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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions?  5 September 2008

CHAIRMAN: JONATHAN DIMBLEBY



PANELLISTS:

Sir SIMON JENKINS: Author and Columnist

Dame LIZ FORGAN: Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund

BEA CAMPBELL: Writer and Broadcaster

CHARLIE WOLF: American Political Analyst/Commentator

From: All Saints’ Church, Church Hill, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire SO41 0SQ



DIMBLEBY:

Welcome to Milford-on-Sea which is on the edge of the Solent, looking out towards the Isle of Wight and the Needles, in theory that is. This evening it has been so stormy that that famous beacon has been virtually invisible. We are the guests here of the All Saints’ Church which is at the heart of a village which still has shops and a post office. Our hosts tell us that a former doctor here used to say that people retired to the area to die but with advancing years and failing memories they eventually forgot why they had come. I am glad I won’t ever have to enjoy his bedside manner. On our panel: Liz Forgan began her journalistic career as an Arts Editor on the Tehran Journal that is true isn’t it?

LIZ FORGAN
Absolutely

DIMBLEBY
She moved on to become the extremely influential editor of Guardian Woman in of course the Guardian. From there she moved into television and became a founding commissioning editor at Channel 4, later Director of Programmes. After that she moved into the BBC as Managing Director of BBC Network Radio and for the last 7 years she has been Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, but is about to step down to do her bit for the Cultural Olympiad. Simon Jenkins has been Editor of the Evening Standard and TheTimes and columnist for a very long time now for the Guardian and the Sunday Times, and the author of many books including “England’s Thousand Best Churches”. He has sat on all manner of Committees, Boards and Commissions and is about to take over the Chairmanship of the National Trust. Bea Campbell is an author and columnist for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. She is also a playwright, the co-author of a new play called Blame which turns on its head, if I have it correctly, what she regards as one of the best plays ever written “An Inspector Calls” by JB Priestley. Charlie Wolf was born in Boston, Massachusetts but moved to this country in 1984. I say to this country in fact he worked as a DJ on a pirate radio station on a boat somewhere in the channel. He then became a talk show host; he is a political commentator, also Communications Director for Republicans Abroad. A strong supporter for American policy in Iraq, he describes himself I quote “a conspicuous support of George W. Bush”. He is also the 4th member of our panel.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Could we please have our first question?

ANNA ROSTAND
Should the Prime Minister have awarded the one-off payment to people in fuel poverty?

DIMBLEBY
Simon Jenkins.

SIMON JENKINS
I appreciate the nature of the audience I am addressing but I have to say no. I am against one off payments of this sort. I think that the predicament that many people find themselves in of being bluntly acutely short of money to pay for heating and lighting because of the increase in the price of gas and petrol on electricity should be met firstly by market forces which I know will drive these prices down but the best thing the government can do is force the companies to respond to market forces rather than to operate as monopolies. The regulator should take action, not government and the regulator should tell these companies when the price, as at present is the case, that petrol comes down they should reduce the price of the charges they make to the public. The problem here is imperfect markets not lack of government and I would like to see the prices come down as soon as the raw materials that can contribute to energy sources come down.

DIMBLEBY
It has put him in quite a difficult position has it not with so many of his back bench MP’s demanding some kind of one off payment with the union we heard in the news Unite saying in very strong terms that the party will suffer and the policy has got to change.

SIMON JENKINS
Well I think the job of the Prime Minister is not, is to stand up to his back benchers. It is the easiest thing in the world to say of any special interest group please give them lumps of money I mean there was a terrible thing that Gordon Brown once did was he gave every child £250 I think it was. What on earth was the point in giving every child £250 I mean you can go and give other people’s money away as much as you like. It is called buying votes in the old days. In this case you have a straightforward commodity which is energy which there is a market for. It has gone right up in price a very good reason not because the government has done anything but the government can ensure that when energy gets cheaper people’s charges come down that is what they should do. (Applause)

DIMBLEBY
Bea Campbell

BEA CAMPBELL
I think yes. I take Simon’s point about the short term issue. I am surprised when he talks about the Prime Minister standing up to his back benchers when the argument this week is about the Prime Minster standing up to energy companies who people feel are profiteering on the production of energy, reinforcing fuel poverty which is a very serious problem in Britain, revealing the government’s weakness in the face of corporate power which enjoys extraordinary freedom in Britain. We could and you are right indeed to talk about imperfect markets but we are also faced with a weak, imperfect government indulging the imperfect market. Here after all are energy companies saying look Prime Minister if you put pressure on us to yield this one off payment in the context of enormous profit. British Gas this year half way through the year nigh on a £1 billion in profit. If you are going to put this kind of pressure on us we will skedaddle and we won’t invest the £10billion we promised to invest in renewables. It is a disgrace and I think the reason the Prime Minister found himself in this spot is because there is a kind of crest in Britain which expects more from him and more from this government in disciplining people who are absolutely vital to the provision really of the services that you know are crucial to every day life.

