Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Friday, 30 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Nov 07, 05:33 PM

Dodgy donations
alexander_harman.jpgNow Paul Green, the Jersey based businessman who helped fund Wendy Alexander's uncontested election campaign to lead the Scottish Labour party has released a letter from Ms Alexander.
In it she thanks him for his donation. Given that she addressed the letter to Jersey it casts doubt on her assertion that she thought the money had come via a Glasgow based firm connected with Mr Green.
If she knew the donation came from "offshore" then surely she knew it was an illegal donation? Can she continue as Labour leader in Scotland and was either her brother Douglas Alexander, or the Prime Minister, in the loop on this one?

Meanwhile Harriet Harman, who's due to have a fundraiser, next week in Leicester Square to help with her election campaign debts, is on the rack. The Electoral Commission has contacted Harriet Harman's office to seek clarification of how she funded her election campaign. As David Grossman reported last night on Newsnight, only one loan, an overdraft facility for £10,000 taken out in October last year has so far been reported. Is she having such a bash simply to pay back that loan? Michael Crick and Paul Mason are digging deep.
Brown denies war over donations

Imagine living in a town surrounded by hundreds of square miles of frozen forest, which used to serve principally as a place of exile for political dissidents. Khanty-Mansiisk 1,400 east of Moscow has a population of just 60,000 people but now it's Vladimir Putin's show town. It's been allowed to keep the majority of its vast oil revenues and it's a boom town with a state-of-the-art hospital, university, performing arts school and many shiny new buildings, and a birth rate of twice the national average. People are flocking there even though the temperature can drop in this Siberian province to -40. Tim Whewell went there to witness the boom times for himself, in advance of this weekend's Russian elections which Putin is almost certain to win.
Read Tim's article here - and watch him try out the local hospital's cryotherapy chamber here.

Newsnight Review

Brad Pitt as Jesse JamesJoining Martha Kearney on Review this week are Paul Morley, Michael Gove and Rowan Pelling.

Up for discussion: Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - a lengthy title for a lengthy film; the BBC documentary series dogged by controversy before it was even screened - The Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work; Dame Vivienne Westwood's cultural manifesto; and the Wellcome Collection's exhibition on Sleeping and Dreaming.

Join Martha and co on the sofa after Newsnight and read about the above and more on the Newsnight Review website.

Friday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Nov 07, 11:48 AM

Liz Gibbons is Friday's programme producer - here's her early email to the team. What else do you think we should pursue today?

Labour logoDonations - How can we move the story on even further today?

We have a fascinating film from Sibera scheduled to run - pegged to the Russian elections.
Read Tim's Whewell's article on the Siberian oil boom here.

What else would you like to do? There's a key Iran meeting in London and it's world AIDS day tomorrow….

Questions for Harriet Harman

  • David Grossman
  • 29 Nov 07, 07:21 PM

Harriet Harman is STILL fundraising for the deputy leadership election that finished on the 24th June.
Why? I'm told her campaign vastly overspent the donations received during the contest. One of her team told me they were "deficit financed".

harriet_invite203x100.jpgShe's holding a fundraiser at a nightclub in Leicester Square in London next Wednesday. The invitation says:

"This is the last opportunity to raise funds towards the cost of our very successful campaign"

My question is simple - where will the money raised go?

Clearly it's not for current expenditure since the contest finished long ago. If the campaign is paying back loans, then those loans should have been reported within 30 days to the electoral commission.

The Electoral Commission's entry for Harriet Harman only records one loan arrangement - an overdraft facility for £10,000 with Nat West taken out in October 2006.

This lunchtime I filed a series of 11 questions to the Labour Party - I'm still waiting for a response
Here are the questions:

1 How did Harriet Harman fund her campaign for the deputy leadership election?

2 How much did the campaign cost to run in total?

3 Is the loan for £10,000 pounds from the National Westminster Bank taken out on the 3rd October 2006 the only loan she has entered into to fund her campaign?

4 Why is she still raising money for a campaign that finished on 22nd June 2007?

5 Where will the money go that is raised at the event planned for 5th December 2007 at Sounds Nightclub in Leicester Square?

6 If the money raised at this event goes towards settling campaign debts, where are the required records of those debts?

7 Did she borrow money in her own name for the purposes of the campaign without declaring it to the electoral commission as a loan?

8 Did she borrow money against any assets owned jointly with Jack Dromey for the purpose of funding her campaign?

9 Why is Harriet Harman using her office in the House of Commons as a base from which to raise party political funds, in contravention of Parliamentary rules? (the initiation for her fund raiser on the 5th December invites people to send donations to Charlotte Montague at her office at the House of Commons)

10 Is Charlotte Montague’s salary paid from Harriet Harman’s MP’s allowances?

11 If Charlotte Montague is paid from Harriet Harman’s MP’s allowances why is she working on Harriet Harman’s campaign from Harriet Harman’s office at the House of Commons? Why has she not registered this in the relevant register of interests for MP’s staff?

Thursday, 29 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Nov 07, 06:38 PM

Met on the Case
abrahams203x100.jpgIn the last few minutes the electoral commission has decided to refer the Labour disguised donations affair to the Metropolitan Police "for further investigation." So could we be on the cusp of another criminal investigation into a New Labour funding row? Tonight Newsnight has more information about the Labour Cabinet Minster Harriet Harman, and questions about how she funded her successful campaign to become Deputy Leader of the party.

The Economy
Gloomy news for house owners today, with more evidence of a slow down. With rising inflation and signs of slower growth, could we be heading for a recession?

Climate Change
We have an exclusive interview with Sir Nicholas Stern ahead of next weeks Bali conference. In a speech tonight he will make alarming warnings about the risk of failure.

Boom Town
We have a fascinating film from Siberia on a newly built oil boom town. Glitzy buildings, entertainment and public facilities all built from the energy reserves that are transformimg Putin's Russia.

Stern climate questions

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Nov 07, 11:57 AM

The Grey Glacier in Chile falling into the seaLast autumn, former Treasury mandarin and World Bank Chief Economist, Sir Nicholas Stern warned the world of the economic and social costs of climate change. (Watch his 2006 LSE lecture and Jeremy’s interview with him from January this year.) The former World Bank chief economist argued that unabated climate change would cost the world at least 5% of GDP each year; if more dramatic predictions came to pass, he said, the cost could be more than 20% of GDP. (The Stern Review)

Sir Nicholas is now warning of the consequences of failure at the Bali conference on climate change which begins next week. Tonight Newsnight has an exclusive interview with Sir Nicholas Stern. What questions would you like us to ask him?

Thursday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Nov 07, 10:51 AM

brown_harman203x100.jpgThe Labour Deputy leader, Harriet Harman is in Parliament today, and is likely to come under intense questioning from MPs about how she came to accept £5,000 from a conduit for David Abrahams. She has said that she didn't know that the donation really came from him, but what did she know and when? Newsnight has some other awkward questions for Ms Harman.

The Economy
Mervyn King is also in front of MPs today, is the economy really heading for the "perfect storm" of slow growth and rising inflation? Stephanie Flanders looks at a more fundamental problem for Gordon Brown's Government.

Climate Change
We have an exclusive interview with Sir Nicholas Stern ahead of next weeks Bali conference. In a speech tonight he will make alarming warnings about the risk of failure.

Boom Town
We have a fascinating film from Siberia on a newly built oil boom town. Glitzy buildings, entertainment and public facilities all built from the energy reserves that are transformimg Putin's Russia

Wednesday, 28 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Nov 07, 04:36 PM

brown_commons203.jpgLast night the man at the heart of the secret donations row broke cover to talk to Newsnight. David Abrahams told us that the man in charge of Labour's fundraising - Jon Mendelsohn - had just written to him personally to thank him for being one of the party's 'strongest supporters' - a revelation that has set a new frenzy of questions and allegations. It is now known that Mendelsohn knew earlier this month that Abrahams was making donations through intermediaries. Michael Crick has spent the day investigating the implications of the latest twists in this on-going saga.
Read Paul Mason's blog on the events and the questions that remain.

Within the past few minutes the Foreign Office has confirmed that a British teacher, detained in Sudan after she allowed her pupils to call a teddy bear 'Mohammad', has been charged. Gillian Gibbons, who's 54 and from Liverpool, is accused of insulting religion and inciting hatred. We hope to bring together a member of the Sudanese Government and a supporter of Gillian Gibbons.

Liz MacKean has a report on increasing paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland. The story centres on the murder last month of Paul Quinn in South Armagh. Both his family and the Independent Monitoring Commission point the finger at members of the IRA but politicians on all sides reject the claims. We'll also be speaking to Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward.

