Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Friday, 30 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 30 May 08, 06:26 PM

Terror, consent and ticking timebombs

binyam_203100.jpgThe last Briton in Guantanamo Bay has just been charged with terrorism under its Military Tribunal. Binyam Mohammed - who says he was tortured in Morocco under extraordinary rendition - could now face the death penalty. We don't know, to be frank, if he's a terrorist. But we do know that when the very practices used by the West face eyebrow raising scrutiny, and questions of legality, the so-called War on Terror itself is in danger of being undermined.

Tonight we talk to the author of Terror and Consent - a philosophical roadmap for fighting the often intangible issue of terrorism. We ask Philip Bobbitt what methods should and could be used to protect ourselves whilst retaining the values that allow civil societies to hold their heads high.


Earlier this week the prime minister called this week the "third great oil shock" of our times. It's been an extraordinary few days. New price highs, the first haulier protests against petrol tax since 2000, pan-European demonstrations and promises by the government to help those in fuel poverty. We look back on whether we've just witnessed what might - in years to come - be seen as the week oil tipped us into recession. We'll also be speaking to a man who believes this will be the last oil shock.


It's the perfect script for a John Grisham novel - the underdog abandoned by a corrupt government - and the elaborate conspiracy to cover it all up. Tonight we look at the revelations that Harold Macmillan - in the year before he became prime minister - opposed a public health campaign on the dangers of smoking. He argued, as chancellor, that he needed the tax revenue from cigarettes and didn't believe the scientific evidence of the time was strong enough anyway. But it's enough to make you wonder what dangers we're ignoring today on the basis of useful taxation revenue.

Oil shocks

  • Newsnight
  • 30 May 08, 01:35 PM


If there has been one dominating theme this week, it's been oil. The price of it. The tax on it. The availability of it. It could be enough to make or break a government - and not only in the UK.

Thousands of fishermen in Spain have gone on strike today over the rising cost of fuel - there's also unrest in other parts of Europe.

And of course, the week began with protests in the UK, as lorry drivers took to the streets over government plans for a two pence rise in fuel tax.

The government has said it is listening. The prime minister and his chancellor, Alistair Darling, have met with oil producers to discuss an increase in production.

And fuel poverty is another factor on the government's well-greased oil radar - plans were unveiled today aimed at helping people on low incomes pay their fuel bills.

Are we in the middle of the third great oil shock? Newsnight will debate tonight - but we'd like to hear your stories of how the price of oil has affected your behaviour.

Our colleagues on the Have Your Say site have also been collating views on the fuel poverty plans, and you can watch Newsnight's coverage of the week's oil-related stories on iPlayer (UK viewers only).

Post your thoughts here...

Prospects for Friday, 30 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 30 May 08, 10:45 AM

From today's output editor, Robert Morgan:

Hello everyone,

We've got a few good stories around today. There's the continuing fuel prices story, Brown's travails, 42 days, and the AQ Khan interview. The Macmillan story is quite extraordinary. Peter Marshall also has a really strong story for tonight which I'll tell you more about in the meeting.

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

See you in a minute,


Thursday, 29 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 29 May 08, 06:01 PM

From tonight's presenter, Emily Maitlis:


earth_203100.jpgHave you noticed that farmers are unusually quiet these days? After years of understandable frustration over Foot and Mouth, Mad Cow disease and supermarket-squeezed margins, the National Farmers' Union has admitted that "productive agriculture" is back on the agenda. In other words, food prices are high and they're not coming down any time soon.

A top level report has said the cost of food could remain at record levels for the next decade. So tonight, we ask the big question: too little food? Too little fuel? Or just too many of us? We'll be debating the taboo subject of overpopulation.


When ministers start talking about "consensus" over controversial issues, the rest of us start wondering about U-turns. Today, a Home Office minister announced there might be concessions on the 42-day detention issue. We'll be looking at what these might be and what they say about Gordon Brown's relationship with his backbenchers.

North Korea

An estimated 200,000 North Koreans are living illegally on the Chinese border. Food shortages in their country means an ever greater chance of starvation, and when your life is at risk, you risk your life. Tonight, an extraordinarily powerful film from the North Korea border where we document the flow of human traffic and what it tells us about the society that remains possibly the most closed in the world.

A Genuine Hitler?

Ever wondered what a genocidal maniac would choose to paint in his spare time? If you're looking for a portrayal of an evil mind, you won't find it here. The works of one Adolf Hitler are pure and insipid banality. Yet they've inspired the Chapman Brothers - best known for their work "Hell" - to rework his paintings and ask "If Hitler was a Hippy How Happy Would We Be". It's not as crass as it sounds.

Policy Exchange dispute - update

  • Newsnight
  • 29 May 08, 03:21 PM

As summer approaches we thought it was about time we revisited the row we got into late last year with the influential right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange. It's almost six months since we broadcast our investigation into Policy Exchange's report "The Hijacking of British Islam" which named and shamed mosques across the UK for disseminating extremist literature. We have a new statement from them, but more of that later.

Continue reading "Policy Exchange dispute - update"

Prospects for Thursday, 29 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 29 May 08, 10:14 AM

Today's output editor is Jasmin Buttar - here's her morning e-mail to the production team:

Lots of opportunity for you to get your ideas on the show tonight.

What to lead on?
- OECD report says world food prices will continue to rise and one of the underlying reasons is the size of the world's population. Are there simply too many people for the world's resources to sustain?

- IVF story - see cover of Sun - amazing story but is there something in it for us?

- knife crime - ad campaign starts today and Blair speaks on it - can we find a fresh enough angle?

Elsewhere we have a gripping film from Olenka Frenkiel and Ian O'Reilly on the North Koreans fleeing to China and South Korea to escape poverty and famine.

Please come fizzing with thoughts.

Until 10.30,

Wednesday, 28 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 28 May 08, 05:25 PM

From tonight's presenter, Gavin Esler:

Nuclear Power

pylons_203152.jpgGordon Brown suggests it might be part of the answer to our energy problems. That was all after a big push to stop the "third oil shock" this morning from the PM. But will this solve the energy gap or is it an example of bad policy being made on-the-hoof?

Mary not so Contrary

Mary Whitehouse campaigned at what she saw as the smut and violence on television from the 1960s on. Newsnight tonight follows a play about her life, and we'll debate whether the doughty campaigner was in fact right. How far are the roots of today's violence and social problems to be found in the kind of television Mrs Whitehouse loathed?

Did Mary Whitehouse have a point?

The 1968 Protests

Protests around the world in 1968 seemed to be demanding a change in the global order. The student clashes in Britain seemed nothing in comparison to those in Paris and the US. But 40 years on Paul Mason has got hold of the secret police files which show just how worried the establishment were.

Read Paul Mason's blog

Beryl Cook

She was described by Victoria Wood as "Ruben's with Jokes". One of Britain's most popular painters Beryl Cook has died aged 81. We'll mark her work.

Did Mary Whitehouse have a point?

  • Newsnight
  • 28 May 08, 12:24 PM

whitehouse1_203300.jpgDid Mary Whitehouse have a point? Has British society coarsened as a result of the media and has that really changed our culture?

Tonight - after the documentary drama about her life - we'll debate what impact, if any, sex and violence on TV and in the media has had on Britain. And whether it is right to blame any of society's current ills on what it watches and reads.

Leave your comments below.

And speaking of Mary Whitehouse, find out why she was writing to Special Branch in 1968 about the arrival in the UK of Jim Morrison and The Doors. Paul Mason has the story here...

Prospects for Wednesday, 28 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 28 May 08, 10:15 AM

Today's output editor is Simon Enright - here's his morning e-mail to the production team:

Hello All,

Lots of stories around but what should be our take?

Why were there power cuts yesterday? Is there a problem with energy that we are missing? And what do Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling hope to achieve by meeting some oil representatives... Anything?

Peter Marshall is pursuing story about Binyam Mohammed - the British resident in Guantanamo who is about to go on trial for his life before a military commission. But the British Government has allegations that the only evidence against him was both false and based on torture.

