With Evan Davis. Michael Gove on Theresa May's speech on Britain leaving the EU and his interview with Donald Trump. Plus preventing Islamic extremism.
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That's a summary of the news.
Now on BBC News, it's time
for Newsnight with Evan Davis.
It's always risky to hire
the cheapest builder.
It's true of your new kitchen,
and it's true for government
contracts as well.
Is there a lesson there,
after the death of the giant
outsourcing contractor Carillion?
It's quite difficult for ministers
to go to Parliament and say,
oh, we've gone for a more expensive
bid here, because we thought
it was a better bid.
Outsourcing was loved by Labour
in power but Jeremy Corbyn says this
crisis is a sign it has to go -
we'll ask Dame Margaret Hodge
if she thinks it has much future.
And this - Hong Kong football fans
booing the Chinese National Anthem.
Has Beijing stuck to its promise -
made to us - to respect democracy
after it took back Hong Kong?
After 30 years, I'm not sure
whether the British Government
still remember Hong Kong,
and still remembers the promises
that they have made.
We hear from the new leader
of the backbench Tory Brexiteers
on whether we may be heading
for a squidgy Brexit.
And the rise of the specialist
cultural sensitivity editor.
Publishers are employing people just
to sniff out anything in their books
that someone might find offensive.
Is this new front in the culture
war a modern necessity,
or dangerous censorship?
So, today, the Carillion blame game.
The world has not fallen in, yet,
but the horror of the company
Carillion going bust with we now
know a mere £29 million in the bank,
with so many contracts in operation,
so many smaller suppliers unpaid,
so much unfunded pension commitment
and so many workers jobs dependent
on it - all while it has found
the money in the recent past
to handsomely reward its executives
and make big dividend payouts.
The Government knows the optics
don't look good and has asked
for an accelerated investigation
into the actions of the directors.
Jeremy Corbyn thinks it makes
a bigger point about trying
to contract everything out.
Time to bring it in house, he says.
But for the moment, contracts rule
in the public sector -
from prisons and schools,
you can also see train franchises
as the same thing.
Some private companies make a mint.
Others - as Carillion knows -
operate on dangerously thin margins.
So is it possible for contracting
out to ever work well?
Here's Helen Thomas.
30,000 businesses, hundreds
of millions of pounds owed.
Across the country, companies
working on Carillion's private
sector jobs are wondering
what happens when Government support
Then, the scale of the damage
from the company's dramatic collapse
could become clear.
But there are tough questions
starting to be asked in Westminster.
About a third of government spending
goes through external suppliers.
So, has the Government got a good
handle on who is building roads
and hospitals, or providing
crucial public services?
And have passed lessons
about the pitfalls of dealing
with private companies been learned?
About £250 billion of government
spending goes through external
suppliers, according to estimates
from the National Audit Office.
136 billion of that is spending
by central government departments
and the NHS.
But the NAO notes that
the Government is no clear figure
for the amount it spends
through commercial relationships.
Decisions about what to outsource
and how are often made
within different departments.
One concern is that there has not
been enough central management
of the whole process.
Open book accounting clauses
in contracts give the Government
access to confidential information,
that helps track what is happening
to the taxpayer's pounds.
But a survey in 2014 found only 31%
of contracts have open book clauses.
For only 19% of contracts
have the Government received
the relevant data and taken
steps to verify it.
A 2014 report by the Public Accounts
Committee recommended open book
accounting to help scrutiny,
greater transparency and better
information on contracts
and their performance,
focus on encouraging new and smaller
entrance in to boost competition,
investment in developing
Cabinet Office and departmental
expertise, and, crucially,
contingency plans on all contracts,
should a supplier failed.
A follow up by the committee chaired
by Meg Hillier in 2016 called
the pace of change disappointing.
We see repeatedly the same things,
failure of contract letting,
failure of contract management
and companies that promised more
than they can deliver for the price.
Really, there is still a very long
way for Government to go.
The system isn't working.
There are too few large companies
bidding for the contracts.
They get good at bidding,
but there is no guarantee that
being good at bidding is good
at running the service.
But companies in the sector
would agree that change is needed.
Years of austerity and the drive
to cut costs has put
the sector under pressure.
