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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 13:16 GMT
Feedback - November 2005

What do you think of the stories we have covered? Do you have anything to say about the programme or the issues of the day? You can read and send us your views from this page.

This month:

General comments
Your views: Editor's column
Evolution of the new drinking legislation
Potential gas crisis
Rationing health care
Margaret Thatcher
Al Jazeera debate
Drinking laws
Nuclear power
Paxman interview with David Cameron
The Texan town of Dish
Your views: Cousin marriage
Wind-up laptop
Sir Ian Blair
Sir Christopher Meyer controversy
Paxman interview with David Davis
Leap seconds
Terror defeat
Digital time warp
Chinese state visit
Anti-terror legislation
Voiceovers versus subtitles
France riots
Squirrel debate
Broadband woes
Blunkett resignation coverage
Write to us

Click here to read October's feedback

The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.


I notice on the page about the Pink Pussy cocktail that there is a picture of a pink cat. I hope Newsnight didn't capture an innocent cat and dye it to use on this page. More importantly, quantities would be nice for those of us who wish to make a Pink Pussy.
Alex, Coleshill

Newsnight responds:

Suspicious readers may rest assured that no cats were "pinked up" in the making of this cocktail.


Having grown sick and tired of USA mainstream news, during the Chandra Levy/Monica Lewinsky soap opera, my family and I turned to BBC World Service. I now watch BBC News via the internet on a regular basis. Newsnight, is a very informative, interesting program, which I view as often as possible. BBC has become the main source of news in my home. Using my cellphone, I am able to download stories of interest to me, at work as well. So I have my co-workers tuning into to BBC. I live and work in NYC.
Doris Torres, NYC, USA

Jeremy Paxman is the best political interviewer bar none! Here in North America no one comes near to his standing and bravura. If an individual wants our vote and thus potentially become a Prime Minister, he must be prepared to have his feet held to the fire. If he cannot better an interviewer, how can he expect to gain respect in the outside world? You go Jeremy!
Jon Friend, Toronto, Canada

I am a masters student from Brunel and totally love Newsnight and Paxman's hard line approach. I loved the discussion on Tesco. In addition the quirky debate into the notion of "happiness" was delightful [15 November 2005]. Please keep producing off-key debates like that as it keeps us all "happy".
Kevin Wright, Uxbridge

Why isn't Tony Blair standing for the Tory party leadership as an unreformed blood and guts Conservative?
Colin Chamberlain
Why do I love Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight? Because of priceless moments such as tonight's interview with Douglas Murray [14 November] about the latest so-called US "evidence" of Iran's nuclear threat. Murray arrogantly leans back in his chair, evading Paxman's question about how we can avoid the politicisation of intelligence reports - only to be cut down by Jeremy's quip, "I'm asking if you have any bright ideas on how to prevent this problem." Paxman knows how to put people like him in their place. THAT'S why I love him.
SA, London

It appears that while Tony Blair will not back pedal on his newly borrowed Conservative policies, he will just peddle them a little harder. Why isn't he standing for the Tory party leadership as an unreformed blood and guts Conservative? Nobody else is.
Colin Chamberlain, Windsor

As I sit here in the Philippines I am privy to stories that do not get released into the media - imagine my surprise when your letter of yesterday about "Cry Wolf" arrived concerning our Security Services. On leaving one such service one thing was uppermost on my departure - the reduction and depletion of the "front end" personnel who do the gathering of Intelligence, in favour of administrators who continually clutter up the flow of Intelligence collection, people that have no function but to shuffle around what little there is now gathered from the ether.
David A Langcake, Antipolo, Philippines

I just write to say how much I enjoyed tonight's Newsnight with Gavin Esler [11 November 2005]. It was a wholly entertaining and interesting programme. Many thanks.
David Edwards, Ely

Thank you for Newsnight and for being able to watch it in broadband. I have been in Australia for 40 years but I still like to keep in touch with "home". You do it well and I may be 70 years + 11 but I still enjoy jokes fit for an 11 year old. Cheers from Down Under.
Jean Ritter, Kalamunda Western Australia

The rise of Asia is something you have to address by having an Asian correspondent
Piers Davenport
Your coverage on Newsnight is too American-centric (in news and cultural reporting); ironically, the BBC has been officially criticised for the lack of European news. I get the feeling that reporting-staff are very much US-focussed. I was pleased when you had a China week. I believe that Newsnight is not purely a programme designed to feature events, but has a purpose to educate. The rise of Asia (China & Japan) - economically and politically - is something you have to address by having an Asian correspondent.
Piers Davenport, Alton

I am irritated by the reshowing of part of the "headline interview" during the news round up [Alastair Campbell - 02.11.05]. Your viewers have already seen the interview once - is it being shown again for those with a feeble attention span? It is not necessary. There are plenty of other news outlets for those of feeble intellect.
Paul Cartwright, Derby

Newsnight responds:

Not everyone is free to watch Newsnight from the start. Some people only join the programme at 11pm - the recap is for them.

Put folks in a sensible office chair for real comfort
Ric Moore
Get rid of that damn couch. No one on it looks comfortable, especially the presenters. They appear to be twisted into a "pretzel", trying to sit and address a screen behind them or guest in front of them. As for the guests, they have nowhere to rest their arms, or maintain "a safe distance from..." their co-guests. Bad idea, time you got rid of it, and put folks in a sensible office chair for real comfort, even if you do this without the desk.
Ric Moore, Colwyn Bay


A pint being poured in a pub

I have just watched your report on the new licensing laws and felt that it was somewhat unbalanced in that it hardly focused on any of the benefits that the new licensing laws may bring. It appears the media is hell bent on whipping up public concern over this by trying to panic the public and shape public opinion. I felt that Newsnight should be better than this. What is hardly ever mentioned on this subject is that many bars already open past 11 o'clock, typically bars that have a dance floor. Why is it that if I want a drink past 11pm that I have to go to one of these loud bars. It's these bars that cause the trouble in towns, not the traditional pub that will now be able to open later.
Paul Touzel, Colchester

