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Monday 11 January 2010 - in more detail

Sarah McDermott | 15:50 UK time, Monday, 11 January 2010

DUP leader Peter Robinson has announced he is to step aside for six weeks as First Minister amid the storm over his wife's private life and finances. Mr Robinson has designated Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster to take charge in the interim.

If Sinn Fein refuse to accept the situation Martin McGuinness would have to resign as Deputy First Minister, and his party would be seen as having brought down the devolved government. So what next for the power-sharing Executive?

Tonight we hope to speak to some of the leading players at Stormont.

Elsewhere, Gordon Brown is set to issue a rallying call to MPs at the PLP meeting tonight by setting out his election strategy and telling MPs they can defeat the Conservatives. Our Political editor Michael Crick will be considering what has changed since the failed coup to bring down the PM.

And it is eight years to the day since the first prisoners arrived at Guantanamo Bay. All this week on Newsnight we will be running a series of special films on the detention centre's legacy. Tonight we have the remarkable story of two men from Britain who were incarcerated there who have recently been contacted on Facebook by a former prison guard wanting to express remorse for his part in their imprisonment. An unlikely friendship.

And Jeremy Paxman will be asking Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Smile or Die, why blind optimism is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche.

Do join him at 10.30pm on BBC Two.


  • Comment number 1.

    Sarah (Jeremy):

    So what next for the power-sharing Executive?

    If the parties don't take the offered being given currently--Then the power-sharing Executive will be not going to last that long.

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 2.


    Ask Barbara Ehrenreich what 'binds optimism' into Brown. it certainly isn't any kind of logical process that I know.

  • Comment number 3.

    '.....will be asking Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Smile or Die, why blind optism is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche.'

    I'll answer that for you now, then you can give more time to more important issues.

    A - because Americans are so insular, they are as blind as the proverbial and see no futher than the ends of their own noses, seldom even look in mirrors in case they see something that upsets their 'cock-eyed' (Optimistic) view of themselves and the small world they inhabit.

    Can I ask - WHY such a blatant promotion. She was on R4 'This Morning' which is what NN appears to be rapidly morphing into.

    What distresses me so about the Robinson affair is how, in a 'Power-Sharing' (OXYMORON'S Anonymous!) situation that is so fragile, should any one individual be deemed Sooooo critical to success that any wave on that (moated) duck pond is enough to throw a whole nation back 10+ years.

    Strikes me as very BAD (Mis)Management. Outwith the current self made crises, as the opening of a favourite cartoon of my youth might imply ........”Anything could happen in the next half hour..........” .

    At least Jeremy has some history of the place first hand. Here's hoping

  • Comment number 4.

    Could someone explain what 'optism' is? Blind or otherwise. Is it an American word?

  • Comment number 5.

    Optism - 's obvus.

    Means posive thnkng - no pessism or misry!

    Thigs can ownliget bettr uno

    Speshly gramma an spellink


  • Comment number 6.

    Unfortunately we seem to have caught this American contagion of "blind optimism". The emphasis being on "blind".

    If we were to look under our noses we will see it was not "optimism" that created the wealth of the West, but hard work and a generous bounty of natural resources (mainly coal & oil). So while we pontificate, procrastinate and self-congratulate, China has its sticky mitts all over the black stuff.

    But hey, when this physical stuff runs out, we can just keep the perpetual motion machine running on "hope", "optimism" and "business confidence"!!

    Well I guess it will keep the Greens happy ;-)

  • Comment number 7.


    In one of the 3 American companies I worked for, between '60 and '70, was a Yank who would say: "You've gotta WANT TO MAKE IT HAPPEN." But that doesn't work so well in chemical based products. Also, their formulations had about twice as many components as ours; after while I spotted the reason. If some wildly enthusiastic rep turns up with a wonder-additive, they would put it in. Then, if it did nothing - they would leave it in. There's positive.

  • Comment number 8.

    #5 Ashill

    Thnk ou

  • Comment number 9.

    Dogs Wolves and People (and so much more)

    A real Barrieism at the start of the last paragraph.

  • Comment number 10.