Three unanswered questions for Jon Mendelsohn

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 Nov 07, 12:55 PM

mendelsohn_brown.jpgDavid Abrahams’ dramatic call to Jeremy Paxman, in the middle of Newsnight ( watch it here), leaves Labour’s Larry Whitty with some very specific questions to address in his forthcoming inquiry. I was told categorically last night, by a Labour spokesperson, that Jon Mendelsohn had never solicited money from Mr Abrahams since he had become Gordon Brown’s chief fundraiser. Yet within minutes of Newsnight running that Labour response, and Geoff Hoon repeating it, Mr Abrahams was on the phone quoting a letter – he says handwritten, Mendelsohn says typed – from Mr Mendelsohn, which he says was an implicit request for cash.

Continue reading "Three unanswered questions for Jon Mendelsohn"

Wednesday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Nov 07, 11:28 AM

Robert Morgan is Wednesday's programme producer. Here is his early email to the Newsnight team.

Good morning,

Labour donor
Gordon BrownLots around today. The donor story gets bigger and bigger with more new questions needing answering.

IRA violence
Liz Mackean has a strong film on increasing paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland. The story centres on the murder last month of Paul Quinn in Armagh. Both his family and the Independent Monitoring Commission point the finger at the IRA but politicians on all sides reject the claims.

What else?
Other stories could include Pakistan, the state of the World economy and Kosovo. Any light stories out there for a discussion?

What do you think we should cover?

Tuesday, 27 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Nov 07, 04:15 PM

Party Funding
harman203x100.jpgThe row over David Abrahams’s donations to the Labour Party has deepened. But just who knew what about Mr Abrahams’s funding and when? Harriet Harman seems to be in trouble after it was revealed that her campaign did take money from Janet Kidd, one of Mr. Abrahams’s intermediaries. This is made more embarrassing because the Prime Minister’s own leadership campaign rejected a donation from the same source and Hilary Benn also turned down the cash because it wasn't in David Abraham's own name. In the interests of transparency there will be an enquiry but the person commissioning it is none other than…Harriet Harman.

Middle East
The talks about talks continue in Annapolis, Maryland on attempts to reach agreement on a peace plan for the Middle East. Ehud Olmert, Mahmoud Abbas and George Bush have agreed that negotiations on the creation of a Palestinian state should begin next month, but how meaningful has this meeting in Annapolis been? Peter Marshall is there to assess the progress that has been made.

Rumble in the Jungle
Greg Pallast has travelled to Ecuador's rainforest to hear how a group of Ecuadorian Indians are suing the Chevron-Texaco oil company. The villagers claim that the oil company is responsible for polluting the water supplies in the Amazon rainforest where they live and that this has led to an increase in cancer cases and other health problems amongst the local people. Texaco-Chevron denies responsibility. So is Chevron-Texaco just an easy target or is the new power that oil has given to South America politicians offering these villagers a chance of justice?

Tuesday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Nov 07, 10:16 AM

brown_cbi203x100.jpgLots of interesting areas to chase, David Abrahams himself and his planning applications, who knew how much and when, donations to Harriet Harman's deputy leadership campaign. And Gordon Brown's monthly presser is at 12.00. Let's discuss angles, guests and treatments at the meeting.

Peter Marshall is there and will do a piece on the progress that has been made and what needs to happen next. Let's try and get an interview with one of the players.

We have an interesting film from Greg Pallast on how a group of Indians in Ecuador are suing Chevron/Texaco. They allege that the oil company has caused environmental damage to the rainforest and led to an increase in cancer cases and other health problems amongst the local people.

Any other stories you are interested in?
Paris riots, CGT, MI6 recruiting...

Monday, 26 November, 2007

  • Gavin Esler
  • 26 Nov 07, 05:25 PM

UPDATE: All change to tonight's programme with the news that Labour's General Secretary has resigned. Peter Watt admitted he had known that a major donor to the party had paid his money through intermediaries - but not that this might have been illegal. Our political editor Michael Crick asks if the buck stops here or could others yet be dragged into this latest donor scandal. And what happened to Gordon Brown's promise to restore trust in our politicians?

Today's Quote for the Day: "You talk about it in our system and people think you are a nutter" - Tony Blair on religion and politics.

Northern Rock
Northern RockIf Tony Blair is right - that the British do not do God and politics - we certainly do Mammon and politics. Virgin is the preferred bidder for Northern Rock. Why - you may wonder - in an open capitalist system, is anyone the preferred bidder? And why - you may equally wonder - are people criticising Virgin for getting a bargain? (Prompting the thought: if Britain's most notorious bank is such a bargain, sunshine, why don't YOU buy it?) All will be clear by 10.30 tonight.
Virgin's Rock bid 'to be blocked'

Oxford Union
As I write this protests are expected at the Freedom of Speech debate at the Oxford Union tonight because the Union has chosen to invite the BNP's Nick Griffin and the historian (and ex jailbird) David Irving. As George Orwell once remarked (more or less), does it take an intellectual to do something quite so stupid? Or do Mr Griffin and Mr Irving have something important to add to our debate about liberty?
The limits to freedom of speech

Annapolis, Maryland, is not only the place America's top sailors for the future are trained, it is also home (to my certain knowledge) of the best crab cakes I've ever eaten. And - though this may be a less lasting claim to fame - it is playing host to a Middle East Peace Conference. Beyond the photo opportunities, can a weakened American President convince a weak Palestinian leader and a weak Israeli prime minister to make peace?
Bush optimistic of Mid-East peace

Well, well, welfare reform...

  • David Grossman
  • 26 Nov 07, 04:51 PM

brownsleeve203.jpgToday's announcement about welfare reform took me a bit by surprise, but not because of the content. (The Conservatives say the government has just re-announced the same old stuff in order to try and regain the initiative).

No, I was surprised that there was any announcement at all.

Before I put out my film on welfare reform in Wisconsin (watch it here, read the blog here), I checked with the press office at the Department for Work and Pensions whether the government had any plans to announce anything new in the near future.

I was told that nothing was in the pipeline. Just to make sure the press officer said he'd check with his boss and call me back.

An hour later he did call back - and told me that I shouldn't expect any announcements until the New Year...

Monday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Nov 07, 11:12 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme editor - here is his early email to the production team. What do you think we should cover?

Good Morning.

Northern Rock
Sir Richard BransonPlenty around today. Northern Rock has chosen the Virgin Group as its preferred buyer. Virgin's offer - which has been backed by the Treasury - includes an immediate repayment of £11bn of the £25bn the bank owes the Bank of England. Private Equity businessmen have already expressed "shock" at what they regard as a very generous deal for Branson. So how fair is this deal for the taxpayer?

Gordon Brown has just given a speech outlining his plans to "intensify compulsion in the benefits system." New briefings are promised on welfare reform today. Is this just a reannouncement of existing policy to grab a quick headline, or something more interesting?

Labour donor
How could a jobbing builder and secretary in Newcastle contribute nearly £400,000 to Labour Party funds? Because it was "given" to them by a publicity shy property developer, that's how. This was clearly an unusual practice and potentially against the law, but is it even more serious than that? Did anybody in the Labour Party know about this unusual arrangement?

Middle East peace
The Annapolis conference begins tomorrow, there are talks at the White House today. Peter Marshall is there for us.

Oxford debate
There's a freedom of speech debate at the Oxford Union tonight. David Irving and Nick Griffin have been invited. Large protests are expected before the meeting. There's clearly a discussion that can be had over this, but rather than the usual suspects do you have some original suggestions for guests?

Other ideas, treatments, guests, other stories?

Friday, 23 November, 2007

  • Emily Maitlis
  • 23 Nov 07, 06:32 PM

The Gordon Brown Stuff
Gordon BrownHis was meant to be the boring but competent government. The administration that would break away from the spin of previous years, do no serious wrong, excite us little. But the events of the past few days have shown us a government that has been far from boring. And indeed, you could argue, far from competent. Perhaps you wouldn’t even need to argue that at all. Tonight we ask how much the fiascos of the past weeks have been specifically of Gordon Brown's own making.

Have the moves he made at the Treasury now come back to haunt him? Do all these cock ups - from missing data, the handling of Northern Rock and Qinetiq - through to the dealings with Britain’s top generals - have his fingerprints all over them? We'll discuss that good and hard.

Sweatshop allegations
Oxfordshire is rarely thought of as a den of sweatshop drudgery. But our report this evening looks at one small business there that stands accused of exploiting migrant labour. Long hours, dangerous conditions with people who are so desperately grateful to find any sort of work they are loath to complain. This is no third world factory, this is a little corner of England. So why has no one clamped down before now?

The price of privacy
We may get outraged when the government loses details of our bank accounts and our children's names in the post. But how much are we exposing ourselves anyway in the things we sign up to on a daily basis. Whether they're supermarket club cards, social networking sites or webpage services we part with information pretty readily these days. It's all big bucks for the businesses involved. But what's the actual cost to us? Our Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders will be taking a look.

