06/02/2018 Newsnight


06/02/2018

In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Evan Davis.


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Transcript


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Just when they thought

the world economy was safe...

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Stock markets have tumbled

and bond markets too.

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Is it time to hide under

the blanket again?

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We are told rising interest rates

are causing the commotion, but rates

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are still at incredibly low levels.

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Imagine how difficult things

will be when they go

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back to the old normal.

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We'll discuss with a pair of doctor

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doom economists who both say

they predicted the last crash.

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You'll have heard much this week

about women getting the vote

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a hundred years ago.

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Not so much about the working class

men getting the vote

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at the same time.

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We'll ask if the fight for class

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justice has been eclipsed

by other cultural battles.

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And meet the member of the Germany's

far right AfD party...

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who's converted to Islam.

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Yes, I was born three months ago.

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I am Ahmed.

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This is your new name?

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Correct.

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Ahmed.

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Ahmed Wagner.

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Ahmed Wagner.

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Hello.

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The FTSE was down 2.5% today,

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that's hardly a crash and certainly

nothing to compare

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to recent fluctuations

in the price of bitcoin.

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But it still wipes 50

billion off its value.

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And it came as turmoil in the US

sent markets see-sawing too -

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finally closing an hour

and a half ago around 2% up

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on yesterday's record fall.

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Although the day ended more

positively than it began there's no

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doubt that this has been

a wobbly few days.

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So, how worried should you be?

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The basic explanation of

the volatility is interest rates -

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rates potentially going up faster

than expected makes profits

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harder to earn, and shares

relatively less attractive.

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And the good news spin

is that higher rates

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are the result of growth,

so these are problems of success.

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Which is all reassuring.

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But there's a bigger

way of looking at this:

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that this is a turning point.

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We had a crash ten years ago;

we still haven't got back to normal

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and this kind of disruption is just

a starter as to what

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to expect as we do.

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The banking crisis of ten years ago

has spread across the West and was

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like in a comic heart attack -- and

was like an economic heart attack,

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leaving banks slow to lend so

companies couldn't get credit to pay

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for new investment and too many

households were stranded with big

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debts and couldn't afford to spend.

Across the West, grows inevitably

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slowed.

For the time being at least,

the nice decade is behind us. The

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credit cycle has turned.

Central

banks had to step up to stop the

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economy is falling down even

further, printing money and slashing

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interest rates to nearly zero. In

normal times with everything under

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control and inflation low, you might

expect the main interest rates to be

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about 5%. That is the UK historic

average but for the best part of a

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decade the West has got used to

rates at or below 1%. Time after

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time people prematurely predicted

that growth would return and rates

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would rise.

It would not seem

unreasonable to me to expect that

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once monetary policy normalisation

begins, interest rates would proceed

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slowly and rise to a level in the

medium term that's perhaps about

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half as high as historic averages.

In fact the year's recovery was

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slow, economies were lacklustre and

rates stayed low. Now, solid growth

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looks to have returned by the

looming question is how we get back

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to normal. Everybody has got used to

easy money.

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to normal. Everybody has got used to

easy money. The US Federal bank has

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started normalising rates but they

are still only 1.5%. The expected

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path is for three quarter point rise

is for a year but this isn't an

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path is for three quarter point rise

is for a year but this isn't an

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exact science. And for investors who

famously vulnerable to overreacting

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to everything, small changes to the

expected trajectory of rates can

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make a big difference to the value

of bonds or shares. The path into

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the era of low rates was

unprecedented and the path out of it

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is also uncharted. Who knows how

painful it may turn out to be?

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So what should we expect next -

and what does all of this mean

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for finance ministers,

investors and for the

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likes of me and you?

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Gillian Tett is the managing editor

of the Financial Times

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and joins us from New York.

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Ann Pettifor is an economist

who for a while was an advisor

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on financial matters

to Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party.

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Good evening to you both. How

worried should we be, Gillian?

Well,

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in the short term, moderately

uneasy, not too panic stricken but

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in the long term we should be

concerned because there is a big

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dislocation in the global economy

and we need to address them.

Expand

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on that, what are we talking about?

Very simply, there is too much debt,

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there is 40% more debt per GDP in

the global system than there was a

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decade ago just before the crash and

the only reason we haven't noticed

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it is because interest rates are

very low. The question is what will

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happen when interest rates go up.

Indeed so. Ann, how worried should

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we be?

We should be very worried

because we have a new crowd at the

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Fed who want to raise rates and

tighten monetary policy which

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represents a big shift from what

we've been through over the last ten

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years.

You agree that this is a

transition, a turning point?

It's a

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turning point and I'm not sure

they'll get it right.

It's very hard

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to get it right but Ann you accept

that they can't sit around, in the

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UK it is half a percent and the US,

1.5%, should they sit around?

