- 31 Oct 07, 06:53 PM
Cash for Votes Allegations
Tonight, a special investigation into dramatic allegations that Labour tried to bribe their way into power in Birmingham Council. We've spoken to locals who say they were offered cash for postal votes, and hear claims that drug addicts were paid to impersonate voters.
We'll have the full story and live reaction.
Had Gordon Brown gone ahead with calling an election earlier this month, today would be the eve of polling with frenetic last minute appeals to voters. Let's just imagine a parallel universe where an election had been called, what would have happened in the campaign - would Labour be struggling to keep their majority, or heading for a clear victory? It's a good chance to see how the British political scene has changed in the last three weeks. We have a panel of political grandees who have seen it all before - Ken Clarke, Charles Kennedy and Roy Hattersley.
Child Labour and Cotton
We have a follow up to last night's extraordinary film by Simon Ostrovsky into the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. The film showed child labour picking cotton for very little money. Some of the cotton is eventually used in clothing sold by major retail outlets in the UK. Simon has spoken to Britain's high street chains and asked for their reaction to his report; we'll reveal what they said.
Cancer - A report too far?
On the Newsnight website today, some of you said you were interested in the report by the World Cancer Research Fund into the links between lifestyle and cancer. Their recommendations seem pretty tough - try not to gain weight as an adult, avoid sugary drinks, alcohol and bacon. Do these reports do any good or are they counter-productive? If two-thirds of all cancers have nothing to do with lifestyle, is it wrong to give the impression that we can control the disease?
A restored version of the classic Hammer film Dracula is out in time for Halloween. Steve Smith looks at the film that dramatically changed British cinema and the horror movie, and considers how the genre has changed since those innocent days.
- 31 Oct 07, 10:37 AM
You can tell our editor’s just returned from a blogging conference. Fresh faced and with fists clenched, he’s pushing another Newsnight experiment in audience participation. It’s quite simple – opening up the Newsnight running order to the people who watch us.
Before each morning meeting the programme’s producers are sent an e-mail suggesting the stories we might like to think about before getting together, with plenty of scope to bring new ideas to the meeting.
How about we share that morning e-mail, and open up our blog for your ideas as to what we should seek to include in the programme?
Let us know if you think this is useful – or if you think it’s a desperate attempt to appear engaged with our audience. We can take the criticism!
The experiment begins today: here’s the e-mail from today’s output editor, Dan...
Continue reading "What do you want in Wednesday's programme?"
- 30 Oct 07, 06:22 PM
It's an uncomfortable thought, one that we normally push to the back of our minds as we search out bargains in the High Street. An investigation for tonight’s programme has found that the government of Uzbekistan uses forced child labour to pick cotton – and that cotton often finds its way into clothes sold in British stores such as Asda, Matalan and Burton.
Uzbekistan is the world’s second largest exporter of cotton, a trade which is controlled by the State, and merchants claim that ninety per cent of its output is hand picked. Human rights groups estimate some 450,000 children are shut out of schools and working in its cotton fields every harvest, despite the government’s stance that child labour is outlawed.
We'll be speaking to the Trade and Development minister, Gareth Thomas about what can be done to stop this.
Also tonight after the apology by one but two government ministers about the substantial underestimate of the numbers of migrant workers who have arrived in the UK since 1997. Now after some close reading of the revised statistics it appears that more than half of the new jobs created in the past decade have been taken by foreign workers. W here does that leave Gordon Brown's rallying cry at the TUC conference - British jobs for British people?
The authorities in Chad have charged nine French citizens, some of them from the French organisation Zoe's Ark, with abduction and fraud, accusing them of trying to smuggle more than a hundred children to Europe. Zoe's Ark claims the children are orphans from the Darfur region of Sudan, Chadian officials said most appeared to be from Chad. The news raises the issue of international child adoption and the risks inherent in it. We'll be discussing that tonight. Remember the furore over Madonna's adoption of a little Malawian boy? Other celebrities have opted for children from abroad, and many ordinary families too. Is it ever a good idea to adopt or foster children from their home country?
DR ANTHONY CLARE
And we'll be remembering Professor Anthony Clare the renowned psychiatrist who has just died. An author and broadcaster he demystified psychiatry and engaged the Radio Four audience with many series of "In The Psychiatrists Chair.
- Richard Colebourn
- 30 Oct 07, 03:14 PM
ERBIL, NORTHERN IRAQ - The Erbil International Trade Fair opened yesterday. Representatives of western brands like Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Mercedes Benz, Sony and Massey Ferguson are pitching for business from local companies and investors. It seemed astonishing to browse the high-tech gadgets and displays and meet agents sent from London, New York, Beirut and Dubai.
Continue reading "Kurdish region open for business despite tensions in the north"
- 29 Oct 07, 06:07 PM
This afternoon the Saudi monarch King Abdullah arrived in London for the first Saudi State visit in 20 years. The Saudi flag and the Union flag are flying side by side all the way up the Mall. It was always going to be a controversial visit.
Concerns about Saudi Arabia's human rights record have led the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable to announce he will be boycotting the state banquet at Buckingham Palace.
We speak to Vince Cable.
Oil is power, and with the conflict in the world, a powerful weapon. Today oil prices are sky high - $93 a barrel - that's 40% up on the figure at the start of the year, and four times the price five years ago. Oil is pretty close to the prices it hit during the oil shock in the early 1980s. Stephanie Flanders will be looking at why oil is so expensive right now. And we'll be discussing if the answer could be the hydrogen fuel car.
And somebody's paying for the new 3 Skype-phone but who is it? Paul Mason dials up the communication revolution which allows Skype users to make free Internet calls to each other while on the move. The phone which marries Skype and the mobile phone company 3 is being launched in nine markets including Britain, Australia and Italy. There are already 246 million strong registered users, so where does this fit into the technology arc, what impact will this have on the communications industry, and how quickly will there be yet another innovation?
