• From April, 2.7 million workers will get one of the biggest pay rises in UK history as the National Living Wage rises to £11.44 an hour. But will they feel better off?

    It's 25 years since the National Minimum Wage was introduced. During that time it's credited with putting billions of extra pounds in the pockets of low-paid workers. But, despite that, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, two thirds of households living in poverty have at least one adult in work. And, according to the Institute for Fiscal studies, far from cutting the annual benefits bill, the cost of benefits paid to working families has ballooned since 1999 to about 50 billion pounds a year. So what's behind this low pay puzzle? And what can employers, governments and workers do to ensure that work pays? Pauline Mason investigates.

    Presenter: Pauline MasonProducer: Ravi Naik Editor: Clare Fordham.

    Contributors: Kate Bell, TUC Assistant General Secretary and former low pay commissionerDamian Grimshaw, Professor of Employment Studies, Kings College London and London & South Forum Co-Lead at the Productivity Institute Patricia Findlay, Distinguished Professor of Work and Employment Relations, University of Strathclyde, and Director of the Scottish Centre for Employment ResearchMatthew Fell, Low Pay Commissioner and Director of Competitiveness at BusinessLDNNye Cominetti, Principal Economist, the Resolution Foundation James Cockett, Labour Market Economist, CIPDMargaret Esapa, Managing Director and owner, Cherry Care Services, OxfordshireConor Taylor, Director, Foresso

  • The existential threat caused by Artificial Intelligence is a popular theme in science fiction. But more recently it’s started to be taken seriously by governments around the world and the companies developing the technology. Where did this idea come from, and why is so much money being spent on it, rather than on the regulation of AI and the real threat it poses to jobs and to copyright?

    Presenter: Jack StilgoeProducer: Philip ReevellEditor: Clare Fordham

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  • It's 2024, and the Manchester extension of HS2 has been cancelled. The leg to Leeds was cancelled in 2021. The remaining line to Birmingham is now less than half the initial planned route, and will cost over double the initial budget. This is not exclusive to HS2; Sprialling costs and missed deadlines have become commonplace in big engineering projects, the UK is now one of the most expensive places in the world to build infrastructure, but Britain has a proud history of engineering, and one name in particular looms large - Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Ruthless, bloody minded and notoriously driven - what could he do about the current state of UK infrastructure?

    Presenter: Neil MaggsProducer: Johnny I'AnsonEditor: Clare Fordham

  • It's widely believed that the Conservaives won the Uxbridge by-election because of motorists who were annoyed by the London mayor's ultra low emission zone. With a general election looming, both main english parties want to harness "driver power". But how did the vote of car and van owners become so important? Does the independence driving brings lead to a libertarian attitude? Or is that combative attitude caused by drivers feeling that they have been used as cash-cows by successive governments, which have gladly taken their road tax and fuel duty. But that power balance is also set to change, with the eventual electrification of all UK vehicles. Could road pricing replace fuel duty - and how will motorists respond?

    Presenter: Chris BowlbyProducer: Jim FrankEditor: Clare Fordham

  • Middlesbrough, in the north-east, is one of the most deprived towns in England. Once a steel and shipbuilding powerhouse, its fortunes changed when those industries closed down. Today, the town that Gladstone described as “an infant Hercules” faces a precarious future. David Baker, who grew up in Middlesbrough in the 1970s, returns to his hometown to ask what can be done to revive its fortunes and what Middlesbrough can teach us about regenerating small, postindustrial towns elsewhere in the UK.

    Presenter: David BakerProducer: Dan HardoonEditor: Clare Fordham

    Contributors:Natasha Vall, Professor of Urban and Cultural History, Teesside UniversityRob Nichols, Editor, Middlesbrough FC fanzine Fly Me To The MoonSally Rodgers, DJ, producer, and vocalistSteve Dugan, Head of Enterprise, Teesside UniversityOliver Lloyd, co-founder and COO, DinkChris Cooke, Mayor of MiddlesbroughGary Hamilton, managing director, Community Leisure ManagementLord Michael Heseltine, former Secretary of State for the EnvironmentWith thanks to the students of Teesside University and Reverend Kath Dean of the Genesis Project.