This chart shows operating profit
margins for the UK construction
Construction was the part
of Carillion's business that
generated the most losses,
and the largest contractors have
been making lower margins still,
argue industry bodies.
AMA research puts the
industry-standard profit margins
at 2% to 3% in construction,
and maybe 3% to 5% in support
But the reality is that those remain
a target for some in a sector
littered with profit
warnings and restructurings.
One former executive told me that
margins had come under pressure
across all outsourcing sectors
will stop that has happened
as companies have been asked
to take on more risk,
and, some contracts have become
A less flexible client,
the Government had also made it
harder to react as problems arose.
It is time, this person said,
for a fundamental rethink.
The Government has been developing
an increasingly sophisticated
appreciation that the lowest bidder
is not necessarily the best.
But it is quite difficult
for ministers to go to Parliament
and say, we have gone for a more
expensive bid because we thought
it was a better one,
but I think maybe this instance
will liven Parliament to the need
for Government to look more
intelligently and these bids.
With promises of hearings
and inquiries, dealings
between the Government
and its biggest suppliers will soon
be getting much more scrutiny.
We did ask the Government
to join us tonight,
but there was nobody available.
But we have our own Newsnight
experts here to make sense of this -
political editor Nick Watt,
business editor Helen Thomas
and our policy editor Chris Cook.
Nick, what are you hearing tonight
about where this is going?
I understand that tonight
the Government is planning to extend
the 48-hour period in which it
will fund the official receiver
to look at private contractors,
what are known as the private sector
counterparties to Carillion to see
whether they want to basically
accept the termination of contracts,
or whether they want to pay
for the ongoing costs.
I am hearing talk in Whitehall
that there have been talks
with the Treasury, they want to be
flexible, it is taking time to go
through these contracts.
They want to give them more time.
But this will not be indefinitely...
And they won't call it a bailout?
It will not be the same
as the support they are providing
for the official receiver.
This is a contract where
the government battle has no stake,
they are basically
helping the receivers.
On other aspects of this whole
thing, where is it going to go now?
It will take time to work out
where the pain is going to come any
supply chain, who is going to lay
off people, and there will be
lay-offs, and who might be
taking financial hits.
As we touched on earlier,
Greg Clarke, the Business Secretary,
has called for two investigations,
one into the Carillion accounts,
and the reporting to Europe
to the profit warning in July,
and also the conduct
towards its collapse,
including by current
and former directors.
We are assuming every aspect
of this will be probed.
Corporate governance in the company,
including pay and board oversight,
and there are various people around
politics today promising to have
people in front of committees
and for them to be pretty fiery.
You know, there will always be
this lingering question
of if the Government should be more
aware of what was going on along
the Carillion business.
A rival company, into serve,
launched a legal challenge in 2014
into the award of a contract
by the minute job defence,
The contract went to Carillion,
and the rival said that the bids
were abnormally low
and could be undeliverable.
Whitehall insiders will be
having lots of concessions
about the meanings of this.
A lot of them will not be
agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn
that it is the end
of our outsourcing.
Didn't think it is
the end of outsourcing.
That is clear.
The big thing I keep hearing
about his concentration.
They bring up how frustrating
it is that the market
is so concentrated with outsourcing.
There are relatively few players
of a scale large enough to take
on the kind of contracts
that the Government
likes to deliver.
They also think that things
are currently in hand,
they think that pensions
are going to be dealt
with by the pension protection fund,
they think public contracts will be
picked up and be OK.
with the supply chain.
This isn't the sort
of Lehman Brothers catastrophe.
The problem for them
in the short-term is,
actually, if you look
at the Serco share price,
it has gone up.
A big rival?
Yes, because things are easier
for them, there is one fewer bidder
in the market.
Are they seeing big changes
to outsourcing now?
Not in the short-term,
not under this government.
The big thing worth remembering
is that there are reasons that
people outsource which are not just
about chiselling at the cost.
Do you have the strategic
capacity to do something?
The civil service does not
want to have a senior manager
in charge of doing HR for the people
that maintain own buildings.
They are not interested in that
and they cannot foresee doing that.
Thanks, all of you,
thank you very much.
Now I'm joined by Dame Margaret
Hodge, the Labour MP who chaired
the Public Accounts Committee
in 2014 when it produced a report
on outsourcing public services
to the private sector.
