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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 06 April 2007
PRESENTER: JONATHAN DIMBLEBY

PANELLISTS: Rt Hon Tony Benn
Dame Liz Forgan OBE
Prof AC Grayling
Quentin Letts

FROM: The Score Building, Leyton, East London

DIMBLEBY:
Welcome to Leyton in East London a community which includes a diverse range of ethnic minority communities and where half of the population is under the age of 30. Leyton is one of the 5 Boroughs which is hoping to gain directly from the 2012 Olympics. It is also the birthplace of Alfred Hitchcock, David Beckham, Jonathan Ross and Meera Syal who still lives nearby. We are the guests here of Waltham Forest Council. The Score Building which is a fine sports complex opened in 2005 and also boasts a health centre, a crèche and nursery facilities as well as football pitches. On our Panel Tony Benn was an MP for almost 50 years and has been doing this programme for even longer, 56 years to be precise, memories of these surfacing here and there in his so far 7 volumes of diaries. How many more to come Tony?

BENN:
Well it depends how long I live. There is one – I have got a new one coming in October and the last one will be thank you and goodbye and the last item will be St Thomas’s Hospital I am not feeling very well today. That’s how it will end. (laughter)

DIMBELBY:
Liz Forgan was a leading light on the Guardian newspaper when the feminist movement was at its height. She later became Director of Programmes at Channel 4 and Managing Director of BBC Network Radio. Today amongst several other things Dame Liz Forgan Chairs both the Scots Trust which owns the Guardian and the Observer and the Heritage Lottery Fund in which role she has complained vehemently about the Government’s decision to raid the lottery to fund the Olympics. Quentin Letts was renowned if that is the right term as a gossip columnist par excellence but after spells in that role with the Telegraph and the Evening Standard he moved to the Daily Mail where he is certainly renowned as a witty and merciless parliamentary sketch writer. AC Grayling doubles as a Professor of Philosophy Anthony Grayling at Birkbeck at London University. He is not only distinguished for his academic work as the author of books on Declart and Berkeley but renowned, that word again for bring philosophy out of the University closet and into the public domain to explore and pronounce upon the political questions of our age in yet more books, newspaper columns and on television and radio. He is the 4th member of our panel (applause). And we will go straight please to our first question.

JULIAN FOSTER:
Should Iran pay for their conduct towards British troops.

DIMBLEBY:
Liz Forgan?

FORGAN:
I used to work in Iran. Iwas a journalist there for a year and um the thing about Iranians is that they have a view which goes back in history. They think Britain is deeply powerful, deeply cunning and responsible for many many things that have happened in Iran. Relations between our countries are therefore difficult. The incident in the Persian Gulf is still I think very unclear to all of us. The behaviour of seizing hostages is a disgraceful one I am sure that in some way Iran will face consequences for that but I don’t want to say at this point what I think they ought to be because I don’t know enough about what has actually happened to be clear or give anyone good advice. I just think I am very sad to see Iran in the state it is in and relations between our two countries the way they are because it is a wonderful country with and extraordinary culture and history and I hope that we can all get through this episode into another state of relationship before very long.

DIMBLEBY:
Quentin Letts. (applause)

LETTS:
I am not sure that Iran should pay in terms of any military strike. I would hate to see that particularly from the Americans who seem to be in a very bellicose mood at the moment but I suspect that the Iranians will pay in the long term in that I think that the Western powers or the Western power, America, will likely be much more suspicious of Iran now with the way that they have behaved. I must say that I have found the whole episode with the hostages most unpalatable for two reasons really the way that the Iranians used our sailors I thought was disgraceful but I was also a little dismayed, although we are hearing in the news just now, that our people may have been very badly abused, but I was dismayed that they allowed themselves to be used quite as much for propaganda purposes and I think that if ianyone is going to pay for this and that is rather crass behaviour, crass language I think our military people, our military leaders need to reappraise the training given to soldiers, and to service personnel and when they are captured they should behave in a way, with as much dignity as possible and I don’t think that that is what we saw but er I think the Iranians will live to regret the disgraceful behaviour that we have seen this week. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBELBY:
AC Grayling.

