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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Feedback - March 2006
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 a selection of your March views from this page.

This month:

Former US soldiers
Ken Livingstone
The Budget
Israel's water project
Iraq debate
Iraq - three years on
Events in Jericho
US foreign policy
Sir Ian Blair
NHS deficits
Internet vs TV
Bird flu
NHS deficit
Iran special
God and politics
Menzies Campbell
Terry Smith responds to Robbery film feedback [23.2.06]
Green China
George Bush
Dunblane waits
Tessa Jowell

Write to us

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


I really feel the new format of Newsnight is becoming trivialised, with Jeremy being the introducer for what often seems like a continuation of a soap. He even appears to cringe on occasions and I do not blame him. Please do not Americanise our news and debate - we need a serious challenging political arena; do not undermine your audience's intelligence.
H Roberts, Morecambe

Now that I'm at university (Imperial College London), the only means I have of watching Newsnight is via the internet. So - I would just like to say how much I appreciate the broadband service, especially now that those niggling copyright issues seem to be clearing up. Hats off to all those involved, and keep it up!
Will Morris, High Wycombe

I wonder how Conservative voters will cope with David Cameron's move towards the philosophy of Groucho Marx: 'Those are my principles; if you don't like them, I have others'
Greg Hewson
Labour Party voters appear to have adjusted over the past decade to their party's move away from Karl Marx. I wonder how Conservative voters will cope with David Cameron's move towards the philosophy of Groucho Marx which the comic summed up as "Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."
Greg Hewson, Dublin

A way needs to be found to compel Labour ministers to appear on Newsnight to answer searching questions about government policy relating to events as they happen. There have been far too many instances of your presenters having to apologise for no minister being prepared to appear on the programme. New Labour have done a good job in by-passing Parliament, and also boycotting the media they least like. So much for democracy.
Robin Wilson, Norwich

Thursday is also difficult - Newsnight clashes with Question Time; which one do I watch live and which do I record to watch on Friday evening when there's Any Questions?
Tony Telford
I have rarely missed Newsnight, but I do feel the junction between the 10 o'clock BBC News and Newsnight is not entirely satisfactory. The former starts at 22.30 (but often a minute or so late) whilst the latter does not end until 22.35. Would there be any loss of viewers were Newsnight to start at 22.35? Thursday is also difficult. Newsnight clashes with Question Time. Which one do I watch live and which do I record to watch on Friday evening when there's Any Questions? It is a strange phenomenon that whilst the Saturday edition of Any Questions? seems fresh, a 24-hour old Newsnight or Question Time just seems stale! I do find at least 75% of Newsnight's editorial excellent, food for thought, and a good entree for the morrow's breakfast table conversation.
Tony Telford, Crawley Down

As images attract more attention than words, inappropriate use of images seriously undercuts the text used in these packages
John Hampton
I must respond to the awful graphic backgrounds that we now have to watch as people are being interviewed. Recently there were swirls of yellow and red behind the Liberal Democrat politicians as they were discussing the leadership of the party. This really is completely unnecessary since it adds nothing to the content of the presentation. OK, you have some clever staff who can create these effects but please reserve them for the children's programmes. Newsnight is supposed to provide a measure of intellectual cover of the news and the type of viewer you have will not easily loose interest if there isn't something moving about all the time. Please, let's return to a static background. It is bad enough in Scotland losing one third of the programme to the somewhat amateur Newsnight Scotland, (I now usually turn off at this point), but to have the main programme trivialised with these unnecessary graphics is unacceptable.
John Hampton, Edinburgh

I have been a regular Newsnight viewer for over 20 years and admire many aspects of the programme. But there is a relatively recent fashion that risks trivializing coverage of serious political issues: the attempt graphically to illustrate the thrust of a story by using visual metaphors. As images attract more attention than words, inappropriate use of images seriously undercuts the text used in these packages. Your package on the government's school reforms in which sausage making figured prominently marked a new low in the use of this particular technique. If the idea was to make the whole reform risible, then it succeeded as the pictures succeeded in producing groans all round. Please resist the all too prevalent temptation of TV to dumb down in this way. Your audience will appreciate being treated with greater respect.
Alex Pravda, Oxford

I have been a fan of Newsnight for decades. However, your predecessors used to grill Edward Heath and Harold Wilson on a monthly basis. Tony so-called-prime-minister is getting scot free - ie no grilling.
Govinder Singh, Purley


