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ANY QUESTIONS?

TX:              04/12/09 2000-2050

PRESENTER: EDDIE MAIR

PANELLISTS: John Sergeant – journalist and broadcaster
            A A Gill – columnist and writer
            Shami Chakrabarti – Director of Liberty
            Daniel Finkelstein – Chief Leader writer of the Times and
            columnist

FROM:            Stratford-Upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls, Warwickshire

MAIR
Hello and welcome to Any Questions from Stratford-Upon-Avon Grammar School
for Girls which is a state maintained school celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. This
year Ofsted judged the school outstanding having successfully overcome the years
when Radio Four’s Corrie Caulfield was here as head girl. [LAUGHS] On the panel
this week the journalist Daniel Finkelstein, well known to readers of the Times and
the Jewish Chronicle. But voters once knew him as an SDP candidate at the nineteen
eighty seven election. In two thousand and one he stood for the Conservatives. He
advised John Major when he was Prime Minister and later William Hague when he
was Tory leader. He’s appeared on Have I Got News For You and was on
Newsnight’s panel of experts last year advising on how to avoid an economic crisis.
Well done with that. [LAUGHS] Also on the panel the celebrated dancer John
Sergeant. [LAUGHS] [APPLAUSE] Younger listeners might not know he’s reported
from Vietnam, Rhodesia, on the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Israeli invasion of
Lebanon as well as being a correspondent in Dublin, Paris and Washington. He also
did a bit of time covering UK politics, when he famously saved Margaret Thatcher
from speaking into thin air. [LAUGHS] As he put it himself recently “My career is
just starting. It’s just getting good”. Shami Chakrabarti’s best known for being
Director of the Human Rights group Liberty. One columnist called her “Probably the
most effective public affairs lobbyist of the past twenty years”. Another said she was
the most dangerous woman in Britain. [LAUGHS] Some government ministers
probably think of her as a right pain in the neck. But away from all of that she’s
Governor of the British Film Institute, a judge of the Orange Prize for New Fiction
and she’s even inspired a song by the indie band the Dastards which includes the line
“Speaking with such bravery no one else would dare to be Shami Chakrabarti”.
[LAUGHS] To my knowledge no one has written a song about the food critic and
writer A A Gill but a number of people probably think he’s a bit of a dastard himself.
There were complaints about a recent column which began “I shot a baboon in Africa
last Wednesday just after lunch. Shot it dead”. In 2002 he had an especially bad
experience in a London restaurant. He wrote “My chickpea soup was like sucking wet
sand, the flat chicken supreme was a battered hen, the ham was sweaty and curling
and the wine was having a sex change to vinegar”. [LAUGHS] He wondered in that
article “Why is there never a Palestinian suicide bomber when you need one”.
[LAUGHS] You’ll be surprised to hear when he was asked in an interview “Do you
self--censor?” he replied “No”. And that’s our panel. [APPLAUSE] And here’s our
first question.
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BIRCH
Nick Birch. Good evening. The bankers at Royal Bank of Scotland are threatening to
resign if they don’t get their bonuses. Is it a threat or an opportunity?

MAIR
Daniel Finkelstein?

FINKELSTEIN
Well “goodbye” is the phrase that I would use to describe my attitude to their offer to
resign. It seems to me extraordinary [HEAR HEAR] .. that in the banking world they
think they can only hire good people if they pay them millions of pounds. Intuitively
this can’t be correct. And I think what’s been happening throughout the banking
world is that money that should be going to the shareholders which in many banks’
cases now the taxpayer, has been going into the bonus pool and that’s simply wrong.
And I think that if they paid less they’d find they were still able to recruit people who
could do the job better than the people they’ve been paying. Because after all the
people they’ve been paying took risks that brought the banking system to collapse. So
they can hardly claim that they’re being paid for merit. [APPLAUSE]

MAIR
But if you were working at a bank that was paying a lot less than everyone else where
would you go?

FINKELSTEIN
Well I think if I’d been responsible for driving the banking system to the edge of
collapse it wouldn’t matter where I went. And that’s the point. The point is that they,
these people are being paid a large amount of money because of their supposed, their
supposed ability and we’re concerned about their moving banks. But they’re supposed
ability got the banks into very big trouble. And we are now shareholders propping up
those banks because of the mistakes that they have made. So for them to put billons of
pounds in the bonus pool, take it out of the capital that we’ve been trying to provide is
not morally wrong but it’s economically bananas.

MAIR
Shami Chakrabarti?

CHAKRABARTI
Well I work in a human rights organisation and I try and tell my colleagues that, that,
that public service is a reward in itself. It’s a bonus in itself. Being on the side of the
angels is a bonus in itself. But clearly this wouldn’t, this wouldn’t fly in the, in the
world of banking. And like Daniel I’m slightly sceptical of the idea that people will
only do well and work hard for lots of money. But at the same time I think, I think
this is a little bit more complex because we’ve got to decide what it is we want for the
future. Now do we want the repayment of billions of pounds that the taxpayer has
sunk into these banks or do we want a pound of flesh? And it’s quite a serious
question. And it seems to me you either say RBS is now a state bank and therefore the
people that work there should be paid like public servants – and some of them are
paid quite a lot actually – or, or do we want them to pay back the money that’s been
invested very quickly. And we don’t want to be in the banking business. And then
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you’ve got to say are you going to put them at a disadvantage to other banks. Or are
you saying that this is an issue for the banking sector as a whole and we need
regulation of the banking sector that doesn’t reward and give bonuses to, to the kind
of risk taking that, that led us into the, the crisis that we’re all suffering from.

