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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions?  25 July 2008
ANTHONY HOWARD CBE: Political commentator and author

JACKIE BALLARD: Chief Executive of the RNID

ROD LIDDLE: Columnist, broadcaster and Associate Editor, The Spectator

PATIENCE WHEATCROFT: Former Editor of The Sunday Telegraph

From the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

DIMBLEBY
Welcome to the Cotswolds, to the market town of Cirencester and to the Royal Agricultural College and August Institution on the outskirts of the town that’s had to adapt rapidly to changing and often very difficult times. It appears to have done so with some success, with eight hundred and fifty students from more than thirty countries studying not only agriculture and land management but business and the rural economy. On our panel at the end of a seismic week in British politics and a spanking new debate about privacy and the media a quartet of seasoned observers which might be described perhaps collectively as a controversy of commentators. Tony Howard, irreverent but revered as the doyenne of political journalists. Former editor of the late lamented Listener, late of the New Statesman and still later Obituaries Editor of the Times. Nowadays he distributes his wit and wisdom for the benefit of a wide variety of broadcasters, newspapers and magazines. Patience Wheatcroft was the youthful doyenne of city editors when she was at the Times and before she moved on to a brief but not very happy spell at the helm of the Sunday Telegraph. Among other things she’s now on the board of Barclays Bank. Jackie Ballard was a leading light at Westminster for the Liberal Democrats until she lost her seat in the two thousand and one election. She went on to head up the RSPCA until last year when she was appointed as Chief Executive of the RNID. Given his outspoken views it may now seem rather improbable that Rod Liddle was in a number of BBC hot seats, notably as editor of the Today Programme until two thousand and two. Since then he’s flourished as a columnist for among others the Sunday Times and the Spectator for which organ he is the Associate Editor. He’s also the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING] Our first question please.

SAUNDERS
Richard Saunders. In the light of the Glasgow East result should Gordon Brown be part of the reposed autumn reshuffle?

DIMBLEBY
Tony Howard.

HOWARD
Well I feel sorry for the prime minister. I think he suffers from one great misfortune. The British people on the whole like the idea of their leaders enjoying the job. And I think one of the poor things that does ... Gordon is he looks as if he’s miserable. He looks as if he’s glum. And this doesn’t help him. But should he make way? Should he be part of a reshuffle? No. Labour Party I think would do itself no good at all by having a leadership election. I think that anyone who thinks that it’s worth de-throning Gordon to make what, Jack Straw king? Come off it. I don’t think is realistic. I think that the prime minister will stay in the job and he will stay until the next general election.

DIMBLEBY
You, you’ve, you’ve seen political dramas of this kind over a very long period. And you’ve seen parties that have never been able to recover from positions as bad as this. Do you think that Labour with him at the helm can recover to win the next election?

HOWARD
I think it’s sometimes the duty of leaders to know that they are leading their parties to defeat. Jim Callaghan knew that in nineteen seventy nine. That famous conversation going around Parliament Square which said sometimes there’s a tide in politics. When it comes you can’t resist it. I think it is probably Gordon’s obligation and his duty to lead the party to defeat. Why do I say that? Because what’s the point of bruising and bloodying a new leader? No point in that at all. Much better for the sitting incumbent to go down to an honourable defeat. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Jackie Ballard.

BALLARD
I think politicians are so predictable aren’t they? There’s a, there’s a by-election defeat for the government and the government says it doesn’t matter it’s only a by-election. You can’t extrapolate to a general election. The winning party says it’s a political earthquake and the Opposition party says call an election now as if the prime minister would. I think that, I agree a lot with what Anthony Howard said. I think that it’s inevitable that Labour will lose the next general election whoever is their leader. And I think that’s because twelve years of any government is enough. And people are either bored or they, they feel like I do which is that if we are democrats the essence of democracy is the other side has to win sometimes. And I do despair of some of my past colleagues who get really irritated, angry and incredibly upset if the other side sometimes win. And I think well why are you a democrat if you don’t think the other side should win. And I think the country, whether they like David Cameron or not, thinks that now is the time for the other side to win and I think that Gordon Brown should see it through.

DIMBLEBY
So whoever was leader of the Labour Party would make no difference?

BALLARD
The other side will win. I think so.

DIMBLEBY
Patience Wheatcroft.

