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Monday, 31st March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 31 Mar 08, 06:21 PM

Dear Viewer,

Jeremy Paxman presents tonight's programme and we'll be focussing on the events in Zimbabwe.

MDC supportersAll the early reports said that the opposition MDC had won a clear victory. But two days after the polls closed we've only had a trickle of results - and they are split 50/50. Is President Mugabe trying to find a way to steal the election or are his colleagues just trying to pluck up the courage to tell him he's lost? We'll have the latest from Zimbabwe and will also be asking what the international community should do now.

Diana
So now we know - if we didn't before - that there was no conspiracy to murder of Princess Diana. That's from Coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker in his summing up at the Inquest in the Princess's death. So what of Mohammed Al Fayed's claims? They are without foundation say the judge. So why did he make them?

We'll also have one more story - lawyers permitting - so you'll just have to tune in to see what it is.

Do join us at 10.30. Much may change by then.

Prospects: Monday, 31 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 31 Mar 08, 11:40 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer - here's his early email to the team.

Good Morning,

It seems from briefings out of Zimbabwe that Mugabe has not just lost but been thrashed in the election - but will he steal it? Can he? Where is power being brokered. We should try and answer all these questions tonight. Who do we need to speak too - and where should we focus our discussion in the studio.

Richard Watson and Meirion Jones have a strong tale of how one former Jihadi has repented. He is now trying to "convert" back many of those who he previously radicalised.

But what else should we do today?

Simon

Friday 28 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Mar 08, 05:15 PM

Housing in Meltdown?

housing203x100.jpgHouse prices grew by just 1.1% in the last year, according to a report from Nationwide today. That's the slowest rate of growth in 12 years. While interest rates are falling, more and more banks and building societies are actually raising their tracker rates - competing to be uncompetitive - in an attempt to put people off buying their products. So is the housing market heading for a slump - and could it tip the economy into a recession? Or would a small downturn in an over-heated market actually be a good thing? We'll be hearing from top economists and the director of Winkworth estate agency.

Iraq

A few moments ago President Bush described the violence in the south of Iraq as a "defining moment in the history of Iraq". We'll have the latest from our correspondent in Basra.

Terminal Five

Why is it that the country which invented the railways and the jet engine cannot get Heathrow terminal five to work properly? Is this an aberration? Or are complex systems, by their very nature, likely to fail at the outset? We'll ask Professor Heinz Wolf and the engineer behind the Channel Tunnel.

Prospects for Friday, 28 March

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Mar 08, 10:11 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer. Here is her early email to the team.

Hi

What would you like to do?

Here's some story ideas we can discuss takes treatments and guests for; house prices (and mortgage rates); Terminal Five fiasco; Time magazine on feral kids; the phenomenon of Carla Bruni? Anything else?

We can also continue to pursue Simba Makoni

Liz

Thursday, 27 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Mar 08, 06:36 PM

ZIMBABWE UNCOVERED
zimbabwe203x100.jpgZimbabweans go to the polls on Saturday for presidential elections. Incumbent Robert Mugabe, who's been in power for 28 years, is seeking another term as president. The Local, Senate, Assembly and Presidential polls come against the backdrop of a disintegrating economy - the annual rate of inflation exceeded 100,000% in February. Opposition activists have complained of intimidation, unequal media coverage and other anomalies. The opposition itself is divided and has failed to unite behind a single figure. Former Finance Minister Simba Makoni is challenging Mr Mugabe as an independent and could split the vote of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
With only a day to go there are still major questions and arguments of voter registration and the number of ballot papers printed - one report suggest that an extra three million ballot papers have been printed. The BBC as you may know is banned from Zimbabwe. Only a handful of international journalists were granted accreditation, one of those was RTE's Richard Downes - but he was only given official access to the country for three days around polling day. Undeterred by such bureaucratic irritations he slipped into Zimbabwe as a tourist to try to assess the state of the country in the run up to the election. See his exclusive report on the programme tonight.
We'll be speaking to Simba Makoni who is challenging Robert Mugabe for the presidency.

IRAQ
Scores of people have been killed in fighting between the Mahdi Army, Iraqi, and in many instances, US troops during a crackdown on the militia of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Why is this happening now and is Iraq on the verge of a civil war? We'll be speaking to a senior adviser to the Iraqi army.

TERMINAL FIVE
More than 30 flights have been cancelled at Heathrow's new Terminal Five because of problems with its high-tech baggage handling system. Thousands of passengers have been stuck at the airport awaiting flights and trying to trace their bags.

BIG BROTHER
George Orwell's world of Big Brother seems to be alive and well in supermarket chain Lidl. Detectives hired by Lidl, which has thousands of stores worldwide, including 450 in Britain - have been monitoring employees in Germany. Several hundred pages of surveillance records have been passed on to Stern magazine, causing outrage among the unions and data protection officials. Peter Marshall is on the case.

Prospects for Thursday, 27 March

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Mar 08, 10:26 AM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer - here's his early email.

Good morning everyone,

We have a strong undercover film from Zimbabwe on the eve of the presidential elections from Richard Downes and Ian O'Reilly. We also have an interview with presidential candidate Simba Makoni. I'll tell you more in the meeting.

It's been reported this morning that at least 44 people have been killed in clashes between Iraqi and US forces, and Shiite militiamen from the Mehdi Army. What exactly is happening on the ground in Basra and across the country?

Should we be looking at the MPs expenses story again today? Are there any other stories we should be doing like asylum story or the pregnant man. Do come to the meeting with your ideas.

See you in a minute,

Robert


Wednesday, 26 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Mar 08, 05:32 PM

ENTENTE AMICALE

sarkozy203x100.jpgIn his first state visit to Britain, President Sarkozy has certainly turned on all his charm, praising British dynamism and wooing Eurosceptics with flattery over how Europe needs Britain. He says he hopes his state visit to Britain will mark a new era in Franco-British relations. Gordon Brown has also hailed a new era of closer relations between France and the UK, but behind all the hyperbole, what does it all really mean? Michael Crick assesses what both men have to gain from this love-in.

And we'll be discussing what a Sarkozy - Brown alliance will mean with a former French minister, a writer and an academic.

THE WORKFORCE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

mason203x100.jpgChinese workers have traditionally had few rights to speak out, but a country where strikes are illegal is now becoming the strike centre of the world. In the first of two special films from China, Paul Mason reports on the new Chinese workforce - the 300 million people whose cheap labour provides the life force of the economy - and how some are beginning to fight for their employment rights and are being physically attacked in the process.

ASYLUM BATTLE

On the eve of elections in Zimbabwe, why has the British government suddenly decided it’s safe to end its moratorium and send failed asylum seekers back to the country? Robin Denselow has been investigating.

Confessions of a Newsnight insider

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Mar 08, 12:52 PM

On our uppers

insider203x152.jpgThere are two drugs of choice in the Newsnight office.

Both are strong stimulants which are widely available in the world of the media. They induce a sense of heightened reality and aliveness, but in excess can give rise to irritability, palpitations and even panic.

You may know them as caffeine and adrenaline.

Coffee central
coffee203x100.jpgVisitors to Television Centre are often amazed by the number of coffee concessions we have here. One reason, I think, is that journalists (among others) frequently work more than 12 hours on the trot; another main driver is smoking - or lack of.

Now that nicotine consumption here is reduced to a furtive minority activity miles away by the canteen waste, what else is there to do at break time? It’s said that addicts frequently replace one addiction with another; the journey from nicotine to caffeine is well traversed.

Adrenaline has the advantage over caffeine of being free - plus, there’s no queue. If only you could get adrenaline loyalty cards.

Gym nauseam
As if a building-wide smoking ban wasn’t enough, an area on the fourth floor where hirsute broadcast engineers used to swill real ale and swap stories about creative cabling solutions is now given over to a gym. A GYM?? Are we going soft..?!

Give it a couple of years and we’ll all be drinking fresh carrot juice with ginseng, hooked up to a heart monitor.

Passing the (Star)buck
Perhaps we should be tough on the causes of caffeine. If only we didn’t have that 50 minute appointment with you each weekday night from 10.30, none of this would happen.