No,

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our point is that the economic model

out of the crisis is deeply flawed,

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it is about injecting trillions of

dollars into the financial system

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come into markets and property, bond

markets, and at the same time

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imposing austerity. The model has

not led to recovery and in fact I

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would disagree, we aren't really

seeing growth, we are seeing a

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little uptick in wages here and

there but actually we aren't even

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seeing real inflation in the US. My

worry is that we are shifting into

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the mode of tightening monetary

policy while there is massive fiscal

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expansion by the club

administration.

So this is another

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false alarm where people are seeing

rates going up but not the real

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recovery we need?

There isn't a real

recovery so we have to be careful.

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Wary about raising. On that point,

Gillian, do you believe the global

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economy has turned around to mark

most of the world is enjoying what

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would be regarded as OK growth.

I'd

be a bit more optimistic than Ann in

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terms of their being growth going on

but the problem, the image use is

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that you have a financial system

before 2007 that was addicted to

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cheap private-sector debt, heroin if

you like, we were weaned off that by

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becoming addicted to morphine,

government help and what we are

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seeing is an explosion in government

borrowing around the world which

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will eventually create problems.

What has rocked the markets over the

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last few days in America has been a

very funky project linked to

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something that is complicated, I

went to describe it -- I won't

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describe it, it is like the

sub-prime mortgages of a decade ago

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but it is the symptom of the

problems in the system as people

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have responded to free money from

the central banks by doing some

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weird things to try and get yields

and returns and that eventually

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comes back to bite everybody.

Are

you saying that you can't raise the

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rates now because in many respects

this is a problem of the methadone,

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whatever the drug substitute is? It

is the withdrawal from that that is

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the problem but you do want to get

people off it, right?

I couldn't

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agree more, I am in the cab of

people who say that we should have

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started the withdrawal process a bit

earlier and there is going to be

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inevitable lurches like this as the

system goes through withdrawal.

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That's part of the process. I'd

argue that the Fed and other central

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banks must press ahead with what has

been a pretty rocky ride so far.

If

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we've seen any growth, as Gillian

has suggested, it is because last

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year the central banks pumped in $3

trillion. When the economy is meant

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to be recovering they had to pump in

$3 trillion of liquidity to keep it

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alive.

The growth of debt and

pumping it up but you can't have

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growth without that and you can't do

it for ever.

Exactly come at the

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point is that there is something

wrong with the actual model is the

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problem and the colour mists haven't

come up with a solution to the

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crisis that was caused in 2007 and

what's going to happen -- and the

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economists. We have a president who

is going to spend money on tax cuts

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and so on and putting people onto

the board of the Fed who are going

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to tighten monetary policy and we

know aren't going to work. We don't

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have an answer to the thing that

will satisfy the people who voted

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for Donald Trump, they voted for him

because their living standards

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aren't...

How do you think of the

politics of this is going to play

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out? Donald Trump tied himself to

the rises in the stock markets, does

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he have to eat humble pie?

Does he

ever eat humble pie? He's not going

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to say get is what, I was wrong. He

was pretty nutty to tie himself to

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the fate of the stock market in

terms of using it as a scorecard for

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success but what he's going to do,

he'll distract everyone with

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something else going forward and he

probably won't talk about it again.

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People are talking about tax cuts

and deregulation instead and there

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is quite a good feel-good sentiment

in America.

Thanks very much indeed.

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The Tories were ahead of Labour

in an ICM opinion poll

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for the Guardian today.

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One point ahead.

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That might seem surprising given

Conservative divisions -

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ably demonstrated last night on this

programme when Anna Soubry urged

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Theresa May to sling Boris Johnson

and Jacob Rees-Mogg out

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of the party.

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Those Europe sparks will likely fly

again tomorrow when Mrs May

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convenes her Brexit 'war cabinet'

to hammer out her next moves.

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Our political editor

Nick Watt is with me.

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Your interview with Anna Soubry

yesterday kick-started a bunch of

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extra troubles for the Conservatives

today.

Quite a wee action on the

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Leave side -- a reaction. One person

said, Anna Soubry is doing a great

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job for Brexit and on the

pro-European side there is strong

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sympathy for Anna Soubry but not

total agreement. On this point about

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whether she could remain in the

party run by Jacob Rees-Mogg, she

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said no. Justine Greening, former

Education Secretary, expressing some

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sympathy for that view. I understand

a handful of Conservatives would

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leave the party of Jacob Rees-Mogg

became the leader. An Anna Soubry's

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point about slinging the likes of

Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg

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out of the party, no agreement among

the remains of porters on that but

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there is sympathy for her view that

the main Eurosceptic group is overly

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influential to which the ERG say

thank you, you are over influential

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because your mindset is running the

Treasury. -- remain

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Treasury. -- remain supporters. I

have heard from Anna Soubry who said

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she has at hundreds of e-mails from

supporters and she has had some very

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private agreement from Conservative

colleagues. But then she said, of

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course I have received a number of

critical e-mails and some unpleasant

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phone calls including one death

threats to me and my constituency

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manager, who takes the calls. Now,

Anna Soubry has reported this call

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to the police.