Do you think the collapse
of Carillion is the sign of a system
working, that a company that perhaps
was not very well run has gone
out of business?
Or is it a sign of systemic failure?
I think it is more of a sign
of systemic failure.
We looked at this through four years
back, and I don't think
what has changed.
According to Meg Hillier, it hasn't.
We found a number of things,
actually what the Government
was doing in trying to create
a market, it was almost destroying
the market because it was killing
off a lot of smaller suppliers
of public services and allowing
these very big oligarch companies,
that were very good at winning
contracts, to run public services
that they were less good at.
We also found there isn't
You can sort this out.
If you want to play in the public
sector market and you are using
you ought to be open.
So you shouldn't be able to hide
behind commercial confidentiality.
The Government can say
we will make it open?
And they should.
When we talked to four of the big
players, they were willing
to do that.
The other thing is the civil
We all know that it's
really isn't there.
It is unrealistic to think
we are going to get
rid of outsourcing.
Over half of the service is now
provided by the tax payer,
this is not, you know,
tax relief or benefits,
pensions, but the services,
over half of them are provided
by private providers.
You cannot shift back.
Your leader, Jeremy Corbyn,
has used the word fleecing
the public, because the companies
take big profits out of the delivery
of public services.
It honestly doesn't sound
like they are taking
very big profits.
Carillion was struggling to survive.
Which is the problem?
The margins are or too fat?
There is too much ideology,
there is an ideology.
They believe that the private sector
can deliver more efficiency.
Chris Grayling is probably
the main proponent of this,
and you have seen a disaster
in the probation service.
On the left, there is an ideology
that it has to be the public sector
that always delivers,
and that becomes to produce a lead.
We need to think of the user,
the citizen and patient.
It is much easier for me to go
and get my flu jab from Boots.
Is that outsourcing
It works for me as a citizen.
We ought to think about how we can
construct these services.
There is a big point here,
outsourcing is linked
to the big economy.
They, respect for companies push
something like cleaning or catering
into agencies, they don't give
pensions, they maybe have shorter
contracts with staff.
The map -- gig economy
is the result.
You don't think that
has gone too far?
The marketisation of
all aspects of life?
I think I do.
We have to make this work,
because there is too much delivered
through private companies.
You have to have the transparency
and create a market.
That means a government backed
or changing the way tenders.
If you are a small company,
there was no way you can go to that
expensive process they have to skill
of the civil service and then
you have to to have ethical
standards by behalf
on these big companies.
That involves things like making
sure they employ people properly,
we ought to be regulated,
codes of practice and pay taxes,
all of that sort of thing.
Don't lie about how
they are delivering the services.
And I think if we did that,
outsourcing could work better.
We've also got to move
from the ideology to apply that bad,
public good, and move to putting
the citizen at the heart
of delivering services.
Margaret Hodge, thank you.
Before Britain exited
Hong Kong two decades ago,
it said it would be keeping a close
watch on its former colony once
it was to be in Chinese hands.
We had signed a Joint Declaration
with China, that said for 50 years,
the freedoms Hong Kong
enjoyed would be preserved.
John Major said that in the event
of any breach of that agreement
by the Chinese, Britain would pursue
every legal and other avenue
available to challenge it.
Well, there are some
who look at Hong Kong now,
and observe Chinese restrictions
on democracy and free speech
slowly creeping in.
Tonight, student pro-democracy
leaders there - including
Joshua Wong - are awaiting
the outcome of their final appeal
to overturn prison sentences
for their roles in sparking 2014's
massive pro-democracy protests.
Should Britain step into the breach?
Danny Vincent reports
from Hong Kong.
Every day 35,000 people take
the ferry to Kowloon.
And Hong Kongers enjoy
rights unique in China.
Thanks to the terms of 1997
handover, Beijing can't interfere
in internal matters.
There's even a mini-constitution -
known as the "basic law".
But many worry that Beijing
is dramatically undermining that
agreement, that democracy activists
are being locked up and that Britain
is looking the other way.
We're on our way to
a new development -
the railway station that will be
the new terminus for a high speed
railway link connecting
Hong Kong to mainland China.
It's raising serious concerns over
Hong Kong's autonomy,
because inside this station Chinese
national law will apply,
not Hong Kong law.
