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MPs who employ relatives

  • Michael Crick
  • 31 Jan 08, 07:44 PM

Here's Newsnight's latest list of MPs whom we think employ one or more of their own relatives. This is based partly on lists published in the Daily Mail and the Times today, and partly on our own research. There are several other names we've been given, but not been able to confirm, so they are not posted here. After conversations with MPs today I'm inclined to think the total number employing relatives could be well over 100. Of course the vast majority of these MPs will be employing their relatives quite legitimately, and they will deserve every penny they get, if not more.

Nick Ainger
Kevin Barron
Margaret Beckett
Sir Stuart Bell
Hilary Benn
Sir Paul Beresford
Colin Breed
Malcolm Bruce
Angela Browning
Alistair Burt
Lorely Burt
Dawn Butler
Sir Menzies Campbell
Christopher Chope
Michael Clapham
Paul Clark
David Clelland
Derek Conway
David Crausby
Ian Davidson
Philip Davies
Quentin Davies
David Davis
Jim Dobbin
Jeff Ennis
Mark Fisher
Caroline Flint
Hywel Francis
Roger Gale
Ian Gibson
Linda Gilroy
Chris Grayling
Peter Hain
Mike Hall
David Hamilton
Stephen Hammond
Tom Harris
Oliver Heald
David Heath
Kelvin Hopkins
Eric Illsley
Alan Keen
Stephen Ladyman
Bob Laxton
Edward Leigh
Tom Levitt
Ian Liddell-Grainger
Martin Linton
Peter Luff
Andrew MacKinlay
Eric Martlew
Sarah McCarthy-Fry
Tommy McAvoy
Patrick McLoughlin
Andrew Miller
Michael Moore
Malcolm Moss
Albert Owen
Owen Patterson
Mike Penning
Mark Pritchard
John Redwood
Linda Riordan
Dan Rogerson
Adrian Sanders
Jim Sheridan
Andrew Smith
Angela Smith
Sir Peter Soulsby
Anthony Steen
Howard Stoate
Gary Streeter
Desmond Swayne
Mark Tami
Dari Taylor
Ben Wallace
Alan Williams
Iain Wright
Sir George Young

Thursday, 31 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 31 Jan 08, 05:20 PM


coal_station203x100.jpgIs Gordon as green as he paints himself?
If he is, why is the government apparently letting an application for a new coal-fired power station go through without any commitment to carbon capture and storage?
The new plant which is to be built by E.ON UK at Kingsnorth in Kent will make it harder for the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets. The Conservatives are calling for carbon capture and storage technology to be applied from the outset - but according to e-mails given to Newsnight the government isn't even going to insist that the power plant is ready to fit such technology when it is available.


What is happening to President Hamid Karzai's leadership of Afghanistan? The amount of land under opium in Afghanistan is more than under coca cultivation in Columbia, Bolivia and Peru combined. Afghan MP Malalai Joya writes in today's Independent that the government is as bad as the Taliban, with more women killing themselves in the country in 2007 than ever before. So why did President Karzai "veto" Paddy Ashdown as a "super envoy" to Afghanistan, and earlier in Davos say that the British presence in Helmand had made things worse? Is he angry that the international community has not delivered the reconstruction aid it promised, and, worried about his own re-election, trying to court votes with a more belligerent attitude to the West?
Mark Urban assesses the man once seen as the saving grace of Afghanistan.


Should cannabis be reclassified from C to B? It was only four years ago that the rules on the drug were relaxed. This morning the Rowntree Foundation published its report which insists that making possession a more serious offence will have no impact whatsoever. The police take the opposite view. Who's right?

And Michael Crick is still on the case of the Conway family affair at Westminster.

Ton up on MPs employing relatives?

  • Michael Crick
  • 31 Jan 08, 12:10 PM

parliament203blog.jpgMuch speculation at Westminster over how the Sunday Times originally managed to finger Derek Conway in the first place. Their original article, on 27 May 2007, not only specified how much he was paying his son Freddie, but also managed to quote how much three other MPs were paying their wives to work as staff - Malcolm Bruce, Nick Ainger and Sir Stuart Bell.

Many Tory MPs think the Sunday Times must have had a mole inside the Fees Office, the Commons department which pays MPs staff. But there's another theory. Notice that the four MPs named by the Sunday Times had names starting with A, B or C? Perhaps someone in the Fees Office simply left a sheet of paper of MPs 'A to C' on a photocopier, or some similar mishap. Stranger things have happened.

Jeremy Paxman was sceptical last night about my suggestion on the programme that as many as 100 MPs could be employing relatives of one kind or another. The Daily Mail has a list today of 63 who do so, and just from memory I can add three others. So my estimate of up to 100 in all may not be as ludicrous as Jeremy seemed to think. A Sunday newspaper is doing a big survey, and the Tory whips have told their MPs to cooperate, so we may get a better picture this weekend.

Prospects for Thursday, 31 January

  • Newsnight
  • 31 Jan 08, 10:31 AM

Today's prgramme producer is Simon Enright - here is his early email to the production team. What would you like to see on the programme?

Hello Newsnight colleague or viewer

I'm interested in several stories today:

Who is really in charge in Afghanistan? Several reports out today indicate that the country is in a mess and the military operation is facing a huge challenge. But as any general will tell you, military force can only ever be part of the solution. So who is co-ordinating everything else? Not Paddy Ashdown now. Who should we talk to?

We get crime figures out today - both recorded and British Crime Survey. They are likely to show a fall in crime again. In fact they've shown a fall in crime over the last ten years. But that is NOT the public perception. Why? Are the figures wrong or our perceptions or can, curiously, both be right?

The re-classification of Cannabis will be debated next week. The Joseph Rowntree Trust has got their paper on the issue out early - we have a possible film from Steve Smith on the issue.

Also today the House of Commons will vote on whether to suspend Derek Conway. Is there more on this that we should do?

And other stories?

Shell's record profits? The transcript of the bail hearing which saw Gary Weddell released to murder. Social workers and their ability to take children away from mum and dad.

Let's talk at 10.30 or message below with your thoughts for what we should do.


Wednesday, 30 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Jan 08, 04:48 PM

Police officer conducts stop and searchIs the reform of stop and search powers crucial to protect the public from gun and knife crime? Both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition have promised action to make it easier for the police to stop and search suspects in the street amid rising concerns about gang-related violence. Jackie Smith will announce details of the government's plans to MPs next week. But do the rules need revising, or will an increase in stop and search powers rekindle the kind of racial tension we saw in the 1980s? Richard Watson looks at the evidence.

Derek Conway has announced that he will stand down at the next election. The Commons Standards Committee found that his son, whom he had employed as a researcher, had done little or no work for him. Michael Crick has been looking at how widespread the practice is of MPs using public money to employ their own relatives; and whether the law gives too much protection to MPs.

Democrat John Edwards is about to withdraw from the US presidential race and Rudy Giuliani is expected to do the same after coming third in the Republican contest in Florida. What does that mean for the remaining contenders and who gains and who loses? We'll have the latest from Katty Kay in Washington.

It's a curious fact, but there is no mechanism for getting rid of a sitting speaker in the British Parliament. Some MPs think after seven years it's time for a new face in the chair, but Michael Martin has indicated he wishes to contest the next general election as Speaker of the Commons. David Grossman assesses the case for change.

We're waiting to hear whether the Federal Reserve will make another interest rate cut this evening. Meanwhile Mervyn King has been confirmed for a second term as Governor of the Bank of England. Stephanie Flanders will be contrasting the different approaches here and across the pond.

Italy is again without political leadership following the collapse of the 61st government in 63 years. But does the end of Romano Prodi's administration also signal the collapse of the Second Republic - the much heralded "revolution" of the Italian political landscape that took place in the 1990s? With speculation that Silvio Berlusconi may return for a third incarnation as prime minister, many Italians are asking whether there is a new breed of leaders who can take the country forward. Christian Fraser reports.

Prospects: Wednesday, 30 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Jan 08, 12:36 PM

Today's programme producer is Carol Rubra - here is her early email to the team.

Good morning,

Stop and Search
Police officer conducts stop and searchDavid Cameron has given an interview to The Sun in which he calls for the Stop and Search laws to be loosened saying you can't solve 2008 problems with 1980's eyes. Meanwhile Jackie Smith briefed the cabinet yesterday on Ronnie Flanagan's review of Stop and Search arrangements. Are they right that the rules need revising to prevent gun and knife crime or will it rekindle the kind of racial tension we saw in the 1980s? I'm also interested in looking at what the statistics tell us about who is committing gun and knife crime? Who would you like to hear from in a discussion?

Giuliani - may announce he's withdrawing from the Republican race today.

Winograd Commission on the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. It's expected to be critical of strategic mistakes made by the Head of the Army and possibly Olmert. We have an interview with the Ambassador.

Italy - We have a film from Christian Fraser on the political chaos in Italy and the state of rubbish collection in Naples and corruption.

Speaker - David is preparing a film about the Speaker of the House of Commons and whether he has the trust of MPs

Economy - various economy stories today - FBI fraud investigations, Fed meeting on interest rates, Soc Gen board meeting.


Any other stories you feel we should be covering instead of the above?

Tuesday, 29 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Jan 08, 05:48 PM

conway203x100.jpgHow many MPs have their own relatives on the payroll and is it a good use of tax payers' money? That's one of the questions thrown up by the case of the Conservative MP Derek Conway. Today the Conservative leader, David Cameron, withdrew the party whip from the MP who has apologised for misusing his expenses. Mr Conway paid one of his sons more than £45,000 to be his researcher - though there was no evidence that he did any work. The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner is now considering a second complaint, regarding Mr Conway's employment of another son. David Grossman has been investigating.

We'll also be asking how much longer MPs can spend public money without being fully accountable. Is it now time for “root and branch reform of MPs’ pay and allowances" as Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life said?