Jeremy Paxman's position in his interrogation of Tessa Jowell can only logically lead to demands for the dramatic restriction or total banning of all sales of alcohol. If the government were to advance any such a policy he and his ilk would doubtless be shrill in their denunciations of "nanny-stateism". Such is the mindless hypocrisy of Newsnight.
Simon Watney, London

Why are Frank Dobson MP and your interviewer riding around in the back of a car, clearly on public roads, and neither of them is wearing a seatbelt?
Damian Warburton, Bristol

I have just seen Jeremy Paxman interview Tessa Jowell. When Mr Paxman has recently been interviewing Conservative politicians he has been overtly combative, interrupting, badgering and demanding. When interviewing Tessa Jowell he hardly challenged and never interrupted, letting her have full license to put her point across. Come on, Mr Paxman, play a fair game. If you see it fair game to "rough up" Conservatives at least treat the Labour minister with the same level of contempt!
Andrew Barrand, Hereford

POTENTIAL GAS CRISIS [23 November 2005]

What better background do they need to announce a programme of building new nuclear power stations than turmoil in the gas markets?
Richard Murphy
On the subject of the so called "energy crisis", the energy minister said that 0.5% of companies in the UK are on spot related gas contracts and they use gas exclusively as part of their industrial process. I advise clients in all aspects of energy procurement and understand that 70% of the industrial and commercial market (by volume) is on other than fixed annual contracts and are exposed to these higher spot prices to a greater or lesser extent. This includes water companies, supermarkets, food manufacturers and other organisations who use gas as a heating fuel. They cannot switch fuels or cease taking supply. However the minister is correct in saying there is plenty of gas. Demand over recent days has been just 5% above seasonal norm and yet prices have been at a level which you might expect only on days of highest recorded demand! In times of high demand the National Grid can call upon larger users to cease taking gas. At present not one single such supply has been "interrupted", prices should not, according to the fundamentals of supply and demand, be nearly as high as they are. Organisations who bought gas in the summer at lower prices and put it into storage are withdrawing in response to the higher prices they can get at the moment and are doing so for commercial rather than strategic reasons. The government should act to ensure that storage facilities are used only for strategic reasons and not commercially. They should also remember that the select committee on fuel prices said in their report earlier this year that end users should change the way they buy to avoid going to the market at the same time to fix annual prices. We have done this and then been left unprotected at the mercy of a largely unregulated wholesale market which is quite simply broken and now pays no heed to the fundamentals of supply and demand.
Richard Murphy, Hinckley

On Newsnight this evening Malcolm Wicks emphasised to Jeremy Paxman that the first losers of gas supplies this winter would be "heavy" industry - with the emphasis on "heavy". The implication was that domestic consumers would run no risk of having the lights go out. However, I was surprised that Mr Paxman had not been briefed to ask what constituted heavy industry. A DTI energy balance shows the biggest consumer of UK gas is the domestic market which accounts for 35%. Heavy industry consumes less than 13%. 30% is used for power generation. Is the natural gas power industry considered heavy industry? If so, will we be sure to be able to enjoy cooked turkey this Christmas but maybe only by candlelight? The question should be asked!
John Griffiths, Warlingham

Are the government really so concerned about gas prices? What better background do they need to announce a programme of building new nuclear power stations than turmoil in the gas markets and a knock-on effect for electricity (40% of which comes from gas fired plants in the UK)? Personally, I am all for new nuclear plants but this government - and previous ones - have constantly ducked the issue and preferred to see our present stations run down and taken off line with no credible replacement.
Richard Murphy, Skipton

RATIONING HEALTH CARE [23 November 2005]

Drinking and smoking are taxed heavily so unhealthy people are keeping the economy going
Nigel Bain
Why have some NHS administrators decided to discriminate against a section of the population over hips? If these people are clinically obese how come their doctor has not noticed and done something about it? If the argument is that these people have done it to themselves lets cut all maternity units as mothers have also "done it to themselves" by getting pregnant. Certain types of jobs have certain illness and risks - is that the fault of the individuals who work in those jobs? Quite frankly I think that these administrators are barking mad - if we saved the wages of these individuals, who have lost touch with the needs of society, maybe we would have enough for a lot more hip operations!
R Keyworth, Shropshire

This debate about who should get medical treatment doesn't take into account that these people have paid their taxes, which if they smoke and drink are a lot higher. Unhealthy living fairly swells Mr Brown's coffers. Drinking and smoking are taxed heavily so unhealthy people are keeping the economy going. Beware of health facism.
Nigel Bain, Inverness

MARGARET THATCHER [22 November 2005]

Margaret Thatcher

15 years! I feel proud when I see Mrs Thatcher leaving. She started off well by allowing people their properties. However, her next move to bring in the poll tax was a disaster. I am happy to remember I was just one of the many that helped turn her out. As a grandmother I will never forget the treatment of police in London - that really opened my eyes. I truly cannot understand why Mr Blair is being allowed to hold us to ransom over this equally unfair council tax and these benefit systems that are a shambles.
Barbara Lockwood, Norwich

Mrs Thatcher, in my opinion, was at first a politician and secondly a commander in chief. Everybody now talks of how "presidential" Tony Blair has become but from what I recall it was Mrs Thatcher who started it! However, I actually support this style of leadership as it brings order and unity to politics when times are dangerous. In the 80s it was the Cold War, and now it's fundamentalist terrorism. We need a prime minister who acts like a president.
Jayden Simmons, Newbury

AL JAZEERA DEBATE [22 November 2005]