It’s your fault we’re all stimulant junkies. ;-)

Prospects for Wednesday, 26 March

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Mar 08, 10:21 AM

Carol Rubra is tonight's programme producer. Here's her early email to the team.

Good morning,

Tonight we have the first of Paul Mason's films from his recent trip to China and apart from that the programme is wide open so let's discuss what else we should put in it and how we should do the stories.

Carol

Tuesday, 25 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Mar 08, 05:09 PM

Tonight, MPs are debating the case for a full inquiry into the Iraq war. Newsnight is running an exclusive film which, some will say, provides compelling evidence that such an inquiry is absolutely necessary.

THE CASE OF "CURVEBALL"

In the late 1990s an Iraqi engineer turned up in Germany seeking asylum. Codenamed Curveball, he was questioned by German intelligence, and what he told them was shocking. He claimed he had witnessed a biological weapons programme in Iraq.

His information was passed on to the CIA, and it became a cornerstone of the intelligence case that Colin Powell made to the United Nations on the case for war. The only problem was, none of Curveball's claims were true. And, moreover, many of the holes in his story had been identified months before Colin Powell's presentation.

Curveball's been in hiding ever since the war, but a report for Spiegel magazine has tracked him down. Tonight Newsnight will show the first images of Curveball that have been seen since the war. Does he stand by his claims? And what does the whole saga tell us about the world of intelligence? We'll be talking to Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff.

We'll also be hearing from two MPs about whether a full inquiry is now necessary - and, if so, why it's taken so long.

TIME TO BOYCOTT?

Nicholas Sarkozy is the latest politician to suggest that he hasn't ruled out boycotting the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in the light of the crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet. Why has the British government not been more outspoken about China's record? Are ministers hampered by the fact that Britain is hosting the 2012 Olympics? We'll debate this.

Tuesday, 25 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Mar 08, 11:03 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer. Here is her early email to the team.

Hope you all had a Happy Easter.

So - today we have a film almost ready to run about an Iraqi defector known as Curveball. The evidence he gave his German handlers in the years before the Iraq war formed a key part of the intelligence case made by Colin Powell. He was the key source for the allegation that Iraq had several mobile chemical weapons labs.

Since the war his evidence has been discredited. And he's been called a fabricator. We've worked alongside Spiegel magazine and tracked him down in Germany – he now claims he never said that Iraq had WMD. This leaves us with a whole host of questions about intelligence work and the Iraq war.

Otherwise - the programme is pretty wide open - and there are a lot of good stories around. So let's have a heated debate about what's around and what we can bring to the stories.

Thursday, 20 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 20 Mar 08, 06:09 PM

City limits?
The Bank of England is extending the support it gives to commercial banks. Heads of high street lenders have been meeting with the bank's governor to ask for guarantees of funds to help them through the credit crisis. They've also raised the issue of rogue traders spreading malicious rumours to cash-in on falling share prices.
Paul Mason is looking at whether the Bank of England has done enough. And he'll be examining how close we might be to collapse in the UK banking system.
Emily is currently out and about in the City of London asking people there if it's time for greater regulation in the markets to avoid rogue trader activity. We'll also be bringing together a big hedge fund manager, a City lawyer and a regulator to discuss all these issues live.

Tibet
Thousands of soldiers were seen in Lhasa on Thursday amid reports of a huge military build-up as China admitted for the first time it had shot Tibetan protesters.
State-controlled Xinhua news agency reported four people were shot and wounded last weekend by police in a Tibetan area of southwestern China, as the Dalai Lama expressed fears that the crackdown on unrest had caused many casualties. Long military convoys were on the move in Tibet while troops poured into nearby provinces after a week of violence directed against China's rule of the Himalayan region, witnesses, activist groups and media reports said. A week of protests against China's 57-year rule of Tibet erupted into rioting in Lhasa last Friday. Demonstrations have since spilled over into nearby Chinese provinces with sizeable ethnic Tibetan populations. Peter Marshall will have the latest on this story and will be examining what the Dalai Lama wants from China.

Sarkozy's France
Next week French President Nicolas Sarkozy makes a state visit to Britain with his new wife Carla Bruni. Sarko's had a difficult few months following negative publicity around his private life and bad election results for his centre-right party in the final round of nationwide local elections. Allan Little travels through the South of France for Newsnight to find out what the people of France think of Sarkozy's presidency and his policies.

Prospects for Thursday, 20 March

  • Newsnight
  • 20 Mar 08, 10:45 AM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer - here's his early email.

Good morning everyone,

There are a few strong stories around today. The City stories are well worth pursuing. Mervyn King meets the CEOs of the big banks to discuss financial guarantees and there's the extraordinary rogue traders story.

The Tibet demos have spread to two more provinces in China.

Oscar-winning British actor Sir Paul Scofield has just died.

Sarkozy's France
We have a film from Allan Little and Sara. Next week French President Nicolas Sarkozy makes a state visit to Britain with his new wife Carla Bruni. Sarko's had a difficult few months following negative publicity around his private life and bad election results for his centre-right party in the final round of nationwide local elections. Allan travels through the South of France for Newsnight to find out what the people of France think of Sarkozy's presidency and his policies.


Do come to the morning meeting with great ideas on how to do these or any other stories. Any playout ideas welcome.

Robert

Wednesday, 19 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Mar 08, 06:47 PM

Iraq Special

branagh203x152.jpgFive years ago tonight, US bombers were preparing to attack targets in Baghdad. On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the war, a special Newsnight asks what went wrong, what have been the successes and what does the future hold for the country?

Jeremy Paxman will interview Tony Blair's former Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell and we will have guests from Britain, Iraq and Washington, including Richard Perle, the high profile conservative who enthusiastically backed the war, and Charles Kennedy who opposed the war here in the UK.

Newsnight will follow the final 10 Days to War drama which tonight stars Kenneth Branagh as Colonel Tim Collins preparing his troops for battle.

With a Little Help From My Friends

  • David Grossman
  • 19 Mar 08, 02:36 PM

heather203x100.jpgIf like me you share the twin obsessions of the Beatles and American politics, you might enjoy this example where the two "Come Together".

It seems that the woman whose evidence was branded “inaccurate but also less than candid” in places "wholly exaggerated" or "make-belief”, who may have attempted to defraud her husband over the mortgage on a property and has "an explosive and volatile character" and who could provide no evidence of her claim of giving 80-90% of her income to charity does have a couple of things going for her.

Heather Mills has two celebrity video character witnesses proudly displayed on her website, Richard Branson and Hillary Clinton.

It's been said of Senator Clinton that she reminds too many men of their first wife. Being on the side of Heather Mills won't help dispel that impression.

Watch the endorsement for yourself here.

Prospects for Wednesday, 19 March

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Mar 08, 10:36 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here's his early email.

Good morning all.

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, we plan to discuss the legacy of the conflict and the future prospects for Iraq.

Mark Urban has been working on an audit of the last five years and an assessment of the current situation in the country. During the live discussions we will look at the consequences of the conflict for Britain, trust in public life and US foreign policy.

We have a live interview with Tony Blair's former Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell. We plan a wider discussion as well. Which guests would you like on and what questions would you like asked?

We also have the final 10 Days To War drama, starring Kenneth Branagh as Colonel Tim Collins.

Iraq will dominate the programme, but what other suggestions have you got? We should clearly keep an eye on the National Security plan to be announced in the Commons, and the McCann story.

See you in the meeting

Dan

Ghosts of Slough

  • Michael Crick
  • 18 Mar 08, 06:58 PM

slough203x100.jpgWhilst my fellow political journalists all flocked to Ken Livingstone’s campaign launch in London, I took the train to Slough for a far more interesting story, largely ignored by the Westminster pack, and which I therefore had almost to myself.

There was much jubilation in the Slough Labour Party after an election court disqualified a local Conservative councillor, Eshaq Khan, for corrupt and fraudulent election practices.

Mr Khan was found to have secured his election last May by registering at various properties around his ward more than a hundred “ghost” voters – people who didn’t exist or weren’t entitled to be on the voting register - and who then, of course, voted for him.

Criminal trial

Khan was also accused by the judge Richard Mawry of perverting the course of justice by getting several witnesses to commit what the judge called “blatant” and “bare-faced perjury” during the recent election court case to try and save his skin.

