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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions?  15 August 2008

CHAIRMAN: JONATHAN DIMBLEBY



PANELLISTS:

TIM SMIT CBE Chief Executive, The Eden Project
IAIN DALE Political Commentator, blogger and publisher of Total Politics Magazine

MARY BEARD Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, and Classics Editor of TLS
SARAH SANDS Editor in Chief, Reader’s Digest


From: The King's School, Ottery St Mary, Devon EX11 1RA.

DIMBLEBY:
Welcome to Ottery St Mary in Devon which is some 12 miles form Exeter and close to the sea at Sidmouth. Renowned as the birthplace of Samuel Coleridge it is also famed for its parish church which almost rivals Exeter cathedral on which it is modelled. We are at the King’s School which is a specialist sports college. Our host is the Town Council which is justly proud of Ottery’s annual rolling out the barrels in November where intrepid men, women and children run through the town carrying blazing tar barrels on their back astonishingly for reasons that are lost totally it appears in antiquity. On our panel: Tim Smit the Chief Executive and co-founder of the Eden Project.  With more than 400,000 visitors a year and quarter of a million plants on the site it is widely regarded as one of wonders of the West Country if not of the world. Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University and the Classics Editor of the Times Literary Supplement.  Prolific as an author ,she rejoices in controversy as any reader of her blog “A Don’s Life” will swiftly discover. Iain Dale writes one of the most widely read political blogs in the land.  Chief of Staff to David Davis when the former Shadow Home Secretary was running for leadership of the Conservatives, he is a prolific columnist most especially for the Daily Telegraph , but he has still found time to create and present the travelling theatre show “A Night with Ann Widdicombe” (LAUGH) Is that a whole night Iain?

IAIN DALE
Jonathan that is for me to know and you to guess.


DIMBLEBY
Sarah Sands worked her way up the Fleet Street ladder until in 2005 she became Editor of the Sunday Telegraph , but she got the sack soon afterwards.  However dusting herself down, she re-emerged as an Editor in Chief this time at the Readers Digest  and she is the 4th member of our panel. (applause)

Our first question please…..

JOHN SOMERS
Bush has told Russia that bullying and intimidation have no place in the 21st Century. Is not the USA the biggest bully in the playground?

IAIN DALE
No absolutely not. I think for once surely virtually everybody in this country can agree with every word that President Bush has said today about this very sad situation in Georgia. I think we have got to learn a lot of lessons from this and particularly Russia has got to learn a lot of lessons because to me Russia has thrown away 20 years hard work of becoming a normal state and it is almost appearing now as if it has become a rogue state in the world and I think the implications of what it has done in Georgia, whatever the provocations were, the implications for other states that surround the former Soviet Union are massive. If you lived in Moldova tonight or one of the Baltic States you would be justified in being quite nervous at what was next. I am afraid there are also implications for the West because the West gave Russia the wrong signals at the NATO summit earlier in May where Georgia and the Ukraine were desperate to join and effectively I think Russia took the message from that summit that well actually the West isn’t going to react to anything that we do in Georgia. The lesson that Georgia should learn from it because they are, there has to be some blame for the situation with them is if you are going for a walk in the woods don’t poke a bear with a stick.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Mary Beard

MARY BEARD
Well Iain might have said we are all on Bush’s side for once well I am not on Bush’s side here (APPLAUSE) we are dealing with something really difficult, we are dealing with post USSR Caucuses with boundaries of states and countries which have been disputed for, in some cases, decades. In other cases, centuries, in which both sides Russia and Georgia have behaved pretty badly and I think the poor old civilians both of Georgia and South Ossetia have really copped it in a war which is in many ways not of their own making but there has been a helluva lot too much meddling on the part of almost every Western power and I think the thing that disgusted me most was Cheney. Bush was off you know watching some beach volleyball in Beijing and Cheney was there tub thumping. Now we now know that Cheney has had a long interest in Georgia and we know also that McCain who came quickly in after Cheney has a Foreign Policy advisor who has been a political lobbyist for Georgia up until May.

DIMBLEBY
This is Senator McCain?

