tv Dateline London BBC News July 7, 2019 11:30am-12:01pm BST
hello, this is bbc news. the headlines. leaked emails from the british ambassador to washington have described president trump's administration as "inept", "insecure" and "incompetent". iran says it has breached yet another condition of its 2015 international nuclear agreement. protesters in hong kong are marching in another large demonstration against china's increasing control over the territory, iran says it has breached yet another condition of its 2015 international nuclear agreement. the jodrell bank observatory in cheshire — which has been at the forefront of astronomical research — has been declared a unesco world heritage site. coming up now on the bbc news channel, it's dateline london, which this week looks at whether hong kong is losing the battle for hearts and minds
following thejuly 1st protests. hello and welcome to dateline london. i'm carrie gracie. and this week: threats of tanker tit—for—tat after an iranian oil tanker is seized off gibraltar. hong kong's protests turn ugly. and balloting begins. will boris johnson be britain's prime minister before the end of this month? my guests today — iranian writer amir taheri, political commentator adam raphael, isabel hilton of the website china dialogue and greg katz of the associated press. welcome to you all. over recent weeks we've talked a lot about rising tension in the gulf, with western powers blaming iran for attacks on half a dozen oil tankers.
this week the action moved to the mediterranean, when british royal marines seized an iranian oil tanker off the territory of gibraltar. in the same week, iran carried through on its threat to breach the limit for enriched uranium in the 2015 nuclear deal. amir, you start us off on this. coming to the oil tanker tit—for—tat, seniorfigures in iran say we should seize a british oil tanker in the gulf if the brits do not give us back ours. yes, you must remember there are two irans, one iran has an ideology and the other has a government. the second are not going to seize a british tanker, but the other iran might do so. iran is trying to manage its own internal contradictions, as it has been trying to do for the past a0 years, and the consequence of these contradictions sometimes is tension with outsiders.
but what is interesting in the case of the gibraltar tanker, why did the british decide to act after four years? because they have been smuggling oil to syria for four years. let's look at what the iranians are going to do, before we get to the brits. the iranian government has said it's a form of piracy — what happened off gibraltar, and said they will respond to bullies without hesitation. yes, this is not the normal rhetoric from the islamic republic, but in action, you see in the past few months, and many other occasions before, they never go beyond the edge, they want to appear that islam is victorious and they are fighting imperialism, and the usual shenanigans, but when it
comes to brass tacks, for example with all these attacks on tankers, they made sure the tankers were empty, nobody was hurt, you cannot prove in a court who did it. they are sending some signals that if you don't press is too hard and allow us to appear victorious, we are ready to give you everything. and this is what the islamic republic has done, they have always surrendered, but quietly. the problem is with president trump, who wants something in front of tv cameras. he wants the iranians to — the islamic republic to be humiliated, he says the american presidents played the iranian game according to iranian rules, in that they agreed everything be done quietly and behind the scenes, but after awhile the iranians went
back to their old tricks. trump wants to personalise this, say, you know — i brought them, 0bama failed, bush failed, i didn't. the iranians find it very difficult to surrender this time in front of tv cameras. because it's a question of face. i going to ask greg the question you asked a moment ago, why did the brits act at this point and obviously the iranians have been saying it is at the behest of the americans. how are you reading it? i think it could well be something — a backdoor arrangement with the americans putting some pressure. i think the british government is very anxious to keep the trump administration on their side on half a dozen fronts. it could well be that this was some intelligence sharing and a prod from the pentagon to do something now. we really have no way of knowing, but to me that sounds plausible. and it's true, the brits could have done this at any time.