MAIR
So to come back to the question .. [APPLAUSE] .. is the, is the threat from the, the
bankers at RBS, is it a threat or an opportunity?

CHAKRABARTI
Well I have to say I don’t, I don’t think it makes sense to say – unless you’re saying
we’re going to run a state bank at RBS and replace the directors of RBS with civil
servants and we’ll force the bank to lower the wages and to you know to lend to small
businesses and so on – we’re going to have a state owned bank called RBS – or you
say we need to deal with the banking sector as a whole. And get them to make sure
they do not reward risk taking but they, but we actually reward a better governance
and better banking in the, in the future. But it’s not about, it’s not about getting claps
for saying oh it’s just wicked old RBS. There are lots of other banks too that need to
be better about risk and ..

MAIR
All right.

CHAKRABARTI
.. we should be rewarding good behaviour not bad behaviour.

MAIR
A A Gill?

GILL
I think that one of the, the recipes for a happy and successful life is to never mind
what other people get paid. I think that there’s an enormous amount of schadenfreude
and envy about this whole thing. A lot of it from politicians who couldn’t be happier
that they’ve got bankers to beat up. [APPLAUSE] It’s really taken the spotlight,
spotlight off them. And we’re at some point going to have to get rid of all these banks.
And they’re going to have to be going concerns. And they’re not going to be going
concerns if they’re run by the bloke behind the till. It seems to me that to worry about
the fact that bankers get paid a lot of money is, is a nonsense. Bankers can work all
over the world and they get paid a lot of money. And it’s really none of your business.
If you want to live in a capitalist system, if you want to live in a society where people
..

FINKELSTEIN
They’re not going concerns now though. They all went bank, they all went bankrupt.
That’s the point. They’re not going concerns now so therefore we can’t use the same
free market argument we used before.

CHAKRABARTI
No that’s right.
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FINKELSTEIN
I’m .. [CHEERING] [APPLAUSE] I couldn’t be less concerned about what other
people earn unless I’m paying them then I become extremely concerned about it.

CHAKRABARTI
Yeah but, but Daniel do you, what do you want from RBS? Do you want them to pay
back the billions that we have invested as taxpayers or do you want bank, the banking
system as a whole to stop behaving in the kind of risky way that nearly destroyed ..

FINKELSTEIN
I don’t ..

CHAKRABARTI
.. this country a year ago?

FINKELSTEIN
.. I don’t want, I don’t want to go on paying them as we have been for taking the risks
that they were taking ..

CHAKRABARTI
Yeah.

FINKELSTEIN
.. because those risks were wrong and this is, and this bonus pool is part of that.
Within twelve months of s... sending this country to the brink of collapse these people
are now paying themselves millions of pounds.

CHAKRABARTI
But – yeah.

FINKELSTEIN
And that’s economic madness.

CHAKRABARTI
But ..

MAIR
John Sergeant?

CHAKRABARTI
.. it’s not just one bank ..

SERGEANT
Yeah I ..

CHAKRABARTI
.. it’ s a lot of banks isn’t it?

SERGEANT
No I ..
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FINKELSTEIN
Yes.

SERGEANT
.. we had ..

CHAKRABARTI
Yeah.

SERGEANT
.. lots of sensible comments. I just want revenge and justice. [LAUGHS]
[CHEERING] [APPLAUSE] I announced my policy on bankers last year on Any
Questions and it was quite simply to drag them through the streets of London and
have them pelted with eggs. And I’ve not changed my view. I mean the only thing I
would like, I mean I think in this particular circumstance, I can see all the arguments –
Shami’s put them about. Will they go to other companies and all that sort of thing.
And I suppose you’ve got to be grown up about this. And I would like the Board of
RBS to just realise that they should be sensible.

CHAKRABARTI
Mmm, quite right.

MAN
[HEAR HEAR]

SERGEANT
Just be sensible. [APPLAUSE] And if they were sensible and if all the people who are
considering bonuses in the run up the end of the financial year were sensible we could
all carry on. The government and all of us have put an enormous amount of money
behind the banks to save the banks and to save us all. I’ve no doubt how serious all
this is. I’ve no doubt that was the right course. But what we now want is some kind of
reciprocal behaviour from the people who’ve benefited and not get caught up in this
idea that aren’t they brilliant-risk takers. They’re not brilliant risk-takers. They’re
sitting on a pile of money and they’re taking a great chunk of it for themselves.
[APPLAUSE]

MAIR
Well it may well be that you’re a very well-paid banker and you have a different view
to our panellists. Why not share it with the Any Answers audience after the Saturday
edition of Any Questions? Our telephone number is 03700 100444. That’s 03700
100444. Or you can email any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Let’s have our next question
please.

VINCENT
Hi my name’s Rory Vincent. Can we believe the evidence for manmade climate
change?

MAIR
Can we believe the evidence for manmade climate change? John Sergeant?
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SERGEANT
Well the trouble is we can’t believe all the evidence provided by the University of
East Anglia and there’s a .. [LAUGHS] .. that is an extraordinary position to be in
isn’t it? The truth is I suspect that climatology, whatever they call it – an “ology”
anyway – used to be incredibly boring and suddenly it became exciting and who got
more and more excited? The scientists involved. And what did they do? Of course
they couldn’t resist egging the data. And the worst aspect of the whole sorry star, saga
– and it’s a dreadful story – is that it seems to me that the raw data, the raw data,
before they changed it and adopted it has now been destroyed. Well now if you are in
a university and you destroy the primary evidence – it’s like an archaeologist
rebuilding walls and thinking well this is how it should have been. Isn’t it appalling?
It’s one of the worst things that’s happened in public life that I can remember.
[APPLAUSE]

MAIR
Has, have the recent events at the University of East Anglia , John, changed your
view?

