BBC DECEMBER 23, 2005 - by Jonathan Dimbleby


PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby PANELLISTS: Peter Hitchens, Matthew Parris, Brian Eno, Jude Kelly FROM: Chipping Norton Town Hall, Oxfordshire

Jonathan Dimbleby: Welcome to Oxfordshire and the town of Chipping Norton, which is about to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of the granting of its charter by James I. It's a classically Cotswold town in appearance but thrives less on its chocolate box exterior than on the efforts of its lively and industrious community. We are in the magnificent town hall which you enter through an archway, distinguished by four doric columns and we're here as the guests of the Guild of Commerce.

On our panel: Jude Kelly made her name as a phenomenally innovative and successful artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse which has been garlanded with honours. She's now the artistic director of the South Bank Centre in London, charged among other things to oversee the programme for the reopening of the face lifted Royal Festival Hall in 2007 and to ensure that the entire complex becomes once again the most important centre of its kind in the world.

Brian Eno is a rock musician and music producer of great renown. A member of the Roxy Music group, he's since produced albums for the likes of U2 and David Bowie. His own latest album, Another Day On Earth, came out earlier this year. Professor Eno, as his fans call him, lists among his recreations thinking, always an additional virtue on this programme.

Matthew Parris is celebrated as a writer and journalist. His most prominent weekly perch is in The Times but he writes for a host of other outlets as well. A former Conservative MP he says that we - referring to Conservatives - are resolved to love David Cameron, the Tories hour has come.

Not, according Peter Hitchens, who writes his column in the Mail on Sunday. Under David Cameron, he believes, the Conservative Party is both empty of oppositional ideas and organisationally hollow, though I suspect he admires the government even less. He's the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING]

Our first question please.

Roger Backhouse: I'm Roger Backhouse and my question is: Does the panel believe British troops will be out of Iraq before the end of 2006?

Jonathan Dimbleby: Matthew Parris.

Matthew Parris: Yes most of them. It's failed, everybody can see that it's failed. There comes a point when there's no point in pretending any longer. We'll declare some kind of victory, we'll probably follow the Americans and I think that a substantial troop withdrawal will have started well before the end of the year ahead. Whether they'll all have left by then or not I don't know. I think this is a very difficult period because once it's been decided that a military adventure hasn't worked in a sense every life lost after that happens is a wasted life and I think it's going to be an awkward time for the government.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Brian Eno.

Brian Eno: Well my assumption for quite a few years now has been that there was never an intention to leave Iraq actually, that the point of the whole invasion was to put a large military force in the centre of the Middle East for obviously strategic reasons. And so I think though the British might withdraw and I think it would make very little difference either way if we did, because we're only eight thousand troops among one-hundred-and-seventy- or one-hundred-and-eighty-thousand other troops, I don't think the Americans will withdraw. And I think the fact that they've just built four very large bases in Iraq and are now building a one point five billion dollar embassy there indicates that they plan to stay for a very long time. So we might leave but I don't think they will.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Jude Kelly.

Jude Kelly: Well I want to follow on with that because I think it depends what the British want to do in terms of who they want to back. I think if they want to stay absolutely in close partnership with the Bush administration then they will follow on with whatever the Americans do. But if we were to really do what the British do wonderfully which is bring ideas, creativity and a sense of reconciliation and the future of civil society to bear then we would pull the troops out and go in with completely different relationships and methodology. I mean I just chaired a meeting to do with stolen artefacts in Iraq in Zurich and the dismay and the terror about what's happened to the civic society is absolutely overwhelming and I think we have a responsibility to rebuild that with other partnerships other than troops.

Jonathan Dimbleby: [CLAPPING] Peter Hitchens.

Peter Hitchens: Well I hope they will be out by the end of 2006 but of course the problem with sending troops to places is that it's always much easier to get them in than it is to get them out. What I hope above all is that they will all be out by the end of 2006 without anymore casualties. But this completely mistaken and wrong operation has gone on long enough. We've now effectively handed over Iraq to a sort Yugoslavia of competing mullahs which may not necessarily be worse than what was there before but certainly isn't significantly better. I don't really want to see anybody else from this country die in a wrong cause. And what I really, really hope is that they all will be back by the end of 2006, every single one of them all back, no more casualties, no more deaths, no more injuries.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Matthew Parris [CLAPPING] given that you were nodding your head at the wrong cause, we are, quote, as it were where we are now do you think it's responsible to withdraw if the belief is that by withdrawing it will exacerbate the civil strive which may be contained by the presence of foreign outside troops - our troops - as the Iraqi security forces gain in strength and authority?