And on the day that

the Prime Minister was talking about

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a more decent civic discourse. Where

does it go from here? Tomorrow there

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is this big meeting when they are

going to hammer it out, the

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compromise, whatever it is.

The

Cabinet Brexit subcommittee meeting

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tomorrow and Thursday. Tomorrow they

discussed Northern Ireland and then

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it is the economic relationship with

the EU and trade the following day.

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These talks are going at two levels

to the EU summit in Brussels in

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March. Level number one, the

political agreement on the

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intimidation phase in December,

which must be put into a legally

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binding text. The second thing, the

UK Cabinet must agree what it wants

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for the future economic

relationship. So, by the end of

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February, beginning of March, there

is a month to try and influence the

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guidelines of the commission

negotiations.

Look forward to that,

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thank you.

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

was accused today of misleading

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parliament in his statement

to the Commons yesterday,

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about the problems of

the East Coast Mainline.

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Lord Adonis, former transport

secretary, was the accuser,

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and he has been tormenting

Mr Grayling for weeks over his

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handling of the problems of the East

coast Virgin-Stagecoach franchise.

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The franchise is on the brink

of collapse, but Mr Grayling

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is allowing Virgin Stagecoach

to carry on winning train contracts;

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Lord Adonis thinks the companies

have been bailed out and need

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to face a penalty, and in effect,

be restricted in bidding

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for future franchises.

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It's quite a challenge to the case

for privatised rail.

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Here's our business

editor Helen Thomas.

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The three railway line that link

London to the North were built over

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100 years ago by private companies.

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London ended up with three separate

stations nearly next to each other.

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What role if any that Stagecoach

should be playing in the running

0:15:270:15:30

of those same three line today

is the latest battlefront

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in an acrimonious debate

about the future of our rail.

0:15:320:15:35

Slowing passenger growth has put

the squeeze on Britain's rail

0:15:350:15:37

operators and senior industry

figures privately concede

0:15:370:15:39

that the franchising model just

is not working very well.

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Big complicated rigid contracts

are not good for operators,

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who cannot control many

of the factors that

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determine revenue growth.

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And the latest fiasco over

the East Coast franchise suggest

0:15:460:15:49

that those contracts might not be

working brilliantly

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for government either.

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It has now been confirmed that

the situation is much more urgent.

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It is now clear that this franchise

will only be able to continue

0:15:540:15:58

in its current form for a matter

of months and no more.

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I need to put in place,

in the very near future,

0:16:000:16:03

a successor arrangement to operate

this railway and to end

0:16:030:16:05

the current contract.

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But Stagecoach's business

could stay on track,

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with partners, Virgin,

the company could still continue

0:16:080:16:10

running the East Coast

on a not-for-profit basis.

0:16:100:16:12

Next door, Stagecoach has short

listed for the East Midlands

0:16:120:16:15

franchise and on the West Coast,

where Virgin is a majority partner,

0:16:150:16:19

the companies had just been

given a new franchise

0:16:190:16:22

until potentially 2020.

0:16:220:16:25

Stagecoach is short listed

for other franchises as well.

0:16:250:16:28

The Transport Secretary

said that he cannot

0:16:280:16:30

borrow them from bidding.

0:16:300:16:32

Not so, say some.

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If the company is deemed to be

unsatisfactory and doubtful in terms

0:16:420:16:46

of economics, it can be stopped from

bidding.

0:16:460:16:50

Stagecoach were committed

0:16:500:16:52

with Virgin to deliver

services until 2023.

0:16:520:16:53

They were made to do so.

0:16:530:16:55

And if they walk away from it,

it should be banned from future

0:16:550:16:58

franchises and if the Department

for Transport then runs

0:16:580:17:00

the service at a loss directly,

Stagecoach and Virgin should be

0:17:000:17:03

built for the cost of that.

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The problems with the East Coast

will cost Stagecoach 106

0:17:040:17:07

£5 million under its contract.

0:17:070:17:11

Rail operators argue that they have

no incentive to gain

0:17:110:17:13

the system and over a bed.

0:17:130:17:19

the system and over bid.

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They are on the hook for potentially

hundreds of millions

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of pounds to the government.

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There is another reason

the government might want to keep

0:17:240:17:28

Stagecoach on board.

0:17:280:17:30

They need them.

0:17:300:17:31

As franchises have got bigger,

there are fewer big experienced

0:17:310:17:33

players to bid for them and the rule

of thumb is, you need at least three

0:17:330:17:37

bidders to ensure value for money.

0:17:370:17:38

Knocking someone like Stagecoach out

of the proceedings could reduce some

0:17:380:17:41

short lists to only two.

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There are clearly not enough

companies. What we have had since

0:17:500:17:55

2012 we have had as many contracts

that have been directly water, than

0:17:550:17:59

those that have come about as a

result of a franchise competition.

0:17:590:18:05

The whole system is flawed and it

simply needs to be replaced.

