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Turkey and the EU
Sham 69 live on Newsnight
Labour Party conference
Health Service deficits
Lance Price's Spin Doctor's Diary
Gordon Brown interview
Poverty in America
Tory leadership poll
Write to us
As a 30 - nearly 40 - something, I have found Newsnight hugely informative, incisive and interesting this week (bar the shameless Spin Doctor plug which has already been dealt with). But "Window Cleaning Correspondent", Michael Crick's Dylan-esque precis of Tuesday's Labour Party conference and, hilariously, Sham 69 live in the studio! Well done for making politics interesting. Surely this demonstrates the potential for a relevant, if slightly irreverent, news show aimed at a teen audience?
Andrew Wilkinson, London
Outstanding work in general, but Stephen Smith should really have his own show...
Paul Crichton, London
I wasn't impressed with your later, 10:55pm, start last night [26.09.05]. I know that many people would have been interested in watching the Bob Dylan programme but wouldn't it have been better to move University Challenge forward half an hour rather than Newsnight back? Whilst I also like to watch University Challenge it is not a programme that people schedule their bedtime around, unlike Newsnight. So either today will see many more tired people around than usual, or you will have lost many of your viewers during the show as they, like me, fell asleep by 11:15!
Alexander Case, London
Missed the show? You can watch Newsnight online for 24 hours after original broadcast
The Tories are always going to find it difficult to get into power when the electoral system is so biased against them and also biased towards Scotland who not only are over represented at Westminster but also have their own parliament.
David Brinkman, Poole
Frank Luntz has been one of the most important people, who through his spin doctoring, has done more to muddy the political waters in US politics. His half lies, innuendo and spin has made politics in that benighted country truly dangerous to the rest of the world. Does Newsnight really require his services?
John Ledwidge, Toulouse
When I consider all of the damage that Mrs Thatcher did in her term of office, I shudder to think that the Conservatives are setting their sights on Downing Street. They do not consider MY country in their policies, they only consider what policies can get them into Power (note the capital P!)
Cecil Brown, Orpington, Kent
TURKEY AND THE EU
I write to you about tonight's broadcast of Newsnight [30.09.05]. The programme's main focus was Turkey's integration into the EU. As a European, I think that allowing Turkey to become a member of the Union should never happen. Turkey is geographically not part of Europe. The fact that Turkey's got a small amount of land in the European continent does not make it European. Does the fact that the UK has a territory in Spain (Gibraltar) make it a part of Spain? It's not a matter of religion either; Albania is a Muslim country and could one day become part of the EU, because it is in Europe. The EU is a union of European countries for European countries. It is not a group of countries trying to create a new United Nations.
Antoine Jeulin, London
SHAM 69 LIVE ON NEWSNIGHT [28.09.05]
Sham 69...I smiled from ear-to-ear watching this - politics and the treatment of it is too serious by far. I've got the original on vinyl somewhere, I must dig it out. More of the same please!
Mark Starosolsky, London
I'm a business person and always watch Newsnight. I'm also an old punk and am very grateful for your inclusion of Sham 69 on the programme recently. It was really well worked into the format.
Peter Stitt, Hull
Have to agree how great to see and hear Sham 69 again! Jimmy was my hero 25 years ago - wonderful to see him again - excellent stuff!
Michelle Fitzpatrick, Manchester
Sham 69 - absolute stroke of genius. Can this be made available to download/purchase?
Jeremy Waxman (not Paxman), Bradford
I think having Sham 69 playing on tonight's show was a great idea. It should become a feature more often.
Charles Toth, Maidenhead
It has become quite clear that Newsnight's solution to falling audience numbers is to turn itself into "Top of the Pops". Personally, I'm fed up with it. I'm not interested in seeing "pop acts" perform on Newsnight. It's supposed to be a news programme.
Stranded in Babylon, Babylon
LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE
I was sickened by the ill treatment of 82 year old Mr Wolfgang, being manhandled out of the conference centre by untrained stewards as well as the unforgiving treatment of Erith and Thamesmead constituency party chairman Steve Forrest. There is a problem in having party activists and party employees engaged in the stewarding role, in a charged political atmosphere. In my party, the Conservative Party, there have been a couple of instances (from the 1980s) of Conservative Party officials not using minimum force in ejecting protesters. Frankly, any parliamentary party who runs party conferences should have professional stewards who are SIA trained and SIA qualified. It is a legal requirement for all door staff for entertainment/bars and club establishments.
Cllr Tony Linden, (West Berkshire Council), Reading
Having seen the report on the ejecting of a heckler at the Labour Party Conference, are we going to get a report into why the police used the Terrorism Act against someone who was obviously not a terrorist? Maybe it should have been used against the ushers instead. Shame on Jack Straw for not stopping the ushers in their tracks.
