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Newsnight Review - 29 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Jun 07, 07:03 PM

Kirsty Wark is joined by Paul Morley, Miranda Sawyer and John Harris for a special extended programme from the Manchester International Festival.

Monkey posterThe panel will be reviewing: Monkey:Journey to the West, a circus opera based on the most famous of the Chinese myth cycles, the fable of the monkey king - now reinvented by Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and Chen Shi- Zheng; an intriguing theatre experience by Johnny Vegas and Stewart Lee called Interiors; Perverted by Languange - a book of short fiction inspired by Manchester band The Fall (Steve Smith then speaks to namesake and singer Mark E, read more about that here); Lou Reed's British premiere of his dark, drug-infested narrative album Berlin; and the film Shrek the Third.

More about all those here - leave your reviews and comments below.

Friday, 29 June, 2007

  • Emily Maitlis
  • 29 Jun 07, 04:41 PM

Police take away the carLondon bomb
Who was trying to blow up central London - and why?

Tonight we bring you all the very latest on the bid to target the capital with a car bomb. The details we have are quite unnerving. A vehicle packed with explosives that might never have been noticed had not an ambulance crew been called to the scene for a completely unrelated matter. Twelve hours on - all we're being told is that the device was potentially viable and could have caused carnage. But do security services know more about this operation than they're letting on to us? We hope to talk to those at the Home Office later.

Those at the Home Office of course have only been in the job twenty four hours. Indeed some of them appeared - disarmingly - in news conferences today before they had even technically been announced.

A former top police chief will be advising Gordon Brown on international security issues, a former First Sea Lord will be Home Office Minister for Security. The new PM did promise a government of "all the talents" but what do his long suffering Labour MPs - who didn't make the cabinet - make of all this parachuting? Michael Crick is on the case and we'll be talking to our political panel to give us their take on an extraordinary week in British politics.

And with only two days to go before the smoking ban comes into force in England, we ask if the tobacco companies themselves are worried about falling revenues. Experience of the Irish ban suggests they still know exactly who to target and how to keep smoking numbers up. So how do they do it?

Thursday, 28 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Jun 07, 07:12 PM

By programme producer Simon Enright.

milismith203.jpgNew Cabinet
Tonight the challenge of change has begun. Gordon Brown has kept in post only one of Tony Blair's cabinet. He's got the first female Home Secretary, two brothers and a husband and wife team all attending cabinet. Jeremy has promised to make sure that he goes through the whole cabinet so you feel fully informed. Michael Crick will explain what it all means.

Foreign Secretary
For the 41 year old David Miliband quite a daunting task - Foreign Secretary. Mark Urban assesses the challenge for the youngest foreign minister in 30 years. And we'll speak to a panel of "all the talents" to see what they think this all means.

As parts of England prepare for another weekend of rain we speak to the boss of the Environment Agency - Baroness Young. Has her agency done enough to stop the flood waters?

Manchester International Festival
Finally today is the start of the Manchester International Festival. Tomorrow Kirsty hosts Newsnight Review from the city. Ahead of that, tonight we interview "Manchester Man" Tony Wilson - the original 24 hour party person.

Join Jeremy at 2230.

Cabinet brothers

  • Michael Crick
  • 28 Jun 07, 04:46 PM

David (left) and Ed Miliband"So you'll be the first set of brothers in Cabinet since the Stanleys," I teased Ed Miliband the other evening, referring to the speculation that he would soon join his brother David in the new Gordon Brown Cabinet. Ed Miliband brushed my question off, of course, but then, once the camera was switched off, enquired eagerly: "Who were the Stanleys?"

Answer: the two sons of the seventeenth Earl of Derby, who sat in Cabinet together in 1938, under Neville Chamberlian. Lord (Edward) Stanley, was Dominions Secretary, while his younger brother Oliver Stanley, was President of the Board of Trade. It is not a happy precedent, however, since Lord (Edward) Stanley died only a few months after taking the job.

A more interesting pair of Cabinet brothers served after the war, though not simultanously, since they were on opposite sides of politics. Earl of Listowel briefly served for four months as Secretary of State for India in 1947, during Clement Attlee's post-war Labour Cabinet, whilst his brother John Hare (later Lord Blakenham) held posts in the early '60s, in the Cabinets of Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home.

Gordon's search for a star

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Jun 07, 02:41 PM

George ClooneyGordon Brown has said that he wants to have a government of "all the talents".

We've heard there are some surprises to come - we already know that he's asked Alan Sugar to advise him on business.

At the weekend, George Clooney was suggested to advise on education and Jennifer Lopez on International Development.

We want your "talent" and the jobs they should do. Let us know your thoughts here.

Fitting end?

  • Peter Barron
  • 28 Jun 07, 11:18 AM

Blair's gravestoneThanks to the hundreds of you who sent in suggestions for Tony Blair's political epitaph in 15 words. Some were funny, many were bitter, most mentioned Iraq with a smattering of spin and education, education, education. For him or against him, many thought he'd tried and meant well.

I'd pick three contenders to be carved into our virtual headstone:

"Here lies" by Dave Purnell, is economical and fiendish.

"He united his party for victory and divided his country in the name of freedom" from Simon Phillips-Hughes is elegant and factual.

But it's hard to do better than Sarah, quoting Mr Blair himself: "That is that, the end".

Wednesday, 27 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Jun 07, 06:02 PM

"And that is that…the end".
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the CommonsWe devote the whole of tonight's programme to the handover of Prime Ministerial power.

David Grossman was on the front row of the Commons press gallery for Tony Blair's last Prime Minister's Questions. He witnessed an unprecedented sending off by Blair's fellow Parliamentarians. Combat suspended - for a while at least - the former PM received warm tributes, a standing ovation, as well as many good hearted pats on the back, he even threw in some good jokes. David brings us the definitive account of the final hours of Blair's premiership.

"Let the work of change begin"
Michael Crick started his day at the Treasury and has been watching the equally compelling journey of Gordon Brown's path to Number 10. He'll have the latest news on any reshuffle announcements.

Jeremy will be interviewing top figures from all the three parties as well as Quentin Letts, Andrew Rawnsley and Jackie Ashley.

We also reveal the winner of the Order of the Brown Nose.

Do add your thoughts on what should be on Tony Blair's political epitaph.

Do join Jeremy at 22:30. Leave your thoughts below.

Blair's epitaph

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Jun 07, 02:24 PM

Blair's gravestoneOn this, Tony Blair's last day as prime minister, we'd like to invite you to write his political epitaph in 15 words. We'll publish the winner on our website.

Or send us your thoughts on his ten year premiership, and what policy changes you would like Gordon Brown to introduce.

Your epitaphs below please...

One member, how many votes?

