BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: From the web team

Archives for May 2009

Friday 29 May 2009

Verity Murphy | 18:04 UK time, Friday, 29 May 2009

Here's a taster of what's coming up on Newsnight and Newsnight Review:

From the web team:

The MPs' expenses row shows no sign of abating and the body count is rising. The careers of two more MPs are hanging in the balance today.

David Cameron has warned that veteran Tory Bill Cash has "very serious questions to answer" after it emerged that he rented a London flat from his daughter - even though he already owned another closer to Westminster.

And there is speculation that former environment minister Elliot Morley will announce his intention to stand down after a meeting with local Labour Party officials in Scunthorpe this evening.

Tonight we will ask just how arbitrary is the court of media and public opinion? Why do some MPs have to step down, while others - who appear to have committed worse offences - carry on, relatively unscathed?

So what determines who has to go and who has to stay - we'll try to find out.

Also, the D-Day row. No royals will be attending 65th anniversary commemorations in France next week - they weren't invited says Buckingham Palace.

Instead Presidents Sarkozy and Obama will remember the achievments of their countrymen in 1944.

But wait a minute what about the 62,000 British troops who took part? Has the British role in D-Day always been underplayed in popular French and US mythology and what role has Hollywood played in this.

Join Gavin Esler at 10.30pm on BBC Two for all that and more.

From Martha Kearney:

Moran has gone so has Kilbride.
Politicians taking us for a ride?
Or the media mob in full hue and cry
Watching trust in democracy slowly die.

Well, I won't be putting in my application for Oxford Professor of Poetry, that's for sure.

Luckily we have had a much better selection of your political poems some of which we will be hearing on our poetry special tonight.

We have a great panel of people who are passionate about poetry. There's Simon Armitage, one of the country's most popular writers. His work is even on the school curriculum.

Luke Wright, himself a poet, curates poetry at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk.

The novelist Josephine Hart has been very influential in bringing classic poetry to a wider audience through her readings at the British Library and dissemination of anthologies to schools. She is also chair of the Forward Prize judges this year.

And you may remember Akala from an earlier programme. He is a rap artist who has been touring the country showing kids the similarity between hip hop and Shakespeare. (He has also played for Wimbledon FC and is Ms Dynamite's brother!)

There's plenty for us all to discuss especially this week after Ruth Padel stood down as Oxford Professor after being accused of a smear campaign.

The contest for Poet Laureate was also more keenly fought than in recent memory. So does that reflect the intense competition which has existed in poetry since the ancient times?

We'll be asking has the gaze of modern poets turned inwards rather than exploring broader political themes.

In the 60s Adrian Mitchell was renowned for his protest poems. We'll review his last book and see whether anyone has picked up that baton.

Clare Pollard will be reporting on the huge growth of young poets online and in performance. And spoken word performer Scroobius Pip claims that poetry has a bad image problem - just too old fashioned.

Have the combined forces of Armando Iannucci, Griff Rhys Jones and Simon Schama done anything to combat that in the BBC's poetry season?

We also have Damien Lewis reading exciting new poems picked by our panel.

So Poetry Please at 11pm tonight,

Martha.

Thursday 28 May 2009

ADMIN USE ONLY | 16:25 UK time, Thursday, 28 May 2009

Here's a taster of what's coming up on the programme.

From the web team:

Julie Kirkbride and Margaret Moran have announced they will stand down as MPs at the next election.

Pressure had been mounting on both since details of their expenses claims were revealed in the Daily Telegraph.

In announcing her decision, Ms Kirkbride said she "must take into account the effects on my family" of the row.

Mrs Moran also said that the "understandable anger in the media and amongst the public... has had a bruising effect upon my friends, my family and my health".

So, were they hounded out by a media hungry for blood, or was the frenzy of press interest a justifiable response to public concern? Tonight we will be debating this with both politicians and journalists.

Also, BAE systems - Britain's global arms dealer - was still struggling at this month's annual meeting to rebrand itself as an "ethical" arms company.

Meanwhile, more than two years after the British government pulled the rug on its biggest fraud investigation, BAE may have returned the favour, helping to get the government off the hook with the international anti-corruption agency.

BAE has stopped a billion pounds insurance contract which tied the government to its alleged bribery and corruption in Saudi Arabia. The move, which Newsnight can reveal for the first time, has astonished BAE's critics, who smell a rat.

Plus, the cuckoo - known for its springtime song - has joined a "red list" of the UK's most threatened bird species. We will be asking why.

