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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?

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