Talk about Newsnight

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Tuesday, 26 September, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Sep 06, 05:35 PM

blair_conf203100.jpg Tuesday's programme comes from Manchester where Jeremy has been watching Tony Blair's valedictory speech to the Labour Party conference. Tonight he (Jeremy, not Tony) will be joined by guests including Alastair Campbell to consider the state of the party as Mr Blair prepares to take his leave of it. Meanwhile Justin Rowlatt has been preaching the benefits of leading an ethical life to Labour delegates – find out how he got on. And we return to the cultural melting pot that is the Nottinghamshire town of Eastwood.

Newsnight is at 10.30pm, but Talk about Newsnight never closes. Leave your comments on the programme below.

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  • 1.
  • At 06:24 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • DS wrote:

Can someone out there please ask Tony Blair to SHUT UP, and leave with his tail between his legs, as all he's ever done is dish out to the British people and public one lie after the other. As if this is not enough he goes on to follow in president Bush of Americas footsteps by importing TERRORISM into the UK, leaving innocent members of the British public dead on the streets of London, and, families to grieve their loved oves. As if this is not enough, he goes on to keep sending British troops to Iraq and Afghanistan to die needlessly, meanwhile; his (Tony Blair) son is off to the prestigeous YALE University in America, for further studies - bare in mind that the bill of his sons' school fees and all he would ever need out there in America is picked up by we the tax paying hardworking British masses, meanwhile our own children back home are forced to go into astraunomical debts in order to get a basic education here in the UK. It should be remebered that Tony Blair himself got his education ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE in OXFORD UNIVERSITY - as if this isn't enough, Tony Blair has the temarity to state that he has the British interest at heart - in other words he's doing every thing humanly possible to better our living.

I ask again, can somebody out there please ask Tony Blair to SHUT UP.


  • 2.
  • At 06:56 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

Alistair Campbell appearing is comment enough... says it all about Newsnight i'm sorry to say...Some people chose their guests or not as the case maybe,but i would rather not attend such funtions. On the conference aka Blair I agree with the previous writer entirely.

  • 3.
  • At 06:57 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • J Elliott wrote:

I totally agree and if I hear one more media person saying what a wonderful speech I shall throw up. All he is good at is acting......

  • 4.
  • At 07:13 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Scott wrote:

The King is back, long live the King.

Paxman's missives from the Labour love-in are a humourous read. I hope Mr Paxman will contribute more to the Newsnight website.

Thank goodness he is back, and in good form by the sounds of it. Look forward to his acerbic wit and incisive interviews at 10.30.

Please, please, please ask Alastair Campbell to apologise to Greg Dyke and Andrew Gilligam.

If you could also ask him where the videotape of Tony Blair saying "I am sorry, there were no WMDs in Iraq" is too.

  • 6.
  • At 08:37 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Cris wrote:

It was a brilliant and refreshingly honest speech, quit moaning. I nearly choked on my ipod this morning when even Mandy was genuine on Today (Radio4).

But did you hear the caged comment from John Reid tonight? What are the bets that his hat goes in the ring? How about exploring this further post conference...

  • 7.
  • At 10:14 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Benedict St. George wrote:

There is no such thing as society for Blairites, no authorities, no humanities, only their private but enforced moralities, their images and ours to them... and the skill of making people feel unpopular..we are all just instant images and moral challenges for them, mythical beasts of animality, wanton freedom, and class antagonism, not known or considered as humans or society participants, only as resources to help them get what they feel they need, deserve, enforce and inflict, at our expense!!

If only there was such as society, we would be fathers, sons, brothers, lovers, workers, colleagues, and all sorts of sociability and cultural appreciation and participation...

...but now we are but indicators of economic value to their vindictives who punish us for being all that we could, hate us for having all that we have, envy us for being as we are, and fight us to win back something they lost from someone else we never knew...

...they are degenerate, not inferior in many ways superior, but degenerate, soulless, anticultured misanthropists ...triggered to find the image of us a cause for fights that their leaders lead excused and vindicated into legitimacy throughout societies!!!

We live in society, they live in fear and cycles of vindictivism revenge and retribution...

We stay proud of the rights things, when they try to change the faces of goodness..

We restore ourselves back into love and romance, when they challenge us with the vitalisms of imminent deaths...

We stay certain of the right choices when they wish us to demean our selves

We stay focused on the world and vocational in our pursuits, when they try to rule us with their enemistic minds punishments and values

...and we prepare to beat the triumphs of their evil fascists and selfish communists...

