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Media Masters with Paul Blanchard
welcome to media Masters series of one-to-one interviews with people at the top of the media game by the investigative journalist Martin bright during his 20-year career.
He's covered politics religion and culture of the BBC World Service Channel 4 The Guardian The Observer the New Statesman and the Jewish Chronicle in memorably broke the 2003 story exposing pressure placed on un members of the United States to offer plant military action in Iraq the stories been made into a Hollywood movie called official secrets starring Keira Knightley red find and Matt Smith who plays Martin in the film and advocate for social mobility in 2019 he created Society a charity dedicated to helping disadvantaged young people lunch careers in art design and immediate pleasure, let's start with official site is huge amount of debate.
What's it like seeing yourself on screen played by Doctor Who himself Matt Smith it's an undeniably surreal experience form.
Stream I guess to be played in a Hollywood movie you think it's never going to happen and so to be in a position where an actor of Matt Smith calibre is playing the young me I know the real you it is extraordinary and I can't say that I'm not delighted that this is happening and do you have the real you watching someone is that a surreal experience in the centre of this on an impersonation of you.
It's trying to capture the essence of what you thinking feeling at the time.
Do you think that it quite think that at that moment? It is a particular experience and the experience in two ways when we first went on set and I was there as an advisor to the director of about making the Neutral as real as possible.
That was quite nervous.
Just come off big film in the States where he was playing Charles Manson the serial killer and he went from playing a serial killer to you.
He did indeed.
It is very jet-lagged and and wasn't quite sure how he was going to do it and and also I was their presents on set the best person to advise about the worst person.
I think probably the worst I mean and I can't imagine how tricky it is to have the person you're playing on set and he was extremely decent about it, but initially he did try to impersonate me.
I'll give him various notes of how to play a down and dirty investigative journalist and I said used to playing heroic characters before we play Charles Manson he's been playing heroic or very posh characters in the case of the Duke of Edinburgh and I said journalist you just have to realise that we're a bit sneaky we are have to be having famously and he did begin by
Trying to be really really sneaky and the director had to have a word with him inside look mate.
It's probably better if you for yourself and once that happens.
He really relaxed into the role and I think it's performance for me to say nothing is extraordinary and then there was another element to watching a film that was very surreal which even though I was being represented on the screen the whole Frost the film is about Catherine Gunn the Whistleblower at GCHQ Keira Knightley and as a member of the public as a member of the viewing public.
I think it's a tribute to the directing of Gavin Hood that I like everything else in the cinema identify with Catherine Gunn not with Martin bright.
So even me the real Martin bright myself myself.
Identifying with every woman or every person that is the the hero the peace Catherine yeah, and she was here all the time in and large.
We still going out with some reservations, but she had nothing but noble intentions genuinely believe she was doing the right thing and then when was investigation and colleagues could have been thrown under the bus.
She do it straight away.
You can't imagine a more noble act really and executed manually if they're all sorts of whistleblowers and as a journalist you can't use your Whistleblower may come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes their crazy people with bags for the documents and and you have to take everybody as they come because what's important is the story Catherine I think is is unusual in a different way, she's unusual in the fact that she so ordinary.
She's not someone who is particularly self-centred.
She's not my community.
Characters doing it for self-aggrandizement, she's not like that at all hundreds of thousands of documents into the public domain so one document which to her mind seemed to show that the processes of the United Nations were being corrupted by the British and American governments.
She felt as an employee of GCHQ that this is a step too far, but this is not the sort of work with intelligent services should be expected to do and she leaves one single document and as soon as she was interrogated initially she initially said it wasn't her but very quickly she couldn't live with herself and so she she confessed within within days of each of the act which was a breach of the official secrets act.
So yes, I do think she is she's an immensely brave woman my feeling as as
Tho latter I become friends with Catherine and that I have the deepest respect for what she did and I think she was right at the time.
I was I think properly I lost it.
I think it's a reporter you not supposed to take sides.
I may have had my own personal views, but even even my own personal views were very mixed because we didn't know how the world would turn out I like many numbers of British Public I think hoped that there be some sort of democratic domino effect so personally I was neither a gun coats of paint as a journalist.
I think it was very important to remain neutral.
That's not to say that laterally now.
I don't believe that Catherine was hugely heroic and she did and do you think I'm one of the that the reasons that the book and now the film is didn't have his role in this has become somewhat overlooked.
The in the overall narrative of what happened in Iraq very much so she was not part of any of the main enquiries her story was not part of any of the main enquiries and I think some of that was to do with the fact that the story broke so close to the Outbreak of War itself.
So he broke the story of the beginning of March and by the middle of March we're at war in 2003 so we found ourselves.
I suppose scooped by a bigger story which was the story of the war at the same time.
I'm sorry wasn't followed up by the American media particularly.
