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October 21, 2019
Democracy flourishes where information is free flowing and abundant, so the logic goes. In the West the choice of information is limitless in a marketplace of ideas. While authoritarian regimes censor by constricting the flow of information. But even in the West a new pattern of control is emerging. And this free flow of information, rather than liberate us, is used to crowd out dissent and subvert the marketplace of ideas. Peter Pomerantsev examines how the assumptions that underpinned many of the struggles for rights and freedoms in the last century - between citizens armed with truth and information and regimes with their censors and secret police - have been turned upside down. Producer: Ant Adeane Editor: Jasper Corbett
October 14, 2019
How should museums deal with contentious legacies? Two years since the French President, Emmanuel Macron, called for the restitution of objects taken at the height of Europe’s empires, some French and Dutch museums have started the process to hand back some artefacts. However, most of the UK’s main institutions remain reluctant. Should we empty our museums to make amends for our colonial past? In this edition of Analysis, David Baker speaks to people on all sides of the argument to get to the bottom of a topic that is pitching the art world up against global politics. Producer: Matt Russell Editor: Jasper Corbett Picture Credit: Crown, gold and gilded copper with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum
October 7, 2019
The data is indisputable: in developed countries boys now lag behind girls in several significant areas of education. For years, women lagged behind men in educational attainment. More boys went to university, and twice as many men as women got degrees in 1960. Forty years later and, fifty seven percent of university students are women. By almost any measure of school related performance girls are doing better than boys. Everyone agrees there is a problem but there is little consensus over what is causing it. Are boys doing worse or girls doing better? Is the education system biased against boys? Are boys just wired differently when it comes to learning? The roots of the new gender gap are complex and nuanced, but if we can't agree on what's causing it, how can we solve it? In the meantime more and more boys will fall behind. In this Analysis on The Problem with Boys, BBC journalist and father of three boys, David Grossman, looks at the evidence and tries to find a way forward. Producer: Gemma Newby Editor: Jasper Corbett
September 30, 2019
For many white people their race is not part of their identity. Race, racial inequality and racism are things that people of colour are expected to talk about and organise around. Not anymore. Anti-racist activists and academics are now urging white people to recognise that they are just as racialised as minorities. The way to successfully tackle structural racism, they say, is to get white people to start taking responsibility for the racially unjust status quo. Bristol-based journalist Neil Maggs, who is white, takes a deep dive into the canon of books, Instagram challenges and workshops that seek to educate people like him on their white privilege and internalised white supremacy. He gets advice from anti-racism trainer Robin DiAngelo, learns about the growing field of whiteness studies in the UK, and visits the white working class estate of Hartcliffe to see how these ideas play out there. He also talks to Eric Kaufmann about the inevitable decline of white majorities by the end of the century and how to prevent white people falling for far-right conspiracy theories about being wiped out. Presenter: Neil Maggs Producer: Lucy Proctor
July 22, 2019
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the working week gradually got shorter and shorter. As technological advances powered economic growth, workers reaped the gains not just in the form of higher pay, but more leisure time. The economist John Maynard Keynes predicted we'd eventually all be working a 15-hour week. Even in the 1970s the expectation that 8 hour days would be reduced to 6 was widely held across the political spectrum. But this all ground to a halt in the 1980s. In this edition of Analysis Sonia Sodha explores the great leisure mystery: whatever happened to this dream of working less? And why is the idea of a 4-day working week gaining traction on the political left in Britain? What would a society that ditches the long-hours culture, and re-embraces the leisure dream look like, and is it really possible to achieve this without increasing inequality between the haves and have-nots of the labour market?
July 16, 2019
Claire Read introduces her special podcast series about the impact of one day of the British army’s war in Afghanistan on the troops who were there and the families they left behind. Download the Deadliest Day series from the Beyond Today podcast.
July 15, 2019
Recent polling data and election results paint a picture of woe for Britain's two main political parties. Of course both Labour and the Conservatives have suffered periods of decline throughout their history. But arguably never before have both parties been so riven by internal divides and suffered such a loss of public confidence at the same time. Edward Stourton looks to historical precedents for guidance on today's political turmoil and asks if the two parties' decline is now terminal. With Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London; Lord Lexden, official historian of the Conservative Party; Deborah Mattinson of Britain Thinks; Charlotte Lydia Riley of the University of Southampton; John Sergeant, former BBC Chief Political Correspondent; and Adrian Wooldrige, author of the "Bagehot" column at The Economist.
July 8, 2019
More and more young people now go to university. But what's on offer for those who don't? Public and political attention is far more focused on the university route. Paul Johnson discovers why other kinds of further education and training have been neglected, leaving many young people facing much more difficult choices. Yet the needs of the economy and the choices of many shrewd young people suggest non-university education may be heading for revival. Producer: Chris Bowlby Editor: Jasper Corbett
July 1, 2019
How do the authorities, business and the public perceive and respond to the risk of violent terrorism? With unprecedented access to the work of an active MI5 officer, home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani discovers the depth of the challenge facing the security services. Just how do MI5 operatives go about filtering hundreds of weekly tip-offs into a few key leads? In a world of online radicalisation and increasing hate crime, how can they prioritise those that pose a real and immediate threat to the public, and avoid wasting resources on red herrings and keyboard warriors? He also hears from: - Paul Martin, who led security preparations for the London 2012 Olympics - Nicola Benyahia, whose son was radicalised and killed fighting in Iraq - Dr Julia Pearce, expert on communication and terrorism at King's College London - Brigadier Ed Butler, Head of Risk Analysis at Pool Re - Rizwaan Sabir, expert on counter-terrorism and political Islam at Liverpool John Moores University Would we be safer if we knew more about the threats that face us, or should we be kept in the dark? Presented by Dominic Casciani Produced by Beth Sagar-Fenton
June 24, 2019
David Edmonds examines how algorithms are used in our criminal justice system, from predicting future crime to helping decide who does and doesn’t go to prison. While police forces hope computer software will help them to assess risk and reduce crime, civil rights groups fear that it could entrench bias and discrimination. Analysis asks if these new computer tools will transform policing - and whether we need new laws to regulate them. Contributors Archive from Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network Jonathan Dowey, business intelligence manager, Avon and Somerset Police Hannah Couchman, Advocacy and Policy Officer, Liberty Professor Lawrence Sherman, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge Bryanna Fox, Associate Professor of Criminology University of South Florida Dame Glenys Stacey, The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation Jamie Grace, Senior Lecturer in Law, Sheffield Hallam University Producer: Diane Richardson Editor: Jasper Corbett
June 17, 2019
Climate change has shot up the current political agenda in part due to the Extinction Rebellion protests. An urgent question now facing UK policymakers is whether they should accelerate the adoption of cutting-edge green energy technology to curb the country's carbon emissions. But are there dangers of being an early adopter of new technology? What happens if it doesn't work or if it's outpaced by newer technologies which are cheaper and more efficient? The BBC's Business Editor, Simon Jack, investigates.
