Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Wednesday, 30 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Apr 08, 06:17 PM

A Newnight Exclusive:

Kampusch Interview

natacha.jpgOn Newsnight tonight - as Austrian police delve in to the past of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who's admitted to imprisoning his daughter in his cellar for 24 years - we have the first ever British television interview with Natascha Kampusch. She herself was abducted at the age of 10 and locked in a cellar for eight years. In her interview with Robin Denslow, she talks about her terrifying ordeal, offers advice to the victims of Josef Fritzl and questions whether Austria's role in the Second World War has had a lasting impact on attitudes to women and violence in the country.

Mayoral Elections
We are also on the election trail with Ken, Boris and Brian as they battle to win control of London. Who has the edge and does it mean anything for the fates of Brown and Cameron?

Nick Clegg
We will question Nick Clegg live in the studio about his performance as Liberal Democrat leader...

Enemies of Putin
..and we have a fascinating film about enemies of the Russian state who have fled to the Ukraine.

Tonight at 10.30pm BBC 2

Prospects for Wednesday, 30 April

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Apr 08, 11:00 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here's his early email to the team.

Good morning all.

We've got some good options tonight.

How bad will the US "recession" be and how much will it hurt us here? The Fed will decide tonight whether to cut interest rates again, and new GDP data will help us to assess the state of the American economy. David Blanchflower of the MPC thinks that Britain is following every stage of the US downturn with a year long time lag - US house prices have fallen by 25%, he thinks they could fall by a third here. What guests could we have on both sides of the Atlantic? Filming ideas?

David Grossman has a piece on the Mayoral race, and we have a live interview with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg which will need a set up.

Austria remains fascinating, and Gillian has been working on a piece about which businesses flourish during an economic downturn. We should also watch reaction to Brown's admission that he made "mistakes" on the 10p tax - could well come up in PMQs.

What ideas and thoughts have you got?


Tuesday, 29 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Apr 08, 05:15 PM


musa203.jpgTonight a Newsnight exclusive - the inside story of the British mission in Musa Qala. The battle for control of the Afghan town has come to epitomise the trial between the British Army and its Taliban enemy in Helmand province. Our diplomatic editor Mark Urban spent nine days with British troops trying to win over suspicious locals in a town where there is still a lot of support for the Taliban. Don't miss his epic report tonight.

Pole numbers:
The numbers game is traditionally a mug's game when it comes to immigration. We've seen that from government figures in the past. We've had a sneak peak at a new report on Polish migrants which is due out tomorrow - assessing the extent of Polish immigration to the UK. A lot has happened since our reporter Tim Whewell went to Crewe almost three years ago to find how a wave of Polish migrants had changed the town. We'll reconvene our panel of immigration story 'interpreters' to ask how this latest twist is likely to be portrayed in the wider media.

More Punch less Judy
David Cameron has proudly presented a neat U-turn of his own. He admitted on the Today programme this morning that he's failed to kick the Punch and Judy habit and keep that kind of haranguing politics from parliament. Calling the PM a 'loser' at PMQ's last week possibly made the point for him. Tonight, however, with just 24 hours left till the end of electioneering we will be assessing the Conservatives' chances in the local elections and in the race to be London mayor. We'll be talking to the senior Tory running their campaign who isn't - amazingly - a former member of the Bullingdon Club.

And we'll bring you the latest in the most macabre story any of us here can ever remember covering - the breathtaking inhumanity of one father. Austrian police have been describing what state the recovered children are in and who else might have known about the actions of Josef Fritzl.

Do join me at 10:30pm


Missing ballots?

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Apr 08, 12:15 PM

ballotbox.jpgHave you applied for a postal vote for this week's local elections and not received a ballot paper? If so, we'd like to hear from you.

You can let us know on the Newsnight blog. Please let us know where you live and whether you've contacted your local council to chase up the ballot.

Prospects for Tuesday, 29 April

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Apr 08, 11:10 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer - here's her early email to the team.


Sorry - quick email. Lots already set to run today - including Mark Urban's epic from Afghanistan. Plus we have an interview with a leading Conservative (identity to be confirmed) on the local elections.

Which leaves us room for one or one and a half other items - at the news-y end of the spectrum

What are you interested in?

Keen to talk about how we could take all the strands in the oil story into a coherent piece.

Friday, 25 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Apr 08, 05:58 PM

Guantanamo Torture Techniques:

gunatamono_bay203.jpgGuantanamo Torture Techniques:

Tonight we bring you the first ever television interview with Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver. She was the lawyer who approved interrogation techniques for use on Guantanamo Bay prisoners that were new to the military and - many would say - both morally reprehensible and illegal under international law. Diane Beaver was acting with the higher authority of the Bush administration. She was a junior advocate and was under orders. So just how far up the ladder of the Bush administration did the buck stop? We take a look at the decisions which allowed sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation and waterboarding and hear how administration officials are now wide open to an international war crimes investigation........

But first tonight,


An oil refinery is not an easy place to be spontaneous. A strike by workers may or may not be called off - in many ways, it's irrelevant: the plant itself is already in the process of shutting down. For the first time the facility will be completely closed. As a result, BP has started making preparations to close down the Forties pipeline that delivers 30% of the UK's daily oil output. The company has warned that it could take up to three weeks for the plant to get back up and running at 100% capacity.
The shutdown embodies all the concerns so often raised now about Britain's energy supplies: How secure is our energy supply? Are we too dependent on too few sources? And what effect will this have on a government - already looking shaky in the polls - if drivers decide to take matters into their own hands and fill up their cars in panic? We hope to be speaking to the energy minister Malcolm Wicks.


After Rwanda, leaders of the civilized world insisted the like would never be tolerated again. Insisted, indeed, that the international community would never stand by allowing that kind of atrocity to continue. So why have we seen five years of fighting - and 300,000 deaths - in Darfur? This evening, Robin Denselow takes stock of the African conflict the world forgot.

Do join me tonight at 10:30pm on BBC2


Torture Team by Philippe Sands

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Apr 08, 12:13 PM

book_club.jpgOn 2 December 2002 Donald Rumsfeld signed a memorandum authorising 18 techniques of interrogation not previously allowed by the United States.

In Torture Team leading QC Philippe Sands traces the life of the memorandum and examines the use of torture at Guantanamo and the US airbase at Bagram.

He also and explores issues of individual responsibility.

Extract from:
Torture Team

Deception, Cruelty and the
Compromise of Law

Published by Penguin Books

Only a few pieces of paper can change the course of history. On
Tuesday, 2 December 2002 Donald Rumsfeld signed one that did.

It was an ordinary day. The Secretary of Defense wasn't travelling.
No immediate decisions were needed on Iraq and Washington
awaited Saddam's declaration on weapons of mass destruction.

The only notable public event in the Secretary's diary for that day was the President's visit to the Pentagon to sign a Bill to put the Pentagon in funds for the next year. Signings are big, symbolic public events.

They offer an opportunity to lavish praise and on this occasion neither man showed restraint. The Secretary of Defense introduced President Bush effusively as our 'leader in the global war on terrorism'. The President thanked Mr Rumsfeld warmly, for his
candour, and for doing such a fabulous job for the American people.
gunatamono_bay203.jpgThe United States faced unprecedented challenges, Bush told a large and enthusiastic audience, and terror was one of them. The United States would respond to these challenges, and it would do so in
the 'finest traditions of valour'. And then he signed a large increase in the Defense budget.

