Talk about Newsnight

Latest programme

Monday, 9 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 9 Jun 08, 06:44 PM

From tonight's presenter, Emily Maitlis:

Is anyone listening?
rowan203.jpgI have just interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams about the state of British children and how we treat them. He told me - in the context of a report by Children's Commissioners, out today - that we as a society often act in a punitive frame of mind, and behave as if we don't really like children. He said he had yet to see evidence that custodial sentences for young people actually worked.

But he also revealed something rather interesting. When I asked him if he would offer stronger leadership on the difference between right and wrong and the way we lead our lives he replied: '"Do you think that people in this country faced with 'muscular Christianity' as you call it are going to change their ways because I say so or anyone else says so?" So tonight we ask what it means when the very head of the Anglican Church concedes that little he says really makes a difference.

Since our investigation into the expenses of the Tory party chair on Friday, Ms Spelman has been resolutely defending her position. Today she met the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner following complaints that she used taxpayers' money to pay for a nanny. The man who broke the story - one Michael Crick - joins us live.

Venezuela's President Chavez has told Columbia's foremost terrorist group to lay down their arms and free all their hostages. Why now? Frank Gardner, fresh back from Columbia where he's been looking at the hostage taking situation there, will be in the studio.

The international community has poured millions of dollars into prevention of HIV/AIDS in the former Soviet Union. But despite this money, the virus is on a dramatic rise and especially in Central Asia. Drugs and prostitution are the most common reasons behind the spread of the virus, although the most recent mass outbreaks happened inside hospitals and the victims are children. Natalia Antalava looks at what role hospitals play in the spread of the infection and why the healthcare system is emerging as one of the reasons as to why Central Asia is losing its battle against HIV/AIDS.

Bobby Kennedy
And we revisit the circumstances surrounding RFK's death. As promised, indeed, on Friday.


  • Comment number 1.

    "As a society often act in a punitive frame of mind, and behave as if we don't really like children."
    And we also hear that high on the government's agenda is action to address child poverty. I can see Harriet Harman applying simple solutions to address what she sees as the root causes now...

    But whilst in an ideal world we would treat everyone as we would wish to be treated, the fact of the matter is that simple cause-effect view doesn't work.
    Theft, drugs, violence, graffiti, vandalism are part of the cultural expression of such people, just as going to the opera and reading Wittgenstein might be for the Archbishop.

    Being poor is not the simple cause, so giving lots of resources - tax credits, sports facilities, free facilities to engage children stuck in poverty - won't work. Look at the culture from which the children come, and look at their parents. How do you change that? Answer - you can't, unless you do take the children away and place them with 'nice' parents.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hello Newsnight (even though you dub out my posts, I'm still civil.) Are we confusing concern over child poverty,where there must be near unamity, and the issue of locking up young people, where there is anything but?
    Plus, is there any danger that one day the A. of C. and his ilke might leap to the defence of the recepients of child-crime or those who have to cope with them in detention? What are routinely called 'children' can in fact be groups of a dozen or more strapping louts with knives or guns.

  • Comment number 3.

    The church can best lead by example and give guidance -- telling ppl what to do is not always well received let alone carried out so the Archbishop of Canterbury's assessment is alas, realistic.
    Creatures are born selfish and wilful and must be taught to share and respect others. Parents, teachers, spiritual leaders can show empathy and values, demonstrating their desirability in a society.
    (article on Venezuela)
    On a separate note, the country is Colombia, the province in Canada is British Columbia.

  • Comment number 4.

    "From tonight's presenter, Emily Maitlis:

    Is anyone listening?"

    I wouldn't have thought so.
    Why would anyone listen to Emily Maitlis? Her promotion to "serious journalism" deserves an independent inquiry.

  • Comment number 5.