MARY BEARD
.. The would be next President. And you know in the end saying things as McCain did like you know we have been in this movie before, it is like Prague, I thought was just insulting to the politics of Georgia and having our nice Harvard educated President of Georgia prancing around with the EU flag and in NATO uniform in Russia’s back yard we know what the United States thinks about communist regimes prancing around in their back yard they get very anxious. Not unreasonably anxious. In this case Russia is not unreasonably anxious about what is going on in Georgia a supposed beacon of Western democracy.

IAIN DALE
Russia invaded (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
I will come back to you Iain Dale in a moment. Tim Smit?

TIM SMIT
Well I find the idea of friendship a really interesting one in international politics. We see very often that America or indeed the UK is a friend of somebody and then people behave in a way that they expect friends might do in a playground and when it is inconvenient they don’t follow suit. For me the lesson really is actually a more profound one speaking as an honorary Brit I am surprised that the Brits didn’t learn from what happened to the Ukraine when the oil was cut off. If I was living on an island I would be a very nervous person looking at my future and wondering what our politicians were playing at with the lessons of history knowing you are so vulnerable. Would you if you were the King of the Britons ever want to be dependent on something that was crucial for your future from outside your shores no I would not. Other than that I totally support what Mary said.

DIMBLEBY
Sarah Sands

SARAH SANDS
Well I think is Bush the bully depends on who you are listening to. If you take the view of the left then Russia as a bear is a sort of Baloo figure who is sometimes irritated by impudence from a mischievous small ape and gives him a knock but the fault is entirely of the West which has not been sensitive enough to Russia’s hurt feelings after the collapse of the Soviet Union and has so somehow it has both sort of inflamed the situation and according to one account I read actually it was a plot by Cheney so that we could start the whole Cold War all over again,so it was a trap for Georgia. I just don’t understand this hatred of the West you know if we see what has happened. I happen to support as one Minister described it small beautiful democracies I live in one and I think in this case

DIMBLEBY
Where do you live?

SARAH SANDS
In Britain. And I think there is a value in friendship. I think there is a value in a pro west ally that wants to throw in its lot with us and rather than always say that might is right and that we prefer you know the great shadow of Russia than our own values and our own friends.

DIMBLEBY
So what would you have the West do? Saakashvili has been very critical of the West for failing to act would you have had the West come in militarily as has been ruled out by the United States?

SARAH SANDS
No I think I rather like that phrase vigorous humanitarianism I think Bush used and I think actually Bush you know for someone who wasn’t able to pronounce the names of foreign leaders actually his language has been pretty good throughout this I think that the way the Condoleezza Rice went to Sarkozy before she went to Georgia. I think all the signals were good. I think the country that has obviously been a bit left out and is trying to do catch up is Britain.

IAIN DALE
If you listen to Mary you might think it was Georgia invading Russia and not the other way round. If Russia had a problem with Georgia and South Ossetia what it should have done is engage them in diplomatic talks not invaded them and this sort of constant anti American feeling that surrounds this it is not the US that is bullying Georgia it is Russia and if we don’t understand that then we really are in trouble . America is actually a beacon for freedom

DIMBLEBY
Mary Beard

MARY BEARD
I love America but actually the Georgians moved into South Ossetia, we then get involved in this awful goody and baddy side we want to find a goody in this conflict and a baddy in this conflict. Actually it is too complicated for that. There aren’t any goodies and baddies here there is a mess but glorifying Georgia as a beacon of democracy when actually its opposition leader has just been put in prison for 8 years after a closed trial that is a very odd sort of beacon of democracy.


DIMBLEBY
Let me bring our questioner in on this John Summers

JOHN SOMERS
Yes. Like most, or much bullying and intimidation a lot of what the US does is hidden. Georgia I think is a proxy for the US it has constantly and consistently bullied Cuba in Iraq it is invasion under false pretences as bullying par excellence and it has got is finger in so many pies around the world economically, politically and militarily I think that there fore the US is hypocritical

DIMBLEBY
Taking into account what you just said do you believe that they are both bullying intimidating powers or is the US as you described it and Russia isn’t at all bullying and intimidating.

JOHN SOMERS
No I think there is bullying at all levels but I think it is just simplistic to believe that the US is a beacon of freedom and that Russia is somehow this nasty bear. It is not as simple as that and the US is deeply implicated.

DIMBLEBY
We will leave that there thank you and go to our next


MICHAEL PASH
Is Prince Charles correct when he claims that GM crops will result in disaster for mankind?

