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Newsnight: The facts

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Helen Boaden | 12:43 UK time, Thursday, 25 August 2011

After an extraordinary year of news, perhaps we have should have predicted that the summer would be busy. Even so, events have outstripped the imagination. There was the horrifying massacre in Norway, the revelations and resignations of the phone hacking scandal, riots erupting in England and then Libya crashing back into the spotlight. And all that was set against a backdrop of mass demonstrations in Syria and the continued European debt and currency crisis.

Throughout this exceptional summer, BBC News has demonstrated its strength. Operating locally, UK-wide and globally, we have brought live coverage and in depth specialist analysis to all our audiences on radio, television and on line.
Many BBC News programmes and services have seen a surge in the numbers of people turning to them for facts and insight. We have had record audiences for our website and our News Channel for example. But it's also been an especially strong summer for Newsnight though by some of the recent comment in the newspapers, you would never know that. A wholly inaccurate and unfair narrative is emerging about Newsnight allegedly "losing its way".

Let's look at the facts about Newsnight. Over the summer, 13 editions have attracted over a million viewers on average as people have sought out an intelligent, lateral take on the news of the day. In the last two months, 11 million people have watched Newsnight - that's one and a half million more than for the same period last year.

Those strong audiences are not a surprise. Time and again, Newnight's discussions have set the agenda and made compelling television: Steve Coogan on phone hacking; Harman v Gove on the cause of the riots; Sir Hugh Orde on political interference in policing; David Starkey on race and culture.

Newsnight's sharp debates, witty insights and testing interviews may challenge or infuriate. But they rarely bore. Neither does the range of films from the Newsnight stable: Sue Lloyd-Roberts fearlessly going undercover in Syria; Paul Mason following in Steinbeck's footsteps exploring America's underclass; the investigations into the use of undercover police posing as protestors. They show journalistic skill and confidence of a high order.

Does Newsnight face challenges now which it didn't ten years ago? Of course it does. There is simply far more news and analysis available round the clock now than then. It's much harder to make an impact with any single piece of journalism. But even against a massively changed media landscape, the Newsnight brand retains real power. On big days Newsnight is attracting significant television audiences and viewers through the internet, the iPlayer and other digital outlets. It also has a passionate twitter following.

Newsnight remains a vital part of what we offer our audiences. We know they value its distinctiveness and its depth. As the news cycle gets faster and fiercer, there's never been more need for its unique and invaluable take on world events.

Helen Boaden is director of BBC News


  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Helen,

    You are part of the BBC Executive and you took time to discuss a "hot" issue with us. That was a brave move. Please, ask Peter Salmon, a former member of the BBC Executive to do the same about another "blocking" issue.

  • Comment number 2.

    I very much agree with the author. If anything, I think it's the rest of the news landscape that has lost its way. I don't watch the news any more because all I get is soundbites - Channel 4 perhaps being the only exception, but only because of their distinctive bias. Meanwhile, the BBC News website appears to have become a place where press releases are copied and pasted, with political misrepresentations just repeated without any dissection at all. The only things worth reading any more are the blogs.

  • Comment number 3.

    Many BBC News programmes and services have seen a surge in the numbers of people turning to them for facts & insight - including me because all I get from American networks is SPIN. This may be why you are getting record audiences for our website & your News Channel.
    Has Newsnight lost its way?
    BBC execs are said to be pondering axing Newsnight - flagship current affairs programme, to cut costs. The argument contents
    - format is becoming increasingly irrelevant
    - too expensive to run, and there needs a
    - serious review.
    You can't argue declines - continuing declines in audience figures with the show shedding 15% of its audience over the last 7 months; average audiences have fallen to around 450,000 (1/2 number of just ten years ago). These numbers are not frivolous; they are cause for concern.
    Something is wrong? To save Newsnight will take more than:sharp debates, witty insights and testing interviews which may challenge or infuriate, but rarely bore.
    Candidly, I have found investigative journalism has been replaced with a sort of intellectual gossip, more entertaining than informing.
    I read that Newsnight's program's viewing figures rose in July; so maybe there is still time to take an analytical look has gone wrong (lost its way).

  • Comment number 4.

    Understandably you judge success by audience figures, but when you have to attract viewers by promising a pre-arranged punch-up then something has gone wrong. I don’t want to see a Harman vs Gove grudgematch or a lightweight battle between Kelvin McKenzie and a Rapper. Little is learned from these point scoring slanging matches. If I want that I will watch Jeremy Kyle.

  • Comment number 5.

    So a programme that attracts 11million viewers in 13 editions is deemed better than one that has attracted 40million for 11 formula one races? Interesting policies the BBC has.

  • Comment number 6.

    Dear Helen,

    In India, Mr.Anna Hazare, a 74 years old Gandhian and Social Worker is fast unto death from last ten days He is demanding enactment of "Jan Lokpal Bill", a bill to fight wide spread corruption in Legislature, Judiciary and Executive in Indian Society. He is getting a historic support from every part and section of the nation. The movement is absolutely based non-violence and truthfulness the fundamentals of Gandhian Philosophy. In your account, no details have been mentioned as it seems to be insignificant for our esteemed Fourth State ,i.e. BBC. Kindly do justice with this issue as well with other important events in the world.

    Best regards,
    Baldeo Pandey
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 7.

    Now, at a most interesting time, is the time to allow Paul Mason to explain economics to the audience.
    Now that would be riveting stuff.
    Folk are getting the message anyway. Be ahead of the curve for once.

    Or is Auntie beeb establishment? Complete with contradictions.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Looking at recent Editors Pick's the beeb might do well accepting some constructive criticism, rather than putting their hands over their eyes and ears and shouting we are good, we are great.
    You haven't got it right, perhaps never will, but listen to those who pay for you, you might get a bit closer.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    *sigh* night after night during the riots I tuned in to Newsnight and watched a once vibrant news show struggle to come to grips with a fast changing fluid story. Punch ups between politicians aside Newsnight consistently failed to pulled together a balanced group of guests to inform and illuminate. Have you cut your budget? If so then this is apparent, if not then you really have lost your way. Viewer figures may be high I wonder if viewer satisfaction is the same.

  • Comment number 12.

    Newsnight does not get everything right all the time, and sometimes the analysis is a little thin, occasionally Jeremy goes on too long asking the same question that misses the mark. BUT I watch every single edition, because it is consistently the best, most relevant, authoritative current affairs program available on UK tv.

    I also watch and enjoy F1, but it is churlish to draw comparisons; Newsnight is the best tv program in the UK, and people should be forced to follow it!

  • Comment number 13.

    OK Helen keep telling yourself everything is wonderful in news reporting so you can go on spending our licence fee money. But will you ever stop to ask the captive audience whether they are happy with the present style of unbalanced programmes and a lack of depth or insight. Just relying on old audience figures is giving you a misleading impression. Try some proper research which you seem to shy away from.

  • Comment number 14.

    I still like Newsnight and its distinctiveness a lot, but there is a danger it has recently played too much on its notoriety as spectator sport. The programme doesn't help its flagship credentials by inviting heavyweight bruisers to engage in crass and predictable confrontations - although often entertaining, these exchanges are rarely illuminating, and I think the researchers' list of contacts should be expanded and drawn from a wider sphere. The programme's recent upturn in live viewing figures do not disguise a longer-term downward trend. (Not that live viewing figures should be seen as the sole criterion of the programme's overall quality, but I felt the trend should be mentioned to balance the message, err, sorry, 'the facts', being conveyed above.) As for the "passionate twitter following", its accompanying responses mirror the programme's knockabout confrontations and are notable for their discordancy and ridicule. Politicians are long past being dependent on Newsnight for an audience, having learnt to use their own spin-machines and other media outlets, and I can't help thinking the increasing lack of government participation in recent times reflects their ability to avoid Paxo's axiom of the proper relationship of any journalist to a politician being that of a dog to a lamppost.


