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Prospects for Tuesday, 20 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 20 May 08, 10:09 AM

Good morning. Today's output editor is Dan Kelly - here's his e-mail to the production team...

Crewe and Nantwich by-election

It promises to be the most important by-election of this Parliament, a contest which could have huge implications for the fate of Gordon Brown and David Cameron. So who will win the Labour seat of Crewe and Nantwich in Cheshire? Jeremy will hold a special debate in the constituency with politicians and voters. David Grossman will report on the controversial tactics adopted during the campaign, and Tim Whewell will report on the impact of immigration in the area and on local politics.


Tonight's abortion vote to reduce the legal limit from 24 weeks looks set to be very close. If the limit is changed, Jackie Long will report on the implications for women, society and medicine, and we'll have reaction from Westminster. Which guests would you like to see on the show and in the piece? Liz MacKean will anchor the coverage from here.

See you at 10.30.



  • Comment number 1.


    We who call ourselves human are confused about many things. I suspect this is because we have the capacity to consider those many things but insufficient ability to truly understand them. Life, itself, stands high among such challenging concepts.

    The trouble with life is that it creeps up on us in the womb during a period of our being that, even in a future of competent autonomy, lies beyond recall. The upshot of this is that life, as a phenomenon, is absorbed during post-birth early years as the opposite to death – living as the opposite of dead – while being, in truth, a crude and inaccurate approximation. Perhaps a pet or a relative, leaves our sphere of awareness at some tender age and we absorb, in one way or another, that death is the active agent. A fly is swatted, ants boiled or road-kill noted; the TV shows road accidents, disasters and war; in the midst of life we are absorbing the every-day principle of death. One concept seems to validate the other.

    But what if daddy or mummy (or primary carer) is an obsessive egghead and polymath in chemistry, physics, biology et al? What if The Hungry Caterpillar is eschewed and Discworld banished to a parallel dimension? Instead, at a tender, impressionable, age we are introduced to crystals that grow, enzymes that though passive, facilitate chemical activity, viruses that reactively, yet dumbly, inject (by means of complex structuring) bacterial cells, inveigling them to make more virus, and slime moulds that, on a whim, call to their chums to boldly go, en masse, across the forest floor? The life/death interface has become blurred, just as it was at our beginning. Are we nearer the truth?

    It is really no surprise that human life seems magical; it comes from a magical universe. From a beginning that is beyond comprehension (does that sound familiar?) the universe, in response to its inherent laws, gave rise to set of elements (the Periodic Table) that, by their properties, enable life. One might reasonably say that the Periodic Table of elements is analogous to DNA in terms of encoded potential. Looked at in this way, sentient life (us, and probably other forms with other DNA, elsewhere in the universe) amounts to the leading-edge of ‘universal expression’ – or perhaps the leading-edge, but only as available to our senses! Much is made of entropy in science: the decay of all complexity to its lowest energy state. Entropy makes a kind of intuitive sense. But what of the obvious built-in tendency to synthesise, that seems active in the universe, and that leads on to life; indeed, life defined by replication?

    Self-replication gives rise to the ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma. It is axiomatic that a replicating life-form must have a degree of volition if it is not to fade back into oblivion. I see this as an extension of the primary, universal volition towards synthesis. In other words: the will to live came before life, and the will to STAY ALIVE came with life.
    To my mind, life and death are coded into the universe. The transitions that occur in all expressions of universal stuff can be infinitely subtle or instant and violent. What changes, is the organisation (or degree of organisation) of that universal stuff in one or more of its permitted forms. Organisation is a prerequisite of life. Our misfortune is to have become vehemently protective of human life, as a strategy for its continuation - an imperative established above - long before we had means to discover our place in the universal scheme and to grasp our inexorable drive to continuation; well - some of the time. Our strangely inconsistent respect for human life is tangled up with human emotion, religion and culture (encompassing execution, genocide and warfare) but never referenced to its universal origin. Were it so-referenced, the current furore might make the transition from heat to light – much as Big Bang theorist would have us believe the universe did at its conception!

  • Comment number 2.

    Please will Michael Crick be out with his courgette again tonight ?

    Made my eyes water so it did !

    Pantsman .........

  • Comment number 3.


    I am an occasional submitter onto this column.

    As an important introduction, I look forward on a daily basis to your and other regular subscribers thoughts, and indeed have gone to the trouble of checking out your website which you occasionally refer to. Interesting stuff.

    However, over the past few weeks you seem to be becoming increasingly agitated about most things a) - in the country and b) - on the planet.

    Please calm down.

    Additionally, your writings are becoming increasingly long-winded, verging on irrelevant existential musings.

    Short and sharp suits you best - may I have the old Barrie back ?

  • Comment number 4.

    Michael Crick will I hope be reporting on whose (proverbial) dagger will be most likely to be thrust into Gordon Brown once New Labour have been trashed at Crewe? Come on down Frank Field! Is Harriet positioning herself behind his back? Does the ongoing police inquiry into the funding rule out a grab for power by Hain?

    I just cannot believe New Labour are going to face the next general election with a Scottish leader - when the 2010 Scottish independence referendum looks very likely to be lost at this point in time.

    I perhaps am missing something in the post-referendum period but wouldn't it make him at best a lame duck and at worst ineligible? Won't he be trying to buy off the Scots at the expense of the rest? Or perhaps he will have MI5 invite Alex Salmond to an orgy or something. He seems quite sensible and so I suspect he would be a no-show! Either way the Beeb won't report it will they as the TV license payers don't need to know? If MI5 were not behind the Mosely sting how come there is no reporting as there could be no impact on the national interest?