DIMBLEBY
What do you make of Hilary Benn who has denied the charges that they are caving into the energy companies and says they are still talking and they have got to concentrate on helping people to get the bills down in the long term and in addition it is only fair that energy companies should make a further contribution do you reckon that that….


BEA CAMPBELL
Well, the last bit of what he said was right the rest of it was I suppose we could say well he would say that wouldn’t he. He is clearly a nice man and he has got a mission. However he is up against a Prime Minister who after all has been a key architect of an economics system and a system of governance which is craven and abject in the face of big power and big capital and for all the expectations that Brown was going to be new labour with you know some kind of social conscience what he has turned out to be is really a craven, weak dithering, dithering person and a hugely disappointing Prime Minister as a consequence and Labour will rue the day. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Liz Forgan.


LIZ FORGAN
Well one way or another I think the government is probably going to end up paying extra money for this in some sense because it does look as if there are old people and disabled people who are going to be in serious danger of dying or being made really ill by their inability to heat their houses and I think that is something that the government will have to take very seriously

DIMBLEBY
They are going to have to find money…

LIZ FORGAN
They are going to have to

DIMBLEBY
Wherever it doesn’t come from as it were

LIZ FORGAN
They are going to have find money. Absolutely. I don’t know whether it is going to be a one off payment to everybody, clearly not but in some way or another they are going to have to pay for it. I agree with Simon that this is a failure of regulation. The energy companies last year increased their dividend to shareholders by 19% now you can’t ignore that while they cried poverty because undoubtedly they are going to be called upon to invest heavily in renewable sources of energy and things like that but still somebody is not keeping a proper choke on how much of the proceeds of monopoly energy are going to shareholders and I will just say one other thing. We talk about fuel poverty but actually the problem is poverty, you know there are sections of this society who are just so poor that they can’t play in a free market such as Simon describes they are too far away from it. And I think that is a really serious problem that has been; a light has been shone on by this energy issue.

DIMBLEBY
Charlie Wolf

CHARLIE WOLF
Well I think just to follow up briefly with what Liz Forgan was just saying yes there are members of society who are very poor and poverty is a problem. I don’t think though that that is the business of energy companies that are not running charities. I think it should start in buildings like this in churches, in families, in communities and then yes work its way up to Government, Government plays a role but you know as Simon was saying they are running businesses here and I do believe in free markets and I think that free markets pretty much on the whole do work and I think that that does keep prices where they should be. I think a lot of times we don’t have an understanding of how markets work. It is very easy to sit there and say well yes from the outside we see that a barrel of oil has gone up, the price of petrol goes up there are so many other factors involved in marketing production that we don’t know about and it affects how the price comes down. I am not an oil analyst so I can’t go into all of that but again I think that these places are business and they should be allowed to act like businesses. Also very quickly just as a final point they did make dividends last year 1.6 billion well that 1.6 billion in dividends is owned by people like you and me and people in this hall it is funding our pensions so I don’t have a problem with these companies making huge profits.

DIMBLEBY
Simon Jenkins

SIMON JENKINS
Well I have a problem with them making huge profits out of a monopoly state of affairs. When Margaret Thatcher who God preserve privatized all these operations she recklessly did so often leaving in place a monopoly particularly British Gas. We have spent 10 years, 20 years, trying to unscramble these monopolies and bring them down to regulations so that the market works. It is not good saying let the market work because they are private companies these are private quasi monopolies they have got to be made competitive by virtue of regulation, they are quasi monopolies because it is difficult for you to change from one electricity supplier to another, one gas supplier to another, easier to go to a different petrol station but broadly speaking these are semi monopolies. They have got to be regulated till the pips squeak, it is obscene of them to give, to choose to give dividends to private shareholders when they have chosen not to give that back to consumers in lower prices, it is obscene of them to insult the public I think by paying themselves vast bonuses. The regulators have got to have teeth and get these companies under some kind of control. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Anna Rostand what is your answer to your own question?

