Reflections With Peter Hennessy

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0201Sir John Major20140813

Former prime minister John Major talks about his journey from Brixton to Downing Street.

In this series, Peter Hennessy, the historian of modern Britain, asks senior politicians to reflect on their life and times. Each week, he invites his guest to explore their early influences, their experiences of events and their impressions of people they've known.

In the first programme in this run, Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister, talks about his political journey from Brixton to Downing Street and the challenge of following Margaret Thatcher in Number 10. He discusses his difficult inheritance as Prime Minister in 1990 after the financial boom of the 1980s, the economic crisis of 'Black Wednesday' in September 1992, the divisions in his party, and how he took the first delicate steps in what became the Northern Ireland peace process.

Peter's other guests in this run are Lord Hattersley (Roy Hattersley), the former Labour Deputy Leader and now a writer; Lord Steel of Aikwood (David Steel), the former Liberal Party Leader; and Dame Margaret Beckett MP, the only woman to have been Foreign Secretary and the first woman to lead the Labour Party (in 1994), and former Deputy Leader of her party. The producer is Rob Shepherd.

0202Roy Hattersley20140820

Peter Hennessy asks Roy Hattersley to reflect on his life and times.

In this series, Peter Hennessy, the historian of modern Britain, asks senior politicians to reflect on their life and times. Each week, he invites his guest to explore their early influences, their experiences of events and their impressions of people they've known.

In this second episode, Roy Hattersley, the former Labour Deputy Leader, tells how a teacher inspired his belief in equality and recalls what he learned about attitudes to poverty while delivering milk on a vacation job.

Roy Hattersley's vivid recollections of an eventful career at the heart of the Labour Party are spiced with insights into its leading characters and also into its setbacks and triumphs. His commitment to comprehensive education remains undimmed and he regrets never having been Education Secretary.

The first episode in this series featured Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister.

Peter's other guests in the current series are: Lord Steel of Aikwood (David Steel), the former Liberal Party Leader, and Dame Margaret Beckett MP, the only woman to have been Foreign Secretary and to have led the Labour Party (in 1994), and former Deputy Leader of her party.

The producer is Rob Shepherd.

0203David Steel20140827

David Steel reflects on his role in shifting Britain away from two-party politics.

In this series, Peter Hennessy, the historian of modern Britain, asks a senior politician to reflect on his or her life and times. Each week, he invites his guest to explore their early influences, their experiences of events and their impressions of people they've known.

In this third episode, David Steel (now Lord Steel of Aikwood), the former Liberal Party Leader, reflects on his role in shifting Britain away from two-party politics towards multi-party politics and coalition government. He was nicknamed 'Boy David' after becoming an MP in 1965 at the age of 26, but soon established his national reputation by piloting reform of the abortion law through Parliament. He discusses his reasons for forming the 'Lib-Lab Pact' with Labour's Jim Callaghan in the late 1970s and talks about his role in encouraging the 'Gang of Four' to quit Labour and form the SDP. As a senior Liberal Democrat with strong sympathy for social democratic ideas, he reflects candidly on Nick Clegg's leadership and his party's coalition with the Conservatives.

Peter's earlier guests in this series were Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister and Roy Hattersley, the former Labour Deputy Leader. Next week's guest is Dame Margaret Beckett MP, the first woman to have been Foreign Secretary and to have led the Labour Party (in 1994) and the first woman to have been Deputy Leader of her party.

The producer is Rob Shepherd.

0204 LASTMargaret Beckett20140903

Peter Hennessy asks Dame Margaret Beckett MP to reflect on her life and times.

In this series, Peter Hennessy, the historian of modern Britain, asks a senior politician to reflect on his or her life and times. Each week, he invites his guest to explore their early influences, their experiences of events and their impressions of people they've known.

In the final episode of the current series, Dame Margaret Beckett MP, the former Foreign Secretary and Labour Deputy Leader, reflects on her transition from trainee engineer to Labour MP, and subsequently to a minister who served four Labour Prime Ministers between 1976 and 2009. She talks about becoming a minister at a time when there were few women in national politics. Discussing her loyalty to Labour since the 1960s, she explains her opposition to British membership of the European Community in the 1970s and her reasons for having voted for Michael Foot as Labour Leader in 1980 and Tony Benn as Deputy Leader in preference to Denis Healey. Looking back on her senior role in the Labour Party from the 1990s, she tells how she became Deputy Labour Leader to John Smith and discusses her time in Tony Blair's Cabinet, including during the Iraq War, and recalls that when she was appointed Foreign Secretary in 2006 she was 'stunned'.

Peter's guests earlier in this series were Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister; Roy Hattersley, the former Labour Deputy Leader, and David Steel, the former Liberal Party Leader.

The producer is Rob Shepherd.

03012015071320160102 (R4)

In this series, Peter Hennessy, the historian of modern Britain, asks senior politicians to reflect on their life and times. Each week, he invites his guest to explore their early influences, their experiences of events and their impressions of people they've known.

In the first episode of this series, David Owen, the former Foreign Secretary and SDP Leader, discusses the transition from his early days as the son of a Welsh doctor in Plymouth to his election as a Labour MP while still in his twenties, and his meteoric rise in politics. His appointment as Foreign Secretary in 1977, aged only 38, marked him out as a possible future Labour leader.