Newsnight Review

sleuth203100.jpgJohn Wilson is joined by Tom Paulin, Tony Parsons and Julie Myerson to discuss not one but two new Kenneth Branagh films - Sleuth and The Magic Flute. A new novel by king of small town Americana Garrison Keillor, Channel 4's drama Boy A and the Led Zeppelin revival complete the line up.

Read more on all those over on the Newsnight Review website.

Friday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 23 Nov 07, 11:25 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here is his email to the team. What else should we look into?

Brown under fire
It's been a truly terrible week for the Government but are they just the victim of events or is the truth more damaging for Number 10? To what degree can Gordon Brown - and in particular his actions as Chancellor - be blamed? From the anger of former Defence Chiefs, to Northern Rock and the data security breach, we hope to look in detail at how he contributed to his own misfortunes.

Sweat Shop allegations
Martin Shankelman has a special investigation into a small business in the South east of England which has been accused of exploiting migrant labour and running, in effect a sweat shop.

Social Networking Sites, Personal Data and the Consumer
Social Networking sites are facing a backlash from members for advertising tactics which, in effect, track peoples' personal activities. These tie-ins can though benefit users, both in terms of convenience, and, often, price. Up until now, most of us have chosen consumer convenience over privacy when asked to give up personal details on the web, but could this be about to change?

Other ideas, guest ideas, treatments?


Thursday, 22 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Nov 07, 05:53 PM

Those Missing Discs
Emails have just been released by the National Audit Office confirming that HM Revenue and Customs officials were thinking about the cost implications of trimming down the amount of data given to the National Audit Office concerning benefits claimants. We'll be getting the latest on this story and political reaction.
Officials 'warned on data safety'

heathrow203.jpgLondon's Heathrow airport is the place we love to hate. Working almost at full capacity, the government now is considering whether there should be a new runway for Heathrow. But it seems they've already made up their mind to have a Third runway. What sort of consultation is that? The aviation minister and a leading opponent of the expansion plans debate the issues live.
Heathrow expansion plans unveiled

England's pub team performance against Croatia last night provoked heated debate in the Newsnight office over whether the blame lay with the players or the managers. (Yes.) Anyway - it also raised the question of whether the British are good at managing ANYTHING -- not Northern Rock, not Revenue and Customs, not the England Football Team... hmmm... if we can get some lively performers, we'll have a debate.
Where it went wrong for McClaren

Ozzie Rules
We're in Australia for the general election in which Prime Minister John Howard - if you believe the opinion polls - could be about to come unstuck. Nick Bryant's been finding out what's gone wrong.
Nick Bryant's Australian election blog

Thursday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Nov 07, 01:42 PM

heathrow203.jpgRobert Morgan is Thursday's programme producer. Here is his team email for the morning editorial meeting. What do you think we should cover?

Good morning,

A few good stories around today. There's Data, Heathrow and McLaren for starters. Ideas about how to do these stories or others are welcome.

Martin Shankleman has what promises to be a good expose on a modern sweatshop.

And Australian elections - Nick Bryant has an eve of election film for John Howard's constituency of Bennelong.

Wednesday, 21 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Nov 07, 06:00 PM

Loss of faith
Gordon Brown in the CommonsTonight we're devoting a substantial part of the programme to the impact the loss of 25 million child benefit records is having on Gordon Brown's government. The prime minister said he wanted to be remembered not just for competence but also for his vision. He must be wondering now whether he spoke too soon. After an autumn of damaging stories starting with the election that never was, then Northern Rock and now this latest crisis is the government's reputation for competence ebbing away? Would the Blair government have handled this crisis more smoothly? We'll be debating the government's performance in the studio with politicians and commentators.
Brown apologises for records loss

Policy problems
Do ID cards have a future now? Is Alistair Darling right when he says biometrically protected data would make things safer? Or have the events of the last couple of days tipped ID cards into a vote loser? Just what are the measures which should have been in place at the HMRC to safeguard the public from these sort of cock ups? Susan Watts will be looking at this and exploring the case for and against ID cards.

And if you wondered what on earth persuaded Michael Caine to remake Sleuth with Jude Law then the simple answer is Harold Pinter. In an interview with Stephen Smith, Michael Caine reveals the true pulling power behind his decision to sign up to the remake. Sleuth 2007 has got a stellar cast and crew with Kenneth Branagh directing and Mr Pinter's updated script. But can it improve on the 1972 original?
Read Steve's article on meeting the Nobel laureate

Oh and not forgetting football. Fans will be willing England to win or at the very least draw in tonight's Euro 2008 qualifier. They face Croatia at Wembley stadium at 8pm but you can imagine what life will be like for Steve McClaren if they don't succeed.
Live international football from the BBC Sport website

Wednesday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Nov 07, 10:59 AM

Carol Rubra is Wednesday's programme producer - here is her early email to the Newsnight team. What do you think we should cover?

Records crisis
(left to right)Gordon Brown, Chancellor Alistair Darling and Treasury minister Andy BurnhamGordon Brown said he wanted to be remembered not just for his vision but for competence. After an autumn of damaging stories starting with the election that never was, then Northern Rock and now the loss of 25 million benefit records is the government's reputation for competence ebbing away? How do we do the political story?

Information implications
Do ID cards have a future now? Is Alistair Darling right when he says biometrically protected data would make things safer?

We also have a film from Steve Smith on the new adaptation of Sleuth, including interviews with Harold Pinter and Michael Caine.

A football playout?

Any other thoughts welcome.

Tuesday, 20 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 20 Nov 07, 06:30 PM

An Extraordinary Breach of Data Security ….

darling203x100.jpgTwo computer discs holding the personal details of all families in the UK with a child under 16 have gone missing.
The Child Benefit data on them includes the name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and, where relevant, bank details of 25m people.
The Conservatives have described the incident as a "catastrophic" failure. The head of Revenue and Customs has resigned.
The Chancellor has blamed mistakes by junior officials at Revenue and Custom, who he said ignored security procedures when they sent information to the National Audit Office (NAO) for auditing.
An incredible lapse of data security but who is to blame, and was this an accident waiting to happen? Tonight we'll be joined by a Treasury minister to ask what the consequences will be for the Government, the Chancellor and the tax payer.

Newsnight's Lib Dem Leadership Debate

Tonight we have a live discussion between the two Lib Dem leadership contenders. After a rather sedate campaign, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne clashed rather spectacularly on the BBC Politics Show on Sunday over a briefing document prepared by Huhne's team entitled "Calamity Clegg." Is Clegg really a "flip-flopper" as Huhne alleges? Are Huhne's tactics a sign of desperation? What would each offer British politics? Jeremy asks the questions.

France v Britain

strike203_100.jpgTeachers, hospital workers, civil servants and students are all set to join railway workers in a wave of crippling strikes across France today. More bad news for the French, but are we too quick to be smug when we view the disruption across the channel? Who has the better economy and quality of life - Britain or France? …Allan Little investigates the facts, and asks which is the better model - the Anglo-Saxon or the French?

Tuesday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 20 Nov 07, 10:27 AM

Clegg V Huhne
huhne_clegg.jpgTonight we have a live discussion between the two Lib Dem leadership contenders. After a rather sedate campaign, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne clashed rather spectacularly on the BBC Politic's Show on Sunday over a briefing document prepared by Huhne's team entitled "Calamity Clegg." So what would you like us to ask the two men? Is Clegg really a "flip-flopper" as Huhne alleges? Are Huhne's tactics a sign of desperation? What would each offer British politics?

France v Britain
Teachers, hospital workers, civil servants and students are all set to join railway workers in a wave of crippling strikes across France today. More bad news for the French, but are we too quick to be smug when we view the disruption across the channel? Who has the better economy and quality of life - Britain or France? …Allan Little will look at a variety of indicators to assess which is the better model - the Anglo-Saxon or the French?
Interview and production ideas most welcome.

So they are dumping dead cod in the fish because of EU quotas. So why don't we farm cod, shell fish and more species of fish as they do in Scandinavia? Susan Watts will investigate.

Northern Rock - there is a board meeting later today, and the shares have plunged further. This will be a moving story all day.

Story ideas, Guest ideas, treatments all most welcome!