Matthew Parris: There is no evidence that the Iraqi forces are gaining in strength and authority and precious little evidence for the belief that there's much we can do to give them strength and authority. And I don't think it's irresponsible to recognise circumstances in which there is no good that you can do. And it may be in a despairing way that you withdraw and you may withdraw not at all confident that what follows you will be no better than when you were there. But when you've come to the conclusion that it's a task that is beyond you and I think it is a task beyond us in Iraq, the responsible thing to do is to go.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Let me ask the audience here, a slightly different pair of questions but focused around what we were just saying. Who believes that come what may the troops should leave by the end of the year, would you put your hands up? Who believes that the troops should only go when the government has determined that civic society has reached the point at which it can be protected principally by its own security forces? Well a majority here - small majority - I expressed that question I think neutrally Matthew?

Matthew Parris: No, absolutely not, no.

Jonathan Dimbleby: You mean I didn't.

Matthew Parris: It wasn't neutral the way you expressed the question.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Go on, go on.

Matthew Parris: If the question is we must stay until a liberal democracy has been established in Iraq who is going to - who is going to dissent from that. The question is can we establish a liberal democracy in Iraq - and that's the question to which I answer no. [CLAPPING]

Jonathan Dimbleby: We won't indulge in semantics. But the second question I put was actually about order rather than establishing democracy and that is the question as posed by the government, as it were, and the majority - tell out listeners - a small majority of the audience actually took the view that we shouldn't just get out come what may.

Matthew Parris: But you said when we establish or when we establish order...

Jonathan Dimbleby: I'm sorry, Peter Hitchens - I didn't say that.

Peter Hitchens: I think there is an order emerging in Iraq but it's not a very pleasant one. Some of you will have seen the people in Basra interviewed on the television last night, the woman who was shot for not wearing a veil in the streets of the city where previously women could go about without that kind of submission to Islam and another man who was interviewed who said well we thought you were going to bring us Western civilisation, what you've actually brought us is more mullahs in turbans - well thanks a lot. The order which exists in Iraq is increasingly being imposed by telebans of one side or another or in Kurdish north is being imposed by a new Kurdish nationalism. Those are the things to which we will have to hand over Iraq because they are the powers which we've created there. There is no other order that's going to emerge. And I don't think that any purpose is served by us continuing to be there, we can't reverse what we've started. And it's idle to imagine that some kind of Iraqi parliamentary democracy under the rule of law is going to come out of this. Don't hope for it, the idea that British troops should stay there till that happens...

Jonathan Dimbleby: Brian Eno.

Peter Hitchens: there for hundreds of years.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Brian Eno.

Brian Eno: Yes I mean the press here always acts on the assumption that we are part of the solution. That the radical thought might be that we're part of the problem and so getting out soon might be the best thing we could do actually.

Jonathan Dimbleby: We'll leave that there.

Jude Kelly: What amazes me is that...

Jonathan Dimbleby: Jude.

Jude Kelly: Well just to say that we've got out of other countries that we went into and we've left them completely unstable and actually the press don't choose to focus on those countries very much. But there's a litany of problems that we've left behind in many places. And so I do think we have to get out quickly but I don't think we should just get out and leave it at that, I think we've got to go back in but with other things, with education, with creativity, with partnerships, with business but not with troops.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Thank you. We'll go to our next question.

Katie Raynescourt: Katie Raynescourt. Why has the government insisted on referring to gay marriages as civil partnerships?

Jonathan Dimbleby: Jude Kelly.

Jude Kelly: Well I don't know what you mean - as opposed to what I suppose I'm interested in your question, the way you've phrased the question.

Jonathan Dimbleby: What is behind your question, you think it ought to be called a gay - you think it ought to be called marriages?

Katie Raynescourt: Yes. Essentially you have the same rights and responsibilities as a civil partner as you do in a marriage, I don't understand why in terms of linguistics they've chosen the words partnerships as opposed to marriages.

Jude Kelly: Well I suppose it's an incremental step on the road to acceptance isn't it, that's what I judge it to mean. Because you'd expected it to have been a bit of incendiary moment. And gladly it hasn't been, it's been accepted very smoothly. I think it's wonderful frankly. I think that anybody who wants to set off on a course of dedication and the sort of athleticism that's required to be in love with somebody for a very long time when you have a marriage or a civil partnership I think that anybody who's up for that should be absolutely encouraged. And I think it's wonderful to think how tolerate society has become because if you think it's not that long ago since it was a terrifying admission in most public contexts to say that you were gay. That moment has passed. And so now love can be honoured openly which is wonderful. [CLAPPING]

Jonathan Dimbleby: Peter Hitchens.

