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"Do you think you'd have become Secretary of State had you not been Mrs Clinton?": Jeremy Paxman interviews Hillary Clinton

The Newsnight presenter grilled Hillary Clinton in an interview shown on last night's programme about Iraq, Russia, her husband, Scottish independence, and returning to the White House.

Jeremy Paxman interviewed Hillary Clinton for last night's Newsnight, asking the former secretary of state if she would have ever risen to the position had she not been "Mrs Clinton", once the first lady.

"Absolutely", she snapped back in a reply listing the political achievements she's had since becoming a New York senator.

Watch the full interview here:

Some other notable parts of the BBC interview include:

Intervening in Iraq:

"Not at this time no I agree with White House’s objection and reluctance to do the kind of military activities that the Maliki government is requesting, namely fighter aircraft to provide close support for army and to go after targets. That is not a role for the US. There needs to be a number of steps that Maliki and his government must take to demonstrate he is committed to an inclusive Iraq, something he has not done up to date. The army which has not been able to hold territory has to have an injection of discipline and professionalism something the US has been trying to help with and Maliki has to be willing to demonstrate unequivocally that he is a leader for all Iraqis’ not just for a Sectarian slice of the country."

But the Whitehouse is saying that No Option is ruled out? "That’s what they should say."

But you think they should rule some things out? "At this time I said, at this time, yes because the conditions precedent have not been accepted or set by Maliki and what the Whitehouse is doing is making it very clear to him that they would provide the sort of support that they think is appropriate… It would be inappropriate to send in ground forces of any kind in any foreseeable future."

Syria? "I did advocate for limited but focused action in Syria…"

And you were overruled by the president? "And I was overruled by the president, in part because of Iraq, its hard to get a little bit pregnant in these situations, but I did think there was a role. And as I say what was a wicked problem has become even wickeder."



Do you think Putin’s a dangerous man? "He can be – he can be."

Man who exploits weakness? "I think he acts out of his perceived weakness of Russia. I believe his goal is to reassert Russian power. He’d be perfectly happy if the Soviet union could be reconstituted but he’s enough of a realist to know that’s not going to happen. But he wants to control former republics in central asia. Like any person with a view that that’s what power should be used for if he sees weakness or if he sees disorder. I think he was as affected by what he perceived as disorder in Ukraine as what he saw as weakness. He acted in large measure because of what was happening in Maidan square."


Britain in Europe:

"Europe needs Britain, in my opinion. I think Britain brings a perspective and an experience that is very important to Europe especially post economic crisis. So Britain will have to decide if they agree with that."


Scottish independence:

"I would hate to have you lose Scotland… I hope it doesn’t happen but I don’t have a vote in Scotland."


Running for president:

"There are a number of factors… personally I’m about to be a grandmother… and I want to be right in the middle of it, and a presidential campaign is all over-consuming and 24/7 and I’m not ready for that. But the most important thing is not the question will you run and can you win but what’s your vision for America and can you lead it there? I have a pretty good idea that this a contact sport as they say – politics in the US at this point in our history is very rough and tumble because there are big stakes and people unfortunately sometimes engage in unsavoury negative name calling and the like and that’s part of it – I understand that and if you are not tough enough to get into that arena then truly you should not even put your toe in because truly you should not even out your toe in because it is quite a gauntlet."


I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.