ANNA ROSTAND
Well I agree with Simon but I think he is optimistic that the prices will come down unfortunately it is very rarely the case but I hope he is right.

DIMBLEBY
So do you or don’t you believe that there should be a one-off payment?

ANNA ROSTAND
No I don’t think there should be. I think I agree with the panel actually

DIMBLEBY
Let me ask the audience here. Who thinks there should be a one off payment to deal with this problem Would you put your hands up? One hand has gone up out of an audience of 300 or 400 people. And I presume everyone is against it. Hands up? Yes. OK If you have thoughts about that the number for you to ring is 03700 100 444 that is after the Saturday broadcast of this programme and the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk.

Could we have our next please?


GEORGE SKIPPER
What is Charles Clark playing at?

DIMBLEBY
Liz Forgan

LIZ FORGAN
Well who knows? Charles Clark is a very wily, very experienced long term political insider who I think realizes he has got absolutely nothing to lose and enjoys a bit of a knock about. Also he is fulfilling I am sure what he thinks is a real service to the Labour Party and there are lots of Labour MP’s who are in abject despair about what is happening to their Party and nobody, out of loyalty and fear of the consequences, can actually break through the surface and say what are we up to. It is held to be disloyal, David Miliband did it and everyone read the roons and said he is not just trying to make an interesting public argument of a real issue he is making a bid for leadership. Charles has nothing to lose, he thinks he can do that and encourage real debate in the Party. Unfortunately the consequences of his doing so has been absolutely a lead balloon. Everyone is still under the table, with the tablecloth pulled around their ears so

DIMBLEBY
If there was this real debate that he would like isn’t there a possibility that the Party just goes 2 different ways. I mean he rejects the term Blairism so leave that to one side. One wants to continue that and increase that so called modernizing tendency. Another part of the Party wants to go to a different kind of what people call old Labour.

LIZ FORGAN
I think that is a really serious problem and one of the reasons which is freezing the debate because although I think it is not necessarily true that if the Labour Party changed leader they would have to have a general election I think they would have however have to have an election inside the Party for that appointment. They couldn’t have another coronation. They would have to have a debate and election within the Party which would as you say quite likely bust open a whole lot of arguments that people would rather not have ventilated. It is a very tricky situation.

DIMBLEBY
You observe it Charlie Wolf

CHARLIE WOLF
Well I have been observing what we have been doing in the United States where everybody over the last 4 or 5 months has had a say and we have two candidates that were picked openly by their parties. I guess the problem here is that if Gordon Brown falls on his sword I think the whole Party should fall on their sword. I didn’t elect Gordon Brown you know I know it is Party system I understand that but I think it is a bit rich of any government to install a second Prime Minister like that and expect the population not just the Party but the wider population to then take in a third Party Leader so I think the answer to this one is possibly call an election. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
What he said Bea Campbell amongst other things was “there is a deep and widely shared concern which does not derive from ideology”, this is Charles Clark, but Labour is destined to disaster if we go on as we are combined with a determination that we will not permit this to happen”. What is he playing at?

BEA CAMPBELL
Well I think part of the problem that he is trying to address but I don’t think he can really because he is also part of the problem it seems to me is that they produced a party, this generation of labour leaders, which has been emptied out and hollowed out. A generation of leaders that don’t really like their Party they are afraid of it, indeed they are afraid of what a political party is. Now a political party is nothing if it is not a place of tumult, argument, thinking, conversation and what we call debate. Now debate is something that is isn’t allowed to happen in the Labour Party and consequently conversations about how it is doing and what it is to become therefore focus on leaders and leaders in this case are now you know falling on the swords of public presentation. Now apparently we are interested in whether he wears a bow tie or he doesn’t, whether he smiles, or how he smiles, or doesn’t. What is vacant here is that I think there is a kind of zeitgeist people are interested in what a progressive social democratic party is and we haven’t got one in England and that is the crisis that Charles Clark ought to be addressing and ought to be helping us to understand…

DIMBLEBY
What do you think the Labour Party is if it isn’t a progressive social democratic party?