It was very big for about a week and then it was largely forgotten but in a way that's the attraction of the film that the film is this is one of the Untold Stories of the Iraq war.
It's a very specific incident involving one single document and one woman's journey one woman.
So the fact that we've been able to bring to an international audience this story that have been largely forgotten.
Is it for me wonderful? It's one of them proudest elements of the film.
I think the captain is the central focus of this one of things.
I think the film does well.
Is it really Showcases your job and convince your neutrality or are you doing your job as a journalist obituary printed the reservations that not only that you had about I'd let you know very fine and so on but that could have actually been quite procedural boring just reply to emails but I think it really did this still the risks editorial that you took as well.
It was very important for the director to have a film that was as close to real events as possible without being immensely doll and just a series of phone calls and a series of meetings in cafes.
The Newsroom scenes are very close to what happened in reality and it was crucial for Gavin Hood to demonstrate that in parallel to Catherine being summer within that organisation who was doing her job there were the journalists in the Observer Newsroom who are also being shown to a job in a sense.
This is a celebration of the people at the time who were doing their job properly in times of immense pressure pressure from government pressure from in our case pressure from other journalists who were telling the government line and in Catherine's case pressure from A system that meant if she were to blow the whistle then she was liable to end up in prison so in that way.
This is a this is a celebration of people just getting on with things and doing things properly.
I had watching it is because whilst I think she was right.
We've also has a steak got to protect the integrity of our intelligence community and I wouldn't want some Lefty to join GCHQ for the has to be there the full Force of the law in a sense.
I'm glad she was charged but I'm glad that she was acquitted.
If not make sense because I mean even though she paid a terrible price for it.
I also felt that it is awkward thing as a society that we we have to hold our intelligence community to account but how do we even do that because we obviously can't know what they're doing because then our enemies well.
This isn't Tubthumping cliched anti-war movie is certainly not the way I look at it and several people who seen preview screenings were the supporters of the war or neutral have commented that it's a film that does.
Hold those all those ambiguities and all those paradoxes in a very fine balance, so the viewer is invited to ask precise of the questions.
You've just asked for the question of whether you have as a member of the intelligence services or an employer generally loyalty to the contract you sign the contract of confidentiality their loyalty to your state the loyalty to your country and the way that those conflicting loyalties play with an individual is a very important part of this film.
I think what this comes down to is ultimately we're asking the question here are we invited to ask the question as to whether those major institutions be it the intelligence services Parliament the Fourth Estate the media that the diplomatic service the legal system were again doing their job.
This period there were they corrupted were they undermined was the pressure brought to bear in order to bring us to the point of intervention too much for those institutions that are I think that's really wonderful through this film where those questions are asked for me as well.
It should the rigidity and the lack of flexibility that those state institutions house because I don't think they can receive and send it was just everything was so wound up that the people felt they had no choice and ultimately then that's an individual was in effect bullied by the state because it's technically it wasn't set up to deal with something like this.
I just Whistleblower yes, that's the that's the the real central theme of the film.
Is is how does a state deal with someone who has revealed wrongdoing at the heart of government that done it in a way that is a black and white.
Ways of breaking the law technical breach of the law but I mean clearly laws and morals break the law anything wrong morally the secrets act is a is a very Blunt instrument the official secrets act does not have a public interest defence you cannot say that you breach the official secrets act because of your conscience if you breach the official secrets act you are guilty and she she was on the face of it completely guilty she took a strict liability offence you don't have to prove intent you.
Just have to prove that you were that you would drive you put the car in there and you go exactly right and she admitted it and so she had no defence really what's fascinating forces that lawyers there's a part of the film where the journalists pass the baton to Catherine's
And those lawyers developed an ingenious defence the defence of necessity where they argued that she she had to she did because she was in effect under the belief that Britain was about to embark on an illegal one and so she was live that would have been lost unlawful one of the other things that I think the film depicted accurately is the fact that the Observer itself was conflicted as an institute of what it's what the attitude to the walls being at the editor was back in it, but a lot of the staff were proposed and I think those things could put that quite accurately it was a very difficult time for the Observer I'm not entirely sure of the observers as yet recovered from the wounds of that period the Observer traditionally.
In recent memory is very old newspapers in recent memory the Observer has always been a liberal newspaper so the decision by the editor Roger Alton to support the government innit some intervention in Iraq was very controversial letter lots of readers can see my subscriptions and the staff as well, so it was a very difficult very difficult moment.
I hope that the film represent accurately the fact that there are legitimate differences within The Newsroom always always arguing about whether one is better than other or whether one story deserves to go in the paper or not or what in particular was very important with this story that we prove the stuff that we make sure the story was true that the that the memo that was sent from the national Security Agency in the States to GCHQ in the UK was real so people within the the news.
