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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 06 February 2009

CHAIRMAN: JONATHAN DIMBLEBY

PANELLISTS:


Rt Hon ANN WIDDECOMBE MP: Former Conservative Minister

JOHN SERGEANT: Former Political Commentator

GREG DYKE: Former Director General of the BBC

CHUKA UMUNNA: Labour parliamentary candidate

From the Cragg Lecture Theatre, University for the Creative Arts, New Dover Road, Canterbury, Kent CT1 3AN



DIMBLEBY:
Welcome to Canterbury and to the University for the Creative Arts which is the newest university in the United Kingdom but which has a history of creative arts education spanning 150 years. Tracey Emin and Karen Millen are both alumni. Today the university has 6000 students from 70 countries studying art, design, fashion, architecture, media and communications. We are in the Cragg Lecture Theatre and on our panel Ann Widdecombe, the former Home Office Minister turned novelist and television presenter notably with her series Ann Widdecombe versus Girl Gangs. Chuka Umunna is a lawyer by profession but a politician by aspiration already tagged as Britain’s Barack Obama he is standing for Labour at the next election but says openly that the government squandered the support it had after its 1997 landslide. Greg Dyke first made his mark with the public with Roland Rat at TV AM but he went on to become Director General at the BBC. There is always a smile at that; it was very successful wasn’t it?

GREG DYKE
It was

DIMBLEBY
It was dreadful but successful. He became Director General of the BBC, forced to resign after the Hutton enquiry he since shifted his political allegiance from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, he is Chairman of the British Film Institute and Brentford Football Club. In the second division is this the year for onwards and upwards?

GREG DYKE
We live in hope.

DIMBLEBY
John Sergeant is well John Sergeant. Does a bit of dancing, strictly in public you understand but he is possibly still better known to listeners to this channel as the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent who later became Political Editor at ITN. He is the 4th member of our panel. (APPLAUSE)

And our first question please

NICK EDEN-GREEN
Is snow an excuse to bunk off?

DIMBLEBY
Greg Dyke

GREG DYKE
Do you know I thought Monday was one of those wonderful days where suddenly people couldn’t get to work, kids couldn’t get to school and if you went in the parks along the streets people were having a wonderful time and I think if I was a politician like some are I think I would stand on the basis of having snow days. I thought Monday was fine. Now after a few days it becomes difficult and now of course it is getting much worse but I thought Monday was a wonderful day and a day that most of the kids around will remember forever.

DIMBLEBY
You are nodding wisely Chuka Umunna and you are a young politician you probably hardly have experienced snow of this kind before. Did you have that wonderful feeling like a child?

CHUKA UMUNNA
Well I do remember I think I was about 12 or 13 when we last were besieged by snow but it was, it put a smile on people’s faces and I am conscious that we are speaking after 200 people were trapped on a motorway for some time last night but it put a smile on everyone’s face and I think there was a general acceptance actually although we found it quite difficult to cope with because the snow fell down, it was much heavier than we are used to. OK we might not be as set up for the snow here as they are in Moscow but in Moscow it snows from October to sometimes March or May and it does it here once in every 20 years and so it has been difficult to handle but I think on the other hand people say that with a smile on their face.


DIMBLEBY
But there were quite a lot of criticisms too that by day 2 or 3 schools for instance remained closed that allegedly should have stayed open and they were a bit enfeebled

CHUKA UMUNNA
Yes but I think that is very easy to say. I am actually a Governor of a primary school and we were shut on Monday and Tuesday of this week because we took a very cautious approach. We were concerned about health and safety and also there was still an issue about people being able to get into school but at the end of the day I mean as I said the problem was the weight of snow and as I understand it such was the weight of the snow the grit wasn’t going to be able to solve the problem we would need to have a whole cadre of snow ploughs to clear the snow away and the question is where do you put it. And we are just not set up for that. I mean if you look in Finland for example they spend about £400 million a year on snow ploughs, we spend about £150 million why do they spend so much more than us? Because it happens every year there and

DIMBLEBY
And it is a very much smaller country with a very small population so relatively it is much much more

CHUKA UMUNNA
Yes. And actually they have a similar size road network but of course if we were going to spend the same amount as Finland on snow ploughs that would be less money for schools and hospitals and would we want to be ploughing £100’s of millions of pounds into something that happens once every 10 to 20 years.

DIMBLEBY
Ann Widdecombe

ANN WIDDECOMBE
Sorry guys I thought we were utterly pathetic. (LAUGH) And I thought sure of course it put a smile on our faces fine you can have a smile on your face without bunking off. And I thought one of the most pathetic things was the way that so many schools closed because they were terrified of Health and Safety legislation. The teachers could actually get in but they were terrified that they would be sued if anything went wrong and actually Britain is paralysed these days by that sort of consideration and it was as much paralysed by that as it was paralysed by the snow. And I will tell you who I think was the great hero it was the headmaster who went in and cooked fish and chips for the entire school. That is the spirit.