  • Democracies do not die in military coups. They are dismantled slowly, by libel laws, through tax audits, and procedure. Democracies are dismantled by bureaucrats and judges, not by soldiers and heavy-handed policing. It has always been thus, from ancient Rome to present-day Tunisia. The program outlines the tricks of the trade that imperceptibly kill democracies – and how examples in Mexico, Turkey, India and Poland illustrate that the autocratic playbook is nearly always the same. With Anne Applebaum, historian and staff writer at The Atlantic, Amy Slipowitz, research manager at Freedom House, Greta Rios, co-executive director, People Power, David Runciman, professor of politics at the University of Cambridge, Professor Larry Diamond, Stanford University, Jennifer Gandhi, professor of political science and global affairs, Yale University, Renata Uitz, professor of law and government at Royal Holloway, The University of London.

    Presenter: Matt QvortrupProducer: Bob HowardEditor: Clare Fordham

  • 'What is "British Culture?” I was born in the UK and have lived here for 40 years, and yet, as a British Asian person, I am constantly told “we are not integrating”. Not integrating into what culture exactly?'

    Bushra Shaikh runs a charity, is a business-owner and is also a writer and commentator. When she posted this question on social media, two million people viewed it, she received thousands of replies, but no clear definition of British Culture. Some respondents mentioned the food, while others defined it by quoting literature or history. But those answers were often just lists; of meals. books, names and dates.

    Is "culture" a synonym for race? How can British people of colour integrate, and what does that mean?

    Americans put their hands on their hearts, gaze at the stars and stripes and identify with freedom, while the French look to liberty, equality, and fraternity, but is there a British equivalent? Bushra speaks to Historians, cultural commentators, as well as both the UK's newest citizens, and people who can trace their British family roots back hundreds of years, to try to find out what British culture means to them.

    Presenter: Bushra Shaikh Producers: Ravi Naik and Sean JohnsonEditor: Clare Fordham.

    Contributors: Robert Colls, emeritus professor of history at De Montfort University Lionel Shriver, novelist and journalistPen Vogler, food historian and writerDr Bernard Trafford, retired headteacher and former member of the citizenship advisory groupAnton Dani, Conservative councillor and former mayor of BostonRobert Owen, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside Professor Alice Foucart, Principal Investigator, Psycholinguistics, Universidad Nebrija, MadridDr Tessa Dunlop, historian and broadcasterKeith Richardson, Author

  • British politicians love to invoke the family, from John Major's "Back to Basics" campaign, to New Labour's "hardworking families" - and now a prominent strain of the Conservative right says parents sticking together for the sake of the children is "the only possible basis for a safe and successful society".

    By turning family values into a political football, are they in denial about the way society has developed this century? For decades, single-person households have been the fastest-growing demographic and younger generations are re-defining romantic commitments and their purpose.

    Is the erosion of traditional structure around marriage and family a destructive thing for society, or does it offer the kind of freedom and individual choice denied to previous generations?

    Presenter: Zoe Strimpel Producer: David Reid Editor: Clare Fordham

    Contributors: Danny Kruger, Conservative Member of Parliament for Devizes and Co-Chair of the New Conservatives: Committing to a Better Politics. Dr. Ruth Beecher, Historian of Modern Britain and the United States, Birkbeck, University of LondonProf. Deborah Cohen, Richard W. Leopold Professor of History at Northwestern University. Prof. Sasha Roseneil, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex. Prof. Sylvie Fogelj-Bijaoui, sociologist specialising in gender, human rights, the family and the kibbutz. Daisy Lees, resident of Old HallChris Lees, resident of Old HallRob Connigale, resident of Old Hall

  • The term nudge has become a byword for the application of behavioural science in public policy, changing how governments the world over create policies designed to encourage, or nudge, people to make choices that better benefit themselves and society as a whole. Over the last fifteen years much has been learned about what works, as well as what doesn’t, when it comes to this way of supporting us in making decisions about our health, our money and how we lead our lives.

    Magda Osman is Principal Research Associate at the Cambridge Judge Business School, The University of Cambridge, and Visiting Professor at Leeds University Business School. Through her work she has examined the problems, and the opportunities, with this way of creating policy. She talks to those working in the field of behavioural change and examines what has been discovered over the last fifteen years, what concerns remain around this way of doing things and what the future is for the behavioural change methods known as nudge.