BEA CAMPBELL
Well I think it is a Party that occupies all sorts of places all at the same time. It is subject to multiple pressures and because it is a party in a sense that has evacuated ideology it is pragmatic and tactical, it is not strategic and it is not particularly ideological it is a Party that is therefore buffeted by prevailing powers and consequently it all depends where it feels the power is and where the pressure is coming from. Now that is no guide to what you are there for and what you think you want to do about a Britain that is the Britain that we have become; a very polarized society, a very unequal society and a Labour Party for goodness sake that has bequeathed to us a more unequal society than when it was elected. That is astounding. My guess is that many people who probably even quite right wing people I imagine many people in this Hall not that I am saying you are particularly right wing but people expect something different of a Labour Party. They do expect it to be a party of social justice if nothing else and that is the vacancy in this Party and that is the vacancy in this debate it is as if they are scared to begin the conversation about what that might be.

DIMBLEBY
Simon Jenkins


SIMON JENKINS
Well I love American Politics I think it is real, I like the blood and thunder and guts that you get every day dominating…..

DIMBLEBY
We may come to it

SIMON JENKINS
I’d better not talk about it…

DIMBLEBY
The evidence is that the panelists in this programme do not know which questions are coming up

SIMON JENKINS
Clearly, Charles Clark, when Charles Clark calls for a debate and he is not attacking the leadership it means he is attacking the leadership and doesn’t want a debate but I think we are familiar with that. I am just overwhelmed by just how pathetic the Labour Party is of decent plot. If this was John Major he would be a heap of blood on the floor, Margaret Thatcher was out of the window, Iain Duncan Smith, poor William Hague, Michael Howard massacred. No one can find a plotter. No one can find a plot apart from Charles Clark I really do think that the Labour Party has got to get itself together if it is going to topple its leader properly. At the moment they seem quite unable to do so. I have to say Jonathan normally on this programme there is a Minister present who represents the powers to be and you have got no one here in that position and I slightly feel that Gordon Brown hasn’t got a spokesman on the panel and so I ought to feel slightly sorry for him I do actually feel sorry for him. I think that when my profession really gets its teeth into somebody and this is to a large extent a media plot; it is not a political plot,

DIMBLEBY
A media plot, you have got 90 MPs or more saying in effect watch out you had better reverse, you had better find a way of giving a one off payment or else, the 10p tax you really feel it is just media and not the politicians.

SIMON JENKINS
You get that in every party, in every government in every situation you get something like that I genuinely don’t think if only for reasons that the turkey is not ready for Christmas that the Labour Party wants to topple its leader at the moment. I do think that the press do go for people when they see blood; you know we are piranha fish. I don’t think Gordon Brown’s position is seriously at threat, I may be proved wrong but I don’t think that. I also slightly think that at a certain point that the leader of a country deserves at least the loyalty of his own supporters when he is trying to run the country particularly in a period of great economic crisis and I just don’t want to make it worse. I think that is common decency frankly and it comes from a journalist.

(Applause)

DIMBLEBY
We will go to our next question please

JANET MILES
Figures published this week show that the number of women in senior jobs is falling. Do the members of the panel think that women are being held back by the men above them or are the challenges for working mothers too great?

DIMBLEBY
This is the report form the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Bea Campbell?

BEA CAMPBELL
One of the loveliest things in that report that you have mentioned quite early on is a discussion about snails and it refers to the record breaking snail on earth moves at a pace of about 2 inches per two minutes and it then suggests that it would take you know 200 years for a snail to whizz across the Wall of China before we get equality in the House of Commons. I love that image of the snails but I think it is wrong because it assumes that in Britain like the snail that we think we are going somewhere that there is a destination and I fear that when it comes to the position of women, women’s relationship to power, money and time now is as good as it gets, I don’t think that we are on a long slow slippery evolutionary trek towards something called equality and the reason for that is nothing really to do with women. Women can do anything as we have shown. Every woman in this room, every woman in my generation has participated in a great social revolution one of the great transformations of our time. We are not the problem. The problem is that the institutions have remained largely untouched by the impact of women joining the labour market a labour market form which we were prohibited for about 150 years and from the professions and that problem has been compounded by this government’s adhesion to a kind of free market ideology. If you have as we do a society in which really we work, full time men work the longest hours in Europe then it is inevitable then they have an etiolated relationship to their children and to the domestic labour that women really long for them to share. If you have a society which is abusive and violent as ours is, one that endorses and indulges all sorts of sports of violence then I think we legitimate the association between masculinity and force. Force is a way of men doing their business, bossing people around so there are all sorts of prisms to this problem

DIMBLEBY
Does that mean that women who do rise to the top in their profession and we have got one on the panel for instance and a host of names that you can conjure that they have to have something different some quality that most women don’t have or are they lucky because they have managed to get through the concrete ceiling