For us the lads, the lovers, the fathers, of the future...

Benedict TLC

The Principles of Blairspeak
(apologies to George Orwell)

Blairspeak is the official language of Great Britain and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of New Labour. In the year 2006 there are many who use Blairspeak as their sole means of communication, either in speech or writing. The leading articles in The Times and The Sun are written in it, but this is a tour de force that could only be carried out by a specialist. It was expected that Blairspeak would have finally superseded Standard English by about the year 2010. Meanwhile it has gained ground steadily, all MPs tending to use Blairspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech. The version in use in 2004 is a provisional one, and contained many superfluous words and archaic formations that were due to be suppressed later.

The purpose of Blairspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of New Labour, but also to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Blairspeak had been adopted once and for all and Standard English forgotten, a heretical thought -- that is, a thought diverging from the principles of New Labour -- should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods.

This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. To give a single example, the word free still existed in Blairspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as 'This PM is free from blame' or 'Mr Campbell is free from censure'. It could not be used in its old sense of 'politically free' or 'intellectually free' since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.

Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Blairspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and cutting the choice of words down to a minimum indirectly assisted this purpose.

Blairspeak was founded on the English language as we now know it, though many Blairspeak sentences, even when not containing newly-created words, would be barely intelligible to an English-speaker of our own day. Blairspeak words were divided into three distinct classes, known as the A vocabulary, the B vocabulary (also called compound words), and the C vocabulary. It will be simpler to discuss each class separately, but the grammatical peculiarities of the language can be dealt with in the section devoted to the A vocabulary, since the same rules held good for all three categories.

The A vocabulary

The A vocabulary consisted of the words needed for the business of everyday life -- for such things as eating, drinking, working, putting on one's clothes, going up and down stairs, riding in vehicles, gardening, cooking, and the like. It was composed almost entirely of words that we already possess words like hit, run, dog, tree, sugar, house, field -- but in comparison with the old-fashioned English vocabulary their number was extremely small, while their meanings were far more rigidly defined.

The grammar of Blairspeak had two outstanding peculiarities. The first of these was an almost complete interchangeability between different parts of speech.

In addition, any word -- this again applied in principle to every word in the language -- could be negatived by adding the affix un- or could be strengthened by the affix plus-, or, for still greater emphasis, doubleplus-. Thus, for example, uncold meant 'warm', while pluscold and doublepluscold meant, respectively, 'very cold' and 'superlatively cold'.

The B vocabulary

The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them. Without a full understanding of the principles of New Labour it was difficult to use these words correctly. In some cases they couId be translated into old-fashioned English, or even into words taken from the A vocabulary, but this usually demanded a long paraphrase and always involved the loss of certain overtones. The B words were a sort of verbal shorthand, often packing whole ranges of ideas into a few syllables, and at the same time more accurate and forcible than ordinary language.

The B words were in all cases compound words. They consisted of two or more words, or portions of words, welded together in an easily pronounceable form. The resulting amalgam was always a noun-verb, and inflected according to the ordinary rules. To take a single example: the word goodthink, meaning, very roughly, 'orthodoxy', or, if one chose to regard it as a verb, 'to think in an orthodox manner'. This inflected as follows: noun-verb, goodthink; past tense and past participle, goodthinked; present participle, goodthinking; adjective, goodthinkful; adverb, goodthinkwise; verbal noun, goodthinker.

The C vocabulary

The C vocabulary was supplementary to the others and consisted entirely of journalistic and technical terms. These resembled the scientific terms of old, and are constructed from the same roots, but the usual care was taken to define them rigidly and strip them of undesirable meanings. They followed the same grammatical rules as the words in the other two vocabularies. Very few of the C words had any currency either in everyday speech or in political speech. Any scientific worker or technician could find all the words he needed in the list devoted to his own speciality, but he seldom had more than a smattering of the words occurring in the other lists. Only a very few words were common to all lists, and there was no vocabulary expressing the function of journalism as a habit of mind, or a method of thought, irrespective of its particular branches. There was, indeed, no word for 'BBC', any meaning that it could possibly bear being already sufficiently covered by the word New Labour.

From the foregoing account it will be seen that in Blairspeak the expression of unorthodox opinions, above a very low level, was well-nigh impossible. It was of course possible to utter heresies of a very crude kind, a species of blasphemy. It would have been possible, for example, to say Alastair Campbell is ungood. But this statement, which to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self-evident absurdity, could not have been sustained by reasoned argument, because the necessary words were not available. Ideas inimical to New Labour could only be entertained in a vague wordless form, and could only be named in very broad terms which lumped together and condemned whole groups of heresies without defining them in doing so.

