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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. Exclusive Interview: Chuka Umunna

    Allegra Stratton, Political Editor

    Image caption: Interview

    Chuka Umunna was many peoples’ favourite to become the next Labour leader. Sensationally he removed himself from the Labour leadership race just days after the throwing his hat into the ring. Today he backed Liz Kendall for leader, but he's yet to talk about why he, himself, had such a change of heart. Below is a transcript of a rather candid interview about his reasons for dropping out and where the Labour party is right now - which will be on Newsnight tonight:

    On why he ruled himself out:

    “The level of media attention and pressure…when it began to affect my girlfriend, her family and my family and we had reporters for example going to her family when they were in the middle of having their Sunday roast with her 97 year old grandmother - I found that very hard to stomach.”

    “For once I thought in my life I’m going to put my family, my girlfriend, her family, put them first - and this is not the right time for me.”

    “My heart wasn’t really in it at that moment, particularly going through that experience. There were no skeletons, no revelations, I have absolutely nothing to hide.”

    On when he considered being a possible Labour leader:

    “It didn’t really enter my mind in a serious way until half way through the parliament - when people were contemplating who would win and then what would happen after.”

    On ever running again:

    “Never say never, but right now this is not the priority in my life… I wouldn’t say it was impossible but I think it’s quite unlikely”

    On Liz Kendall:

    “Liz has been making all the arguments on that [on challenging the traditional social democratic model] that I would have been making if I was still in the contest. Not only posing the questions but also beginning to chart a way to finding the answers.”

    On Ed Miliband .

    AS: Were you sharing worries about the Ed Miliband direction of travel? The two of you [Umunna and Kendall]?

    CU: Oh, yes, during our time in the last Parliament. But I want to be absolutely clear, Ed is a friend of mine and I have a huge amount of respect for him and I think having dipped one’s toe in the leadership pond you have even more respect for him.”

    On the EU Referendum

    “There is a degree of hesitancy on the Labour side when it comes to making the case for us to stay in. I think everyone is agreed that that is where we are and that is our position as a party, but the extent to which we should put ourselves at the forefront of the campaign to stay in there is a degree of hesitancy.

    “There is a worry that what beset us after the Scottish referendum - where we were on the winning side of the argument in terms of the way the referendum went but we saw the fall out after - there is a worry that that same fate will beset the Labour party in parts of England.

    AS: And hand seats to UKIP?

    “Well, that is a worry.”

    On 2018 Labour leader re-affirmation:

    “I don’t think it can be dismissed out of hand. But I think when we make the argument we have to consider what message that gives to people.”

    You can watch the interview tonight at 22.30 on Newsnight 

  2. New era for counter-terror?

    Richard Watson, Newsnight Correspondent

    Policeman outside Parliament with gun

    Controversial new counter-terrorism measures will be in tomorrow’s Queen’s speech which will mark a new direction for Britain. They’re mainly designed to silence non-violent extremists here in the UK who campaign against British values of equality, democracy and freedom while being careful to stay within current laws.

    In some ways, the new legislation could be dubbed “the al-Muhajiroun Bill” because al-Muhajiroun and its various guises have for decades been a thorn in the side for successive governments – and for the vast majority of people living in the UK. As one of my Muslim friends says, “these fools damage our community the most”.

    If you chart the names behind many terrorist attacks here and abroad involving Britons, as I have done, then you will find the name “al-Muhajiroun” crops up time and time again. It was officially proscribed in 2010, but its supporters have continued to gather under different banners.

    Its founding members Anjem Choudary and Omar Bakri Mohammed have always denied being involved in anything illegal, but al-Muhajiroun’s nihilistic philosophy of “us and them”, “divine right” and a rigid adherence to what they believe constitutes “God’s law” has infected several generations of young Britons.

    Currently, they can and do preach intolerance of western societal values without landing up in jail. In their world voting is “not permissible”(in one of their favorite phrases), gays should be killed if found guilty by an Islamic court, and establishing a global Islamic State is an “Islamic duty”– a state where non-believers or “Kuffar” (another favorite term) would pay a compulsory tax or be killed.

    But hang on a second, I hear it said, is not introducing banning orders and disruption orders when no actual crime has been committed contrary to British values? But as one of my sources says, “Syria has changed everything” and the fact that British society has seen 700+ young people choose to support the so-called Islamic State means that for the current government the old approach of tolerance has failed.

    When I first started researching this 15 years ago, shortly before 9/11, I was told that Britain’s security apparatus (the police and MI5) were happy to monitor non-violent extremists who settled here so long as they were not planning attacks in the UK. As a former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee told me, this was a “failure of imagination”. No one predicted then the effect of leaving extreme views unchallenged. The government is about to embark on a different path.

