Talk about Newsnight

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Thursday, 21 September, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Sep 06, 03:53 PM

dhl_203.jpgThe health service strikes over plans to sell NHS logistics to German delivery firm DHL; the Green Party begins its conference but is there much point now the three main parties have gone green as well? Plus, how uncomfortable is Iran’s Jewish community finding life under Ahmadinejad?

Comment on Thursday’s programme here.

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  • 1.
  • At 05:52 PM on 21 Sep 2006,
  • Roy Baker wrote:

With much of the extra funding that this government has undoubtedly put into the NHS (credit where it's due)going towards improving pay for NHS staff, it is inevitable that management and efficiency will be tightened. The question is, will the unions destroy the Labour Government over this issue, only to have it imposed by a Conservative Government? Have the unions and the Labour Party got the political maturity to face the problem of, who is the NHS being run for the patients or the staff?
The Government have stated that their aim is a NHS that is as good as the private sector but this aim cannot realistically be achieved with the present management set up. In both schools and hospitals, every measure to bring in accountability is criticised by the management and staff. We do not here this from the private sector, why is this? If we are going to achieve the same results in the public sector this question must be asked and asked again until the answer is found. We must have public debate and if the answers are so difficult that the Government is afraid to take the decisions necessary, then why not put them in a referendum for the public to decide?

  • 2.
  • At 06:00 PM on 21 Sep 2006,
  • Scott wrote:

Oh no! Branson has just pledged 3 billion to fight Global Warming. ANOTHER excuse for Newsnight to champion the cause. It is becoming so tiresome.

Is Jeremy only working three-day weeks on Newsnight now? Peter, Paxman part time isn't good enough. More please.

Scott (2) - you can see (and hear) more Jeremy this week via our podcasts, available tomorrow.


  • 4.
  • At 06:33 PM on 21 Sep 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

This is the Party that said we have only 24hrs to save our NHS!! A labour party...the Party of the people. Cannot help but feel the whole system is about to implode!but the whole systems so convoluted & bureaucratic.. there's not a damn thing we can do about it... until we change the Administration at the Ballot Box!!

  • 5.
  • At 10:50 PM on 21 Sep 2006,
  • brian near brum wrote:

this labour party is quite incredible in that they are privatising public services wherever they can which is not what they stand for which is why so many diehard supporters are fed up

more importantly how does this gov't know that DHL can deliver -- DHL UK is currently losing £14m per month so DHL in germany see this as last- chance saloon to save its UK operation -- and DHL is so unprofitable because its procurement is so bad which bodes very ill for NHS Logistics and NHS can forget £1bn savings over 10 years

yet again HMG has been conned and who did their due diligence as they are negligent also; as just to reiterate DHL in UK is making losses of £14m PER MONTH which is disastrous

  • 6.
  • At 11:22 PM on 21 Sep 2006,
  • Benedict TLC wrote:

We cant even get basic healthcare from the NHS... we would rather pay for it with subsidised banking arrangements!

There is a healthcare we want... but a healthcare we fear...

Is it New Labour's NHS?..the moral ethic of permission denial ,of impudent respect behaviour and compliance vindictivism, of fear,of cynical experimentalism, of enforcement, of victimisation?

Or Our NHS the Labour Liberal and Conservative ethic of the world class health care we want, expect and demand...trustable arguable in demand and keen to establish a reputation for doing the right thing, for appropriate diagnosis, for discussion and tutoring of suitable ways forward, for the support and care we want, for our choice, we the public have paid for!

The NHS see that £94 Billion a year as theirs and want to make us all servants to their deservence impudence and career prides prejudices and vanities... That tax money is ours, not theirs, and we expect to get what we paid for!!

Every new labour employee should be retrained with conservative labour and liberal ethics, or fired as a risk to the public, negligent, cynical, morally psychotic!

The equipment has been bought the budgets should be slashed! New Labour staff should be evicted and prosecuted... what do the unions think of that?

Benedict TLC

  • 7.
  • At 11:44 PM on 21 Sep 2006,
  • David Evans wrote:

Sitting in Cardiff, I watched the piece on the "national NHS strike" wondering if it applied to Wales. I think it doesn't, but Newsnight wasn't in any hurry to tell me.