Monday, 19 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Nov 07, 06:14 PM

Northern Rock
Alistair DarlingThe Chancellor has promised to protect the interests of taxpayers and depositers over the crisis at Northern Rock. The mortgage lender has revealed that bids from potential investors fall below the current market value of the business. Alistair Darling said any proposal on the future ownership of the bank would have to be approved by the government. But will taxpayers really get all their money back with interest? Stephanie Flanders and Michael Crick are on the case. And we'll be debating the political fallout for the chancellor and the Government.
BBC News special: Credit Crunch

Climate Change
Gordon Brown pledged today to make Britain a world leader in the battle against global warming, with a green "technological revolution" which he said could create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK. In his first major speech on the environment since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Brown hinted strongly that he is ready to extend the Government's target of a 60% cut in Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, revealing that he has asked an independent committee of experts to look at the possibility of an 80% goal. But does the Prime Minster's rhetoric make sense in reality when the Government is set to back the expansion of Heathrow later this week? Science Editor, Susan Watts investigates. And we hope an Environment Minister and the director of Greenpeace will go head to head on this story.
Climate change - reports and analysis

The heads of state of the association of south-east Asian countries Asean currently meeting in Singapore will tomorrow sign a charter committing the association' s ten members states to promoting human rights and bolstering democracy - which all sounds fair and sensible enough until you remember that Burma is one of Asean's members. UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari who recently met with some of the top Generals and the country's democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose been under effective house arrest for the last fifteen years, was invited to the summit to brief Asean's heads of state but earlier today the Burmese delegation objected and that briefing has now been cancelled. But what's actually happening inside Burma? We asked Sue Lloyd-Roberts to go into Burma undercover to find out how life has been for the people and what going on with the country's underground pro-democracy movement. See her powerful report tonight.
Read Sue's report and watch a preview of her film here.
Burma protests - in-depth

Lib Dems leadership special

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Nov 07, 05:22 PM

Nick Clegg and Chris HuhneOn Tuesday's Newsnight the two contenders for the Liberal Democrat leadership go head to head.

The race caught fire over the weekend after Chris Huhne's team dubbed his opponent "calamity Clegg" in a briefing paper. Mr Huhne then accused Mr Clegg of "flip-flopping" over policies. Mr Clegg has lodged a formal complaint with senior Lib Dem officials.

So, Tuesday's hustings promises to be a lively affair.

What do you want to hear from the two candidates? Post your questions and comments and we'll feed as many as we can into the debate.

And don't forget, there's loads more on the leadership race on the Big Fat Newsnight Politics Page.

Bureaucratic limbo for stranded Iraqis

  • Richard Colebourn
  • 19 Nov 07, 01:24 PM

BEIRUT --- Dalia was an Iraqi administrator at the British Embassy in Baghdad until early this year. But after her brother was kidnapped, she was followed home from work and her parents discovered a death threat in her house, she knew she had to leave Iraq.

AmmanShe never thought that the fact she worked for the Americans for 90 days before joining the British Embassy might make the difference between a more secure future and continued uncertainty.

Dalia (her name has been changed to protect her identity) now lives in a flat in Amman, where I interviewed her for a Newsnight report (watch it here) on the dangers facing Iraqis who have worked with the British and Americans.

The announcement of government assistance to Iraqis like her was a relief. But the detail of the policy, delivered in a statement to the Commons by David Miliband, disappoints.

Continue reading "Bureaucratic limbo for stranded Iraqis"

Monday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Nov 07, 11:08 AM

Today's programme editor is Robert Morgan - here's his early e-mail to the programme team:

Burma protests
Good morning,

Quite a bit around today. There's Northern Rock, Brown's climate change speech and incapacity benefit.


The people of Burma and their supporters have great expections for two meetings taking place among world leaders to day - the meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels and the meeting of the South East Asian regional powers, ASEAN in Singapore. But will there be any real action against the Burmese Government? Six weeks after the military brutally cracked down a peaceful protest, Sue Lloyd-Roberts has been undercover into the country to test the mood there.

Should we do interviews off the back of the film?

What else should we cover?

Friday, 16 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Nov 07, 05:52 PM

Tonight's programme is presented by Gavin Esler.

nr_203.jpgThe Chief Executive of Northern Rock has just resigned, along with four non-executive directors - a bit late now you might think. The question now: Who will buy Northern Rock? And what kind of deal will they demand for taking on what has become the pariah of the High Street? We speak to the former Monetary Policy Committee member Professor Willem Buiter and to the economist, Will Hutton.

We're live in Valencia for the Climate Change conference.

Rather like the Monty Python take on the People's Front of Judaea who were NOT under any circumstances to be confused with the Judean People's Front, George Galloway's party "Respect" is holding its conference this weekend. And so is Respect. Confused? Well, there's a split. Or maybe there isn't. Our political editor Michael Crick will try to find out.

It was one of the great stories of the Cold War - Russian ships in a British port, a British frogman sent to spy on them underwater - and then his body is found, decapitated. Now the Russian who says he killed Buster Crabb has come forward - we have his TV confession tonight. An amazing tale of the Cold War - but what is the truth?

Friday's prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Nov 07, 10:29 AM

Hello all.

Northern Rock

Will the Rock be sold for a song? How long will this open ended state aid continue - £25b of loans and counting ? And will taxpayers ever get their money back? Today is deadline day for bids for the Rock, though, in reality, they'll probably come in all weekend. There could be as many as 8 bids, all thought to be "aggressively low." If the Rock is sold, what guarantees may the Treasury have to give, and will the taxpayer foot the bill?

Respect schism

Though the Respect party deny that they are divided, tomorrow they have not one but TWO separate annual conferences. We also have evidence that the dispute has become very violent. Crick is on the case.

Spy mystery

Who killed Commander Lionel "Buster" Crabb - James Bond to you and me? Last night a Russian spy said he killed Buster in 1956, who he claims was trying to fix a mine to a Russian submarine during the visit to Britain of President Khrushchev. An extraordinary allegation to make on Russian television...but could it be true?

what other stories, ideas, guest ideas do you have?

Thursday prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Nov 07, 10:32 AM

Today's programme editor is Robert Morgan - here's his early e-mail to the programme team:

Good morning,

nuclear_nn203.jpgLots around today. We're hoping to have an exclusive report about Britain's nuclear security.

Iran's new top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili holds his first Tehran news conference today ahead of the release of a key IAEA nuclear watchdog report on the Iranian nuclear programme. Have the Iranian co-operated enough to reduce the chance of more sanctions?

Barry George has just won his appeal against his conviction for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando.

The Government is seeking a compromise over its plan to extend beyond 28 days the maximum time terrorist suspects can be held without charge. Ministers are proposing that people could be detained for up to 58 days, but only in special circumstances. How would you like to do this story? Is there anything new we can bring to it?

Foreign Secretary David Miliband will give his first major speech on Britain's relations with the rest of the European Union.

All other ideas welcome,

See you at 10.30


3.17pm - We're sorry to say that the blog is experiencing serious technical difficulties at the moment which are making it difficult for some people to post comments. We'd strongly recommend that you copy and save your comment elsewhere before hitting the POST button in case the error causes it to be lost. We hope to resolve the issue within the next few hours.

Wednesday, 14 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Nov 07, 05:04 PM

Tonight's programme is presented by Jeremy Paxman.

OFWAT has fined Southern Water £20.3 million - their biggest ever fine - for misreporting of information and providing a poor service to customers. The Serious Fraud Office dropped its fraud investigation earlier this year because of lack of evidence. So what has happened to those responsible? The new CEO Les Dawson has admitted it was dreadful conduct and that they had betrayed the trust of its customers. We'll be asking if anyone has been held to account for this scandal.

If you are a Southern Water customer and have been affected by this please contact us, we'd like to hear from you

Are you confused by Lord West's comments on the terror laws this morning? We are. First he was running on a good wind one way on Radio 4 this morning saying he had yet to see the evidence that detention beyond 28 days was necessary, only to be tacking back in the opposite direction an hour later. Lord West describes himself as a "simple sailor" and not a politician. So is Gordon Brown's strategy of inviting non-politicians into the fold making it more difficult for the government to get its message across? David Grossman will be investigating.

The governor of the Bank of England gave his assessment of the strength of the economy today - amid continuing uncertainty in the financial sector. Stephanie Flanders assesses what the latest inflation figures signal for the economic outlook.

We have a fascinating interview with the President of UEFA, Michel Platini, who makes an extraordinary attack on the billionaire American owners of leading English football clubs. He says they're only interested in money and predicts they'll even try to change the rules to allow TV advert breaks.

Ira Levin, the author of the best selling horror and suspense novels Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives - both made into popular films - has died at the age of 78. He also wrote The Boys From Brazil, published in 1976, featuring the infamous Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele, seeking to clone a new Third Reich. Steve Smith will be looking back over the life of the writer.

Are you a Southern Water customer?

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Nov 07, 04:07 PM

OFWAT has fined Southern Water £20.3 million - it's the biggest ever fine on a water company for misreporting of information and providing a poor service to customers. The SFO dropped its fraud investigation earlier this year. So what has happened to those responsible?

And what about the many customers who have been overcharged and had to wait for a compensation payout? If you are a Southern Water customer and have been affected by this please do contact us now here at Newsnight.

