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Archives for January 2012

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 16:53 UK time, Tuesday, 31 January 2012

David Cameron has described the removal of Fred Goodwin's knighthood as "the right decision".

Following RBS boss Stephen Hester's refusal of a bonus, it will be another bit of banker-bashing publicity for the prime minister to wield.

Previously, only convicted criminals or people struck off of professional bodies have had knighthoods taken away.

Tonight, David Grossman looks at the seemingly insatiable appetite for retribution against those deemed responsible for the financial crisis, but are the punishments just token gestures?

The Western-Arab drive to adopt a UN resolution on Syria is a "path to civil war", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has warned.

He said demands for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down would "not lead to a search for compromise".

But the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that Russia would be increasingly isolated across the Arab World if it vetoed the UN resolution.

The resolution will be discussed at an imminent UN Security Council meeting on the deepening Syrian crisis, after a day of particularly heavy bloodshed and with the army on the streets in Damascus.

Our Diplomatic and Defence editor Mark Urban will be unpicking the key players' positions.

And the BBC's technology correspondent will be taking a look at the finances behind the floatation of internet megalith Facebook.

Monday 30 January 2012

ADMIN USE ONLY | 11:38 UK time, Monday, 30 January 2012

Tonight, Mark Urban will be reporting from the EU Summit in Brussels, where the eurozone crisis is expected to dominate debate.

We have an interivew with the Egyptian-born internet activist Wael Ghonim.

Peter Marshall looks at the alarming number of mentally ill people dying in police custody.

And can the Royal Bank of Scotland survive in its current form?

Friday 27 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 14:59 UK time, Friday, 27 January 2012

A £963,000 bonus in shares awarded to Royal Bank of Scotland boss Stephen Hester has been strongly criticised.

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said the payout represented a "disgraceful failure of leadership by the Prime Minister".

And the Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said RBS was "not a normal bank" and there "should be a concept of public service and duty to the wider British public".

Tonight, our Economics editor Paul Mason investigates how the bonus was approved, and why.

And as the great and the good of politics, economics and business meet in the stunning Swiss mountains, has Davos come up with a plan to get us out of the economic crisis? Steve Smith has been going off piste to find out.

Also on the programme, Guillermo Arriaga, the Mexican screenwriter, director and producer who has received accolades for his films 21 Grams, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Babel, and has a strong view or two on the economic crisis.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 18:26 UK time, Thursday, 26 January 2012

How fair is the UK's tax system?

The Deputy PM Nick Clegg has called for the pledge to stop tax on earnings under £10,000 to be brought in more quickly, "because things are very tough".

Labour has said that the coalition was to blame for the "squeeze" on families.

So will a rise in the personal allowance threshold address perceived unfairness in the tax system, or is it just tinkering around the edges? David Grossman reports.

Also on the programme, shadow health minister Diane Abbott has resigned from a cross-party group on counselling given to pregnant women by abortion providers, dismissing it as a "front" for those who want it outlawed.

She said she had "no doubt" the government wanted to bring about such a change.
But Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who is in favour of altering the law, said Ms Abbott's comments were "nonsense".

Both will be joining Kirsty in the studio.

Also tonight, how vulnerable is our digital world from cyber attacks? Our Science editor Susan Watts has been finding out.

And after a list of those who declined an honour between 1951 and 1999, and who have since died, has been published for the first time, Steve Smith asks what value is placed on receiving an OBE, CBE or knighthood?

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 15:12 UK time, Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Tonight we ask whether the news that UK economic activity shrank by 0.2% in the last three months of last year indicates that the government has the wrong economic policy.

We will have analysis from Paul Mason and Jeremy has been talking to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

We have a report on the uproar over chemical company Dow's sponsorship of the wrap which will surround the Olympic stadium this summer, which is showing no sign of going away.

And we have our third film looking at China in the 21st Century. This time, amid a series of strikes and riots by migrant workers manning production lines in southern China, Mukul Devichand asks whether the government can keep the "factory of the world" running smoothly.