GRAYLING:
Yes I agree that from a diplomatic view this was an own goal by Iran . It was really very unacceptable to do this thing, descending all the things that are happening in the Middle East and in the Gulf region er the act of taking hostage soldiers from another Navy just won’t do and it is very very puzzling indeed to know quite what the thinking behind the Iranian action was because we learnt today from the people who were giving a Press Conference at their Marine base that something like 8 motor patrol boats surrounded them with heavy armament, heavy machine guns on them and an RPG launcher and had a fight broken out and had people been killed had their been conflict between the two British boats and the Iranian boats heaven knows what the consequences of that would have been so it was a very provocative act and very surprising one. If it is also true that the British boats were outside Iranian waters, an adamant claim that the British boats were more than a mile nearly two miles outside Iranian waters then the act of the Iranian Navy there was totally unacceptable.

DIMBLEBY:
Should Iran pay whatever that could mean?

GRAYLING:
I think they have already begun to pay in diplomatic terms because there are lots of people elsewhere in the Middle East and in that region who are not happy about the idea of Iran’s stance under Akmaninajad. They don’t like the idea of them perhaps getting nuclear weapons and this raises the temperature all round the Gulf region and internationally and I think indeed they will pay as a result.

DIMBLEBY
Tony Benn?

BENN:
Well I am glad they are home. Anyone who thinks war isn’t awful just has to think about Guantanamo Bay but you see let’s refer to the history and I am a little bit interested in this. In 1914, Winston Churchill was first Lord of the Admiralty nationalized Iranian oil, in 1941 we invaded Iran, Britain invaded Iran, 1951 Misadek came to power, he nationalized it for the Iranians and he was toppled by MI6 and er the CIA. In 1980 to 88 there was a war between Iran and Iraq and we armed Suddam Hussein in attacking Iran. They never mention that. In 1988 an American warship in this very area shot down an Iranian airliner, killed 284 people and although they never apologized they paid £6 million compensation to the families of those people now that is something you never read in the British press, never read it, and remember this, this question of territorial waters is quite tricky. Remember we had a war with Iceland about fishes|? Fishing? And the argument was did they have the right to extend their territorial waters. I think we have got to be very careful and calm about this because I think Bush wants another war against Iran and that is what the real fear is and we must not let that happen. (APPLAUSE)


DIMBLEBY:
Julian Foster you put the question your thought?

FOSTER:
I think that the starting point is that those alleged to have ill treated the troops should be put on trial.

DIMBLEBY:
How would you achieve that, who would put them on trial because the allegations come from the British troops not from the Iranian authorities.

FOSTER:
Well we in this country put our troops on trial as a result of actions in Iraq and it seems to me to be a matter for the Iranian authorities.

DIMBLEBY:
OK thank you we will go to our next question.

COUNSELLOR?????
Why does football inspire so much violence?

DIMBLEBY:
Why does football inspire so much violence. Professor Grayling.
We have of course in Rome and Seville British fans um in combat or allegedly under assault by police and vice versa claims as well

GRAYLING:
Well I think because there aren’t enough goals (LAUGHTER) I think that goals and I have to confess here that I speak as a , as a rugby fan not as a football fan but it seems to me that there is insufficient incident. The goals should be much larger or they should dispense with the goalkeeper altogether and if there were more goals then there would be much more relief on the part of the people in the stands. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY:
I can believe that that is a serious philosophical perspective but I wonder if you can add to it because there has been some pretty much beating up stuff going on. Does football as an activity peculiarly inspire people into the sort of drama, personal crisis that leads them to get so excited and encourages the police to say right we are going to have a go at you as well.

GRAYLING:
Well I think most probably sociologists in all seriousness would say tribalism and localism and very fierce loyalties and a sense of identity associated with the football team that you support must have its part to play in this and that very probably explains how it might be in local Derbys in very big cities like London for eg in the past there used to be a great deal of crowd violence because in addition to the football there was this, this question of tribal rivalry and that extends all the way to national rivalry too when we see national teams playing abroad. So, it may very well be something to do with the demographics of football and the sociology of it and not just the fact which I stick to by the way that there simply aren’t enough goals.

DIMBLEBY:
I didn’t think you were going to give up so easily on that starting position. Tony Benn do you have a view about this?

BENN:
I represented Bristol for 33 years and there was Bristol City and Bristol Rovers and I remained absolutely impartial between the two teams which allowed me not to watch either (LAUGHTER) and it is part of this nationalism thing isn’t it and I always thought the great thing about sport which we shall discover from the Olympics is that you can have national competition without violence. But maybe the Olympics is going to… it’s a very alarming thing and there’s so much violence tolerated and encouraged in the media and in society. I am not blaming the media you just wonder whether people don’t think it is required but maybe more goals would be a… I will tell the Prime Minister, I feel a Goals Tsar will be appointed who will see that everyone gets a goal regularly and I think that is a very useful suggestion which will be part of the Prime Minister’s legacy which we shall all remember for years and years afterwards (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY:
Liz Forgan

FORGAN:
Well I am afraid it may be something to do with chaps, Jonathan, that’s the thing. I mean thinking about my own glorious sporting career. I was once forced to play netball. I have to promise you that never once in all the whole of that time did I ever feel a tiny twinge of loyalty to my team let alone the desire to fight anyone for it but young men fight, they do, and football is meant to be ritualized fighting and when the ritual goes wrong I suppose the fighting just spills over and what we have to do is have armies at the ready to hose them down I guess I don’t know.