The Welsh NHS, despite being run by the labour party, has not followed England's rush towards privatisation. Which is the better strategy? Who knows, since comparisons are so rarely made by the media. I can quite see why the labour party wants to keep quiet about this divide in their ranks, but surely it's a good story for political journalists?

  • 8.
  • At 01:28 AM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • P Healy wrote:

The NHS Logistics discussion should have been managed better - maybe Newsnight should be privatised!

The minister (Burnham) and the chap from the Adam Smith Institute were pushing the same agenda (privatisation), and Burnham was killing airtime proclaiming his right-on NHS-lover credentials (what else was he going to do?). So we had minimal representation from the Unison spokeswoman, and no pressure to provide a detailed answer to the issue of how will private firms extract profit from taking over NHS Logistics.

In future I suggest:
1 - you have politicians confront one another in one segment, as they are becoming used to each others verbal manipulations (ie, not outright lies for the most part);

2 - you let those people directly involved with operational issues discuss these in another segment without politicians' blather (I thought you had just learnt this);

3 - you give each participant equal time within their segment to prevent this media-filibustering.

You might just as well have let Burnham have a New Labour party election broadcast - at least then I would have known to switch over.

  • 9.
  • At 01:11 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Watching the fascinating report on the Iranian Jewish communities I was prompted to think back to the previous day's equally fascinating one on Romanian orphans, because there seemed to be a similar, explosive issue being skirted - mentioned but left unexplored, for better or worse - in both. I'm wondering why they were reported in that manner, as if the reporters had been told not to go further.

In Romania we were told that the "orphans" (more often actually abandoned to care rather than of dead parents) were mostly later offspring of huge families where there was not enough income, and this continues unchanged. It was unstated why there should be such huge families, which clearly could not be the case right across Romania or its population would be immense. We were shown a mother who had accepted back two adolescent sons but claimed she had no option but have them work collecting and processing scrap or else there would be no money for food. They lived in poor conditions. This all reflected very, very badly on the country, making it look very unsuited to full membership of the EU.

But how representative were these examples? Most European women today have the knowledge, the resources and the power to limit their families to what can be managed. The UN has assisted with such education and contraceptive supplies for decades now, worldwide. Women having ten children (as quoted) have either made a deliberate choice or are usually the victims of deliberate denial of those resources, usually by religions or families, and that is most unlikely to be country-wide. Which is it in Romania, and why did the report not go into that?

Why was that mother in such poor housing, her sons not in school, and the family in not receipt of financial aid? Does Romania not support its poorest, not provide free schooling? It can hardly be suited to EU membership if it does not.

Could it be, as some have rather crudely suggested here, that they were of a minority that is either discriminated against (another bar to EU membership) or which shuns the "grasp" of the state, to retain their identity?

I found myself reminded, by the highly unusual behaviour for parents in Europe of removing children from school - illegal in many countries - of a father in a recently repeated series about a large traveller community in the Home Counties, who went back on the road, taking his son out of school, so that the boy, having started to be interested in girls, would not mix with non-traveller girls and marry out of the community. The loss of education, and the loss of life choices that would mean, were of no consequence. That was the tradition, a major part of the father's identity. One wondered if the same thing was a factor in the family in Romania, a country where we recently saw a grand, forced-marriage of an underage Romany girl attract large publicity when she resisted and called the police. If it was, why was Newsnight's report turning up its nose at a Europe-wide issue of cultural isolation, discrimination, and the resulting poverty and cruelty to children, whilst instead rather smearing the whole of Romania, but especially doctors (who seemed actually very caring), hospitals and care workers as a whole for not coping with the consequences.

The report on the Iranian Jewish community was another of Newsnight's incredibly praiseworthy extensions of reporting into places and communities that have been largely hidden, or ignored previously.

But the report showed the somewhat tragic personal, social and potentially political results of another set of traditions. The identifiable Jewish community in Persia has lasted so long because it has proudly preserved a separate identity, but also, it seems, at least in those we were shown, a tradition of separateness, of no social mixing, of no intermarriage (only true for a fraction of Jewish communities generally, since intermarriage and conversion to Judaism is entirely acceptable in some). Along have come several waves of advocates of emigration to Israel and now the community is so small that there is rarely a marriage, there can be no children's parties, and little other socialising. The implication was made that the women were deeply depressed at this lack of social opportunity, and the children were clearly suffering in some ways. They would have to leave to marry. All that because mixing with the wider society was not allowed. Was this because the wider society was aggressively Muslim, or entirely from the Jewish side? It didn't seem to matter if the elderly mixed more widely. That implied intermarriage was the problem. But the reporter kept strictly from going in that direction.