- 26 Oct 07, 06:21 PM
Kwame Kwei-Armah is joined by Julie Myerson, Bidisha and Michael Gove.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age Nearly ten years on from her Oscar nominated performance, Cate Blanchett resumes the role of Elizabeth. The film has been heavily criticised in the States. Was it a wise decision to make this sequel? Britz Writer and director Peter Kosminsky's first purely fictional drama. A post-9/11 thriller. Renaissance Siena The current exhibition at London's National Gallery has a combination of paintings, sculptures and artefacts it aims to put Siena back to its unacknowledged and overlooked role in the great Italian Renaissance movement. Boomsday The latest satirical novel from American writer Christopher Buckley which imagines a scenario where the US government is in so much social security debt that it can't pay for the retirement plans of the Baby Boomers.
Read more about all those and more on the Newsnight Review website.
- 25 Oct 07, 06:35 PM
We begin with a disturbing Newsnight investigation into the reliability of DNA profiling - specifically the development of ever more sensitive techniques. The latest, called DNA Low Copy Number, can pick out the DNA from just a single human cell at a crime scene or on a weapon. But this technique, the technique at the heart of two high profile cases - the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann - is itself under scrutiny. Our Science Editor Susan Watts has uncovered serious doubts about its use by the Forensic Science Service that developed it.
The United States has imposed sweeping new financial sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear programme. Washington says the measures will make it much harder for individuals and companies around the world to trade with Iran. We'll be analysing what's happening. And we hope to be joined by a leading member of the Pentagon Policy Board.
Most people have heard the name Valerie Plame, but almost no one has heard her story - until now. When her identity was published in a newspaper column four years ago, she was an undercover agent for the CIA. And when an investigation traced the leak of her name all the way to the White House, it became apparent this was no ordinary spy story. Her cover was blown after her husband, a former ambassador named Joe Wilson, criticized the White House about the Iraq war.
Watch tonight for the first UK broadcast interview with Valerie Plame - and read an extract from her book Fair Game. Part of the Newsnight Book Club.
As a statue of David Lloyd George is unveiled, opinion on Britain's World War I prime minister continues to be divided. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph ahead of the unveiling, playwright Harold Pinter, journalist John Pilger and former UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, Denis Halliday, criticise its existence. They say that during his tenure - between 1916 and 1922 - he ordered bombing in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. But Lloyd George supporters praise him for leading the country to victory in World War I and say he was a pioneer for establishing the first stage of a welfare state.
Liberal Democrat leadership candidate, Chris Huhne, regards Lloyd George as his political hero. He'll be in debate with veteran Labour politician, Tony Benn. Lloyd George knew his father.
- 25 Oct 07, 04:01 PM
The latest entry into the Newsnight Book Club is Valerie Plame's Fair Game.
Valerie Plame Wilson is the woman at the centre of the scandal that, ultimately, led to the downfall, prosecution and conviction of the former White House chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, for revealing her identity as a CIA spy.
In Fair Game, Valerie Plame Wilson tells her side of the story, and details her life as a spy. The following extract covers the moment her identity was revealed.
Watch Newsnight’s 2005 interview with Joseph Wilson
Fair Game is published by Simon & Schuster.
Sections of Fair Game have been blacked out. Ellipses within the following text – denoted by [------------] – indicate the places where the CIA has ordered cuts.
From Chapter 9 - Exposed
Our bedroom was just beginning to show the first hints of morning light on July 14 when Joe marched in, dropped the newspaper on the bed, and said in a tight voice, “Well, the SOB did it.” He set a steaming mug of coffee on my bedside table and left the room. What? I struggled to wake up. I sat up, switched on the lamp, and opened the Washington Post to the op-ed page; I didn’t know what I would find, but I knew it wouldn’t be good. Robert Novak had written in his column that “Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” The words were right there on the page, in black and white, but I could not take them in. I felt like I had been sucker-punched, hard, in the gut. Although we had known for several days that he had my name and knew where I worked, we never believed for a moment he would actually print it or that the Agency would allow it. It was surreal.
Continue reading "Newsnight Book Club - Fair Game by Valerie Plame Wilson"
- 24 Oct 07, 05:28 PM
Health Minister Dawn Primarolo told the Commons science and technology committee today that the government does not believe there is sufficient scientific evidence to lower the legal abortion limit of 24 weeks. The Pro-Life Alliance is calling for the upper limit on terminations to be cut, and Lord Steel, architect of the 1967 Abortion Act, has voiced concern that the procedure is being used as a form of contraception. We'll be exploring the issues and asking how attitudes to abortion have changed in the last 40 years.
California, the richest state in the United States, is reeling from a natural disaster. The fires have led to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people - the largest number since Hurricane Katrina. We'll have the latest and be assessing how the government has responded to the crisis.
Michael Moore's latest film compares the health care system of the United States with those of other countries which offer what American politicians call "socialised" medicine - like the NHS. Moore paints Britain as a much better place to get sick in than America. Is he right? I'll be talking to him.
We regret that we are unable to run our "Voting Scandal" film tonight. We have received new information which we need to investigate and we hope to show this film at a later date.
- 23 Oct 07, 07:55 PM
It's not clear whether anyone is trying to change the facts on renewable energy targets (20% of all energy by 2020!! Up from just 2% now), but environmental groups seem to think the government is planning some kind of U-turn to "keep the nuclear industry happy". Stephanie Flanders is figuring out what is going on, and looks into Gordon Brown's mixed record on climate change.
John Yates of the Yard appeared in front of MPs over his inquiry into the so-called cash for honours scandal. Did anyone try to lean on him? How cooperative was Downing Street? Where did all the leaks come from?
Iran's nuclear negotiator changed today in talks with the EU. Rather like a rewriting of Churchill's description of Moscow under the Bolsheviks, Iran's leadership is "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma". Paul Mason has the job of decoding it tonight.
"Misunderstanding the lessons" from Northern Ireland. David Trimble is tired of politicians drawing glib lessons from Ulster and trying to use it for conflicts across the world. He tells us why.
- 22 Oct 07, 05:49 PM
We've decided to give over a big part of tonight’s programme to a man who can fairly claim to be among the most controversial scientists in the world.