SERGEANT
No it’s not, it’s not changed my broad view. Of course we, climate change is
happening, it always does happen. How much of it is manmade we simply don’t
know. Would we like these figures? Yes please. Can we get the figures? We’re not
sure. What a position to be in. I mean really is. So what shall we do – don’t get me
wrong. I’m not a denier. I’m not a climate change denier. I know perfectly well it’s
happening. But I also can see very clearly what the range of increase of temperatures
are that are forecast. And they range form perhaps one degree centigrade to six
degrees centigrade. Well that’s a heck of a range isn’t it? And if it’s six degrees
centigrade we’ve all got to get into a real panic mode. If it’s one degrees that’s
different. Doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t move away from carbon fuels. Of course
we should. Or fossil f... fuels we should move away from. We should have many
more reusable source of energy. That makes common sense anyway. Let’s do the
common sense things. And if we take in the argument for climate change at the same
time that’s wonderful.

MAIR
Adrian Gill?

GILL
Yes. I, there is a huge pleasure in climate geographers getting their comeuppance.
What I particularly liked was, was the, was the howls of anguish from ecologists
saying that they, that people had illegally hacked into their computers and had stolen
things and had behaved in an entirely underhand and illegal manner when it’s all that
they’ve been doing for the last thirty years is breaking into people’s you know
businesses and, and climbing up chimneys and trying to stop people’s businesses.
Anyway I, I, I think the, I think this is rather beside the point. The point is that
whether or not climate change is manmade, car-, cow-, fart-made or you know made
by sun spots it doesn’t seem to really change the position that we have to do
something about it or we are better off doing something about it. And if the range of,
of, of the increase in the temperature’s going to be one degree or six degrees wouldn’t
Page 7 of 23


it be prudent just to assume that it might be six degrees and that perhaps we perhaps
ought to do something about that as well. And, and actually the point is ..
[APPLAUSE] .. that most of the things that you should do or that we are being
encouraged to do or that we know we should do are just decent things to do anyway.
Forget climate change. Forget ecology. Just waste less, care more, use less ..
[APPLAUSE] This seems to be a question whether science is beside the point. Let
those dull geologists and geographers argue amongst themselves. I just think just as
human beings we’re better off being nicer to each other and more careful with what
we use.

MAIR
Daniel Finkelstein?

FINKELSTEIN
I’m always amazed by the confidence with which people say that the climate science
isn’t true when they’re not climate scientists. And it reminded me there’s the line in
the Woody Allen film where the man said “How should I know whether there are
Nazis, I can’t work the can opener”. And that, that’s my position on it which is it’s
very difficult for me to know with all the data without being a climate scientist what
the truth is. But it does seem that the majority of climate scientists believe in
manmade climate change and I therefore think it’s prudent to take action to do
something about it on Adrian’s principle.

MAIR
But don’t events at the University of East Anglia recently make you doubt perhaps
what the experts tell you?

FINKELSTEIN
They don’t put a hole in the whole thing. It’s one stream of emails. But they do lead
you to believe that the people involved in this have become so convinced of the
rightness of their position they think almost any behaviour is acceptable and I think
John’s right in say staying that it is a huge scandal, most of all for people who believe
in this because they want, they should want to get at the truth. So it’s a genuine
scandal. Of course it leads you to wonder about the integrity of the whole of the
argument. But it still remains the case that we would be prudent to act on the majority
scientific advice. And I remain bemused by the confidence with which people with
very little scientific knowledge begin to establish on the basis of a newspaper article
or two that climate science is wrong.

MAIR
Shami Chakrabarti? [APPLAUSE]

CHAKRABARTI
Well I think this programme in a way is testament to the fact that politics is too
important to be left to the politicians. Am I right? [APPLAUSE] And, and maybe
sometimes science is too important to be left to the scientists alone. Right? Now this
is a very, very, this has become a very, very heated, passionate debate on both sides
but it’s an incredibly important one. And I, I would like, I mean Daniel makes a good
point, do I know – of course I can’t interrogate all the evidence. But I do want to have
a greater literacy so that I can hold the scientists like the politicians to account. Now
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passions have become heated on both sides. And I know as a campaigner that
sometimes there’s a temptation on all sides to over-egg the pudding a little bit here
and there. I believe that the planet is warming. I currently, I believe that that’s a bad
thing. And like Adrian, sorry A A, or A cos we got to know each other before the
programme [LAUGHS] .. I ..

GILL
The AA.

CHAKRABARTI
.. I agree, I agree that the balance of risk, the greater risk is in doing nothing and
sitting here fiddling while potentially the planet burns. So .. yeah? [APPLAUSE]

MAIR
And A A Gill is urging us all to be nicer and to change our behaviour just in case.
How, how have you changed your behaviour?

CHAKRABARTI
How have I changed my behaviour? I’m trying to be nicer, I .. [LAUGHS] No, no I,
look I have a small son who runs around the house turning the lights off. And, and
he’s not desperately bothered this week about whether the University of East Anglia
has, has, has over-egged the pudding in its emails and in its graphs. And you know
it’s his future not mine. And I say the balance of risk is that we should, we should do
what we can to cut consumption and, and cut carbon.