That same day, elsewhere in the Pentagon, a less public event took place for which there was no comment, no publicity, no fanfare. With a signature and a few scrawled words Donald Rumsfeld cast aside America's international obligations and reneged on the tradition of valour to which President Bush had referred. Principles for the conduct of interrogation, dating back more than a century to President Lincoln's famous instruction of 1863 that 'military necessity does not admit of cruelty', were discarded. His approval of new and aggressive interrogation techniques would produce devastating consequences.

Prospects for Friday, 25 April

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Apr 08, 10:26 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer - here's her early email to the team.

Hi all

We have a film from Peter and Ben looking at some of the revelations about Guantanamo Bay outlined in Philippe Sands' new book: the piece includes the first ever TV interview with the lawyer who drew up plans for the use of certain interrogation techniques.

So we're looking for a lead and a third item.

What do you think? Should we take more of a look at Brown - in advance of what's likely to be a weekend of extensive newspaper analysis about the state of his leadership? Or should we use the OFT cigarettes announcement as an opportunity to look at "Rip Off Britain"?

We have the offer of an interview with the Serbian PM, who's in town. What would you want to ask him?

And I am keen to do something to mark the 5th Anniversary of the Darfur conflict. What do you think it should be?



  • Newsnight
  • 24 Apr 08, 07:01 PM

The new Register of MPs Interests, published today (24 April), lists 106 MPs who employ their wives, husbands, or other relatives, and pay them from their Parliamentary Staffing allowances.

This is the first time MPs have had the opportunity to declare this, though it won't be compulsory to do so until 1 August. Until then, it's still voluntary whether MPs register such details or not.

A lot of MPs seem to have delayed registration, perhaps because it's such a sensitive issue.

Perhaps the most glaring omission so far is the Speaker Michael Martin (who employs his daughter as a constituency case-worker), which may not go down well with his critics when he is officially overseeing the enquiries into reforming the whole expenses system.

Other omissions include Margaret Beckett, who employs her husband Leo, and Sir Ming Campbell who employs his wife Elspeth.

peter_robinson.jpgSeveral MPs are revealed to employ more than one relative, whilst the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Peter Robinson, and his wife Iris, who is also an MP, have turned politics into a real family business. Peter Robinson himself employs both their son and daughter-in-law, whilst Iris Robinson employs another son, and their daughter. So six Robinsons in all are paid by Parliament in one way or another. I can see headlines along the lines of "something Family Robinson" in tomorrow's papers.

It's also interesting to see that the former Conservative leader Michael Howard employs his wife Sandra as a part-time secretary. I'm surprised she has the time with her new novel-writing career. (I've just read her first novel, Glass Houses, by the way, and rather enjoyed it.)

Last February, when this issue first blew up over the Derek Conway affair, Newsnight identified 96 MPs who employed relatives (see past blogs). Many on the Newsnight list have yet to submit their details on this to the official register, but equally the register published today has furnished us with 56 more names. So the total of names is now 152; by 1 August that total could well reach 200 or more.

The new names are:

Janet Anderson
Ian Austin
Adrian Bailey
John Battle
John Bercow
Clive Betts
Graham Brady
Russell Brown
Paul Burstow
Richard Caborn
William Cash
Sir Patrick Cormack
Stephen Crabb
Claire Curtis-Thomas
David Davies
Paul Farrelly
Paul Flynn
Michael Foster (Hastings)
Cheryl Gillan
Robert Goodwill
James Gray
Sir Aan Haselhurst
Michael Howard
Adam Ingram
Michael Jack
Diana Johnson
Robert Key
Julie Kirkbride
John MacDougall
John Mann
Patrick Mercer
John McFall
Elliot Morley
Kali Mountford
Andrew Murrison
Mark Oaten
Richard Ottaway
James Paice
Nick Palmer
Bill Rammell
Angus Robertson
John Robertson
Iris Robinson
Peter Robinson
Lee Scott
Dennis Skinner
Jacqui Smith
Graham Stuart
Ian Taylor
Matthew Taylor
Don Touhig
Andrew Turner
Mike Weir
Betty Williams
David Wilshire
Phil Wilson

Thursday, 24 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 24 Apr 08, 06:43 PM

pay203x100.jpgWith the GCSEs on the horizon teachers from the NUT have gone on strike. It comes as other public service unions, and the police, are very uneasy about pay settlements. Is Gordon Brown facing a spring of discontent?

American intelligence officials are to give a secret briefing to members of Congress about an Israeli air-strike in Syria last September. It's being reported that evidence has emerged which shows Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean help. We'll have the latest on this story and we'll be joined in studio by the Syrian Ambassador to the UK.

"Too many fat ladies!", "Sky high tickets!" Every few years the opera world goes through a period of self-flagellation, deciding that to reach those longed-for new young audiences it has to DO SOMETHING RADICAL. This time, the English National Opera is leading the charge. Opera, it says, is just not as intense or relevant or political as the movies or the theatre. And it's got to change fast. Madeleine Holt investigates.

Prospects for Thursday, 24 April

  • Newsnight
  • 24 Apr 08, 11:08 AM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer. Here is his morning email to the production team. You can contribute your ideas and views below.
Good morning everyone,

Email is now back up and running. There's lots around today. There's more on the mess over 10p tax, and it's a big day for public sector strikes.

We've got an interview with ANC President Jacob Zuma and a film on new opera from Madeleine and Henrietta.

Playout anyone?

See you in a minute,


Wednesday, 23 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 23 Apr 08, 04:37 PM

Anatomy of a U-turn
brown203x152.jpgJeremy's presenting tonight in what is fast becoming a U-turn special. Michael Crick will be reporting on a day of drama at Westminster, which started with a flurry of activity this morning, a letter to the Commons Treasury Select Committee, and a humdinger of a PMQs.

Winners and losers
Paul Mason will be in Stevenage - a key battleground in next week's local elections - to analyse who wins and loses from the new concession, and how much it's going to cost, and Jeremy and guests will assessing where today's U-turn sits in the pantheon of great government humiliations down the years.

After Hillary Clinton's victory in the Pennsylvania primary Peter Marshall in Washington will be asking where the Democratic race goes from here and if the inevitable outcome is a further descent into self-destructive abuse.

And the election unlike any other. The first results in the Zimbabwean recount are dribbling through. So far it's one seat all between Zanu-PF and the MDC. Adam Mynott in Johannesburg will have the latest score.

Join Jeremy at 10.30

Prospects for Wednesday, 23 April

  • Newsnight
  • 23 Apr 08, 10:28 AM

Peter Barron is today's programme producer - here's his early email to the team.

Good Morning.

Do not be alarmed - but I'm editing today.

It's genuinely very open; we could do a whole range of things

Peter Marshall will have the aftermath of the Pennsylvania primary and we've done some work on potential guests, but it would be good not to have to lead on this.