    Presenter: Professor Magda Osman Producer: Steven Hobson Editor: Clare Fordham

    Contributors: Dr Michael Hallsworth, Managing Director, Behavioural Insights Team Americas Colin Strong, Head of Behavioural Science, Ipsos and Professor of Consumer and Behavioural Psychology, Nottingham University Business SchoolRory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, OgilvyLaura Dodsworth, author and journalist Professor Neil Levy, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of OxfordKaty Milkman, James G. Dinan Professor, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

  • Most educational research now suggests that reading for pleasure is strongly linked to a child’s future outcome, educational success, and even wellbeing. But the latest studies also show that reading for pleasure is at its lowest level for twenty years.

    Why has this happened in a country that's produced more successful children's books than any other? From Paddington, to Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia to Alice in Wonderland, and of course, the Gruffalo, the list is vast. Is a lack of access to school and local libraries the problem, too few books at home or the rise of phones, tablets and game consoles?

    What can schools, government, the media and parents do to help foster a love of reading that could help children throughout their lives? Author and former Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson investigates.

    Presenter: Julia Donaldson Producer: Ravi NaikEditor: Clare Fordham

    Contributors: Frank Cottrell-Boyce, author and screenwriter Joseph Coelho, 2022-24 Children’s Laureate, author and poet Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy), the Open UniversityJoanna Prior CEO Pan Macmillan Publishing, and Chair of Trustees at the National Literacy TrustLaura Patel, head of literacy, Sandhill View Academy school, Sunderland Leia Sands, librarian and committee member, the Great School Libraries campaign Ben Lawrence, arts and culture editor, The Daily Telegraph Sonia Thompson, headteacher, St Matthews C of E primary school, Birmingham

  • A record 2.6 million people are off work due to long-term sickness, with mental health conditions the biggest single contributor. The problem is particularly acute among younger people, who are disproportionately likely to cite poor mental health as their reason for not working. Other surveys suggest that poor mental health and burnout are among the top reasons for young people to quit their job. But should young people develop more resilience and “soldier on”, as older generations may have done, or is being more open about mental health a good thing? And how well are employers adapting to the expectations of younger workers when it comes to mental health and wellbeing? Contributors:Tim Gibbs, Head of Public Service Analysis Team, Office for National StatisticsEmma Codd, Global Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, DeloitteGabrielle Judge, Influencer and CEO, Anti Work GirlbossJoel Gujral, CEO and Founder, MYNDUPDr Lucy Foulkes, Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of OxfordMel Stride, Secretary of State for Work and PensionsAlison McGovern, Shadow Minister for Work and PensionsWith thanks to City, University of London

    Presenter: James Kirkup Producer: Dan Hardoon Editor: Clare Fordham

  • The USA, the UK and France, which have led the democratic world, are all suffering problems with their constitutions. But the problem is most acute in France, where President Macron has lost his parliamentary majority, and forced his pension reforms through by decree. But worse is to come; Macron can only serve as President until 2027 and will leave a vacuum at the heart of French politics when he steps down. And unlike Charles de Gaulle, he doesn’t seem likely to leave an enduring movement or an obvious successor. He hoovered up centrist support when he swept to power, and his main rivals now are either far-left or far-right. They both are populists, anti-NATO and pro-Putin. Edward Stourton explores if France is heading towards a constitutional crisis and asks what political turmoil in our nearest neighbour might mean.

    Presenter: Edward StourtonProducer: Jonathan IAnsonEditor: Clare Fordham

  • Should we be sceptical when politicians claim to act in "the national interest"? The phrase is frequently trotted out to elevate policy and actions as unimpeachably serving us all. But what does it actually mean? So far the Oxford English Dictionary has steered clear of pinning down this "slippery" term. Mark Damazer digs up its historical roots and talks to politicians, prime-ministerial speechwriters and policymakers to define a term that can obscure as much as it elucidates. Is its use just cynical high grounding or does it speak of a sincere effort to disentangle policy from personal or party interests? Is the national interest best served by a strong civic landscape where differing visions of “the national interest” are free to battle it out?