The political editor Kamal Ahmed was very keen to to demonstrate that this was real but there was a legitimate skepticism within The Newsroom Brothers to say whether during that period the Observer and its senior staff were too close to government those claims have been made and it's always a risk.
It's always a risk of certain political journalist myself a political editor of the New Statesman during the brown government and the strain on political journalists particularly, if you are sympathetic to a particular political party.
It is very difficult to maintain your independence and I think that Independence was was hugely put under the stranger at the Observer it's always difficult as you were saying that I was thinking of Terry White the editor-in-chief of the Empire movie magazine she was sitting in a few weeks ago and she was.
Attention that she covers the movie industry she covers films but they also have to have the right of independent journalists and critics to say that last filming in the Marvel Universe wasn't very good, but on the other hand you're relying on videos to keep giving you use an access to the stars and directors and so on so there's always attention and it's similar in politics mean if for example when Tony Blair blanked 4 Today programme they can have a prime minister and I mean that can't be healthy either.
So how do you maintain a positive working relationship within that isn't about then just been sick of Fanta can still holding on to account.
I think there is a line to be drawn here.
It's a course utterly legitimate the comment pages of a national newspaper to be full of opinions of all sorts and it's perfect for senior colonists to take positions.
It's also legitimate within the British newspaper culture for newspapers to take lives for newspaper news.
End up supporting political parties and selection and newspapers take particular line on huge issues in national ports such as intervention in walls so again.
I think it's it's perfectly just meant for an order to decide that the newspaper should take a particular starts, but that shouldn't really affect the reporting.
I think the reporters should in their professional life and in their reporting of the news remain neutral as much as possible and Report the facts and there was some blurring of those lines that during that period there were stories have appeared in the pages the Observer news as news that came directly from propaganda sources latterly, the Observer has has apologise for that but at the time that was I think a dark period for.
The observers journalism, and is it as easy from Corporate Governance point of view to simply take the old way out which is just Jess and the editor you know the king is dead long live the King and then the Observer reboots under new editor because it seems that that was even then was hanging over them reputation like for a long time.
I think it's still hanging and the difficulty I think for a proper like the Observer is that this is this is an ancient institution.
It's the oldest Sunday newspaper in the world.
It has certain things and it has certain loyalties.
I still feel centre mentally and emotionally attached that newspaper that it was the most wonderful place to work Mike fantastic, and I think the 9 years I spent to the observed that the happiest professional years of my journalistic career so people are.
The attacks that institution in a way that they they aren't in quite the same way to other media institutions, so when things unraveled in the wake of the the decision to go back the Iraq intervention.
I think people felt it really personally people who have that person is German for his readers and that's not to say again, but I'm not really talking here about whether or not you support intervention my great friend and colleague Nick Cohen we disagree on the wall.
He was he was a supportive intervention remains a supporter of of of intervention, but at the same time.
I'm sure if he was sitting here today.
He would have his reservations about the way that the Observer went in those days and expressive writing and many many years is there.
The reading secularist like I am come across the various human list events and things like that but how much pressure did you come under personal details of political pressure? I mean I know it was almost there was the underground car park scene wasn't there in the underground car park scene was I think it was an essential is your joke that had to had to go into the film.
There was a lot of discussion about about you know the details of where I met my contacts.
You know where we know where we had our conversations locals this conversation happened either on the phone or in cafes in fact.
I think probably all the contacts that I made during during that period happened either on the phone or in a cafe and the director said let me come every every scene in the cafe meeting someone in an underground car park, is it in itself suspicious? It's the opposite now, isn't it?
People stay in the dark then the corner well especially as my contact was Yvonne Ridley and she shown in the film to be wearing hijab so pretty pretty conspicuous person in underground car park, so yummy that was that was a little bit of cinematic licence.
It was taken with that particular meeting.
I think it one point.
I meet another contacting her in in his gentlemen's club as well.
Which is to give a little bit of little bit of colour and little bit of an established vibe that you meet them there from now on I had some point but why did someone try to put in your shell-like not on that story and no I mean it was more if anything was the opposite if anything there were people giving me and my colleagues.
Hints that something was not right with the intelligence and something was not right with the with the with the onward thrust towards war and pick up the signs it was it was there was a huge degree of as we know from the various Enquiries there was a huge amount of establishment disquiet about and I think again to return to the theme of people doing their jobs looking back there were a number of people within the Intelligence community who and I think probably within government as well who were the song not explicitly but hoping that we would do our jobs better and that's certainly true in the States as well that they were within the station.
You just couldn't believe that the media weren't interrogating power in a in a more aggressive manner that.
That was simply taking the government line and stick it in the newspapers is something that collectively we can all be ashamed of my thing.
Why do you think is in journalism sleep so much in that period is this an ongoing problem that this fluid is in newsrooms.
What is this something? You don't have seen All the President's Men I understand things are different now.
What is it? Just that? There's no more in journalism anymore.