  • Michael Crick
  • 27 Jun 07, 12:47 PM

brownvote203.jpgGordon Brown pledged at the Labour conference in Manchester to introduce one-member-one-vote in the party's policy making procedures - the same method, he said, as used to elect the party leadership.

Er, some problem with that surely?

The leadership isn't really elected by one-member-one-vote. All Labour MPs had at least two votes - one as an MP, and one as an ordinary party member - and many of them had other votes as members of affiliated trades unions and socialist societies. Indeed one deputy leadership contender admitted to me that they had eight votes last week - as an MP, a party member, a meber of two unions, and four affiliated societies.

I'd be fascinated to know if anybody could boast of even more votes than that.

Tuesday, 26 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Jun 07, 03:59 PM

Presented by Jeremy Paxman


quentin.gif"Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything or to stand for anything". The words of the now ex-Tory backbencher Quentin Davies in a letter to David Cameron today, announcing his defection to Gordon Brown's Labour party.

He goes on to lambaste the Tory leader for everything from his opposition to nuclear power to his decision to withdraw from the European People's Party. Perhaps the wonder is that he endured so long in a party with whose policies he so profoundly disagrees. We'll be assessing how serious this is for Cameron.


There's still no official confirmation that Tony Blair is to be the Quartet's new Middle East envoy, but at a press conference this morning he said he was up for the challenge. We'll be debating whether he's the right man for the job.


The US Department of Justice's decision to pick up where the Serious Fraud Office left off and launch an inquiry into BAE's relationship with the Saudis could prove to be the first big challenge to Gordon Brown's special relationship with George Bush. He'll have to decide whether to pass on crucial documents which could aid the inquiry, but damage the British government.


And - he's been compared to Stalin by one man that worked closely with him. So has Gordon Brown been trying to cultivate a warmer style of politics? The independent film-maker Jamie Campbell has been following the new Prime Minister for the past month on the campaign trail, in a bid to engage him in a conversation. Watch to see if he succeeds.

In the summit sun

  • Richard Colebourn
  • 26 Jun 07, 11:30 AM

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

olm_mub203.jpgIt’s summit season in Sharm el-Sheikh. The tourists on the beach, flown in on charter flights from Manchester, Moscow and Berlin, are oblivious to the political scrum taking place nearby. Inside the congress centre, President Mubarak of Egypt is hosting Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan.

Outside journalists from across the region are sprawled on a small patch of grass. Hours and hours of airtime are devoted to a meeting lasting just under three. In the 45 degree heat, the media pour out sweat and speculation.

That summit cliché - the stakes are high – is true. The leaders are here to discuss how to bolster President Abbas and his Fatah party after the recent takeover of the Gaza Strip by their opponents Hamas. The rise of Hamas has put ‘moderate’ Arab states like Egypt and Jordan on the back foot. They worry about Islamist parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, in their own countries and don’t like the idea of a successful role model next door.

At 8pm, as the region’s news bulletins start, the leaders emerge to make statements to the press. The journalists scurry. Israeli press officers efficiently offer translated and typed transcripts and start a round of interviews. Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat appears and is promptly smothered by about thirty cameramen.

And the outcome of all this? Not a lot. The Israelis grabbed the headlines with an offer to release 250 Fatah prisoners. There are over 10,000 Palestinians in prison in Israel. Just over half have been convicted of an offence and around 800 are held without charge.

Continue reading "In the summit sun"

Monday, 25 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Jun 07, 04:08 PM

Presented by Jeremy Paxman

EU referendum?
Just how much of Britain's foreign policy has been handed over to Europe? Tonight on Newsnight we examine the new EU treaty and ask is it so much like a constitution that, like Ireland, we should have a referendum.

Brown assessment
gordo.gifHe's now officially taken over the reigns of the Labour Party and in two days he will be prime minister. But what will a Brown government be like and how will Gordon's way of doing things differ from Tony's. Michael Crick is on the case and the Republican pollster Frank Luntz gives us his assessment of the new look message from Gordon Brown.

Middle East peace?
Just how far away is peace between Israel and the Palestinians? And does Tony Blair have a useful role as an envoy in bringing about such peace? The western backed Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, met with the Israeli PM in Egypt today to talk peace. But at the same time Hamas proved they can still have a powerful affect on the process. They released a statement from the Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit - the first since he was kidnapped exactly a year ago. Mark Urban investigates.

GB tour
Finally Paul Mason has spent the last six weeks travelling Britain to find out what people make of politics as Gordon Brown prepares to take over as PM. In his final report he meets the surfers of South Wales to discover whether there is a new wave of support for David Cameron's Conservatives.

Shadowy cabinets

  • Michael Crick
  • 22 Jun 07, 10:46 PM

brown203smile.jpgThis week's revelation that Gordon Brown has been trying to lure Lib Dems into his government came as something of a relief to me personally (though let me stress that I make no comment on whether it's a good or bad thing).

On the day Gordon Brown launched his campaign at the start of May, Newsnight led the programme with a big story on this. Brown had spoken that morning of a "Government of all the talents", and I had asked him whether he was "ruling in, or ruling out", the idea of appointing "ministers from other political parties". He wasn't ruling it in, or ruling it out, Mr Brown replied. I got quite excited, as Brown's comments seemed to tally with things I had been hearing from Scotland, and comments he'd made on the Andrew Marr programme in early January. So Newsnight went big on it that night, with an opening headline asking if Brown was about to appoint Liberal Democrats as ministers (watch my report here).

The story was immediately rubbished, not just in the studio by our own Newsnight political panel (of all the talents), but also live on the programme by the pensions minister James Purnell who suggested we were daft to interpret what Brown had said in this way. And members of Brown's entourage subsequently made it clear I'd misunderstood - he was merely thinking of non-Labour people - people like Chris Patten and Seb Coe - in advisory roles, chairing commissions and that sort of thing.

Seb CoeStrange, I thought, what's so new about that? Don't people like Patten and Coe do those sort of jobs already? I had an uncomfortable few days, wondering if I'd been guilty of terrible misjudgement - and gross hype - in one of my first stories as political editor. It was especially worrying that nobody else in the BBC, or the rest of the media, had run with the story. So you can imagine that I felt a certain amusement last night when I heard young Mr Purnell back on Newsnight explaining to viewers what a jolly good idea it was for Mr Brown to approach Lib Dems, an example of his new non-tribal approach to politics etc. etc.

And, as I explained on Wednesday night, it now seems that even if there aren't any Lib Dems in Brown's new government next week, we can expect several ministers who aren't Labour Party members, or who may even be members of other political parties.