The basic law states that mainland
laws can not be enforced in Hong
But when the new Kowloon rail
terminus opens later this year,
Chinese customs and immigration
officials will operate
inside the station, with powers
of search and arrest.
Tanya Chan has long fought
to defend the basic law.
She argues this is the clearest
violation yet of the territory's
This is absolutely the worst
precedent, the worst example so far.
We are actually putting Chinese
officials in the heart of Hong Kong
and now this is the very first
time that in Hong Kong
we are going to apply national law.
against the plan on New Year's Day.
The basic law is a list of rights -
including freedom of speech,
of the press, freedom
They fear the plans for the station
are the thin end of the wedge
and Britain is not standing
by its international obligations
to protect their rights.
I'm not sure whether the British
Government still remembers Hong Kong
and still remembers the promises
that they have made.
The British Government definitely
has a role to play and definitely
can make their comments
and raise their concerns.
We are waiting for them.
Three years, ago the "umbrella"
protest brought tens of thousands
on to the streets over Beijing's
control of the candidates
for Hong Kong's leadership.
They were led by students
like Joshua Wong, but the protests
failed and Beijing still controls
who leads Hong Kong.
So the students started
their own party to campaign
for more democracy.
Joshua Wong and fellow activist
Nathan Law believe the court system
is no longer independent and it's
been used against them.
They have both been imprisoned
for public order offences.
Now, they're out on bail,
but a hearing tomorrow could put
Joshua back in prison.
And he said he was interrogated
naked when he was last in custody.
As a young prisoner,
I served my prison sentence
inside the highest security
prison in Hong Kong.
At the same time, they even urged me
to take off all my clothes
when I need to answer the question.
They just treat us...
Like a dog instead of a human.
There are suspicions that Triad
gang members are paid
to intimidate activists.
Joshua says prison inmates told him
that they had been told to attack
the umbrella movement.
When I was serving the prison
sentence in jail, I met a lot
of inmates who claimed
they had background,
come from the gangster
and they receive money to attack
or physically assault us
Joshua doesn't know who paid them.
The prison authorities deny
mistreatment and we were unable
to speak to prisoners to confirm
the claim of intimidation.
Those who fight for Hong Kong's
legal independence say they're also
fighting for its cultural identity.
I am meeting someone who may well be
at the heart of the next flashpoint.
Hong Kong football fans have been
booing the Chinese national anthem
when it's played at home games.
Now, Beijing has told Hong Kong
to criminalise the jeering.
The national anthem is not
representation of Hong Kong...
Jack and hundreds like him
will be breaking the law
if they carry on booing.
Why do football fans boo
the Chinese national anthem?
We don't think that we are
Chinese, we are Hong Kong.
The difference is that Hong Kong has
democracy and also we have the right
of speech and right
of demonstration in Hong Kong.
This was at a game between
Hong Kong and Bahrain.
Fans could be imprisoned
for three years.
New laws could be
Critics say this contradicts
the basic law in terms of freedom
of expression, applying
Chinese national law
and applying it retrospectively.
But Jack is defiant.
Can they stop you disrespecting
the Chinese national anthem?
At West Kowloon Magistrates Court,
nine more activists face
public order charges.
All were key figure
in the umbrella protests.
Tanya Chan, who opposes Chinese law
in the new rail station,
is one of the defendants.
In fact, over 50 democracy activists
and elected law-makers currently
face court cases that could bar them
from office or see them locked up.
This is just one hearing
in a series of legal moves
against the activists.
Professors, student leaders
and local politicians
are all going through the courts.
And all of them could
face prison time.
This case is seen as a clear warning
to every level of Hong Kong's
democracy camp - the umbrella
movement must be crushed.
People who lead protests
against Beijing must be prepared
to face jail and, by using
the courts, the tool
is the legal system itself.
We are defending our right
to have demonstrations,
freedom of expression and very
important is our right
to have our own choice
But there is substantial opposition
to the democracy activists in Hong
Pro-Beijing candidates here command
the largest number of seats
in the partly-elected local chamber.
Regina Ip is is a strong
supporter of mainland China.
She says those who argue
the basic law is under threat
are being legal fundamentalists.