Join Jeremy Paxman at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 19:19 UK time, Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Here's a look at what's coming up on the programme tonight.

From the web team:

"I am no Mother Theresa but all my stuff is out there." So says David Van Day, erstwhile member of 80s pop duo Dollar, and now a man considering running for parliament in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal.

And Mr Van Day is not alone, as the aftershocks of the expenses row continue to rumble, a number of would-be independent MPs have been clambering out of the cracks, among them TV presenter Esther Rantzen and Daily Telegraph associate editor Simon Heffer.

On the day that the Labour disciplinary panel, the star chamber, meets to discuss whether MPs under fire for expenses claims can seek re-election we will take a closer look at the rise of the independent candidate. Are they the answer to parliament's problems and what are their chances for success?

Also, Justin Rowlatt's American odyssey takes him to Texas. The world's large-scale oil industry began in Texas, and the Lone Star state still styles itself as the powerhouse of America. But as Justin finds, as well as being the most polluting state in the Union, Texas has been quietly building a world-beating green energy industry right alongside its pump jacks and pipelines.

Join Kirsty Wark at 10.30pm on BBC Two for all that and more.

And finally, a message for all budding Shakespeare's out there...

As part of BBC Two's poetry season, Newsnight Review will be running a poetry special on Friday 29 May, looking at how relevant poetry is to modern day life and whether poets can still bring about change through the power of verse.

Could you compose a poem to sum up the mood of the nation? There's only one way to find out... send us your poetry on the burning issues of the day via the review website now.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 17:49 UK time, Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Here's a taster of what's coming up on the programme tonight.

From the web team:

As the main parties try to shift focus away from the expenses revelations, David Cameron has pledged to change politics with "a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power". Among the measures he said a Conservative government would "seriously consider" are fixed-term parliaments and fewer MPs. Labour Cabinet Ministers are also pushing for reform - PR is apparently back in vogue - but how many of these proposals are sincere, and how many opportunistic?

We have also done some interesting digging on the expenses story itself - watch tonight to find out more. Grassroots anger among constituency parties has been an important dynamic in this story - we'll have a report tonight from the heart of "middle" England.

Plus, after the resignation of Ruth Padel, the first woman to become the Oxford Professor of Poetry, we will throw a light on infighting and power struggles in academia. Martin Amis will be joining us to talk about quarrels in the quad and backstabbing bards.

And we have a powerful film from East Timor on the plight of thousands of children who were taken from East Timor during Indonesia's 25-year occupation. As Lucy Williamson reports, even for those who do find their families, returning home is anything but easy.

Newsnight Review special from Cannes

Sarah McDermott | 17:17 UK time, Friday, 22 May 2009

Here's Kirsty Wark to tell you what's coming up in Newsnight Review tonight:

Hello from Cannes,

We are always thinking of language to convey the excitement of the film festival, and I confess, that in the past, I may have been guilty of hyperbole, but this time it is for real.

2009 is a truly exciting Festival - great films, coruscating criticism of a major director, diabolical films, tiny films with "un grand coeur", and a huge change in the atmosphere wrought by the global recession.

There are fewer Americans in town, and on the great gin palaces on the water, and so there is a more European feel to the Festival, complimented by the tone of the films in competition.

Natalie Haynes, Paul Morley, Sarfraz Manzoor and I will be discussing the contenders for the Palme d'Or, including:

Cannes super fan Quentin Tarantino's World War II Spaghetti Western Jewish revenge fantasy fairy tale, Inglourious Basterds, which for me was one of the most exhilarating films of the Festival.

A Prophet, a French prison thriller starring the amazing Tahar Rahim as a young Muslim prisoner tied up with the Corsican mafia;

Jane Campion's beautifully designed story of the doomed romance between Keats and Fanny Brawne, Bright Star;

Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock, one of the few films ever to revisit the most famous musical moment of the hippie era;

Eric Cantona's ghostly character in Ken loach's Looking for Eric;

Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, his story of death, loss and genital self-mutilation which has caused the most controversy at Cannes, and which we hear will have to be severely edited before it can be released in most territories, such is the distressing nature of some of the scenes;

and Pedro Almodovar's latest movie with Penelope Cruz, the film within a film, Broken Embraces.

Apart from all that we have been to see Terry Gilliam's keenly anticipated The Imaginarium of Dr Paranassus this morning which is an extravaganza of CGI and which features Heath Ledger's final performance before his death.

Natalie, Paul, and Saf have been ducking and diving around other films too and will be delivering some of their top tips.

One result of the global recession is that apparently it has been easier to get "facetime" with the financiers who are here.