Mind you, this isn't going down very well in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Many Labour MPs saw the advent of Brown as their big chance finally to get a government job - feeling they've been unfairly neglected by Tony Blair - whilst existing ministers will be worried about holding on to their jobs. Even if Brown's administration were confined to Labour Party people, I reckon there would be bound to be a lot of disappointed MPs. Extending his ministry beyond Labour is bound to encourage the sense of resentment and disgruntlement.

Michael Crick is Newsnight’s Politcal Editor – you can read the recent Telegraph profile of him here.

Friday, 22 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Jun 07, 05:01 PM

From Kavita Puri - programme producer.

gordon203nnpmqs.jpgWe have a a special edition of Newsnight tonight. The soon-to-be-Prime Minister Gordon Brown meets some of the BBC's best brains - Martha Kearney, Political Editor Nick Robinson, Economics Editor Evan Davis and World Affairs Editor John Simpson. He's forensically interrogated on the economy, Iraq, Scotland, public services, Europe and trust. You may think I would say this, but it really is a compelling watch. See a preview here.

Don't miss it. Do join us at 22:30.

And for our Editor's take on the programme see his blog here.

Reid humbled

  • Michael Crick
  • 21 Jun 07, 06:42 PM

John ReidJohn Reid may be the great bruiser and hardman of British politics, but he doesn’t frighten everyone.

I hear that on the evening of the Scottish elections he and the Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell went for a curry in Wishaw with a few Labour colleagues, ahead of going off to their local election count in Motherwell. After consuming a large main course the waiter asked if anyone would like a pudding. Conscious of the time, they all said ‘No’, with the exception of Dr Reid who specified that he’d like a single ball of vanilla ice-cream. A few minutes later the waiter returned with a bowl containing three balls of ice-cream, and the customary wafer. “But I asked for a single ball,” the Home Secretary complained. “F***ing eat it!” the waiter shot back.

Thursday, 21 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Jun 07, 05:59 PM

Sir Menzies Campbell and Gordon BrownA government of all the talents
Really? Gordon Brown's overtures to Paddy Ashdown to join his government might have flattered but ultimately failed to win the former Lib Dem leader, perhaps more importantly though, they have exacerbated tensions within the Liberal Democrats and provoked disquiet on the Labour back benches.

Is this what he wanted? Rather than showing his commitment to building a government of all the talents, was Gordon Brown up to something altogether more machiavellian when he approached the Lib Dem peer? Paul Mason will be on hand to guide us through the murky political waters.

Ask Gordon Brown

Tomorrow in a special programme with Gordon Brown, three of the BBC's specialist editors will cross-examine the in-coming prime minister. You can send us your questions and experiences by clicking here.

Opium and aid
We have an exclusive report into the growing concern in the Afghan government over whether millions of pounds of British aid money is being spent effectively in the fight against drugs.

Opium poppy growing has risen significantly during the last two years, particularly in the areas under British control. Newsnight has discovered that a fund, set up mainly with British money, to pay for alternative livelihoods for poppy farmers has spent hardly any of the money allocated. David Loyn has been to Afghanistan to investigate.

Watch David's report from earlier in the week on the growing political opposition in Afghanistan here.

Red LinesWhile Brown plays Fantasy Cabinets back here in London, Tony Blair is attending his final EU summit in Brussels. This is Blair's big moment; he's long argued that Britain can be at the heart of Europe without ceding power. Can he maintain Britain's red lines and avoid a referendum? And he's doing all the negotiating with Gordon Brown at his shoulder. We've dispatched David Grossman to Brussels where he is following the day's twists and turns.

Tina Brown
Kirsty Wark interviews Tina Brown, the woman who conquered the American magazine industry, about the highs and lows of her career, what she makes of Tony Blair, David Cameron and her new book on Diana.

Wednesday, 20 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 20 Jun 07, 05:54 PM

Gordon BrownGordon Brown
One week to go before Gordon Brown takes over at Number 10. Are you excited yet?

Tonight he dons his lounge suit to give his final speech to the City great and good at the Mansion House. Stephanie Flanders will be there to hear what he says.

She'll also be reporting on the continuing row over the 10% tax break enjoyed by those private equity buccaneers who've made such a splash of late. We first reported that row in February - watch that report here.

But is it really sustainable for a chancellor who has talked about ending poverty to allow the mega rich to benefit from a lower tax rate than their office cleaners?

Lib Dems
Also more confirmation today about the talks between Gordon Brown and the Liberal Democrats. What have they been about? Michael Crick is on the case.

Michael first reported on this story back in May, and he even asked Gordon Brown about it - you can watch his report here.

And that item on top of the Gordon Brown in-tray - should I, should I not have a referendum on the treaty? David Grossman has the latest on public opinion from Brussels.

Credit Card Fraud
Also, credit card fraud - do the police care any more? The latest Home Office rules say the public should not bother the police if their credit card details are used by a fraudster - only banks can report this crime. Is this a green light to more credit card theft? Martin Shankleman has all the details.

Finally what about the man who is currently in the PM's job? Tony Blair and David Cameron had their usual clash at PMQs today. The next time that happens will be on Tony Blair's last day. Those who've faced Tony Blair across the dispatch box give us an insight into just what a formidable opponent he was and still is.

Jeremy will be hosting the debate at 10.30. Do join him.

Lebanon on the edge

  • Richard Colebourn
  • 20 Jun 07, 04:33 PM

Newsnight's man in the Middle East Richard Colebourn will be providing regular despatches from across the region and putting your questions to the people in charge.

Walid EidoBEIRUT - Overlooking the Mediterranean, Beirut’s Sporting Club is an institution. Families come to swim. Women clad in immodest bikinis top up their tans. Leathery Lebanese men play backgammon and cards and smoke. Lebanese MP Walid Eido was a regular. Last Wednesday he, his son and his bodyguards came for the afternoon.

There are also normally a few pale foreign journalists and UN-types. Wednesday afternoon saw my first visit. I recall thinking that if you squinted you could be in the south of France.

At twenty to five, whilst swimming in the deep end, I witnessed Eido’s convoy of cars explode near the entrance to the club as they left. Some 150m from the pool, a giant plume of black smoke shot into the sky carrying bits of car bumper and clothing. The bomb killed ten in total, including two young footballers from the neighbouring club.

The contradictions and the volatility of Lebanon were made clear - a bit too close for comfort.

Continue reading "Lebanon on the edge"

Levy causes further embarrassment to government

  • Michael Crick
  • 20 Jun 07, 02:49 PM

Labour unexpectedly lost a vote in the House of Lords last night - on the Greater London Authority Bill - despite having won a vote on the same legislation earlier in the evening.

Lord LevyThe problem, I'm told, is that in the early evening far too many Labour peers went AWOL to attend the big bash held at Lancaster House to mark Lord Levy's standing down as Tony Blair's Middle East envoy.