    Fighting Al Qaeda in Yemen

    pretty sobering film with one commentating that if the AQ get the idea the yemen govt is working for the usa then there is good chance they will rally enough support to win.

  • Comment number 11.

    goodness a new report just on that topic

    ....Yemen cleric Zindani warns against 'foreign occupation'

    "The day parliament allows the occupation of Yemen, the people will rise up against it and bring it down." ...

    i doubt if that will stop our shinning eyed knuckle heads repeating the mistakes of iraq and afghanistan?

  • Comment number 12.

    a drama is unfolding
    in your barmy country

  • Comment number 13.


    are you in as well?

  • Comment number 14.

    Let's hear it for the Yanks

    "Jeremy Paxman will be asking Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Smile or Die, why blind optimism is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche."

    It's as easy to knock American optimism, as it is for them to ridicule our British 'stiff upper lip'. There are many differences in the two cultures, but I have to admit to an early and positive influence when I was so nervous in my first management job that I enroled in a Dale Carnegie Course. In the 1960s it was like a 3-ring circus to most Brits, and like them I put plain covers over my text-books ('How to Win Friends and Influence People','How to Conquer Fear and Worry')but their sessions on enthusiasm (en theos-the god within) public speaking, positive thinking and memory training, changed my outlook on life.

    If this sounds like an advert, I admit that I became an Instructor, and was later Sponsor for London and SE England. Several phrases from course stuck in my mind, such as 'I know men in the ranks, who are going to stay in the ranks...' and 'expose yourself to opportunity'.
    Like I said, it's easy to ridicule, and there are dangerous optimists in the world. But, for today's unemployable, disfunctional youth, I optimistically recommend a 14-week D.C course - and National Service.

  • Comment number 15.

    #3 Brightyangthing

    Perhaps not so anonymous as they would like to think, oxymorons floating on a duck pond.

    You know, BYT, there are some individuals who when I'm happy and smiling all over the place, they do everything they can to make feel precisely the opposite, but now, as I'm somewhat saddened and frustrated by the symptoms I described yesterday, NN bring up the Smile or Die item.

    I hope Jeremy will put perspective on the issue tonight.


  • Comment number 16.


    Although some of my symptoms are unrelenting, all in all, I think I can safely say that I've had a positive day, even if somewhat lacking in smiles.

    Long live journalists!

    Thanks again for your considered attention


  • Comment number 17.

    :o) Lively debate by Jeremy with John Prescott/Roy Hattersley/guy from Demos, and then Michael was told he'd got the story wrong about the PLP :p deary me! Also good debate with Shaun Woodward too.

    The grumpy old woman was so draining. And boring too.

    PS loved Jeremy's waistcoat too

  • Comment number 18.


    As I have said before; the ultimate optimist is a pessimist who doesn't give up. Our little business broke all the dynamic Harvard School rules, survived several recessions, competed successfully with top names, and ended up trading in the black - finally selling some technology to industry and the site to a developer.

    My brother and I were both technical - no sales 'acumen'. I coined some
    adages in the 35 years we ran the business:

    1) The sign of a good executive is knowing when to give up.
    2) Panic Early.
    3) There's always another way.
    4) (When disaster struck) - I'll earn my money today.

    I read How to Win Friends and Influence People. Believe me IDG2, I am smiling as I name you - but its false. Have a nice day!

  • Comment number 19.

    "Positive thinking" is psychological warfare, it diverts anger and other negative emotions, justified or not, down a different path. It is a good way for those in power to stop those they have deliberately harmed from overthrowing them. If that doesn't work, you'll be medicated or called a terrorist for not wanting to be harmed by those abusing their power over you, that is the reality of our current Western societies power structure.

  • Comment number 20.


    Well done Newsnight - in one bound you went from edgy to tacky. By the time you had finished part one of the two-part reunion special (with variable mood guitar) I thought I was watching a soap by mistake.

  • Comment number 21.

    Barbara Ehrenreich's book 'Smile or Die' sounds very interesting. We need less vacuous positivity and more decisive, realistic, responsible action.... That's what I argue in 'How to Be an Existentialist, or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses'. I look forward to reading Ehrenreich's book and comparing notes.