FINKELSTEIN
I really don’t believe that by these little things we can, we can change the climate.
And I know it’s sometimes nice to do these things for other environmental reasons but
they’re not going to make the impact. They, you know it’s like Sooty used to plane
down a tree to make a cocktail stick. And this is exactly the same idea. We’re going to
change the whole of the climate by turning off a few lights. We need a massive
solution and that’s going to involve massive technological change, going to involve
massive investment in alternative sources of energy and although personal behaviour
is important for other reasons it’s not going to change the climate.

GILL
Daniel ..

MAIR
...

GILL
.. this is not, this is not the point. You’re, we’re not, it’s not, you’re not doing this cos
you singlehandedly are going to stop East Anglia being flooded. It’s because it’s the
right thing to do as a person.

CHAKRABARTI
Yeah, quite right.

SERGEANT
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No.

GILL
Do it because it’s good for you.

SERGEANT
No I think, I think the other point is, and I think you shouldn’t have a ... despair
Danny. I think the, you should always try and move in the direction which might be
better. The assumption because you can’t get the ultimate, because we can’t be
certain, we can’t set the targets, we can’t enforce the targets, therefore do nothing.
Well that seems ridiculous. What we’ve got to try and do is see how much consensus
there can be in Copenhagen next week.

CHAKRABARTI
Absolutely.

SERGEANT
And then try you know and just see what is possible and what is practical that’s all.
But don’t give up.

FINKELSTEIN
Well good luck and let me know how it goes. [APPLAUSE]

MAIR
But Daniel Finkelstein isn’t the difficulty – coming back to our questioner – that if
people really doubt that climate change is manmade then the sort of enormous
changes you’re advocating won’t happen?

FINKELSTEIN
It’s a disaster what’s happened in East Anglia and that really is a manmade disaster.
We can be certain of that. And it will persuade a lot of people that it’s not worth
trying. I’m not in favour of doing nothing. I’m just in favour, I’m just against doing
pointless things.

CHAKRABARTI
Well I’m sorry to be pointless but ..

SERGEANT
You’re never pointless, Shami. I can tell you that. You really aren’t.

CHAKRABARTI
You’re very, you’re very sweet. You’re very sweet Sir John and [LAUGHS]
[APPLAUSE] But you’re quite right Daniel we can’t do these things by ourselves as
individuals. But you know I have seen in my own work that when individuals come
together as communities and communities put pressure on their governments and
governments put pressure on the international community you know good things can
happen. And I don’t think you should be so depressed. I think it, you know Martin
Luther King once said you know the arc of history is a long one, but ultimately it
bends towards justice.
Page 10 of 23


SERGEANT
Ah that’s nice. [APPLAUSE]

MAIR
Any Questions, the programme where in the same question people can quote Martin
Luther King and Sooty. I like that. [LAUGHS]

FINKELSTEIN
It’s unfortunately me of course had to quote Sooty.

MAIR
Let’s have our next question please.

COOKSEY
Good evening, Jon Cooksey. Is it sensible for governments to commit additional
troops to a war whilst at the same time telling the Opposition exactly when they will
begin to be pulled out?

MAIR
Shami Chakrabarti?

CHAKRABARTI
Well it wouldn’t be sensible to tell any enemy exactly when you, when you’ll pull out
and I, and I hope that isn’t quite what has happened. And whether, whether some ..

MAIR
I think it’s a reference to, to President Obama, am I right?

CHAKRABARTI
Yeah.

MAIR
And there is a timetable that begins in 2011.

CHAKRABARTI
I think if, I think in terms of the political reality whether President Obama had laid
down a timetable or not people know the electoral cycle in Britain and in the United
States and so on. And people are war weary for good reason actually in, on both sides
of the Atlantic. There’s been a little, there’s been a little skirmish in the news about
you know the prime minister writing condolence letters to people. By the way I think
it’s a really good idea that democratic leaders should have to write condolence letters
and never be divorced from the reality of what war means to, to individual people and
families. [APPLAUSE] Here’s the things. It’s, it’s a mess. We are where we are.
That’s, that’s the reality. I don’t think, I didn’t at the time think that Afghanistan was
quite like Iraq. I think it was easier to justify as a, as a simpler, more targeted mission
to go after Osama Bin Laden who hasn’t been caught. But, but we are where we are.
And when you invade somebody else’s country you have a little bit of a human moral
duty to do a little bit of clean-up before you walk out.

MAIR
Page 11 of 23


Can I just bring you back to the question if I may cos it’s quite specific. Is it sensible
for governments to commit additional troops while in the same breath as it were – I’m
paraphrasing the question – saying when they’re going to begin to come home? Is that
sensible?

CHAKRABARTI
Well I don’t think you can, I think it’s not sensible to be too precise about when
you’re going to end a mission. Of course it isn’t. Because you, you would then allow
the enemy to say we’ll just sit and wait won’t we. And then when you’ve gone we’ll,
we’ll get busy. You can’t do that. But at the same time, you know, people back home
have to, have to sustain this when they’re losing their sons and daughters thank you
very much. And you have to, you have to show those people that the end is in sight
and we’re not going to be stuck in a country where people have fought very long and
unsuccessful wars for many years so it’s ..

MAIR
All right.