And also, is it possible to be a Tory and a feminist? Louise Mensch thinks so, and she will be joining Laurie Penny to debate.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 18:11 UK time, Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The International Monetary Fund has today issued a warning that the world's economy is "deeply into the danger zone" because of risks from the eurozone, predicting a reduced rate of growth in 2012 of 3.25%, down from 4%.

The growth forecast for the UK economy has been cut to 0.6% from 1.6%.

Tonight we'll be assessing just how bad the state of the economy is in, both in the short and long term and if there is any light at the end of the tunnel.

David Grossman examines the credibility of claims that an independent Scotland would be economically stronger than one under the Union and Jeremy has an interview with Alex Salmond.

Plus we have Jeremy's second film from China, this time looking at democracy and freedom against a backdrop of economic ascendancy.

And animated graphics exponent Hans Rosling takes us through his projections for the economic trajectory of both China and the UK.

Monday 23 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 17:50 UK time, Monday, 23 January 2012

Tonight we look at the plight of squeezed low to middle income earners against the backdrop of a warning that they will not see their disposable income approach pre-recession levels until 2020 at best, and a win for the government in the first of several votes on its proposed annual benefits cap.

Jeremy interviews Vince Cable about plans designed to curb executive pay, including giving shareholders the power to block excessive bonuses.

And we have the first film in our China series, in which Jeremy examines China's role in the 21st Century, whether it is indeed a rising superpower and what that could mean for the rest of us.

Plus we will be speaking to the Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming.

Friday 20 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 18:26 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012

Mass protests are continuing in Syria, even after the Arab League observer mission ended.

The country's capital, Damascus, has seen rallies by the Free Syrian Army, a group previously located in Homs.

Tonight, Tim Whewell reports on whether the unrest is gaining momentum, or are the many thousands of deaths and detentions taking their toll on the spirit of the activists?

Also, the government has published its first ever estimates for the proportion of foreign-born people who are claiming working-age benefits in the UK.

It found that 371,000 migrants made claims last year, the vast majority of which were legitimate.

So with immigration continuing in the hundreds, rather than tens of thousands, how will the welfare system be effected? David Grossman reports and we'll be crunching the numbers in the studio.

And finally, letters by Voltaire have been uncovered which reveal how much this icon of French writing profited financially and intellectually from a stay in England.

They include a signed acceptance from the 18th Century philosopher for a £200 grant from the Royal Family. Steve Smith looks into the writer's time in Blighty.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:11 UK time, Thursday, 19 January 2012

UPDATE AT 1800GMT: We are now no longer doing the hacking story, and are instead turning our attentions to the news that a committee of civil servants will consider whether Sir Fred Goodwin, the former boss of Royal Bank of Scotland, should be stripped of his knighthood.


David Cameron has been setting out his vision for what he calls a "fairer" version of capitalism.

The prime minister said the government has to do more than just get through the current downturn, and he wanted to build a "better economy".

Our Economics editor Paul Mason was at Mr Cameron's speech and asked him if he was advocating state interference in the markets. To which the short answer was "yes, to an extent".

So what are the initiatives and rules that would form the PM's vision of a "popular capitalism"? We'll be examining the proposals and speaking to the noted Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm.

Also on tonight's programme, a number of high-profile figures have received payouts over phone hacking by the News of the World.

Jude Law, his ex-wife Sadie Frost, Ashley Cole and Lord Prescott have all settled, the High Court was told.

The payments are part of an apology from News International, which accepted that there was no justification for hacking celebrities' phones.

So is that an end to the matter, and have News of the World journalists and editors avoided appearing in the witness box? We'll be asking what now for those claimants who have not settled and are pressing ahead for a trial.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:17 UK time, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Newsnight's Diplomatic and Defence editor Mark Urban has discovered that the UK's efforts to help topple Colonel Gaddafi were not limited to air strikes.

On the ground - and on the quiet - special forces soldiers were blending in with rebel fighters

Mark has also confirmed the existence of a secret unit within the special forces, E Squadron, which was operating in Libya, facilitating intelligence missions in the highly dangerous environment.