Labour

0:18:050:18:10

would get rid of the Private firms

altogether but other critics of

0:18:100:18:15

franchising argued that the system

is already largely government

0:18:150:18:19

control. What has not worked is

forcing risk onto the private sector

0:18:190:18:23

and they are better kept as low

margin managers. In terms of rail

0:18:230:18:28

travel, the results of the model are

more mixed.

This is showing real

0:18:280:18:34

problems. It has not yet worked.

Delivered some things, a lot of

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investment and it has delivered much

more passenger journeys in the

0:18:380:18:43

jargon that many more people are

taking train journeys. It has also

0:18:430:18:49

delivered very high prices compare

too much of Europe and it has not

0:18:490:18:53

really deliver the improvement and

efficiency that were part of the

0:18:530:18:57

rationale for the whole thing.

Slower passenger growth means other

0:18:570:19:02

operators are struggling. The threat

to the model is not just a worry

0:19:020:19:06

that companies are somehow being let

off the hook, it is also private

0:19:060:19:10

operators going cold on bidding for

these large and risky contracts.

0:19:100:19:19

Helen Thomas there.

0:19:190:19:20

We asked the Department

for Transport to join us

0:19:200:19:22

but nobody was available.

0:19:220:19:23

In a statement the Stagecoach group

said the company had neither walked

0:19:230:19:26

away from the East Coast franchise

nor asked for any special treatment.

0:19:260:19:29

It added that the firm had operated

trains for the government for 21

0:19:290:19:32

years, raising billions of pounds

for the taxpayer - and

0:19:320:19:34

that the government is clear

there is no basis to preclude them

0:19:340:19:37

from bidding for future franchises.

0:19:370:19:41

The nation has been celebrating

the hundredth anniversary

0:19:410:19:42

of the 1918 Representation

of the People's Act today -

0:19:420:19:45

and with it, women getting

the vote for the first time.

0:19:450:19:47

But actually, that's

not quite the case -

0:19:470:19:49

a few women did have the vote

in local elections

0:19:490:19:52

decades before that.

0:19:520:19:56

And a very few had been voting even

before 1832 as well.

0:19:560:19:59

Those were some

property-owning women.

0:19:590:20:03

But for many more women to vote

in national elections

0:20:030:20:05

is obviously a big thing,

which is why today is marked

0:20:050:20:08

as the real birthday

of women's suffrage -

0:20:080:20:10

and if you were watching yesterday,

we devoted half our programme

0:20:100:20:13

to that milestone.

0:20:130:20:14

However, it has not escaped

the notice of some that February

0:20:140:20:16

the sixth 1918 also marked the day

that many working class men,

0:20:160:20:19

the non-householders,

got the vote too.

0:20:190:20:24

A fact far less prominent

in today's festivities.

0:20:240:20:27

For some, this is a metaphor

for identity politics -

0:20:270:20:32

we are so preoccupied

by the traditionally defined

0:20:320:20:34

underprivileged groups -

based on colour, gender,

0:20:340:20:35

or sexuality - we forget just

how many white straight

0:20:350:20:38

men have been, or are -

or at least feel -

0:20:380:20:41

underprivileged as well.

0:20:410:20:42

Has class got lost?

0:20:420:20:43

We'll discuss in a minute,

but first here's John Sweeney.

0:20:430:20:51

100 years ago today,

women under 30 who owned

0:20:510:20:53

property got the vote.

0:20:530:21:00

100 years ago today,

women over 30 who owned

0:21:000:21:02

property got the vote.

0:21:020:21:03

And working-class men too.

0:21:030:21:04

Since then, some

working-class men might be

0:21:040:21:05

forgiven for thinking things have

got better for women than for them.

0:21:050:21:08

Take politics.

0:21:080:21:10

To begin with, working-class

men got a Prime

0:21:100:21:11

Minister first.

0:21:110:21:13

Ramsay MacDonald in 1924.

0:21:130:21:15

James Callaghan and John

Major followed suit.

0:21:150:21:19

Women have Margaret

Thatcher and Theresa May.

0:21:190:21:21

There is little prospect

of a working-class

0:21:210:21:27

hero in Number Ten now that

Jeremy Corbyn nor Vince Cable are

0:21:270:21:30

horny-handed sons of toil.

0:21:300:21:31

Still less Jacob Rees-Mogg.

0:21:310:21:33

Back in 1918, most people

were working-class.

0:21:330:21:36

Free State education helps catapult

millions out of poverty and

0:21:360:21:40

ignorance.

0:21:400:21:42

Today, only four in ten

are working class but what is

0:21:420:21:45

striking is how the privately

educated rich, less than one in ten

0:21:450:21:49

of the population, still do so much

better than the working class.

0:21:490:21:55

As the liberal elite's

growing focus on

0:21:550:21:58

race, gender and sexuality left

working-class people overlooked in

0:21:580:22:00

favour of identity politics?