As a result the government lost the vote by seven votes. Later in the evening, once most of the Levy revellers had drifted back to the upper chamber, the government majority was restored. Lord Grocott, the Labour chief whip in the Lords is normally a calm and patient man (as one would expect of a former broadcaster). But, last night, I'm told, he "was not best pleased".

Tuesday, 19 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Jun 07, 05:35 PM

Presented by Jeremy Paxman


"I welcome the report's clear recommendation that media payments to serving military or civilian personnel, for talking about their work, should simply not be allowed," so said Defence Secretary Des Browne in the Commons today.

He was talking about the way the MoD handled the media following the detention of 15 navy personnel by Iran in March. There was also another report today into the affair - into how the incident took place at all. Browne admitted collective failures led to the sailors’ seizure. Mark Urban will be analysing the significance of the reviews.


With the prison population topping 81,000, the Justice Secretary Lord Falconer says he will release over a thousand prisoners early to ease the overcrowding crisis. Is this the right way to be dealing with our lack of prison places? Michael Crick investigates. Join the debate here.


David Loyn meets the grandson of the former King of Afghanistan who's a member of a new secular opposition party. He tells us why his party, the National Front, which also includes communists and former warlords, is a challenge to President Karzai.


Stephen Smith has had a sneak preview of an art collection by some of Britain's top artists in aid of the NSPCC. He meets Tracey Emin - and let's say - it's a rather edgy interview.

Early prisoner release

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Jun 07, 02:08 PM

The prison population has reached over 81,000.

Lord Falconer is planning to ease overcrowding by releasing 2,000 prisoners early. Yet it was only six weeks ago that the government said they wouldn't have to resort to these measures.

Is this the right way to deal with the crisis? Who is to blame for the current overcrowding? Is it cost effective to the taxpayer or endangering the public?

Do join the debate.

For more comments see Have Your Say

Monday, 18 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Jun 07, 05:49 PM

From Gavin Esler, Newsnight presenter

Salman RushdieSalman Rushdie
The government of Pakistan has demanded that Britain withdraw the honour of a knighthood awarded to author Salman Rushdie. In the heated atmosphere the knighthood has caused, Pakistan's religious affairs minister appears to use the award as a justification for suicide bombing.

David Cameron and the Battle for Britain
The Conservative leader has made a speech rallying his troops against what he sees as the "old" politics of Gordon Brown. We'll be hearing from a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet about whether this is an attempt by Mr Cameron to get back on track after a very shaky couple of weeks.
And you can tell us what you think of his plan for government - Join the debate here.

Israel and the Palestinians
The schism between Gaza and the West Bank leaves Israel with the unpalatable possibility of a kind of "three state" solution" - two hostile Palestinian entities on its borders. With Prime Minister Olmert visiting the United States, we'll hear from a top Israeli about what the Olmert government sees as the next moves on Gaza.

Bernard Manning
The comedian Bernard Manning died today. Steve Smith will be assessing what he did for British comedy.

Power to the people?

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Jun 07, 01:26 PM

David CameronAt a speech in Tooting (home of Citizen Smith of course) David Cameron told us today what his big idea is for government - to do much less of it.

He wants people to make many more decisions at a local level, and take much more control over running their communities - harnessing the philosophy of the "wiki-generation".

"Every time we see a problem, we don't just ask what government can do. We ask what people can do, what society can do. That's the big difference between us and Gordon Brown, " he said.

Is it right to devolve power in this way or should we leave it to the politicians we elect to make decisions on our behalf? Is it achievable? Is it something politicians find easy to promise in opposition, but harder to deliver on in government? Is it a new idea, or is it one that is fundamental to the idea of Conservatism anyway?

Tell us what you think.

Friday, 15 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Jun 07, 04:38 PM

From Kirsty Wark, Newsnight presenter.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at Friday prayersGaza
Who is in control in Gaza, and who can resolve the crisis between Hamas and Fatah which is making the lives or ordinary Palestinians a nightmare? Hamas has seized the Gaza strip after a week of factional fighting between the rival groups which resulted in dreadful bloodshed.

The Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas has declared a state of emergency in Gaza and has appointed a new interim Prime Minister, Salam Fayyed, an Independent and a former World Bank official. But this move could be described as "firefighting". Is there any chance of a lasting peace? Is another unity government out of the question and with our Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett describing the violence in Gaza as "a coup" does the international community have a role to play in conflict resolution?

Lord Stevens' Inquiry into "football bungs" has reported that, after more than a year of investigations, questions remain over 17 transfers to five Premier League clubs - Chelsea, Newcastle, Bolton, Middlesborough and Portsmouth. The former Metropolitan Police commissioner has also expressed concern about agents and third parties involved in the transfers.

Now it's the Football Association's job to take these investigations further. Tonight we'll be examining Lord Stevens' report and asking whether the protestations of innocence by the Association of Football Agents are credible.

EU summit
If Tony Blair was looking to next week's European summit to provide a gala end to his time as Prime minister Angela Markel's billet doux to the member states encouraging them to approve a European constitution in all but name - add to that Poland's anger about the country's voting power within the Union - and next week's summit looks like being a rancorous affair.

The idea of a "charter of fundamental rights" is an anathema to the Labour government so what will Tony Blair do next week? Our Europe editor Mark Mardell gives us the inside track.

Local government
And radicalism is alive and well in the home of the Magna Carta - the people of Bury St Edmunds were so fed up with their local government, they voted to abolish it. Steve Smith has been watching anarchy in action - on the day that Michael Heseltine launched his new blueprint (same as his old blueprint?) for reviving local government - directly elected mayors with "very substantial powers". What would the people of Bury St Edmunds make of that?

Newsnight Review - 15 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Jun 07, 02:07 PM

hockney_203.gifEdith Piaf's voice is legendary; her unmistakable delivery invokes equal parts Parisian heartbreak and hopefulness. Marion Cotillard gives a rousing performance as Piaf in the film La Vie en Rose – the Review panel give their verdict.

Plus, David Hockney’s selection of watercolours by English artist JWM Turner has opened at Tate Britain – Review takes a look. They also leaf through The Diana Chronicles, a biography by Tina Brown; and reveal whether they were switched on by BBC ONE’s new drama Jekyll.

Martha Kearney is joined on the sofas by Rosie Boycott, Mark Kermode, Andrew Roberts and Ian Rankin. Do you agree with their views? Leave your comments below.

For more details on the items featured in this week’s programme, click here.

Thursday, 14 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Jun 07, 05:02 PM

By Gavin Esler, Newsnight presenter.