DIMBLEBY
I will bring you in John Sergeant in just a second. Just respond to that Chuka… health and safety is wimpish?


CHUKA UMUNNA
It is nonsense to say that all the school staff could get in. There were no buses, there were no trains and there was snow all over the roads in Streatham. None of the teachers at my school could get into the school

ANN WIDDECOMBE
I don’t think I actually said that all the teachers’ could get in but even if a few teachers could have got in a lot of schools were still not opening and they say so not me because they were worried about health and safety considerations during the day. Now I am just slightly older than Chuka and I do therefore remember the last several falls of snow and I particularly remember a childhood in which snow in winter, deep snow in which you made snowmen and threw snowballs and had smiles on your faces was actually quite normal. The one thing I don’t remember is school closing. (HEAR HEAR)

DIMBLEBY
John Sergeant

JOHN SERGEANT
We are all affected by our childhood aren’t we and of course I remember the snows of yesteryear and of course they were wonderful and it was a brilliant excuse to bunk off. My father was the vicar of a small parish in Oxfordshire, Great Tew, and on one memorable occasion the whole family went to church and no one else was there. I thought my father was going to insist on the whole one hour service and a sermon but he didn’t. He gave us one prayer and then we went and played in the snow and of course it was absolutely wonderful and I suspect that thousands, tens of thousands of children will remember this year much more than they will remember their school books, much more than they will remember everything else. It will be a great moment in their young lives and so it should be. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
An excuse to bunk off Nick Eden-Green what do you think?

NICK EDEN GREEN
Well we have had sadly little snow in Canterbury so there has been sadly few opportunities to bunk off

DIMBLEBY
Thank you very much. Any Answers on this or on any of the other issues that we are coming to may be for you after the Saturday broadcast of the programme the number is 03700 100 444 and the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next please.


ROBERT POLLARD
Should RBS pay massive bonuses to staff reportedly up to six figure sums having been baled out by the tax payer to the tune of £20 billion?

DIMBLEBY
And we are told that after RBS other banks are due to follow suit. Chuka Umunna

CHUKA UMUNNA
Well one’s instinctive reaction is no. It has been quite interesting watching what President Obama has been doing about bank bonuses across the pond because of course he announced a couple of days ago, yesterday I think, that where the Federal Government has given state aid to banks they will be limiting the remuneration packages, well cash remuneration packages, of the bankers to £500,000, $500,000 which is about £350,000 and to the extent they get anything above that in share options it will be limited. They wouldn’t be able to take it until the state has withdrawn its investment in the bank. I think that is quite a good idea. The government in October, in terms of the banks that we have invested in and taken shareholdings in, has prevented all of the boards of those banks from taking bonuses, in fact we have got a lot of the heads of those banks have left without taking severance packages or bonuses. I am not opposed to bonuses per se where they reward people for success and for contributing to the economy. What I have an issue with is where you have rewards for failure and I mean we have seen a lot of that in the last year or so. If you look at Merrill Lynch, that collapsed bank, the head of that bank is no longer the head actually. He spent about $1.2 million decorating his offices while his bank was going to pot which is clearly completely and utterly obscene.

DIMBLEBY
But come back to your example of Obama he is limiting the pay to half a million dollars. Would you like to see this government limit the pay, we are not talking about bonuses that might accrue but the pay of bank executives to a similar level, at a similar level to be capped?

CHUKA UMUNNA
I don’t think you can take a blanket approach to this because if you look at RBS 80% of the workforce there are over the counter cashiers earning on average about £20,000 a year now obviously those are not the target of your question I presume, the target of your question will be the people working in investment banking division, the people and the speculators who have engaged in this financial wizardry which has got us in the mess that we are. Now in terms of having a cap on their salaries I am open to that idea. One think I find quite curious is that anybody who talks about limiting bonuses oh you can’t do that because they are just going to go elsewhere. I am an employment lawyer by profession I have acted for quite lot of bankers and I can tell you there aren’t many job vacancies out there. (LAUGH) So if you are going to do anything about these exorbitant salary packages then now is the time to do it because at the end of the day look where it has got us.