DIMBLEBY:
Quentin Letts.


LETTS:
I want to know what has happened to the Italian police because in my imagination they are rather nice sort of guys who stand directing the traffic and blowing kisses to female drivers. They seem to have changed markedly in the last week. I think the Italian police are largely responsible for what happened in Rome er I suspect tribalism is to blame, I suspect probably drinkmight have something to do with it and I think maybe this deep set desire in humans particularly men for some sort of punch up and when you see English football fans, although it doesn’t happen at Hereford United where I go but er well you don’t have many fans there but er

DIMBELBY
Are you one of those men who has an insatiable urge to have a punch up?

LETTS
Um well I don’t know well yes as a journalist yes I think is the answer but you can see how we won battles like Agincourt and Cressey when you see those boys the mass rank of football fans on the march is a pretty scarey sight. A lot more scarey than those British sailors were arguably.

DIMBLEBY:
Anthony Grayling

GRAYLING:
Can I just see on Liz’s point on young men wanting to fight. Young men at cricket matches and rugby matches and American football matches in their many 10’s of thousands , these are huge crowds in the American stadiums, they don’t fight with one another. It does seem peculiarly…

LETTS:
It is starting to happen at cricket at one day matches particularly I went to one recently where Pakistan were playing England and there were some quite unpleasant scenes and the sporting authorities are whipping things up with some sexy music every time the wicket falls and that ramping up of the excitement is I think leading to crowd control in cricket even

BENN:
What about women wrestling in mud. (LAUGHTER) It’s one of those sports that I have always wanted to see but I….

FORGAN:
It hardly ever happens Tony Only at the behest of very very greedy and exploitative chaps in which I would not include you. But I must tell you I was once escorted through a cup final crowd at Wembley by Stephen Fry and I was terrified. All these kids were dressed like warriors with face painting the most frightening people you have ever seen at the sight of Stephen Fry, gay, middle aged, toffee nosed gent they all fell into heaps of fan like admiration and were as gentle as lambs so maybe Stephen should be put in charge (LAUGHTER)./

DIMBELEBY:
Stephen if you want to respond to that Any Answers is available as to anyone else … the number to ring is 08700 100 400 sorry 08700 100 444 and the email address any.anwers@ bbc.co.uk that is after the Saturday edition of Any Questions. Our next question please.

BURINI:
Laura Burini. The warnings on climate change get more and more dire. Is there any reason to suppose that the world’s politicians will act this time?

DIMBLEBY:
Even with the modest increases in temperature, presuming that there is no significant reduction in emissions, billions we are told in confirming the reports that have been made facing dire shortage of food and water, the poorest of the poor the most afflicted, up to 250 million people in Africa, crop yields dramatically down, rain failing at the same time elsewhere as the snow melting, glaciers melting um the governments of the United States, China and India weare told sought to put the minimal interpretation on this for reasons that haven’t yet become precisely clear um do you think the world’s politicians will act this time the question is Tony Benn?

BENN:
Well I mean it’s a big debate going on about this because there is no doubt that the temperature is changing and the climate but there is some discussion about the causes of it. There are some quite serious people who think that some activity plays some part but whatever the argument about that it may be a theoretical one the fact is that climate change, global warming will have a very very profound effect upon the world in which we live. I think that we should be thinking perhaps at least as much about how we deal with it as supposing that you could stop it, maybe you could I don’t know, and you see what worries me about all these carbon credits that you can buy and sell I was thinking back to the war. When we were short of food we were rationed now if you could buy and sell your ration books the rich would be able to continue to eat what they like or try as they like and poor people would have to sell their rights so I think we are really talking (APPLAUSE) we are talking about really the argument for greater equality in the world and deplying resources in the developing countries is absolutely overwhelming and we have got to do without and maybe wooden tunnels and solar things on your roof, these sun things will help but the main thing is that the world’s resources are being exhausted, water, food and you have got to tackle it. That means sharing it and I must say that the policy toward that would be very very radical indeed and I think we will have to think about that very very seriously because otherwise the rich will get away with everything as they always have done and peoplewill all die of drought and famine in the third and we will say lucky for them they could save their carbon credits so people can get big fat cat pensions in the City of London (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY:
Professor Grayling.

