Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Monday, 2 July, 2007

  • Gavin Esler
  • 2 Jul 07, 04:33 PM

Police at Glasgow airportTerror
Foreign jihadists, not home grown terrorists? What difference does it make? We'll have the latest on the fast moving investigation into the terror attacks in London and Glasgow, and we'll also be assessing the motives behind the attacks. Is there really a link to British foreign policy? Or - given that a nightclub was the target of one of the London attacks, and a previous bomb plot targeted The Ministry of Sound - are these attacks primarily directed against the western way of life? We hope to be speaking to leading politicians and a former jihadist about what can be done.

Trouble for the Tories?
Are the Conservatives stuck in a rut? As the Gordon Brown / New Labour re-launch gives way to the current terrorist attacks, can the Tories get any political traction at all? Why are they stuck at less than 40% in the opinion polls? And is there anything David Cameron can do about it in the Shadow Cabinet re-shuffle tonight? Michael Crick is on the case.

When the boss of a UK company says "we're going to be the next billion dollar startup" there are inevitably weary groans from those who remember the dotcom boom and bust. But is this technology boom different? Paul Mason has been following the progress of Spinvox, a UK startup company, to find out what it's really like to raise and spend £30 million of other people's money.

Critical security

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Jul 07, 02:10 PM

The UK security level is currently at its highest - 'critical' - following the three attempted car bomb attacks over the last few days.

Counter-terrorism experts are working on the assumption that the failed attacks are connected - at least ideologically - to al-Qaeda and recent intelligence has suggested jihadists were planning an attack in Britain.

So how do we deal with the threat of jihadis in this country? What do you think?

Reshuffle thoughts...

  • Michael Crick
  • 2 Jul 07, 12:20 PM

CabinetPerhaps the biggest surprise in the Cabinet reshuffle was former Newsnight producer Shaun Woodward as Northern Ireland Secretary, though I can't help feeling it's no longer really a full Cabinet job. Peter Hain, after all, combined Northern Ireland with Wales, and that was before Stormont got going again this May, which presumably means there’s now a lot less to do. Still, Shaun Woodward has offered to do the job for free. Given that he only quite the Conservative Party less than eight years ago, the recent defection of Quentin Davies (watch his Newsnight appearance here) and the promise of further Tory recruits, perhaps Mr Woodward’s real role is as minister to encourage defections.

And Gordon Brown displayed a certain ruthlessness in not placing two of his closest allies round the cabinet table. Nick Brown has to make do with being Deputy Chief Whip, having held the job of Chief Whip a few years ago, though he’s now been made Minister for the North as well, and claims to be happy. And what has Stephen Timms, formerly Brown’s number two as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, done to deserve demotion? He’s now lost his Cabinet place to become minister of state at the ludicrously named Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Then we had the rather underwhelming parade of “all the talents” – four people from outside politics who’ve agreed to become junior ministers: Sir Mark Malloch Brown, Sir Digby Jones, Sir Ara Darsi and Sir Alan West. They’ll all become lords, though it’s interesting that they’re all already knights of the realm, and both Malloch Brown and Darsi had agreed to join the Labour Party. Sir Alan West told me he hadn’t yet decided whether to join Labour (and given his Home Office security job he’s got more pressing things to consider right now), while Digby Jones insists (contrary to what I said on Newsnight on Thursday) that he won’t be joining Labour, despite Gordon Brown asking him to do so. Indeed, Sir Digby won’t even say if he’ll vote Labour in future, though once he becomes a lord, his ability to vote will be confined to non-Westminster elections.

The reshuffle of the lower ranks was extremely dull. Indeed, there are so few interesting changes and so few dramatic new names that one almost gets the impression that Gordon Brown was so diverted by the car bombs on Friday that he got fed up with the reshuffle and simply decided most people could carry on doing what they did before. There are a handful of appointments from the 2005 intake, such as Shahid Malik (the first Muslim minister), and the former Treasury civil servant Helen Goodman (a former girlfriend of Tory Education spokesman David Willetts), but the list is more notable for the unusual number of retreads – including Angela Eagle, Michael Wills and Joan Ruddock. And despite reducing the number of women in Cabinet from eight to five, Gordon Brown’s government now contains 38 women in all, which must be an all-time record.

Denis LawInteresting to see a Manchester United fan, Gerry Sutcliffe, has been made Minister for Sport (though he also supports Bradford City). I hope he realises it’s a bit of an end-of-the-line job – how many sports ministers since the post was created in 1964 have ever gone on to anything higher? None, so far as I can remember. But perhaps Mr Sutcliffe can now do something about securing an honour for one of United’s all-time greats, Denis Law, who was also recently voted the greatest Scotland player of all time. In a world where even the most mediocre of footballers seems to get an honour these days, Denis hasn’t even had an MBE.

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