Last night we spoke to one Irish Producer, Shane Whelan of OnePunch films who has managed to get funding for a Manga film on the basis of a short promo, which I saw and it looked terrific. He said he had spoken to five potential backers - and when he made it onto the yacht... Bingo!

There have been some great feelgood moments here, not least the joie de vivre surrounding the ultra low budget Charlie Noades RIP, featuring a cast of Liverpool characters (a la Looking for Eric) written by and starring Neil Fitzmaurice from Pheonix Nights.

Their beachfront party, sponsored at the last minute by a Liverpool lawyer, was a raucous family affair and the perfect antidote to the starlet-spangled foyers of the five star venues... which look so "derniere siecle".

We're at the same beach front venue, the British Film Council Pavilion tonight. I hope you'll be with us, Kirsty.

You can read Paul Morley, Natalie Haynes and Sarfraz Manzoor's accounts of their Cannes experiences here.

Friday 22 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 16:57 UK time, Friday, 22 May 2009

Here's Gavin to give you a taste of what is coming up on tonight's programme:

From Gavin Esler:

Quote for the Day:

"The atmosphere in Westminster is unbearable. People are constantly checking to see if others are OK. Everyone fears a suicide" - Tory MP Nadine Dorries.

We're devoting all of Newsnight tonight to considering how far the British political system can and should change as a result of the upheavals of the past two weeks.

Fewer MPs? Better pay? Proportional representation? More scrutiny? More independents? What would make the system work?

I'll be seeking moral guidance from one of the most outspoken bishops in the Church of England, and we'll be debating what kind of parliament we want - and deserve.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 17:41 UK time, Thursday, 21 May 2009

Here's a taster of what's coming up on tonight's programme:

From the web team:

Gordon Brown has defended Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon and Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell over accusations in the Daily Telegraph that they avoided paying Capital Gains Tax when they sold homes in London.

The prime minister says he is satisfied they have complied with the law, and believes they will not need to repay any money to Revenue and Customs.

A stark contrast indeed to the way he spoke about Communities Secretary Hazel Blears when the Telegraph reported that she had not paid the tax and Mr Brown responded by denouncing her behaviour as "completely unacceptable". Is that consistent prime minister?

Also actress Joanna Lumley will be joining us hotfoot from a triumphant victory over residency rights for thousands of former British army Ghurkhas. What does her success say about the future of politics?

Plus, on the day that a leading credit rating agency revised down its outlook for the UK economy to "negative" from "stable" due to concerns about our debt burden, we have an interview with economist David Blanchflower.

He recently left his job as a Bank of England rate setter after frequently disagreeing with Governor Mervyn King throughout 2008 about the severity of the coming recession. He warns that youth unemployment could reach one million and says we are in danger of creating a "lost generation."

Join Gavin for all of that and more at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

Wednesday 20th May 2009

Len Freeman | 18:01 UK time, Wednesday, 20 May 2009

From the web team

Here's a taste from Gavin Esler of what is coming up in the programme.

Quote for the Day

"What did we do with the trust of your vote? Hired a flunky to flush out the moat" - Carol Ann Duffy, the new Poet Laureate on the MPs' expenses scandal.

MPs expenses

It's clear that the people who run the House of Commons think, believe, hope, that they have drawn a line under the expenses saga, after yesterday's demise of the Speaker and today's announcement of interim measures. But have they? Everyone appears to be agreed on the principle of change, but the details are extremely complicated given that every one of the more than 600 MPs sees himself or herself as having differing needs and problems. Are we on the verge of broader constitutional reform? We'll discuss.

Compensation claims

Plus, Newsnight has been following carefully the plight of British haemophiliacs and their families who have suffered unspeakably as a result of blood donations bought in from the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. It's thought that 4670 haemophiliacs were infected with hepatitis C and 1243 were infected with HIV. Today the government announced a degree of compensation which haemophiliac groups have denounced as woeful and shameful. Susan Watts will be reporting and we'll debate.

And our Ethical Man in America - Justin Rowlatt - tries to figure out if there really is a future for clean coal.

See you at 10.30pm.

Gavin

Tuesday 19th May 2009

Len Freeman | 18:49 UK time, Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Here's a taste of what's coming up on the programme:

From the web team:

House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin has said that he will resign on 21 June, becoming the first Speaker to be forced out of office in more than 300 years.

Yesterday we saw that Mr Martin had lost the unquestioned authority over the Commons which a Speaker must command when he was openly challenged by MPs over his handling of the parliamentary expenses scandal.