WHEATCROFT
Well I disagree with Tony. I don’t think that Gordon Brown will go down to an honourable defeat. I think he will be defeated but I don’t think it’ll be necessarily terribly honourable. And what worries me is that we are going to have up to two years of Gordon spending more money now, throwing out his golden rule and just doing anything he can to try and make things look a little bit better. So I’m with David Cameron. I think what we should have is an election. I don’t think for a moment we will. But you know I’m minded by the contrast with what’s going on in the States where you see two people battling it out to get to the, the head of state, to run the country. And what happened here was that Gordon just grabbed the keys of the door and went into number ten. He wasn’t the right person for the job and he’s proving that. And the prospect of another eighteen months of watching it and paying for it I find deeply distressing. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
You will remember the troop of then cabinet ministers who told Margaret Thatcher that the game was up. Given that there is unlikely to be as Tony Howard’s suggesting some kind of election for call, it’s quite difficult to call it in Labour, in the Labour Party, can you imagine the quotes “men in grey suits” close quotes going in and saying game’s up. It would be better to let someone else in. We might lose less severely and that would be for the good of the party rather than total meltdown?

WHEATCROFT
I can imagine the men in grey suits going in. And I can imagine the response they’d get which wouldn’t be very welcoming. I think the only thing that might happen is if enough Labour MPs begin to fear sufficiently for their seats then somebody might be persuaded to actually push him over. But I don’t think we’re there yet.

DIMBLEBY
Rod Liddle.

LIDDLE
I, I think the reason he won’t go is that he probably doesn’t think he will lose. And I think the reasons for that are, are pretty straightforward, that politics is a lot more both febrile and volatile than it’s ever been. Swings between the parties have become bigger, sharper and happen more regularly than they have ever done at any stage in our political history. And the reason for that is pretty straightforward, which is that all three parties have policies which are virtually interchangeable. There seems to be no ideological difference between any one of the three parties. And so presumably the leadership of the Labour Party will consider that events might happen, as Harold Macmillan put it, which suddenly resurrect the hopes of Gordon Brown. And indeed the next election will be fought on the battleground of attractiveness and competence. And if David Cameron does something staggeringly incompetent in the next two years which it is entirely possible of course, then we may well see that Labour sees a revival in its fortunes. I don’t think a new leader of the Labour Party will make the slightest difference. I rather like Gordon Brown. I like, I like, I like having someone in charge of the country who appears perpetually miserable because that’s rather how I feel. [LAUGHING] [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Do you think that the government would be better in terms of its popular, popular opinion if Tony Blair who went was still in place? Would he do, have done better than apparently the prime minister is able to do?

LIDDLE
Well it’s a, it’s a wonderful question because, because of course the reason Tony Blair went is because he was so unpopular. I mean he was unpopular within the country and suddenly, particularly within the Labour Party, when you heard that wonderful rhyme – “I met a man upon the stair ..”

DIMBLEBY
“As I was going up the stairs I met a man ..”

LIDDLE
“.. I met a man who wasn’t Blair” yeah. They clearly want him back. I don’t want him back. I would flee the country if he came back frankly. I mean the point is that the things which were associated with Blair were spin and a certain cosmetic attractiveness, neither of which Brown can do with any degree of conviction or any degree of competence. Now that’s another thing paradoxically I quite like about the man.

BALLARD
I think, I don’t know if one of your questioner’s maybe going to ask this question ‘cause I think there is a much bigger issue as a result, as a result of the by-election yesterday than whether or not Gordon Brown will stay or whether or not Labour will lose the next election. And I think it’s what’s going to happen to the union. Because I think that you, I think it is very likely we’ll have a Conservative government after the next election. And that Conservative government presiding over an even stronger Scottish devolved parliament with Alex Salmond in charge, Plaid Cymru and Old Labour in charge of Wales is going to find it very difficult to hold that together. And I think that is the much bigger interesting question in British politics at the moment.

DIMBLEBY
You were nodding your head Tony at that in agreement or just in ..?

HOWARD
No I think there’s a good deal in that. I think that Alex Salmond has to look out. He’s obviously very smart but my goodness he looks smug. And I think that may eventually prove to be his undoing. But he’s obviously conducted himself very skilfully in Scotland. The government in Edinburgh is popular. It’s done a lot of things have pleased the electorate there. And it looks as if he’s on the way to get his referendum for independence. Now whether he wins it or not I don’t know. But he’s probably going to get it. And I think that what Jackie says is right, that there are more things at stake here than one single election. And of course if the Tories had a big victory at the next election that would help Alex Salmond quite a lot.

DIMBLEBY
Patience Wheatcroft.

WHEATCROFT
I think we are en-route to a split. And it’s not something I want to see. But it has a degree of inevitability about it. And it’s because the legislation was pushed through by this administration in the way that they’ve done so many things that have altered the constitution of the country, without actually working out where we were going to get to. And I, I think it is going to happen. But it’s to the detriment of Great Britain. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
You provoked that discussion Richard Saunders. Your own thought?