Palestinian Fatah-affiliated policemenPalestinian conflict
Jordan's King Abdullah prophesied in December last year that the truly pessimistic scenario for the Middle East would be three civil wars in 2007 - in Iraq, in Lebanon, and in Palestine. Well, it looks like about two and a half. Tonight we'll have the latest from Gaza and the West Bank and what now looks like the schism between two Palestinian statelets, plus we hope to hear from a top level Israeli.

Control Orders
The government has been consistent in its loathing of control orders for dealing with terrorist suspects against whom there is insufficient information to bring charges. Now we learn that one of those who absconded had links to a key player in the 7/7 London bombings and the leader of the gang which tried a similar kind of mayhem but were stopped just in time. We'll debate what can be done about suspects of this type - if anything.

Live Leak
The British based company gets 200 videos from US soldiers a day. They show a side of Iraq you rarely see on the television screens. Some are incredibly distrubing showing US soldiers taunting Iraqis. And the Pentagon is trying to stop them showing their personal record of the war.

Broken Society
Do you know what a "shank" is? If you don't, then our very disturbing film from Hackney tonight will tell you about the nastiest side of our youth culture, the violence, and the hopelessness of one young man who says that if he fails his exams he will pursue a career opportunity as a crack dealer. It's the stuff of nightmares, but it is happening in our country. You can watch the film right now here and even download it as a podcast from here.

And tell us what subjects you'd like to see us tackling as part of our "Broken Society" series by joining the debate here.

Broken Society: Hackney's kids

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Jun 07, 01:40 PM

knife_bs__203.jpgIn the first of our series "Broken Society", we have a powerful film made by children in Hackney. They talk about living on the estates there: their experience of gang culture, gun and knife crime.

Earlier this year there were a series of murders of young black people in south London. Tony Blair in April said that the spate of gun attacks was part of a "distinctive black culture" rather than about poverty and deprivation.

Is he right? What's your experience of gangs and gun crime? Is it confined to one ethnic group? Do join the debate below. And tell us what subjects you'd like to see us tackling as part of our "Broken Society" series.

You can see the report here

Wednesday, 13 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Jun 07, 04:36 PM

Presented by Emily Maitlis

We mark an important centenary this evening; the 100th birthday of the caravan park.
You will no doubt be thinking of Margaret Beckett at this point. So let me bring this full circle and start with Foreign Affairs in a part of the world that is looking increasingly volatile tonight:

gaz_203.gifWhen the Palestinian President himself throws up his hands and cries 'This is madness!' you know things aren't going too well in Gaza. Mahmood Abbas really isn't mincing his words. He's said that without a ceasefire the situation will collapse.

Today, gunfire was turned on thousands of unarmed Palestinian civilians demonstrating against violence on both sides - and policemen loyal to Fatah fled across the border to Egypt to escape Hamas militants. So did the West have a role to play in helping to create this chaos - or is this internal wrangling which the West should stay out of? And what can be done to solve the crisis?

As ever in the Middle East, it doesn't stop there.

A car bomb has exploded in Beirut killing an MP and five others. The legislator - Walid Eido - was well known for his anti-Syrian views - and the method of assassination appears to be the same as that used in the past to assassinate Syria's opponents. It's almost exactly a year since the war between Hezbollah and Israel was played out on the streets of Lebanon. Tonight we ask if the battles between radical groups in the Middle East are gaining momentum.

In the latest in his series on how Blair changed Britain, Jeremy Paxman spends a day in rural England talking to people, some of whom feel they are Britain's most ignored minority group. What do you think? Join the debate here.

Which brings us back, rather nicely, to aforementioned caravans, and Steve Smith's celebrations thereof. Ever made a 100th birthday cake on a camp fire?

Blair's Britain: the countryside

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Jun 07, 12:45 PM

Northumberland countrysideOn Wednesday's Newsnight Jeremy Paxman continues his series on Blair's Britain (watch the previous films: Northern Ireland and The Economy). He's taken the train to Northumberland, close to where the foot and mouth epidemic began, to see how rural life has changed during the last decade and finds some people are still reeling from what happened then.

One former farmer told him she believes that "country people are the most ignored minority group there is". What do you think of the way Blair has handled the countryside? If you live or work in the countryside we'd also like to know your views. Join the debate below and watch Jeremy tonight.

Tuesday, 12 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Jun 07, 04:20 PM

Presented by Jeremy Paxman:

The media is a "feral beast" and its relationship with politicians is "damaged". The words of Tony Blair today who decided to devote one of his last speeches as Prime Minister to the idea that the media is creating cynicism. He says we need to separate "News" and "Comment". Do let us know what you think below. And see if we cast "heat" or "light" as the PM describes it as Michael Crick reports on the speech and Jeremy Paxman hosts a debate on the issue.

Paul Mason will be reporting news and collecting comment on Ford's admission that it is looking to sell Jaguar and Land Rover. But we hope he'll also answer the question - would the two British car brands be better off owned by private equity than the stumbling American car giant?

The latest from Jamaica is an admission from the police that Bob Woolmer was not murdered but died of natural causes. After acres of media coverage - both broadcast and print - that claimed the Pakistani cricket team were prime suspects we'll be talking to their representative.

Is Egypt turning into a police state? The BBC's world affairs analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi, has a disturbing film about how advances in democracy are being reversed.

Monday, 11 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Jun 07, 05:53 PM

By Kavita Puri, programme producer

Newsnight exclusive
We have an incredible interview with the former wife of a British Muslim extremist. She tells us how her husband tried to persuade her to carry out a suicide attack in the UK. She explains in detail how her husband showed her how to wear an explosive belt. We'll be discussing how such extremism can be tackled. Read more and watch a preview of the interview here.

Gordon Brown in IraqIraq Inquiry
The Conservatives are calling for a full inquiry into the war in Iraq. Gordon Brown, visiting Baghdad today, said it would be wrong to hold an inquiry now while British troops are still serving in Iraq. We'll be debating the issue.

Iranian Influence in Afghanistan
A high tech "shaped" bomb has been found in Kabul today. These are similar to the ones used in Iraq against Allied vehicles, and the military say could come from Iran. Alastair Leithead reports from Afghanistan on the extent of Iran's influence in the country.

Dog Eat Dog World
How many dogs should you be allowed to walk on the pavement at one time? Kensington and Chelsea have issued a by-law saying no more than two. That's just barking mad say some residents. We visit some of the richest streets in the country and meet Tory activists who are furious at the dogmatic approach taken by their Conservative council.

Friday, 8 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Jun 07, 05:36 PM

From Kirsty Wark, Newsnight presenter.

hillaryclinton203.jpgHILLARY CLINTON
As I write, we have a packed programme including the first British interview with Carl Bernstein about his new book A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He spent six years writing and researching it and it is published amidst a slew of books on the Clintons. In it he alleges she has suffered from depression, and that Hillary and Bill Clinton, decades ago, devised a strategy for a husband two term presidency followed by the same for his wife.

