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They've been working hard at the UN
Security Council today,
but getting nothing done.
Meanwhile, with no ceasefire agreed,
the Syrian government has been busy
in its familiar way -
bombing Eastern Ghouta.
You might have hoped that somehow
diplomacy or human decency
would lead to a pause
in the brutality.
But hope is all too scarce.
I'm witnessing these
things before my eyes.
When the bomb landed near us,
the children panicked
and were crying out loud.
It's part of the United Kingdom,
except it opts out
of the socially liberal bits.
What explains Northern Ireland's
We know the society
that we want to be part of.
We know there is overwhelming
public support for some of
these issues, so it's really
disappointing that some of our
leaders cannot enact that change.
And fewer people are using public
transport in the capital.
A blip, or an early sign we've
finally reached peak London?
It's been one of those
days that demonstrates
the limits of diplomacy.
The Security Council
was meant to vote on a motion
for a ceasefire at 4 o'clock this
afternoon, our time.
Then it was postponed to 7.30.
And in the last few minutes the vote
has been rescheduled again -
this time delayed until tomorrow.
You probably don't need me to tell
you that it is the Russian veto -
or the threat of it -
that has blocked the motion.
However, the Russians have said
they'll sign up to a ceasefire
as long as it is guaranteed to be
observed by rebels as well as
the Syrian government.
Talks will no doubt continue
overnight before the vote -
which we're now told will happen
at 5pm our time tomorrow.
Well, we'll hear from an air-raid
shelter in Douma in Eastern Ghouta
shortly, but what hope
is there for a ceasefire?
And an effective one at that.
Mike Thompson reports.
While politicians talk, the
incessant bombardment of rebel held
Eastern Ghouta by Syrian and Russian
forces goes on and on.
Is now, if you can hear,
the jets are bombing.
With hundreds dead over the last few
days, and many more injured, medics
there are struggling to cope,
and it's a battle that this doctor
says they are losing.
When you get injury to the hospital,
you expect to deal
with 70, 80 injuries
at the same time.
This, you cannot imagine any
hospital can deal with these
Ultimately, events are likely
to go only one way for
the people who are bombarded
and besieged in Eastern Ghouta -
This was the fate of this rebel held
area. And then east Aleppo several
months later and finally Homs in
2017. People were pounded and
starved into submission before being
taken to rebel held Idlib province.
Death and destruction has not been
all one way. Mortars have been fired
into downtown Damascus by rebel
groups in Eastern Ghouta, one of
which had formal ties with Al-Qaeda.
One former British ambassador to
Syria who is a director of a group
with links to President Assad's
family believes the pictures we are
seeing do not reflect.
It. Do you
think it remarkable in the harrowing
video we are being regaled with, the
war pornography we are wallowing in,
is it remarkable you never see the
thousands, probably 7000, 8000
jihadi warriors who won there and
why not? Because all the images we
see come from the jihadis and
auxiliaries in Eastern Ghouta, who
are adept at stirring western
sympathy, hoping we are going to
come in over the horizon to save
A spokesman for the White
Helmets rescue teams in Eastern
Ghouta said there is a good reason
You do not see them
because they are targeting directly
civilian neighbourhoods. At the
front lines. They are at the front
lines. There is no one armed between
The horrors happening in
Eastern Ghouta mirror the fate of
East Aleppo. It brings back terrible
memories to this woman, who I have
interviewed many times, before she
narrowly escaped from the city with
We can present the same
feeling we have felt in the past. I
can hear the sound and crying of the
kids. I can even smell the dust of
So what chance a ceasefire?
Some are optimistic.
every time when the start, he begins
bombing and shelling.
ceasefire deal here is to last, it
will require trust on all sides.
Right now, there is precious little
of that. Mike Thompson.
Nowhere are the effects of those
delays at the United Nations
being felt tonight as firmly
as in eastern Ghouta itself.
Before we came on air,
I spoke to Mahmoud Bwedany.
He's a 20-year-old student activist
who has spent much of the last
week in an underground
shelter with his family.
The regime claims the images we are
seeing look worse in eastern Goutha
than it actually is.
I asked Mahmoud
about his experience.