    Richard Dorset-isn't that very much a victorian attitude-the poor are somehow different to the wealthy, and the only salvation is to remove the children from their unsatisfactory parents.
    Input, in terms of money, people and buildings might have an immediate affect-but it will be short term and minimal. Long term investment will make a big difference. It also has to be said that many of the best community enrichment programmes are run by religious groups-more often than not 'the church'.
    Not to ruin a good story, but clearly William's stating that "muscular christianity" is unlikely to affect the conduct of people, isn't the same as stating that his voice has little power.
    He's just saying that to focus on "Thou shall nots" isn't a road that achieves much for the church anymore. Positive contributions, through actions rather than words, is a path that offers much more for modern Christianity.
    But you've got your hook and you'll run with it.

  • Comment number 6.

    re# 4
    Like much of what was said about michael crick on today's blogs, I don't think that the programme's staff deserve personal abuse bob--didn't we agree that we were saving that exclusively for our politicians? and Dubya.
    (Perhaps NOW can I have your mobile number Emily?)

  • Comment number 7.

    Leading by example is the only way C of E can make an impression. There seems to be a worryingly wide range of religious experience within the church. Our local diocese commented that on their research members of the church congregation were 18 times more likely to be abusers than the general population. Yet this statistic is accompanied by guidance on child protection which falls below the standard met by state schools.

    When I tried to institute appropriate guidance sourced from the NSPCC and school training ( I am chair of governors at a local school) with the local PCC I was ridiculed by the mostly over 70s on the council. A discussion with the diocese also led to no more than collective hand wringing. There are church members supervising young children who are not only not very good at it but also have been rejected by other voluntary groups. How are children going to learn about a loving god from these people?

    This is an institution which does not conform to national law, e.g. the equal treatment of gay clergy, and so inculcates a atmosphere of fossilized morality and feudal social attitudes.

    I think Rowan has to stop the morbid obsession with gays having relationships and women having rights or how can they say it is the Church of this England? By the time they have finished insulting half of humanity, the churches will be completely empty.

  • Comment number 8.

    Discourage people (women) from having children. Get rid of childrens allowances and family allowances, the parents these days will only spend the money on cigarettes/drink or drugs. Bring back National Service and force the prison officers to do their jobs properly.

  • Comment number 9.

    The church, including the Bof C. can not set an example to anyone. Their whole philosophy is based on a fairy story (a big lie).

  • Comment number 10.

    Just one addition to wings16f7's rather bleak formula -
    Encourage the clergy to fill their near-empty churches with the many ggod souls who would flock in to services of worship and praise 'to Mother Earth', in whom we all believe, and who has a greater and more urgent need to be the focus of our prayers and positive action than any long-dead prophet.

  • Comment number 11.

    Just one addition to wings16f7's rather bleak formula -
    Encourage the clergy to fill their near-empty churches with the many good souls who would flock in to services of worship and praise 'to Mother Earth', in whom we all believe, and who has a greater and more urgent need to be the focus of our prayers and positive action than any long-dead prophet.

  • Comment number 12.

    Just turned to newsnight. some drone nulabour said "less" children rather than fewer children. And these people are making decisions on our behave.

  • Comment number 13.

    Why is the root of all evil 'single parents'? I am a single parent and brought up my daughter to know right from wrong. I was 30 years old when I had her, and left her violent father 3 years later.

    Not all single parents are young drink/drug using teenagers. Some of us became a single parent for the well-being of ourselves and our children, and a lost of us have done a damn good job of it.

    Don't tar everybody with the same brush.

  • Comment number 14.

    The problem we have is that we have too may "liberals" more than happy to ensure that all children know their rights.

    But with rights come responsibilities and no-one, parents, teachers, social workers or any other group are prepared to ensure that children are aware of, and adhere to, the common decencies of life.

    Until they do, and until the kinds learn, then the situation will only ever get worse.

    Additionally, what age should we now define a "child". Times have changed. Fifteen and sixteen year olds are more capable now than ever before of taking responsibility for their actions and, should they commit an offence, they have to learn that there are consequences to their actions.

  • Comment number 15.

    Almost by definition a young single woman having a child will bring that child up within the government definition of poverty.