Christopher Duncan, Liverpool
I listened to some of the hot air coming from the Labour Party conference and noticed something curious. Much is made of "change" yet the word we would expect to hear is "improvement". It seems that someone is hoping that we will hear "change" and assume that it implies "improvement". But we have learned that a politician chooses his or her words very carefully; if they meant "improvement" that is the word they would use.
Geoff Lane, Bury, Lancs
Having seen the clip of Tony Blair's speech, it appears that Tony Blair has turned into David Brent.
Dave, Kings Lynn
HEALTH SERVICE DEFICITS [28.09.05]
It's no good saying what a hospital's deficit is unless you also tell us what its turnover is, otherwise all we can do is just wonder at impressive sounding figures like eight million pounds. This may, in fact, be peanuts compared with the previous figure I remember you providing: something like £80 billion for the whole health service.
C H Woodward, London
NUCLEAR POWER [28.09.05]
Your report seemed to accept that the technology is "carbon neutral". However, this claim needs to be challenged. Producing nuclear power stations and their associated fuel infrastructure involves large construction projects which will require the use of fossil fuels. The electricity produced will only replace some of the current uses of fossil fuel (for instance, it will not affect the car and air transport sectors). The key issue is how much reduction in carbon emissions will we achieve for each pound invested in particular energy technologies? From this point of view, conservation and insulation is by far the most efficient use of money. I would like to see Newsnight highlight this aspect of debate.
Michael McGuffie, Wellington, Somerset
SPIN DOCTOR'S DIARY
Reply from Editor, Peter Barron
Some viewers thought Lance Price's piece for Newsnight amounted to unacceptable promotion of his book. Given that the content of his diaries from his time at Downing Street was previously unpublished, newsworthy material, I believe it was legitimate to include readings from his book, but I accept that some of the shots of Mr Price holding his book would have been better without it.
Lance Price's film charting his time at No 10 was witty, intriguing and, at times, fascinating. But the shameless plugging of his book on the subject was just sickening. He referred to it constantly and there was a lingering shot of it clearly in view in his hands! He ended the piece saying "I'm no longer a spin doctor". Yet it is pure spin to act as if an article has one topic (No.10) while in fact the real agendum is with another (his book).
Even more unacceptable, though, was Newsnight's complicity in what amounted to raw, in-show advertising. This must break BBC guidelines. If it doesn't, it should.
Will McNeill, London
I have just watched Newsnight's item on the IRA's decommissioning. I write this as a non-religious person from London with no ties to either side; I found the piece a disgrace. The reporter and presenter did everything they could to undermine what is a momentous occasion that should be rejoiced and not looked upon with distaste and suspicion. Do we forget the IRA are doing this when Loyalist paramilitaries are still active? For the presenter to give greater credit to the opinion of the radical Loyalist Ian Paisley Jnr than to the greatly respected and independent General John de Chastelain is absurd. To make matters worse it appears the knowledge of the troubles in Northern Ireland by the BBC men seemed minimal at best. The report was typical of the BBC's pro-Unionist and anti-Republican coverage, in a time of Fox-style slanted reporting - the BBC should be ashamed of itself
David Booth, Surrey
GORDON BROWN INTERVIEW
Many congratulations to Martha Kearney for her effective interview of Gordon Brown. It was a delight to see and hear Martha get her points over with such gusto in the face of Gordon's attempts to avoid answering the question and fill the interview space with his own agenda. A fine example to other interviewers. Keep going Martha, it was an excellent interview, thoroughly enjoyed.
Ronald Thorne, Dartmouth, Devon
After listening to the discussion on whether or not we should withdraw our troops from Iraq, it occured to me that no one has directly asked the Iraqi people. Why don't we hold a referendum in Iraq and ask the population if they want coalition troops to leave or not? Just reporting that the Iraqi Government asks us to stay is clearly insufficient because of the divisions in the country.
Davide Simonetti, London
Surely we cannot expect the Iraqi people to respect the rule of law if we simply knock down prison walls whenever we don't like who's in jail?
POVERTY IN AMERICA
I read your article on poverty and race in the US and watched a video of the programme online. I was impressed by the way the issue was covered. I am an African American physician who grew up and currently lives in The South. I am well aware of the complexity of the issue of poverty in black America. Although the gentleman who was interviewed stated that all one had to do to avoid poverty was "stay in school, finish school, and don't get pregnant young," it is not that simple. There are a multitude of complex historical, social and political factors that have lead to the present day situation of so many African Americans living in poverty in this country. One must fully grasp the state of public schools in black communities that fail our children daily; public policies that lead to high rates of unemployment and miserable neighbourhood conditions for many black Americans; and the stress of racism that affects both the physical and mental health of African Americans. I hope the BBC will further explore this and other similar issues in more depth. I will be watching for more.
