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  1. Newsnight Live…analysis of the day’s political events
  2. Charles Kennedy, the NHS, and the Greek debt crisis

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

Game over for Sepp Blatter

Sudden resignation of FIFA's chief

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Sepp Blatter

This time last week one of Sepp Blatter's former colleagues told us it was "the beginning of the endgame" for FIFA under his leadership. He did survive the election itself, the judgement of his colleagues in the formal vote last week. But as day after day allegations continued, we and others reported that he was likely to be questioned himself and his position became increasingly untenable. But his announcement in the last few minutes that he is to quit now is a huge shock nonetheless. He survived years of allegations of sleaze and corruption. No more. Whether the Russian and Qatari World Cups can survive now isn't yet clear.

Secret diplomacy and the fight against IS

Mark Urban

Newsnight Defence and Diplomatic Editor

Leaders at Paris conference

The Paris meeting of the anti-Islamic State coalition has had to pick off the pieces following Iraq’s military setbacks in Ramadi. But it’s also offered a glimpse of some of the secret diplomacy that’s going on over Syria. “There’s urgency to a political transition in Syria”, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, told Newsnight, when I asked him about reports that America and Russia were now conducting secret negotiations over a political deal that would see that country’s president stand down.

Without directly confirming these talks, Mr Blinken said, “the Russians and maybe even the Iranians understand that this heavy weight that they’re carrying, which is Bashar al Assad, is not only uncomfortable but increasingly dangerous to their interests”. The diplomatic rumour mill suggests that both Russia and Iran, Assad’s stalwart backers until now, are interested in making sure that any transitional government would contain elements of the regime and be able to safeguard the interests of those minority communities that now fear they will be massacred if the Syrian opposition comes to power. 

Mr Blinken told us that as far as Russia was concerned, “they also have to have some confidence that what follows Assad won’t be against their interests… but increasingly the devil that they know is a real problem”. If this idea of a negotiated end to the Assad years seems too good to work, it has certainly confounded diplomats since 2011.

Earlier attempts to get the Assad clan to relinquish its hold on power via a multi-lateral negotiation faltered more than one year ago. At times since then the Syrian president has seemed in a dominant position, but now he is suffering battlefield setbacks again and his support base (mainly drawn from Alawite, Christian, and Druze minorities) is wobbling.

There are also signs of growing assistance to the Syrian opposition. That includes the training of US-supported Syrian military groups in Turkey and Jordan, Mr Blinken confirmed. Among the Coalition members meeting in Paris today were those powerful neighbours – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey – that have backed rival Syrian factions, each with the idea of shaping a future Sunni-dominated Syria. Nobody wants an outcome where Assad is forced to step down, only for the country to descend into a fresh conflict between Sunni opposition groups, and their rival regional benefactors.

Here too Mr Blinken expressed some cautious optimism in our interview, saying that as far as these Arab countries and Turkey were concerned, “we’re in a much better place than we were” 12-18 months ago. While this might seem overly optimistic, some reports from the ground also suggest that recent opposition gains in northern Syria were made possible by reconciliation between the shadowy Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish agencies aiding the opposition, and some element of cooperation between them.  

The NHS agency worker problem

It's supply and demand

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

I have written on my blog about the government's proposals to clamp down on the cost of agency workers. You can read it here.

The most important thing in it is this graph from Health Education England which shows how, after a boost in required staffing levels in the wake of the Mid-Staffs tragedy, the supply of staff is not matching the new, higher demand.

HEE forecasts

This shows the official forecast for acute nurse numbers (the green triangle) against employers' forecasts of how many they will need. You can see we are in a hole.  

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

Duncan is on his way to Athens to report on the latest in the Greek debt crisis story.

For all the focus on the divisions in Syriza, the creditors haven't exactly been singing from the same hymn sheet recently.

And I'm now on my way to the airport and Greece bound.

Institutions hope has to be that giving Syriza a debt write down of some kind is a big enough win for them to sell the rest of the package.