    The solution surely is to discourage people to have children if they are in that situation. Providing incentives to start a family without a financial base does nobody a service.
    Bringing up children is hard work, the only bit that doesn't require a great deal of thought is conceiving them. We need to encourage more people to view having children as a vocation rather than a side effect.

  • Comment number 16.

    Well done Emily. I am a Christian and I am sickened by the wishy washy interpretation of pluralism by many churches. This relativist based age is being very clear about what it thinks is absolutley right. There is a real fear of what people think while the world is dying for REAL answers.

  • Comment number 17.

    Is anyone listening?

    '"Do you think that people in this country faced with 'muscular Christianity' as you call it are going to change their ways because I say so or anyone else says so?" So tonight we ask what it means when the very head of the Anglican Church concedes that little he says really makes a difference.

    What a cheek for Maitlis to ask this. Dr Williams was saying it makeing the point that it makes a difference 'what' he says if people are to listen, not that 'little' he says can.

    Listen to the responses to your own questions Maitlis.

    Bobgateaux is absolutely right - get Miss E off, she is hopeless. We need less of her. Actually I'd settle for fewer too!

  • Comment number 18.

    ABoC, there is no such thing as child poverty in this country. It is a con game 'relative' nonsense.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hello, just like to add that fathers do need to take responsiblity for their children, I'd like to see the government institute greater framwork in responsiblilty for them. The voice of woman is the Cry of the day, In my opinion. So we need to heed it.

  • Comment number 20.

    The youth in Britain lack discipline, which should be taught from a very young age by the parents of the children. The children in Britain know that should they be caught for either knife crime, drunk on the street, etc, that they will only be cautioned, nothing else. If I know that that is the worse that can happen to me, I will also not be worried about doing crime as nothing serious can really happen to me. Maybe imprisonment. If you think back a few years ago, we children still received corporal punishment. Let me assure you, if you get caught doing crime, or vandalism as a result of alcohol, and you get six lashes by the police with a cane, you will definitely think twice before doing it again. Children should also have fewer rights, as they take advantage of that to get away with crime.

    By re introducing corporal punishment into Britain, you will sort out the crime from the youth within six months, I promise you. Youngsters would think twice before they do crime if they know that corporal punishment is awaiting them.

  • Comment number 21.


    Each new human is required to "fix up" its own new brain with connections and chemistry derived from zero comprehension of aberrant behaviour imputs. While it is wrestling with this impossible task, we remove it from close affiliations and incrementally institutionalise it; the more gifted ones we load with debt as a bonus. The wonder is not that some do crazy things, more that they don't ALL go crazy. But that will come.

  • Comment number 22.

    Are you listening? might be a more appropriate question. Emily Matlis' interview of the archbishop of canterbury tonight was way off the mark. Who in this country needs a more 'muscular' christianity? Surely the whole problem with religion is a lack of tollerance and I think the archbishop should be comended for sitting through such, at times, overly eager and aggressive questioning. It was like she was trying to pry some controversial answer out of him. Would there be any point in condemning homosexuals or families that break up? should the islam faith be applauded for taking a more hardline stance on tough issues, this seems like thought straight out of the Bush/Hamza school of idiocy. And finally in response to her thoughts on child poverty, Ms Matlis should realise that those very children that are being sentenced to custodial sentences are the very ones who have the least chance of being exposed to religious instruction, help, thought or belief. Children falling in to crime usually suffer from poor parenting. When does she suppose the children are taken to church or instructed in the teachings of jesus? It is true that the church makes no difference in young offenders lives but to no smaller degree than her own.

  • Comment number 23.

    Oh you teasers!

    Why show the RFK piece if it was to be so edited. I appreciated the update but somehow my recollection was Sirhan Sirhan was in front of RFK - who died according to the mythology of a shot from the back. In the piece you said 14 shots may have been fired but then didn't elaborate as to whether those beliefs were well founded.

    I would say you should have waited for a quiet night and then shown the thing properly - assuming there was more to show.