A criminal trial now looks likely. Three men have already been arrested and police inquiries are continuing.

The judge also awarded costs against Khan. The Conservative Party won’t say if they’ve agreed to pay them - which strongly suggests to me that they have. Lord Ashcroft may race a total bill of around £500,000 for the party.

Richard Mawry’s judgement may be great news for Labour in Slough, but it will be less welcome to Labour nationally.

Mawry, you may recall, was the judge who presided over the Birmingham election fraud case in the spring of 2005, when he compared Birmingham to a banana republic and was scathing about this government’s introduction of postal voting on demand.

'Disastrous experiment'

After that notorious case ministers tried to tighten the rules on postal votes, but Mawry claimed today that these changes had made little difference and that voting fraud was an easy as ever. Indeed, if anything, Mawry’s judgement today was more scathing of government policy than it was in Birmingham three years ago.

The problem, he said, was not just the “disastrous experiment of postal voting on demand”, but the extremely lax system of electoral registration in this country.

“Great Britain’s system of voter registration may well have been a quaint but harmless anomaly while personal voting was the norm but the introduction of postal voting on demand has made it lethal to the democratic process.”
Roll-stuffing, as the Australians call it, “is childishly simple to commit,” said Mawry, “and very difficult to detect.

'Decent choice'

To ignore the possibility that it is widespread, particularly in local elections, is a policy that an ostrich would despise.”

Above all, he criticised the belief by many Labour people that making it easier for people to vote, though postal ballots, would boost voting turn-out.

What really boost turn-out, he argued, was giving voters a decent choice. He pointed to the 85% turnout in last year’s French presidential election (where there’s no easy postal voting) as a good example of this and concluded: “It’s not how you vote that brings out the voters. It’s the choices you are given.”

In speaking out so boldly, Richard Mawry is surely becoming something of a pain in the neck for this government, rather like Elizabeth Filkin and Sir Alistair Graham.

But he should be careful. They both lost their jobs.

Tuesday, 18 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Mar 08, 06:15 PM

ECONOMY
stock_market203x100.jpgThe US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has admitted the American economy is facing a "sharp decline" and economists are forecasting the fifth US interest rate cut today since the credit crunch began. US house prices have fallen for the first time since the 1930s; can we now avoid another Great Depression? Hugh Pym has been investigating how central bankers are trying to learn the lessons of history.


VOTES
Is the British electoral system fit for purpose? A Conservative politician has been thrown out of office and had his election overturned for using scores of bogus postal votes in last year's local elections in Slough. The judge said the combination of postal voting on demand and the ease of registering voters had made fraud of this type "childishly easy" to commit, despite recent legislation designed to enhance its security.
So are the government's attempts to make it easier to vote part of the problem? Michael Crick has the details.

10 DAYS TO WAR
On the fifth anniversary of the parliamentary vote over going to war in Iraq we'll be talking to two back bench Labour MPs, one who supported the government position and one who opposed it. They'll be telling us about the difficulties they experienced in making their decisions.

ANTHONY MINGHELLA
And we'll be looking back at the life and work of British film director, Anthony Minghella, who died suddenly this morning.

Prospects for Tuesday,18 March

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Mar 08, 10:57 AM

Carol Rubra is tonight's programme producer. Here's her early email to the team.

Good morning,

Let's talk about what we should do on the economy and how we can make it look and feel fresh and different. I've been talking to Hugh Pym about looking at historical comparisons with the Great Depression. Let's have a think about treatments and guests.

National Security Strategy - the government is announcing this tomorrow - should we preview it?

Barak Obama is making a speech about race.

Teachers are discussing whether homework should be abolished for primary school children at their conference today.

And the Supreme Court is looking at US gun laws.

Slough - a tribunal is expected to find electoral fraud in last year's local elections - Michael Crick is looking in to it.

10 Days to War - the parliamentary vote. This is the story of two backbench MPs facing the decision over whether to back their party or vote for what they believe is right.

Let’s talk about these and any other ideas at the meeting.

Monday, 17 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Mar 08, 05:15 PM

Tonight's programme is presented by Jeremy Paxman

Markets slump

markets1_203100.jpgMarkets from New York to Tokyo have recorded heavy losses in reaction to the emergency bailout of US investment bank Bear Stearns over the weekend. In New York the Dow Jones Industrials tumbled 194 points, more than 1.5%, in early trading before recovering. London's FTSE 100 index was down 2.7%. The Bank of England today made an extra £5bn available for UK banks to borrow to ease credit fears. The money was five times over-subscribed.

Meanwhile, on the markets, US, UK and European banks were hammered; Lehman Brothers fell 30%, UBS lost 13%, HBOS 10% and Commerzbank fell 7.9%. Investors are worried that the collapse of Bear Stearns, one of Wall Street's biggest names, is a sign that the credit crunch is getting worse and lending might seize up.

The BBC's Economic Correspondent Hugh Pym will assess how big the problem is and what the potential market solutions are. We'll also be looking at the impact on the UK economy. And Stephanie Flanders will join us live from New York to give us the latest on the fallout in the US.

We'll also be reconvening Newsnight's Shadow Monetary Policy Committee to cast their expert eyes over events.

Markets slump on banking worries

Tibet

The deadline for Tibetan protesters to surrender to the police has passed, after a quiet day in the city of Lhasa. China had given demonstrators in the city until midnight to give themselves up or face punishment. Exiled Tibetans said security forces had been rounding up political dissidents and witnesses said there was a heavy police presence on the streets. Dozens are feared dead after days of rioting in Lhasa, with each side accusing the other of excessive force. Other parts of China also saw rallies on the weekend, while Tibetans in Nepal and India are continuing to protest. Mark Urban will analyse what's been happening and examines whether the Chinese Government will crack down hard on protestors just months before the Olympics.

Tibet protester deadline passes

Iraq: 10 Days to War

Five years on from the war in Iraq we speak to former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Butler about the use of intelligence on WMD.

And from the web team

The countdown continues with 3 Days to War. In You Are Welcome Here, with UN diplomacy dead, the weapons inspectors continue their fruitless search in Iraq. Watch a preview of tonight’s episode here.

Our Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban has written up his recollections of reporting on the preparations for war back in 2003, and shares his thoughts on how – with hindsight – he might have reported things differently.

And Michael Crick has added to the Big Fat Politics Blog with a few words about how Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove has been “cracking the whip” with the leader of the Tory party; plus some thoughts about the many novelists Parliament and British politics have produced over the years…

bbc.co.uk/newsnight

A test of Wills

  • Michael Crick
  • 17 Mar 08, 03:40 PM

I’ve just finished a thriller written by the only remaining member of the government to have published a novel (at least by my reckoning). The novelist in question is Michael Wills, a Minister of State at the Justice Department, who, for some strange reason, writes under the name of David McKeowen (especially odd when he then identifies himself as Michael Wills on page one).

Wills’s first novel Grip is not about politics in any way, but a thriller about what happens to a middle class family when their son suddenly finds himself owing £30,000 to a violent drug dealer. It doesn’t pretend to be great literature, but is certainly an excellent read, examining the psychologies of each of the different players. It would make a great film or TV drama. He has also published a second thriller, Trapped, and more books are on the way.

Michael Wills, a distinctly Brownite member of the government, claims to have had six careers in his adult lifetime. Looking at his Who’s Who entry these seem to be: diplomat, TV producer, businessman (as founder of the independent TV company Juniper), MP, minister, and now novelist.

Parliament and British politics boasts a surprising number of novelists over the years – from Disraeli and John Buchan to Jeffrey Archer and Iain Duncan Smith – and Winston Churchill even published a novel early on in his career. Other novelists to have held ministerial office since Labour came to power are Helen Liddell, Chris Mullin and Peter Hain.