Peter Hitchens: You have to be very careful what you say about this kind of thing now, or the police will be round interviewing you the following morning. But why are the government not admitting openly that what they're doing is simply introducing homosexual marriage, basically because they're afraid of the electorate spotting what it is that they're doing. And it's quite simply that, you're perfectly right. What they have introduced is a form of marriage for homosexuals, it has all the same legal characteristics and we will soon no doubt be seeing homosexual divorces. But the question really in this is why are they doing it and what is the significance of it. The whole history of this country in the past forty years has been that parliament repeatedly passing the law of unintended consequences. Everybody who thinks that this is without problems should understand that it's very near the end of a process lasting forty years in which the institution of marriage, which ought to be uniquely privileged and esteemed in our society, is being dismantled. And you now have a situation where there will be - there will be - there will be very soon a very reasonable and perfectly justifiable pressure from anybody who wants to set up a relationship under one roof to say well if a pair of homosexuals can have such a relationship why can't we. And I don't see how the government can resist this. And then you will have what will be effectively a state registered relationship which can be broken at any time by anybody involved in it which will replace and drive out marriage. And that will be the end of marriage in our society, something which is already very rapidly happening with disastrous consequences for the upbringing of children, for the stability of society and indeed for human liberty for if you do not have stable married families there is nowhere for private life to function or flourish or develop or be protected from the enormous force both of the state and of global capitalism which has no interest whatsoever in your private life. [AUDIENCE BOOS]

Jonathan Dimbleby: Brian Eno.

Brian Eno: Funnily enough I agree sort of with both the previous speakers. I'm very pleased that gays can now openly celebrate their relationship and I think they absolutely deserve all of the tax credits and the special benefits that married couples get. I think also, as Peter says, there are a lot of - there are going to be a lot of unintended consequences of this because if the concept of civil partnership does now extend to people who happen to share the same house for twenty-five years for example then what we'll find is that there'll be a new generation of laws that somehow try to govern this situation. So it will certainly give rise to a new stratum of bureaucracy. And actually quite a few of the issues that have come up this week are to do with new strata of bureaucracy, as I think we might find as the evening continues.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Do you believe, as Peter Hitchens does, that this is the beginning of the end of marriage and an important state and religious relationship?

Brian Eno: No I don't think so, I think that's a bit apocalyptic, I think marriage will continue and will be absolutely fine and healthy. And all sorts of shades of people living together will continue as well. So I welcome the addition to the variety. Where I agree with him is that it's not without problems, there's going to be a lot of negotiation involved in making this work.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Matthew Parris.

Matthew Parris: Peter Hitchens's view is completely crackpot. He says we're [CLAPPING]... he looks forward or doesn't look forward to the appalling prospect that we shall have a state registered relationship between men and women, we already do - it's called a register office wedding, that is the state registered relationship, that is the civil side of a marriage. There is also the sacred side of a marriage, which those who are believers can involve themselves in, they can have a church wedding. I have no views on the sacred side of marriage because I'm not a believer but people who want a wedding in the church can have a wedding in the church. People who want a state registered relationship, if they're straight, have always been able to for a very long time and I think that gay people should as well. The question of using the word marriage or wedding, which is the questioner's question, I'm ambivalent about. I love the English language and I think the English language is made by the people who speak it and I think the word marriage and the word wedding have a plain meaning in English usage at the moment and it is a relationship between a man and a woman. I think that may change in the future but it hasn't changed yet and I don't think it's for politicians or the media to dictate how fast it should change.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Is that change [CLAPPING] is that change one which has an inevitable sort of conflict in it because some gay partners involving themselves in that relationship may feel that it is in their terms a marriage and a true marriage while others may think no it isn't and therefore there's inevitable tension, is it possible that people can just call it a marriage if they want to?

Matthew Parris: I think people will, in fact they are already. And as words change and the use of words changes there's always tension, there's always confusion. But for the moment I respect those people for whom marriage has its old meaning and I shall stick to that word.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Peter - Peter - Peter, crackers was the term used in relation to your...

Peter Hitchens: Crackpot I think...

Jonathan Dimbleby: Crackpot sorry.