    P.S. Michael Crick's departure is a considerable loss - beneath the cultivated shabby and bumbling exterior there was a really sharp brain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Home Office scandal!do people know how the Home Office deal with the immingrant in the past 5 years???here, i want to tell you somthing you may never know..
    i arrived in this country 9 years ago,and never claimed as a reffuge.i have 2 children are both british,but HM tried to send me home just because i didnt claim as a reffuge before 2007.People who claimd reffuge before 2007 have a big chance to stay no matter what the people did in the past.many of them use to sell illegal dvd copies,even run a carabin factory had been granted to stay just because they claimed reffuge before 2007!i
    HM deal with the case which people under benifet first,and people who didnt claim(house benifet)have to wait a longer time.HM think people under benifet cost the gov a lot,so they need to deal with them first,but does it help the gov save any money?NO!!i use my family for example:i with my girlfriend and my 2 childern live on our own,didnt cost the gov a penny ,my friend's family under benifets,my family recived the application 1 month before my friend,but my friend's family granted to stay 2YEARS before us.before we(my girlfriend and my children) granted to stay,we got some advise from our lawyer,he asked us to claim benifet,so we gave up everything and lied to benifet people,we got the benifet(200cash and 1000pound house benifet),you may not belive of the money of the house benifet(monthly rent),i couldnt belive it when i saw the tenancy agrrement at first time,280£/week!!!
    but thats the gov paid out,we dont really want to claim benifet,but the HM set up the rule,if we didnt do some change we may still wait for a decision:to stay or to talks human rights all the time,so,how the HM try to send children who were born in this country!?do they know what will the children face after they return to their country??they may even not have enough food.because their parants can live in this country and doesnt mean they can live in their own country,HM dont care about what is going to happen to people after send them back,can you see the human rights on those case??i do agree HM send people who with a serial crimiral records back to their country.
    HM set up the rule,but its completely worng,it doest help gov save money but cost more money,thats my family case i tell here for example,i cant tell you 90% of my community people just the same,get benifet and then stay,in fact,most of us dont really need benifet,we need the rights to stay and we can live on our own,we do business that can benifet this country,HM made a very b

  • Comment number 16.

    You have the best economics journalist at the bbc, indeed in mainstream media - Paul Mason.

  • Comment number 17.

    If the BBC decommissions Newsnight it might as well decommission itself..

  • Comment number 18.

    Newsnight is dead... Long Live Newsnight II!

    The problem is not Newsnight, but the simple fact that the stresses in society and the consensus social compact is coming, or may already be, undone.

    The news agenda has already moved to that which is set by the best pictures and away from that that matters most. Too far towards entertainment - that is circuses, and away from bread. But society, that is western society is increasingly really concerned with bread. The unquestioning documentary on Pathé News last night is a good example - there was an almost complete absence of comment or analysis on the way that Pathé News changed from featuring issues based films to circuses. This news philosophy has killed Newsnight.

    Newsnight's way of tackling news and editorialising was just fine and dandy when the stresses in society were, by consensus, mild, but the World and the country has changed. It may not yet be fully understood by the comfortable middle and upper middle class who think they run things but these economic stresses will cause revolutionary change. The unthinkable will become the new norm.

    For example: the norm has been that the government cannot afford to borrow money to carry out vital works and that the country had therefore to pay over the odds to private sector organisations - this was always wrong and was an idea promoted by the organisations that make huge profits from the public purse at no risk to themselves through such fundamentally flawed ideas as PPP and PFI and the new social bonds announced today - these, by the way, are the last throw of the private sector structures that have seen their ability to fleece the public reduced by the increasingly accurate public perception of PPP and PFI.

    In France and the USA the rich are asking to be taxed - only in the UK are our rich so selfish and greedy as not to join in and in that they may well be deliberately creating the forces that will eventually destroy them.

    Even David Cameron's idea of a maximum multiple of the pay of the rich over the poor was said (and quickly stifled by the media), but the fact that he said it, shows the stresses in society. We do actually need a National Maximum Income, in my view, if societal cohesion is to not become completely undone as I fear it will if these calls are not heard. But why are the BBC silent on these things - are you just circuses?

  • Comment number 19.


  • Comment number 20.

    I watched the coverage of Libya on BBC 24 a couple of nights ago. Meanwhile I was following Palestinians, including an A&E doctor, on Twitter who were being bombed by Israeli drones.The BBC had, once again, thrown all their eggs in one basket. We have had severa examples of politicians bury news on big story days and the only way they can do that is if the media is so disproportionately focused on one story.

    The BBC needs to step back from the frenzy style news feed and have a more panoramic agenda.

  • Comment number 21.

    What worries me is the way big stories diappear. Where's the analysis of the riots now? At least the real story is coming out elsewhere - as in this extraordinary video I found on youtube where a rioter speaks: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 22.

    Ah sorry, didn't know I could post links. Anyway, the piEce in question caN BE FOUND BY TYPING sTRANGEbIRD798 INTO YOU TUBE. aM i ALLOWED TO SAY THAT?

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Members of the public will wish to see upheld, and the BBC is by its Charter and Agreement bound to reflect, 'the fundamental values of democracy'. Any public service broadcaster will 'lose its way' if 'to inform and entertain' become aims detached from democratic representation.

    The BBC, inescapably, is bound to promote and defend democracy even if against powers-in-the-land and the dignity of the-party-in-power, restraint on grounds of National Security rarely if ever to be expected.

    Though the role of national broadcast guardian has been weakened by failure to include other broadcasts under the BBC umbrella, still the obligation remains with the BBC to contribute to the socialisation of each new generation, not least their socialisation for democracy.

    'Newsnight' from its title might have restricted itself to whatever press-releases, interview sound-bites and street photography happened to provide as 'the day's news'. To the credit of all, it has contributed far more, not just through insistent questioning but often from a deep and welcome awareness that 'fundamental democratic values' are at issue for 'real lives'.

    I would suggest that 'the case' has now been made, beyond doubt, for greater investment in a Newsnight, with explicit determination to represent democratic need for social inclusion , looking to care for 'our society' as a whole, insisting 'top-table' debaters address the need of all for the means to live and contribute to 'political life', whether they be in education, training, employment, sickness or retirement.

    From their professional experience I suspect that Newsnight team members will have in their hearts far more of regret and ambition than most critics and supporters will imagine. We live in a pre-democratic society, obliged to 'pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps': truths may go unspoken or unheeded, such as to cost lives by the thousand and funds by the billion. The costs of less obvious 'failure', in public service broadcasting should not be underestimated.

    Can the BBC - and Newsnight - rely on support from 'The Government', in the end from the public, in sufficient measure to encourage and sustain more explicit contribution to democracy?

    Such is the extent of cultivated ignorance on the equality of respect that 'government, of, for, by the people' must rest upon, the 'syllabus' for practical democracy will seem at first sight as daunting as for any public examinations or professional practice. Even to arrive at such a syllabus, courageous leadership will be needed, with wit and readiness to defend against shrill and sinister reaction.

    Part of the BBC's ambition should be to help the misguided, and to isolate the truly short-sighted selfish. We should / can no longer ignore the sway of ignorance and superstition - or indeed of Mammon.

    Of comfort in the duty-bound address of social transformation towards democracy, will be increased engagement from all, as possible anticipating secure freedom of conscience, in the formulation and refinement of ways to ensure that social gain is truly for all, with no individual or family suffering threat to well-being or capacity to continue needed contribution.

    In summary, there is plenty of work for Newsnight to pursue, adding a new pro-democratic dimension of analysis to otherwise fatally narrow 'debates' and reactions to 'sensation'.

