Last Sunday I was listening to “Broadcasting House” (aka “B.H.” to fans) on Radio 4; one of the highlights of my listening week.
First up, there appeared to be a wonderful opportunity to find out what two heavyweight economists thought of the current situation and of the government’s policies. They were Lord Desai and the current professor of the subject at Cambridge, whose name I’ve sadly forgotten and probably won’t get around to checking. Sadly, the discussion didn’t convince me that economics, famously called the dismal science, is really a science at all. Their responses to a simple question of what tests we should apply to the new measures to decide their possible efficacy were predictably obscure; at least they were to me. No matter how brilliant these men must be, their communication skills left much to be desired. You’d think the BBC could have wheeled out two better communicators. As there are now chairs for the public understanding of science, and as economics is a sort-of-science, there is a strong case for creating a post of Professor (at the University of Life, of course) for the Public Understanding of Economics. Neither of these two luminaries would have got my vote.
B.H. presenter Paddy O’Connell, however, does get my vote, as an interviewer able to mix gravitas and humour according to the weather conditions. (I’m not joking; he even interviewed people queuing for the grand re-opening of the pier at Weston-super-Mare, during a downpour) I particularly liked the way he chaired the segment where guest reviewers cover the Sunday papers. Sunday’s panel comprised Craig Brown, whom I found disappointing for such a well-known columnist; there was a novelist whose name has escaped me, and the find of the day, Emma Harrison, who runs a recruitment agency called A4E, specialising in helping long-term unemployed people back into work; a worthwhile purpose and seemingly a delightful person to boot.
While many other people on the show, including her fellow-panellists, seems too be recycling the gloom-and-doom aspects of the media’s response to the UK government’s cuts package, Emma Harrison was a lone voice proposing a more positive approach. As the person who clearly had the most experience of working with the people who potentially could be among the worst affected (if the cuts are indeed regressive – see an earlier post) it was encouraging to hear her say that the glass-half-empty approach that tends to be favoured by our media (bad news sells papers, dear boy) can be totally counterproductive. Well said Emma; she’s the only guest on the whole show whom I shall look up on Google.
Finally, a piece about corgis was narrated by Tom Conti. Maybe he needs the work these days but why choose a Scots actor, seemingly exaggerating his native accent, to read a not particularly funny (IMHO) monologue in the person of a dog that is famously Welsh. (This last item is from my “I think you’ll find …” Department of Pedantry). Maybe there was some comic subtlety about this that passed me by.
Finally, I heard a new definition: an optimist is someone who picks up the crossword with pen in hand.
Despite my gripes on this occasion, B.H. still rules for me.