My complete list of British politician novelists runs to 41 names, as follows, but I’d love to know of any that I’ve missed:

Rupert Allason (MP)
Jeffrey Archer (MP)
Joe Ashton (MP)
Stuart Bell (MP)
Melvyn Bragg (peer)
John Buchan (MP)
Winston Churchill (MP)
Philip Collins (adviser)
Julian Critchley (MP)
Edwina Currie (MP)
Bertie Denham (peer)
Benjamin Disraeli (MP)
Michael Dobbs (adviser)
Iain Duncan Smith (MP)
Walter Feinburgh (MP)
Maurice Edelman (MP)
Peter Hain (MP)
David Hart (adviser)
Roy Hattersley (MP)
Douglas Hurd (MP)
PD James (peer)
Boris Johnson (MP)
Stanley Johnson (MEP)
Robert Kilroy Silk (MP)
Helen Liddell (MP)
Bob Marshall-Andrews (MP)
Chris Mullin (MP)
Amanda Platell (adviser)
Lance Price (adviser)
Barbara Rendell (peer)
Tim Renton (MP)
Brian Sedgemore (MP)
Martin Sixsmith (adviser)
CP Snow (minister/peer)
John Stonehouse (MP)
Michael Spicer (MP)
David Walder (MP)
Ann Widdecombe (MP)
Michael Wills (MP (as David McKeowen))

CURRENTLY WRITING:

Chris Bryant (MP)
Alastair Campbell (adviser)

Educating Cameron

  • Michael Crick
  • 17 Mar 08, 03:13 PM

BBC colleagues who accidentally overheard David Cameron last Friday evening, while rehearsing his speech to the Conservatives’ (so-called) Spring Forum in Gateshead, were struck by the important role which the Shadow Education Secretary – and regular Newsnight Review panellist – Michael Gove played in the proceedings.

gove_203.jpg“He was really cracking the whip,” I’m told, in advising Cameron very forcefully on using softer language. Gove advised him, for instance, to refer to “mothers and fathers” rather than “parents”, and how it was best to avoid an old-fashioned phrase like “creeds and colours”.

Michael Gove has long been identified as a rising star on the Conservative front bench, a moderniser and close ally of Cameron, but my colleagues were surprised at how much the Tory leader was happy to defer to his education spokesman. Until now it had been thought that Steve Hilton was Cameron’s chief modernisation guru. Although Hilton was among those listening to David Cameron's rehearsal, he said very little in comparison with Gove.

Prospects: Monday, 17 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Mar 08, 10:29 AM

From today's programme producer, Robert Morgan:

Good morning everyone,

There's a lot around today. The fallout from Bear Stearns is set to be big. How will the international markets respond? What will the Fed do with interest rates tomorrow? What effect will this have on us in the UK? Tracker mortgages were withdrawn over the weekend and a report today says up to 10,000 jobs could go in the banking industry.

We have an interview with Lord Butler off the back of the 10 Days to War series. We need to watch out for China's midnight deadline for demonstrators in Tibet to give themselves up. Kosovo is worth looking at too. Do come to the meeting with ideas on how to do these stories.

Playout thoughts weclome. See you in a minute.

Robert

Friday, 14 March, 2008

  • Gavin Esler
  • 14 Mar 08, 05:25 PM

Quote for the day: "Hell is separation from God. Please assure your readers that failure to recycle a plastic bag will not result in that unhappy situation" - Peter Newell, of Crawley, West Sussex, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Tonight Newsnight is on at a later time of 11pm on BBC Two following Sports Relief and 10 Day's to War (which starts at 10.45pm). In tonight's programme:

America's Northern Rock?
bearstearns203.jpgUS bank Bear Stearns has had to seek emergency funding backed by the US Federal Reserve. So is one of Wall Street's biggest names on the verge of collapse and what are the risks of contagion? George Bush admits things look bad for the American economy but says he is confident it will weather the storm. Really?

The Tories
We'll hear from the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne - we'll ask him to explain why the Tories aren't doing better given the poor state of the economy. Is it really wise to back the Government's spending plans and what ever happened to the promise of tax cuts?

Shannon Matthews
We'll have the latest on the extraordinary discovery of missing nine-year-old Shannon Matthews.

Tibet
The worst rioting in Tibet for twenty years - is this the shape of things to come as the countdown to the Beijing Olympics begins?

Newsnight is at 11pm tonight on BBC 2.
Gavin

Location, location, location

  • Michael Crick
  • 14 Mar 08, 02:23 PM

This is the season of the spring conferences (although they all take place in winter), but this year all three major parties have been rather unfortunate in the locations they've chosen.

First Labour went to Birmingham where the party has been accused of massive fraud in postal ballots. Then last week the Liberal Democrats went to Liverpool where they run the city council - unfortunately for them, that council was recently declared by the Audit Commission to be one of the three worst financially managed local authorities in England.

And today, the Conservatives are holding their conference in Gateshead, where the party hasn't had an elected councillor since 1996.

Worse still, one of the last Conservative councillors in Gateshead was a gentleman by the name of Derek Conway - the Conservative MP disgraced over his misuse of parliamentary staffing allowances to employ members of his family.

Prospects: Friday, 14 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Mar 08, 01:22 PM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here's his early email.

Good Morning.

We have some strong stories today.

Tibet pilgrims in Labrang MonasteryThis morning there are reports of gunfire and rioting in Tibet, what is going on?

Michael Crick is at the Tory conference - in the light of recent Government problems why are they not doing better? Given the concerns of Middle England about rises in the cost of living and higher taxes on cars, drink and income, many in the party believe they should concentrate more on policies which could ease the financial burden on the suburbs.

An interesting EU climate change report which says that global warming could lead to mass immigration into Europe - could this make voters care more about the environment?

Let's watch the dollar too. What suggestions have you got for guests, treatments and other stories?

Dan

The 'John Lewis' list revealed

  • Michael Crick
  • 13 Mar 08, 08:30 PM

I previously detailed the famed 'John Lewis List'. The Commons authorities have now published the guideline of what expenses MPs are allowed to claim.

Here's the link:

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/HofCClaimsGuide.pdf

Thursday, 13 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Mar 08, 05:54 PM

10 Days to War
Tonight's 10 Days to War focuses on the vote at the United Nations Security Council on a second resolution. On Newsnight we speak to Britain's man at the UN who was applying the thumbscrews on behalf of Tony Blair - Sir Jeremy Greenstock - and one of those he tried to persuade Ambassador Valdes from Chile. Just how nasty did things get?

Economy
But we begin tonight with the global economy. Today we saw new highs for gold and oil and a new low for the dollar. As Stephanie Flanders explains it could be a real pivotal moment. We'll debate whether the world's central banks can or should do anything to address the continuing turbulence in the markets.

Iran
Finally tomorrow sees parliamentary elections in Iran. Will the result give more power to the Military or the Mullahs? Jon Leyne gives us his assessment.

Don't forget to tune in for a dramatic performance from Tom Conti in 10 Days to War and then join us at Newsnight straight afterwards.

Simon

To lose one MP...

  • Michael Crick
  • 13 Mar 08, 04:53 PM

It was only a few days ago that I observed here that, remarkably, we now had six independent MPs. And now we have a seventh with the resignation from the Conservative whip (or sacking, depending on how you tell the story) of the MP for Castle Point, Bob Spink.

spink203.jpgThe word among Tory MPs is that Mr Spink will soon join UKIP, and certainly he has very similar views on Europe and other matters. But last night Mr Spink told me that he is a Tory and will continue to sit on the Conservative benches even if he is no longer taking their whip. UKIP will no doubt do their best to lure him in, as it would be quite a coup to secure their first Westminster MP, though they already have several lords and MEPs.

Mr Spink's departure means that David Cameron has now lost four MPs in the last few months - Quentin Davies, who defected to Labour, along with Andrew Pelling, Derek Conway and Bob Spink who have all left amid a variety of personal problems. Conservatives will no doubt argue that they are glad to get rid of most, if not all, of these people, but it doesn't look very good.

Surely a party aspiring to be our next government should be gaining MPs, not shedding them?

Prospects: Thursday. 13 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Mar 08, 12:13 PM

Hello All,

Tom ContiAmazing acting from Tom Conti as the Mexican Ambassador in tonight's drama from 10 Days to War. It reveals the tough tactics used at the UN in order to get backing or block the war in Iraq. And it also highlights the bugging of the Ambassadors that went on. All points we'll put to Jeremy Greenstock - our Ambassador at the time - and Juan Gabriel Valdes who was the Chilean Ambassador. It'll be interesting to see whether they can agree now - having not agreed at the time.