We have a film from Gillian Lacey Solymar on the Brazilian economy

Other things of interest to debate:

Eat breakfast cereal if you want a boy - do these endless food/science reports help anyone?
It's St George's Day - Downing Street is flying the flag, but does anyone else care?
Ofgem - Energy poverty summit and petrol price rises
Paul Mason has been blogging to a China's 1.3bn people - with some success
PMQs should be lively
Beyonce and JayZ got married

See you at 10.30

Tuesday, 22 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Apr 08, 06:22 PM

Jeremy's presenting tonight - he's currently out of the office interviewing cabinet minister Tessa Jowell about a damning select committee report about the cost of the Olympics.

obama.jpgPennsylvania State is deciding today who it wants to be the Democratic nominee for the presidency. Hillary Clinton is tipped to win - but not by much. Meanwhile Barack Obama is facing a more hostile press than he has at any other stage of the race. Details of his relationship with a Chicago property dealer who is facing corruption charges have come to the fore, as has his continued backing of his controversial pastor. Peter Marshall's been to Chicago to assess whether any of this mud is beginning to stick.

And we'll have the latest from Philadelphia on the state of the vote.

The government is still desperately trying to appease potential rebels over the 10p tax row. Have their latest attempts borne fruit? David Grossman is looking in to it.

You may remember a film we ran some months ago featuring a former member of the Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir. Majid Nawaz had decided to leave the organisation, after becoming deeply concerned about what it stood for. He's now launched the "Quilliam Foundation" with some other former radicals, which aims to counter extremism. We'll be hearing from them live, along with a high profile Muslim who is very critical of the foundation's aims.

And - has lap dancing become socially acceptable? There's certainly a profusion of lap dancing clubs on our high streets, and even pubs are now offering lap dancing nights. Recent licensing laws make it far easier for them to open these days. A campaign has been launched today to try and make it harder for such establishments to start up. We'll hear from a member of that campaign, and from the owner of a lap dancing chain.

Join Jeremy at 10.30

Idle scrawl = Xian Ren San Ji

  • Paul Mason
  • 22 Apr 08, 05:08 PM

(bad writing by idle person)

I am in the process of rebranding the blog for the newly expanded Chinese audience. There's some interesting stuff about the ongoing protests against BBC, CNN etc here and I repeat my offer to appear on CCTV to discuss this live for a Chinese audience, provided the Chinese audience can see one of my reports on China with subtitles.

I think the Chinese government is anxious for there to be a period of reflection now, after the torch relay controversy, and is concerned at the vehemence of some of the reactions by demonstrators at Carrefour branches - comparing Joan of Arc to "a prostitute" etc.

As to the rebrand, I got my Chinese producer to translate Idle Scrawl into Chinese. It comes out as "bad writing by lazy person": Xian Ren San Ji. - sadly the other bit of the double meaning, a Lancashire epithet denoting pure sloth, does not survive translation.

Prospects for Tuesday, 22 April

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Apr 08, 11:09 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer - here's her early email to the team.

What do you fancy doing today?

There is masses around - but which would produce the best journalism and the best interviews?

Is there more to be done on 10p tax? Report on cost of Olympics? BAA report? RBS? Lap-dancing?

Two things in train already - Robin and Warwick are off to the launch of the Quilliam Foundation (formed of ex members of Hizbut Tahrir) and Peter Marshall and Ben have been to Chicago to investigate some of the murkier allegations about Obama, dating back to his days as a city politician. We can get the latest from Pennsylvania off the back.


Monday, 21 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Apr 08, 06:02 PM

Ministers today moved to head off a potential backbench rebellion over the abolition of the 10p income tax rate by promising to consult on new measures to tackle poverty among Britain's lowest income households. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Yvette Cooper told MPs that a previously-announced inquiry into the next steps for tackling child poverty would be extended to include the needs of households on low incomes without children. Gordon Brown is expected to give details of the review when he addresses the Parliamentary Labour Party for the second time in less than a month this evening. But has the Government done enough to head off a rebellion next week? We'll be speaking to one of the leading Labour rebels.

The Chancellor Alistair Darling has been giving details of the Bank of England's £50bn rescue package for banks affected by the global credit crunch. The intervention will see bonds from the Treasury offered to banks in exchange for their potentially risky mortgage debts. It's hoped that the scheme will loosen up lending between banks - and consequently bolster the mortgage market. We'll be asking if taxpayers' money will be at risk. And will interest rate cuts be passed on to customers as a result?

President Carter
The former US President, Jimmy Carter - who met last week with the top Hamas leaders in Syria - says Hamas is prepared to accept Israel's right to live as a neighbour in peace. He said even if Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert negotiated for the full recognition of Israel, Hamas would accept it, as long as it was approved in a Palestinian referendum. He tells us that Hamas is prepared to stick to a mutual ceasefire. See his exclusive interview on this and on the US Presidential race on the programme tonight. Watch a preview here.

Suzanne Holdsworth case
In December Newsnight told the disturbing story of baby-sitter Suzanne Holdsworth, jailed for life for murdering toddler Kyle Fisher. Holdsworth denies it - and tomorrow the courts will hear her appeal against the conviction. Now two surgeons and a former police officer on the murder inquiry are raising fresh doubts about a troubling case. John Sweeney reports. Read John's article on the case here.

Prospects: Monday, 21 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Apr 08, 11:40 AM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer. Here is his morning email to the production team. You can contribute your ideas and views below.

Good morning everyone,

There's quite a choice of stories today. There's the 10p tax revolt, £50bn for the banks, and I really like the Google cookie story. Jeremy has just done a really strong interview with Jimmy Carter on his talks with Hamas and the US presidential election.

And there's a film from John Sweeney.

Clare Fisher dropped off her two-year-old son, Kyle, with baby-sitter Suzanne Holdsworth in July 2004. Seventy five minutes later he was brain-dead. Holdsworth was convicted of murdering Kyle and is serving life in prison.
The court heard that she must have smashed his head against a banister with a force like being thrown from a car crash at 60 mph. But leading neuro-pathologist Dr Waney Squier tells Newsnight she has major concerns about the impact theory. Dr Squier points to a congenital brain abnormality and a year-old injury to the eye socket which had nothing to do with Holdsworth. Both conditions can cause fits - and fits can kill.
So Holdsworth may be innocent because no murder ever took place. John Sweeney reports on the fresh evidence that points to a possible miscarriage of justice, and on questions raised about the police investigation into Kyle's death.

Read John's article on the case here.


Pro-China protests sweep the web (let's talk?)

  • Paul Mason
  • 21 Apr 08, 09:34 AM

UPDATE: 1516 GMT Protesters in nine cities have blockaded Carrefour stores in protest at France's diplomatic stance on Tibet. See it here on Youtube....

In the past seven days Chinese students have held a protest outside BBC Manchester condemning the corporation's "biased" reporting of Tibet, the Olympic flame etc; over 3m young Chinese have joined an online protest by adding "Love China" tags to their MSN accounts, and, according to this report, the Chinese authorities are now so worried about the nationalist tone of pro-regime demos and websites that they have started to censor them. It's given me an idea...

Continue reading "Pro-China protests sweep the web (let's talk?)"

Friday, 18 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Apr 08, 06:14 PM

Brown in the US

'Who's That Man?' cries the Drudge report website - pasting a picture of Gordon Brown against a stars and stripes background.
Tonight, the prime minister means to answer it. Emboldened by successful meetings yesterday with each of the presidential candidates, he has given a speech about Global Challenges in Boston. The world stage may be a scary place. But it's infinitely preferable, in many ways, to what he faces at home. The 10p tax revolt seems to be gathering steam. He may have stopped one if his MPs, Angela Smith, from resigning yesterday. But there are more emerging from the woodwork as we speak. We'll ask just how comfortable Gordon Brown is looking within his own party.