Well, how can we make it worse?
It's the worst situation there is.
And I am witnessing these
things before my eyes.
When the bomb landed,
near us, the children
panicked and were crying out loud.
They were not holding any guns.
The front line aren't
being bombed as heavy
as the centres of the city.
You perhaps have
heard that the United
Nations is struggling to get
a ceasefire motion agreed.
The Russians are
obviously saying they
will veto the motion, the Swedish-
Kuwaiti motion for 30 days of
It must be frustrating for you.
What is devastating,
the international community is not
doing any actions to prevent
from happening in this area.
400 people were killed
in the last five days.
32 casualties just today.
And a lot of wounded.
The medical staff is
overwhelmed with patients and
injured people from the bombardment.
They are working most of the day,
I think more than ten hours.
It is horrible.
The international community...
They are still delaying
the meeting and we probably
know the Russians
will veto this motion.
What is your hope?
A UN resolution for
a 30-day ceasefire
would be enormously helpful.
Well, that is not
something I know for
sure what to say about.
But I think that is
the international community,
the world leaders' job, to fight war
crimes to prevent more tragedies
So I hope the ceasefire
This is a difficult question.
Is there any way, if you
could surrender and just
get out, would you contemplate,
at some point, the
white flag might have to go up?
Well, that is just devastating.
is not the solution
to what we are living in.
The problem is that
the regime and Russia
and the forces that
the alliance, they are attacking
Ghouta and other places in Syria.
That is the problem.
The solution is not to get
everyone out of their
homes and move them
out of their lands,
and into God knows where.
The solution is to
push Assad and the
regime, I'm sorry, the regime
and Russia to stop this assault
and to let this country get back
on its feet
with a legitimate country,
legitimate government that respects
human rights and
believes in equality.
Does everybody in Eastern
Ghouta believe that?
Do you think there are
people who want to escape
and just want to stop
the war at any price,
or do you think everybody
there holds firm to the description
you have just given
me of your views?
Well, not everyone.
Of course there are
people who are tired and
have suffered so much in this war.
So, yes, some people might think
of that as a solution.
But, let's face it, nobody
can guarantee what will
happen if they decided to move
us out of this area.
They might take everyone
to the slaughterhouses and
Everyone against this regime.
And who fought in this revolution.
If that is going to be our choice,
then the entire world
has not done anything.
Mahmoud, it is very good
of you to talk to us
and describe the plight there,
which obviously everybody here
thinks is quite horrific.
We wish you all the best, very much.
Northern Ireland was condemned
today by a UN committee.
The Committee on the Elimination
of Discrimination Against Women
attacked the fact that
Northern Ireland criminalises
abortion, restricting it
even in cases of rape,
incest or fatal foetal abnormality.
The committee said the restrictions
caused great harm and suffering.
This is pretty routine criticism,
but the strange thing
about it is that it's aimed
at a piece of the UK,
and yet most people in the UK
would probably agree with it.
Northern Ireland has
allowed itself to become
an exceptional piece of the UK,
in clinging to some socially
It is the one nation not to have
same-sex marriage for example.
And yet it's a complicated
picture there because polls
in Northern Ireland show support
for liberalisation of the abortion
law and support for
Matthew Thompson has been
looking at the strength
of social conservatism there.
The history of Ireland
is traced upon the cross.
In this land of saints
and scholars, religion held
immense power over minds,
lives, and indeed, deaths.
Divided as they were,
the island's squabbling
churches were united
by their stance on public morals.
You will legislate
perversion and immorality.
But in recent years,
most notably in the
attitudes have shifted.
Scandals have shaken public faith
in the Catholic church -
secularism is on the march.
The Republic's gay
in 2015 left Northern Ireland nearly
alone in Western Europe as one of
the few places where same-sex
marriage was still forbidden by law.
Take the issue of abortion, however,
and Ireland's isolation is even
Strict laws north and south
of the border mean the island ranks
alongside Andorra, Malta
and San Marino as the most
restrictive places in Europe.
A forthcoming referendum
in the Republic could
With its religiouus quarrels
and fractious political
landscape, Northern Ireland can
seem, to large swathes of British
opinion, a place frozen in time.