Those with a knowledge of the programme insist "they did a tremendous job" and contributed to the final collapse of the Gaddafi regime.

And Jeremy Paxman has an interview with Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a commander of the rebel forces in Libya widely tipped to run for president, who claims that his arrest in 2004 was part of a joint CIA and MI6 operation which was set up to help Col Muammar Gaddafi round up his enemies.

Also on tonight's show, first Boris Bikes and now Boris Island - London's Mayor received a boost today to his support for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

The government is to hold a formal consultation on the controversial idea, with a report due to be announced in March.

The plan has been widely attacked, from environmentalists concerned about the impact on the birdlife in the area, to those worried about bird strikes on planes and airport operator BAA which has warned of a detrimental effect on Heathrow's economy.

The issue could also drive a wedge in the coalition as the Lib Dems are reportedly opposed to all airport expansion in the south east of England.

David Grossman will ask if the Thames Hub airport plan has wings, or will it be a damp squib in the drive to increase the UK's passenger capacity. We'll also discuss in the studio.

Also on the programme, the IMF has said it will seek to increase its resources by $500bn £325bn to help stabilise the global economy, and the money could be used to help countries in the eurozone struggling to pay their debts.

Our Economics editor Paul Mason took advantage of the visit of Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti to London to ask what difference the money could make.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 14:30 UK time, Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tonight we start with the latest attack on Ed Miliband's Labour party leadership, this time from the head of Britain's biggest union, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who said that Mr Miliband has set Labour on a path towards "destruction" and "certain election defeat".

How much of a threat to Mr Miliband's leadership does this pose, and is there any substance to what Mr McCluskey said? David Grossman reports and we debate in the studio.

Also we look at whether proposed plans to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which the Lords are voting on today, should be shelved.

Ministers say the allowance is "20 years out of date" and £600m a year is going to those no longer eligible, but critics argue that the changes are being "rushed through" to meet Treasury targets.

Tim Whewell has today travelled with Arab League monitors to a town outside of the Syrian capital Damascus and will have a film on what they found.

Plus, we debate online encyclopaedia Wikipedia's plans to join other websites in going offline for 24 hours in protest against plans for new US anti-piracy laws.

Monday 16 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 17:08 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

Tonight we lead on Syria. We will be hearing from Tim Whewell who has spent the last few days assessing the grassroots mood amongst supporters of President Assad and those who have been trying to oust him for the past 10 months, visiting the flashpoint city of Homs on a government-led tour and an anti-regime protest.

And in the studio we will be discussing what the international community should about the worsening crisis as David Cameron says that Syria should face UN-backed backed sanctions if it fails to halt its violent repression of the protests.

Also Liz MacKean reports on claims that some academy schools are unofficially pushing disruptive and failing students out to avoid affecting their league table standings.

We will discuss the claims and the plusses and minuses of academy schools with Vic Goddard, head teacher at Passmore's Academy, the school featured in the TV series Educating Essex, and prominent educator Katharine Birbalsingh.

Plus as the Daily Mirror's editor Richard Wallace tells the Leveson Inquiry that a hacked voicemail could have been the source of a scoop revealing Sven-Goran Eriksson's affair with Ulrika Jonsson, Richard Watson examines where the inquiry has got to so far and if there is any sense of where it is going.

Friday 13 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 17:40 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012

Stock markets and the euro have fallen amid reports that the credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's is preparing to downgrade several European countries

France and Austria are rumoured to be set to lose their top AAA ratings, but Germany's status will not be reduced.

In other financial news in Europe, talks between Greece and its private sector lenders over a possible 50% write-off of its debts have stalled.

Reaching a deal is a pre-condition for Athens receiving the next chunk of bailout cash from the IMF and European Union.

Without that money, the Greek government could run out of cash and be forced to leave the euro.

Newsnight's Economics editor Paul Mason will have the latest and we'll be discussing the fallout in the studio.