  3. Cameron's EU charm offensive faces new challenge

    Matthew Thompson, Newsnight Producer

    David Cameron around a table with other European leaders
    Image caption: David Cameron around a table with other European leaders

    Just as David Cameron’s European charm offensive was warming up this week, two of the continent’s leading left-wing newspapers were quick to douse him in cold water. “Le ‘no thanks’ de Merkel et Hollande à Cameron” shouted Le Monde, as the Guardian splashed on the same story: a leaked agreement between the French and German leaders to pursue tighter political union in the Eurozone without treaty change. This, they suggested, would make sore reading for the Conservatives, since treaty change has long been something that the Prime Minister has suggested he would like to see.

    And yet, most of the detail of this leaked memo seems simply to confirm what we already know. France and Germany want closer integration to shore up the crisis in the single currency. This has been both a stated goal and a visible trajectory since the first attempts at stability mechanisms in 2011.

    We also know that it is extremely unlikely that there will be any significant alteration of the Lisbon Treaty before Cameron’s 2017 deadline. Such changes would require referendums in several EU nations, and there is little chance, for example, that Francois Hollande will be enthusiastic about holding a referendum on Europe in the same year as the 2017 French Presidential election.

    Cameron’s stated desire for treaty change is therefore made in advance knowledge of those facts. He must know that a whole new treaty, ratified in 28 nations, is impossible before the end of 2017. But Europe is a complex beast, and there are ways to bend the letters of the law without the need to cause such upheaval. For instance, protocols can be agreed amongst member states that would allow the UK to alter its relationship with the EU, and for that change to be embedded in future treaties. This could itself be portrayed as treaty change of a kind.

    And is the closer integration of the Eurozone incompatible with the UK’s demands for more national control? Take it from German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, who told the Wall Street Journal just last week: “We have talked about … how we can combine the British position with the urgent need for a strengthened governance of the eurozone, which is something the British government also agrees is necessary”. So perhaps Cameron won’t be so disheartened after all.

    Later this week, I’ll be following the Prime Minister with our Political Editor Allegra Stratton as he makes his way around Europe. Tune in for our reports on his progress from Paris on Thursday, and Berlin on Friday.

  4. Chuka Umunna breaks silence

  5. The productivity puzzle: Global edition

    Duncan Weldon

    Economics correspondent

    Perhaps the biggest issue facing the British economy is the ongoing weakness in productivity - the fact that output per hour worked has basically flat-lined since 2007 after years of steady rises.

    This weakness in productivity growth has been one of the major drivers of weak real wage growth and, if it doesn't turn around soon, it'll make the task of deficit reduction even harder.

    But whilst most economists agree that the consequences of this are serious, there is still no clear explanation of its causes - hence talk of a "productivity puzzle".  

    And it seems that when it comes to weak productivity, Britain isn't alone.

    Today the Conference Board research organisation have pointed to the weakness of productivity globally as a serious issue.

    As the chart below shows, productivity growth seems to have turned down almost everywhere. 

    a graph
  6. David Cameron and Conventional Weapons

    Marc Williams

    Newsnight Election Producer

    Peers in the House of Lords

    Much of the focus on the Queen's Speech tomorrow will be on whether, on issues such as Conservative plans to replace the Human Rights Act, the Tory whips will be able to preserve their slender Commons majority. The Times today also reports on how party managers might soft pedal on their manifesto commitment to reduce the number of MPs to 600 because of fears of a backlash from those MPs who face losing their seat in the changes.

    Some of the focus, however, has rested upon how the situation in the House of Lords will evolve given that non-Conservative parties have a sizeable majority. The Tories only have 224 out of the 780 peers.

    It's at this point that the Salisbury-Addison Convention and the Parliament Acts come into play. The former, usually just called the Salisbury Convention, was established in the late 19th to early 20th century. It means, to quote a House of Lords library note: "that the House of Lords should not reject at second or third reading Government Bills brought from the House of Commons for which the Government has a mandate from the nation." In practice this means that anything that was in the Tory manifesto cannot be blocked by the Lords. 

    For the Parliament Acts, Erskine-May (the Parliamentary procedure bible) says that: "it is provided that a bill which is passed by the House of Commons in two successive sessions (whether the same Parliament or not), and which, having been sent up to the House of Lords at least one month before the end of the session, is rejected by the House of Lords in each of those sessions, shall, on its rejection for the second time by the House of Lords, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, be presented to Her Majesty and become an Act of Parliament on Royal Assent being signified to it. One year must elapse between the second reading of the bill in the House of Commons in the second session."

    So, for non-manifesto bills, the Conservatives can just "Parliament Act" it, although it will take time. This may be crucial if a matter of national security should arise, such as revision of anti-terror laws. The Lords have limited powers on Finance Bills (which enact Budgets). Indeed, that is the reason why the Parliament Acts exist in the first place, being enacted by the Liberal Government after the People's Budget was blocked in 1909. 

    The other point to note about the Parliament Acts is that they do not apply to secondary legislation. This may not seem significant, but a lot of the nitty-gritty of Government business is not implemented in the primary legislation, but has to be subject to a later endorsement via so-called "Statutory Instruments".

    In short, then, the capacity of the Lords to frustrate David Cameron is limited, but that doesn't mean that they might not make the business of majority government rather more like walking in treacle than would otherwise be the case.