  • Comment number 25.

    Pardon me, Helen, but the big story (at least in the known/known category) of the next decade will be the DEBT. While there has been some coverage, there has been little examination of how catastrophic it is going to be, apart from a little cameo from Mark Steyn on Thursday night. One could see "it does not compute" in the incomprehension in Kirsty Wark's eyes. To such people, debt is merely an inconvenient word on the path to inevitable progressive nirvana. Of particular note by its absence is the contribution of the BBC's poster boy across the pond to what will be a world changing event.

    The BBC is going to need a new narrative, as the progressive agenda it has been pushing for decades is about to go over the cliff, taking all of us, including the majority who never subscribed to it and who will find it very hard to forgive the intelligentsia for. You may go peacefully in your sleep like Grandad, while the rest of us in the car, like the Tea Party you like to traduce at every opportunity, are screaming "brake" in impotent terror.

  • Comment number 26.

    I would like to see BBC online open up to much more coments from the readers. You have some but I feel it is severely limited and needs to be open up more broadly.
    Not to any offensive posts but more stories allowing posts. It seems now to rest at about 10-12% open for reader comments and it should be 70-80% instead.

  • Comment number 27.


    If, by now, you have not seen in the huge open window and locked eyes on the duplicity and racism of the tea party, you never will. Sadly most of the people can still be fooled all of the time.

  • Comment number 28.

    Very good in parts…

    Tim Whewell interviewed NTC members in Benghazi, proving their readiness to travel to Tripoli but having to turn over something like a film portrait of idle incompetence: unfortunate if not unfair.

    Paul Mason had the privilege of interviewing NTC deputy leader Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, amazingly letting down himself, the programme and in fact the nation, not only asking naive 'timetable questions' on chaos resolution, but persisting far into pipsqueak territory. Our military and our politicians have risked their lives to help Libya: how could one of our best journalists now be trying to shame the NTC? The tone replicated that of a recent Paxman performance, and the thought came to me that there must be a 'style dictate', perhaps even an 'attack prompter' in the ear-piece?

    Not quite redemption, but 'normal service resumed' with the introduction of Charles Moore's moral dance: our troublesome unions' enemy had seemed a perfect friend, but her friends have proved helpless enemies, differently dangerous and - given superior education and unwise authority - in fact worse.

    A "Well done!" to whoever matched 'trickle-down' Danny Finkelstein and 'co-operative capitalist' Noreena Hertz: this is the debate we really need to hear.

    Paul Mason steered well - allowing exposition but judiciously challenging and so drawing out self-definitions.

    NOT every interview has to have The Persistent Question with which to attack programme guests!

    No more haranguing?

    Looking forward to more in Paul Mason's own style of enquiry.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    Newsnight is one of the best "news" conduits on the airwaves, because they do not allow mere unelected opinion to dominate the agenda, they ask for facts from everyone who comes on. Facts are what we need as a nation to allow us to make up our own mind. Too many of the so called "editors" give us their opinions with their own spin on events rather than reporting facts and news, I know they are well informed views but they are still spun views from their own point of view

  • Comment number 31.

    One of the problems i have seen on the BBC since the election is the propensity to have within a debate 2 members from the current government (coalition tory and libdem) and only one from the opposition (lab) this tends to allow more to be said supporting the government in air time rather than the balance against the government decision. I am not sure what can be done, it should be a good opportunity for the smaller parties to have a more prominent role within the media debates

  • Comment number 32.

    Libya has more spare cash than us, why are we sending cash to this country when it is so badly needed in our own economy, why not just release the billions around the world and let them give the money themselves to the charities like the red cross who will help them re-set up their health system

  • Comment number 33.

    I quite definitely agree with all the author. When anything, I consider it's other news landscape which includes lost the way. I will not watch what is the news any a lot more because almost all I acquire is soundbites : Channel some perhaps being the sole exception, but only because of the distinctive tendency. Meanwhile, the BBC Media website generally seems to have turn into a place where pr announcements are cloned and pasted, with political misrepresentations merely repeated without the dissection in any way. The simply things well worth reading any longer are the particular blogs.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 34.

    I can't say that I am a devoted Newsnight viewer, but I do value the fact that it is one of the very very few news/current affairs programmes in which genuine, informed debate actually takes place, with all the confusion, interruptions and evident dissonance in the conversation that occurs. It is not afraid to allow news images to dominate output: difficult concepts and abstract ideas of moment get a good airing too. Full marks to the BBC for that.

    What saddens me more is the dumbing down of news elsewhere on the BBC and (my principal concern) the Beebs seeming determination (arising out of that bilateral meeting between the DG and the PM early on the days of the government perhaps?) to restrict engagement with real people to tame emails to Breakfast about the length of school skirts, selected questions from the audience in Question Time, the odd edited vox pop in a news segment and a heavily restricted 'Have Your Say' element of the BBC website. What exactly is the BBC worried about here? Upsetting the government and losing licence fee income?

  • Comment number 35.

    What's happened to the Scotland political blog? No posts for 2 months. Not only that, but all previous comments removed? Can the BBC tell us what is going on?

  • Comment number 36.

    Winter weather is only a few months away. Ice storms, blizzards, and record low temperatures pose a real threat. Congress should review federal funds to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for future disaster situations.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    What a terrible inane piece of news reporting from Laura? in New York. I quote from a film which showed her standing in the water by some railings ewith higher ground an because of the camera angle the bottom corner of the statue of Liberty in the top left corner. she then said words to the effect of "a few hours ago the water was half way up my boot. Now it is lapping over the top and wetting my jeans". Move your foot dilly and get on with some proper news reporting.

  • Comment number 39.

    I don't think Newsnight's lost it's way, but I think it's web page has. I want more links, especially to political blogs, not fewer. By the way, what did happen to Micheal Crick? I'll miss his rumbustious style of reportage, the BBC's political coverage is the poorer for it.

  • Comment number 40.

    For many of US, it's a bit of same ol', same ol', that’s how it is, when you’re caught in time…

    That said, with vast amount of contempt (and same amount of empathy), I feel the urge to extend sincere gratitude to the BBC for once again enabling quick examination of popular opinion on extent and significance of 9/11.

    The obscurities of the venues aside, British Broadcasting Company Unlimited made particularities and peculiarities of WTC 7 and 9/11 better known to wide world public, better than many realized, for sure.

    There, now, you can pull down those guidelines of yours - or cut the crap.

    ‘Does Newsnight face challenges now which it didn't ten years ago? Of course it does.’

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    Just back from hols (only two weeks, unlike most chez Aunty, who seem to be on par with teachers), and what a pleasure to find a classic from one of the corporation's higher market rates.

    For sheer 'we have got it about right, because we say so', this is worthy of an outing on Newswatch.

  • Comment number 44.

    This item does not start off very well as there is a misprint within the first sentence.
    "After an extraordinary year of news, perhaps we have should have predicted that the summer would be busy."
    BBC News is indeed so busy that many "lead ons" to an interview are longer than the interviews and the interviewer is constantly breaking off the person interviewed. If only the BBC News had more time for Ex Cathedra statements from your World Affairs correspondent John Simpson who must spent more time travelling from one story to another than he does in preparing a story.
    There is indeed way too much of BBC News and its orthodoxies.

  • Comment number 45.

    It is often interesting to watch Newsnight a few hours after Channel 4 News. The meterial is the same and on page the approach also, but the two and a half or so hours that have passed very often give a very different perspective. Also ones energy level matters, at 7pm energy levels are different to 10-30pm. I do wonder sometimes if Jeremy Paxman's apparent sneer is over done though, it's almost a parody when compared with Jon Snow's more matter of fact technique.

  • Comment number 46.

