Two of the final three Labour leadership candidates have signed pledges to defend trans rights, expel party members who express "transphobic" views and fight against Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and “other trans-exclusionist hate groups”. Both those groups cited insist they are merely campaigning for the rights of women as they exist under UK Equality law, as well as those of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. This bitter quarrel could be seen as symptomatic of a wider culture war which calls into question the very notions of gender, sex, sexuality, social justice and inclusivity. For many trans activists, a failure to recognise trans women as women or trans men as men is itself hateful, because they believe it denies the most fundamental fact of their identity. Their critics, however, accuse them of denying a biological reality that sex is determined at birth. It is, they say, unreasonable to refuse even to discuss the subject. For those prepared to debate, there’s a lot to think about. What constitutes “transphobia”? What are the moral implications of gender self-identification? What rights and protections should be afforded to ‘biological’ females in women's changing rooms, refuges and prisons? What does gender self-identification mean for women’s sport? More fundamentally, where does ‘masculinity’ end and ‘femininity’ begin? How should we respond to the increasing numbers of children and teenagers, particularly girls, being diagnosed with gender dysphoria? And what ethical considerations should apply in deciding whether and how to treat them? With Jane Fae, Graham Linehan, Torr Robinson and Kiri Tunks.
Producer: Dan Tierney.
The Moral Purpose of the BBC
Her 98th year has not started well for Auntie BBC. The Government is consulting on decriminalising the licence fee; 450 jobs are being cut from BBC News to help meet a huge savings target; gender pay disputes are never far from the headlines; and audience figures reveal that the Corporation is struggling to connect with many British people – especially the under-35s and those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Meanwhile, the Director-General, Tony Hall, will step down in the summer after seven years in the job. If this is a crossroads, what should be the future direction of the BBC? There are loud voices calling for an end to the licence fee, calling it a poll tax, an outdated funding model overtaken by the streaming giants. Is it fair, they ask, to be forced to pay for a service you don’t want? Supporters point out that the BBC reaches 91% of adults every week and is the envy of the world; a unique and valuable service meant for everyone – that’s the point of it – which therefore must continue to be funded by everyone. They believe it is uniquely able to unite a fragmented nation and that the founding Reithian aspirations – to inform, educate and entertain – have never been more relevant in this era of fake news and social media echo chambers. The BBC’s severest critics, however, believe it no longer acts either as ‘cultural glue’ or as a touchstone of impartiality and truth. Instead, of leading us higher, they say, the BBC is sinking ever lower in pursuit of ratings. Bloated and greedy or lean and beleaguered? Perhaps we won’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone. What, now, is the moral purpose of the BBC? With Robin Aitken, Philip Booth, Claire Enders, Jonathan Freedland.
Producer: Dan Tierney.
Healing the Nation
In the last three and a half years, freedom has clashed with fraternity, families have fallen out and friends have become foes. What happens next is – the Prime Minister promises – “a moment of real national renewal”. Post-Brexit Britain is not yet a week old and there is much left to negotiate about its future relationship with the EU, but at last we have certainty on one thing: we’re out. Inevitably there are still die-hard remainers re-branding themselves as ‘rejoiners’ and continued shouts of “You lost, get over it!” from their victors, but the tired rhetoric of both sides is now being tempered by hopeful talk of “healing the nation.” What exactly does this mean? It must surely begin by identifying the sickness: poisonous politics, an inability to engage with opposing views, abuse directed towards MPs, women, minorities and religious groups? Then we should try to determine whether these symptoms are acute or chronic. Are we witnessing an hysterical spasm that will pass away in time or are we entering an historic period of irreconcilable cultural divisions? And what about the prescription? Is all the talk of ‘coming together’ and ‘common visions’ well-meaning waffle? Or is the language of healing crucial if we are to recover the art of compromise and civility? History tells us that it often takes a crisis to provoke a cure and that the deepest divisions can eventually be reconciled. But wounds can fester and usually leave scars. Can the past offer us hope for a more united future?
Guests: David Goodhart, Diarmaid Maccullough, Jane Robins and Jennifer Nadel.
Producer: Dan Tierney
Radicalisation and De-radicalisation
The story of the latest terrorist attack in London is both tragic and extraordinary, starkly contrasting the evil of the assassin and the virtues of his young victims. The red-faced authorities are trying to work out how it came about that a convicted jihadist attending a prisoner rehabilitation conference stabbed to death two of the people who wanted to help him. Meanwhile, and predictably, the event has been politicised. It is being cited as evidence that Islamist terrorists cannot be de-radicalised, and that even if they could, we can never know whether a jihadist who claims to have been de-radicalised is telling the truth. The answer for some? ‘Lock them up and throw away the key.’ Those who believe in second chances, on the other hand, might mention that one of the heroes who confronted and helped to subdue the knife attacker on London Bridge was a convicted murderer on day release. But perhaps before we consider how to punish and rehabilitate Islamists we should think about how to stop young Muslims from being radicalised in the first place. ‘Prevention’ is a catch-all term; for some it is code for cack-handed state interference in the private affairs of religious minorities; for others it is about community-building and a sense of belonging. But is that wishful thinking when communities seem so polarised, even ghettoised? Is it unreasonable of our society to preach “British values” to young Muslims who feel both economically and politically alienated? Or does the blame lie with those on both sides who have fought against integration? Featuring Dr Rakib Ehsan, Dr Usama Hasan, Hadiya Masieh and Dr Rob Faure Walker.
Producer: Dan Tierney
The Morality of Genetics
Doctors of medicine swear the Hippocratic Oath, written some 2,500 years ago, declaring that they will protect the confidentiality of their patients. Sometimes they break that promise and are criticised; sometimes they keep it and are criticised. This week a woman is suing an NHS trust for not telling her about her father’s Huntington’s disease, which doctors had already diagnosed when she had her own child. Only after the child was born did she find out that she also carried the faulty gene for the degenerative, incurable brain disorder – with a 50% chance of passing it on. Her father had told doctors he didn’t want her to know because he feared she might kill herself or have an abortion. This tragic case is at the centre of a moral tussle between the duty of confidentiality and the duty of care. If our right to medical privacy is intrinsic to our freedom, security and sense of self, when – if ever – should it be overridden to prevent harm to others? That’s a problem doctors have faced for a long time, but now inherited conditions are setting us another moral conundrum: science is giving us the power to eradicate many of them entirely, through gene-manipulation. So, should we press on with stem cell therapy and selective IVF? Or should we slam on the brakes, conscious of the perils of playing God and of creating a world in which prospective parents can order the characteristics of their designer babies from a tick-box à la carte menu? Featuring Dr Michael Fay, Sir Jonathan Montgomery, Sandy Starr and Dr Helen Watt.
Producer: Dan Tierney