  • Comment number 22.

    to Barbara Ehrenreich,

    'the' problem with Positive Thinking is that it has become an Orthodoxy, it imposes its view, instead of realising it is only *part* of Reality. It is obvious - perhaps even a priori - that being positive is generally healthier for the individual than being negative, on every level. However, external reality (cancer, economic depressions, direct and real threats, etc etc) *also* have to be recognised and authentically dealt with. (As a side note, NOT dealing with these issues will generate direct negative experiences eventually anyway).

    the concept of Positive Thinking in itself not a problem - it accurately demonstrates the *partly* subjective nature of Reality - the problem is that it is attempting to regard itself as the *sole* aspect of Reality. Reality is not purely subjective (although its impossible to prove that), yet neither is it purely external to us.

    "Man is the measure of all things.'' Yes, that's what he is saying about Quality. Man is not the source of all things, as the subjective idealists would say. Nor is he the passive observer of all things, as the objective idealists and materialists would say. The Quality which creates the world emerges as a relationship between man and his experience. He is a participant in the creation of all things." - Robert Pirsig.

    yes, Positive Thinking has gone too far (although there are other elements at play with the Global Financial Fraud, War on Islam and Global Human Rights Removal that need both recognising and addressing, as you said), and you have accurately reflected in your interview with Paxman the negativities that have come, at least partly, because of that.

    a Balance is necessary. :)

    once the Balance is achieved, it is found that what is required is quite simple - the goal of policy-makers/psychologists should be to make every citizens life a daily positive experience, not by cajoling them, or denying reality/reporting non-reality, but by *genuinely behaving in a correct and moral manner, not invading other countries, or amassing enormous wealth, or political power, acting on the true behalf of those less fortunate than themselves either by genes, birth class, or opportunity*. In other words, as "Thinking Positively" states, being positive about the world is beneficial to the individual, and the best way to insure there is no break between that and external realities, is to make external realities behave similarly. (social reality be supportive and beneficial to the individual everyone, instead of pandering to the greed and megalomania of a small few). you, again, said.

    In Summary: the problem is not thinking positively, the problem is that there is too little to be positive about. :)

    other points from the interview: You say this orthodoxy, this Tyranny, was introduced for the deliberate downsizing that has gone on by the Corporations, do you think this twisted form of 'positive thinking', a almost fundamentalist technique, was brought in by the Corporations deliberately to have the effect you describe? The deliberate individualisation of what were clearly social problems (the mass structural unemployment was the example you gave), to mask from the People the responsibility of those who ruled them - "they were taught they brought it upon themselves" i think is the phrase you used. Now considering the term "sociological imagination" has been well covered for decades by not only sociologists and psychologists, and its absolute necessity for a healthy society, and that it would be astounding if all those bright young humanities graduates within the Corporations hadn't heard of "sociological imagination", do you think this was a carefully crafted mind-fu k game to deny the American People the feeling of social injustice that the activities of the Corporations and Govt would raise? I haven't read your book, my apologies if this seems naive.

    second point. Your rejection of the possibility that your manner/goals can affect your reality. You call it "projection", i think. Are you claiming that our reality or future is entirely fixed, that our desires, our aspirations, do not matter at all? A strong position to take!

    third point. Yes, Positive Thinking IS very self-flattering! LOL! But what's so wrong with that? And aren't talent, hard work and luck *also* self-flattering...?

    very good interview btw, how did you like our Paxman? :)

    (do you think he'd make a good Foreign Minister?!)

    Good Luck over there, seriously. (for our benefit as well).

    ps, if you reply, are things better or worse in these 'PT' excesses under President Obama?

  • Comment number 23.

    Jeremy wore a rather nice suit..I want one.

    Positive thinking has its place and so does certain kinds of knowledge/cures. Cancers can't live in an oxygen rich an alkaline body which is rich with oxygen - a little known factoid for you there, something that the doctors know about but fail to tell his cancer patients. Remember the Doctor/patient relationship, he's God and your just his dumb patient, so we don't question his wisdom or 'education'.

