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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.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:53 PM on 23 Nov 2007,
  • Mark Burns wrote:

I watch Newsnight Review because I'm interested in the subject matter - could I therefore plead with whoever chooses the contributors to try to ensure that critics who appear on the show are likely to have something interesting, or at least engaged, to say about whatever is under review? I have just tuned in to listen to Tony Parsons, Julie Myerson and Tom Paulin talking about (among other things) Kenneth Branagh's film of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Parsons commented something along the lines of hating opera in general and The Magic Flute in particular: so what was the point of sending him to review this film? Perhaps if he had been less focused on playing the role of cool Tony Parsons, he might have been more alert to the irony of his subsequent remarks about Led Zeppelin band members who, he remarked approvingly, were "interested in all kinds of music" - something which he clearly is not - so why ask him to talk about something to which his ears and mind are patently closed?

  • 2.
  • At 11:53 PM on 23 Nov 2007,
  • Mark Burns wrote:

I watch Newsnight Review because I'm interested in the subject matter - could I therefore plead with whoever chooses the contributors to try to ensure that critics who appear on the show are likely to have something interesting, or at least engaged, to say about whatever is under review? I have just tuned in to listen to Tony Parsons, Julie Myerson and Tom Paulin talking about (among other things) Kenneth Branagh's film of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Parsons commented something along the lines of hating opera in general and The Magic Flute in particular: so what was the point of sending him to review this film? Perhaps if he had been less focused on playing the role of cool Tony Parsons, he might have been more alert to the irony of his subsequent remarks about Led Zeppelin band members who, he remarked approvingly, were "interested in all kinds of music" - something which he clearly is not - so why ask him to talk about something to which his ears and mind are patently closed?

  • 3.
  • At 12:04 AM on 24 Nov 2007,
  • Mark Burns wrote:

I watch Newsnight Review because I'm interested in the subject matter - could I therefore plead with whoever chooses the contributors to try to ensure that critics who appear on the show are likely to have something interesting, or at least engaged, to say about whatever is under review? I have just tuned in to listen to Tony Parsons, Julie Myerson and Tom Paulin talking about (among other things) Kenneth Branagh's film of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Parsons commented something along the lines of hating opera in general and The Magic Flute in particular: so what was the point of sending him to review this film? Perhaps if he had been less focused on playing the role of cool Tony Parsons, he might have been more alert to the irony of his subsequent remarks about Led Zeppelin band members who, he remarked approvingly, were "interested in all kinds of music" - something which he clearly is not, unless we are now so anti "high" culture that Mozart is not thought to be music - why therefore ask him to talk about something to which his ears and mind are patently closed?

  • 4.
  • At 02:00 AM on 24 Nov 2007,
  • Grzegorz Jablonski wrote:

i have just watched a recording of Friday nights Newsnight show and can not believe what i have seen. I have several friends that work at the so called sweatshop and this evenings report could not be further from the truth.

"dangerous conditions with people who are so desperately grateful to find any sort of work they are loath to complain"

if this is the case then how come over 80% of the work force tried to get interviewed by this so called reporter to air the positive views towards there work conditions and tell the true story but were just brushed aside. (i guess good news dosent sell papers and make the news in your country)They have also apparently asked this Mr Spencer there boss to approach the BBC to make an offical complaint about the goings on of the actual reporter and his basic lack of profesionalism. they have also tried to air there views to the polish news paper that started all this rubbish but again no one wants to talk to them.

as for the unite union rep apparently he has even been badgering the staff to join his union i wonder if your reporter happens to be a member of Unite and there scare mungoring recruitment plan.

all of my friends at this so called sweatshop have told me about how helpful the owner has been in every aspect of there working time and out of work time. All of the staff have come from poland by recommendation from family members and friends that already work there. so if its so bad would you ask if your mum could come to work for the christmas period as some have asked this very question.

i have also been to this factory a couple of times to meet friends from work and have been invited in to wait for them and sit in the canteen and even play a couple of games of pool on the pool table the owner bought for them.

i find it hard to believe that this union rep or what ever he is and this reporter can base there story on the views of a person that was sacked for stealing of which he has admited that he is guilty of and his girlfriend that left on her own accord becuse he was sacked. what a sad world.

i came to england over 20 years ago and cant believe that a union would try to further its name through the use of scare tactics and lies.

