- 9 Jan 08, 06:01 PM
If you're a US pollster there's every chance you may be hiding under the blankets today, begging your mother for a sick note. The story predicted almost universally was a convincing win for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the state of New Hampshire. Some commentators even went so far as to discuss Hillary's need for 'damage limitation' if she ever wanted to work in politics again. In the end - and surely this is what News is all about - she won New Hampshire, leaving the Obama team, the pollsters and some media scrabbling for a duvet day. Tonight, we'll discuss how the pollsters and the truth were so wide apart and just what swayed it for Hillary when it had all seemed like a done deal.
A Foreign Office civil servant - accused of leaking confidential documents - has been cleared of breaching the Official Secrets Act. Prosecutors at the Old Bailey have decided to drop charges against Derek Pasquill - who was accused of disclosing papers to the media. We'll talk live to Derek Pasquill - a man who's had his life on hold for the past two years - on the programme.
Marks and Spencers sales figures are as much a bellwether of the UK economy as interest rates or house prices. As their chief executive revealed today how disappointing the Christmas period had been, we ask if the High Street boom is finally over. Have consumers stopped consuming? And will there be interest rates cuts tomorrow? We ask our Newsnight Shadow MPC.
Galloway v Frum:
George Galloway is not a big fan of American policy in the Middle East. David Frum is not a big fan of Iranian policy towards the West - he coined the Axis of Evil phrase for George Bush. As the President begins his last big tour of the Middle East - and threatens US sanctions on Iran - we put the two together to tell us what's what. This is just a guess, but it may not be all sweetness and light.
It was already one of the most eccentric stories to come out of the Foreign Office in a long while. Britain’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan gets fired after criticising the country’s human rights record and carrying on with a 22-year-old local belly dancer. Now the story of Craig Murray has taken another equally eye-brow raising twist. He and his girlfriend are back in Britain – and they’ve written a play about how they met. The piece, performed solely by his partner Nadira Berkhanov-Murray, is more harrowing than you might expect. Madeleine Holt has the report.
- Michael Crick
- 9 Jan 08, 05:30 PM
One of my favourite Christmas presents this year was an excellent, highly readable, biography of Arthur Balfour by the American academic RJQ Adams (Read The Times review here). Not only was Balfour Conservative Prime Minister from 1902-05, he was still in Cabinet more than 24 years after leaving Downing Street, and – little known fact this – Vice-President of Manchester United. He was also responsible for the phrase ‘Bob’s your uncle!’, a reference to his promotions from the Tory leader Lord Salisbury, whom Balfour succeeded as PM, and just happened to be Balfour's uncle.
Hilary Clinton’s surprise success in New Hampshire, and Jeremy’s interesting exchanges with the 19-year old Bhutto heir yesterday (watch it here), got me thinking again how about importance families still are in modern politics, even in the democratic age. If Hilary Clinton reaches the White House, and goes on to complete a second term, then America will have been run by either Bushes or Clintons for the whole 28 year period from 1989 to 2017 (with Bush Senior also Vice-President from 1981 to 1989).
In Britain, Gordon Brown’s Cabinet has Hilary Benn, of course, the son, grandson and great-grandson of MPs, (and the father of one, too, in all probability, given that his daughter recently became a Labour candidate at the age of just 18). Then we have Ed Balls and his wife Yvette Cooper; the Miliband brothers; and Douglas Alexander, the brother of Wendy, Labour’s new leader in Scotland. Indeed, a Cambridge academic David Runciman has recently argued in the London Review of Books that the Brown administration is a real “family affair” and reminds him of the era of the Pitts (Elder, Younger and various relations) in the late eighteenth century. (Runciman should know something about political genes. He himself comes from one of Britain’s most distinguished families, and is heir to the Runciman viscountcy - the first viscount sat in the cabinets of Asquith, Lloyd George and Stanley Baldwin).
In some ways it’s obvious why family relationships should be so important in political careers – it’s in the blood, one meets important people at a very early age, one has the benefit of family advice, experience and wisdom, and there may be the odd bit of string-pulling too.
But there’s another factor, as well, I think, particularly in conservative societies like America and South Asia. Human beings seem to like dynastic government. Hence the prevalence of monarchies throughout history. Maybe there’s something psychologically comforting about being ruled by people who are related to each other. Perhaps we value genetic continuity.
It’s worth exploring. I’d love to do a TV or radio programme on it one day, but so far my bids have all been rejected.
- 9 Jan 08, 10:34 AM
Robert Morgan is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the team.
There's quite a bit around today.
There's been a shock result in New Hampshire with egg on the faces of the pollsters and some of the media. Hillary Clinton and John McCain are the comeback kids. David and Ben are there. How should we do this story today?
Shares in Marks and Spencer have fallen sharply this morning, after the company announced disappointing Christmas sales figures. They were down more than two percent in the final three months of 2007, and the company has warned that it expects to have a tough time this year as well. Is the high street boom finally over? The MPC also decide what to do with interest rates tomorrow.
President Bush is in the Middle East.
Will there be any developments in peace talks in Kenya?
It was already one of the most eccentric stories to come out of the Foreign Office in a long while. Britain’s ambassador to Uzbekistan gets fired after criticising the country’s human rights record and carrying on with a 22-year-old local belly dancer.
Now the story of Craig Murray has taken another equally eye-brow raising twist. He and his girlfriend are back in Britain - and they’ve written a play about how they met. The piece, performed solely by his partner Nadira Berkhanov-Murray, is more harrowing than you might expect. Madeleine and Henrietta have the story.