Mr Martin may have reached the end of the road as Speaker, but tonight we will be asking if his ousting is simply the first step on the path to monumental reform of Parliament.

And on the issue of reform, in the last few minutes Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just been speaking about the need for British politics to open up to more outside scrutiny, saying that: "Westminster cannot operate like some gentlemen's club where members make up the rules and operate them among themselves."

He said that new proposals would be unveiled later on Tuesday following a meeting of party leaders. We will be discussing what the leaders come up with on the programme tonight.

We also return to the 7/7 London bombings, with a new report into a catalogue of missed chances by MI5.

The intelligence agency saw bomb plot leader Mohammad Sidique Khan popping up on their screens on dozens of occasions over a four year period leading up to the attacks, but they, along with police, failed to connect up the dots.

Plus reporter Stephen Smith has had exclusive access to new research showing how reckless industrial fishing is destroying famous wreck sites across the UK like the HMS Victory.

Join Jeremy at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

Monday 18 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 19:09 UK time, Monday, 18 May 2009

Here's a taste of what's coming up on the programme:

From the web team:

Unprecedented scenes in the House of Commons today as a succession of MPs openly challenged Speaker Michael Martin to step down after an extraordinary personal statement to Parliament.

Political sketch writer Quentin Letts compared the Speaker's rocky ride to the launch of a European space rocket, in which everything looks fine at the start, all cylinders firing, but then starts to go horribly wrong, ending in an explosion.

On tonight's programme we will be asking if this is the nadir of modern Parliament, and what can be done to reverse the damage?

Plus Blood Sweat and Takeaways - at what cost is cheap food produced?

From top class restaurants to low cost supermarkets, we take it for granted that we can buy whatever food we want, whenever we want it. But would we feel the same if we knew the human cost of food production?

For a BBC Three documentary six British youngsters went to live and work alongside some of the millions of people working in South East Asia's food production industries.

Two of them will be joining us on the programme tonight to discuss what they found.

Join Jeremy Paxman then.

Friday 15 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 16:45 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

Here are Gavin Esler and Kirsty Wark to tell you what's coming up tonight on Newsnight and Newsnight Review:

From Gavin Esler:

Quote for the Day: "If these expenses had not been leaked, would any of the party leaders have made a stand to clear up a corrupt system?" Entertainer Frank Skinner.

That was the week that was; a week of allegations that have shaken Parliament and to an extent damaged almost all those within it.

Heads have begun to roll - or have they? True, the Justice Minister Shahid Malik has resigned his job, and there have been one or two other casualties. But despite all the public anger, not a single MP has quit parliament or announced he or she will stand down at the next election.

Should they? We're planning to debate tonight how to fix what has gone wrong, with two angry critics of MPs, the Mayor of Middlesborough (once called by the tabloids Robo-Cop) Ray Mallon, and the disc jockey Emma B.

Plus we've a special report on Barack Obama's big gamble in Afghanistan - can a troop surge work there, as it appears to have done in Iraq?

From Kirsty Wark:

Then on Newsnight Review with David Aaronovitch, Kate Mosse and Mark Kermode we explore how drama can illuminate and possibly influence the unglamorous and uncomfortable subject of neglected and abused children.

Golden Globe-winning and twice Oscar-nominated actress Samantha Morton makes her directorial debut with The Unloved, a drama for Channel 4, loosely based on her own experiences of a childhood in and out of foster families and care homes in Nottingham.

Eleven-year-old Lucy, played by Molly Windsor, is cut adrift in the care system after a brutal beating by her father, played by Robert Carlyle. She witnesses abuse in the care home - the care home manager sexually abuses her roommate, and she frequently absconds to walk the streets of the city, silently, for hours and hours.

Samantha Morton's deliberately pared down style - the slow pace and simple static shots - force the audience to engage with Lucy's inner torment.

And there is torment on stage in Monsters, a new Swedish play which has its British premiere in English this week at the Arcola Theatre in London. The play takes us back to the brutal killing of two-year-old James Bulger by the two boys Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, and has been criticised by both the Bulger family and victim support groups.

Four adult actors on stage take on a variety of roles based mainly on the transcripts of the interrogation of the two boys, and the actors ask the audience to consider the role of the 38 witnesses who saw the boys leading James Bulger away, but did nothing.

Then we'll be delving into Dan Brown's follow up to the critically panned and commercially phenomenal The Da Vinci Code. Such was the Vatican's ire at that film that for Angels and Demons, director Ron Howard couldn't film there, and had to recreate The Vatican in Los Angeles.

Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks is building a franchise a la Harrison Ford...) is on the trail of another Catholic sect -the Illuminati - who are concerned about the growing influence of science on religion. When the pope dies they kidnap four cardinals... and then it gets scary.

And we hope we'll have time to discuss the new work of the Canadian poet Ann Michaels who won the Orange Prize in 1997. She has written her long awaited second novel The Winter Vault which returns to familiar territory of love and loss.

She intertwines two events - the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the flooding of the St Lawrence Seaway in Canada - as seen through the eyes of an engineer and his fragile botanist wife, whose own relationship becomes engulfed, as communities in Egypt and Canada became engulfed by the water...

I hope you'll be watching.

Font win our Immigrant Song Contest

ADMIN USE ONLY | 12:19 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

The votes have been counted and verified and we can reveal that the winner of our inaugural Immigrant Song Contest is Font!

The Iranian indie rockers, who were once jailed for playing a gig in their native Tehran, were praised by the judges for their musicality and staunch commitment to their art.

Throughout the competition many of you took the time to send us your feedback on the bands - thanks for that.

Now enjoy Font performing their winning version of Cliff Richard's Congratulations:


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Thursday 14 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 17:19 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

Here's Gavin Esler with a look ahead to tonight's programme:

Today's Quote for the Day:

"The skin of the custard has been peeled back and it is bubbling underneath. That's how it is in this country at the moment" - campaigning actress Joanna Lumley on the MPs' expenses scandal.

In tonight's programme, we'll begin with a bit more peeling back the skin on the custard, and more especially the news that the former Labour environment minister Elliott Morley has had the Labour whip withdrawn after claiming mortgage interest on his Scunthorpe home 18 months after paying off the loan.

But we'll also be devoting much of the programme tonight to something which affects all of us - immigration.

What has happened as a result of the recession? Are immigrants - especially from Eastern Europe - going home? Or are they, as some fear, taking what the prime minister once referred to as "British jobs" for British people?

We will try to get to the bottom of the contentious figures and will debate the issue.

Join me at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

Immigrant Song Contest - The Final

Sarah McDermott | 11:07 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

This is it, the final day of the Immigrant Song Contest!

Over the past three nights we have seen six acts perform - the cream of immigrant musical talent. Each has told us how they came to be in the UK, given us a taster of their music and performed a classic Eurovision hit.

Later today our panel of three judges will be deciding who should be crowned our champion and get to play out tonight's special programme on immigration.

But before then we want you to help the judges out by telling us who your favourite is, who you think should win.

Here's a reminder of each of the performances in case you are still having trouble making your mind up.

Poland's Why Not Here and Somalian Dhalad:

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Zimbabwe's Mann Friday and Hashmat from Afghanistan:

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Iranian band Font and Ya Freddy from the Democratic Republic of Congo:

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The judges will read your comments and take them into account, but they will have the final say in selecting a winner.

They will decide based on a wide range of criteria consistent with the BBC Code of Conduct on Competitions and Voting.

Immigrant Song Contest: Day Two

Sarah McDermott | 12:47 UK time, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Last night in our Immigrant Song Contest we heard performances from Hashmat from Afghanistan and Mann Friday from Zimbabwe.

Remember we want you to hear what you think about the bands ahead of the judges' decision in our special programme on immigration on Thursday night.

So to help you make your mind up, here is the film from last night. Watch as Mann Friday and Hashmat explain why they came to the UK, give us a taster of their music and each perform a Eurovision cover.

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The judges will read your comments and take them into account, but they will have the final say in selecting a winner. They will decide based on a wide range of criteria consistent with the BBC Code of Conduct on Competitions and Voting.

You can read more about the contest in this feature written by its host Tim Samuels.
He says the contest is not only a way to tell the stories of some of the millions of people who have moved to this country, but also a means to find out if they have embraced our cherished national tradition of celebrating the finest in cheesy music.

And if you missed the performances from Iranian indie rockers Font and Ya Freddy from the Democratic Republic of Congo you can watch them again here.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 17:39 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Here's news of what's coming up in tonight's Newsnight:

Day five of the MPs expenses claims row, and Labour and the Conservatives are in a high speed race to seize the moral high ground.

Conservative leader David Cameron broke into a sprint this afternoon when he announced a series of measures for Tory MPs including a new expenses claims scrutiny panel and a ban on flipping houses.

And House of Commons Leader Harriet Harman says she is writing to the chairman of the cross-party members' allowances committee to see if any expenses money which has been paid out has been paid out wrongly, and that she to arrange for a system of repayments.