    If you believe in the Newsnight brand, why are you continuing to dilute it by allowing BBC Scotland to cut away for the last 15-20 minutes, sending those of us who want to watch the 'proper' programme scrambling for our remotes and trying desperately to remember the EPG channel number for 'BBC2 England'?

    Newsnight Scotland is an embarrassment to your brand. It features news items that would be perfectly well served by a home-grown BBC Scotland news/current affairs programme broadcast at any other time of the evening than 11pm but just look small and parochial when served up under the hard-hitting, UK-wide remit you set yourselves.

    Please, have the courage to stand up for your product and kill Newsnight Scotland, or else insist that they broadcast it at 11.30pm or some other time when it's not interfering with our enjoyment of a proper news programme.

  • Comment number 47.

    For a million pound p/a per presenter I want a little more

  • Comment number 48.

    BBC polls tell us that the public are not of the opinion that MMGW science is settled.

    Perhaps you could become the only BBC programme reflecting the relative public view rather than that of the BBC.

    Perhaps you could become the only BBC programme not setting out to denigrate any Republican candidate having the temerity to challenge the BBC's annointed one.

    Perhaps you could become the only BBC programme to remind us every time you go for the sympathy vote on a "cuts" story you could preface it with a regular rehearsal of why we are where we are and the need for savings. Perhaps every time you are on "cuts" Paxo can used the repeated question on your favourite party's representatives on what they would be cutting.

    Perhaps you could be the BBCs only impartial news and current affairs programme.

    Is that a squadron of pigs I see flyiong by?

  • Comment number 49.

    Newsnight has certainly not lost its way. The vivid accounts and highly incisive comments have given a very clear picture of what has been happening in the Middle East and has made viewers' realise how dangerous the world has become. The programme has sifted the grain from the chaff. Jeremy Paxton and his team have done a superb job in their coverage of the highly volatile situation in Libya.

  • Comment number 50.

    It is a wonder you are still able to compete with the rise amateur reporter. How do you compete when social media can now instantaneously communicate with the world without the censorship rules that you have to follow? Are you still bound by censorship? Mind you, "The News" sieves out most the subjective hype generated by the outpourings of social media, and that has to be a good thing.

  • Comment number 51.

    Great work - again - bringing to the screen and together, the voices we need to hear - on banking reform without reform, on progressive taxation without progress, on abortion counselling, games brought into the light of day, and on infrastructure versus cave heritage in Croatia - thought-provoking, questioning towards the heart of attitudes and motivations, instincts and justifications, politicians revealingly little at odds. Newsnight seems in good shape to meet challenges - it is to be hoped - ever more 'extraordinary'.

    In the 1980s it fell to Prince Charles to speak for society. Today, if lostvoice @47 suggests correctly, we depend on the high-protection of new champions… of the common man we can hope!

    PS. For 60022Malllard @48:
    To have agreed that NOT ALL of undoubted global warming is NECESSARILY man-made, is NOT to deny that global warming is to a significant extent man-made. And, beyond the current narrow 'cuts' game, why should not 'the need for savings' be addressed alongside 'the need to share work and income and any pain and joy entrained'?

  • Comment number 52.

    Replace Newsnight with a revival of "That was the week that was"?

    The lunatics that are running the asylum are no less ludicrous today than they were in the former times.

    I vividly remember Millicent Martin's songs about the previous week's daftness. And those silly images to accompany the official names of the elements of the establishment. E.g. Lord Privy Seal - accompanied by photographs of a lord in ermine, a picture of a wooden outside toilet and performing circus seal playing an array of rubber bulbed motor horns.

    Pompousness always needs to be debunked and shown up to be fake. When Newsnight is at its best it does this. Perhaps it should be be renamed "That was the day that was" and as the song went, "its over let it go" to remind us of the utter futility of the people against the establishment and to remind the establishment that we all know that they are almost fraudulent and fake in the way that the cavort and preen.

    To prevent revolution we need to reign in the excesses of this country. The problem is very serious today. We must take the establishment and their bankers, footballers and entertainers by the scruff of the neck are remind them that they owe their position to the people. They also need to be told quite firmly that the will be prevented from exploiting their position for personal aggrandisement - hence my campaign of support fro David Cameron's idea of a National Maximum Wage!

    BBC give us "That Was The Day That Was"!

  • Comment number 53.

    Dear John - and Dave - and Newsnight!

    Are 'we' really so morally hopeless, and on the whole so helpless, as to need a twenty-to-one income spread?

    Must we fear democracy as 'revolution', its meaning never to be discussed?

    The point is missed - the most vital point - that inequality precludes democratic representation.

    "PRECLUDES…", John - and Dave - and All!

    The point is vital because we cannot reasonably rely on 'benign dictatorship'. In the realm of Fear and Greed, even those 'at the top' are - and will be - little able to defend planet and people. Even if 'they' are obliged to some extent to help / contain 'the weak', short-term return will too often out-weigh brief thoughts of conscience.

    Should the self-employed also be obliged to limit personal drawings / salaries / dividends to twenty-times-average-pay, insecurity for self - and fear for dependents - would still rule all lives, making competition 'against rather than with', making 'co-operation' a game of treachery and casualties, rather than of 'winners all' in shared outcomes.

    Prince Charles, from 'position' in the 1980s, could speak for society. Today Bill Gates, from wealth, can champion preventative healthcare. On our screens 'we' can be 'represented', to some extent, by 'stars' who have 'earned' enough security to take risks on our behalf, balancing degrees of credibility against pressures for 'safety'.

    Who can blame even the richest for wishing to 'make as sure as possible' the protection of themselves, their families, their friends, their supporters / 'useful idiots', their tribes, etc. in a world that can make old-age and illness 'reasons' for 'social exclusion', and in a world that fosters famine and drives to war?

    No, it will not 'make the difference'. Dave's 20:1 - not even with your 'scruff of the neck' spectacle thrown-in - will at best 'kick the can a little further down the runway'. Please consider: planet and people might before long be 'out of runway' for democratic lift-off.

    Newsnight has no need of presenter satire.

    Let our 'leaders' speak for themselves...

  • Comment number 54.

    53. All for All wrote: "we've got democracy so we don't need satire"!!!!!

    Wrong, on so many levels. Every society has throughout history has needed people to speak the truth unto power - democracy of not!

    Democracy is a myth used to silence legitimate protest- as you well know.

    And we DO need a 20:1 maximum wealth/income range in our society if we are to have anything left of a society by the end of this depression. Dave was right -(even though he didn't understand what he was saying). The wealthy in the USA and France are right too when they ask to be taxed. Your blind acceptance of the daft and failed notion of 'trickle down economics' is way out of date, and never ever worked. The rich will be fairly taxed or we might as well give up on the UK!

    Support the 20:1 campaign NOW!!!! (If you care for the country?)

  • Comment number 55.

    ps All for All

    I know that when you write "Let our 'leaders' speak for themselves..." you know that their self parody makes them look absurd!

    We need proper satire. We need revolutionary satire - if we are to avoid revolution!

    We need the comic novel. We need a new 1984. We need a new Charlie Chaplain with a new Great Dictator. Every society needs to remove its rose tinted glasses and see the World as it is. It needs this more than ever in times of economic stress. We need to learn from history and historical economic analysis. We need the revolution without the bloodshed. Godot must arrive!

    To achieve growth we have to recognise the blatant faults in the way that the establishment runs our society. The cracks in capitalism must not be papered over.

  • Comment number 56.

    'Jeremy Paxton and his team have done a superb job'

    Top bloke. Can't fault a single thing he does. Or his team. Whoever they are.

    As to Newsnight, having returned after two weeks to find any post on their thread referred if not conforming to Newspeak doctrine, including one that merely had a BBC website page URL and a related Gaurdian one, one has to presume the mod purge is advancing nicely and soon only approved thoughts will be allowed beyond the words that grace these pages.

