05/04/2017 Newsnight


Has President Trump changed his mind on Syria? French miners prepare to vote. Ken Livingstone is back in trouble. Fay Weldon's She-Devil gets a sequel.

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It's very, very possible - and I will tell you it's


already happened - that my attitude toward Syria


Is President Trump - accused of inappropriate respect


for President Putin - about to get tough on the Russians


When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty


to act collectively, there are times in the life


of states that we are compelled to take our own action.


We'll ask what the US can do, and what it means for the reset


I visit the old coal-mining territory in northern France.


Home of Europe's's tallest slack heap. Is anybody here buying into


the promises of politicians?. Find the woman and there the she


I have changed somewhat, but a lot of the early feminists


haven't and they go on seeing men as the enemy.


I don't see men as an enemy, or an oppressive force, anymore.


I tend to see women as rather the oppressive force at the moment.


Since the start of the Syrian civil war, adjectives


become worn out from over-use, not least from describing


the brutality of Bashar al-Assad and his military.


Listening to much of the reaction to yesterday's reports


of a chemical attack, one could only be struck


by the apparent powerlessness of the West to prevent cruelty


For some, Donald Trump was the problem - he had shown


a disregard for Syria and respect for Russia, offering Assad and Putin


But at quarter to five our time, a dramatic shift in approach.


The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, made an excoriating


attack on Russia and Assad, with a suggestion the US might


The President himself also had strong words.


That the administration is about to take a new and decisive


step towards intervention, or that it is just


And I should warn you - Ambassador Haley held up some


graphic images of some of the victims of the attack today


About all everyone agrees on that this was chemical weapons. Who


carried it out, though, that is what is at issue. The Western powers,


including Britain and supporters from the region, were congregating


in Brussels today for yet another serious conference. Here, a


consensus on who is to blame is easy to find. All the evidence I have


seen suggests that this was the Assad regime who did it, in the full


knowledge that they were using illegal weapons, in a barbaric


attack on their own people. What to do about it, though? The question a


leading international agreements so many times and every time, the death


toll in Syria has grown and grown. The UN Security Council has convened


many times since Syria's barbaric Civil War began but nothing said


emission chamber has halted the carnage for a second. Russia


sometimes joined by China has vetoed concerted action. Today, yet another


emergency session with the same strong condemnation from some around


the table. Yesterday, we sought the consequences of those vetoes. Those


consequences are painted on the stricken faces of the children in


Syria. But Russia is supporting and supplying President Assad, it


contends that the chemicals were released when a rebel munitions


store was hit by a Syrian covenant as strike. The rebels, Russia says,


using the chemical weapons to draw the US into the conflict. The


turning point in the use of toxic chemicals in Syria and weaponise


chemical agents, that the turning point was the establishment by the


previous US administration of the so-called red lines. Crossing those


red lines was supposed to lead to intervention, military intervention


in the Syrian conflict. That decision served as a starting point


for future provocations eye terrorists and extremist ructions


with the use of chemical weapons. It is impossible to say without


independent scientists on the ground, but from this distance, the


Russian explanation of a rebel chemical munitions store being hit


gets little support. We would not see this many deaths around. We


would not see this many suffering around. This is for sure the


Government or the Government affiliated agencies. Bombing the


Idlib province and the people deliberately using a nerve gas.


Foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions. America is convinced


the US Ambassador to be when major the Russians and Syrians could see


pictures of some of the dead. And she hinted at a strong US response.


When United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act


collectively, there are times in the life of states, that we are


compelled to take our own action. It seems that President Trump is in the


process is very calibrating his Syria policy. It crossed a lot of


lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies,


little babies. Till now, the President has seen so-called Islamic


State is the bigger threat to American interests. I think the


President, as a result of this chemical weapons attack, has reached


the conclusion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a major asset for


violent extremism. But what follows from that realisation, what the US


can do to hurt the Assad regime without coming into conflict with


Russian forces, is by no means clear.


Well, new President, a different approach.


Is this the first opportunity for President Trump to show


what he can achieve, or the first sign that he's


going to achieve little when it comes to influencing Russia


Joining me now from New York is the Foreign Policy


Strategist Nancy Soderberg, who served as Deputy


National Security Advisor under President Clinton


Good evening. Do you regard what happens today as a shift in American


policy, a serious shift, or just more words? I think it is a serious


shift. President Trump cannot ignore the pictures of his UN Ambassador at


the United Nations and it will drive a wedge between him and President


Vladimir Putin with whom he has been confusingly cosy. He has got to have


a policy that puts America on the right side of history. We do not


have one yet, we have not seen it yet, but I think we are going to try


diplomacy and perhaps, we have to do something about the remaining


stockpile in Syria of those chemical weapons. Just give one option that


you think is a viable or plausible option that he might now pursue.