I can understand the attraction of having guests/contributors who provide "challenging" or "thought-provoking" views. However, Frank Gaffney appears on Newsnight with alarming frequency. This unabashed neo-con has little, if anything, to contribute to any debate on the Iraq debacle. Instead, Gaffney maintains an on-message spiel in defence of his ally at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Surely it's not beyond Newsnight to invite US contributors of greater originality, insight and calibre.
Jim McCabe, Bootle

Although Al Jazeera has shown some shocking footage in the past, US networks have shown similarly disrespectful and brutal images (Abu Graib). There are never any ethical, strategic or political justifications in our liberal/Western world to target news agencies from any country or region.
Gavin N Jones, London

I have always found the channel useful because of the different emphasis it places on its selection of news stories
Peter Stitt
Thank you for showing us the frightening Frank Gaffney, who said that journalists working for Al Jazeera are effectively enemy combatants and therefore legitimate targets for attack by American forces. Quite extraordinary! How would he like it if someone said that journalists working for the American media twist the news to support America's point of view and are therefore legitimate targets for attack?
Chris Hills, Cambridge

I am, and always have been, strongly supportive of the war in Iraq but I do not feel Al Jazeera has actually done anything wrong. If its coverage of Iraqi events comes from a different perspective then that is surely a good thing in terms of freedom of speech, a prerequisite for democracy. I have watched Al Jazeera for five years and am white, Catholic, of Scottish/Irish ancestry, and I have never known Al Jazeera to ever feature a report that was not true. I think people such as Frank Gaffney believe that military superiority provides you with a monopoly on "truth" and the right to broadcast your vision of what the truth is. The idea of attacking Al Jazeera is absurd and I must applaud Tony Blair for allegedly blocking this stupid plan. I would also suggest that Al Jazeera has reported on Osama Bin Laden, not promoted his cause. I have always found the channel useful because of the different emphasis it places on its selection of news stories, something that has always supplemented my experience of coverage provided by the BBC and the American media. Different ain't necessarily bad.
Peter Stitt, Hull

Just saw the appalling Frank Gaffney on Newsnight. Why do you keep letting crazed extremists like him on the show? He lied us into the war and now he lies us into allowing journalists to be targeted. How can you allow such extremist views on the BBC without challenging it (Paxman was meek and allowed Gaffney to interrupt)? Hooray for good journalism. Not dead assassinated journalism. Shame on you.
Luigi, London


I believe the media are simply hyping the situation because it is a story
Ian Norton
I am sick and tired of the hype surrounding the launch of the latest alcohol licensing laws and the supposed detrimental effect it is apparently going to have on the whole of life as we know it. If irresponsible schools continually dish out non-nutritional foods which made their pupils unhealthy and obese, is it the fault of the children or the school? If landlords and club managers continually offer temptations to their clientele to drink more and then, when they are totally obliterated, allow them to drink even more, does not more than a fair share of the blame rest with those who view takings in the till as far more important than the welfare of their clientele and community? If a drug dealer starts teenagers on the slippery slope to addiction, doesn't the blame rest with the dealer? I believe the media are simply hyping the situation because it is a story. If extremely severe penalties were dealt out to the ones who irresponsibly sell alcohol to customers when they have obviously had enough then a lot of the present and potential problems would disappear overnight.
Ian Norton, Cardiff

NEWSPAPERS [21 November 2005]

A blurred shot of a group of newspaper tops

There are four good reasons why no one should ever buy a newspaper of any sort. 1 - There is no truth whatsoever in any of the reports in any paper. 2 - All reports contain a multitude of lies. 3 - All reports are a work of fiction by the reporter. 4 - The crap ink they use these days comes off on your finger ends and if you then put your fingers anywhere near your mouth you will end up being poisoned! Plenty of reasons why I haven't bought a newspaper for 30 years!
Ian Bannister, Keighley


My view is that the government has already decided on nuclear power. Wave, wind and solar projects have been turned down because there is no money to put into these projects. No money to put into production alternative methods that on paper will solve our energy requirements permanently! Nuclear and oil bosses have seriously palled up with New Labour. They are only backing projects that are doomed to failure.
Anne Benfedda, Northwich



David Cameron

Jeremy Rules! I started watching him from the Michael Howard interview where I thought he was superb! Another fantastic performance against David Cameron as well! He's the only one who gets stuff out of the politicians and doesn't let them beat around the bush. Keep it up Jeremy!
Muhammad Atif, Hants

I thought Jeremy Paxman's interview of David Cameron was absolutely awful. Jeremy seems totally concerned with trivia and seems to think his job is to try and demolish his guest. He should ask sensible political questions and listen to the answers then we might raise the standard of political debate. Why do the viewers have to be subjected to his uncivilised, childish, unintelligent bully-boy tactics? His behaviour is completely unacceptable. Time he moved on!
P. Heath, London

I do wish everyone would stop worrying about Paxman's "style" and concentrate on the substantive issues. In particular, Paxman brilliantly highlighted Cameron's capriciousness in regard to policy matters. There's no point in having yet another bland interview with open questions and limited critique - the candidates get plenty of those. "Paxman" is the only opportunity to really grill these candidates properly. To then criticise the interviewer for his genuine journalistic attempts to expose their weaknesses strikes me as completely missing the point. I don't think Paxman is on some sort of "ego trip"; rather, he is the only journalist around who is prepared to robustly challenge these contenders.
Adrian Fogarty, London

I am writing regarding the interview with David Cameron. I was dismayed by this interview. When David Cameron tried to reply to the questions he was interrupted, not once but all the time. When he was challenged, he was given multiple challenges - a list - a hopeless position in which to give a reply. What I saw on Thursday night was theatre - or rather a circus where a victim is fed to the lion to the delectation of the audience. This is not journalism but entertainment. I can think of far more entertaining programmes. It is time for JP to behave professionally - yes this is a question of his professionalism - I watch Newsnight in order to be informed - not entertained.
Gwyn Price Evans, Whitland

