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Prospects for Thursday, 19 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Jun 08, 10:48 AM

Today's output editor is Shaminder Nahal - here's her morning e-mail to the production team:

Hello everyone.

We have the second of our brilliant Burma films tonight. Investigative journalist Simon Ostrovsky reports on the aftermath of cyclone Nargis - we see the harrowing journey he makes into the disaster zone, and how people there are coping with the aid that's trickling through. Shall we have a discussion?

What on earth are Europe's leaders going to do about the Irish NO on Lisbon. David Grossman and Neil Breakwell are in Brussels.

Do we need to open the debate on GM because of the global food crisis? That's what the Environment Minister, Phil Woolas, seems to be saying. Susan Watts is on the case.

Are there any lighter stories you think we should get on air? Please look around.

Other big stories around:
Hamas/Israel ceasefire watch.
Zimbabwe. Mugabe and Mbeki have held talks. Bodies of MDC supporters have been found. Rice discussing crisis at Security Council.

Anything else? See you in a minute.

Yours, Shaminder

Recent entries

Wednesday, 18 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Jun 08, 05:52 PM

From tonight's presenter, Kirsty Wark:

Crunch time

darling_nn_203.jpgIt's Alistair Darling's BIG NIGHT OUT at the Mansion House - and boy, is there a lot for him to talk about.

With the prospect of energy prices rising by 40 per cent by Christmas according to an industry insider today, and so soon after his letter from the Governor of the Bank of England warning inflation might hit four per cent by Christmas, AND with public sector unions threatening strikes if the government does not renegotiate pay settlements - what exactly is he going to say?

Will he talk down growth, warn about pay restraint and shake a big stick at the City and its big fat bonuses? We'll be there.

We'll also hear from the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne and debate whether pay settlements really should or could be held down. Do let us know how life is for you during the Crunch by commenting below.

French economy

We'll also have the economic view from across the channel. We have an interview with the French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde on France's problems with the economy and the future of the EU now that the Irish have said "no" to the Lisbon Treaty.


Our diplomatic Editor Mark Urban is following up on the deadliest attack on UK forces in Afghanistan since hostilities began seven years ago. Four soldiers - three men and a woman - were killed in an explosion east of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province. Weren't we meant to be winning the war against the Taleban?

After Nargis

And we have an extraordinary, exclusive film of unseen Burma - of two doctors working for the NGO Merlin in an area devastated by the cyclone, where they were operating with the permission of the Burmese authorities.

Click here to read more.

Prospects for Wednesday, 18 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Jun 08, 10:23 AM

From today's output editor Simon Enright - here's his morning e-mail to the production team:

Good Morning,

Lots of stories which should we take on to uncover something a little deeper.

- The biggest loss of British life in Afghanistan for 2 years. Weren't we winning the war against the Taleban?
- First Mansion House Speech for Mr Darling... Will he keep the economy on track and can he restrain pay?
- Abu Qatada released but under severe bail conditions. Will we learn more about where he is today?
- Plans for tackling our attitudes to crime. Will the government accept any of them?
So you know.... We have two things planned. Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister will be talking to us - what should we ask about?

We also have a film produced by Mark Lobel of unseen Burma. The footage is from two doctors working for Merlin, but they were operating with the permission of the Burma regime.

Do come with thoughts at 10.30.

All the best,

Tuesday, 17 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Jun 08, 06:04 PM

The rate of inflation has hit its highest level for 11 years and the governor of the Bank of England says it could keep on rising. The Consumer Prices Index hit 3.3% last month, up from 3% in April. The bank governor Mervyn King has written to the government saying that rising food and oil prices could push inflation over 4% this year. We'll be asking how bad could this get and what are the solutions? Treasury Minister, Yvette Cooper will join us in studio. The Newsnight Shadow Monetary Policy Committee will reconvene to tell us what could happen next. Are we heading for further increases in inflation, interest rate rises and recession?

The Conservative Party Chairman Caroline Spelman is to face a Commons inquiry into the use of her MPs' expenses to pay for a nanny. The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has ordered an investigation after Newsnight's Michael Crick reported that she'd used her secretarial allowance to pay a nanny more than a decade ago. Caroline Spelman insists she's done nothing wrong.