Gordon Brown is meeting leaders of Europe's four biggest economies in Downing Street tonight for a special summit to discuss the credit crunch and what they can do to stabilise the global financial system. Stephanie Flanders will be telling us what they've decided to do to avoid another Northern Rock and Societe Generale

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These words sum up Michael Pollan’s In Defence of Food. Humans used to know how to eat well, Pollan argues. But the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused, complicated, and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists - all of whom have much to gain from our dietary confusion. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not ‘real’. We've got Michael Pollan in debate with the Chief Scientist at the FSA, and a director from the Food and Drink Federation. It will be a Newsnight Book Club too.

It's a mystery which has baffled historians for centuries. Silbury Hill is a man-made monument looming over the plains of Wiltshire, built out of chalk some 4,500 years ago. According to myth, a long-lost king was buried in it with a golden statue of his horse; either that, or its a homing beacon for UFOs! Many have tunnelled into the hill looking for answers - so much so that it was in danger of falling in on itself. In the past few months, archaeologists have uncovered extraordinary new findings. But this latest dig will also be the last: English Heritage has decided to close the hill up to preserve it. Newsnight recorded the last images inside Silbury Hill before it's sealed up for good. Stephen Smith reports.

In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Jan 08, 01:40 PM

food203x300.jpgIn the latest entry into the Newsnight bookclub, journalist Michael Pollan argues that our idea of what food is and what we should be eating has been completely distorted by the food industry and nutritionists. He believes that people are now so confused about their diet that they have no idea what real food actually is any more.

Watch the Newsnight debate here and read an extract and join in below.

Continue reading "In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan"

Prospects for Tuesday, 29 January

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Jan 08, 12:56 PM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer..

Hello everyone,

There are some good stories around today. Derek Conway, Brown meeting European leaders tonight to discuss financial stability and regulation post-SocGen and Northern Rock, surveillance and the Florida primaries. Do come to the meeting armed with ideas on how to do all these and any other stories.

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These words sum up Michael Pollan’s In Defence of Food. Humans used to know how to eat well, Pollan argues. But the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused, complicated, and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists - all of whom have much to gain from our dietary confusion. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not ‘real’. We've got Michael Pollan in debate with the Chief Scientist at the FSA and a director from the Food and Drink Federation. It will be a Newsnight Bookclub too.

It's a mystery which has baffled historians for centuries. Silbury Hill is a man-made monument looming over the plains of Wiltshire, built out of chalk some four-and-a-half thousand years ago. According to myth, a long-lost king was buried in it with a golden statue of his horse; either that, or it’s a homing beacon for UFOs! Many have tunnelled into the hill looking for answers - so much so that it was in danger of falling in on itself. In the past few months, archaeologists have uncovered extraordinary new findings. But this latest dig will also be the last: English Heritage has decided to close the hill up to preserve it. Newsnight recorded the last images inside Silbury Hill before it's sealed up for good. Stephen Smith reports.

Monday, 28 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Jan 08, 05:53 PM

Dear Reader,

kenya203_28jan.jpgTonight we have a report from the BBC's correspondent in Nairobi, Karen Allen. Last week we asked her to report for us on how Kenya, seemingly such a stable country, could face such violence after December's troubled elections. Karen was filming at the weekend just as the violence flared again. It makes a depressing, but we think important film to watch.
( Watch Paul Mason's recent Newsnight reports from Nairobi)

Secret trials
Author Allan Chappelow was murdered just over a year ago - found dead in his own home underneath copies of one his own books about George Bernard Shaw. This week a man will stand trial for his murder. But much of the evidence will be held in secret for issues of national security. It is a very unusual thing to happen - and a very odd case too - we'll debate whether it is ever right for trials to be held in secret in this way.

State of the Union
Odd to think it but tonight George Bush will give his last State of the Union speech to the American people. Matt Frei has his assessment of the president and prediction of what he will say.

Fiscal prudence
We all suspect George Bush will tee-up a spending package to buy the US out of recession. Surprisingly the new boss of the IMF has given him the green light to do so. But Stephanie Flanders will explain why most EU countries also have the fiscal resources to buy their way out of recession but that, despite all Gordon Brown's talk of prudence, Alistair Darling does not.

NHS wards
Finally it has been a major commitment of Labour Party manifesto's since even before Tony Blair was elected - an end to mixed sex wards. Today in the Lords, the surgeon and health minister Lord Darzi admitted that single sex wards in the NHS is "an aspiration that cannot be met". We'll be asking why the government's given up on such a long held commitment.

Simon Enright

Family favourites

  • Michael Crick
  • 28 Jan 08, 01:31 PM

The case of Derek Conway, the Conservative MP who has been reprimanded by the Commons Standards Committee for employing his son from the MP’s Parliamentary staffing allowance, highlights a problem I’ve been banging on about for several years.

When I last checked about three years ago, there were around 60 MPs - almost ten per cent of the total - who employed staff with the same surname. Now they won’t all have been family members and there would have been the odd coincidence of name, but the vast majority of them would have been wives, sons, sisters and so on. On top of that there will be many other MPs who employ members of their families with different surnames.

heffer203.jpgNow I’m not saying all these MPs are corrupt. Far from it. There are many MPs spouses who do a good job for them, and deserve every penny they are paid from public funds (and probably a lot more). The late Eric Heffer MP was always shadowed by his wife and parliamentary secretary Doris Heffer. According to the diaries of Giles Radice, Doris Heffer would sit in the front row of the audience when Heffer was speaking, saying "nonsense, Eric" if he said something with which she disagreed. A similar supporting role was provided to Brian Sedgemore, who late in his career defected from Labour to the Liberal Democrats. In his case, it wasn't 'the wife' who worked for him, but rather, 'the ex-wife', continuing her duties even after they had divorced.

But almost everyone at Westminster knows there is significant abuse of the system. They know there are many MPs who pay staffing allowances to relatives in return for little or no work, as seems to have happened with Derek Conway and his son. And the big increases in MPs staffing allowances in recent years have probably made the abuse more prevalent, enabling MPs to have enough funds to employ a genuine secretary and/or researcher at the same time as also funnelling money to a relative who does little or no work for their money.

I’m not saying MPs should be banned from employing relatives, a rule they have in the German Parliament, and the US Senate. In many cases it makes a lot of sense, and given MPs gruelling schedules, it may do a lot to keep some of their marriages going. But at the very least there should be a public record of which MPs employ relatives from public funds. But attempts I’ve made to secure such information through Freedom of Information requests have met with the response from the Westminster authorities that it can’t be provided to me for reasons of privacy and security reasons. Oh yeah!

Overall, British politics may be dogged by regular sleaze stories, but in reality there are few examples where I can think of British politicians abusing their positions for personal financial gain (as opposed to political gain). The employment by certain MPs of relatives who do little or no work is one big exception to this. The Parliamentary authorities should be more vigilant in putting a stop to it. An additional section in the Register of Members Interests on the employment of family members might help, causing MPs to think twice about whom they employ.

Prospects - Monday, 28 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Jan 08, 10:33 AM

Today's prgramme producer is Simon Enright - here is his early email to the production team. What would you like to see on the programme?

Hi all

There are lots of stories around today.

kenya203_28jan.jpgMore violence in Kenya over the weekend. We have a film from Karen Allen about how Kenya has descended into this "hell".

Robert Peston has new book out asking questions about those who run our economies - the unelected bankers. As French police decide whether to charge or release Jerome Kerviel and markets take another tumble should we not debate this?

We have a State of Union speech preview from Matt Frei.

And Peter Marshall is looking into the case of Allan Chappelow - an 86 year old murdered in his home. Parts of the case will be heard in secret - we're told by the judge for "compelling" reasons. National Security is raised as an issue. But what damage to justice is there from such an order? We hope to debate.

There are other stories around. Do let me know what you think…

- Welfare reform - what really are the plans from the government?
- Afghanistan - what happened with Paddy?

Reshuffle ruminations

  • Michael Crick
  • 25 Jan 08, 06:28 PM

Gordon Brown’s first government reshuffle, in the wake of Peter Hain’s resignation, was rather more extensive than it might have been, with a procession of ministers - James Purnell, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Caroline Flint simply taking short steps behind each other up the ministerial ladder. It must surely be hugely disruptive to the working of government when several ministers like these in complicated and sensitive jobs are only in post for seven months before they move on. It would have been far simpler surely, to promote Caroline Flint from minister of state at the department of Work and Pensions into the Secretary of State’s job and leave Purnell, Burnham and Cooper in their existing positions. By my reckoning Yvette Cooper is the ninth person to serve as Chief Secretary in less than eleven years of Labour government (Alistair Darling, Stephen Byers, Alan Milburn, Andrew Smith, Paul Boateng, Des Browne, Stephen Timms and Andy Burnham being her predecessors).

Yvette CooperNow with Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper we have the first married couple in a British cabinet in British history, though not, I suspect, the first lovers (suggestions anyone?). It would be interesting to know, though, how they will handle things when Balls goes to see his wife to negotiate future schools budgets.

The resignation of Bruce Grocott as government whip in the Lords sees the departure from government of probably the last remaining link with the Wilson government, since Grocott first acted as a ministerial PPS in 1975. More significant, Brown loses an experienced, battle-hardened figure who played an important role at the heart of the Blair regime (as Blair’s PPS). His replacement as Lords whip, Jan Royall was once extremely close to Neil Kinnock, having worked as his secretary and adviser for almost twenty years, in both Westminster and Brussels. More recently she was a key figure in the Brown leadership campaign, and I recall her at one campaign event fulfilling the rather unseemly task (for a member of the Lords, I felt), of kneeling on the ground, arms out-stretched, trying to hold back the pressure of reporters and cameramen.

Peter Hain faces the pressIn Peter Hain, the Cabinet has undoubtedly lost one of its more colourful figures. Hain has been a famous face for almost four decades, longer than anyone in government. He first made his name, barely out of his teens, with his chairmanship of the anti-apartheid campaign, which successfully blocked the 1970 South African test tour, sparking the famous headline ‘Hain Stops Play’. He’s one of the few Cabinet ministers to have written any books, and his long list of works even includes a novel – The Peking Connection - though I’ve yet to read it. (The only other ministerial novelist I know of is the Justice Minister Michael Wills, who’s recently published a couple of thrillers under the pseudonym David Mckeowen).