He's Craig Venter - famous for being part of the race to map out the human genetic code, and notorious (some say) for trying to patent human genes. We'll talk to him live about all that and his latest project to create life forms which can produce clean energy - and he'll also debate with his critics.
Also in the programme:
The Turkish Prime Minister is on his way to London as rebels of the Kurdish group the PKK kill more Turkish soldiers. The Turkish army is champing at the bit to strike back into the PKK heartland in northern Iraq. Nobody disputes Turkey's right to defend itself and its citizens - so what can be done?
Today's Commons clash over the new EU Treaty is the beginning of a long running debate that will probably run up to the next General Election. Michael Crick is on the case.
A Good Man In Africa?
Is awarding $5m in prize money the right way to get better governance in Africa. Discuss.
- 19 Oct 07, 08:37 PM
In tonight's programme - we'll have the latest from Pakistan after last night' s terrible bombing. Yesterday Mark Urban travelled with Benazir Bhutto as she arrived in Karachi. Today, he's been speaking to Pakistanis about the blasts and how they feel about Bhutto being back in the country. He's also looking into who could be behind the bombings, and what it means for the elections scheduled for January.
With the former leader Charles Kennedy declaring that they have "passed the knife" on to the next generation - Nick Clegg has declared himself a candidate for the party's leadership. What's his vision, and how does it differ from Chris Huhne? Michael Crick has been at the launch in Sheffield.
The leaders of the 27 member states agreed to the European Treaty in the early hours of the morning. But what do the citizens of Europe think about the European project? Newsnight witnessed a unique seminar of citizens from all the member states coming together in Brussels to see what they make of it all - you may find some of their views surprising.
And finally Newsnight viewer Chris Mills sent in this Joke fit for an eleven year old:
"The knock on from the recent US sub prime market problems, that hit Northern Rock among others, shows no signs of letting up. In fact it has now badly affected the banking system in Japan. In the last 7 days the Origami Bank has folded, Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank plans to cutback some of its branches....."
Newsnight is at 10.30 on BBC 2
- 19 Oct 07, 05:20 PM
A minister and a doctored photo - it was just too hard to resist.
Standing at an odd angle at the edge of a group of MPs in Manchester last month - there's something just not quite right about James Purnell's appearance.
The reason is - he wasn't there.
He had arrived late - after everyone else had gone - and then agreed to have his photograph taken in the same spot - but was adamant that he did not agree to the images being merged.
The trust held up its hands - admitting it had doctored the photo- but it refused to release the staged photo of James Purnell.
We wanted to see the original photo and sent a Freedom of Information request asking for a copy. To our amazement we got it.
Not the biggest exclusive we've ever had, but we're rather proud of it.
The question remains, did he know how it was going to be used? Let us know what you think...
- 18 Oct 07, 05:55 PM
When Gordon Brown sits down to dinner tonight with fellow EU leaders in Lisbon, the EU Reform Treaty may already have been effectively signed and sealed. So has Britain surrendered too much sovereignty and denied the people a say in a referendum? Or is the Treaty a simple tidying up exercise that will make the EU operate more effectively?
"Horrible" and "inexcusable" - ITV executive chairman Michael Grade's description of a damning review of ITV's phone in competitions. More than 8 million callers are now eligible for millions of pounds of compensation after they contacted programmes such as Ant and Dec's Gameshow Marathon and Saturday Night Takeaway. Many entered competitions that they had no chance of winning. Grade's sorry, but why hasn't he sacked anyone and how could such grand scale deception have taken place at all? Jeremy will interview Michael Grade on tonight's show.
A tearful Benazir Bhutto has been greeted by tens of thousands of supporters in Karachi after eight years in exile. Mark Urban travelled in with Mrs Bhutto from Dubai, and spoke to her about her plans. Can she become Prime Minister again, or will her "deal" with President Musharraf count against her in the eyes of voters?
- 17 Oct 07, 06:37 PM
The BBC Trust has approved plans for big changes to the corporation.
It'll include substantial job losses and a cut in the number of programmes to be commissioned. The full details will be published tomorrow after staff have been told. We'll be speaking to the Chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons.
Turkey has edged closer to launching a major cross border offensive against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq -- whom they blame for terrorist atrocities within Turkey. President Bush has warned Turkey not to rush into action. We hope to be speaking to the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq about his concerns following these developments.
WHITE HORSE VILLAGE
Even for the mighty Chinese Communist Party, citizens can really undermine the mission statement. The Party's holding its congress in Beijing this week with ringing edicts from President Hu Jintao about creating a harmonious society. What he means is that Chinese society is anything but harmonious. For 30 years, coastal China has been allowed to run ahead of the brooding hinterland of subsistence farmers. And now the divisions of wealth are alarming. White Horse Village is the China that is supposed to get help. When we started our series there 16 months ago, we were told the village would be transformed into a city within three years but the miracle has not worked completely in the village. Carrie Gracie reports on the third in our series on White Horse Village.
- 17 Oct 07, 11:17 AM
On Wednesday BBC director general Mark Thompson submits plans for the corporation's future to the governing body, the BBC Trust.
Staff will hear of his proposals on Thursday - but it is rumoured they will include up to 2,800 jobs cuts as Thompson attempts to deal with a £2bn budget shortfall caused by a smaller than hoped-for licence fee settlement.
BBC News and factual TV - which makes programmes such as Planet Earth - are expected to bear the brunt of the cuts. The corporation may even sell Television Centre, its landmark west London studio complex.
What do these changes mean for the future of the BBC? Has it become too big - does its influence across television, radio and online need to be curbed? Or is there a risk that more staff cuts, especially in news and documentaries, may damage the BBC's central purpose - public service broadcasting?
- 16 Oct 07, 07:19 PM
John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, assesses the problems facing the Liberal Democrats in the wake of Sir Menzies Campbell's resignation.
Sir Menzies has complained about always being asked about his age. Doubtless this was both irritating and debilitating. But in truth his age in years was not his problem. It was rather that in his manner he seemed from a different age - and as a result distant from the public he was seeking to represent. And in the end it was apparent inability to reach out to the wider public that was his undoing.