Nepal is about to end nearly 250 years of Royal rule and become a republic. Should we cover OR should we do Lebanon where a new administration is about to come to power hopefully ending the Hezbollah inspired instability in the country.

And Paul Mason takes a look at what the protests of May 68 were really about. And who did Mary Whitehouse think was the international threat to the British system?

Or is there something else we should do?

Let me know what you think and come with ideas to the 1030 meeting.

All the best


1968: "The Doors" mistaken for political extremists

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 May 08, 08:39 AM

doors_203152.jpgThe anti-Vietnam war demonstration of March 1968 was a turning point in post-war politics: it turned violent right in front of the world's media; the police were shown throwing punches into the faces of already arrested students, and in general losing control. The police files from that event are considered too sensitive to release. But Newsnight has obtained, under Freedom of Information, a stack of police files relating to the much bigger anti-war demonstration of October that year. Watch tonight: they tell a story of rising panic in the establishment: the creation of Britain's first bomb squad; an intelligence feedback loop between Special Branchand the press that ramped up the tension; and, farcically, the rock group The Doors being mistaken for a group of foreign revolutionaries...

Continue reading "1968: "The Doors" mistaken for political extremists"

Tuesday, 27 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 27 May 08, 05:11 PM

From tonight's presenter, Kirsty Wark:

Are green taxes dead?

lorries_nn_203100.jpgAre green taxes a luxury we can no longer afford? In the face of an economic downturn, should society be ditching the green agenda or sticking with it?

Lines of lorries are clogging the country's main arteries today in protest over the rising cost of fuel, their drivers demanding the government scrap the planned 2p rise in fuel tax.

At the same time the Chancellor Alistair Darling is facing the fury of Labour MPs over his plans to increase road taxes on older, more polluting vehicles. He'll be addressing their concerns in a meeting next week.

With the cost of fuel, travel and food rising - and house prices falling - people are feeling a big squeeze. So, should the government ease the pain in the short-term by scrapping the green agenda, or is it more important to protect the planet for our grandchildren?

Comment on this issue here.


We have an exclusive and deeply disturbing report from Afghanistan about the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among troops and the US military's efforts to deal with this rapidly growing problem.

Since the war on terror began 60,000 US troops have received an initial diagnosis of PTSD, and the US is waking up to the fact that the level of the illness amongst returning veterans is becoming a social ill. Two hundred murders have been committed by veterans - and most victims are their own family members. Newsnight has been given exclusive access to the taskforces now on the frontline trying to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder.

MPs' expenses

Did Tony Blair display some fancy footwork over his expenses? Following a High Court ruling that MPs' Additional Costs Allowance - in other words, expenses for second homes - would not be exempted from FOI requirements, some receipts and invoices are causing a stir.

Have we a right to know exactly what MPs are spending - or should they get a £23,000 lump sum for the second home and spend it any way they want, as is expected to be recommended by a Commons committee?

Pollack playback

And we'll be revisiting some of Sydney Pollack's finest moments. The director, actor, and producer has died at the age of 73, leaving behind a string of great films - among them, They Shoot Horses Don't They?, Tootsie, The Electric Horseman, Three Days of the Condor and Out of Africa - which took seven Oscars in all.

His most recent big screen appearance was in Michael Clayton opposite George Clooney, but on occasion he made appearances in popular TV shows, from Will and Grace to The Sopranos.

Are green taxes dead?

  • Newsnight
  • 27 May 08, 12:44 PM

lorries1_nn_203.jpgLorry drivers have taken to the road in protest today over the rising cost of fuel - they have the government's planned two pence rise in fuel tax in their sights. Meanwhile, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, is preparing to meet Labour MPs next week to discuss their concerns about his plans to increase road tax on older, more polluting vehicles.

The economic downturn combined with the rising cost of living make it of little surprise that drivers are up in arms about the additional squeeze on their finances. But if the government capitulates, what will this say about the country's stance on green taxes?

If green taxes are levied as a point of principle, should they weather any crisis in the economy? Or should the credit crunch see such penalties as higher road tax on the worst polluters well and truly parked?

In the current climate, are green taxes - by necessity - dead?

Prospects for Tuesday, 27 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 27 May 08, 10:29 AM

From today's output editor, Robert Morgan:

Good morning everyone,

Quite a bit around today. There are the fuel tax demos, MPs' expenses and Burma for starters. Sydney Pollack has also just died.

We've also got a very powerful film on PTSD:

The US military says 45 percent of its soldiers who have served in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will eventually suffer some form of stress syndrome. Since the War on Terror began, 60,000 troops have received an initial diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans are returning home to a country that cannot cope with the scale of PTSD, which is no longer a medical problem but now a new social ill in America. Some 200 murders have been committed by soldiers who have recently returned. Most victims are their own family members. Now the Americas are trying several experimental therapies - both on the battlefield and off - to tackle the rapid rise of combat-related stress. Newsnight has been given exclusive access to the taskforces sent out to the frontline to try and prevent PTSD. Dominic Di-Natale reports from Afghanistan.

Playout thoughts welcome. See you in a minute,


Friday, 23 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 23 May 08, 06:30 PM

"There is a new 'nasty party' in British politics and it is the Labour Party"
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, following Labour's defeat in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election.

tories203.jpgWe'll devote most of tonight's programme to the aftermath of the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. Is this mid-term blues for Labour? Or is it something much more significant, the beginning of the end of the Brown administration? The end of New Labour as David Cameron describes it. We'll hear from the government, and Labour backbenchers as well as the opposition.


Prospects for Friday, 23 May

  • Newsnight
  • 23 May 08, 11:15 AM

Good morning. Here's today's e-mail to the production team from output editor Simon Enright:

Crewe was not just a huge kick in the teeth for Gordon Brown but also a positive endorsement for Cameron. We should explore where this leaves the political landscape today. With such a strong by-election turnout and such a huge swing to the Conservatives what can Labour do to recover ahead of a general election? And just what kind of do is Gordon Brown in and can Labour put an electoral coalition back together? We should assess all this today.

But what other stories should we do? Ban ki-Moon says all aid workers are now allowed into Burma... Really? Who is the Exeter bomber and did someone put him up to this.

The review team are in Cannes for their annual assessment of the latest films


Thursday, 22 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 22 May 08, 06:33 PM

A turning point?
Is the result of today's Crewe and Nantwich by-election likely to be a major political turning point? Labour seem to be reducing expectations. If they lose the seat what does it mean for Gordon Brown? Another relaunch or worse?
We'll also be going in search of the most significant by-election victory since the war - you can make your suggestion here.

A wise Middle Eastern sage Sheikh Yamani once noted that the Stone Age did not come to an end as a result of a shortage of stones and the oil age would not come to an end because of a shortage of oil. The shocking price of petrol and aviation fuel hits all of us. How bad could it get?

And our very own Steve Smith reports from Cannes where one of his Newsnight films has been given a screening.

Now that's what I call a by-election

  • Newsnight
  • 22 May 08, 01:52 PM

Simon Enright, Assistant Editor, Newsnight

byelection203x170.jpgThere's something about by-elections that make them irresistible - especially for journalists. It's that rare chance for the electorate to give the government a kicking, to make them listen, but not change the administration.

My first memory is of the local TV presenter, Austin Mitchell, putting down his microphone and knocking on doors in Grimsby. It was a marginal seat and a worried Labour government threw all their resources at holding it. Austin Mitchell did win, just - and is still an MP. But unnoticed, the voters of Ashfield in Derbyshire took against the government and handed that much safer Labour seat to the Conservatives. Needless to say that loss didn't feature so much on Yorkshire Telly.

For every party there must be a favourite win. If you're a Scottish Nationalist you won't forget the dramatic wins in Glasgow Govan - they took it twice in by-elections from Labour. Or for sheer television drama, Labour supporters surely can't forget the result in Dudley West that broke Peter Snow's Swingometer.

bermondsey203.jpgBut surely the by-election masters are the Liberal Democrats. Simon Hughes began the recent trend by turning yellow the safe Labour seat of Bermondsey, with what many remember as a brutally efficient campaign. The 80s, 90s and also in recent years have seen Liberal Democrats "Winning Here" in Greenwich, Eastbourne, Newbury, and most recently Sarah Teather in Brent East.