After Labour's defeat in 1979 Owen and other leading social democrats became increasingly frustrated by the party's left-wing stance. With other senior figures he broke from Labour and formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In alliance with the Liberals it took 25 per cent of the vote in the 1983 election, but only 23 seats.

After Owen succeeded Roy Jenkins as leader, he maintained its distinctive, radical stance. However, policy divisions between the SDP and the Liberals undermined the Alliance's credibility. It won 23 per cent of the vote at the 1987 election, but again failed to break through in seats. The tensions between Owen and his colleagues became evident. Owen stood aside from a merger of the SDP with the Liberals and soldiered on with a rump of social democrats until 1990. He stood down as an MP in 1992. Owen continues to speak on foreign affairs. He also writes on diplomacy and the relationship between illness and politics.

Peter's other guests in the series are Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor, and Clare Short, the former International Development Secretary.

Producer: Rob Shepherd.

0301David Owen20150713

In this series, Peter Hennessy, the historian of modern Britain, asks senior politicians to reflect on their life and times. Each week, he invites his guest to explore their early influences, their experiences of events and their impressions of people they've known.

In the first episode of this series, David Owen, the former Foreign Secretary and SDP Leader, discusses the transition from his early days as the son of a Welsh doctor in Plymouth to his election as a Labour MP while still in his twenties, and his meteoric rise in politics. His appointment as Foreign Secretary in 1977, aged only 38, marked him out as a possible future Labour leader.

After Labour's defeat in 1979 Owen and other leading social democrats became increasingly frustrated by the party's left-wing stance. With other senior figures he broke from Labour and formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In alliance with the Liberals it took 25 per cent of the vote in the 1983 election, but only 23 seats.

After Owen succeeded Roy Jenkins as leader, he maintained its distinctive, radical stance. However, policy divisions between the SDP and the Liberals undermined the Alliance's credibility. It won 23 per cent of the vote at the 1987 election, but again failed to break through in seats. The tensions between Owen and his colleagues became evident. Owen stood aside from a merger of the SDP with the Liberals and soldiered on with a rump of social democrats until 1990. He stood down as an MP in 1992. Owen continues to speak on foreign affairs. He also writes on diplomacy and the relationship between illness and politics.

Peter's other guests in the series are Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor, and Clare Short, the former International Development Secretary.

Producer: Rob Shepherd.

Peter Hennessy invites David Owen to reflect on his life and times.

0302Nigel Lawson20150720

Peter Hennessy invites Nigel Lawson to reflect on his life and times.

In this series, Peter Hennessy, the historian of modern Britain, asks senior politicians to reflect on their life and times. Each week, Peter invites his guest to explore the impact of formative influences, experiences and people in his or her life.

In this programme, Nigel Lawson, a self-proclaimed Tory radical and a key ally of Margaret Thatcher in challenging and reforming the post-war economic consensus, discusses his transition from an enjoyable existence at Oxford to journalism and eventually to front-line politics.

Lawson joined the Financial Times in 1956 and five years later became City Editor of the new 'Sunday Telegraph'. His appetite for politics was whetted in 1963, when he was recruited to work in Number 10. After the Conservatives lost power, he returned to journalism and in 1966 became editor of 'The Spectator'. He narrowly failed to win election to parliament in 1970 and finally entered the Commons in 1974.

Lawson found that his radical economic ideas chimed with those of Margaret Thatcher, who won the Conservative leadership in 1975. He became a key architect of Tory economic policy and after the 1979 election was appointed to the Treasury. But it was as Chancellor in the 1980s that Lawson made his greatest impact by extending and entrenching Thatcher's reforms with dramatic cuts in income tax rates, an ambitious programme of privatisation and extensive de-regulation. However, he opposed the poll tax and then in 1989 resigned over the role of Thatcher's special adviser, Alan Walters.

Lawson now sits in the House of Lords. His radicalism on the economy and Europe extends to what he sees as a misguided consensus on global warming policy, of which he is a trenchant critic.

0303Clare Short20150727

Peter Hennessy invites Clare Short to reflect on her life and times.

In this series, Peter Hennessy, the historian of modern Britain, asks senior politicians to reflect on their life and times. Each week, Peter invites his guest to explore their formative influences and experiences, and the impact on their lives of people they have known.

In the final programme of this series, Clare Short, the former International Development Secretary, discusses how her values reflect her Catholic upbringing in Birmingham and her father's sense of injustice at Britain's treatment of Ireland. After university, she joined the civil service, but her policy work at the Home Office prompted her to enter politics instead of continuing to advise others.

She became MP for Birmingham Ladywood in 1983 and courted controversy by criticising Alan Clark, then an employment minister, for being incapable in the Commons, and also by calling for a ban on Page 3 pin-ups. After Labour's 1992 defeat, she was appointed Shadow Minister for Women by John Smith, the Labour Leader, and was instrumental in seeing that Labour adopted more women as parliamentary candidates.

After Tony Blair appointed her to the Cabinet in 1997 as International Development Secretary, she played an important role in establishing the UN's Millennium Development Goals on tackling extreme poverty and achieving basic human rights. However, she later disagreed with Blair over the Iraq war, and after resigning from the Cabinet in May 2003 she criticised the absence of proper debate and democratic process in Blair's government.

Clare Short resigned the Labour whip in 2006 and sat as an independent MP until 2010. She continues to work on global development, including the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, the urbanisation of the poor, and humanitarian issues.