I thought Jeremy Paxman was brilliant! Cameron got really agitated by his superb questioning. Jeremy was well prepared and I felt Cameron didn't expect such harsh questions/comments.
Hitesh Mehta, Edgware

Paxman's cheap little jibe "now you've got that off your chest" smacked of peevishness at being pulled up by David Cameron. It detracted from an otherwise good interview.
FM Gillespie, Cambridge

There's a fine line between irreverent and arrogant and he has stepped over it
Graham Lawton
I used to like Jeremy Paxman's interview style but there's a fine line between irreverent and arrogant and he has stepped over it. Jeremy, we don't tune in to watch you preening, barking and smirking when you catch someone out over a point of no consequence. You've become a self-regarding bore.
Graham Lawton, London

I watched Jeremy Paxman's interview with David Cameron with great interest and not a little annoyance and anger at Mr Paxman's rudeness and contempt for good manners. His constant interruption of his interviewees before they have answered his question is extremely annoying. It is not a good interviewing technique.
John Blyth, Holt

The interview with cameron was great! Watching him getting grilled was the highlight of my evening. A lot of puzzling questions were answered in my mind. Only Paxman could get the juicy info from Cameron.
Tim Maxim, Weybridge, Surrey

Not for the first time does Britain owe Mr Jeremy Paxman a great debt for exposing a politician
Peter Stitt
Why does Jeremy Paxman continually interrupt his interviewees? He asks leading questions which at best are designed to trap the interviewee and at worst to draw out the answer that Mr Paxman wants. It's boring when he asks a complex question stipulating that it's to have a "yes/no answer". What a ridiculous proposition. Perhaps some people like this kind of "put them on the spot technique", but frankly an interview where I'm more focused on the interviewer rather than the interviewee is not a good interview.
A Cobb, London

Not for the first time does Britain owe Mr Jeremy Paxman a great debt for exposing a politician. I suspect that my former party is too stupid to take on board the outcome of Mr Paxman's interview with David Cameron and, in the event of a Cameron leadership victory, the Conservatives will more than ever before be relying upon a government "losing" an election in order to secure power. The man has no policies, no substance, no credibility, he looks like a somewhat flimsy version of the 1996 Tony Blair. Jeremy Paxman made all of this painfully clear.
Peter Stitt, Hull

Paxman's whole approach in his interview with David Cameron was irritating and unproductive. I'm not a Conservative but give Cameron a chance to answer the questions. I'd virtually reached the point that if I know Paxman is hosting Newsnight I don't watch it: tonight's edition finally convinced me to abandon all further Paxman Newsnights.
John West, Sherborne

Jeremy Paxman does an excellent job! Love the Paxman Interviews - David Cameron was stressed out! Excellent job by Newsnight!
Mushtaq Patas, Nottingham

You're not giving Cameron a decent chance!
Noel, Bristol
Did Paxman have a bad night tonight? David Cameron ran rings around him and stood his ground when Paxman was trying to prevent him answering questions. Very impressive and I think, after some hesitation over the last few weeks, DC is the man for the job.
John Thomas, Chester

Jeremy, I love your usual style but I think you're not giving Cameron a decent chance!
Noel, Bristol

I do pray David Cameron doesn't get in to power. He truly is the heir to Blair. He has a policy of no policy.
John Lilburne, Winchester

BLOGGING [17 November 2005]

A computer screen showing the face of Paul Mason

The mainstream media seems to take no note when an individual presents firm evidence of corruption against a public individual / organisation. This may be because of scepticism or political partisanship. It's difficult to tell. The beauty of the internet is that anybody can blog on subjects that they feel irritated about and by Googling other people can find blogs which deal with issues that they also have a problem with. In the past the authorities could deal with complainants on an individual basis by persuading the complainant that they were wrong on a particular issue and that there were no other complainants. Blogging is real democracy. Complainants can now see for themselves whether their issue is a general problem or not.
John Lilburne, Winchester

THE TEXAN TOWN OF DISH [17 November 2005]

Come on - this story is 50 years old. Didn't your researchers know about that old chestnut "Truth and Consequences New Mexico", the town that changed its name on a TV programme's challenge in the 1950's? If they didn't, they should have, as maybe should Paxman - it is after all a classic University Challenge question. Shame on you all for your lack of trivial knowledge and more unforgivably, your researchers' ignorance and inability to Google.
Ceri Smith, London

If you are covering Texan towns and potential name changes, you ought to mention the town called White Settlement near Fort Worth which has voted to keep its blatantly racist name. A bigger story than the buying of the community to be known as Dish.
Brendan Mulcahy, London

WIND-UP LAPTOP [16 November 2005]

The wind-up laptop

Big fan of Newsnight but the lead piece on 100 USD laptops last night was inane. I thought it was April 1st. The CEO and Kirsty Wark kept repeatedly flogging the idea that this was the answer to Africa's education problem as the guest in the studio voiced the thoughts of most of your watching audience, I would think - 100 dollars? With millions dying of hunger and schools without a roof or a teacher. Are you mad?
Shane O'Sullivan, London

Why not ask the public to buy one computer for themselves and sponsor another for Africa?
Victoria Medhurst
The CEO of One Laptop Per Child is talking sense - many children never meet a teacher, but they can teach themselves with the aid of a computer. Dr Sugata Mitra has shown this in the "village children" programme in India (featured on Radio 4 a few years ago). The man from Christian Aid sounded stuck in his own preconceptions and traditional approaches to the problem - which have failed already.
John Holden, Hindhead

Why not ask the public to buy one computer for themselves and sponsor another for Africa? That's only 200 USD.
Victoria Medhurst, Somerset

No mention was made of the need to set up the wireless networks to make the laptops useful
Jonathan Clough
Why has the report and the spokeswoman for OLPC completely failed to recognise that in order for people to have access to the world of the internet, they are going to need telecommunications infrastructure? I'm astonished no-one in the interview has made this connection. Newsnight is usually good at picking up these sorts of details.
Sally Daultrey, Cambridge