CHAKRABARTI
.. a difficult, it’s a tightrope. They’ve got to show that they’re going to, they’re going
to make an effort and then clean up and get out. But at the same time they can’t be too
precise about when.

MAIR
Thank you for that. Daniel Finkelstein?

FINKELSTEIN
Well he should have set out milestones rather than a time line. He should have said
we will be able to leave when the Afghan...ghani police are professionalised, when
the army is professionalised and when we’ve got an inte.. a government with integrity.
And that will allow us to begin to withdraw our troops. What he was hoping to do of
course was signal to the Taliban we’re sending thirty thousand troops or signalling to
the American people we’ll be out by 2011. And what he’s ended up doing is
signalling to the Taliban we’ll be out by 2011.. [LAUGHS] and the American people
we’re sending thirty thousand more troops. So .. [APPLAUSE] .. he, he has made a
mistake with this although I do reside faith in his political leadership and his
communication skills which is going to be very important in explaining to the
American people why this mission is important because it is still important to our
security. We, if we don’t fight the war in Afghanistan we’ll end up fighting it here.
We don’t want to do that. And therefore the sacrifice that’s being made in
Afghanistan, though very big in blood and treasure is still worth it.

MAIR
And Mr Cooksey who asked the question you’re nodding away to Daniel Finkelstein
there.

COOKSEY
Well I think it’s very important I think to remember that, that we have to back the
troops. Shami Chakrabarti has just said that we are where we are. It’s a very volatile
region. The British have been in Afghanistan four times now in the last hundred and
Page 12 of 23


seventy years. And I think what we have to do is support the troops that are in there
but while we, the Afghanistan problem needs to have an Afghanistan solution at the
end of the day. And it has to be political. We can help that but it needs to be an
Afghani, an Afghani solution. And until it is that then this war will be very bloody
and will drag on for a long time.

CHAKRABARTI
Quite right.

MAIR
A A Gill? [APPLAUSE]

GILL
I absolutely and fundamentally disagree with Daniel about, that, that the war we’re
fighting at the moment in Helmand would be fought in Oxford Street if we weren’t
there. That’s just simply not right. [APPLAUSE] I, I, I covered the start of Shock and
Awe, the first Afghan War or the first one this lot, not the Victorian ones. And it was
a completely different war. The idea that this is an extension, that this is round two of
the same action is nonsense. Then it was absolutely to find Bin Laden, it was, it was
fighting Al Qaeda. Nobody’s claiming that they’re fighting Al Qaeda now.

CHAKRABARTI
Yeah.

GILL
They’re fighting this, these m... mixed bands of people we lump together and call
Taliban. This is completely, the Taliban are not going to come here and invade Dover.
I, and what, I, the answer is, to the question is no of course it’s ridiculous but we
shouldn’t be there. Everybody should be back by Christmas. I mean this is a war, this
is a war that it seems to me that we are creating the enemy we’re going to fight.
[APPLAUSE] And, and, and if you wanted a solution the solution would be to take
half the money that is being spent on the war and spend it on the peace in
Afghanistan. [APPLAUSE]

SERGEANT
Sadly I must say it’s unwinnable. If only if it was winnable, if it was all to do with can
we, one more heave will do the trick I would be one hundred percent in favour of it.
I’m affected I have to say by my experience in Vietnam in 1972. And it was three
years before the end of the war and I was there when the naked girl ran down the road
with the Napalm. And I was about half a mile away. And I could see the plane going
in. And it was an American built plane and it was American Napalm they used. But
the pilot was Vietnamese and the aircraft had the markings of RV... the Republic of
Vietnam. So they were all Vietnamese. We’d got to the Vietnamisation stage. And it
was, they were, we were full of briefings about how they were going to win and it was
look at how the Vietnamese were doing so well and they’d got this air force and
they’d got these soldiers. They were bribing the soldiers with television sets to stay on
the front line. Five hundred Vietnamese were being killed every week when I was
there. Three years later the war was over and you thought what a terrible waste. The
truth is the Taliban now have managed to capture the mantle of nationalism. And if
you’re a young Afghan person of any sort the idea that you would say you know
Page 13 of 23


what, I think the Americans, I think the foreigners are right. I mean can you imagine
that? No they’ll fight for their own and then argue it. The war is over. [APPLAUSE]

MAIR
John I’m interested in you, you mentioning Vietnam and obviously your experience
there. The President as you know this week went out of his way to say this wasn’t like
Vietnam, certainly not for the, the US.

SERGEANT
Well of course because the scar of Vietnam is still deep in people, particularly of my
age, right across America. If they get the analogy which I’ve presented Obama’s had
it. No the analogy is a correct one and I’m afraid it is. And it’s not oh well it’s not
Vietnam. By saying it’s not Vietnam doesn’t mean to make it true. I wish it was.
Don’t get me wrong. I wish it was. I wish we could be on the side of the angels in
Kabul and in Helmand. Of course I would. And our soldiers are wonderfully brave.
And it’s nothing to do with that. I wish them, I wish them well. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t
dream of wanting them to be hurt. I want them back home and I want some kind of
Afghan regime in Kabul getting on with their lives. [APPLAUSE]

MAIR
If you have a view on the Afghan War our telephone for Any Answers is 03700
100444. That’s 03700 100444. Our next question please.

SCOTTER
Good evening. Chris Scotter. When do you think Tiger will be out of the woods?
[LAUGHS]

MAIR
A A Gill?

GILL
I just, I, I should have known I was going to get the golf question. [LAUGHS] Oh ..