australians has also said that it was the americans who ordered the british to do it and the spaniards also, interestingly enough, have said that it was in their territorial waters and the british shouldn't have acted. i'd question the verb "ordered", though, i do not think the americans ordered the brits to take military action. um, adam, you've been watching british foreign policy for many years, this puts the uk potentially in a delicate position at a time when it's got delicate issues going on at home, which we'll come on to. is the uk ready for a test in the gulf? i mean, obviously we've heard from amir that he thinks that may not happen, but there is the ideological wing — it's a possibility. i would have thought it's the last thing we want to do. we've got enough problems of our own without engaging in foreign adventures at this point. which i think is very interesting that greg made this point
that the british want to stay in with the americans and therefore, in a sense, they are only too willing in a way, at the last resort, to actually carry out this sort of action. but whether they realise the trouble they can get into on it, i don't know. i would have thought that was difficult. i think, you know — not only iran, it's also china we're involved in at the moment, which we're going to come onto. i would have thought this was a time when we need a bit of domestic peace and quiet, rather than to engage in foreign adventures. so were you surprised to see the royal marines helicoptering onto that — rappelling down onto the deck of the grace 1? absolutely. i would have thought so. i — there must have been, i would have thought, quite considerable pressure. i take the point that you don't order people to do anything, you request them, but i suspect it was a pretty firm request, and i suspect — interestingly, it would have been mrs may to take this decision, that she decided she had to go along with it. i haven't heard from isabel yet. 0bviously everybody in this country, in the uk, everybody in europe remembers, afghanistan, iraq and other big military adventures which haven't always gone to plan. the talk of the risks around iran and around the gulf, i mean, very testing for our uk defence
secretary. well, indeed, and fora uk government which is, shall we say, not terribly well—equipped to deal with any of it at the moment, and i think we are entering really dangerous international territory in a condition where, you know, britain itself is kind of leaking below the waterline. but i have a number of questions about this whole operation. not least, why iran chose to send a fully loaded supertanker around the cape of good hope, which would inevitably lead it to go back into gibraltar. the geography of this is really quite odd. you can — it's too big to go through the suez canal, but if the intent was simply to ship oil to — and bust the sanctions, they could have shipped it in smaller ships around the suez canal. and what i do not know, and perhaps you do, is how long this route has been practised
and whether indeed supertankers have been sailing past gibraltar regularly for the past three years without interference. well, you know, relations between iran and egypt are very bad, and they in fact have never existed since the islamic revolution. ships continue to go through canal, however. yes, but the egyptians have seized several iranian ships in the past ten years because egypt is on the wrong side from the iranian point of view in the syrian war. obviously iran is trying to find a safer route. but there is another point which i think might interest you. the european union aspect. because the ship is seized not because of american sanctions but because of european sanctions. yes. the sanctions on syria, not iran. on syria. and in gibraltar, people voted massively to stay in the european union, so, you know, this may be either some gesture by those britains, those remainers in britain saying
we can co—operate with europe, security is important, and also for the local gibraltar government, which demanded from the british navy to intervene. right. we're going to have to leave the iran story there, i'm sure we will be coming back to it in the next week or so. thank you on that one. now we're going to move to hong kong. because every year political leaders in hong kong and beijing celebrate the anniversary of the territory's return from british to chinese rule in 1997. so, it was a loss of face for them when the first ofjuly was marred by yet another massive street protest. but then, a small group vandalised the legislative building and defaced the symbols of chinese rule in there. and in hong kong's battle for hearts and minds, who is the loser now, we ask ourselves? isabel? it was certainly unhelpful.
but you see two very different reactions. the carrie lam administration and the people's republic say that this simply demonstrates that these people are vandals and ill—intentioned, they're criminals and do criminal damage. if you talk to people in hong kong, and remember that we have had millions and millions of people on the streets, without so much as a car being scratched in the last month. you know? they go — these are the only demonstrators who go back and pick up their trash and recycle it. they're extraordinarily peaceful. and that — their perception of what happened that night in legco is much more nuanced. yes, a lot of people are very angry, because it gives an excuse to the government to crack down. but there was a demonstration just the other day of mothers coming out in defence of young people, this is after the legco, because now they're afraid that if people are persecuted or sentenced too, it could be up to 10 years in prison. that at some point they could also be transferred to the people's republic.
so it's clearly a very complex picture in hong kong itself and i take your point on the hearts and minds battle there. but what about hearts and minds in the chinese mainland? i mean, you'vejust been in china — you just got back. so the vandalism inside an assembly building in hong kong, i mean, that is — it's hard for me to imagine that going down well with the chinese public. indeed, and when you think that is the only news they get. because, if you're trying to follow this from inside china, as i was last week, it's either not there on the chinese language services, or on the english language services, as soon as the word 'hong kong' comes up, the screen goes blank. so, you know, all that people are getting, at least through formal media, is the government view. that said, you know, in china there are ways for information to get aroud. some people in china undoubtedly feel that hong kong enjoys absurd privileges, that they're spoiled children and it's time they had a dose of reality. others, however, regard those demonstrations as sign of things they would wish to do themselves.
