Andrew Rawnsley chairs a live debate with fellow journalists in the style of a newspaper leader conference. They discuss which three top news stories at home and abroad should be the subject of leading articles and what points those editorials ought to make and why. From tabloids to broadsheets, from London to Edinburgh, from left, right and centre the gamut of journalistic opinions are on offer as the newspaper leader conference comes to the air. Top writers on Britain's newspapers distil the complex events of the week into a concise, easily digested summary and seek to put it all into perspective.
Andrew Rawnsley was joined by Camilla Cavendish of the Times, Jason Beattie of the Daily Mirror, Kamal Ahmed of the Sunday Telegraph, Mary Ann Sieghart of the Independent and Leo McKinstry of the Daily Express.
We debated: how best to aid the countries afflicted by famine in East Africa: end-of-parliamentary-term reports on the party leaders, and: how to make a good custard pie
Aiding peoples not governments
The recurrence of famine in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, after the appalling loss of life in the 1980s, underlines the need for a fundamental re-think on how to aid the peoples of the nations affected.
We applaud the generosity which the British public has once again demonstrated for those afflicted by the drought emergency, and note with disappointment that other EU nations have so far offered significantly less help. But we believe the UK government should take greater account of public scepticism, made clear this week in a survey by the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank, about the effectiveness of government aid to affected countries. Too often much of this money is siphoned off by corrupt officials in the countries receiving assistance. The problems helping people in Somalia illustrate this. The activities of militant Islamists underline both the limited authority of the Somali government and the need for a more entrepreneurial approach to delivering aid, preferably through charities and other non-government organisations based in the country.
In the medium-term we believe the notion of rich countries simply aiding the poor is outmoded. What were once poor countries are now often richer. Freer trade and help with economic development can help them to overcome deep-seated problems. These policies would also, we believe, encourage the United States and China to abandon protectionist approaches which are exacerbating the current crisis.
The party leaders' end-of-term report
The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has, we think, made quite a strong finish to the year with his successes in the hacking scandal and backing for his plan to end elections to the Shadow Cabinet. The new general secretary of the Labour Party may not have been his first choice but he has importantly secured a large donation to ease Labour's over-stretched finances and to bolster party morale. But if he is to appear a credible alternative prime minister he needs to assert the authority he has gained, especially with the trade unions, and outline a credible alternative policy stance to the Conservatives.
Nick Clegg's year went from bad to worse as the protests over the Liberal Democrats' volte face on tuition fees were followed by an ignominious defeat in the AV referendum and serious reverses in the May elections. But we noted that recently he has shown resilience and skill in differentiating his party from the Conservatives over reforms to the NHS and during the hacking scandal. He and his party may be recovering.
By contrast, the prime minister's strong start to the year faltered. Although election results were much more positive than expected, in recent weeks doubts about economic recovery and his judgment over issues raised by the hacking scandal have clouded the picture and reinforced stereotypes of Mr. Cameron. Although his parliamentary performances have shown poise, his failure to answer directly key questions on the BSkyB takeover may, we think, leave him vulnerable, especially as the pending inquiries and court cases hear fresh evidence.
In defence of the real custard pie
We unhesitatingly deplore the assault on Rupert Murdoch with a foam pie while he gave evidence to the Commons select committee on culture, media and sport. But we also regret the degeneration of the high art of public protest. To be effective these demonstrations need to be well wrought. The foam pie we saw this week in our view signally failed this test. It was crudely improvised and, sadly, struck us as one in the eye for the traditional custard pie. Accordingly, we aim for the spirited revival of this traditional British feature of public life. For the entertainment of our readers and in a spirit of fun not malice, we offer a proper custard pie recipe to make at home, together with a selection of outstanding "custard pie moments"
Producer: Simon Coates.