Talk about Newsnight

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Tuesday, 28 November, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Nov 06, 05:44 PM

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown campaigning for last April's local electionsIn Tuesday's programme: all the parties are in the red according to today's Electoral Commission figures - Michael Crick tells us what it means; Paul Mason looks at the television landscape following Michael Grade's move from BBC to ITV; children born at the beginning of the school year are far more likely to succeed at sport - Richard Watson's been investigating; and we discuss Turkey's chances of EU integration in the light of the Pope's visit.

Join Jeremy at 2230GMT on BBC Two and on the Newsnight website, and let us know your thoughts.

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  • 1.
  • At 06:44 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

Kids born at the start of the year are better at sport ! You don't say ! It wouldn't be anything to do with young August born types like me being kicked to near death while playing rugby with people twice my size ? Come on, what next - a feature that the Pope is still a Catholic [hmm..maybe that is 'news' these days].

Rather than get onto the bear analogy, couldn't you just give Paul Mason a bit more time to talk about Michael Grade vs Rupert Murdoch - far more relevant.

  • 2.
  • At 06:56 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • John Stiles wrote:

children born at the beginning of the school year are far more likely to succeed at sport!

I was born in March and heartily agree with the evidence but offer a different perspective.

Children born at the beginning…. are far more likely to have bad knees and other sport related injuries.

Children born at the beginning…. are far less likely to have discovered the great outdoors as they were locked into Saturday servitude.

All depends what you mean by suceed!

  • 3.
  • At 07:16 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

How can the Pope distance himself from his remarks(from literature circa 1400AD?)with any sincerity!! that upset Muslims when he implied that there is a link between Islam & Violence ... when it's a fact that some are.. Bin Laden et al for example!.
I think the Pope is in a very dangerous situation & should get out asap

it is kind of amusing that in many small/rural college towns, there is a rivalry between the "townies" and the college students. typically, the "townies" are blue collar, lower middle class, underemployed and unemployed and the college students enjoy much more disposable income. it came across our desk today that a trustee of Indiana University went on record complaining about the college students who live next door to her in Bloomington, Indiana. Our advice to Kathy Gutowsky is: move! We also understand that the students are organizing a "Safe Zone" to compete for governance of neighborhoods where the density of student residents is highest. See for details:

  • 5.
  • At 10:55 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Stef wrote:

Earlier today I posted, or at least attempted to, a comment on the BBC News website. It has not yet appeared. I am assuming it has been too troublesome. Will it appear here, amongst the evening's items?

Surely Mr. M. Grade has inside knowledge of the current BBC environment, its operations, and plans. Will this now be used by ITV in a ratings war against the BBC? If so, would this then be a waste of the BBC's money (well, the licence payers') to even try to compete, or would more money be wasted by trying to stop the juggernaut and change tack?

For normal people there are clauses in their employment contracts to stop them working for the opposition within a specified period in order to prevent just such a situation.

Should we, the licence payers, be concerned?

  • 6.
  • At 11:02 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Mike Butland wrote:

I was appalled to see a clip of a Conservative political broadcast depicting someone buying a TVR and being referred to as a 'tosser'. Firstly, may I say we are just about to loose TVR as a British car manufacturer (pity not more people brought this great British Sports car). 490+ TVR owners rallied in London last Sunday in protest, pity BBC did not cover this better.
Secondly, when I was at school a 'tosser' was someone prone to excessive masturbation, i.e. a right 'w****r'. Not a very pleasant description!!

  • 7.
  • At 11:16 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Clive Gunn wrote:

How ironuc! English rugby is at an all time low, children born from September to December are found (not surprisingly) to be physically better than those born the rest of the year and this year the RFU change the regulations so that children who have played County rugby all their Secondary School careers cannot play for the U18 County teams because you have to be U18 on Jan 1st not Sept 1 as has always been the case previously and still is the case at all other age levels. The best instantly become unavailable and must try to compete for places in the U20 teams with players at Universities and professional clubs!
Great forward planning and all to fit in with the already superior Southern Hemisphere teams where the school year starts after Christmas.

  • 8.
  • At 11:17 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Sion wrote:

Who suggested that the way to solve the performance gap between children born at the beginning and the end of the school year is to have twice as many school teams? How they come up with this scheme is beyond me.
Isn't the obvious solution for schools to use the same under 12's, under 13's etc. setup as external sports clubs?

  • 9.
  • At 11:28 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Martin wrote:

I think ID should be taught in schools as a possibility. I'm sick of these loud shrill insistant Humanists.

