Review: Miriam edits the Today programme

I never did get up at 6am to listen to the Today Programme. A horrendous night meant I was just getting to sleep at that time. Thankfully, there’s iPlayer in the World so I could catch up later. It’s well worth listening to which you can do  here.

The main themes were the sort of place Britain is and the opportunities it offers to people from other countries and the need for girls to have positive female role models and about women and leadership. Interviewees included Theresa May, Jamie Oliver, footballer Vincent Kampany, Tamara Rocco, principal dancer at the English National Ballet, Richard Branson, James Blunt and Nadiyah Hussein winner of the Great British Bake Off. There was also a really interesting section discussing why some young women feel the need to go to Syria.

I’ve done some more detail below, but I do think it was a varied programme. She was maybe more subtle than I would have been about some aspects of the way women are portrayed in the media, but we do need more talking about these kinds of issues so it was refreshing to see her present her thoughts in this way.

The British dream

Miriam argued British people don’t necessarily see the “British dream” in the same way as people from other countries. She defines it as the freedom to be yourself and realise your ambitions. She asks 3 prominent immigrants to reflect on their experiences in this country.

Chief Executive of the London Stock Exchange Xavier Rolet said that other European cities tend to be built on national players. London is different because people come from all over the world and can reach prominent positions. He argues that “innovation is fuelled by diversity and seldom results from narrow thinking.”

Pinky Lilani, the Indian businesswoman talks about coming to the UK 38 years ago and being excited about being in England. She talks about the opportunities she has had that she couldn’t have had in India. She loves that the conversation is so diverse in the UK and is happy to live in a country that let her be who she wants to be. She’s also set up the Women of the Future Awards and numerous other events to showcase the successes of women.

Tamara Rocco says that the beauty of the British system is that the fact that there is government funding of the arts fuels creativity. People are willing to invest

Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany was interviewed by Mishal Hussein. He talked about the positive things about growing up in a community that was 90% Muslim and how people don’t really understand each other’s cultures now.

He talked about the charity work he does in Belgium to support young people and about how important it is to invest in making sure that kids learn about being together and respecting each others’ cultures. He’s not someone I’ve come across before as the only footballers I’m really interested in play for Inverness Caley Thistle, but I was impressed. He certainly is a good role model for everybody. Perhaps Oliver Letwin could do with spending some time with him.

Gender stereotyping and roles

Miriam looked to US politics and featured Gloria Steinem reading from her book about her analysis of the 2008 Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The short passage contained many examples of misogyny that Hillary had put up with her, including male students wearing t-shirts saying Hillary should have married OJ.

Miriam said that she supported Hillary back in 2008 and wants to see her win the White House next year not only as a woman but as a fantastic candidate.

Men need to adjust their expectations of life to ensure that women can have equality of opportunity. There was a feature about Dads who had taken advantage of the shared parental leave introduced by the Liberal Democrats and were enjoying it. I was particularly interested in the way that they had organised combining breastfeeding and working. Jo Swinson was talking about that the other week.

She then interviewed Richard Branson about a healthy work/life balance. He said it is tougher for women in the workplace and he said he wasn’t sure that men could be trusted to provide equality for men and women and that there probably should be quotas. He said that he was very much a hands-on dad and did most of his work from home with the children around. He had a very common sense attitude to how you treat staff – “flowers flourish when they are watered,” he said.

A challenge to James Blunt

James Blunt told Miriam that he gets grief for not being macho enough in his songs. He says that he had to show huge sensitivity to his environment and surroundings as a reconnaissance officer and his songs are so sensitive.

She then challenged him to write a song telling a woman she is smart rather than beautiful and he said that he wasn’t sure that he could do that. Having said that, he did say that the woman he was writing about wasn’t conforming to what we are encouraged to think of as beauty, but her beauty came from within.

