Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Thursday, 28 February, 2008

  • Kirsty Wark
  • 28 Feb 08, 05:58 PM

plastic203bags.jpgWhere do you stand on the Plastic Bag Debate? M&S has announced that in their food department customers are going to be charged 5p per plastic bag in an effort to reduce consumer demand. A good move or a publicity stunt when there are many other ways M&S could be moving ahead towards their promise of being carbon neutral by 2012? There are other ways - The Irish Government introduced a plastic bag tax in 2002 and claims use has fallen by 90%. Even China has banned ultra thin bags and free bags will be banned from June of this year - as a result the country's leading plastic bag producers closed down. So is this just ‘greenwash’ or a good thing? We will also debate whether the environmental lobby is ruling our lives.

It has just been announced that Prince Harry has been fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan - and as luck would have it tonight we have a film from Alastair Leithead about the strategy in that country. Six years after the fall of the Taleban, President Karzai has control of just 30% of the country, US National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell told a Senate committee. The Taleban hold 10%. So what are the US the British and Afghan governments getting right and wrong in Afghanistan? The British in Helmand province may think experience in Northern Ireland, and 1950s Malaya puts them at the forefront of counter insurgency, but the Americans running the south east now seem well ahead, as Alastair Leithead reports.

See you later, Kirsty

Hold on Mr Blair

  • Michael Crick
  • 28 Feb 08, 04:54 PM

Sir Ian BlairThe Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair seems a bit miffed that neither the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, nor the Commons Privileges Committee referred the Derek Conway case to him for a possible criminal investigation. One former MP who is a barrister tells me there may be strong constitutional arguments why the police couldn't pursue this case.

Technically parliament itself is a court of law, and so Derek Conway has been tried and convicted by Parliament, and so if the police were to investigate Conway and he ended up in an ordinary criminal court, he would effectively be tried twice, and one court would be challenging the verdict of another. Article nine of the 1689 Bill of Rights - the article which establishes Parliamentary privilege - says: "That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament." So any outside court considering the Conway could therefore be deemed to be questioning what Parliament has already decided.

No doubt some constitutional anorak will tell me that my former MP friend has got it all wrong, and that this is all bonkers. But maybe not.

Getting rid of plastic shopping bags - is it a no-brainer?

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Feb 08, 12:13 PM

bags203.jpgThere's a growing war on plastic shopping bags. Marks and Spencer plans to charge customers 5p for them in an effort to reduce demand. The Irish government introduced a consumer plastic bag tax in 2002 and says use fell by more than 90%. Even China - not often regarded as a leading light on environmental issues - has banned ultra-thin bags and free bags will be banned from June this year. One of the country's leading plastic bag manufacturers has closed down as a result.

So isn't it now a no-brainer that the UK followed suit?

Jones the sneak?

  • Michael Crick
  • 28 Feb 08, 10:42 AM

Gordon Brown outside Number 10 Downing StreetI said some weeks ago that we'd be able to assess the importance and success of Gordon Brown's new chief adviser Stephen Carter, if he manages to bring in a few more high-powered people to beef up the Downing Street staff. The word for some weeks has been that Brown has been negotiating to appoint Clive Jones, the former head of ITV News and the Regions, to overhaul Number Ten's communications strategy.

All very amusing, for Clive Jones was once David Cameron's boss at Carlton Television, where the Tory leader worked as Director of Communications. Indeed Jones could soon be doing for Gordon Brown, what David Cameron did for him.

How satisfying for Brown to think that he employs his opponent's former boss. Indeed Jones could be just the man to advise all about David Cameron's strengths and weaknesses.

"And," one mischievous Labour MP has suggested to me, "if David Cameron ever had a drugs issue in those days, then Jones may know all about it".

I have now been told by a senior Downing Street source that the story is 'rubbish' and that Clive Jones is not joining Number Ten.

Prospects for Thursday, 28 February

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Feb 08, 10:25 AM

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

Good morning everyone,

The programme is wide open today. Do come to the meeting prepared to debate what should be the lead and why. Stories around include GPs, plus the Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley seems to have made a fresh spending commitment. There's also bags and Jersey.

We have an Alistair Leithead film produced by Rebecca on US and UK counter-insurgency work in Afghanistan. Is it making any progress?

I've got an option on interviewing former head of the Bin Laden unit at the CIA, Michael Scheuer. He's got a new book out on foreign policy and terror. I'll explain more in the meeting. It could work off the back of the film.


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