Royal Bank of Scotland is about to stage the biggest rights issue in UK corporate history, asking shareholders for some £10bn to shore up its financial position. It will be part of an effort to write down its exposure to US sub prime - and any other skeletons still lurking in the cupboard. And in doing so, it marks a recognition - that all has not been well but can now get better. The move has been compared by some to a confessional, others to a ruthless spring clean.
How many other banks will follow suit once the taboo is broken? And does this signal that the worst is now over?

Gwyneth Dunwoody

Also tonight we pay tribute to Gwyneth Dunwoody who has died aged 77. In the words of one parliamentarian and friend, she was the essential 'debunker of humbug'. She will be remembered for her stubbornly principled stance, her commitment to the Labour Party, and for her formidable chairmanship of the transport select committee. A woman, who shone through an age of spin to tirelessly speak her mind.

Blogging - a new era

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Apr 08, 05:49 PM

blog203.jpgAs many of you who've used the BBC's blogs will know, it has for some months been a deeply frustrating experience, not just for you but for us too.

The point of blogging about our programmes is to have a swift and informal conversation with our viewers. That's impossible if it takes hours to get your comment or our response through.

I'm relieved to say that as of yesterday we have a new system which should be much more robust and which I hope will usher in a new era of blogging for Newsnight.

One change is that in order to comment you'll need to register by filling in a simple form.
Once signed up, you'll be able to comment on any BBC blog using the same login.

Many of you have already commented on how it's working and one or two have suggested it's designed to introduce more censorship.

That's certainly not our intention. The aim is to encourage much more open discussion about the programme and much more interaction with the programme-makers. I'm sure it isn't perfect and that you'll let us know how it could be improved.

Thanks very much to all those contributors - the Bob Goodalls, Barrie Singletons, Mistress76UKs and many others - who have persevered through all the blog problems. Apologies for all the Error 502s, and welcome to the new era.

Prospects for Friday, 18 April

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Apr 08, 10:32 AM

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

Good morning everyone,

Lots of stories around today. Brown's foreign affairs speech in Boston, RBS, the arms shipment heading for Zimbabwe, Indian cricket. Let's debate what the best stories and treatments are for today.


Thursday, 17 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Apr 08, 05:33 PM

Terror trial verdict

A few moments ago, the Muslim activist Abu Izzadeen and five others were found guilty on terror-related charges. Izzadeen and one of the other convicted men, Simon Keeler, have been convicted of fundraising for terrorists and inciting terrorism overseas. Both men have been the subject of a series of revelatory Newsnight reports in recent years. Our reporter Richard Watson will bring you the definitive story of the two men and of Al Muhajiroun - the organisation they were at the heart of.

Brown in the USA

The roads are repaved, the traffic's stopped, the flags are flying and the crowds have turned out in their tens of thousands to welcome the foreign visitor.
The problem is, they've come to see the Pope, not Gordon Brown.
The first mention of Gordon Brown's visit comes on page 14 of the New York Times. The second - a brief headline - states 'Brit leader visits US in Pope's shadow'.
Unfortunate clash perhaps, but then again Gordon Brown never claimed he could fill a baseball stadium and anyway, he has people to meet.
Today, he's been given audiences with Democratic Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and their Republican rival John McCain.
So which of the candidates does our PM see eye to eye with? We'll be speaking to McCain's special advisor live on the programme and asking what the special relationship would look like under their stewardship.


The opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has called for the South African President to step down as an intermediary in the election negotiations. His frustration with the process is palpable. But it is odd that his words come just as Thabo Mbeki has finally abandoned soft diplomacy to himself call for the prompt release of Zimbabwe's election result, twenty four hours after Gordon Brown demanded the same thing in the starkest terms at the UN. Is the international community's approach towards Zimbabwe changing? Will it give Mr Tsvangirai the endorsement he needs to claim victory?

Immigration: A tale of two papers

IMMIGRANTS BRING MORE CRIME - the Mail screams today. It claims to be interpreting a report by Chiefs of Police.

MIGRANT CRIME WAVE A MYTH - sang the Guardian yesterday (and some BBC bulletins too) and yes, they'd been reading exactly the same report.

Who's right? Well, having been through the report it doesn't really endorse either view - indeed it tells us very little that's new.

So why does the debate on immigration always get hijacked so quickly? And is there ever a real chance of getting to the facts, when the very word is so emotive?
We'll debate that tonight with media commentators on left and right.

Join me, at 10.30pm


Prospects for Thursday, 17 April

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Apr 08, 11:34 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer - here's her early email to the team.


So - what do you want to do? Michael Crick and Hugh are in Washington and already working on a piece about Brown's relationship with Bush and his potential successors. He's meeting all of them today - which one really shares his world view?

Piece will take in the Bush/Brown presser and his handshakes with the candidates. Who should we speak to off the back?

Beyond that the programme is wide open.

What could we bring to the OFT construction story, Zimbabwe, ACPO on immigration and crime?

We could do with a good end of programme talking point. What about the pope on the state of US society? Have you seen anything better?



From this morning our new blog system will be in place - this will mean you will need to complete a simple registration form in order to post a comment on the blog. Once signed up, you will be able to comment on all BBC blogs using the same login. If you have any problems with the new system please let us know.

Blog fix imminent

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Apr 08, 04:32 PM

Blog closed temporarilyFrom 1800 this evening (UK time), we'll be doing some essential maintenance to the blog. As a result of this, you won't be able to leave any comments on our blog posts from that time until Thursday morning and the comments function on all old posts will close. We apologise for any inconvenience.

The work will fix the very frustrating problems we've encountered for some time now with the whole comments system.

From Thursday a new system will be in place - this will mean you will need to complete a simple registration form in order to post a comment on the blog. Once signed up, you will be able to comment on all BBC blogs using the same login. There will be more details in the morning. In the meantime - if you wish to comment on the programme you can email us via

Are supermarkets to blame?

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Apr 08, 01:58 PM

sainsburys203x100.jpgSupermarkets are often portrayed as the bad guys when it comes to the environment.

Critics point to the excessive amount of packaging used for food, the millions of plastic bags handed out to shoppers and the flying in of produce from all over the world.

Tonight on Newsnight, the Chief Executive of Sainsbury's, Justin King, defends the supermarket's record.

And he accuses the government of chasing headlines rather than focussing on the evidence and actual solutions.

Environment Minister Joan Ruddock will be on hand to defend the government’s position.

It’s one of the most important issues around at the moment – and tonight we have the two key players in a live debate

So what questions would you like us to ask them?


From 1800 this evening (UK time), we'll be doing some essential maintenance to the blog. As a result of this, you won't be able to leave any comments on our blog posts from that time until early Thursday morning. However, you can still email us your questions by clicking here (or send to with the subject header 'supermarkets').

Prospects for Wednesday, 16 April

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Apr 08, 12:06 PM

Jasmin Buttar is today's programme producer - here's her early email to the team.

Morning all - yes it really is me today.

justin_king203x100.jpgCan we finish our Unsustainable World series on a high? We have an authored film from the CEO of Sainsbury's Justin King who accuses the government of a tendency to leap on the green bandwagon. We have him and the government live in the studio tonight. This could be a lead but it would need a bit of teeing up to put the film in context. How could we do this? What areas should we cover?