Peter Hitchens: I think if you respect what somebody says then you don't use that term about them. And I think that it is - it is important for Matthew to understand that there is a serious argument here, which he should not so lightly dismiss. I didn't say that this by itself was doing the ultimate damage, I said it was the culmination of a forty year process. We could go back, as I would if asked, to the 1960s and the introduction of no fault divorce which actually, if you think about it, means that the state can go into somebody's home and drag him or her from that home and away from her or his children if one party to the marriage decides that they want to end it. An amazing change in a relationship which previously was, as I say, the ultimate pillar of private life, the ultimate pillar of the upbringing of children which has been undermined by a state which has wished increasingly nationalise the rearing of children and to nationalise the whole way in which we live, backed up by rapacious business which doesn't want us to have weekends off, which doesn't want us to have Sundays, which doesn't want us to have any time to ourselves, wants us to be consumers and listeners and obeyers...

Jonathan Dimbleby: Peter Hitchens I don't wan to cut you off in your prime, I know you're sorry...

Peter Hitchens: People just say they want to defend...

Jonathan Dimbleby: Peter - we've been here before.

Peter Hitchens: of the most important institutions of a free society...

Jonathan Dimbleby: Peter Hitchens, I'm going to bring you to order and you are now going to be - with great respect - to use the words you just used - I know that you want to obey the rules of this particular quotes game which allows everyone to have an equal say, which means not everyone can have the whole say that they would like to have. Jude Kelly.

Peter Hitchens: Just don't call me crackpot again, that's all.

Jonathan Dimbleby: I didn't call you crackpot.

Peter Hitchens: No he did.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Well he will do again possibly too, it's part of this programme's pleasure. Jude Kelly.

Jude Kelly: I was just going to say I'd hate to be your child trying to get a word in at the Sunday table. [CLAPPING] But that's not disrespectful. I just want to say that where I absolutely do agree with Peter on these particular issues is to do with really vows and I think this is where the issue of children and stability absolutely should be key to us all. I don't think you can exactly prescribe what stability should mean to a child but it's got to have the same sort of obligations as a marriage. It should be about sickness and health, better and for worse, richer and poorer. The level of unconditional love which two people can give a child is the thing that will make a child have a successful life if they're capable of having it. [CLAPPING]

Jonathan Dimbleby: Are you saying that that kind of unconditional love can only be given by a man and woman?

Jude Kelly: No I'm not, not at all. I'm also saying that I think the issue that's become difficult for people to deal with is until death do us part and that's really part to do with longevity. I mean I think that people have got a genuine issue at the moment about understanding that their lives go through many frameworks and this is what brings couples to come to different roads, different crossroads in their lives. But the issue of making sure that a child always feels that duality of parenthood is theirs unconditionally is of course the best preferred state between - it can be the same sex as far as I'm concerned. However, I also think that some of the most wonderful parents in the world have been single parents because they'll give double that unconditional love because they've got to. So I do respect the idea that we want to help people understand that without good parenting you're really disabling a child for life. But that's not about just same - marriages in a conventional sense.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Last brief word to Brian Eno.

Brian Eno: Yes it is a brief word. Just a personal note. My assistant on Wednesday attended the wedding of his father to his gay lover. My assistant is thirty-one and they have been lovers for thirty years and it was a very wonderful occasion he said and they all toasted the Labour government and said this would never have happened under the Tories. [CLAPPING]

Jonathan Dimbleby: Which takes us...

Peter Hitchens: Don't be too sure about that.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Which takes us more smoothly than you could imagine to our next question, with an observation though which is that normally at this point in the programme we have to say remember Any Answers and I try and remember the number of Any Answers but there is no Any Answers on Saturday because instead Radio 4 listeners will be as always on that particular Saturday going to listen to the Carols from Kings. So there's no Any Answers. But we do go to our next question.

Josephine Finding: Josephine Finding. If you were the MP for this constituency what would you New Year resolution be?

Jonathan Dimbleby: The MP for this constituency name is Cameron, first name David. Peter Hitchens you were about to say something and now you can say it.

Peter Hitchens: I'd get it off my chest and join the Labour Party. You wonder now whether Sean Woodward knew something when he left. What is this? We have today Oliver - what's his name - left wing, Letwin - Letwin - saying that he wants to redistribute everybody's wealth. I don't believe for a moment that there is now any serious difference between the two and you'll notice that the Liberal media's attitude towards David Cameron is so touching. After years and years and years of ploughing them up and scoring them with their claws and charging at them and calling them stupid and mad and all the things that they call people who actually have individual opinions the Observer actually produced a portrait of David Cameron in a flattering light and a soft focus interview - they love him. What this Conservative Party under David Cameron has finally done, it has surrendered in every conceivable important respect to what New Labour wants it to be. That is to say an opposition which will not undo anything it has done. So the British people are confronted with the choice at the next Election between one party which will continue to do what it's already done and another party which will continue to do what the other party has already done. So thank you very much politicians for giving us a choice at the next Election between two possible alternatives. I am astonished at the enthusiasm and boot licking which surrounds Mr Cameron, I cannot believe...