    I think people are being tough on Emily with the Rown Williams interview - but I also think her piece was a bit naieve. Wasn't the old joke that the CofE was the church of the aetheists. I seem to remember a poll where it said 30% of CofE vicars did not believe in God. But I think he is genuine - although not a child crime expert.

    But I am straying into dangerous territory!?

  • Comment number 24.

    OH I THOUGHT . . .

    the point was that Rowan Williams should give the GOVERNMENT A KICKING for breaking at least 11 commandments, not tinker with symptoms. He should shove his crosier up Westminster and not remove it, till they govern with some honour, dignity and integrity.
    When you consider the Arch is appointed by the PM, this would be a delicious state of affairs. Greater love hath no Archbishop than he lay down his cosy sinecure for 60 million disenfranchised people.

  • Comment number 25.

    Ben_neB wrote "Richard Dorset-isn't that very much a victorian attitude-the poor are somehow different to the wealthy...." etc.

    It is not that those in 'poverty' are intrinsically different, although presumably nature and nurture dance together here as everywhere else.

    Of course, I am all in favour of organisations relieving suffering, and taking pity. But that is not what we are talking about , is it? People make choices, some choices are forced upon them , and others still are simply beyond their imagination.

    Building a fancy sports college just won't work, will it?

  • Comment number 26.

    Another interview with one of the superstition-peddlers representing a non-democratic political movements, in this case a christian church of some kind. Politically completely irrelevant I hope.

    However, these absolutists, whose power and influence over centuries have forced children into poverty, ignorance and superstition, are still allowed to brainwash our children in so-called 'faith schools', some even propagating completely ludicrous misinformation such as the age of the universe is 5000 years old or so. It is a comfort that these lunatics to some extent serve to ridicule the whole religious circus, including the Church of England, which should have been kicked out centuries ago.

    The arch-person in the interview claimed that the problems featured are caused by poverty. Well, there are a limited number of reasons for such poverty.

    Superstition plays a major role by withholding information, in particular a scientific attitude, from intelligent children. Disallowing 'faith schools' would go quite a long way towards remedying this issue.

    A second factor is of course genetic. You only have the cards to play with that you are dealt at birth. The educational system fails to recognise this and to gear education and training to make the most of each individual's abilities, e.g. by integrating academic and vocational education/training.

    This leads to a third important factor: we invest way too little in our children. The reason is that the UK is in reality a second-world country in the sense that the quasi-democracy running the country caters to and supports a completely immoral type of capitalism, which considers humans a means to create profits, and invests in them on that basis, as reflected in the development of the NHS for the past ten years or so.

    Of course, a primitive and authoritarian belief system like that promoted by Islam fits into this mindset, and forces out the wishy-washy sentimental humanitarian preachings of christiany, which has no tangible relevance in the current situation of impending resource wars, bearing in mind that here are roughly twice as many humans on the planet as its ecosystem can sustain.

    How to remedy the domestic side of this issue is not so hard to understand, and most of the other European countries seem to have done so. Their young people are mostly happy and successful.

    1. Human beings are not made to benefit capital owners, and their education/training should not just aim at satisfying the requirements of the great casino we call 'The City' and the associated enterprises on the green cloth of this casino.

    2. Since 1970 net capital flow has been from the very poor to the very rich. This is disgusting and must urgently be reversed. Do we really need to create very rich people in this country? I think not - we need to TAX very rich people. However, since the neocons took over the Labour party this idea has sort of gone out the window, and currently there is no political movement representing workers and lower middle class people. Who will start a new political party to replace 'New Labour'? Applicant are urgently needed.

    3. Faith schools and privately funded academies must be abolished - France shows the lead here. As a small country we simply cannot afford to waste human resources, and there is no excuse not to give children the best possible education/training. Academic education and vocational training must be combined, and capitalist as well as superstitious influence needs to be weeded out.