  • 9.
  • At 11:02 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Benedict Compassion wrote:

Lots to love about Tony Blair...particularly his consideration and influencability...but shame about the manners movement and their desire to win rather than get on with us...

What is the psychology of government, are we going to continue to be run by it??

  • 10.
  • At 11:04 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

I loved the bit about Zero emissions target by 2050. Tony, most of will be dead already! Pure Propaganda at its best.

  • 11.
  • At 11:05 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • PN wrote:

I have been wondering what we pay the license fee for lately, but would like to thank Newsnight for restoring my faith by capturing and broadcasting the absolutely brilliant rant by Tom Harris MP at the Labour conference on tonight's programme. F***ing hilarious.

  • 12.
  • At 11:09 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Cleverly wrote:

Re: the wrist band piece. Please name and shame the sanctimonious Scot who attempted to bully the newsnight reporter - what an ass. The long playing Labour record about the BBC and the licence fee is well and truly broken, please tell them to put-up as I'm sure we'll never get them to shut-up.

Tom Harris: is there a less media-savvy man on Earth?

  • 14.
  • At 11:50 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • Pip Farnsworth wrote:

As per above posts about Tom Harris, I just logged on to say how revolted I was by his behaviour to the Reporter.

In a an age where political apathy reigns, efforts to liven up political debate such as the use of wristbands in a quirky fashion should be applauded for ingenuity, not spoken down to with such arrogant, snarling condescenion.

Even more galling when coming from from an apparatchik who tried to make it as a Journo ...

  • 15.
  • At 11:52 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • E Hughes wrote:

I find it baffling that so many people dislike TB, we've not seen a politician of that calibre for years. Who else today can give a speech like that?

People love to hate politicians and Iraq has given them the excuse to moan about TB for as long as he is in power.

History judges leaders on the consequences of the decisions they take not the ones they don't. We should consider this when we look at Iraq. Plus its very easy to be wise with hindsight. I’m glad we have people like TB to make tough decisions like going t war.

If people don't like TB for Iraq then maybe they should like him for making millions of lives better through increased foreign aid, investment in education + hospitals and reducing child poverty.

People have got take a more balanced and realistic view, they should stop indulging in cynical attacks on government, grow up and learn the facts! :-)

Another nearly solid Old Newsnight programme. Newsnight stuck mostly to important events.

I watched the Blair speech from my perch over in the Netherlands. BBC World cut it off fifteen minutes before the end, which just shows what kind of image the BBC want to give the Continentals.

But I agree with what Roy Hattersley said: it would be churlish not to agree that it was a good speech. Wait a minute, hadn't I heard the rather rare word "churlish" on Newsnight? Yes, but afterwards. The highly original Martin Bright-Spark parroted the stalwart of Old Labour.

The best thing about Blair's speech was that he highlighted Labour successes and said that the future would be tough. A realistic speech. In fact, Blair would make a good Foreign Minister. But you don't slide down the greasy pole and accept a lower rank.

I can only say that the blathering Alastair Campbell is an exceedingly unpleasant man. Luckily, given his demotion, he is not quite clever enough to be a full-time influential Machiavellian. And his Robin, to Campbell's Batman in disfavour, ought most definitely to be Alan Milburn.

I just wish that David Grossman wouldn't look so exceedingly clever-dick smug all the time.

The immigrant story is very tragic. Aušra looked devastated. But if we, the rich West, had invested in Lithuania and bullied their government to keep their citizens, she wouldn't be in the UK now.

When you hear "Vladimir, who's Latvian" this speaks volumes to anyone who knows about the history of the Baltic countries. Invaded by Russia (called the Soviet Union, for some reason) in 1940 and 1944, with three years of German Nazis (Jews rounded up, murdered) all three Baltic countries have been the victims of history. So what we should do now is make sure that those ethnic Russians, the descendants mostly of the Soviet invaders, integrate and stay put.

Why should we take on wave after wave of immigrants from EU countries which should be investing in their population instead of squandering their EU subsidies?

Finally Ethical Justin. Surprised me that Milly Band had time to lark around. It was all good fun, I suppose, but a bit studenty-lame.

  • 17.
  • At 12:23 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Chris Gudgin wrote:

Tom Harris MP needs to get a sense of humour! and a bit of intelligence to know that his rant would be broadcast, making him look like an over-reacting fool!