DIMBLEBY
Mary Beard

MARY BEARD
Oh I thought it would be Tim there. I thought you were going to send that to Tim. My answer here is I don’t know. In some ways his speech seemed a bit silly to me and I love his organic produce and I buy it eagerly at my local supermarket and yet I feel a bit iffy about him pontificating about world disaster on the basis of a small farm wherever it is. Now I’m prepared I think to believe my scientific colleagues who assure me that there has been enough testing here. I find that to be an intellectual answer because viscerally I don’t like people tampering with my food. I don’t like cross breeds, I don’t like people injecting bacteria but I am prepared to know that I haven’t enough science to know the truth. What I think has got mixed up in this and where I would be with Charles is that the real problem seems to me that GM crops is actually putting world agriculture into the hands of vast profit making GM organisations who (APPLAUSE) and under the banner of saying this is going to be test free rice or test free barley or whatever are actually getting developing countries in hoc to these vast multinational corporations and it seems to me that is the real thing that we have to stop. I feel embarrassed about my ignorance about GM crops per se and I am not sure that Charles knows much more than me but maybe I am wrong.

DIMBLEBY
Iain Dale

IAIN DALE
I think Mary has got it right when she asks do we trust the science. I am not a scientist. I don’t feel qualified to say that I can trust the science the same kind of science I guess that gave BSE all those years ago I think Prince Charles has been quite brave in what he said. It is always very easy to deride Prince Charles as a crank particularly when he gives interviews in kilts but he has said some very deep and meaningful things in the past on architecture and on China for example and he has been absolutely right on them so I don’t dismiss what he said at all and I think he is absolutely right that we should be concerned just as much about food security as we are about food production. The point about these giant conglomerates taking over agriculture I also think you may be surprised to know is a point that is very well made. My father is a small farmer in Essex and this country is being taken over by huge agricultural conglomerates now and small farmers are being driven out of business by them. That is not happening in France and Germany so much because their Governments care more about their rural economies than ours has done over successive decades so I am an agnostic on GM foods although I probably tend towards Prince Charles’s view of them.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Sarah Sands

SARAH SANDS
Well it is clearly a little over expressed to say that it is going to be the end of humanity as we know it and plagues and locusts and so on and I think the timing was tricky when we are talking about food shortages and people are more worried about being able to afford to eat rather than the quality of what they eat but having said that I think that the commentaries this week have been tremendously superior about that science is so cool and rational and Charles is just an idiot and I think it was a scientist that was going to solve the food shortages with bio fuel and of course inadvertently made things worse so science isn’t always right and I think that I am with Mary that one has a sort of emotional or instinctive response that you don’t want nature tampered with too much.

DIMBLEBY
The scientists are in fact as on other issues divided on this aren’t they. There is no one scientific view, there are many American scientists who are very much as it were on the side of the Prince as there are many scientists some of them involved in GM research, some of them not who think that it is the answer.

SARAH SANDS
OH perhaps it is just the volume on the other side

DIMBLEBY
Tim Smit you can correct me but scientists aren’t united on this are they.

TIM SMIT
They certainly aren’t no. There’s a lot of bullshit talked about GM though. One of the problems is that in our country as is common in much of the western world we have got confused between transgenics, the taking of elements from different animals and putting them together and this has led to the Frankenstein foods type debate and if you like fast breeding ordinary hybridization. I don’t want to go into that issue but one of the problems you have with GM is that if I was to say who in this audience is against genetic modification I would say who wants to kill 10% of the British population, Interferon is a GM it is but it is made in vacuum flasks. If I was to say to this audience we are living in Bangladesh and the soil is getting really really salty and I have a plant over here that can live in pure salt and I have rice over here that cannot would you think it was worth exploring whether there were elements of this that can go into this and most people would probably say yes and because we are supposed to have a view being against or for we don’t allow ourselves the ability to have the curiosity to say the first two things are interesting and yet get bloody angry when people do irresponsible field testing of GM crops. Now Kansas University has just done a computer survey of 4 years work with cotton in America and what they found is that the GM cotton behaves exactly like most people who observe nature would have said it would. For the first two years the crop yields are up but after the third year the weevils were breaking through and at the end of the fourth year the yields are right right down. The issue that most of us have is the one you pointed out Iain which is about multinational companies like Monsanto having spent a huge amount of money they have a vested interest in it and actually the hidden text in all this GM stuff is that the Monsanto agenda is alleged to be the creation of sterile seeds which will eventually make most farmers in the developing world completely enslaved to their annual seed supply which is completely it’s a callony. I think what a grown up view of GM should be, the court is still out as to whether it has a contribution to make in the developing world but no examples yet of crops in the developing world that have benefited massively from the GM technology. A lot of this is heightened salesmanship. Nothing great science would be let’s not close down the possibility that these things exist and may be of benefit but actually to go wow this is the saving of the world it ain’t and nor is it going to lose its hand cart but I do really fear just like you do a few companies having our birth right in their hands. Really big time.