No mention was made of the need to set up the wireless networks to make the laptops useful. How are these to be financed? Will the organisation promoting the laptops ensure that a network is available for every unit sold? If not, then some children will end up with nothing more than an hi-tech word processor or games console.
Jonathan Clough, Cambridge


I totally agree with Sir Ian Blair. The police must be given the powers that they need to save innocent people from being murdered by terrorists. Hand wringing and soft sentimentality won't do it. How many more will be killed before British people come to their senses? Australia's Prime Minister has the right idea and Australians have the common sense.
Jill Jeffs, Auckland NZ

If the police screw up and shoot an unarmed individual, the public want to see the police officers involved charged with a crime
Paul Guinnessy
I think it is rich that Sir Ian Blair, the chief policeman in the capital city of our supposedly democratic country, should lecture the population at large on how we must become engaged and involved in deciding what kind of police force we should have or else the police will fill in the blanks themselves. Let me begin for him, we want a reliable, honest, open and trustworthy police force. I also believe that an independent, strong-willed civilian should head up the police force to set strategic direction, and most certainly not a politician.
Gordy, Cheltenham

The public wants the police to be competent. And if they screw up and shoot an unarmed individual in broad daylight, they want to see the police officers involved charged with a crime and not allowed the usual get-out clause of "retiring on medical grounds," which seems to be the main way the police seems to deal with incompetence and corruption in the force.
Paul Guinnessy, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Sir Ian Blair should pipe down on local policing or make a lot more noise about the imposition of stop and search constraints, time spent "on the beat" (around 15% in Thames Valley), etc. Police are there to protect the public - NOT to make excuses for politicians who know exactly where their bodyguards are all the time.
Colin Chamberlain, Windsor


Why do people who are implicated in taking a wrong decision get all jittery when they are criticised for it?
Jack Blakemore
Who do all of these guys think they are? Why shouldn't anybody say whatever they think? Whatever happened to the freedom of information act? Everybody ought to be able to say whatever he or she thinks unless they have signed a confidentiality agreement, and even then be careful how one invokes the argument of "national interest."
Roger Brittain, Brinklow

I referee football matches and sometimes players don't like my opinion on a decision. I sometimes apologise to them if I get the gut feeling that I may be wrong but all of my decisions are made honestly. Why then, do people who are implicated in taking on a wrong decision or a piece of policy get all jittery when they are criticised for it? It's often so easy to gauge who is telling the truth and who doesn't like it. If you're wrong then admit it! It gets you more friends and less flak. Simple.
Jack Blakemore, The Wirral, Merseyside


Newsnight editor Peter Barron responds

Some viewers thought that Jeremy Paxman's interview with David Davis was unfairly aggressive. Jeremy's interviewing technique is famously robust, and our research shows that is appreciated by most of our viewers. Indeed, David Davis himself was quoted this week as saying he likes robust interviews and Jeremy Paxman is one of his favourites. On Newsnight we believe that politicians standing for senior office should be willing to undergo detailed and intense scrutiny of their policies and principles. But I accept that Jeremy's approach to interviews is not to every viewer's taste. A range of different interview and discussion formats and approaches is available across the BBC's output.

David Davis

I have heard, only by reputation, of Jeremy Paxman's dogged interview style, and watched with interest his interview of Tory leader hopeful, David Davis. Excellent stuff! The way Jeremy tactfully mixed seemingly innocuous questions and taunts with potential "mine field" points of fact definitely placed Mr Davis on an edgy defensive mode. As Jeremy was able to highlight, a "strategy" doesn't necessarily equate to action. Anyone in business will tell you, strategies are constantly reviewed, tweaked and even abandoned according to the circumstances being faced. They are little more than stated "intentions" which are subject to conditions, many of which are unknown. So it's no surprise Mr Davis went out of his way to avoid turning his "strategy" to cut taxes into a "promise". Sounds like something his opponent, David Cameron, had warned against! Looking forward to that interview too.
Tunde Nwagwe, Uxbridge

Last night's slice of Paxman was disturbingly and achingly painful viewing. He treated Mr Davis with utter bare-naked disdain. Davis could not answer the questions and give answers of any considerable duration or content that many of us tuned in to hear in the first place! So we saw unfold before us a pointless prodding of a very decent and well-meaning man. That approach is simply not the way to get the best out of someone. It was just an over-indulgent flexing of the Paxman manners machine. Terrible.
Lucy, Leeds

Whose idea was that unmissable picture of Thatcher behind him?
Liam, London
I really loved Paxman grilling David Davis! It was so funny - the look of horror Paxman gave was just hilarious, but the beginning was best, reading out a list of things said by his colleagues about him. Even Davis found the comment about winning the "whips office S*** of the year Championship" funny!
Arjun, Canterbury

Whose idea was that unmissable picture of Thatcher behind him? His or Newsnight's? If it was his, fantastic - all the more reason to dislike him (and if so, no point to be made here). But if it's yours, can't we be left to make our own minds up, rather than have some utterly crude symbolism doing it for us? I don't mind a little artistic licence, but it looked like cynical manipulation. I hope it was his idea.
Liam, London

What on earth has a belief in any god got to do with running a country?
Colin Wright
I was disappointed at Jeremy Paxman's last question to David Davies, and at the reply. What on earth has a belief in any god got to do with running a country? There must be many atheists like myself who believe that this particular stupidity should actually preclude anyone automatically from high office. Most of the trouble we are currently experiencing in the world is caused by such belief.
Colin Wright, Wisbech

Jeremy Paxman's arrogant, rude and hectoring style prevented viewers from learning anything meaningful from his interview with David Davis, other than that Davis can remain calm under severe provocation, condescension and pressure. It was an opportunity wasted, and very unpleasant viewing.
Jeremy and Wendy Legh-Smith, Sturminster Newton