“Enough” say the Lebanese, but who is listening?

  • Richard Colebourn
  • 14 Nov 07, 02:00 PM

BEIRUT --- The music was upbeat, the young audience enthusiastic, but a concert in Beirut on Friday night was an expression of the doom that is felt in Lebanon. A car park was the venue for an event staged by a new campaign called “Khalass!” – Arabic for “Enough!”

concert_203.jpgConcertgoers desperately want their politicians to resolve Lebanon’s latest political standoff. The country’s constitution requires the election of a new President by November 24th. As the days pass, compromise between Lebanon’s pro-Western/anti-Syrian government and pro-Syrian/Hizbullah-dominated opposition seems distant. No acceptable candidate has been found and the election has been delayed three times. There seem to be as many theories as to the possible outcome of this crisis as there are Lebanese, but most involve political paralysis and violence.

Continue reading "“Enough” say the Lebanese, but who is listening?"

Wednesday prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Nov 07, 10:19 AM

Today's programme editor is Carol Rubra - here's her early e-mail to the programme team:

Good morning,

tap_203.jpgOFWAT have fined Southern Water £20.3 million, their biggest ever fine on a water company for misreporting of information and providing a poor service to customers. The SFO dropped its fraud investigation earlier this year. So what has happened to those responsible?
Southern Water facing £20.3m fine

Mervyn King will be speaking to journalists this morning at the launch of the quarterly inflation report. He will give his assessment of the strength of the British economy and the continuing fallout from the credit crunch. Meanwhile there are more details on the costs to the taxpayer of the Northern Rock bail out.

Gordon Brown will announce the results of Admiral Sir Alan West's review of security arrangements in crowded spaces. He will also talk about measures to prevent the rise of Muslim extremism in local communities.

The UN nuclear monitoring body, the IAEA is expected to report today on how far Iran has complied with its requests to monitor the country's nuclear activity. Gordon Brown has threatened further sanctions if it fails to comply. Is Iran serious about co-operating? We have an interview with Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA.

Peter Marshall has done an interesting interview with Michel Platini, President of UEFA. He's accusing billionaire American owners of leading English football clubs of being in football to make a fast buck.

Other things happening today:
Pakistan - Imran Khan has been arrested, Scottish budget, PMQs.

Any other stories around you think we should look at?

Newsnight wins out over nookie

  • Stephen Smith
  • 13 Nov 07, 07:11 PM

It would be easy to be wounded. The BBC's flagship late-night round-up has been slightingly compared to other things that red-blooded Brits might care to devote themselves to as the long evenings draw in.

corrie_203100.jpgYes, as hard as it may be for regular viewers to credit, Newsnight has been cast as some kind of milk-and-water alternative to a bit of how's-your-father.

And we've been on the receiving end of this calumny not once but twice!

Continue reading "Newsnight wins out over nookie"

Tuesday, 13 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Nov 07, 06:35 PM

Tonight's programme is presented by Jeremy Paxman.

Immigration Cover up?
"Blunder, panic and cover up" at the Home Office? Well, that's the charge from the Tories after leaked e-mails revealed that the Home Office was warned five months ago that thousands of illegal immigrants had been cleared to work in security jobs, some in Whitehall. One of the memos from Jacqui Smith's private secretary talks about holding back the information because "she did not think the lines we have are good enough for the Press Office or Ministers to use to explain the situation." During angry exchanges in the House, she said she had taken "robust action" as soon as she was informed of the problem. But the accusation remains that news management was the overriding concern of the Home Office. We'll have more tonight.

"Free and Fair Elections"
In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto is under house arrest again. In interviews with foreign media this morning, she has called for President Musharraf to step down from office and has said her party is "unlikely" to contest elections in January. Where does this leave the Washington/London strategy towards Pakistan, and can any kind of elections, let alone "free and fair", be held in these circumstances? We'll be speaking to Pakistan’s Minister for Information.

Sarkozy and the strikers
Rolling strikes on the railways are due to begin in France tonight over pension reform. Other public sector workers will join in over the coming days. Is this Sarkozy's "Thatcher moment?" Allan Little is in Paris.

Cost of war
How much did the war in Iraq and Afghanistan cost? A Congressional report by Democrats tonight claims that that "hidden costs" have pushed the total to $1.5 trillion, that's $20,900 for the average US family of four - but do their figures add up?

We also have an interview with the Aga Khan on his attempts to restore ancient Islamic art. And we’ll have the latest on the bird flu outbreak in Suffolk.

Tuesday prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Nov 07, 10:59 AM

Today's programme editor is Dan Kelly - here's his early e-mail to the programme team:

Good morning.

Some good stories today.

The Home Office have been accused of a cover up, after leaked e-mails suggest that the Home Office was warned four months ago that thousands of illegal immigrants had been cleared to work in security jobs, some in Whitehall. One of the memos from Jacqui Smith's private secretary talks about holding back the information because "she did not think the lines we have are good enough for Press Office or Ministers to use to explain the situation." The story was finally leaked this Sunday to the Mirror. An attempt to bury bad news? What happened to Brown's spin free "new politics?" What are the real figures, and what type of jobs are we actually talking about?
'Spin' claim over illegal workers

In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto is under house arrest again. In interviews to the foreign press this morning, she has called for President Musharaff to step down from office and has said her party is "unlikely" to contest elections in January. Where does this leave the Washington/London strategy towards Pakistan, and can any kind of elections, let alone "free and fair" be held in these circumstances?
Huge Pakistan clampdown on Bhutto

Rolling strikes on the railways are due to begin in France tonight over pension reform. Other public sector workers will join in over the coming days. Is this Sarkozy's "Thatcher moment?" Or will he bend as Chirac did famously in 1995. Allan Little is in Paris.

We have an interview with the Aga Khan on his attempts to restore ancient Islamic art.

Other stories today include inflation higher than expected, we'll watch bird flu and is can Newsnight gain any friends on Bebo???

Other ideas, treatments? Guest suggestions?

See you at 10.30


Monday, 12 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Nov 07, 05:09 PM


brown_bush.jpgWhen he was Chancellor, he insisted on wearing a normal suit, but Gordon Brown will be donning the traditional white tie and tails for his first Mansion House speech as Prime Minister tonight. And that's not the only change that's he's likely to signal.

When he took over the top job, Gordon Brown appeared to suggest that the US could no longer take its special relationship with Britain for granted. The appointment of Mark Malloch-Brown as a minister seemed to confirm this. However tonight, he's expected to reaffirm that Britain's ties to the US are the most important we have. So, tonight, we'll attempt a definitive assessment of the state of the relationship.


If a British Council poll out today is to be believed, then we can expect that not many of Britain's teenagers will be plugged in to the PM's speech. They care less about international affairs and have a worse attitude towards learning other languages than their counterparts in Nigeria, the US or Saudi Arabia.

We decided to test the hypothesis by linking up with the social networking site, Bebo.

If you're a Bebo user and want to contribute to the forum we've created there, you can find the page by clicking on "ch-ch-changes" on your login page.

And the chief executives of Bebo and the British Council will discuss the findings with Jeremy.


Commonwealth officials are meeting in London today to discuss whether Pakistan should be suspended, after General Musharraf's imposition of a state of emergency. Meanwhile, the General's commitment to holding elections in January yesterday has been welcomed by the international community. Mark Urban is assessing whether these apparently contradictory moves amount to a strategic game plan.


And - this is not something we often say - we have a fascinating report from Kyrgyzstan. The radical Islamist party Hizb ut Tahrir has seen a surge in support there, and in neighbouring Uzbekistan. It's banned in both countries, but people are joining in droves anyway. In fact, it may be that the clampdown on political and religious freedoms is actually driving more people to join, despite the risks.

Friday, 9 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Nov 07, 04:17 PM

This week’s programme comes from New York where Kirsty Wark is joined by Patricia Cornwell, Joe Queenan, Maureen Dowd and Sam Tanenhaus.


An interview with the comedian during filming of his first leading role in an American movie. He's playing Bertram Pincus, a dentist who dies for a few minutes and when he is revived realises he can hear the dead talking to him.


The latest film from British director Ridley Scott starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington.


Former EastEnders star Michelle Ryan who has been re-engineered into the 21st century Bionic Woman.


Re-engineering Young Frankenstein from the 1974 Oscar nominated black and white movie into a Broadway musical has given Mel Brooks the chance of another hit second time around.


Last year's movie Little Children starring Kate Winslet was based on the Massachusetts writer Tom Perrotta's novel, and it won Perotta an Oscar nomination for the best adapted screenplay.

Monday prospects

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Nov 07, 11:36 AM

Gordon Brown is making his first Mansion House speech today - setting out his foreign affairs vision. Is it time to analyse the state of the special relationship? If so, how, and who with?