Jonathan Dimbleby: Enthusiasm and...

Peter Hitchens: I cannot believe that there is so much adulation.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Enthusiasm and boot licking Matthew Parris, as a keen supporter.

Matthew Parris: I could get very cross at the accusation of being a boot licker but I won't. I characterised Peter's answer to the last question, not Peter but his answer, as crackpot but his answer to this question is not crackpot, he's simply making a mistake of fact - he doesn't know David Cameron and he has mistaken the kind of man David Cameron is. David Cameron is a Conservative, he's a proper Conservative but a proper Conservative who understand that in the Twenty-First Century the language of politics is different. Underneath David Cameron is a million miles from Tony Blair in his beliefs and in his ideologies and what's more he has a chance of winning, which no former Conservative leader has had. So my New Year resolution for David Cameron would be stick to your guns. [CLAPPING]

Jonathan Dimbleby: How do you think we will discern this deep ideological difference that you've just identified?

Matthew Parris: The present government has increased spending on the National Health Service by I think 60% without any comparable gain, any comparable benefit [AUDIENCE NOISE], there have been improvements in the National Health Service but it is not 60% better than it was a few years ago. And the mistake the government made was simply to throw money at the National Health Service without looking at ways in which it could be properly organised to deliver health better. I don't think Conservatives, and I don't think David Cameron, will simply throw money at public services, I think he'll ask how we get better value for the money we already spend.

Jonathan Dimbleby: From the left of the spectrum, as it were, Brian Eno, how do you give - what advice would you give him against the background of this debate that we've just heard?

Brian Eno: Well if he wants to win I would give him the advice to continue not revealing any of his policies, which he's very successfully done so far. To continue trying to co-opt bits of territory from other parties that seem co-potable, like he now seems to be invading the fertile patch that the Liberal Democrats seem to occupy. So without actually saying that he's going to do anything that the Liberal Democrats would do or have spent a lot of time postulating he's now claiming that he would represent that part of the political spectrum. I think he's another politician basically and I'm sorry he happens to be your politician but I don't really have any very positive feelings about him. He lives in Notting Hill, where I also live, and I know a lot of those people round there and he's sharp, he's got a good image, he speaks quite well because he's had that kind of education and the papers like that kind of person. And so for a little while they'll fete him as a sort of little honeymoon period and then if he doesn't say anything soon about what he plans to do then I hope that they'll start being a little bit more critical.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Jude Kelly.

Jude Kelly: Well I read that his Christmas card said change, optimism and hope and I thought well that's a lot better than deciding what you dislike and hate. And I - I personally think that if democracy is about edging civilisations forward then I don't mind actually if several parties all agree with each other for a change about some key issues. I would like all the parties to think about global poverty, which he says he wants to do, I would like all the parties to think about climate change, which he says he will, I'd like all the parties to think about the quality of life. I don't need all the parties to disagree with each other and end up with us as the democratic populace feeling as if we can't actually take some of the big key agendas forward because there's no consensus. I don't know whether he'll succeed or fail but I want those big issues to be addressed unilaterally by all the parties. So the fact that he's said that at least that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. [CLAPPING]

Jonathan Dimbleby: Brian Eno.

Brian Eno: I agree with you but you must remember that President Bush also came in with something called the Clean Air Act, which was basically a licence to dirty the air as much as you possibly could in the name of commerce. And I don't for one minute think that the Conservatives would be much different on that, I don't think they have a long term vision.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Josephine Finding, you posed this question, what would your advice be if you've got any?

Josephine Finding: I would resolve to become the next Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Jonathan Dimbleby: And do you think he has a good chance of achieving it - I'm sure he already resolves that doesn't he?

Josephine Finding: Yes, I think he's got a very good chance.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Jude.

Jude Kelly: I'm still mystified by what it means to be a real Conservative. I mean I don't understand the term anymore, I actually just wish the Twenty-First Century to reinvent some new parties anyway, I quiet like the Art Party. But why - what does a real Conservative actually mean, does it mean not changing things?