Could Crewe and Nantwich be the Conservative totem that marks a sea change in British politics? Maybe, but what really has been the most significant by-election result since 1945 and why? That's the challenge we're setting this lunchtime. On tonight's programme Liz MacKean will announce your favourite.

Prospects for Thursday, 22 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 22 May 08, 10:28 AM

Today's output editor is Robert Morgan - here's his morning e-mail to the production team:

Good morning everyone,

There's quite a bit around today. The Crewe by-election is today. David and Vara are there. Oil prices have reached a record high. Ban Ki Moon is in Burma. Do come to the morning meeting with ideas on how to do these or other stories.

Steve Smith has been to Cannes to witness the screening of his Newsnight film on "the Picasso of South America" Fernando Botero. Should be good!

Playout thoughts welcome. See you in minute,


Wednesday, 21 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 21 May 08, 02:55 PM

Jeremy's presenting tonight, hotfooting from Crewe and a name check in PMQs.

lama203.jpgThe Dalai Lama's tour of Britain has caused all sorts of controversy - not least for Gordon Brown - but are attitudes to China changing following the earthquake disaster? His Holiness himself has called on Tibetans not to protest against the Olympic torch when it visits Lhasa. We'll be debating the new mood.

David Grossman's in Crewe on the eve of the crucial by-election, on another torrid day for the Government. Jacqui Smith got a rough ride from the cops, and pressure is building on the Chancellor over his 10p tax fix.

As the Democrat primaries rumble on inconclusively, the Republican candidate John McCain has been setting out some detail of what his foreign policy might amount to. We'll be talking to his foreign affairs adviser Robert Kagan (and you can watch an earlier interview with Obama's former adviser Samantha Power here).

And where's our political editor Michael Crick? Not in Crewe and Nantwich, but in Moscow on a private visit to watch the Champions League final (it's his birthday). We hope to catch up with him live, whatever the result.

Prospects for Wednesday, 21 May

  • Newsnight
  • 21 May 08, 10:58 AM

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

Good morning

We're looking for 1.5m plus today, but what they'll actually watch is wide open.

There's no obvious lead, but plenty of stories - we could go big on one issue or hit any number of them.

Dalai Lama meets Brown, but not at Downing St. There could be a big fuss

Ban ki Moon due to arrive in Burma - we hope Laura Trevelyan may get an interview

Crewe and Nantwich - last day of campaigning + PMQs

The primaries rumble on - we have an interview with McCain foreign policy adviser Robert Kagan

Champions League final - probably just a watch

Or it might be a good day to go off agenda?


Tuesday, 20 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 20 May 08, 02:57 PM

Crewe and Nantwich By-election Special with Jeremy Paxman

cameron203.jpgIt promises to be the most important by-election of this Parliament, a contest which could have huge implications for the fate of Gordon Brown and David Cameron. So who will win the Labour seat of Crewe and Nantwich in Cheshire?
Jeremy will hold a special debate in the constituency with politicians from each of the main parties who will face Jeremy and an audience of local voters. David Grossman will report on the controversial tactics adopted during the campaign, and Tim Whewell will report on the impact of immigration in the area and on local politics.

Tonight's abortion votes on whether to reduce the legal limit from 24 weeks are set to be very close and could take place while we are on air. If the limit is changed, Jackie Long will report on the implications for women, society and medicine, and we'll have live reaction from Westminster. Liz MacKean will anchor the coverage from here.

It could all be very lively.

Tonight at 22.30


Prospects for Tuesday, 20 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 20 May 08, 10:09 AM

Good morning. Today's output editor is Dan Kelly - here's his e-mail to the production team...

Crewe and Nantwich by-election

It promises to be the most important by-election of this Parliament, a contest which could have huge implications for the fate of Gordon Brown and David Cameron. So who will win the Labour seat of Crewe and Nantwich in Cheshire? Jeremy will hold a special debate in the constituency with politicians and voters. David Grossman will report on the controversial tactics adopted during the campaign, and Tim Whewell will report on the impact of immigration in the area and on local politics.


Tonight's abortion vote to reduce the legal limit from 24 weeks looks set to be very close. If the limit is changed, Jackie Long will report on the implications for women, society and medicine, and we'll have reaction from Westminster. Which guests would you like to see on the show and in the piece? Liz MacKean will anchor the coverage from here.

See you at 10.30.


Monday, 19 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 19 May 08, 05:34 PM

The Meaning of Life

embryos2_203.jpgThe next 24 hours will see some of the most important debates on issues of conscience for almost a generation. MPs are today debating the new Embryology Bill which would allow the creation of so-called saviour siblings. This would permit embryos to be selected because they are a tissue match for a sick older brother or sister. The bill would also permit scientists to create human-animal hybrid embryos. The role of fathers in fertility and the upper limit for abortion will also be voted on.

Science Editor Susan Watts and Political Editor Michael Crick will have the latest on the votes from the Commons. And we'll be debating the ethical and scientific implications of these highly charged votes which could lead to some of the biggest changes in Britain's fertility and embryology laws for decades.


The Conservative leader, David Cameron, has promised "good housekeeping" as part of his party's economic policy. He said the Tories believed in long-term tax reduction. But does it all add up? Michael Crick is on the case. We hope to be joined by a senior member of the Shadow Treasury team.

US Elections

Matt Frei returns to Culpeper in Virginia to see what sort of impact the downturn in the US economy is having on people there.

Prospects for Monday, 19 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 19 May 08, 10:22 AM

Today's output editor is Robert Morgan. Here's his morning e-mail to the production team:

Good morning everyone,

There's quite a bit around today. There's the embryos bill, Conservative tax and spending, and Burma for starters. Any ideas welcome.

We also have the latest instalment from Matt Frei and the good people of Culpeper.

Playout thoughts?

See you in a minute,


Friday, 16 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 16 May 08, 05:46 PM

Beatings, Torture and Horrific Violence in Zimbabwe:
zim_torture203.jpgTonight, an exclusive interview with the US ambassador to Zimbabwe. James McGee was held for investigating what he knew to be obscene and violent attacks on members of the opposition by Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party. He graphically describes what he saw first hand - the vicious attacks on old women and young men alike - and his own response to the authorities that tried to detain him. Yet more proof of these attacks comes from the British journalist Peter Oborne who recently emerged from Zimbabwe with first hand accounts and the pictures to prove it. As the authorities set a date for the presidential run-off, finally, we bring you these distressing but crucial testimonies to the ongoing Mugabe reign of fear.

China and Burma:
One natural disaster with a death toll reaching into the tens of thousands is hard enough to contemplate. Two becomes unthinkable. Tonight our Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban assesses how changed each country will be by its own natural disaster and ask what the international communities' response should be. And what does an 'official death toll' really mean - how on earth do we start to grasp the hard facts when they're so hard to come by in each case?

And is our obsession with inflation well, a little over-inflated? Tonight we speak to the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz who thinks we're in danger of missing the point. He says that inflation targets - such as that used by the Bank Of England - could push us into recession, sacrificing growth in a vain attempt to keep down prices. So does the Bank of England - which has warned of the end of the "nice decade" - need a radical change of plan?

Join me tonight at 10:30pm


Prospects for Friday, 16 May

  • Newsnight
  • 16 May 08, 10:27 AM

Today's programme producer is Dan Kelly - here's his morning e-mail to the production team...

Burma and China
The loss of life and injuries caused by the cyclone in Burma and the earthquake in China have been extraordinary. What are the facts on the ground (how does the foreign office come to a figure of 217,000 dead in Burma for example)? How have the authorities responded? Will both countries ever be the same again? Let's look at both crises separately and in detail and discuss how the international community should react. Which guests would you like on?