And nowhere is the country's social
conservativism more in evidence than
here in Ballymena, the buckle
of Northern Ireland's Bible Belt.
If you were voting,
would you think it
was important that the politicians
were representing religious values?
Yes, certainly, certainly.
That's why I do support
DUP, because they
do have a lot of religious values
on same-sex marriage
and stuff, where, you know...
Where is that all coming from?
I have nothing against gay people
in any way, but I don't think it's
right for them to be married,
not, not the way I was brought up.
The DUP is not the only party
to hold these views.
The Ulster Unionist Party,
for one, is split on
But the DUP's unique brand
of fundamentalism find fertile
The religion of the DUP informs
the party's attitude to such
questions as same-sex
marriage and abortion.
The fact is that on a scale of zero
to ten, when we asked
how much should faith and church
condition the outlook of the DUP,
members scale that at
almost seven out of ten.
It's difficult to imagine
any other party across
the United Kingdom
having such an outlook,
wanting faith and church
condition the outlook
of their party.
The power to legislate on social
issues rests with Northern
Ireland's devolved government,
when it actually sits.
The Assembly here at Stormont
has declined to endorse
more liberal legislation on both gay
marriage and abortion.
In 2015, a vote to
legalise gay marriage was
by a majority of one,
but the DUP were able to use
controversial veto power, known
as the Petition Of Concern, to block
This move, in defiance
of both majority public
opinion and the majority of Assembly
members, provoked outrage.
The 2017 Northern Ireland
survey indicated that 54% of people
supported same-sex marriage.
Only 23% opposed it.
Other polls have put
support higher still.
But only 50% of unionists
were in favour, against
66% of nationalists.
And of DUP supporters,
almost exactly as many
oppose as support same-sex marriage.
People's views in Northern Ireland
on same-sex marriage are conditioned
more by age than necessarily
religion these days.
And with a new generation
coming through, the
chances are that at some point,
same-sex marriage will be allowed in
As symbols of that new generation
go, it's hard to look
past the Sunflower bar
in central Belfast.
At the height of the Troubles,
it was the scene of a
loyalist terror attack that
left three people dead.
Now it's a trendy bar that
attract a younger, more
These issues are incredibly
important to students...
These young people voice frustration
with a political system that they
feel isn't working for them.
People, for a variety
of reasons, continue
to vote on a sort of community
affiliation basis rather than
particular social issues, so it
isn't effective to necessarily say
to people that they should vote for
this particular party because they
will bring abortion reform
or marriage equality.
It simply doesn't work that way
in Northern Ireland yet.
We know the kind of society
that we want to be a part of, and we
know that there is overwhelming
public support for some of these
issues, so it's really disappointing
that some of our leaders can't
actually enact that change.
Olivia, you're the president
of the National
Union of Students in
Ireland, and you've met
actually with a lot
the parties, I think as recently
as last week with the DUP, to talk
about some of these issues.
How did you come away from that?
I don't think anything
has come out of
these talks that wasn't really to be
I think, if anything,
one of the things that's
is, for any progress
to be made in any sort
area in legislation
in Northern Ireland,
the Petition Of Concern is most
definitely in need of some
desperate reform, and it is unclear
as to whether or not any
of the parties have a clear path
forward for how that should be done.
Sinn Fein have made
much in recent years
of what they call the equality
agenda, but their position on
abortion has only recently softened,
and they still don't officially
support any unrestricted access.
The nationalist SDLP,
sister party of
Labour, remains staunchly pro-life.
In October, the Supreme Court heard
an appeal from the Northern Ireland
Human Rights Commission
against the country's abortion laws.
That judgment is expected
within the next month.
The most recent Northern Ireland
Life And Times Survey
suggests that abortion is is another
area in which politicians are out of
step with public opinion.
Ask people whether abortion
should be given in
the case of serious fatal
abnormality, or in the case of rape
or incest, and significant
majorities are in favour.
But ask if a woman should
be able to have an
abortion on demand and the balance
Fully 60% of people
are opposed in this instance.
Overall, Catholics are more likely
than Protestants to oppose abortion.
