely?


Let's talk about that now with Eric Kaufmann,


Professor of Politics at Birkbeck University of London,


and Zubaida Haque, researcher at the Runnymede Trust,


a think tank that deals with racial equality.


Given name. What has been the problem in terms of the relationship


of those who use the word racism and the majority community? I think,


there is an interesting piece by a Muslim American writer who makes the


distinction between racism and racial self interest and with racial


self interest, something like wanting slower immigration,


something that a certain section of the majority community once, to


label that as racism is problematic and counter-productive. We need to


get more forensic about what is racism. That partly explains what


some would call the backlash and the populism. People are being fed up of


being told they cannot talk about these things. Do you buy any of


that? I think part of the problem is that you simplify what racism is.


Racism is very complex. It is a problem that we just use the word


racism when in fact racism hides a whole plethora of attitudes.


Prejudices, of overt racism of covert racism, of subtle


discrimination and unless you unpack back, you do not really understand


the nation -- nature of the game off racism and understand how people


experienced disadvantages, discrimination and how they end up


worse off when they should be better off. I want to work out on what you


agree and disagree on. Would you both agree there should be a taboo


around public expression of hatred for an ethnic or religious group?


You would both say that should be a to-do social thing and the charge of


racism, if you say you hate black or white people. I think you both agree


it would be racist if you said I do not want as many black people in my


neighbourhood? When you are focusing on a single group you do not like, I


think that is racist. You would agree with that. I think it is more


complex. This is where I want to challenge his work. Professor


Kaufman himself has said, that it is perfectly reasonable and legitimate


for people to say, I want to live with my own kind and even if that


involves colour, that is perfectly legitimate. What I would say, what


does that exactly mean when people say I want to live with my own kind?


I was on the race riot panels in 2001 and I am a social scientist and


what I would challenge you with, is what I found in 2001 during the


riots is when I asked people, white communities and ethnic communities,


what do you mean? Are you living in segregated communities? It was


interesting, what you slowly unpicked was behind people's views


about wanting to live along with the same kind, unconscious biases or


prejudices, but also with ethnic minorities, there were fears. They


were afraid to live in isolated communities and not amongst


themselves. Is it correct that you say that people should be allowed to


say I want to live with my own kind even if that has a racial view? I do


not believe in living segregated lives but I think it is legitimate


for a group to be attached to a community and be worried about rapid


change. I think that is fine. It does not mean we should stop the


change. I think it is not necessary -- necessarily racist to express


that sense of cultural loss. Why is it not racist? Just because someone


says it is not racist but you have to understand that underneath racism


are unconscious biases, people do not realise they are racist, but


that is how we have moved on. You're both the green on the most


fundamental point is that the word racism covers a million different


things. I want to say something about the study we did with Policy


Exchange and what you see, what people consider racism is affected


by their partisan ship. Most Clinton voters do not think it is racist for


a Latin American to want more immigration from Latin America to


boost their group's share the big think it is racist for white


American to want less immigration to midtown their group share and vice


versa for Trump voters. You have a certain sense of what proportion you


are in the country and you want to stabilise that or hold it. There is


an assumption there that when they say races, you and that person mean


the same thing and we have seen it in the immigration debate and you


know this is a politics professor that when you ask people about their


views on immigration and they are talking about immigrants, you do not


always been the same thing. Their interpretations of what kind of


immigrant is acceptable and who they mean is very different from the


questions will stop I think I know what you might say, but what


proportion of the population do you think are meaningfully racist.


Overt. Over we can measure. We can see in hate crime statistics. That


is a difficult question. We can see it through hate crimes. Do you think


the professor is racist. I think the professor has come up at the wrong


answer to the right question. I think the right question you had


every right to ask and we are all interested in, is what is British


does, what does it take to be British, what is acceptable in


Britishness and our ethnic minorities British? You can ask it


but you also need to ask our white majority groups British? In many


ways, what you have done is, but the wrong diagnosis in the wrong answer


to the right question. I also think we need to open up space to be able


to talk about these majority cultural interests. What are they?


We know that in this country, 75% or so of people want less immigration


and I do not think that makes them racist. There are a hard-core


racists, this is about a sense of cultural loss. It means it is


something we should be cognisant of. If we call that races, we are going


to alienate a lot of people. I am so sorry, we have to leave it there. We


will get you back on and talk another time.


Some say remainer, some say remoaner.


Whatever you call the tribe, it's going to be a tough couple


of years for those who are not comfortable with Brexit.


So here's a challenge for that group - without changing their mind,


can they at least find something positive to say about it?


We're asking prominent remainers to find a reason to be


We're starting with Matthew Parris, the former Tory MP


A couple of weeks after the referendum, he wrote that


"for the first time in his life he felt ashamed to be British".


Can he now see the glass as half-full?


On cost-benefit, I think Remain wins.


But it's more than that - it's also an emotional thing.


We've never liked the European Union and I've never really


liked the European Union, and I don't think we ever will.


It's like one of those little stones in the shoe.


It's not a very big stone, it doesn't stop you walking but it


Well, leaving will be getting rid of the stone in the shoe.


Now, the cost-benefit analysis may be in favour of staying but the "get


rid of the stone in the shoe" analysis is perhaps a bit more


It will help us, perhaps, take a firmer grip on our


sense of who we are, our sense of identity.


It may make us sleep a little more comfortably in our beds.


So here, with the glass not quite half-full, is to Brexit.


Matthew Parris looking on the bright side of Brexit, which does not come


naturally to him.


Topics include the Tory expenses row, the possibility of another Scottish referendum, Trump and postmodernism, and Matthew Parris on the case for Brexit. Plus a look at whether we are too quick to call people racist.

With Evan Davis.

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