GRAYLING:
Well the scientific is absolutely clear and almost unanimous on the point that the signs are almost unequivocal that serious damage is being done to the climate and they are also pretty well agreed that it is to use the long word anthropogenic – it is caused by human activity and it is a scandal that for the last 10 or 15 years warnings have been issued again and again and again from scientists and governments have done absolutely nothing or very very little indeed and the reason for that is that there are mixed measures in different parts of the world. The Americans don’t want to do anything although they are the biggest polluters, they don’t want to lower the standard living of their own people , it is politically very difficult er in the Far East China for eg which is a massive polluter also which is staring down the barrel of hundreds of billions of dollars of clean up of 20, 30, 40 years of gross pollution. They don’t want to do anything about it, cut emissions because they want to catch up with the developed world so

DIMBLEBY:
And yet China is going to by all these self same reports China is going to suffer as much if not more

GRAYLING:
Indeed yes. It is astonishing, the degree of seriousness of environmental damage in China is something that the world community hasn’t yet fully woken up to because the Chinese Government keep it secret. They are very reluctant indeed to let people know just how bad things are there. And so it’s been a scandal there’s no question about it and the news this week that the inter governmental conferences is at last agreed to accept the report, very carefully prepared report is probably the first positive sign that something might happen but exactly what might happen given that you know that governments and politicians who constitute them are so skilled at prevaricating and finding loopholes and working things round and I agree with Tony Benn absolutely that what is going to happen in the end that the rich countries and the rich people in them are going to continue to live as exactly as they are now and the people who are going to bear the brunt of the cost of doing something are exactly the same people who will bear the cost of climate change if we didn’t do something about it.

DIMBLEBY:
Quentin Letts (APPLAUSE)

LETTS:
This is a slightly difficult area for someone like me who believes that the state should do less in people’s lives and I have a, a natural antipathy towards rules. I don’t think that the state should be making new rules and yet the only way I can see that the state can legislate on this is to bring in new rules and stop us doing things so it is slightly difficult thing for an old fascist like me to discuss but it strikes me that if the politicians do take this seriously as they tell us it is all true then there has been a lamentable lack of political courage on this and we don’t even for instance hear of Ministers saying we are going to get rid of our chauffer driven limousines and if they are not even talking about that sort of level then I find it difficult to take seriously their protestations that this is a really serious problem and is there any reason to suppose they will act? Well I suspect in the West yes there will be a little bit of action because this is starting to be a vote winner and Labour is twitchy about David Cameron doing a lot on the environment, they therefore want to do more but is there any reason to suppose that in China or in India where Governments have a pressing desire to improve the lot of their citizenry and that involves a lot of industrial activity I can’t see that the politicians there will feel any sort of imperative to act until at least they level peg with us in terms of richness.

DIMBELBY
If you are right about that then there is absolutely according to the Inter Governmental panel, there is absolute catastrophe because they are so far behind us in terms of per capita output ofCO2 does it not suggest that the governments of China and India are not quite so purblind to that risk as to what you just said implies. Mainly they will also wake up as it were and say that we need clean technology and need to have alternatives and you in the West need to help us get them

LETTS:
Yes well they talk about it, they talk about it and then they look at the West and see that we aren’t really doing anything. We are not even bringing in meaningful laws that are going to change this so I can’t see that there is any moral imperative for the Chinese, Indians and others to say that OK we will do it because you lot aren’t doing it yourselves and until there’s a real catastrophe. I mean we saw a bit of it in New Orleans, unless something really God Almighty happens er which is terrible and ruins lots of lives I don’t think our politicians will do anything.

DIMBELEBY:
Liz Forgan

FORGAN:
Will Politicians act? Yes I think they will a bit. I agree with Quentin because it’s coming up on the public agenda you can see it - the shift in the public mood will be reflected but I think that the question is not just for China and India I think it is a really difficult question for the democracies because it is a measure of weighing the present as against the future and politicians who have to stand for election on the short term interests of the people who are going to vote for them have really quite a tough time selling a political platform that involves short term sacrifice for long term gain but I think that you know we are seeing steps that are positive. I think that the UN, the outcome of the UN conference is a really hopeful sign and I think that if you go into any petrol station I think the fact that you hear the people discussing the carbon footprint of their cars even if they are still driving enormous disgusting gas guzzlers is something significant.