She doesn't attract the best people and what was the systemic collective loss of our marbles and journalistic life of the collapse in confidence of the pressure was the beginning there were scenes in the film.
Where we we show The Story first and then onto the internet early days of the internet early days of a of a particularly virulent form of journalism to the muckraking journalism online as represented by the judge.
And I think that it was the beginning of that undermining of confidence that journalist there was a period when we felt that we were rightly or wrongly untouched that we we had this role that meant that we could hold power to account and I think one of the things that the administration understood very well was that journalist could be browbeaten Germans could be bullied bullied seduced persuaded and the carrot or stick exactly right.
So you know I think this goes back to the to my point really that what happened around the Iraq war was under money the number of institutions in the media looking back on it one can only feel nostalgic really the point was we still felt that if we got it right we could hold those.
To account we could hold those political figures who can't we did feel that have you got the story right and you could prove that the British government have fixed the vote to go to war and then you ask politicians and the press conference and I did you do this.
Did you not do this you could embarrass them, but there was a compact the political class and the media that meant that if you call people out in a lie matted well as I'm not sure that hold anymore and you know I think there's a link between what happened around the time of the Iraq war and what's happening now where senior politicians in America and Britain systemically December and when you catch them out telling untruths they don't care.
It's the most frightening development in the last few years that people have alternative facts.
Even when I was in politics he could you could disagree over the the means to the end, but you could always know and I would argue that you know there's been a certain number more Nurseries on the show starts the number of new Nurseries with never industry was now will be like we often use people just don't care if he's very scary as a journalist.
Yes, that's that that's the contractors has been broken.
I think you are the most extraordinary symbolic moments happened when the prime minister of the UK can be challenged by a member of the public in a in a hospital and car his first Instinct is first Instinct when challenged about the presence of the media is to say there's no press it on camera the first Instinct when the when the first Instinct of a politician is to lie.
I think you've got to be worried my dad gave me some advice about how many years ago.
Remember my team of the decade that lie to me about some quite small and he said suck them because if the light to other something else small imagine if you've got something big that they don't need to know because I couldn't what is an inconsequential thing, but yeah, it's that first the default to untruthfulness immediately yeah, I think it's very difficult and it does make the job of German spray difficult because you have to work as journalists within and enlightenment environment so that the more serious and a German you have to you have to assume that facts you have to assume that your job is to dig out troops objective trews and to tell the public about them that doesn't say that mean that there isn't a role for you know not so pure that I don't believe there is no role for gossip and entertainment with them.
Even though I mean that's the Evil Within the diary column what you want is true.
Cos I mean it maybe salacious, but you want to lose you you want if it's not true.
It's so these are troubling development reputationally challenging or worrying for you when you don't break a big.
Sorry because it does not worry of course that despite your best efforts.
She might have genuinely got something wrong.
There's a great scene in the film that obviously seen a preview of it there where someone add spellcheck to the American now and then that's why I didn't get his bigger coverage.
You know as the Americans have written off as a fake and it was really just been some enthusiastic.
Somebody said when it was thinking they were doing a good job and cataclysmically undermine the early perception of it.
It was your fault when you saw that mistake at the time it was yeah, it was a terrible moment the the moment.
Again, it was the drudge Report that pointed out that the spelling on the document that we printed on the front page of the newspaper was British spelling and not American spelling so they said could it come from the American intelligence services and reasonable it's not a reasonable question and for that moment when you print a story about that you I think we won't 90% sure by the time we published it was it was the real deal, but there is always about you always wonder what I like the process in the film because there was that where you went straight over to the original document to check facts of facts made a mistake.
The only way to work to go to the desk and open the door and pick up the damn.
Oh, yeah, I still I still have taken back to that moment where I did put that thing that you're suffering was really the imagine you put Openbox
Yeah, it was it was it was packed.
It was bad.
I love that moment in the film because I think it is it is symbolic of precisely the problem that we've been discussing which is the problem.
It's truth and that early Instinct by right-wing website in the States to wear something didn't look like it was convenient for their political point of view to claim that it's fake news fake news fake news covered it in in my view that it was as I say.
It was reasonable of them to release the question, but you know ultimately they were they were wrong because it was by which time it was too late, but it was an important moment.
It's a comical moment in the film, but it's actually I think one of somatic parts of the movie is this idea that you know everything everything hangs on the veracity of that have that memo but another great thing about the film Girl
The lady in the film that was depicted as having made a mistake I felt sorry for her because you are entitled to be angry.
You know this faithfully in that moment undermined it and yeah.
I had some human empathy burgers with old rock climbers from time to time she clearly meant well.
She just also massively balls the job up.
Yeah, it's her first week in the paper.
He was in the news this evening and she been asked to she just been asked to type up the the the original members so that we could we could put on the front page and I think I'm really question is why none of us and china people I checked it through I mean it should have been checked by the Editors have been checked by me it should be checked by the editor.