Former US soldier

Regarding the item on the Iraq veterans' anti-war march to New Orleans: it may be of comfort to the young men who spoke movingly about the need for personal redemption to know they are doing an awful lot to "redeem" their country's reputation abroad. So many of us had wondered what had happened to the American virtues of courage, candour and individualism but the programme restored my faith and, no doubt, the faith of many other people watching it, that these virtues are still alive and well in America. I'm grateful to the BBC for letting us see this. These youngsters are the epitome of everything that's good about their country, so no-one should tell them they are "un-American"! On the contrary, they are showing courage in the face of a hostile majority and are doing their utmost to comply with that apposite old saying: "tell the truth and shame the devil". It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his valedictory speech of 1961, who first warned America and the world of the danger of the appetite of the American "military-industrial complex" becoming insatiable; to warn of this, in America in the very midst of the Cold War, showed great clear-sightedness. The Iraq veterans are victims, as much as anyone, of Eisenhower's warning being ignored. I think his speech should be read through a megaphone outside the American Embassy every single day; Eisenhower's credentials for this honour - Republican President and old war-horse - are impeccable!
Angela Parry, Criccieth

It was a poignant piece and left me wondering how any of those kids will fare over the next few years
Alison Stroak
I was profoundly moved by Wednesday night's US Soldiers peace march report. Watching the piece, I had extreme respect and admiration for the honesty shown by the young veterans speaking out against what can only be described as the most grotesque of military campaigns. Choosing to challenge the armed forces they once served is a brave and courageous act. Well done Newsnight on an important and thoroughly involving film.
Dan Spurr, Manchester

Having just watched the excellent film on the soldiers returning home to the US, I was struck by the similarity of experience felt by equally traumatised Vietnam-service soldiers and the way they were alienated and hated by the middle Americans. Why are the lessons of history always ignored?
Geoff, Macclesfield

The report about the US soldiers returning home and protesting about the war in Iraq was excellent. It was a poignant piece and left me wondering how any of those kids will fare over the next few years. I worried about their sanity; some of them seemed haunted. Thanks for the film, it was very well done.
Alison Stroak, Glasgow

I have just watched tonight's programme concerning US veterans against Iraq. I think it was one of the best pieces I have ever seen on British television. I am writing this through tears of emotion at the horror of it all. My thanks to all who were concerned with it. Well done.
Stuart Hepburn, Dunblane

You produce some very high quality pieces on Iraq. However, tonight being a prime example, are you seriously suggesting that there is so little going on the UK that the first half an hour needed to be spent on yet another Iraq-related item? I think not.
Andy Waters, Newcastle upon Tyne


Ken Livingstone
Twice on this evening's Newsnight, it was claimed that Ken Livingstone called the US ambassador "a chiselling little crook". According to the Guardian, he likened the ambassador to "a chiselling little crook". The words are very similar, but the meaning is not: I am afraid that I believe the Guardian. In my experience, this is not the first time that Newsnight has descended to the distortions practised by tabloid headline writers. In particular, I remember similar treatment of Tony Blair's "God will be my Judge" comments on Iraq.
Mike Henning, Shepton Mallet

OK, so Ken Livingstone is a bit out-spoken. But why should not the embassies pay the congestion charge? It cannot be argued that it is because they are not liable to income tax in this country. Traffic and congestion charges are in a different league. Good luck Ken!
Barbara Tucker, London

THE BUDGET [22 March]

Gordon Brown
David Cameron's robust performance does not deserve the label "Punch and Judy show". If it were a weak performance he would have been crucified.
Azad Ayub, London

Gordon Brown put beer up by "one pence" again this year. That's the fourth year in a row he hasn't known the difference between "one penny" and "one pence". Strange ignorance for a Chancellor.
Julian Corner, Whitby

Well done to Jeremy Paxman for giving the apparent Shadow Chancellor George Osborne a hard time. Osborne's lack of economic policies and inability to say what spending commitments he disagreed with were cringe worthy in the extreme. Will the British people trust Mr Osborne with the Treasury? Even Vince Cable of the Lib Dems seemed to have more economic knowledge than the Tatton MP.
Manjit Mand, Birmingham