SAUNDERS
Well I don’t think he should go. I think he’s such a valuable electoral asset for the Opposition that he should stay exactly where he is.

DIMBLEBY
If you have thoughts about that Any Answers after the Saturday broadcast of Any Questions may be for you, that is 03700 100444 the telephone number. And the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next please.

MCCLOUGHLIN
Darren McCloughlin. Can, can our UK political leaders learn things from presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama?

DIMBLEBY
You touched on this Patience Wheatcroft.

WHEATCROFT
Well I think they can certainly learn the power of oratory. And there is no mistaking the fact that Barack Obama knows how to perform in front of an audience. And he also has a knack of looking wonderfully convincing, wonderfully honest and new and fresh and all those adjectives that people in the States are really desperate to have at the moment. So certainly our leaders could learn a bit from that. I think Cameron actually has learnt quite a lot from Barack Obama. Indeed he probably got there pretty much at the same time. But what we don’t know yet is enough about what Barack Obama would be like if he was in charge of the world’s most powerful nation. So it’s a bit of a gamble.

DIMBLEBY
Jack Ballard.

BALLARD
I think, I think there’s a sort of rule isn’t there in politics that, that some elections people vote out of fear and other times they vote out of hope. And I think that if the US elects Barack Obama as its president they’ll be voting very much out of hope. And that hope will be of a changed nation. Because he symbolises a huge move in the US in having a black president. That is such a big statement. And the fact that in the run up to the presidential election he’s taking a lot of time and trouble to visit other parts of the world and talk about foreign policy is, is a change for, for US presidents who are generally in the run up to the election not particularly interested in foreign policy until they get into power and then they make an awful lot of mistakes. I don’t ..

DIMBLEBY
What is it about him that makes two hundred thousand plus people turn out in the streets of a European capital to almost in hushed awe to hear him?

BALLARD
He’s exciting. He’s a good orator. He’s persuasive. He’s new. He’s different. But I think it is the fact that he symbolises another generation, the fact that he is black. That is a huge statement. And an awful lot of people whether they’re black or they’re white and have been a long distance from power can relate to that. I just hope that when he does become president that he is able to deliver. And there’s a, there’s a horrible thing that happens in life if you’re the, the ground breaker whether in the past if you were a female groundbreaker, the first one to be prime minister or the first one to be chief executive or whatever and you got it wrong, then people’s attitude was we can’t have another woman. Look what happened when we had a woman before. And there is so much riding on Barack Obama to be successful. If he fails then it will set the cause of black people in positions of power in the United States and probably in other countries in the west back a long way.

DIMBLEBY
Rod Liddle.

LIDDLE
I think ..

[CLAPPING]

LIDDLE
I think he’s got a whiff of the Kennedys about him. And I think that’s, that’s been picked up particularly in his, in his own country. Of course in fairness the reason he’s going around the world to various hot spots and also to France where I saw him having an indecipherable conversation with President Sarkosy today – why do they continue speaking French the French? I just don’t .. [LAUGHING] [CLAPPING] is because he doesn’t know anything about it and because that of course is the accusation which John McCain has been pretty successfully been able to level at him in the, in the weeks leading up to this last week when clearly Obama has had a very good week. I agree with Patience. I do worry that, that what we see is not necessarily what we get. And in terms of British politicians learning from the success of Obama well I think Tony Blair certainly was a sort of Obama prototype albeit of a difference colour in that he was cosmetically very, very attractive, loquacious, appealed to – I remember the crowds of screaming people when he turned up at ten Downing Street on that bright May morning in nineteen ninety seven. And how we wish he hadn’t now. I don’t – also I mean I think this is important. I hope very much that his blackness isn’t an issue in the election. And I don’t think it will have any effect on, on the future of black politicians even if he fails. At the same time eight years of Republican government you would hope that the Americans would vote for a democratic pig’s bladder on a stick if it got the ... [LAUGHING] [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Tony Howard.

HOWARD
Well Barack Obama is clearly a superb performer. I think he’s a better speaker than President Kennedy was who had to improve gradually but he’s a better natural speaker and he has had all that going for him. But he, you know he’s now the vessel of a hell of a lot of hopes. And I can’t think of a president who has come in as inexperienced as Barack Obama. Halfway through his first term in the Senate, from being a State Senator, not a heavyweight on Capitol Hill in any way at all. I think that the tour around Europe and the war zones has been a great plus for him in the past ten days or so. But you know it’s been a crash learning course, what, seven countries in nine days. Two war zones. That kind of thing. And he will need to have these crash courses. But for the moment I think he’s the best hope that the world has. And I feel sorry for Senator McCain who I think is in grave danger of being totally overshadowed and though one shouldn’t say this, I think he may well be the victim of ageism. He suddenly does look to me after all this campaign quite an elderly gentleman. He will in fact I think he seventy two if he were to be elected to the Whitehouse. All right we had a prime minister in Churchill who was eighty. But it’s a little bit difficult I think. So I think Obama is now the really receptacle of most people’s hopes for the future, not just to the United States but the future of the West and of the whole world generally.