Matthew Parris: No, no it means believing in individuals, it means believing in the power of individuals to change their own lives, it means using the state where you must use the state to help those people who need help and who can't help themselves. And it certainly means accepting many of the changes that have happened in Britain in the Twentieth Century and David Cameron does. The Conservative Party, contrary to what you say, or suggest, Brian, was in favour of the civil partnerships, they spoke for civil partnerships from the front bench. That's the modern side of Conservatism, the evergreen side of Conservatism is an enduring distrust of state and collectivist solutions to problems. And that's a distrust that I think is very healthy.

Jude Kelly: Yeah but that's a big problem isn't it because obviously unless we introduce state education or the National Health Service or many of the other things that were introduced after the Second World War we wouldn't have the society we've got. So this distrust of the idea of collective good is one of the most damning things about the Conservative Party. [CLAPPING]

Peter Hitchens: Can I intervene in this argument between you liberals just for a second and make a couple of points? One, it seems to me that a conservative, without a large c, party ought to be in favour of is national independence and liberty, which the Conservative Party has dispensed with because of its obsession with the European Union and its past support for such horrors as identity cards and its conditional support for an awful lot of the frightful repressive measures now going through Parliament. It should also be in favour, it seems to me, of the continuation of this country as a basically Christian society, which is something I think a lot of Conservatives are now very unwilling to admit to. It should defend such institutions as marriage, I won't go into that very much further. It should be also very much in favour of the idea that people ultimately are better at spending their own money than the government and the government should not be licensed without limit to steal the money of the people and take it away and spend it on other things. Now in none of these things the Conservative Party remotely interested anymore, which is one of the reasons why it is actually a dying party and I'm afraid, with great respect to the questioner, will not win another election.

Matthew Parris: Jude asks whether I'm therefore, as a Conservative, against the state and think the state is bad - no, the state is absolutely necessary, there are lots of things the state must do but we can't have too much of it and in this season I would say it's rather like chocolate - a little bit's a good thing but you've got to be a little bit suspicious of too much of it, that's the problem with the state.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Thank you. We'll go to our next question.

Derek Beer: Derek Beer. If the history of the Second World War and the Tudors provides children with too narrower a view, what period of history does the panel feel holds the most useful lessons for 21st Century children?

Jonathan Dimbleby: This springs from the annual report by the Qualifications Curriculum Authority - QCA - which found that GCSE and A Level history was dominated by Tudors and 20th Centuries dictatorships and others have contributed to the debate - the Fabian Society amongst them. Peter Hitchens.

Peter Hitchens: Oh so many things. Can I be quick? Magna Carta - the beginning of the end of absolute power. The introduction of juries by Henry II. The tremendous struggles for the independence of Parliament in the Civil War. The glorious revolution, which is no longer referred to but which it was, which produced the Bill of Rights and really brought English liberty to its first flowering. The amazing development since then which have created this unique free and ordered society. And I think that those things not being taught means that as a country we increasingly do not know and young people simply do not know the enormous treasure which they have inherited and which surrounds them and which need so badly to be protected from stupid and rapacious people now. That kind of history really, really very badly needs to be taught.

Jonathan Dimbleby: John Denholm was quoted as saying [CLAPPING] John Denholm the MP, was quoted as saying: We need to tell our history so that it explains why so many people have roots in other parts of the world. That's to say that we should not shy away, I imagine he's saying, from the study of empire, the good sides and the bad sides. Matthew Parris.

Matthew Parris: An episode in history that's very little studied in schools and very little talked about, I think we feel a bit sheepish about it, the Boer War at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century. The Boer War was the last push to establish a kind of global imperialism of the kind which George W. Bush and to some degree Tony Blair are trying to do again. And if we understood the Boer War better and looked at the mistakes that we made and the cost that it presented to us and the mess that it left behind then I think we would understand some of those dangers in our own era. And secondly I think we should look at some of the hilarious calamities in British history. Look at the Ground Nut scheme in East Africa when we decided that we were going to turn much of East Africa - Kenya was a colony in those days and so was Tanganyika - into a major ground nut producing part of the world and the whole thing ended in complete disaster. Hilarious failure in history is just as instructive sometimes as victory.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Brian Eno.