0:22:000:22:06

And did this neglect

help propel Brexit and

0:22:060:22:08

Donald Trump?

0:22:080:22:16

Interesting question.

0:22:170:22:19

Claire Fox is the director

of the Academy of Ideas.

0:22:190:22:21

Faiza Shaheen is from the Centre

for Labour and Social Studies.

0:22:210:22:24

They both say they are from

the working classes.

0:22:240:22:26

I'll come to them in a moment -

but I want to start with a US

0:22:260:22:30

perspective, because in New York

is the political scientist

0:22:300:22:32

and author Mark Lilla,

who wrote a much discussed piece

0:22:320:22:35

after the Trump election victory,

arguing that Hillary Clinton

0:22:350:22:37

and American liberals had put too

great a focus on identity politics

0:22:370:22:40

around gender, race or sexuality.

Due to the success of that article

0:22:400:22:43

he has expanded his argument

into a new book "The Once

0:22:430:22:45

and Future Liberal:

After Identity Politics"

0:22:450:22:47

which is out in the UK in May.

0:22:470:22:55

Good evening. Do you want to explain

why you think that the identity

0:22:580:23:03

politics thread of liberal politics

has gone too far?

I think the shift

0:23:030:23:10

has really been from a politics of

interest and there can be interest

0:23:100:23:15

of particular groups, the vote is

one such interests, economic games,

0:23:150:23:24

the end of Jim Crow in the American

South. A politics of interest has

0:23:240:23:30

been substituted in this country by

a politics of recognition. And the

0:23:300:23:37

politics of recognition is about

being recognised as a member of the

0:23:370:23:43

group, not only the group being

recognised, but the individuals,

0:23:430:23:49

particular individuals feel

recognised and as we see in this

0:23:490:23:55

country, affirmed in their

identities. The shift from interests

0:23:550:24:04

to identity and to recognition has

meant that it has been harder to

0:24:040:24:11

build bridges among various groups

who share common interests are who

0:24:110:24:16

have overlapping interest, so when

you have a politics of interest, the

0:24:160:24:22

workings of the working class, women

together, then you can build a

0:24:220:24:28

Coalition, but when it is a politics

of representing yourself and fiddly

0:24:280:24:34

recognise, that tends to divide

people.

Let me pin you down. We have

0:24:340:24:40

all seen videos of the American

police shooting black people over

0:24:400:24:43

the last couple of years. Black

lives matter is a result of that, a

0:24:430:24:49

classic piece of identity politics,

what can you say against that?

I

0:24:490:24:59

would not call it identity politics

in the way that I mean it or rather

0:24:590:25:04

that there are elements there in

their Black Lives Matter movement

0:25:040:25:07

that are concerned mainly about

recognition. If you are concerned

0:25:070:25:12

about actually changing concrete

conditions that have led to this

0:25:120:25:16

terrible situation of what we call

driving while in black and having

0:25:160:25:20

problems with the police, then you

have to think about how you govern.

0:25:200:25:24

The only way to change that is by

winning elections and governing over

0:25:240:25:28

the long-term. A politics that focus

on interests and shared interests

0:25:280:25:35

and overlapping interest can achieve

that. A politics of recognition

0:25:350:25:41

tends to fall into symbolic gesture,

so for example, Black Lives Matter

0:25:410:25:45

did not only worked to change things

on the streets of many of our

0:25:450:25:49

cities, activist showed up at the

rallies of Bernie Sanders and

0:25:490:25:56

Hillary Clinton and tried to stop

the proceedings in order to get

0:25:560:26:01

recognition of their movement and

their own conception of American

0:26:010:26:04

history. Politics of recognition can

divide people over what it means to

0:26:040:26:11

be recognise, what the nature of

history has been. Hillary Clinton

0:26:110:26:15

and Bernie Sanders were the allies

of these people.

0:26:150:26:22

of these people.

I want to take what

you have said and put it to my other

0:26:230:26:27

guests. Thank you for setting that

out. Do you recognise any of that

0:26:270:26:33

critique of the way identity

politics can divide as applied to

0:26:330:26:38

the UK, we have had here?

Yes and

no. I am suspicious of an argument

0:26:380:26:44

that says that groups coming out

that have legitimate grievances

0:26:440:26:48

should not talk about them because

otherwise it hurts them from winning

0:26:480:26:53

elections and divides groups. What I

would say is that different equality

0:26:530:26:59

groups, we have not always been good

at connecting to broader issues in

0:26:590:27:03

the economy. We are not very good at

recognising that this is also an

0:27:030:27:07

economic issue.

There is the fight

for equality for the LGBT

0:27:070:27:14

communities as well.

There is an

element of discrimination and

0:27:140:27:17

prejudice that we have to address

but also if you look that feminism

0:27:170:27:22

and what has happened in terms of

the economy we have seen that

0:27:220:27:26

traditional women's work is lower

paid. Why is it that social care is

0:27:260:27:31

low-paid? We need to be doing much

more to understand back connection

0:27:310:27:35

with the system. The idea is not to

equalise misery. The aim is not to

0:27:350:27:40

say, my job is not done if I do not

say that white men are not as

0:27:400:27:49

affected by as dirty as brown women.