MAIR
I don’t think it is a golf question. [LAUGHS] [APPLAUSE] I thought this was about
holes in one, and putting, and wood. Oh do you know I really can’t care. I’m sorry
and I know .. [APPLAUSE] And, and, and my not caring and passing this question on
to Daniel who I’m sure has millions of things to say about it is, has nothing to do with
the fact that I’ve been paid a million dollars to not say anything. [LAUGHS]

MAIR
Well he’s passed it to you Daniel.

FINKELSTEIN
Do you know the thing about it which is really said is I know you’re right that I
shouldn’t care but I actually do and .. [LAUGHS] .. when I was working on the
newspaper on Sunday I realised that as much as I, a certain level I thought we
shouldn’t run anything about it whatsoever, at another level I had to run a spread on it.
And the fact is it is a riveting story. One should only be concerned about his golf
Page 14 of 23


handicap. The hole in one Adrian was in the back of a car obviously. But I think he’s
going to need a bunker really.

MAIR
But, but what’s it got to do with us?

FINKELSTEIN
Well it’s interesting isn’t it? You could also say the same about his golf, you know ..

GILL
No it’s not interesting. [LAUGHS] [APPLAUSE]

FINKELSTEIN
Not to you but to a lot of people. That’s is an interesting question ..

MAIR
Well not to people here. Let’s have a show of hands. Who cares about Tiger Woods
and all of this stuff?

FINKELSTEIN
Who admits they care?

MAIR
Oh there’s the man who asked the question and about three or four others.

CHAKRABARTI
That’s six people. That’s six people by the way just for those at home.

GILL
All of them men and all of them over fifty. [LAUGHS]

FINKELSTEIN
That, all that means is that fifty percent of the audience don’t tell the truth.

GILL
No what it means is they’re all Times readers. [LAUGHS]

MAIR
John Sergeant?

SERGEANT
No you ask a question like that. Course you don’t want to put your hand up, saying
what a twit. You know we’re all interested. Of course we are ... about that. We’re all
interested .. [JEERING] Yes we are. Whatever you say. [LAUGHS] Oh yes. Did she
hit the back of the car or the front of the car? Did she hit him with the, with the
whatever it was, whichever of the, of the things that she was carrying at the time. No
the truth is, I tell you what, as an old journalist I do know what’s going to happen. He
will go down in public esteem and then he will play in one of his great golfing
tournaments and he will do really well. People will say Tiger leaps back.
[APPLAUSE]
Page 15 of 23



MAIR
Shami Chakrabarti?

CHAKRABARTI
Well I think this is a very serious question and I, I, I, unlike my fellow panellists who
I have to say I held in high esteem before, before this question, I intend to treat it with
the seriousness it, it deserves. Tiger Woods will be out of the w... woods when the
next great paragon of esteem and virtue falls off his or her pedestal, right? Now I am
sitting next to Sir John Sergeant and I happen to know that he’s lived a blameless life.
[LAUGHS]

SERGEANT
It’s true.

CHAKRABARTI
And therefore Tiger Woods is in trouble for a little while. But my more serious point
is that of course at times we’re interested in people that have caught our imaginations
and particularly people that seem to be very special, very worthy in their talents or in
the blameless life that they’ve led but you know people do fall off their pedestals from
time to time. He, Tiger Woods has made a plea for his, for his personal privacy this
week out of respect for his family and himself. And I wasn’t untouched by that. But of
course the people that he’s – how can I put this – encountered also have you know
their life story to tell. You know sometimes there is a rubbing point between one
person’s privacy ..

GILL
There’s a what?

MAIR
Most ...

CHAKRABARTI
.. and somebody else’s .. [LAUGHS] You see this is what, this is what happens. This
is what happens when you sit down with these, with these louche, these louche
gentlemen. I don’t know what you mean Mr Gill, that ..

FINKELSTEIN
He doesn’t either cos he’s not interested. Do you remember? [LAUGHS]

CHAKRABARTI
Look I think that Mr Woods’ family are, are entitled to a bit, to a bit of privacy and,
and ..

GILL
Not too much though.

CHAKRABARTI
I, well I, no I think I, I think he’s paid a price for a moment and it’s probably time to,
to move on to the next thing.
Page 16 of 23



MAIR
Well I do wonder what our questioner thinks of all this.

SCOTTER
I think there is a serious element to this although of course the question was asked
with some humour, I, of course.

CHAKRABARTI
Is that right?

SCOTTER
Yeah. And that is that we, we all like heroes. And I don’t know one end of a golf club
from anoth.. from another. But I’ve heard of Tiger Woods.

CHAKRABARTI
Yeah.

GOTTER
And of course he has become almost a model sportsman, admired by everybody. We,
of course have the schadenfreude that when we see somebody fall off the pedestal we
all gloat with glee and we have a good laugh at it, but we need these people. And I’m,
I’m, I have to say just to finish that I’m a little bit disappointed with A A Gill who
appears to have ..

SERGEANT
I think we all are.

SCOTTER
.. no views on this at all. [LAUGHS]

MAIR
Shall we go back to him and see if he’s changed his mind?

GILL
I tell you, I tell you what I do have a view on. I have a view – and it’s not a funny one.
I’m, I’m b.. I must tell you, I’m not a funny person. I don’t, I’m not naturally
humorous. I’m deeply serious and ...

CHAKRABARTI
He’s just pretending tonight.

SERGEANT
He’s just ..

GILL
And I ..