Well, I think he has got to recognise that the Russian policy is


a failure in Syria. They promise to get rid of chemical weapons and they


have not, so he has the tough talk to her Putin and say we have to


solve this issue, defeat Isis and have a peace plan to rid the country


of Assad. That is in two stages and will be difficult and will require


diplomacy which we have yet to see from this team. But that does not


involve taking what I would think is unilateral action of going in and


doing anything, that is more talk and more diplomacy. Is that going to


leave America looking a bit week, with the day Nikki Haley saying


sometimes you have to act on your own comic you would look like you


have caved again? No, they have to do something to get rid of those


chemical weapons and that could either involve the Russians going in


and doing it as they should have the first time in 2013, they promise to


get rid of all of it, secondly, if they do not do it, I think the US


would be justified in trying to capture that. Unilateral military


intervention to get the chemical weapons is very, very difficult. A


negotiated effort with the Russians upfront to make up their faulty deal


from 2013 would be first, but I think President Trump is very


serious about taking action to address the chemical weapons threat


if the international community and particularly Russia fails. Quickly,


Nikki Haley and the United Nations pointed the finger very directly at


Russia and talked about Russia. President Trump did not mention


Russia, he was talking about Bashar al-Assad. Is that an interesting


distinction between the two of them, they entirely on the same page on


this? No, I don't. I think what Nikki Haley was doing at the UN was


to have her moment were akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis when our


Ambassador showed for the first time the satellite pictures of Cuban


missiles, Russian, Soviet missiles in Cuba, this is the pictures and


the evidence. You cannot deny that this is the truth. She is trying to


corner the Russians and the President has not got there. Our


Secretary of State is mute. I think they do not have a coordinated


message. I think they will get one but it is a little confusing now.


That is typical of this administration, they are not well


coordinated with one message. Some people say sometimes been a bit


unpredictable and confusing, nobody knows what you're doing, that can be


an advantage in these situations, you can get away with stuff nobody


else can. I think below -- people believe President Trump when he says


he will make sure this is addressed alone if we have two, I don't think


President Trump knows what that is exactly. This forces President Trump


to confront the Russian behaviour which he has been unwilling to do so


far. There is no doubt the Russians could move to prevent this and did


not get all the weapons initially, they are pretending this is the


rebels, the same playbook they played in 2013 when this crisis


happened before. Russian policy is an absolute failure. It opens the


door for President Trump to try to get the Russians to do the right


thing here. Given their relationship, he may be the one


person that can hold that. If they can get that deal, he will have


accomplished something important, and that is going to be the first


test of this presidency. Nancy Soderberg, thank you very much


indeed. Listening to that was


Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, an expert in conflict and US foreign


policy at Chatham House and SOAS. Did you think this was significant


when you heard President Trump say he had changed his mind about Syria?


It was significant because Trump backed himself into a corner. He has


been criticising the Obama administration for a long time and


failing to force the red line. He said many red lines were crossed and


more than a red line. So people will be looking to see what he does. Much


of what Donald Trump has been doing in the last months has been about


his concern for his popularity at home. So that audience now, the


expectations of that audience, has been raised. But she is exactly


right, it is not very obvious what one does do, using Russia has the


greatest love it over Assad so that is important, but whether Donald


Trump has leveraged over Russia remains to be seen and there is no


real strategy out of the administration. This is the most


fascinating things, have we learned anything about Donald Trump and


Russia? This is what everybody has been talking about for the last four


months. Is he compensating for the fact people think he is close to


Russia, does he have any sway over Russia? Donald Trump, when he spoke


today about Syria and about the chemical weapons, again, I think he


was speaking to a domestic audience and he was launching a critique of


the past administration. It was a little bit less about Russia. But


this puts him in a very difficult position because without the help of


Russia, there is not much you can do about Assad. Everybody says that,


can the US, the one thing I have heard described you can do, you


could just go in and punish Assad for this. So he thinks about it the


next time, you could just bomb and airfield. Not get in the way of the


Russians and not get drawn into the fight but say, you did that, we do


this, don't do that again. Is that plausible or does Russia have


control of the airspace you could not do anything? The key issue is


whether the current administration will think and deliberate carefully


enough. If they were to decide to use military force for the specific


aim of taking out whatever chemical weapons remain in Syria and whether


they would go through the kind of process that would be absolutely


essential to achieve that, and that would not be easy to achieve in any


case. I think that is an incredibly difficult to quote you do not know


where the chemical weapons are. And the broader question is how to solve


this crisis, this ongoing conflict in Syria. They are two issues and


the two issues will come together in the mind of the American public.