We have an interview with the US ambassador in Zimbabwe, who was recently held by the authorities for daring to investigate the beatings handed out to MDC members by Zanu PF. We have a first hand account and pictures of these attacks from a journalist who recently went in to the country. Tsvangirai is in Belfast, we are trying to get an interview.

Other thoughts and guest suggestions are all welcome.

Thursday, 15 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 15 May 08, 06:39 PM

Hello readers and viewers,

brown203.jpgDay 3 of the Gordon Brown relaunch. We've had the mini-budget. Then the new policy plans. Today the PM was selling the message to the media. But has this flurry of activity achieved anything in turning round how the Labour government is viewed? Michael Crick has spent the day in Crewe and Nantwich finding out what voters there thought. David Grossman has been seeking the counsel of the wise sages at Westminster. And Jeremy Paxman will be asking Labour spin guru Alastair Campbell what if anything can be done. Their chats are always interesting and informative.

The China news agencies are reporting that as many as 50,000 people have been killed as a result of the earthquake in the South West. The infrastructure in the area has been decimated. But are there further threats from damage to the dams and power plants in the area? Our science Editor Susan Watts is assessing. Jeremy will be speaking to Naomi Klein about who will profit from the disasters in both China and Burma.

Finally we have a disturbing report from the Congo. It appears the latest development strategy of the Department for International Development is to fund public private partnerships. But what exactly should we make of the mining company that our government is teaming up with and should they really receive UK taxpayers cash?

Read the government's statement in full here.

Do join us at 10.30. With Jeremy and Alastair in the studio together it promises to be lively at the very least.

Simon Enright

Prospects for Thursday, 15 May

  • Newsnight
  • 15 May 08, 11:12 AM

Good morning. Here's today's e-mail to the production team from output editor Simon Enright:

Dear All,

Day Three of Gordon's fight back. After the budget, then the draft Queen's speech, now it is face the media time. Will Gordon Brown do an interview with Jeremy Paxman today?

What else should we do? Should we do China - and if so what. Bush is in Israel. Can he realistically achieve anything? Burma has voted to back the proposed new constitution. Did they care about turn out in the south west? Or are there other stories we should do?

We also have a story about how Gordon Brown is extending public private partnerships. Not just at home now but abroad too. Tim Whewell reports on the mining companies in the Congo who are more than happy to work with the British Government - and ask whether this is the right way to deliver aid?

The end of economic niceness

  • Paul Mason
  • 14 May 08, 06:08 PM

Bank of England governor Mervyn King has warned that "for the time being at least the nice decade is behind us". He didn't accept recession was likely but admitted it was possible - even though the Bank's own "fan charts" do not give it even an outside, ten-to-one chance.

Coming on the same day as Gordon Brown's outline of draft legislation, the Bank's quarterly inflation report handily outlines the economic terrain on which the political battle of the next two years will be fought. And it's bumpy...

Continue reading "The end of economic niceness"

Wednesday, 14 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 14 May 08, 05:55 PM

gordon_brown203.jpgBROWN'S POLITICAL FIGHT BACK?
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced the laws he wants to introduce in the next Parliamentary session. The programme includes 18 Bills which include plans to give communities more say about policing priorities - and policies to extend the range of affordable homes available to first time buyers. The Conservatives said Mr Brown had "run out of steam". The Lib Dems said he had "scraped the barrel to save himself". Our Political Editor, Michael Crick will analyse what sort of message the government is sending and will gauge whether the public are prepared to listen after the 10p tax row.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has warned today that the economy faces a bumpy road ahead. In a gloomy report, he forecast rising inflation and slowing growth, and said the "nice decade" was over. Our Economics Editor, Paul Mason will set out how inflation and unemployment could limit Gordon Brown's wriggle room in future.

We'll be bringing together senior politicians from all three parties to discuss whether the Draft Queen's speech will really punch through to the electorate.

whitecity2.jpgWHITE CITY
It's exactly 100 years ago today since an extraordinary exhibition took place at White City, which is now the home of the BBC Television Centre in London. The Great White City was a collection of shimmering palaces and pavilions that made up the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908. Our Culture Correspondent, Madeleine Holt, reports on a one-off celebration of harmony between Britain and France.

Two big disasters in Burma and China have hit in recent days causing massive causalities. But are they having the same impact on us compared to the Asian Tsunami in 2004? If not why is that? Is it down to a muted media response at first? And what happened to liberal interventionism?

Great White City exhibition

  • Newsnight
  • 14 May 08, 05:22 PM

Madeleine Holt, Culture Correspondent


whitecity3.jpgNewsnight is venturing into new territory - we've set up our own exhibition. The idea came out one of the stories we have been working on.

A year ago I found out about the Franco-British Exhibition - a pioneering celebration of the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain. It was held on the exact site of BBC TV Centre in London, exactly 100 years ago.

At the time, I was doing my own research into how the BBC could be more imaginative with its public space. I have not got very far pursuing that one... But when I found out about "the Franco", as it was known, I thought that we should do more than just a film about it on Newsnight.

Wouldn't it be great to put on show some of the incredible photographs we uncovered - so other BBC staff and members of the public could see what was once here?

whitecitytower.jpgAlmost no one at the BBC seems to know about the breathtaking buildings that were built right here. They were all made of white plaster of Paris - hence the place became nicknamed "the Great White City".

I have always wondered why today's White City has such a forlorn feel to it. Now I think I know why. It is as if the destruction of this once magical landscape has cast a permanent blight over this particular bit of the capital.

While we were putting up the exhibition, people began to stop and stare at the images. "I can't believe that was here once," said one local resident.

If you happen to be in London, and in the area, do stop by and see our display. It is behind the glass facade of TV Centre reception - right on the street in Wood Lane, opposite White City underground. We think the photos are amazing. You can watch the film here.

Let us known what YOU think.

Reaction to disasters in China and Burma

  • Newsnight
  • 14 May 08, 03:15 PM

china_quake203.jpgTwo big disasters in Burma and China have hit in recent days causing massive causalities.

But are they having the same impact on us compared to the Asian Tsunami in 2004?

If not why is that?

Prospects for Wednesday, 14 May

  • Newsnight
  • 14 May 08, 11:45 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.

Hello everyone,

We had the government's mini-budget yesterday in an attempt to deal with the 10p tax row. Now we have the draft Queen's Speech months in advance. Ideas welcome. Michael and Neil are on the case.

Should we be doing more on China and Burma today? Other stories? Is there anything Cherie Blair won't reveal in her memoirs?

We have a White City film from Madeleine and Henrietta:

It's exactly a hundred years ago today since an extraordinary exhibition took place at White City, which is now the home of BBC Television Centre in London. The Great White City was an extraordinary collection of shimmering palaces and pavilions that made up the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908. Our culture correspondent, Madeleine Holt, reports on a one-off celebration of harmony between Britain and France.

Playout thoughts? See you in a minute,


The Franco-British Exhibition

  • Newsnight
  • 13 May 08, 01:10 PM

Don R Knight, expert on The Great White City

knight203.jpgMy passion for the Franco-British Exhibition started back in 1972, when I was given some picture postcards.

One of them had a view of the Court of Honour showing the ornate buildings and shimmering water - it had been posted at the exhibition and had the special postmark. This set me on the search to find out about the exhibition, which attracted eight million two hundred thousand visitors in six months.

Nearly everyone who visited posted a card and took some home for their postcard album, as postcard collecting was at its height in 1908.

In the early 1970s postcard fairs started and I started building up a collection of postcards in colour, black and white and real photos.

white_city_honour203.jpgI then found an official guild to the exhibition and a piece of souvenir China but when I went to Hammersmith library to read up on the exhibition I was told that no book had been written to record the history of the Franco-British Exhibition.

So I set myself the task of recording it in my book in 1978 for the 70th Anniversary. Now 30 years later I am still here and have updated it, put in colour pictures and reprinted it for the 100th Anniversary.