    4. The idea of a 'multi-cultural society' is dead. This concept is dysfunctional, as I explained in an article some 35 years ago. This weird idea could only ever have arisen in England, like the Commonwealth idea - also a fiasco - because of a deep-seated bad conscience. This post-colonial embedded bad conscience, which is leading, indeed, had already lead, to a society that is on the brink of civil war in some areas caused by the wrong sort of people being allowed entry to our country, needs to be dealt with urgently. If we want to allow 'unsuitable' and 'uncivilised' people already living here to remain they need to be integrated urgently. This includes muslims to be forced to attend normal secular schools teaching the national curriculum, and nothing else.

    Well, enough for now. Politically, the important thing is to realise that the former Labour Party has been taken over by neo-conservatives. Hence, it is necessary to re-take the party and kick out Brown, any Blairites remaining, etc, and establish a new majority party, a new union-supported workers' party strong enough to stand up against the City casino!

  • Comment number 27.

    Rather than being naive R-Williams comments appear to display an apathy to be deplored.

    Previously quick to join potentially contoversial political debate leading to headlines in newspapers, now less inclined (perhaps taking advice following his last foray) and sadly symtomatic of the apathetical society in which we live.

    Of course the Cof E should provide a moral compass- regardless of the relative sway that may hold with the general population, and for the Head of the Cof E to display such apathy reflects upon his faith.

    He is doing no favours to his faith, to followers in this country nor to the clergy men and women who attempt to reconcile Cof E beliefs with everyday realities
    of life today.

    Notwithstanding the unacceptable number of children suffering as a result of neglect and abuse, today we learn that 30+ have died whilst in prison in the past 15 years or so; We now hold the record for knife crimes - resulting in the main, in death for unfortunate victims; No child in England should be raised in poverty- mainstream welfare benefits provide a safety net; but we live in a society where all these things are accepted as a fact of life. Its ok to lay the blame on lone-parents, low income parents, children who grow up to kill others, children who believe their only advantages are those afforded them through human rights and the notion that the world owes them a living.

    If the Head of the Church of England feels impotent in providing a framework of acceptable behaviour what hope is there for any one else.

    Surely with the palace and all the trappings comes some responsibility?

  • Comment number 28.


    You might not believe in Christianity, fine I have no problem with that, but it is a part of this countries heritage.

    Do you believe in the Big Bang theory instead ?

    Please notice the term "Theory" , as unless you can prove it, you are making a leap of faith to !

    You should show other people with faith the same respect you would like your faith to receive !

  • Comment number 29.

    "Surely with the palace and all the trappings comes some responsibility?"

    And with the "Dr" title some kind of understanding and knowledge - apart from the ability to pass exams in the superstition used to brainwash children, and, less importantly, the poor idiots attending church services.

    I brought my child to a Sunday service in a large cathedral recently simply for the experience. We had to leave in the middle of the show in order not to cause a scene because we could no longer contain our laughter when people started to approach us saying something like 'blessed be your ghost', grabbing our hands and looking deeply into our eyes.

    I must admit that I had never before been to a CoE performance, nor had my son. We laughed all the way home - what a load of pathetic idiots.

  • Comment number 30.

    It seems to me Rowan should try to get his own house in order before he starts prying into every other household in Britain. Well at least he understands enough to know that few people actually listen to what he has to say. It's at once a confession of extreme weakness and a moment of candor.

  • Comment number 31.

    The last thing errant children need is religious instruction in order to obtain a 'moral compass'. Is religious faith and the belief in the power of the supernatual viewed as a mental illness and should be treated as such?...well thats my take on it. The archbishop is a learned chap but he also appears to know nothing as well. Having Rowen on newsnight with his insights was like me getting Homer Simpson to help with my accounts..duh.

    And as for the questions asked by Emily, all good questions that needed to be asked.

    Suggested reading: The Bible..the King James version.

    its going to be hell-fire and damnation for me now.....and if you think i am way out of line about religion and especially Christianity-well you can forgive me.

    (thanks billy hicks for that last line).

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    The AIDS problem in the ex-Soviet States was more interesting for me. Excellent report. Since the collapse of the USSR the health services have all but collapsed along with it. So, well done Friedmanesque economists, you've certainly solved the problem of Communism.