Brown in the US
Two possible today stories - the economy and Zim. Brown meets Mbeki and raises issue of Zim at the UN and then goes on to meet bankers. There may also be a BBC iv with Tsvangirai available to us. Another possibility is to throw forward to tomorrow's meeting with Bush and the presidential hopefuls. We have Crick in NY but only for 2-way really.

US Elections
The lovely planning people have set up a disco with Mara Rudman (former NSA under Clinton (Bill)) who backs Clinton (Hillary) and an Obama-supporting super delegate. It's a good chance to look at the state of the Democrat race ahead just hours ahead of a key debate between the two but also to look at their foreign policy positions ahead of the meeting with Brown.

Zambia's Chinese Burn
Tim Whewell and Caroline Pare have the second of their series of films on China in Africa - they look at how Zambians have turned against the Chinese businessmen who have established themselves in the country.

To Watch: news coming out of Israel about a major incident

Play out - what about the French entry to the Eurovision - sung in English?

Nothing's set in stone though so come armed with brilliant thoughts


More postal votes not sorted

  • Michael Crick
  • 15 Apr 08, 06:37 PM

crick203.jpgOn the programme last Friday I told the extraordinary story of the by-election in the Corporation of London last week - in the quaintly named ward Farringdon Within.

When the votes were counted on Wednesday night it was found that 179 people had voted, and the victorious new councilman won with a margin of 27 votes.

But then, astonishingly, on Thursday, 62 postal votes turned up late where normally they would only expect one or two postal votes to be late. Because the votes were late, they couldn’t be counted and the Corporation didn’t even know if they could have made a difference because under election law the votes can’t be opened because they’re not valid.

Sources in the Corporation suspected the postal votes had been held back by the Post Office as a result of dispute in which the Corporation was accused of not paying it’s Free Post bill. On Friday the Post Office fervently denied this to Newsnight, insisting that they never withhold people’s post.

Now the farce continues another batch of 58 postal votes turned up late on Monday and a further 11 this morning (Tuesday).

So, in all the Corporation received 131 late postal votes so far, compared with the 179 that were deemed to be valid – and remember the winning margin was just 27!

As you can imagine top lawyers are now trying to sort it all out, but it is another shining example of the breath-taking inadequacies of the postal voting system.

How do we feed the world in the future?

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Apr 08, 02:08 PM

rice_harvest203x100.jpgRising food prices, rising population, growing poverty and climate change are becoming a major problem for the world.

Newsnight is devoting tonight’s programme to examine this global crisis.

We've lined up correspondents in some of the countries feeling the strain most acutely to tell us what the situation is like on the ground.

We have films by Susan Watts – on whether we need a second green revolution – and Liz MacKean - on the £8bn of food we bin every year.

We’ll also have a panel of international experts on hand to discuss the problem.

We’d like to know what you think..

What are the solutions to these problems?

Prospects for Tuesday, 15 April

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Apr 08, 11:14 AM

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

Good morning everyone,

How do we feed the World in the future?

Rising food prices, rising population, growing poverty and climate change are becoming a major problem for the world. I hope to devote the programme today to the problems and solutions on the day an international report sets out its answers.

We've lined up some correspondents in the main hotspots and Susan and Liz have done films. Do come to the meeting with ideas on the best people to get and how to do the top VT.

Playout ideas welcome.


Unsustainable world?

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Apr 08, 06:27 PM

TractorIn a short series of reports and debates this week we're look at issues of sustainability and our use of natural resources. On Monday we focus on the controversy surrounding biofuel. Tuesday's programme is devoted to food. How do we feed the world in the future amid rising populations, rising food prices and climate change? We look at the issue of recent food riots in many countries and ask what the solution is to shortages. And we have a report on how much food UK families are guilty of wasting. Finally, on Wednesday, we have a personal film from the CEO of Sainsbury's, Justin King. He'll be discussing the supermarkets' role in sustainability - and why it's not all about plastic bags.

But what are your thoughts about the issues? You can join in the debates below...

Monday, 14 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Apr 08, 04:57 PM

Jeremy is presenting tonight's programme, and we'll start the programme with the first in a series of reports this week focusing on the rising price of food across the planet, and the unsustainability of our natural resources.

Rape seedTonight, we look at biofuels. From tomorrow, 2.5% of all the petrol and diesel we buy at the pump must come from biofuels. That's a government target. But even before it's been enforced, the government has signalled that it's cooling on the whole idea of biofuels - amidst concerns that biofuel production is contributing to the rising price of food, and isn't proving all that environmentally friendly. The Chancellor Alistair Darling called for a review of the use of biofuels at the weekend saying, "It would be a profound mistake if we get into a situation where we are growing corn that is essential for feeding people and converting it into fuel." So why is the government insisting on the use of biofuels in petrol?

Also tonight: Gordon Brown insisted today that he is focusing "every effort" on steering the economy away from recession. Meanwhile, the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, has claimed the government's reputation for economic competence is in tatters. Who's right? And what, in policy terms, can the government actually do to prevent a recession? Paul Mason is investigating, and Michael Crick will have the latest on the rumblings from Labour backbenchers about dissatisfaction with the direction of the Brown government.

China in Africa
And we have the first of a series of fascinating films from Tim Whewell in Africa - looking at the ever-growing influence of China on the continent. There are now 700 Chinese firms operating in 49 African countries. And, even though it's still classed as a developing nation, China has sunk more than £12bn into developing Africa's infrastructure since the year 2000. The biggest China-in-Africa deal so far is about to be signed - between China and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If it goes ahead, it will have a huge influence on the Congolese people - even though it's barely known about in the country. Tim has been there to find out how it will work - you can read his article here.

Join Jeremy at 10.30

Prospects: Monday, 14 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Apr 08, 11:02 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer. Here is her early email to the team.

Good morning,

Unsustainable world?

Rape seedIn the first of a series this week on issues surrounding sustainability, we ask if the production of biofuels really is a "crime against humanity" as one UN official has claimed.

What else can we do?
What can the government do in policy terms to illustrate that it can steer the country through an economic crisis?
Is Gordon Brown's authority as PM all but destroyed, as some papers seem to claim?
What's gone wrong with the government's new domestic violence legislation?
Will we get any results from Zimbabwe today?

And we have a fascinating film from Congo - the Chinese are on the verge of signing a multi-million dollar deal with the Congolese government to mine for cobalt - in return the Chinese will build massive amounts of infrastructure - roads, hospitals etc. Will it work? Read Tim Whewell's article here.


Friday, 11 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Apr 08, 06:03 PM

A former Jersey honorary policeman who admitted sexual assaults on girls has been jailed for two years. This comes at a time when Jersey has been rocked by other allegations of child abuse and incompetence by the authorities. Robin Denselow is in Jersey for us tonight with the latest.

Poole Borough Council in Dorset has admitted using anti-terror laws to carry out surveillance of a family they suspected of lying about living in a school catchment area. The civil rights group Liberty calls the spying disproportionate and intrusive. We hope to be bringing together the director of Liberty in debate with the head of the Local Government Association.

A panel of experts has given its backing to scientific techniques in which evidence is extracted from tiny amounts of DNA. The panel was asked by the government to review the controversial technique, after it was criticised by the judge at the Omagh bombing trial. Our Science Editor, Susan Watts, who investigated the original doubts about the procedure assesses the implications of today's decision.