Do you think the identity politics

0:27:490:27:54

has

0:27:540:27:58

has gone has gone far stop am

affected by that.

I think what it

0:27:590:28:07

has led to is jockeying for position

in recognition and actually a

0:28:070:28:12

competition to play the victim and I

am concerned that when we talk about

0:28:120:28:15

class in this, what end up doing is

saying what about white working

0:28:150:28:21

class men, they are an identity as

well. That has happened in America

0:28:210:28:26

with Trump. It is the only place to

go. I am a victim who is suffering

0:28:260:28:30

and oppressed but I think that class

is not to be ignored. I have been

0:28:300:28:35

news today in relation to the vote

that in fact the celebration was of

0:28:350:28:42

women getting the vote and all hail

the celebrations, it is a big thing,

0:28:420:28:46

but I could not get over the fact

that the millions of working class

0:28:460:28:50

men who got the vote.

0:28:500:28:55

men who got the vote. It was not

hardly mentioned at all. I thought

0:28:550:28:59

that that was an interesting thing

and I think that we can see that

0:28:590:29:03

jockeying for position that what has

happened is, into sexuality and all

0:29:030:29:09

of this, is that there is a real

sense in which there is a snobbery

0:29:090:29:14

for a lot of working-class things

and Brexit has brought that to the

0:29:140:29:18

fore.

Was it a tactical mistake, if

you go on about minorities and women

0:29:180:29:22

too much, you create a backlash

amongst a group who feels they have

0:29:220:29:27

not been recognised and that is what

he thinks has happened in the US.

0:29:270:29:34

You have shouted out for every group

and you have and shouted out for me.

0:29:340:29:38

It is weird to argue to silence

groups that have legitimate

0:29:380:29:42

grievances. You cannot say to black

men that they should be quiet. This

0:29:420:29:47

is where the argument goes. There is

a real thing about class identity,

0:29:470:29:52

it annoys the vet every time we hear

working classes, multiethnic, women,

0:29:520:29:59

we should build solidarity but if we

were arguing here that class is

0:29:590:30:03

really important and we should go

back to class identities we will be

0:30:030:30:07

arguing for a trade union movement.

I do not think that the point is

0:30:070:30:13

whether your white working class,

because of the emphasis on identity

0:30:130:30:17

and the fact that people stress

ethnicity, gender, LGBT, we have

0:30:170:30:23

campus politics, and people

jockeying for their identities and

0:30:230:30:28

there are certain groups that get

left out and the white working class

0:30:280:30:32

have fared badly. It is not that I

want them to become the white

0:30:320:30:39

working class. What is wrong with

politics is it has to be organised

0:30:390:30:42

around ideas and not identities.

We

could continue this discussion but

0:30:420:30:49

we have to stop there. Thank you

very much.

0:30:490:30:56

Talking of identity,

the far right Alternative

0:30:560:30:58

for Germany party,

or AfD, took third

0:30:580:30:59

place in the elections

to the Bundestag last year.

0:30:590:31:01

Their success came, in large part,

thanks to their unequivocal

0:31:010:31:04

messages about identity,

immigration and Islam.

0:31:040:31:07

Germany had been swamped, they said,

by a tide of migrants

0:31:070:31:10

during the refugee crisis of 2015;

Germany was under threat,

0:31:100:31:12

they believed, of "Islamization".

0:31:120:31:18

Their success at the ballot box sent

Germany's consensus-politics

0:31:180:31:20

into confusion, and out of it,

the traditional parties have

0:31:200:31:23

still so far been unable

to form a coalition.

0:31:230:31:25

If and when they do,

AfD could become the main party

0:31:250:31:28

of opposition in the Bundestag.

0:31:280:31:30

But now, a member of the AfD

in the state of Brandenburg has sent

0:31:300:31:34

shockwaves through his own party.

0:31:340:31:35

He's announced that he's

converted to Islam.

0:31:350:31:37

Gabriel Gatehouse went to meet him.

0:31:370:31:45

This is a journey into the world

of identity politics.

0:31:450:31:51

We're off to meet a man who's just

taken a pretty big decision.

0:31:510:31:54

I had a vision.

0:31:540:31:55

A man who's crossed the line.

0:31:550:31:58

I have understood I will be Muslim.

0:31:580:32:03

It's six o'clock in the morning.

0:32:030:32:07

He's already texting me saying,

"I'm ready, waiting for you."

0:32:070:32:09

Not really sure what to expect.

0:32:090:32:13

Arthur.

0:32:130:32:15

Wonderful, good morning, gentlemens.

0:32:150:32:19

Hi, how are you?

0:32:190:32:20

A pleasure to see the BBC.

0:32:200:32:22

I'm fine, thank you.

0:32:220:32:23

Very nice to meet you.