Thank you very much. Another day in which comments


of Ken Livingstone have distracted He was suspended from standing


for office within the Labour Party yesterday, not expelled,


for his views on Hitler and zionism. But he was on this programme


last night, and carried on the argument without apology,


to the disappointment of many. His latest comments


mean there is now to be It's all getting in the way of a big


policy announcement - unless the policy was designed


to distract from Ken? We'll ask a Shadow Cabinet


minister in a moment. But first, our political editor


Nick Watt is with me. Let's take a break from him, what is


the policy and how will they get away from this Ken Livingstone


affair? Jeremy Corbyn complained earlier the week that Labour never


focus on party policy and are obsessed with his leadership so they


will announce a policy tomorrow which will attract a fair amount of


attention. Labour say a future Labour


government would fund free school meals for all primary school pupils


to be funded by, wait for it, charging VAT on private school fees.


He is going to cite research from the Fabian Society back in 2010,


which said this would raise about ?1.5 billion a year.


It's interesting to note that there was an identity Michael Cole


identical policy on this in the Labour general election of 1993.


That manifesto went much further and talked about phasing out private


schools. Let's talk about Ken Livingstone now, bringing us


up-to-date on the sequence of events since last night? There was uproar


in the party after that decision, as you say, not to expel Ken


Livingstone from the party, about 100 Labour MPs, including members of


the Shadow Cabinet, said the Labour machinery did not act in their name


and this afternoon Jeremy Corbyn criticised his former comrades on


the left, for refusing to apologise for his remarks and endorsed that


referral of Ken Livingstone to Labour's ruling National executive


committee. Tomorrow, Theresa May will wade into


the row and says the Labour Party has betrayed the Jewish community by


letting Ken Livingstone off the hook. She will be talking at the


launch of the Conservative campaign for the local elections on the 4th


of May where she will essentially say that under Labour, council tax


doubled but Conservative councils made sensible savings while keeping


council tax down. Thank you.


Barry Gardiner is the Shadow International Trade Secretary,


and was one of more than 100 MPs who signed a letter today


criticising the party's response to the Livingstone saga.


I think that that letter, the words were "The Labour institutions have


betrayed our values". Do you believe that? I do. I joined the Labour


Party to fight bigotry and racism. To fight injustice. Not to turn a


blind eye to it. That is why many of us were incensed at the National


Constitutional committee's response. To actually find that Ken


Livingstone had done what had been alleged, namely he had brought the


party into disrepute, with these grossly offensive remarks. That he


had not apologised for them. And the sanction that was there, provided


for, was not used and he was not expelled from the party.


That is absolutely wrong and sends the message to people that is


contrary to everything the Labour Party was founded on, and everything


the Labour Party stands for. Jeremy Corbyn, today, seemed to share quite


a lot of those views. That it was terrible he had not


apologised and continued talking about it. But, he also said to


regional papers this afternoon that he does want Ken Livingstone to


contribute to the fight of the Labour Party, including the fight


for antiracism, the fight against racism.


Now, you could not share that view with Jeremy Corbyn? You do not want


Ken Livingstone in your camp fighting for anything? Let me be


clear, Ken Livingstone is a consummate politician, I do not


think any of doubt that, he's a very intelligent man. If he were to


repent, if he were genuinely to be sorry for the gross offence that he


caused, I would welcome that. But, Ken Livingstone knew what he was


doing when he weighed in to that original argument. He knew deep


remarks he made were likely to cause offence. He has continued to try and


dance on the head of a pin about the particular words that he used, being


misinterpreted. But the fact is, he hasn't come out,


as he should have done, contrite and apologised for the offence he


caused. Many people focus on the anti-Semitism part of this but some


think it is the whole affair which makes the party look on hinged?


Banging on about Hitler and Zionism, partly it has taken 11 months to get


from his first comments to where we are now, and that you haven't


managed to agree a line, constitute committees have come up with one


thing and then 100 MPs have shown that the immense and passion that


you have. Then, the second enquiry, and the


leader giving slightly mixed messages about the role of Ken


Livingstone. Do you not think that the party


comes across as not looking like it can organise anything? The National


Constitutional Committee was set up a number of years ago to be able to


take this away from the National executive and take it out of the


politics of politics, if you like. And, to set in place a way of


dealing with things like this. The problem is, it hasn't done that


effectively. Therefore, Jeremy Corbyn was absolutely right, that it


must now go back to the NEC, the National executive committee, the


governing body of the party, to look at this again.