(AUDIENCE)

DIMBLEBY
Can I ask our unscientifically selected audience here in Ottery a simple question? Those who are glad that the Prince of Wales expressed his view on this issue would you put your hands up? Those who would prefer he had remained silent or didn’t speak? Well in this audience overwhelmingly people are glad that the Prince of Wales said what he said. You may have views about that listening at home. If so Any Answers after the Saturday broadcast of this programme may be for you. The number to ring is 03700 100 444 the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. On this or any of the other issues we are discussing. We will go to our next please.


HUGH MACGREGOR
Does the panel agree with the judge who recently claimed that family breakdown is a greater threat than global warming to our society?

DIMBLEBY
Sarah Sands

SARAH SANDS
In terms of civil society I suppose I would agree whether you are talking about threats to the planet is one thing but in terms of what you notice the effects of which is in terms of education and crime and so on it has been a terrible thing I think the breakdown of the family and the social consequences have been rather underestimated and I do think that is where David Cameron and the Tories have been good and brave because no one wants to be judgmental and no one wants to curb individual happiness and rights and so on and yet I think the sense of the social consequences of family breakdown is something that hasn’t been estimated properly and now we are going to have to at some point say that some of us are going to have to be less happy and a bit more responsible I think in order to make sacrifices some times for the sake of children and for other people and social good rather than just our own self fulfillment.

DIMBLEBY
This was Mr. Justice Coleridge a senior family court judge who said there was an epidemic of family failure that would have catastrophic effects. There was a cancerous increase in broken families. The government must take comprehensive action and he went on to say the effects of family breakdown would in the next 20 years be “as marked and as destructive as the effects of global warming” and just one more thing he said to give you a bit more context if you hadn’t heard all that he said “I am not saying that every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family”. Mary Beard.

MARY BEARD
I get so fed up with people sounding off like this whether it is judges or Prince Charles actually. I mean by the time you get to be my age you live through so many things that are going to either bring the planet to an end

DIMBLEBY
Sorry to interrupt you but because people aren’t aware of which generation you feel you belong to you might seek….

MARY BEARD
The wrong side of Madonna. (LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
So you are over 35


MARY BEARD
Got it in one Jonathan. At my age over 35 you have lived through all these. Everything is either going to bring the planet to an end or bring British civil society to an end and that has been population explosion, it has been global warming it has been GM crops, it is binge drinking, gun crime, excessive marmalade eating, you know imagine anything. When I hear this I think it isn’t necessarily bad it turns attention sometimes briefly on to something we may need to notice but actually if you say what is going to bring civil society in this country to an end? It is ignorance and lack of education not being able to judge old judges who come out with platitudes like this you know that is the problem. Fine well meaning stuff but we need to think hang on a minute Mr. Justice who ever you are, are you right? And if we stop actually thinking hang on a minute are you right then I am afraid he has brought about the end of civil society that he is projecting.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
More catastrophic than global warming Tim Smit?

TIM SMIT
Where is the comma in that sentence? I’m always a bit embarrassed about questions like this because they are always projected as if to deny the sentence shows you are some kind of charlatan or hard hearted person. I am a bit of a slushy romantic really and I like sofa movies and there is a great sofa movie called About A Boy  which many of you may have seen and the kid in About a Boy  says something fantastic in it which becomes a slogan in it “everybody needs back up”. And I think actually that is what life is about. It is not about whether you have the unfortunate nature of your mum and dad splitting up. Many of us do that. I am sure at least half of us in this room if we are statistically accurate. It is actually about how well everybody else around has got the sort of glue to be grown up and still retain their friendships and not take sides and all that sort of stuff so to say it is about family break up I think is one of those truths that people often mouth which on reflection they might regret. I think actually warmth and friendship can get you through almost any ship.