    H2O2 - a certain grade and properly administered - kills most cancers but is not patentable and therefore no money for the drug and medical industry to make. So you wont hear about that cancer cure in the medical journals, ever, even though the cost is little to nothing with no side effects. People in the know cure themselves. Yep, positive thinking has its place, but so does knowledge other than the orthodox.

  • Comment number 24.

    I wonder if Iris Robinson was guilty of too much positive thinking?
    Although you can always look on the bright side of life - it could be worse: imagine if she'd committed adultery with a Catholic teenager.

    I feel a song coming on...

  • Comment number 25.

    my apologies to other readers - "Sociological Imagination" is the ability of people to see general happenings from apparently individual ones. For instance, being made unemployed at first seems very personal and individual - but if 100,000 other workers that month faced the same individual and personal problem of currently being made unemployed, then sociological imagination is that ability to think in Social terms. Realise that the unemployment is NOT merely an individual, personal experience, it is happening across society - current unemployment rates become a social problem, not just a personal one. It is the ability to think in Social or Community terms, and to plan together accordingly to overcome the problem.

    that is Sociological Imagination.

    it might seem to most of you to be an obviously beneficial ability to have, both for the individual, and also Society.

  • Comment number 26.


    Doomsday it may be after all
    With quite a few heads ready to roll
    One cannot expect to live in a frenzy like this
    And I hope that The Queen and The Forces help me

    I do feel I have things to contribute and offer
    But I cannot do it with vile nutters improper
    Out there only to satisfy their tools
    That's why I'll always treat them as fools


  • Comment number 27.

    Nos 23

    He sure was of his time but now there is new depth.

    The big problem is stopping the spread maybe its going to be a gene/proteins identification and manipulation which will sort it.

    Its so patronizing for old guard Labour to come on and sprout about their core values - Yeah where were they for all those years John Prescott and Roy Hattersley ?

  • Comment number 28.

    I’m not particularly bothered how it is done
    And how much of it comes out to light
    As long as he is stopped well in his tract
    ASAP, with Gordon anyway caught in a trap.

    I’m not particularly interested in how it is done
    And how much of it comes out to light
    As long as he is stopped well in his tract
    ASAP, with Gordon anyway caught in a trap.


    I am thinking of contacting the Sun
    So that they start the ball rolling and run
    With Gordon being out in favour with them
    I should imagine they won’t have any qualms
    About running the story about JJ and co
    With BBC’s directorship helping the plot.

    It’s either because their feet got too cold
    Or they are indeed running the plot.
    /I am, however, sure not all are involved./
    It doesn’t speak particularly well of those guys
    With their scheming and dealing in transparent light.
    I am sure the Sun will be able to nicely decipher
    Who is JJ and all his disciples.


  • Comment number 29.

    this plot you mention seems deep and intense
    yet to me it still makes no sense
    who is JJ, and what is his plot
    backed by the BBC and all of its biggest big-shot
    a Whirlwind plot it surely must be
    Kralizec - or a Lensman's Lens?

    Or is it a plot both deep and dark
    a cavern of lightless shadows
    playing over gargoyle's imaginings?


  • Comment number 30.

    #23 & #27

    And then what? Expecting to get the Nobel Prize in Science wearing a suite like that Jeremy wore last night, but much smaller, bowing to global applause?

  • Comment number 31.

    btw, i would just like to say that that Guantanamo Bay report in terms of 'counter-Islamic-terrorism', has made vastly more impact than ALL of the anti-freedom legislation passed since the US decided to re-invade the Middle East.

    i for one am looking forward to tomorrow's show - it is infinitely preferable to see the faces of those forgiving each other, than the masks of war and hatred that make up so much of the 'news'.

    It also goes to show once again the healing power of truth, and good Quality news.

    we all love you, NN-team!! :D :wub:

  • Comment number 32.

    I am fast coming to the conclusion that there is no point waiting up for Newsnight - it used to be a must, the only serious new programme that offered more than a soundbite. Last night, Prescott was allowed to get away with absolute murder - JP just seemed to think it amusing - but I resent that old dinosaur being allowed to parade his twaddle and class hatred on the airwaves at our expense - without challenge. If he is so amusing, he should be on a comedy show. JP, you really should nail these people - you used to - are you losing interest?
    This Government that launched itself on the promise of 'Education, Education, Education' has now had a full span of a child's life at school - and nothing, but nothing has been achieved for the greater number of kids. The Labour Party has now realised that actually the only thing they can do is hope to blind people with 'what we stand for is a better society' (duh) - 'but we're incapable of running anything' and as for the record, give me a break.