0:32:230:32:24

Very interesting now.

0:32:240:32:25

Indeed!

0:32:250:32:26

You're going to tell

us all about it.

0:32:260:32:28

Arthur Wagner was born

in the Soviet Union.

0:32:280:32:33

An ethnic German, he moved

to the country of his ancestors

0:32:330:32:41

after the collapse of Communism

and settled in this

0:32:410:32:43

quiet Berlin suburb.

0:32:430:32:44

You see, I do not eat schwein,

pig fleisch nine months.

0:32:440:32:52

We meet him the day after he's

announced to the world

0:32:550:32:59

he's converted to Islam.

0:32:590:33:00

I do not know how they are happy

with me, my children.

0:33:000:33:03

My daughter is very,

very conservative.

0:33:030:33:04

Very conservative, yes.

0:33:040:33:05

Your daughter's

a conservative Christian?

0:33:050:33:07

Very.

0:33:070:33:08

So how is your conversion going down

around the breakfast table?

0:33:080:33:10

We speak to it sometimes

but we have found a solution.

0:33:100:33:13

It is difficult, yes.

0:33:130:33:16

But if you have trust

to God, you can speak.

0:33:160:33:21

Around the time he joined the far

right AfD party, Arthur commissioned

0:33:210:33:24

a Wagner family crest.

0:33:240:33:29

It says "the good country family."

0:33:290:33:36

Values he says he still stands by.

0:33:360:33:38

And this is important

for all conservatives,

0:33:380:33:40

Muslims or not Muslims.

0:33:400:33:41

And now I go to my...

0:33:410:33:44

Mr Wagner is on his way to work.

0:33:440:33:47

He's a driver at a local children's

centre and he's worried

0:33:470:33:50

about how people will react

to his religious conversion.

0:33:500:33:56

How can I explain to my colleagues

that I'm at the same?

0:33:560:34:04

I'm a Muslim since three months.

0:34:050:34:08

I'm a Muslim in my soul since two

or three years and I have not

0:34:080:34:11

changed the negative,

I am the same.

0:34:110:34:12

But they have changed,

in one minute, in one minute,

0:34:120:34:15

50 people do not like me.

0:34:150:34:23

Bit of a character!

0:34:260:34:32

His workmates are one

cause of anxiety.

0:34:320:34:35

His friends in the AfD are another.

0:34:350:34:41

This is, after all, a party that

campaigned against what it calls

0:34:410:34:44

the "Islamisation of Germany."

0:34:440:34:45

Arthur Wagner was actively

involved in that campaign.

0:34:450:34:50

I've been trying to call the local

party for the last two days now

0:34:500:34:58

and there's simply no answer.

0:35:000:35:02

But they have put out

a press statement online.

0:35:020:35:04

They say the press should be

made aware that a member

0:35:040:35:06

of the AfD in Brandenburg has

converted to Islam.

0:35:060:35:09

And then it goes on to say,

"We've taken note of this fact."

0:35:090:35:14

"Not without surprise," I bet

you can say that again.

0:35:140:35:17

They say it's a private

matter for Mr Wagner

0:35:170:35:21

but they maintain that,

as they put it, "Islam does

0:35:210:35:24

not belong in Germany"

and that the religion is a grave

0:35:240:35:26

danger, as they see

it, to the country.

0:35:260:35:28

I caught up with Arthur Wagner

on his lunch break.

0:35:280:35:31

He told me about his

spiritual journey.

0:35:310:35:32

It seems like you're

searching for something.

0:35:320:35:35

First you said you had

a midlife crisis.

0:35:350:35:36

Yes.

0:35:360:35:38

Then you found the AfD.

0:35:380:35:39

Yes.

0:35:390:35:40

And then I have found this.

0:35:400:35:42

They helped me.

0:35:420:35:43

And now you've found Islam.

0:35:430:35:46

What are you searching for?

0:35:460:35:50

Today changed the whole world

and I need, I must find

0:35:500:35:55

the solution, how can we work

the European

0:35:550:35:59

conservatives and Islam.

0:35:590:36:01

This is my target.

0:36:010:36:03

Lunch break over and Arthur has

a meeting with his boss.

0:36:030:36:09

He is convinced that

he's about be fired.

0:36:090:36:13

But this is Germany, people don't

get fired for their religious

0:36:130:36:16

or political beliefs.

0:36:160:36:19

His boss tells him

to take some time off.

0:36:190:36:23

Tell us where we are going now.

0:36:230:36:26

I'm now a really happy guy

because I have a holiday, one week,

0:36:260:36:31

and I can plan my life now,

how I would like to do it.

0:36:310:36:35

You've undergone a transformation.

0:36:350:36:37

I'm another guy, yes.

0:36:370:36:42

I was born three months

ago, I am Ahmed.

0:36:420:36:44

This is your new name?

0:36:440:36:45

Correct.

0:36:450:36:46

Ahmed.

0:36:460:36:47

Ahmed Wagner.