DIMBLEBY
When you, when you talk about experience and you think of Regan who had been a governor but not a senator or even Bush, the younger, who came from a family but hadn’t had a senior position, when you use the word experience that Obama lap, lacks, by comparison with all of those including those two, what is it you, you point to?

HOWARD
Well I suppose I point to the fact that after all Regan had been governor of the biggest state in the union for two terms I think I’m right in saying. Bush the younger had only been governor of Texas, you’re quite right, but he’d been a successful governor of Texas. And it used to be the case that it was governorships that gave you the executive training to be a president. Many more governors went into the Whitehouse than senators. That’s changed a little bit in recent times. But it was meant to be the kind of training ground if you’d lived in the governor’s mansion. He hasn’t, Barack Obama has got none of that, as I say. He’s got half way through his first term in the US Senate.

DIMBLEBY
And if you cast your mind back to the Kennedys for instance, Camelot and all of that, was there then – you look at the huge crowds that turned out in the primaries – was there any equivalent of the same degree of what’s called over mania then as there is with Obama?

HOWARD
Oh I think there was. I think there was for Jack Kennedy in nineteen sixty and sixty one when he became president. And there certainly was when I was in the States for Bobby. When Bobby ran for the presidency in nineteen sixty eight before he was shot in Los Angeles there was this tremendous kind of hysteria of adulation. It’s a dangerous thing. And it puts the person who’s recip.. recipient of it into a very vulnerable position. But that’s what some kind of democratic politics is about. We might like to have a bit of it here occasionally.

DIMBLEBY
We had a lot of questions on this. And one of them, one of them which we didn’t quite choose – we could have done – was when will the Obama bubble, bubble burst which I suppose is, touches on that.

HOWARD
Yes I mean I think it will not burst until such time as he actually has to wield executive authority. And I think that he will go on looking the glamorous candidate until the first Tuesday after the first Monday in October or whatever day – in November – whichever date it is this year. And he will, I think that, it will be after that point at the point when he actually takes the Oval Office in January when the chickens will come home to roost.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Our next please. [CLAPPING]

PEAKE
David Peake. Is the editor of the News of the World correct to claim that the media of this country is being strangled by stealth?

DIMBLEBY
Rod Liddle.

LIDDLE
What a wonderful quote that was, how I enjoyed it. An editor of the News of the World standing on the court steps claiming that the victory of Max Mosley in that court case was a blow to freedom of speech and a blow to campaigning investigative journalism when all he’d done was shove a video camera down a whore’s cleavage. I mean it was .. [LAUGHING] .. you could not wish for a better, for a better, better slice of hypocrisy, although that being said the one which came from Max Mosley a little later which was that the court case had damaged his marriage. The court case had damaged his marriage! [LAUGHING] [CLAPPING] It’s ..

DIMBLEBY
But Rod he said his wife didn’t know about it.

LIDDLE
Yes. Yes. If you come home with bleeding buttocks every night you would expect someone .. [LAUGHING] .. however perhaps we should move on. I ..

DIMBLEBY
I think we might move to the general rather than the particular.

LIDDLE
Yes ... I don’t, I don’t think that it’s as many of my fellow journalists have said that it’s a blow against freedom of the press and that it’s heralding a new privacy law or that we’re moving towards a privacy law. That may happen one of these days. And there will be a case where we ought to go to the wall and preserve press freedom. But I think the general public, if we went to the wall on this one would not necessarily be on our side.

DIMBLEBY
Patience Wheatcroft.

WHEATCROFT
I think that we are gradually moving towards a bill that is, towards effective limitations on press freedom because of this move towards protecting privacy. And while I think that the public have a right to be protected from knowing what ghastly things some people get up to in their private lives I do think we need to be careful about allowing the courts to determine quite where the boundaries are going to be and not having a debate in parliament about it. Because it certainly seems that it, it’s the judge, one judge in particularly who’s making this law. I don’t want to know what Max Mosley gets up to in his private life. His wife probably didn’t want to know. But the judge seemed to imply that if there had been a Nazi aspect to this whole affair then that would have been a different matter. I’m slightly confused about that. He remains a private person, head of Formula One but does it make any difference to that role? I’m not sure. But I do know that there is an awful lot that goes on behind closed doors in this country that the press is going to be increasingly nervous of probing into. And there’s a lot that goes on in court in this country that we don’t know about, particularly in the family court. So I am nervous about press freedom being curbed too much.