    Weep, democracy.

  • Comment number 57.

    Part 1.
    I eagerly devoured Mark Urban's piece entitled: "Libya: A new form of intervention". I was delighted to find that I could be the first to comment, BUT found no comments were permitted.
    I would dearly love to listen to a Newnight show devoted to this so-called new intervention technique.
    Last week, Western leaders, NATO & so-called "mainstream" media—have been celebrating the usurpation of Libya into the hands of the armed “rebels.”
    But how will history assess West’s imperial interference? What does this awful intervention bespeak for other African countries? Last week, the Benghazi “rebels” advanced into Tripoli, their path eased, paved by NATO’s bombardment. - even of civilian facilities.
    Yet, Gaddafi Spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim has warned: We will turn Libya into a volcano of lava and fire under the feet of the invaders and their treacherous agents. His son Seif al-Islam has also broadcast a message saying loyalists will continue to fight.
    The so-called “Transitional National Council” (plenty of Muslim extremists to be found in this council) issued a warning to the people of Sirte: Surrender by Saturday, or, face military...NATO, you know the organization that entered this conflict to "save civilians".
    No doubt several African leaders—given Qaddafi’s largess in supporting Africa’s political progress—are willing to help him obtain safe passage. Qaddafi has supported liberation struggles throughout Africa including in: Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe & South Africa. It has been said that South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma would help the Libyan leader escape.
    Recall that when Western governments, including US/Reagan’s “constructive engagement” policy were doing business with South Africa’s apartheid government, Qaddafi supported the ANC &then supported imprisoned leaders like Nelson Mandela. Indeed, Mandela violated a UN flight embargo on Libya, traveling there after his release from 27 years in prison. Bill Clinton called visit “unwelcome.” Mandela retorted “No country can claim to be the policeman of the world & no state can dictate to another what it should do...Not to visit my brother Gaddafi is to be ungrateful & forget our friends of the past. (This particular incident seems to have missed mainstream reporting. Indeed, Qaddafi, for all his faults, has been a faithful friend of Africa. Moreover, has any Western country done more for Africa than Libya under Qaddafi? Think of it - What has the West done for Africa besides raping, pillaging t

  • Comment number 58.

    Dear John - and All,

    Perhaps you are right: for some The News can be enough, but for others - perhaps- most - understanding must come either with entertainment, or too late.

    Your postscript @55 goes some way to correct the curious - not so funny - affected 'quotation' @54. We have NOT "got democracy" - merely the proto-democracy of voting-in-blinkers.

    Our 'blinkers' are woven for us from indoctrination such as propagated inadvertently @55. You mean, I trust, to address the falsity of our present 'democracy', but you fail to qualify the statement "democracy is a myth…", having in the preceding paragraph implied that "democracy or not" the speaking of 'truth unto power' must always be at risk to the life and security of speaker and family.

    It is the essence of true - ENDURING - democracy that all will have SECURE equality of income-share, their voices in the market that directs 'OUR' allocation of social resources, and their foundation for UNIVERSAL freedom of conscience, in address of all, from 'powerful' ticket-collector to 'powerful' enterprise-director.

    I do not wish, any more than you might John, to be a beggar, but no-one who hopes to see democracy can be a 'blithe chooser' of hopes / allies / circumstances. 'We' should not and probably cannot 'depend' on Prince Charles or Bill Gates or Jeremy Paxman to answer, on-air, even a Starter-for-Ten on Democracy, but surely where praise is due we can give thanks?

    Your immediate concerns, to avert both market chaos and street 'revolution' , are appreciated, but in your haste to apply 20:1 as a sticking plaster, you appear to be attempting 'appeasement' of moral democrats along with the violently disaffected, assuming they will 'buy' 20:1 as an improvement on 1,000:1, even though "the daft and failed notion of 'trickle down economics' is way out of date, and never ever worked".

    You write of 'the rich', and of giving up "on the UK!" Current inequality implies past injustice, and as inimical to democracy it must at some point be acknowledged as such and 'unwound', with due explanation, reassurance and care, for those used to mediating between world and loved-ones in the provision of security.

    I would suggest 'taxation' not to be the appropriate concept here; and income-shares, once fairly equalised for democracy, would hardly need to be 'fairly taxed'.
    Government revenue would come from enterprise profits - with no incentives for avoidance or evasion!

    IF we 'care for our country'… We will ensure that 'work and education and reward' are the shared experiences of every single child and adult, "NOW"…

    Seeing six-to-sixteen year-olds with 'belonging', taking their place in society, proof against the temptations of gangs and crime, should be enough to bring rioters and professionals, entrepreneurs and bankers, into the fold of democratic humanity… 1:1 not 20:1!

    What say YOU John?

  • Comment number 59.

    58. All for All wrote: "What say YOU John?"

    20:11 or 1:1 ? is it from those that can and to those that need? Biblical imperatives were of their time, but in our complex 9 billion person world we have found that the incentives of capitalism and the market when constrained by sensible regulation spreads and energised economic enterprise to the general good. Economically are we not in post Marxist World? Or if you like, in a post Leveller's World. We have learned from our history, haven't we? Public ownership of assets and the means of production in the brutal eighteenth and early nineteenth century World - in a World without any safety nets was an appropriate aim. The desperate inequalities of the time required drastic change.

    Here is why 20:1 and not 1:1 - 20 times the minimum income as a maximum gives a degree of incentive in a capitalist world, but at the same time caps excessive economic dominance - which can be argued - is one of the major forms of social and economic stress we suffer from today. 1:1 would provide no economic or capitalist market incentive at all. Our history has shown that capitalism and the market is the most effective way we have found to continually develop the most appropriate use of the World's resources, including the labour of the World's people. 1:1 would throw all that hard leaned experience away.

    Is it not the case that every society, for all time has a duty to continually learn from history and develop new and subtler tweaks towards a better society? In the same way that Rousseau, Fourier, Proudhon or indeed Marx developed ideas from and of their time and proposed 'solutions', should we not also strive to continue along the same path in our only small way - should not every generation stand on the shoulders of giants! However the key, as I see it, is to learn from history and to strive to overcome the faults in previous utopias. For example: learn that the 1930's Depression only really turned to recovery AFTER the debt mountain that was created in the 1920s was deflated and new untainted capital became available.

    1:1 is too extreme! 20:1 feels about right!

  • Comment number 60.


    Inherited wealth allows you to not worry about the basics and play with your future with potentially high returns - it's much easier to earn wealth if you have this comfortable safety net which covers education too. If you believe in meritocracy and being rewarded for effort how does your 20:1 income system address this inequality?

  • Comment number 61.

    Dear John - and All,


    1. "The general good"

    John, you know very well there never was a national or international settlement based on recognition of democratic need for equality. We are not in a 'Post-Equality' world!

    Whatever the limitations of such as the Levellers, and those who called themselves or who might by others be called Christian or Marxist or One Nation Tory or Labour, the spirit of solidarity lives on - and comes to the fore under tyranny and injustice.

    Even IF much of technology and mass-production was stimulated by the needs of Inequality Wars, and even IF we supposed that private capital was critical for our war efforts and the pursuit of knowledge in even our universities, has 'the rush' been worth it? Have you counted the brutalisations, and the millions of war-dead?
    And the opportunity costs??

    Your bogey-man of 'public ownership' - even if 'appropriate' to meet 'the desperate inequalities' inherited from 'the brutal eighteenth and early nineteenth century world' - would be irrelevant in a world of universal freedom of conscience: no hiding place for fossilised power!

    The infrastructure for equality was lacking two hundred years ago; and - despite Disraeli's ambition - education for equality and genuine democracy has yet to be provided in our schools or though our communications media: the reverse obtains.