DIMBLEBY
What do you make given your view in general of that what do you make of judges this particular judge sounding off on this issue in this way which of course means that what he says gets quit a lot of attention precisely because he is a judge.

TIM SMIT
I find the way judges sound off they ought to almost always be mystically shrouded in something because they tend to sound off. A particular issue that I hate them sounding off about is sex crimes against women where there is always some kind of comment about you know they asked for it you know this old fashioned values and all that and most judges I think should have been retired quite a long time ago. And (APPLAUSE) but just to finish Jonathan

DIMBLEBY
We don’t know how old, well we should do perhaps but I don’t know old

TIM SMIT
He’s the wrong side of Madonna take it from me. But don’t you like the line you know the government should do something about this. Oh great I can just see it now

DIMBLEBY
He proposes placing family justice at the top of the political agenda Iain Dale allocating more staffing and money to family issues, better funding for contact centres to aid family cohesion and extensive reforms of the laws relating to divorce, co habitation and financial relief although we are not quite clear what those may be.

Iain Dale?

IAIN DALE
Well there are an awful lot of things that we would all like to put at the top of the political agenda but I do think he has a point in some of what he says although the last bit you quoted Jonathan about every dysfunctional child comes from a broken family I think is absolute rubbish. I am sure we can all think of dysfunctional children who come from very rich families indeed

DIMBLEBY
He said broken, you can have broken, rich families. His position just to restate because it is potentially confusing. I am not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family.

IAIN DALE
Well I just don’t agree with that. But the original question was about comparing this apocalypse to the global warming apocalypse now I am going to say something heretical which you can almost get struck out of public life for saying now but I am not convinced by all the arguments on man made global warming but you are not allowed to say that in polite society any more. (APPLAUSE) As some of the audience have just demonstrated.

DIMBLEBY
Well we will ask the audience. We will come back to you. We will ask the audience. There were some claps there who thinks that the catastrophic potential of global warming is over stated would you put your hands up?

Who thinks it is not? Well it is pretty even. There is a small majority who believe it isn’t overstated. Carry on I am going to go back to Tim on this


TIM SMIT
A much more enlightened audience than normal I would suspect. But I think the broken society phrase which actually Liam Fox coined during the Tory leadership campaign and has been taken on by David Cameron and derided over the last few weeks by Gordon Brown and some of his colleagues I think is relevant particularly when you think we have got the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, we have the highest drug taking rate in Europe as a report yesterday made clear. We have more single parent families than any other country in Europe and that is not to say that single parents don’t do a good job because they do, however all of those things put together mean that more kids in this country don’t have a male role model in their lives compared to other countries and I do think that makes a difference with kids growing up. A friend of mine operates a Surestart scheme and goes round schools from time to time and he is in his 20’s and he went to a school recently where there were no male teachers, no male staff at all and a lot of the kids in this school had clearly not seen a male for a long time and he was literally mobbed in the playground because he is seen as a bit of curiosity. Now I think it is a bit of a tragedy when our society gets to that level where kids don’t have this male influence in their lives and I haven’t got a solution to this but I think that work that Iain Duncan Smith has done for the Conservative Party putting all of its broken society agenda right at the top of the political agenda has been absolutely fantastic.

DIMBLEBY
Mary Beard on this.

MARY BEARD
I think the problem is you know nobody could possibly say I think broken societies are a really good idea. Frankly I prefer it broken than fixed you know so we have to be with you but it is a question whether this kind of stuff does any good. I can decide that it is broken families or global warming which one am I going to worry about more and I think that is a problem. It somehow doesn’t help us get our head around the problems in a constructive way. Of course we are against the end of the planet we want it to survive

IAIN DALE
But it is actually recognizing that the problem is there and having the discussion to try and come up with solutions I think that is what politicians have got to do and that is why I think that Liam Fox was right to coin the phrase in the first place.

DIMBLEBY
Let me bring in Tim Smit on the point that was made just then by Iain Dale to the effect that and a substantial part of the audience seemed to share the view that the threat of global warming was over stated. What is your thought?