Adiaha Spinks, Houston, USA
I really enjoyed your article on Poverty in America. American media tends to give the impression that all people living in poverty are black, and you addressed this by pointing out that the majority of people in poverty here are actually white. Also, I appreciated how you looked at how America's lack of national healthcare contributes to poverty, but countered it by pointing out historical trends that show that just throwing tax money at the poor doesn't fix the problem. This country has a lot of social issues that need work, and President Bush is doing a miserable job at dealing with them, but I appreciated your informed, thoughtful, and objective article.
Rosemary, San Francisco, CA
In response to the dichotomy between the rich and poor in the US, isn't that what capitalism is about? If we have "winners" shouldn't we also have "losers" (example, the poor souls in New Orleans that lived through Katrina compared with the riches of William Gates of Microsoft). But doesn't Bill far outweigh the mediocrity of communism?
Doug Terczak, Michigan
I thought the poverty in America piece was excellently presented, but didn't think that it would be a surprise to people to learn that for many, "the American Dream" will never be a reality (or anything close). What has surprised me, and I find somewhat disappointing in the reporting of the recent devastation caused by horrific weather conditions along the US Gulf coast, is the complete lack of any reference by news teams to American Indian tribes in the area who have suffered as a result.
Isobel Jardine, Northumberland
It seems to me that the American Dream has been a long time dead, since the vast resources of the USA have long been hijacked by the rich and powerful for their own ends, leaving the rest to rot. This has been common knowledge for a long time now, and is reflected in many areas of American culture, eg the books and articles of Chomsky and many many popular songs. But it's the same in other countries, with unrestrained greed throttling the life out of the planet.
Ian Campbell, London
I suggest that if you wish to further explore "utterly shocking" poverty in America, you go down to the southern border of George Bush's Texas. There you will find true third world conditions in the richest country on earth.
Karen Czajkowski, New Hampshire, US
Your story Poverty in America keeps referring to "George Bush's America". To be fair, the same poverty existed during President Clinton's eight years, and for many years before that. It is not some thing that started or even got worse during this Bush administration.
My second point is that the "Leave No Child Behind" program of this administration is NOT about poverty, but about education. It is working now and schools are under pressure not to just keep pushing kids from one grade to another without real learning. The effect of this on poverty will be felt on the long run. It has no immediate anti-poverty measures in it.
John K., Los Angeles
It is shocking but no surprise as an American. While those living in poverty and the uninsured increase, we as a nation continue to outsource our job base that might support them. As the baby boomers begin to retire the stress on the federal systems will only increase. Visit any US/Mexico border town and you will see extreme conditions of poverty on both sides of the border. The American Dream has certainly faded for many.
Mike Henley, Tucson
I'm a European immigrant moving to Chicago and have lived in New Orleans and Georgia. Trust me when I say this on America being the richest nation on earth and your article on the poor. The Great Society of the 1960s is truly to blame. Giving people housing, food, and a meagre existence was good enough for a portion of American society. After 40+ years of learned behaviour, that small portion of society has multiplied tenfold and has learned to scream holy hell when government fails to keep up with their "lifestyle". It's a domino affect - drug use, dropping out of school, pregnancy, single mothers, etc, etc. The poor you have seen on TV have no reason or drive to do anything except breathe, procreate and wait for their next handout. The great societal programs of the 60s have taken away their drive to exist as a productive member of society.
Martin Lulofs, Washington
I was glad to read [Gavin Esler] pointing out that most poor Americans are white, something that most news media ignore in this country. However, I do have some objections. First, it has not been the case that "Democrats and Republicans have concluded that simply throwing tax dollars at the problem does not work". The fact of the matter is that whenever the Republicans are in power - most of the last 35 years - they emasculate the programs that actually help folks get a foothold up, or turn programs into "test programs", and then cancel them. As an example, the Pell Grants, which help young people go to college, have been hacked back again and again. Another problem is the tax code, written by the corporations, that reward them for moving all the good jobs offshore. We are becoming a nation of nurses' aides, telemarketers, and pizza deliverers. With all of that, the American middle-income class is collapsing. I will note that I, personally, represent that, having grown up in the slums of north Philadelphia, wound up as a well-paid computer professional, and have now been out of work for most of the Bush Depression. Let me add that I know many other professionals who are either working part-time jobs or otherwise underemployed, thanks to "free market" policies... and we do not have the "social safety net" that the UK does.
Mark Roth, Port St. John, FL USA
GERARD DEPARDIEU [20.09.05]
What was that segment about Depardieu supposed to be all about? DayTV comes to Newsnight? It was cringe worthy but also unintentionally hilarious. It was like watching your Dad dance at a wedding... I looking forward to the next one.
I am reeling from the Newsnight story I have just watched (19/09/05) covering the incident in Basra when two British servicemen were imprisoned by Iraqi police. The biased coverage, complete with one-sided Labour MP and army commander interviews, failed to address the issue of the two UK servicemen (who were allegedly undercover agents) shooting dead an Iraqi policeman. Jeremy Paxman did not adequately acknowledge this important detail.
