The Debate of Our Times
Giles Dilnot delves into the archives of Radio 4's Any Questions and other television and radio discussion programmes to find out if political debate has changed in this country. Walking the corridors of Westminster and Whitehall, he meets Kenneth Clarke, Shirley Williams, Diane Abbott, and Tony Benn, among others, and asks if they think debate has dumbed down? Tony Benn recalls key moments like the dropping of the little known 14 day rule, or the first broadcast of Parliament in 1975, "When the transmitter was switched on, my voice was the first that was heard and I thought about it very carefully, what I would say", but did it impact on political debate outside the House of Commons? Conservative former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke thinks the quality of debate is more to do with who is talking, "Every generation has people who are superb at debating and every generation has people who can bore the hind leg off a donkey", but Labour's Diane Abbott believes debate is less than it once was because "professional politicians have been managed to death" which leads to the "killing off of political discussion and public engagement". So Giles asks long standing presenter Jonathan Dimbleby and also the Independent's chief political columnist Steve Richards to compare different decades. And Giles is astonished, when he listens back over five decades of debate about the topics the public really care about such as education or health, to discover that the substance of what is being discussed has not really changed. So, is it possible to say whether debate has declined, or not?
Producer: Kirsten Lass.