The book makes clear the energy and effort that went into devising strategies to deal with Bill Clinton's infidelities, but are they continuing? I'll also be asking Carl Bernstein why, when there is a feeling in America that the Democrats should win, when Hillary Clinton is put in the frame the mood changes.

The G8 pulled more aid for Africa out of the hat before the world leaders went their separate ways - or did they? Bob Geldof has called the summit a farce. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether new money has been pledged by countries that were falling behind in their promise to deliver by 2010, or whether the new drive to boost the fight against Aids and provide free schooling for all African children is a reassignment of existing donations.

We hope to have the definitive answer tonight. We're hoping to speak to Bob Geldof. And we'll be asking the International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, what exactly have the G8 countries signed up to on Africa?

Paul Mason brings us his next instalment of the Gordon Brown Grand Tour. We'll be watching his progress through the north east of England, the heartlands of traditional Labour values, to find out what they are expecting to happen when the Brown boat comes in. Paul's first two GB tour reports can be found in our Newsnight video highlights section.

Newsnight Review - 8 June 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Jun 07, 05:00 PM

drowsy203.jpgKirsty is joined by Johann Hari, Rachel Holmes, Jonathan Freedland and Anthony Horowitz.

We review Paul McCartney's new album - Memory Almost Full. It's named for the text that pops up on your mobile phone and just to reinforce the fact that the former Beatle is fully conversant in new technology, he is now part of the YouTube generation, where you can see snippets of conversation with Macca, his pop video and rehearsal sessions. The CD is also his first release on the Starbucks label Hear Music, and mines his past and his writing days with John Lennon.

Armistead Maupin first introduced us to the liberal gay San Francisco scene in the late 70's with the start of his Tales From The City series. Now over 20 years on, he revisits some of his characters in Michael Tolliver Lives. Michael, the gay gardener, now in his 50s, lives with HIV and is married to a much younger partner. Their lives are bound up with biological family - Christian fundamentalists - and a "logical family" gay, straight, transgenerational and transexual with whom they work, rest and play.

The first smash hit musical out of Toronto is some accolade, but The Drowsy Chaperone is just that - now in London's West End, by way of Broadway where it picked up five Tony Awards. The star billing goes to Elaine Paige who plays the sozzled spinster of the title, but the middle aged, cardiganed, musical-loving geek in the armchair at the corner of the stage is a star too.

The Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica was a leader of the modernist avant-garde art movement in his country in the 60s and 70s and was obsessed with colour until his premature death in 1980. His inspiration was artists such as Malevich, Klee and Mondrian but he went further in his desire to liberate colour into space. Now Tate Modern is holding the first major UK exhibition of his work in 35 years entitled The Body of Colour - including work the Tate has recently acquired.

Comment on the programme below.

Thursday, 7 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Jun 07, 06:42 PM

From tonight's presenter, Kirsty Wark:

blair_gaddafi_203.jpgCONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS?

Alex Salmond threw down the gauntlet to the Parliament at Westminster today. In a dramatic statement to the Scottish Parliament the new SNP First Minister claimed that Tony Blair has done a deal with Colonel Gaddafi that would allow the return of the Lockerbie bomber to Libya and in effect violate the independence of Holyrood. Is he right or are the nationalists deliberately using their new political powers to stir the pot?


The G8 summit is on the move - politically speaking. There appears to be real progress on climate change with the US agreeing to consider a 50% cut in carbon emissions by 2050 and to participate in a UN lead initiative. Stephanie Flanders is there.


Last night Panorama claimed Britain's biggest arms company, BAe systems, secretly paid hundreds of millions of pounds to Prince Bandar, a member of the Saudi royal family. This was supposedly remuneration for smoothing through a $40 billion arms deal. Tonight we investigate Prince Bandar. We also look into US attempts at possible action against BAe and the implications that could have here.


And Islamic Art as a diplomatic tool. Madaleine Holt reports from the Venice Biennale on how Islamic Art from Lebanon, Syria and Turkey is designed to bring different cultures closer together.

Exclusive: G8 Climate change communique text

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Jun 07, 04:02 PM

From Stephanie Flanders in Heiligendamm.

Newsnight exclusive on the climate change text of the G8 communique, in which the US almost commits to a 50% target for cutting greenhouse gases by 2050.

"in setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we've agreed today involving all major emittors, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the EU, Canada and Japan, which includes at least a halving of emissions by 2050. ......We commit to achieving these goals and invite the major emerging economies to join us in this endeavour."

I'm told that the President surprised his own staff by agreeing to the mention of a 50% target in the text, over breakfast with Tony Blair one-on-one this morning. Even the environmental groups are pleasantly surprised (though not, of course, entirely satisfied.)

Barriers to understanding

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Jun 07, 01:13 PM

From Newsnight's Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders, somewhere near the G8 summit in Heiligendamm.

g8bushsign203.jpgToday is supposed to be the big day for protests in the temporary police state that is the G8 venue. Thousands of demonstrators will spend the day trying to breach the 12 km perimeter fence around the hotel where the leaders are meeting - and block the roads going in and out. Here's my question - or questions. What, exactly are they demonstrating about? And why don't I know?

I'm not speaking rhetorically here. I'm genuinely confused about what these demonstrators are about, because the mood today seems so different than when these protests really got started, at the WTO meetings in Seattle in 1999. Back then, you had your Black Bloc equivalents and your downright crazies, but most of the protestors were there to protest concrete injustices - the plight of Mozambican cashew farmers, for example - and could recite chapter and verse of which IMF program and/or international trade rule was to blame. Journalists quickly discovered that the activists were often better informed than the delegates. So, even when the demonstrations turned nasty (the infamous "battle of Seattle"), the activists still got a hearing from the likes of President Clinton. "I disagree with a lot of what they say, but I'm still glad they're here", he told the disgruntled trade ministers besieged in the conference hall.

Hard to imagine Angela Merkel or George Bush saying that today - and not just because they are cut from more conservative cloth than Mr Clinton. Since then the system has changed - and so have the protestors. The "system" has changed by co-opting the demonstrators' agenda to a remarkable extent. For the next WTO meeting the ministers had learned their lesson - they held it in the highly inaccessible city of Doha. But they also co-opted much of the demonstrators' agenda by dedicating the Millennium round of trade talks to developing countries. There's been a similar change in the agenda of the G8.