Looks like two carrots on the table for Greece (Contingent on reforms & surpluses): debt write down & immediate liquidity.

down. Greece gets access to bank recapitalisation funds to meet liquidity needs over summer before 3rd programme agreed by autumn. 2/2

Very broad possible outlines of a Greek deal: labour/pension market reforms, revised primary surplus targets & some form of debt write 1/2

Remembering Charles Kennedy

Katie Razzall

Newsnight Special Correspondent

Charles Kennedy

What to say about a man who always had the right words for every situation?  Except on those occasions when he didn’t, of course; when drink befuddled that lively mind, when that witty tongue slowed a little.

I first met Charles Kennedy when I was working in the Liberal Democrat Whips Office (these days, so totemically, inhabited by the SNP as the 3rd largest party in Parliament). Back then, in the early nineties, the party had just 19 MPs (sounds a lot now, given their present predicament, but it didn’t feel it at the time).

Those 19 MPs each had a pigeon hole in the office and Charles was a welcome regular, ever witty, ever kind, ever generous. We juniors didn’t realise, I don’t think, quite how acute his political judgement was. This was before tuition fees, the Iraq war, coalition. But he did seem set apart, not least, as so many people have already said today, because he was entirely human. No airs, no graces, he was quick to smile, quick to a quip – and clearly incredibly clever.

His untimely death is just terribly, terribly sad. There will be a Kennedy-shaped hole in his party the Liberal Democrats will find hard to fill. Add to that, the sense for many that, if it hadn’t been for his tragic struggles with alcoholism, he would still be leader, and the party might be in better shape.

Morale is terribly low. As one Lib Dem I spoke to today put it, the Lib Dem’s annihilation in the polls and then Charles’s shocking early death means “it’s as bad as when Jeremy Thorpe stood accused of murder.”

I once went on holiday in a group including Charles. With his skin tone, he wasn’t one for lounging by the sun-drenched pool. He was always to be found in a shady corner of the terrace, engrossed in a heavy-weight political book, often penned by Roy Jenkins.

I’ll remember him like that – and wish he’d had many more years of political biographies to enjoy.

Gabriel Gatehouse, Newsnight Correspondent

The MOAS drone takes off. Now the wait while it scans the seas for migrant boats. Search and rescue in the Med

The MOAS drone takes off. Now the wait while it scans the seas for migrant boats. Search and rescue in the Med

Goodbye, Charlie

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Charles Kennedy waving

A lot will be written today about Charles Kennedy, most of it by journalists like me who knew him a little, but not a lot, who will seek, through their own anecdotes to try to illustrate something of the man, and his impact on British politics in the last few decades. That will be discussed through the course of the day. For now, He was an unusual thing in politics- kind and clever, and he treated everyone he came across equally, truly. There will be few tributes written by those who truly knew him well. One of them, well worth a read is here.

The prescient message of Charles Kennedy

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Charles Kennedy in 1987
Press Association
Charles Kennedy in 1987

Many tributes have been paid this morning to Charles Kennedy. The pathos of his death is only exacerbated by reading his maiden speech in the House of Commons, made in 1983 as the Baby of the House at the almost inconceivably young age of 24.

The subject of the debate was "The Younger Generation" and his message at that time could be repeated in the Chamber today and not seem out of place.

"We have heard much from the Liberal and Social Democratic parties, and I do not doubt that we shall hear even more in future, about the iniquities of our electoral system. Under the present system many people are effectively disfranchised—the Whip will be pleased to know that I will not comment on that today. However, voluntary disfranchisement is also taking place. During my campaign people of my age and younger said consistently that they would not vote because their votes simply no longer matter and because no Government or Member of Parliament cared a whit about their problems and their striving for employment. That is disturbing for all of the parties and all hon. Members. Those who will contribute most to British democracy in the future are extricating themselves from the system already because they believe that it is no longer relevant. Part of the solution to that is electoral reform, but even more urgent is the need for a more tolerant, caring and compassionate Government."