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Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Open debate has been suffocated by today’s censorious climate and there is little cultural support for freedom as a foundational value. What we need is rowdy, good-natured disagreement and people prepared to experiment with what freedom might mean today. Faced with this challenge, the Academy of Ideas decided to launch Letters on Liberty – a radical public pamphleteering campaign aimed at reimagining arguments for freedom in the twenty-first century.

In her Letter – In defence of drag – cabaret tour-de-force and drag queen Vanity von Glow explores the beauty and power of the drag performance. The true sorcery of drag is the magical way a drag queen can get away with murder on stage, she argues. As well as the pomp and performance of the show, the power of drag has far more to do with who the artists are, and what they say. By showing people that supposed identities, social structures, norms, attire and hierarchies can be shuffled around, Vanity argues, drag queens put people in touch with braver, more creative versions of themselves.

Join Vanity and respondents to delve into the world of drag. Have recent controversies over drag-queen story-hour had a chilling effect on drag artists in pubs, clubs and other adult venues? How do recent discussions about the importance of identity marry with drag – an art form that has long played with the fluidity of gender? What can infamous drag queens – from Ru Paul to the late Lily Savage – tell us about gay history and working-class culture? And with increasing pressure on performers to be role models, should drag resist becoming a moral examplar and stick to its ability to stun and amaze, titillate and inspire?

Buy a copy of In Defence of Drag here: https://academyofideas.org.uk/letters-on-liberty-in-defence-of-drag/

SPEAKERS
Caroline Ffiske
co-founder and spokesperson, Conservatives for Women

Manick Govinda
guest co-curator, Culture Tensions, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland

Dr Don Milligan
writer and social commentator; author, The Embrace of Capital

Vanity von Glow
internationally ignored superstar; cabaret performer; host, The Vanity Project; host, Drag Queen Wine Tasting and Drag Queen Power Ballads

Cressida Wetton
comedian; panellist, Headliners, GB News

CHAIR: Ella Whelan
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Open debate has been suffocated by today’s censorious climate and there is little cultural support for freedom as a foundational value. What we need is rowdy, good-natured disagreement and people prepared to experiment with what freedom might mean today. Faced with this challenge, the Academy of Ideas decided to launch Letters on Liberty – a radical public pamphleteering campaign aimed at reimagining arguments for freedom in the twenty-first century.

In her Letter – In defence of drag – cabaret tour-de-force and drag queen Vanity von Glow explores the beauty and power of the drag performance. The true sorcery of drag is the magical way a drag queen can get away with murder on stage, she argues. As well as the pomp and performance of the show, the power of drag has far more to do with who the artists are, and what they say. By showing people that supposed identities, social structures, norms, attire and hierarchies can be shuffled around, Vanity argues, drag queens put people in touch with braver, more creative versions of themselves.

Join Vanity and respondents to delve into the world of drag. Have recent controversies over drag-queen story-hour had a chilling effect on drag artists in pubs, clubs and other adult venues? How do recent discussions about the importance of identity marry with drag – an art form that has long played with the fluidity of gender? What can infamous drag queens – from Ru Paul to the late Lily Savage – tell us about gay history and working-class culture? And with increasing pressure on performers to be role models, should drag resist becoming a moral examplar and stick to its ability to stun and amaze, titillate and inspire?

Buy a copy of In Defence of Drag here: https://academyofideas.org.uk/letters-on-liberty-in-defence-of-drag/

SPEAKERS
Caroline Ffiske
co-founder and spokesperson, Conservatives for Women

Manick Govinda
guest co-curator, Culture Tensions, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland

Dr Don Milligan
writer and social commentator; author, The Embrace of Capital

Vanity von Glow
internationally ignored superstar; cabaret performer; host, The Vanity Project; host, Drag Queen Wine Tasting and Drag Queen Power Ballads

Cressida Wetton
comedian; panellist, Headliners, GB News

CHAIR: Ella Whelan
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

1 1

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLmhxLUZ0WHRPX0FV

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Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Digital devices are so omnipresent that sociologists call today’s children ‘Generation Glass’. Our pre-teens have never known a world without tablets and apps. The ubiquity of technology during their formative years risks turning them into ‘screenagers’ with high digital literacy but low socialisation and focus.

In education, devices are routinely distributed to pupils and the gamification of learning is well-established. Yet pushback is mounting. The controversial Online Safety Bill proposes reams of radical measures drafted specifically to quell fears over children’s internet safety. Meanwhile increasing numbers of schools are adopting mobile-phone bans, claiming they improve concentration and mental health while reducing cheating and cyberbullying.

Parents’ lobby group UsForThem is even pressing for a total ban on phones for all under-16s and grim tobacco-style health warnings on devices. The campaign is endorsed by Katharine Birbalsingh, headteacher and former social mobility tsar, who has equated the threat to youth of mobile phones to that of heroin addiction.

