Talk about Newsnight

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Thursday, 7 September, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Sep 06, 06:14 PM

blair_school203100.jpgTony Blair's statement: is the damage already done? We spent the day following both Blair and Brown. CIA secret jails: Former Secretary for Homeland Security Tom Ridge speaks to us about rendition, detention and human rights. Gaddafi the musical: Stephen Smith goes to meet the people behind the English National Opera's latest outing.

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  • 1.
  • At 06:58 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Fred Jowett wrote:

Come on guys,do you really want to return to old style Thathcerism? As my Chancellor Mr MacBrown will tell you,"We have never had it so good."
We have greased the palms of private industry,boosted the arms trade,and unloaded public responsibilty onto the private sector.Surely you don`t want a return to old style Socialism?

  • 2.
  • At 07:06 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • richards wrote:

An impossible task.
How many politicians do we know who could say anything in under 50 words?

  • 3.
  • At 07:16 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Ryan wrote:

Copy pointers for tonight's program and debate:

1. Blair basically hasn't said anything we didn't already know. He's obfuscating.

2. Please don't presume in tonight's interview's that Brown is the man. He might not be.

3. Some intelligent debate around why opinion has moved against him would be welcome, emphasis on:

- Disgrutled Labour left
- Anti-war movement
- Conservative Party

Blair is marginalised with the majority of the electrate against him. The opposition parties and half of his own party.

Is Labour returning to its left roots?

4. Contrast with John Howard, who said he would resign, then reversed his decision. His Treasurer agitated and then lost his nerve.

  • 4.
  • At 09:25 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • John wrote:

I hope you'll cover the reception Tony got at the school ..
Good blog with video here -

Brown will be a mimicker of Blair, but without the class, without the communication skills without the edge Blair has.


PS When is the main my Jeremy Paxman back, Emily Matlis does not quite cut it compared.

  • 6.
  • At 11:07 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • tshepo wrote:

Tony Blair should go yesterday and allow the Labour party to rethink it's policies. His watch has seen a drastric drop in social mobility and the removal of that safety net that helped to keep British society civil. His considerable desire to erode our Liberties even going to the extreme of labeling feoti harks to Orwell's 1984 and Hitler's cronies. I cannot wait to see the last of him and his lamentable premiership and maybe we will see a safer Britain.

  • 7.
  • At 11:08 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Caroline Kennedy wrote:

"I'll do what is good for the Labour Party but, more importantly, I will do what is good for Britain!" Tony Blair's words. But when has he ever cared a damn what the Labour Party thinks, what his voters think or, even, what his own Cabinet think? Why can't we offer him a slot on Chris Evan's radio show, Blue Peter and Songs of Praise this week instead of next year and then, with some luck, we'll be rid of him by the weekend. That will be cause for celebration.

  • 8.
  • At 11:08 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • james wrote:

why are we allowing a man elected only by the scots, to be the prime minister of great britain,

  • 9.
  • At 11:10 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Timothy Gibson wrote:

Gordon Brown has regrettably already shown a distinct lack of leadership qualities necessary for a possible future Prime Minister in allowing the present furore to have manifested itself. Having waited patiently for so long to become PM, he has allowed a rabble of so-called supporters to bring his party and himself into disrepute. Any worthwhile individual in his position would have immediately stamped out the insurrection and allowed for an orderly transition of power. In my opinion, he is permanently scarred.

  • 10.
  • At 11:12 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Kathy wrote:

I'm appalled at tonight's reporting of the Labour Party's leadership problem. The BBC have started to behave like the worst of the tabloids! Please, report the news, concentrate on the facts and cease being so trite.
The only good thing I can say is that at least we got some sense from Denis Healey and Norman Lamont.

  • 11.
  • At 11:18 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Bob wrote:

I hope the Labour party loses the next general election because Gordon Brown and his cohorts have forgotten what a great leader Tony Blair is. To me, Brown seem to be desperate in becoming the next PM and I don't think he'll ever succeed because he's uncharismatic.