What else should we do today?

Is there any more fall out from the budget that we should do?

What about the Carlyle group's mortgage fund? It is going bust. And it might be the first of a few. Stephanie has agreed to explain.

We've also got a film from Iran ahead of their elections tomorrow AND a film from the School Swap in Bradford - Bradford Utd.
There are other interesting tales around -
- The Inquest opens into the death of Michael Todd. What led to death of one of Britain's top policemen?
- Why have the Conservative council in Ealing withdrawn funding for the famous campaign group Southall Black Sisters? Isn't David Cameron a supporter of such things?
- Are the Jackson Five really moving to Devon?

Simon

10 Days to War: Tell us what you think

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Mar 08, 06:17 PM

10 Days to War logoFrom 10 to 19 March before Newsnight each night BBC Two is showing a series of mini-films dramatising the build up to the start of the Iraq war.

Editor Peter Barron explained why Newsnight has supported these dramas on his blog. The lead up to war in Iraq is one of the most requested stories Newsnight receives and we've covered it extensively over the last five years.

Through drama we get an opportunity to focus on stories that otherwise we could do not either because cameras were not present or key people in the events do not want to be appear directly. Drama is also a way to reach an audience that would not normally watch the documentaries or news programmes.

We're keen to hear what you think of 10 Days to War. The purpose to the stories is to explore how we went to war, not why. Have you found them gripping? Have you discovered something new? Have you wanted to find out more or watch them again online? Can you not wait for the next one? Or perhaps you've hated them. Tell us here.

We want to know what you think of the dramas, please - not the decision to go to war.

Wednesday, 12 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Mar 08, 05:20 PM

Credibility Crunch
Alistair DarlingMuch has been made of the warning that Alistair Darling was not going to incite a quickening of the pulse with today's budget. The chancellor was probably delighted. The more we called him “grey”, “dull” and “flat”, the easier his job became - like a football manager downplaying his team's chances before a cup final.

In the end, he didn’t need to blind us with brilliance. He just sought to reassure us that things weren't about to go really badly wrong. Although he downgraded economic growth forecasts, they still seem pretty optimistic. Although he upped borrowing to £43bn - sailing perilously close to his own rules on debt - he still seemed to tell us all would shortly be well in the economy.

How so? Can he confidently predict the country won't see a recession? Or is he just shutting his eyes and hoping the problem will go away? David Cameron has accused the government of a 'credibility crunch'.

Tonight, after we've “toothcombed” the red book to see what all the detail really amounts to, we'll be talking to the three main parties to ask if the chancellor has emerged today with his credibility in tact, or if this budget is merely storing up trouble for a later date.

More on the budget from BBC News.

Ten Days to War
Stephen ReaOur film tonight revisits the argument over post-war planning in Iraq. Clare Short, the International Development Secretary of the time, is one of the characters in the film. She will then appear in the studio alongside Major General Tim Cross - played by Stephen Rea in the drama - whose task was to re-build Iraq after the war. We'll be asking where the planning went wrong.

Watch the first two episodes and read more about the series on the website.

"One can live down everything except a good reputation"

  • Michael Crick
  • 12 Mar 08, 02:42 PM

Crick as WildeA few weeks ago Newsnight approached the film director Ken Loach for an interview for one of my films about the split inside George Galloway's Respect party - Loach himself is a keen Galloway supporter.

But Loach was reluctant to be interviewed by me, described me to my producer as "The Oscar Wilde of Television Centre" - quite complimentary in some ways, though friends find it hard to see what Loach was getting at.

In response, my daughter Catherine couldn't resist drawing this cartoon...

Prospects: Wednesday, 12 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Mar 08, 10:54 AM

Robert Morgan is tonight's programme producer. Here's his early email to the team.

Good morning everyone,

Budget
Alistair Darling cartoonIt's Alistair Darling's first Budget day. Can he rescue his reputation after the bad reception he received for his pre-budget report and Northern Rock? The BBC's learned that an increase in tax on fuel won't be imposed next month. The Chancellor had been planning to confirm the two pence rise when he delivers his first budget at lunchtime, but has now shelved the idea for six months because of the rising price of crude oil. Will he go for green taxes and higher duties on alcohol? How will he help reduce child poverty, as Gordon Brown has promised? What will be the effect of the credit crunch and the recent nationalisation of Northern Rock on government spending?

The Budget is at 12.30pm (full details here). Ideas on how to do the story are welcome.

10 Days to War
We have a disco set up between Clare Short and Major General Tim Cross following tonight's really strong film on problems with post-war planning in Iraq.

Robert

Tuesday, 11 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Mar 08, 06:19 PM

School Admissions

A "shocking" number of state schools are breaking new admissions rules designed to make the system fairer. According to a government investigation some asked for financial contributions from parents as a condition of entry, others tried to find out the occupation of parents. So was this due to an ignorance of the rules or a deliberate attempt to circumvent them? And where does this leave the Labour government's promise to improve social mobility?

Labour and the Rich

On the eve of the budget David Grossman investigates Labour's attitude to the very rich. Last month they were targeting the wealth of the so-called 'non-doms' but tonight Business Secretary John Hutton will say that instead of worrying about huge salaries we should celebrate success. What's going on and what does it signal about tomorrow's budget?

Credit Crunch

Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders will look at today's decision by central bankers to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the overall financial system to try to ease the credit crunch.

Gaza

Our Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban has a powerful film from both sides of the Gaza border. How have the lives of Israelis and Palestinians been affected by the conflict in the region and what are the chances of an agreement that will bring a lasting peace?

And don't forget to tune in at 10.30 to catch the second episode of the 10 Days to War series.

It's now 9 days to the invasion of Iraq and a group of senior Iraqi exiles are meeting to discuss their plans to form a post-Saddam government. But will the Americans back them?

Then later in the programme we'll talk to one of the central characters of the film, Francis Brooke who advised one of the key Iraqi exiles.

That's 9 Days to War plus Newsnight from 10.30 tonight.

Prospects 11 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Mar 08, 11:05 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the team.

Good morning all,

We have some good options today. Ahead of the budget, David Grossman has been examining party policy towards the very rich, and examines whether the public’s attitude towards tax and the very wealthy may have changed. Who should we do off the back?

Later today the Home Affairs Select Committee will reveal new figures about the number of young people missing from school rolls across the country - could this be evidence of a higher than expected number of forced marriages in Britain? There is also a separate and perhaps more rigorous study in Luton on this subject.

Mark Urban has a film from inside Gaza and we have an interview on the back of the 10 days to war drama with Francis Brooke.

What else? Citizenship classes will probably feel too old by tonight, but what do you think?

Dan

Dummy update

  • David Grossman
  • 10 Mar 08, 07:00 PM

I earlier reported the shock news that Madame Tussauds had no plans for a Gordon Brown waxwork.

Well, Number 10 insist that Mr Brown was invited to sit for a Tussauds waxwork as recently as March 3rd. Apparently the Brown team was contacted by Madame Tussauds' global head of external relations, Nicky Hobbs who writes, "I am honoured to tell you that The Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, has been selected to be honoured by the Tussauds team and be amongst the very select group of people that are made into wax figures.

"We choose our figures from detailed public surveys, and he has been a hugely popular choice amongst local Londoners and tourists from around the world.

"On behalf of our creative team I would like to ask for a sitting to obtain detailed measurements, a sitting takes up to two hours. I would send a team to a location of Mr Brown's choice and to suit his schedule if he is happy to sit. We realise Mr Brown is of course incredibly busy, and we would hope to agree on a sitting date that falls within the next six months."

Curious.

Monday, 10 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Mar 08, 05:52 PM

Juliet StephensonTonight Jeremy Paxman and Newsnight will appear a little later - after the first in the series 10 Days to War. The opening episode is a dramatic representation of senior Foreign Office Lawyer, Elizabeth Wilmhurst's decision to resign over the legality of military action.

On Newsnight we'll debate whether the war in Iraq was legal - and if it was not legal, whether that matters. We'll be joined by General Sir Mike Jackson one of those charged with running the war five years ago, William Taft, who was at the time the legal advisor to the US State Department and leading QC Philippe Sands who doubts the legality of the war.