    2. "No incentive in 1:1 sharing"

    NO incentive John? Have you never made or sold something worthwhile, never helped save a life or limb or sight or soul, never felt some sense of achievement except as an 'owner' taking home the till? Have you never met anyone with such experience in life, no-one who has settled to an honest craft, valuing integrity and independence more than riches? You will no doubt have met many people who say they 'could not have lived moral lives' but for their 'faith' in this, that, or the other 'revelation' (and social support system); and there may be some who believe that natural leaders would turn to crime if asked to rejoice only in group success…

    Past the possible excesses of youth, most come to care about their children, and about the world they will pass on to their children. Many come to recognise that their children can be actually harmed 'by privilege' - and such harms here can be of many and most terrible kinds. It has been thought we could 'freeload' for a time, perhaps for generations, on the relative peace of societies either with 'less inequality' or in to some extent general receipt of colonial plunder, but it is seen ever more clearly that 'we' all depend much on the state of the whole world.

    You would not be really 'happy' with a life on heroin: I put it to you that we are not really 'happy' in the service of Mammon? We simply do not need to 'back-load' our career 'reward' structure to facilitate 'the good life': the reverse is seen to be the case if you will look at the lives of young people and the cycles of disadvantage passed on to their children.

    There is, of course, no reason to dispense with 'capital' or 'markets' or 'hard-earned experience': what on Earth are you thinking of?

    3. "On the shoulders of giant"

    "Giants' as you say, of their times, their ideas to be kept in mind, but not to imprison.
    I think the game is up for 'tweaks' towards democracy: unless we can achieve happiness along with self-restraint as a species, 'we' and 'our' biosphere are likely to be finished off by Mammon, perhaps replaced with robots if there is enough competition to "energise" the new 'rulers'. We need to face today's facts, as well as lessons from the past, and to apply Occam's Razor to the welter of theory.

    I'm with you for A New Start - but I'd rather see a fair start, for educated democracy, than begin just another reign of Fear and Greed and at times Terror. That means 1:1, not a 20:1 caste system, or a 1,000:1 deadly game!

  • Comment number 62.

    I'm usually disappointed that most of the comment on home news comes from interested parties: politicians, police chiefs, specialist news editors and the like, rather than those for whom a primary aim is to be objective: academics, such as philosophers, anthropologists and historians for instance.

    Also, I regret that the invited commentators are almost always UK rooted themselves. Our news suppliers seem to scrupulously avoid inviting comment from abroad, where people might do things differently, and often better (though we do seem to make an exception in the case of the Americans, for reasons not entirely clear to me). On the rare occasions the former happens I almost always find the insights very refreshing.

  • Comment number 63.

    60. _marko wrote: "how does 20:1 improve things?" - well there will be no 1000:1's around and that is an improvement isn't it!

    61. All for All wrote: why not 1:1?

    Because experience has shown us that capitalism needs incentives - financial incentives and also that the alternative command economies are appallingly inefficient allocators of resources and tend to implode are drive corruption,

    So I stick to the middle path of 20:1, maximum income to minimum income.

    I do not see public ownership as a bogeyman at all, and agree that certain national assets need to be publicly owned and be distributed as fairly as possible.

  • Comment number 64.

    Dear John - and All,


    1. "Experience has shown"

    NO remotely valid trial ever conducted at national level. You have not answered the 'problems' raised @61as to the nature / direction / side-effects of 'private capitalist' incentives, or of inegalitarian insecurities in 'state capitalist' systems. Millions on the march, blown apart, lost at sea, starved, murdered... millions John, not at random but by 'our' systems: and the yield... not so glorious, truly a broken society.

    Plenty of experience to support equality in family and business partnerships.

    No need for 'the alternative' you fix upon, in 'command economies': not a single enterprise need be lost - except through the workings of conscience (redundant, too small, too big, etc. etc).

    An informed vote for democracy could for doubters be for an additional clause to review 'the need' for income differentials, at reasonable intervals - say 5-10 years - until clearly, democratically, redundant. Incentive then shared, to maintain and develop enterprises - even if 'merely for the common good'!

    2. "The middle path"

    You are in freeloading territory here, assuming that what you think of as 'the excesses of private capitalism' will not in the end shatter both the illusion of democracy and the suspect 'productivity' to which docility has contributed.

    The middle path, in fact, is between dominance by 'the clever' and dominance by 'the strong', both inherently unstable as 'we' and all of our loved-ones, friends and colleagues and their families, will move in-and-out of any such categories and sorely miss the benefits of cooperation.

    Some might retort, but what of the 'clever AND strong': but not you John, I trust.

    Genuine democracy might at first sight strike people differently - from intolerable, or shocking, 'the end of the party'; to most welcome, liberating, the beginning of the Kingdom of Heaven!

    Life will continue, tragedies as well as joys still to be faced, but at last 'together'.

    I commend to your further thought... 1:1

  • Comment number 65.


    Why not 1:1

    Why there has to be the market incentive in business. This is about allocation of resources and providing systems that allow inter-sectoral growth and decline. For example: technology is not static and there always need to be a market based assessment of the value of one enterprise or activity against another. I will not bang on about the pin making industry and how changes in production gave rise to considerable gains in efficiency. This gain in efficiency permitted excess labour to be redeployed doing something else. The whole of development of the global system from the middle ages onwards (and before!) is based upon being able to free people from producing food to be able to make new things. The mechanisms inherent in this process need incentives and that means that the more efficient pin maker makes more money than the less efficient. There must be differentials for capitalism to operate and like it or not capitalism is the most efficient system we know of.

    Why not unbridled/uncapped capitalism.

    A moral question - a question of life and death - a question of humanity. We need limits and my guess is that 20 times is a reasonable limit. Can I prove it? - no! First the need is to propagandise for any limit! There is no limit at all at present (see Bill Gates etc.)

    I'll stick to 20 times, thank you. I think that will move society in what I think is the right direction and away from complete breakdown.

    Why now? We are starting a Depression - a long one, that is just starting and the stresses will be terrible for the next 30 years possibly.

  • Comment number 66.

    Dear John - and All,

    There seems something very wrong at the heart of 'your' message, that of our times, not so much wrong in 'what we face', but in the readiness to accept the worst of 'leadership', the millenia-known disastrous and irrational worship not of 'capital and profit', but of 'private capital and selfish profit'.

    Before we descend into 'doom and gloom', a "depression" of "terrible stresses" (for some), dictated by "the laws of economics" (for some), before from hitherto unimaginable heights of scientific knowledge and human social perspective, we "give" to our children a world of hopeless dislocation, will you not consider further the idea of giving humanity its head, setting all free to compete to contribute?

    We have 'depended' at various times for 'leadership' - for as you rightly put it, 'our' allocation of resources - on Priests of God, Kings in Castles, Private Capitalists, Generalissimos, Mega-Corporations, what next? All have depended on the energy and creativity of many others, as well as their own at least in talent-spotting. Their 'glory' should properly be viewed as sometimes to be marvelled at, but always alongside universes of missed opportunity.

    Of course 'even in democracy' there will be stresses, need for 'higher level' decisions to balance the meeting of immediate needs / wants and strategic investment for the future: but in a real democracy, with equality of income-shares, 'rational trust' will be enabled and enabling of dynamic cohesion; and we' will be able to listen to each other's arguments as far more probably sincere, offerings in genuine belief as to shared benefit. Our equal incomes might 'not buy so much' while we divert from 'entertainment centres' to the building of say the Severn Barrage, but we can expect / will know, that 'the best minds' will come together to offer 'the best advice', informing the best of leadership.