True, Hain had been greatly weakened politically by his poor showing in the deputy leadership contest, and by the subsequent furore of his donations, but he was one of independent voices in government, occasionally willing to show dissent with one or another aspect of government policy. He was one of the few people round Gordon Brown’s cabinet table whom I could imagine arguing with the Prime Minister or being willing to tell Brown when he was wrong.

With James Purnell (37), Andy Burnham (38), Yvette Cooper (38), Ed Miliband (38) and Ruth Kelly (39), the Cabinet now has five members under the age of 40, and two others, Douglas Alexander and Ed Balls who are only 40, making it surely the most youthful cabinet in modern times. OK, it makes the government look youthful and fresh, and these are all highly intelligent and able individuals, but what Gordon Brown badly needs are more wise old greybeards who have a bit more experience of real life than political advisers have.

People, in fact, like Peter Hain and Bruce Grocott.

Watch Newsnight coverage of Peter Hain's resignation on the Big Fat Newsnight Politics Page.

Friday, 25 January, 2008

  • Gavin Esler
  • 25 Jan 08, 05:35 PM

Today's Quote for the Day:
"This is just bad luck, it's Murphy's Law. We discovered it at the same time as the markets plummeted. US markets went up last night and we were really unlucky, but we had to settle these positions as fast as we could and we did so during the three-day market crisis" - Societe Generale chairman Daniel Bouton after it was revealed that a rogue trader lost the group 4.9 billion euros (£3.7 billion).

In tonight's programme:
Jerome KervielWho knew what and when about the French rogue trader? Did his stock market gamble really panic the US central bank, the Federal reserve, into cutting interest rates by 0.75%?

We're hopeful of a big interview from Davos... well, we live in hope.

Pakistan's president Musharraf is in London. Can he now preside over some kind of political compromise? Will the upcoming elections be free and fair?

FARC guerrillas in Colombia have a new way of thwarting the US government's war on drugs. We've a special report.
Watch our previous report from Colombia on cocaine production

Newsnight Review
elah203x100.jpgJohn Wilson is joined by Sarfraz Manzoor, Jeanette Winterson and Peter Whittle to discuss:
In the Valley of Elah starring Oscar-nominee Tommy Lee Jones; Martin Amis' 9/11 novel, The Second Plane; a new London production of David Hare's The Vertical hour after its New York debut; and the exhibition that caused almost sparked international incident - French and Russian Master Paintings 1870–1925 from Moscow and St Petersburg at the Royal Academy.
Details on all those on the Newsnight Review website.

Prospects for Friday, 25 January

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Jan 08, 10:35 AM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer..

Hello everyone,

There are a few good stories around today. New lines on the rogue trader and Hain story. Gordon Brown is at Davos talking about the global economy. President Musharraf is speaking at RUSI about the state of Pakistan.

We have also have a film about FARC's new tactics to combat the US army's war on drugs.


Thursday, 24 Thursday, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 24 Jan 08, 04:21 PM

hain_quit203x100.jpgGordon Brown eventually called his behaviour over campaign donations "incompetence" but if Peter Hain didn't think that was enough to warrant his resignation, the decision of the Electoral Commission to hand his files to the police, has forced him to fall on his sword.

A little matter of a failure to account for £103,000 has ended his unbroken run since 1997 as a minister in Her Majesty's Government. But is the man most damaged by the dither and delay the Prime Minister himself?

Should he have acted as soon as Peter Hain announced he had not met his obligations over declarations of donations because he was too busy being a minister? Gordon Brown vacillated over calling a General Election, was panicked over inheritance tax, hesitated over Northern Rock, and today came the news that the much vaunted new CGT would be modified after all. Is the Great Helmsman having trouble at the wheel?

Tonight we'll be examining the fall of Peter Hain, and asking whether Gordon Brown has a grip on Government.

One rogue trader and France's second biggest bank, Societe Generale is down at least £3.5 billion. And this was purportedly a junior banker. Given this and the ongoing credit crunch which has rocked the world economy do these so-called "Masters of the Universe" have far too much power?

nazi203x100.jpgAlso tonight, time is fast running out for War Crimes investigators who are still hunting Nazi fugitives.
Brian Barron reports on the last ditch efforts all around the globe to bring these old men and women to justice, and the mindset of both the hunters and the hunted.

He speaks to 92-year-old Vladas Zajanckauskas, the alleged Nazi war criminal who could soon be the oldest man to be deported for trial from the US. As a young soldier in Europe he was, according to the US Justice Department, part of the Nazi extermination squads. The Lithuanian grandfather claims he was a POW who was brutalised by the Germans. Should justice be done - no matter how old the defendant?

Prospects for Thursday, 24 January

  • Newsnight
  • 24 Jan 08, 10:15 AM

Hi All,

Simon Enright is today's programme producer..

Time was when Gordon Brown seemed to be so assured with dealing with events. Has that sure touch deserted him? This government does have a majority but it seems to struggle to get its way… We have a U-Turn on Capital Gains Tax today, Jacqui Smith trying where other Home Secs have failed with counter terrorism legislation and even Harriet Harman trying to persuade MPs to forgo their full pay rise. Where has this government's authority gone? I'm sure Michael Crick will investigate.

It is one of the world's biggest ever frauds - £3.5 billion lost by a rogue trader working for Societe Generale. To put it in perspective the French bank also had to write off bad debts due to sub-prime lending and that was only £1.5 billion. After Nick Leeson hadn't the banking industry put a stop to this kind of activity?

We also have a film from Brian Barron about the attempt to bring to justice various people accused of Nazi War Crimes. "The race against the grim reaper" as it is described by one commentator.

Finally there's a story about GPs making money out of the patients that ring in. It's called revenue-sharing. Is it time we challenged them?

But do we have space for all that when there are lots of other good stories around…

- Stuart has been knocked off his bike - he's fine but shaken - nevertheless he phoned in to suggest putting Council Tax on trial. (He is a devoted producer)
- Is there more to pursue on Ken Livingstone?
- China's economy has grown by more than 11%. Should we reflect that?

All ideas welcome..


Wednesday, 23 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 23 Jan 08, 06:54 PM

Burbo bank wind farmThe European Commission has announced plans to make Europe the first "economy for a low carbon age". The measures will add around £10 a month to household and include a new emissions trading scheme and targets for producing energy from renewables. But how damaging will these measures be for European competitiveness against emerging markets in India and China - especially in a period of global economic uncertainty, when already many are expecting growth to slow, or halt altogether? A number of economists and scientists are questioning whether it is possible to tackle climate change while continuing to pursue a go-for-growth economic strategy. So do we need to give up on growth?

For once it is possible to state with certainty that the number of police attending matched the number of people taking part in the march. Around 22,500 police marched through London to protest about a pay rise which they say amounts to 1.9% in spite of a recommendation from the Police Pay Review body of 2.5%. David Grossman will have the latest on whether a compromise can be reached.

Palestinians have been rushing over the border into Egypt to buy essential supplies after part of the border was destroyed. Food and fuel have been scarce since Israel blocked access to Gaza, following rocket attacks on southern Israel. The Egyptians seem to be turning a blind eye to this breach of the border. Mark Urban will explain what's happening.

How far should parents go to get their children into the school of their choice? In an interview for 'The Times', David Cameron refused to criticise "middle class parents with sharp elbows" who pretend they are Christians to get a place at a church school. All parents want to ensure they are getting the best education they can for their children, but is lying about your faith a step too far? And is David Cameron right to condone it?

Newsnight has uncovered a previously unbroadcast recording of the Courtauld Institute's controversial but influential Director, Anthony Blunt. Though better known for his political activities as a Soviet spy, he was also passionate about art history and was adored by many who were taught by him. Our Culture Correspondent Madeleine Holt will be looking at the softer side of Anthony Blunt and the eccentric world of the Courtauld - which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Read more about Anthony Blunt and the Courtauld interview.

Prospects, Wednesday, 23 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 23 Jan 08, 10:24 AM

Carol Rubra is today's programme producer. Here is her early email to the team.

Good morning,

It's a fairly quiet day when we could go our own way. Please have a think about a big issue we could take on.


wind203burbo.jpgToday the European Union is announcing its energy strategy. It will include a 20% target for energy produced from renewables by 2020, and details of how the new Emissions Trading Scheme will work. Countries will be required to auction some of the permits which have previously been free and many are concerned that this will have an impact on how competitive European businesses will be able to be. As we enter a period of global economic instability, and concern about the increased economic power of China and India is this a dangerous moment to be inflicting such tough targets on business, but then again can we afford the damage to the planet if we fail to cut emissions? Which interesting speakers should we try and get in the studio for a discussion on growth v dealing with climate change?

We also have a film about how on the 75th anniversary of the Courtauld Institute, they are reappraising the complicated figure, of Anthony Blunt, who made the Institute what it is. He lectured there from the beginning but his role as inspirational art historian has been fudged until now, upstaged by his other, more controversial activities.

What other stories should we be doing? And how we can put our own stamp on it?

Faith schools - in an interview David Cameron implies that parents who "find faith" to get their children into the right schools are good members of society.
Knife crime and youth crime - ACPO are announcing their strategy to deal with huge increases in these crimes tomorrow.
Peter Hain
Police march on pay
Or something completely different?


Bravery in the face of mental illness

  • Jeremy Paxman
  • 22 Jan 08, 06:29 PM

pax203x100.jpgI know we're supposed not to be partisan, or to pass judgement on those we interview.

But I have to say that of all the many politicians it has been my (occasionally painful) duty to interview over the years, Mr Bondevik comes pretty near the top. ( Watch it here.)

It's so rare to find man talking with such frankness and courage about such a charged and sensitive subject.

For some reason, mental ill-health retains an aura, which seems at times to make it almost impossible to talk about it sensibly. Quite why this should be, when so many of us are going to suffer from depression or other illnesses, I don't know.