TIM SMIT
I don’t believe the world is round. I think my ships are still going to fall off the end of it. (LAUGH)


DIMBLEBY
Elaborate that thought

TIM SMIT
Well I mean this is really embarrassing to say this because I like Iain but there is not one single scientist, not one scientist who has written a scientific paper over the last 30 years not one get this who was not funded by the petrochemical industry

IAIN DALE
That’s absolute rubbish

TIM SMIT
I am sorry you show me the name and reputable scientific paper written by a scientist not funded by the petrochemical industry

IAIN DALE
You know as well as I do that there were many scientists who refused to sign up to the UN and Climate Change Report recently and the ones that refused to sign up to it were almost drummed out of their profession because they refused to.

TIM SMIT
That is true and it is regrettable. It is really stupid because actually if there are counter voices we all know that Gallileo was right and he was drummed out. One voice can be right when a million people are wrong, you now a billion flies eat shit but the truth is that the climate change issue is not really whether we have got a big climate issue that is going to fry us in a short period of time this is actually becoming a religion in our culture which I find very amusing it is a religion

IAIN DALE
Oh you are right

TIM SMIT
We all want something because we no longer have got the Russians to fight, we all want some enemy we can all get ourselves together and actually I think it is really useful because actually we waste so many of our resources we squander so many of our resources and climate change which I do believe is happening by the way, if climate change is the mechanism which makes us look at the ridiculous way we squander the assets of the earth I am very happy to buy into it like that. (APPLAUSE)

IAIN DALE
I didn’t say it wasn’t happening I was questioning what is causing it.

DIMBLEBY
Do you doubt that man and woman have made a contribution to what most scientists agree whether they believe it is man or not is a very probably increase in the temperature of the planet which could have devastating effect.

IAIN DALE
I am sure there has been a contribution I just don’t happen to believe that it is exactly what the likes of Greenpeace say and Greenpeace won’t debate this issue any more, they won’t actually come on a programme on this and debate it because they say the argument is already won why should we debate it any more? That’s a crazy thing to say.
They won’t debate with people who are skeptical about any form of climate change. I know because I have tried to debate with them on it.

DIMBLEBY
Maybe they won’t debate with you but I would and I can’t possibly think of a reason why but we will try it out, maybe we will try it out in some future programme and see whether Greenpeace will come on and debate with you on this programme I can’t promise it will happen but it would be very interesting to do it.
We will go on I think at that point to our next programme please, next question


PAUL LEWIS
Can the South West expect mass immigration from the North?

(laugh)

DIMBLEBY
This is after the think tank of Policy Exchange which was until very recently very close to Iain Dale’s party but from which most leading Conservatives are now withdrawing as fast as they possibly can. You were involved in the creation of the policy exchange. Do you believe the South West and elsewhere can expect mass immigration in the way in which was suggested ought to happen by the policy exchange.

IAIN DALE
I will declare my interest. I was a founding trustee of Policy Exchange. The role of the think tank is to think the unthinkable but it when it gets to coming up with policies that are so unpalatable that no politician could possible think of implementing them you have to wonder what the point of it all was. I don’t think you are going to get a mass influx of well you have actually already had a bit of a mass influx of people in this area but the policy exchange report was actually referring to the South East where they said well the economy of the South East is so booming at the moment that we should now have huge cities around Oxford and Cambridge and expand London. Now of course when tabloid newspapers take a report like this they don’t actually read the whole thing they just take out one of two bits and exaggerate them and that is exactly really what has been done here although policy exchange should never have allowed that to happen. They had, they actually had one or two sensible ideas like freeing up brownfield sites in London in particular which an awful lot of them could be freed up for either extra housing or extra industrial land.

DIMBLEBY
Are you saying that David Cameron who very comprehensively rubbished the report was being led by the tabloid press and hadn’t read the full significance underlying the headlines.

IAIN DALE
Well put yourself in his position he was doing it a tour of the North West marginal seat …..What would you have done Jonathan? And of course what no one really seems to have cottoned on is that I mean supposedly policy exchange is part of the Conservative Party and yet the report was written by two Liberal Democrats who obviously caused a little bit of problem for the Conservative Party with it.

DIMBLEBY
So you think it was a kind of subversive act

IAIN DALE
No I don’t I don’t but it wasn’t written by Conservatives.