It wasn't really her fault.
She wasn't even journalist really she was she was effectively a secretary.
I hope she was still living a sound beating those that would have made me feel better in the moment.
She was she was treated with great decent so she's actually seems you seen the film she's now.
Very respected magazine has been very very generous considering that she is at the heart of the movie is making a catastrophic error problem that I have with the way society views criminals could I originally did a lot and and shadowing a barrister and even though you in the carton.
You're looking at people have done and Robert and robbery there.
I can obviously Condemned what they're doing.
It right there be punished browserify tiny bit sorry for them as well, because clearly have been backed into a corner that made the wrong choice is not more but I think you can still have human empathy for people who are quite horrible people.
I think that I would certainly categorise Nicole in being the same as an arm robber.
But yeah, I think that I mean one of one of the one of the joys of there are certain characters in this in this film when some characters in The Newsroom and certain characters within the legal profession who I think it's fair to say don't come out of the film entirely positively sleepy came for one prosecutions and use of the paper however.
I think it's really important to show that the decisions.
They were making were troubled that they were not bad people.
They were they were thinking hard about what they were doing in the case of McDonald he was in a very very difficult position of prosecuting a woman who had confessed to what she done and at the same time.
He knew that if that if that case went to trial it was.
Be extremely difficult extremely difficult for the government and he was going to struggle to fight her defence her defence.
I think within within the new shop prosecutor has a duty to prosecute.
He has a duty to prosecute.
He has a duty as well to pursue also he had a reasonable chance of success, so that's the first.
He had to make sure that as time went on it became clear to him that it was not going to have a reasonable chance of success and so I can understand about it.
That is a very very difficult of the position of director public prosecutions is right difficult one and I hope that we show the the discussions under the thought processes with that he was going through were not simple and simile.
It is the job of a senior journalist within The Newsroom to be sceptical about a story that if wrong could be devastating for that for that newspaper.
Just a return to you coming under pressure that you have come into conflict with the spokes before memorably of her baby trailer.
Yeah, I did earlier in my career was challenged by the intelligence services.
We did have special branch arriving at the newspaper and demanding all our documents that related to David Shayler was famously an MI5 officer who lead to a number of documents about a series of incidents ranging from Minor administrative errors within within the intelligence services right up to what he claimed was an attempt to assassinate.
So we were working with working with David and the police came and wanted evidence to help them prosecute him.
We refused and were on the face of it in contempt of court because the police demanded that we co-operate we refused and we thought that to judicial review and it was a that very very difficult very very difficult period for for me Roger Alton who's better at that point.
He was the editor-in-chief of the Guardian Observer group and did you have some sympathy with the police that because they can't pick and choose the people if there's evidence that you had breached the official secrets and I work in a consent form of cancer research investigator.
I can I don't want you to be arrested for it and such but I also don't blame the composite turned up because I think it's such a delicate.
Is that a problem?
I think there is there a couple of elements do this that that I've had to think about over the years.
I think generally speaking the police shouldn't come to journalists for their evidence.
I think I should do their job elsewhere in that case they really didn't need us to help them prove that case made they really didn't it was too much they went too far and that was that was what the judges decide that they had no reason to come invade our privacy in fact the final deciding judge the rather wonderful named Igor judge judge judge Mr Justice I am the law and he went back to the the phrase an englishman's home is his Castle that was that was one of his final flourishes that you have to have a pretty good excuse to in in English law to invite him home.
So in that case yes, I I had some sympathy I guess.
Philip policing in trying to do their jobs, but I think they did they did overstepped the mark on that one you joined the Tony Blair Faith Foundation was disappointed that it didn't expect earlier.
He's a reading secondary slightly I was an uber blairite a studio with Tony did you know he wasn't there are enough for me, but you don't have strongly disagreed with him on on matters of I have had no problem bring up there right there also was a second-hand campaign against Faith schools at my view.
Is there social selection must as religious selection and it's the Old get on your knees provide the face.
What was your journey that with that? We have a whole other conversation about faith schools.
I think we've pretty much aligned on that but yeah joining the Tony Blair Faith Foundation was not the greatest decision of my life have to say but I entered that relationship in good faith, and I had this experience with Tony Blair over the years.
I was not a blairite.
That I felt that he had a son insight into the importance of faith within complex so over the years historic Lee we had failed to understand that Faith matted mean that message to you.
What a me but to people of faith.
It has a huge important so traditionally and sociological we thought about conflict in terms of politics or in terms of power and people would seem Faith as something of a side issue Harris end of faith which is an amazing book it really reframed might be on this because he said when we talk about 911 for example.
We talked about in terms of geopolitics and 20 said no one actually considered that the terrorists genuinely believed in the religious element of what they were doing this for that.