I am so angry at today's budget - I DO NOT expect our pensioners to be ignored over pensions and council tax
Barbara Lockwood
What is it with Paxman that he finds the Conservatives so irritating? He won't even let them speak more than a couple of words before he interrupts and snarls at them. He didn't interrupt Cable at all and Browne very politely. It seems he has a personal dislike of Osborne.
Jill Wood, Winchester

I am so angry at today's budget. While I expect education to be the first along with health needs I DO NOT expect our pensioners to be ignored over pensions and council tax.
Barbara Lockwood, Norwich


A boy drinking water from a tap

BBC Newsnight is an excellent news programme. I watched it every night during my last visit to UK in January, 2006. Thanks to your site I can keep reading and watching it every night at home. Very glad your viewers got the chance to learn something different about us through the "water factory" report and video.
Nurit Henig, Israel

While I thought Jon Leyne's report on Israel's water problem was interesting and mostly fair, I would like to question the implication that Israel was in some way taking water that belonged to the Palestinians. There is indeed a large aquifer under the West Bank, but most of it is accessible from pre-1967 Israel - in fact, as early as the 1950s Israel was taking 95 percent of it. This is simply because gravity drives most of this water towards the coastal plain. In fact Israel only takes 83 percent of it currently. I would take the accusations made by the Palestinians in the film with a heavy pinch of salt. Under the Oslo accords two-thirds of the increase needed to meet Palestinian requirements should have been developed by the Palestinians themselves.
L Julius, London

IRAQ DEBATE [21 March]

Newsnight's debate on Iraq on 21 March
I just watched Tuesday evening's Newsnight and the debate on Iraq. I thought the choice of guests was great and it was fantastic to see an American asked difficult questions - ie how many civilians have died and where is the accountability? Now could you get a British politician on and ask him some similarly difficult questions?
Denise Miller, London

As a British Muslim and one that has served voluntarily with the British ACF and ATC units as a non-commissioned officer, I have always believed in the respect the British Soldiers have been taught, which they exercise abroad, and have always been sensitive to every culture they have had the pleasure to defend. This was proven by the SAS soldier who spoke very well on Newsnight.
S Nasser, London

The former SAS man... eventually managed to show the American candidate just what he was: a sheep, blindly spouting the party line
Charlie Brackett
I want to applaud your debate tonight about Iraq with Ben (former SAS) who I thought told the truth and was absolutely realistic about what we have known about US Army attitudes in the theatre of war, and peace. Well done!
Erik, Rickmansworth

Congratulations on the debate over the (alleged) killing of Iraqi civilians by US troops. The interviewee, a former SAS man, started off shakily but eventually managed to show the American candidate just what he was: a sheep, blindly spouting the party line. He even referred to the "good guys and bad guys" in Iraq. If it were really that simple, why haven't the Americans routed the bad guys like every Hollywood action movie?
Charlie Brackett, Leeds

I hope that the man who was introduced on Tuesday night as former SAS man can come back and be challenged by Paxman on his quite ridiculous idea about "proportionality" of response in combat. No military organisation -and I specifically include the British - have the idea that you disarm yourself to the level of your outgunned enemy. In this war as in previous ones, if American GIs or British Tommies were pinned down by small arms fire they wouldn't hesitate to call in a tank or airpower to destroy the enemy. The idea of a "level playing field" is a schoolground ethic which has no place in war where the objective is to win with as few as possible casualties to your own side. This is NOT a disagreement with the idea that one should, so far as possible, spare non-combatants. But the ex-SAS man's comments on proportionality was not at the time that he made it addressing the issue of non-combatants.
Tony Tortora, Harrogate


Excessive amounts of salt increase your blood pressure and put your life at risk. 10 years ago I found out that I had high blood pressure. My GP detected it during a routine visit and I was referred to the blood pressure unit at my local hospital. I was given very clear high quality advice, all neatly summed up on a three page photocopied document, where the salt in my diet came from, and therefore what foods to minimise. My blood pressure is now normal. For years I've had to put in the effort to avoid the majority of supermarket food and, hey, buy and prepare fresh food. Your reports are welcome but hardly news and there is no need for balance on this story. The supermarkets are running scared because salt is a fundamental element of their business model and they know they've been rumbled. You are shedding light on a genuine and long running scandal.
Alex, London

LOANS [20 March]

Possibly I missed the revelation but who got the money, who spent it, and on what?
Peter B Rowland
On what basis does the BBC ask "How long before he [Tony Blair] gets kicked upstairs?" and answer this question, on the basis of an opinion poll: "Sooner rather than later"? Followed by a "report" entitled "Time to Go?" featuring the Moody Blues, "Go Now"? How is that compatible with the Charter requirement of political impartiality?
John Rentoul, London