DIMBLEBY
Mary Beard

MARY BEARD
Well I read this too and I can’t see it’s only 30 pages you know I can’t see why Cameron couldn’t have and actually I partly agree with Iain. I thought having seen the press headlines first and then reading the report it was in its first 15 pages or so quite a different beast from what I had been led to expect and it had interesting points saying how do you deal with a country whose urban geography has been formed in the 19th century when it was sensible to have a town facing the sea, facing America when it no longer is and there were interesting issues about how you deal with historical geography. The more it got to solutions the more I started to feel uncomfortable and then I thought, I changed my view I recognized that it was written by a couple of Liberal Democrats. A bit odd I thought. But nevertheless it was coming out from a Tory think tank and I thought this is a wakeup call to you Beard I thought when I read this, I thought you are sitting there and you are watching nice Mr. Cameron being quite a sweetie and you are watching the Labour Party being in completely hopeless disarray and from time to time even you think well maybe that nice Mr. Cameron would be better than that dour old Mr. Brown now what I needed was an injection of real Tory lunacy to keep me back on the straight and narrow and reading this report it was typical Tory, not bad analysis of problems, hopeless solutions, nearly rejoined the Labour Party.

DIMBLEBY
Sarah Sands

SARAH SANDS
I am not going to be (APPLAUSE) on this because some of my best friends still work for the policy exchange and it is an independent think tank whatever its funding so and I think if it is a think tank it has to be able to come up sometimes with absurd ideas if it is to be free thinking and this one was as David Cameron said is saying. I think what happened I can see that if you start applying rather peculiar criteria about people's values so it was almost like one of those star systems of hotels that you say well come south because we have got better internet and conference facilities which isn’t anything to do with how people want to live their lives and frankly Dick Whittington these days would probably go to Manchester or Cheshire I think if he wanted to make a fortune so I think it was wrong in its conclusion but I would always support the right to undertake lunatic….

DIMBLEBY
And would you always go on taking them seriously even if they are saying things that are insane and if you were inviting funders to fund them would you go on doing so because it is quite interesting to hear or amusing or entertaining to hear what they have to say.


SARAH SANDS
Yes carry on up to the funders. It’s not government funded, it’s not up to us let them carry on.

DIMBLEBY
Of course the question was about mass immigration because there is quite a lot of immigration to this part of the world motley people blocking the roads to get to the Eden Centre but….I don’t think that was the context I think the context was indeed the policy exchange report.

TIM SMIT
Well I think it is a daft conception how could they afford a house down here it is ridiculous (LAUGH) we all know it is ridiculous. I mean we can’t even afford houses down here. I am surprised we are not all going up to Burnley to be honest. I also think the whole idea of bearing in mind the contemporary mood with aircraft emissions and all the rest of it if you were like the sort of Christopher Columbus of our age wouldn’t you want to go and search for a city that is at the sea, facing America. So you could have boats and things you know that go there. It seems rather logical .. I just think it is an absolute crackpot bunch of shit. I mean I love Sunderland, I love Gateshead and Newcastle and Manchester is an exciting city. We wouldn’t have the Beatles if it wasn’t for Liverpool and someone has got to have urban angst. You can’t all be down here being bucolic we have got to have people who remind us of how tense we ought to be. So they are wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Iain Dale

IAIN DALE
The one thing that amused me throughout all of this was all those people who rushed to the defence of Liverpool which the report allegedly said should be closed down. All the people who rushed to the defence of Liverpool were people who didn’t actually live there any more and had done exactly what the report had suggested others should do bizarre.

DIMBLEBY
Anyone from Liverpool or anyone from anywhere else who would like to come in on this issue the Any Answers number once more is 03700 100 444 and that email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next please.




GILL SPENCE
Despite £500 million being spent on raising literary standards almost a quarter of 14-year-old boys were lagging 3 years behind according to government figures. What would the members of the team do to introduce teenage boys to the joys of reading?

DIMBLEBY
Mary Beard

MARY BEARD
I would stop too many government initiatives I think. I looked – every country has got a government initiative about how to get teenage boys reading you only have to Google teenage boys reading and you come up with every country in the West has got some suggestions mostly government led and most of them bad. I mean last year Allan Johnson got a list of books that he thought would really get teenage boys back to reading and he got help. And they were a mixture of Allan Johnson’s old favorites Huckleberry Finn my dear and some oddities like Frankenstein which I think people must have thought was about a monster so that boys would like it. I would just give more money to schools, give more money to teachers, let the punishment fit the crime and not you know have a mass diet of Biggles so that boys would get the message. Leave it local.