Brian Eno: Yeah history's one of those subjects that I think really ought to be rethought. For example, wouldn't it make sense if you were trying to teach people history to start from now and to work backwards, rather than to start from a long way back and to work forwards. Wouldn't it make sense to say to your kids - go and ask your parents and your grandparents what things were like when they were young, what did they experience? And then having engaged them with real people that they can relate to, get them to work backwards from there, so that you do exactly the opposite of what normally happens in schools where you start with extremely remote historical incidents which make no sense to you at all, learn a few dates and then jump on to another remote historical incident. The other thing I would try to do, if I was teaching English history, is to show how England was constantly revivified by inputs from the outside. For instance, one that's a very long time ago of course is the impact of the Arab world, which we tend to forget now since we're only constantly being presented by mad mullahs and Islamic fundamentalists but it would be nice to remind children that for several hundred years the knowledge of the ancient world was carried forward by the Arabs and it was from them that we picked it up and learnt it again. So one of the things that history could do as well is tell people how valuable the rest of the world is and how demeaning it is to describe people in simplistic terms that are commonly used in the press. [CLAPPING]

Jonathan Dimbleby: Jude Kelly.

Jude Kelly: Well I just came back from Jordan and I went to Petra, a most extraordinary place. The Nabutians, four to five thousand years ago with trading routes, silk routes, between Asia, Africa, Europe - I mean absolutely fusing many, many cultures. And as Brian said, bringing knowledge of the most extraordinary kind to different communities, long before we were a community. Now I never understood this until much later on in my life and being taught history by - I remember writing a story about being a soldier on Hadrian's Wall, a Roman soldier writing home to his wife on Hadrian's Wall: Dear Martha, I am so lonely, it's raining here, the Scots are still invading. And it was only much later on I found out that actually they were Belgium mercenaries and I needn't have bothered identified with this Roman soldier at all. And I think the great problem about teaching history is that people don't teach it either very truthfully or very accurately or very passionately unless the history teacher comes away from the text books and really says let's think what this about. Now we've just celebrated Trafalgar but in France I know from friends of mine whose children go to school there that they're being taught an adjusted version of that whole story. So where truth lies in history, it's a bit like Creationism, I think that history is often taught from a partial perspective to do with the country and what it wants its children to think. And at the moment what we need, as Brian says, is a much humble approach to the contributions the world has made to us and is still making to us. And so I suppose if I was going to teach history myself I would be so excited about thinking yes what is our recent historical past and what does that make our communities now.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Jude, what the four of you have said has built up to a huge potential curriculum. If I'm right the requirement to study history drops out very early and in fact people don't have to study history, would you make it a far more important component of an education and make it compulsory up to a higher level or not?

Jude Kelly: Well you see I wouldn't make anything compulsory unless you were actually going to accompany it by thinking. I mean when - in Brian's introduction he said he spend his time thinking, I thought that's an attribute and a skill and a discipline which we are very short of teaching our children to do. History isn't about facts, it's about analysis and identification and provocation and many truths. So history should be on the curriculum if it's allowed to be taught with zeal and provocation but if it's simply in order to pass some exams in the methodology which we've increasingly been made to teach children with then it doesn't really matter.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Thank you. We'll go to our next question.

Keith Greenwell: Keith Greenwell. Tony Blair has said that selection based on musical or sporting ability is acceptable but selection based on intellect is not. Does the panel agree that the best justification for the 11+ and academic selection is demonstrated by comparing Michael Howard and John Prescott?

Jonathan Dimbleby: And as you in your original question pointed out, Michael Howard went to Cambridge and the Bar and John Prescott, before he - long time before he became Deputy Prime Minister was a steward on a Cunard liner. Matthew Parris.

Matthew Parris: And it didn't stop John Prescott in the end from having a very successful political career. I...

Jonathan Dimbleby: That presumably - was that the point you were making Mr Greenwell, that both of them reached the top by - through one succeeding and one failing the 11+?

Keith Greenwell: It is the point but equally that we shouldn't prevent selection in order to concentrate resources on the most able children.

Matthew Parris: The problem is that the very word fail, which is used of the 11+, in a sense undermines the argument. The argument for the 11+ is that different children have different kinds of abilities - some are more intellectual, some less so - they must be directed in the right direction. But then you start talking about failing the 11+ and you send children to schools where those who fail the 11+ go and the thought will be, and it's perfectly natural, that the schools that they go to will be schools for failed people. I'm in favour of streaming because I think when you teach people of any age you need a certain closeness of ability, you can't teach a wide scattering of abilities all in the same class. But separate schools for those who have in inverted commas succeeded and those who have in inverted commas failed, I'm not happy with. We got rid of the 11+ generally a long time ago and I think for very good reasons.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Is it possible to avoid [CLAPPING] is it possible to avoid the downside of the 11+, as you describe it, if David Cameron's or the Conservative Party's view prevails that independent schools within the state should be able to select their pupils and some of them may select those pupils on the basis of academic ability alone?