yeah. greg, what about the tactics? we heard from isabel about the tactics of the demonstrators themselves, and obviously there's some who are prepared to take a tougher line than others. some of them calling for carrie lam, the chief executive's resignation, but what about the replacement? but do they need to be careful what they wish for here in terms of the kind of greater hardliner who might be put in place if carrie lam was to go? yeah, i think the replacement would very likely be someone brought in to crack heads, to speak loosely. one thing that struck me about the demonstration and the takeover was the reference to some of the british colonial systems and the fact some people — some of the protesters seemed to be looking back with some sort of fondness for the colonial era. that was very striking to me. because i was there for the handover, and i spoke to a lot of brits before hand, and i had thought they would feel nostalgia and sadness about losing hong kong. the brits i spoke to said of course
not, the empire was a silly idea and we have to get rid of it. but these people in hong kong were looking back to some of the guarantees that they had under british rule, and i thought that was really striking. so i think whatever comes next will be harder, i don't think there is any room for a soft approach at this point. and adam, we talked a moment ago about the other things the uk is involved in, in terms of foreign policy difficulty and this is one of them. it's quite interesting that for many years the british government seemed, according to some critics anyway, to have tried to take a softer line on the grounds of the golden era kind of relationship with china, but here we had a british government standing up, and the chinese government saying, please don't interfere. what has surprised me about the british government's response is that while they could have easily said the mass protests were peaceful and respected and absolutely essential, they could have condemned the violence, and they didn't do that. and it left the chinese
with an absolutely perfect opening, and ijust think, i'm amazed we didn't do so. the great mass of the demonstration was peaceful and a very small group were anarchic and destructive. and this is such an obvious point. now why they did not make that point, i don't know. these things are rarely, you know — the idea somehow it's all haphazard, these responses are vry carefully thought out. i have no idea, but it has provided the chinese with a perfect opening to accuse us, and, you know, relations are probably pretty poor at the moment. yes... isabel? a view on that one? it was an odd omission. personally, i'm pleasantly surprised at the british government responded at all because it has been a very long and slow erosion of the rights that — we are guarantors of those rights under an international treaty. yes. the brits do have standing on this
and have not used it. so, i welcomed the fact that they did at this point step up, and partly because they could see the danger that that episode in legco — the violence in legco — had created, which was the danger of giving an excuse for much more savage repression. which, i have to say, wouldn't solve the hong kong problem and i do think that china has a real problem with hong kong now. it needs hong kong less than it did, but it still needs it, 40% of foreign investment still goes through hong kong. and you know hong kong is a critical part at a time when the chinese economy is not doing all that well, when it's running out of foreign exchange, it needs to have a constructive relationship with the international financial community. where does that reside in terms of china? it resides in hong kong. amir, we haven't heard from you yet. do you agree with isabel on all of that, or do you think that in beijing they might feel that they could take —
play a waiting game? that in 2014, with the umbrella movement, add the demonstrations petered out in the end and they didn't have to give anything, they might say? you know, in the last congress of the communist party, president xi jinping made two promises, or developed two themes. the first was harmonisation, that china should become a harmonised society. one aspect of that is the concentration camps in xinjiang among the muslims so that they are sinofied. ijust need to put in context that china obviously calls them 'vocational training centres'. vocational training centres. there is also intensive sinofication in tibet and now of course hong kong which has become really, really chinese. so this is one aspect. the other aspect is pretension that china can now offer a model to the whole world. not only to china — we show you how to rule an efficient society. we have had an economic miracle that everybody is admiring, the same time we have our political
control, we do not allow these so—called democratic tricks that are played in the west, the corruption that there is. so how does that relate back to hong kong then at the end of the day? yes, they have to tame hong kong, hong kong is like a colt, they have to tame it. this is a good time because britain, which is a guarantor, as isabel said, has landed on its own mess and doesn't have the energy and time to come and do its responsibilities. but if the chinese have — succeed in suppressing hong kong, it will be bad news for the whole of china. but there is another part of china that is really important in this, as the beijing regime would say, and that's taiwan. their elections next year, likely to see a much stronger affirmation of taiwanese self—determination, and that's a much bigger prize in many ways. yes.