Also on tonight's programme, Syrian opposition activists are continuing their protests against President Assad's rule.

The latest rallies have been in support of the Free Syrian Army, a group of army defectors seeking to topple the government.

The group has said it is behind an increasing number of attacks on Syrian security forces, and the authorities have acknowledged mounting losses.

Tonight, Newsnight's Tim Whewell reports from Damascus on the state of play between the activists and the government.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 15:45 UK time, Thursday, 12 January 2012

Tesco may have been "disappointed" by its Christmas trading, but many other firms reported "outstanding" results. So how is the UK economy faring in the New Year?

As David Cameron's recent EU veto demonstrates, in his opinion the City still commands a special place as a wealth generator, so will talk of re-balancing the economy come to anything or are we still reliant on consumer spending and investment banking as key components for growth?

Newsnight's Andrew Verity investigates, whilst Dragon Deborah Meaden and the FT's Gillian Tett join Emily Maitlis in the studio.

Also, in the wake of the Lords defeat for the government's welfare reforms, David Grossman asks where the proposals go from here. Employment Minister Chris Grayling and disability campaigner Sue Marsh debate the plans.

There has been a shocked response around the world after video footage appearing to show US marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters was posted on the internet.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says it was "deplorable behaviour". Our Diplomatic editor Mark Urban asks if it could lead to a backlash against troops in Afghanistan.

And back to the economy, the BBC's Tokyo correspondent Roland Buerk looks at Japan's economic stagnation of the late 1980s and 90s, and asks if it really was a "lost decade" and what can the UK learn from it?

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:31 UK time, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

After yesterday's announcement by Alex Salmond that he wants to hold an independence referendum in Scotland in the autumn of 2014, the political and legal arguments have already begun.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have jointly urged Scotland to reject calls for independence and indeed the coalition says any vote would be unlawful without their approval.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has said he would be happy to work with Scotland's first minister to "sort out" legal issues, but Alex Salmond insists that Westminster need not get involved.

Tonight, we'll hear from Mr Salmond about the points of contention between London and Edinburgh and where the process goes from here.

Also, Hungary has seen its currency free-fall, its credit status reduced to junk status and is facing action from the EU over its budget deficit and new constitution. No wonder that Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government is holding meetings with top IMF officials to prevent his country becoming the new Greece.
Newsnight's Economics editor Paul Mason reports live from Budapest and the Hungarian ambassador to the UK joins Gavin Esler in the Studio.

Plus, after David Cameron urged British filmmakers to focus on making more commercially successful movies, Steve Smith asks if the UK industry should go mainstream.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:22 UK time, Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The controversial new high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham has been described by the government as "the most significant transport infrastructure project since the building of the motorways".

But opponents dispute government claims that HS2 will deliver benefits worth up to £47bn, at costs of about £33bn.

Tonight, we look at the business and environmental arguments around the project. We have an interview with Transport Minister Norman Baker, plus we will be debating the issues with Chris White MP, City AM editor Allister Heath and Sue Holden, chief executive of the Woodland Trust.

Also, Labour leader Ed Miliband has insisted he can still "deliver fairness" in tough times, but after admitting that any new government would face "difficult" spending constraints, we ask just what is his economic plan, and talk to shadow treasury secretary Rachel Reeves.

And as the race for the Republican presidential nomination continues, we get the latest from Peter Marshall in New Hampshire and speak to Tim Pawlenty, who pulled out of the running in August, about the man he is backing, frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Monday 9 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:59 UK time, Monday, 9 January 2012

The opening salvos in the battle over the future of the United Kingdom have been fired with David Cameron saying that uncertainty over Scotland's status is damaging and should be quickly resolved.

Tonight David Grossman reports on the battle lines being drawn up, what strings Westminster will try to attach to any referendum on Scottish independence and how the Scottish nationalists are likely to react. Plus we will be speaking to senior politicians on both sides of the argument.

Also, when they met in Berlin today French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed to have put aside their differences on a controversial tax on financial market transactions. Tonight we examine the likelihood that the so-called Robin Hood tax will be implemented across the European bloc.