Matthew Parris: It's not entirely clear what the Conservative Party's view on this is going to be and I look forward to finding out. But I shouldn't like to see a few elite schools in which so called successes go, I would much rather see schools able to identify in all the children that they have the different abilities that they have and teach them according to those abilities.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Jude Kelly.

Jude Kelly: Well yes I was going to clap too. I think that Matthew's right. It's quite a demanding thing that it would put on us to acknowledge that each child will learn specially and particularly and find their talent if we give them the right context for that to happen in. I absolutely believe this is true. But we're not achieving that in schools at the moment. And I think that just to sort of pick out two or three kinds of talents and say well we'll fast forward those will leave a lot of other children feeling that they've been left sort of in the wilderness. And Archbishop Carey this morning was very moving about talking about what it did to him to be told he had failed at eleven and I think we've got to remove that word from children altogether, they can all succeed. And I don't think we know enough yet about the way intelligence presents itself to be able to say these go forward and these don't, we've got to investigate intelligence differently.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Peter Hitchens.

Peter Hitchens: Well this whole business of selection seems to me to be so obvious that it's quite impossible for anyone but politicians to have got it so wrong. In everything that we do we select, it's natural to select the right person for the right thing. And to have a selective school system seems to me to be so obviously right that I can't see any serious argument against it. And what people don't seem to understand about the old system is that had we spent the fortune in effort and money, which we've spent on trying to make comprehensives work since the middle '60s, on the old three part system which we had before then it would have advanced enormously, there's no point in making ridiculous comparisons with then when there were too few grammar schools in many places, when in my view the 11+ was probably a far too arbitrary point at which to select. Now for instance in Germany and in the former East Germany where they've brought back selective schools by public demand, which they won't do here, the system is not a 11+ but a system of assessment and people who are wrongly placed get put in the right place and so this business of harsh failure is got rid of. But the real point here is this: if we continue with the system that we have at the moment we do have selection but we don't have selection by intelligence or ability, we have selection by money because you can either buy your children into private schools or you can buy them into the better state schools by moving into the right catchment area and you have selection by influence and fiddle faddle and backstairs intrigue or by pretending to be a member of a certain religion or by even being a member of a certain religion. That is immensely unfair, that is the system we have, that is the system the current white paper would reinforce, it's the system the Tories would continue with. Why can't we have selection based on the good people getting the best education. And as for this business of failure being so terrible, there's one very important point here: it's all very well saying you're frightened of making children unhappy by failing, what if your country fails, what if your country fails because its children are so badly educated your society no longer functions and what if your country fails because your children are so badly educated that you can't face up to your commercial competition world wide, which is happening to us? That is a failure from which we will all suffer, far worse than telling someone who's failed an exam....

Jonathan Dimbleby: Peter...

Peter Hitchens: You always stop me. Why is that, nobody else gets interrupted.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Dear Peter Hitchens we always have you on the programme because we love having you on the programme and I always have to stop you because you always go on longer than anyone else. And all I'm going to say at this point is just to note that Peter Hitchens interestingly in his answer there said that the people of East Germany, which was then Communist and ruled by Erich Honicker, was so demanding that the government had to respond to them and produce...

Peter Hitchens: Jonathan, I have to reply to that. You see...

Jonathan Dimbleby: Brian Eno.

Peter Hitchens: It was immediately after the Communist regime fell...

Jonathan Dimbleby: I beg your pardon. Brian Eno.

Brian Eno: Yeah, I have to say I don't pity the plight of those people who have to redesign education systems. I often think of that joke with the Irishman who's asked the way to a certain place and he says: Well you'd be better off not starting from here. That's rather how I feel about education, it's a terrible mess I think. I think the whole sort of accountability ethos that ran through education, which has forced so many schools to kind of cram their students into A star position and forced a kind of triage where the students at the bottom of the pile you just don't bother wasting time on and because it's a much better investment to put all your energy into the potential A star students than to bother with those losers at the bottom. So I think we're in a bit of an educational mess actually and I don't think the tinkering that we're talking about here is going to make much difference to it.

Jonathan Dimbleby: Thank you very much. Because I failed to cut people off enough we don't have time I'm afraid for the last question but you will be able to linger with the thought of what it was, it was from Tony Yarrow and it was: Which part of Christmas would members of the panel abolish? But as we're only twenty-five seconds away from going off air I have to say this is the last Any Questions of this year. There is no Any Answers. We will be back with Any Questions and Any Answers in the New Year with a wonderful panel and as you'll forget who they are if I give them to you now I won't bother and just say to all our listeners as they say a very happy Christmas from everyone here on this programme. Bye. [CLAPPING]