That community's issues may well be repeated in many other countries, including in the EU.

In a world where racial and religious (and other) discrimination is illegal (by UN conventions, although more enforced in the EU than in some other areas), and where women and children have rights by international treaties too, such as the right to education, to mix with others, of freedom to marry, the separation of communities is a delicate issue, potentially fraught with abuses. Really those need exploring sensitively when the opportunity arises rather than being left for when some sensational happening makes coverage inevitable, but difficult to approach.

  • 10.
  • At 01:59 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Tim Jackson wrote:

I was interested to see the use of the discredited mistranslation of President Ahmadinejad's words once again on the BBC...

How many times must this be corrected before it finally sinks into the psyche of the Corporation that broadcasting blatant lies to further a political agenda is also known as propaganda.

What happened to the much vaunted 'balance'?

Once again I should point out that the words he used when correctly translated were NOT, I repeat NOT "wipe Israel from the face of the map", but in fact "remove the occupying regime from the pages of history" and he went on to give this statement context by comparing this act to the way that Communism in Eastern Europe has gone. He was trying to stress that whilst Israel currently occupies vast swathes of Palestinian territory things will undoubtedly change as nothing is permanent. At no point did he call for an end to the Israeli state, nor Israeli people - his rhetoric was aimed at the far-right political parties who currently dominate Israeli politics.

Stop telling lies with licence payers money. It is not a simple mistake, the issue has been raised through the complaints department time and again by numerous people, making it look more and more like deliberate policy aimed at demonising the Iranian President at any given opportunity.

  • 11.
  • At 04:45 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Jennifer Watts wrote:

Hi Newsnight,
Jenny wrote(10)how fascinated she was by the two programmes on Newsnight, namely the Orphans in Romania and the Jews still living in Iran. I,myself, was also fascinated by the same programmes. However, I may be mistaken, but during the old Communist regime of Caesecnu(spelling?), did that government, before it was overthrown, ban condoms, searched people houses,if they had only one or two children, to make sure they did not have a secret store, for which, if those condoms were found,the family sufferred terribly.I was under the impression the 'C' idea was to produce in Roumania,an upsurge in the population,irrespect of the hardships would be,in having so many children. They had no government grants to feed, clothe, etc. No wonder some mothers, and we must sympathise, had to give or sell their children to give them a better life. The other alternative was to put them into instuitions, with hardly any care. Institutions that were more akin to Mental Homes, and that is why we saw so many dreadful scenes of these tots, growing up with mental disorders, some incurable for the rest of their lives. I do think Romania, should be allowed to enter the EU, and should receive help in trying to make normal human beings of these,children, that were too young to how, what a holocaust the former government, before its overthrow, was guilty of. We, in the liberted West, sometimes forget what is easy for us to obtain. I feel very strongly about this, having given my time free to a certain charity to sort out clothes, toys, to make their lives, a little better. Regards, Jennifer W.

  • 12.
  • At 05:43 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

Last night’s health debate was clearly an attempt to address the public service and interest remit of the programme, but was somewhat troubling in that it didn't seem to address the real issues identified in your previous public services strand, resorting to the is privatisation good or bad ‘debate,’ which seems to me vastly over simplistic.

My, perhaps somewhat delayed, response results I would say from a desire to make positive suggestions (albeit not wishing to aggravate the NUJ or whoever represents research assistants and editors by looking like I am trying to do their job for them). The time delay may somewhat stretch the limits of this web discussion format, but that could be ‘a good thing.’ ( Of course the format has already been expanded in the other direction, as ‘Collected Eric’ finds puzzling, by people responding to the email trailer of the programme which goes out around 5:30 most days, hence allowing people to contribute to (and help shape? well maybe … (Justin can fill in the rest) ) the evening’s programme before it has even gone out.