Commonwealth meeting in London to discuss Pakistan today, following yesterday's announcement that elections will be held in January. Interested in your thoughts on the best angle…

British Council survey suggests British teenagers are the less clued up on foreign affairs than their counterparts, in 10 other countries including the US - should we explore this, and if so, how?

Also set to run tonight is a feature about the growing influence of Hizbut Tahrir in Uzbekistan.

Friday, 9 November, 2007 - part two

  • Newsnight
  • 9 Nov 07, 04:45 PM

From tonight's presenter Gavin Esler:

Benazir Bhutto - from pariah to martyr...?

Benazir Bhutto is under house arrest. Politically, is that good news for her? And are we witnessing the beginning of the end for General Musharraf?

We can't hold back the tides - nor could King Canute - but could we at least stop so much building on flood plains storing up inevitable disasters in the future?

Liz MacKean is in Lincolnshire to find out why planning permission has been granted to high risk housing schemes.

iPhone hackers
The new iPhone is coming out at 18:02 tonight, and hackers are already working out how to unlock the expensive tie in contract with O2. With every new advance in IT and the web, an increasing number of "Geek Guerrillas" are liberating the technology to make it free for the consumer. Who are they and - apart from the obvious - what motivates them? Paul Mason finds out.

And don't forget that Newsnight Review will be live in New York. Click here for details.

Friday, 9 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 9 Nov 07, 10:39 AM

Here's today's e-mail to the programme team from output editor Dan Kelly:

From Pariah to Martyr - the transformation of Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto has been put under house arrest in Islamabad and has just been served with a 30 day detention order as her supporters gather for a rally in Rawalpindi. What does this mean for the future of politics in Pakistan? Can she turn these events to her own advantage, and can Musharraf survive without her? Mark Urban investigates.


There has been some flooding in eastern England today, but nowhere near as much as feared. It's a good opportunity though to look at why so many housing schemes are still being given approval on flood plains despite interventions by the Environment Agency. The Agency has just released a report into the number of houses and building developments approved by local authorities this year and last, despite their stated objections during the planning stages. Local councillors say they have no choice - they have to meet the demand for housing. Given Gordon Brown's plans to build three million homes in a few years, this is a problem that may only get worse.


The new iPhone is coming out at 18:02 tonight, and hackers are already working on unlocking the expensive tie-in contract with O2. With every new advance in IT and over the web, an increasing number of "Geek Guerrillas" are liberating the technology to make it free for the consumer. From the burning of software to wi-fi squats, it's a phenomenon which is hurting multi-nationals but leading to some fascinating innovations.

Which guests should we get? Other ideas? Treatments?

See you at 10.30pm.


Sorry, Mr Sleeper!

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Nov 07, 02:51 PM

speaker203100.jpgLib Dem leadership candidate Chris Huhne publicly apologised to Speaker Michael Martin in the Commons today. Why? For suggesting during his appearance on Newsnight on Tuesday that the Speaker had nodded off while Gordon Brown was on his feet.

But it seems it was far too rowdy for anyone to get forty winks during the debate that followed the Queen's Speech. As Mr Martin himself confirmed: "it was too noisy to fall asleep that day."

UPDATE: Thurs 8 Nov 17:24 - we now have the video. Watch the apology here.

Thursday, 8 November, 2007 - The Big Immigration Debate

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Nov 07, 01:12 PM

Tonight, in a broadcasting first, Newsnight and Radio 5 Live will be jointly hosting the BIG immigration debate.

immigrationlogo_203.jpgAn expert panel will join Gavin Esler in the Newsnight studio. Richard Bacon will be taking texts, emails and calls live on air. Both will be putting questions to politicians from the three main parties.

We've already had a fantastic response on our blog asking for views on the government's record, whether limits should be imposed and if we have benefited economically and culturally from immigration.

Our poll findings have been interesting. 72% of the respondents believe the government is doing a “poor” job in its handling of immigration, while nearly 62% thought that Britain would lose its unique identity if immigration continues at its present rate.

In relation to employment, 52% of those surveyed believed that immigration posed a threat to UK jobs. However, 46% felt that without immigrants coming to the UK the economy would ultimately suffer.

One thing I can say is tonight will be a must watch. Do join us, and Radio 5 Live, for a piece of broadcasting history.

If you want to take part in the programme you can call the usual 5 Live number - 0500 909693 - it's a free call from any UK landline. You can also email or text us on 85058. Alternatively, you can post your comments below.

Wednesday, 7 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Nov 07, 06:13 PM


oilrig203x100.jpgThe White House warned today that oil prices are "too high" as US crude hit $98-per-barrel. So are high oil prices all bad? With prices expected to breach $100 shortly and petrol at UK pumps now more than £1-per-litre, tonight we ask how the rising price of crude is affecting the geo-political balance of power. The International Energy Agency says world demand for oil will grow from 84 million to 116 million barrels per day. So how do we secure future supplies and from where?

Sir Ronald Cohen

We have an exclusive interview with Sir Ronald Cohen. A Labour donor and a close friend of Gordon Brown, he's the multi-millionaire city businessman who founded Britain's first private equity company, Apax. Earlier this year he warned that the growing wealth gap between rich and poor could spark riots on the streets of London. Now he has a book out about how to be a successful entrepreneur. We'll be speaking to him about his book, his relations with the prime minister, taxation, the ethics of private equity and more.


MPs are debating plans to extend the current laws on how long terror suspects can be held and questioned without charge. The government wants to increase the 28 day limit to 56 days but opposition parties say they aren't yet convinced this is necessary. Meanwhile pressure is building on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair to resign over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. Richard Watson will have the latest developments.

Welfare Reform

Is Britain failing some of the poorest and neediest members of society by creating a culture of dependency through the benefits system? This is a view which is gaining currency in political circles here and the model which has swayed them is Wisconsin. David Grossman has been to the state to assess the success of Governor Tommy Thompson's Welfare Reform model and look at why it has provoked such interest in the US and here.


Film director Ridley Scott talks to us about violence and gun crime here and in the States. His new film American Gangster opens here next week.

And don't forget our immigration special - click here to join the debate.

Welfare - The British Position

  • David Grossman
  • 7 Nov 07, 04:45 PM

The Conservatives think the public mood on welfare has changed. The big shift they think has happened as a result of last week’s revelations about the numbers of foreign workers employed in the UK over the past decade. The current official estimate is 1.5 million. Parliamentary answer 18 July 2007

Over the same period it appears that the number of welfare claimants has fallen hardly at all. According to the former welfare reform minister Frank Field:

"The economy has been growing each quarter since late 1992 but the numbers of working age claimants moving into work has been modest. I calculate the numbers have fallen from only 5.7 to 5.4 million. The government asserts the total is 4.7 million. The independent Statistics Commission has been asked to arbitrate.

"Yet, whatever the outcome, the spotlight will be on the failure of the £84 billion welfare to work programme.”
Frank Field MP - Daily Telegraph 3 November 2007

The big question that the Conservatives now think the public is asking is a simple one:

“How come all these foreign workers can find jobs in the British economy when so many British people seem stuck on welfare?”

Before the clock ran out on him Tony Blair was desperate to push through changes, perhaps sensing that he hadn’t done enough on welfare reform in the past. He appointed David Freud to propose radical reform. Mr Blair predicted this review would throw up some pretty difficult political challenges for the government.
He told the House of Commons Liaison committee on 6 February 2007:

“When we publish David Freud's Welfare Reform Programme.......there will be some quite difficult proposals in relation to how people come off benefit and into work - lone parents, people on incapacity benefit and so on.”

So it proved. The Freud report recommended a radical shake up of the welfare system. Contracting out welfare to work programmes to all sorts of organisations, including private sector providers, who will be paid by results.

Gordon Brown’s government has so far not fully embraced the Freud Report - Peter Hain MP, the Work and Pensions Secretary told an audience in September:

“I have yet to be convinced that David’s specific proposal based around 11 regional contacts, thereby replacing a one-size-fits all state monopoly approach, with a one-size-fits all private monopoly approach is the answer.” Peter Hain MP 12 September 2007.


This kind of welfare reform is already commonplace in the United States. Wisconsin led the way in the mid-90s.

Under the then Republican Governor Tommy Thompson the state cut out cash welfare benefits almost entirely, instead the money was spent on helping people find work. In his conference speech this year David Cameron praised what had been achieved in Wisconsin:

“....where they've cut benefit roles (sic) by 80%, and the changes we will make are these: we will say to people that if you are offered a job and it's a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it you shouldn't get any welfare.”

Having seen the Wisconsin system in action I have a few thoughts on the chances of introducing it in the UK:

1. In America it only worked because both parties signed up to it. Although the idea came from the Republican Party, it took Bill Clinton, a Democrat trying to connect with working class Republicans to sell it nationwide.