DIMBLEBY
Sarah Sands

SARAH SANDS
I did spend a very glum afternoon with a nephew doing an A level text it was Virginia Woolf and we had to go through the Leitmotif of her menstrual cycle and the effect it had on the rhythm of the book and just seeing his face fall and I do think that there is a reason that boys don’t read a lot of the books that are given to them. I can recommend two actually one is I think The Kite Runner which goes for girls or boys and the other one I managed to get a 16 year old to read it was a Dave Egger book called What is the What About a Sudanese boy who was one of this walking tribe who had to get across Sudan fleeing from tribal conflict to Ethiopia and back so what you had in that was an extremely good plot, you had deep meaning and you had pace and it was beautifully written and I am surprised actually by some of those books on the curriculum that you just know that no boy is going to look at.

MARY BEARD
If you left a book on the menstrual cycle out on a table in front of a teenage boy and left the room he would have read it by the time you came back in

IAIN DALE
Or at least looked at the pictures.

(LAUGH)


TIM SMIT
Well if my life depended on it how would I get people reading or is it an anodyne political let’s have a chat about it…

DIMBLEBY
Well it is what you are a responsible senior member of the community and the question is what would you do to try and get teenage boys to read? And discover the joys of reading

TIM SMIT
Well I would blow up the BBC and the ITV for a couple of weeks and then only have them come on for a couple of hours a day and then ……

DIMBLEBY
You are talking about BBC television or radio as well?

TIM SMIT
Radio of course is beyond criticism. (LAUGH) No I mean the thing is you know reading is really difficult because I adore reading, and I think the thing about reading is you have got to take it into your world and if it is outside your normal world you won’t got into it so much therefore I think you need a place to go and I think people will find it for themselves if you allow it to be subversive

DIMBLEBY
Iain Dale

IAIN DALE
My first suggestion would be to get Sarah Sands to send them free copies of the ReadersDigest which I am sure would help. My second would be to give kids the time to read, stop testing them so often, stop putting them under so much pressure and make reading fun and informative. Give them sports books to read, that is what boys are interested in although I would possibly draw the line at Wayne Rooney’s autobiography.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you and we can just squeeze in one more.

JANE JULIEN PASH
You have all succeeded in your careers, but do you sometimes wish you had done something different?  If so what?

DIMBLEBY
Silence as each member of the panel hopes I don’t come to them first

What might it have been if you had done something different? Iain Dale

IAIN DALE
When I left school and studied at university I intended to be a German teacher and then I went to Germany and did some teaching and decided that teaching 15-year-old kids was not really what I was cut out for. I often think as I told you before my father was a farmer, is a farmer I was always I suppose meant to follow in the family tradition and there are times when I am in the centre of London in a traffic jam thinking why on earth did I make this decision in my life?

DIMBLEBY
Sarah Sands

SARAH SANDS
Well I think I made a failure not a success of my career. (LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
You are a Chief now and only an Editor before

SARAH SANDS
But I would have loved to have been an Olympic gymnast is what I would have really wanted

IAIN DALE
You have got the figure for it

SARAH SANDS
Oh that’s sweet (LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
Mutual flattery and selling her magazine for her.  Iain Dale, will you behave yourself!
Mary Beard?

MARY BEARD
I have got a very simple power-crazed answer.  I would have liked to have been a pontificating judge.

(LAUGH)

DIMBLEBY
Mr. Eden Project

TIM SMIT
I would have liked to have been a moody deep and meaningful James Dean character but I was too fat and the t-shirt didn’t fit.

DIMBLEBY
What about our questioner? What would you have done? Nothing at all you are happy with what you do very sensible.

That brings us to the end of this week’s programme. Next week we are going to be in Billericay in Essex and 3 of our panelists will be Prof Frank Furedi the Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent; the writer and columnist James Delingpole; the General Secretary of the RMT Bob Crow and a surprise package which I can’t now release. Join us there from here in Ottery St Mary, don’t forget Any Answers?  thanks for listening to the programme, thanks to Ottery St Mary for having us here. For now. Goodbye.

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