BEA CAMPBELL
Well they may be marvellous and they may be lucky but they in a sense by their very exceptionalness don’t really help us understand what the problem is here. The problem isn’t women the problem is an institutional system that assumes that men have an unpaid worker at home that brings them up and their kids up, that we have a working week that is unsustainable if you have responsibility for other human beings. It is just unsustainable. If you have a society that assumes that as Alan Sugar does when he get on the Tele and people pay to talk this kind of rubbish well if I was a boss hiring a woman I would be worried about whether she, I would be worried about her being a woman actually because she is going to have babies. This man doesn’t think


DIMBLEBY
Alan Sugar has been saying that…


BEA CAMPBELL
Quite and he doesn’t ask of men now then dear boy you are a dad I want to facilitate you being a parent and I am interested in how you are going to take responsibility for your children. We as a society don’t ask this of men. So we are stuck in an institutional environment that makes it impossible really to imagine something called equality.

DIMBELBY
Charlie Wolf

CHARLIE WOLF
I thought it was rather ironic was it yesterday or the day before when this story first broke in the news and on the front page of my favourite newspaper the Independent there was on the top, or the bottom was this is the lead story and there above it of course was the picture of Sarah Palin.

DIMBLEBY
Again a subject to which we may come

CHARLIE WOLF
Yes, I know I am comparing to a degree apples and oranges here. Obviously this is someone running for an elected office in the United States versus the ceiling here and I guess my one response to Bea Campbell would be if these institutions are not women friendly then I guess why not make your own institutions, why not write your own script I think as many women have, there are successful entrepreneurs in this country there are people like Liz, like yourself who have been very successful in your sphere. Even as I look out on our audience tonight I know there are many from that older generation who you know are made of sterner stuff and maybe weren’t running corporations and what have you back in the 40’s but were still dealing with major struggles running homes during war time so I still think, that is an important skill….

DIMBLEBY
I don’t know how many people there are in this audience who were running homes during the 2nd World War but they are welcome to put up their hands if they wish to. None have gone up.

CHARLES WOLF
And also were working in factories. I guess the crux of my argument again is that women I think are empowered and have been empowered and we are in one of the best times women have ever had to write your own script

DIMBLEBY
Simon Jenkins

SIMON JENKINS
It is very difficult for a man to speak on this subject because everything you say is probably going to be greeted with jeers from the other side and my inclination is just to shut up and list all the women who have done very well. Two of them on the panel. I remember when I was doing the Booker Prize for fiction; someone started the Orange Prize for women’s fiction on the grounds that there weren’t any women winning the Booker Prize which was simply a lie. For years women and men had almost equally been represented both on the panel and among the prize winners if I had then started a special prize for men fiction writers we would have been taken to court. There is sort of double standard operating here. I was also interested to see when this story appeared in the first place it was interesting to see what was considered top jobs, they tended to be media friendly jobs and in my experience women have done very well in those jobs in the past. It may well be there is downturn at the moment I just don’t know. What was interesting I may say was the reaction to the story of women columnists. And almost universally they were skeptical. They took the view and thank goodness I can quote some women here not just my own point of view that one of the things that had happened as a result of the relative emancipation of women in work, I take Bea’s general point, is that women were actually able to use a form of choice not available to many men they were simply choosing to construct their careers in a certain way.; Now there is no doubt at all that the problem of bringing up children in a large company is a problem both for the women and for the employers both cases there is a problem. There is a problem that I think gradually we are beginning to solve we haven’t got there yet but a lot of women I know do choose not to go through the glass ceiling and they regard that choice as a real choice and a privilege and it is not a choice available to many men. I say that against a background of still thinking there is much more that can be done but let’s just see both sides of the point.

BEA CAMPBELL
Women do not choose to be poorer than men. Women don’t choose to be more exhausted than men. Women don’t choose to have less power than men.


SIMON JENKINS
I know lots of women in firms I have been working for who have chosen not to take promotion and more money because they didn’t want it. Is that not their right?

BEA CAMPBELL
I think you are missing a certain point which is about if you live with children and with other people for whom you feel responsible there are only 24 hours a day, if you are trying to negotiate how you sort that out with somebody whose access to time off i.e. a man in a company that won’t give him time off then you are talking about an unequal bargaining relationship.