  • 12.
  • At 11:19 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • John wrote:

Hiya. In first regards I want to thanks the BBC for great coverage and persistant attempts to get clear answers from our 'accountable' leader (s?) over the last few days. I heard on a Radio 4 programme this afternoon a Labour MP comment that Brown and his cronies should effectively shut up and 'Earn his inheritance'. Upon the political demise of Blair, should his successor pay Inheritance Tax to acquire No.10 perhaps?. On a more serious note, I've been monitoring the debacle ever since it was leaked some two years ago they had a lunch in Scotland to have Blair lead the Party to power and handover to Brown. Who appointed Brown as a successor to govern the best interests of the Party or to even have challengers for a leadership contest? The one question that I would like answered is that if the Prime Minister is now seen to have defaulted on his 'pledge' to serve a full third term to the next election, shouldn't the decision of who runs the country be made by a democratic election? Or have we resigned the right to vote on serious subjects in exchange to choose who should stay in The Big Brother House or who should be voted off Celebrity Love Island and The X-Factor.

  • 13.
  • At 11:26 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Stephen Mason wrote:

I was very encouraged by what Brown said today, and then fairly happy with what Blair said.

However, all the current media comments about the statements are about mutual panicking and a truce in bitter fighting. If these comments are true, they merely seem to suggest to naive people like myself that the government consists largely of extremely selfish wicked conmen. Seems confusing.

  • 14.
  • At 11:28 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

There has been a lot of talk about opponents of Blair damaging the party. The one person who has damaged the party most over the past decade is Blair himself. He treated it with contempt more or less from the start, seeing it merely as a vehicle for his own ambitions, and has caused increasing resentment both in the party and the country at large by forcing through policies which have nothing to do with the party's core values.

What is surprising is that the party has remained as loyal as it has in the face of extreme provocation (e.g. Iraq, Foundation Hospitals and Schools, creeping privatisation of the NHS, to name but a few). What we are seeing now is years of suppressed seething resentment in the party rising to the surface, now that Blair is clearly no longer an electoral asset.

Incidentally, it is interesting to note that, despite Blair being seen as an election winner, the number of the total electorate who voted Labour (as opposed to the proportion of those who voted) was less than 22%, as compared with 20% in 1983! Labour is still in power only because of (a) the quirks of our electoral system and (b) the greatly reduced number of people who see any point in voting.


  • 15.
  • At 11:40 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • David wrote:

The turmoil over Blair's leadership is the fourth time in my life that a Party successful at winning a string of General Elections has been unable to change its Leader in a "smooth and orderly transition" whilst in power.

This is a direct result of there being no written UK Constitution.

Blair's great legacy could be to bring in a Bill for Fixed Term (say 4 year)Parliaments with a given Prime Minister limited to a maximum of two full Terms or part Terms, whichever is the shorter.

Well, unlike Brigadier Kathy, I rather liked tonight's programme, except the excruciating-as-usual piece of kitsch picked from among the thousands of cultural phenomena by the infallibly slightly-off-target Stephen Smith.

As someone who is not really a fan of Labour, while harbouring a respect for the more judicious elements on the Labour left, I cannot but be "appalled", to use Kathy's phrase, at the way the Labour Party has moved from victory to spin, from spin to internecine warfare, within a decade. This leadership dithering, letting Tony choose his time, is disastrous.

"Gerr'on with it!" is my gut reaction. We need three strong parties to keep democracy in play, not five or six squabbling political factions. Tony's "Going, going..... er, still going... er, strong" is a disaster. Now, and in a year's time, and for ever more.

Rammell's idea of a joke is not mine.

The nail-biting Michael Crick should get more booked interviews; it's so undignified for the cheeky chappie to be shouting for attention on street corners like a helicopterine chimpanzee.

Two lords a-leaping. Hm.

Emily: even at the end of the programme, the camera lingers. don't oppen thi gob that wide if you're still being watched by 1.2 million viewers.