  • Comment number 5.

    Looking forward to tonight in Crewe. I was there yesterday and I can tell you it is going to be a close race- I don't believe for a second that the poll produced today bears any resemblance to the feelings of people in Crewe and Nantwich.

    One thing that I did find extraordinary is a tory leaflet which says on it, as a quote from Timpson:

    "The trouble with Gordon Brown is that he doesn't know what it feels like to live on a low income"

    Slightly disingenuous coming from the multi-millionaire lawyer?

    And one final thing, Michael, I am sorry but that omelette looked positively horid- I think you needed to get a bit of colour on the courgettes first!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Re-3. What a positive and encouraging stance from Paul on man's right to be irritable. I fully expect to see your posts develop into impassioned ramblings in future, in the fine old British tradition Paul.Barrie has reached a sublime level of detached, profound and well-informed barminess that others can only dream about. Old or new barrie-he's a legend.

  • Comment number 7.

    PS Is Newsnight allowed to indicate on the website why the BBC appears to have not reported on the Mosely MI5 sting? Channel 4 reported it and so I assume there is not a D Notice. I can't see how MI5 could use an injunction as they are saying their officer acted independently. I can see his name would need to be blocked etc but is it not in the public interest that we know what "government" people get up to. For instance suppose there are other scams and people assume that the officers involved are acting on behalf of legitimate authorities. Has Paxo gone soft?

  • Comment number 8.

    PPS Don't worry be happy #1

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks Grumpy Jon. My living has not been in vain.

    Every time I stop shouting in my bucket (aka blogging) and lift my head, I find the same world is out there run by the same sort of people. In consequence, each time I put my head back in the bucket, I am moved to shout longer (as Paul Clifford rightly observed #3). The level of illogic in the termination debate is pain level 10. I think this time I will try filling the bucket with water . . .
    PS Paul: I write in the broad belief that no one reads, in spite of a trickle of evidence to the contrary. Is limited use of words a world-saving strategy? That would make Dubya the Messiah. Clearly you are an observer, but have you seen more of the game? Do you know how to win?

  • Comment number 10.


    I have to agree that Crick's courgettes (#5)looked decidedly underdone. might this explain much . . . ? They only take on flavour when browned at the extremities - rather like New Labour.

  • Comment number 11.

    Newsnight my #7 looks likely to be binned. Are you allowed to tell us the broad circumstances that prevents the BBC from reporting (so far as I can see) on the Mosely/MI5 story?

    I can't really see a big threat to National Security or rioting in the streets. But I would be concerned if this is yet another Big Brother expansion at the cost of our liberties.

  • Comment number 12.

    #6 and #9,

    Jon - Thanks ! Agreed !

    Barrie - in order of questions asked....




  • Comment number 13.


    There is a lot of empty space at #12. Right after the word 'yes' (yes Paul knows how to win).

  • Comment number 14.

    Barrie set me thinking about how early life actually starts in the womb. I checked on Google for premature births and the youngest to survive is James Elgin born in Canada 128 days premature that was 21 weeks 5 days.
    As he survived, I take it that life had started in the baby at this stage.
    Therefore any abortion after this stage amounts to killing a living being, whether they would have survived or not.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks for getting back to me regarding the Mosely/MI5 thing(?)

    All I could find on the web was an entry with the TIMES Online and Autoracing Daily. You were outdone by them? Outstanding.

    If anybody is interested the sites are below but the content is not much more than the Channel 4 report:

    PPPS I don't want to see Cricks courgette again ..... Mr Mosley might? Run Michael run!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Midnightpantsman, why did Michael C's cooking make your eyes water?

  • Comment number 17.


    Hello Oldunelm at 14. You cause the following thoughts to rear up in my head (thanks). What defines a living being? A beating heart, blood flow, brain activity, sight, hearing, response to touch? Suppose those 21 weeks 5 days had yielded few of the above functions, what would have been born? If this ‘survivor’ never gained any awareness, or autonomy, in many years of existence, what would have been achieved? Who well served? I am not making light of any of this; I hope I am never confronted with such pressure. But having stood up to be counted – and ignored – as Westminster treated FULLY MATURED, cognisant, functional life (mostly Iraqi and Afghan) as EXPENDABLE, I look very askance at our politicians’ anguish over lives hardly yet formed. I still maintain that the unconceived have the highest degree of right, yet they are never addressed.

  • Comment number 18.


    Might the majority of abortions on demand be a consequence of sex on a plate? Might it, further, be that sex on a plate follows a night on the town? Is it fair to suggest a night on the town is characterised by alcohol on the brain? Could the number of incidences of alcohol on the brain be reduced if we had good people on the job? Might ‘good people’ refer to the honourable worthies in Parliament, who are currently wrangling over abortions? I bet they’ll need a drink after that!

  • Comment number 19.

    Hey Mongo,
    Totally, re-moderation. You've obviously touched a nerve. They're not holding you up (either permanently or just until the page is no longer being read) because you're not digging near a sensitive nugget. Marvellous thing democracy isn't it? We're definitely winning as the tiny number of moderators is swamped by interested posters on infinite numbers of sites. Anyway this is barrie's site; he just lets the BBC use it occasionally.


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