The media focus of the party loans revelations has generally missed the point. There's no problem with parties courting as large donations as they can from wealthy people. There's no need to curtail that, and certainly not to introduce state funding of parties, which has not cleaned up these problems in other countries. The problem is the system of patronage - what parties can be tempted to do for donors in return. Surely a better answer towards cleaner politics is for patronage to be taken out of the hands of the parties and put under the control of an independent committee who have no remit other than to assess a candidate's suitability to serve in the Lords?
Stuart Coster, London

Is all this openness a little late?
Dave Line
How can you spend 20 minutes on a few millions of pounds the Labour Party borrowed when Americans have stolen 20 billion dollars from the people of Iraq?
John Morland, Norwich

After a dreadful couple of weeks the government has come up with new rules on party funding. What's more, they tell us they are going to come clean about who lent them the money. But is all this openness a little late?
Dave Line, Westcliff on Sea

Possibly I missed the revelation but who got the money, who spent it, and on what?
Peter B Rowland, Hereford

If "nobody" knew about the loans, the extra finance, did it come in by cash or by cheque? And, if by cheque, into which account did it go? Finally, who was then writing the supplementary chequebook on behalf of the on-going campaign? And where might that be?
David Edwards, Ely

I see that you comment on the Economist and Guardian joining and pressing for Tony Blair's removal. I'm fed up with our press having too much pressure and expressing their own opinions, without really knowing what WE want.
Cecil Brown, Orpington, Kent

ISRAEL [20 March]

How excellent was last night's report from Israel. There wasn't a hint of bias, but the speakers were quietly allowed to hang themselves by their own self-importance, indifference, even vicious disregard for the Palestinians. It's a well know fact that cruelty and deprivation can lead the individual to psychosis. Well so to a state. Thank you, Newsnight, for allowing Israel to demonstrate its psychosis by simply letting its citizens speak at election time.
Steve Crawford, Lincoln


I find myself somewhat amused by the US Brigadier General's criteria of what constitutes a civil war. According to him, the situation in Iraq does not constitute a civil war because "the government has not fallen apart". According to his criterion, what occurred in the US between 1861 and 1865 was not a civil war, because the US Government never fell apart. Funny - we were taught that that event was the Civil War. Also, the British Government never fell apart during the English civil war of the 17th century, so it must not have actually been a civil war, right?
John Snyder, Ludlow


What's the point in us guarding a prison in Palestine if everyone gets withdrawn when the Israelis are coming? How two faced can the government get?
Clive Coleman, Whitehaven


Mark Urban

Tonight's Newsnight had Mark Urban lamenting about the US dead in Vietnam - 58,000. I was saddened he did not mention the Vietnamese dead - 3.5 million. After all the Vietnamese did not choose to fight; when we will have a memorial to the Vietnamese dead? We should not forget the US dead but let us not glorify them.
Aroup Chatterjee, Buntingford, Herts

How superb it was to hear Mr Paxman refer to one of this evening's correspondents as being well dressed. Mr Paxman himself is always impeccably dressed and he demonstrates that values are yet not lost.
Hugh Morgan, Fishguard

It was interesting to hear Jeremy P's comment that he was "glad to see a journalist who dresses properly" or words to that effect. Hear hear. Funnily enough, the thought that came to my brain when listening to Mark's comments were "nice suit, what colour and what is it made of?" If Mark Urban can give me details of his suit (cloth; colour; etc) I would be most grateful! Keep up the standard!
Mark Heseltine, Edmonton, Canada

SIR IAN BLAIR [13 March]

Given the massive increase of surveillance of innocent citizens, I am not surprised that this government is unable to complain about a policeman bugging them
David Jones
I have enormous sympathy with Sir Ian Blair, unless he does accurately record what he considers to be politically sensitive and important conversations he is likely to become a hostage to spin and downstream argument - how else can he accurately report to his Police Authority? I have previously worked in an environment where the principals' telephone conversations were monitored with notes being taken by an assistant - we deemed it to be an efficient, sound and sensible business process thus facilitating and enabling the sharing of information. The only difference now is that the assistant has been replaced by cost-effective technology.
Iain Campbell, Warminster