DIMBLEBY:
Tony Benn

BENN:
Don’t ever under estimate people’s intelligence, I think it is a great mistake and I mentioned rationing during the war and the most remarkable example of rationing I ever came across was this – during the war we didn’t ration bread but after the war when the Germans were starving we rationed bread so the people we fought wouldn’t starve. Now talk about a moral commitment at a critical moment and I think put properly and fairly to people they will respond. This idea that people will only respond to their own short term interests is a mistake, I don’t – my own experience is that people are much more interested in the long term

FORGAN:
You look what happens when somebody suggests putting up the tax on petrol Tony. A ferocious onslaught comes

BENN:
How many times do Ministers or politicians go round and argue the case for higher taxation on the wealthy, how many times, in all my last elections I always said if you vote for me I will go for higher taxation at the very top of the … and nobody ever disagreed with you.


DIMBLEBY
They wouldn’t dare disagree with you it’s what happens when you go to the ballot box isn’t it that’s the problem

BENN
No, no , no opinion polls confirm that. People agree with a higher level of discriminatory taxation if it brings about greater equality

DIMBELEBY
Let me ask the audience here by show of hands who shares the view of the scientists, the overwhelming majority of scientists that this is as grave potential crisis, as grave a potential crisis as they say it is would you put your hands up who share that view? Who doesn’t share that view? Who thinks it’s all got up and right overwhelmingly there is the view. Who believes the politicians are not up to speed with public opinion and they could do much more oh interesting and you would support it is what is coming out of this audience if I have interpreted it correctly

BENN
That’s what I said


DIMBLEBY
Yes I know. What you might think about that you may wish to share on Any Answers 08700 100 444. We go to our next question please.

SHAHINDRA
Shahindra. Can the panel offer their suggestions on how to combat the current spate of knife and gun attacks on young people?

DIMBLEBY:
How to combat the current spate of knife and gun attacks amongst young people. What suggestions do you have for that? This is on the day when the Home Secretary has introduced some more legislation to make a very serious offence of gun minding, of hiding someone else’s weapon. Quentin Letts?

LETTS:
Well if I had the answer to that I guess I would be Home Secretary um but I have a suspicion that one very important, well there are various small measures one could take. Two thing perhaps I would say one much more sport for youngsters, young guys in particular, I think I would try and find ways of keeping them much more occupied, giving them more games pitches and really trying to find a way of working off their, the masses of energy they seem to have and it strikes me that if we could somehow get children involved in games much more then I have a feeling that they would have less energy for knife crimes and the second is to have really gruesome advertisements on television as to the sort of things that knives can do to people. Now part of me says that would be a horrible idea because I don’t want to see violent images on screens but I have a feeling that we don’t quite understand exactly the damage that knives can do and I think we need to see that, I don’t mean at 4 o clock in the afternoon, but maybe at 830 at night if we just saw that sort of think then may be children could get an idea just how dangerous those things they are carrying around can be to the human body. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBELBY:
Liz Forgan?

FORGAN:
I find this really impossible, it is so far out of my culture, my generation’s culture and I think that um I find it difficult to see how external controls are ever going to win this battle until the taboo, the little policeman in your head of the young people themselves starts to reassert control. If the whole of the generation thinks that the only way you get respect or relief from fear is to pick up a gun or a knife you can have a million policemen on the streets and it will not stop this. There has to be a change in the way that the young people themselves think about their own status, their own security and what is the way to behave in relation to your society. Don’t ask me how we make that change (APPLAUSE)


DIMBLEBY:
You didn’t mention in that answer maybe you don’t wish to about parents or schools or other sources if you like who have influences and authority on children in our society the media even

FORGAN
Well I think that the implanting of the little policeman in your head comes from those things and I don’t know which of those is responsible and in what measure for the disappearance of it, all of us are maybe, I don’t have children myself so I hesitate to prescribe what parents ought to be doing but somehow between us all we have removed that taboo and the consequences are terrible.

DIMBELBY:
Tony Benn?