In 1900 the Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VII, went to the Paris Exhibition and when he became king suggested to his government that we hold an exhibition with France which would help to promote Entente Cordiale between the two countries.

In 1906 plans got under way, a site was found on farmland in Shepherds Bush. Work started in early 1907. Some 100 buildings were erected. At the height of construction 4,000 men by day and 2,000 men by night worked to get the exhibition ready for the 14 May 1908.



In 1906 Italy was due to host the Olympics but had to cancel after Mount Vesuvius erupted and caused widespread damage around Naples.

Britain was then asked to stage the Games and a stadium was built into the exhibition site. The cost of building the stadium was £75,000 and it stood until 1985. These Games were a great success and Britain won 56 gold medals and the US 23 gold medals.

During the exhibition members of the British Empire came and showed their countries produce and machinery. Visitors could visit Pavilions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, Ceylon with France, Algeria and its other colonies. Britain and France had a pavilion showing Arts and Women's work. There was a complete Irish village, which had all Irish Colleens working in it and visitors could kiss the Blarney Stone.

Flip Flap

One of the main attractions was the Flip Flap. It had two arms 150ft long with a carriage at the end which could carry up to 40 people at a time. It took three minutes and 20 seconds for the journey from one side to the other and cost six pence.

Three songs were composed about the Flip Flap and could be heard in the London Music Halls. There was a Scenic Mountain Railway, Canadian Toboggan Run and Spiral Ride and many other attractions.

The Exhibition was open from 11am until 11pm, Monday to Saturday from 14 May until 31 October 1908. In the bandstands around the exhibition regimental bands played throughout the day. Visitors paid one shilling (5p) to see the exhibition and when it closed more than 8.2 million people had seen the exhibition.

Other exhibitions were held on the site in 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, and 1914. The stadium was used for greyhound racing from 1927 until 1984. Today the BBC has offices and studios on what was once the Court of Honour and the stadium.

The Newsnight film on the Great White City will be broadcast on Wednesday night. If We would love to here from anyone who has family recollections of the exhibition on either side of the Channel. Please get in touch.

Prospects Tuesday, 13 May

  • Newsnight
  • 13 May 08, 10:50 AM

Today's programme producer is Dan Kelly - here's his morning e-mail to the production team...

Good Morning everybody.

Some strong stories today. Tomorrow the government unveils a draft Queen's speech, what will this amount to, and is this the beginning of Brown's fight back?
There could also be a compensation package on 10p announced this afternoon - what will the PLP and voters make of it? If the economy is the single biggest reason for the government's current problems - more bad news on that front today.
CPI Inflation has jumped to 3% from 2.5% in March - Paul Mason is on the case. Which interviews would you like to see on politics and the economy?

Talking of prices, we have a film and discussion planned on cheap clothes and tough labour conditions in the developing world, off the back of BBC 3's "Blood, Sweat and Tears" programme, in which six young British shoppers were sent to work in some Indian textile factories. We have two of the volunteers in the studio but what other guests could we have - especially British retail figures?

The death toll in China continues to rise - how can we move the story on in a distinctive way?

We also have an exclusive peek into the MOD's UFO files, and speak to some crop circle hoaxers.


Monday, 12 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 12 May 08, 05:41 PM

mizenflowers203.jpgFrom tonight's presenter, Kirsty Wark.

Teenage violence

"I don't feel anger, just sorrow for the parents of our son's killer."

These were the dignified and moving words of Margaret Mizen, whose son Jimmy was murdered on his 16th birthday. He was killed on Saturday morning in London when broken glass from an apparently unprovoked attack at a baker's shop lodged in his neck.

His death is the 13th teenage murder in London this year. The first pledge made by Boris Johnson, when he became Mayor of London, was to tackle the culture of teenage violence in the capital, and yesterday - at a global Day of Prayer - he reiterated his commitment.

But the problem is certainly not confined to London - last summer Rhys Jones, just 11 years old, was shot dead in Liverpool by two youths.

Tonight, we'll be discussing the ease with which teenagers turn to violence and how best to change the culture that breeds it.

China's earthquake

South West China has suffered its worst earthquake for 30 years, and several thousand people have been killed in the south-western province of Sichuan alone, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Many were buried as schools, factories and dormitories collapsed in the force of the quake with a magnitude of 7.8. Several hundred are buried in two collapsed chemical plants. China's President Hu Jintao has called for all out rescue efforts after the quake, the reverberations of which were felt 900 miles away in Beijing.

We'll have the latest from China on the devastation and the rescue effort, and what the government's response tells us about China in 2008.

Gordon's future

"Psychologically flawed."

Do you remember when that description of Gordon Brown was attributed to Alistair Campbell? Wrongly, Campbell says.

It was back in 1998 but the idea that Gordon sat "gathering his brows like a gathering storm nursing his wrath to keep it warm" (apologies to Burns) for the whole of the Blair years has not been dispelled by his demeanour as PM, and certainly not by the trio of autobiographies from Lord Levy, John Prescott and Cherie Blair.

And we know that his most recent travails over a Scottish referendum on Independence have put him in a very black mood. This weekend the Labour backbencher Frank Field said that he had been at the receiving end of a Brown rage in the past, and that he should not lead Labour to the next election - those closest to him should tell him when is the best time to go. We'll be gazing into Gordon Brown's future.

The cost of living

...and inflation. Tomorrow the National office of Statistics publishes the official figures but what is the true cost of living these days? How does it affect us all? We'll have the answers.

(Click here to take part in iPMs study of credit crunch concerns around the country.)

Have the UFOs stopped coming?

  • Newsnight
  • 12 May 08, 12:05 PM


Today the Ministry of Defence started releasing their UFO files.

They are all accessible on the internet through the National Archives UFO website - or watch the Newsnight take on the story here.

Prospects for Monday, 12 May 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 12 May 08, 10:17 AM

Good morning. Here's today's e-mail to the production team from output editor Simon Enright:

Hello All,

"I don't feel anger just sorrow for the parent's of our son's killer." The dignity with which the parents of Jimmy Mizen have spoken about him and the horrible way in which he died is striking. Sadly they are not the only parents to be dealing with the death of their teenage children AND it appears to be other teenagers who are carrying out the killing. Stopping these awful crimes was one of the main promises of Boris Johnson but how would you do it? Who are the people best placed to know and can we get them to debate on the programme?

But there are other things around... Burma, Gordon Brown's state of mind - does it matter if he's enjoying himself or not? Embryology debate?

We also have a piece trying to measure the real cost of inflation. All the papers are doing it but how accurate are their assessments? Hugh Milbourn and Gillian Lacey Solimar on the case.

As always looking for good ideas and thoughts. See you at 10.30.


Friday, 9 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 9 May 08, 06:24 PM

What would make a government impound food aid from its own dying people? The World Food Programme sent supplies into Rangoon today - but Burmese officials confiscated it. Tonight, we try to get inside the minds of one of the most unmalleable military regimes in the world, and ask what they're really thinking. Is this a problem that can only be eased with the Junta on board - or should the West carry on despite the political resistance there? We'll be speaking to the head of UN Relief as well.

House repossessions are up by 17% on last year - is Britain is facing a debt crisis? Paul Mason investigates.

Much of Western Beirut has been taken over by Hezbollah. What does this mean for Lebanon - and indeed the Middle East. Our Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban gives his assessment.

Billionaire Mayor:
And I talk to the billionaire mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. He's been a Democrat a Republican and an Independent - who better to assess the US presidential race. And he's got plenty of advice for Boris, and even Boris's hair.

Join me at 10:30pm on BBC 2


David Miliband responds

  • Newsnight
  • 9 May 08, 05:56 PM

miliband226.jpgOn Wednesday we asked what questions you would like to ask the Foreign Secretary David Miliband - and more than 175 of you responded.

During the live interview Jeremy used questions by Graham Nickson and LarsonsMum - and David Miliband agreed to respond to other questions online - which he has now done.
He didn't answer them all - but the ones we chose that we thought fairly represented the issues raised by you.