When last month MORI asked, as it does every month, how satisfied people were with how Sir Menzies was doing the job of Liberal Democrat leader, 11% more people said they were dissatisfied than satisfied. But that was not the most telling statistic. Rather it was that despite having been in the job for 18 months, as many as 41% could not say whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied.
Until a couple of weeks ago, however, this problem was not terminal for Sir Menzies. While down on the 19% average poll rating he had inherited as leader, his party was still running at 17% at the time of his party's conference last month. Meanwhile the fizz had apparently gone out David Cameron's leadership of the Conservatives.
But the Tory revival following the party's successful conference produced a precipitate fall in Liberal Democrat support to just 12%. At the same time David Cameron's personal popularity was restored. It was now vital that the LIberal Democrats be lead by a popular personality who could make an impact. It is perhaps an indication of Sir Menzies' acute political judgement that he recognised that requirement - and that he was not the person best able to meet it.
Now the Liberal Democrats face two tough tasks. First, can they find a leader who can provide their party with a strategic direction and sell it to the public? The two main contenders, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne, were both only first elected in 2005. Chris Huhne's leadership bid last time around apart, neither has had little chance to demonstrate that they have this ability.
Second, can the party put losing two leaders in two years behind it? Might the public not conclude that if the Liberal Democrats cannot agree who should be their leader they cannot possibly be trusted to run the country? Whoever wins the leadership will have to address that question convincingly if their victory is not to become a poisoned chalice.
- 16 Oct 07, 05:18 PM
As European leaders prepare for their summit in Portugal later this week pressure is increasing on Gordon Brown as he tries to deflect calls for a referendum on the European Reform Treaty. His ability to maintain this position depends on the so called "red lines" or opt outs Britain has negotiated. But how red and how thick are those lines? The Foreign Secretary is appearing before the ominous sounding EU Scrutiny Select Committee. Which, as the title suggests have been looking in detail at exactly what has been agreed. If David Miliband doesn't succeed in convincing the committee that the opt outs are legally robust, where does this leave the calls for a referendum?
After Menzies Campbell's sudden resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats last night he's said today he feels "irritated and frustrated" at not being able to lead his party into a General Election. The challenge now for the Liberal Democrats, as leadership contenders take soundings from supporters, is how it can carve out a distinct identity when Gordon Brown and David Cameron are also concentrating on the centre ground. We'll be talking to two key Liberal Democrats from different strands of the party on which direction the Lib Dems need to take to reverse its fortunes. Join the debate on our Big Fat Politics Website.
Cumbria is moving into the digital age as it becomes the first place in the UK to lose the analogue TV signal. We on this programme have a special interest since BBC Two will be first to go in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The remaining analogue channels will be switched off on 14 November. Our Culture correspondent, Steve Smith is in the town of Whitehaven to assess how prepared the people there are.
Shortly before we go on air the winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be announced with Ian McEwan and Lloyd Jones the front-runners. We'll bring you an interview with the winner.
CHINESE CHILDREN TRY DEMOCRACY
In the second of our special reports from China we go to Wuhan, a city in central China about the size of London. It is here that director Weijun Chen has conducted an experiment. A grade 3 class at Evergreen Primary School have their first encounter with the democracy when they are asked to hold an election to select a Class Monitor. Eight-year olds compete against each other for the coveted position, abetted and egged on by teachers and doting parents. Tonight's film Please Vote for Me is a portrait of a society and a town through a school, its children and its families.
Join us at 10.30 pm BBC 2
- 16 Oct 07, 03:58 PM
Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Menzies Campbell has told BBC News that he was "irritated and frustrated" at his treatment by parts of the media, claiming some of them were "obsessed" with his age. He stood down, he said, in the interests of the party.
Speaking to Political Editor Nick Robinson he said he regretted not being able to fight a general election as leader.
"I think our policies and our principles and our values would have been right at the very centre of the political agenda. What we call fair, free and green -- fair on taxation; free, dealing with this authoritarian Labour government; and green of course, putting the environment right at the very centre."
He also suggested that some members of his party should not have spoken out publicly in the way they had prior to his resignation.
So was Sir Menzies right to have resigned? Was the media overly obsessed by his age - or had he lost the support of key party members?
- 16 Oct 07, 03:55 PM
Newsnight asked Lib Dems for their views on Ming's departure and the future direction of the party.
MP for Winchester & the Meon Valley
And so we find ourselves in another leadership contest. We have been through this process all too recently, but the situation is quite different this time.
Ming is a casualty of the party being unsure of the future during a bad poll squeeze, than of any campaign by knife-wielding MPs. It is typical of Ming that he has chosen to resign on his own terms, rather than being forced into that position.
Blaming the party’s current problems on Ming Campbell’s leadership is unfair and over-simplistic. We are sadly mistaken if we think that all our problems will be solved simply by replacing him with a younger model. The truth is, the Labour and Conservative move to the centre ground has squeezed us out. We must now take this opportunity to force ourselves back onto the agenda.
I think an important aspect of this will be to make it clear what liberalism means in the 21st century. Shaking off its current weak associations and making it a relevant project should be priorities for us.
The party will also need to be prepared to take risks. We should now openly discuss the possibility of a hung parliament and the fact that we could find ourselves as kingmakers at the next election.
It is a real shame that Ming has decided to resign. Now, we have a leadership contest with two clear potential candidates in Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg. Personally, I will be supporting Nick if he runs. I believe he has done an excellent job handling the tricky Home Affairs portfolio and had demonstrated that he has what it takes to take the party forward as leader.
Whoever wins will have a tough time ahead. But they can take comfort from the fact that the third party in British politics is robust and is likely to bounce back.
MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey
Sir Menzies is a class act. His departure from the leadership showed, as did his work while in it, his desire to always put the party first. Personally, I have been left with lasting concerns about ageism in the media.
The sad and frankly offensive preoccupation with Ming’s age had distracted attention from what really matters – policy and principle.