For Sinn Fein, I think
that what we see is
a changing relationship
the citizens of Ireland
with the Catholic church,
so over the past 20 years,
you see that, but Sinn Fein
also having their position
on the constitutional question,
which is overwhelmingly supported.
So, they can have this liberal
agenda that's there.
For the SDLP, they are more
conservative traditionally, but I do
think that they are going
to change as attitudes
change on the island
Ireland, where they will not want
to be caught on the wrong side of
So, what hope for change
for those who seek it?
Absent reform, delivering same-sex
marriage, will be an uphill struggle
for a restored Assembly at Stormont,
abortion even more so.
Though, of course,
the Supreme Court could
force the issue.
Should Stormont remain empty,
direct rule ministers
could legislate from
London, but that will
hardly be a priority
Government dealing with Brexit
and in bed with the DUP.
Short-term, then, in
spite of the will of a
majority of its people, it seems
likely that Ulster's peculiar
political system will
continue to say no.
For three decades, London has been
enjoying a long boom.
Its economy, its population
and its global status have all been
growing to the point that it has
sometimes felt increasingly
disconnected from the
rest of the country.
It's almost taken for granted that
there's that kind of imbalance.
So listen carefully.
Something strange is currently
happening in the capital.
It happened quite suddenly
It could be nothing significant.
But it could possibly be historic.
It's public transport
that offers the
most important sign something's up.
Actually, I've expressed that badly.
It's that passenger
numbers are down.
The decline sounds small -
bus journeys down 5% over the last
two years, Tube journeys down 0.3%.
But small falls cause a big headache
for transport bosses.
in London has been based on
ever-growing passenger numbers.
It was meant to be 1.44
billion Tube journeys
Now, it's expected
to be 1.34 billion.
The gap leaves hundreds
of millions in lower
It's not just London.
A couple of years
ago, I heard it from
New York, that the subway ridership
had levelled off and was beginning
to decline, bus ridership in fact
had started to fall before that.
And since then, we've seen this
phenomenon on extended to London,
probably to Toronto,
levelling off on the Paris Metro.
And it appears as if
something more broadly is
occurring to big city transport
and the ridership on it.
Heads are being scratched
in search of a definitive
Is it the Uber effect, for example?
People taking taxis rather
than trains or buses.
Is it cycling?
Certainly, it can no longer be
dismissed as an irrelevance in
the big transport picture.
Is it terror keeping
people away from the
Or is it that people shop from home
these days and entertain
themselves there too?
I don't think this there's likely
to be a single answer.
It's more likely to be a complex one
involving the way we
live in and use big cities.
It could just be something
more than transport.
The end of a three decade surge
in the role of megacities.
You see, it's not just
In London, museum visits are down
as well, for example.
The British Museum, down 8% in 2017.
Not untypical of the sector.
For years, mega city
growth has felt like a law
But you don't have to go back far
to know that cities shrink
as well as grow.
London's population declined
after the Second World War,
right through to the 1980s.
It was a story of managed decline.
Is it possible that we
are seeing an early
sign that we've reached peak city,
that the inevitable crowds,
congestion and expense
out way the advantages,
that the long-awaited rebalancing
to the rest of the
country is poised to occur?
Let's reflect on that, remembering
that the population of London is
still growing and the number of jobs
is still growing.
I'm joined now by Richard Florida,
an American Urban Studies theorist
and Professor at the University
of Toronto, and by Sian
Berry, a Green Party
London Assembly member.
Richard, do you think this is a
turning point? Is something
happening in some of the big cities?
