appearance Israel 

Self-isolating in the moral maze

On this week’s edition of BBC Radio’s Moral Maze – the last in the current series – we discussed the desirability and effects of the strategy of social isolation imposed to combat the coronavirus crisis. Never has there been such an identification of form with content! For the show was put on with all nine contributors – four panellists, four witnesses and one chairman – not in the studio as usual but participating remotely down nine separate lines. For a show which depends so much on eye-balling each other round…

Read More
appearance Audio Culture wars 

Islamophobia in the moral maze

This week on BBC Radio’s Moral Maze we discussed Islamophobia. The anti-racism campaigner and former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips, whose own inquiry first cemented the use of the word Islamophobia into British public life, has now himself been accused of this thought-crime. On the Maze, we didn’t discuss his particular case so much as the issue of the word itself. Does it actually describe a real prejudice, or is it used to silence legitimate debate about the Islamic world? Does it seek to prevent…

Read More
nbh Audio 

In the moral maze with coronavirus

On BBC Radio’s Moral Maze this week, we discussed the moral dilemmas potentially involved in dealing with the coronavirus. We are already seeing, in Britain and around the world, restrictions on activity of varying degrees of severity and with knock-on effects already becoming apparent in cancelled airline flights, conferences and sporting events. If a pandemic develops, what is the right balance to be struck between the necessity of saving lives and the need to protect our way of life? Should we accept martial law, the isolation of towns and cities,…

Read More
BBC Audio Britain 

The moral maze that is the BBC

On BBC Radio’s Moral Maze this week, we discussed the moral purpose of the BBC. Does it even have one? With the government boycotting Radio Four’s Today programme in protest at its perceived bias, and now threatening to destroy it altogether through a fundamental change to its funding structure, we asked whether the Beeb’s original aim of uniting the nation has now become impossible in such an era of technological and cultural fragmentation. Can it or should it compete with Netflix, or does it still have a unique role to…

Read More
nbh Audio 

Tolerating the intolerant in the moral maze

On BBC Radio’s Moral Maze this week, we tackled the issue behind the controversy in Birmingham where mainly Muslim parents have been picketing a primary school in protest at its policy of teaching children about gay families. The city council has now applied for a permanent ban on protests at the school gates. The parents have been accused of bigotry and intolerance towards gay people; the school has been accused of bigotry and intolerance towards people with traditional religious attitudes. The row illustrates a sharp dilemma for a liberal society:…

Read More
appearance Audio 

Anger in the moral maze

I appeared on the first of the new series of BBC Radio’s Moral Maze to discuss the morality of anger. With outrage and concern over over the language being used in today’s acrimonious political debates, we discussed whether anger can ever be of value or whether it invariably leads to bad consequences. It can be constructive if it’s harnessed to redress an injustice, but what if this objective is actually fuelled by the destructive desire for revenge? Is there a moral distinction between anger expressed in solidarity with the oppressed…

Read More
nbh Audio 

Antisemitism in the moral maze

On BBC Radio’s Moral Maze this week, we discussed antisemitism. With the Equality and Human Rights Commission now investigating the Labour party for racism over the hundreds of examples of antisemitism by its members and the party’s apparent refusal to deal with these properly, the programme asked the more fundamental questions. What exactly is antisemitism? Can it be differentiated from anti-Zionism? Is antisemitism just one of many forms of racism or is it a uniquely pernicious prejudice? I discussed this with my fellow-panellists Matthew Taylor, Mona Siddiqui and Tim Stanley.…

Read More
BBC Audio 

The fashion of clothing in the moral maze

On BbC Radio’s Moral Maze this week, we discussed the morality of fashion. What, you didn’t know fashion was a moral issue? Tsk! According to designer-of-clothing-for-the-fabulously-rich Stella McCartney, we shouldn’t wash or dry-clean our clothes in order to protect the environment. Some performers at this year’s Glastonbury festival denounced “throwaway fashion” and are encouraging fans to buy their outfits second-hand (or “pre-cherished”). Is so-cheap-you-can-chuck-it clothing, or the sweatshop conditions in which some of it is produced, proof that capitalism is rotten to the last fibre? Or is this all literally…

Read More
appearance Audio 

Comedy and responsibility in the moral maze

In the wake of comedian Jo Brand’s joke about throwing battery acid over Nigel Farage, my fellow panellists and I discussed comedy on this week’s edition of BBC Radio’s Moral Maze. Should humour have any limits, and if so where should these be drawn? Some people worry that our society is now far too quick to take offence and to shut down any expression they don’t like. Giving offence, after all, never did anyone any harm. But are some expressions likely to cause actual harm to be done? Does humour…

Read More
BBC Audio Britain 

Drugs and hypocrisy in the moral maze

On BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze last night, we discussed hypocrisy in the wake of Michael Gove’s admission that he had used cocaine on a number of occasions some two decades ago. Since many leading politicians have admitted using illegal drugs at some stage in their lives, should they all be condemned? Isn’t this to set the bar of behaviour impossibly high? Or is it only right that any person in a position of authority who has shown a contempt for the law should suffer the consequences? And is hypocrisy…

Read More