Prospects for Friday, 11 April

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Apr 08, 10:34 AM

Good morning everyone,

There are some good options on stories today. We have a strong potential story from Jersey. I'll tell you more in the meeting.

Other stories include BAE, Zimbabwe, the school spying row and the DNA report - You can watch Susan Watts' report into low copy number DNA here.

Do come to the meeting with ideas on how to do these and other stories.

See you in a minute,


Thursday, 10 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Apr 08, 05:09 PM

Arms and the Man
bae203x100.jpgAn extraordinary and damning judgement from the High Court today into the Serious Fraud Office's decision to abandon its investigation into BAE arms deals with Saudi Arabia. The judgement said, in part: "No one whether in this country or outside is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice." So why didn't the SFO - and the Blair government - just tell the Saudis to get lost?

You can watch Peter Marshall's reports into BAE here.

Nine months into Gordon Brown's premiership - what more do we know about his vision for reforming the public services? And does it actually differ all that much from that of his predecessor? David Grossman has been investigating - and we'll be reconvening our political panel to reflect on the week in politics.

For those of us who love the country, Italy is an enigma. Simultaneously the most cultured, civilised and wonderful country in Western Europe - and a kind of hopeless Third World style mess of corruption and political incompetence. Are Italians once again searching for a Strong Man to run their country? Is Silvio Berlusconi on his way back to power?

You can watch the Newsnight report on corruption in Italian politics here.

Blog problems - a solution is nigh

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Apr 08, 11:40 AM

blog502error.jpgAnyone who regularly reads the Newsnight blog will know that we have suffered from a series of technical problems for some time now. Comments disappear, the dreaded 502 'not available' message appears, and multiple copies of comments get submitted in error. (More on the problems here.)

Well, to much relief (not least here at Newsnight), a solution is about to be unveiled.

In the very near future the comments system that causes all the problems is being replaced by a BBC-wide system.

Under the new system, anyone wishing to leave a comment will need to sign in - a relatively swift and painless affair that comes with the added bonus of enabling you to leave your thoughts on blogs and message boards across all BBC websites.

Finally, we hope to revamp and relaunch the whole Newsnight blog shortly, with more bloggers, more variety, and the odd bit of video thrown in. But one step at a time...

We'll update you on the changes next week.

Prospects: Thursday, 10 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Apr 08, 10:16 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer. Here's her early email to the team ahead of the morning editorial meeting.

Hello all.

Tibet protestorChina and the torch feels like the biggest story in town - how do we do it though?

The BAE ruling has just come in - bids on this?

We should watch interest rates and Birmingham City obviously.

What else do you fancy?

David Grossman is working up a piece about Gordon Brown's vision for public services and why we're not at all clear what it is yet. We could discuss off the back?

And we have a film about the Italian elections from Christian Fraser - the country is in such an economic mess that Berlusconi might get back in.

See you at 10.30 for some Apprentice-style team bonding.


Wednesday, 9 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 9 Apr 08, 05:49 PM


mpc203x100.jpgThe men and women of the Monetary Policy Committee are back in the spotlight today as they begin their deliberations on whether to further cut interest rates. Their decision will be announced tomorrow but will it make any difference ? Are UK interest rates an effective instrument in a globalised economy and what can the government actually do to soften the impact of an economic downturn ? Newsnight reconvenes its own MPC tonight.


What is Hillary's plan now? It's certainly not looking good as, with the loss of three key members of her campaign team, those 'misspeaks' and a Pennsylvania poll win looking increasingly uncertain, she holds out for a little help from her super delegate friends. But can they really save her?


jodrell203x100.jpgThe biggest funding crisis for decades has hit the world of astronomy. Although the latest Science budget overall was up, you don't have to have a microscope to it to see there is less money for fundamental physics and astronomy - the exact subjects credited with pulling young people into science. Some fear that the future of one of Britain's greatest assets, Jodrell Bank's Lovell telescope, is now at risk. Susan Watts reports on why the government has upset the astonomy community so much and asks if this signals the end of blue skies thinking. Read Susan's feature here.

Prospects: Wednesday, 9 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 9 Apr 08, 10:30 AM

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

Good morning,

MarketsThe economy seems to be the biggest story of the day so far - let's talk about what we should focus on. IMF has put the cost of the banking crisis at $1000 billion and downgraded growth predictions for the UK economy, plus continuing pressure on mortgages and housing, and rising inflation. Is it time to hear from our Shadow MPC?

We have a film from Susan Watts on how changes to science funding has led to hears that the future of Jodrell Bank is under threat and that the move away from funding pure science will mean young people are less inspired to pursue scientific careers.

And space for your own ideas - what are you interested in, what would make news? Hillary's campaign, government waste, RyanAir's adverts, Olympic torch?


Newsnight's London mayoral debate

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Apr 08, 12:14 PM

mayor_debate203x100.jpgNewsnight is holding the first live televised debate between the leading London mayoral contenders.
The race is incredibly tight, with each candidate accusing the others of negative campaigning and even dirty tricks.

With the characters involved we expect a colourful - even stormy - encounter.

So what would you like us to ask Ken Livingstone, Brian Paddick and Boris Johnson?

Click here to send us your questions...



The debate's over - watch it here - and let us know what you made of the candidates' performances.

The Trial of Chen Liangyu

  • Paul Mason
  • 8 Apr 08, 11:27 AM

"Before, you used to have to pay a one billion dollar bribe to get a personal audience with a major Chinese politician," one foreign businessperson in Beijing told me; "now you only have to invest a billion". That was five years ago and it may have been exaggeration but, as the ongoing trial of Chen Liangyu shows - or would show if it were not being held in secret - corruption went to the top of the tree under former president Jiang Zemin.

Chen was the party secretary in Shanghai, a member of the CPC Politbureau and at the centre of a grouping known as the Shanghai clique. He was disgraced in September 2006 and went on trial on 25 March 2008 in TIanjin, accused of diverting 25 billion RMB into the pockets of himself and associates in the Shanghai Communist Party elite. Yesterday another key figure in the scandal, Zhang Rongkun, was sentenced to 19 years in prison. Zhang's case is worth lookiing at because it illustrates the proven extent of the network of bribery and corruption discovered in Shanghai's business elite - not in the bad old early 90s but as late as two years ago.

According to China Daily Zhang: a) embezzled money from the part-privatised company Shanghai Electric b) paid out 29 billion RMB in bribes c) illegally issued bonds in his own companies and d) manipulated the stock price of Haixin Group. One sentence stands out from the webpage on the state news agency's report on Zhang's sentencing. "It has not been revealed to whom he gave the money."....

Continue reading "The Trial of Chen Liangyu"

Monday, 7 April, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Apr 08, 05:35 PM

Jeremy's presenting tonight's programme.

Diana inquest
Princess Diana The jury in the Diana inquest has ruled that Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana were unlawfully killed as a result of the actions of their driver, Henri Paul, and the pursuing paparazzi.

The CPS cannot, however, pursue prosecutions for foreign nationals for deaths abroad, even if the victim is British.
So has the inquest been worth the money? We'll have reaction to the verdict tonight and the results of a Newsnight poll on people's attitudes to the inquest. Download the pdf of the full results here.