Given the massive increase of surveillance of innocent citizens (logging car journeys for seven years), CCTV cameras, etc, I am not surprised that this government is unable to complain about a policeman bugging them. "If you're innocent you've nothing to fear!" Besides after the dodgy dossier it is essential to record everything they say in case it changes later.
David Jones, Ramsgate, Kent


Established experienced staff have been undermined to the point that hospital outpatient appointment departments are on the point of collapse
L Gladwin
In response to the Health Minister tonight - I work at the "coal face" dealing with hospital referrals from a GP surgery. Our whole system has changed due to a government requirement to incorporate a patient's right to "choice" re their referral. Elderly patients are totally confused. Whole departments have been created, inexperienced staff employed and a complete new "stage" in referring created. I can only guess at the costs involved. Why? It simply delays the referral for at least two weeks which, presumably, reflects well on waiting list targets. The patient "choice" is a farce. Established experienced staff have been undermined to the point that hospital outpatient appointment departments are on the point of collapse - all to make the current government look good and with no real benefit to the patient. Further evidence of money wasted.
L Gladwin, Lancaster

To my knowledge this huge deficit is actually old news that has somehow been suppressed for many years
Annabel Aguirre
What a shambles the NHS is. The mid Devon PCT are only giving one month repeat prescriptions, presumably because they have run out of cash. And what a joke to say that the NHS are targeting serious disease. I had my preliminary cancer test in November 2005 and am still waiting to be given an appointment for my follow up tests. Still worse is to come. Wait and see what happens when the new specialist training programme kicks in next year. What a shambles that will be.
Graham Wright, Crediton

I left the NHS a year ago after 15 years of working in Cornish mental health services. To my knowledge this huge deficit is actually old news that has somehow been suppressed for many years, as the Cornish health community were running a deficit of about 13 million four years ago, and every year since also. I am glad it is finally being discussed, but why did it take so long to become NEWS? I believe that the result here of this long-standing deficit has been stagnation, and a management obsession with trying to clear a debt that would never be cleared, when time and energy would have been better spent improving our health services. I hope to see Newsnight getting to the truth of what's really going on in our NHS, because I can't figure it out. The government insists it's been pouring all this money in. I haven't seen it! Have you?
Annabel Aguirre, St Agnes, Cornwall

As a 70 year old person, with experience of the hospital, I just wonder how they are short of money? They pay their senior men big money, and the patient has to suffer. The doctors are always demanding more money because they cannot live, yet they have the finest cars, live in good areas with expensive housing.
E C Spiteri, Harrow


TV v a computer

What about people who watch television and use the internet at the same time? The item didn't address this. So it's hello multitasking from me. Anyway, the four stories on last night's programme [8 March] were very interesting. I won't be making a large donation to a political party, I'll move 128 yards nearer a school, I'll be keeping my pets indoors and I won't be recycling the television just yet.
Elspeth Jones, Bexley

Yes, the internet is changing everything, including TV habits. In our house (I'm 59 and still working, my husband is 63 and retired - neither of us are IT people) we have just spent this evening on our two computers; he's looking up old friends on Friends Reunited and checking his e-mails every half hour. I'm watching TV through my PC and at the same time updating our family website, checking our family message board, monitoring when family/friends members sign on and, between whiles, listening to music and playing hearts, spades and bridge on the internet. We usually watch TV without internet only when we're eating or something. And we definitely spend more time on the internet than on the sofa. Pleased that Newsnight is now available online - will watch it like I listen to the Archers, when it suits me. Cheers, off for another game of Spades before I go to bed.
Lesley Bennett, Luckington

BIRD FLU [8 March]

Why did tonight's programme feature a crow-shoot? There is no link between crows and bird flu, and your reporter's introduction, blaming crows for everything bar the black death, was utter rot. From the look of that farmer's lambs, coated in wet mud and standing in their own troughs, he should be investing in a shepherd, not persecuting wildlife. This was just a pathetic pretext for a bunch of trigger happy gun fetishists to get their jollies, and I'm surprised you went along with it.
Victoria Isherwood, Liverpool


Just because a lot of English people think England/Britain/UK are names for the same thing, that is their ignorance
Ian Douglas
Just been watching tonight's Newsnight. I'm afraid that the panel for the in-studio debate on the NHS didn't seem very balanced. There was Andrew Lansley for the Conservatives, Jane Kennedy for Labour (so far so good), some dude who used to be a Blair special advisor on health, and a woman from a think tank who was obviously to the left of New Labour. One from the centre-right, two from the centre-left and one from the left doesn't seem very balanced to me!
Peter Smallbone, Birmingham