    You write of incentive, still, as inevitably tied to selfishness. To the extent that leadership and selfishness do today go together, I would suggest this to be an outcome of perverse assortment - the misallocation of human capital - in the fairy-story world of pre-adult education. Whereas before colonialism, immigration and universal education, most of us, the dull and the bright, the weak and the sturdy, all would pass into resigned or contented traditional work, on the land, under arms, down the mines, or in the factories, rising in strength to foreman / inventor / entrepreneur, or sinking in frailty to minder or watchman, now we have visible 'assortment' by cultural background (locals barred by low wages, incomers grateful to send 'fortunes' home), and rather perverse assortment in pre-adult naivety.

    The particular perversity of 'fairy-story' schooling ("Established" Church hypocrisy, "Democratic" hypocrisy, "to give and not to count the cost", "to labour and not ask for any reward") is that 'leadership roles' will tend to fall to those not taken up by apparently more challenging intellectual or caring pursuits, but rather to those - often 'born' to a sensible 'business' dignity, as often obsessed with the contemptuous 'liberation' of money from others' pockets - left to make a life of social networking, softer science, business, media and politics.

    I am afraid that you are defending a misappropriation of public property: the art and science of 'capital allocation' should be for all of us to practice, as intelligent producers and intelligent consumers, with a view to the future for our children's children etc., not to short-term / selfish private profit from private capital. Your "20:1", as surely as today's 1000:1, still PRECLUDES the universal freedom of conscience, and mutual trust, that 'we deserve' and really desperately need.

    Let us not despair?

  • Comment number 67.

    Hell, we deserve it all.

  • Comment number 68.

    66. All for All

    What ever happened to moderation in all things in your philosophy? Your absolutism of pursuit of the idea and nothing less is possible is perhaps the most 'defeatist' belief of them all. Politics is the art of the possible.

    Today we are faced with a man made (actually incompetent, ignorant and arrogant failure of regulation and academic economics) economic depression as the most probable near future situation fro us all. When the poor and being made poorer the rich must be seen to be taking more than their share of the burden. This will go on for twenty or thirty years, but optimistically some good can come of it. People will undoubtedly suffer egregiously, and this must be shared for if it is not the situation for everyone will be far worse (see riots).

    So positively I propose solutions that will moderate social stress and hopefully avoid the worst outcome - hence the 20:1 capping of individual income.

    As to defending a 'misappropriation of public property' - too much like the the ideas of P-J Proudhon to be tackled in this brief space (have a look at Qu'est-ce que la Propriété?, if you don't already know it - translations are OK.) Ideas have developed since 1840's and the world we live in is very different - yet even P-J Proudhon tried to start up a Peoples Bank as a deputy in the National Assembly. "Property is robbery! they war cry of [18]93. That is the signal for revolutions!" I reject extremist positions as they have only created the environment for misery in the past and that misery is mainly inflicted on the poor who suffer the most. Your suggestion that only absolute égalité is acceptable conflicts with liberté, and above all fraternité! Both the rich and the poor are brothers/sisters in our society. They are equal under law, but economics needs mechanisms of price differentials to develop and change - you 1:1 prevents development and change, including the uptake of new technology. Even Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the father of anarcho-syndicalism, quickly distanced himself from these ideas of absolutism and I would encourage you to do so also - they are a dead end in many senses.

    Hence I stick to a 20:1 cap!

  • Comment number 69.

    To John,

    Can you describe the detailed transitional steps for implementing your 20:1 plan?

  • Comment number 70.

    To moriaeencomium @67

    "Hell, we deserve it all."

    In a way, true…

    Parents and teachers, journalists and politicians, even blog commenters, all offer help… but 'we', and in turn our children, 'fail to take' well-meant advice.

    The problem though, is 'us'… our children don't quite 'deserve' the ignorance and hypocrisy, the sloppiness and frank brutality of much of the 'thinking' that we inherited and too readily pass on… even more sloppy, ever more to deter from the path of democratic freedom.

    As long as there is mortality and the succession of generations, 'we' will always have to confront ignorance and moral vulnerability, whether from inborn sociopathy or special mischance in upbringing, the rejection of positive universal 'citizenship' in favour of self-centred or bigoted disregard or hatred of casually identified 'others'.

    'Our universe', like the imaginatively supposed 'Creation', cannot be without danger, the theologically abused 'Original' possibility of 'Sin'. The 'force' of life, conscious or not, will always be 'in competition', internal as well as external, perhaps always sacrificial of something, towards 'survival', of DNA / family / tribe / culture / 'good' or 'evil' / conscience or contempt / 'Heaven' or 'Hell\.

    So, true in part, but not good part!

    If we wish 'good', then we must 'deserve' the opportunities of life.

    Even if it feels as as though 'we' have to make them, 'God' remote.

    If we look back through the (concave) lens of history and experience, we will see the Virtual Image of 'something'… something indisputably and unutterably wonderful… something all too easily, by struggling poets and prophets and professors, given human and ludicrously culture-specific characteristics… something almost dangerous to call 'God'.

    Better "I am"… guide and inspiration, rather than judge.

    With respect to culture and survival, it is 'we' who will 'judge' ourselves, choosing and working towards democracy, or not.

    Universal freedom of conscience, or the rule of Fear and Greed.

    Not too difficult a choice to understand?

  • Comment number 71.

    To John_from_ Hendon - and All

    "Moderation in all things" @68

    Perhaps the 20:1 is 'agreeable', and perhaps it would in many ways 'help'; and of course your proposal is one of moderation relative to the present.

    The pity John is, that 'we' are denied the freedom of thought and communication to address the 'absolute moderation' of equality!

    Consider the cake we have made, spinning on its stately Lazy Susan mount, cut unequally and some say inevitably so. All might wish the largest slice to be theirs, but from prudence - or moderation - might agree to a 'progressive' cake-tax. The snag is that, lacking examination of justice and 'freedom as shared' and the fruits of democracy, all find themselves victims of 'unfairness', the fat man resents the 'expropriation' of his windfall, and the thin man resents his dependence on 'charity'.
    What seemed a 'moderating' agreement has set the scene for much spilling of more than crumbs.

    As a bunch, We The People are not 'so stupid' that we can be 'managed' by even the best of self-aggrandising Aristocrats or Meritocrats. 'We' have fought our way towards democracy: and, such is the peril 'In Mammon', we will probably either get there, or as a species die.

    You might fear that talk of 'real democracy', even the mention of 1:1 'less inequality', risks derailing moderation, encouraging those with time on their hands - at both ends of the income spectrum - to become foolishly and dangerously aggressive.

    Hiding of the plain and vital truth of moderation in democracy, of our need for equality, will - I put it to you - be the most likely cause of 'explosion below' and / or 'explosion above', more of riot and / or repression.

    It will do no good to hold up straw-men and knock them down. Before we can learn from 'the mistakes' of the past, we need to understand not just the hopelessness of context (technological, social, international), but the failures of analysis. To claim that life under Fear and Greed is "liberty", and that it is by tolerance of unequal sharing that we prove "fraternity", is to risk company with the "disingenuous"!

    Falling at the first hurdle, the impassioned use of false arguments, even against 'The Road To Serfdom', will serve only to confuse self and others. In writing of democracy and necessary equality, where have I suggested that we have no need of competition and of price differentials (with respect to goods and services)?

    Even in a democracy the labour market would have many 'differentials', reflecting many preferences (indoors / outdoors, hand / brain, hard ours but short / less intense but longer hours, employed / self-employed, 'junior' / 'senior', etc. etc.): it is only in the vital matter of income, for enduring security and freedom of conscience, that we should understand the need for equality.

    You have read enough to 'know' in your heart that inequality precludes respect for equal citizenship (in terms of material influence, the role of money in freedom and power) and that moderate reliance on 'benign dictatorship' / 'controlled greed' can too easily in retrospect prove unwise appeasement.