In a free society like Hong Kong,
with a wide range of different
opinions, we have among our
citizenry people who you might call
"fundamentalists" you know,
legal and judicial fundamentalists,
who believe in sticking to every
letter of the basic law.
Many pan-democrats in Hong Kong feel
that the Government and perhaps
Beijing are targeting them
and carrying out somewhat
of a political persecution.
What do you say to that?
We have no political
offences in Hong Kong.
If people are charged
for disrupting public order,
incitement or disturbance,
that is all based on common law
and common law principles
and the statutory laws
that we inherited from Britain.
I think these accusations
are totally ungrounded.
Hong Kong's autonomy
was enshrined in the basic law,
but the criminalisation
of the umbrella protesters
and others who challenge Beijing
does raise questions about the rule
of law in the territory.
It also raises questions
about Britain's commitment
to the people and the system it
once pledged to protect.
Danny Vincent there.
We did try to speak
to the Chinese Government
and the the British government
about this story, but nobody
was available from either.
The EU has been sounding both tough
and tender as regards Brexit today.
In a speech to the Parliament
today, the President
of the Council Donald Tusk
did the tender bit.
David Davis said if a democracy
cannot change its mind it ceases
to be a democracy.
We here on the continent haven't
had a change of heart.
Our hearts are still open to you.
Forget the idea that we will set
our own fishing quotas.
The draft instructions appear to be
quite hard line on what the
transition will look like. It seems
to be a race to the top for the
Each state is piling their own
issues into the negotiations.
Nick Watt is back us with.
Why did Michel Barnier come out
with that our heart is open?
It was Donald Tusk and sometimes
you need to set his words to music.
But what he said was music
to the ears of a small number
of Remain supporters
who are seeking to reverse Brexit.
What they need is Brussels to say,
we would like to have you back
and the reason why they need
that is by the time of the autumn
when we will have this deal,
they want the British people to see
two options - the new deal
or the existing membership
and they're talking about ways
of defeating Brexit.
Is this going to happen?
I was speaking to a member
of the cabinet who supported Remain,
who said you couldn't see it
happening unless public
opinion shifted dramatically.
60-40 in favour of Remain,
it not really shifting.
One of the most most vocal
supporters of Brexit has been
the Tory backbencher
Jacob Rees Mogg.
He was rewarded for his work in this
area today by being appointed
Chairman of the party's influential
European Research Group -
a sort of internal lobbying grouping
which works to push for a hard
I spoke to him earlier and I put it
to him that despite President Tusk's
comments earlier, the EU
was preparing to be pretty tough
and uncompromising for the next
round of negotiations.
Well, I'm all in
favour of being tough
I want a proper Brexit.
I want us to leave
the European Union, heart,
soul and mind.
I don't want us to have the sort
of Brexit where, because they've
given us all sorts of baubles,
we have stayed in bits that
deny us freedom.
The key thing is coming up
with the trade negotiation now.
It is so important that we maintain
the flexibility to do deals
with other countries,
that were not so bound
in by the EU's requirements
that we can't get the benefits
of cheaper food, clothing
and footwear, that will flow
from setting up our own
So, their being tough may actually
push us into a clearer Brexit.
Could we talk about the transition?
Because the Government is pretty
keen on a transition,
The EU, all signs are,
from the draft negotiating
positions, they're going
to be really tough.
Well, I think the language
is really important.
Is it an implimentation period
which the Government is asking for,
or is it a transition?
If it is an implimentation
period, we've left the EU
and we are implementing
That is to say it might take time
to put in new immigration
queues at Heathrow.
And, until that's done,
If it's a transition, we are in fact
still in the European Union.
If they set our fishing quotas,
if new laws coming in from the EU
affect the UK, if the ECJ
still has jurisdiction,
it would be untrue
to say we have left.
It would be an extension
of our membership.
If that is what the Government
should want to do, it should do it
under the terms of Article 50
and be honest about it.
It would be a deceit
to have a transition that kept us
in the EU for two years by default.
And you wouldn't necessarily be
against extending our membership
for two years to get
everything sorted out,
but you want honesty about that
if that is what the plan is?
Because the EU, by the way,
is in no doubt at all,
it is an extension of
membership by another name.
I would be opposed to
extension of membership.
An implimentation period is fine.
A transition period is not.