They were doing go to work.
It's I think it's Tuesday important and it.
Good enough to say that you know Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins you know these poor fools should not believe this stuff on your I get that but it's not useful in terms of geopolitics because people do believe this stuff, but that was some houses point is that we can't truly engage with people off their because we we just can't work and we can look at it through the lens exactly that was my motivation for joining face Foundation I thought there was an important role for an analysis of the role that plays in geopolitics, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to set up.
What was a combination of a website and a new service looking at conflicts around the world and the role that Faith played in them and we did a good job.
It was limited resources, but you know the site that we create.
Was excellent the problem was ultimately Tony Blair himself that Tony Blair has a particular view and Mrs question of is ideology and Germany neutrality.
I was I was entering this is as a as a journalist an interesting journalist and to a certain extent.
There is an academic element to it as well, but Tony Blair genuinely believe that that there were good people of faith and bad people of faith and that there was a perverted version of Islam and other face but if you could only find a good version then everything within somewhere be right with the world and my first month there.
I think we were we were to be involved with the Harvard divinity school.
It's very very well-respected.
Institution and they pulled out of the relationship and that really did trouble me and they pulled out because of a piece that Tony Blair has written about good and bad is long and it's the generally held view and I think probably for me and you as well, but it's not really judge.
What what is a good and bad version of Islam sign up for Tony Blair George remember.
We're in a position where particularly after a speech that the room where he suggested that we pragmatically how to align ourselves with certain forms of what I would call extreme Islam in other forms of extreme Islam so to his mind it was ok to Ally with Saudi Arabia if you.
Fighting Isis enemy is my friend seem to me that he was ripping up everything that you previously said about humanitarian intervention or an ethical foreign policy where you are not talking about real quality who were talking about about making moral judgements and make common cause with Saudi Arabia or or Russia or acid or the new regime in Egypt the rcc regime because you did because the true evil was the evil of Al-Qaeda or for Isis struck me as misplaced and that's why I left and you investigated the rise of politicized Islam buy in the UK whilst waiting for the observing luckily for the New Statesman what was that a controversial topic in itself off for people on the left?
Yeah to put it mildly.
Yes, it was because it had become increasingly worried by the way that almost 1 people on the last night.
She people people within the the The Blair government had made common cause with with some elements within the politicized Muslim community and some of this was entirely cynical for reasons of the particular sequences that certain MPs had Jack Straw in particular, but some of it was to do with a failure to understand where those movements were coming from I was particularly interested in the origins of the Muslim council of Britain which represent itself as a neutral body that that represented almost.
In fact it had its origins in a much more radical form of political Islam within Pakistan and Bangladesh jamaat-e-islami which itself was allied to the Muslim Brotherhood that you can make all sorts of judgement that about where those organisations are on the political panoply, but they are certainly not neutral and they are there are certain forms of Islam they don't accept and it meant that those representative institutions dominated by a particular form of very political very political Islam and that that made me feel very comfortable and I think that the time when the Labour Party were completely unaware for me.
It was a form of racism it was it was a failure to understand that it is you're not talking.
Unsophisticated constituents who don't quite understand the way things work you're talking about very very sophisticated political organisations in some cases party far more organised internationalised and with a particular gender so I felt that we just had to look very care about people coming from and it did prove very very unpopular in certain sections of the left the first non Jewish Chronicle what was that like and it was obviously before the rise of corbynism.
Are you shocked at the increasing amount of anti-semitism coming from hard left probably I'm probably less sure about that antisemitism than others would be because I I come from the left.
I understand the left.
I knew where the people have come from.
I've made a documentary.
Channel 4 about about Ken Livingstone and I knew that there were elements of certainly hardline hostility to Israel and also degree of acceptance the radical Islam was a legitimate resistance movement on the lines of the agency that there was an idea that organisations such as a legitimate radical opposition to to Israel so I was probably more aware the most of where that was coming from.
I have however been shocked at the scale of the antisemitism.
That's that's entered the bloodstream of conventional politics in the UK and it is ultimately corbyn's Legacy but he is a loud.
He's allowed anti-semitism to enter the mainstream of British politics.
I never thought I'd see that happen or tily profoundly genuinely disgusted by it including holding Corbyn emoji personally liable for this is even worse though in my view those people on electricity if you point out actual instances of anti-semitism rather than having an open mind thinking well.
I don't think I'm anti-semitic but here you are presenting some evidence that I've got a blind ago, but you must be part of the Conspiracy against as you're now passed the problem and it's breathtaking closed mindedness built on racism that is that is what has shifted, but I remember as as you say I was the first non Jewish political editor of the Jewish Chronicle I learnt a lot there when I was there and yeah, I just became a little bit tired all the time and my time at the Jewish Chronicle of I suppose I like all anti-semites spotting because there are people out there who just don't understand the tropes.
