Our top story of the day: new sets please, we're British

Channel 4 News C4 Newsnight BBC2

Two relaunches, or at least two new sets. Channel 4 News was able to introduce its new set - pastel colours with a faintly subaqueous feel, a TV wall, and move-around positions for Jon Snow - with a really excellent interview with the Prime Minister, newly arrived in South Africa.

The timing was absolutely right. This was the first time we had heard Tony Blair comment on Mandelson-Robinson-Whelan, and it was good thinking to send Elinor Goodman down to South Africa to do the interview.

But what made it good television, and not just for the sort of people who drink with Charlie Whelan in the Red Lion in Westminster, was that we had a chance to see how the Prime Minister reacted to adversity, not something he's had a lot of practice with recently.

I thought he was impressive. He made his point, that the media exaggerate the split between him and Gordon Brown, and indeed spent too much time fishing for splits, but he made it without whingeing excessively. This was not IATFOTP ("it's all the fault of the press"). Perhaps it says something about me, but I liked and trusted this Prime Minister, with his back at least approaching a wall, rather more than the cocky Blair of sunnier days.

The Blair interview was not the only thing C4N did right last week. Peter Morgan and Duncan Campbell produced a truly extraordinary report on "Burlington". This is the underground city near Corsham in Wiltshire to which our masters proposed to withdraw in time of nuclear war. They planned to leave the rest of us crisped to a cinder or rotted with radiation sickness, but happy in our dying moments that the Royal Navy was still calmly commanded from an underground stone quarry near Bath. Next door Harold Wilson or whoever happened to be Prime Minister at the time, plus the Cabinet and a few thousand civil servants, were to be comfortably ensconced with a bakery and, what else, a pub, not to mention 25 miles of tunnels, and enough supplies for a year.

Now there is a sense in which this is a cheap shot. All governments protect themselves, and in the Cold War they all had bunkers to protect themselves from nuclear war. Certainly the President of the United States had one in West Virginia. And Duncan Campbell has been obsessed with secret war, underground tunnels and official iniquity to the verge of paranoia for years.

Even so, he and Peter Morgan, the reporter, told us some important things about our governments, past and present. And they produced one truly magic moment. For there is a new Burlington, just down the road from the old one.

Presumably that is where the Government still has plans to retreat, even if nuclear war is less likely now, if things get too rough in the Sun and the Mirror. In the best tradition of the late lamented World in Action, Morgan and Campbell showed up at the gate of the new Burlington to doorstep it, if you can doorstep a startled security man a few hundred feet underground. They talked to the unfortunate man and asked if he was speaking from the underground seat of government. That drew what Jon Snow rightly, and urbanely, called "one of the most memorable of no comments".

For C4N, too, David Smith has covered the truly bizarre events in Washington with real distinction. He has the trick of delivering his report like someone speaking, not reading it or trying to remember it, so that you feel you are listening to a knowledgeable friend. On Thursday he hit exactly the right phrase to describe the mood of the US, "a nation in dismay".

Which brings me to Newsnight. The new green-and-red set is tasteful, and Jeremy Paxman is as pleasantly acerbic as ever, though without those preposterous Tory ministers to torment his heart no longer quite seems in it. And Newsnight can draw on tried and true BBC correspondents, such as Peter Marshall. So why is it so annoying? I think I've discovered what the trouble is (for me, at least). The trouble with Newsnight is Kirsty Wark. At first, when she was new and nervous, there was something touching about her slightly gauche air, blundering into things she didn't seem to have taken the trouble to understand. Now her conceit has become embarrassing.

Last week she did a dire double-header with David Gergen, the very able and pleasant Republican who has been working for Clinton in the White House, and Senator Judd Gregg, Republican, of New Hampshire. It was a disaster.

She peppered them both with ignorant questions and impertinent interruptions and ended up, absurdly, by asking Senator Gregg, who is about to take part in a trial of the greatest possible constitutional and political importance to his country, whether Americans weren't a bit "obsessed" with the Clinton impeachment. Obsessed? Spare us.

Then, two days later, she was off to Cardiff, where she began to patronise a number of Welsh people with questions such as "Aren't you a bit chippy about being Welsh?" Newsnight is an important programme, one of the BBC's flagships in current affairs. Why is it, when there are so many talented journalists around at the BBC, that this woman, who comes across as profoundly superficial, is being built up, not indeed as a reporter, but as some kind of star?

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?