  • 17.
  • At 11:48 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • dave brown wrote:

no one has yet mentioned the real reason why blair is hated.people have mentioned the iraq war,surrendering power to europe etc.the real reason that working people hate him is ;the failure to scrap the tory council tax{£914 is too much for a working man in a terrace house,it used to be £152 under the old rates back in 1988};the bringing in of millions of immigrants who are chasing up house prices and keeping wages down;the raising of the retirement age.all these issues are a many pronged attack on the working class.blair is either ignorant of the daily struggles of the working class or he is doing these things deliberately.either way he has to go now.he has betrayed the working class,he should have been bundled into the back of a taxi,crying 3 or 4 years ago.

  • 18.
  • At 12:05 AM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • demon_eyes wrote:

I thought journalism was about highlighting the significant events from amongst the froth?

Amidst their excitement and frantic search for quotes, BBC political staff have ignored how increasingly Blair is seen by the voters as a liability - Iraq/Lebanon, anti-public sector workers, his love affair with rich donors and the likes of Berlusconi and Bush.This is despite the big achivements of his governments: the economy, improved public services funded without direct taxation increases (they said it couldn't be done), devolution and progress on child poverty.

I and many others could tell this from doorstep comments when canvassing in the 2005 election, and now even Blairite loyalists like Sion Simon have realised it. David Miliband has politely nailed his colours to the mast, and Charles Clarke set out a very clear rationale for change. These are developments of significance, guys.

Sadly, Blair is in denial about his own unpopularity; hence the pressure on him to sort out his departure in good time for a fresh start, with Brown or whoever (John Reid anyone??).

Yes, its brutal but that's politics, as Thatcher or Charlie Kennedy will testify. TB's had a good innings but its time to move on...

  • 19.
  • At 12:05 AM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Rick B wrote:

Blair should've quit at last year's conference. By dragging it out he's taking the Labour Party down with him.

  • 20.
  • At 12:26 AM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Garry Jackson wrote:

This is a traditional 'smoke and mirrors' move by a modern political party at the behest of a Western hegemony - the United States. Modern global life is dictated by the movements of the largest military power by self-interest (business, tourism, hand-me-downs for oil etc.) and duties still owed from the second world war.

Blairs transition will be from a war-mongering nation to one of appeasement which will reflect the mood of the US in a new mood of openness and friendship once the reigns of power have been steadied in the middle east and the growing economies in Asia have been pinned down, the Euro defeated and the US dollar standard re-introduced.

For those that don't see the reflection of the USA on modern Britain - get an education.

Back to the original point, Cameron has positioned himself well, good on the environment, very british, but respectful abroad.

And its back to that very basic point isn't it - Britishness (read: Englishness). Brown is already tarnished as "too scottish", with too much influence on government in England that is not mirrored up North.

The perception is that we are being taxed to fund devolved autonomous governments with their own specialist agendas - Brown, by his very scottishness is directly linked.

Therefore, I see a surprise element in the next year of either a Blair u-turn on leaving (he is young and has the female vote) or a radical labourite taking the reigns(just how long can male power - wolfie :)- be curtailed for goodness sake ??) . I think Blairs image is already tarnished by war - it just remains on how the government can persuade the UK that the spoils of war and economic benefits are mitigating factors.

In any event, Cameron is a dead cert for the next general and Blair is a dead man walking.

  • 21.
  • At 12:40 AM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • TheFly wrote:

It seems to me that this whole fiasco about Tony Blair leaving is simply a political ploy to ensure that the issues relating to his mass unpopularity continues (i.e Iraq) whilst his party is willfully re-elected under the false pretence that because of a new leadership, whether it be Gordon Brown or one of the more Junior ministers (with apparently contrasting visions in the partys policies such as iraq), the party will be more for the people, which in theory would mean a rejection of the current foreign policy and relations with the U.S and a higher investment in public services and in reality would mean no change in policies whatsoever.

I welcome any discussions.