    Presenter: Mark DamazerProducer: David ReidEditor: Clare Fordham

    Contributors:Michael Gove, Minister for Levelling up, Housing and CommunitiesAngela Rayner, shadow deputy prime minister and shadow levelling up secretaryPhil Collins, former prime-ministerial speechwriterMunira Mirza, former Director of the No10 Policy UnitDame Linda Colley, Professor of History at PrincetonFiona McPherson, Senior Editor at the Oxford English Dictionary, specialising in new words

  • How should we evaluate schools? Is it about delivering a wide range of subjects, or extra activities and pastoral care that make a “good” school? Who gets to decide what is a good school and what does that mean to different people? Many people are influenced by the four Ofsted grades and Ofsted reports so what does research tell us about how consistent those judgements are? Would you choose a school with a good local reputation but a lower inspection grade. The programme talks to Sonia Exley, an associate professor at the London School of Economics, Professor Christian Bokhove at the University of Southampton, Natalie Perera, chief executive of the Education Policy Institute, Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD, George Leckie, Professor of Social Statistics at the University of Bristol,Dr Ellen Gleaves, a postdoctoral researcher.

    Presenter: Branwen JeffreysProducer: Bob HowardEditor: Clare Fordham

  • The cost of living crisis followed a decade in which people’s wages and incomes barely grew. The idea that each generation does at least as well as the one before, has for the moment ended. We’ll only start getting better off again if we can get the economy growing – as it used to in the decades preceding the financial crisis. So, what levers can governments pull to get growth back into the system? Why don't governments do the things that nearly every expert thinks might work? Should we be looking to governments at all? Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies explores the challenges facing the UK economy and asks: how can any government get the UK economy growing? Presenter: Paul JohnsonProducer: Farhana HaiderEditor: Claire Fordham

    Contributors:Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge. Jagjit Chadha, Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of the Learning and Work InstituteRichard Davies, Director of the Economics ObservatoryLouise Hellem, Chief economist at the CBI.Nicholas Macpherson, former Permanent Secretary at the Treasury.Rowan Crozier, CEO C. Brandauer & Co LtdSam Bowan, Editor of Works in Progress

  • Our brain is a wonderful machine, but it can also short-circuit. What happens to us when emotions and politics intersect, when the democratic, listening brain is cut off, or when we succumb to ‘hate speech’? Research using the latest brain scanners shows that the older part of the brain called the amygdala is ‘triggered’ by emotional responses out of proportion to the impacting stimulus. So, perhaps are we after wolves in human clothing? Not necessarily; we have also developed the frontal cortex which the scans show is stimulated by rational argument. What can scanning the brain reveal about our political affiliations? Can the field of neuro-politics improve political discourse or leave us open to manipulation?

    Presenter: Matt QvortrupProducer: Bob HowardEditor: Clare Fordham

    Contributors: Barbara Sahakian, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of CambridgeDr Darren Schreiber, Senior Lecturer at Exeter UniversitySkyler Cranmer, Associate Professor at Ohio State UniversityDahlia Scheindlin, political consultant and public opinion researcherDr Liya Yu, Columbia University

  • Amid mounting claims for reparations for slavery and colonialism, historian Zoe Strimpel asks how far reparative justice should go. Should we limit reparations to the living survivors of state atrocities, such as the Holocaust, or should we re-write the rulebook to include the ancestors of victims who suffered historical injustices centuries ago? Alongside testimony from a Holocaust survivor and interviews with lawyers, historians and reparations advocates, Zoe hears about the long shadow cast by slavery - lumbering Caribbean states and societies with a legacy that they are still struggling with today. Are demands for slavery reparations just another front in the culture war designed to leverage white guilt? Will they inevitably validate countless other claims to rectify historical grievances? Or are they a necessary step for diverse societies to draw in the extremes of a polarised debate so we can write a common history that we can all live with?

    Presenter: Zoe StrimpelProducer: David ReidEditor: Clare Fordham

    ContributorsMala Tribich, Holocaust survivor.Michael Newman, Chief Executive, Association of Jewish Refugees. Albrecht Ritschtl, Professor of Economic History, London School of EconomicsDr. Opal Palmer Adisa, former director, University of West Indies. Kenneth Feinberg, Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.Tomiwa Owolade, journalist and author of "This is not America". Alex Renton, journalist, author and co-founder of Heirs of Slavery.Dr Hardeep Dhillon, historian, University of Pennsylvania.James Koranyi, Associate Professor of modern European History at the University of Durham.