Miriam vs Theresa – “You are not answering my question”

There are very many liberals who would relish the chance to laugh in the face of Theresa May. Miriam did it when Theresa gave a very evasive answer to whether she would lead the “Brexit” campaign. Her reply, when Miriam laughed at her for not answering the question, was “I’m a politician, Miriam.” That probably says more about Theresa May than anything else. The interview has upset both Anna Soubry and the Daily Mail, so job done. Miriam’s response to that one was “I’m a lawyer, I have to insist.” That didn’t get her anywhere, though.

This wasn’t the most interesting exchange though. Miriam did say to Theresa that Nick had told her that although the two had massive fights in Government, he would always say that once May had made an agreement she stuck to it and that she was always well prepared.  Was she a fighter or a consensus politician. She said that you had to make compromises sometimes, but you have to do the right thing as far as your principles are concerned.

Earlier in the interview,  she asked Theresa if she was treated any differently because she was a woman. Her response was interesting, that there can be assumptions that women might do the job differently, but the challenge is to show that they can do it just as effectively.

The Home Secretary said that women might be put off getting into politics because of the intrusion and the emphasis on looks rather than achievements and actions. They then discussed the female trait of looking at the detail. May revealed that she has something in common with our Alistair Carmichael – being a total grammar pedant.

It’s interesting that  Theresa May talked about how her husband is busy getting on with his own career and he’s not looking for a role supporting her in politics. Nobody expects him to yet Miriam got all sorts of snide comments, including from the BBC, about her not being there fro a whole conference, for example.

Why do some young women go to Syria?

There was an interesting interview with a young woman who contemplated going to Syria and how she was contacted over social media by an IS recruiter.  In the end, her passion for football kept her here. It was that sense of belonging to her team. There’s a lesson in there.  I wish Miriam had taken some of this to Theresa May and challenged the Government’s rhetoric. The discussion suggests that these young people need to feel accepted and that IS plays on those feelings.

Family and food

Jamie Oliver and Bake Off winner Nadiyah talked about cooking with their children in the hope of growing good habits for the future.

Jamie Oliver also got in there with a comment about large corporations making massive profits selling food stashed full of fat and sugar.

Miriam asked Jamie if any men who had worked for him  had taken shared parental leave. He says that some men have pulled back from career. He replied that some had stepped back from their careers while some women had made the choice to concentrate not hat. He thinks having a balance of men and women in the kitchen is really important. It’s interesting that he has so many female role models.

Nadiyah was talking about who lucky she felt to have the choice to stay at home with her children. Miriam said that there was a severe lack of role models who are willing to speak about doing that with confidence – and they should.

 

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Dec '15 - 7:28pm

    When it comes to men having to adjust their expectations of life. The reality of it is harder than the idea of it. I’m studying for a lot of exams at the moment and when I finish them I’m not going to have a second career break looking after children. Free childcare will have to be an essential component of the gender equality story, otherwise people are going to rationally add it up and decide it is not worth taking a career break.

    Of course, if I met a woman who had a higher earning potential than me then I would stay at home, but a lot of couples will look at this in a mathematical way in what is best for income, rather than equality.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 30th Dec '15 - 8:14pm

    Sounds great Caron. I’ll be sure to listen tomorrow.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Dec '15 - 11:34pm

    ” Men need to adjust their expectations of life to ensure that women can have equality of opportunity. ” This is a generalisation, so let us be specific. Hillary Clinton is the best qualified candidate available. First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State, effective fundraiser, one daughter now adult. Younger than several previous Presidents. There should be no excuses for losing, including the above.
    A difficulty might be that Presidents tend to get elected on a domestic agenda, but doing the job requires a world view. Winning the Presidential election is not enough. She needs coat-tails that will democratise the Congress and then do it again two years later. That requires a strong economic policy.

  • “There was an interesting interview with a young woman who contemplated going to Syria and how she was contacted over social media by an IS recruiter. In the end, her passion for football kept her here.”

    Not revulsion at the idea of consorting with a bunch of psychopathic killers? Sounds profoundly depressing.

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