Talk about Newsnight

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Thursday, 30 November, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Nov 06, 08:52 PM

polonium.jpgLitvinenko, radiation poisoning and former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar; inside the New Labour Project; UN sexual abuse in Haiti claim; and beleaguered Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Martha is on BBC Two at 2230GMT and live on the website. Leave your thoughts below.

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  • 1.
  • At 10:09 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

Had hoped that Newsnight wouldn't go with the Radiation stories... it's so over hyped in the media aleady...
claims & counter claims, experts galore, all with specialist knowledges .... news channels are regurgitating the same old stuff...any Russian ill for whatever reason is thought to have been poisoned?...planes grounded because minute traces of this plutonium like substance has been found, and as one specialist stated " it could occur naturally" just so much unsubstantiated information! More & more commentators seemingly accusing Russia per se & Putin !( somewhat lacking diplomacy) of being implicated with the death of a former KGB dissident,& now another former President apparently very ill in Russia after falling ill whilst in Ireland...everyone loves an intriguing ..007 style spycatcher, spooks theory...buts that's all they are! . John Reid re-announcing the latest, latest news in the Commons in very laboured , funereal tones,!! looking/sounding rather reminiscent of the flight scares in the summer!!(Anything new on that story?)
Have you noticed how all this has taken the electorates eye off the continuing "Not fit for purpose" Home Office mess, the Prisons scandal , the War in Iraq! /Afghanistan et al!
Too sceptical of this bet I am!!
Anyone for Croquet?

  • 2.
  • At 10:50 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Bob wrote:

It would appear this has focussed on a scam. Litvinenko may have had another aillment which was overcome by this.
KGB FSB would not be so arrogant to try such a blatant open removal. Rather more cxandelstine

  • 3.
  • At 11:00 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Ian M wrote:

The interview with Matthew Taylor interview was a party political broadcast for the Labour Party. It was a real missed opportunity - we did not get an insight into the workings of Downing Street policy-making, we got an ex-party appointee and a soapbox.

This was an opportunity to have some incisive questioning, but we got a list of bland questions asked in a two-dimensional way.

  • 4.
  • At 11:06 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • Lisa Mooney Smith wrote:

Irrespective of the issues debated this evening, to see so few women either on the panel or in the audience is appalling for a programme representative of an inclusive view to public opinion.
Rights, religious views and racism deserve a view reflective of a broad cross section of the public as well as government....demonstrate that your strength, as well as your principles are reflective of the diverse opinion of the public at large.

  • 5.
  • At 12:04 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

What was comment No 4 all about? Newsnight does not have an audience, and was presented by the excellent Martha Kearney. The story of shocking behaviour by UN peacekeepers featured interviews with some female victims and well as the female deputy secretary general of the UN. Newsnight features little else, apart from rights, religious views and racism, so these comments are unwarranted.

Separately, the radiation story is of immense public interest. For starters, credit to the police who have made so many connections so quickly. Their enquiries have led to the discovery of possible risks to the public at several public places in London as well as aboard certain BA aircraft. The fact that the level of contamination does not appear to pose a threat to public safety is irrelevant. Had danger been found, the aircraft would have been grounded until rendered safe and public places shut. An apparently healthy man died despite the efforts of one of the best hospitals in the world, and it was found that he was most likely poisoned by a substance that was manufactured at a nuclear facility. The issue for Britain is how this stuff got into the country, and how easy would it be for it to fall into the hands of those who seek to kill as many as possible.

The No 10 former policy unit head has revealed, for the first time, that the Govt have alknowledged how difficult selling new ideas would be following the decision to attack Iraq. A change of PM will not solve this problem at all. As effective joint-Prime Minister, who has been happy to take the credit for most of what this Govt have done, Mr Brown will fool few by distancing himself from the Blair decision to take the country to war in Iraq. The Tories would have taken the same decision, by their own admission, so either way, the UK-US strategy was doomed the day Mr Bush was awarded the presidency by the US supreme court in 2000.

  • 6.
  • At 01:34 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

re Litvinenko,

Isnt the thing that stands out is that radiation has been used because it has made it a much bigger story than it would have being had any other means being used to kill this man.

I think this is by far the biggest clue, this whole thing is designed to grab headlines and to frighten people.

Is this something Putin would want to do-

re the UN story
This is what journalism should be about, if we know what is happening in the world -we could stop it -this story is dreadful, perhaps we need to use British troops (rather than Iraq) in places like this. The UN is obviously useless. and undisciplined. Remember how UN troops allowed the massacres in the Balkans?

Now that you have run this please continue to follow up the story. What is being done to help the victims and have the rapists and criminals wearing UN uniforms being arrested yet, if not why not?

Best wishes

Bob Goodall

  • 7.
  • At 09:44 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

Must say I agree entirely with Ian's comments(post 3)the interview was a complete damp squib, despite trailed expectations, just another plug for Blair et al from what should be an apolitcal BBC... Why not have had a third party present to challenge some of Matthew Taylors biased New Labours memories!