Fabulous! The beads of perspiration on DD's brow! Never, ever, let JP go to satellite TV.
John Winchcombe, Farnborough

Could someone on the production team PLEASE point out to Jeremy Paxman that some of your viewers are actually interested to hear what his interviewees have to say, rather than listening to him repeating his questions long after they've been answered? He seems not to appreciate that his guests don't have to answer in exactly the (sometimes over-simplistic) way he appears to want. In our house we used to look forward to "Paxo nights", but his increasingly hectoring style has become a real turn-off.
Jonathan Harris, Falmouth

LEAP SECONDS [10 November 2005]

The face of Big Ben

The Stephen Smith report on the whole leap second thing was brilliant. Funniest thing I have seen in a very long time.
John, Bath

Re: Your tongue-in-cheek item on leap seconds. Don't know why you're bothered. BBC programmes never start on time anyway!
Larry Adlard, Bradford

Surely the point about leap-seconds is that they STOP the arbitrary man-created clocks falling out of pace with nature (such as the sun at noon over the prime meridian, or whatever) as the earth slows down? Otherwise, in 90 years there'd be a one minute difference between clocks reading noon and the sun being overhead. Do tell me if I'm wrong. Surely the US wants to stop using them in order for human time to be paramount rather than the astronomical time that is slowing down by nearly two seconds a century?
Joe, Oxford

Couldn't we just save up all those leap seconds until we have a whole day?
Sam Smith
I have just seen your report on the ITU's proposal for the abolition of leap seconds. I have to say it was pathetic and neither informed nor entertained me. Is the ITU proposing that "their" time becomes decoupled from everyday time or that everyday time follows ITU time and decouples from the earth? The director of the Greenwich Observatory seemed to suggest the former as she said that once or twice a year we would only have five pips. However other parts of the report suggested the latter. So for clear reporting you get 0 out of 10. Secondly, there is a clear point of democracy when a change is foisted on us by an unelected body and you couldn't find a way of raising that. Finally, you represent all the scientists and engineers as nerds. How about a witty piece representing media types who can't understand technical details as complete idiots tomorrow night to preserve balance?
David Lynch, Wantage

Couldn't we just save up all those leap seconds until we have a whole day, then schedule an extra leap year around 2387? No wait a minute...
Sam Smith, London

TERROR DEFEAT [9 November 2005]

Tony Blair

I think Tony Blair misjudged the mood of the Labour Party and Parliament, and will pay a heavy political price. His standing and authority are now diminished. We are not yet a police state, where the police can dictate legislation to MPs. Thank God we live in a Parliamentary Democracy that values freedom and civil liberties.
Peter Smith, Manchester

The Commons defeat, I, and probably a lot more people will think, hasn't really much to do with what they were voting for. It seems to be all about Mr Blair and his inability to lead this great country. The vote was for protection of our safety from potential terrorists. Not, I hasten to add, from Mr Blair, although there will be a few who would say different! I am a great believer in finding the truth, no matter what the cost and if that cost is 90 days behind bars for someone who could possibly cause harm to innocent people then I'm all for it.
Mike Gomersall, Castleford, West Yorkshire

Only MPs would seek to turn the issue of national security into a high stakes poker game against the PM
Neil Welton
I do feel that Parliament is treating us in a patronising and derisory way. When discussing the 90 day detention, I would like to make it clear that it is my life and my security they are discussing, not a party or inter party political point they are making. The question is not how long Tony Blair will last but how long will Parliament and their disregard for public opinion last. The alarm on this question has not been so apparent since 1640. Then the King was in the wrong but I fear now that Parliament maybe in the wrong and may bring with it much blood and terror.
Richard Green, Hull

Only MPs would seek to turn the issue of national security into a high stakes poker game against the PM. Can't these fools see that in reality they are now playing Russian Roulette with the lives of the British people? Rather than give Tony Blair a bloody nose, MPs run the risk of ending up with blood on their hands.
Neil Welton, Cardiff

OK, so Blair lost and that is an occasion for general rejoicing - if only because it will cut down his arrogance a bit. But does the taxpayer have to foot the bill for bringing Gordon Brown and Jack Straw back solely for Labour Party business?
John Hadfield, Bicester, Oxon

I thought Jeremy Paxman was dreadful tonight in continually pressing his "but if the police want it, what right have MPs to question it?" line. Particularly so as there was not even a police spokesman in the studio to make a case for 90 days! His accusation "how will you feel if someone dies as a consequence of voting for 28 rather than 90 days?" was both offensive and absurd. NONE of the terrorist acts we have seen - New York, Madrid or London, would have been affected in any way by giving police the right to jail people for 90 days without charges. Not a single example has been produced of how suspending the presumption of innocence for three months would have helped the situation.
Tom Berney, East Kilbride

Once again the country as a whole does not agree with its elected representatives.
Peter Smith
You keep saying that the country was behind Blair and his 90 days. NOT HERE. I was delighted to hear the motion had been lost, as were all my friends. Please stop negating us.
MJ Powys, Newton Abbot

In my view Tony Blair, of whom I am a supporter, was badly advised by those foreseeing how people would vote. He might have been able to get sufficient support for 42 days; by adhering to 90 days perhaps he wanted to wrong foot the opposition. Now he is stuck with 28 days, probably not enough. Once again (as with the Conservative leadership race) the country as a whole does not agree with its elected representatives. Is there something wrong with our system of representation? Are our MPs working to a different agenda, or singing from a different hymn sheet?
Peter Smith, Clacton on Sea

If there is no evidence against the people being rounded up under these internment laws, why are they being arrested in the first place?
Ruari McCallion
Amid all the excitement over the first-ever Commons defeat for Tony Blair, has the greater, and longer-lasting, defeat of justice, rule of law and civil liberties been overlooked? The Commons has voted to DOUBLE the length of time people can be held without charges being brought against them. A big question isn't being asked: if there is no evidence against the people being rounded up under these internment laws, why are they being arrested in the first place?
Ruari McCallion, Shaftesbury, Dorset