  • People have always fought back against “The elite”, and until recently they were easily recognisable: rich, privileged and often born into money. Old Etonians, billionaires, oil barons, media tycoons ruled the roost, but there are claims things are changing, and the rise of a new elite is challenging the status quo.Author Matthew Goodwin calls them a group of “radical woke middle-class liberals completely out of step with the public”. University graduates working in creative industries, media and universities, who have an heavy influence over the national conversation about things like immigration, trans rights and sex education, but critics say they don’t represent “ordinary folk”, and as a result communities are feeling unrepresented and left behind.So who is in charge, or is there an unlikely, and unknowing, coalition between the two – the new elite dominating social discourse and cultural discussion, whilst the traditional elite pull the strings of politics and economics?This is the next chapter of the culture wars – but while the pair of them battle it out for supremacy, much of the country struggles on day-to-day watching from the side lines.

    Presenter: Neil MaggsProducer: Jonathan IAnsonEditor: Clare Fordham

    Contributors Matt Goodwin, Professor of Politics, University of Kent and author "Values, Voice and Virtue".George Monbiot, Author, journalist and environmental campaignerDr Lisa McKenzie, research fellow, University of Durham, writer and anarchistBob & Lee, buildersDr Rakib Ehsan, Social policy analyst and author "Beyond Grievance"Baroness Tina Stowell of BeestonPaul Embery, Firefighter, trade unionist and writerTom, boxing club ownerAaron Bastani, Broadcaster and founder of Novara Media

  • Will 2023 be known as the summer of discontent? This year, nearly every corner of the country has been affected by some kind of industrial action, and more is coming. Teachers, doctors, nurses, railway workers, airport security, civil servants are among the many professions which have called strikes to protest against, amongst other things, future pay packets during a cost of living crisis. But do labour union tactics really deliver for their members, or does the strong bargaining position of the government come out on top in the end?

    In this edition of Analysis, Faisal Islam hears from three top union leaders, along with industrial relations experts, about the challenges of calling and maintaining strike actions and the tolls it can take on members and the public. Where lies the balance of power between a workforce banding together to demand a better deal and the public which has to work around disappearing services?

    You can learn more about this topic by watching the BBC 2 documentary Strike: Inside the Unions available on BBC iPlayer.

    Contributors:Sharon Graham - General Secretary: Unite UnionMick Lynch - General Secretary: Rail, Maritime and Transport Union Pat Cullen - General Secretary: Royal College of Nursing Jerry Cope - Former Pay Review Body ChairMark Stuart - Montague Burton Professor of Employment Relations, University of LeedsLord Richard Balfe - Member, House of Lords

    Presenter: Faisal IslamProducer: Sandra KanthalEditor: Clare Fordham Programme Coordinator: Maria Ogundele

  • How can employers in all sectors of the UK economy get the best out of their workers, retain experienced staff, improve productivity and increase profits at the same time?

    The principles of "Job Design" seem to promise all of these benefits. It's a process of work innovation which focuses on people, their skills, their knowledge and how they interact with each other and technology, in every workplace, in every sector of the economy.

    Proponents claim it gives workers a voice in their workplace, allows them to balance their work and home lives, stops burnout and could get more of the economically inactive back in employment. But what evidence is there that it works - and how difficult would it be to implement changes in the workplace?

    Presenter: Pauline MasonProducer: Ravi Naik Editor: Clare Fordham

    Contributors: Patricia Findlay, Professor of Work and Employment Relations, University of Strathclyde and Director of the Scottish Centre for Employment Research.Kate Bennett, Labour ward coordinator at Liverpool Women's Hospital.Damian Grimshaw, Professor of Employment Studies, King's College London, and former head of research at the International Labour Organisation.Dame Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor, University of Cambridge and a director of the Productivity Institute. Rachel London, Deputy Chief People Officer at Liverpool Women's Hospital.Jenna Brimble. Midwife in the continuity of care team at Liverpool Women's Hospital.Heejung Chung, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Kent. Emma Stewart, Flexible working consultant and co-founder, Timewise. Dr Charlotte Gascoine independent researcher and consultant on flexible and part-time workingPaul Dennett, Mayor of the City of SalfordJim Liptrot, Managing director, Howorth Air Tech.Stacey Bridge, Financial accounting assistant, Howorth Air Tech.