  • 22.
  • At 03:14 AM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Ashley Ballard wrote:

While everyone here talks of coverage of the leadership issue, you continue to try to beam neocon propaganda into my head. Frankly, I thought the disgracefully one-sided be-afraid-be-very-afraid piece on Iran last week was a low point, but today's shocking interview in which one of Bush's cronies advised us in as many words that "Britons should be very scared of terrorism because they let so many Muslims in" was just sickening. Only the most fleeting mention of the CIA prisons has been made, even though Newsnight was previously in the vanguard of the investigation. The US has been in violation of the ECHR on European soil either in collusion with or behind the backs of host governments, and all you do is cozy up to the Bush administration asking them just the questions they want to be asked.

Stop trying to pass warmongering and racism off as expert opinion. If I want a heart bypass I go to a surgeon not the health secretary, and if I want to fight terrorism I go to an intelligence operative not Bush's mouthpiece. Find the closet neocon on the editorial staff and purge him, coz he's making you look bad.

  • 23.
  • At 10:36 AM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • chris wrote:

Tony Liar the musical anyone?

  • 24.
  • At 10:51 AM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Jennifer Watts wrote:

Hi Newsnight, Phew, what commes next, after what I think was an attempted coup,or a stab in the back from Brown,has it succeeded or not?
I still think Blair has to see this through, at least upto and including the TUC and Labour Conferences,and beyond into the New Year, if the reaction is good and the LP does not go all out to scupper it with the private aid of Brown. Even Jack Straw has more appeal to me. It has to be remembered,what he did bring,with his charasmatic appearance,the Labour Party out of its former,rather disreptuable image. Everyone who is for Blair, has quoted what he has achieved, that is why I do not.His very big mistake was his alignment with the USA and the evasion of Iraq, without proper clearance.This has led,in my opinion,to the turmoil in the M.E.which exists today. But do we sack a Prime Minister for that grave error,and if so,why not at the time? Gordon Brown belongs to the old-time LP, and unless he shows allegiance, he will surely become the next PM and loose the election, leaving the way open to those nuts,the Cons. Keep going Blair,the country needs your style of leadership for the moment.I was going to say, maybe I could then come home, nut not to a fractured LP, Brown or the Cons. who influence my family, and the 'Troisieme Age'of the English residents here in the sunny Cote d'Azur. Regards , Jennifer W.

  • 25.
  • At 01:02 PM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • seun wrote:

Blair's statement was just about all he could muster up given the circumstances and situation created by this tediously slow suicide bid by a minority within the Labour Party. This coup orchestrated by Brown has failed miserably and has severely damaged the Government that he has been trying to get his hands on over the last 6 years.

The conclusiveness of the tone taken by many Brownites when talking about the succession of leadership has an egotistical tone. Has any one actually thought to question whether Gordon Brown would actually make a good leader or PM, can he bring anything new to the major policies if he was to come into power?

Gordon Brown has kept silent over all of the policies that have failed to win over the public and has had no input into the direction of the Labour Party in a bid to maintain a sense of mystery and not alienate any potential voters much like Cameron did in during the Conservatives leadership election. As a result of this he has failed to give Labour or the voting public any idea of what we would be facing with him as potential Prime Minster. This has caused those in his party to delay calling for Tony Blair to step down. This desperate underhand attempt at forcing the Labour party to dispose of Blair only strengthens my views that Gordon Brown is not strong enough to assert himself and definitely not fit Govern this country.

  • 26.
  • At 02:56 PM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Thomas Metcalf wrote:

Would just like to applaud the use of Labour's previous campaign music at the end of the program last night. Both funny and deeply satirical!

"Things... can only get better..." They certainly hope so.

  • 27.
  • At 03:58 PM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Peter Jenner wrote:

the number of the total electorate who voted Labour (as opposed to the proportion of those who voted) was less than 22%

And of that 22% many voted Labour despite Blair not because of him!