This is not just about Ken Livingstone, although he, I'm sure,


is always keen to make it about Ken Livingstone. This is about the way


in which the party organisers from the bottom-up, the way in which it


operates from the bottom-up, and we must get it right.


Unless these fundamental values are at the core of the Labour Party,


then it is not the Labour Party as was founded, and it is not the


Labour Party that many of us joined. We want to see it right in the


future. Like it or lump it, no matter what Theresa May says


tomorrow, it is the Labour Party in this country which is the best


political vehicle for justice, for fighting racism, and...


You are sounding very angry and quite disenchanted, if I may say so,


with your own party. Not at all. Some would say it is with your own


leader? I think that Jeremy's response today was exemplary and his


response, having referred it initially to the NCC, he was


absolutely right, as all of us should be, to be kept out of the


process of discipline. You face your elections on May the 4th, local


elections, and agree it would be a disaster for your party to lose


seats in those local elections? No opposition party has done that


since 1985 in a local election... We want to win the seat and not lose


them. We want to win all of the seats that we fight in. The more


labour representatives there are in local councils, the more seats that


are in local councils, the better we are able to highlight the fact that


this is a government which has just cut 8% of the education budget, and


we are able to highlight the cuts to social care in this country and


highlight the way in which the National Health Service is not able


to meet the targets that this government has said. Every Labour


councillor, every Labour mayor, will enable asked to do that better.


Barry Gardiner, thank you. -- will enable us to do better.


The French had a Presidential election TV debate last night.


Eleven candidates on stage for four hours.


Interestingly, the debate winner in the follow-up poll


was the radical left winger, Jean-Luc Melenchon.


He's been gaining support, and it's now possible that the two


main parties in France will come fourth and fifth in this


Well, for an explanation, I've been to the northern


Just an hour from Calais, it was the heart of a huge coal


That's long gone,of course and the population there


It's often said the populist far right, Front National, flourish


there, but in people are often clutching at someone, anyone,


What I didn't find there, is anybody supporting either


The French spent billions shutting down their old coal mines.


In the north of France, it was the early '90s they went,


but the relics of that past are hard to miss.


But, yes, the country did shut them down all the same.


He started working in the mines at 14.


So is there life when the mines have gone?


In Northern France, they have done their very best.


A novel use for a spoil tip, a dry ski slope.


But how does this play in the upcoming presidential election?


Will this part of France conform to the global pattern


He thinks it's not all about the Front National.


It's easy to say that places like this have been forgotten,


I'm really not sure it's that simple.


This, for example, is the fantastic Lens Louvre museum.


It's the only branch of the Paris Louvre


They've made a real effort, but the truth is, nobody anywhere


How would you bring economic drive, jobs and status to areas that


Culture is a favourite French revitaliser.


The Louvre is on the site of an old mine and here,


a few miles from Lens, is another pithead turned


This old cloakroom and shower room is the exhibition site.


Former miners still gather on the site.


They recognise the effort that's been made, but


Tell me about the best days, the best days ever, of this region.


When was this region, do you think, at its absolute best?


Would they believe anyone promising jobs now?


Back to Lens, where I must catch sight of the local natural scenery.


A sign of just how dominant coal was here.


Well, the view is spectacular, but there's one thing that you can't


see, which is that over there - about a 40-minute drive away,


not so far - is Lille, France's fourth biggest city.


And everybody agrees there are more jobs over there.


Indeed, economic opportunity has tended to gravitate


But for the people here - and remember, we're not


talking small villages, this is secondary towns and cities -


There's definitely a gulf between the big metropolis and the rest.


Here's not the place to find the old, but you


It is among them, polls show, you find most support


What's most striking is how far the Front National has


These two would never have voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen.


So you would never vote Jean-Marie Le Pen?


An array of products of offer and an array of views.


This strikes me as a community groping for some kind of change,


unsure if it's possible, and divided over who can deliver it.


Areas of industrial decline are common in the West


and there's a clear, if unsurprising, political pattern -


In fact looks at the first round that election.


Fay Weldon is a prolific writer who, in her 86 years, has written


more than 30 novels, but it was when she was 52


that she wrote her most celebrated and famous work,


It was a raging and funny revenge novel about a woman's take-down


of her adulterous husband and his more beautiful,


And the television series which followed had everyone rooting


for the ungainly Ruth, whose actions and articulacy fired


Now the She Devil is back, but in Weldon's new iteration -


Death of a She Devil - Ruth is in her eighties, harsh,


embittered, and her female-only world has consigned men


Weldon paints a dystopic view of feminism, earnest humourless


It is a satire, but in her own life, Weldon too has had second


thoughts about feminism, believing the revolution has not


Kirsty met the author to talk about the return


I always pretend to be happy when I am not!