Sir Nigel Crisp was head of the English NHS, he was not head of the NHS. He had zero responsibility beyond England. Just because a lot of English people think England/Britain/UK are names for the same thing, that is their ignorance, you the BBC should know better.
Ian Douglas, Ayr

More Professor Pollock please - at last someone talking truthfully about the NHS deficit. Please investigate the scandal of the ISTCs.
Richard Ellis, Chandlers Ford

I'm watching the news at 10.45 about the NHS deficit. I don't like the government, I'm sure that they are less than straightforward about the situation, but to run a programme about the deficit while barely referring to the percentage of the overall budget is at best misleading, and at worst dishonest. Sorry Newsnight, but it's not straight reporting.
Chris King



Many of us believe that the Iran nuclear crisis is to prevent either the opening or the success of the much publicised (outside the mainstream media) Iranian Oil Bourse, believed to begin trading towards the end of March, in Euros, and that the much hyped (by the mainstream media) nuclear issue is just an excuse to hide the fact that the US will attack anyone who threatens the US dollar. I've seen little if any reporting on any Iranian Oil Bourse, or its potential threat to the US, from the BBC. Why is that?
Kate Holcombe, Evesham

In the segment on Iran, why has there been no mention of the Iranian Oil Bourse?
Linden Rogers, Montreal, Canada


An image of a crucifix and Parliament

Newsnight's report on Tony Blair's "Christian moment" on Parkinson was a complete disgrace, and typical of the liberal "enlightened" people in the BBC that think they are too clever for God. It is astonishing that a Christian saying that he will be judged by God ought to be controversial. Yes, the voters will also judge him, but in case you forgot, they did judge him on Iraq, and he won the 2005 election. It is God that will decide whether he will end up in heaven or hell.
Mitch, Durham

Looking back over Tony Blair's past 10 years does he truthfully expect God to forgive him? He is full of hypocrisy and doing his best to console his own conscience. He has completely damaged our country and will be remembered by many in that way.
Barbara Lockwood, Norwich

Tony Blair's God-bothering is seriously worrying. Since when do God and politics mix? Look at Northern Ireland for a prime example of this mess. Church and State should always be separate, and God has no place in politics - ever. Whatever Blair's personal religious views are, they should be kept firmly in check, whatever George Bush says or thinks. I was also intrigued by the duo of Christina Odone and Stephen Pound MP discussing "our" church in relation to Blair. Did Mr Pound include Gavin Esler in that remark? If so, why the bias towards one Christian church? In a politicial programme, one's religion should not be used in this smug way. Blair will have seriously alienated many viewers as his views on life/death in Iraq will enrage families who have lost sons and daughters in that conflict. Blair's holier than thou attitude is totally offensive.
Karen Johnston, Twickenham


I have just watched the Newswatch Programme this morning and was interested to hear what the viewers had to say about my interview. What we must realize is that there is a percentage of the public that do wish the Tonbridge robbers every success. This is partly because Britain is becoming nothing more than an open prison and is being persecuted at every quarter, i.e. static and mobile speed cameras, parking fines, CCTV on every corner.

Some members of the public root for the robbers in response to this unwarranted and obsessive intrusion into our lives. I believe the Newsnight Programme needs, even desires, an alternative view to the preponderant line. Without the alternative view it would become nothing more than a Scotland Yard appendage. I do apologize for any inconvenience caused, but inwardly, I still do wish the robbers well. Yours partisanly.
Terry Smith


Why did Kirsty Wark feel the need to ask Sir Menzies Campbell who had won Celebrity Big Brother and where the Artic Monkeys were from? I personally do not care what the Liberal Democrat does and does not know about popular culture! I want to know about his politics and I imagine a fair few Newsnight viewers are of a similar view. It was a cheap shot at trying to embarrass the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. Were similar cheap shots done on Mr Cameron when he was elected? The treatment of the media of Sir Menzies Campbell has been a disgrace and many media outlets have bordered on ageism. Come on Newsnight, I thought the BBC was all about upholding the values of fairness and balance!
Manjit Mand, Birmingham