It is the first law of public service reform that the People who think they will lose out under any change usually have more motivation to make a lot of noise.
This includes not just the recipients of welfare under the current system but also the public sector employees (and their unions) who administer the current system. If all political parties are signed up to the changes then there is less chance that one or other party will backtrack in the face of hostile headlines.

2. In America the politicians managed to change the way the public thought about welfare. It was no longer seen as cruel or mean to cut someone’s welfare in order to force them to get a job. In fact thinking changed 180 degrees. It was actually seen as cruel to keep someone on welfare a day longer than necessary. The only way out of poverty is through work, not bigger, more generous handouts. Although many British voters have started to ask questions about welfare it’s by no means clear that the link in the public’s mind between cutting benefits and “meanness” has been broken. If people suspect that the motivation for welfare reform is purely to save money it becomes a far harder political sell. It only worked in the US because voters became convinced it was a better system for everyone including the welfare recipients themselves.

3. The American system relies on a huge and well-resourced charitable sector. In Wisconsin I went to the amazing Open Door Cafe at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. Here volunteers provide over 200 hot meals a day, six days a week for homeless people. It appeared to me that many of the people who use the service are not really in a position to get a job however much the welfare system “incentivises” them.

They have in the jargon “multiple barriers to work” for example mental health problems, drug or alcohol dependency, and are often illiterate. Someone needs to help these people if the state withdraws from providing a universal right to welfare benefits. All British political parties say they want to beef up the voluntary sector in the UK but we are nowhere near American levels of charitable action.

What happens now?

The Conservatives are set to publish their proposals on welfare reform early in the new year.

The government’s green paper In Work Better off: Next Steps to Full Employment was published in July. The consultation period on it has just finished. It’s not yet clear when and even if the government will introduce a new welfare reform bill.

Watch David Grossman’s film about Welfare in Wisconsin here

The Second Bounce of the Ball by Ronald Cohen

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Nov 07, 12:52 PM

In the latest entry into the Newsnight bookclub, businessman Sir Ronald Cohen offers budding entrepreneurs guidance on how to approach the challenges and opportunities ahead of them.

Sir Ronald Cohen speaks to Newsnight on Wednesday, 7 November.

secondbouncecover_203.jpgExtract from The Second Bounce of the Ball: Turning Risk into Opportunity by Ronald Cohen published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson at £20.00.

There is a cliché that entrepreneurs are born, not made. If I think back on my experience, I know this is not entirely true. Yes, all entrepreneurs share certain personality traits: a high level of confidence and high levels of optimism, energy and determination. But the people who become entrepreneurs come in all ages, shapes and sizes, and their entrepreneurial skills vary considerably.

There has been a significant increase in the number of entrepreneurs during the three decades in which I have been a professional investor. This speaks not so much for a sudden growth in the gene pool of ‘born’ entrepreneurs, as for the opportunities that have opened up for all kinds of people to use their entrepreneurial ability.

Continue reading "The Second Bounce of the Ball by Ronald Cohen"

What do you want this Wednesday?

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Nov 07, 10:03 AM

Today's output editor is Carol Rubra:

Good morning,

ball_203.jpgThere are a few interesting things around - what do you think we should lead on today? Cancer, party funding, 28 days detention, something else?

We also have an exclusive interview with Sir Ronald Cohen. He's a Labour donor and close friend of Gordon Brown, a multi-millionaire city businessman who founded Britain's first private equity company. His book on how to be an entrepreneur - called The Second Bounce of the Ball - is out this week. What would you like to ask him?

Welfare Reform - David Grossman has been to Wisconsin to look at the state's influential welfare reform model. The policies there became a template for the rest of the US and now some here interested too.

Who else should we be talking to? What else should we be doing?


And don't forget our immigration special - click here to join the debate.

Stories for Tuesday, 6 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Nov 07, 05:42 PM

Queen's Speech

queen3_203.jpgGordon Brown is hailing his first Queen's Speech as "the next step forward for a stronger, fairer Britain". There'll be bills to raise the school leaving age to 18 - build three million more homes - and allow more flexible working for parents with older children.
The most contentious proposal will involve terrorism, with ministers considering doubling the limit when suspects can be held without charge from 28 days to 56. The Conservative leader, David Cameron, has said the government's new legislative programme - outlined by the Queen during the State Opening of Parliament - shows that Gordon Brown has "nothing new to offer".

Michael Crick and David Grossman will be examining if this adds up to a new vision for Britain. And we'll be discussing the key policies with senior politicians from all three parties.


Michael will also have some intriguing new developments in a spinning row involving Downing Street and schools that thought they'd feature in a speech by the Prime Minister.

Credit Crunch

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has warned of further shocks in the banking sector following the run on savings at Northern Rock. He also said it will be months before the full extent of the financial losses resulting from the downturn in the American mortgage market will be known. Following Northern Rock the Queen's speech addresses the issue of deposit guarantees but can Gordon Brown do anything to reduce our exposure to the credit crunch? Paul Mason is on the case.

US elections

The 2008 American Presidential election is considered one of the most wide open races in nearly a century. With 17 candidates, no obvious frontrunners, and the country at war, voters there have a great deal to consider. Residents of a small town in Virginia are already grappling with the issues that will drive them to the polls one year from today. Washington correspondent, Matt Frei takes us there, with the first in a series of reports.

Surely they haven't all got small children?

  • David Grossman
  • 6 Nov 07, 04:42 PM

Just two hours after MPs got back to work after the State opening of Parliament, the Labour side of the commons is all but deserted. I can only count three hon members in their places. I know the Government is promising a bill to bring in more flexible working...

The Brown award for bravery?

  • David Grossman
  • 6 Nov 07, 03:18 PM

As someone who has written many times about the importance of courage in politics Gordon Brown must have appreciated the bravery of Richard Caborn in the Commons today. It is traditional that the first two MPs who get to their feet after the Queen's speech have license to make jokes and generally poke fun at some of their colleagues.

Continue reading "The Brown award for bravery?"

What did Gordon say to David?

  • David Grossman
  • 6 Nov 07, 02:00 PM

browncameron_203.jpgThe Queen's speech has been delivered - so far so much as expected. All eyes on the Commons for the clash between Brown, Cameron, Cable et al this afternoon. One thing that I hadn't expected was the way that Gordon Brown and David Cameron walked from the Commons to the Lords. Tradition dictates that the two main party leaders saunter in side by side and chat amicably. Some wondered whether the current PM would be able to stomach a chat with a man he doesn't really think all that much of.

Continue reading "What did Gordon say to David?"

The BIG Immigration Debate

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Nov 07, 12:38 PM

immigration203x100.jpgIn a broadcasting first Newsnight and Radio 5 Live will jointly host a live discussion on immigration this Thursday.

Senior politicians from all the main parties have been calling for a serious and considered debate on immigration - this is what we shall be doing.

Newsnight's Gavin Esler will be speaking to an expert panel, and Radio 5 Live's Richard Bacon will be taking your views by phone, text and email. Both will be putting questions to the three main parties.

We want to start the discussion now and want to hear from you. What would you like to say to the three parties?

Do you think we have benefited economically from migration? What effect, if any, have you seen on public services in your area? Should there be limits, and have we as a society gained culturally from immigration?

Let us know what you think..

Tuesday, 6 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Nov 07, 10:31 AM

Good morning,

There's quite a bit around today.

Queen's speech

crown1_203.jpgGordon Brown's blueprint for his next year in government will be outlined later today. The Queen will set out more than twenty bills in her speech to mark the State Opening of Parliament. It will include plans on a range of issues including counter-terrorism, immigration, affordable housing and education.

Mervyn King

The Governor of the Bank of England has said it was the chancellor who made the final decision not to support a move by Lloyds TSB to take over Northern Rock. Mervyn King told BBC Radio's File on 4 that he had told Alistair Darling it was "a matter for government". Mr King said Lloyds TSB had wanted a £30bn loan from the Bank of England at competitive rates as part of the deal. The collapse of the deal meant that Northern Rock had to go to the Bank of England for emergency funding. "I said to the chancellor: 'This is not something which a central bank can do'. Where does this leave the Chancellor?

Sarkozy meets Bush in Washington today. Is it worth examining their changing relationship and any diplomatic repercussions?

Pakistan - what will Benazir Bhutto's next move be?

US election

The 2008 American Presidential election is considered one of the most wide open races in nearly a century. With 17 candidates, no obvious frontrunners, and the country at war, voters there have a great deal to consider. Residents of a small town in Virginia are already grappling with the issues that will drive them to the polls one year from today. Washington correspondent, Matt Frei takes us there, with the first in a series of reports.

We could do the opening of St Pancras station as the playout. Any other thoughts welcome

Any thoughts on these? Guest ideas? Other stories we should do?