1. roydosan wrote:
Why is the government persisting with biofuels? When there is so much evidence about the harm they cause, why do we need another review/enquiry into them, can you not just take the decision to ban them?

The simple answer is that biofuels have the potential to provide low carbon sources of fuel. That is not to say that all biofuels do - for example the science points much more strongly to sugar rather than corn based fuels. But the potential is serious. We are alive to the dangers and indeed the Prime Minster recently wrote to Japan's Prime Minister Fukuda (as chair of the G8) on the issue. As a result, a UN Taskforce has been set up. The Government has also called for Professor Ed Gallagher, the former CEO of the Environment Agency, to review the indirect impacts of biofuels. He will publish his review in June and the findings will inform Government policy on biofuels. In the meantime the Government is fully involved in the development of sustainability criteria for biofuels in the EU and at the wider international level. The UK is among the world leaders in this field. The Government is also providing some support for technology development for biofuels and is considering what further measures may be required.

2. emptyend wrote:
How is a low-carbon economy compatible with calling for more production from OPEC? Why has this Government been frittering away the inheritance of North Sea oil and discouraging further exploration by sharply raising North Sea oil taxes two years ago?

There is important difference between short term problems and long term solutions. As I set out in my speech on Wednesday the mismatch of supply and demand that leads to high oil prices needs to be addressed by containing demand (by finding alternatives). The Government is also in the short term working with industry to address North Sea oil and gas reserves. Through the successful PILOT forum, our licensing innovations and the fallow initiative we have seen both higher levels of exploration and development of reserves that would not previously have been realised. We are also working with industry to unlock the gas potential West of Shetland. Treasury officials are currently consulting with industry on whether there is a need for any special measures to incentivise development of marginal discoveries, including the currently "stranded" gas reserves West of Shetland.

3. Tabasco1 wrote:
It will fall to you, Mr Miliband, to present the UK case to the Chinese and Indians that they should not build coal-fired power stations without operational carbon capture technology fitted from the outset. As it is your government is planning to give the green light to unabated coal-fired power stations in the UK. If this policy is not reversed, will you not - to use Nye Bevan's phrase about negotiations with the Soviets - be going into the conference chamber naked?

As energy prices continue to rise and energy security becomes both a foreign and domestic policy priority across the countries of the world, nations are increasingly turning to coal as a flexible, cheap and secure energy option. The IEA has predicted that by 2050 global energy demand will have increased by around 50% with significant portions of that coming from the emerging economies of India and China and based around their considerable reserves of coal. We will not be able to get a global deal on climate unless we can find a way of letting India, China and others continue to burn coal. As the Stern Review identified, carbon capture and storage is the key technology to allow us to continue to use coal. This is one reason why the UK's work on carbon capture and storage is so important. We are working towards the world's first commercial-scale demonstration project of carbon capture and storage on post-combustion coal. This should pave the way for improvements and cost reductions in this technology, making it more attractive and accessible for economies such as China and India to take up.

4. rdrake98 wrote:
What's the best book you've read that puts the case, from a scientific point of view, that global warming isn't a crisis that needs the attention of policy makers? If you cannot name such a book, what is the best book on policy that argues that even if the view presented by the IPCC to policy makers is broadly correct, most of the current suggested policy measures are likely to be futile or counterproductive?
What was the best argument that you read against increased production of biofuels at least a year or more ago?
If you have trouble answering the last, don't you think you should soon have better answers to the first two?
Lastly, if books on science are too hard, are you still sure it was wise to say that you would not even watch the documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle" when it came out in March of last year? (There were some excellent scientists on it. Of course the argument was a little simplified, as you'd expect in such a documentary. That's the why the initial questions were about the best books.)

I have just read Nigel Lawson's book arguing against the conventional wisdom on climate change - so that is the most recent. He is not a scientist but summarises the argument against. I think the IPCC and other books - the non scientific summary in The Weather Makers is good - outweigh his arguments. The Great Global Warming Swindle interviewed some impressive scientists - but since the programme aired, some of those scientists have been making it known that they were misrepresented, taken out of context, and misled on the purpose of the programme. For example, Professor Carl Wunsch, from MIT, has said he was "completely misrepresented" by the programme.

5. bookhimdano wrote:
Why are up to 50% of planning applications for solar panels being turned down? Why have the micro generation grants stopped? Why have taxes been raised on vegetable oil to make it more expensive than diesel? We have hundreds of acres of empty roof and garden space for panels, windmills and heat pumps yet the planners obstruct citing it's 'out of character'. Well they didn't have those things 100 years ago so of course it's 'out of character. How mad is that.

The situation isn't as mad as you suggest! Recent changes to planning requirements for microgeneration mean that from 6 April 2008 the majority of micro-generation technologies are covered by permitted development, with the exception of Air Source Heat Pumps and Wind Turbines. This means the majority of technologies will not require people to apply for specific planning permission. Microgeneration grants have not stopped. The Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase 1 household stream, with the remaining £10 million budget, was recently extended to June 2010 for new applications or as long as funds are available, whichever is sooner. We are currently seeing a steady flow of applications and the programme is making good progress. There's more information on this at

6. Considering how much utility bills and basic living costs have already risen, how will private companies be prevented from passing on the costs of reducing their carbon footprints to the public?

We've got a number of initiatives in place to help people who are seeing their fuel bills increasing -- including providing grants for vulnerable people through Warm Front, increasing the Winter Fuel Payment, and most importantly the obligation on energy suppliers to improve the energy efficiency of their customers' homes. From this year, energy companies will have to double that effort. Between now and 2011, we're requiring them to spend around £3 billion on everything from low energy light bulbs and insulation to helping people install microgeneration -- both cutting emissions, and the fuel bills of millions of people. Every pound invested by energy companies to date has benefited their customers by at least £9. I'd encourage anyone interested in this, or in accessing other grants and advice on cutting their energy bills and the environmental footprint of their homes, to call the 'Act on CO2' advice line.

7. PaddyN wrote:
Can I ask David Millband, MP, what the government plans to do to help the poor citizens suffering in Burma from the recent cyclone? I offer my deepest sympathies all those affected by the terrible catastrophe unfolding in Burma. The scale of the devastation is truly staggering. M y heart goes out to the many thousands of people who have lost their loved ones, their homes and livelihoods.

The government has made an initial pledge of £5m which will go towards meeting immediate needs including food, shelter and access to clean water. A UK emergency relief team will travel to Burma as soon as possible, and we are working closely with aid organisations on the ground. Getting aid through to those who are in desperate need is our top priority. We are using all channels to urge the Burmese Government to grant unrestricted access to the international relief effort. We are determined to do all we can to save as many lives as possible.

8. georgemclean wrote:
What are David's views on the idea of a single, secular democratic state of Israel/Palestine rather than the two-state solution that has been pursued for so long now?

I support a two state solution as do the majority of Israeli and Palestinian leaders and people.

9. rayall wrote:
Zimbabwe - when is the Brit govt. going to get cross with the failure by "Africa" to DO anything about Mugabe other than support and applaud him. In particular Malawi and South Africa - especially Mbeki with his No crisis in Zimbabwe, Allow transit of Chinese arms and refusal to allow subject to be raised in Security Council. By all means let Africa deal with their problems provided they do something in face of killings and lootings by ZANU PF.

We are pursuing a three step process: 1) Support for democratic movements in Zimbabwe; 2) Encouragement of African leaders; 3) And international mobilisation through the UN. President Mugabe has not yet stolen the election and it is vital that he is not allowed to do so. The greatest responsibility falls on African leaders but we all have a role to play.

Prospects for Friday, 9 May

  • Newsnight
  • 9 May 08, 11:13 AM

Today's programme producer is Dan Kelly - here's his morning e-mail to the production team...

Good morning all.

Lots of strong options today.

Is Lebanon in danger of descending into civil war? Much of the western half of Beirut has been taken over by Hezbollah this morning as battles between the group and government supporters continue. How should we cover this story?

Housing repossession orders are up 17% year on year - is Britain facing a debt crisis? Paul Mason is on the case. Let's discuss how to do this and which guests could work.