    I learned long ago, as 'the oldest child', how very easy it is to 'win', with 'unfair' 'advantage'; and that there are natural talents and accidents of comprehension to confound rank! As I make make my way back from servitude afar, I will think of you in relation to two brothers: in Matthew 21: 28-29 the one who was not going to bother but did; and in Luke 15: 11-32 the older brother who needed his father's reassurance, "You are always with me, and everything I have is yours".

    Less of the 'anarcho-syndicalism', please!

  • Comment number 72.

    69. _marko wrote:

    "To John,

    Can you describe the detailed transitional steps for implementing your 20:1 plan?"

    short answer Tax, with the minimum set at the minimum wage and 100% tax above 20 times that level (and get rid of employees NI contribution) adjusting other tax rates to maintain the same overall income.

    It could be 'done'!

  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 74.

    Dear John_from_Hendon - and All,

    Bare bones on 20:1 @72!

    Perhaps Newsnight would make matters clearer, with more of acknowledgement and apology to our forebears, but Wikipedia does not preclude 'for today' the following suggested 'understanding':

    Anarcho-syndicalism, thus pejoratively adorned, was born and survives amongst those so far from power as to conceive themselves equally-placed in rejection of established authority, united in 'worker solidarity' and in no need to consider inequality either 'for the first brothers' in their 'building of the new world within the shell of the old', or amongst the presumably wider citizenry of the new world when at last finished.

    Informal egalitarianism would, in the early days more than a century ago, have seemed natural and sufficient, affording the pleasures of generosity to the richer brothers, and perhaps proof of solidarity amongst the more needy. Probably from the start, certainly in modern times, all of the multitude of brave and ponderous worker-bodies, will have been heavily infiltrated by those keen to keep solidarity informal, so to avoid realisation that democracy would depend on equality.

    Who is to say that the envisaged hierarchy of self-governing direct-democracies would not have served better than the machinery of private capital?

    It was and remains difficult though, to sell and maintain 'the vision' of 'struggle without end', of 'educating for struggle' against 'exploitation by others', not afforded any clear positive inclusive credible end-point, no concept of education for all - in all walks of life - towards secure equality, no understanding of the conditions for universal freedom of conscience, and so no sharable hope of viable competitive cooperation for the good of all.

    On such a leash, instructively tolerable - like Douglas Adams' Earth, 'mostly harmless' - from debacle to debacle the 'Left' limps on. The power of 'disorganising labour' having been broken, by Thatcher, the temptation to bring all 'to heel' proved irresistible, even at the price of undermining 'useful' ethics of service. Progressive alienation of ever higher income-tiers was incurred under Blair, in the double hope of enterprise-boosting tax cuts and of more 'openings' for business.

    Paradoxically there comes hope. Our civil service, once an elite force upon whose natural conservatism we could 'rely', has long been deprived of the security from which 'truth might be spoken unto power'. Awareness of the 'dictatorship of the elected', in real measure of their backers, is now so plain and painful as to make ready the field for education on democracy.

    We do not have to rely on "platonic appeal', or on 'parliament however unfairly constituted', or on 'ever-readiness for violent resistance by the populace': we just need educated self-interested alignment, in competitive co-operation, government of the people for the people by the people, genuine enduring democracy dependent on enduring equality of income-shares.

    The days of the hunter-gatherer or of the syndicalists could return, and the days of gang-controlled strategic riot could be ahead, but there is a far more sensible path to be followed, certainly not 2,000:1, or 200:1, or 20:1, or even 2:1, but plain moderate liberating equality!

    If power must tend always to corrupt, only the personal freedom of all of the ruled will suffice to negate that tendency, truly to make trust the rational basis for a new world of relevant productivity.

    Over to you John?

  • Comment number 75.

    74. All for All wrote: ..."or 20:1, or even 2:1, but plain moderate liberating equality!"

    I think you have missed a vital element of how capitalism works - and it does work - that is the progressive allocation of resources over time through the mechanism of price. Capitalism needs a degree of inequality of outcome to foster any technological progress. Absolute equality of income, or wealth for that matter, freezes all development in today's state and such ossification is highly undesirable.

    Capitalism however has at present no individual income limits - David Cameron wants (or wanted!) limits even through his understanding was and is defective. Remember before you say there can be no limits - there are already a complex system of limits that exist today enforced through law. All I am proposing is a limit to individual income.

  • Comment number 76.

    John_from_Hendon @75

    Much appreciated

    Your knowledge of the "elements" should enable design of a better "compound"…

    You will know of convergent evolution… the hydrodynamic shape of the shark has been 'copied' by marine mammals…

    @64 I was careful to write: "not a single enterprise need be lost - except through the workings of conscience (redundant, too small, too big, etc. etc)."

    I understand your concern, that new technology, initially 'more expensive' (from research and set-up costs), should find a market welcome - from discerning wealthier consumers…

    BUT… you need to think of the 'dolphin' context, not that of the shark… not just of an increased rental market, not just of family / group / street / library purchase, but even more importantly of the end of commercial secrecy…

    When 'the game is up' for an old product, it need not be defended at all costs… deals can be done to allow wind-downs / technology sharing / co-operative up-grading…

    I look forward to imaginative emulations from more recombinations of vital elements / genes / principles…

    'Private capitalism' employs 'vital elements': it does not 'own' them!

    "Freezing" has its uses; and "ossification" (subject by the way, to turnover and re-modelling) is vital for us bony vertebrates!

    I urge you to use your knowledge not to move 'just an inch', but to project a vision that can be shared by all, 1:1.

  • Comment number 77.

    #76. All for All wrote: "1:1"

    is death! They we are all equal, before our maker if you believe in such things. But in the real world and a world that uses the product of the last thousands of year of history there needs to be away that the better mousetrap cane become the dominant product (until the even better one comes along.) This process of development requires money and price to show which is 'best' or most efficient/cheapest to make and most effective. To have price there needs to be differential. But not unlimited differential. The problem has developed of monopoly/cartel capitalism that crushes everything - by price. This needs to be stopped so we need a limit hence my (and Dave's) 20 times.

  • Comment number 78.

    John_from_Hendon @77
    Again you flip, from anxiety over supposed loss of product price/quality (surely dealt with to anyone's satisfaction?), to anxiety on behalf of those who 'own capital' and compete to 'extract value' from capital and labour.

    I make the point, again, that though some may start with 'dreams of idle richness' or 'command over millions' as such, most just want to make 'a success' of their lives, for self and family and friends and community, going on to 'higher things' as qualities and fate might allow.

    You seem hardly to have asked of yourself, let alone answered, why any existing UK enterprise (or branch of an international company) could not (in financial emergency or from positive choice) function as normal (in fact better, relieved of many insidious 'corruptions' of purpose) using 'money' as best they can, aiming for 'differentiation' in price and quality and service etc., as - 'for the last thousands of years' - we always have!

    "The problem", that you rightly identify as oppressive, is not just at the extremity of cartel / monopoly, but in all of the shades of restrictive practice associated - unfortunately but inevitably - with the kind of competition that - putting it most gently - will tend to be without first regard for the public interest!

    Can you list the harms' of ending 'commercial secrecy'? And then perhaps struggle a little more to think of some gains? Ditto for freedom of conscience?

    We are sitting ducks for another round of 'loss socialisation, gain privatisation', this last episode perhaps the single most dramatic but in terms of opportunity cost dwarfed by the cumulation of harms over our 'thousands of years'. I used to scan the FT - tale after tale of misallocation (put again most gently) never to register with the general public or busy-elsewhere politicians.

    "Maker" or not, the "made" need democracy, and democracy needs equality, and equality needs YOUR support... Keep it secret if you must, but be ready to welcome awakening if it comes in our time?


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