0:36:470:36:52

Suddenly the whole world

wants to talk to Ahmed.

0:36:520:36:55

There are endless requests

for interviews with radio stations,

0:36:550:36:59

newspapers, and a Russian language

TV station in Berlin.

0:36:590:37:07

In the evening, Ahmed is the guest

of honour at a lecture on Chechnya,

0:37:080:37:12

organised by a group that helps

refugees integrate

0:37:120:37:14

into German society.

0:37:140:37:19

This is about the least likely

place you'd think to find

0:37:190:37:21

a member of the AfD.

0:37:210:37:26

This may be a den of lefty liberals

but Mr Wagner has been helping out

0:37:260:37:29

here as a translator

for a few years now.

0:37:290:37:32

I'm a little bit shocked because...

0:37:320:37:35

It's so weird.

0:37:350:37:39

At the positive side,

in a positive way.

0:37:390:37:42

It's nice to hear that people

can change their minds.

0:37:420:37:48

Arthur has become Ahmed

but he hasn't in fact

0:37:480:37:51

changed his political worldview,

especially on the subject

0:37:510:37:55

of the refugee crisis,

one of the most important topics

0:37:550:37:56

for the AfD.

0:37:560:38:01

I have understood what kind

of problem we have since September,

0:38:010:38:04

2015, in our land and I'm very clear

I'm right.

0:38:040:38:11

I'm right national and I would

like to lose this problem.

0:38:110:38:14

I must understand, this is very

important, I must understand.

0:38:140:38:20

I returned the following day

to Mr Wagner's Berlin suburb.

0:38:200:38:24

After the whirlwind following his

announcement, I wanted to know

0:38:240:38:27

what was really driving him.

0:38:270:38:30

I would like to show

you my old flag.

0:38:300:38:36

But in the attic, Wagner showed me

the souvenirs and knick-knacks he'd

0:38:360:38:39

collected over a lifetime

in search of belonging.

0:38:390:38:44

This is about the Wehrmacht.

0:38:440:38:45

Right.

0:38:450:38:46

The German military.

0:38:460:38:47

And this is the Russian military.

0:38:470:38:49

This thing.

0:38:490:38:50

This is a fake.

0:38:500:38:51

Fake ID of Russian special forces.

0:38:510:38:53

Yes.

0:38:530:38:54

This is you?

0:38:540:38:55

This, I am.

0:38:550:39:03

At some point Wagner had acquired

a bit of memorabilia with national

0:39:070:39:10

socialist overtones,

something he was keen not

0:39:100:39:11

to show the cameras.

0:39:110:39:12

What about the knife that

you didn't want to show me?

0:39:120:39:15

Err...

0:39:150:39:16

Cannot, I can't do it.

0:39:160:39:17

Why not?

0:39:170:39:18

It's not allowed, it not allowed.

0:39:180:39:20

Why not?

0:39:200:39:21

It's not allowed, it's German.

0:39:210:39:22

It's not allowed.

0:39:220:39:23

Right.

0:39:230:39:24

OK.

0:39:240:39:25

It's almost as if his conversion

to Islam is an attempt to escape

0:39:250:39:28

a decades-long identity crisis,

rooted in his Russian past.

0:39:280:39:33

The German guy didn't know,

am I Russian or am I German?

0:39:330:39:37

And Russian guy didn't know,

am I am Russian or am I German?

0:39:370:39:41

And because of this,

I never will be success,

0:39:410:39:44

I never had the chance

to be success.

0:39:440:39:52

If there is a common thread that

runs through Wagner's improbable

0:39:520:39:54

journey then it is this.

0:39:540:39:56

A love of authority and fears

about the erosion of conservative

0:39:560:39:59

values in a changing society.

0:39:590:40:04

This is changing in our society

comes not from Islam.

0:40:040:40:11

It comes from the left people,

which, they do not trust in God.

0:40:110:40:15

They would like to turn around.

0:40:150:40:17

This is like a ideology.

0:40:170:40:18

I hate it.

0:40:180:40:20

So, do you see Islam as an ally

in your conservative

0:40:200:40:24

political worldview,

against the liberal left?

0:40:240:40:29

Against liberal, 100%, yes.

0:40:290:40:33

Have you spoken to your AfD

colleagues about this?

0:40:330:40:36

What do they think?

0:40:360:40:37

They think that I'm crazy.

0:40:370:40:42

I will speak, in one ear, maybe.

0:40:420:40:47

Arthur Ahmed Wagner wants to remain

a member of the AfD.

0:40:470:40:51

He may have some trouble

persuading his party

0:40:510:40:54

that there is no contradiction

between his politics

0:40:540:40:57

and his new religion.

0:40:570:41:03

Gabriel Gatehouse on a man in search

for his identity.

0:41:030:41:08

That's all we have time for.

0:41:080:41:10

I'm back tomorrow.

0:41:100:41:11

Till then, goodnight.

0:41:110:41:13

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