  • 28.
  • At 05:54 PM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Christine Constable wrote:

No one has adequately explained how, in a devolved UK, it is tenable to have a First Minister for England NOT elected by one English person.

The Scots have a First Minister so to the Welsh, we cannot continue to have the majority of people on this island - the English, without a Parliament of its own and without a First Minister of its own. If 5 million Scots are felt to need a parliament then 55million English are similarly entitled - even more so.

It is an intolerable arrogance of the Tartan Mafia to deny England a vote on her devolution if this matter isn't quickly resolved a serious degree of English unrest will begin and I only hope that the politicians wake up to that growing reality.

  • 29.
  • At 06:55 PM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Greg Hewson wrote:

Did Emily Maitlis do a big 'Omi Gawd' hand over mouth expression at the end of Thursdays show because she threw her notes accidentally off the desk or because she called the group responsible for the Labour signature tune 'Dream' instead of D:ream ?

I suggest E.M. takes a detour to Top of the Pops archive on the way to the Newsnight studio to brush up on her 90s pop.

  • 30.
  • At 08:10 PM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Mansel Hopkins wrote:

What Gordon Brown (and Reid, Campbell, Kennedy etc) seem to have forgotten is that MPs of Scottish constituencies are not considered acceptable as British Prime Minister to many English voters, at least while the West Lothian Question remains unresolved.
This anomaly will obviously not be resolved while we have a Labour government with its dependency on Scottish support.
Regards Mansel.

  • 31.
  • At 09:49 PM on 08 Sep 2006,
  • Val Comba wrote:

I wonder how much 'bad news' is being 'buried' while all this Blair/Brown nonsense continues to dominate the media!

  • 32.
  • At 10:57 AM on 09 Sep 2006,
  • John Chester wrote:

Brown is an introvert, highly intelligent and secretive. He looks down on all those who are not of the same character and view. Anyone who does not agree with him is dismissed.

He can lead a small treasury department, but come on can he lead a nation? Remember he has destroyed pensions, taxed the nation at every move, created reams of red tape. In so doing demonstrated that he wants to collect as much data on everyone as possible. He is a control freak, information is power.

He is so obviously Scottish that he feels that he has to go on and on about "Britishness," whatever that is?

His silence during the attacks on Blair are telling. Only someone who is stabbing his boss in the back would remain as mute as he. Do we want a PM who does not defend his boss, this does not bode well for the future; would he defend his cabinet, party, nation? He has not got the stuff of modern open leadership. His is the leadership of privilege and secrecy.


The PM is in the Middle East supposedly on a peace mission. Many cynics will raise their eyebrows at this, not least where he cannot even keep peace in his own party!

But is his mission so impossible?

The reality is that peace will only come when both sides of the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians, really want it. Despite their rhetoric the Palestinians (and Arabs in general) really want peace. The problem is that they want it on their terms. The Oslo accord so nearly was successful. It was the only the status of Jerusalem which stalled the process; and, of course, Sharon then hijacked it. The Palestinians, suffering the worst excesses of occupation even in the supposedly independent Gaza - have everything to gain from peace; and maybe if Jerusalem was an open city – under the UN – that would now be enough.

The real opposition to a political peace has come from Israel. It always believed as the only regional superpower it gained more from ‘military victory’. Now it is having to come to terms with military defeat, and may be on the point of reconsidering its position.
The basis for peace is perhaps there. But neither side, especially not the Israelis, would want to talk to the other – and make the first move.

Under these circumstances the catalyst might be someone else offering to bring them together. Much the same happened in Vietnam; when Henry Kissinger brought the two sides together. He was the most unlikely of marriage-makers, but he had the trust of the more intransigent of the combatants – the US. The peace then came about because the combatants ‘used’ him to craft it!

Despite his reputation at home, and in some Arab capitals, Tony Blair like Kissinger has the trust of the US (and Israel) – earned at great personal cost. At the same time, he has a sufficient reputation as a champion of the Third World so be half-way acceptable to the other side.

Is the time now right for him to be the catalyst?

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