June 10, 2019
Women are paid less than men and do more unpaid work. The gender pay gap doubles after women become mothers. Female-dominated professions tend to be lower-paid than male-dominated ones. What's going on and can we fix it? Reporter: Mary Ann Sieghart Producer: Arlene Gregorius Editor: Jasper Corbett
June 3, 2019
Maintenance is an unfashionable word. But as Chris Bowlby discovers, keeping our infrastructure in good condition is one of the most crucial and creative challenges we face. Key assets such as concrete bridges built in the early post-war decades are crumbling, and may be what one expert calls 'ticking time bombs'. And all kinds of systems, even in the digital world, still need maintaining well. But all the focus for politicians and many engineers is on brand new infrastructure, not sustaining the vital assets we already have. So how can we learn to value maintenance in a radical new way? Producer: Chris Bowlby Editor: Jasper Corbett
May 27, 2019
For centuries we have met our other halves through family, friends, work, or religious institutions. But they have all now been outstripped: meeting online is now the most common way to meet. Not long ago, finding love online was considered unconventional. Now the ping of dating apps is the soundtrack to many people's lives. But what does this change mean for how we choose whom to date? Shahidha Bari, author and academic at Queen Mary University of London, examines the changing landscape of modern love - its dating apps, its politics of sexual preference - and ultimately tries to answer the age-old question: what does Love Island tell us about love? Producer: Ant Adeane
March 25, 2019
Will the growing competition between China and the United States inevitably lead to military conflict? One leading American academic created huge attention when in 2017 he posed the idea of what he called a "Thucydides Trap". Drawing on the work of the ancient Greek historian, he warned that when a rising power (Sparta) threatens an existing power (Athens) they are destined to clash, unless both countries change their policies. He warned that the same pattern could play out with the US and China. Since then, President Trump has engaged in combative rhetoric over trade, while China has fast been modernising and upgrading its military. BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus considers whether Washington and Beijing can escape the trap - or whether the growing economic, strategic and technological rivalry between the two nations will inevitably end in conflict. Producer: Stuart Hughes
March 18, 2019
Will human actions result in the demise of huge numbers of other species - in a mass die-off, comparable to the end of the era of the dinosaurs? Neal Razzell assesses the evidence that species are dying off at a rapid rate, and looks at some of the surprising things we might do to slow or reverse this process. Producers: Beth Sagar-Fenton and Josephine Casserley
March 11, 2019
What is the chance of the human race surviving the 21st century? There are many dangers – climate change for example, or nuclear war, or a pandemic, or planet Earth being hit by a giant asteroid. Around the world a number of research centres have sprung up to investigate and mitigate what’s called existential risk. How precarious is our civilisation and can we all play a part in preventing global catastrophe? Contributors Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute. Phil Torres, Future of Life Institute. Karin Kuhlemann, University College London. Simon Beard, Centre for Existential Risk. Lalitha Sundaram, Centre for Existential Risk. Seth Baum, Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. Film clip: Armageddon, Touchstone Pictures (1998), Directed by Michael Bay. Presented (cheerily) by David Edmonds. Producer: Diane Richardson
March 4, 2019
Is there a better way to heal political divides - through panels of ordinary citizens? Sonia Sodha asks if the idea of citizens' assemblies, which have been used around the world to come up with solutions to polarising issues. Proponents argue that they avoid the risks of knee-jerk legislation, winner-takes-all outcomes or the pull of populism. Many in the Republic of Ireland believe that deliberative democracy was crucial in reforming the law on abortion without causing major political upheavals. Could this method still come up with a better way forward for Brexit? Producer: Maire Devine
February 25, 2019
Voters and politicians in Britain claim to be perplexed that economic and political relations between the UK and the Republic of Ireland seem to be decisive in determining the course of Brexit. They shouldn't be, argues Edward Stourton. A glance at the history of the countries' relations since the Acts of Union in 1800 helps to explain the situation. From at least the time of Catholic Emancipation in the 1820s, political, social, cultural and economic issues on the island of Ireland have influenced and shaped politics at Westminster. The point is that MPs and others at Westminster have seldom appreciated this and therefore underestimated the power of that history to affect the course of a contemporary issue like Brexit. Looking at a range of issues from Emancipation, the 1840s Irish potato famine, Catholic clerical education, the campaign for Home Rule leading ultimately to the War of Irish Independence in the twentieth century and the bloody establishment of the Irish Free State, as well as the Troubles and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Edward Stourton explores the way in which issues in Ireland have determined British politics. He considers especially what lessons these episodes may hold for today's Westminster politicians and how to imagine the Anglo-Irish future. Among those taking part: Lady Antonia Fraser, Professor The Lord Bew, Professor Sir David Cannadine, Professor Roy Foster, Professor Marianne Elliott, Fintan O'Toole and Declan Kiberd. Producer: Simon Coates
February 18, 2019
Does a falling currency help or harm the economy? It's an urgent question for the UK, as the pound fell sharply in value against other major currencies after the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union in June 2016. Market commentators put this down to foreign investors becoming intensely gloomy about the prospects for the UK economy after Brexit. Others have welcomed the drop, saying it will benefit British exporters. But is it really such a simple, binary question? Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies investigates. Contributors: Richard Barkey, CEO, Imparta Roger Bootle, chairman, Capital Economics Meredith Crowley, reader in international economics at Cambridge university Jane Foley, head of foreign exchange strategy, Rabobank Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist, Conferdation of British Industry Mick Ventola, managing director, Ventola Projects Producer: Neil Koenig
February 11, 2019
Are we living in a ‘golden age’ of political conspiracy theories and what does belief in them tell us about voters and politicians? James Tilley, a professor of politics at the University of Oxford, talks to historians, psychologists and political scientists to ask why conspiracy theories are so common and who are the people spreading them. Why are so many of us drawn to the notion of shadowy forces controlling political events? And are conspiracy theories, in which things always happen for a reason and where good is always pitted against evil, simply an exaggerated version of our everyday political thinking? Producer: Bob Howard
February 4, 2019
Does being born to non-married parents affect a child's prospects? It is a question that is notoriously hard to answer. BBC Education Editor Branwen Jeffreys investigates research from Princeton's landmark Fragile Families study, which has gathered data from 5,000 births over the last 18 years. She speaks to principal investigator Professor Sara McLanahan to find out how much we know about the differing outcomes of children raised by married, cohabiting or single parents. Branwen asks how applicable the results of the study are to British society, where very soon, a minority of births will be to married parents. Professor Emla Fitzsimons has been following the lives of 19,000 children, born across the UK in 2000-01. She reveals what the project, know as The Millennium Cohort Study has found. Producer: Diane Richardson
January 28, 2019
We live in a world where everyone is trying to manipulate everyone else, where social media has opened up the floodgates for a mayhem of influence. And the one thing all the new propagandists have in common is the idea that to really get to someone you have to not just spin or nudge or persuade them, but transform the way they think about the world, the language and concepts they have to make sense of things. Peter Pomerantsev, author of an acclaimed book on the media in Putin's Russia, examines where this strategy began, how it is being exploited, the people caught in the middle, and the researchers trying to combat it. Because it is no longer just at the ‘fringes’ where this is happening – it is now a part of mainstream political life. Producer: Ant Adeane
January 14, 2019
From a US president who is turning the world upside down – with a relish for dismantling global agreements – the message is clear: it’s America first. But where does that leave old European allies? Few expect the transatlantic relationship to go back to where it was before Trump. Europe, says Angela Merkel, now has to shape its own destiny. James Naughtie explores the uncertain future for America's friends. Producer: Kate Collins
January 8, 2019
Republican insider Ron Christie discovers how Donald Trump's presidency is changing his party. Trump arrived in the White House offering a populist revolt in America, promising to drain what he calls "the swamp that is Washington D.C". So what does his own Republican Party - traditionally a bastion of the nation’s establishment - really make of him? Where is he taking them and what will he leave behind? Christie, a long-time Republican who has served in the West Wing under George W Bush, takes us on a journey behind the scenes to meet Trump’s inner circle - including figures like Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications, and to influential conservative broadcaster Sean Hannity. He talks to the supporters and the sceptics alike who watch in amazement as one of the most controversial presidents of all time takes his country and his party by storm. Producer: Kirsty Mackenzie
November 19, 2018
What could cause a future financial crash? Ian Goldin, professor of globalisation and development at Oxford University, talks to some of the world's leading economists about whether we have learnt lessons from the 2008 financial crash and whether countries are now better prepared to meet the next crisis. Or are we condemned to another economic meltdown, perhaps even more severe, which would provide new fuel to the fires of populism? A decade ago, the world was taken by surprise. Will it be again? Featuring contributions from the IMF's Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, Lord Nick Stern, Professor Peter Piot, Pascal Lamy and Jeffrey Sachs. Producer: Ben Carter