Enlightened voters

I suspect it's because we're frightened of it ourselves. How much better it would be if we could all treat it as we treat physical conditions, like 'flu or cancer or a broken arm.

Mr Bondevik's honesty in putting his cards on the table and telling the people of Norway what was going on in his mind and in his life is admirable. But the reaction of Norwegian voters is just as impressive.

They voted him back into office. If I was being glum, I'd say that it would never happen here because the party leader would find himself the victim of lots of headlines about “Voting for a Loony”.

But don't tell me there's any reason we should be less enlightened than the Norwegians.


There are many organisations that provide help to those that suffer from mental illness. The following is a seleciton of some of them.

Stand to Reason
Mental Health

Tuesday, 22 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Jan 08, 05:05 PM

markets203x100.jpgAnother day of turmoil on the markets. The US Federal Reserve tried to pre-empt the opening of the US stock exchange with a whopping 0.75% cut in interest rates. Even so, the Dow Jones dropped sharply within minutes.

Tonight, we'll devote much of the programme to analysing what all this means. Paul Mason will look at the impact on the global economy, and Stephanie Flanders will assess what - if anything - the government and the Bank of England can do to prevent a downturn here. We'll be re-convening Newsnight's own Monetary Policy Committee. Do they think the Bank should follow the Fed with a cut in interest rates next week?

Also - some have said it's the most bad-tempered Presidential debate they've seen. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may be in the same party, but last night's Democratic debate in South Carolina laid bare the growing ill-feeling between the two candidates. So catty were the exchanges that the third and largely overlooked John Edwards ended up appealing to both candidates to stop squabbling and think about the bigger picture. We'll be speaking to a leading Democrat about whether the tone of the race might damage the party in the long term.

And - the government wants everyone to learn cookery in school. They hope it will mean Britain's kids will eat more healthily. And tomorrow, ministers will unveil their strategy to combat obesity. So we've been back to visit a group of teenagers we first met late last year. They were on a special programme - called MEND - which aims to help them lose weight by bringing the whole family into the process. Lots of them really benefited from the course. Six months on - how are they doing?

Emergency meeting of Newsnight MPC

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Jan 08, 03:07 PM

The US Federal Reserve has cuts interest rates to 3.5% in a desperate bid to stave off a looming recession.

mpc203x152.jpgThe rate cut came after global stocks had tumbled on Monday, posting their worst day since the attacks of 11 September 2001.

So, how bad is it going to get? Are we really facing a recession as some of the apocalyptic headline writers would have us believe or is the UK economy strong enough to see out this latest financial storm?

In an effort to find some definitive answers we decided to call an emergency meeting of the fabled Newsnight Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

So what would you like to ask our expert panel?

Is it legal to compost your loved ones?

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 22 Jan 08, 11:52 AM

I bring grave news: a legal dispute compels me to disturb the remains of Ethical Man.

compost_man.jpgRegular Newsnight viewers and readers of this blog will recall that the corpse of Ethical Man was laid to rest by Britain’s King of Compost, John Cossham, in a specially designed compost bin in his suburban garden in York. We judged composting was the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of a human cadaver.

I’d imagined that that would be the end of the story; the memory of Ethical Man would gradually rot away leaving little more than a rich loam. Unfortunately it was not to be. A legal battle rages over our chosen method of disposal... Ethical Man cannot rest in peace.

The claim is that we gave “false information on law”. It is a serious claim and is the subject of a formal complaint to the BBC.

So what is at issue? Well, before Ethical Man lowered himself into his compost grave I said that the only problem was that “it isn’t actually legal to compost human beings”. We felt that we could side-step this because – and this may surprise some readers – I wasn’t actually composted.

The complaint is that this is not an accurate representation of the law. The complainant, who says he is an expert on the law relating to dying and death, says that “there is no law that I know of which proscribes the composting of bodies”.

He asked me to check the true legal position and issue a correction. I have to admit that I failed to do this. I’ll be honest here - after the demise of Ethical Man I wanted to move on. I didn’t want to let his shadow affect the rest of my working life. I moved on to new journalistic pastures (on the One Show) and forgot about the legal complexities of composting corpses.

justin_203x177.jpgSo is it legal? Well, I’ve spoken to the ultimate authority on this subject, the Ministry of Justice and as so often in law it appears there is no clear answer. The problem seems to be that no-one has actually tested the law to find out if it is legal.

Under the Births and Deaths legislation all deaths must be registered and when they are, the registrar issues a certificate for the body to be buried or cremated. The person responsible for the disposal of the body then has to certify to the registrar that the body has been disposed of by burial or cremation.

So what if someone composted the body instead? If the registrar did not receive a certificate of burial or cremation then they might refer the disposal to a local environmental health officer who would then have to decide whether composting was a suitable method of disposal.

Test case needed

The law on burials is not clear whether it would be. The Ministry of Justice says that all the law says is that the body/coffin should be at least three feet below ground level (or no less than two feet in certain circumstances).

There is no requirement for a coffin (which would slow the composting process) but a body would be expected to be covered so as to avoid an offence to public decency.

The Ministry of Justice adds one final coda. We suggested it might be a good idea to chop the body up into little pieces to ensure a rapid and aerobic compost. The Ministry warns that any attempt to dismember the body would have to comply with the Human Tissue Act 2004 and that dismemberment might in itself be regarded as an offence to public decency.

In short then, what is needed is a test case to clear up the law on this important subject. So please help. If you are considering composting your corpse or that of a loved one do please contact us so we can follow the process.

Prospects for Tuesday, 22 January

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Jan 08, 10:27 AM

Today's programme producer is Liz Gibbons. Here's her early email to the production team - what do you think we should cover?

Hello all,

Markets - "all eyes will be on the Dow when it opens". Neil Breakwell says this is already a cliché. What are the big questions we can ask and who should we be asking them of? As things stand we can devote a big chunk of the programme to it.

The Czech opposition leader is in town - he's a big opponent of the US missile defence system. Good opportunity to look at the issue?

Barack v Hillary - wouldn't mind having a quick look at the debate - did Obama lose it and is he losing it?

We should keep an eye on Gaza and the Palestinian PM visit.

And we have a film marking the anniversary of the Courtauld Institute.


Monday, 21 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Jan 08, 04:44 PM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer


Jeremy is presenting the programme this evening.

Northern Rock
Alistair Darling announces his Northern Rock plan in the CommonsSo the tax payer gets to take on most of the risk of Northern Rock but not necessarily enjoy much of the profit. That appears to be Alistair Darling's latest plan to solve the problem of the troubled bank. The Tories say the government is gambling with public money. The Lib Dems are accusing the government of being politically frightened of nationalisation. We'll debate what the best thing really is for the tax payer and the bank.

There are dramatic pictures from Gaza where the power station is not working and the UN claim food supplies are running out because of an Israeli blockade. The Israeli government say recent events have been staged by Hamas and that the people of Gaza are not under any real threat. We're trying to find out the truth.

First we were definitely going to get a referendum on an EU constitution. Then it was a debate in parliament about whether we would get a referendum. Now there will not even be a debate. Michael Crick will explain.

We'll also be speaking to the former Norwegian Prime Minister. Why? Because Kjell Magne Bondevik is one of the few front line politicians to take sick leave because of depression. Despite this he was re-elected by the people of Norway. Would we be so understanding?

Do join us at 10.30. Many of you have already contacted us to discuss issues to do with your pants. We'll not be addressing your gusset anxieties directly on the programme but do leave us your comments below.


Prospects, Monday, 21 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Jan 08, 10:26 AM

Today's programme producer is Simon Enright. Here's his early email to the production team - what do you think we should cover?

Hi all,

northernrock203mon.jpgWe should definitely do Northern Rock. What questions will we still need to answer at the end of today?

Feels like we should do the maths on the Lisbon Treaty - is it possible for the Government to lose the referendum amendment and what would happen if they did?

We also have an interview with the former Norwegian Prime Minister. Why? Because he is one of the few Western Leaders to take sick leave while in office due to mental illness. He was then re-elected. Would we have such a bold attitude to mental illness here?

We have a film from Steve Smith about pre-historic man-made mound Silbury Hill. He goes inside for the last time before it is sealed up.

Also possible today:
- There will be lots around on our approach to climate change this week. Should we include something today?
- Police Pay will also be a big theme this week. Should we take a step back and ask, like the IPPR, whether it needs totally restructuring?
- India should get permanent seat on the UN Security Council - so says Gordon Brown - along with a new place in the World Bank, IMF, and a redrawn G8.

Lots around. We can't fit it all in. What can we afford to NOT do.

Friday, 18 January, 2008

  • Gavin Esler
  • 18 Jan 08, 05:31 PM

Today's Quote for the Day
"I think he shatters the myth of white supremacy once and for all" - New York Congressman Charles Rangel when asked for his views about US President George Bush.

China and the World Economy
Brown and WenGordon Brown is in Beijing and says he wants trade with China to double in two years. Meanwhile George Bush has been talking about a stimulus package to help the ailing US economy. I'll be exploring the significance of the Brown visit and the world economic problems with Senator Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the US Congressional China Commission and Lord Digby Jones, the new Trade Minister.

The Captain of the British Airways jet which crash landed at Heathrow airport yesterday has spoken of "the highest standards of skill and professionalism" displayed by all the crew on board Flight BA 038. Susan Watts has been trying to establish what caused the crash.

Bobby Fischer
bobbyfischer203.jpgThe former chess champion, Bobby Fischer, has died in Iceland. He was 64 and had been seriously ill. He made his name as one of the world's greatest - and most temperamental - players. A Grand Master at 25, he won the world championship in the highly-publicised match with Boris Spassky in 1972, breaking the Soviet domination of the game. Steve Smith looks back at a Cold War legend.

Josh Brolin in No Country...After Newsnight, Kirsty is joined on the Review sofa by Pablo Mukherjee, Denise Mina and Tom Paulin to discuss: No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers' bloody new western based on Cormac McCarthy's novel; His Illegal Self the latest from Australian author Peter Carey; Tim Burton's take on the Sondheim musical version of Sweeney Todd, with Burton stalwart Johnny Depp; and a double bill from the Bush Theatre, London - Land of the Dead/Helter Skelter.