Now I'll admit, delivery on that agenda has been mixed, at best. As I explained yesterday, delivery is not the g8's strong suit. (And it's been non-existent in the case of the Doha trade round - though how much that round could really have achieved for developing countries is a subject I'll leave to another day). But you can't say that the issues of poverty, unfair trade rules, or climate change aren't being discussed. That's pretty much all that is discussed at these meetings. And many of the people who used to be on the streets protesting are now working for NGOs who lobby and engage with the G8 governments and the IMF and the World Bank on an almost daily basis.

g8_fenceprotest203.jpgAre the protestors here to complain about delivery on aid promises? Some are, for sure: Oxfam has had some nice theatrics here, as usual. Greenpeace have put to sea here to call for more on climate change. I like to think a few want to prevent the meetings to protest the waste of taxpayers' money. But the fence-chargers? I am at a loss. When I look at the protestors crossing the fields here or blocking the roads, I don't see any signs about aid, or debt, or evil multi-national corporations. Nor are there any t shirts saying "value for money for G8 taxpayers" (I would have bought one). Maybe we journalists should spend a little less time feverishly reporting the twists and turns of the Battle of the Fence, and a little more asking the protagonists why they're here.

Iraq: British officer's email

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Jun 07, 10:06 PM

Newsnight received the following email from a serving British Army captain with experience in various theatres including Iraq. We know his identity but have withheld it at his request. Watch Mark Urban's report on morale among soldiers serving in Iraq here.

"I am a serving British Army officer with operational experience in a number of theatres. I am concerned regarding the effect of your recent reports from Baghdad (Watch Mark’s report here). I have been forwarded the correspondence between yourself and David Edwards of, and would like to highlight that it is not merely medialens users, who are concerned about embedded coverage with the US Army. The intentions and continuing effects of the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq have been questioned by too few people in the mainstream media and political parties, primarily only the Guardian and Independent, and the Liberal Democrats, respectively.

There is a widespread, and well-sourced, belief based on both experience and evidence, in both the British military and academia, that the US is not "just in Iraq to keep the peace, regardless of what the troops on the ground believe. It is in Iraq to establish a client state amenable to the requirements of US realpolitik in a key, oil-rich region. To doubt this is to be ignorant of the motives that have guided US foreign policy in the post-war period and a mountain of evidence since 2003." (quote from medialens)

That the invasion was 'illegal, immoral and unwinnable', and the 'greatest foreign policy blunder since Suez' - to paraphrase the Liberal Democrats - is the overwhelming feeling of many of my peers, and they speak of loathsome six-month tours, during which they led patrols with dread and fear, reluctantly providing target practice for insurgents, senselessly haemorrhaging casualties, and squandering soldiers' lives, as part of Bush's vain attempt to delay the inevitable Anglo-US rout until after the next US election. Given a free choice most of us would never have invaded Iraq, and certainly would have withdrawn long ago. Hopefully, Tony Blairs's handover to Gordon Brown will herald a change of policy, and rapid withdrawal, but skewed pro-US coverage inhibits proper public debate, and is deeply unhealthy; lethally-so to many of us deployed to Iraq.

The [inadvertent] dangers of bias of embedded journalism are well known and there is a risk that the 'official line' can be conflated with evidence and facts. Jon Snow graphically demonstrated the effect of this during the initial invasion of Iraq in his programme The True Face of War. I am conscious that reporting independently, outside of the 'green zone' in Iraq is nigh on impossible, but I would merely request that the 'official line/White House propaganda' be handled with an appropriate degree of scepticism, and be caveated accordingly."

G8: Promises, promises...

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Jun 07, 07:52 PM

From Newsnight's Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders at the G8 Summit. Watch her report here.

merkel203sarkozy.jpgThey say G8 summits are about the numbers. And this one is no exception. We've got 16,000 police, 11,000 soldiers, two minesweepers, a dozen AWAC planes and I don't know how many helicopters - all dedicated to protect the leaders of the seven largest rich countries in the world (plus Russia). If you watch my report you'll see my heroic efforts to get as close as possible to where the action is. Which is not very close at all.

It's all a long way from 1974, when the US invited a handful of finance officials for a chat in the White House library. That "library group" was the precursor to the G8. And I have a strong suspicion that they got more things done.

Of course that's not the official line. The official line is that you can get more business done with 8 leaders sitting in a room for a few hours than you can in months of lower level diplo-chat. But that's only half-right. It's true that the prospect of having such a meeting - and the world and his dog waiting outside to hear the results - means that any leader with voters to worry about will call a meeting of his staff about 3 months before aforesaid meeting to ask them what the "deliverables" are going to be. Then the staff - in the case of the G8, the worthy Sherpahs, devote several months of diplo-chat to finding stuff for their bosses to announce (the deliverables).

This system can work fairly well - with the right leaders and the right issue. The right leaders means people who are either very dedicated to a given cause, or need to get re-elected quite soon, or both. And the right issue is one where either the G8 can deliver on their promises immediately - or give the task to someone else. Because the G8 is an institution that's designed to produce deliverables. It's not designed to actually deliver. Consider what happened two years ago. Say what you like about Gleneagles (and who doesn't?) they DID deliver on most of their promises to write down African country debt. Why? Because it was the IMF and the World Bank that actually had to do it.

Where the promises involved individual governments translating their promises into aid budgets, year after year - they weren't kept. Or many of them weren't kept. The G8 research group at the University of Toronto reckons that governments have stuck by only 65% of the commitments at Gleneagles. Perhaps Chancellor Merkel should look on the bright side - if she doesn't get any big new commitments from the heads at this year's summit, there will be fewer promises leftover for leaders not to keep.

Join the 'How gr8 is the G8' debate here.

Wednesday, 6 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Jun 07, 06:01 PM

From tonight's presenter, Gavin Esler:

bushmerkel_203.jpgMilitary morale
Our diplomatic editor, Mark Urban, has been hearing from serving British soldiers about low morale in Iraq and loss of support from some in the army for the mission there. One serving British Army officer has told us that the "overwhelming feeling" of many of his peers is that the invasion was "illegal, immoral and unwinnable". He describes troops who feel that they are "reluctantly providing target practice for insurgents, senselessly haemorrhaging casualties and squandering soldiers' lives." You can read the full text of the officer's email here.

It's a difficult story to get at - for obvious reasons. But the concerns are real.

Stephanie Flanders is in Germany for the G8 Summit. She'll be looking at what, if anything, can be achieved from summits like these. Is the G8 just a "meaningless photo opportunity", "unrepresentative", "big on rhetoric low on substance" as some of you have suggested on our website?

Stephanie is blogging too and you can read her opening despatch here.

Climate change
Our environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, reports on how far carbon trading really will help solve the problems caused by climate change.

Orange Prize
The winner will be announced tonight - and Newsnight will be there. (Though some of us continue to wonder - when Kiran Desai's magnificent novel wins the Booker Prize) why in 2007 it continues to be necessary to have a women only literary prize. Isn't it rather like netball compared to basketball?)