With just two days to go before the Budget we're already being told to expect many "green" measures. But does it really achieve anything other than increasing government revenue to put up taxes on so called environmentally bad things? Our science editor Susan Watts asks whether a few green taxes will really change anyone's behaviour. We'll then debate whether such taxes can be justified. And our economics editor Stephanie Flanders has a profile of the man with the job of making these decisions, Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling.

Finally, have you read the blog of Whitehall insider Civil Serf? It's believed to be the online outpourings of a disillusioned civil servant. At the weekend it disappeared from the web. So what happened? We've asked Michael Crick to find out.

Do tune in to BBC 2 at 10.30pm for Ten Days to War and then join us immediately afterwards.

Gordon's no dummy

  • David Grossman
  • 10 Mar 08, 05:48 PM

Tony Blair's waxwork dummySounds like a good headline for the PM? - well not really. It seems that the people at Madame Tussauds don't think Mr Brown is enough of a draw to bother making a waxwork of him.

Public relations manager Ben Lovett tells PA news:
"At the moment we have no plans to make Gordon Brown.

"We are going to wait for a general election to see what will happen because
that's the ultimate test of public opinion.

"We are always continuing to monitor public opinion so if there's a surge of
support then we will reconsider."

Sadly for Mr Brown's ego it seems Tony Blair's waxwork is still drawing the crowds.

More on pavement politics...

  • Michael Crick
  • 10 Mar 08, 02:54 PM

There was a little unease amongst the Lib Dem high command at my presence at the conference on Friday. Political editors tend to shun the gatherings so there must be something juicy, they thought, to tempt me to take the three-hour train journey to Liverpool at the end of what had been a very bad week for their leader Nick Clegg.

But the story - juicy or not - almost failed to make air on Friday night when my producer was trapped in the lift for well over an hour at the Lib Dem run City Council's brand new conference centre.

Another example of the good old Liverpool tradition of dirty tricks?

CaravanTalking of which, and following my story on Friday about Liberals adding laxative to the milk-bottles outside Conservative HQ on polling day, a veteran Lib Dem councillor gave me another good 'dirty tricks' story dating back to the Manchester Exchange by-election in the early 1970s. The Conservatives had no base in the constituency, so they set up their campaign headquarters in a caravan on a piece of wasteland. Liberal activists soon noted, however, that the Tories failed to guard the vehicle each night - instead they just locked up and left. So one enterprising Liberal, without announcing his identity, procured some Labour posters from the Labour HQ, and in the middle of the night plastered them all over the Tory caravan.

You can imagine the Conservatives' fury the next day. So angry were they that they forced Labour's north west regional organiser to go through the humiliation of scraping the posters off the caravan one by one with a knife. Smirking Liberal activists kept their distance, of course.

Or so the story goes...

Spot the missing word

  • Michael Crick
  • 10 Mar 08, 11:39 AM

ken203behind.jpgStrange, I thought Ken Livingstone had returned to the Labour fold at the last mayoral election in 2004, having been expelled and fought as an independent in 2000.

But the word "Labour" appears nowhere on the home page of his website, though there is a small red rose - the Labour symbol - tucked away down at the bottom.

My BBC colleague Rhodri Jones has done a more extensive search, and the only mention of 'Labour' he can find is in Livingstone's biography, where it says he served as a "Labour councillor".

Prospects: Monday, 10 March, 2003

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Mar 08, 10:29 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer. Here is his early email to the team.

Hello everyone,

10 Days to War
Juliet StephensonTonight is the first of the drama reconstructions of the events that led to the conflict in Iraq - it's called 10 Days to War. Starring Juliet Stevenson and Kate Ashfield in this episode we're behind the scenes at the foreign office as one of the government's most senior lawyers plans to resign over the legality of the war. We'll debate with General Sir Mike Jackson, QC Phillipe Sands and senior US legal advisor William Taft whether the war was legal and why it matters if it was or wasn't.

Budget
But what else should we do on tonight's programme? Stephanie Flanders is working on a profile of Alistair Darling ahead of Wednesday's budget. Should we do more on the budget than that?

Weather
Is there something Newsnight should be doing on the weather?

Simon

Friday, 7 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Mar 08, 05:00 PM

GAVISCON
A Newsnight investigation has revealed claims that the drugs company, Reckitt Benckiser, blocked attempts to make a cheaper copy of one of its best-selling medicines - Gaviscon - which could have saved the NHS millions of pounds. Read Newsnight's exclusive report.

JERUSALEM
shooting203x100.jpgEarlier today thousands of mourners attended the funerals of eight Israeli students shot dead in Jerusalem. They were killed in a religious college by a gunman, who had smuggled an assault rifle into the library. Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban joins us from Jerusalem.

LIB DEMS
Big questions about Nick Clegg's leadership after this week's rebellion over Europe. Michael Crick reports from the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference.

And look out for next week's series of dramas - 10 Days to War - which examines the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Running for Liverpool

  • Michael Crick
  • 7 Mar 08, 12:31 PM

Liver birdToday I'm in Liverpool for the so-called spring conference of the Liberal Democrats (but it is of course still winter). Although I come here regularly to watch my team play football, it's years since I have done any political stories in this city - though in the eighties I seemed to be here all the time covering the activities of militant.

Liverpool is the home of the modern Liberal revival, where in the 1970s Sir Trevor Jones developed the idea of pavement politics where council candidates dwell on voters' extremely local concerns, such as wobbly paving stones. Jones and his younger lieutenant Chris Renard (now Lord Renard) are probably the two most formidable party election campaigners of modern times in this country - and in Liverpool they managed to replace the Conservatives as the main opposition to labour. Indeed there hasn't been a conservative councillor here for a couple of decades. What happened in Liverpool has subsequently been repeated in other big northern cities, such as Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle where the Conservatives have also been almost wiped out of local government, which poses a huge obstacle to David Cameron's ambitions.

But politics in Liverpool has always been different to anywhere else, focused on big name personalities, more American boss-style than anywhere else in Britain. And Liverpool politics - like the city itself - is often extremely rough, but invariably comes with a huge dollop of wit.

My favourite political story from Liverpool - which I've never managed to stand up - involved a Liberal activist turning up at the Conservative HQ very early in the morning on a polling day and injecting the milk bottles on the door step with laxative.

Talk about running for office. Talk about pavement politics.

Prospects for Friday, 7 March

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Mar 08, 10:34 AM

Today's programme producer is Robert Morgan - here is his early email to the production team.

Good morning everyone,

We've got a strong investigation from Meirion and Martin Shankleman about Gaviscon. Who would have thought the makers of Gaviscon would have been scheming to cheat the National Health Service out of millions of pounds? The company is Reckitt Benckiser which makes everything from Dettol to Neurofen and Cillit Bang to LemSip. It made a billion pounds profit last year. A whistleblower from Reckitt came to see Newsnight and showed us internal emails and secret business plans which should have been shredded. They explained how they planned to block cheap generic copies of their medicine. We showed the papers to a top competition lawyer to see if what they were doing was illegal. He described them as "smoking guns".

I've put in a bid for the Public Health Minister, Dawn Primarolo and the head of the NHS. Let's discuss other possible bids too.

Other stories worth looking at include the aftermath of the Jerusalem killings. Will there be retaliation from the Israeli government? What about the diplomatic reaction from Libya at the UN? Michael and Hugh are at the Lib Dem Spring Conference. There's more on the Jersey story today.

Any other ideas welcome.

Robert

After the night before, part II

  • Michael Crick
  • 6 Mar 08, 08:36 PM

Apologies all round today from many Westminster journalists, me included, after we slightly over-stated the size of last night’s Labour rebellion on holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. There were, in fact, 28 Labour rebels, not 29. I and everyone else, it seems, had forgotten that the Liverpool MP Bob Wareing has been thrown out of the Labour Party and now sits as an Independent.

In fact, it must be many decades since there were quite so many ‘independents’ in the Commons, of various shades. As well as Wareing, we’ve got the Wyre Forest MP Richard Taylor, and the MP for Blaeneau Gwent, Dai Davies. All three are full Independents.