More details on all those on the Review website, and read about and watch Newsnight's encounter with the men behind Sweeney Todd - Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Prospects - Friday, 18 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Jan 08, 10:25 AM

Today's programme producer is Robert Morgan. Here's his early email to the production team.

Good morning everyone,

Gordon Brown escorted by Chinese Premier Wen JiabaoThere are a few good stories around today. Gordon Brown has used the start of a visit to Beijing to declare that he wants to see a doubling of trade between Britain and China in two years. The Prime Minister said closer co-operation between the two countries could create tens of thousands of jobs for British workers. China currently has a lot of cash to invest abroad.

Meanwhile in the US, President Bush will speak about his economic stimulus package that includes "short-term, temporary measures" to boost an economy buffeted by housing and credit woes. Yesterday Wall Street dropped a massive 300 points over fears of a recession.

Is this a crucial moment in the growing economic power of China? Could we combine both stories? We also have a pre-recorded interview with Senator Chuck Hagel set for this afternoon. Could we add this to the sequence?

Let's pursue new lines on this story. The preliminary report is out tomorrow. Susan Watts is on the case.

Thursday, 17 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Jan 08, 05:25 PM

plane203x100.jpgTonight on Newsnight, we begin with the crash landing at Heathrow of British Airways flight 038 from Beijing this lunchtime. There are reports that the pilot lost all avionics - all power failed just prior to landing. The pilots managed to bring it down just short of the runway. Some passengers are being treated at a local hospital but no lives were lost. So what happened to this Boeing 777?
We will bring you as much detail and analysis as we can muster and we are bidding for the Chief Executive of BA Willie Walsh.

Also tonight - is the government inadvertently funding the visits to Britain of controversial radical Muslim clerics?
On the day that the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith gave a speech on measures the government is taking to prevent radicalisation, is the government engaging with the right organisations? Richard Watson has uncovered evidence that a government funded organisation is using speakers to address young British Muslims who fundamentally disagree with democracy.

And Tim Burton turns Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd into a celluloid gothic horror show, with Johnny Depp as the demon barber. Tonight Newsnight has the first British interview with the star.

Prospects for Thursday, 17 January

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Jan 08, 10:24 AM

Carol Rubra is today's programme producer. Here is her early email to the team.

Good morning,

We have lots of space on the programme today so it's a good opportunity for us to go our own way and make some news.

This is what is planned...

Jacqui Smith is giving a speech about terrorism and how to prevent vulnerable people becoming radicalised by extremist websites. Richard Watson will be covering it as part of our series of films over the last couple of days on this topic. Let's have a think about ideas for guests.

Sweeney Todd - Newsnight has interviewed Johnny Depp, Tim Burton and Timothy Spall about the new film version of Stephen Sondheim's musical.

After that… it's up to us…

Global food inflation - what lies behind it and what is the impact on the British economy?

British Council - there could be more developments today. The Director of the British Council is making a statement and so is David Miliband.

Decision today on whether the use of hybrid embryos will be allowed.

GPs could save the NHS £200m by prescribing more generic drugs. MPs recommend that GPs should be obliged to declare gifts received from pharmaceutical companies.
Meanwhile EU regulators are investigating the delays in the production of generic drugs. But are generic drugs always the best choice for patients?

Peter Hain - the Electoral Commission are meeting to discuss Peter Hain's failure to declare donations to his deputy leadership campaign.

Traffic - there has been a huge growth in traffic, particularly in rural areas according to new figures. So should the government be building more roads? Or do we need road pricing?

See you at 10.30

Wednesday, 16 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Jan 08, 07:09 PM

Tonight on Newsnight we've another disturbing film about how terrorists operate here in Britain. Last night we heard how a website with a known record of support for Al Qaeda had announced the formation of a branch of the organisation in Britain. Tonight we have the story of "Terrorist 007". It is the compelling tale of how a young man ran a cyber terror network from his home in West London.

Mark Urban has been looking into Russian-British relations. Last night Stephen Kinnock - son of Lord Kinnock and the director of the British Council office in St Petersburg - was arrested. The British Council offices in the two cities are now closed. How strained are relations now between Britain and Russia?

Peter Hain has been answering questions today in Parliament - about Wales. Michael Crick is trying to ask different ones about the donations to his failed deputy leadership campaign. Do find out whether Michael succeeds in getting any answers.

And we plan to debate the Diana Inquest - and the media circus that is surrounding the event, lawyers permitting.

All will be revealed at 10.30pm

Simon Enright

Mickey mouse operation...

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Jan 08, 03:47 PM

mouse203.jpgSome of you may recall reports of much excitement in the Newsnight offices a couple of years back following the return of the Newsnight mouse. The programme used to host many a rodent as Jeremy pointed out at the time.

Well, after an extended sojourn (Today programme, Panorama, Shepherd's Bush market, who knows) our furry friend returned this afternoon. Cue shrieks and scattered chairs.

The BBC's crack rodent catcher has just been in and laid a series of traps. They look like the non-lethal kind, but an email advises us, "if you notice a strange smell (i.e. dead mouse) let us know and we'll come and check it out".

Is the Diana inquest a waste of time and money?

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Jan 08, 11:16 AM

diana203x100.jpgTen years on an we're still reading tawdry headlines about Princess Diana.

So far her long-awaited inquest has heard a host of reheated conspiracy theories and evidence has included vital details such as:

Diana was called "a whore"

An "alternative therapist" believed Prince Philip wrote "cruel and disparaging" letters to the Princess

Diana had contraceptive pills in her possession, a witness claimed

A holistic healer claimed Diana's driver Henri Paul was a "maniac"

Do we really need to pay millions of public money for such details? Is the inquest a necessary exercise in transparency, or has it become a shameful circus? Let us know what you think..

Prospects for Wednesday, 16 January

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Jan 08, 10:15 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer. Here is his early email to the team.

Hi All,

Strong story last night about Al Qaeda in Britain. Can we match it?

Michael Crick is back from his sick bed today so we'll be asking him to pursue the latest on Peter Hain. It’s Welsh questions today so maybe Mr Hain will answer some of the questions there that he's refusing to answer on the TV/Media circuit.

MPs vote on their own pay today. Should we debate this and what question should we ask?

Also Security Correspondent Gordon Corera tells the story of the terrorist who called himself 007 - linking networks from his bedroom in London.

But what else shall we do today?

Is it time we debated the Diana inquest? Can it ever do anything other than feed conspiracy theories?

Is there a debate in the Charity Commission’s new guidance which scares some private schools?

OR is there a story you think we should do? Jeremy promised something fun today - so how do we deliver that?


Text of Conservative Letter re Newsnight revelations

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 Jan 08, 06:51 PM

Lisa Klein
Director of Party Funding
The Electoral Commission
Trevelyan House
Great Peter Street
London SW1P 2HW
Tuesday, 15th January 2008

BBC Newsnight last night drew attention to three flights taken by David Cameron in October 2005 which were declared in the Register of Members’ Interests but not to the Electoral Commission.

Continue reading "Text of Conservative Letter re Newsnight revelations"

Tuesday, 15 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Jan 08, 06:43 PM

Good evening,

As I write we're working on what could be a big terror-related story for tonight's programme. Watch tonight and see the results.

doctor203x100.jpgIn 2004 GPs voted on a new contract. One of the provisions was the opportunity to opt out of providing "Out of Hours" care. Ninety per cent of doctors voted to take up this new option, which meant that NHS Primary Care Trusts now had the task of filling doctors' surgeries at nights and weekends. Who is doing that work? More and more of the shifts are being filled with doctors from throughout the European Union, especially Poland. Some are even commuting from the continent to work in Britain at weekends - they can earn in one shift what they would take home in a month in Poland. But could all the travelling make these doctors too tired to treat patients? And who is responsible for them? Rachel Wright made the trip with one Polish doctor to find out.

Northern Rock shareholders have largely voted to reject plans that could have limited management powers to find a rescue deal for the business. Northern Rock said shareholders had defeated all but one of the resolutions proposed at its extraordinary meeting. The bank's chairman said the resolution passed would not be a "material restriction" to a rescue deal. The resolutions were put forward by two major shareholders, hedge funds SRM Global and RAB Capital. "Whilst we are pleased that all but one of the resolutions proposed by SRM and RAB Capital were not carried, we recognise that a material number of shareholders did vote in favour of these resolutions," said Bryan Sanderson, Northern Rock's chairman. Economics Editor, Stephanie Flanders will tell us where this now leaves Northern Rock.

Newsnight report leads to a ban on Uzbek cotton
Tesco has banned "all cotton sourced from Uzbekistan for its clothing range, homeware and corporate purchases" after a Newsnight investigation exposed the use of child labour. In October Simon Ostrovsky's report revealed how many of the UK's top High Street stores were selling clothes made with Uzbek cotton. His investigation of cotton production in Uzbekistan found that the use of children to harvest the crop was widespread and systematic. Tesco said the Newsnight report had "exposed the continued use of state-sponsored child labour in Uzbek cotton fields" and has now announced a complete ban on the use of Uzbek cotton. The retail giant is telling suppliers that "the use of organised and forced child labour is completely unacceptable and leads us to conclude that whilst these practices persist in Uzbekistan we cannot support the use of cotton from Uzbekistan in our textiles". Watch Simon's report on tonight's programme.

Read the reactions of the High Street stores..

Latest from Conservatives on Cameron's flights

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 Jan 08, 06:42 PM

For those of you glued to your PCs over the issue of David Cameron's non-declared flights, as reported below and on Newsnight last night, the Conservatives have now responded, registering the Dewsbury flight and correcting the name of the donor on another flight. In future David Cameron will register all flights with the Electoral Commission. The text of the CCO letter below, and now, Mr Hain, about that 108,000....