I have waited for this day for years. At last the smug smile has been wiped off Tony Blair's face. He lied over WMD, the 45 minute fiasco, threatened the BBC, and now he expected us to believe him over 90 days incarceration for what could be innocent people. He will not stay of course, his type never do. He is too much of an arrogant egomaniac and good riddance.
Steve Calrow, Liverpool

Who is this person called 'the public' anyway?
Trish Miles
I am delighted that the government has lost so substantially on detaining terrorists for 90 days. It is a massive victory for democracy. I think Tony Blair's end must be nigh - I sincerely hope so.
Vicky Murray, Swadlincote South Derbyshire

Can your people spend less time on Tony Blair's future and more time on the substance of the main issue? Having just watched the vote on the 90 day motion I was dismayed by the concentration on Tony Blair, to the exclusion of any discussion of what effect the vote result might have on the really important matter of terrorism.
Ken Port, Bournemouth

I have become increasingly irritated by your reporters telling me that "a majority of the public" back Blair - they fail to point out that this so called "majority" only represents the views of those who were asked a question. Unless we are told how many people were polled, where they lived etc., and on what basis the statisticians can claim that they represent a certain percentage of the people they are both misleading and erroneous. Who is this person called "the public" anyway? I have never met anyone who has ever been asked a question like this by pollsters and bitterly resent being associated with these views.
Trish Miles, Birmingham

DIGITAL TIME WARP [8 November 2005]

A school computer

I have just come across Jeremy Cooke's report on data storage and the importance of keeping up with modern technologies in order to keep your computer files safe. Though raising interesting points about "keeping up with technology", throughout the report there was constant mention of tapes and disks and how, as a medium, they were unreliable. The unreliability of these formats is well documented and very real. How sad then that Mr Cooke did not, on conclusion of his report, mention the one backup solution that can ensure your digital files remain safe and always available, regardless of how many times backup formats might change. There is a solution that is completely independent of tapes and disks and FAR SAFER for keeping your information safe and this is Online Backup. With Online Backup you install a small piece of software on your computer and it automatically uploads your important files to remote servers. No matter if CDs are replaced by DVDs which are replaced by second, third or fourth generation disks you will always be able to access and download your information back from the storage centre. British companies such as Depositit and Tiver provide online backup services and this type of backup solution appears to be the way forward and should have been acknowledged.
Anthony Ryb, London

By the time it is legal to break the encoding there will be no way to access the data
Vassilis Prevelakis
I enjoyed your piece on digital preservation. In particular it was very educational how difficult it was to recover the 30 year old data from the floppy. However, you missed (by accident?) one very important consideration: with today's Digital Rights Management protection systems, by the time it is legal to break the encoding (more than 90 years in the US) there will be no way to access the data. So is the protection granted to copyright holders temporary, or will it result in the loss of our cultural heritage?
Vassilis Prevelakis, Philadelphia, USA

CHINESE STATE VISIT [8 November 2005]

China's president Hu Jintao

I cannot believe that the British Government is sucking up to the Chinese leadership. Millions of Britons have already lost their jobs because of cheap imports from China and we currently have a massive and growing trade deficit with China. Our government talks about our growing exports of "technical expertise", banking and insurance, but seems to forget that these exports are "peanuts" compared with what we import, and only employs less than 1% of the number of Britons who have lost their jobs, thanks to China. How can our Queen and PM sit down to dinner with the people who invaded Tibet?
Graham Tattersall, Bury


Re: 90 day detention proposal. I feel the terrorists are winning - Blair has changed the nature of this country. How do we protect all of what we hold dear when a terrorist only has to target a location? Lock every suspect up for three months and see the police working at an even slower pace? No one will gain except the terrorist who will have a fertile mine to pick.
Zia Shah, Bolton


Please don't go down the road of using subtitles during Newsnight - it is not necessary to watch all the reports, but it is necessary to listen to the reports. I often find myself doing other things during Newsnight but listening to the reports if subtitles suddenly are used I have to quickly stop what I'm doing and rush to the television to get the gist of the report.
Robert Loades, Fakenham Norwich

I'm sure Newsnight has a multi-cultured audience who would appreciate the chance to hear other languages in action
Mary North
I watched your reports from Paris last night [7 November], and again wondered why it was that the speech of interviewees in their own language was obscured by voiceover translations. Newsnight, I'm sure, has a multi-cultured and intelligent audience who would appreciate the chance to hear other languages in action. Why can't the BBC use subtitles?
Mary North, Wirksworth, Derbyshire

Watching your report from Paris, I'm wondering for the umpteenth time, why non-English speaking participants aren't allowed their proper voice any more? Whatever happened to good old subtitling? It is so insulting, both to the viewers by presuming that they will switch off at the first syllable of a foreign word, but even more so to the speakers themselves who are robbed of their own mode of expression. Worst of all are the reports from disaster zones, where anguished (foreign) voices are silenced and relayed, instead, in bland English.
Rhian Baum, Caernarfon

Newsnight editor Peter Barron responds:

The question of voiceovers versus subtitles is a difficult one. As many of our viewers speak French it would make sense to offer subtitles, but we then risk alienating blind viewers who are unable to read them. For this reason, BBC producer guidelines commit us to providing voiceovers rather than subtitles on foreign language interviews.