DIMBLEBY
Do you think that this case makes it more difficult for what you would regard as a valid public interest defence for the invasion of privacy to stand in a court?

WHEATCROFT
I think it may do. Yes. Because if you once start saying that people are entitled to indulge in things which certainly don’t, don’t count as what I would deem behaviour that we might wish to encourage then where do you draw the line?

DIMBLEBY
But, but, but is – so you think that society’s views about how people behave in private contra the judge, you think that they are valid topics, valid areas of private life to be exposed simply because you don’t like them?

WHEATCROFT
No. I think that there’s room for a debate about that. Because we are at the moment in a society I think which David Cameron refers to as a broken society where morals seem to have been pushed very much aside. And it’s a question for society to ask how far along that route do we want to go.

DIMBLEBY
I’ll come back to you in a moment Rod Liddle, you want to come in but ..

[CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Jackie Ballard.

BALLARD
Well I, I mean I didn’t have any particular interest in Max Mosley before all of this. And I don’t read the News of the World. And I’m not interested in sado-masochism from a personal point of view. But as far as I understand it’s, it’s legal. And he is not someone who pronounces on public morality. And he’s not someone who makes laws that affect other people’s behaviour or morality so I don’t really see what business it is of ours what he gets up to in his private life. [CLAPPING] And I, and I do think that this is really of interest only to the media and a very prurient interest. And I don’t think it’s, that we the public should be worried that this means that politicians who get up to things that really do affect their ability to do the job would not be able to be exposed.

DIMBLEBY
So when, when quite, when leading journalists and newspapers, not only the News of the World, say that they believe that this will clip the wings of investigative journalism where it is valid, and they cite a number of cases which they claim to be valid exposés of private lives of politicians and others, you think that that is not credible?

BALLARD
I don’t think, I don’t even think that the private life of politicians should be exposed unless it is relevant to something they have said in public. I think if a politicians puts on their election literature a picture of them self with wife and kids looking incredibly happy and in secret they’re actually doing something that wouldn’t make their wife and kids incredibly happy then they’re asking to be exposed.

DIMBLEBY
So to pick up on Patience ..

BALLARD
If they vote a certain way on perhaps homosexuality, they vote against equalising the age of consent and then it turns out that they’ve been having a homosexual relationship with a sixteen year old then they should be exposed. But except for in those circumstances, what they do in private’s their business.

DIMBLEBY
But to pick up Patience Wheatcroft’s point, if for purposes of argument obviously, every member of the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet and every Liberal, Liberal Democrat was engaging in the Max Mosley activities that is entirely a private matter?

BALLARD
Well it’s legal. And why should it bother us? I mean I really don’t see why it should bother us what they’re doing in private when it’s perfectly legal.

WHEATCROFT
It would really bother me if they were all up to that.

BALLARD
But why?

WHEATCROFT
I just feel slightly uncomfortable about the whole of the Shadow Cabinet behave ..

DIMBLEBY
Well ..

WHEATCROFT
.. behaving that way. [LAUGHING] [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
I’m going, I’m going to bring, I’m going to bring in Tony Howard and then, and then to you Rod.

HOWARD
I’ve found few things more nauseating today than the outpouring from the newspapers of their shock and horror at this travesty of justice that has taken place, except for that one paper. The Guardian had a rational leader and a, I thought, balanced approach to the whole question. Not the Times, not the other quality papers. Course the Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch so it has to side with the News of the World as it were. But I do think it was pretty awful. I mean this is a tatty, really tatty defence that the News of the World put up. They couldn’t even get their chief witness. The idea that Max Mosley who I think I’ve only met once in my life when he was a very young lad and he was acting as agent for his father’s candidate in the Moss Side by-election in nineteen sixty two in Manchester. But you know the idea that he’s a public figure. He never was a public figure. And this pretence that the Nazi thing changed it all. I thought the News of the World nearly almost put their hands up and collapsed before the judge gave the judgment. So I, I really am a bit taken aback by the vigour of the press reaction saying you know this is the way to the serfdom, this is the way to a servile state, this is the end of all investigative journalism. I don’t believe it for a moment. And let’s remember, why are these things sometimes important? For my money if a politician takes a certain attitude in public and then does something quite different in private that is a matter of legitimate public interest. Very simple case, Dick Nixon, Richard Nixon, president of the United States said I think in a debate – I watched it in the United States in nineteen sixty eight. He said “I’m going to restore decent language in the Whitehouse” he said. What did we get? Well we’ve got the Watergate tapes. We’ve got this effing and blinding about the Lira and all the rest of it. Well when you get double standards of that kind, that’s when you want exposure. But that seems to me to rest on some of the genuinely, genuine public figure elected by an electorate and all the rest of it, none of this fitted poor Max Mosley who was set up by the News of the World and who I think you know was really entrapped. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Rod Liddle.