Continue reading "Latest from Conservatives on Cameron's flights"

Newsnight report leads to cotton ban

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Jan 08, 06:15 PM

cotton203x100.jpgTesco has announced it is banning "all cotton sourced from Uzbekistan for its clothing range, homeware and corporate purchases" after a Newsnight investigation exposed the use of child labour.

The original report by Simon Ostrovsky revealed how many of the UK's top High Street stores were selling clothes made with Uzbek cotton - which had been harvested by forced child labour.

Below is today's statement by Tesco - along with how Asda, Arcadia Group (Burtons and Top Man), and Matalan reacted to Tesco's decision:

"As a founder member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, Tesco seeks to put ethical trading at the very heart of its operations.

Following ongoing discussions with campaign groups on the subject of cotton production and the use of child labour in this part of the supply chain, we feel the need to re-iterate Tesco’s deep concern at the use of child labour.

We realise that this is a complex issue with many causes which we acknowledge are hard to address individually.

However, the use of organised and forced child labour is completely unacceptable and leads us to conclude that whilst these practices persist in Uzbekistan, we cannot support the use of cotton from Uzbekistan in our clothing.

To this end, we now require our suppliers to identify the source of raw cotton used in all Tesco clothing – and we will randomly audit records to ensure our requirements are being met."

"We were very interested to hear the commitments being made by Tesco today, but we're even keener to understand how they plan to meet those commitments.

At ASDA we are determined to ensure that fabric used by George suppliers comes from ethical and traceable sources.

However we make no bones about the fact that the international supply chain for cotton is extremely complicated. Full traceability of where raw cotton (used in yarn, cotton fabrics or garments) originates from is very difficult to achieve.

So at this time we do not believe a boycott of cotton from Uzbekistan is achievable, but more importantly we are not convinced it will improve the lives of those who work in the industry.

We will continue to work with the Government and our suppliers to discuss what further pressure we can apply to bring about an improvement in the conditions of people working in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan."

Arcadia Group (Burtons and Top Man)
"Further to the BBC Newsnight programme, we have contacted all of our suppliers and
informed them of your findings.

We have re-iterated to them our code of conduct which can be found on our group web-site

We have requested that our suppliers check on their raw cotton sources, and nothing
untoward has been reported to us by them, nor have we found anything untoward
ourselves at this time."

“Matalan is taking the issue seriously and is in consultation with its suppliers to understand the extent of the issue. Appropriate action will be taken after the inquiry, which will be finalised in the coming weeks.”

Cameron's choppers

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 Jan 08, 04:14 PM

Here at Newsnight we are currently engaged in a theological dispute with Conservative Central Office of the “angels on a pinhead” variety. Namely, how many members of the Conservative Party have to be in a helicopter before the trip falls below the eligibility criteria for registration as a donation with the Electoral Commission....

Continue reading "Cameron's choppers"

Prospects for Tuesday, 15 January

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Jan 08, 10:34 AM

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

Good morning everyone,

There's quite a bit around this morning. Richard Watson could have a big story which I'll speak more about in the morning meeting. There's obviously Northern Rock's EGM, EMI, food prices, and a possible Uzbek cotton follow up. Is it worth us previewing Michigan? Do come to the meeting armed with great ideas.

Rachel Wright and Neil Drake have a great film which needs a Government response off the back. Are foreign doctors working too many hours in the health service?

In 2004 GPs voted on a new contract. One of the new provisions was the opportunity to opt out of providing "Out of Hours" care. Ninety per cent of doctors voted to take up this new option. Which meant that NHS Primary Care Trusts now had the task of filling doctor's surgeries at nights and weekends. More and more of these shifts are being filled with doctors from throughout the new expanded European Union, especially Poland. Some are even staying in their home country and commuting over at weekends. After all they can earn the same amount in one shift as they can in a whole month in Poland. But does commuting make these doctors too tired to treat patients and who is responsible for them? Rachel Wright made the trip with one Polish doctor to find out.

Playout ideas welcome.


Monday, 14 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Jan 08, 05:31 PM

Jeremy presents tonight's programme.

Northern Rock signIs nationalisation now inevitable for Northern Rock? Tomorrow the bank's shareholders have called an extraordinary general meeting - to give them a chance to demand from the board more of a say in the troubled mortgage lender's future. But can they and should they stop the government taking control? Stephanie Flanders reports and we'll debate.

Peter Hain received the backing from the Prime Minister in the Sun this morning - at least for the moment. Mr Hain maintains that there is nothing wrong with any of the money he's taken - no conflict of interest. Paul Mason is investigating whether that's true. The Conservatives want more answers. We've also put some questions to them about David Cameron's declarations. Hopefully they'll provide us with the answers to them and we'll let you know about all of it on the programme.

Would the roads be safer - and smoother - without traffic lights? A personal - and polemical - report from one campaigner on the programme tonight which we'll debate after - read his views here and join the debate here.

Finally you might have been relieved NOT to see luvvies getting emotional at the Golden Globes ceremony - cancelled because of the Hollywood writers strike. But spare a thought for the British film industry. We hear how going without the gongs may be very damaging to one successful bit of British business.

The case against traffic lights

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Jan 08, 12:57 PM

redlight203.jpgDo we need traffic lights? Campaigner Martin Cassini doesn't think so. He says, "They take our eyes off the road. They make us stop when it's safe to go. They increase journey times. They maximise congestion, which costs the economy £20bn a year. They maximise emissions and fuel use from the stop-start drive cycle. They deface streetscapes. They cost the earth to install and run".

Read his full article on why they should go and the system of "peaceful anarchy" he says should replace them - and watch his highly entertaining report tonight.

But what do you think - has he got a point?

Prospects: Monday, January 14, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Jan 08, 11:32 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer. Here is his early email to the team.

It's January 14th - my wife's birthday. Can I just make it clear that she asked for the garden waste incinerator... so why was she so upset? Ideas of what I buy to get myself out from under her opprobrium gratefully received.

hain203_140108.jpgIdeas also welcome for what we should put in the rest of the programme. I still don't feel Peter Hain has properly explained why he needed a Think Tank to channel money to him. Maybe if he gave an interview he could explain… If he can't/won't give any reasons should we give some for him? And why does Gordon Brown think it is all out of his hands (The Sun pg 2)? Is he not the PM? Can't he sack him if he wants?

The Northern Rock shareholders are meeting tomorrow to decide what to do with their bank. Their bank? What chance it is nationalised, who would benefit and how would it work?

We also have film about traffic lights from Martin Cassini - would the world be a better and safer place without them?

bin150.jpgBut we defo need one more story…..Should we do

- The end of Bio-fuels. The reality we showed in our film nearly a year ago - watch it here - is that they are not a viable option. The EU is now rethinking its policy

- Paul Burrell appears at the Diana Inquest today. Is this a story Newsnight should do and how?

- And no special ceremony for the Golden Globes… Should this be the future of award ceremonies?

All ideas - especially to rescue my tumbling stock on the home front - gratefully received.

All the best


Friday, 11 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Jan 08, 04:52 PM

liver_bird203x100.jpgTonight most of Newsnight comes from Liverpool to debate just what being European Capital of Culture means for the city.

Gavin Esler will be joined by Echo and the Bunnymen lead singer, Ian McCulloch, TV impresario Phil Redmond, and "Bread" actress Jean Boht to debate just how Liverpool will benefit from being Culture Capital and what Liverpool today has to offer.

Glasgow local and author Sanjeev Singh Kohli has a report from Glasgow about what being Capital of Culture in 1990 meant for that city.

But we lead tonight with a report from Michael Crick about the increasingly vulnerable position that Peter Hain finds himself in.

We'll debate whether he can survive the weekend with both his ministerial jobs intact - Peter is not only Work and Pensions secretary but also Secretary of State for Wales.

Newsnight Review

This week Martha Kearney is joined by Miranda Sawyer Johann Hari and Ian McMillan.

They'll be reviewing Charlie Wilson's War, Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach, The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa and La Cage aux Folles. Find out more on the Newsnight Review website.

Newsnight from Liverpool

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Jan 08, 12:57 PM

liverpool203x100.jpgTonight Gavin Esler and the team are presenting the programme from Liverpool - to mark the start of the city's status as the European Capital of Culture.

We'll be hearing from musicians, artists and performers, and of course some critics.

We have a film from Glasgow, the last British city to be awarded the title.

But what do you think about Liverpool - and about schemes like this?

Does Liverpool deserve the status and will it be good for the city? (Or after today do you expect not to hear about the event again?)

Is the award recognition for a city with an incredible cultural heritage and is the best yet to come or is Liverpool's creative heyday already history?
Do let us know what you think.

Thursday, 10 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Jan 08, 05:24 PM


hutton203x100.jpgAs widely predicted, the government has given the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power plants. John Hutton told MPs the programme was crucial to maintaining a safe and consistent power supply. Our Science Editor Susan Watts will be examining exactly what today's announcement means. Can we be certain there won't be hidden costs for the taxpayer? We'll be hearing from the minister responsible for taking things forward.


The ongoing story of how Peter Hain failed to declare more than £100,000 in donations to his deputy leadership campaign; did he know about the money? And can he survive? Michael Crick has the full story.


David Loyn reports on how the Afghan government is attempting to bring madrassas, the religious schools that inspired a generation of fundamentalists, back into the state system. The government wants to reduce the teaching of Islamic philosophy to less than half of the curriculum, and introduce subjects like history, geography, science and languages. The new policy is a direct challenge to neighbouring Pakistan, where madrassas are the main recruiting ground for the Taliban.


The world's cheapest car has been launched at India's biggest auto show in Delhi; it will cost about £1,200. It's estimated that up to 60 million more people in India could now afford a car, but is this a good idea considering the impact it will have on CO2 emissions?

Prospects for Thursday, 10 January

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Jan 08, 10:22 AM

Carol Rubra is today's programme producer - here is her early email to the team.

Good morning,

nuclear.jpgGoing nuclear - John Hutton will make a statement today giving the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power plants. Susan will look at the detail of the announcement, whether the proposals provide sufficient financial incentive for the private sector to go ahead and what is going to happen to the waste.