Who could we get on the Burma Cyclone to move the story on?


Thursday, 8 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 8 May 08, 07:15 PM

Hello to viewers here and abroad..


"We'll starve to death if nothing is sent to us."

burma203.jpgThat was the desperate cry of one of the survivors of the worst cyclone to hit Asia in more than 15 years. But is there any chance of a huge relief effort in Burma when the government there appears to be blocking rapid access? The International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander told MPs the government was receiving "mixed signals" on the question of access for international staff following a disaster which may have killed 100,000. There may by up to a million more who have no water, food or shelter. So far there has only been a trickle of aid allowed in, and the US Ambassador said a US military cargo plane still does not have permission to fly in supplies. We'll be speaking to our correspondents in the region and to the International Development Secretary about the world's apparent impotence in the face of an intransigent junta. Should we just send helicopters filled with aid over the border?

Also tonight in the second of his three special reports from Afghanistan Mark Urban speaks to two men in Kabul - one a teenager - preparing to be suicide bombers. Intelligence officers say that the number of suicide attackers in the country has increased in recent months and many blame the lax border controls between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mark investigates the problems with border security and the growing threat posed by the bombers.

Abu Qatada
And as I write we have just heard that Abu Qatada the extremist Muslim cleric - reputedly Al Qaeda's man in Europe has been granted bail. We'll be exploring the reasoning behind this extraordinary decision.

Latest news - It's the end of the world

  • Newsnight
  • 8 May 08, 04:19 PM

kirsty203.jpgTelling people the world is going to end is a tricky business. It's even more difficult if the apocalypse is being caused by an ugly race of aliens.

So if you had the choice of one person to tell you this news - who would it be?

Well Kirsty Wark of course.

In last week's episode of Doctor Who, our own Kirsty announced: "The government has declared a state of emergency" as the Sontarans unleashed their terrifying assault on earth.

David Tennant, who was sitting at home watching the episode, was so impressed he texted the director Douglas Mackinnon:

"It's funny but when Kirsty Wark tells you the world's ending you don't doubt it!"

Criminal check loophole

  • Newsnight
  • 8 May 08, 03:11 PM

Last night a Newsnight investigation revealed that foreign workers who work airside at UK airports do not have to undergo full mandatory criminal records checks.

All staff are checked against UK criminal records - the Criminal Records Bureau - but the government admitted that offences committed abroad are not covered. It means that criminals, guilty of very serious crimes committed in other countries, could be working at our airports. Watch the report here.

But is this problem limited to airport staff? What about other jobs - do foreign workers undergo full criminal checks from the countries they come from?

If you know of other examples - please contact us...

Prospects for Thursday, 8 May

  • Newsnight
  • 8 May 08, 10:37 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,

Quite a few stories around today. Let's see if we can get new lines on the airport security story. Burma, interest rates, Wendy Alexander and Alex Salmond lock horns at the Scottish parliament today over the referendum and Denham's speech to the Fabians tonight are worth doing. Let's discuss our options in the meeting.

Mark Urban interviews two suicide bombers in a special report from Kabul. Intelligence officers say that the number of suicide attackers in Afghanistan has increased in recent months, and many blame the lax border controls between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This forms part of a special investigation into border security and the growing threat posed by the bombers.

We also have an exclusive interview with the Chief Prosecutor for the ICC on Sudan.

Playout thoughts welcome.


Wednesday, 7 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 7 May 08, 05:27 PM

Hello All,

airport_security203.jpgOur lead report tonight is about airport security. You'll be reassured to know that those working airside have criminal record checks. That is apart from one group - foreign nationals. Believe or believe it not the government say they don't check their criminal records because, they tell us, it would be too complicated and cause delays. Are we sure this is good enough? The Conservatives don't think so. Jeremy will be asking the minister tonight.

We're also live in the US tonight after Barack Obama soundly beat Hillary Clinton in the North Carolina primary. He also ran her incredibly close in Indiana. Is this game over for Hillary now and when should she throw in the towel? Peter Marshall reports.

Is Labour backing the idea of holding a referendum on independence for Scotland? That's what we thought Wendy Alexander - leader of Labour in Scotland - was saying on Sunday and Monday. But that doesn't seem to be what Gordon Brown thinks she was saying. What should we believe? Michael Crick will explain all.

Finally as trailed earlier, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband is on the programme after outlining his vision for a low carbon future in the "Ralph Miliband" lecture. He's agreed to answer your questions - and Jeremy's. We've had lots - check them out here - and we'll make sure that he has enough time to answer a fair few. He's also agreed to continue answering your questions online tomorrow so please do give us your thoughts.

Do join Jeremy at 10.30 pm.

Simon Enright

Memories of The Great White City

  • Newsnight
  • 7 May 08, 02:24 PM

Madeleine Holt, Culture Correspondent

whitecity2.jpgThe year is 1908 and everyone is talking about "going to the 'Franco".
"The what?" you might ask. Well, it was nothing to do with Spain for a start. In fact, it was all about good relations between France and Britain: the Franco-British Exhibition.

It took place on the exact spot where I am writing this now - at BBC Television Centre in White City in West London. It amounted to a vast fantasy land of white plaster palaces, waterways and trade pavilions. The whole effect was so striking that visitors nicknamed the landscape the Great White City. The buildings are no more, but the name has stuck.

whitecity1.jpgThis massive Edwardian "expo" was first suggested by the French to celebrate the 1904 Entente Cordiale. Exhibitions had been in vogue since the Great Exhibition of 1851 - so why not stage something to show off the industrial and cultural achievements of both Britain and France?

The creative vision came from an astonishing Hungarian émigré, Imre Kiralfy. A former showman, he'd already masterminded shows at Earls Court and Olympia as well as Chicago and Paris.

whitecity3.jpgThe "Franco" surpassed all Kiralfy had done before. He constructed some of the most ornate buildings Britain has ever seen. 140 acres of marshy farmland were acquired and within 18 months a team of up to 12,000 workers had built 20 extraordinary palaces (complete with a central lagoon where you could take a trip on a swan boat), 120 exhibition buildings, an entire Irish village, and a scenic railway. Then there was the "Flip Flap" - a mind-altering joy ride that was so high you could see as far as Windsor Castle. It became the source of many a popular song.

whitecity4.jpgThe exhibition ran from May 14th 1908 until October 31st. Royalty came, the French president, a Russian Grand Duchess and incredible eight and a half million people - many of them working class families who could just afford the underground fare and the shilling entrance fee. People would talk for years about their trip to "the Franco".

You can watch Newsnight's Great White City film here.

England's "dream" chance as Croatia drop out of Euro2008

  • Paul Mason
  • 7 May 08, 12:04 PM

Fabio Capello has been given the target of making the semi-finals in World Cup 2010 in exchange for his £6m contract. Dream on. Shorter term, however, England fans will have to endure a full month of silky-skilled humiliation as our entire TV network goes football crazy for Euro 2008, and we are not there.

For me it's just too much: so I have decided to experience the whole Euro footy tournament in a parallel world, into which I invite readers of Idle Scrawl/Xian Ren San Ji (confused? start here).

As of now, Croatia have just dropped out, England are back in and all their fixtures will be played here in the Newsnight office, using Subbuteo. The first fixture begins on 8 June, at 1800. In the meantime, Fabio and the squad will be warming up with a friendly against the EZLN guerillas of Chiapas, Mexico, who are still waiting to play their long-advertised fixture with Internazionale.

Now all we have to worry about is Wayne Rooney's hip as someone in the office has already stood on him - we are supergluing right now.

David Miliband on Newsnight

  • Newsnight
  • 7 May 08, 11:59 AM

miliband_nn_203203.jpgTonight Jeremy will be talking to the Foreign Secretary David Miliband live in the studio after he delivers what promises to be a radical speech on transforming Britain into a low-Carbon economy.

He argues that this is the only solution to the problems of spiralling energy and food prices as well as water shortages.