But is this all merely a re-heat of the ‘square eyes’ moral panic which once beset television? The BBC thinks so: its high-profile Square-Eyed Boy campaign seeks to reassure parents that screens can be a force for good for children. After all, isn’t greater literacy, be it via screens or paper pages, something to be encouraged? Some teachers argue that phones can enhance schoolwork while others insist banning them is draconian, impractical and futile.

Should we take phones away from kids for their own good, or should the very idea be dismissed as screen-shaming?

SPEAKERS
Elliot Bewick
producer, TRIGGERnometry

Josephine Hussey
school teacher, AoI Education Forum

Molly Kingsley
co-founder, UsForThem; co-author, The Children’s Inquiry

Joe Nutt
international educational consultant; author, The Point of Poetry, An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Late Plays and A Guidebook to Paradise Lost

Professor Sir Simon Wessely
interim dean, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurosciences; regius professor of psychiatry, King’s College London

CHAIR
Gareth Sturdy
physics adviser, Up Learn; education and science writer

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Digital devices are so omnipresent that sociologists call today’s children ‘Generation Glass’. Our pre-teens have never known a world without tablets and apps. The ubiquity of technology during their formative years risks turning them into ‘screenagers’ with high digital literacy but low socialisation and focus.

In education, devices are routinely distributed to pupils and the gamification of learning is well-established. Yet pushback is mounting. The controversial Online Safety Bill proposes reams of radical measures drafted specifically to quell fears over children’s internet safety. Meanwhile increasing numbers of schools are adopting mobile-phone bans, claiming they improve concentration and mental health while reducing cheating and cyberbullying.

Parents’ lobby group UsForThem is even pressing for a total ban on phones for all under-16s and grim tobacco-style health warnings on devices. The campaign is endorsed by Katharine Birbalsingh, headteacher and former social mobility tsar, who has equated the threat to youth of mobile phones to that of heroin addiction.

But is this all merely a re-heat of the ‘square eyes’ moral panic which once beset television? The BBC thinks so: its high-profile Square-Eyed Boy campaign seeks to reassure parents that screens can be a force for good for children. After all, isn’t greater literacy, be it via screens or paper pages, something to be encouraged? Some teachers argue that phones can enhance schoolwork while others insist banning them is draconian, impractical and futile.

Should we take phones away from kids for their own good, or should the very idea be dismissed as screen-shaming?

SPEAKERS
Elliot Bewick
producer, TRIGGERnometry

Josephine Hussey
school teacher, AoI Education Forum

Molly Kingsley
co-founder, UsForThem; co-author, The Children’s Inquiry

Joe Nutt
international educational consultant; author, The Point of Poetry, An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Late Plays and A Guidebook to Paradise Lost

Professor Sir Simon Wessely
interim dean, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurosciences; regius professor of psychiatry, King’s College London

CHAIR
Gareth Sturdy
physics adviser, Up Learn; education and science writer

4 2

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLnlHTGRaYXVPeDZj

Square-eyed screenagers: are phones corrupting our kids?

164 views Friday 1 December 2023

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
In August, India made world news by being the first nation to land near the Moon’s South Pole. Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as a historic moment for humanity and ‘the dawn of the new India’. Meanwhile, India’s digital transformation of its financial system is reported by payments systems company ACI Worldwide to be operating on a larger scale than even in the US and China. Earlier this year, UN population estimates suggested India has overtaken China as the world’s most populous country, with over 1.4 billion people.

As America’s rivalry with China heats up, the western world has warmed to India. A month before the Moon landing, President Joe Biden had rolled out the red carpet for Modi’s state visit to America. The US wants a more meaningful, closer and stronger relationship with India. The German government is discussing a possible submarine deal. French President Emmanuel Macron invited Modi to celebrate Bastille Day, calling India a strategic partner and friend. But there have also been tensions over India’s neutral stance over the war in Ukraine. Are these signs of India’s arrival on the international top table? Can India rise to this challenge?

India has a huge population, but the vast majority are still poor – the country is ranked 139th in the world for nominal GDP per capita – and faces massive inequalities. While India receives much adulation from the Western elites, its undermining of the freedom of the press and its clampdown on the judiciary have been heavily criticised. The Economist Intelligence Unit‘s Democracy Index showed India falling from 27th position in 2014 to 46th in 2022. But the White House is calling India a ‘vibrant democracy’. Which is it: a faltering democracy or a vibrant one?

India is also facing much internal disquiet within its population. Most recently, ethnic tensions have flared up between the majority Hindus and the Muslim minority just 20 miles outside of New Delhi. Ethnic strife between Hindus and Christians also continues especially in the North-east state of Manipur.

With this backdrop of domestic instability, can Modi and his BJP party retain control in the 2024 elections? What will India’s future role be on the world stage – both politically and economically?