Ringing a very long standing labour figure MP Paul Flynn and he made some comments about the then British ambassador to Israel Matthew google, who was the first Jewish British ambassador to Israel and he said you'd let me know but you know you have to put Liberty that's outrageous mean to say that to him to say and I rang him and I think he genuinely didn't know he genuinely didn't know that that was a classic anti-semitic is benevolent Lee held the racism but I did I rang him.
He was he was mortified.
He was he was genuinely upset.
I wasn't ok with the phone so I don't know but it seems to me that he was he was he was he may have been crying he was really really upset.
And I think there's so they were those sorts of people where there's a process of education where you know I know the poor thing in his heart of Hearts anything himself has racing been horrified and once I explained to him there was there was a couple of moment of realisation and they're called but you shouldn't have said it now.
What's different is politicians on the left to For Whom that kind of Instinct is written into their politics badge of honour.
Yeah, so I'd written stories about Jeremy Corbyn over the years.
I'd written about his invitation to arrive salah.
Who is the leader of the opposition to Israel from within Israel from within Israel's own past in community and that was a terrible thing to do is terrible thing for Jeremy Corbyn to do to invite that individual into into parliament.
What was interesting to me was that even lie in that previous situation haven't quite understood.
The visceral difficulty of the Jewish community have with people like Jeremy Corbyn so when he was nominated and elected as leader of the Labour the I haven't realised even I haven't realised just how serious this was and I got calls from Jewish friends and members of the Jewish community saying how can this be allowed to happen to the time? I was helping David Lammy an advisory role with his mayoral campaign to become the labour mayoral candidate and he had backed Jeremy Corbyn nominated Jeremy Corbyn many of them anything, but there was no understanding you know for people not jewish.
There is not that visual understanding of the position people like Jeremy Corbyn have played on the left over the years and that was that was a real eye-opener for me.
So, yes, I understand it.
I knew where they can find made the programme about Jeremy Corbyn but the general the genuine feeling of Horror when this man became the leader of a mainstream political party.
You know that was that was so I haven't quite fully understood myself and it's the loving person consequences, isn't it? Because when I join the Labour Party over two decades ago.
I couldn't even vote for our local council can a member of year just to rule out that was an impostor and the local Tories where's you know when you look at what Ed Miliband Andrea Collins it when they think they did it altruistically to say you should encourage more people to be members of the party.
You should be done for £3 and what you leave straight away because not linking the fact that it's so easy to whip up several hundred thousands lefties you know on Twitter advice Ocean
I mean I have friends that were members of the Conservative Party that joined labour to vote for Corbyn I mean, it was a disaster waiting to happen.
Yes, it was it was as you say it's the law of unforeseen circumstances and it clearly was not Ed Miliband intention with this that this should happen, but it has ended up following out once great party.
It's it is a different thing that it is a party that represents that particular kind of politics and if you want to go down that road, then we have an open Society and and that's up to that.
I fear that we've got your position.
Is that with both are major parties now that that we are seeing a rush to the extremes and there is no place for moderate politics in in in the two dominant political forces in this country which is
Scary moment to be at how would you describe yourself now because it I hate the phrase pop all your career but you know you've been producing movies and you've got your non-profit would like to tell us about the second.
Would you still think of yourself? Is it as a journalist? Are you at your commentator when you get up in the morning look in the mirror? What do you what do you do work describe yourself as you describe myself as a movie producer whenever I talk about my work even as chief executive of very small charity describe myself as a journalist by Instinct I fell into journalism as a career.
I didn't train as a journalist.
I Began by reviewing books and films and ended up as an investigative journalist and find me I found that I could do it.
I loved it and ended up breaking some big stories that.
Is what I do by Instinct I'm not by Instinct someone who will find themselves working in the charitable sector that happened by accident that happened about it was when I was working at the New Statesman I was working as to their my job every week was to sound off and tell politicians where they were going wrong.
It's a good job good job it so it's kind of power with absolutely no accountability was going wrong by 2008 economy was collapse and we waiting recession and already the government to come up with various ideas, how to get people back to work unemployment unemployment was becoming a problem or a problem.
They saw that was likely to get worse and I felt that some of them.
Solutions that brand was coming up with work, let's say typically Gordon ish, so the idea was in a way that you would get playing broadband cables and this will give you a back to work when you feel perfectly legitimate way, but slightly doorway and I felt in the 80s the idea of getting back to work later broadband cables with the bin.
So I thought there's gotta be a better way of doing this.
I look back at these slightly patronising isn't it that you should you should roll your sleeves up want to pick up the ground and for some people fine but not family support blah blah blah.
I would not no job is too demanding but only the hand that why should you that can't be the only thing you're offered is the point I was making.