But will the shift to low carbon economy mean difficult decisions for all of us - especially the government - about how we live our lives?

If you have a question you'd like to put to David Miliband on this, or any other issue relevant to the Foreign Secretary then please let us know.

Read David Miliband's answers here.

Prospects for Wednesday, 7 May

  • Newsnight
  • 7 May 08, 10:27 AM

Today's programme producer is Simon Enright - here's his morning e-mail to the production team...

Hello All,

There really is lots around today....

Jackie Long and Meirion have a strong piece of original journalism about airport security. We hope the government will speak to us off the back.

Could we have finally seen the Democratic nomination decided? Has Obama done enough? Are there any circumstances conceivable where Hillary can still win? Peter Marshall is in Washington.

We've also got David Miliband on the programme - off the back of his climate change speech.

What else should we do to push the agenda?

PMQs will be interesting...
Will the government be damaged by ignoring the advice of the ctte it set up to look into the issue of cannabis?
What is it that we should do on Burma that other parts of BBC News are not?
How do we mark the transfer of power in Russia?

All the best


Tuesday, 6 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 6 May 08, 06:03 PM

burma1_203100.jpgTonight's programme is presented by Jeremy Paxman.


The devastation and loss of life in Burma is extraordinary. The official death toll is now 22,000 with 41,000 missing, three days after Cyclone Nargis hit the country. Speaking from inside Burma, though, Save The Children have told us that between 50,000 to 100,000 may have died. We will assess the scale of the disaster and question how the secretive military Junta in Burma has responded to the crisis.


Brown's fight-back - what is it and can it work? David Grossman has been speaking to leading leftwing critics of the government and we'll question a cabinet minister on Labour's resurrection strategy.

US primary

What role has race played in the US primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? We'll have the latest from Indiana and North Carolina where Democrats vote today, and we'll speak to a senior African-American congressman and super-delegate, who fears that Democrat divisions on race may never heal.


How reliable is Climate Change modelling? Roger Harrabin has a film on the imperfections of the science behind the models and temperature predictions.

Prospects for Tuesday, 6 May

  • Newsnight
  • 6 May 08, 11:51 AM

Today's programme producer is Dan Kelly - here's his morning e-mail to the production team...

Good morning all.

Strong stories today. The death toll in Burma is at least 15,000 and is expected to rise further. How will the secretive and repressive military Junta respond to the crisis, and could it change the country forever?

Brown's fightback - what is it and can it work? A cabinet minister off the back would be worthwhile. The gamble by Wendy Alexander to argue for a referendum on independence in Scotland is also fascinating - how should we cover this story?

The Primaries in North Carolina and Indiana go ahead today. We have a senior African-American congressman and super-delegate live - James Clyburn.

How reliable is Climate Change modelling? Roger Harrabin has a film on the imperfections of the science behind the models and temperature predictions.

Although we have a lot, how would you like us to do each story? What guest suggestions have you got? Any suggestions for a playout?


Friday, 2 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 2 May 08, 05:38 PM

"Gordon shouldn't smile - it looks unnatural"

gordon_brown203.jpgThat was the advice from one former minister last week. Today, he bravely attempted one, as he admitted to a 'night of disappointment'.
If ever there was a day our Mystery Cat would have preferred to be elsewhere, it was probably now. And indeed, if there was ever a day Labour colleagues would have preferred him to be elsewhere, it was probably now.

The local elections results in England and Wales show meltdown for Labour - with the party pushed into 3rd place. And as we await the results of the London Mayoral Race - the hottest ticket in town - might Ken kick that Mystery Cat where it hurts?
So what of the Boris and Ken race? Well as I write, rumours abound and fact is scarce - the counting is only half done.

Some commentators predict a landslide for Boris. Some predict we may not even know the results until after we go on air this evening. Significantly, no one has predicted a landslide victory for Ken but all that could change. We'll bring you the key players and the analysis right here.

And what of the Tories? A momentous night - with a projected share of the vote of an impressive 44%.

Tonight we'll ask whether this is the beginning of the serious climb back for the Conservatives. Could a win for Boris prefigure a win for David Cameron? Are voters in London 'trying out' Tory leadership to see what it feels like after all this time?

Michael Crick, David Grossman and Paul Mason will take us around the country, to Old Labour heartlands, new Tory and Lib Dem gains, and of course inside City Hall in London to gauge the political climate exactly 11 years to the day since Labour came to power.

Join us at 10.30pm on what has been a truly extraordinary day for British politics.

Prospects for Friday, 2 May

  • Newsnight
  • 2 May 08, 11:06 AM

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


So we have 40 minutes to fill, which shouldn't be too hard.

Michael Crick and Hugh are heading back from Bury to package in London - they will look at the extent of the Labour "meltdown" and differing views on how Brown can regain the initiative. If he can regain it at all that is.

David and Thea are at City Hall - they can package the events of the day, such as they are, editing at Milbank. But we won't get the mayoral result till late. Perhaps even later than 9pm. It looks like Boris will win.

Paul and Vara have gone to Nuneaton - a council which Labour held for 33 years until last night when they lost it to the Tories. Two BNP councillors also elected there last night. Cameron is due there mid-morning. Good place to gauge how grassroots Labour voters/middle England are feeling.

Do we need a Ken obit?

In terms of lives, the panel are on standby and we should be in a good position to get some top news-making interviews. Who with?

See you soon.


Bury lass goes to heaven

  • Newsnight
  • 2 May 08, 10:26 AM

During his report on the local elections in Bury last night, Newsnight's Political Editor Michael Crick recalled a rhyme about the town his grandmother used to tell him.

By popular demand - here it is:

I dreamt I was dead and to heaven did go,
Where did you come from? They wanted to know,
I said I'm from Bury,
And St Peter did stare,
He said step inside lass,
You're the first one from there.

Watch Michael's report here.

Thursday, 1 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 1 May 08, 06:32 PM

polling.jpgDear viewers - Voting is continuing in the local elections in England and Wales. Polling stations will have closed by the time Newsnight is on air tonight and results will be starting to come in. Political Editor, Michael Crick will be in Bury, Lancashire and David Grossman will be following the mayoral contest in London with the latest news and analysis. We'll also have fascinating results of a BBC / ICM Election poll. Leading politicians from all three main parties will join us in the studio to discuss how they've performed at the elections.

Kyle Fisher
A babysitter serving life for murdering a neighbour's child has been released on bail, after having her conviction quashed. Suzanne Holdsworth, who's 37, had been found guilty of killing two-year-old Kyle Fisher by smashing his head against a banister. But the Appeal Court ordered a retrial after hearing that the boy had been prone to epilepsy, and could have died from a seizure. John Sweeney has followed the case closely for Newsnight. He has the latest developments for us tonight.

Are Elizabeth Fritzl and her children - abused and hidden for almost a quarter of a century - also victims of Austria's culture of secrecy, and even the country's state of mind? A former tenant of Josef Fritzl, who has confessed to confining his daughter and fathering her seven children, claims he heard noises and asked Fritzl what they were, only to be told it was the basement gas heater. Newsnight's Robin Denselow is in the small Austrian town of Amstetten to try to find out how such horror was never detected, and the impact it has had on the country. The Austrian Chancellor has announced a campaign to repair Austria's image abroad, but is it a period of analysis within the country that is needed?


Prospects for Thursday, 1 May

  • Newsnight
  • 1 May 08, 10:31 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,

Voting is under way in local council elections in England and Wales - and in the contest to decide who'll be the next mayor of London. About 4,000 seats will be decided. It's the first big electoral test for Gordon Brown as Prime Minister.

Jeremy Vine from the BBC Election programme is going to give us a run down of the key electoral battlegrounds and we'll have an ICM poll for tonight. Michael and Hugh are in the North of England. David and Myranda are in London. We'll need to chase up guests from the three main political parties.

Robin Denselow is in Austria examining what the Fritzl case tells us about the country and its past.

Other stories include the Bank of England report, and the Holdsworth appeal. Any other ideas welcome including playout thoughts.


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