LIDDLE
I agree entirely with Anthony and though it seems a bit traitorous as a journalist to do so. But one of the other interesting things was the degree to which the actual issue of public interest seemed to be confused in the minds of both, both the people representing the News of the World and indeed the judge which was that for example it would be in the public interest if he was pretending to be a Nazi rather than pretending to be Jim ... or Jeff Hoon or someone like this .. [LAUGHING] ... which strikes me as being a bizarre and illogical position to take because it would have to invade his privacy to find out if he was acting like a Nazi. I mean it seemed to lack no coherence for me.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. Let me go back to our questioner. Do you think the News of the World editor was correct in his claim the country’s being strangled by stealth David ...?

PEAKE
Well I, well I believe that the freedom of the press if very important but with freedom comes responsibility. And I think the editor in this case was a very naughty boy, perhaps deserves a smacked bottom. [LAUGHING] [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Who in this audience here believes that Max Mosley was entitled to his privacy and that it should not have been invaded? Would you put your hands up. Who thinks that it was right to invade his privacy? Overwhelmingly one hand only. Of those thinks that it was right to invade his privacy, of those, of those who feel it was quite wrong for his privacy to be invaded who read the story with some enthusiastic concentration? Would you put your hands up? Would you put your hands up? [LAUGHING] Okay. No hands have gone up. Who, who read the story with deep reluctance but a sense of public duty? [LAUGHING] [CLAPPING]

BALLARD
Who looked at YouTube?

DIMBLEBY
The great British public. About five hands went up. Jackie Ballard.

BALLARD
I was just asking who looked at YouTube? I certainly didn’t. But I gather that some people did.

DIMBLEBY
This was the YouTube of the footage?

BALLARD
Yeah.

DIMBLEBY
It’s not worth asking this audience. They’re all going to deny it. [LAUGHING]

BALLARD
You could ask the panel though.

DIMBLEBY
I’ll spare them that. I think we’ll move on to our next question, thank you.

YOUNGSON
Patricia Youngson. What is the panel’s view on the painter and decorator from Aberystwyth who was fined for smoking in his van?

DIMBLEBY
What’s your view about this Jackie Ballard? You know the story?

BALLARD
Yes. I understand that if, if the van is your place of work – and when I was Chief Executive of the RSPCA we employed inspectors who used vans and that was their place of work. And they were not allowed to smoke in their van because it was a place of work. And the argument in this case is I understand he said that it wasn’t his place of work but he used it to get to and from work in which case ..

DIMBLEBY
It’s not my place of work. I decorate houses not vans. [LAUGHING]

BALLARD
Yeah.

DIMBLEBY
He says. [CLAPPING]

BALLARD
In which case it’s perfectly legal to smoke in your own vehicle. So I do find, I can’t understand why he was found to have been guilty in that, in those circumstances. But as a more general point I think the, the law banning smoking in public places is one of the excellent public health moves that this government has taken. I understand .. [CLAPPING] .. sometimes we do need saving from ourselves. And I understand that the number of people smoking has gone down already. There’s been quite a, an immediate effect on it. And it makes it blooming difficult for people to smoke. People who are at work they have to go outside the building and all the rest of it. And if it’s raining it’s very uncomfortable. I don’t know why they still carry on doing it. But anything that makes it difficult for people to kill themselves through smoking and kill themselves in a quite unpleasant way I think is a good thing.

DIMBLEBY
What did you make of it Rod Liddle?

LIDDLE
I took a slightly different view to tell you ... absolute truth, to the, to the one of Nanny Ballard over there. “Protected from ourselves”! Who on earth do you think you are woman, honestly. And of course it’s badly drawn legislation because I’m sure that even in its most abject phase of lunacy this government would not wish people to be arrested for smoking in a van when they were on the way to pick up some cigarettes or something for their missus. I mean so it’s clearly yet another piece of badly, badly drawn legislation. I don’t know how many people have given up smoking. And I suspect Jackie doesn’t either. I do know that a lot of pubs have closed down, all across the country. And the takings in pubs are down a lot. So I suppose Nanny Ballard would presumably agree with that’s a good thing too ‘cause we’re not killing ourselves with drink either. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
I will give you Jackie Ballard a right of reply after our next two speakers.