SERGEANT
He’s going for the sympathy vote. It’s pathetic isn’t it? [LAUGHS]
Page 17 of 23



GILL
But what I, what, what I do mind is that, is that we, mostly when I say “we”, mostly
the press, donate this title of a role model to people. They haven’t asked for it. They
don’t particularly do anything for it except for play sport or – no, mostly play sport
actually. Sometimes I think they’re page three models. But I mean they’re people we,
we, we give this title to, we say “You are a role model”. And having been given the
title that gives us then the right to, to, to dictate how you live your life. Because
you’re supposed to be influencing our children and the gentleman in the front who has
plainly been hugely influenced by professional golf. [LAUGHS] I, I mean you know
I, I think, I think calling someone a role model is, is always the precursor to telling
them what they’re doing wrong and why we have the right to know about their
personal lives.

MAIR
John do you worry ..

SCOTTER
... hero.

MAIR
Sorry, go on.

SCOTTER
I said hero not role model deliberately.

GILL
I, I stand corrected. He’s obviously your hero not your role model.

CHAKRABARTI
And .. [LAUGHS]

MAIR
I was just wondering ..

CHAKRABARTI
Look, and ..

MAIR
John, John, sorry Shami, John, I just wonder now that you’re a national treasure do
you worry you fall into this .. [LAUGHS] this category ..

SERGEANT
No I don’t ..

MAIR
.. of hero or role model?

SERGEANT
Page 18 of 23


No of course, no it’s pretty hard being a national treasure. You get up in the morning
.. [LAUGHS] .. you get up in the morning and say what should I do today?.... No I
think, I mean obviously the problem is when someone’s trying to do something really
well which he is and really, really well and people get more and more excited and
they say “That’s your style cos you do things really well” it’s inevitable the press will
then say “He is the miracle man. He’s” you know ... can be more like Tiger. And we
all secretly would like to be like that. You go out and play the perfect round. I like to
come on Any Questions and be the perfect guest but in fact ..

CHAKRABARTI
Oh and you have been, and you have been .. [LAUGHS]

SERGEANT
But, but, but in practice these things are extremely difficult so of course you think oh
he’s a bit of a hero, cos he’s cool and he does it, he does his stuff. And these other
things, then suddenly sorts of hits you, cos of course if you have that job – can you
imagine being Tiger Woods?

GILL
Actually no, actually do you know John ..

SERGEANT
You wake up, wait a minute ..

GILL
Frankly, no the point is, if he’s banging cocktail waitresses three at a time ..

SERGEANT
No.

GILL
.. he’s much more of a hero to me now.

SERGEANT
Yes. [LAUGHS] I know. But, but I tell you what though. There are, there are times,
whenever you meet somebody who ..

CHAKRABARTI
But mercifully we live in a world where everyone doesn’t agree with you. [LAUGHS]

SERGEANT
All right. Can I just ..

FINKELSTEIN
The longer this question goes on the more the “I’m not interested” line is ..

SERGEANT
Eddie. No, Eddie ..

FINKELSTEIN
Page 19 of 23


... Have you noticed?

SERGEANT
Can I just finish this? Can I just finish this point ..

MAIR
If you would ...

SERGEANT
.. very quickly.

FINKELSTEIN
He knew how many cocktail waitresses there were ..

SERGEANT
No. Can I just finish .. if I can just finish the point before I was interrupted by these
panellists who are ..

CHAKRABARTI
Oh I’m so sorry.

SERGEANT
No, no. No I tell you what there are sometimes when you must wake up in the
morning and think do I have to be Tiger Woods today. That’s the real truth.

GILL
Some of us wake up and we are every morning.

MAIR
Let’s have our next question please.

CHAKRABARTI
Please.

MILTON
Good evening. Nicholas Milton. Is there anything wrong in dreaming up your tax
policies on the playing fields of Eton?

MAIR
Daniel Finkelstein?

FINKELSTEIN
I think that if the Labour Party tries to run the General Election as a class war they’ll
regret it for two reasons. First of all it won’t work in the General Election. And
secondly they’ll find that they become extremely unpopular in the long term. If your
question is whether you think that the Conservatives actually do create their, the
inheritance tax policy for example for the rich, I think that’s a misunderstanding of
how people feel about the inheritance tax which affects a lot more than simply rich
people. So I thought it was a misjudgement. [APPLAUSE]
Page 20 of 23


MAIR
John Sergeant?

SERGEANT
We don’t like the idea of class war. It’s the sort of, it brings up all the sort of horrible
images of the worst of communist rule, that you are going to say to someone you’re in
the wrong class, you die. So obviously from, from our point of view, anyone who
starts to raise that spectre of the class war is then going to be pushed to one side and
say that’s not the way we do things in this country. But what you forget if you’re not
careful is that politics is about image. And of course we want to know. What did
Harold Wilson do? He smoked cigars in private. In public he smoked a pipe. So the
idea that – just forget the fact that you’ve got these two millionaires, David Cameron,
George Osborne running the Conservative Party. Just forget that. Forget they went to
Eton. They’re just chaps like you and me. They’re not really. [LAUGHS] I can tell
you. They’re not. [APPLAUSE] So don’t expect politics to sort of remove this idea,
the image of these senior politicians, these two very important people, oh no, no you
mustn’t mention that. Don’t mention Eton. You know don’t do that. Well that is
absurd. We want to know who these people are and how did they get all that money.
[LAUGHS]

MAIR
Shami Chakrabarti?