I almost choked with laughter when Jeremy said "who's the tosser now?" and Michael Crick explained a tosser was an old fashioned term for "someone who threw their money away." Ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!! ( I actually liked the ad!). Absolutely brilliant show. 11/10!

  • 11.
  • At 11:40 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Jeanette Eccles ,Clapham SW London wrote:

Think it was a shame no mention of Alan Freeman- but a package about how bright children are depending on what month they were born.

Old Newsnight would have been bright enough to pay some respect to a long serving popular BBC presenter who entertained many people for years.

  • 12.
  • At 11:44 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Eric Le Boënnec wrote:

Turkey: is it or is it not a European country?

To answer the question, we first need to know what is a European country. Tonight, religion and secularity were mentioned. If the religious background is an element of answer, does it mean that the whole South America, Russia, the rest of the Commonwealth, the past French or Portuguese empire could or should join the European Union? I personally hope that your answer is no. But so what is it to a European country? Well, my answer would be too long to write here, but it is one question that we MUST answer. Tony Blair is keen to define about Europe as a free market. Does it mean that only Zimbawe and a few others are excluded? As well, should there be a link between Europe and NATO in the answer?

We must ask our politicians to start a debate within all the current member states to provide an answer and validate the result through a referendum or alike. The answer will be subjective, yes it will and it has to be, but it will be our decision not the one of outsiders. Others outside can disagree, but it will not matter. Once we will know what are the criteria, we would be able to answer the question about Turkey. For the time being, all states should decree a moratorium on EU memberships until the definition of a European country is solved out.

  • 13.
  • At 12:03 AM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Vazken Davidian wrote:

I was bemused by the choice of panelists discussing Turkey and the EU. Norman Stone, a discredited historian and a propagandist for the Turkish State and an extreme right wing MP who believes people should be taken to court for insulting 'Turkishness'.

Two points: Firstly, States have no business in writing history. A third generation British Armenian, I am against the French bill aiming to criminalise denial of the Armenian Genocide. By the same token, the increasing numbers of Turkish intellectuals and academics who assert that what happened in 1915 was genocide should not be persecuted by Turkish legislation either.

Secondly, when Norman Stone declares that the case for an Armenian Genocide is based on forgeries he is being at best disingenuous. David Irving's views on Holocaust denial spring to mind here. This is a marginal 'historian' who works as a propagandist for a nationalist official historiography. His views are not only discredited but also superseded by that of a large and increasing number of Turkish academics who are questioning the official Turkish position on the Genocide. Outside the state level there is a very good dialogue between serious Turkish, Armenian and other historians and academics and it is only a matter of time when Turkey will catch up with rest of the world about a part of Ottoman history that has been suppressed in Turkey for over eight decades.

The ability of being able to air his views on a programme of the calibre of Newsnight must have really been a highlight in Norman Stone's career. History will not judge this 'historian' well.

  • 14.
  • At 12:06 AM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Sil wrote:

May I express surprise at the choice of guests on Newsnight tonight to debate on Turkey's potential integration in Europe:

- a Frenchman whose rather shaky command of English led to caricaturing his own views: did he really mean to say that Europe was integrist? Or did he mean integrated? The views he attempted to put forward were by themselves caricatural enough (on subjects such as the nature of the secular state in France, or the current state of the European Union, for example); they may have benefited from being expressed by somebody capable of debating in English.

- an academic notorious for his repeated denial of any form of Armenian genocide, and allowed on this programme to flatly repeat such denial without being challenged by Mr Paxman. Not only France, but 20 other countries classify those events as genocide, and many others have debated this issue in parliament. I am in no position to judge whether events in Armenia in 1917 did constitute genocide or not, but surely the debate is a bit more open than was suggested by tonight's programme.

- a Turkish politician (about whom I would have liked to know a bit more) who flatly repeated statements apparently refelecting the positions of the Turkish government with little argumentation behind them

A bit of a disapointment, when the issues at stake for both Europe and Turkey are of such importance, and would have deserved a genuine debate rather than a series of statements conveying apparently irreconcilable views...

PS: no offense meant to my French compatriot; my own command of English is shaky; but I don't appear on English-language TV programmes

  • 15.
  • At 12:21 AM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

Now we have a proper definition of a tosser, Jeremy could well have queried the tossers who are managing the enlargement of europe. The brakes are on with respect to the Balkan states, and this is unfair given Europe's role in getting them in the state they are in today. A successful integration of Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro will solve the Kosovo issue, remove domestic political blockages to economic and social progress and enrich the EU. That's the next logical step for the EU. Geopolitical and cultural factors will result in Turkey having one leg in Europe and the other in the middle east whatever constitutional settlement is agreed.