What’s necessary for the party now is not a change of direction, but an ability to reach out to new voters. Our tax proposals and policies designed to combat growing inequality certainly have the potential to appeal to hard working families on low incomes who feel let down by the Labour government and could never believe that the Tories would help them.
Reaching out to disadvantaged and disenfranchised people is both a moral responsibility and a huge political opportunity for the Liberal Democrats.
MP for Hornsey & Wood Green
As the dust settles on Ming's exit, the phones have been buzzing. Who's running? Who's riding? Shock receding - I observe the way things are going - and all I would say is that I am crossing my fingers that the herd instinct (well that's one way of describing it) that drove a great number of our MPs last time immediately into the Ming camp doesn't happen again.
Ming went (nobly I thought) because there was no way to put an end to the slings and arrows continually hurled at him despite his best efforts and he did not want the party to suffer damage over the next 20 months or so once Brown (AKA cowardy custard) called off the election.
The political world is harsh and unforgiving - and now those who thought Ming was the answer will look for their next best chance - whatever that is for them. Me - I'm sticking with the guy who had the balls to go for it last time, Chris Huhne. Chris had the big ideas (all the tax switch / polluter pays stuff) which all the leadership contenders adopted as the campaign went on. Chris set the agenda. That agenda is now party policy!
But the LibDem who would be king had better know where he wants to lead our party - and I use the term just on the basis of probability. Just wanting to be leader is not enough. So the next few weeks will be interesting - and an opportunity for our party to showcase our actually very attractive wares.
The two front runners are both hugely talented - and so we are blessed whichever one wins the race.
As to all those who have contacted me to run - I thank you - but
a) I am not insane and b) any running will be in the other direction.
MP for Cheltenham
I think Ming’s resignation has taken everyone by surprise. We owe Ming a great deal. He took on an incredibly difficult job following Charles’s resignation and his contribution has changed the party for the good.
Knowing Ming I am confident that it was his own decision, but it was one that was undeniably influenced a great deal by pressure from the polls and the media. It is a sad reflection of our society that such a distinguished political figure was put in this position almost entirely as a result of his age.
So I regret his decision but understand his reasons.
But we need to now look to the future. We need to build on our strengths and make sure that we continue our track record of developing radical and progressive policies. We must keep ahead of the other parties on core issues like the environment and social justice.
One of the most positive things that came out of the last leadership contest was that it generated a whole host of radical ideas from the Green Tax Switch to setting a clear timetable for the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. These have now been adopted as party policy and have helped mark out our position as the most forward thinking of the major parties.
But a lesson perhaps from Ming’s leadership is that we need to make sure that whoever takes on the job knows the media well enough to survive and thrive in a 24-hour news environment. Then I hope the media will look past the individual to the policies we need to transform British society.
- Kirsty Wark
- 15 Oct 07, 04:17 PM
Sir Menzies Campbell has announced his resignation. Was he pushed or did jump? And who will take on the task of being the third Liberal Democrat leader in just two years?
Michael Crick and David Grossman will be on the case and we will be joined in the studio by senior players in this drama.
This week on Newsnight we're going big on China .Today the 17th Chinese Party congress heard a 2 hour 20 minute address from the country's leader Hu Jintao as he began his second five year term in which he castigated corrupt party members, and promised to spread the benefits of economic growth.
The speech was entitled "Upholding The Great Banner Of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Striving to Seize New Victory in Building of a Well Off Society in an all Round Way". We'll be hearing from Beijing and speaking to Lord Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong, who has met Hu Jintao on several occasions.
Have we lost the war on drugs? The Chief Constable of North Wales says we have, and has called for the legalisation and regulation of all drugs, and making heroin available on the NHS. His report for his local police authority will be given to the Home Secretary Jaqui Smith as part of a national consultation on drugs reform. Tonight we'll speak to Chief Constable Brunstrom about his radical proposals.
CAPITAL GAINS TAX
And business leaders are ganging up on the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, urging him to suspend Capital Gains Tax reforms which he announced in his pre-budget report warning a single rate of 18% would “risk serious damage to this county's entrepreneurial culture." We'll be assessing the danger of that.
- 12 Oct 07, 05:36 PM
Presented by Jeremy Paxman.
It's been a damaging week for Prime Minister Gordon Brown. First his opponents said he'd "bottled" the election, then he was accused of stealing the Conservative Party's tax plans. Tonight Newsnight reveals that three-quarters of voters do not believe that Gordon Brown has lived up to his promise to bring about a new era of spin-free politics. And a majority of those who took part in the survey believe that Labour pinched ideas from the Conservatives for Alistair Darling's pre-budget report on Tuesday.
Check our new Big Fat Newsnight Politics Page for full details.
We'll be asking Polly Toynbee of The Guardian and Anatole Kaletsky of The Times what's gone wrong for Gordon Brown and if he can repair the political damage.
GORE WINS NOBEL PRIZE
The former American vice president Al Gore has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to warn the world about the dangers posed by global warming. He won an Oscar for his campaigning film, An Inconvenient Truth. Roger Harrabin examines what this means for Gore, the environment and the Nobel prize.
We have the latest film in our Why Democracy? series. When a provincial newspaper in Denmark published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in September 2005, it provoked violent protests from Muslim communities all over the world. Critics of the cartoons claimed they were racist and Islamophobic, supporters argue that the cartoons were an expression of freedom of speech in a Western democracy. The Danish journalist and director Karsten Kjaer went to talk to some of the people who played key roles in the cartoon crisis and gives his personal view of the impact.
- Kirsty Wark
- 11 Oct 07, 04:41 PM
The catalogue of failures over the pervasiveness of the Clostridium difficile bacterium in hospitals in the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust is so damning as to be, potentially, the subject of criminal charges.
Appalling hygiene, patients left in their own excrement, food kept in clinical fridges, patients with c.difficile nursed alongside other patients - it's therefore no surprise that the Healthcare Commission described events as a "tragedy." There were 1,176 cases of the bug between 2004 and 2006, and the report estimates that 90 had died as a result.