DIMBLEBY
Thank you John Sergeant

JOHN SERGEANT
Well obviously it would be tempting to make the bankers walk through the street in chains so that we can throw eggs at them (LAUGH) and there are all sorts of horrible punishments that they certainly deserve. The least we can do is make sure that they don’t benefit from this terrible, terrible period that they are now forcing us all into poverty because of it. I mean we will all suffer as a result of the failures of the financial sector don’t think we won’t and the idea that people who are paid for being brilliant risk takers when those risks were wrong and they called it wrong, the idea that we should pay them is absolutely shocking and the idea that those who get automatic bonuses when they have not even succeeded in their own terms that they should be paid those bonuses is terribly shocking too so really perhaps we should just put them in the stocks instead, they needn’t walk through the streets, we can just put them in the stocks and throw stuff at them.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Greg Dyke

GREG DYKE
I agree entirely. I can’t, I think it would be insane of the RBS to pay large bonuses to their staff. I don’t mind paying small bonuses to counter staff but for the senior people in banks to be taking away large bonuses when clearly they are partially responsible for the mess we all find ourselves is just totally unacceptable. I now go to quite a few public meetings and I always stand up and say are there any bankers here? And perhaps they would like to stand up and you know nobody stands up it is very interesting but you know an opportunity to do penance I think I mean these people earn phenomenal sums of money to screw up and we should not, I think we are in a turning point in this society. I think something that started 30 years ago with the coming of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 is going to come to an end which is where some people can earn such vast sums of money and other people earn very little and for those who earn these vast sums of money to actually have got it so wrong and you feel that the reasons we are in this disastrous period is because these people were after their bonuses. And I just cannot believe that there is a board sitting in this country even discussing, the board of the bank discussing paying bonuses.

DIMBLEBY
Do you think as allegedly that some of the bonuses are going to be paid are not to board members themselves which the government has made it clear saying will after the crack down not be possible that some of these are going a) to people who are below board level but earn size much more than the board are getting their bonuses regardless and secondly the deal was done with them earlier so it is you can’t lock the stable door after the horse has bolted.

GREG DYKE
I think this is one of those times when you say I am sorry we are going to break your contract we are not paying you, if you don’t like it sue us.

DIMBLEBY
I will bring you back in both of the panellists but Ann Widdecombe first

ANN WIDDECOMBE
I think it is axiomatic that if you are paying a bonus you are paying it for success. I just can’t see the logic of paying a bonus for failure. However I don’t much care what banks who haven’t been baled out if there are any by the taxpayer I don’t much care what they do in terms of bonuses but any bank at all who has received taxpayers help to get out of the present situation should be of its own decency and dignity should be reigning in, not shelling out huge amounts and I think that where I do agree with Chuka is this you know you aren’t in the usual competitive situation where they can say right fine well we will just go off somewhere else because the whole banking sector at the moment is in its own crisis so they haven’t got that sort of leverage, leverage in that sense, not leverage in the banking sense which is a posh word for borrowing and a hedge fund is a posh word for a betting institution (LAUGH) and that just about sums up what has going on.

DIMBLEBY
Chuka you wanted to come in

CHUKA UMUNNA
Yes well it is quite interesting to hear people saying oh you can’t break their contract because I know, because I drafted a few of these things, that a lot of particularly when you are looking at the bonuses it is discretionary and generally you cannot exercise your discretion to award a bonus in a capricious or unreasonable way and in the present circumstances I think it would probably be quite reasonable not to make the same huge ridiculous pay outs you have made in the past. I would say one thing on what Ann said I do care what the other banks do because God knows if they come running to us to bale them out to save depositors from losing their money you know we don’t want to get into a situation where this is continuing to happen in other banks so I am not necessarily going to suggest that we legislate to stop them from awarding the bonuses but I think we should care about it because if it goes under what do they usually do they look to the state to sort it out. It is a classic thing, deregulate leave us alone when it all goes belly up oh actually we need your help

ANN WIDDECOMBE
Well you decided to give it to them

DIMBLEBY
Chuka didn’t dissent from that did you? I mean are you agreeing with Greg on this as well as with Ann that we are now entering a new world in terms of what is proper and what is required for a bank to be a successful operation in future you do not have and you should not have weaknesses of this kind

CHUKA UMUNNA
We are entering a new era and I think one of the most shocking things is that with Barings we saw a classic example where you have the senior manager of a bank who did not understand what middle management and the traders particularly in derivatives were doing and you see the same thing having happened again just now. It is shocking. It is absolutely shocking

DIMBLEBY
John Sergeant

JOHN SERGEANT
The Labour Party on this are burdened by their past because the right in fact won, the left of course wanted to nationalize the banks, the problem that Gordon Brown has got now is that he carries that burden of Labour Party history and what we now want to see if you have got 70% control of the Royal Bank of Scotland exercise it, exercise it don’t be frightened about oh well you are nationalizing the banks and that is what you are trying to do for old fashioned reasons, it is not, it is a new world and in this new world we want I think as voters to make sure that our taxpayers money is being used sensibly and we don’t let them get away with this and that and say we are so worried about government control we want a bit of accountability. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
We will go to our next please.