DIMBLEBY
Liz Forgan

LIZ FORGAN
This is a very very sad moment for people of my generation and Bea’s. Maybe it was naïve but after all those years of 70’s feminism I really thought we had made progress. I worked at Channel 4 TV when it started and we started that company with a determination that there would be women at senior levels and making creative and executive decisions right through the company and we did and it was wonderful and I thought then well now we have shown everyone it is obviously the way to run a business. As soon as people come in the door they could sniff the air they could feel the difference and once people see that then it will be like that forever. And of course it isn’t. It has gone backwards.

DIMBLEBY
When you say it has gone backwards is that on the basis of this piece of evidence or do you think in spite of or regardless of it has gone back…If you look at your own profession or the profession you were in before broadcasting television, in television in the BBC for example there are great many women like yourself who have held or do hold very senior positions now is that because it is what Simon calls the soft area?

LIZ FORGAN
It is Bea’s snail. You know you have a vision of a progressive struggle towards a sensible disposition of society and its work and when people choose to roll backwards from that it makes me really very sad.

DIMBLEBY
Sorry to cut you… who has chosen and how have they chosen?


LIZ FORGAN
Well I hate once you embark on this you end up doing awful stereotypes about people but I think it is partly true that men actually have a cultural disposition to behave in certain ways which they feel more comfortable doing with either no women or very few women present and I have been on Boards where there are almost no women and I have been on Boards where there are senior women who take a proper full part. I know which I like the best and I know which I think function the best but I quite observe that men are less comfortable often in those circumstances. Bea is right the problem is not women, it is men and I think having (LAUGH) and I think that although it is illegal to ask a woman who applies for a job are you intending to have children and what are you going to do about them I actually think we should legislate to compel employers to ask men when they apply for a job do you have children and what is your intention to look after them

DIMBLEBY
You wanted to come back in Charlie Wolf

CHARLIE WOLF
Well just a couple of points. Tell that to the small business owner, woman or man. Who has to cover for the staff? these are considerations these I think are valid considerations but the point I wanted to put forward is that women, there are woman who want to have children and I still have a belief in that traditional system of that it is making a sacrifice and it is a sacrifice and it is a sacrifice that most women I know do by choice and they feel that is part of what rearing a child is about that sacrifice to something bigger than themselves.

DIMBLEBY
Simon

SIMON JENKINS
I just think we are in danger of arguing our way into one of the most clichéd debates that has taken place in public affairs in 25 years. It would be wonderful if we could actually have this conversation without using the word woman and man. We are employees, we are people, everyone has got a problem sometimes domestic, sometimes otherwise, but if employers and other people can regard everyone as an ordinary individual with a problem at home and discuss it thoroughly I think we would all be much happier.

DIMBLEBY
And there we must leave it to move on with a reminder of the Any Answers number 03700 100 44. Could we have our next please?

SONIA SOWELL
Is being a hockey mum a sufficient qualification for the second in command of the so-called world super power?

DIMBLEBY
We have got there at last. Charlie Wolf

CHARLIE WOLF
Well not so much being a hockey mum but I think having the tenacity that this woman has having the experience, the executive experience of being a governor and a mayor and Alaska may be one of our least populated states but an executive as a governor makes more decisions in a week than a senator will make probably in a year. I think the thing that people like about her is that she is real. And she and I think more so than Senator Obama really does relate to small town America to the struggles that people deal with. You know we were just talking about women in the work place, here is a lady that is managing a family of 5 children one with special needs and she has her problems just like everybody else. A daughter that has been a bit wayward and is expecting a child and she has a special needs child like I said and she is accomplishing that. What I like about her is that she has tenacity. This is a woman who has taken on big oil and taken on her own party, the corruption of her own party in Alaska and won. I think this lady will be a breath of fresh air and I look forward to seeing more of what she has to offer.

DIMBLEBY
Do you think given all the investigations that there have now started and are underway and there may be other allegations that come up that she is going to be safe as someone that Americans will say every day American not just in the Republican Party or at the convention will say yes this is the person we want and that old cliché a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

CHARLIE WOLF
I think so. I am not that worried about Senator McCain’s health. I know it is an issue. I understand that completely. But you know it is McCain that we are electing and that is the man I want to have the foreign policy experience. I think she will learn very quickly on the job. I have no doubts about it.

DIMBLEBY
Liz Forgan

LIZ FORGAN
Sarah Palin has reached deep into my secret heart. I have been a card-carrying feminist for 40 years and this woman has found somewhere in me a little kernel of sexism. She causes me to make a failure of sisterhood. Sorry Charlie but I cannot stand her candy-coated philistinism, I hate her crass creationism, I loath her parading of her family about the place, God forgive me I even hate her teenage hair (APPLAUSE)


CHARLIE WOLF
I would have thought that Liz, you and me, would have been as a fellow sister, she has done more for feminism in the last week than some of you have done in the last 20 years I would have thought you would have been cheering her on.