We are also pursuing the story of Rose Gibb, the Trust's former Chief Executive - in charge throughout this time. Does she accept responsibility and did she get a payoff when she left?
If you or someone you know has had an experience of bacterial infection contracted inside a British hospital, we want to hear from you. And if you're a hospital worker who knows why this is happening, do let us know below.
Doris Lessing has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I am about to go to her house to interview her for tonight's programme. In a body of work that so far spans more than sixty years she has explored the inner lives of women, but she repeatedly rejects the label of "feminist."
The Swedish Academy called her an "epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny." As one of the generation who devoured The Golden Notebook I'm delighted to be speaking to her, both about the award and about her outspoken views to find out where her criticism is focussed now.
Why Democracy? Bolvia
And in the latest of our Why Democracy? film series the Argentine journalist Rodrigo Vazquez travels in Bolivia with Evo Morales on his election campaign. He was elected the first indigenous President, almost forty years after the death of the revolutionary Che Guevara. His crackdown on cocaine production, with the help of the US government has united many indigenous people behind him. Will he foment an indigenous revolution?
- David Grossman
- 11 Oct 07, 01:02 PM
Number Ten say that the Prime Minister will be watching this weekend's the Rugby World Cup semi-final England v France at Chequers. As is well known he’s a keen fan of the game, having played in his youth and lost the sight in one eye after a Rugby injury. I actually sat in front of him during the England V Scotland semi-final of the 1991 Rugby World Cup. In order that I can show off a photo I have of this event I'm going to shamelessly borrow someone else's idea. (Well if Alistair Darling can do it...) Adapting a contest from Newsnight Political Panellist Daniel Finkelstein’s fantastic Comment Central blog, I want to launch a “Brown and Me” photo competition. Obviously this can’t be a real competition as we in the BBC are not allowed to run any for the time being. It will have to be a notional competition where everyone wins, even those who don’t take part. So send in your photos saying where and when it was taken. The best will appear here*.
*If there are no entries BBC Newsnight reserves the right to quietly drop the idea and never mention it again and probably blame Daniel Finkelstein for coming up with such a duff idea in the first place.
- Richard Watson
- 11 Oct 07, 10:53 AM
A remarkable new documentary from the BBC’s Storyville strand once again prompted me to ask the question: what turns a British citizen into a potential suicide bomber, mentally prepared to murder fellow civilians to “please” God and further an Islamist cause?
There are many factors at work: religious conviction, alienation (but not poverty), and the secrecy and seduction of being part of an anti-establishment cult. But the most fiercely debated question is the extent to which fallout from the so-called "war on terror" has motivated attacks. And that is where the Storyville film Taxi To The Darkside comes in.
The documentary tells the story of the brutal treatment of an Afghan man who was detained without trial by the US military at Bagram airbase near Kabul in 2002. It shines a penetrating light on human rights abuses linked to the "war on terror" which have undoubtedly been a gift to terrorist recruiters.
Continue reading "Recruiting from the Darkside"
- 10 Oct 07, 06:59 PM
Welcome to "the New Politics"
"For 10 years you have plotted and schemed to have this job, and for what? No conviction, just calculation. No vision, just a vacuum." Cameron on Brown.
"He said he wanted an end to the Punch and Judy show!" Brown on Cameron.
The Prime Minister promised us a "new politics," is this it and what do you think of it? The fortunes of the parties may have changed but has politics?
Talking of new, we've just launched our new Big Fat Newsnight Politics Page. Take a look and let us know what you think.
Jail a Politician?
Would the "new politics" gain a welcome boost if politicians could be prosecuted for telling lies? Film maker Richard Symons drafts just such a bill and puts it to senior Ministers and MPs. You can watch it now on our new politics page.
You may remember the Channel 4 Undercover Mosque documentary which showed some inflammatory comments from local Imams. It was controversially referred to OFCOM by the West Midlands police, who claimed that the quotes "were a complete distortion." Peter Marshall has got hold of the transcript which suggests otherwise. Off the record, police sources have given him some fascinating comments. Was the local force trying to appease local radicals? Or genuinely thought the documentary biased and unfair?
- Peter Barron
- 10 Oct 07, 06:36 PM
You know how it is - you do a whole lot of work with one aim in mind and then circumstances change. Do you junk it or go with it anyway? If that's possibly how Alistair Darling felt this week we at Newsnight second that emotion.
In anticipation of a snap election our web boys had been frantically busy on what was to have been called The Big Fat Newsnight Election Website. The idea was simple. We know that many of our website devotees are also big consumers of other political sites and blogs.
Our aim was to provide the ultimate, must-bookmark, one-stop election shop where those of a psephological persuasion could wallow happily for hours. Sadly some of our planned election wares will never see the light of day, but here we present a slightly slimmed down Big Fat Newsnight Politics Page.
Let us know what you'd like to see here, or send us a link. The fatter the better.
- 9 Oct 07, 04:49 PM
The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has announced in his pre-budget statement that he's raising the inheritance tax threshold for married couples - from 300,000 pounds at present to 600,000. Mr Darling also announced that private equity tax loopholes would be tightened, and that he would be looking at ways to make sure that people with income from abroad paid a fair share. Turning to public spending, the Chancellor announced extra funding for the police and security forces, transport and health research.
Has the Government shot the Conservative inheritance tax fox? Political Editor, Michael Crick and David Grossman will gauge the political reaction and Economics Editor, Stephanie Flanders will be running the figures.
We also hope to be joined by a top notch group of senior politicians to debate the pre-budget report.
DEMOCRACY SERIES - PAKISTAN
In 1999, the elected president of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, was ousted in a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf. Since then, Musharraf has led Pakistan, promising to bring democracy to the country. Stuck between the military, religious extremists and war against terrorism, governing is a difficult balancing act between ensuring foreign aid and pleasing the public. Filmmaker Sabiha Sumar talks to President Musharraf and travels around the country to try to find out what democracy means in modern Pakistan.