CHAKRABARTI
Goodness. It’s a tough act following John Sergeant and I’m, you know I’m not even
dancing. But I think that’s, I think that’s the point. We’re, like this audience I suspect
the British public are a pretty fair-minded bunch. I know some posh people and there
are quite a lot of posh people in politics. Though I haven’t been on any yachts lately.
And there are people who’ve had fortunate lives and public school educations across
the political spectrum, right? Right? [APPLAUSE] And what matters is if we think
that someone’s, someone doesn’t feel that they owe something to people who are less
privileged than themselves, someone who doesn’t use that privilege and that
opportunity to put something back and to open the door and extend a ladder to people
who’ve been less fortunate than themselves. So this, this whole issue only becomes
important if there’s a policy or if there’s a particular moment when you think that
someone’s character and their background is putting them out of touch with the lives
of ordinary people.

MAIR
A A Gill? [APPLAUSE]

GILL
Having started off my journalistic career on Tatler I’ve, I’ve written an enormous
amount about class and I know that it’s entirely made up. If we, any of us had sat
down and had a discussion about the class system in this country we would spend the
first fifteen hours trying to differentiate what we meant by class. The old distinctions
simply don’t exist any more. What we have got instead is a lot of sort of ..

SERGEANT
Someone said “rubbish” there Adrian.
Page 21 of 23



GILL
Yes, I know. They always do. [LAUGHS] And you know it’s always the proles who
say it. [LAUGHS] [APPLAUSE]

SERGEANT
We’re going to get a real class fight here.

GILL
What we do, what we do have is a lot of sort of token terms for people who we, a
short hand for people we discount. We call people chavs. Chav isn’t a class, it’s just a
way of putting people down. We call them old Etonians or snobs or – I don’t know,
John Prescott. You know you, we .. [LAUGHS] We have the, we have these ways and
when people start flashing those terms, start talking about snobs, start putting on
accents, start talking about old Etonians, it’s because they’ve nothing else left in their
pockets.

SERGEANT
No. [APPLAUSE] This is, we live in a very complicated world where often it’s very
difficult to work out what’s the best thing for a government to do, not when you, what
you do yourself, but what a government should do, particularly now with the
economy. What should they do. So inevitably you’re going to look at the people who
are going to be in charge. And you do want to know kind of what are they like.
Because these issues are so complicated you think well you know I don’t know about
this or that, I don’t know about global warming, I don’t know about the economy, I
don’t know about quantitative easing but who is this person that’s going to be in
charge of us. And you can’t say no, no, no don’t, don’t consider that, don’t read the
profiles, don’t ask them about their background, don’t ask them about whether
they’ve got children. These things all matter.

CHAKRABARTI
I agree that your character and sometimes your background shapes your character, but
it doesn’t just do it if you’re posh. It can do it if you’re, if you’re chippy as well.

SERGEANT
Like John Prescott ..

CHAKRABARTI
You know ..

SERGEANT
.. yeah.

CHAKRABARTI
My motto for myself – and I probably fail all the time – but what I want for myself,
what I want for my son, what I want for everybody’s children is the idea that I’m
anyone’s equal but no one’s superior. Right? And that is the tightrope that I think we
all have to try to walk in our lives and treat people fairly no matter where we’ve come
from. It’s where, it’s where we’re going and where we want other people to go with
us that matters.
Page 22 of 23



MAIR
Daniel Finkelstein?

FINKELSTEIN
Only very .. [APPLAUSE] Only very posh people think that Eton is different from
other posh public schools. And I don’t think the electorate is going to distinguish
between Ed Balls’s posh public school and David Cameron’s posh public school. This
is one of the reasons why, since both parties have large numbers of people who went
to posh public schools, this line of attack won’t work. So I don’t think the electorate
will buy it. I think they’re more concerned about what people do than where they
came from. I think they are interested in where they came from. I think it’s perfectly
right and proper that people should talk about their background and that background
should be explored. I think that attacking people as a category and a class rather than
for what they say and do is obnoxious.

SERGEANT
I think what you’ve got to understand .. [APPLAUSE] I think what you’ve got to
understand is that David Cameron certainly understands the importance of all this –
“Call me Dave” riding a bike to work. And don’t forget the importance of say George
Bush right? Now when you think of George Bush Junior you think oh he’s from
Texas isn’t he. The kind of guy you’d have a barbecue with. He was, he was born in
Connecticut and his father was President of the United States of America. That’s what
we call politics. [LAUGHS] [APPLAUSE]

MAIR
Daniel Finkelstein is there any, there’s been the odd suggestion that David Cameron
has talked up one side of his personality and talked down the other side of his
background.

FINKELSTEIN
Well you’d have to ask him that question. I don’t know. I think that obviously any
politician’s going to try and put their best foot forwards, going to try and talk about ..

SERGEANT
Exactly.

FINKELSTEIN
.. and that’s perfectly reasonable. I don’t, I don’t believe it’s wrong to enquire into
people’s background and to understand who they are and where they came from. You
can take whatever view you like. I do believe it’s wrong to launch political attacks on
that basis.

MAIR
Thank you all – John Sergeant, Shami Chakrabarti, A A Gill and Daniel Finkelstein
and we’re especially grateful to Stratford-Upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls here
in Warwickshire who’ve looked after us so well. Next week on the panel Doctor Ben
Goldacre, Theresa May and Sean Woodward. Do join us. And if you want to call Any
Answers our number is 03700 100444. Thank you.
Page 23 of 23


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