BALLARD
Thank you.

DIMBLEBY
Patience Wheatcroft.

WHEATCROFT
It’s a strange contradiction of the previous question isn’t there where this poor chap can’t do what he wants in the privacy of his own van. [LAUGHING] Obviously got the wrong habits, um .. [LAUGHING] [CLAPPING] .. Of course he should be able to smoke in his own van. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the snoopers who went round and gave him an on the spot fine actually get a cut one way or another. There’s too much of it going on. It is ludicrous. I’m not a great fan of smoking. I gave up a long time ago. But if people want to do that in the privacy of their own home or their own van then I’d have no problem with it at all. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
He thinks he was the first to be prosecuted ‘cause he said the Fixed Penalty Notice – it was thirty quid – was numbered zero, zero, zero one. [LAUGHING] Tony Howard.

WHEATCROFT
... much more than that now.

HOWARD
Well I think this is a case of the law just being an ass. And I don’t somehow understand how these things get through. You’d think there’d have been someone in that either, whatever it will have been, the Town Hall or the police station saying whoa, I mean honestly. But no one did. Therefore there it goes home, this guy now has I suppose a mark on his record for committing an offence. To me the greatest hypocrisy of all – and I think I’m right about this – is that when all private clubs, pubs we’ve heard about, were all told they couldn’t have any smoking on their premises at all, what happened in the Palace of Westminster? That was excluded. Now that to me is real double standards and I think the .. [CLAPPING] ..

DIMBLEBY
You were referred to as if you were anxious or were already looking after children Jackie Ballard ..

BALLARD
Yeah I ..

DIMBLEBY
.. and you wanted a right of reply.

BALLARD
I was kind of inclined to put the last two questions together and tell Rod that I’d be a very strict Nanny. But I don’t believe in corporal punishment so .. I think that you can’t deny Rod that most people who smoke wish they’d never started. It is something that people become addicted to and find very, very difficult to give up. And if tobacco was discovered today we would probably make it illegal to smoke it because it is so damaging to people’s health. And yes of course we can make fun of the law. And there’s always bits of laws that, when they’re enacted turn out to be not what people were expecting at the time. But I would still stick to the point that I think it has been one of the best public health moves that the government has taken.

LIDDLE
I can think of very little that if it were discovered today that you wouldn’t make it illegal. That’s the whole problem. We’re legislating too much over too many different things and we’re taking away personal responsibility from people. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
That number again, the Any Answers number, the new number 03700 100444 after the Saturday broadcast of this programme. Could we have our next please.

REECE-JONES
Roderick Reece-Jones. When did the panel last admonish teenagers for bad behaviour? And do they anticipate doing it again any time soon?

DIMBLEBY
This has arisen partly because of the debate which Boris Johnson slightly initiated by saying he would advise his children not to intervene or others not to intervene ..

REECE-JONES
And the Northumbrian Police ..

DIMBLEBY
And the Northumberland Police saying you should intervene.

REECE-JONES
You should intervene.

DIMBLEBY
Yeah.

REECE-JONES
And the more people that intervene the better.

DIMBLEBY
And if someone suffered as a consequence that was a risk worth taking for the, for the public good.

REECE-JONES
For the greater good.

DIMBLEBY
Tony Howard, what’s your feeling about this?

HOWARD
I thought the Northumberland Chief Constable was very brave and I think he talked a lot of sense. I think there is now a tendency on the part of all of us to say oh we don’t want to get involved in that, pass by on the other side as they say in the bible. And I think that what he had to say about really being tremendously risk averse – and one has to get over this – was very sensible ... discussion and I hope his advice is followed. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Jackie Ballard.

BALLARD
I, I very much believe the wisdom of the African saying “It takes a whole village to raise a child”. And I think that probably starting in the Thatcherite days when we were encouraged to believe we were all islands and we only had responsibility for ourselves, I think we have let our children down by not believing that it’s our responsibility to help them to do the right thing. And I think we have also become panicked into getting the risk of being knifed for example if you admonish a teenager completely out of proportion. I suspect my risk of being knifed is incredibly remote and yet when I look at someone badly behaving on the Tube or something I do stop and think if I say something what will they do to me. Well the likelihood is – and actually there have been a few occasions when I’ve asked people to turn music down or something like that and they’ve said “Sorry” and turned it down. And if more of us did it I think we’d probably find we had a positive response and we’d have a better society as a result.

DIMBLEBY
Rod Liddle.

LIDDLE
I think it’s not just a problem ..