- Richard Colebourn
- 8 Oct 07, 06:41 PM
BAGHDAD - After weeks of election speculation, the Prime Minister's Commons statement on Britain's military deployment in Iraq will inevitably be viewed through a domestic political prism. But for a group of Iraqis, scattered around the Middle East, the statement provided some long awaited hope.
Newsnight was first to report the death threats facing Iraqis who worked for the British military in Basra and at the British Embassy in Baghdad (read about it here and watch the report). Regarded as collaborators with the enemy, many have felt forced to flee to neighbouring Syria and Jordan. Unable to work in their new homes, they live off rapidly diminshing savings and fear deportation by the police.
Since Newsnight covered the story others have followed, including The Times which has run a number of articles campaigning on the issue. Today the Prime Minister announced the Government's response. Iraqi staff who are still working for the British and who have served for 12 months will be able to apply for financial support to aid resettlement elsewhere in Iraq or in the Middle East. In certain circumstances - yet to be defined - they will be entitled to admission to the UK.
Professional staff, including the translators and administrators interviewed by Newsnight, who left employment since the start of 2005 will be entitled to the same assistance.
This will be welcomed by the Iraqi refugees. Many don't want asylum in Britain. They want to stay in Syria or Jordan until it is safe to return and to help rebuild Iraq. But they need assistance to live in countries where the cost of living is five times that in Iraq.
However, there are plenty of questions about how Brown's proposals will work. I interviewed Jassim in Damascus earlier in the year. His name has been changed to protect his identity. He worked for the British military in Basra since 2003. "It's a good decision," he said, welcoming Brown's announcement. "But there are thousands and thousands of Iraqis who worked for the British."
He's sceptical about how such assistance can be administered. Along with other Iraqis, he has been refused entry to the British Embassy in Damascus. The Embassy's consular section has been closed for some time. But more Iraqi refugees live in Damascus than anywhere else in the world. Will the British be able to cope with the applications for assistance that they are sure to receive?
- 8 Oct 07, 06:09 PM
From tonight’s presenter Gavin Esler:
It's been a busy day for the Prime Minister. Michael Crick will be assessing Gordon Brown's performance at his press conference, and in the Commons. Now the decision by the Prime Minister not to call an election has been made we can concentrate on the substance of what his premiership will bring. On Iraq today and on the economy tomorrow, we'll be assessing Mr Brown's "vision" - what he says he would like the electorate to judge him on.
We may not be exercising our democratic right in the next few weeks, but we have a series of films looking at those who will be around the world. Tonight we have a fascinating report about the story of a Japanese councillor seeking election. Watch it and you'll get an extraordinary insight into Japanese life and culture.
- 8 Oct 07, 11:59 AM
As non-election fever dies down, Psephologist Professor John Curtice offers a few observations about the outcome of the past couple of weeks.
Labour's early election project always looked a rather dubious enterprise. On average the party's lead over the Conservatives since Mr Brown became leader was running at around six points. That could well have been enough for a three figure majority. But it was not sufficiently far above the four point lead Mr Brown needed to be sure of emulating the 66 majority Mr Blair won in 2005. Just a percentage point swing or so to the Conservatives over the course of the campaign could have dashed Mr Brown's hopes of securing a “personal mandate”.
Continue reading "Partisan excitement no friend of cool calculation"
- 5 Oct 07, 05:55 PM
Today the Controller of BBC One, Peter Fincham, resigned on the publication of the report into the Queengate row, in which a tape was wrongly edited to show the Queen marching out of a photo session with the American photographer Annie Leibovitz, and played to the press as part of the BBC's autumn launch.
The report paints a damning picture of both the BBC's role in the affair, and the actions of the independent production company making the series, a Year with The Queen. We'll be hearing from former Director General Greg Dyke - who made his own sharp exit from corporation - and asking senior BBC management where the corporation goes from here.
Michael Crick is back out on the hunt for clues to Gordon Brown's big nail biting decision, election or no election? He's been darting around some marginal seats, and talking to his deep throats. Does today's decision - after a 20 year wait - to go ahead with the London Crossrail project, signal a green light for Gordon?
We convene our top notch panel of political insiders for all the political gossip...
Presenter John Wilson is joined by panellists Paul Morley, Tom Paulin and Marina Hyde to discuss a new movie starring Colin Firth, the latest Richard Harris novel along with theatre, art and a new poetry collection which mixes English and Punjabi.
For more go to Newsnight Review
- 4 Oct 07, 06:14 PM
Will today be called Wobbly Thursday? Our programme has been picking up signs today that Downing Street may be wobbling over calling an election next week. With two opinion polls set to publish tonight we ask has Gordon Brown lost his appetite for an early election? We'll be investigating and getting political reaction live.
Gordon Brown was just ten days into the job of PM when he announced a major NHS review headed by Lord Darzi, the then new health minister. Today he produced his interim findings, and unveiled his new title. Lord Darzi will become "Champion of Innovation" - there's to be new patient friendly GP hours, greater infections control - in particular over MRSA - and a better productivity measure. But so far it's hard to work out whether Lord Darzi reckons the extra millions already poured into the Health Service have had any real impact on patient care.
Both the government and the opposition say that the NHS will be a major battleground in the next elections - whenever that may be. We'll be debating the Darzi report, not with Lord Darzi who is unavailable but with a Health Minister, and his Conservative and liberal democrat opposites.
NHS review targets GPs and bugs
We'll also have an exclusive interview with major US political strategist Mark Penn about his new book Microtrends. He's currently Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, and advised Tony Blair, so what does a UK election look like from where he is standing? Read more of Mark Penn's thoughts - Microtrends is the latest entry to the Newsnight book club.
We also have a film about the rise of political satire in Kenya, mainly the work of a comedy group called Redykyulass. They first made their name lampooning the one party regime of President Moi. Now with an election in December they are focussing on President Kibaki and his wife Lucy, and trying to get people interested in the political process - just 6 million Kenyans out of an electorate of 33 million voted last time. It seems to be working. In areas where they make people laugh - where they take potshots at corruption and the slow pace of change, voter registration goes up.
Watch Paul's last film from Kenya, looking at how mobile phone innovations are making real differences to people's lives.