JESSICA BRITTIN
Since at least one member of the panel has personal experience of dealing with sudden job loss does the panel have any advice for those finding themselves in a similar position in the current economic climate?

DIMBLEBY
I don’t know whether our questioner was referring to your experience but what is your thought about this Greg Dyke?

GREG DYKE
Well I certainly had sudden job loss (LAUGH) I think it is going to be a very difficult time I am not sure I can advise anybody other than you know try and hold it together but you can easily get depressed very quickly and I think that is what is happening. I mean you talk of kids coming out of university now, kids leaving school looking for jobs land there aren’t any. There are very few. I think there are going to be people who are leaving who are used to very high salaries sending their kids to private schools enormous mortgages they are all going to go through trauma. Actually I came, I am obsessed by bankers but I came across 3 bankers at a charity do the other night and they had all joined the public sector so that is one way out for bankers you can join but it is going to get much worse. It is bad now and it is going to get much worse I suspect in terms of unemployment and I don't know how bad it is going to be and whether you are back to the scenario that you saw in the 30’s where people spent years out of work looking for jobs.

DIMBLEBY
What kind of advice Ann Widdecombe if any do you have for those finding themselves suddenly out of work?

ANN WIDDECOMBE
Well I don’t think there is any glib advice that you can give. I think it is quite true I mean there is a quite observed move at the moment that the Treasury for example is filling up with city slickers or rather ex city slickers who having made a complete mess of the city and are now going to make a complete mess of the Treasury. But I don’t actually on the whole advocate moving from the private to the public sector because it is supposedly safer because actually it very often isn’t. I think all one can say there isn’t a glib answer to this there really isn’t I think all you can say to people is look at what your talents are, look at ways you can use them perhaps on your own through setting something up and self employment and literally hang on until things get better. There is no glib advice, how could anybody give glib advice to somebody who suddenly finds and even if it is not sudden, even if it is something you know that is going to happen to you in 3 months time it is still a sword of Damocles hanging over your head as to how on earth you are going to manage in 3 months time. So it doesn’t even have to be sudden. But I don’t think it is going to go on for years I don’t think this is the 1930’s I think the whole global situation is completely different. Equally I don’t think there is going to be any quick exit from this and when people say to me what would I do I give the honest answer which is I haven’t a clue. And do you know I actually think that if at the moment the Prime Minister were to be equally honest that is what he would say as well.
(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
John Sergeant

JOHN SERGEANT
It is horrible isn’t it? Absolutely horrible if you lose your job, you lose part of your identity, it often defines us when we are older. I mean obviously when I resigned from Strictly I was a dancer suddenly left with nothing

DIMBLEBY
You did resign, you didn’t get the sack is that right. You resigned or was it constructive dismissal and you wish to take it to court

JOHN SERGEANT
No I can take this opportunity of saying I was not pushed. I am not that sort of person. I did resign but no the emptiness, what am I going to do now

DIMBLEBY
Everybody is weeping for you but could

JOHN SERGEANT
But to answer the question is I suppose what you have got to do is don’t be too proud, rely on your family and friends, make sure you have as wide a chance as possible, get up early and search for work all the time and make it clear to everybody that you are not pathetic. When my mother was looking for a job n the ‘30’s she had to come to London on a workers train setting off very early and she went to meet someone and they said what have you been doing this morning my dear and my mother had just one cup of tea at the Lyons corner house and she said I have been shopping and when she got the job the man said to her what I liked about you was that you seemed alright you weren’t moaning. Quite a story from the 1930’s.

DIMBLEBY
Chuka Umunna

CHUKA UMUNNA
I always find this question quite difficult because of course as an employment lawyer I am usually advising people on how to stay in work and preserve their job prospects. I think Ann is right there isn’t any glib answer to this. One thing I would say though two observations I suppose from somebody from a younger generation I think this is really going to knock my generation for six because we have grown up in that short term gratification, spend all the money you have era, and we don’t have many savings my generation so it is going to hit us even harder I think because in a way we haven’t got the savings to see us through the hard times. Secondly what I would say on that is that in many respects we are going to have to have a cultural shift in terms of from my generation onwards I suppose we are going to have to get used to retraining and changing career maybe 2 or 3 times during our working life. And I suppose people say why should I have to retrain. Well I suppose if there isn’t a job which fits with your skills what other option would you have? So it is going to be difficult. Yes all the signs are that it will get worse before it gets better but I suppose in terms of taking the opportunity to take some time out, retrain, think about what you want to do with the rest of your life is probably the best thing you can do

DIMBLEBY
The first part of your answer was very interesting. If psychologically you have been assuming that life will go on, economic growth will continue you can have instant satisfaction in all sorts of ways how do you think your generation and leaders of your generation have got to come to terms with the different world however you define that different world and is it possible?