Ten pence tax
Some thought that Gordon Brown's decision to scrap the 10 pence tax band in his last budget as Chancellor in favour of a cut in the basic rate was a political masterstroke at the time. Not any more.

The Treasury Select Committee and many of his own backbenchers have criticised the decision - which has come in to force this month - on the basis that it will leave the poorest people worst off. The Prime Minister used to talk with missionary zeal about tackling poverty - do Labour's heartland voters still believe him? And does it play into wider anxieties amongst Labour MPs about the PM's vision?

Olympic torch
The progress of the Olympic torch through Paris was stopped altogether today after the flame was doused twice by protestors. Can we expect such protests everywhere the torch goes, from now on?

Meanwhile, questions have been asked about the role of the Chinese security officials who surrounded the torch on its passage through London and Paris. Some London protestors - and even one torch bearer - allege they were heavy-handed. Who exactly are they - and what rights do they have on British soil?

Climate change
Nasa's top climate scientist said today that the world has already reached dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The former Chancellor - Lord Lawson, doesn't think so. In his new book, he claims that we've all been duped into taking climate change too seriously. He'll debate the point with the head of the Science Museum.

Prospects: Monday, 7 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Apr 08, 10:18 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer - here's her early email to the team.


What would you like to cover today - and how would you like to cover it?

Food waste
Treasury select committee report on 10p tax rate?
Chinese torch protests - how can we move this on?
Zimbabwe - is there a key interview we can push for?
Any other big bids/off agenda stories you've spotted?

We have a film from Liz Mackean about food waste.
And we have an interview with Nigel Lawson about his new book which questions whether climate change is all that much of a problem.

And the Diana inquest might end.


Chinese media to planet earth: you are wrong on Tibet....

  • Paul Mason
  • 6 Apr 08, 10:39 PM

Twenty-five “torch relay offenders” were arrested, China’s official news agency Xinhua reported tersely just now. They showed a photo of Gordon Brown with the torch and interviewed a man called “Nick” who bemoaned the politicisation of the games. Nowhere did Xinhua explain what the issue behind the protest was.

My colleagues on BBC Sport, meanwhile, had to turn the special programme on the Olympic Flame relay into something resembling an highlights video of the Met Police rugby team blitz defence. The attempt to take the flame from Konnie Huq is currently the most watched video on the BBC website, closely followed by the attempt to douse it with a fire extinguisher. As Dame Kelly Holmes ran into the Dome flanked by police, more police, and Chinese men in blue uniforms whose jurisdiction on British soil in not, even now, clear to me, the “friendly Olympics” looked about as friendly as the Poll Tax riot.

It’s been a major publicity coup for the protesters and a PR disaster for the British government. With publicity like this you do not need Youtube, although there is plenty on Youtube also.

However, almost unnoticed except by Zhongnanologists (the Chinese version of Kremlinology is named after the CCP HQ complex in Beijing) the Chinese goverenment is mounting its own international media campaign, and I think it is worth readers of this blog having a look at it...

Continue reading "Chinese media to planet earth: you are wrong on Tibet...."

Your questions for Brian Paddick

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Apr 08, 07:23 PM

paddick203x100.jpgNewsnight is hosting a debate on Tuesday between the main candidates in the race for London mayor.

What questions would you like Jeremy Paxman to ask Brian Paddick?

Your questions for Boris Johnson

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Apr 08, 07:21 PM

boris203x100.jpgNewsnight is hosting a debate on Tuesday between the main candidates in the race for London mayor.

What questions would you like Jeremy Paxman to ask Boris Johnson?

Your questions for Ken Livingstone

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Apr 08, 07:16 PM

ken203x100.jpgNewsnight is hosting a debate on Tuesday between the main candidates in the race for London mayor.

What questions would you like Jeremy Paxman to ask Ken Livingstone?

Friday, 4 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Apr 08, 05:16 PM

zim203x100.jpgAt the time of writing Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has just endorsed President Robert Mugabe for a runoff vote against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai if neither wins an absolute majority in a presidential election. We'll have the latest from Zimbabwe.

Money and power
Does Britain have the best politics money can buy? We've been finding out what MPs have been spending our money on.

Masters of the Universe
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne has spent some of today on Wall Street talking to some of the world's top money makers. Does he emerge with any better grasp of what is going wrong on the markets and what can be done about it? David Grossman reports from New York.

Newsnight Review, Friday, 4 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Apr 08, 05:10 PM

Joining John Wilson on the Review sofa this week are Paul Morley, Sharon Horgan and Sarah Churchwell.

Son of RambowThey discuss: Son of Rambow Garth Jennings's film about two boys making a home video homage to Sly Stallone, with new-comers Bill Milner and Will Poulter; Gordon Burn's latest Born Yesterday - a novelisation of the year 2007; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by critically acclaimed playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis; and a belated return for 90s ethereal pop-dub stars Portishead with their fourth album Third.

You can read more about all those on this week's Review details page, there's a whole host of classic interviews on the Review website too. And you can leave your comments on the programme and your own reviews below.

Prospects for Friday, 4 April

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Apr 08, 11:17 AM

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

Good morning everyone,

There's quite a bit around today including Zimbabwe, MPs expenses, the backbench tax revolt and watch out for the Diana inquest verdict. Do come to the meeting with treatment ideas and thoughts for guests on these and other stories.

David Grossman is filming George Osborne meeting the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street today. It'll be a short VT. I'll tell you more in the morning meeting.

See you in a minute,


Thursday, 3 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 3 Apr 08, 05:44 PM

plotters203x152.jpgIt would have been the biggest terror atrocity since 9/11 - more than 1000 people would have been killed as seven transatlantic jets exploded in mid air after they had taken off from Heathrow - this is what the prosecution alleged today at the opening of the trial of eight men at Woolwich Crown Court.

They are accused of plotting to explode home made liquid bombs on seven flights to the US and Canada in 2006. The prosecution alleges that any passengers on the airlines concerned would have been "entirely at the mercy of the suicide bombers who happened to be on board with their explosive devices”. The judge has said it will be a long, high profile trial with dozens of witnesses and it's expected it will last eight months. All of the men deny conspiracy to murder. Richard Watson will have the story.

Robert Mugabe is still clinging on to power in Zimbabwe so is there going to be a Presidential run off? President Mugabe has finally re-appeared after the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, shown on state TV meeting African Union leaders. One of his spokesmen, Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga, said that if the result from last Saturday's Presidential vote showed a second round was necessary Mr Mugabe would stand. Official results from the Presidential poll are due out tomorrow but the Opposition insists it has won the vote. But what is life like for ordinary people inside the country just now? We have a film secretly shot inside Zimbabwe which gives a fascinating insight into what people there think is going on.

More conflict - this time in Israel. We have had unique access to one day's events in one of the illegal settlements in the northern West Bank. Here Tim Franks, for Newsnight, has witnessed Israel's ineffectual attempts to remove settlers. The Israeli Army forcibly evicts the inhabitants of the small outpost at the start of the day, but this triggers further conflict, between the army, left wing Israeli groups trying to reclaim the land for the Palestinian owner and the settlers who are trying to get back into their homes.