Monday, 5 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Nov 07, 05:51 PM

Teenage terrorists

"Extremists are methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in the UK. They are radicalising, indoctrinating and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism."
These are the words of the Director General of the Security Service.
His audience? Oh, just a bunch of newspaper editors. A write up on the PA news wires later, and guess what tonight's headline is in the London Evening Standard? "The Teenage Terrorists."
So the timing ahead of the Queen's speech may be a little suspect, and the newspaper reaction may have been calculated, but is the head of MI5 right? How widespread is the "grooming" of young people for terrorism? We speak to the head of a children's charity who says she has had to intervene to stop her young charges from becoming radicalised, and we have a live interview with a former - and senior - member of a radical Muslim organisation.


So the Elections in Pakistan will go ahead after all in January, Musharraf's Government said today, but can we believe them? What has been the pressure behind the scenes from Washington. Were the West right to invest so much in the General all along? We'll speak to politicians in Pakistan and the US.

Queen's speech

Can Gordon Brown seize the initiative in tomorrow's Queen's Speech and set out a vision for his Government? Or will we see a shopping list of policies, most of which we've heard before? Michael Crick has been on the case.

Beer rebranding

Finally, we have a fascinating film from Jackie Long on the attempts of Stella Artois to rebrand its beer, as it tries to shed its nickname as the "wife beater’s drink of choice".

Tonight, with Jeremy at 10.30.

Your guide to the James Purnell fake photo non-scandal

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Nov 07, 03:59 PM

Doubtless you cynical lot all thought it was terribly funny when the newly enthroned Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, James Purnell, his lips still moist with admonitions to the media not to make stuff up, was caught being photoshopped into a photo pretending to show him visiting a hospital along with a group of MPs.

The truth was that he turned up late and had to be photographed separately.

Here's the original press release of the event and here's the rather crudely doctored photo that was released along with it.


Fortunately for Mr Purnell there was no proof that he knew of the deception. He had posed for the photograph, he said, under the innocent impression that it would be presented seperately. It was all a terrible misunderstanding with the hapless hospital trust.

At this point we must pause to praise Tameside Hospital, whose interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act make them a model of openness and integrity, and strong contenders for the National Transparency Award, if such a thing exists.

They promptly offered up every piece of evidence requested of them in this strange case, allowing puzzled hacks to get nearer to the bottom of things.

So courtesy of the FOI Act, here is Mr Purnell, posing on his own so that he can be dropped into the photoshopped image.


The width of the shot leaves us in little doubt what was in the photographer's mind for the photo. But the positioning of Mr Purnell right in front of the camera would have given the unfortunate minister no clue about those intentions. Scandal rating: low

Then the hosptial also told us the name of the photographer, a very nice chap named Matt. Great, we thought. A potential whistle blower.

Michael Crick got onto him on the phone, but Matt rather wisely decided he didn't need the hassle of talking to us on camera. But off tape, he really wouldn't put his hand on his heart and say the minister knew that he was going to be doctored into the pictures. Scandal rating: still low.

However, he did mention that there were some other pictures taken inside the hospital. So thanks to FOI, here they are.


As you can see here the photoshopping of this picture is markedly worse than previously and could have fooled no-one.


There's also another shot of Mr Purnell posing solo here. This time he is standing away to the left, but possibly still not far enough offset for him to question the fact that the camera is not pointing straight at him.

We also got a second doctored photo taken outside, without the hospital chief executive present, which uses the same shot of Mr Purnell. All very entertaining but still no story for us though.

Then an apparent breakthrough. The papers cleverly FOI-ed all the emails between the hospital and Mr Purnell, which you can read here, here and here. Had we been beaten to the headline?

One email was sent almost a month before publication to Mr Purnell from the hospital's chief executive, saying "I was pleased we were able to catch the photographer so that we could 'drop you into the photographs'."

Precisely what that meant we don't really know. Why the quote marks? In any case Mr Purnell's reported response to the newspapers was that he hadn't seen that email until it was too late.

The same goes for the email containing the photographs themselves, sent a couple of days before the press release went out.

Scandal rating: embarrassing, but hardly a hanging offence

There was one last chance to get a story, and justify the hours wasted on this (in this journalist's spare time, licence payers will be pleased to hear).

We FOI-ed the read receipts on the emails. If we could show when those emails had been opened and read and by who, that might at least suggest more detail of who in Mr Purnell's office knew what and when. Or something.

Anyway here's the FOI response. A big fat zero. No such receipts exist. Mr Purnell's version of events stands up to the closest scrutiny we could manage. His scalp remains firmly on his head and not on our wall.

Still, maybe there's a web article in it.

Photographer: Matt Priestley

What do you want in Monday's programme?

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Nov 07, 10:37 AM

Continuing with our experiment that began last week, we're sharing the early thoughts of our production team and asking for your ideas as to what Newsnight should be covering tonight. Here's today's e-mail from output editor, Dan...


Pakistan is clearly very interesting. Can Musharaff succeed? Will the army stand with him? What can/should the West do about this? Having invested so much in the President to fight Al Queda and the Taliban, what is the West's room for manoeuvre? If Musharaff's rule unravels will this be another watershed moment in the so-called war on terror?

Queen's speech

The Queen's speech is tomorrow - can Brown find a theme, vision for his Government?

Credit crunch

The head of Citigroup has gone, the Sainsbury's private equity deal is off, are we witnessing the credit crunch mark two?

Beer rebranding

We have a fascinating film on the attempts of Stella Artois to rebrand its beer, as it tries to shed its nickname as the "wife-beater's" drink of choice.

Any thoughts on these? Guest ideas? Other stories we should do?

Friday, 2 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Nov 07, 05:52 PM

Tonight's presenter is Emily Maitlis:


blair_men_203.jpgThe moment opposition politicians start using phrases like “frankly untenable” you know someone's job is on the line. The Met Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair is confidently sticking to script, insisting he can and will stay in the post after the guilty verdict on the De Menezes shooting. But what's going on behind the scenes? Are there forces - no pun intended - at work to make him change his mind? And more importantly, perhaps, just how will this verdict affect the way this country is policed in future? The Mayor of London fears we could end up with a force so bogged down in health and safety regulations it loses the ability to act in our best interest.

Northern Rock

Each British taxpayer has essentially had to stump up £730 a head - through Bank of England loans - to keep this business going. On top of that, the treasury has also indemnified a further £20 billion of deposits. The burden of responsibility this places on the Chancellor is huge. Is it a price worth paying if it saves the system from collapse? For how long can it realistically continue? What are the alternatives for the Bank of England and the Chancellor?


The immigration picture in this country is pretty baffling. Not least, it's emerged this week, to the Home Office. But tonight, we examine how this country looks from the other side. If you're an immigrant is it an easy, attractive, welcoming place to live? We ask those who've come to live in Britain from Poland, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria.

Thanks very much for all the suggestions on the blog, some of which we've managed to reflect.

Thank Newsnight it's Friday

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Nov 07, 10:29 AM

Today’s output editor is Robert Morgan – here are his early thoughts about how to fill tonight’s half hour....

Good morning,

I'm genuinely open to any new ideas today. There are a few strong contenders for stories.

Continue reading "Thank Newsnight it's Friday"

Thursday, 1 November, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Nov 07, 05:22 PM


blair203x100.jpgThe Metropolitan Police have been found guilty of breaching health and safety laws over the shooting of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are now calling for the head of the Met, Sir Ian Blair. Before the trial started, Sir Ian said that if found guilty "the implications for operational policing in the UK would be profound". So what went wrong? We'll be looking at the judge's conclusions and discuss what they mean for Sir Ian and the future of policing in this country.


Many Newsnight bloggers were keen for us to look at the effects of immigration. The LGA have said it needs an extra £250 million a year to cope with the added numbers using public services. We've sent Paul Mason to Slough to see what the local feelings are towards immigration and will try to make sense of the many statistics used on both sides of the debate. David Cameron has called for a limit on immigration, but is this practical, or desirable? We'll be debating in the studio.


pakistan.jpgPakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, is still waiting to discover the Supreme Court's decision on whether his election win back in October is legal. He's also facing a wave of Islamist violence, the latest being a suicide bomber who killed eight Pakistani air force personnel earlier today. Our diplomatic editor Mark Urban has been travelling around Pakistan and spoken with politicians, the army and ordinary people to ask what impact Pakistan's role in the 'war on terror' is having on the country's tentative moves toward democratic elections.

What do you want in Thursday's programme?

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Nov 07, 10:34 AM

Continuing with our experiment that began yesterday, we're sharing the early thoughts of our production team and asking for your ideas as to what Newsnight should be covering in tonight's programme. Here's today's e-mail from output editor, Carol...

Continue reading "What do you want in Thursday's programme?"

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