So, my suggestion, along the lines of ‘best public services’ strand, is a similar format specifically on health, where guest presenters make a film, and are then brought together in some format for a studio debate. A quick web browse suggests:

- Dame Karlene Davis, General Secretary Royal College of Midwives
- Dr Gillian Morgan, NHS Confederation
- Dr Howard Stoate MP
- Dr Richard Taylor MP

Other possibilities include Dr Fiona Godlee, the Editor of British Medical Journal or other contributors to a recent special on NHS reform, as well as representatives from UNISON, Royal College of Nursing and the various Doctors organisations.

Obviously there are complex issues involved, but one the keys to effective change management, in my experience (perhaps giving away something of my background and why I have the cheek to tell people who are already outstanding how to do their job ;-), is being able to clearly communicate what the change is about, including why it is necessary and how it will be achieved, so all the people involved can factor this into their busy lives. (Most effective of all of course, is to include them in the process of deciding on the shape of the change, but with the NHS employing over a million and serving 60 million, that is clearly no easy task, and perhaps prompts the question whether it is this scale that is part of the problem. Of course, the biggest dilemma, to which there are no easy solutions, is dealing with people who simply refuse to change.)

This ‘film and debate’ format may also have value to the other debate – on Newsnight and nationally – around British Muslim communities, where one suspects that people who are good at getting noticed for provocative interventions may not be so effective at putting over a more sustained message, but it may be informative to watch them try.

  • 13.
  • At 08:07 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

I'm not sure how many journalists and managers have private health insurance these days, but even for those who do, the NHS in the UK is always expected to provide the back-up for such care, and almost all emergency care, so it should matter to us all, to a greater or lesser extent. It also gets a lion's share of our taxes, employs a lot of people, and is our major national safety net, a major salve for all of our consciences, knowing that anyone in the country, however sick, however poor, is promised free medical care of the appropriate level and quality. And there's research and preventive care and health and sex education and contraception services in there too.

Now, to me that would mean that it should be a source of daily news, so that viewers get to know about something that matters to them a lot. More than at the level of "the NHS has a XX million deficit", "xxxx hospital is to close", "NHS unions are striking today over xxxxx", or "the NHS computerisation plan is years behind schedule", however well those are covered. Publishing the trusts' assessment scores isn't enough either. We shouldn't, for example, have apparently slipped, almost without coverage, from the NHS being alloted so many extra billion to that all having been absorbed, mostly by higher wages and new buildings, and there being an extra overspend. The stuff in between did not belong in the domain of the uncovered, as if it were a private company. After all, most of this is done by trusts and committees that have open meetings.

The last of those I attended myself I was the only non-board member there. That seems all too common. As I left I was astonished to encounter two skips by the entrance full of almost new computer equipment, each piece with a single hammer blow through it (laptops, laser printers, monitors), because they'd just bought a new system. No mention of that in the report. No one watches. Just as few are watching the billions being spent on computing now, or big new hospitals being built not that differently to the ghastly errors (difficult to clean, overheated, expensive to run, disspiriting, ugly, difficult to access) of 20 years ago, just as the government is pressing for services to be decentralised, to be nearer to the patients.

It isn't so much that it is badly managed (although cost accountants are almost certainly entirely absent), but that there are huge competing forces battling all the time with rather little influence by and for patients (more of that than there was before this governments pressures, but still relatively little).

The UK media, and especially the BBC, shouldn't be taking its cue for how much attention to devote to health from the US media coverage of their very, very different situation. What, say, if our public services had as much coverage as football?

  • 14.
  • At 11:25 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Margaret Snowdon wrote:

The Royal Mail's partial privatisation through the back door,with John Lewis style partnership shares, has proved remarkably succesful in motivating workers.It is a shame that a similar solution cannot be found for NHS workers who must do dull and stressful jobs 24-7.In London a talented young doctor may start on a salary as low as £25k,which would hardly be enough for a deposit on a one-bedroom flat in Notting Hill-where half of London's media seem to live.

  • 15.
  • At 08:28 PM on 25 Sep 2006,
  • Simione wrote:

Totally agree with Tim (11). Mr Ahmedinajad's original comment was initially reported almost correctly by a few media sources, but as often happens, soon after, all started singing from the same liars' hymn book.

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