the identity question. that the government has also pledged to recover, and that is going to be much harder if hong kong goes badly. and we have to move on there, i am afraid. so, now to the uk. it's time — decision time — for british conservatives. their leadership race started with a packed field and ended with two, of course. now tory party members have heard all the promises on brexit and a better future. so the only question left for them — where to place the cross — againstjohnson or hunt? adam, as they contemplate their ballot paper, what will be the calculations in the minds of tory party members? who's going to win for them. and they all have already actually decided this. i'm afraid this race is over, it sounds ridiculous to say it, but it is. the bookies have got it right, boris johnson is a 12—1 favourite and he's going to have a large majority. it was probably, absolutely guaranteed that to be so,
unless some extraordinary event occurred, and it hasn't occurred and is unlikely to occur. he's got to be found in bed with three small boys, frankly, or something like that to stop him being made leader. so he's going to be leader, the real issue, which is what i find dismaying is that these two candidates, includingjohnson, have made impossible promises which cannot be delivered. the conservative party, which is a party of business, it's a party of the union, it's a party of conservatism, they somehow abandoned all of these three cherished principles for a mania, which is, "we've got to get out of brexit, no matter the cost. " we've had a poll showing the conservative association members would quite happily have severe damage to the economy, to destroy the union, so long as we get brexit. now, if you have that sort of mania rolling and you are encouraged by — in this mania by these two candidates, you are in
a very serious situation. and by the end of october, because these promises can't be delivered, we are going to have a political crisis in this country, probably or possibly a constitutional crisis, and in my view, it can only end in one of two ways, probably an election or possibly a referendum. so, we are in a bad, bad situation. well, you have put the situation as you see it in a clear nutshell there. greg, how much of that do you agree with? well, i... starting with the borisjohnson stroll to victory? i — with my ap training i would have to put in a caveat in. it certainly looks like boris, boris and all boris. i haven't seen any sign of movement towards jeremy hunt, but when people do the ballot paper, they could feel differently. but certainly boris at the moment seems to be invulnerable. i'm perhaps in a minority, i was at a diplomatic event this week and people were not agreeing with me. to me, when i hear boris, and with lesser stridency
jeremy hunt, say we are going to leave on the 31st of october no matter what, i tend to believe them. so i think that's what's very likely to happen because to a degree that is how i read the mood in the european union as well. so i don't really see an election or referendum, i see britain leaving the eu as promised. i think boris has been so unequivocal that if he moves to number 10 he can't very easily change direction. although the mechanism for getting there is troubled by parliamentary arithmetic. quite so. but the government is what deals with the eu, not the parliament directly. i do agree with you, it's going to get very confused, the words "constitutional crisis," we will be seeing that in october, one form or another. amir? well, you know, this is another example of part of a nation — or at least part of a nation — being struck by ideological madness, we experienced it in iran. we want to turn the buckingham palace and the white house into mosques, this is our official
ideology, and you want to get out of the european union at any cost, and there is absolutely no use talking about it, and i was in one of your programmes here and i asked my british friends to give me one example of why the european membership of the european union has affected their own lives negatively. and the only answer i received was that they couldn't fish as many fish as they liked, but for that they are prepared to... that was a small demographic, obviously, so i don't think that's conclusive. no, no, that's not conclusive, but what i'm saying is that the beauty of britain, and that what made me an anglophile, is that this is a moderate country, they do few things very slowly, they don't go for referenda like the caudillos, you know, go like general de gaulle, for example. they go for a representative government, they are cautious and so on.
and so they have been acting against character. you know? when i see — i have known britain since the 1960s, when i was a student here. i don't recognise it anymore. but coming to october the 31st, do you believe it will be as greg is saying, we will be out on the 31st of october and some means of getting there will be found, however messy? no, not on the 31st of october, which is halloween, i think, and we'll all take part in halloween, but that — that's not important. the british, as i said, as a friend of britain i advise them to have a very close look at themselves, they are not behaving like themselves. speaking as a north briton, i think we are behaving pretty sensibly. there is an england problem, however, there is definitely an england problem. so we don't have a firm brexiteer on this panel today, so i'm not going to let you make any remoaning speeches.