  • 8.
  • At 10:58 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Chris W wrote:

As a chemistry graduate, my initial reaction was that Newsnight's graphics were incorrect when showing a cubic close packing structure bouncing round the screen - one of the most basic inorganic chemistry rules is that metallic elements don't form this structure (only ionic and covalent structures do), however, I have since read that "polonium metal is unique in that it is the only element whose structure (known as the alpha-form) is a simple cubic array of atoms in which each atom is surrounded by six other polonium atoms" ( - did the Newsnight editors research this and make the graphic based around this fact, or was it pure chance, and they used the graphic because it's the one of the most stereotypical ways of depicting anything from the mysterious world of chemistry?!

  • 9.
  • At 11:06 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Stranded in Babylon wrote:

Looks to me that message 4 was a comment about Question Time, not Newsnight!


The interview with Matthew Taylor on Newsnight last night was, of course, biased towards New Labour. However, I believe he put his finger on the real trouble – apart from Iraq – behind his party’s image.

The great step forward, gifted to them in 1997, was the result of Tory party’s abandonment of the centre ground. This enabled Tony Blair to reposition his party in the ideal position. Indeed, it enabled him to go further and reposition New Labour right of centre; thus cutting the Tories off from a large part of their natural territory. The Tory party compounded this by, over most of the next decade, making little effective effort to regain this territory.

The problem highlighted by Taylor was that Tony Blair’s real agenda was somewhat left of centre; the statute book – before the tactical move to consolidate even the position on law & order – shows just how radical his ideas really were. To compensate for this Blair used ‘spin’ to dress up his radical ideas as being right leaning! This, incidentally, did not go down well with his own backbenchers who believed this illusion as much as the electorate in general.

As Taylor suggested, the big problem came when this got out of hand. His lieutenants came to love spin, thinking it would cover all their problems. Like the boy who cried wolf, however, the public eventually saw through the device; and came to suspect everything – even the true messages. To be fair, Tony Blair himself largely avoided this technique – but this didn’t solve his problems, for the public branded him with the excesses of others in his administration.

There are, though, still two potential saving graces. The first is that Tony, by leaving, may be able to take these aspects of spin with him – laying down his own reputation to save that of his party. The second is that David Cameron seems to have learned the wrong lesson. He is intent on using such spin to his own benefit, and will lose out when – in the run up to the real election - he has to deliver on his promises by committing himself to legislation which his own right-wingers will hate.

  • 11.
  • At 12:24 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • George B wrote:

Is Newsnight now being produced for an American audience? Science Editor Susan Watts' report from London last night on Alexander Litvinenko used the word "homicide" three times and "autopsy" once. What's wrong with "murder" and "post mortem"?

  • 12.
  • At 04:52 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Steph wrote:

I don't understand why the BBC is not reporting on the twist in the whole thing involving Mario Scaramelli as reported on la Repubblica website? The BBC continues to say that Scaramella is involved in "a parlianmentary enquiry into the KGB" in Italy. You should also mention that this enquiry has been set up three months prior to the general elections in Italy, with the express aim to smear the then opposition candidate Romano Prodi by providing "evidence" that Prodi was recruited by the KGB before the fall of the Soviet Union (ridiculous or not, but Berlusconi ran his election campain largely on an anti-communist ticket). From taped telephone conversations between Paolo Guzzanti, a senator for Berlusconi's Forza Italia movement and Scaramelli, it appears that Scaramelli was ordered to provide this link, even if it meant fabricating dossiers. Scaramelli seems to have entertained contacts to a shady network of ex-KGB men, both Russian and Ukrainian, and used this network to get the required "evidence". The transcript of this phone conversation was published in parts on the Repubblica website this morning (it has now been removed, but there are background articles on Scaramelli).

  • 13.
  • At 09:21 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

re 11. George B makes an interesting point. I hadnt noticed the use of American words instead of British ones.

Could the Editor enlighten us about this?

Best wishes

Bob Goodall

  • 14.
  • At 10:04 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Comments here seem to indicate people failed to notice that it was twice said - not least by the daughter of the possibly poisoned Russian ex-premier - that the most likely culprits in the poisonings are those seeking to destabilise Russia and disrupt Russia's relationships with the West. All the speculation about Putin being responsible is just the easily manipulated, and incredibly naive UK media playing into the hands of such people.

We are seeing glimpses into the semi-insane world of the sort of hoodlums that think they see profit in destabilising the world. So I cannot imagine why MK expressed such intrigue at the reported claim from an ex-KGB soft drinks maker that he had visited London to meet with a British company that it would be astounding to name. Such people have everything out of proportion.

Again the question has to be why these people are allowed in Britain, and why, then, our security services have failed to keep a lid on them. Is it, I'm wondering, because some seem very wealthy, and it is becoming that money will buy almost everything in the UK, in this age of greed?

  • 15.
  • At 07:53 PM on 02 Dec 2006,
  • Isobel Archer wrote:

Re: 11 and 13, perhaps George B's incisive comment has unearthed a new and sinister conspiracy theory: the infiltration of Newsnight by US sympathisers. Only recently, I distinctly heard Jeremy Paxman use the pronunciation "levveridge" twice during an interview, and he's not normally given to transatlantic utterance. Perhaps even raising the topic of conspiracy theories is a cunning means of diverting suspicion away from this worrying trend. Is this the thin end of the wedge? Will we end up seeing Mr Paxman in leisure wear?

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