November 12, 2018
Many key findings in psychological research are under question, as the results of some of its most well-known experiments – such as the marshmallow effect, ego depletion, stereotype threat and the Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment – have proved difficult or impossible to reproduce. This has affected numerous careers and led to bitter recriminations in the academic community. So can the insights of academic psychology be trusted and what are the implications for us all? Featuring contributions from John Bargh, Susan Fiske, John Ioannidis, Brian Nosek, Stephen Reicher, Diederik Stapel and Simine Vazire. Presenter David Edmonds Producer Ben Cooper
November 5, 2018
How many democracies around the world are gradually being dismantled. Democracies today are less and less likely to be overthrown in violent coups. Today’s methods of establishing one party rule are much more subtle and insidious. Political scientist Professor Matt Qvortrup explores how the modern authoritarian leader takes control of his or her country. High on their list will be subtly manipulating elections to win with a comfortable but credible majority: appointing their own supporters to the judiciary whilst watering down their powers: silencing critics in the press while garnering positive coverage from their media supporters: punishing opponents by denying them employment while rewarding lackeys with key positions. And using technology to help rig votes and spread propaganda. Matt traces these methods back to Roman times while looking at their contemporary relevance in countries as diverse as Kenya, Poland, Hungary, and Venezuela. Producer: Bob Howard
November 2, 2018
Poison, exploding cigars and shooting down planes: tales of espionage and statesmanship. Government-ordered assassinations may seem the stuff of spy novels and movie scripts, but they seem to have entered the realm of reality of late. Why do states choose to take this action and can we measure their success? Edward Stourton assesses how various governments -including Israel, Russia, America and the UK - have dabbled in assassination and asks whether it works as a tool of foreign policy. Producer: Phoebe Keane
October 22, 2018
How do you increase the attainment of disadvantaged children? Poorer children consistently perform worse at school by not reaching higher grades at age 16, compared to richer children. There is broad agreement, across party lines that they require more money to help them succeed and reduce inequality. Therefore, schools in England adopted the pupil premium policy in 2011 where extra funding was attached to each child in receipt of free school meals. Professor of Education at University College London, Dr Rebecca Allen assesses how well the policy has been working. Producer: Nina Robinson Editor: Hugh Levinson
October 15, 2018
Could Northern Ireland soon face a huge decision - whether to leave the UK? Andrea Catherwood returns to where she grew up to discover why the biggest question of all is looming beyond Brexit. Demography may soon leave Catholics as the largest population group. And Brexit debate over new border controls in Ireland has challenged the uneasy compromise of the Good Friday Agreement. So how could a vote on creating a united Ireland come about? How would different traditions and generations decide what to do? And away from political debate, how do the people of Northern Ireland feel about the prospect of such a sensitive and fundamental choice? Producer: Chris Bowlby Editor: Hugh Levinson
October 8, 2018
Can the Conservatives ever win over non-white support? Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are as diverse in their values and beliefs as the rest of the population, yet there is a history of ethnic minority voters overwhelmingly supporting the Labour Party. Recent studies show that in 2017 three quarters continued to back Labour, while under a fifth voted for the Conservatives. Long-term this is a headache for the Tories, as the proportion of the population who identify as BAME is expected to double to between 20 and 30 percent over the next thirty years. Professor Rosie Campbell of King's College London looks at the potential political impact of ethnic minority voters and what the parties can do to do win the trust and votes of communities which may in future, decide who governs Britain. Producer: Adam Bowen
October 1, 2018
How power moved from West to East after the 2008 financial crisis. Ian Goldin, professor of globalisation and development at Oxford University, explores how Asian nations, especially China, demonstrated resilience, and rebounded quickly from the crisis. This led to a profound loss of faith in the ability of the Western leaders to manage the global economy effectively. Interviewees: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister, Nigeria Nick Stern, former chief economist, The World Bank Jeffrey Sachs, professor Columbia University Kumi Naidoo, secretary general, Amnesty International Willem Buiter, former Chief Economist, Citibank Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator, The Financial Times Kishore Mahbubani, professor, University of Singapore Justin Lin, professor, Beijing University Adam Tooze, author of 'Crashed' Christine Lagarde, managing director, International Monetary Fund Producer: Beth Sagar-Fenton
August 31, 2018
Former homeless drug-addict Mark Johnson explores our relationship with street beggars
July 23, 2018
As well as marking the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, this year marks a similar milestone in adult social care. But whereas our notions of fairness in treating those who fall ill are simple and straightforward - free to those who require care at the point of delivery in the NHS - with social care it is different: means testing remains the device by which assistance with care is decided. When it comes to helping the aged and the infirm, then, we struggle with decidedly different ideas of fairness - and have done so since the advent of National Assistance - the forerunner of today's social care - in 1948. What should the individual contribute and how much should the state provide? What ideas of fairness properly apply in providing social care? And how can agreement on them be reached? Paul Johnson - the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the respected economic research body - asks why politicians should find it so difficult to agree on simple ideas of equity and fairness in this area. From Labour's so-called "death tax" in 2010 to the Conservatives' alleged "dementia tax" last year, attempts to come up with ways to reform a system that is widely considered to have broken down, have collapsed in failure and left both main parties reluctant to get their fingers burnt again with proposals for change. So with the pressures on available services continuing to grow as the proportion of the population that is elderly rises and its needs become more specialised and as numbers of working age adults with social care needs increase, Paul Johnson considers what principles a fair social care system should enshrine and what likelihood there is that policies to give effect to them will be implemented. Editor Hugh Levinson.
July 16, 2018
In 2016, during the American presidential election campaign, Edward Stourton travelled to the rustbelt of the United States to report on the new political power of Protectionism. Now, as Donald Trump seems poised for a trade war on two fronts - with China and Europe - he asks how far the American president will go to put "America First". Producer Smita Patel Editor Hugh Levinson.
July 9, 2018
Peter Pomerantsev asks why new techniques in political campaigning have succeeded and what the consequences are for society. He has a different view to most from his past career working inside the TV industry in Moscow. The future arrived first in Russia. The defeat of communism gave rise to political technologists who flourished in the vacuum left by the Cold War, developing a supple approach to ideology that made them the new masters of politics. Something of this post-ideological spirit is visible in Britain. Centrism no longer seems viable. Globalisation is increasingly resented. Ours is an uncertain political landscape in which commentators and polls habitually fail to predict what is to come. There was a time when if you lived in a certain place, in a certain type of home, then you were likely to vote a certain way. But that is no longer the case. Instead, political strategists imagine you through your data. The campaigns that succeed are the ones that hook in as many groups as possible, using advances in political technology to send different messages to different groups. Pomerantsev, one of the most compelling voices on modern Russia, is a senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and is the author of "Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia". Producer: Ant Adeane.
July 2, 2018
Edward Stourton asks if there any chance of a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tensions have been rising following the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the deadly clashes at the border between Israel and Gaza. The peace process - if it exists at all - seems to be in deep freeze. The idea of a two-state solution does not appear to be getting any closer, while a one-state solution would effectively mark the end of a Jewish state. Does Israel have a long-term strategy? Producer: Ben Cooper.
June 25, 2018
Can the Big Four - Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple - be reined in and forced to play by the rules society sets, rather than imposing their own standards on society? It seems like news breaks every few weeks that reveal how the technology on which we increasingly depend - smartphones, search engines, social media - is not as passive as many of us thought. Big data, fake news, extremism, Russian trolls: with little or no regulatory supervision, the big tech companies are changing the world and disrupting our lives. Yet governments seem to have little power to respond. The tech giants look too big, too international and too hard to pin down. So is it time to disrupt the disrupters? Journalist and writer Jamie Bartlett asks how we can regulate big tech. He meets the regulators who are daring to reclaim power, and assesses the challenges involved in imposing rules on an industry which is deeply complicated, ever changing and supranational. Do governments have the resources to reassert sovereignty over something which has become so embedded in our culture? And how would society change if they did? Producer: Gemma Newby.