BENN:
Well if you look at news it’s all about violence isn’t I mean how can you disconnect this from the fact that 665,000 Iraqis have been killed. All the violence on television and er you see I am in a difficulty about this because you see when I was 16 I was taught to use a bayonet, I was taught to fire a gun, I was taught to fire a revolver, to fire a machine gun to throw a grenade and if the Germans had arrived during the war I would have tossed the grenade into a restaurant where they were having lunch or a meal with their girl friend now that was a violence legitimate, violence. Now this is just sort of mindless violence but I do think that respect, respecting people does mean a bit more on our side and not just on theirs and a lot of people are treated with disrespect and maybe this is the way they get round it but it is a terrible problem. And I accept that entirely. I just think that you can’t entirely push the responsibility off on to the people who do it. I think society as a whole has to share some of the responsibility for circumstances where these things could happen (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY:
Anthony Grayling?

GRAYLING:
I think the vast majority of young people are peaceful, well behaved decent folk. We are talking here about a pretty small minority. The small minority in question does demonstrate a mindset problem. I think Liz is probably right about that. It is the, it is something in the culture at the moment where if some members of the gang in the local area start to carry knives or other kinds of weapons, then other members of the gang in the neighbouring area would do so too and the situation ritches up a little bit so it is a complex problem. How it is approached obviously there’s got to be lots of different things done , schools, home and in the community at large but one thing that would really help is this. Where the heck do these people get these knives and guns in the first place? (APPLAUSE)Why are these huge knives, I mean great big hunting knives, 9inches long or a foot long and flick knives and all sorts of other things you don’t peel your apples with those where the heck do they come from, why are they made at all? I would have thought that some extremely severe clamp down on the production and sale of these things would be part of the solution to the problem

DIMBLEBY
But there is already in place legislation that makes it um illegal to buy and possess those kinds of weapons leaving aside guns presumably one has to assume the Home Office or the Police are doing what they can to prevent guns reaching individuals that can then use them.

GRAYLING:
I would have thought that a very concerted endeavour to stop the supply of these things would be at least part of the solution of the problem . I mean they are manufactured presumably by responsible and respectable manufacturers and er you can walk into shops and see some of these things, people behind the counter say that they are bought for fishing expeditions and all the rest of it but my word they are jolly vicious looking objects. You think to yourself well really do we need them. Well you know as I say you can get a little kitchen knife to peel apples with and if you are going to do anything bigger than that then you would ask yourself why? (APPLAUSE)

DIMBELEBY:
Our next question please.

BROADLEY:
M1dge Broadley. Does the panel agree with Karl Marx that religion is the opiate of the masses?

DIMBLEBY:
Easter Weekend. Liz Forgan?

FORGAN:
Oh. I do wish you hadn’t started with me um it was a terrific phrase and I am sure there is a great deal of truth in it but I am not a Christian but the part of the, the product of religion that I love and observe are the churches of England, the music, the art, and the unbelievable well of inspiration that has come from religion in this culture and in others throughout the centuries now I don’t think that is opium. I think that is something more powerful and more creative altogether. I quite think there is a down side and perhaps in social terms there is but if you look at it in cultural terms there is such a rich product of this idea called religion that I have to say I am not with Marx on this one. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY:
Tony Benn you come from a Methodist background?

BENN:
Congregationalist.


DIMBLEBY
Congregrationalist.

BENN
The Pope has just written a book called Jesus of Nazareth and in it he plays a warm tribute to Karl Marx. You see I have always seen Karl Marx as the last of the Old Testament prophets (LAUGHTER) This wise old Jew, who sat in the British Library, described Capitalism, anybody could do that, but he said it was wrong, and I think , if you look at, I am interested in the teachers of religion, not the thing, my mother brought me up on the Bible she said it was the story of the conflict of the kings who had power and the prophets who preach righteousness and she told me to support the prophets got me into a lot of trouble but if you look at that all the great religions say treat other people how you want to be treated yourself, that is in every single religion and if only we could do that what I think is Marx was referring to was the people who use religion to get control over you – if you don’t do what I tell you you will rot in Hell. When I go to Hell I hope there is an energy crisis and that would melt me a bit but I think we would have to look at it in quite a different way and I agree with Liz I like the churches and the Bishops in their funny outfits and so on because it is part of my culture and we sing Onward Christian Soldiers Marching as to War if it was Onward Muslim Soldiers John Reid would have us all in jail. We don’t believe it anyway so (APPLAUSE AND LAUGHTER)

DIMBLEBY
Have you finished?

BENN
For the moment

DIMBLEBY
Professor Grayling you have expressed extremely strong views in antipathy to the role of religion in the life of nations?

GRAYLING:
Yes indeed you look at the nuisance that most of the major religions are making of themselves today. It is obvious they are not on opium they are on amphetamine or something worse (LAUGHTER). Marx is very misquoted on this point by the way because when he said that religion is the opium of the masses that came at the tail end of an explanation of what he really meant which was that religion was a palliative for the oppression that people felt, poor people and working people, they turned to it because it was practically the only form of solace that they had. So religion was the sigh of the oppressed and provided them with something that they otherwise did not have.