[CLAPPING]

LIDDLE
I think it’s not just the problem that one might be attacked. I mean the thing which is in everybody’s mind because we read about it every day is that we might well be prosecuted whenever we intervene, when we see antisocial behaviour. Because whether it’s exaggerated by the press or not it certainly seems to be the impression that anybody who attempts to, as the police sometimes put it “take the law into their hands” do end up on the wrong side of the law. And we read about this day after day after day. If we’re to be encouraged to, to, to stop antisocial behaviour, to intercede and to, and to use force if need be then we need to know that we’re not going to be banged up as a result of it. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
And Patience Wheatcroft.

WHEATCROFT
Well the, the straight answer to the question is about three years ago since my youngest is now nearly twenty two. But I absolutely agree with the thinking behind the question and with the Northumberland policeman. We should all be a lot braver and stand up for what we know is right and admonish those who are not doing what we believe is right. And I think the tone has to come from the top. And it’s really interesting that in London the new mayor decided that he was not going to have drinking on public transport. Actually there was very little of an outcry against this ruling. And it has changed things. Travelling on public transport in the evening now is much, much pleasanter in London. And it’s a question of somebody saying this is what counts as correct behaviour. And I feel – and it does reflect on an earlier question – that as, that we are in danger of losing the confidence to know what’s right. And unless we’re clear about that then we are going to be very nervous about telling youngsters what to do. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Our next please.

RICKMAN
Margaret Rickman. What is worse for the environment? Children or patio heaters?

DIMBLEBY
It has been p..., it has been proposed that as, because of the population of the planet that the best, most constructive decision that could be made voluntarily would be for people to limit the number of their children to say two because they’re, the carbon that they, their carbon footprint is far greater than for instance a patio heater. Jackie Ballard.

BALLARD
I think it’s a, well it’s, it’s a false question in a sense. But the reality is that the developing world in which people by and large have more children than they do in the developed world has a much smaller carbon footprint than we have. So it’s, there’s not a straight line equation between how many children you have and how badly you pollute the planet. The equation is more how much wealth you have and how much waste you produce as a result of that wealth that is actually damaging the planet.

DIMBLEBY
Do you think there’s a case that, that people in Western countries given the standard of living that we enjoy and expect should say to themselves one, two is enough, we don’t want to hurt the planet by having more children?

BALLARD
I certainly don’t believe in coercion when it comes to the number of children people have. But I am surprised when I meet people who call themselves green and who are onto their fifth child. And I think well you know, is that really the most green thing that you could think of to do to have more children in the western world who consume even more. If you want to have a lot more children why don’t you go and adopt some children from other countries who are not going to have that standard of life in their own country perhaps as an alternative. But certainly patio heaters do, do chuck out a lot of heat that’s damaging. But there’s a lot more than that that we do most of us. I’ve given up my car and I feel so much better as a result. I also feel you know much more pompous and all the rest of it as a result. But there is a lot that we can do as well as chucking out our patio heaters before we get round to limiting the number of children we have.

DIMBLEBY
Tony Howard.

HOWARD
Well I mean it seems to me that we are getting more and more sort of bossy about, look at what happened in China, in the floods, parents who had only had one child, probably had been sterilised so wouldn’t have another, and that child washed away. I mean this is a terrible thing. And I think we have to keep a sense of proportion. Obviously if you are very much conscious of the health of the planet you will say well I think you know two might be enough or three might be enough. But that’s got to be your decision. There mustn’t be some ... from the state as they had in China.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you.

HOWARD
But I think once we go down that road it’s the beginning of the end.

DIMBLEBY
Rod Liddle.

LIDDLE
Patio heaters are of absolutely no consequence whatsoever. I worked out the, the actual amount of emissions and it’s something like nought point nought, nought, nought, nought two percent of Britain’s annual emissions. Patio heaters have absolutely no consequence. Over population by a mile the biggest environmental problem we have to face, over population in the world and the western world. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
And Patience Wheatcroft.

WHEATCROFT
Over population in the world is obviously a big problem. But looking at this country we need lots of youngsters to keep us in our old age. So I don’t think that’s the place to start.

DIMBLEBY
All right. Thank you very much. That’s all we have time for in this programme. I can remind you of the number for Any Answers once more – 03700 100444. And the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Next week we’re going to be at the Egham and Thorpe Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Association in Egham in Surrey. And our panel will be Iain Duncan-Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party, Lord Adebowale who’s the chief executive of Turning Point and chairs the London Youth Crime Prevention Board. The economist Ruth Lee. And the former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Lord Hattersley. I hope you can join us there. Don’t forget Any Answers and to our panel thank you here, and thank you to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester for having us. For now goodbye. [CLAPPING]

END OF PROGRAMME
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