Tonight, David Grossman will take a look at just who is winning that race.

IMMIGRANT SONG CONTEST - ROUND TWO

Also tonight, it is day two of our Immigrant Song Contest. Afghan performer Hashmat and Zimbabwean band Mann Friday will be telling us their stories, giving us a taster of their music and performing a cover version of a famous Eurovision hit.

Do tell us what you think about their performances.

And of course join Jeremy Paxman at 10.30pm on BBC Two

Immigrant Song Contest: Day One

Sarah McDermott | 13:46 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Last night we kicked off our Immigrant Song Contest with performances from Iranian indie rockers Font and Ya Freddy from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Remember we want you to hear what you think about the bands ahead of the judges' decision in our special programme on immigration on Thursday night.

So to help you make your mind up, here is the film from last night. Watch now as Font and Ya Freddy tell us how they came to be in the UK, give us a taster of their music and each performs a Eurovision cover.

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The judges will read your comments and take them into account, but they will have the final say in selecting a winner.

They will decide based on a wide range of criteria consistent with the BBC Code of Conduct on Competitions and Voting.

And in case you missed last night's introduction to the contest, here is our host Tim Samuels to tell you more:

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Monday 11 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 18:35 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

Here's news of what's coming up in tonight's Newsnight:

Immigrant Song Contest
Move over Eurovision, tonight we kick off our inaugural Immigrant Song Contest. Going head to head are six bands, with six very different stories - the cream of immigrant musical talent, all vying to be crowned Newsnight's champion.

Up tonight are the first two bands: Font from Iran and Ya Freddy from the Democratic Republic of Congo. You will hear the stories about why they came to Britain and see their rock'n'roll prowess, as they play their own music and a Eurovision Song Contest cover from yesteryear.

There will be two more bands on Tuesday, and two more on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, during our special programme on immigration, our panel of three judges will select a winner to play the programme out.

Throughout the week we want you to help our judges out by telling us what you think and who your favourite is, which you can do by clicking here.

The judges will read your comments and take them into account, but they will have the final say in selecting a winner and they will decide based on a wide range of criteria consistent with the BBC Code of Conduct on Competitions and Voting.

Honourable members?
Also on the programme we will be examining the latest twist in the ongoing MPs' expenses scandal. Jeremy Paxman will be asking if there really are any "honourable" members left in the House of Commons.

Do join Jeremy at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

Newsnight Review Friday 8 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 18:19 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

Here's Martha with news of tonight's Newsnight Review:

If Westminster has appeared to be a parallel universe this week, there is more of the same on Review this week. All our items grapple, in one way or another, with the small matter of The Meaning of Life.

As a child, my brothers and I loved to watch Star Trek on TV. Even at a young age, we knew that William Shatner's performance verged on cheesy most of the time, but the programme itself seemed so modern. At the height of the Cold War, there was a Russian character, and a black woman when TV was solidly white. I never got into the movies though, which somehow seemed too serious, too technological. But in JJ Abrams' new film the graphics never get in the way of the human drama, and it is a treat to see those familiar characters in their youth. Mr. Spock is actually quite sexy in a Vulcan kind of way. One of our guests, Natalie Haynes, is a proper Trekkie and she has visited a house in Leicestershire which has been entirely reworked to resemble the Enterprise to tell us why she thinks we should take the Trek franchise seriously.

I wonder whether our other guests Tom Paulin and Anthony Horowitz are quite as keen on the voyages of the USS Enterprise...?

Mr. Spock's greeting "Live long and prosper" is not exactly the theme of our next item: Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which has reached London after a nationwide tour. Its official press night was on Wednesday with a celebrity audience to match the star studded cast. I spotted Sir Paul MacCartney, Sting, John Major, Dominic West, Vivienne Westwood and Neil Tennant. Sir Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart give the tramps a vaudeville past in Sean Matthias's production which highlights the humour of the tragi-comedy more than many recent productions.

The precarious nature of existence haunts the final poems of John Updike's Endpoint which has been published posthumously. Sometimes writing from hospital bed, he reflects on his final illness in Needle Biopsy:

"days later, the results came casually through
the gland, biopsied, showed metastasis"

But there are warm recollections too of his Pennsylvania childhood and musings about the nature of writing itself.

Colm Toibin is one of my favourite authors so I am delighted that we are discussing his latest novel, Brooklyn. He explained to me in an interview that the style is based on Jane Austen whose work he had been teaching on a literature course. The Irish heroine, Eilis, emigrates to the States in search of work and ends up facing a dilemma between her new country and home. Watch the full interview here.