LIZ FORGAN
Hence my shameful confession and I do really fear the fact that she touches something deep in America, something real in America I agree with you about that and that makes me very afraid and the only solution I can see to it is that the principle governors of super powers should be elected by global electrics we can’t trust…

CHARLIE WOLF
That is my biggest fear

LIZ FORGAN
But she does put us in a dilemma you are right

DIMBLEBY
Simon Jenkins

SIMON JENKINS
I, one of the deserts I like least is mousse and I was terribly pleased that this lady shoots mooses.,(LAUGH) making a terrible mess of the desert trolley. One thing you learn when you travel abroad is that you should be very very careful about criticizing other people’s leaders it never goes down well. I was fairly left wing and I was in America and someone was insulting Margaret Thatcher or Ted Heath I don’t know who it was at the time and I was furious with them and I said don’t you dare attack the leader of my country as if they had attacked the queen and yet we gladly attack American politicians as if we knew them intimately. Well frankly I don’t know anything about this woman except what I have read in the newspapers I rather agree with what Charlie says about her it seems a breath of fresh air. The vice president is not a very important person in America she, I like her because she seems to be the authentic democrat rising from the grass roots in the sticks and simply taking a public meeting by storm a bit like Obama does. The only think I think we are entitled to a view on is that every American election, presidential election there are two people voting, there are Americans and the rest of the world all over the world are people who are affected by what an American President does and I do think we are entitled to a view on what American Presidents say and do when in office and when standing for office because they are a sort of proxy for us. Our people are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq because of decisions taken by Americans therefore I always say to Americans pleas think twice, you are thinking about your own country but you are thinking about the rest of the world as well. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Sister Bea Campbell


BEA CAMPBELL
Well I do feel for Liz but I think there are ravishing contradictions and paradoxes in this. Here we have a republican aspiring president forced in a sense to scour the vastnesses of America, hit the frontiers to find a woman who will stand as his running mate. That a woman should be so vital to his success in this upcoming election that is great, I think that is great. I think it is also surprising it may have surprised him that what he has got is this swashbuckling character and I like that about her. The paradox that is really unsettling of course and here Liz is absolutely right is that and it is probably typical and predictable that what we have got here is a woman who doesn’t support women’s freedom of choice and control over their own bodies, a woman who doesn’t support a sustainable green Alaska, a woman who doesn’t actually, it turns out take on a big power in the name of small power. She lives with big power I mean in her state so there is something I suppose in the assumption that she is a kind of ingénue which is another kind of sexism in that selection. She is a woman who will be controlled, she will smile and she will be kind of raunchy but essentially that she will be controlled.

DIMBLEBY
By the White House machine….

BEA CAMPBELL
By the Republican machine, they will write her speeches for her which they have already started to do and she will smile and with the hair and all of that however I think the thing that is really aching about this is that here is a woman who discombobulates her enemies. Such is the degree of sexism, I even heard for goodness sake the BBC correspondent in the States from the World Tonight is it sweetly haranguing republican women at the convention but my goodness this woman has got 5 children how could she possibly be a presidential candidate, a vice presidential candidate. It was outrageous you thought to yourself hasn’t the BBC sent its correspondents on anti-sexism courses so that they don’t ask this kind of question and these redoubtable Republican women said you wouldn’t ask that question of a man would you. No. Let’s imagine that Governor Palin was indeed a man he wouldn’t be interesting, he would be outrageous. She is outrageous actually but not for the reasons that we think. She is outrageous because she is a conservative parochial provincial candidate with reactionary views who is actually the beneficiary of those great movements that make her life possible and indeed the life of her now pregnant daughter possible. People who would have been shrouded in disgrace before.

DIMBLEBY
Very briefly Liz and then Charlie

LIZ FORGAN
There is a ray of hope. History shows that people who arrive with a stock in trade of being pure, innocent and untouched by civilisation often end up having terrible skeletons in their cupboards. And I am really hopeful that the dreadful hacks will find them out.