  • Comment number 35.

    #8. 'Bring back national service'

    There's one of these comments on every BBC forum....

    Conscription at 18 won't solve offending by teenagers aged 14 or 15, unless you plan on African style child armies. What it will achieve is to divert huge amounts of money and manpower from our small, overstretched highly professional army and turn it into a huge, barely trained, unwilling conscript army. Hopefully the performance of the Iraqi army versus ours will show why this isn't a good idea.

    It also means that law abiding kids who do well at school are delayed from starting university for two years with huge knock on problems for our economy.

    The other major problem are girls. Do you plan on concripting them too (in which case we're paying billions to have female infantry that our army can't use in a front line role) or excuse them from national service, which hardly seems fair given the amount of yobbish crimes commited by girls.

    Incidentally I did serve (with the TA while a student and then on attachement to the regulars in the balkans) and know full well the benefit of army discipline. I also know it only works if you want to benefit from it. The Krays were both unwilling national servicemen and it hardly turned them around!

  • Comment number 36.

    The establishment, and many of its media mirrors, seems to have a quaint faith in the illusion and persuasive power of 'listening'.

    With no paying of attention, subsequent understanding and/or meaningful action/response, it really is of little value beyond being a pointless platitude used solely as a sound bite.

    Much like the statement 'give us your views' used on most programmes and sites such as this.

    If those views also take the form of questions to those who set themselves up as questioners, but remain unanswered, one has to ponder the wisdom of the old saying 'there's no so deaf...'

  • Comment number 37.

    It's too large a subject for one slot! It needs a wider range of views than Rowan Williams and Beverley Hughes. But not a whole programme debate .. perhaps a dedicated series along the lines of "Real Estates", followed by short discussions?

    However, I enjoy listening to the Archbishop in TV interviews on subjects such as this. He's usually thoughtful, engaging, and adept at creating debate.

    What really struck me in the course of this discussion was how little influence he claimed to believe he has. He could certainly do more with what he has. His church has enormous resources - and a national network - surely he could turn that into something which is relevant to more, if not all, of us? The church could play a significant role in the lives of the vulnerable, and in doing so, would gain wider respect. I doubt that issues such as gay marriage are central to this. The church itself needs to move back to the social centre. It doesn't register on most peoples' social radar at all, anymore

    I'm amazed the Archbishop seems to be adopting a relativist position. It seems at odds with his calling. The uncertainty this must cause in a morally absolute religion must generate a sense of doubt and impotency. I always think, listening to him, that he'd be better suited teaching philosophy, in the secular world.

    Finally, I must say that I thought the interview was well conducted and quite weighty enough. The personal attacks on the presenter in some of the earlier comments are not just unecessary and offensive, they are pathetic. What is their problem? Sexism?

  • Comment number 38.

    I support the sentiments of bobgateaux and another contributor. One expects something more profound than questions about muscular christianity and right and wrong from newsnight.To quote the redoutable HL Menken "To every complex problem there is a simple answer and it is wrong". This Week went down the tabloid road and so I no longer bother to watch it. Watch it Newsnight or rather like New Labour you will lose your core audience.

  • Comment number 39.

    i have to agreed with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams thesis.....

  • Comment number 40.


    They should be REQUIRED to fill out yearly disclosures forms and telling everyone where the money is coming from and going to....

  • Comment number 41.


    Correction: Colombia is the correct spelling of the country....

    The FARC group is considered a terrorist related proxy by the United States of America and many others...

    They should immediately release the hostages and drop there arms (guns) and go back in to the civilian soceity....

    Frank Gardner: thanks for the report.

  • Comment number 42.


    It is a horrible disease and i wish that it was not around....

    Since it is here to stay, treatment protocols should be given to the affected persons.

    Thanks Natalia Antelava and her team, for the report on this story.

  • Comment number 43.

    Bobby Kennedy
    And we revisit the circumstances surrounding RFK's death. As promised, indeed, on Friday.

    It is sad that he has been died this many years!


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites