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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 27 January 2006
PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby

Michael Meacher
Bernard Ingham
Greg Dyke
Sayeeda Warsi

FROM: St Michael's Church Hall, West Yorkshire

[Gap] ... Pennines and to West Yorkshire and to the town of Mytholmroyd, which was renowned in the 19th Century as an important centre for clothes and blanket manufacture. In the last century it became famous as the birthplace of Ted Hughes, who was not overly fond of the factory remains that then littered the landscape, he described the valley around here as the fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution after the bird has flown. Now there is a renaissance project, which includes, among other things, a Ted Hughes Centre.

We're the guests here of St Margaret's Church Hall. And on our panel Sir Bernard Ingham who was Margaret Thatcher's press secretary when she was in Number 10, when he was fond of phrases like Bunkum and Balderdash. He is now on the UK advisory board of MacDonald's, he campaigns for nuclear energy and he writes, among many other outlets, for the local paper The Hebden Bridge Times, being as he grew up down the road in that community though he no longer now lives there.

Michael Meacher was environment minister from 1997 till 2003, when he was, as it were, despatched to the back benches. There he is liberated to express himself in terms which from time to time, if not every week, are calculated to get under the skin of Number 10.

Sayeeda Warsi's family came from Pakistan but she was born in Britain. A solicitor by profession she's the first Muslim woman to be selected by the Conservatives as a candidate for the Westminster Parliament, that was in 2005. She didn't succeed at that attempt but she's now a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party and as well, amongst other organisations, a member of the Rowntree Trust's racial justice committee.

Greg Dyke became known to a wider public originally for bringing Roland Rat to Breakfast television. But he was already on an upwardly mobile route through television until he got the job that he once said Saddam Hussein was more likely to be offered than he, namely the Director General of the BBC. That was in 2000. Four years later he left after the Hutton Inquiry into events that of course related to the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Now he has a host of endeavours, among them Chancellor of York University and he's chairman of Brentford Football. Moreover he's the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING]
Our first question please.

Jacqui Smith. Is the media institutionally racist?

The media are guilty of institutional racism, the words of Sir Ian Blair, which have caused much controversy. Michael Meacher.

No, I don't think that it's a fair description of the media. I think on the issue that Sir Ian Blair raised, the question of the killings Damilola, Stephen Lawrence and other black persons, did receive very full attention. It is equally true, as he said, that an Asian who attempted to prevent the theft of radio microphones was dragged by the car and died very cruelly, that received hardly any attention. But I think on that particular day there were a great deal of other news but you would have expected that something as bad as that would have received more attention. I don't think the media is institutionally racist but I think in terms of the positive encouragement of a multicultural society I think the media could do a great deal more. We hear about all the bad things, we don't hear enough about the cultural success of many other institutions in bringing about a better society for all people and all ethnic minorities. [CLAPPING]

Sir Bernard Ingham.

No I don't think the media is institutionally racist. I think that all these people who talk about racism are very often the most racist people there are.

But you don't apply that of course in this particular case do you.

Well hang on a minute.

Or are you suggestion that Sir Ian is? I think mainly of the laws of defamation ...

What I am suggesting is that I do think Sir Ian Blair would do well to shut up for a change and get on with catching criminals. [CLAPPING] I mean it is so ludicrously idiotic to suggest that the British media is racist, bearing in mind the coverage that they have given, as Michael Meacher says, to a number of pretty horrendous killings of black people, black children and youths. And I do think that it's - he just allowed his tongue to run away with him and he would do well - we would do well to have a period of silence from Sir Ian Blair. [CLAPPING]

Sayeeda Warsi.

I don't like the term institutional racism, I think we've used more and more of it in recent terms. The police were institutionally racist, other organisations are institutionally racist and now it's the media. You get bad people in individual organisations and you may well have racist people in the media, as you would have in other walks of society. But you can't tarnish a whole profession with that same brush. I think what we have to understand is what is the make up of the media and people report on what they find familiar and what they find interesting and the more ethnic minorities we get into the media the more they will report on these things. And if you look through history in the past there were very few stories about, for example, children or family life or emotions because there were fewer women in the media. But as women came into the media we now talk about these issues. So I'm quite hopeful that when we get more ethnic minorities we will cover these issues in much more depth. But I'm quite upset at the fact that we keep using this term institutionally racism because it gets people's backs up and it sends out a bad impression about a whole host of people who may not be racist but will have quite angry feelings about racism once they're labelled with that.

In elaborating his point he said the reporting of murders in ethnic minority communities appears not to interest the mainstream media. Leaving aside the two cases mentioned - Damilola Taylor and Stephen Lawrence - is there, in your view, from - coming from within that community any evidence when you read newspapers that there is a greater proportion of time given to white murdered individuals than those from the ethnic minorities?

No I don't think so. And the Soham case, you have to remember, was an exceptional case and any case involving children - and I don't really care what colour those children are - any case involving children does grip this nation and we become entwined with that. And the media were absolutely right to give that case as much publicity as they did.

Greg Dyke. [CLAPPING]

DYKE No I don't think the media is institutionally racist. I think what Sir Ian Blair was talking about was certain stories get much more publicity than others. That's always been the case with the media. Excuse me. If you could - there are often stories that you can't explain, why did that story suddenly take off and that didn't and why did it suddenly disappear and it happens all the time. Now the Soham murders got massive coverage, for all sorts of reasons, but one of them was that they were in August when the media hadn't got much else to cover and it's always been seen as the silly period. But I don't think there is an in-built discriminatory view inside most of the British media. And I think also to try to generalise and say all the media - there is a thing called the media who are all the same is in itself wrong. However, the point made is dead right that in a multicultural society more people in the media have to come from minority backgrounds and that will take time but is happening.

DIMBLEBY Because do you believe that in the media, I mean take the BBC, which you once led, as an example, that the infusion of individuals from ethnic minority change the coverage of the BBC because of their own individual interests - is that what you're saying?

DYKE Yes I think so. And I think - well I mean one of my complaints at the BBC was that I thought that it was, if anything, it's institutionally south of England. [CLAPPING] I mean if that whale coming down the North Sea had gone into the Tyne and not into the Thames we'd never have heard about it.

DIMBLEBY Bernard, you wanted to say something.

INGHAM No I'm simply saying I don't care where that whale had gone it would have attracted a great deal of attention because we're absolutely barmy about animals and especially about whales. So I don't agree with that at all, no.

DIMBLEBY We will go, at that, to our next question please.

Dominic Beasley. How can we expect to convince Hamas of our point of view if we refuse to talk to them?

DIMBLEBY Sayeeda Warsi.

WARSI I think what's happened in the Middle East with the election of Hamas is actually an opportunity and I think that's the way we've got to see it. When groups that practise violence are suddenly propelled into power through a democratic process they get responsibility and responsibility can be a tremendously taming factor. And I think that Hamas, when it realises that it wants a safe and stable and prosperous Palestine for its people, will realise that the way to deal with that is through dialogue and democracy and not through violence. And also I think if you look historically, I mean, for example, if you look in India when the far right part were there they made far more progress on the Kashmir issue, Ariel Sharon made far more progress on the peace process because if you have the extremists not in power then the more moderate groups find it very hard to come to a solution on contentious issues. But when those very parties who are so vociferous about these issues come into power they have a better mandate from the people to have a solution. And I actually think that Hamas has been given a mandate and I think it will now hopefully adopt a responsible position because that is the only way.

DIMBLEBY Should outsiders and indeed Israelis, in your view, talk to leaders of Hamas, even though formally they call for the elimination of the state of Israel and although there is a truce they have not renounced the use of violence and specifically suicide bombing inside Israel, how do you, as it were, in your view, should they - should the powers who do have to talk, navigate that process?

WARSI I think that there are different thoughts that are coming out at the moment, some people are saying we will cooperate on a practical level, others are saying we won't speak to them at all. I think that dialogue has to be kept open because otherwise we won't make any progress. But I think Hamas will from the pressure that's now building nationally and internationally will realise very, very quickly that they will have to denounce violence to make sure that they establish a peaceful and prosperous Palestine for their people, which is what they were elected to do.


DYKE Well I think we will talk to them. I mean all sorts of people have to take positions at the moment because of their own political constituencies but in the end there is no way you can't have discussions with the elected government. And I suspect in the end the Israelis will have to talk to them. Now this will - but this will come about, it won't be a straightforward negotiation but there will have to become links. I mean one remembers in this country the many years we refused to have any sort of discussions with the terrorists in Northern Ireland, with the IRA or Sinn Fein, but of course in the end John Major, quite rightly, instigated discussions and in the end it led to peace. And that's what will happen. I agree with you I think that it could be an opportunity, it depends how Hamas play it but there will be discussions.

DIMBLEBY Sir Bernard.

INGHAM Well I think you've got to look at from the Israeli point of view, if somebody wants to drive you into the sea and to annihilate you and says that they won't denounce violence then I do think it does make it very difficult for them. It would make it difficult for anybody.

DIMBLEBY When you say drive into the sea, the formal position is not actually drive into the sea, is it, it's that the state should not exist and that violence is a legitimate means while their land is occupied and "resisting" that state's activities?

INGHAM Well you're trying to dance on a pinhead aren't you, I mean the plain fact is they want to get rid of them. Now look - you look at it from the point of view of the Israelis but here we have a chance, we have somebody - Hamas at any rate - in Palestine complemented power, now whether negative and destructive power with responsibilities. We now want to see how Hamas rises to that responsibility, can it bear the weight of the responsibility that's been placed upon it? Now I think that given the difficulty for Israel then quite clearly this is a challenge to the Islamic world and it is also a challenge to all other people to try to find a way of minimising the difficulties that inevitably will arise because not all Hamas will want to be responsible, in these circumstances we've seen with the IRA that quite a lot want to be irresponsible. But what we have to do is try to help this process forward because there is at least - at least an opportunity to move forward. And let's face it, if indeed Hamas show sign of maintaining their ceasefire or whatever it is then quite frankly there are plenty of opportunities for people who want to be helpful to go in by back channels to talk to them and talk to them like Dutch uncles and that is what will happen.

DIMBLEBY Michael Meacher.

MEACHER Well first of all I think we should recognise that they have scored a very resounding victory. This is the first time that they've contested elections, they end up with 76 seats and over 60% of the vote and it is of course the West - particularly the United States - which has been telling all Arab countries to be democratic. Well now that they are I think that needs to be respected. [CLAPPING] I mean I entirely understand, of course, our saying that they should renounce violence, I think we're right to do that, although equally I think we should be saying that if they do then the Israelis have a duty to negotiate them - negotiate with them also in good faith. And I think we should also recognise that Hamas is not, I think, the incorrigible fundamentalist unapproachable organisation, utterly violent organisation, the people who've been elected are often professional engineers, lawyers, doctors. The reason that they've joined Hamas is in rebellion against the ineptitude and corruption of the Fatah movement. And I think it's extremely significant - we now have the Palestinians with a leadership which they strongly support, we have on the Israeli side with Sharon gone, with Israeli elections coming in March, I think on both sides there are major changes. And I think perhaps paradoxically we may have the best chance for serious movement and the renegotiation of a roadmap to peace that we've had for a very long time. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY Our next question please.

Eric Olsten. Does the panel support the BBC's proposal to axe the Radio 4 signature tune?

DIMBLEBY Five thirty in the morning, the UK theme. Greg Dyke.

DYKE When I took over the BBC the one thing I knew was you took on the Radio 4 audience or parts of it at your peril. There is a famous story of the BBC at one time wanted to move Radio 4 off Long Wave and the listeners of Radio 4 decided to march upon Broadcasting House in London and they marched up Portland Place and they chanted, and they chanted - What do we want? - Radio 4 - Where do we want it? - Long Wave - What do we say? - Please. [CLAPPING] When Mark Damazer, who is a good friend of mine, took over Radio 4 I did say to him you know this is a difficult job because you never know what change that you make suddenly provokes the reaction, well he now does.

DIMBLEBY What did you ac - Is that the precise way in which you spoke to him or did you speak in a more, how can I put it?, colloquial fashion?

DYKE No, no I - well it was a little more colloquial than that but that wouldn't be suitable for Radio 4. It is a difficult job. Who would have ever believed a piece of music going out at 5.30 in the morning would get motions in Parliament, would get the Prime Minister, the Dep - I'm sorry talking about Gordon Brown and he's not the Deputy Prime Minister - but Gordon Brown, who would have believed it would have got them all upset and uptight? But that - the history of Radio 4 is every so often that happens.

DIMBLEBY You haven't specifically answered the question, though you've been - have you ever heard the music?

DYKE No I don't wake up at half past five in the morning, neither does any sensible human being. It's the insomniacs isn't it, this is the insomniacs music. I think probably I'd let them have it because I don't think it matters that much.

DIMBLEBY Michael Meacher.

Well I mean I'm not an insomniac, I sleep very soundly, go to bed very late, I'm an owl not a lark, so I've never heard it. And I must say this strikes me as an immense sort of storm in a teacup. It seems to me absolutely incredible if you've had ...

DIMBLEBY Can you hear the sucking of teeth that you provoked in the audience when you said that?

MEACHER I'm being honest. But I mean to have these rousing songs which are a sort of celebration of Britishness and a pretty joyful start to the morning and to replace it by what is called - this is a new word I'd not heard before - a pacey news briefing and an extended shipping forecast, oh my goodness me, I mean - and these are songs, the medley is actually composed, which I think adds some rich irony, by an Austrian born Fritz Spiegl. But I mean on a serious point there are real issues with regard to the BBC, the cutting of World Service programmes and of course the threat to the BBC Charter, I mean that's what we ought to be talking about in Parliament and putting down EDMs and demanding that the Prime Minister intervene, although he did say when he was asked to intervene well my influence with the BBC is legendary, so perhaps ...

DIMBLEBY Are you going to come to Mark Damazer's rescue Sayeeda Warsi?

WARSI Well I haven't listened to the theme tune either, so that's - we're nearly getting a full house. I think if people enjoy it that much they should keep it and we have enough news, we have 24 hour news happening all the time and I think 5 or 10 minutes of it at 5.30 in the morning is not going to make us anymore well informed. But I think the serious issue here is when Gordon Brown takes this upon himself to get behind it and this is such an issue and I think Gordon is really keen these days to emphasise his Englishness and Britishness, I find that so ...

DIMBLEBY His Scottish Britishness.

WARSI And I find it so ...

Whatever you may say of him he hasn't actually emphasised his English Britishness has he?

Well he tries. And I find that so hypocritical considering the Labour Party and Gordon Brown have spent the last eight years trying to dismantle anything that we ever had to be proud of in terms of Britishness and suddenly he's getting behind the theme tune. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY Sir Bernard Ingham.

INGHAM Well it is entirely academic for me these days, thank goodness, I don't hear it. But I used to be stirred by it when I worked for a living. And I do not want to lose it because I do think that we are losing too much of our national symbolism. There is an enormous effort to dismember England into regions, to fit in with Brussels and all we shall - and then all we'll be left with is really inadequate regions that nobody really identifies with.

DIMBLEBY Do you think Drunken Soldier is kind of safeguarding us against Brussels?

INGHAM It is traditional, it is a traditional air ...

DIMBLEBY Drunken Sailor, I should have said.

INGHAM There is a deficiency about this signature tune in the sense that it doesn't have Ilkley Moor Bar Tat in it but leave that on one side. I do think that it is part and parcel of, as it were, the denationalisation of Britain for a whole variety of reasons and it should not go, it should be retained.


DYKE Well I suspect that people are applauding who've never heard it but ...

DIMBLEBY We'll find out.

DYKE But what I would say is the one thing I can guarantee you is that this will be the longest debate at the next meeting of the BBC Board of Governors. While instead of having a sophisticated discussion of what you're going to do with £2.8 billion there will be at least an hour discussed on this melody.

DIMBLEBY Let me - let me - let me ask the audience here first, who thinks it should stay, would you put your hands up? Who thinks it should go? Well overwhelmingly here the majority is in favour of it staying. Second question: Who's heard it, would you put your hands up? Who hasn't heard it? Well there's a much more even number there. Anyway Any Answers maybe a vehicle through which you could express your views on this, I do not know, the number for Any Answers is 08700 100 444 and Mark Damazer of course you're very welcome to have your say again on it. The e-mail address is, that's after the Saturday edition of Any Questions. Our next please.

Geraint Harris. Should an integrated energy policy for the UK include an expansion of nuclear power?

DIMBLEBY This week has seen the start of what the government hopes will be a national debate on its energy review, which incorporates the prospect at least of the expansion of nuclear power to meet the demand in a global climate that is very challenging, if not dangerous. Bernard Ingham.

INGHAM Well not really sure but it will and there's nothing that people can say or do about it because if we don't have it the lights are going to go out or alternatively we are going to find our energy so expensive that it really become pretty intolerable and we should become an uncompetitive nation. Let me just simply explain why it is inevitable. It's inevitable because we are closing down coal and nuclear power stations at the moment at a fair rate of knots. And by 2020 or so maybe about a quarter to a third of our generating capacity will have gone. We are proposing under the present White Paper to replace this with renewables who contribute at the moment about 4%, most of which is hydro, wind contributes - the only other effective renewable 0.5%, totally unreliable too, you're going to nothing reducing the - nothing from energy conservation to reduce your electricity demand which is advancing at 1 to 1.5% a year. Now in these circumstances all you can do is to fill this with gas, gas imported substantially by 2020, about 80%, from Russia, after Mr Putin and the Ukraine, from the Middle East, God help us, from Algeria, Nigeria, where they're trying to drive Shell out of the Delta, the Niger Delta for exploring. Now if you wish to put Britain at risk by relying for 80% of your energy on gas, then I do suggest you go to the country immediately and ask the British people whether they think that is a risk well worth taking. And the only means of getting a greater measure of security is to get nuclear power. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY Which you have said, if I report you correctly, Britain needs like a hole in the head, Michael Meacher.

MEACHER I think that's a very intelligent and thoughtful comment, I'm not sure who said it but it's absolutely accurate. The fact is, Bernard, it is not inevitable and it is much better if we pursue an alternative. I'll tell you why. First of all nuclear is more expensive, it's half as expensive again as gas, twice as expensive again as wind, according to the Number 10 research unit looking at energy costs, predicting what they're likely to be in 2020. It has also costs this country - nuclear - £57 thousand million in having to deal with decommissioning and waste management that nuclear plants, both, I admit, military as well as civil, have cost us in the last 50 years. Thirdly, it produces waste that we don't know what to do with, we've got 10,000 tonnes of it at Sellafield, mostly Sellafield, and even if there's no nuclear build DTI, well known to be pro-nuclear, say that is going to be up 50 times that amount, half a million tonnes, by the end of this century. It causes cancer and leukaemia, it is at risk of nuclear proliferation, as we're seeing with Iran, and there is always a terrorist risk after 9/11 - if you're going to harm this country don't drop a bomb on Parliament but hit Sellafield. I tell you it is the last form of energy that we should be pursuing. The only argument for nuclear is this: That there is no other alternative. Now I agree with Bernard about the fact that we don't need more gas, it is very risky to be dependent on imported gas from Russia, Algeria, Libya etc. The alternative is renewables and contrary to what he said there is a very different picture. Yes we're starting from a very low base, the government has a target to reach 10% by 2010 and the experts think we will. They have an aspiration, not a target, to reach 20% by 2020. But the EU renewable energy directive is already requiring the EU to produce 22% of electricity generation by 2010, so we're going to be under a hell of a lot of pressure to push it up to 20%. And my last point is this: We have 40% of the entire wind power capacity of Europe in these shores because we're in our position offshore and we're using less than 1% of it. The gap from nuclear, which is now 19% of electricity generation, it'll be 7% in 2020, it's a 12% gap, that can easily and much better be covered by renewables. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY Let's just - with their consent, before I bring the other two in, because you were both, from your different perspectives, specialises in this very intensely, come to the one question of whether or not renewables - you say that renewables can fill the gap indefinitely, Michael Meacher, you say renewables can't. Just on that one point why, Sir Bernard, do you think renewables won't be able, we hear from Michael Meacher, 20% by 2020 is the aspiration, is that not enough or won't it be reached?

INGHAM It's a dream world, all that you have at the moment in terms of renewables is wind - 0.5% of our electricity. You have got waves, tides, solar, what in this climate and at night, geothermal, biomass, which is wood, all kinds of biofuels, we don't have the [indistinct word] to grow them, they are going to be very marginal and anybody who is relying upon renewables to fill the gap is living in an utter dream world and is in my view an enemy of the people.

DIMBLEBY Michael Meacher. [AUDIENCE NOISE] Michael Meacher.

MEACHER Let's look at what other European countries are actually doing? As a proportion of electricity generation from renewables and hydro. Sweden, amazingly, 57%. Finland 33%. Portugal 30%. Let's take the big Central European countries...

DIMBLEBY That's a proportion of the small ones, that's a proportion of their need? But if you take into account the size of Sweden compared with the size of the UK and the land masses doesn't that alter the equation that you're presenting?

MEACHER No it doesn't because we have so much more wind power capacity. And the point I'm making is that Italy, Germany, France and Spain are all 13-19% of electricity ...

DIMBLEBY What do you think is required in order - if you look at global warming and the challenge to reach 60% reduction etc. by 2050, what is your view of the proportion that should be provided by renewables, not merely by the short term 2010-2020, but 2030, 40, 50, what percentage do you think is likely or possible?

MEACHER Well if I said Bernard will say it's a dream world. Let me quote the DTI, which is strongly pro-nuclear, they have made clear in statements that they believe that this country could produce 25% of electricity generation by 2025. And if they say it it can be at least that. The fact is we have the best renewables capacity in this country and we are using it least and if we're going to cut greenhouse gases by 60%, as you rightly say, by 2050 there is no other possible way of doing that except through renewables.

DIMBLEBY Sir Bernard and then I'll bring in the other two. [CLAPPING]

INGHAM It is not on, on the present state of knowledge, research, development and commercial prospect, it simply isn't on. And the attempt to flog renewables to the people is an attempt to avoid an awkward decision which is to go nuclear.

DIMBLEBY Okay I'm going to bring in Sayeeda Warsi now.

WARSI Yeah, I think what we've seen here from both sides of the argument is that this is an extremely important issue and it's why certainly over the last - next 18 months the Conservatives have commissioned a policy group on quality of life. And we've got to really open up this debate, it's not simply nuclear, gas or wind farms, it's got to be bigger than that, it's the whole quality of life and environment issue. And I think there are so many other missed opportunities we need to look at - housing, we've had a whole review in relation to affordable housing and the level of housing that is required but there's been no incentives in terms of whether they're sustainably built, whether they have energy from solar sources, whether they have high efficiency condensation boilers - all these issues will all point towards how we consume our energy and how best we can have it from renewable sources. And you might be aware, certainly last week, when David Cameron and members of the shadow cabinet signed up to climate change now, which was about one million people switching to renewable energy, I've done mine, I'm now on Green Energy UK and all I'd urge is for people around here to start doing the same, we have to do our little bit and hopefully things will then work from there.

DIMBLEBY Now you're doing all these policy stuff in your party, you are young member of your party and you're free to speak, are you yourself tempted by the thought that it has to be nuclear alongside a greater propensity to use renewables?

WARSI I think that we have an 18 month review and I think all these issues have to be properly and fully explored ...

DIMBLEBY But that's - here are you being very outspoken and suddenly you're sounding like a speak your weight machine, what's your own view, what's your own view?

WARSI I think what we've seen here, what we've seen here Jonathan, is that there are two very strong arguments on both sides ...

DIMBLEBY And you have an open mind?

WARSI And I have an open mind. I've done my bit for the environment, I've switched, but I'm keeping an open mind about things.


DYKE Yeah mine is a very similar position, I think the pro-nuclear and the anti-nuclear sides are so polarised but I want to see the study, I want to see the study that looks forward 40 years, it sees what energy we've got, where it's likely to come from and the rest of it. What I do know from my own experience of one is the speed at which or the rate at which fuel bills arising means that all sorts of - all sorts of conservation ideas that one previously rejected one can now bring into account because actually the cost of fuel is so expensive. And I suspect if we actually started putting much bigger tax breaks on things that help conserve energy actually you could swing people that way. And again in the study you'd need to see what is the cost of the tax breaks you'd need to do compared to the cost of building another nuclear power station.

DIMBLEBY One more thing Michael Meacher, you would acknowledge, wouldn't you, that the debate is made more complicated by the fact that within what is described loosely as the environmental movement there are a variety of views on whether or not nuclear should or shouldn't play a part from very distinguished figures?

MEACHER Yes I think you're referring to the fact that the ...

James Lovelock and others for instance.

MEACHER James Lovelock who is a profound environmentalist and responsible for the Gaia theory believes that there has to be a redevelopment of nuclear power. The reason for that is not because he thinks it's desirable, but because he thinks that is the only way of dealing with climate change, which is coming upon us so violently and so fast that we had to do something dramatic. I still think he's wrong. But can I just say one other very, very quick point which is I don't think it is either nuclear or renewables or even gas, energy conservation is incredibly important, greater energy efficiency. We waste energy phenomenally, both in our private households and in industry. Fifteen percent of the energy in a car when you burn petroleum reaches the wheels, when you heat food 25% of less of the heat and the energy actually reaches the food in a standard oven. And I was told the other day and from a very good source that the United States power stations discard more waste energy than is required to power the entire Japanese economy. A rather better solution, it seems to me, than invading Iraq would have been to save oil in the United States. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY We will move on with a reminder of the Any Answers number 08700 100 444. Our next question please.

David Powell. Are there ever grounds for a politician to mislead the public?

DIMBLEBY Sayeeda Warsi, in the background I imagine you have events within the Liberal Democratic leadership Kennedy to Hughes and conceivably Mark Oaten as well. Sayeeda Warsi.

WARSI I think it's been obviously a very difficult time and a very sad time I think for the Liberal Democrats. But I think that private lives are private and I think they should have remained private and I think it's been very sad for the individuals and their families these last couple of weeks. I think the more important issue with the Liberal Democrats is not misleading or not about their private lives it's misleading actually about their policies and what we have to probably be more clear about is whether the Liberal Democrats stand for high taxation or ...

DIMBLEBY Yeah but let's, sorry Sayeeda, let's stick with the question as put by a member of the audience and there were a lot on this. Do you think that it is I ever appropriate for a politician deliberately to mislead the public about, for instance, private live or anything else, is it ever legitimate because you say a private life is private to mislead the public in those terms?

WARSI It's ...

DIMBLEBY I mean do you deny something to be true when it is true or do you have the right to do that?

I was told a lesson very, very early on in politics and it was never say something that you don't believe in and never ever do anything but tell the truth because you can't forget what you've said and you have to live with yourself long after politics has come and gone and I think that's the policy that I would stick to - that you really have to be true to yourself in what you say and you should try and be as honest as you can. But I think private life has got to be private, that's the other thing, I think it's a very sad day when every single person who comes into politics has to have their private life raked over coals and in the public domain because none of us are saints. [CLAPPING]


DYKE Well actually I thought David Cameron when asked quite personal questions during the Conservative leadership election gave the right answer, that is not an appropriate question and I'm not going to answer it. And actually the problem that certain people in the liberal party have got into is that they did answer the question and they didn't answer it truthfully. It would have been far better to say I'm just not going to answer that, I'm sorry, I'm entitled to a private life and no matter what you ask I am not answering that and then they'd have been fine.

DIMBLEBY Michael Meacher.

MEACHER First of all I think politicians should always tell the truth. And I don't really think there are exceptions to it. But that's a very high standard but it is the foundation of trust and confidence and integrity in our political system.

DIMBLEBY Do you have to answer questions that are put to you regardless of what they are?

MEACHER No, you don't. And I entirely agree with what Greg has said. The problem with Simon Hughes is, is that he has been attacked for lying about a question which should never have been asked in the first place. I mean if he has gay relationships that is a matter for him, it is nothing to do with us, politicians should be judged on the performance, the integrity, the leadership that they show in public affairs, not on their private life, unless their private life - and this does occasionally happen, one can think of one or two examples - unless their private life actually impinges on the judgement and quality of what they say and do in public.

DIMBLEBY But that precisely begs the question who is to judge whether or not the individual's private life does or doesn't impinge on the public life.

MEACHER Well I think that is for the individual himself and in asking that question ...

DIMBLEBY But isn't it likely, more than likely, that if you have something that is private in your life, that you're a private mass murderer or something, it's likely to impinge very much on your public life and therefore someone else has to ask the question rather than you? The difficulty is it not - who has the right to say this is a legitimate question or not a legitimate question?

MEACHER If you have reason to think that someone's been a mass murderer or even committed felonies at a substantially lower level you are of course entirely entitled to ask about that because I don't regard that as a private matter or a domestic matter whatsoever, that is a highly public matter, it affects other people, you've killed someone or you've acted in a way which affects other people. And anyone, any politician, or any other person in public life can expect to be asked such questions. But about your personal relationship that does not actually affect anyone else, they have no right to know about it.

DIMBLEBY Sir Bernard.

INGHAM I wonder whether we could return to the real world. The fact is that this poses extreme difficulty upon politicians and we should have some sympathy with the politicians. Do you tell people that you are going to be deploying troops at a certain time in a certain place or whatever when you are seeking to ensure the security of those troops? I well remember during the Falklands the entire American press corps descending upon me, they believe in total open government, they said where are you going to be and when, I said if you think I'm going to tell you you're dafter than you look. You simply cannot do it if you are a responsible politician. And therefore you have to find a formula of words. Similarly let us remember, I think it was Denis Healey or Jim Callaghan and the word devaluation, an enormously difficult situation which could have cost the country billions if they'd have said what the media wanted them to say. So I do think that we have to have some sympathy there. Second in part of the real world is that the media are not going to go away, we may deplore the way in which they behave, I find it immensely amusing that the moral guardians of Britain are the News of the World. But the fact is they are there and if you tell a lie then you will have to face the consequences if indeed the media can prove and keep the right side of the libel laws that you have been telling a lie. And of course poor old Simon Hughes has been caught out. Now one final point on this and I speak here for the media. I do not believe that politicians can stand on a platform of motherhood, apple pie, moral perfection and then go around with rent boys frankly and I - and I think that if they are exposed then they are exposed as hypocrites and I think that the people should know what kind of hypocrite is leading them. And therefore don't let's kid ourselves this is an easy question. As one who's had to cope with it for 25 years it is an extremely difficult problem and you do your best.

DIMBLEBY Greg Dyke you wanted in. [CLAPPING]

DYKE But what Bernard basically said was there are questions you can't answer and it's perfectly valid not to answer them - it's perfectly valid not to answer them. And I mean I saw a film recently of Jim Callaghan being interviewed when he was Prime Minister and Jim Callaghan was the absolute master at saying - and he was being interviewed by Robin Day - and he said, you don't think I'm going to answer that Robin and he just laughed. And sometimes you have to do that. But what you shouldn't do is tell something - unless there's incredible circumstances - you shouldn't tell something that is not true.

DIMBLEBY Okay you were agreeing with that Michael.

MEACHER You don't answer questions which you don't have to or need to, you can evade them - politicians are good at that - but what you shouldn't do is deliberately lie because you will be found out and it undermines not just you but politics in general.

DIMBLEBY You must tell the truth all the time but you can sometimes evade the truth? Thank you, we'll go to our next.

Chris Stark. The government is concerned about the growing problems of obesity and lack of fitness, how do tonight's team keep themselves slim and fit?

DIMBLEBY Not as long as you four would like on this I'm afraid. How do you keep yourself slim and fit? Greg Dyke.

DYKE Well I've built a gym in my house, I have a gym in my house which I don't use enough but I feel so much better because it's there.

DIMBLEBY Sayeeda Warsi.

WARSI Well this is radio isn't it so for the sake of your listeners I'm a size 10 and I'm extremely well toned. [LAUGHTER]

DIMBLEBY Those of us who don't know what a size 10 is, we assume that it's wonderful.

WARSI It's something that I haven't been, at least after the birth of my daughter anyway.

DIMBLEBY And how do you keep yourself slim and fit?

WARSI Umm politics.

DIMBLEBY Michael Meacher.

MEACHER Well I didn't know this question was coming but I actually spent 25 minutes on the rowing machine this morning listening to the Today programme. But I also have a bike and I like to tell people that but my wife always says yes but you never tell them you never use it.

DIMBLEBY Sir Bernard Ingham.

INGHAM Fitness and slimness are relative terms. [CLAPPING] And at my age you hope for the best.

DIMBLEBY Agile as ever, that takes us to the end of this week's programme. Next week we're going to be in Cannington in Somerset. And on the panel we will have Margaret Hodge, who's the minister for employment; Lord Lamont who was Chancellor of the Exchequer; Lord McNally who is the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and the president of the Society for General Microbiology, eminent scientist, Professor Sir Hugh Pennington. Join us there, don't forget Any Answers - I've got time just to give you that number once more - it's 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address And with that it is goodbye from the St. Michael's Church in Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire in the Pennines - oh I nearly got it right, goodnight. [CLAPPING]

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