DIMBLEBY
In that case and to that extend it didn’t necessarily follow from that observation of his that there might not be a God?


GRAYLING:
No not at all he was just talking about it as a sociological phenomenon and what function it was performing in the lives of the great majority of people who just didn’t have any other resource for relief and comfort and so that misquotation has er almost mainly been used on my side of the argument of course. It is actually a misquotation. But I think that this idea that all the major religions premised on the idea that you shouldn’t do to others as you would have them do to you and all the rest of it is a mistake for the very good reason that Oscar Wilde said he said don’t do to others what you would have them do to you because they may not like it and he is perfectly right about it (LAUGHTER) and there is actually a very deep principle behind it which is this that if you do unto others as you would have them do to you, you are making yourself the measure of what the good is and really what you should be doing is thinking about other people and what their needs and interests and desires are and what their individuality is and try to respect that and take account of what might be very different from yourself and your own tastes and that is the basis of the moral life, not taking yourself as the standard that everything else has to conform to.

DIMBLEBY
Do you believe for instance that the practices at this weekend of the Christian faith are damaging of themselves or damaging by implication or that people are fooling themselves or a combination of any one or any two or three of those?

GRAYLING:
I think the latter certainly and I think the former in this respect that

DIMBLEBY:
So they are making fools of themselves

GRAYLING:
I think they are wrong about the metaphysics and the morality that they are signing up to and I think also that it means that there will be as there always are in major religions extreme wings of those views where people are so certain that they have got the truth that they are prepared to kill other people in order to coerce them to conform and that is the tragedy of human history you know that too much dogma comes out of these absolute certainties. Very very big contrasts there you know with the scientific outlook, the scientific mindset you might say which is prepared to live with uncertainty and doubt and open endedness and the fact that we don’t have all the answers. The trouble with religion is that it is a quick fix, it looks for closure, looks for explanations, a story about the beginning and about the end and you can explain to anybody about what the temits of the major religion are in 10 minutes or so but to get the world view of physics takes years of study and there I think is the contrast (APPLAUSE)


DIMBLEBY:
Quentin Letts

LETTS:
One hesitates to say this to a Professor but um to talk about religion as a quick fix seems to me nonsense because it is not a quick fix at all because religion is talking about eternity and those values seem to me the very opposite of a quick fix. There is this insistent intellectualism about the secularists. You talk Anthony about metaphysics and all that I don’t think people think about metaphysics when they go to church er I have a feeling that the opiate of the masses is a rather good phrase because opiates give people comfort and balm and my feeling is that certainly when I go to church I am looking for a feeling rather than intellectual answers and there is this terrible thing that is facing us all and we are all trying to find answers to it and make sense of it and that is the dreaded day of death and on Good Friday if you are Christian then you feel this very strongly.

DIMBLEBY
Are you a churchgoer?

LETTS
Yes I am a churchgoer I hesitate to say as it is terribly un British to talk about one’s own religion but I hesitate to say that I am a Christian because that somehow suggests that you believe everything that is written in the Bible and do I believe absolutely in every word of the creed that I say every week well I suppose some days I try to but I don’t always but that’s because I find a comfort in the religious practices of the church and in the rhythms and in the spiritualism and the aesthetics of church going and it’s a much wider thing than intellectualism, it’s something deep core inside us and so the opiate phrase I think is apt, it’s to do with comfort, it’s somehow deadening the pain of the unknown that we all face and as a society we’ve become more secular and I think we have become more secular as we have become more distanced from the immediacy and horror of death in our lives. We don’t generally unless we are very unlucky see our children die and that used to happen a lot and in the third world that still happens and religion is still very much needed in the third world. Religion is a human need. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
AC Grayling

GRAYLING
With all the confusion and inconsistency and difficulty in the creed and so on that Quentin talks about it might be a lot quicker and simpler if he just got some opium. (LAUGHTER)

BENN
I mean the most powerful religion in the world is the people who worship money. The Dow Jones average has replaced the Ten Commandments. We get it on the hour, every hour, what has happened to the FTSE whatever that may be and the worship of money and scientists….

LETTS
This is very very shallow

BENN
And scientists…

LETTS
No

BENN
And scientists don’t give you any moral judgement.