Do join us at eleven,

Martha

Immigrant Song Contest

Sarah McDermott | 18:15 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

STARTING TONIGHT

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Forget Eurovision, on Monday we kick off our inaugural Immigrant Song Contest.

We've scoured the country to find the cream of immigrant musical talent. Going head to head are six bands, with six very different stories.

They are: Font from Iran; Zimbabwe's Mann Friday; Hashmat from Afghanistan; Poland's Why Not Here; Somalian Dhalad; and Ya Freddy from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night's programmes we will meet the bands - two on each night. You will hear the stories about why they came to Britain, see their
rock'n'roll prowess and, above all, give a face to the millions of immigrants who come to live in this country and who generate so many headlines.

Then on Thursday, one of them will be crowned Immigrant Song Contest champion by our panel of three judges and get to play out Thursday's special programme on immigration.

Throughout this week we will be updating this page with films of the bands' perfomances and we want you to help our judges out by telling us what you think, who your favourite is.

The judges will read your comments and take them into account, but they will have the final say in selecting a winner.

They will decide based on a wide range of criteria consistent with the BBC Code of Conduct on Competitions and Voting.

Newsnight Friday 8 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 17:56 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

Here's Gavin with a word about what's happening on the programme this evening:

In tonight's programme, we'll have the latest revelations on the MPs' expenses row, with new information expected shortly before we come on air.

Plus, we have an extraordinary film from Africa's largely under-reported conflict, in DR Congo.

And my thanks to Newsnight viewer Anne who send us this joke (or is it a piece of commentary?) from the United States.

"I always thought pigs would fly around the time we would have a black president... and whaddya know? Barack Obama, and swine flu."

Well, it made me smile.

Gavin

Friday 8 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 15:35 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

Ever since they lost a Freedom of Information battle to block the publication of details of their expenses claims, MPs knew this day would come. What they didn't know was that it would come so soon. Tonight, we ask how damaging the expenses revelations will be for the government and parliament. And we'll look at who is next in the firing line.

Also Stephen Sackur reports from ground zero in eastern Congo's zone of conflict - the frontline for the world's biggest, most expensive UN military mission. Watch a clip here.

And Newsnight Review looks at Irish literature this week with Colm Toibin's new novel Brooklyn and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

Martha and the panel will also be reviewing the new Star Trek film - and you can enjoy a guided tour round the home of Tony Alleyne - a Star Trek fan who boldly went where no interior designer had gone before - transforming his Leicestershire flat into a Star Trek spaceship.

1979 or 1989 - which year changed the world most?

Sarah McDermott | 15:22 UK time, Thursday, 7 May 2009

From Gavin Esler:

So, which is it for you? 1979 or 1989?

Twenty years ago, in 1989, the Cold War finally came to an end, the Berlin Wall came down and - for a while at least - it seemed Western liberal democracy and the kind of economic theories put in to practice by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had triumphed as the 20th Century drew to a close.

There are those who think that 1989, therefore, was perhaps the most significant year of change since the end of World War II.

But there are those of us who think another year demands more attention - 1979. That was the year of the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That was the year Mrs Thatcher was first elected and Jimmy Carter looked weakest, leading to the 12 Reagan-Bush years.

So which is it for you? Which of those two years was more important in your life? The one which ended the chapter of the Cold War? Or the year which saw the birth of neo-liberalism in the West - and Islamism in the Middle East?

Go to our website now and click on the 1979 versus 1989 link to tell us your view.

And join us at 10.30pm tonight on BBC two, where we'll be discussing 79 vs 89 with among others Simon Schama, Francis Fukuyama and Lord Lawson.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 16:02 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

What's in store on tonight's programme:

AF-PAK STRATEGY
From Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban:

"It's a big foreign policy day at the White House, as Barack Obama greets the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This 'trilateral diplomacy' is an essential part of his drive to get the key players pulling in the same direction in combatting Islamic militancy in the region.

"But as the US adminstration tries to move forward it's 'Af-Pak' strategy, it is facing a welter of opposition. Yesterday on Capitol Hill we saw how sceptical Congress is about paying Pakistan billions more in aid without reciprocal security commitments. Many Afghans and Pakistanis meanwhile resent even the notion of being lumped together as part of the same problem."

BNP SUPPORT
Also tonight, Michael Crick will be reporting from Cumbria on the BNP and whether it poses a real threat to Labour.