The Prime Minister,
who I fully support,
has been very careful to say
But you're just using the language
that you know is going to appeal
to you, business just hears
They don't make any distinct at all.
No, it's very important
to focus on the details.
The Prime Minister is a person
of great precision.
She doesn't use language loosely.
And she has invariably
and she has said that we will leave
on the 29th of March 2019,
and I fully support her position.
I wonder how you interpreted
Nigel Farage's comments
on a second referendum.
Because that, again,
was seen by some as a kind of sign
of nervousness on the Brexit
side that it's just
slipping away, potentially.
I don't know why Mr Farage
decide to say he wanted
a second referendum.
One of the interesting things
about polling on this at the moment
is that people, they broadly
haven't changed from where
they were in the referendum,
but on the question do you want
another referendum, everyone in this
country is Brenda from Bristol.
There is no appetite
for another referendum.
As it happens, I think
there would be real anger
if there was a second one,
because we're not one of those
smaller EU states, that when we vote
to give the answer that the EU
doesn't like get told to vote again
and again until we do as we're told,
like good little boys.
Therefore I think, if there
was a second referendum,
you would see considerable
You're now running the ERG,
the European Reform Group.
This is about 60 Tory MPs,
on the more Brexit side,
the Brexit side, let's say.
Are you going to hold
the Government's feet to the fire,
on all the things we've
been talking about?
The Government's determination
to go for a clear Brexit,
rather than a slightly
messier, softer one?
The ERG is a group of like-minded
members of Parliament and it
provides research to help us
with work on European issues.
I'm very keen to help the Government
achieve the policy that it set out,
and the Prime Minister set out
particularly in the Lancaster House
speech, and encourage a vigorous
implimentation of that policy.
The Government has my personal,
complete support in doing that.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, thanks very much.
Thank you very much.
Pretty well anyone who writes
anything these days knows how easy
it is to be unwittingly -
or wittingly - offensive.
In the era of identity politics,
it's not hard to trigger a reaction
that says you are guilty
of insensitivity to
one group or another.
Now, while some writers
thrive on controversy,
many want to avoid it,
and even if they don't
their publishers might.
So enter the idea of
People employed to look at a book
ahead of publication, to advise
on potential mis-steps within.
As always, the US leads in these
trends and the American press has
become quite pre-occupied
by the debate as to whether
sensitivity readers improve books,
or censor free speech and indulge
a noisy Twitter mob too keen to take
umbrage at anything.
Here's Stephen Smith
on how it works.
# I'm mad about good books
# Can't get my fill...#
Budding authors have always been
told, write about what you know.
That seems particularly canny advice
now, when an imaginative leap
into unfamiliar territory can lend
a writer in trouble for
misrepresentation or stereotyping.
Some readers and critics are alert
to any real or perceived failures
of authenticity in areas including
race, gender and sexuality.
So, publishers and writers
are turning to so-called
who scan texts before publication
on the lookout for any missteps that
might jar or give offence.
One author of books for young adults
told us she used sensitivity readers
when she created characters
with deafness and selective mutism.
I have a friend who is deaf,
and I also knew somebody who was
a British sign language interpreter.
So, they both individually
read it and came back
to me with their notes.
And then we discussed it together.
It was to make sure that
I was representing, in this case,
deafness, as authentically
and truthfully as possible,
to make sure that, for people
who have experience of it,
that they would be able to recognise
the way I was portraying it.
But is there a danger
that writers and readers
could become oversensitive?
That difficult material
will simply be avoided
for fear of giving offence?
And sensitivities vary, of course.
Even just about everyone's favourite
boy wizard managed to upset some
over so-called occult themes
in the Harry Potter books.
Right now, young adult readers
seemed to be more alive to issues
of sensitivity than the general
book buying public.
Yes, I think very much so.
Especially with social media
allowing people to have much more
of a voice than maybe
they would have done before,
and in larger numbers.
I think it's definitely something
that I, as a YA author,
and friends of mine who are YA
authors are very aware of.
# Sitting and reading
# Enjoying the breathing
As more authors take advice
from sensitivity readers,
some bookworms may be
in for a more
But will that really
make for a happy ending?
Joining me now to discuss
is author Laura Moriarty,
who worked with sensitivity readers
on her novel 'American Heart'.
She's in Kansas.