LETTS
This is very shallow, no, on Good Friday of all days. I mean I may be sounding like an unhinged churchgoer here but I feel very, very strongly on Good Friday and in Holy Week and in Lent I feel a growing sadness, and on Good Friday there is something much more than just glib answers and narrow intellectualism about religion. It is much more to do with human need and feeling and I think it is quite wrong to write it off in that way.

BENN
WellI don’t write it off because I regard myself as a student of the teachings of Jesus but I do think that this idea that only science can give you a moral take on things. I mean religion is about what is right or wrong.

LETTS
But it is not just about right and wrong it is also to do with what’s coming afterwards and that is as important to many people as right and wrong and moralizing

BENN
Well I am not sure about that.

DIMBLEBY
Last quick word

GRAYLING
Can I just say to Tony that science doesn’t pretend to give us answers on the moral thing. The moral thing is for us as reflective, serious and responsible people to discuss with one another and come to conclusions about especially if we are prepared to take responsibility for ourselves not go to the supermarket of ideas and take out a deep frozen package which says Christianity or something else which will do our thinking for us. It would be much much better if we did our thinking for ourselves and in negotiating with one another responsibly and sensibly (APPLAUSE)



DIMBLEBY
On the back of that just out of curiosity on this particular weekend who says to themselves I have a faith in a God would you put your hands up those who do have that? And who does not? Well it is the majority in this audience do have a faith.

GRAYLING
Hold on a second I think that was bit quick

DIMBLEBY
Professor you may be a very fine scientist and a very good philosopher but my verdict is final on this and I was right (LAUGHTER) and I think that the other 3 panellists would agree that I was right about the majority on that would you not Liz Forgen?

FORGEN
I think you were a bit wrong actually. I agree with Anthony.

DIMBLEBY
OK we will do it once more. Those who have a faith put your hands up if you would right. Those who don’t have a faith

FORGEN
It’s pretty split

DIMBLEBY
I would say more people put their hands up second time round and there’s an even split (LAUGHTER) and I will use that as a mere invitation to invite you to ring on this subject and any others to Any Answers 08700 100 444 and that email address any.answers@ bbc.co.uk. Next please.

MCCOUGHLIN
John McCoughlin. In just over 5 years time the Olympic Games will be taking place just a couple of miles away from here. Do the panel see the Olympic Games in 2012 as a boon or as a blessing to East London?

DIMBLEBY
What do you make of it Liz Forgen?

FORGEN
Well in many ways it is a huge boon. It is an extraordinary event and it is marvellous and it will be a great opportunity for all sorts of things to happen in Britain but I do think we need to keep a hold of it. I mean the scale on which the Olympic Games now apparently has to take place has gone to ludicrous expense. It means that only either very, very wealthy or very, very corrupt nations can possibly imagine staging them and I can’t believe that you need all that much money to celebrate the glories of sport and Olympic excellence and I hope that when you know it comes to Britain it will not be seen as some lavish and amazing eating of all the resources of the nation event but a wonderful sporting occasion when the heritage of Britain apart from anything else will be seen at its very best.

DIMBLEBY
Tony Benn?

BENN
I am in favour of international competition peacefully but I think the people of London have got to use the democratic mechanism at their disposal to see that the Olympic Games don’t do things to people that they don’t want and I would recommend that anyone who has got doubts use the democratic mechanism to see your interests are not neglected in the interests of the Olympic Games. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Anthony?

GRAYLING
I very, very much hope that the Olympic Games will be a great boon to this part of London but I have to confess to you that I was rather hoping that Paris would get them. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) (BOOS)

DIMBLEBY
Quentin Letts?

LETTS
I am not just saying this because of the boos. I think it is very exciting that the Games are coming here and I am particularly looking forward to the beach volleyball I must say. (LAUGHTER) In the ladies section. I just can’t quite work out why it has got to be quite so expensive and I am determined not to have the same accountant as Tessa Jowell let’s put it like that. (LAUGHTER)

DIMBLEBY
And very briefly I can come to our audience again. Who welcomes - you are going to be affected one way or another by it who welcomes them coming in 2012? Another show of hands. Who doesn’t? Well at the risk of being corrected again I think we have a majority in favour. I would say a comfortable but not an overwhelming majority in favour of the Games. The Panel have conceded that might be right on this occasion. That’s all for this week. Next week we are going to be in Swansea with Peter Hain, Cheryl Gillam who is the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Adam Price and Limbit Opick for the Liberal Democrats. Join us there from here. Don’t forget Any Answers from here in Leyton in London. Goodbye. (APPLAUSE)
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