MODERN ARTS
Plus, as ITV announces that its flagship arts programme The South Bank Show will end when presenter Melvyn Bragg leaves next summer, we ask what it means for the broadcaster.

Join us at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

Tuesday, 5 May, 2009

Sarah McDermott | 18:17 UK time, Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Here's what's in store on tonight's programme:

Labour difficulties
After a weekend of speculation in newspapers about Gordon Brown's leadership, the prime minister has tried to switch the spotlight from personality to policy by announcing plans to give parents in England the power to force councils to improve schools. But with questions being asked both inside and outside cabinet will it be enough to end the speculation? Tonight, David Grossman will assess Mr Brown's chances of success and what the Labour party's Plan B is if he fails.

Out of hours care
Tonight on Newsnight Richard Watson has exclusive information on the issue of foreign doctors providing out of hours NHS care: a subject we first reported on in January last year..

Exclusion
The Government has named and shamed 22 individuals who have been banned from entering the UK for "fostering extremism or hatred". Where does this leave freedom of speech? We hope to talk to one of those on the banned list.

The death of books
Manufacturers of e-readers are all vying to be the ones to do for books what MP3 players did for music. We speak to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos about Kindle 2, the company's new revamped electronic book. Can an electronic device really prompt the biggest transformation in reading since the Gutenberg Bible heralded the age of the printed book? And how will Kindle 2 be affected by its UK launch being delayed while a deal is struck with mobile phone companies, allowing the Sony Reader to steal a march?

Join us at 10.30pm.

What's on tonight

Sarah McDermott | 14:46 UK time, Friday, 1 May 2009

From Kirsty Wark

Hello,

I am just back from Manchester (don't you love the train?) where for tonight's Review I interviewed Carol Ann Duffy, the first female Poet Laureate in the 341 year history of the role. I feel I should compose a sonnet for this email - but it would be too painful a read.

However, Carol Ann is a joy - forthright and charming. She talks about why she accepted the role, how she regards the monarchy, what she thinks about our attitude to sexuality and the poetry that moves her.

Before that though we'll be entering the argument inter and intra party about where the cuts, caused by our economic mismanagement, will fall. We'll deal specifically with defence and the debate over Trident which is in danger of dividing the Conservatives and Labour.

David Cameron conceded yesterday there would have to be a review of defence spending. David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, believes the Trident upgrade should be scrapped altogether. Our Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban and Political Editor Michael Crick will be giving us their latest intelligence.

And thank you to those of you who have responded to our invitation to say where you think the cuts should fall - overwhelmingly your view so far is Trident too. Please keep the e-mails coming - it may be an unscientific exercise but it is very illuminating.

Confidential UN satellite images leaked yesterday appear to show that the Sri Lankan Air Force bombed a safe haven of up to 150,000 civilians fleeing the Tamil Tigers. If the images are accurate and if the bombers are the national airforce, it would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law according to human rights activists. Tim Whewell investigates.

Then for Review I'll be joined by the outgoing Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, Paul Morley, Miranda Sawyer and Diane Wei Liang to talk about the power of the written word. We'll be discussing Carol Ann Duffy's appointment, and she reads one of her favourite poems of her own. She talks eloquently about poetry as faith and why poetry is often the form that people turn to in times of turmoil.

We'll also be discussing what is probably the most read book in the world - although I bet you've never heard of it. It's the new Chinese publishing sensation, Confucius From the Heart, a modern interpretation of the Analects by Beijing media professor Yu Dan. The book - which has sold more than ten million copies in China - and, it's reckoned, another five million pirated copies, has been described as "Chinese chicken soup for the soul".

It's published here this week and I talk to Yu Dan about the phenomenon in China, and why, at this point, the Chinese are desperately seeking solace and guidance in Confucius. She talks about the economic crisis, and where she disagrees with the man who has knocked Mao off his pedestal at Tsinghua University in the capital.

And blogging as literature. This week, for the first time, the Orwell Prize for Literature gave a special award for blogging. It was won by Night Jack, an anonymous serving police officer whose blogs reveal the extraordinary and mundane life of a policeman dealing with violence, rape, drugs, and what he calls the "evil poor" with their "devil dogs." He has created a wonderful compelling narrative with a cast of real life characters, some sympathetic, and others you wouldn't want to meet in your worst nightmare.

He asks questions of the force he serves - for instance, why have essentially friendly approachable police officers turned themselves into " imperial stormtroopers"? To me it reads like a cross between Dickens and Melvin Burgess.

Please join us at 10.30pm.

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