Wendy Sisco, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Very good piece on China last night, it went only six inches over my head as opposed to the usual couple of yards. Could you not devote whole programmes to such clear explanations? Contrary to BBC wisdom, BBC Two and Radio 4 listeners do have attention spans beyond the magazine format
Dear editor, I watched with some interest the news article regarding work at height and window cleaners (using ladders and water washers). You are quite right in every aspect of this story with one exception; there is no need for window cleaners or anyone to be at risk when using a ladder. A ladder stability device is available on the market and has been for some time.
Ian French, Glasgow
I saw the original report on the issue concerning window cleaners using ladders and having just watched the follow-up, I am equally amazed. Window cleaners have been using ladders for many years now and I wonder how they are going to manage to clean windows properly with the new equipment being forced upon them? Bird droppings and other grime will not be moved unless the window cleaner climbs up the ladder and physically cleans the window.
I think that the EU, which may be responsible for these new rules and regulations originally, should let workers get on with their jobs and stop fussing. If not the EU, then the Window Cleaners Federation should know better. Window cleaning is an age old trade and provides a living for thousands of men and women up and down the country. Thank you Newsnight for bringing us this!
Steve Fuller, Hove, East Sussex
What did Jeremy expect to gain by repeatedly asking Philip Hammond if he'd commit to a flat tax, even badgering him to specify a rate, when Hammond had stated clearly and perfectly reasonably that his party is looking at the policy? I'm anything but a Tory supporter, but "You're waffling!" and "There's only room for one person on this programme who keeps asking the same question" don't exactly contribute to serious political debate.
George Mackie, London
Would the so-called tax deficit under a flat tax system still be a deficit, after the lower costs of administering such a system were compared with the costs of collection under the current tax system?
Reply from Deputy Editor, Mary Wilkinson
The principle of having a Scottish opt out during the second half of Newsnight stemmed from the BBC's reflection upon how best to serve the people of Scotland, post devolution. It was felt that the new volume and intensity of political and public debate in Scotland had to be reflected in a new late night current affairs programme.
There's been a very positive reaction to Newsnight Scotland, with broad agreement that it is adding to the quality of broadcast journalism available to Scottish viewers.
It is true that some regular Newsnight viewers have been disappointed to lose the final item in the network programme, but we do monitor this closely to try to ensure that nothing of real significance is omitted. Both editorial teams in Glasgow and London stay in close touch to ensure that viewers are best served, though on occasions, uneasy compromises occur.
I would also point out that important debates would have gone relatively unscrutinised in broadcasting terms if not for Newsnight Scotland - Section 28, student fees and the difficulties with the SQA included.
I hope you will continue to watch Newsnight and Newsnight Scotland and continue to let us know what you think.
Yet again in the middle of an interesting report we in Scotland were subjected to Newsnight Scotland. Why?
Elaine Hutton, Edinburgh
My heart sinks a little every time the switch to Newsnight Scotland occurs. It's not that Newsnight Scotland is bad, although it seems overly dependent on studio discussions. It's just I always feel we are missing out. For example, the film on the elections in Egypt sounded much more interesting than what we got. Could Newsnight Scotland not incorporate some of the more interesting pre-filmed reports on slow nights for Scottish news? Alternatively, could we not get an extended weekly Scottish current affairs programme and revert back to getting UK Newsnight?
Ian Scott, Edinburgh
It seemed to be taken as read that releasing the clothes for sale was a good thing. European industry should "wake up to the reality of Chinese competition". Well the only way it could compete is if we discarded 99% of our environmental and safety legislation and paid the workers £0.30 an hour. The end result of this thinking is we'd end up a third-world country. The EU was originally set up as protectionist. If it isn't going to protect us from unfair trade I don't see its point. The underlying assumptions of the way this was reported are all wrong and should have been questioned.
Whilst I am an avid Newsnight follower, I really must strongly object to your treatment of the extended item on the appalling hurricane disaster. What we are witnessing is real life suffering on an enormous scale. It is not a BBC drama production nor a soap. To play mood music during the report, in a pitiful attempt to heighten the drama for our entertainment, is quite disgraceful.
Graham Matthews, Chislehurst
TORY LEADERSHIP POLL
It's no surprise that Ken Clarke is way ahead. In my view, age is no barrier. After all, Churchill was 65 when he became PM and he possessed a formidable intellect. Clearly, Clarke appeals across the board and is the only serious choice if the Tories are really serious about winning an election. The fact that he smokes cigars and likes a drink means he is human and people can relate to him. When he wants to be he is a very candid and serious political operator and is quite capable of handling both his party and the country. The other candidates lack experience, notoriety and humour.
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