June 18, 2018
Most of us are resigned to the fact that we won't escape death in the end. But there are people who have dedicated their entire lives to conquering death. This relatively new movement of 'transhumanists' believes that science is close to finding a cure for aging and that immortality may be just around the corner. Chloe Hadjimatheou asks whether it's really possible to live forever and whether it's actually desirable.
June 11, 2018
New infrastructure such as major transport projects promises huge benefits. London and the South East are currently looking forward to Crossrail, the start of HS2 and much more besides. But how does all this look from further north? Chris Bowlby heads for his home territory in the north east of England to discover a region full of new ideas about future connections, but worried that current national plans risk leaving it lagging behind. And what, he asks, might this mean for the whole country's future? Producer: Chris Bowlby Editor: Hugh Levinson.
June 4, 2018
How can we be sure that the technology we are creating is going to do the right thing? Machines are merging into our lives in ever more intimate ways. They interact with our children and assist with medical decisions. Cars are learning to drive themselves; data on our likes and dislikes roam through the internet. Sandra Kanthal asks if we already in danger of being governed by algorithmic overlords.
May 28, 2018
Do French women really think differently about sexual harassment - and if so, does feminism have national borders? Catherine Deneuve was one of 100 prominent women who signed an open letter to Le Monde critiquing the #metoo movement. "We believe that the freedom to say yes to a sexual proposition cannot exist without the freedom to pester," they wrote. Have the French mastered a more sophisticated approach to relations between men and women, based around seduction - or is this a myth that sustains male power? Parisian journalist Catherine Guilyardi investigates. Producer: Estelle Doyle Contributors: Claude Habib - historian and author of "Galanterie francaise" Elaine Sciolino - ex New York Times Paris bureau chief and author of "La Seduction" and "Rue des Martyrs" Eric Fassin - professor of sociology, Paris-8 University Sylvie Kauffman - editorial director and columnist at Le Monde Sandra Muller - journalist and founder of #balancetonporc Cécile Fara and Julie Marangé - feminist activists, organisers of the Street Art and Feminism tour in Paris Fatima El Ouasdi - feminist activist and founder of Politiqu'elles Peggy Sastre - philosopher of science and author of "Male Domination Doesn't Exist".
April 24, 2018
This year, St. Stephen's primary school in east London found itself at the centre of an incendiary and increasingly far-reaching debate that is rocking not only Muslim communities and campaigners across the UK but also penetrates the very heart of the country's education system. An attempt to ban girls under the age of 8 from wearing the hijab to school resulted in a major backlash from the local community and beyond. Over 19, 000 people signed a petition to reverse the ban, a national campaign group got involved and social media was awash with outrage, some comparing the head teacher to 'Hitler' and branding her a 'paedophile'. The ban was swiftly reversed. What is really at the root of the outrage given that Islam does not require children to cover their heads? And what is motivating the trend for younger girls -some as young as four- to wear the hijab, when previous generations would not have veiled so young? Female Muslim campaigners have warned that it should be fiercely rejected' as it ‘sexualises' young girls. Ofsted has voiced concern and is investigating whether teachers have come under pressure from religious groups to change uniform regulation. Others argue it is simply a case of girls copying their mums and suggesting otherwise is a form of Islamophobia. In all the noise between parents, teachers, religious leaders, campaigners and authorities, who - if anyone - has the right to decide what a young girl puts on her head? Producers: Lucy Proctor and Sarah Stolarz
March 26, 2018
Existing arms control treaties are under threat - at the same time that new types of weapon emerge, with nothing to regulate them. There is a growing crisis in the arms control regimes inherited from the Cold War era, which threatens to undermine existing agreements. At the same time, new technologies are emerging like drones, cyberwar, biotech and hypersonic weapons, which are not covered by existing rules. BBC Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus asks if a new era of chaos beckon or might the whole idea of arms control and disarmament be revived? Producer: Matthew Woodcraft.
March 19, 2018
Do we need to "do something" about the effects of smartphones on teenage children? The backlash against the omnipresent devices has begun. Parents on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly worried that smartphones pose a threat to the current generation of teenagers, who have grown up with a phone almost constantly in their hand. Smartphones make our teenagers anxious, tired narcissists who lack empathy and the ability to communicate properly in person. Or so the story goes. David Baker examines the evidence behind the case against smartphones. He hears from the academics calling for action to curb the addictive pull of the screen and from a former Silicon Valley developer who won't let his children have a smartphone. But he also speaks to experts convinced this is just another moral panic about technology's effect on the young. Could there be a danger in blaming smartphones for the rise in teenage anxiety, especially among girls, at the expense of finding the real cause? What, if anything, should we be doing to protect our kids? And who can we look to for guidance in fashioning a healthy relationship with this incredibly powerful piece of kit? Producer: Lucy Proctor.
March 12, 2018
Almost half of the UK's school leavers are now going to university. But the university sector is under more scrutiny than ever before. Sonia Sodha argues that it's time to take a profound look at what universities are really for. Should we be spending vast amounts of public money educating young people at this level if the main purpose is to get ahead of the next person? Are vast numbers of students being failed by a one-size-fits-all system that prizes academic achievement above all else? Why has Apple - and several other companies in Silicon Valley - decided that training young people's imagination and sense of civic culture is of paramount importance? What are the long-term risks to society if universities increasingly become little more than training grounds for the workplace? Producer: Adele Armstrong.
March 5, 2018
In the 2016 referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union, a stark division emerged: those with university degrees were far more likely to vote remain than those with few educational qualifications. And Britain is not the only country where such a gap exists - in the recent American presidential election, far more graduates voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. Edward Stourton investigates the impact of this faultline on voting and politics, and asks how policy makers and wider society should respond. Producer: Neil Koenig.
February 26, 2018
When Robert Mugabe was deposed last year, he had ruled Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. How do dictators and authoritarians stay in power? James Tilley, a professor of politics at Oxford University, finds out what's in the dictators' survival guide. How do they control ordinary people and stop revolts? How do they stop rivals from taking over? And how do they manipulate apparently democratic procedures like elections to secure their rule? Producer: Bob Howard.
February 19, 2018
Electricity is crucial to modern life - and in the digital or electric vehicle age, that dependence is going to grow even more. But will we all get the power we need? Chris Bowlby discovers what life is like when power suddenly fails, and how a revolution in the way we generate electricity is posing huge political questions. This could give everyone secure, cheap power - or leave society divided between those with a bright future, and those left increasingly in the dark. Producer: Chris Bowlby Editor: Hugh Levinson.
February 12, 2018
The latest round in the fight over the future of the UK armed forces is raging in the corridors of Whitehall. As politicians and military top brass argue about money, wider questions about what we want the Army, Navy and RAF to do once again top the defence agenda. Caroline Wyatt spent many years covering defence for the BBC and has heard warnings from retired generals about chronic under-funding many times. But with army numbers already down to a level not seen since before the Napoleonic Wars, big projects like the F-35 fighter jets in trouble, and a £2bn a year black hole in the defence budget, further salami slicing seems untenable. How then to prioritise which capabilities the UK must maintain and improve? The UK faces an intensified threat from Russia, 'hybrid' warfare where cyber attacks and political destabilisation are used alongside military force, and advances in missile technology. Post Brexit, the UK's strategic position both globally and within the European defence space is unclear. How we want to deploy our armed forces - where, with whom, and at what cost - is once again up for debate. Producer: Lucy Proctor.
February 5, 2018
Poland and Hungary appear to be on paths to what the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called "illiberal democracy". What does this mean for the European Union? Naomi Grimley hears how in Hungary a respected newspaper was shut down overnight after criticising government officials. A liberal university is fighting for its survival. In Poland, a popular singer was disinvited from a festival after speaking out against the proposed outlawing of abortion. Laws have been passed which give politicians more control over the appointment of judges. Both countries are in trouble with the European Commission. And yet, the view from Warsaw and Budapest is that their governments were democratically elected, and that they are enacting the will of their peoples - a will that may not be the same as that of Brussels, but has a popular mandate. In Hungary, Naomi is told that the country simply wants to keep its Christian identity. In Poland, the argument is that the changes of the court systems are simply an overdue updating of the judiciary after the Communist era, and that Poland is entitled to develop as its voters see fit. Could their new paths divide East and West and eventually threaten the EU itself? Producer: Arlene Gregorius.
January 29, 2018
Women are sexist too. Even avowed feminists are found to be unconsciously biased against women when they take 'implicit association' tests. Mary Ann Sieghart asks where these discriminatory attitudes come from and what we can do about them. Evidence for women's own sexist biases abounds. In one example, female science professors rated the application materials of ostensibly male applicants for a lab position considerably higher than the identical documentation of ostensibly female candidates, in an experiment with fictitious applicants where only the names were changed. The reasons for the pervasive bias seem to lie in the unconscious, and in how concepts, memories and associations are formed and reinforced from early childhood. We learn from our environment.. The more we are exposed to sexist attitudes, the more we become hardwired to be sexist - without realising it. So what to do? Does unconscious bias training help? Or could it make our implicit biases worse? A good start might be to tell little girls not that they look so pretty in that dress, but to ask them what games they like to play, or what they are reading. And so teach them they are valued not for how they look, but for what they do. Producer: Arlene Gregorius.
December 1, 2017
Donald Trump's surprise elevation to the office of president last November stunned the world and electrified the financial markets. Promises to cut red tape, bring huge infrastructure projects to life, and sort out the byzantine American tax system propelled Wall Street to record highs. It's called the Trump Bump. Yet Trump's protectionist rhetoric simultaneously created fears of a global trade war. Martin Wolf, Chief Economic Commentator of the Financial Times, reflects on what Trump has accomplished in economic terms in the year since the election heard round the world. Financial systems are recovering from the calamities of the last decade, but that improvement was well under way before Trump took the helm of the world's largest economy. New proposals from the administration are stalled for lack of clarity, infirmity of purpose and political disarray. This doesn't mean that President Trump's decisions on everything from trade tariffs to the Federal Reserve will not send ripples around the globe in the years ahead. He's vowed to deliver tax reform, build a wall, bring jobs home and tear up trade treaties. Will these promises still be delivered? If they are, what might follow? Producer: Sandra Kanthal.
November 20, 2017
In 2017 it's easier than ever to express offence. The angry face icon on Facebook, a sarcasm-loaded tweet or a (comparatively) old-fashioned blog post allow us to highlight the insensitivities of others and how they make us feel - in a matter of moments. Increasingly, offence has consequences: people are told what they can and cannot wear, comedy characters are put to bed. Earlier this year, a white artist was condemned for her depiction of the body of a murdered black teenager. Those who were offended demanded that the painting be destroyed because 'white creative freedoms have been founded on the constraint of others'. It's easy to scoff. Detractors refer to those asking for a new level of cultural sensitivity as "snowflakes" and insist the offence they feel is self-indulgent. But history teaches that fringe discussions often graduate to mainstream norms. So are these new idealists setting a fresh standard for cultural sensitivity? A standard that society will eventually come to observe? Mobeen Azhar puts aside familiar critiques about the threat to free speech. Instead, he tries to understand the challenging arguments put forward by those who are pushing for new norms, and who believe that being offended will create a more culturally aware, progressive society. Featuring contributions from X-Factor star Honey G, black lesbian punk rockers Big Joanie and RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Charlie Hides Producer: Tim Mansel.
November 13, 2017
These days when we talk about politicians we are more likely to discuss whether they are authentic than whether they are great orators or statesmen or women. Few of us take the time to listen to a speech or read a manifesto and when we judge politicians we more often focus on whether they seem sincere, warm or passionately committed to a cause rather than weighing up their policy programmes . We're turned off by spin and cynical about many politicians' motivations and we seek reassurance that they can really be trusted. Professor Rosie Campbell asks how we can make judgements about a politician's authenticity. Are politicians more trustworthy if they stick to their principles without compromise? Or is authenticity about revealing our true character, warts and all? And what is better for democracy? Authentic leaders who are straight talking and stick rigidly to their ideals or leaders who are willing to negotiate behind the scenes? Producer: Ben Carter.
November 6, 2017
Professor James Tilley finds out what we can learn about politics from the power struggles within chimpanzee groups and how our evolutionary past may affect the political decisions that we make today. Interviewing primatologists, evolutionary psychologists and political scientists, he explores the parallels between our political world and that of other primates. These include the way politicians form coalitions, how people choose leaders, loyalties to parties and even how, and when, we go to war. These similarities to other primates reflect our evolutionary heritage and the way in which stone-age human groups settled disputes internally and externally. Producer: Bob Howard.
November 1, 2017
When does flirting go too far? In a changing world, can we agree on what is acceptable behaviour? Sexual harassment is much in the news, new laws and codes are in place. Legal definitions are one thing, but real life situations can be a lot messier and more uncertain. Mixing expert analysis of the issues with discussion of everyday scenarios, Jo Fidgen asks: what are the new rules of relationships? Producer: Chris Bowlby.
October 30, 2017
Edward Stourton asks how the European Union might change after Britain leaves. "The wind is back in Europe's sails", according to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. In September, in his annual address to the European Parliament, he set out a bold dream for the future. Soon afterwards it was echoed by another, this time from French President Emmanuel Macron who declared that "the only path that assures our future is the rebuilding of a Europe that is sovereign, united and democratic". Amongst the proposals that the two leaders put forward were a European budget run by a European finance minister, an enlargement of the Schengen passport-free travel zone, and much closer collaboration on tax, defence, and a host of other issues. But at present, the European project faces huge challenges. Britain is about to leave the EU, whilst Catalonia's bid for independence is causing turmoil in Spain. In the face of such developments, how realistic are the grand visions that Europe's leaders have for the future of the continent? Producer: Neil Koenig.
October 23, 2017
What does the dangerous state of the Houses of Parliament tell us about our politics? There are increasing fears of a catastrophic fire, asbestos leak or major systems failure in the famed buildings. But after years of warnings, MPs and Lords are still struggling to decide what to do. Some say Parliament must remain active in the buildings while urgent work is done. Others say they must be vacated for renovation - and that this is an opportunity for a complete rethink of how our parliamentary democracy functions. Chris Bowlby visits the buildings' secret and hazardous corners and talks to key figures in the debate, discovering a story of costly but revealing political paralysis Producer: Chris Bowlby Editor: Hugh Levinson.
October 16, 2017
From driverless cars to "carebots", machines are entering the realm of right and wrong. Should an autonomous vehicle prioritise the lives of its passengers over pedestrians? Should a robot caring for an elderly woman respect her right to life ahead of her right to make her own decisions? And who gets to decide? The challenges facing artificial intelligence are not just technical, but moral - and raise hard questions about what it means to be human. Presenter: David Edmonds Producer: Simon Maybin.
October 9, 2017
What could spark a major conflict on the world's most sensitive front line, and just how devastating would it be? Alarm about North Korea has spiked. It claims to have successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit Alaska. Some experts estimate that North Korea is now 18 to 36 months away from launching a missile able to reach Los Angeles. President Trump has threatened to "totally destroy" the country, in an exchange of increasingly belligerent messages from both sides. Neal Razzell takes a look at the two sides' war plans and asks: what would war with North Korea look like? Producer: Sarah Shebbeare.
October 2, 2017
Will technology radically reshape the highly profitable world of finance? Technology can revolutionise industries, making goods and services cheaper and more accessible. Television is going the same way with online services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime providing thousands of movies and boxsets. From the point of view of the consumer the picture is the same - we tend to have more choice and pay less money. Profits get squeezed. Yet there's one service we buy that seems to be a glaring exception - finance. Philip Coggan of The Economist asks whether the rapidly growing financial technology sector is about to change all that, creating a future that's much less comfortable for City fat cats, but better for everyone else. Producer: Ben Carter (Photo: Tech Globe on hand. Credit: Shutterstock).
August 30, 2017
'The Fix' brings together twelve of the country's bright young minds and gives them just one day to solve an intractable problem. This week we have asked our teams to come up with ways to stop criminals re-offending when they leave prison. The day is introduced by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA and the teams will be led through the day by Cat Drew, Director at design consultancy Uscreates. Can the teams do enough to impress our judges, Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund and David Willetts, former minister and Executive Chairman of the Resolution Foundation, or will they fall short?
August 23, 2017
The teams have just one day to find solutions to the problem of childhood obesity
August 17, 2017
In the first of a new series, twelve of the country's brightest young minds gather to solve difficult social problems. This week - how do we improve access to affordable housing? Using policy planning techniques used by governments around the world, three teams are given free reign to think the unthinkable. They then present their ideas to two judges, who'll interrogate them and pick the best. Presented by Matthew Taylor and facilitated by Cat Drew of Uscreates Team One: Oliver Sweet - runs an ethnographic research department at Ipsos MORI. Margot Lombaert - creative director of Margot Lombaert Studio, an independent graphic design practice. Ethan Howard - RSA award winner. Jack Minchella - research and design associate at the Innovation Unit and the founder of the urban research collective In-Between Economies based in Denmark. Team Two: Solveiga Pakštaitė - industrial designer specialising in user-centred design. Gemma Hitchens - Account Director at Signal Noise, which specialises in data visualisation and analysis. Jag Singh - tech entrepreneur and former political strategist. Hashi Mohamed - barrister at No5 Chambers. Team Three: Helen Steer - educator and maker who runs Do It Kits, a start-up that helps teachers use technology. Zahra Davidson - designer with a background spanning service design, social innovation and visual communication. Piero Zagami - information designer and consultant in graphic design and data visualization. Tobias Revell - artist and lecturer in Critical and Digital Design. Producer: Wesley Stephenson.
July 26, 2017
David Anderson examines the government's controversial counter-terrorism strategy Prevent
July 24, 2017
Has the initial success of the minimum wage meant politicians have extended the policy to damaging levels? All the major political parties agree: the measure has been a success, and in the 2017 election all promised substantial rises in the rate by 2020. The Conservatives are aiming for a £9 national living wage by the end of the decade, and not to be outdone, Labour promised £10 for all but the under-18s. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, asks why left and right have both adopted this once controversial policy. And could the current bidding war of big increases undermine the positive effects it has had over its eighteen-year history? Producer: Kate Lamble.
July 17, 2017
An extended interview with the political theorist who argues that liberal democracy is in grave danger. Ngaire Woods, dean of the Blavatnik School at Oxford, speaks to Harvard scholar Yascha Mounk. He says that across a wide sample of countries in North America and Western Europe, citizens of mature democracies have become markedly less satisfied with their form of government and surprisingly open to nondemocratic alternatives. "A serious democratic disconnect has emerged. If it widens even further, it may begin to challenge the stability of seemingly consolidated democracies." Producer: Jim Frank (Image: Yascha Mounk. Credit: Steffen Jaenicke).
July 10, 2017
Michael Blastland asks if it's desk-bound work, rather than over-eating, which is making more and more of us obese. He hears about remarkable research which, despite received wisdom, suggests that people in the UK have reduced their calorie intake. However, they are expending far less physical energy, particularly because of new patterns of work which now require little if any bodily exertion. Michael examines projects to change individual behaviour such as corporate wellness programmes and altering office layouts - but finds it's going to be a tough sell. Interviewees: Dr Melanie Lührmann, Senior Lecturer, Royal Holloway Professor Alexi Marmot, architect, UCL Professor Andre Spicer, Cass Business School Professor Mike Kelly, School of Clinical Medicine, Cambridge University Producers: Estelle Doyle, Phoebe Keane and Smita Patel.
July 3, 2017
Constitutions put controls on the people who run countries - but how are they created and how well do they work? In ordinary times constitutional debate often seems an abstract business without very much relevance to the way we live our lives. But political turmoil can operate like an X-ray, lighting up the bones around which the body politic is formed. Drawing on recent political events, Edward Stourton explores the effectiveness of the constitutions of the United Kingdom, the USA and France and asks are they doing what they were meant to do? CONTRIBUTORS Lord Peter Hennessy, Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary University of London Alison Young, Professor of Public Law, University of Oxford Professor Tom Ginsburg, University of Chicago Law School Sophie Boyron, Senior Lecturer, University of Birmingham Law School David S Bell, Professor of French Government and Politics, University of Leeds Presenter: Edward Stourton Producer: Richard Fenton-Smith.
June 26, 2017
Union membership is in decline whilst structural changes in the economy - including the rise of the so-called gig economy - are putting downward pressure on wages, and creating fertile conditions for exploitation by unscrupulous employers. So who is going to ensure that workers get a fair deal? Sonia Sodha, chief leader writer for the Observer, investigates. Producer: David Edmonds.
June 23, 2017
A year on from the Brexit referendum, Anand Menon contrasts Wakefield, which voted leave, with Oxford which voted remain, to find out how they feel now.
June 19, 2017
During Brazil's boom years the country's rising economy created a new middle class of gigantic proportions - tens of millions escaping from poverty. Brazil felt confident and even rich enough to bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. But then the economy turned. In the last two years the country has endured its worst recession on record. Rio de Janeiro - the city that hosted the Olympics - is bankrupt. Many communities don't have functioning schools or clinics. Corruption is endemic. David Baker, a regular visitor to Brazil, travels to Rio De Janeiro and São Paulo to find out where it went all wrong for the country, what's holding it back from being a great economic power and what the wider lessons are for developing countries across the world. Producer: Alex Lewis.
June 12, 2017
With angst over European security growing, why is Germany such a reluctant military power? Chris Bowlby discovers how German pacifism has grown since World War Two. The German army, the Bundeswehr, is meant to be a model citizen's army but is poorly funded and treated with suspicion by the population. Some now say the world of Trump, Putin and Brexit demands major change in German thinking, much more spending and Bundeswehr deployments abroad. But most Germans disagree. Could Germany in fact be trying historically something really new - becoming a major power without fighting wars? Producer: Chris Bowlby Editor: Hugh Levinson.
June 5, 2017
Do we unconsciously harbour racist and sexist attitudes? Far fewer people are explicitly racist than a couple of decades ago. They won't express or admit to racist sentiments. But what happens beneath the conscious level? In recent years there has been an explosion in research into what's called implicit bias. David Edmonds discovers that big business is taking the idea very seriously. He asks: does it stand up to scrutiny? Producer: Ben Carter.
May 30, 2017
Why is the UK such a generous global aid donor and should it be? The coalition government legislated to ensure Britain spent 0.7% of its national income on international development and it is now one of the very few countries to meet this United Nations target for such spending. With financial pressures on public services at home remaining acute, Jo Coburn asks why most politicians still support the idea, despite public criticism and press campaigns about wasted money. In her quest, she investigates the history of the UK's support for overseas aid and examines what makes so many politicians willing to risk voters' displeasure on the issue. Producer: Simon Coates.
April 11, 2017
What are the unwritten rules you must learn to get a top job? Hashi Mohamed came to the UK aged nine, as an unaccompanied child refugee, with hardly any English. His academic achievements at school were far from stellar. Yet he now works as a barrister - and so is a member of one of the elite professions that have traditionally been very difficult for people from poor backgrounds to crack. So how did he do it? In a personal take on social mobility, we meet his mentors. These are the people who gave him a few lucky breaks and showed him how to fit in to a world he could barely imagine. But how many people can follow that path? And why should they have to? Producer: Rosamund Jones (Image: Hashi Mohamed. Credit: Shaista Chishty).
March 20, 2017
Has Front National leader Marine Le Pen really detoxified the party founded by her father 40 years ago? Is it a right-wing protest movement or a party seriously preparing for power? Anand Menon, professor of European politics at Kings College London, analyses the process the French call Dédiabolisation. Le Pen has banished the name of the party and even her own surname from election posters and leaflets. Her party is making inroads into socialist and communist fiefdoms in northern and eastern France. Combining nationalism with a message designed to reach out to the left, she speaks up loudly for the have-nots, people who live in the land she calls "the forgotten France." She targets trade unionists, teachers and gay voters. But widening the party's appeal leads to a tricky balancing act. Can Marine Le Pen manage the process of political exorcism without alienating die-hard supporters? Producer: Lucy Ash.
March 13, 2017
Why is liberal, tolerant Netherlands home to one of Europe's most successful anti-immigration, anti-Islamic parties? Geert Wilders' radical right-wing Party For Freedom (PVV) - which wants to close mosques and ban the Qur'an - will be one of the biggest in the new Dutch parliament. So have its voters - whom Wilders once described as "Henk and Ingrid", Holland's Mr and Mrs Average - turned their backs on centuries-old Dutch values? Or do they just understand those values in a different way? Unlike some far-right parties elsewhere in Europe, the PVV has no neo-Nazi roots. It's loud in its support for gay and women's rights. It promotes itself as a strong defender of Holland's Jewish community. Is its ideology just an opportunistic mishmash? Or does it make some sense in a Dutch context? Searching for Henk and Ingrid, Tim Whewell sets off through Dutch "flyover country" - the totally un-photogenic satellite towns and modern villages that tourists, and Holland's own elite, rarely see. He asks if the PVV's platform is just thinly disguised racism. Or has it raised important questions about immigration and multiculturalism that other European countries, including the UK, have been scared to ask? Producer: Helen Grady.
March 6, 2017
Could a second referendum on Scottish independence yield a different result? In September 2014 when Scotland voted against becoming an independent country it seemed like the question had been settled for the foreseeable future. All that changed on June 23rd 2016 when the UK voted to leave the EU. Just a few hours later - before she'd even been to bed - Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was already talking about the prospect of another vote on independence. Ever since she has been ramping up the rhetoric. But what would the SNP's strategy be second time around? BBC Scotland Editor Sarah Smith explores whether the SNP would dare call another vote when there seems little appetite and opinion polls have failed to move as much as Nicola Sturgeon might have expected following the Brexit vote. Sarah talks to strategists and politicians for an insight into how things might be different should a second referendum take place in the near future. She asks whether an independent Scotland would be accepted into the EU and what the future might hold for the first minister should she fail to achieve what she sees as her duty - offering Scotland another chance to gain independence. Presenter: Sarah Smith Producer: Ben Carter.
February 27, 2017
What makes us change our mind when it comes to elections? We are all swingers now. More voters than ever before are switching party from one election to the next. Tribal loyalties are weakening. The electorate is now willing to vote for the other side. Professor Rosie Campbell from Birkbeck University finds out what prompts voters to shift from one party to another. Quentin Davies had been a Tory MP for decades when he crossed the floor of the house. He believes his views stayed the same - but the world changed around him. Journalist Janet Daley was once too left wing for the Labour Party - until Margaret Thatcher came along. Meanwhile Daryll Pitcher felt as though no party wanted his vote. Today he is a UKIP campaign manager. Does age make us become more right wing? Have the main political parties alienated their core vote? And what does this mean for democracy? Producer: Hannah Sander.
February 20, 2017
What does the story of the Downing Street cat reveal about the way voters decide? We are not taught how to vote. We rely on intuition, snap judgments and class prejudice. We vote for policies that clash wildly with our own views. We keep picking the same party rather than admit we were wrong in the past. Rosie Campbell, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck University, sets out to become a rational voter. Class and religion have a huge impact. But our political views have become less polarised even as the parties have moved further apart. Rosie asks whether discussions of "left" and "right" have become irrelevant. In a neuropolitics lab Rosie undergoes tests to uncover her implicit biases. She learns that hope and anger make her want to vote - but blind her to the truth. Producer: Hannah Sander.
February 16, 2017
Why do populist politicians across the West want warmer relations with Russia? Are they just Kremlin agents? Or are they tapping into a growing desire to find common cause with Moscow – and end East-West tension? Tim Whewell travels from Russia to America and across Europe to unravel the many different strands of pro-Moscow thinking, and offer a provocative analysis which challenges conventional thinking about the relationship between Russia and the West. Donald Trump is just one of a new breed of Western politicians who want warmer relations with Vladimir Putin. Most Western experts say that’s dangerous: an aggressive Russia is plotting to divide and weaken the West. But Trump and others seem to have tapped into a popular desire to reduce tension and discover what Moscow and the West have in common. Could Moscow now lead a “Conservative International”, promoting traditional social values and national sovereignty around the world? On the right, some see Russia as a spiritual beacon. Others, both on the right and left, simply think the threat from the East is much exaggerated – and are warming to Russia as a protest against the Western establishment. Maybe it's time for a new way of understanding relations between the old superpowers.
February 13, 2017
When hiring people, is the concept of talent so ill-defined as to be useless? Entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan thinks so and explores what characteristics recruiters might want to look for instead. She argues that we need something new, as good grades and top degrees have proved no guarantee of high performance in the workplace. She talks to the recent head of HR (or "people operations") at Google, the pioneer of the concept of a "growth mindset", and the academic who found people's intelligence increased over the course of the 20th century. She also hears about other measures like "grit", "cultural fit" and how to interview people to find the candidate who is best for the job and the company, rather than the one you like. Producer: Arlene Gregorius.
February 6, 2017
Jacqui Smith, the former Labour home secretary, investigates why government policies fail, focusing on one of her party's most cherished reforms. Indeterminate sentences for public protection (IPPs) were devised by David Blunkett and the Home Office to reassure voters that those convicted of serious violent and sexual offences would stay in prison until they could show by their changed behaviour that they could safely be released. But much larger numbers of offenders received the sentences than had been expected and, as the prison population rose, jails struggled to provide the facilities IPP prisoners needed to show that they had reformed. The new sentencing structure, first passed in 2003, had to be drastically changed by Labour in 2008 and finally to be repealed by the coalition four years after that. Jacqui Smith discovers the reasons why the change in sentencing was embarked upon, why its potential flaws weren't detected before its introduction and why the policy was maintained even as problems mounted. She considers the difficult legacy of IPPs - for those still in prison and for politicians devising shiny new initiatives in other fields of government. Among those taking part: David Blunkett, Kenneth Clarke, Lord Judge, Professor Nick Hardwick. Producer: Simon Coates.
January 30, 2017
The journey of an American 'cold warrior' from nuclear deterrence to nuclear disarmament. Former US Secretary of Defence William J Perry has spent his entire seven-decade career on the nuclear brink. A brilliant mathematician, he became involved in the development of weapons-related technology in the aftermath of World War II. As an analyst working at the heart of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he thought each day could be "my last day on earth." He was undersecretary for defence under President Carter in the 1970s, and secretary for defence under President Clinton in the 1990s. He arranged the dismantling of thousands of nuclear weapons in former Soviet republics after the collapse of the USSR, used strategic diplomacy with nuclear nations to prevent escalation, and argued - unsuccessfully - against the NATO expansion that Russia continues to find so threatening. Now Secretary Perry is worried. Very worried. President Trump and President Putin are both ramping up their bellicose rhetoric. Mr Perry sees an increasing risk of nuclear conflagration in South Asia and the Korean peninsula, and in the face of an on-going terrorism threat, he is concerned unsecured nuclear materials could fall into the wrong hands. "Today, the danger of some sort of nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger," he argues. What can be done? In a challenging interview with Edward Stourton, Secretary Perry reflects on the nuclear nightmare, and lays out his formula for nuclear security in our changing world. Producer: Linda Pressly (Image: Dr William Perry gives a lecture at Stanford University about the history of nuclear weapons. Credit: Light at 11b).
January 23, 2017
Is public affection for the NHS preventing it from becoming fit for the future? Polling suggests that despite many complaints about the public health service, it is regarded as a much-loved and uniquely British institution. That's why for decades, it has been an article of faith among politicians that closing down hospitals or major medical services is close to electoral suicide. Received wisdom is that members of the public are dogmatically attached to their local hospitals. But could our attachment be more than just dogma? And what happens when politicians and professionals believe they know what needs to change - but the public come to an altogether different answer? Amid a time of rising demand, rising costs, and changing priorities, Sonia Sodha of The Observer explores the subtle relationship between public opinion and healthcare management. Producer: Gemma Newby.
November 14, 2016
How political forces in other countries will shape any future UK-EU deal. As a younger man, Anand Menon spent a care-free summer Inter-railing around Europe. Some decades later, and now a professor of European politics, he's taking to the rails again - this time with a more specific purpose. While British ministers squabble over what they want for a post-Brexit UK, less attention is paid to the other 27 countries in the negotiations. Each can veto any long-term deal between Britain and the European Union. And each, critically, has its own politics to worry about. Professor Menon visits four European countries where politicians will face their electorates next year. What forces will decide their political survival? And how will those forces shape the EU's future relationship with the UK? Producer: Simon Maybin.
November 7, 2016
On 30 June this year, a study was released in one of the world's top scientific journals. It explained how a group of scientists who had been measuring the amount of ozone in the stratosphere had made a startling observation: the hole in the ozone layer had shrunk. Here, they said, was the first clear evidence that the ozone layer had begun to heal. So how did this happen? Helena Merriman tells a story that involves dogged scientific endeavour, the burgeoning green movement of the 1980s and the signing of what has been described as the most successful treaty ever created. Producers: Lucy Proctor and Hannah Sander.
October 31, 2016
Should we place more trust in prisoners to help them change their lives? "Trust is the only thing that changes people," says Professor Alison Liebling, the director of the Prisons Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. But, asks Lucy Ash, how can we encourage trust in prisons that are overcrowded, often understaffed, and blighted by rising rates of violence? Prisoners are locked up because they broke trust, and on the wings distrust, rather than trust, is an essential survival skill. And yet Professor Liebling's latest evidence surprisingly shows that ultimately it is only staff-prisoner relationships built on trust that ensure better outcomes. "Values grow virtues", she argues. Treating prisoners with the same values as other people - dignity, respect, trust - will help them turn their lives around. Producer: Arlene Gregorius (Image: A knife with a blunted point, chained to a work surface. Credit: Rene Hut, of the Dutch Ministry of Justice).
October 24, 2016
In popular imagination, being in a crowd makes people scary and irrational. But is this true? In this edition of Analysis, David Edmonds asks social psychologists - including a leading expert on groups, Steve Reicher - about the psychology of crowds. This is far more than merely a theoretical matter. It has profound implications for how we police crowds.
October 17, 2016
Is the island of Ireland where Brexit will matter most? Edward Stourton visits Londonderry, right on the Irish border, to explore what's at stake as the UK leaves the EU. Some locals fear the border across Ireland - as the EU's new external border - will harden, causing great practical and economic difficulty and even threatening the Northern Ireland peace process. Others say change the will matter far less, and that peace is now guaranteed. While people in Derry ask anxious questions, we'll hear too how policy makers in London and Dublin face a particular challenge in making Brexit work. Producer: Chris Bowlby.
October 10, 2016
Can the process of gentrification be controlled? It is often hailed as a sign of social and economic progress. Places which were originally poor and downtrodden are transformed into prosperous and vibrant neighbourhoods. The phenomenon applies to large swathes of London and other cities across the country. David Baker asks whether gentrifying urban areas can retain their diversity and vibrancy. Is there a danger that in the latter stages of gentrification these places become the preserve of the very wealthy, losing much of their original character in the process? What tools are available to urban planners, local and national politicians to avoid this happening? Are there any lessons to be learned from cities in Europe and North America? Is there a new model of urban development emerging or will the British obsession with owning bricks and mortar define the way places become gentrified? Producer: Peter Snowdon.
October 3, 2016
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, asks if the time has come for the government to break pledges made to pensioners. He charts how the average income of senior citizens has risen and is now higher than that of the rest of the population. "We are in a position we never intended," he says. "One generation has lucked out and generations coming after are not only doing much worse, but paying for the older generation." He asks whether the government can and should sustain the "triple lock" which makes the state pension rise much faster than other benefits. And he argues that the inequality between generations is now entrenching inequality within generations. Producer: Helen Grady Interviewees: Torsten Bell, the Resolution Foundation Angus Hanton, the Intergenerational Foundation Baroness Ros Altmann, former pensions minister John Kay, economist Joanne Segars, Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association Baroness Onora O'Neill, philosopher Frances O'Grady, Trades Union Congress Ben Page, Ipsos MORI.
September 26, 2016
British politics has been going through a period of rapid and remarkable change. That's a headache for the politicians and for the voters. But spare a thought also for politics professors like Rosie Campbell of Birkbeck, University of London. Following the results of the 2015 election and the EU referendum, she ask whether it's time for her and her colleagues to bin their old lecture notes and start afresh. How should we understand this new landscape where old assumptions about the dominance of two mainstream class-based parties and the crucial role of a few swing seats have become outdated? And what should go in the new politics textbooks? Producer: Rob Walker.
July 25, 2016
Martin Wolf, Chief Economic Commentator of the Financial Times, examines how policymakers are testing the norms of economic life as they seek solutions to slow growth. The payment of interest goes back to the Babylonians. Today, the business of banking is based on paying savers and charging borrowers for money. Negative interest rates, paying banks for holding our funds, violates this established norm. Yet, five central banks, which together oversee a quarter of the world's economy, have opted to impose negative rates on the commercial banks that must use their services. The aim of this unconventional policy is to convince people to spend and invest rather save. The results so far have been mixed. So might central banks be running out of options to boost economic growth, nearly ten years after the start of the last financial crisis? Martin Wolf talks with economists and central bankers, past and present, about why ideas once thought utterly shocking, such as "helicopter money" and a the abolition of cash, are being openly considered. How might such policies affect the way people spend and save in the future? And how low can interest rates go? Producer: Sandra Kanthal.
July 18, 2016
Change, change, change - conventional wisdom is that the classroom is the site of an endless set of reforms, a constant stream of White Papers and directives that promise 'revolution' and sudden changes in direction. Yet is the real story of school reform really one of continuity? Professor Alison Wolf of King's College London explores the post-war history of school reform in England. Speaking to former secretaries of state, historians, and teachers, she explores the forces and events that have shaped schools. She argues that real changes have been surprisingly few and that despite a great deal of fiery rhetoric, they have generally continued across party lines. And she asks if that means that governments have perhaps been listening to what parents genuinely want? Producer: Gemma Newby.
July 11, 2016
Should the state pay everyone a Universal Basic Income? Sonia Sodha finds out why the idea is winning support from an unlikely alliance of leftists and libertarians. Producer: Helen Grady.
July 4, 2016
Politico foreign correspondent Nahal Toosi examines the international record of President Obama's eight years in office and tries to discern the governing principles behind his foreign policy. The president sought to avoid costly overseas interventions - yet his critics allege that he has allowed rival powers like Russia and China to flex their muscles and threaten American interests. And he has been condemned for his signature foreign policy achievements, like rapprochements with Iran and Cuba. With interviews gathered in Europe, the Middle East and in Washington DC, Nahal examines the president's decisions to ask if there is such a thing as an "Obama Doctrine". Producer: Lucy Proctor.
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