What does Tony Blair think about God, religion and globalisation? The new convert to Roman Catholicism is giving a speech tonight as part of the Cardinal's lecture series in which he will be speaking about faith and globalisation. We'll be discussing the speech with Richard Levin the President of Yale and the man who has appointed him to the Ivy League University. I hope you join us, Kirsty

Right, that's it, I am going to blog about China!

  • Paul Mason
  • 3 Apr 08, 03:28 PM

Last weekend the Chinese state mysteriously lifted its block on the BBC's English language website. I don't know how long it will last for, or why they did it. What we do know is a lot of Chinese readers were critical about the BBC's coverage of China they found there, which they believed had "departed from the truth". Having done my fair share of that coverage, including getting myself followed by secret police for interviewing a man purged from the party 50 years ago, I decided to take a look at the BBC website.

If you want to watch video reports on China, just click here for a list, sorted by date. If you ignore the odd colourful story about training English chefs to cook Chinese food, it's fair to say the "metanarrative" of most of our coverage focuses on the challenges of economic growth and the repressive nature of the Chinese regime. I've often heard foreign journalists say that there is only one story in China "and that's China". Everyone who's tried to report there knows what that means.

I think now there is a real challenge: for the first time I can be sure that my reporting on China will be seen or read in China, and not just by CCP officials with access to diplomatic-compound satellite dishes. So I have decided to re-start blogging here regularly, between now and the Olympics, to try and engage any English-speaking Chinese readers on a wider range of stories. I'm offering them a genuine chance to do what readers here do: influence and comment on our coverage. So here goes: Numero Uno - What about the workers....

Continue reading "Right, that's it, I am going to blog about China!"

Prospects for Thursday, 3 April

  • Newsnight
  • 3 Apr 08, 10:14 AM

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

Good morning,

We have a few things under way but I'm interested in your ideas too and I can find space for them on the programme.

Here are the stories I'm interesting in covering at the moment - Zimbabwe, Airline trial, and we have an offer of a piece from Tim Franks about the eviction of a group of Israeli settlers.

Tony Blair is giving a speech this evening on Faith and Globalisation. I'd like to set up a discussion on this - who would you like to hear from?

Zimbabwe blogs

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Apr 08, 06:04 PM

President Robert Mugabe's party has lost its majority in parliament, official results show.

morgan_mugabe.jpgMr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has so far taken 94 of the 210 seats, while opposition parties have won 105, the Zimbabwe Election Commission says.

Earlier, the opposition MDC said its leader Morgan Tsvangirai had won the presidential election. Zanu-PF said this was "wishful thinking".

The official presidential election results have not yet been declared.

Tonight Newsnight will have the latest from inside the country - but if you just can't wait, here is a list of the best websites and blogs covering the situation in Zimbabwe.

Government website

Election result sites:
Zimbabwe Metro

Main newspapers :
The Herald (government-owned)
Financial Gazette (owned by Zimbabwean investors)
Zimbabwe Independent (a business weekly)

This is Zimbabwe
Enough is Enough
From the Frontline
Global Voices

Wednesday, 2 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Apr 08, 05:42 PM

Jeremy is presenting tonight's programme.

morgan203x100.jpgThe Opposition Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe now claims to have won the presidential election. It says it took 50.3% of the vote. Meanwhile the official Electoral Commission have announced that the MDC did win the Parliamentary election - but have yet to rule on the Presidential results. Meanwhile, Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party have remained quiet. We'll have the latest tonight.

Bertie bows out
He was known as the "Teflon Taoiseach" - because of his ability to dodge mud-slinging and allegations of sleaze, but the Irish Premier Bertie Ahern announced today that he's stepping down after 11 years. His predecessor in the role once called him: "The most skilful, the most devious, the most cunning of them all." He's been dogged by allegations of financial irregularities over the years - but will also be remembered for playing a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process. We'll look back at his career highs and lows.

"Brain Gym"
You might not have heard of it, but your children could well be experts. Brain Gym is a programme used in hundreds of schools across Britain - backed by the government. It’s a series of daily physical exercises that are supposed to aid learning - by stimulating the vital organs. Many teachers - and many pupils - are convinced it works. But scientists are worried - believing that it amounts to "pseudo-science" and is misleading young children about the workings of the human body. The American founder of Brain Gym will be on the programme.

Ben Elton
Yesterday it was Kevin Spacey... today it's Ben Elton's turn to attack the BBC. He's told a Christian paper that comedy commissioners are too scared to allow jokes about Islam. Even an inauspicious gag about "Mohammed coming to the mountain" was vetoed, he claims. We'll debate whether he's right.

Prospects for Wednesday, 2 April

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Apr 08, 11:15 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer. Here is her early email to the team.

Hi all,

It could all happen in Zimbabwe today - in which case we can go Zim-tastic. So let's talk about the best possible running order in those circumstances.

If not much has moved on - is there an alternative lead?

What else do you fancy doing? Zero-carbon phone line? Nato on Afghanistan? Global food prices? New coins?

We should watch Harman/Hague at PMQs obv.

We also have a film about a govt-endorsed technique called Brain Gym (basically a series of physical exercises) which is used in schools to aid the learning of pupils. Some scientists are far from convinced that it does what it says on the tin. We can speak to the brains behind Brain Gym who's based near LA.


Tuesday, 1 April, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Apr 08, 06:31 PM

Reports from Zimbabwe suggest the opposition has reached an outline deal with President Mugabe which would see him leave office after 28 years. Unnamed sources say talks have been taking place with representatives from the opposition MDC and President Mugabe's party, chaired by the South African president, Thabo Mbeki. The agreement hasn't been signed yet; it's thought President Mugabe may be preparing to address the nation. We'll have the latest on the ground from our World Affairs Editor, John Simpson in Zimbabwe. We'll also be speaking to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Speaker of the Commons, Michael Martin, is to be investigated over expenses claims totalling £4,000 in relation to taxi journeys by his wife. A preliminary inquiry will be conducted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, John Lyon. David Grossman will be gauging where this leaves the Speaker.

China's economy is, by any measure, a success story. Eleven per cent economic growth, rising wealth even among the poor and it's all set to be showcased spectacularly at the Olympics. Amid the celebrations, it's hardly been acknowledged that this is the 50th anniversary of the Great Leap Forward - Chairman Mao's failed attempt to modernise China the first time round. In the second part of Paul Mason's powerful series on China he asks what few in that country's media are prepared to: What are the parallels between then and now? We'll also be getting Lord Patten's analysis of how China is faring economically.

Prospects for Tuesday, 1 April

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Apr 08, 10:32 AM

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

Good morning everyone,

There are some strong stories around today. When are the full results going to be announced in the Zimbabwe elections? Will President Mugabe steal it? And what would the repercussions be? Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC gives a press conference in an hour. Do come up with ideas for new ways to do this story.

There's also immigration. An influential Lords committee has rejected Government claims that immigration is bringing benefits to the country and says there should be a cap on numbers. The Lords economic affairs committee says the competition for jobs and public services could be damaging the prospects of the young and low paid.

42 days detention comes up in the Commons again as part of the Government's anti-terrorism measures. The Des Browne Iraq troop statement, Lord Sainsbury's tax and the Harriet Harman story are good too. Gordon Brown has his monthly presser today. Any extra suggestions for questions for David Grossman would be welcome.

We have a superb China film from Paul and Warwick on the Great Leap Forward 50 years on. There's a Lord Patten interview off the back which needs editing.



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