  • 18.
  • At 08:13 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Robert Crosby wrote:

Some people just can't get over the fact that like or dislike his personality, he actually talks a lot of sense. Similarly with the Iraq War, Hutton etc, whatever you think of all that, anyone who seriously believes that Dyke and Gilligan were hard done by needs to seek medical advice.

  • 19.
  • At 08:57 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Ryan wrote:

A brickbat and a bouquet:

What a breath of fresh air Martha Kearney is! We have to indure Nick Robinson in rolling bulletins online, on radio and on air on the BBC all day. He never seems to offer up anything new. Martha by contrast is great.

Peter, The Friends of the Earth (FOTE) package was pointless in-crowd drivel. What value did that add? It wasn't funny, insightful, edifying, quirky or interesting. Just clumsy.

I hope FOTE not we, the taxpayer, paid for Justin to travel to Manchester for that rubbish.

On the evidence of the two lightweight packages in last night's programme perhaps the Controller was wise to target Newsnight for the cutting of one journalist position.

  • 20.
  • At 09:13 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Alex Young wrote:

Is last night's show up on the web yet? I'm still getting boring Gordon and Monday's show. Anyone else?

Sorry everyone - last night's programme was pulled from the web because of copyright. This hasn't happened in a long while, but I appreciate it's still a frustration when it does (not least for us ;) ). We'll aim to get as much material as possible from the rest of the programme online today.


  • 22.
  • At 09:55 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • chris wrote:

Yesterday as I watched Blair mouthing off the telephone rang, it was my mate Clare from Norwich, while Blair was boasting about NHS waiting lists being reduced Clare informed me of her 84 year old father who was in hospital (kings Lynn) and after a serious bowel operation was left for 6 hours in his own excrement.

With Clares anger ringing in my ear I promised I would inform of this disgrace on here.

How does she make an effective complaint. Her efforts were just shrugged off.

  • 23.
  • At 10:27 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Alex Young wrote:

Thanks Stuart


  • 24.
  • At 11:08 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Neil oss wrote:

Would love to comment on this program but it does not appear to be available for viewing on the website. There is a description of the programme and then an invitation to "watch the latest programme" but the link shows an old programme.

  • 25.
  • At 11:38 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Frances wrote:

Can I have a John McDonnell wrist band please?

Tuesday's programme is now available for your viewing pleasure on the Newsnight website. Click the 'Latest Programme', top right. Apologies for the delay. Ian.

Stuart Denman: just of out interest what is the 'copyright' issue of Tuesday's program?

  • 28.
  • At 12:47 PM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Martin wrote:

There can be no doubt that Blair is a consummate public speaker. However, one laughs at the suggestion that it was a 'great speech.' I think, after all these years of listening to Blairspeak, the majority would have been able to predict exactly what Blair would say. It revealed nothing and taught us nothing apart from the fact that when it comes to twisting facts and asserting that foreign policy has been effective, Blair gives us all a good show.

For a true assessment of Blair's time in politics, one would suggest that Newsnight viewers read: The Unfulfilled Prime Minister: Tony Blair's Quest for a Legacy by Peter Riddell. A thoroughly good account of the last nine years of Blair government.

In addition, it is good to see Jeremy Paxman back in action.

  • 29.
  • At 12:51 PM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • FootnoteHooligan wrote:

Delighted to see that Jeremy has managed, for whatever reason, to transcend his contempt for the blogosphere. Hope the lapse is not merely temporary. Who knows, Paxo, mate, you could even learn in due course to savour in some small way the democratic virtues - despite all the nutters & populist grotesqueries - of Nerdland.

Frinstance: even you would not have dared as an on-air aside your dig at Corporation management. Would you? Thanks again for such an excellent conference "post" (I'm sure the word sticks in your craw); it raised my spirits. More sane voices required.

Briantist (27) - Ah, alas, it was dear Frank. "My Way", which was used to play out the programme, has had to be excised from the web version - I'm sure you can hum it, though...


  • 31.
  • At 02:57 PM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • JPseudonym wrote:

Regarding Eastwood.

I'm sure someone mentioned Pakistanis attacking Slovaks, yet there was no mention of this being racist.

Whyever not? It would have been highlighted as racism if English people had been attacking Slovaks.

Double standards? Surely not.

No Comment. I just hope that Bush follows Blairs Lead and resigns.

  • 33.
  • At 04:37 PM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • andy wrote:

I had never heard of Tom Harris, but discovered on looking him up that he has just been appointed to a junior minister position in the transport area.