sorry if my english is not to good
but i am very angry
Grezegorz Jablonski

  • 5.
  • At 10:02 AM on 24 Nov 2007,
  • Lyndon Jones wrote:

It might amuse the BBC to include Tony Parsons on a panel of commentators on "culture", but given the fee we have to pay to sustain this otherwise largely laudable organisation, might they not at least try and get someone who knows what he is talking about when discussing a film based on a work by Mozart? I can imagine how that panel might have appeared, had Peter Conrad (not that I should wish to second guess his views) or some other erudite person endowed with an inventive command of English and a scholarly apprehension of Mozart's aspirations on behalf of mankind, been amongst them to listen to that solipsistic outpouring of relativist drivel. Having read the biographical information on your page on Tony Parsons, I now know more about the kind of creature I was listening to, but it should have been clear at the outset that this was not a person whose views were to be taken remotely seriously on cultural matters, lest those susceptible of being duped by such glibness should innocently become a conduit for the proliferation of this kind of balloon-headed subjectivism. Someone young might have been watching, although this was, admittedly, after the nine o'clock threshold. Parsons appears to be the kind of person to whom CS Lewis might have referred as a "trousered ape" or "irredeemable urban blockhead". I am sure he wouldn't mind my being a bit rude about him, since he seems perfectly capable of being so about art, which has made a pretty bold effort to humanise the world, even if your do hold, as George Steiner did with due seriousness in "In Bluebeard's Castle", that the progress of its best tradition was arrested definitively at Auschwitz. I haven't seen the Branagh film, and £27,000,000 does sound like some rather serious wedge, but if you wish to interrogate what is clearly an attempt on Branagh's part to awaken the sensibilities to a keener aesthetic life, at least get someone in the studio who has half a chance of airing a view that reflects an intelligence equal to the task. This is what we expect under the heading "culture", not some bathetic vapouring excrescence from the age of punk. Jonny Rotten might have done a better job; at least he is a colourful instantiation of the idea of his age.

The buzz word is "dumbing down". Do not do it, please, particularly at the end of an excellent programme.

  • 6.
  • At 10:13 AM on 24 Nov 2007,
  • Edward Cross wrote:

The opening sequence for the feature about Gordon Brown's competence was not worthy of a serious - or even semi-serious - news/current affairs programme. It was meretricious dumbed-down quasi-entertainment. I switched off.

  • 7.
  • At 12:21 PM on 24 Nov 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I'm absolutely astonished and puzzled about this entire row over whether or not military funding was adequate. As I understand it, there are those in the military including retired generals who say Britain's military has not been adequately funded for years and they hold Gordon Brown who was Chancellor of the Eschequer responsible. He denies it saying Britain has the second highest military spending in the world and it has grown every year since....So how can this happen? How can one person decide how much money is allocated to the military, how can he keep it a secret from the rest of the government and the public, and how can it go undiscovered for years? Where is the accountability? Where is government transparency? Where is the sharing of power and responsibility? Don't MPs have committees to debate and approve budgets? Don't they get feedback from the departments which are funded as to whether or not their needs are being met? Don't constituents in the military service contact their MPs if they think something isn't right? Don't the MPs read the bills they pass? What about the treaties they vote on and commit the UK to? What kind of democracy is the UK anyway? From the sound of it, not a very democratic one at all. It's fascinating watching how things happen on the other side of the pond. We live on opposite sides of the looking glass in entirely different universes.

GORDON JUST A SYMPTOM

Sadly this country runs on “sub-prime hypocrisy” sustained but unsustainable. Government is a self serving charade, business is subversive, law is about tidiness – not justice and education is to serve work rather than life. Our “Defence Industry” sells attack weapons for obscene profit, we solve arguments with bombs and we elevate hollow, needy individuals to supreme power. The media preside over the whole, making a living from its continuance. Don't point at the Emperor, join the argument about the fit of his suit. Weep Britain.

PS Have you given up trying to mend the system? Could there be a couple of CDs stuck in the drive?

Barrie (7),

FYI some clarification on bloggages:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2007/11/robin_post_part_i_1.html

Salaam/Shalom/Shanthi/Dorood/Peace
Namaste -ed

THANKS ED - Very civil

Incidentally, I see I have been upgraded to "8" would that be on merit or all down to "spam-nudge"?
First Peak Oil - now Peak Spam. The sky is falling.

Now to roll the dice . . .

  • 11.
  • At 09:52 PM on 24 Nov 2007,
  • Raymond Anderson wrote:

I'm disappointed at the follow-the-herd mentality of Newsnight's editors and journalists. On Friday, and not for the first time, we were treated to callow political hacks delivering their view on the Government and Gordon Brown in particular. Can't you get real politicians to turn up on the show? Perhaps a more rigorous examination of the latest Westminster Village crisis would help give the programme a higher reputation and help it get top-class political views.

Iran in the crosshairs?

U.S. Navy steps up fuel deliveries to Gulf forces
23 Nov 2007 11:07:33 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. military has stepped up chartering of tankers and requests for extra fuel in the U.S. Central Command area, which includes the Gulf, shipping and oil industry sources say.

A Gulf oil industry source said the charters suggested there would be high naval activity, possibly including a demonstration to Iran that the U.S. Navy will protect the Strait of Hormuz oil shipping route during tensions over Tehran's nuclear programme.
https://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L22313068.htm

God save us from the stupidity of Our Great Leaders (please)

Salaam/Shalom/Shanthi/Dorood/Peace
Namaste -ed


theory, n.:
System of ideas meant to explain something, chosen with a view to originality, controversialism, incomprehensibility, and how good it will look in print.

A GOVERNMENT OF ALL THE TALENTS?

Gordon Brown’s aspiration is admirable. How fortunate that he has found all those talents in Ed Balls; someone who agrees with him 100%!

  • 14.
  • At 11:02 AM on 25 Nov 2007,
  • James Evans wrote:

Regarding the Bicester sweatshop, Mr Jablonski has clearly missed the point of the reports carried by Newsnight and the Polish newspapers. It may well be the case that he has friends that are prepared to put up with the conditions at Just Prepared - that does not make the conditions of work lawful or decent. In the interview with Martin Shankelman, the boss of Just Prepared freely admitted that not all the working conditions were legal.Is Mr Jablonski proposing that workers should have the right to accept such illegal conditions and that, if some accept them, others should be denied their legal rights?

  • 15.
  • At 11:57 AM on 26 Nov 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

This is the stuff of dystopic fantasy given a) the low birth rate and differential fertility b) the high heritability of cognitive ability and c) New Labour's distorted conception of Michael Young's concept of 'meritocracy' which is divisively reinforcing dysgenic assortive mating through partitioning the population through selection.

https://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-7103700,00.html

  • 16.
  • At 12:10 PM on 26 Nov 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

This is surely the stuff of dystopic fantasy given a) the low birth rate and differential fertility b) the high heritability of cognitive ability and c) New Labour's distorted understanding of Michael Young's concept of 'meritocracy' which is just divisively reinforcing dysgenic assortive mating through partitioning the population via education, education, education?

Sadly, this is what happens when politicans and their advisors are unable to see the longer term consequences of their actions and are driven by ideology rather than evidence.

https://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-7103700,00.html

  • 17.
  • At 12:34 PM on 26 Nov 2007,
  • Andrew Day wrote:

What is the point of having people give a criticism of music when they clearly have no understanding of the subject. Tony Parsons and Tom Paulin showed their arrogance and ignorence in their 'reviews' of Mozart and Led Zeppelin. Dismissing all opera or moaning about Led Zepellin because "when you were at college the person in the room next door played it too loudly" is not being 'intellectual', useful or even 'entertaining'. BBC cuts? These two should be high on the list.

  • 18.
  • At 02:42 PM on 26 Nov 2007,
  • Denzil wrote:

I'm not surprised that the Polish workers are reluctant to criticise their employer. If they do then they will suffer the same fate as British workers and will be branded as 'lazy'.

Open borders and mass immigration has shifted the balance of power in favour of the employers and against the workers. If the Polish workers cause a fuss, then the employer can just get rid of them and import some new foreign workers to replace them. The only way to force the employers into giving better conditions is to cut off their supply of imported foreign workers by closing the borders to mass immigration.

So now we have a better illustration of why British workers are branded as being lazy:

If you don't want to work in a sweatshop for over 50 hours a week, whilst wading through cold water, being denied toilet breaks and having your hands cut to pieces, then you are 'lazy'.

  • 19.
  • At 10:58 AM on 29 Nov 2007,
  • anne hart wrote:

Shame on you Newsnight Review for inviting Tony Parsons onto the show after his xenophobic rant in the Daily Mirror about the Portuguese people. How can the viewer be expected to take this man seriously?

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