No, I think we live in a winner
takes all urban system. London, New
York and Toronto, that you mention,
are big winners. Transit users are
down because they walk, ride a bike
or take Uber. I put a long bet on
London and I think it will be just
You accept that these cities
have long cycles, and London and New
York had a long cycle. They have had
their period of decline.
the period of mass suburbanisation
after the war that took middle-class
jobs out of the city, but what we
have seen over the past 20 or 30
years, and certainly since the turn
of the 21st century, is this massive
movement of jobs, of people, of the
affluent and educated, but also of
technology firms, which always used
to be located in these suburban
office complexes. They have come
barrelling back, and the places that
have grown more than anywhere are
London, New York and downtown San
Francisco, so I think you are right:
If the long cycle after the war was
the shrinkage of the city, the long
cycle of the past generation, and
certainly the past decade and a
half, it is big world cities like
London, New York and a few you have
Sian, is this just a
transport thing or is there
One of the
interesting part of why people are
not taking so much public transport
is that visitors from elsewhere in
the UK are down, so that is part of
your Museum figures. One of the
reasons why you might not be taking
so many journeys is partly that you
have replaced things with technology
and people delivering to you, but
also that you can't afford that. You
can't afford to go out... Not just
the journey but the reason for it.
And that is worrying. We are also
seeing a drop in the number of
20-something people coming to
Run that passed me again.
Population is still growing, is the
big counterargument to any of this.
Siam of course, London is a world
city will stop --
of course, London
is a world city. Nobody wants to
raise children in London because of
air pollution, and they can't afford
to offer even if they wanted. We
have also seen a drop off in the
number of 20-somethings coming in. I
am not from London, I came in my
20s, seeking my fortune, and those
are the people we have to keep
attracting. And from the rest of the
UK, people don't see London as being
as attractive as it was.
move to London unless you have a job
before you get here.
I turned up
with nothing but an overdraft and
managed to survive because it was
possible back then to get a bit of
money together. Astronomical costs
now. I think people are choosing
other cities, and London cannot take
its place for granted.
I wonder if
you are being too optimistic about
the limits that you perceive. You
just do reach a point where you say,
that's it, we had 30 years of
growth, and then it is not.
points. She's absolutely right.
First, London will continue to grow.
It has overcome bigger problems than
a decline in transit users. It has
gone through world wars, bone to the
ground. It is the most resilient
city on the planet, maybe New York
in second place. It is a tale of two
cities, which we didn't talk about.
London has replaced working people
with rich people. Young people with
old wealthy people. The people who
use public transport tend to be
working people and less wealthy
people. The affluent people working
in London do not live in London
full-time. They owed a big flat and
they do not take transit, but a
private car, or Uber or something
like that. I think public transit
transport use a ship is not the key
I would like to give a
Northern perspective on this. London
has had all the money spent on
transport over the last decades, and
the North has craved some of it, and
London is basically saying, we need
a subsidy to pay for this that
because we have built it now and it
is not being used as we anticipated.
We have had a lot of transport
investment, but we need a shift from
cars onto public transport. If I was
to swap something, I would swap HS2
for something else.
Won't this be
taken as a sign that Crossrail 2,
that money can be spent on the
Northern Powerhouse, and there are a
million things and suddenly all of
that is open again, isn't it?
desperately short of new housing for
our families. Affordable housing
needs to be built, and in areas that
can be opened up by Crossrail 2,
that need investment. They also need
investment in mundane things like
better bus routes. We need the
Government to be giving us more
powers and money from the car income
Very briefly, Richard, you
wrote about the creative class that
made these big world cities such
dynamic places. At that class grown
It has certainly be
the case that the creative class
revival has been a crisis of
success. My new book is called The
New Urban Crisis, and London is at
the epicentre of this. The way that
London grows in the future is to
expand its boundaries to include
those northern industrial cities,
connected by high-speed rail. It not
only becomes more dense, it connects
to these areas through high-speed
rail and that kind of transit is
Thank you, both,
very much indeed.
Well that's all we have
time for tonight.
Before we go, news broke this
evening of the death aged 73
of soul star Eddy Amoo.
He was a member of the band
The Real Thing in the 1970s,
who were pioneers of black British
music and the first all-black band
to reach number one here.
That was with You To Me
Are Everything in 1976.
We'll leave you now with another
of their performances -
from Top of the Pops in 1977.
# Love, love's such
a wonderful thing.
# Just think of the
joys it can bring.
# I've got so much
love to give to you.
# My love is a shelter.
# Let me be your shade.
# Somewhere you can run to.
# Your troubles will fade.
# Life's so full of shadows.
# It's so full of pain.
# Let my love surround you.
# And keep out the pain.#