Perhaps this elevation has gone to his head a little and explains his tantrum, which was all the more embarrassing as most of his colleagues reacted with good humour to a light hearted item, as did most of the Tories to a similar item at their previous conference.

  • 34.
  • At 05:58 PM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Kay Sutherland wrote:

In Jeremy Paxman's daily email re the visit to Eastwood-he was right that D.H.Lawrence would not recognise his birthplace (Eastwood, Nottinghamshire)because the visit was to Eastwood in Rotherham which is in Yorkshire!

  • 35.
  • At 07:35 PM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Cris wrote:

Stuart, the player still playing Monday's newsnight... is there another copyright problem or is it still to be fixed?

By the way .. I'm in Germany on business this week and therefore only get the poor quality / postage-stamp version due to your lovely geo-location policy...

Have the BBC thought about implementing a digital ID or secure way of authenticating license fee payers? (*essential* for those that travel alot). Come on guys, 270 million people fly each year .. it's 2006! We want to be able see super programme's like Newsnight in half-decent quality *wherever* we happen to be :)

I can't believe that Newsnight editors were taken in last week by Branson's latest vacuous personal self-promotion. And then went on to select the ‘news item’ to run on the weekly Podcast - which is where I heard it.

Firstly, during the interview Martha Carney failed to challenge Beardie's claim that the rockets being developed for the proposed Virgin space tourism business would use 'candlepower' in comparison to existing NASA rockets.

Secondly, would his suggestion to raise taxes on UK domestic airfares in cases where there was an alternative high speed rail link be put forward on Australian television where one of his franchised companies operates internal flights but has no trains?

Thirdly, how will this re-investment of the $3bn in profits from Virgin Atlantic into renewable energy technologies be monitored? As a company, the Virgin Group is registered offshore and does not publish any accounts. When publicly listed, it continually changed its accounting periods to avoid any year-on-year comparisons.

Maybe other Newsnight viewers (and Podcast listeners like me) will also remember a few other of the bandwagons that Beardie has jumped on.

1) The offer 'to save Concorde for the nation' despite the fact that there were no spare parts left. Concorde also used 1970s engine technology and flew at higher altitudes causing more environmental damage.

2) Beardie's offer a few years ago to meet Blair with an offer to help the country build more oil refining capacity to avoid petrol shortages.

In both cases, we’ve still not heard any further details of the proposed plans. Might this be the case with latest of Beardie's topical self-promotion opportunities?

  • 37.
  • At 05:10 PM on 28 Sep 2006,
  • Andrew Graham wrote:

I wonder if Jeremy et al will see this but anyway...

I was surprised when interviewing Alistair Campbell, Jeremy allowed himself to get drawn in on naming the date of Blair's immanent departure. Jeremy tried at least to elicit some acknowledgement that Alistair was aware of the planned date. Alistair pretended not to know and then accused Jeremy of playing games. Jeremy should realise that Alistair is and has been a meaningless figure for a while. He is TOny's closest friend and while he does not work in Downing St openly it seems he is deeply involved and consulted on all issues by Tony, something I detest.

Jeremy's correct reponse should have been along the lines that while Alistair may or may not actually know the date, their carefully worked out plans are meaningless. If not for the revolt in recent weeks Blair would not be in the position he is now, giving farewell oratory and his blessings for the future wellbeing of the party. He must be horrified that his legacy could be dumped into the wastebin of history any moment now. The ball has moved out his court. They are no longer in charge of planning any timetable. Indeed another revolt in the next few weeks could see Blair pushed out of office acrimoniously. Alistair hoodwinked Jeremy because he gave the impression Blair was back in charge of the situation. That Blair can still pick his moment. The truth is he most definitely can not.

Jeremy must realise the Blair-Campbell control PR freak-show has come to an end and must be treated as a ghost of Labour past. It is over for them. He must accordingly treat any Blairite interviewees in such manner.

From Tom Harris MP:

Having watched Tuesday's Newsnight on my return from conference, I have to admit I agree with most of the above comments about me. I behaved like a total prat, and have apologised to the reporter in question.

I completely over-reacted to the wristband thing, finding myself more short of hunour than of cash.

Sorry, folks.

  • 39.
  • At 11:31 AM on 29 Sep 2006,
  • David Abbott wrote:

Just seen the comments about the wristband whinger and wanted to add my support for the reporter. OK, so maybe it is a bit frivolous, but this is in stark contrast to the whinging, bullying MP. He seemed to me to show himself to be pompous, bullying, humour by-passed, nasty piece of work. I would encourage all his constituents to vote for anyone else but him in the next election.

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