That was also during the new labour period about the creative Industries being our greatest asset so I said why don't you just match the rhetoric of work relation with the Ministries and try to put people back to work with him in the creative sector and lucky enough at the time had lots of contacts within the within the government James Andy Burnham Jasmine I was then the work and pensions secretary Andy Burnham was the culture secretary very very supportive of the idea of going back to work in the creative sector that was a scheme called the future jobs fund where people were given a government employees were given a government subsidy of £6,000 have a part-time job for 6-months to go back to work and personal and Burnham carved out to certain number of those job for the creative sector and yeah, I setup my charity.
Help put my shoulder to the wheel I guess I think in particular Andy Burnham and said to me now.
It's all very well you telling us what to do every week in your colon.
Why don't you actually do it yourself and save something for challenged me really to be going to campaign that became a charity.
We got a contractor to to do the about in the end.
It was over 1000 people back to work in the creative sector and the whole thing is shifted enormous.
Leasowe audio planet is advanced contact with it is not the territory for what I did.
I mean I think when I initially made my sure any way of doing things.
There's a part of me.
Thought you know you know they gave me a multi-million pound to Ron I think that would probably be about that.
I'm still open to all offers.
Bangles that may not be the best person to do that so the best person to do it came from a genuine passion to do it and you can't buy that it did come from a genuine passion that came from my own experience of left University and in the mid-80s with a good degree from university, but I didn't have any contacts now, then my parents went to university moved to London didn't know anyone so I found myself at the JobCentre and I thought she's going to happen again.
So it was just started really out of a sense of wanting to make a difference to the young people like my with no contacts and and and and no background in the creative Industries try to break in so that's that's how it began really was a passion project so we've been
10 years now the creative Society is established as a part of the landscape of people trying to help with the agenda of diversity and access I suppose and there's a lot to be done.
It's it is still increasingly difficult for people from non-traditional backgrounds to break into Media the ass all these more glamorous ends of the the industry is still a clothes shop particularly behind the scenes.
So we now what we what we want it now on much more is intensive mentoring helping people with their own journey from generally speaking school graduates who wish to break into the creative Industries and we help them on that journey is the problem that we we dumping by part of the problem because wear white male middle class and we weren't we?
For discrimination or if it has been a lack of Opportunity but how do we truly know what it is to be a young black woman from South London trying to get into the creative industry because that is not a licence for an old friend of mine said the other the other day that he asked me whether it would be possible for a white middle-class man to set of organisation like that today and is a part of me thinks maybe not but at the same time.
I think it's important for people who are established with these Industries to recognise that there's a problem not to be embarrassed about the fact that that we come from very different background.
You know anywhere near finding the same but one things for sure we do need to tap Talent from all sorts of backgrounds one of the examples are given of.
Football clubs premiership football club's only recruited from eaten, they wouldn't stay in the Premiership for very long they understand that they have to tell him you're not just within the diverse Communities of this country, but they need to recruit around the world right that's that's that's how they maintain their standards if you got a pretty good run away from exactly now.
It's very different if you look behind the scenes in football right and they don't apply those same criteria for people working in offices in in premiership football clubs.
That's the difference.
I think that's where we can get away with it.
We going away with it the same as I think for the music business and the same is true for the film industry in terms of talent talent.
You wouldn't last 5-minutes if you only recruited from a certain area, but I'm missing out as a society if there's untapped Talent just come to my lower socioeconomic background I mean.
I want good people in my company ultimately some of my unconscious biases and then clearly that that's losing an opportunity and we need to change the way that we've the way that we operate in the way that you think about these things and we need to recognise that that people who've had a series of challenges along the way may also have challenges once they enter the world of work, so it's not enough simply the opportunities and this is very difficult particularly for smaller for small employers it may be the case that people talk about are not job ready, when they when they start at work that they will be support needed for them.
That is above and beyond Russell Group graduates who can walk straight into a job with grey.
Last question then because we're about to be thrown out the studio.
What's next for you.
Are there any other areas in your life that can be brought to the silver screen is Holly and Holly woodpecker.
I think official secrets the small employment charity years.
Is is a film that no one really want to see you at different periods in your life over 20-years and I'll be playing you now.
I think I think that Smith had enough of play Martin bright frankly but I do feel that as I said my instinct is is journalistic.
If I didn't do any journalism, you know the rest of my career.
I think I would feel very unsatisfied.
It will be varied and my career will have to be varied once you have set up your own thing as I've done with the creator of society is very difficult to go back.
Within a single institution I like the fact that I can run my charity in parallel with other work.
I found the process of making a film extremely exciting there was a review of official secrets that suggested that this type of filmmaking could be described as the Fifth Estate in parallel to the Fourth Estate with traditional journalism and if I could find a way of helping filmmakers to make the sort of films that we've succeeded in doing with officials that would be my favourite Avenue I think it's a hugely interesting conversation.
Thank you for your time a right angles podcast in association with big things Media
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