On top of that, Clare Short is now 'Independent Labour', while on the Tory side, Andrew Pelling and Derek Conway, because of their different misdemeanours, are now obliged to sit as 'Independent Conservatives'.

So six Independents in all.

In addition there’s the strange case of George Galloway, who officially sits as a Respect MP, even though the Respect Party which elected him, and which he led, has now expelled him, and he represents a different Respect Party.

Thursday, 6 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Mar 08, 05:51 PM

British, White and Working Class
Tonight a Newsnight Special ahead of tomorrow's launch of BBC Two's White Season, a series of programmes exploring the white working class experiences of 21st Century Britain.
We have a specially commissioned poll from the polling organisation Populus to gauge white working class attitudes across a range of issues including the vexed subject of immigration. We'll debate the polls findings in the studio with among others the Culture Minister Margaret Hodge, the Talk Sport presenter Jon Gaunt, the RMT union leader Bob Crow and Shaun Bailey a youth worker and prospective Tory parliamentary candidate. We'll also be speaking to the BNP leader Nick Griffin.
Read Jackie Long's article here.

Seroxat - GlaxoSmithKline Accused
Also in the programme tonight a Government review has strongly criticised the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline for not passing on crucial information to regulators about a link between the anti depressant Seroxat and suicidal tendencies in young people. The BBC reporter Shelley Joffre who first broke the story of the problems with Seroxat for Panorama, revisits the controversy and asks what if anything the Government can do.

Gaza Crisis
Our Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban has just been inside Gaza and we'll ask him about the humanitarian impact of the sanctions there and the attempts by Egypt to broker a truce between the Palestinian militants and Israel.
See you later Kirsty

After the night before

  • Michael Crick
  • 6 Mar 08, 05:31 PM

Tim Montgomerie of Conservativehome.com has written with details of an internet poll of 1,529 Conservative members, asking them:

"If the European Constitution (the Lisbon Treaty) has received Royal Assent and been adopted by the other 26 member states BEFORE the election of a Conservative Government, the Conservative Party should hold a retrospective referendum on the text.

76% agreed with that, and only 18% disagreed.

I can never understand why pro-referendum campaigners, especially Conservatives, don’t make more of the pledge which David Cameron made in The Sun on 26 September last year, in which he said:

“Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.”

Not much wriggle room there. After all, it was a “cast-iron guarantee” on “any EU Treaty”. Perhaps the only excuse for watering down this commitment is that it was written amidst pre-election fever, and the widespread belief that Gordon Brown would call an election within a few days. Yet it was hardly off-the-cuff, or to an insignificant audience. It was a signed article to the newspapers three million or so readers.

Prospects for Thursday, 6 March

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Mar 08, 10:45 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the team.

Good Morning,

Much of the programme tonight will discuss the British White Working Class - are they the forgotten group in British Society? Have they been marginalised by policy makers and the media? Newsnight has commissioned a poll of the British white working and middle classes with some fascinating results.

We have interviews with Culture Minister and MP for Barking Margaret Hodge, and Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP. We'll also have a wider discussion about the issue with some strong guests.

Seroxat
The Government are set to announce a major tightening of the law governing drug trials when the Medicines and Healthcare Regulator reports on allegations that GlaxoSmithKline delayed informing the authorities that Seroxat increased the likelihood of suicide among teenagers.

Gaza
A very strong report by human rights groups into the impact of the sanctions.

Other stories include ID cards - how the scheme will be rolled out. What other suggestions do you have?

Dan

Long on integrity?

  • Michael Crick
  • 5 Mar 08, 10:36 PM

So the government won a comfortable majority of 63 in its efforts to stop a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The Conservatives emerged for once as the most united party on an European matter, whilst the Lib Dems, normally at one on EU matters, saw a quarter of their MPs defy the whips.

It was a lively debate, and my favourite moment came when Peter Lilley tried to compare the Foreign Secretary David Miliband with the corrupt and long-deceased former governor of Louisiana, Huey Long. Long was once asked by an aide how he would explain to people why he'd ditched an election pledge. "Tell 'em I lied," Long is reported to have said.

When Lilley said Miliband and his colleagues didn't even have the integrity of Huey Long, the deputy speaker said it was un-Parliamentary language and he should back down at once. "I withdraw that remark," Mr Lilley duly said. "They have the integrity of Huey Long."

After the laughter had died down, Mr Lilley was forced to withdraw that comment too!

Wednesday, 5 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Mar 08, 05:03 PM

EU referendum
cleggcommons203.jpgA rowdy time was had by all in the House of Commons today – and that was just at PMQs. The three party leaders took each other to task over their respective stances on an EU referendum. This was followed by a lengthy debate about a referendum on the EU Treaty. Is this democracy in action or a Westminster conspiracy to stifle real debate? Our political editor Michael Crick will have the best bits for us – and the results of the vote itself, of course, which takes place at 7pm. What will be the fallout of the rebellions likely to dog each of the party leaders?

Michael Crick’s been blogging this afternoon – read what he has to say here.

Kenya
The BBC has learnt of allegations of state-sanctioned violence in Kenya during the turmoil that followed last December's disputed presidential poll. Sources allege that meetings were hosted at the official residence of the president between the banned Mungiki militia and senior government figures. The Kenyan Government says the allegations are preposterous. Karen Allen has been investigating and Jeremy has been putting the allegations to the Kenyan Government spokesman.

Read more on this story here.

US elections
"For everyone here in Ohio and across America who has ever been counted out but refused to be knocked out, for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up, and for everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you."

Hillary Clinton is back in the race after taking Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island in yesterday’s Democratic primaries. But Barack Obama took Vermont and still has more delegates overall than his rival.

So it’s no clearer who will go up against that other comeback kid John McCain – now confirmed as the Republican nominee – in the fight for the White House.

Peter Marshall is in Washington to ask “what next?” It could all come down to the super-delegates – but who are these mysterious voters with the power to turn this race on its head yet again?

HIV scandal
Also tonight, Madeleine Holt investigates the so-called "bareback" gay porn industry. The unique selling point of this genre of films is that they show unprotected sex - something which has been taboo in gay erotica since the emergence of HIV in the 1980s.

Our investigation highlights fears that some of the performers in bareback are becoming infected on camera. And that footage, which effectively documents people unwittingly becoming HIV positive, is now on sale. Some surprising names are now profiting from bareback - including one of Britain's most respected gay businesses, which has hitherto had a long track record of campaigning for HIV awareness.

There is concern that the popularity of bareback marks a worrying shift in attitudes. Health officials fear it echoes a wider complacency about HIV among a generation which wasn’t even born when the government first employed icebergs to try to frighten people into wearing condoms.

Read more about Madeleine’s report here

Do join Jeremy at 10.30pm on BBC Two.

Lib Dem resignation

  • Michael Crick
  • 5 Mar 08, 11:33 AM

Nick CleggI hear that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has already accepted one resignation from a front bench member over the issue of holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Prospects: Wednesday, 5 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Mar 08, 10:33 AM

Carol Rubra is today's programme producer. Here is her early email to the production team.

Good morning,

We have lots of goodies in the programme tonight.

Hillary ClintonHillary makes a comeback, but how much of a comeback is it? Peter Marshall and Ben are in Washington. Let's discuss treatment ideas and angles for them to explore and discussion guests.

We have a very strong film from Karen Allen containing new allegations of state sanctioned violence in the recent riots in Kenya. We are bidding for a Kenyan govt response.

We also have Madeleine Holt and Ed Main's film which didn't run yesterday. It's an investigation into the health risks of so-called bareback gay porn - that is films showing men having unprotected sex. Following the investigation, three films have been withdrawn from sale. There have been concerns from within the gay community that performers are being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Read the article here.

Today is also the day when MPs finally vote on the whether there should be a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Any thoughts on a playout?

Tuesday, 4 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Mar 08, 05:29 PM

HILLARY CLINTON'S LAST STAND?
clinton203.jpgThe races for both the Democratic and Republican US presidential nominations could be settled as four states vote in a major round of primary elections. The main focus is on Ohio and Texas but votes are also taking place in Rhode Island and Vermont. Democratic front-runner Barack Obama has said rival Hillary Clinton may have to quit if he wins in Texas and Ohio, but she has vowed to stay the course. Arizona Senator John McCain could be confirmed as the Republican candidate. Peter Marshall will have the latest from the US and we'll be on the ground in Ohio and Texas - watch his interview with Forest Whitaker.