And with me in the studio
is publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove,
who heads up London-based Dialogue
Good evening to you.
Laura, you had a curious experience.
You worked with sensitivity
readers, and it was a book
with Muslim themes.
And there was still quite a lot
of anger at your book anyway?
As I was writing the book,
I actually instinctively did it
on my own, I asked a Muslim American
friend to read the book and I asked
some Persian American
friends to read the books.
I even sent the manuscript
to a friend of a friend in Iran,
and she sent her thoughts.
I wanted to make sure
it was authentic and accurate,
my depictions of
Muslims and Iranians.
Once I sold the book to Harper,
they also hired sensitivity readers
to go through the book again.
I think what is interesting is,
for me, I didn't mind when Harper
said they wanted sensitivity readers
to go over it again.
If I think of it as accuracy
readers, if I think about someone
who has an experience that can look
at my work and make sure I am
being accurate and thoughtful
about how I depict groups.
That is fine with me.
I think the biggest misperception
is that the writers are forced
to take every suggestion
that the sensitivity reader makes.
That wasn't the case for me.
I just want to get...
Basically, you agreed the book
with the sensitivity readers
and the publisher, then
was a lot of upset.
The saviour of the book
of the Muslims was a white woman,
and it was more her
story than theirs?
Right, there were people that
were upset, when the description
of the book came out,
that the narrator and
the protagonist is a
white non-Muslim girl.
She is very bigoted
at the beginning.
She has grown up in the extremely
xenophobic United States.
She overcomes her prejudice
by meeting a Muslim.
What did you make of that story,
the book through the sensitivity
reader and then there was outrage?
The question overall is why we need
Who is writing the stories?
It seems like a formidable amount
of people that were involved to make
sure that something was correct.
If we have the people employed
in the first place in publishing
houses, it seems like it is from
the confidence from the publishers
as where it has gone wrong.
I also question the idea of anyone
being able to write anything
from any perspective,
the idea of a White saviour
with a Muslim, that is complicated.
There are issues there.
The point is that Muslims
would not have one view
on that, would they?
You don't necessarily want
the noisiest or the most offended
people to dictate what is published?
Or is that not where you end up?
We have to remember that YA
publishing is particularly
Yes, because the issues
This is about reading
for the next generation.
We absolutely have
to get this right.
We have to get the reading right,
we have to get the writing right.
We have to listen to the voices that
are coming through and complaining.
Actually, we have to to think
who is writing our stories,
who are our children
going to be listing to?
Is there a problem, forget
is the problem basically that too
many publishers and writers
are scared of offending people?
Well, I think that is very
much the case right now.
I think there is an idea that
you could possibly hire enough
sensitivity readers where
nobody would be offended,
and that is of course impossible.
With my book, I had my readers,
the publishing house hired more,
and people were still
As you say, there are
even within marginalised
You're never going to please
everybody and make everybody happy.
I think the focus needs
to be an authenticity.
I would disagree, and I think that
while I agree that we would
like to see more diversity
in publishing and writers,
I don't think that there should be
such strict limits on who should
tell such stories.
I think we can imagine
each other's lives.
My first novel was about a girl
growing up on welfare,
and she was white, and nobody ever
asked me anything about it.
Do you have any worries about this
being a sort of shutting down,
rather than opening up.
What we really want to see us
diversity in publishing,
diversity in terms of characters,
and confidence from the writers.
It has to be fair and it
has to be pronounced.
We need to have that in order
for the next generation.
Thank you both very much indeed.
That's it for tonight.
But following last week's row
when Donald Trump was accused
of favouring immigrants from Norway
over those from Haiti,
people have been asking just
what is it about the liberal
Norwegians that the
President actually likes.
Now a new theory has emerged online,
that Norway is in fact helping
Mr Trump to maintain his most
closely guarded cover-up.
Judge for yourself.
on his Spanish drivetime radio show
in Los Angeles, has taken to calling
Donald J Trump "The Man
of the Toupee".
This was on the front page
of the New York Times.
I don't wear a toupee.
It's my hair!
With Evan Davis. Michael Gove on Theresa May's speech on Britain leaving the EU and his interview with Donald Trump, Keir Starmer on Britain leaving the EU, the latest NHS statistics, and preventing Islamic extremism.