During the article on "green" China, the reporter mentioned the word biomass in relation to a waste incinerator. This is incorrect, as biomass refers to energy generated by burning or anaerobically digesting biodegradable materials, which are things which have lived and grown recently, like wood, paper, card, foodstuffs, some clothing, rubber, etc. Household waste contains significant volumes of plastic which is from petrochemicals, or is a "fossil" fuel, releasing CO2 absorbed millions of years ago. A waste incinerator is sometimes called "energy from waste" but shouldn't be labelled biomass. As petrochemicals are running out, I favour reuse and recycling, rather than burning it and releasing its CO2, which should remain locked up as solid hydro-Carbon strings.
John Cossham, York

BUSH [2 March]

Does Newsnight know the difference between the levees being 'topped' as against being breached?
Jeffrey White
President Bush looked straight into the camera and lied about his knowledge on the weakness of the New Orleans levees. Does Tony Blair share the same character traits? They seem awfully close. Your coverage should also touch on your own PM.
David Lai, Penang, Malaysia

Does Newsnight know the difference between the levees being "topped" as against being breached? If not, why not? Sloppy journalism, incompetence or deliberate misinformation?
Jeffrey White, Southampton

Bush stated that a breach in the levees had not been anticipated. Your programme claimed that a warning was given. In support of your claim a video was shown where an expert considered it possible that water could be washed OVER the levees ("topped"). You did not broadcast anyone warning of a failure of the levees. Topped is different to breached (millions of gallons!)
Robert Williams, Halifax


The word "why" written on the tag of a floral tribute

Disgraceful, shameful, despicable. I am horrified to learn that a National Gun Register is still a pipe dream after so much suffering in Dunblane 10 years ago. Do we need to experience the horrors of that terrible day again before something is done? Hang your head in shame, Labour Government!
Stephen Patrick, Glasgow

That overall public opinion is in favour of the National Firearms Register is reflected in current parliamentary debate, which like this Newsnight report, remains focused on its absence rather than requirement. UK crime statistics indicate a rise in hand gun related crime in recent years. However, significant increases in the use of imitation and decommissioned hand guns, exempt from the 1997 Firearms Amendment Act, contribute to this trend. Consequently, the figures serve those seeking to dilute the effectiveness of the 1997 hand gun ban or a National Firearms Register. Gun related crime in the UK remains far lower than other European countries such as France and Germany where monitoring and control laws are less strict.
David Gurney, Nice, France

I'm appalled we still don't have a national firearms (and shotgun) database. I hold firearms and shotgun licences and if I moved to a new police area I am obliged to contact them and amend my certificates - but if I forgot to do it I would expect them to be "on my case" within a few weeks, if not sooner. This is yet another example of unelected civil servants failing to follow Parliament's wishes. These are lethal items and those who own them have a responsibility to keep them secure. And the Home Office has a categorical responsibility to keep the public safe from those who don't follow the rules. Whomever in the Home Office has given this a low priority should be called to account and dismissed, not given a minor honour and shuffled sideways - as is too often the way. One increasingly senses ministers are only made aware of issues on a "need to know" basis and if their department is failing to deliver it is kept from them.
Bill Graham, Telford

I was interested to read Becky Milligan's emotionally charged tosh about gun control post-Dunblane. Since then essentially all legally held firearms have been withdrawn and yet gun-crime continues to spiral. No amount of registration of legal users will stop the problem. So what has the "Snowdrop" campaign achieved? Nothing.
Louis Tordella, Manchester

Just reading the article on the Dunblane shooting 10 years ago. Nobody mentions that hand guns are banned and that as a sporting shooter we already have very tough controls on shotguns, rifles and ammunition. Why police cannot communicate with each other is their problem, not us legal gun owners'. PLEASE leave us alone!
Clive Lambert, Northallerton, North Yorkshire