Watch the reports here.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Minister, Hazel Blears, may have broken the rules on the handling of restricted government information. A personal computer that holds restricted government documents relating to defence and extremism was stolen from her constituency office in Salford on Saturday.

Political Editor, Michael Crick will join us live.

A United Nations envoy met Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe today to discuss the violent political crisis ahead of this month's presidential election run-off. The visit is the first by a senior UN official for three years and comes at a time of growing international pressure on Mugabe over the June 27 vote. Opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, President Mugabe's Western critics and human right groups accuse the veteran leader of orchestrating a violent campaign to intimidate MDC supporters and leaders ahead of the election. Because the BBC isn't allowed into Zimbabwe Ian Pannell has gone in undercover. His report includes new allegations of intimidation by the President's party against the opposition.

We'll be speaking to America's most successful political blogger, Arianna Huffington about the power of the web in the election campaign.

Return of the Baghdad Blogger

  • Salam Pax
  • 17 Jun 08, 12:41 PM

pax203watch.jpgHello. This is the Baghdad Blogger. It's been a while since the last blog online and on television so I'll try and not be too sad if you've forgotten about me and moved on to more interesting blogs and bloggers.

About a year ago my family decided to leave Iraq. I was coming to the UK for a year to study and most of my extended family had already left Iraq as the levels of violence on the streets rose and we all felt frustrated by the lack of any improvement.

It wasn't an easy decision to make. We as a family stayed in Iraq and witnessed the death of friends and relatives; sat at home through days of waiting for good news from kidnapped acquaintances and clung to every little change on the political landscape in hope that this will be the moment things will change to the better.

We left our home as my neighbourhood somehow became a Sunni enclave and became less safe for my mother. And helped my aunts and uncles do the same.

There was a moment when most of the things I loved about Baghdad became a memory as I sat in our new home.

My father's brief involvement in politics meant that we had to live within a protected area and his fear for us meant that if we were to go out on the street we would have to be escorted.

I put my camera aside, my mother stopped visiting her siblings or going to the shops.

One morning we were woken up by one of the guards assigned to protect my father and told that American soldiers are at the door, they want to search our house.

They suspect we were hiding explosives. As we stood outside while the house was searched we were told that the neighbours had told the nearby American check point that they should check us out.

It was a Shia area, my father's Sunni tribe made them suspicious. The American soldiers left after finding nothing. And for us it was clearly time to move out.

This is when we, like almost two million Iraqis, decided it was safer for to leave for a while. Most of us who have left Iraq looked for refuge in neighbouring countries.

Like my own family most Iraqis are in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon or the United Arab Emirates - my own is spread throughout three of those four, as not all of us were able to get some sort of legal residence in the same country. And a much smaller percentage made it to shores farther away including the UK.

In the next couple of days I will be trying to find out more about the situation of Iraqi asylum seekers in the UK and will be making a film about their situation here to be shown on Newsnight in July.

I will be finding out what is happening to Iraqis whose application for refugee status here has been refused and also talking to Caroline Slocock from Refugee Legal Centre about what appears to be the Home Office's decision to accelerate forced deportations of failed asylum seekers.

I will keep you posted.

Salam's report will be broadcast on Newsnight in late June.

Prospects for Tuesday, 17 June

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Jun 08, 11:13 AM

Today's output editor is Robert Morgan - here's his morning e-mail to the production team:

Hello everyone,

The big squeeze continues. The soaring cost of fuel and food has pushed inflation above 3% for the first time since March last year. The cost of living is now running at 3.3%. It means that the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, will now have to write a letter to the Chancellor to explain why the figure has risen more than 1% above the government's target, of 2%. Let's discuss how we should do this story in the meeting.

Bids are in for the Chancellor and Yvette Cooper.