Talking about Europe, I was surprised that the EU parliamentary committee that reported today that EU states and officials were knowledgable and complicit in the US renditions program (kidnapping) was not covered in tonight's program. This revelation will seriously undermine confidence in the EU on the part of Muslims, who were for the most the target of the renditions.

Another excellent programme however.

  • 16.
  • At 12:29 AM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Marcus K wrote:

Dear Editor,

I was very surprised to hear the offensive remarks of historian Norman Stone when debating Turkey's entry in to the EU, in light of the Popes visit. Most notable he dismissed Armenia as a country of no importance saying, 'its a language that no one speaks anymore'. As a British Armenian i found this very offensive, but most notably completely untrue. Millions of Armenians in Armenia and in the diaspora speak the ancient language today. Many of my friends and family speak it and many of the older generation speak it as there primary language.

I enjoy watching Newsnight and expect quality reporting, but tonight was let down in this case. How can Norman Stone claim to be a historian when he makes such obviously incorrect statements? How then can he be trusted to say anything of historical accuracy? How can his ridiculously sweeping statement that the 'Armenian genocide was a forgery' stand up?

As a result your viewers are now misinformed about Armenia and the Genocide because a man labelled as a historian (and therefore the most reliable source out of all your guests) was given the authority and platform to do so.

I completely understand that these are the views of Norman Stone, but i expect your show to deliver accurate, informative and unbiased reporting. With Norman Stone as your guest you are downgrading Newsnight of all those qualities that it usually possesses.

I do hope that your show will continue to debate about the relevant politcal issues, but please, please research your guests thoroughly.

Yours Sincerely,

Marcus Kalantarian.

  • 17.
  • At 02:50 AM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • mr wallcae wrote:

pictures posted via email showing a black man decapitated was found on hundreds of computers in a british police station and has caused upset amongst the black police association and tonights newsnight had a representive from this group saying that this is racism.the pictures in question have been around for a year or so and many grusome photos are easily available if you are prepared to search.i cannot understand how the black police association can make the claim for racism because images of a decapitated criminal who happens to be black are in the inbox of the police email.the only racist thing in this story is the fact that there is a group called the "black police association".can you imagine if there was such a "white police association" there would be uproar.may i suggest to the police to drop the P.C indoctrination and do the job they are payed to do and that is DETER CRIMINAL ACTIVITY AND CATCH CRIMINALS..

  • 18.
  • At 09:53 AM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Mike Foster wrote:

I am very disappointed at Newsnight for its choice of interviewees in last night’s item on Turkey – especially Norman Stone.

Jeremy Paxman allowed him to say that the documents relating to the Armenian massacres were forged, which is just not true. You wouldn’t allow someone to claim that documents about the European Jewish genocide of WWII or the Rwandan Tutsi genocide of 1994 were forged, and you know perfectly well that Norman Stone is one of a number of controversialists who make claims that there was no deliberate genocide of Armenians in 1915-16.

I like Turkey. I have visited the country about 12 times since 1972, and I like the Turks. But most of them have a blind spot about their history, because Turkey only became a 78% ethnic Turkish country by killing 1.5 million ethnic Armenians and 275,000 Assyrians and expelling 1.5 million ethnic Greeks between 1915 and 1923 (another 20% of modern Turkey is made up of ethnic Kurds, but that’s another tricky subject in Turkey).

If you blind yourself to the individual horrors, you can sort of understand how this happened, because the Ottoman Empire was being invaded by Russia in the East and the Western Allies at Gallipoli, and the Armenians and Assyrians in particular were seen as a potential fifth column.

Even worse, stretching back to the Greek war of independence in the 1820s, every war and uprising involving Greeks, Serbs or Bulgars led to huge massacres and expulsions of ethnic Turks in the Balkans and Aegean islands, and every Tsarist campaign in the Caucasus and Central Asia led to waves of Muslim refugees being given shelter in the Ottoman Empire.

But this cannot excuse the fact that the Committee of Union and Progress that controlled the Ottoman Government in WWI (headed by Enver, Talat and Djemal) deliberately decided to deport and kill the Armenian and Assyrian population of Asia Minor.

There are many eyewitness accounts - from the American ambassador, American missionaries, German businessmen and soldiers – and from survivors as well as from some Turks.

The Turkish government needs to change its attitude. Instead of denying the genocide it should admit that it happened, and ensure it is taught in schools. It was a huge crime and it cannot be undone, but it is better to accept that it happened.