I have to say I don't think I've ever seen anything so factually wrong as the background given to the NFLMS on Newsnight last night. The national register was mentioned as being the "main plank" of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, and various people from the Snowdrop Campaign were mentioned as being in support of it. I don't think anything could be further from the truth. Nowhere in the Dunblane Public Inquiry recommendations, or the government command paper responding to the inquiry, was a national database even mentioned, even obliquely. It was entirely the idea of Lord Marlesford who introduced it as an amendment to the Bill, which eventually became section 39 of the 1997 Act. It was supported not by the Snowdrop Campaign, (who took no role whatsoever in getting that particular amendment into the Bill), but by the British Shooting Sports Council, among others. The Government and the Home Office actually opposed the amendment to begin with, as Hansard makes crystal clear, and as the Home Office themselves testified to in front of the Home Affairs Committee in 2000. The reason they accepted it was because many amendments were made to the Bill in the Lords, because it was such an awfully written piece of knee-jerk legislation, and in order to placate the Lords and to save face, the Government decided to accept one of the amendments, and they decided Lord Marlesford's was the most palatable. But of course it turned into a massive fiasco, just like every other provision in that Act, because it was a dire piece of knee-jerk legislation, as many peers pointed out. Most notably the fact that handgun-related offences in England and Wales have been at a much higher level, according to Home Office statistics, in every single year since handguns were banned. Why not mention that?
Steven Kendrick, Lichfield

Newsnight's Becky Milligan responds:

Thanks for your comments. We were aware of how the amendment came about but took the line that the main focus should be on how long it has taken to implement the register and explain that story in the time we had to tell it. We were in touch with many people directly involved in the massacre while putting the report together, including people who had been part of the Snowdrop campaign. They all supported the register and were genuinely amazed it was not in place. In the Home Affairs Select Committee they reported what Charles Clarke, then a Home Office Minister, had told them.

"The central element... is the establishment of a strong, clear and accurate database which can then be used to track down and identify what is not held within the law".

We were very keen to allow the contributors in the film to have their say - but the kernel of the report was on the continuing delay rather than a political debate on the rights and wrongs of a register.


I've never sent emails before but the Jowell matter has got my rag. Last week she obliterated everything on your programme. Tonight, as facts moved in her favour, she was demoted to a jokey footnote. Why? Where was the fearless check on the Observer claims? Can we assume she will be centre stage again if her husband is indicted this week? We need to know!! PS Can you please extend your reflection of typical labour opinion beyond Hoey/Kilfoyle/Draper/Jackson/Marshall/Andrews- It's getting boring!
Bernard Powell, Measham

Like most of us I have been watching the Tessa debacle. I feel I must agree with today's Daily Mail wherein they do a pretty good job with the current position. I'll be surprised if Tessa can survive another week, I'm certainly pleased she is not my bank manager. Eventually it will be Blair that suffers the real question of his choice of front line ministers. Once again he has put his head on the block? How many more Mandelsons, Blunkets etc can this man get away with? He obviously has an utter contempt of the electorate if he feels most of us are fooled at how he has decided there is no act of deliberate misleading evidence with Tessa or her husband. I spent years waiting to see Labour win an election, by 2001 I hoped to see the back of them.
John Sutherland, Beds

Tony Blair has lost so many of his favourite people, who at one time or another he declared could do no wrong
John Joyner
I was amazed at how your piece on Tessa Jowell on tonight's programme [2 March] made no attempt to be balanced. In the introductory film a Tory MP and Peter Kilfoyle commented critically (Peter Kilfoyle is hardly a representative Labour MP as he supports virtually nothing the government does.) Then in the discussion that followed Ms Jowell's PPS was confronted by another Tory and a hostile journalist - not to mention Ms Wark asking predictable but hostile questions. I make that four or five speaking against and one for. There's a Shakespeare quote somewhere about "malice bearing down truth".
Andrew Akehurst, Rainham Kent

Tony Blair has lost so many of his favourite people, who at one time or another he declared could do no wrong. The most recent is Tessa Jowell, and good old Tony with fingers crossed no doubt says she is a goody two shoes. I wouldn't trust any of them to sell me a second hand car let alone run my country. At 82 I remember what Great Britain stood for in the eyes of the world.
John Joyner, Lytham

How can a woman who claims stupidity be applauded for being such a great Culture and Sports Minister?
Chips Westwood
I find it strange that a mortgage that normally has to be paid monthly, (a 350,000 mortgage), can disappear off the radar and you did not notice it - most mortgage lenders let you know it's been paid.
Brian Ashenden, Colchester

I am finding it a bit difficult to believe Tessa's claim that she knew nothing about her husband's financial dealings. How can a woman who claims stupidity be applauded for being such a great Culture and Sports Minister? Furthermore, I'm surprised that Gus O'Donnell cleared her of any blame in this matter. Tony Blair would of course side with her - he has lost credibility in his selection of ministers and cannot afford to lose yet another one!
Chips Westwood, Sarlat La Caneda, France

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