A top UN official is due in Zimbabwe for a five-day visit ahead of the presidential run-off, which continues to be marred by political violence. Haile Menkerios is expected to meet politicians to discuss the situation in the run-up to the 27 June vote. Violence is reported to have spread to urban areas near Harare, with opposition activists complaining of being attacked near the city. The UK Prime Minister called Zimbabwe's government a "criminal regime". Despite a ban on the BBC operating in Zimbabwe, Ian Pannell reports on the election campaign from inside the country. The film will need astons, archive, graphics to be dropped in later. Will send later today.
We have an interview with America's top political blogger Arianna Huffington about the US elections and her impact on them.

Other stories around today include the EU Treaty in the Lords, the Shell Strike and the latest extraordinary brain research.


Monday, 16 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Jun 08, 03:22 PM

Are we paying too high a price for our commitments in Afghanistan? The Defence Secretary Des Browne announced today that troop numbers in Afghanistan will increase to a new high of more than 8,000 by next spring, but is British policy working in the south of the country? Coalition deaths in Afghanistan last month exceeded those in Iraq for the first time. We have the Defence Secretary, Des Browne, and Lord Paddy Ashdown on the programme.

Michael Crick has been investigating new allegations about the Conservative Chair Caroline Spelman. Last weekend she defended using parliamentary allowances ten years ago to pay her nanny by saying that the nanny had also been working as her constituency secretary.

We interview former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on a new call for aid for Africa - but should leaders on the continent do more to solve their own problems?

And a special report from Orla Guerin about the wave of xenophobic violence that has swept South Africa, leading to horrific attacks on refugees which were broadcast around the world. But what turned defenceless foreigners into targets, and where does the blame lie?

See Jeremy Paxman tonight at 22.30 on BBC 2

The Oxford Shuffle

  • Michael Crick
  • 16 Jun 08, 01:11 PM

A little noticed fact from last week's Conservative mini-reshuffle is that all three of David Cameron's most important front bench colleagues - George Osborne (Treasury), William Hague (Foreign Affairs) and now Dominic Grieve (Home Affairs) - went to Magdalen College, Oxford. I wonder if this has ever happened before in the history of British politics?

This quirk is a little unfortunate perhaps for a party trying to stress its new inclusivity under David Cameron. But then Labour failed dismally in its efforts to exploit the toff factor in the London mayoral race and in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election.

In my time at Oxford, in the late 1970s, Magdalen was the faction in the University Conservative Association (OUCA) which included most of the more right-wing Thatcherite members, and they ran a powerful machine in student politics. Left-wing Tories such as the Conservative's current immigration spokesman, Damian Green, were associated with Balliol.

A number of weekend papers have reported on the famous incident in the autumn of 1977 when a bunch of Magdalen men, somewhat the worse for drink, dumped Damian Green into the Cherwell River after he had visited the college one evening for dinner. And this gang of Magdalen hearties included Dominic Grieve, who has just taken over as Green's boss in the Conservative Home Affairs team.

I was editor of the Oxford University newspaper (also called Cherwell) at the time and recall running the story as a front-page splash (as it were). I'll try and obtain a copy of the article for the blog as soon as I can.

Monday, 16 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Jun 08, 01:03 PM

Good morning.

Looks busy today.

Bush and Brown meet today and will have a press conference this morning (10.30). As well as apparent differences on Iraq, there is an Afghanistan statement later today. Who should we have on?

We have an interview with Kofi Annan as a new Africa report is published. The Africa panel are asking for the pledges made at Gleneagles Summit in 2005 to be met. Western governments are to be asked for billions more in funding. But why though should the West continue to give so much aid to African Governments when they seem so disinclined to resolve Zimbabwe, Darfur and other conflicts. Is the teacher/pupil model implied by the African panel healthy or effective?

Crick has more on the Caroline Spellman story, I'll explain in the meeting.

What else would you like to do? Which guests would you like on?


Monday, 16 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Jun 08, 01:03 PM

Good morning.

Looks busy today.

Bush and Brown meet today and will have a press conference this morning (10.30). As well as apparent differences on Iraq, there is an Afghanistan statement later today. Who should we have on?