CHUKA UMUNNA
Of course it is possible because if it wasn’t possible what else would we do? I don’t think we have got any other option but to accept that we are living in different times and we are going to learn a very harsh lesson. In a way what we have seen over the last year or so is a culmination of this rampant individualism, rampant consumerism in society and in a way actually maybe one of the positive things about it is that I think one of the problems with our society today is that we have, you know we have tended to define ourselves by what we have as opposed to who we are and now we are not going to have so much, you know we are not going to have so much we are not going to be able to accumulate and consume so much for the next 12 months maybe it will make us reflect on what am I about, why am I here and what do I want to do with my life?

DIMBLEBY
And do you think that will mean that people will say we don’t want these things even if we can’t have them?

CHUKA UMUNNA
May be. I think of course to have a certain comfort and a certain standard of living, material possessions are important but maybe we will now think about those things which perhaps you can’t attach a price to and as I think Greg was saying or was it John about you know you are going to have to speak to your family, your close friends and ask them for their help that you can’t put a price on that and this is where you will probably come to revalue those things in a way you haven’t before. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Our next question please.

ALEX PERKINS
In the light of the BBC’s decision to take no action over Jeremy Clarkson describing the Prime Minister as ‘a one-eyed Scottish idiot’ should they now reconsider their recent decision to suspend Carol Thatcher?

DIMBLEBY
John Sergeant what do you make of this?

JOHN SERGEANT
No they certainly shouldn’t. I think the BBC were absolutely right in the Carol Thatcher case. I am a reporter also on the One Show. I know the Green Room and you often are there with people you don’t know but they are often important people. You are certainly in a public place really particularly if you are Carol Thatcher or someone who is well known you don’t think it is a kind of private drinking den or a jolly place where you can say what you like. I happen to think on an issue like this it depends on what your personal feelings are I feel very strongly about the race issue. I was there when Martin Luther King made his “I have a dream" speech. I was in the crowd I think of that, I think of my friend from Strictly Come Dancing Heather Small and the idea that someone would just use a phrase like golliwog or wog which some people think is derived from golliwog I think is completely unacceptable. Carol was given a chance to say that she was sorry and to apologise properly. She clearly did not do that. It then became a public issue and the moment it became a public issue the BBC had to make a public policy pronouncement which they did and I think they were absolutely right.
(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Had she said? Two things. Had she said there are all sorts of different accounts of what she actually said. Had she said when at the point that someone said this is very offensive I am very sorry I didn’t meant o offend anyone if I offended you I apologise should that have been then the end of it?

JOHN SERGEANT
Yes that should have been the end when she said it

DIMBLEBY
If she said it

JOHN SERGEANT
Well the idea that she then apparently in her apology, she did apologise in a way but she maintained that it was a jest. A joke, it is not a jest, it is not a funny remark, it is a crass, stupid, racist taunt and if she doesn’t understand that she ought to. (PPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
And the fact that Jeremy Clarkson apologised for the physical observation he made about the Prime Minister is that enough? Does it matter if a guy like Clarkson uses that kind of language ‘one-eyed Scottish idiot’ as long as he apologises and says I wish I hadn’t said I wish I hadn’t said he was one-eyed?

JOHN SERGEANT
Yes it was a stupid thing to say. He is a two-eyed English idiot. But that is Jeremy Clarkson that is not the same as a matter of a racial policy which is of course I think far more important.

DIMBLEBY
Ann Widdecombe

ANN WIDDECOMBE
Well I think it was a very unfortunate term to use but I do not believe it was malicious.

DIMBLEBY
Carol Thatcher you are talking about

ANN WIDDECOMBE
Carol Thatcher oh yes. I am certainly not talking about Jeremy Clarkson. No. I assume that was deeply malicious. But I don’t think it was intended maliciously when it first came out. There is a generation to whom a golliwog is merely a toy, a generation which was much endeared by its golliwogs which grew up with them on jam jars and it is actually only a few years since they were taken off the jam jars and there is a generation, a new generation for whom that word is deeply offensive and one does have to make I think some allowance for the fact that when she said it I doubt very much only she knows what was in her mind but I doubt very much if at the time she was intending to be contemptuous. I think anybody who uses that word in a contemptuous way deserves all they get but I must say I find the BBC’s sense of priority strange. When you consider what Ross and Brand did (APPLAUSE) and they are back earning a very great deal of money that by the way is paid for by the taxpayer just like the bankers bonuses. When you actually consider that scale of priority then it really does seem to me a rather over the top reaction. So I am not defending the word but I do actually defend whether there was malice in Carol’s soul at the time that she used it.