There are a few other interesting discussion topics around today.

The world's cheapest car has been unveiled in India - a step forward for Indian middle classes but a step back in reducing global carbon emissions.

New figures on Iraqi deaths from violence

Labour donors and Peter Hain's failure to declare donations to his deputy leadership campaign.

MPs salaries - their pay rise will be announced today - should they accept?

Liberal Democrats are debating missile defence in the House of Lords.

And interest rates.

Please come to the meeting with your own ideas and thoughts on these.


Wednesday, 9 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 9 Jan 08, 06:01 PM

Polls Apart?

clinton.jpgIf you're a US pollster there's every chance you may be hiding under the blankets today, begging your mother for a sick note. The story predicted almost universally was a convincing win for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the state of New Hampshire. Some commentators even went so far as to discuss Hillary's need for 'damage limitation' if she ever wanted to work in politics again. In the end - and surely this is what News is all about - she won New Hampshire, leaving the Obama team, the pollsters and some media scrabbling for a duvet day. Tonight, we'll discuss how the pollsters and the truth were so wide apart and just what swayed it for Hillary when it had all seemed like a done deal.

Official Secrets:

A Foreign Office civil servant - accused of leaking confidential documents - has been cleared of breaching the Official Secrets Act. Prosecutors at the Old Bailey have decided to drop charges against Derek Pasquill - who was accused of disclosing papers to the media. We'll talk live to Derek Pasquill - a man who's had his life on hold for the past two years - on the programme.


Marks and Spencers sales figures are as much a bellwether of the UK economy as interest rates or house prices. As their chief executive revealed today how disappointing the Christmas period had been, we ask if the High Street boom is finally over. Have consumers stopped consuming? And will there be interest rates cuts tomorrow? We ask our Newsnight Shadow MPC.

Galloway v Frum:

galloway203x100.jpgGeorge Galloway is not a big fan of American policy in the Middle East. David Frum is not a big fan of Iranian policy towards the West - he coined the Axis of Evil phrase for George Bush. As the President begins his last big tour of the Middle East - and threatens US sanctions on Iran - we put the two together to tell us what's what. This is just a guess, but it may not be all sweetness and light.

Belly dancer

It was already one of the most eccentric stories to come out of the Foreign Office in a long while. Britain’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan gets fired after criticising the country’s human rights record and carrying on with a 22-year-old local belly dancer. Now the story of Craig Murray has taken another equally eye-brow raising twist. He and his girlfriend are back in Britain – and they’ve written a play about how they met. The piece, performed solely by his partner Nadira Berkhanov-Murray, is more harrowing than you might expect. Madeleine Holt has the report.

Happy families

  • Michael Crick
  • 9 Jan 08, 05:30 PM

One of my favourite Christmas presents this year was an excellent, highly readable, biography of Arthur Balfour by the American academic RJQ Adams (Read The Times review here). Not only was Balfour Conservative Prime Minister from 1902-05, he was still in Cabinet more than 24 years after leaving Downing Street, and – little known fact this – Vice-President of Manchester United. He was also responsible for the phrase ‘Bob’s your uncle!’, a reference to his promotions from the Tory leader Lord Salisbury, whom Balfour succeeded as PM, and just happened to be Balfour's uncle.

Hilary Clinton’s surprise success in New Hampshire, and Jeremy’s interesting exchanges with the 19-year old Bhutto heir yesterday (watch it here), got me thinking again how about importance families still are in modern politics, even in the democratic age. If Hilary Clinton reaches the White House, and goes on to complete a second term, then America will have been run by either Bushes or Clintons for the whole 28 year period from 1989 to 2017 (with Bush Senior also Vice-President from 1981 to 1989).

Gordon Brown and Ed BallsIn Britain, Gordon Brown’s Cabinet has Hilary Benn, of course, the son, grandson and great-grandson of MPs, (and the father of one, too, in all probability, given that his daughter recently became a Labour candidate at the age of just 18). Then we have Ed Balls and his wife Yvette Cooper; the Miliband brothers; and Douglas Alexander, the brother of Wendy, Labour’s new leader in Scotland. Indeed, a Cambridge academic David Runciman has recently argued in the London Review of Books that the Brown administration is a real “family affair” and reminds him of the era of the Pitts (Elder, Younger and various relations) in the late eighteenth century. (Runciman should know something about political genes. He himself comes from one of Britain’s most distinguished families, and is heir to the Runciman viscountcy - the first viscount sat in the cabinets of Asquith, Lloyd George and Stanley Baldwin).

In some ways it’s obvious why family relationships should be so important in political careers – it’s in the blood, one meets important people at a very early age, one has the benefit of family advice, experience and wisdom, and there may be the odd bit of string-pulling too.

But there’s another factor, as well, I think, particularly in conservative societies like America and South Asia. Human beings seem to like dynastic government. Hence the prevalence of monarchies throughout history. Maybe there’s something psychologically comforting about being ruled by people who are related to each other. Perhaps we value genetic continuity.

It’s worth exploring. I’d love to do a TV or radio programme on it one day, but so far my bids have all been rejected.

Prospects for Wednesday, 9 January

  • Newsnight
  • 9 Jan 08, 10:34 AM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the team.

Hello everyone,

There's quite a bit around today.

There's been a shock result in New Hampshire with egg on the faces of the pollsters and some of the media. Hillary Clinton and John McCain are the comeback kids. David and Ben are there. How should we do this story today?

Shares in Marks and Spencer have fallen sharply this morning, after the company announced disappointing Christmas sales figures. They were down more than two percent in the final three months of 2007, and the company has warned that it expects to have a tough time this year as well. Is the high street boom finally over? The MPC also decide what to do with interest rates tomorrow.

President Bush is in the Middle East.

Will there be any developments in peace talks in Kenya?

Belly dancer
It was already one of the most eccentric stories to come out of the Foreign Office in a long while. Britain’s ambassador to Uzbekistan gets fired after criticising the country’s human rights record and carrying on with a 22-year-old local belly dancer.
Now the story of Craig Murray has taken another equally eye-brow raising twist. He and his girlfriend are back in Britain - and they’ve written a play about how they met. The piece, performed solely by his partner Nadira Berkhanov-Murray, is more harrowing than you might expect. Madeleine and Henrietta have the story.


Tuesday, 8 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Jan 08, 05:45 PM

Jeremy's just back from a news conference held by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - the 19-year-old son of Benazir who has inherited the mantle of his mother's party. Amidst the media scrum you'll be unsurprised to hear that Jeremy managed to get a few questions asked. They were answered rather well, so Jeremy tells me. Judge for yourself on tonight's programme.

Our main story tonight though, is the news that the cabinet have approved a new generation of nuclear power plants. Gordon Brown has told us that the full energy statement will be out on Thursday. But tonight we'll debate whether Nuclear is the answer to our energy needs - and also a solution to the problems of climate change. Our Science Editor Susan Watts has her assessment of the real facts behind the nuclear option.

In a few hours we'll know whether Barack Obama has done it again - and won the Democratic Primary this time in New Hampshire. It would be tough for Hillary to comeback from another defeat.
But tonight David Grossman also reports on the race for the Republican nomination. It is much less clear who will win - with Mike Huckerbee the winner in Iowa not expected to do so well in New Hampshire and Vietnam Vet John McCain tipped to win. We'll be talking to Republican pollster Frank Luntz and independent pollster Scot Rasmussen about their take on the candidates.

Finally, the story from Kenya where today saw more clashes after the current president announced his new cabinet. Paul Mason has spoken to some of those involved in the violence to ask them why they are fighting.

Making the unmissable, unmissable

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Jan 08, 02:05 PM

Newsnight is now on iPlayer - the BBC's new service that allows you to catch up with television programmes you've missed.

You can now watch The Week on Newsnight for seven days after it's broadcast on News 24.

This week Paul Mason reports on the unrest in Kenya following the disputed elections there. Paul's still in Kenya so expect an update next week.

Given the disputes in Kenya and Pakistan over election-rigging claims, and the first votes being cast in the presidential nominations race in the US - we take an extended look at the state of democracy in the world and the prospects for peaceful representation in the future. Mark Urban reports and Gavin hosts the debate.

And to take the temperature of the US elections for us, Matt Frei has been meeting the inhabitants of one small town in Virginia. He brings us an update on their views and concerns amid the circus that is the Iowa caucus.

Finally, Political Sage, nee Editor, Michael Crick peers into his crystal ball (which looks suspiciously like a pint of bitter) and considers the year ahead in Westminster.

For more information check out the iPlayer website.

Prospects for Tuesday, 8 January

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Jan 08, 10:29 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the team.

Hi All,

I've sent Jeremy off this morning to the press conference of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - Benazir's son. He's decided to speak to the press just down the road and I thought it would be interesting for Jeremy to report back on what this young 19-year-old is like first hand.

We've also recruited a young film maker with some dramatic footage from Columbia about how America are losing the war against drugs - and cocaine in particular. And they are losing it to communist guerrilla soldiers on horseback. Peter Marshall will put the pictures together.

David Grossman will be reporting from New Hampshire - tonight on the Republicans. And also he'll be live with the latest. Who else should we talk to?

But what else should we do?

Paul Mason is offering short film from Kenya.

The Brown initiative today is Pay - should we do this

OR welfare reform the Tories initiative

Or should we even go for the nuclear option. The cabinet are debating Nuclear energy today should we not debate on our programme?


Get Carter!

  • Michael Crick
  • 7 Jan 08, 06:12 PM

So Gordon Brown seems finally to have appointed someone to fill the kind of “chief of staff” political advisory role which Jonathan Powell carried out so successfully throughout Tony Blair’s premiership.

Stephen Carter, who has just been made the Downing Street Head of Strategy, has an impressive CV, holding a string of four chief executive jobs by the age of 43: the big advertising agency J.Walter Thompson; the broadcaster NTL; the communications regulator OFCOM; and most recently as boss of the top business public relations firm Brunswick.

Continue reading "Get Carter!"

Monday, 7 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Jan 08, 05:15 PM

Prevention - Better than Cure?
Gordon Brown this morning announced plans for a national screening programme for heart disease, strokes, kidney disease and other conditions. It's all part, he says, of a plan to make the NHS focus more on "preventative" rather than simply "curative" treatments. Already though his plans have met with a mixed reaction - the BMA have complained that there is no point screening for conditions that they don't have the money to treat, and even the UK National Screening Committee have questioned whether it is the best use of NHS resources. We'll debate Brown's vision for the health service.

How Kibera Was "Cleared"
Paul Mason has a powerful film on how the huge shanty town of Kibera in Nairobi was torn apart by ethnic violence following the contested Kenyan election. Over the course of a single night a multi-ethnic neighbourhood was brutally cleared of members of the Kikuyu community. He has filmed extensively in the area and meets with one Kikuyu in fear of her life who is in hiding in the shanty town.

Clinton vs Obama
Plus, Hilary Clinton's desperate attempts to halt Barack Obama in New Hampshire. What must she do now, and could it already be too late?

A question of age

  • Michael Crick
  • 7 Jan 08, 12:29 PM

So which British political party would select a leader who was 71? OK, John McCain hasn't won the Republican nomination yet, but for him even to be leading contender for the US presidency is in stark contrast to Britain, where our party leaders seem to get younger and younger. McCain will be 72 by the time of this November's presidential poll.

Continue reading "A question of age"

Friday, 4 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Jan 08, 05:23 PM

US Elections

obama.jpgCould the US really elect a black president? With Barack Obama's success in Iowa last night that's the question many are asking. The focus now turns to New Hampshire and the first real test for all the candidates in next week's primary. David Grossman is already on the scene and he'll be giving us his assessment of the long political battle ahead. We'll be asking leading US pollster, John Zogby about the significance of these first results.


Archbishop Desmond Tutu - who's in Kenya to broker a resolution to the country's political crisis has said President Mwai Kibaki appears open to the idea of forming a coalition. Mr Kibaki's spokesman also said today he had also not ruled out opposition demands for a re-run of last week's disputed presidential elections. Paul Mason is in Kenya for us and is examining the political paralysis within the opposition ODM party. Is the mass action strategy against Kibaki's government having any effect?

UK Economy in 2008

We'll be looking at the prospects for the UK economy in the year ahead with Stephanie Flanders and leading economists and politicians. Are we heading for an economic big chill? Will the UK be able to weather the effects of the credit crunch? And what will happen to the housing market and Northern Rock?

Welcome to the caucus circus

  • David Grossman
  • 3 Jan 08, 05:52 PM

Republican candidate Mike Huckabee in IowaThe State of Iowa cherishes its “first in the nation status” - it gets to start choosing the candidates who will eventually run for president before anyone else gets a look in.

Over recent years other states have tried to leapfrog Iowa and sneak into the process before them, but the Iowans are a jealous lot and have moved their caucus to the first week of the year. So there.

Continue reading "Welcome to the caucus circus"

Thursday, 3 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 3 Jan 08, 05:10 PM


kenya_protests203x100.jpgNewsnight's Paul Mason is in Nairobi and he'll bring us the latest developments and we'll be looking more widely at how the political stalemate can be resolved and at what the implications are for the "war on terror".


David Grossman is in Iowa as the first test of American public opinion in the 2008 elections - the Iowa caucuses - gets underway. With gatherings in homes and small meeting halls across the state, this is as close as a modern democracy gets to Athenian democracy of more than 2,000 years ago. Obama? Clinton? And what of the Republicans?

Politics in 2008

Is it possible to predict what the big political stories are going to be in 2008? Michael Crick will look ahead at the challenges for the three main leaders in the coming year and our political panel will join me in the studio.


George Macdonald Fraser, author of the Flashman books has died. The character he created fought, drank and womanised his way around the British Empire, so what do people see in Brigadier General Sir Harry Paget Flashman?

What now for Kenya?

  • Newsnight
  • 3 Jan 08, 10:57 AM

Police in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have used water cannon and tear gas to stop people joining an opposition rally kenya_mob203x152.jpgprotesting against the outcome of the presidential election.

The march, banned by the Kenyan authorities, was organised by the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, who accuses President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the election.

There has been violence across the country, including the burning of a church in Eldoret in which more than 30 people, including 13 young children, died.

About 300 people have been killed and at least 70,000 driven from their homes across Kenya since Sunday.

kenya_police203x100.jpgDespite international calls for calm, there seems to be no immediate end to the post-election crisis and violence in sight.

Newsnight's Paul Mason is on his way to Nairobi, but we want to hear from those who have been affected by the unrest in Kenya - both from overseas and from within the country.

What have you seen? And what are your hopes and fears for Kenya's future now?

Prospects for Thursday, 3 January

  • Newsnight
  • 3 Jan 08, 10:17 AM

Carol Rubra is today's programme producer - here is her early email to the team.

Good morning,

Kenya - Opposition leaders are making their way to Uhuru Park for the million people rally but it's not yet clear how many supporters will try to reach the stadium. There are also various diplomatic efforts to calm the situation. Paul is on his way. Any thoughts on who we should interview?

Iowa - The US begin the process of selecting candidates for the Presidential elections tonight. David Grossman is there.

Politics in 2008 - We have a political preview of the coming year. What are the issues, challenges and flashpoints for each of the parties? Our political panel are booked.

Flashman - George Macdonald Fraser - misogynist, misanthrope and all round cad - yet the novels are loved so what do people see in Flashman?

Or are there other stories we should be doing?


No Raila, No Peace - where next for Kenya

  • Paul Mason
  • 2 Jan 08, 07:25 PM

Corrupt government, rigged election, violence - some of it ethnically motivated: Kenya's crisis has thrown up stereotypical images of an African conflict. But the country's present agony is the product of a fast developing economy, and massive aspirations to democracy, which have been dashed...

President Kibaki came to power in 2002 promising democratic change; investment flowed in, the middle class grew rapidly: but corruption was slow to disappear. Raila Odinga left the government in 2005 and formed the Orange Democratic Movement, harnessing the power of NGOs and grassroots organisations in a voter registration campaign. Until days before the election, Odinga was ahead in the polls; and he was ahead as the votes were counted...

Continue reading "No Raila, No Peace - where next for Kenya"

Wednesday, 2 January, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Jan 08, 03:59 PM

In tonight's programme: Democracy in 2008.

In Pakistan people are being killed in the run-up to February's elections.
riots203x100.jpgIn Kenya they are being killed in the aftermath of December's elections. In the United States, beginning tomorrow in Iowa, the world's most powerful democracy will begin to choose its new leader - a leader who will follow George W Bush, whose attempts to export democracy to Iraq have caused him such trouble.

Tonight we'll hear from Kenya and the United States and will debate what the year ahead might hold for democracy worldwide with an all-star cast list of guests.

Confessions of a Newsnight insider

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Jan 08, 01:10 PM

A great theme, by George

The thunderous drum roll at the beginning of the Newsnight theme tune is a call to arms. Or rather, a call to ears and eyeballs - yours.

george_fenton.jpgIt demands your attention, and - together with an arresting headline - provides some dramatic punctuation that makes it clear this isn’t a continuation of the Graham Norton Show.

The music was written by George Fenton, a man whose distinguished musical range spans movies like Gandhi, The Madness of King George and Groundhog Day.

He also had a bit part years ago in Emmerdale Farm. (Where did it all go wrong?!)

Lime groove

The original version of the Newsnight theme was recorded at Lime Grove’s television music studio, a few roads away from us in London’s verdant Shepherd’s Bush. It was remixed in the mid-90s to, erm, sex it up a bit: turning the electric guitar up to 11, giving it more stereo oomph for the coming digital age.

(Rock’n’roll mythology has it that our esteemed Editor, Peter, played guitar on a further remix last year.)
The French horns carry the tune in an innovative musical line-up that few composers outside of the Beach Boys’ in-house genius Brian Wilson would get away with. (Wilson combines a French horn with a harmonica in the intro to God Only Knows.)

In a quirky twist of television fate, the music studio where the Newsnight theme was remixed is now home to CBeebies and CBBC, the BBC’s offerings for younger viewers. But Newsnight’s youthful connections don’t stop there.

Studio swap

The studio that Newsnight comes from nightly was once home to kids’ weekend jollities such as Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, Saturday Superstore and Going Live. Imagine it: our Emily purveying serious journalism only inches away from where Keith Chegwin used to giggle his guts off!

emily203x300.jpgSometimes when I traipse the long corridor back from the studio to the office after Newsnight has finished, I fancy I can hear the ghostly pleas of Noel Edmonds demanding a chance to break free of Swap Shop and present a grown-ups’ quiz show featuring an inaudible banker.

Or maybe it’s Fenton’s masterpiece still ringing in my ears.

The tension of the timpani roll at the beginning and the brooding Newsnight theme that follows imply a world in turmoil. But the musical resolution with the horns riding high at the end says, it might be a dark world out there but Emily’s done her level best to help you make sense of it.

Don’t have nightmares...

Prospects for Wednesday, 2 January

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Jan 08, 11:31 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the team.

Happy New Year everyone and welcome back.

We'd planned at looking at the World's challenges in 2008 and have lined up a series of international figures to talk about it. Looks like we have a Democracy Special now.

kenya203x100.jpgPaul Mason will do a lead piece on Kenya. We've already invited the Foreign Secretary on but who are the other key interviews that we should try for…

Mark Urban will then tee-up our in tray for the World's International Ministers. Clearly Pakistan a major early focus. We've lined up…

Laurence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, Sidney Blumenthal senior advisor to Hilary Clinton, Akbar Ahmed, Prof of International relations and Bronwen Maddox, Foreign Commentator for the Times. But we need a strong African voice who can speak wider than just on Kenya to put in that mix.

Finally we've got another Culpeper film from Matt Frei - and we can talk US elections with David Grossman in Iowa.

Is there anything else we should do? Is there a playout of dramatic pictures for the programme? And what about those extra guests and take on the key stories?

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