Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

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.

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