DIMBLEBY
John Sergeant I will come to the others in a minute

JOHN SERGEANT
Are you suggesting Ann that when Jay Hunt Controller of BBC 1 was making this decision she would say now wait a moment it actually is alright Carol because of Jonathan Ross it is a ridiculous idea.

ANN WIDDECOMBE
No I am doing a scale of priorities.


JOHN SERGEANT
I know but she was not judging one against the other she was judging the situation at that particular moment and she had a decision to make. Was that decision right or was it wrong. I maintain that Jay Hunt was right.

DIMBLEBY
Chuka Umunna

CHUKA UMUNNA
Whether she said it in a malicious way or not for me is an irrelevance. Completely irrelevant. Whether she is of a different generation is also rather irrelevant to me as well. What matters is the circumstances she is living in now and clearly what she said in any circumstance now is utterly unacceptable and offensive and I don’t just say that as a person of colour I think people who do not share my ethnicity would think the same too. I think the BBC made exactly the right decision on this I think the fact that she refused to apologise and the apology that came was oh well it was light hearted banter is completely unsatisfactory and actually to answer your question Jonathan should the BBC reconsider its decision about Carol Thatcher in the light of Jeremy Clarkson I actually think it should reconsider its treatment of Jeremy Clarkson because I happen to think the comments that he made were completely unacceptable and as somebody who pays their licence fee I don’t want any of my money going to him at all. I think he should be removed from TopGear as well.

ANN WIDDECOMBE
Same for Ross and Brand

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
For what he used or how you regard him generally. I mean there are two different, you may loathe the guy but for the phrase that he used and he then said afterwards I apologise for using the words one eyed

CHUKA UMUNNA
Well admittedly I am not a great fan of Clarkson but I think what he said was utterly unacceptable every single part of it. The fact that he said well OK I am sorry about commenting about the physicality of the Prime Minister so that is OK having a go at him for being Scottish is somehow acceptable.

ANN WIDDECOMBE
Hang on is it an insult to call somebody Scottish? Come on, come on I am beginning to give up really I am

CHUKA UMUNNA
Ann, Ann why

ANN WIDDECOMBE
An insult that somebody is Scottish! I am part Scottish that is not an insult. I am also largely Cornish that is not an insult. You can even call me British if you like and that won’t be an insult

CHUKA UMUNNA
Why did he feel the need to include the word Scottish in what he said?

ANN WIDDECOMBE
Well because the man is Scottish I thought. Maybe I am wrong

(LAUGH)

ANN WIDDECOMBE
And actually he is Scottish and he is inflicting an awful lot of law on us that actually won’t be felt by his own constituents

DIMBLEBY
It is not entirely clear that that was what was in Clarkson’s mind when he used the term, the complexity of the West Lothian question but anyway Chuka Ummuna

CHUKA UMUNNA
If you replace the word Scottish with African or black that would be completely unacceptable so why is it acceptable in that sentence to have the word Scottish. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
So by the same token

CHUKA UMUNNA
You can discriminate against people on the basis of their nationality in addition to the basis of their race in law you can

DIMBLEBY
If he had said for instance I mean this hypothetical the word one eyed which many people regard in the context as extremely offensive if he had said this person is an obese English thug would that be something that you would also say that person should be removed from the broadcasting environment. Obese being or fat being a word that is offensive to many people used pejoratively. In an environment where there is freedom of expression and where people are very easily and understandably in particular circumstances offended how do you decide what is OK and what is not?


CHUKA UMUNNA
Jonathan that is quite a different issue. I am not talking about Jeremy Clarkson’s freedom to say what he said. What I am talking about is whether he should be employed and paid from the public purse and given the position that he is and be able to say that and hold the position at the same time

ANN WIDDECOMBE
And what about Ross and Brand?

CHUKA UMUNNA
Well I thought what Ross and Brand said was completely unacceptable too.

ANN WIDDECOMBE
And should they be employed by the public purse?

CHUKA UMUNNA
Well I don’t believe Brand is any more.

ANN WIDDECOMBE
OK what about Ross?

CHUKA UMUNNA
Well I have issues with that also

ANN WIDDECOMBE
So you don’t think he should be employed.