- 4 Oct 07, 02:51 PM
The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes
By Mark J Penn with E Kinney Zalesne
In Microtrends, Mark Penn explores the trends in American society today. He suggests that the ideas shaping our world are relatively unseen – under-the-radar forces that can involve as little as one per cent of the population, yet their impact on society is huge.
Mark Penn is Hillary Clinton's chief strategist. An interview with the author will be shown on Newsnight on Thursday 4 October.
From the introduction
In 1960, Volkswagen shook up the car world with a full-page ad that had just two words on it: Think Small. It was a revolutionary idea—a call for the shrinking of perspective, ambition, and scale in an era when success was all about accumulation and territorial gain, even when you were just driving down the street.
At the same time that America was becoming the world’s superpower, growing the dominant economy and setting the pace for global markets, the Beetle took off as a counterculture phenomenon—representing individuality in reaction to the conformity of the 1950s.
America never quite got used to small when it came to cars. But ask two-thirds of America, and they will tell you they work for a small business. Americans are willing to make big changes only when they first see the small, concrete steps that will lead to those changes. And they yearn for the lifestyles
of small-town America. Many of the biggest movements in America today are small—generally hidden from all but the most careful observer.
Continue reading "Microtrends by Mark J Penn"
- 3 Oct 07, 06:14 PM
Presented by Jeremy Paxman.
Without autocue and with just a few notes, David Cameron stood up in front of the party faithful promising them change and saying he was ready to govern Britain. And ready he might have to be, as noise of an impending election refuses to quieten down. Cameron took it upon himself to offer this advice: "Why don't you do it and call an election?" We're in Blackpool to count every round of applause, laugh or raised eyebrow in what has been described in all quarters as a "make or break" speech. Jeremy will discuss with the three main parties whether he has indeed made it, or broken it.
Let the people decide - Cameron
ELECTION? ARE WE READY?
Rather annoyingly for our programme's planning purposes, Gordon Brown has still not made clear whether he's going to call an early election. We're hoping he might call in before 10:30pm to let us know. But even without confirmation, there's no doubt everyone is on an election footing. So how are the plans shaping up in marginal constituencies like Chester? (19th on the Tory target list). Michael Crick has spent the day there to find out if the candidates are ready for the fight, if the voters are really wanting to vote, and if they are, who for?
Poll delay 'would be cowardice'
Refugees from Darfur who have been refused asylum in the UK say that they have been tortured by Sudanese officials when they are sent back to the Sudanese capital Khartoum. So why does the government continue to send Darfuris back to Khartoum? The Aegis Trust has submitted a dossier of allegations to the Home Office and is calling for the government to rethink its policy on returning refugees to Sudan. Two of the refugees tell their horrific stories of what happened after they were deported from the UK.
Sudan pledges $300m to aid Darfur
TO BOLDLY GO?
It's the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. Back then, the Soviet Union took everyone by surprise with the launch of their unmanned space mission and caused great unease in the United States who were pushed into a rapid space programme of their own. Our Science Editor Susan Watts talks to, amongst others, the first person to walk in space and three people who have been to the moon. She asks whether the arguments for a return space mission to the moon, or further afield, with UK involvement are becoming more convincing. So should the UK put our own person on the moon? Leave your comments below.
Beam us all up Scotty
- 2 Oct 07, 07:06 PM
Presented by Jeremy Paxman.
Gordon Brown's announcement of a reduction in troops on a surprise trip to Iraq this morning was flagged up by our own Mark Urban on last night's programme. But the timing and the manner of his statement has provoked a major political row. First, the PM's suggestion that 1,000 troops would be leaving by Christmas had to be "clarified", as the departure of 500 of those had already been announced. And then, at their conference in Blackpool, a series of Tories accused Gordon Brown of trying to distract attention from their proceedings there, asking why the announcement hadn't been made to parliament. We hope to put this point to a government minister on the programme.
Tory anger at Brown's Iraq visit
Cameron's big day
The Tory leader is limbering up for what is sure to be the biggest day of his political life tomorrow. The success, or otherwise, of his speech at the party conference is likely to have a major influence on Gordon Brown's decision as to whether to call a snap general election. Our Political Editor Michael Crick has been assessing what David Cameron has to do to win over the waverers.
Tories pledge to cut immigration
The head of the controversial US private security firm, Blackwater, is appearing before a Congressional committee in Washington today. It's said that the company has been involved in 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005. Paul Mason has been watching the proceedings.
Blackwater boss grilled over Iraq
We’re running an extraordinary film about a group of Muslim punks who've been touring across America, playing some gigs, having some cancelled, and having some stopped by the police. They call their subculture "Taqwacore" - and their sound and message is not exactly what you would expect.
On tour with the Taqwacores
And, Ronnie Hazlehurst, the composer of a host of theme tunes that are doubtless rattling around in the nether regions of your brain, has died. Steve Smith brings us his greatest hits.
Theme tune writer Hazlehurst dies
- 1 Oct 07, 05:47 PM
Tory Tax Cuts
"The death knell for the death tax" says Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, as he tells the Tory conference of his plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m. He also plans to scrap stamp duty for first time buyers on homes worth up to £250, 000. The cuts will be paid for by a charge on rich business people who register abroad for tax purposes. So will the plans revive Tory fortunes? Do the sums add up? And could the policy blitz change Gordon Brown's mind about the possibility of an autumn election? Emily is at the Conservative conference in Blackpool and will quiz a leading Shadow Cabinet member.
British Troops In Iraq
Mark Urban has some exclusive news about the future of British troops in Iraq - watch tonight to find out the full story.
Putin's Power Play
- or how the Russian leader plans to stay in charge after he steps down as President next year.
Putin has said today that he will run for election in December's parliamentary polls and says that suggestions that he might seek to become the next Russian Prime Minister are "entirely realistic." What's he up to, and can he get away with it?
Greenspan the Great?
What's it like to move markets with the odd Delphic utterance? Or to have Presidents and Prime Ministers eating out of your hand? Jeremy interviews the ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan about his life at the top and his predictions for the world economy.
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