How Gr8 is the G8?

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Jun 07, 01:28 PM

g8_203banner.jpgOver the next few days Heiligendamm in Germany will play host to leaders of the world's G8 nations, debt relief and climate change campaigners and anti-globalisation protestors - all pursuing distinct agendas. Will any of them come away with what they want? Will the G8 achieve anything of lasting value? In fact - what is the G8 for?

We'll be reporting from Heiligendamm on Wednesday and trying to answer those questions but what do you think? Does the G8 make a difference?

Watch Stephanie Flanders' report from the summit and read her first blog.

Tuesday, 5 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Jun 07, 04:41 PM

From tonight's presenter, Gavin Esler

g8_203.jpgRobin Hood in Reverse

Vulture funds rob the poor to fatten the rich.

As we revealed on Newsnight earlier this year, they are a crafty mechanism which allows the buying up of the debts of developing countries rather cheaply - and then the new debt owner takes his money back, at a huge profit.

The poor lose. As the G8 leaders assemble tomorrow in Germany, Gordon Brown and President Bush are taking an interest.

I'll be asking the British Government minister responsible whether, realistically, anything can be done to stop the vultures preying on the poor.

The Cameron Clan

The row within the Conservatives over grammar schools rumbles on, with some Conservatives (quietly) suggesting it has undermined David Cameron's authority.

Michael Crick is on the trail - and we hope to hear from both sides.

Web 2.0

The stuff you read on the internet. Do you believe it? Seriously? Why?

We'll be hearing from the author of a new book about why much of what you may be reading has all the editorial authority of graffiti on a lavatory wall, and a Web defender will explain why the democratisation of the web is so important.

You can read extracts from the book, The Cult of the Amateur, and join the debate by clicking here.


The government wants to clamp down on middle class binge drinking. Our Science Editor Susan Watts will tell you how much wine you can safely drink each day.

The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Jun 07, 02:07 PM

The Cult of the Amateur
How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy
by Andrew Keen

amateur_203.jpg“If we are all amateurs, there are no experts.”

Watch the Newsnight discussion here.

Andrew Keen’s new book, The Cult of the Amateur is the latest addition to the Newsnight book club. In it, the author expresses his concern for the profligacy of online amateurism, spawned by the digital revolution. This, he feels, has had a destructive impact on our culture, economy and values.

He says, “[They] can use their networked computers to publish everything from uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, reviews, essays, and novels”.

He complains that blogs are “collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture”.

He claims that Wikipedia perpetuates a cycle of misinformation and ignorance, and labels YouTube inane and absurd, “showing poor fools dancing, singing, eating, washing, shopping, driving, cleaning, sleeping, or just staring at their computers.”

He warns that old media is facing extinction – “say goodbye to experts and cultural gatekeepers – our reporters, news anchors, editors, music companies, and Hollywood movie studios.”

What do you think? We’ve published two extracts from Andrew Keen’s book below. Have a read and share your thoughts – is he being alarmist about the effects of the Web 2.0 revolution, or raising genuine concerns? Are we at the mercy of the amateur? Can kids tell the difference between credible news sources and the amateur’s blog? What, in any case, can be done?

Continue reading "The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen"

Monday, 4 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Jun 07, 06:09 PM

By Kirsty Wark, Newsnight presenter.

President PutinPutin
On Newsnight tonight - in the words of Frankie goes to Hollywood - two tribes go to war. Is President Putin simply grabbing the limelight and with it trying to dictate the political agenda before the G8 on Wednesday or is this the Cold War revisited? He's threatened to train his missiles on Europe if America puts its missile defence shield on countries bordering Russia. Are we really in for another Mexican standoff?

Cool Earth
One of the big debates at the G8 will be sustainability, and tonight we examine one man's big idea, Cool Earth. Johan Eliasch is a businessman, and Deputy Treasurer of the Conservative Party. He also owns 400,000 acres of the endangered Amazonian rainforest in order, he says, to protect it against logging and create a community reserve. Now through a charity launched tomorrow he’s offering us all the chance to personally preserve of an acre of the rainforest for £70. I'll be asking him how this all works and whether it's the new colonialism.

Six Day War
Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the start of a war whose reverberations are still being felt in the Middle East. Newsnight looks back at the Six Day War, which demonstrated Israel’s superior firepower over its Arab neighbours and changed the map of the region. At the end of this short sharp shock Israel controlled the Gaza Strip, the West bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Jeremy Bowen reports on the war that shaped the Middle East.

Newsnight Review - 1 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Jun 07, 07:33 PM

hirst2_203.gifIn a special extended interview, Kirsty Wark talks to Britain's most successful artist, Damien Hirst, about his passions and the most expensive artwork ever made.

Click here for more information, or you can comment on the programme below.

Friday, 1 June, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Jun 07, 04:27 PM

johnston_203.jpgFrom tonight's presenter, Kirsty Wark.


Today the world saw a video of the missing BBC journalist Alan Johnston - seen for the first time since his capture in Gaza more than two months ago.

In the video, released by the Palestinian jihadist group The Army of Islam, Alan Johnston said he was fit and well, and spoke about the "suffering" of the people in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan, before an unidentified man speaking in Arabic called for the release of "our prisoners".

So how much more do we now know about his captors and what their demands might be?


There has been strong reaction to the argument put forward today by a chief police officer in charge of child protection.

Jim Gamble, the Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre, said that not all paedophiles should necessarily be sent to prison and they should be offered treatment in the community.

He suggested offenders who have committed crimes such as viewing child pornography, rather than sexual assault, could be dealt with this way.

Mr Gamble described it as adopting a "much more intelligent posture" and "engaging with the predator".

Tonight a man convicted and imprisoned for downloading child pornography, and a campaigner who says people who view such material should face tougher sentences and mandatory therapy.


Tony Blair's Farewell World Tour hit South Africa today where he spoke to Thabo Mbeki about Zimbabwe, praising the South African president's efforts.

It was his big chance to lay it on the line over Robert Mugabe. So why didn't he?


Beckham's back to play in the first England international at the new Wembley stadium.

We'll review the big friendly with Brazil.

Have you served in Iraq?

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Jun 07, 02:12 PM

iraq_soldier2_203.jpgNext week on Newsnight we will be looking at the views of British soldiers on the situation in Iraq.

Are you a serving soldier there now, or involved in Telic 8 or 9?

Do you have a family member who is currently in Iraq? We'd like to hear your views on the continuing campaign in the south. Do you think British forces are doing good being there?

How would you describe morale? Do you want Gordon Brown as Prime Minister to change policy there?

If you'd prefer to contact us privately, you can e-mail us at

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