  • Comment number 33.

  • Comment number 34.


    Last night's prog was more interesting than I had hoped for. Prezza ALWAYS Good Value - for what though? Answers on a postcard.

    Barbara Ehrenreich - Smile or Die. (Positive Thinking gone too far? - a tool to manipulate?)
    Interesting and well couched responses from Gnuneo (22 and 25)

    A balancing act but perhaps simply summed up as
    "Sh*t happens - but it can make mighty good fertiliser if left to mature for a while and handled correctly!"

    Sociological Imagination -
    "Look, it wasn't personal. Get over it!"

    #23 Kevsey. Nice stuff there too.

    Guantanamo report. A bit too 'showbiz' in presentation, but if the story holds up, it's a 'good' example of the above.

    I'll withhold my Trinny and Susannah comments. The jury is out.

  • Comment number 35.



    Re: kevsey's #23

    What's nice about this post - him wanting to have a suite like Jeremy?

    His views on dumb patient/godly doctor relationship? I wonder what statistics are with regard to doctors being struck off for failing the patient or doing them an outright damage?

    Or kevsey as 'THE' educationalist? I wonder whether he thinks that he is better in this respect than let's say Jeremy?


  • Comment number 36.

    ".....Re: kevsey's #23

    What's nice about this post"

    EVERYTHING. If you read what he?? says, rather than skew it with irrelevant, intangible interpretations.

    Sometimes, things ARE exactly as simple as they seem.

  • Comment number 37.

    Ah, well, Brightyanthing, then we are of different opinions.

    As simple as that!

    Am considering having a break from you lot!

  • Comment number 38.

    Now't wrong with difference of opinion.

    Respect and caution regarding acting upon are key to harmonious differencism. (Think I just nicked that word from another poster - copyright applied for?)

  • Comment number 39.

    @ Cookieducker #23 - you're right, cancer cannot survive in an alkaline environment. It's thanks to you I looked up that theory - and found double Nobel Prize winner Dr. Otto Warburg had discovered that back in the 1920's. It is an outrage that those suffering from cancer are not told these facts by doctors.

    I'm surprised the governments have not adopted this theory, as not only would it save patients from uneccesary suffering, it would also save them money too. Could Susan Watts possibly do an investigation on this?

  • Comment number 40.

    #37 add on


    When kevseywevsey, as indeed before 'him' Jaded_Jean, speak about education, I'm not sure whether it's to do with 'their tools' or education in the broadest of senses, knowledge, humanity, consideration of less privileged, and even love, again in quite a broad sense, etc.

    Well, on all these counts Jeremy is definitely the ultimate winner for me although we have only met face to face 4 times.

    On the 'tool' score, I can't really say because I haven't been close in this respect to any of my chasers. I know what I feel but this is a bit personal although it should be quite obvious where my preference lies.

    Machinery can never be a substitute for the real thing nor indeed any other test, like water drops or drilling noise in the street, for example.


  • Comment number 41.

    #39 & #40

    By the way, there is only one me and consequently only one mim and I'm not sure why there are two there.

    Perhaps supernatural powers added the other mim of whom there is only one.

    P.S. It'll be interesting to see what happens with this post

  • Comment number 42.

    Irrespective of who said it -

    'Cancers can't live in an oxygen rich environment' - is a significant thing to know.

    Anaerobiosis regards cancer is very important. Before the earth had oxygen this is how cells/microbes, extremely early life existed. Is there some way of switching off this very ancient method which must be in some gene/s along with the genes/proteins responsible for spread of cancer - these are the questions.

    Anaerobiosis from Greek -
    aer - air
    bios - life
    an - prefix meaning without

  • Comment number 43.


    Fair enough, BYT, but too much caution doesn't make oceans.