I think the remark from Tariq Ramadan was excellent: that French MP kept saying "the immigrants this, and the immigrants that", when Ramadan reminded him that they were talking about French citizens. I think the whole debate could easily be summed up by just that. The French just continue to perceive second, third or fourth generation of immigrants as immigrants, ie as aliens.
Umm Muhammad, Exeter



I heard one of the people on your item tonight talked about eating grey squirrels. He should heed the warning I found when I ate these little things in the USA. On the bottom of the menu it said: "Warning - May Contain Nuts".
Jules, Whitby

A squirrel

I would have been more impressed with the article had you taken the subject seriously! You covered the subject of the French riots with respect so why can't you deal with the subject of native species extinction, habitat loss and the fundamental philosophical problem of humans being so anthropocentric in their approach to the environment?
Donnah, Inverness

I am utterly disgusted by your item related to grey and red squirrels. I was interested to hear that grey squirrels eat wild bird eggs but did not find out if that is correct as the item changed to equate the red/grey squirrel issue to that of a racist white/black issue. I have previously relied on Newsnight for independent impartial discussion on topics but find the belittlement and ridicule offered to this environmental problem very disturbing!
Matthew Coombes, Caerphilly, Wales

The damage done to our native wildlife is too serious for some trendy Newsnight person to decide he will take some outlandish stand on the grey squirrel problem
B Stone
Whenever I see a grey squirrel my eyes lock onto the lovely, graceful, charming little creature until it disappears from my sight, and then I somehow feel a better person for that brief delightful encounter. Now someone wants to exterminate them because they're foreign? What cruel logic lay behind this? With global warming are we not bound to see a migration (or immigration) of other "foreign" species into our midst? Will we then fight the furry or winged invaders on "the beaches, the landing grounds and the hedgerows"? Will we "never surrender"? Let nature take its course, I say. Sure, I'd love to see red squirrels as well, but not to the extent that I could ever wish to see a mass extermination of our little grey friends.
John Kerr, Canterbury, Kent

The damage done to our native wildlife is too serious for some trendy Newsnight person to decide he will take some outlandish stand on the grey squirrel problem. The only way to save our birds and red squirrel is to eliminate the greys. We've seen the damage done around the world, especially in New Zealand and Australia, by short-sighted imports of alien animals and we would be foolish not to act now.
B Stone, Bradford

The Isle of Wight is one of the few really "safe" havens for the red squirrel. The Isle of Wight is neither in the North or Scotland, as your report claimed that these were the only areas of Britain where red squirrels remain. Please try to be a little more accurate with your geography in future!
Phil, Isle of Wight

BROADBAND WOES [2 November 2005]

Jeremy Paxman
Wednesday's show
Watch highlights here:

I usually try to watch Newsnight online via my broadband connection but twice in the last week I have missed it because of "copyright issues" and had only the previous night's programme available to me. I am wondering if you can explain why this occurs and if it will be sorted out in the future.
Robert, Nottingham

Not for the first time, an edition of Newsnight is not available online. Exactly what copyright reasons have prevented broadcast on broadband? Why could you not have edited out whatever part of the programme caused the copyright problem? I deliberately did not watch Wednesday's programme on TV thinking I could watch it on broadband. If you can't show the programme on broadband then you should give advance warning.
Demitri Coryton, Crediton, Devon

Not a lot of point in telling us we can watch the programme "in broadband" when last night's is unavailable but you'll give us Tuesday's instead. Couldn't you post those parts which are not covered by "copyright" problems.
Ian McRobert, Peterborough

Newsnight responds:

Unfortunately, when we are using material in the programme that cannot be copyright cleared for the internet then we are obliged to withhold the material. At the moment, our means of making the programme available online prevents us from being able to edit out uncleared material which is why we have to take the entire programme down. We are aware that this is unsatisfactory and are working to improve the situation. We try to make sure it happens as little as possible, but know that this has been a bad week.


David Blunkett

I think Jeremy got it right by going for Blair's judgement in backing Blunkett. Blunkett and Blair share an over-inflated view of each other's abilities, integrity and achievements. Their egos and endless capacity for hypocrisy and self delusion feed off the other's. Mediocrity loves company. Blunkett's private life matched his stature as Home Secretary - an opinion on everything and everyone with an understanding of nothing and no one. To me, the puzzle is was he really any good as leader of Sheffield Council? I'd like to know, as my own thesis is that power does not corrupt, so much as make people bonkers. On the other hand, the absence of power makes people bonkers too. Look at the Tories.
Nick Gardner, Edinburgh

I think it is a disgrace that David Blunkett has accused Newsnight of having it in for him - any story you air is in the public interest. I am a member of the public and I want to know about it.
Ally May, Newcastle

I was sad that you spent so much time on David Blunkett and so little on the ghoulish life forms he left behind, like the terrorism bill and his repeated attacks on the criminal justice system. Only six years ago the police were allowed to hold people for 48 hours without charge. That time limit has been ticking upwards like the meter on a taxi until today when it stands at 14 days. Even though the police/government's absurd proposal of 90 days will be thrown out, we are hearing opposition MPs and Labour backbenchers shaping up to up to double the period to 28 days. It is difficult to avoid sounding sensational by pointing out that we are moving towards a police state.
Michael Mason, London

Yet again Alastair Campbell states that 'Tony Blair was re-elected as Prime Minister'
Paul Scott
Just watched Newsnight on the main story of the day, Blunkett's resignation, and I would like to congratulate the BBC and in particular Jeremy Paxman on a superb presentation and interview of various political interest parties. It's amazing that in these days of political censorship we can STILL have a debate on the workings of government. Well Done BBC.
John Bell, Doncaster South Yorkshire

Yet again Alastair Campbell states that "Tony Blair was re-elected as Prime Minister". Why on earth didn't Paxman give him a brief lesson on the British Constitution? We don't (yet) have a president.
Paul Scott, Congleton, Cheshire

Regarding Michael Crick's report about David Blunkett's resignation, when are you going to realise that, however you may feel about being named in anger by politicians, you are not the story! This "report" was shameful self-justification, unworthy of your excellent programme, of just the kind that Jeremy Paxman would never let an interviewee get away with. Poor show!
Nell Harris, Dorchester

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