(LAUGH)

CHARLIE WOLF
I think it is sad that feminism seems to involve people who think of the same ideology. That is what I seem to be hearing here. Your problem is with the creation…. it is interesting my wife is British and I would say a typical, I take that back I won’t even dare say typical my wife is a woman, a fantastic virtuous woman she is independent, she has worked all of her life she is now the mother of a child but she said to me this morning it was interesting and she doesn’t follow politics to the same extent that I do she said you know there is something I like about her because she is not scared of her femininity and she was talking about Hillary Clinton and she said there is something about and forgive me because I don’t want to sound personal to you but she said these woman in pant suits with butch hair cuts just turns my wife and again I am only quoting her and I am not looking in your direction

LIZ FORGAN
He is not looking at me

DIMBLEBY
What does she mean when she says pant suits and …..

CHARLIE WOLF
Pant suits and butch hair cuts

DIMBLEBY
What does she mean by that?

CHARLIE WOLF
She said that to her there was something nice about the fact that this lady had no trouble in being a woman in being, having her candy floss hair as you

BEA CAMPBELL
Do you Liz have trouble?

LIZ FORGAN
Every morning wracked with difficulty

DIMBLEBY
I have a feeling there might be some responses to what we have just heard in AnyAnswers 03700 100 444. Sonia Sowell you put the… she has gone she left in disgust.

OK we will go to the next question. She hasn’t left we have just moved on. We will go to the next question

DAVID HIGH
Was it right for Carol Thatcher to reveal that her mother has dementia and what does the reaction show to public attitude to dementia?

DIMBLEBY
You have a particular interest in this

DAVID HIGH
Yes I am the Manager of the New Forest branch of the Alzheimer’s Society.

DIMBLEBY
Liz Forgan was it right and what does the reaction show?

LIZ FORGAN
I didn’t know she had to tell you the truth

DIMBLEBY
She has she wrote an article in her book in which she revealed this and said she thought carefully about it but thought it was right to tell the truth.

LIZ FORGAN
Well there is a balance between your duty, private duty to your mother and her privacy and the good that can be done by the public bravery and disclosure of the truth of that kind. And Carol knows her mother well and if she made a decision on her behalf that she thought that is something that her mother would have wished to disclose I think she is in a very good position to make that judgement. It is a difficult one.

DIMBELBY
Bea Campbell

BEA CAMPBELL
I think I agree. Initially I was kind of horrified and gasped and then when I read it I was profoundly moved by it because of course you are right Carol Thatcher has a great faithful commitment to her mother and her account of her mother’s condition was very solicitous and sympathetic and respectful I thought. The awful thing is that Margaret Thatcher couldn’t have decided whether this should or shouldn’t be revealed. And I don’t know how you resolve that issue but that it was raised now we know about it it faces us with something rather hugely important about what happens to great people all sorts of people elderly people and millions of people are living with it. Millions of us have got this in front of us.

DIMBLEBY
Charlie?


CHARLIE WOLF
I was extremely touched when I read about it and obviously sadden to a degree and she is someone who is in my prayers and I agree with our panelists. I think this was a family matter and they made the decision it reminds me of when Ronald Reagan announced his Alzheimer’s.

DIMBLEBY
Simon Jenkins

SIMON JENKINS
I don’t think she meant to reveal something she was only saying what frankly everyone who knew her knew. So she didn’t think she was revealing something she just said something as a matter of course but where I pick up on what the questioner said I think that the ability nowadays to discuss illnesses is so important and I have some family experience of Alzheimer’s and I was always impressed by how much money goes into cancer and heart disease and how little by comparison goes into the illnesses of the old and I just think that if we could just get to some point where we can treat this particularly awful disease with the respect and financial resources it deserves we might begin to cure it.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Briefly David High what did you make of it?

DAVID HIGH
I think there is a balance provided Lady Thatcher hadn’t said she didn’t want it revealed then I think it should be revealed and there is great public good in knowing that a woman of her stature with her intellect can have dementia

DIMBLEBY
And the reaction to the news as you saw it was that positive

DAVID HIGH
It is interesting I looked at some of the blog sites on the papers. The reaction of ordinary people was very positive, the reaction of some of the journalists was actually prehistoric and it was a kind of talk that took place about cancer 30 years ago when people used to come up to you and say oh Fred has got cancer and what is important is that there is openness about that and I think it is a good thing

DIMBLEBY
Thank you very much for bringing us I am afraid to the end of this week’s programme. Next week we are going to be in Worthing with Tony Benn, David Aaronovitch, Damian Green, Shadow Minister for Immigration, and the author and columnist Rachel Johnson.
Join us there from here in All Saints’ Church, Goodbye.


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