haha! so, going to the — boris johnson's pitch, as we have heard from this side of the table, seems likely to succeed. do you disagree? i don't disagree. i think predictions are difficult but certainly the evidence is that boris will win. given that everyjob he has done have been characterised by those who have worked most closely with him, that his behaviour in hisjobs have been characterised as mendacious, lazy and incompetent, it's going to be interesting to see how he deals with his profound national crisis. and yet, charismatic and a winner... absolutely. ..and a confirmed brexiteer, well, his supporters would say. a wobbly brexiteer, one might say. i don't think boris is what you'd call a conviction politician, he has recognised that the tory party is in the grip of a cult, and boris has very expertly picked up on that. isabel's absolutely right, boris has not got very, very determined or very
clear political views. i once asked him, how in the hell do you get your political views, boris? he said, it's easy, ijust find out what the wheelers are thinking, charles wheeler, he married into that family, and i know that if i go 180 degrees opposite, i cannot go wrong. well, that is one insight i'm going to leave there because ijust want to finish with the question we've heard this weekend from a former chief of intelligence services, talking really quite candidly about a collective nervous breakdown in the uk. does anyone on the panel disagree with that rendition of our current situation? i think he's absolutely right, and i think when this is the sort of opinions that are held at the most senior levels of the civil service it shows what a grave situation this country's in. and that he should be prepared to say it quite so directly is unprecedented. i don't remember any moment like that. and we have to leave it there. i'm sorry to cut you all short but thanks so much being with us and thank you for watching.
that's it for dateline london for this week — back next week, same place, same time. goodbye. a lot of fine weather to come across the uk for the remainder of today. always a few exceptions to the rule. there will be a little more cloud across scotland, part of the north—east of england, may be the odd sharper shower here, too. an improving picture to the south, where the remnants of a weather front brought us a grey and wet start. the south—east, moving into sunshine for the afternoon. thickening cloud through the second part of the day for the south—west of england and for south wales. a nagging northerly breeze feeding the cloud into northern scotland and north sea coasts.
1a degrees in aberdeen, a chilly 15 in newcastle. showers for northern scotland and the pennines. maybe the odd sharper one, may be drifting into lincolnshire and norfolk as we move through the evening. overnight, a fine story, however, and with clear skies across government it could actually turn pretty chilly in some of the glens to the north. loads of two or three degrees. lows of two or three degrees. low enough for a grass frost. monday dawns fine and clear for the majority, and there will be plenty of sunshine around through the day. more widespread, if anything, than today. but come the afternoon, we will see cloud thickening for northern ireland, a warm front moving in and then some rain by the evening. temperatures for monday, well, average values, basically. we are looking at 16 in aberdeen, warm in newcastle, up to 17. 21 or 22 to the south. we should have a fine day for wimbledon on monday, with some pleasant spells of sunshine. courtside should feel pretty comfortable as 20 or 21 degrees.
later in the increasing chance of seeing some disruption to play. tuesday, i think any rain will stay to the north as this front are just tips in. high pressure hangs on in there to the south. grey prospects for northern ireland with some rain and then the rain moving into scotland and northern england. to the south, the best of any brightness, perhaps 23 degrees. further north, we are looking at the mid—teens. perhaps heavier rain for a time across the central belt of scotland. on to the outlook. through the middle of the week, quite unsettled across the northern half of the uk, and then friday, fairly widespread showers are possible with some real hunting is in the mix. that, as i said, could bring some disruption to wimbledon.
this is bbc news. the headlines at 12:00pm... leaked emails from the british ambassador to washington describe president trump's administration as "inept", "insecure" and "incompetent". iran says it has breached another condition of its 2015 international nuclear agreement. protesters march in hong kong in another large demonstration against china's increasing control over the territory, the plan is to be peaceful. the plan is, the organisers said at the beginning, to be elegant. but the police are ready, they‘ re jittery, but they are ready if it turns for the worse. greece is going to the polls to elect a new parliament, with opinion polls suggesting defeat for the left—wing government. the jodrell bank observatory in cheshire, which has been at the forefront of astronomical research, is declared a unesco world heritage site.