We also hope to be joined live by a big Hillary Clinton supporter.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
MPs will decide tomorrow whether to have a referendum on the new European Union Treaty. The Government says it's not necessary, but is facing a Commons rebellion from up to 30 Labour MPs. The Liberal Democrat leadership are urging their MPs to abstain with a three line whip, but a number of front benchers are threatening to support the call for a public vote and could face the sack. This could prove to be the first big test for the new Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg. He joins us live.

GAZA
The American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has said she's concerned about the recent violence between Israel and the Palestinians, but still believes a peace deal can be achieved this year. Speaking in Ramallah, Dr Rice again urged Palestinian leaders to resume talks with Israel. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, suspended negotiations at the weekend in protest at Israel's recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 120 people. Mr Abbas said that while he wanted peace, he warned that the security needs of Israelis could not take precedence over the rights of Palestinians. Diplomatic Editor, Mark Urban joins us from Jerusalem.

HIV
gay2203x152.jpgThree films have been withdrawn from sale following a Newsnight investigation into the health risks of so-called bareback gay porn - which shows men have unprotected sex. It follows concerns within the gay community that performers are being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Two of the DVDs featured footage from a week-long shoot during which eight British models had sex with each other in multiple combinations without condoms. Four of those who took part were diagnosed as HIV positive soon after. One of the men told the BBC he was distressed that footage which he believed showed him becoming infected had been put on sale. Read Madeleine Holt's article here.

Hollywood stars shine for Obama

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Mar 08, 03:07 PM

It's the glamour of Obama.

whittaker203x100.jpgThe candidate, who Hillary Clinton accuses of relying on charisma rather than content, has recruited more than half of Hollywood.

George Clooney likes him. Susan Sarandon is besotted (her first choice, John Edwards, having withdrawn from the battle) and Forest Whitaker, Oscar winner and The Last King of Scotland, has been a fan for years.

Against that, Hillary is left with the geriatric lothario Jack Nicholson, who has deployed a line from A Few Good Men about how taking orders from a woman is "sexy". Watch Clinton advert.

Taking the view that we already know far too much about Jack's libido, we turned to Mr Whitaker at Obama HQ in Dallas for the Last King's view about the man he wants to be the next President...

Watch Peter Marshall's interview with Forest Whitaker

Prospects for Tuesday, 4 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Mar 08, 10:56 AM

Today's programme producer is Robert Morgan - here is his early email to the production team.

Good morning everyone,

There are some good stories around today. It's Hillary Clinton's make or break day today against Barack Obama as voting in four US primaries take place. Peter Marshall and Ben Bevington are in the US for the programme. Do come to the meeting with ideas on how we should be doing the story today. Have you got any ideas for big name interviews in debate? Lots of bids have been put in already.

Condoleeza Rice is in the Middle East today. Mark Urban should still be in Jerusalem. David Grossman has a good Lib Dem story. I'll tell you more in the morning meeting. I rather like the Margaret Hodge Proms story if we have time.

We have a strong film from Madeleine Holt and Ed Main. Three films have been withdrawn from sale following a Newsnight investigation into the health risks of so-called bareback gay porn – which shows men having unprotected sex. It follows concerns within the gay community that performers are being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.


Any other ideas for stories welcome. Playout thoughts?

Robert


All right Jack?

  • Michael Crick
  • 3 Mar 08, 10:13 PM

Gordon BrownGordon Brown looks set for some embarrassment when the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party meets next Monday (10 March 2008) to pick a new General Secretary following last autumn’s resignation of Peter Watt over the David Abrahams proxy loans affair. The Prime Minister’s candidate is David Pitt-Watson, who was recruited by the party from the City of London in 1997 and spent a couple of years as Labour’s finance director and assistant general secretary, when he was credited with helping turn round Labour’s finances. Yet most of Pitt-Watson’s career has been spent in the City, where until recently he ran Hermes Focus Asset Management, and where he has built a reputation as a leading advocate of greater activism by shareholders. Pitt-Watson, who’s been rejected for the post in the past, was also a significant financial backer of Gordon Brown’s leadership election. He is seem by the Prime Minister and his allies as having sufficient business brain and enough of an independent background to shake the party up following its recent funding scandals, but also to sort out the party’s mounting debts once more.

Continue reading "All right Jack?"

Monday, 3 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 3 Mar 08, 06:17 PM

24-Hour Drinking
WineWe were told it could lead to a café culture, sensible drinking and a decline in drink-related violence, but has it? Newsnight has conducted its own review of the 24-hour licensing laws, ahead of the Government's official publication, expected tomorrow. What has been the real impact of liberalising the law? (Remember Boozenight?)

Gaza
Hamas declared "victory" this morning after Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip after days of fighting in which more than 100 people have died - but the Israeli Prime Minister said military action would continue. So what are the prospects for peace? Mark Urban reports from Israel and we speak to senior Israeli and Hamas politicians.

Obama's Foreign Policy
So how would Barack Obama have handled this weeks events in Gaza, Russia or Iraq and would we have even noticed the difference? We'll be speaking to his senior foreign policy adviser, Samantha Power.

Let sleeping peers...

  • Michael Crick
  • 3 Mar 08, 05:11 PM

Sleeping peerMuch amusement in the BBC office at Millbank this afternoon as we all watched the television feed from the House of Lords, and observed a leading Liberal Democrat peeress sitting - or reclined - right behind her party colleague Lord Thomas of Gresford as he spoke at great length in a debate on immigration.

Lord Thomas's arguments obviously required the utmost concentration.

I'd probably be hauled up before the Lords authorities if I were to name names. So I won't. And I'd be in big trouble next time I visited Edinburgh and bumped into her husband, a prominent Scottish journalist.

Canvassing For Livingstone

  • Michael Crick
  • 3 Mar 08, 02:13 PM

ken203blog.jpgI am amused to see that several prominent artists have donated works to Ken Livingstone’s re-election campaign for London mayor, among them Banksy, Anthony Gormley, Jeremy Deller and Marc Quinn. The works are due to be auctioned this Thursday at the Aquarium Gallery. A new form of canvassing, I suppose.

I trust, however that Mr Livingstone and the Labour Party will be registering these donations with the Electoral Commission. So far there’s no sign on the Electoral Commission register that Ken Livingstone is even running for London Mayor, let alone of any donations to his campaign.

I was also interested to see that the Sunday Times yesterday followed up my story on Friday about Labour failing to register with the Commission the cut-price work performed by their advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi. In line with what Saatchi’s Communications Director Eleanor Conroy told Newsnight last November, she told the Sunday Times on Friday that the work is “heavily discounted because we are so keen to work on it and so passionate about it … We give them a massive discount.” But later Ms Conroy changed her tune, as she did with Newsnight, and said “it is not a discount”. All very odd.

But the law is clear. And discount of more than 10% has to be registered as a donation. And “massive” sounds to me, like it was more than 10%.

Prospects: Monday, 3 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 3 Mar 08, 10:17 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the team. Leave your thoughts below on what we should cover.

Good morning all.

Gaza
Palestinian gunman in GazaHamas declared "victory" this morning after Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip after days of fighting that have killed more than 100 people - but senior Israeli officials said the conflict had merely entered an "interval” for a visit by the US Secretary of State. Rockets from Hamas hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon today, and Israeli air strikes have continued. Mark Urban is in Israel. Which guests would you like to see on this? What other thoughts do you have on the story?

Drinking
The government is due to publish its review of 24-hour drinking tomorrow - local government chiefs have already been highly critical. Has the change made a difference for good or ill?

Russia
On the first day after the election, Gazprom, the company president-elect Dmitry Medvedev is still formally chairman of, has cut gas supplies to the Ukraine by 25%. Is this an ominous start? Should we do this and how?

Obama
On a foreign heavy day, we have an interview with Obama's senior foreign policy adviser, Samantha Power. How would a President Obama deal with the Middle East and Russia?

All other ideas welcome.

Dan

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