And Peter Marshall reports from Ohio, a key US presidential contest battleground and bellwether state to see how the main challenge facing all White House hopefuls - the state of the economy - is shaping voters' views.

Friday 6 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 14:02 UK time, Friday, 6 January 2012

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy has said that Labour must have "genuine credibility" on the economy and avoid routinely opposing government spending cuts.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper he said that he would accept £5bn of defence cuts, including the scrapping of Nimrod spy planes, savings in the Trident programme and cuts to civilian allowances.

It is the second time this week that a senior Labour figure has cast doubt on the party's economic strategy. Tonight Paul Mason reports on what is happening and why.

Susan Watts is looking at the findings of a study published in the British Medical Journal which suggests that the brain's ability to function can start to deteriorate as early as 45.

And Kirsty Wark has an interview with JC Chandor, writer-director of the film Margin Call, a thriller set in an investment bank during a perilous 24-hour period in the early stages of the 2008 credit crunch.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 13:46 UK time, Thursday, 5 January 2012

Nick Clegg and David Cameron have said they want to do more to stop tax avoidance by big companies.

The deputy PM told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he hoped there would be progress on an "anti-avoidance" tax rule in the Budget on 21 March, and the prime minister has also said a "tougher approach" is needed towards large firms with "fancy corporate lawyers".

Tonight Richard Watson reports on the avoidance tactics used by some companies and what can be done to block them.

Paul Mason takes a broad look at the state of the world economy and whether in the face of a double dip recession nations are likely to pull together or turn to protectionism, forcing a break down in global trade.

A decade after Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs described the rising economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China as the Bric economies, Justin Rowlatt has a report from Brazil on how the economy is faring now and the threats it faces. We will also be talking to Mr O'Neil afterwards.

And we look at the Diane Abbott Twitter race row. Liz MacKean reports on the reaction from politicians on both sides of the house, then we will debate whether what Ms Abbott said was racist or not, and whether an apology goes far enough, with Darcus Howe and Sunder Katwala.

All that with Emily at 10.30pm.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 14:37 UK time, Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Tonight we look at the ongoing fallout from the Stephen Lawrence case, putting to the test the Metropolitan Police claim that relations between them and the black community have been transformed in the 18 years since the teenager was murdered.

We have an interview with Giles Fraser who resigned as canon of St Paul's cathedral when matters between the Church of England and the Occupy protesters came to a head in October. We will be asking why the protest was so mishandled and what lessons have been learned.

Plus Justin Rowlatt has a report from Brazil on radical new attempts to reforest parts of the Amazon, which are having quite dramatic results.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Verity Murphy | 14:54 UK time, Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year! Tonight Newsnight returns to air after the Christmas break, with Jeremy Paxman taking the helm.

We will have reaction to the news that Gary Dobson and David Norris have been convicted of the racist murder of black London teenager Stephen Lawrence 18 years after the attack and be looking at the wider impact of the case.

Our guests include Martin Bashir who in 1999 interviewed all five men suspected of involvement in the killing for a key TV documentary and former justice minister Lord Falconer.

Peter Marshall is in Iowa where US Republicans bidding to challenge Barack Obama for the White House are set to face the first official test of the 2012 campaign, the Iowa caucuses.

We will be assessing the type of candidates on offer to Republican supporters this time round and who is likely to come out on top.

Our guests include Republican Fred Karger, the first openly gay candidate from a major political party to run for the US presidency.

The government has launched a review of risks from faulty breast implants amid new
evidence from a cosmetic surgery provider which has revealed that rupture rates on allegedly faulty French-made breast implants are seven times higher than previously thought. Susan Watts will report on this.

Plus we have an interview with acclaimed author Hisham Matar about his family's homeland Libya and the changes in the relationship between the Libyan diaspora and the Libyan authorities in the wake of Gaddafi's overthrow.

Join us at the usual time and place - 10.30pm on BBC Two.

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