I must be grateful for the roof over my head and the food on my table.


When you unleashed the She Devil into the world...


what do you think was it about her that captured


the imagination, not just of women, men too, but mainly women, that she


I think it was the rage and the anger and the fact


that she represented women who were not particulary beautiful.


To see a large woman actually active on the screen


She was not subservient, she did dreadful things,


I mean, she took off in great danger to herself,


inasmuch as she had no way of financially supporting herself.


And that stopped many women taking off, didn't it?


It was very much as women in other countries are today,


that you can't be your own person because you have no


Women wanted freedom and she was free.


Over a decade ago, in an interview, you said - as soon as women


have the choice of marrying or not marrying, having children or not,


the only choice they don't have is not earning,


which is a terrible loss to womanhood.


If you're young, healthy, energetic, have a career,


But most women have jobs, or end up with jobs, not careers, often


Social change in the last 40 years has been enormous.


Thanks to feminism, in a way, but you can't say


Because the original feminists really didn't


We saw a world of young, healthy, intelligent, striking women,


and we didn't really honestly take much notice of those


But you seem to be suggesting, broadly, that feminism has not


turned out as well as you thought it would when you were younger.


I mean, there were many, many advantages.


Earning and working gives women economic


I mean, they have freedom, they have power, they have all these things,


but they have no rest and they look tired and they look exhausted.


Feminism is wonderful for any woman under 30.


Man now controls the best weapon woman ever had.


In its very mood and subtleties, he can become her,


But what will happen to the She Devil?


So what kind of character has the She Devil turned


Well, she hasn't changed, she has the same views, I think, really.


I mean, I hope I have changed somewhat, but a lot of the early


feminists haven't and they go on seeing man as the enemy.


I don't think man is the enemy and an oppressive force any more,


I tend to see women as rather the oppressive force at the moment.


You have said that women now live lives easier than men and the only


way men have of fighting back against the natural


superiority of women is by becoming women themselves.


You're not seriously suggesting that people change sex


from male to female simply because it's easier in this


Look, there are lots of sort of transgender people


for whom it is really a serious business.


But there is also a sort of undertone of frivolous people


who, for the sake of fashion or what is going on,


or the clothes or whatever, want to be the other gender.


Most of them being men wanting to be women.


The women who want to be men have a really hard time, I think,


because it's a real serious business for them.


I'm not dismissing this at all, at all.


You do accept that what you say offends a lot of transgender


people who feel very, very passionately that they


I'm not saying they shouldn't for one minute.


I wrote a comic novel about somebody who is a frivolous person and then


you have to read it to see what happens, but I'm not offending


transgender people or thinking there is anything wrong


with changing your gender because I don't.


I think it is a very personal thing, it is something very personal,


but you can't sort of not say what you think.


What you look at and see with your eyes.


You have suggested, I think I'm right in saying,


that some of the women who claim to have been sexually


molested by Trump were just after money.


And you argue that what is now seen as sexual harassment


That is another minefield, it is like you like to just trample


I worked at an advertising office in the '60s when,


before feminism or sexual harassment...


Sexual harassment is also very, very unpleasant,


I know that as as a woman, I suffered


But I also know that in a properly run and civilised office,


what went on behind the filing cabinets was what made


Except that it was men exercising power over women,


women often did not have the chance to speak up about it,


they felt they would get the sack, they felt they would be demonised.


Well, if that happens, then absolutely, it is sexual harassment.


But all I am saying, in those days, you did not lose your job


if you did not do what people wanted you to do.


Do you still think of yourself as a feminist?


Yes, I do, because I want women to be happy, fulfilled


and have good lives, and die happy.


If you look out on the streets and you see them carrying


their shopping still and struggling to get their children


from the nursery and to pay the mortgage and general anxiety,


which everybody now is living, then I really feel


Fay Weldon, thank you very much indeed.


Before we go, astronomers today begin a week of peering


into the never-before-seen event horizon of a black hole.


They're using the appropriately named Event Horizon Telescope,


which is so powerful, it can - so it's said -


While we're waiting for the new results,


we leave you with this simulation made by Astrophysics


It's based on our current theories about Black Holes,


Hello, it looks like it is going to turn really warm across England and


Wales this weekend. In the next couple of days when the sun is out,


it will feel quite warm, but the


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