Getting back to the point of my complaint, please don’t allow people like Norman Stone to comment on subjects like the Armenian massacres – you may like him because he is controversial, but this is too serious a subject.

  • 19.
  • At 10:41 AM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Gordon Gresham wrote:

Surprising there wasn't more comment on funding of political parties. It's certain they are Hell bent on getting taxpayers money to fund what are actually private organisations. We pay the MPs' salaries, their expenses, subsidize their houses, pay their pensions, their travel give them office accomodation etc. If the political parties are such hopeless business people that they overspend and cannot 'sell' their product to their supporers in exchange for money then why should the taxpayers fund them. Political parties are not government entities and should never, ever be subsidised by taxpayers' money.

MR Paxman should have asked the simple question: why should taxpayers pay the costs for political parties?
If they are so short of funds, why not have a whip round among MPs?

  • 20.
  • At 07:00 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

To illustrate my stupidity, having just watched last night's programme I flipped back through the end of Paul Mason's film, as I assumed Jeremy Paxman's comment to be a reference to a whippet which had walked into shot as he filmed on a council estate....but no sign of a dog anywhere, until the penny dropped..

  • 21.
  • At 08:41 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Bernard Keeffe wrote:

I was astonished to hear Paul Mason's comment on the appointment of new Chairman of the BBC. Is it really the place of BBC staff to say:

'I bet it'll be some overpaid public schoolboy.'

I expect a reply to this question:

Does this represent the opinion of the Director General, as editor-in- chief, and therefore responsible for the views expressed on his behalf by his staff?

  • 22.
  • At 12:16 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Funny how children with birthdays nearer the end of the school year, or even during the holidays at the end of it, being disadvantaged in sport gets a Newsnight piece, but them being just as disadvantaged in academic subjects doesn't get mentioned.

Of course it was all hooked on medals in the London Olympics.

Britain has so much become a lad culture, and it looks like the Olympics will make it even more so, if that is possible.

  • 23.
  • At 01:19 AM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Interesting to hear the French parliamentarian - a member of their Foreign Affairs Committee according to the Aston - remark that Russia should be in the EU, with Turkey. But then he did also seem to have a concept of the EU becoming nothing more than a lose affiliation of nation states. A smaller UN perhaps. Quite a strange "panel" Newsnight assembled for that discussion, really.

But discussing the religious side of Turkish accession (funny how Newsnight ignores the biggest diplomatic sticking point - the refusal of Turkey to get on with EU member, and veto holder, Greek Cyprus) does really bring into focus how not only Britain, or the EU, but the whole world really needs to find a way to to be safe with maverick religious factions. It is unfair to emphasise only Islamic threats to stability when many religions, not least christianity, have their share of factions who see promotion of religion as more important than world stability, or the human rights of others.

The news agenda seems to indicate a huge rise in religious conflict in our society, no doubt to the delight of some. But that always has a huge price. As an atheist, and a member of other minorities traditionally persecuted by the religions of the Abrahamic tradition too, it fills me with dread. I'm seeing a lot of people getting much more sensitive on this.

We have new laws on religious freedom, and freedom of the religious. But do we not need something more sophisticated, to allow for the fact that religious fervour rises somewhat unpredictably but the safety and security of the individual (and society) should remain stable, if not increase, regardless? Many current problems might be solved if that could be achieved.

Or perhaps those EU laws do provide enough protection against the excesses of religion and that side has simply been played down to invisibility. Are the very frequent present challenges by those with religious fervour a testing of those laws?

It is an issue modern Turkey has been grappling with for decades, mainly by drawing a strict line on the limits of religion. A line that applies mainly to Islam, of course, but we presently see the pope trying to apply pressure to liberate christians from the controls. So the Turkish solution would seem unacceptable to christians too. Does that mean that Turkish controls would have to be relinquished if they join the EU? If the EU does not have better and sufficient protection for the secular it might soon become a very different Turkey in that case. As always it would be the moderates, and the vulnerable who would suffer, as in Iraq.

I have always acknowledged that our British Government is one of Turkey's biggest fans - and I suppose that could be understandable in crude political terms!

However, for the BBC Newsnight flagship programme, and its anchor Jeremy Paxman who is not unknown for his sharp and critical tempo, to swallow hook, line and sinker the Turkish arguments without even a slight critical whimper is a sad day for this favourite of programmes.

So many articulate and knowledgeable people from different organisations or backgrounds could have been invited to participate in this debate and put forward clear and universally accepted facts. Yet, all we got was a medicore stamp of approval that vilified the integrity of the subject, denied history and blunted the cutting edge of the programme.

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