CHUKA UMUNNA
I have issues with that also

DIMBLEBY
Former Director-General patiently listening. Former Director-General of the BBC Greg Dyke

GREG DYKE
I find, what I find interesting about the Clarkson thing is that I see that somebody, that he has apologised for calling Gordon Brown one eyed that someone has complained about calling him Scottish I heard on the news tonight but no one seems to have complained about calling him an idiot. (LAUGH applause)
If Jeremy Clarkson worked in news or in current affairs he would now be fired, he would be out of there because you can’t have anybody who is supposed to be impartial making that sort of statement but Clarkson is Clarkson, he says many things that I find deeply offensive quite regularly, I think that is life, I think if you take all those people out of the media and out of television you get al very boring media.

ANN WIDDECOMBE
What about Carol?


GREG DYKE
On Carol Thatcher I, Carol Thatcher isn’t of that older generation, Carol Thatcher is considerably younger than I am

DIMBLEBY
She is 55 years old

ANN WIDDECOMBE
She is 55

GREG DYKE
55

ANN WIDDECOMBE
You are 61 aren’t you?

GREG DYKE
Thank you for telling the world Ann I appreciate that.

ANN WIDDECOMBE
So am I so don’t worry

GREG DYKE
The point is if she didn’t understand that using that sort of word is now deeply offensive then she ought to and I have got to tell you any organisation that I was running if I discovered any member of staff using that sort of language we would have taken action against them because it is not acceptable. She was describing a black tennis player. It wasn’t, she was describing a black tennis player as a golliwog. I am sorry the world has moved on. We are a multi racial, multi cultural society where we have made enormous attempts to actually take out that sort of racism

ANN WIDDECOMBE
I don’t think anybody is saying the choice of words was felicitous I don’t think anybody is saying that I think the issue is was the BBC reaction proportionate. I think that is the issue

GREG DYKE
I think the BBC reaction was fair in the sense they said to her Carol you can’t say this sort of thing it is not acceptable it is not a private place which is what they pretended, the green room is actually a public place in any I mean the green room for those who don’t know is where the production team and also many of the guests also have a drink have a drink before or afterwards. Now

DIMBLEBY
Quite often several drinks afterwards

GREG DYKE
Well sometimes they need it. That is a public place but even if it had been a private place, even if it had been the office if you call the office private it is not acceptable. If you allow people to use that sort of language in the work place then you are condoning it in some ways and therefore you have got to stop it. Now if she had said now look I am sorry these things slip out I didn’t mean it but she doesn’t say that and therefore I don’t think the BBC had any option but to do what they did.

DIMBLEBY
Alex Perkins what do you?

ALEX PERKISN
Actually I think Greg Dyke has got this absolutely right. It is a very difficult issue but it comes down to the apology and the bottom line is I think I can forgive an oaf for being an oaf but as she wouldn’t apologise I won’t forgive a bigot for being a bigot.

(APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
Let me just ask the audience here as it has caused an enormous number of emails and the rest coming into the BBC who thinks the BBC was right to make it impossible for or to remove her from the programme? Who thinks the BBC was wrong? This audience is a very large majority who thinks the BBC was right. Your thoughts on this would be very welcome too Any Answers after the Saturday broadcast of the programme. The number again is 03700 100 444 and the email address any.answers@bbc.co.uk
We will go to our next please


JONATHAN WILSON
Does the ‘special relationship’ always trump what is morally right?

DIMBLEBY
This is in relation presumably to the Guantanamo torture allegations and the Foreign Secretary’s decision not to allow American evidence at which the judges in the case wanted to be able to give a summary of to be made public in the court
Ann Widdicombe?

ANN WIDDECOMBE
I don’t even know that it is necessarily on this occasion a straightforward of the special relationship versus a moral imperative. Now I see why you have couched the question in those terms. I think there are all sorts of considerations here. First of all there is a general consensus and there isn’t any argument about it that torture is wrong, that if it has actually been used then those responsible should actually be called to account for what they have done. There is a general consensus there and that consensus is between both the States and us. There are then all manner of issues about intelligence and about what should properly and properly not be revealed and once again the judges actually have also ruled that some things should not. Now we are already to call upon the nation to respect the judges when they say something should be revealed I think we have also got to take it into account when they say that something shouldn't be revealed. But to actually answer your question…should international diplomacy, which is what it comes down to, ever triumph over something which is very black and white in terms of the moral question behind it I think the answer to that has got to be no. I can’t imagine anybody saying yes to that. But I think there is rather more in this. I think there is a much more finesse situation than is suggested by that juxtaposition of the two issues

DIMBLEBY
Just to get what the judges said. This is Lord Justice Thomas and Justice Lloyd Jones both senior judges. Part of what they said “we have no reason to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States Government thatit would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed us to providing a limited but important summary of thereports” The Foreign Secretary said “for the record the United States did not threaten tobreak off intelligence cooperation” but then he went on and said that this closing of the documents would be and I am quoting now “likely to result in serious damage to US national security and could harm existing intelligence information sharing between thetwo countries” Is there, just in parenthesis, Chuka Ummuna in your view a clear distinction between what the judge said is a threat and what David Miliband said was harming information sharing. Aren’t they much the same thing?