    Respect is fine where respect is due
    But if one feels under constant abuse
    One must stand up and throw caution to heaven
    And communicate instead with no 11.


  • Comment number 44.

    "....too much caution doesn't make oceans."

    Quite possibly.

    Oceans are made up, like beaches (ever seen the film 'Local Hero'?)of milions and millions of tiny grains or drops, each one adding to it's whole.

    I favour moderation - seldom does Excess of anything make for happiness.

    Neither does it pay to take eveything at the extreme end of its possibility. It is worth seeking the subtlety in situations and people. Most of us are grey (or perhaps beige) - few black or white.

  • Comment number 45.

    As a respite from all this educational and machinery stuff, may I suggest to the bloggers to listen to T S Eliot reciting his poem 'The Love Song of J Alfred Pufrock'?

    I hope that the fact that in the video he is sitting slightly to the left will not make an iota bit of difference. On the Wikipedia website he is sitting in another armchair, this time on the right.

    Ideally I'd like to learn this song by heart. It's wonderful in its subtlety with a bit of self-mockery and lightness of humour not to mention the quality of how he has put it altogether into versed words.


  • Comment number 46.

    My name rhymes with Tim
    As well as with Team
    Teaming together may take things further
    While the word further rhymes with the word feather


  • Comment number 47.

    Since the American Declaration of Independence included the famous phase
    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." which represents the philosophy of the Founding Fathers, I would have thought that optimism was ingrained into Americans by their national myth amplified by their education. Asking why they continue to have a disposition to be happy (and free, and life enhanced) is jejune. Why this aspiration is destined to be unrealised and what can be done about in a nation of rugged individualist must be a preconception of they see themselves and their society... their sociological imagination. Otherwise they would be Europeans 'compassed about by the Devil' rather than in the arms of the Creator, who know by bitter experience that the best that can be done is to stop things getting worse. For the moment 'carpe diem' ... enjoy a short life and one as merry as it is likely to be! and then 'watch and pray' or whatever the Humanists do, for the 'thief in the night' who will take them away to hell or oblivion.

  • Comment number 48.


    But who is the one or who are the ones who have taken things to extremes? I do not think it is myself, BYT.


  • Comment number 49.

    Think mim's views/ word expressions can be based on past experience with some of the posters and in that context the reply understood. I do hope your well Monika and perhaps looking forward to your ice-skating.

  • Comment number 50.

    positive thinking

    good job JP didn't point out traditional uk ww1 songs like 'pack all your troubles in your old kit bag' to blow up their usa only theory. plenty of other examples of 'keep smiling' mindset. indeed at one time it was thought bad form to complain publicly. these days its an industry.

    before tv songs were sung in a tradition that stretches back centuries. however it has nearly died out so not surprising people do not think it existed in the uk.

    uk culture is riddled with 'positive thinking' forms.

  • Comment number 51.

    Given that it seems the Iris Robinson case is seen as trivial in the context of other European countries why did the BBC see fit to make the program and broadcast ? Timing of its public exposure being so relevant to delicate negotiations for self rule. I'm not saying that the issues shouldn't be exposed and challenged but the full motivation and timing are in my view questionable.

  • Comment number 52.


    Do you think that what SBMK2 in his symbolic supremacy of 'linguistic foxiness' substitutes 'jeans', as a pair of blokes' trousers, for the word 'gene' and vice versa as per: 27. At 06:04am on 12 Jan 2010, SPBMK2's posts.

    I'm quite sure that the name 'Jaded_Jean' was to do with that 'clever' idea. Talkng of self-obsessions, eh? Which also makes me think about tonight's meeting between the former oppressor and one of his victims wearing 'jeans'.


    And then SBMK tells me at #49. 12:01pm on 12 Jan 2010 I'm talking about past experiences. No, SPBMK, (I'm sure he'll read it) I'm not talking just about past experiences. I'm talking about the current situation. Carrying on doing harm with the hope of apologising at same stage in the future when all's going to be forgiven? It's not how it works. Constantly, for years and years, using others for self-promotion, propaganda, false promises, i.e. fake bribery, blackmail and terror while hiding in some 'black hole' like a coward, that it what you are, a coward!


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