We have an interview with Kofi Annan as a new Africa report is published. The Africa panel are asking for the pledges made at Gleneagles Summit in 2005 to be met. Western governments are to be asked for billions more in funding. But why though should the West continue to give so much aid to African Governments when they seem so disinclined to resolve Zimbabwe, Darfur and other conflicts. Is the teacher/pupil model implied by the African panel healthy or effective?

Crick has more on the Caroline Spellman story, I'll explain in the meeting.

What else would you like to do? Which guests would you like on?


Will Labour stand in by-election?

  • Michael Crick
  • 13 Jun 08, 04:43 PM

So the big question is - will Labour stand in by-election?

I spent much of the morning trying to track down their parliamentary candidate Dan Marten, who is still apparently in his early 20s and a student at Hull University.

When I finally got through to him on the phone my first question was - "Do you support the government on 42 days?"

"No comment," he replied. "You'll have to speak to the Labour Party press office."

"But surely you can tell us whether you support 42 days?"

"No comment."

And so it went.. "No comment, no comment, no comment."

"And do you think Labour should fight the by-election?"

"No comment."

There was a time when parliamentary candidates used to hold opinions and weren't frightened of expressing them.

Friday, 13 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Jun 08, 04:37 PM

voting203.jpgEurope's Friday 13th
If Ireland's reaction to the new proposed European Union constitutional treaty were to be a hand signal it would probably involve the extension of the middle finger of the right hand in the air. Ireland says NO. This throws the carefully oiled process by which all the other governments across the continent skilfully have NOT asked their voters' opinions into disarray. We'll be debating what the European Union does next - and perhaps more importantly, why democracy and the EU do not really seem to go together.

David Davis
As if David Davis has not suffered enough - we've sent Michael Crick to his constituency. I have no idea what he's found out, but as always it will be worth watching.

Catching up on some reading in Howden

  • Michael Crick
  • 13 Jun 08, 01:22 PM

crick203.jpgClearly the good people of Howden have the right idea about something. While filming there today I noticed their local library had a copy of an important book about one of Mr Davis's former rivals.

On Newsnight Review tonight

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Jun 08, 12:01 PM

hulk203.jpgWe're planning to review The Incredible Hulk. Ang Lee's art-house version of the Hulk story in 2003 was not a hit with the fans. Will this one be? It'll be interesting to get our panellist (and comic book fan) Natalie Haynes' view.

Coldplay's latest album is out. Our panellist, the music critic John Harris, is a "Coldplay Cynic". Will he be won over by this more experimental album? And have you been?

Michael Frayn once again draws inspiration from 20th Century history in his latest play, Afterlife which opened at the National Theatre this week. He links the turbulent tale of the life of German theatre impresario Max Reinhart with the narrative of the play he famously directed - Everyman. And he makes the bold decision to write half the play in verse. What will the historian on the panel, Tristram Hunt, make of it?

And Bob Dylan is another musical legend who has turned his hand to visual art. An exhibition of his paintings has opened in London? What will our panel make of it?

Do leave your own reviews below - or suggest other things you'd like us to look at in the weeks to come.

How will Murdoch fund Mackenzie campaign?

  • Michael Crick
  • 13 Jun 08, 11:48 AM

mackenzie203.jpgFormer editor of the Sun newspaper Kelvin Mackenzie has indicated that he's 90% certain to stand as a pro 42 days candidate in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election; caused by the resignation of David Davis.

And on the BBC's This Week programme he revealed that his old boss Rupert Murdoch had offered to back his campaign financially:

"Rupert suggested to me that if Labour didn't put anyone up, that I would run against David Davis, if that's the case - and Rupert says he's good for the money... I might well do it," Mr Mackenzie said.

But there is one problem with that.

Mr Murdoch is an American citizen and so under British law is not allowed to contribute funds to any UK election campaign.

Perhaps Mr Murdoch will try to channel his funds through his business - NewsCorp - but that would also be illegal since NewsCorp is also American

I suppose Murdoch and Mackenzie could try and fund the campaign through one of Murdoch's British subsidiary companies. But that surely would make a mockery of our laws for foreign funding of British elections.

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