CHUKA UMUNNA
Well as I understand it no threat was made. I


DIMBLEBY
But a threat from the judge’s point of view they are summarizing aren’t they? If the Americans said look this could do serious damage, it could harm existing intelligence sharing. That is quite close to saying don’t do it or you will find yourselves not being able to share isn’t it?

CHUKA UMUNNA
Well I am not sure that is what was said. I have to say I mean I haven’t read the transcript and I don’t mean to sound like a politician not answering the question but I don’t know the answer to that question. I think one of the problems with this is I think in some respects people have forgotten what that hearing was about. The hearing obviously was not about were we complicit in torturing practices carried out by the United States it wasn’t about indeed whether we were going to disclose any of this US intelligence information to Mr Mohammed because of course the information was to close to his US Lawyers; it was about whether it should be published and made public in circumstances where the Foreign Secretary had been advised by the various different UK government departments and agencies involved that this could compromise the relationship of intelligence sharing that we have with the US government which ultimately we need to safeguard British lives. Now used in the context of the Iraq war and the intelligence assessment which was given in relation to the weapons of mass destruction there are obviously going to be questions about the extent to which we should give the intelligence services the benefit of the doubt but I suppose first of all I would say well what other option do we have if they are saying it is going to compromise our relationship with the US in terms of intelligence sharing we don’t have enough information as ordinary members of the public to second guess them. Secondly there are two other things

DIMBLEBY
Even if the judges say that the evidence, that they were summarizing evidence very specifically that was relevant to allegations of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment politically embarrassing though it may be.

CHUKA UMUNNA
Yes but of course the judges were making their own assessments of how important this intelligence information was and as judges sitting in Chambers in the Court of Appeal of the High Court I am not sure they are in a position to make that judgement. That wasn’t actually I don’t believe what they were asked to sit in judgement on. They were supposed to consider whether the public interest immunity certificates that the foreign Secretary was asking for should be granted and they were.

DIMBLEBY
OK

CHUKA UMUNNA
Can I just say?


DIMBLEBY
Maybe if we have got time I am going to have to move on. I am sorry John Sergeant

JOHN SERGEANT
I think the position is simply this which I can understand is that if you are sharing intelligence with another country you do not publish that intelligence that you receive from another country unless you get their permission to do so. That is a principle which I think people would understand otherwise you can’t have any deal it is ridiculous so I think the point that was being made was that if you appear to break that principle and you then go through the documents and say oh I think we will do that let’s get that through that is alright you break an important principle. Now the reason why all these other issues have come up and people are so upset about this is because frankly we are embarrassed and annoyed about the continuing allegations against our government and the American Government that we are condoning torture. If we could be firmer on that point this would be much easier to handle. The only reason people are now complaining about it is because there has been a change of President in the United States but our record on this is poor in terms of condemnation. If we could up that a bit we could be much more straightforward saying no we don’t do this in this case but we really do condemn torture.

DIMBLEBY
Greg Dyke (HEAR HEAR APPLASUE)

GREG DYKE
The question was about the special relationship. I don’t think we have had a special relationship with American in the last 8 years I think in the Bush years we have had a subservient relationship where (APPLAUSE)
What I find strange in all this is clearly the American response is the response from the dying days of the Bush administration. What I don’t understand is why this government doesn’t go back to the Obama administration and say look we would like to would you change the position. Finally having lived through the Hutton enquiry having lived thorugh the whole period on Iraq I am afraid I don’t have other people’s faith in the security services. They are tools of the political classes. That was quite clear from what happened over Iraq. That at the end of the day the security services both in Britain and in America supplied the evidence that the politicians wanted and not the impartial evidence that their job was to give. (APPLAUSE)

DIMBLEBY
People will have to wonder I am afraid Chuka Umuna what you were going to add because we have run out of time. Next week we are going to be in Richmond in North Yorkshire with the Editor at Large of the Independent on Sunday Janet Street Porter, Liberal Democrats spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Jo Swinson and David Davis who was Shadow Home Secretary. And there is going to be another as well but we don’t know who he or she will be. Hope you can join us there but from the University of the Creative Arts in Canterbury, Kent. Goodbye.


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