Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Friday, 7 March, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Mar 08, 05:00 PM

A Newsnight investigation has revealed claims that the drugs company, Reckitt Benckiser, blocked attempts to make a cheaper copy of one of its best-selling medicines - Gaviscon - which could have saved the NHS millions of pounds. Read Newsnight's exclusive report.

shooting203x100.jpgEarlier today thousands of mourners attended the funerals of eight Israeli students shot dead in Jerusalem. They were killed in a religious college by a gunman, who had smuggled an assault rifle into the library. Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban joins us from Jerusalem.

Big questions about Nick Clegg's leadership after this week's rebellion over Europe. Michael Crick reports from the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference.

And look out for next week's series of dramas - 10 Days to War - which examines the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Running for Liverpool

  • Michael Crick
  • 7 Mar 08, 12:31 PM

Liver birdToday I'm in Liverpool for the so-called spring conference of the Liberal Democrats (but it is of course still winter). Although I come here regularly to watch my team play football, it's years since I have done any political stories in this city - though in the eighties I seemed to be here all the time covering the activities of militant.

Liverpool is the home of the modern Liberal revival, where in the 1970s Sir Trevor Jones developed the idea of pavement politics where council candidates dwell on voters' extremely local concerns, such as wobbly paving stones. Jones and his younger lieutenant Chris Renard (now Lord Renard) are probably the two most formidable party election campaigners of modern times in this country - and in Liverpool they managed to replace the Conservatives as the main opposition to labour. Indeed there hasn't been a conservative councillor here for a couple of decades. What happened in Liverpool has subsequently been repeated in other big northern cities, such as Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle where the Conservatives have also been almost wiped out of local government, which poses a huge obstacle to David Cameron's ambitions.

But politics in Liverpool has always been different to anywhere else, focused on big name personalities, more American boss-style than anywhere else in Britain. And Liverpool politics - like the city itself - is often extremely rough, but invariably comes with a huge dollop of wit.

My favourite political story from Liverpool - which I've never managed to stand up - involved a Liberal activist turning up at the Conservative HQ very early in the morning on a polling day and injecting the milk bottles on the door step with laxative.

Talk about running for office. Talk about pavement politics.

Prospects for Friday, 7 March

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Mar 08, 10:34 AM

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

Good morning everyone,

We've got a strong investigation from Meirion and Martin Shankleman about Gaviscon. Who would have thought the makers of Gaviscon would have been scheming to cheat the National Health Service out of millions of pounds? The company is Reckitt Benckiser which makes everything from Dettol to Neurofen and Cillit Bang to LemSip. It made a billion pounds profit last year. A whistleblower from Reckitt came to see Newsnight and showed us internal emails and secret business plans which should have been shredded. They explained how they planned to block cheap generic copies of their medicine. We showed the papers to a top competition lawyer to see if what they were doing was illegal. He described them as "smoking guns".

I've put in a bid for the Public Health Minister, Dawn Primarolo and the head of the NHS. Let's discuss other possible bids too.

Other stories worth looking at include the aftermath of the Jerusalem killings. Will there be retaliation from the Israeli government? What about the diplomatic reaction from Libya at the UN? Michael and Hugh are at the Lib Dem Spring Conference. There's more on the Jersey story today.

Any other ideas welcome.


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