SPEAKERS
Lord Meghnad Desai
crossbench peer; chair, Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust; emeritus professor of Economics, LSE

Dr Zareer Masani
historian, author, journalist, broadcaster

Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
director, Don't Divide Us; author, What Should Schools Teach? Disciplines, subjects and the pursuit of truth

CHAIR
Para Mullan
former operations director, EY-Seren; fellow, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
In August, India made world news by being the first nation to land near the Moon’s South Pole. Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as a historic moment for humanity and ‘the dawn of the new India’. Meanwhile, India’s digital transformation of its financial system is reported by payments systems company ACI Worldwide to be operating on a larger scale than even in the US and China. Earlier this year, UN population estimates suggested India has overtaken China as the world’s most populous country, with over 1.4 billion people.

As America’s rivalry with China heats up, the western world has warmed to India. A month before the Moon landing, President Joe Biden had rolled out the red carpet for Modi’s state visit to America. The US wants a more meaningful, closer and stronger relationship with India. The German government is discussing a possible submarine deal. French President Emmanuel Macron invited Modi to celebrate Bastille Day, calling India a strategic partner and friend. But there have also been tensions over India’s neutral stance over the war in Ukraine. Are these signs of India’s arrival on the international top table? Can India rise to this challenge?

India has a huge population, but the vast majority are still poor – the country is ranked 139th in the world for nominal GDP per capita – and faces massive inequalities. While India receives much adulation from the Western elites, its undermining of the freedom of the press and its clampdown on the judiciary have been heavily criticised. The Economist Intelligence Unit‘s Democracy Index showed India falling from 27th position in 2014 to 46th in 2022. But the White House is calling India a ‘vibrant democracy’. Which is it: a faltering democracy or a vibrant one?

India is also facing much internal disquiet within its population. Most recently, ethnic tensions have flared up between the majority Hindus and the Muslim minority just 20 miles outside of New Delhi. Ethnic strife between Hindus and Christians also continues especially in the North-east state of Manipur.

With this backdrop of domestic instability, can Modi and his BJP party retain control in the 2024 elections? What will India’s future role be on the world stage – both politically and economically?

SPEAKERS
Lord Meghnad Desai
crossbench peer; chair, Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust; emeritus professor of Economics, LSE

Dr Zareer Masani
historian, author, journalist, broadcaster

Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
director, Don't Divide Us; author, What Should Schools Teach? Disciplines, subjects and the pursuit of truth

CHAIR
Para Mullan
former operations director, EY-Seren; fellow, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

296 851

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLlNsYWp4cVRUdVgw

Understanding Modi's India

48K views Friday 1 December 2023

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October. 

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
The cost of childcare is a perennial sore spot for families. But in recent years, competition for places and spiralling prices have meant that many are finding nursery fees unaffordable – even when both parents are in full-time employment. While fans of the government have welcomed promises to extend funded childcare hours both in age and quantity, critics have pointed to a blind spot in plans: there simply aren’t enough places to care for more children.

Outside of the numbers debate, the crisis in childcare has posed some more fundamental questions around raising children. Mums are far more likely to take career breaks, or even give up work, to be the primary caregivers for children, leading some to argue that the inability to tackle the childcare question is linked to sexist views of a woman’s place. On the other hand, some argue that governments should be focused on providing tax breaks to incentivise mothers to stay at home. ‘I wish I spent more time in the office instead of with my small children, said no one on their deathbed ever’, said Conservative MP Miriam Cates in response to the government’s budget announcing increased funding for childcare.

Some worry about what influence the institution of childcare might have on children’s upbringing. Many nurseries are no longer interested in the simple acts of feeding, sleeping and playing, with everything from development curriculums to sex education causing some concern among parents about what kids are exposed to. But others argue that returning to the model of ‘a village raising a child’ is good for children’s development, with childcare enabling mums and dads to stay in touch with the adult world, as well as exposing young children to social environments from an early age.

While mums are still expected to pick up the slack, is it possible to talk about childcare without addressing women’s freedom? Should governments be in the business of encouraging parents to make decisions, one way or another, when it comes to the organisation of family and work life? Are we being too narrow by talking about childcare and work – could a different model be imagined where creches offered respite for families on a more informal basis? And what is the conversation doing to the birth rate – are a young generation being put off having kids by the sheer scale of the challenge of holding the baby?

SPEAKERS
Anne Fennell
chair, Mothers at Home Matter; president, European Federation of Parents and Carers at Home

Naomi Firsht
journalist and commentator; co-author, The Parisians’ Guide to Cafés, Bars and Restaurants

Emma Gilland
politics student, University of Birmingham; co-author, The Corona Generation: coming of age in a crisis; editor, Redbrick

CHAIR
Beverley Marshall
AoI Parents Forum; working mum of three teenage children

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
The cost of childcare is a perennial sore spot for families. But in recent years, competition for places and spiralling prices have meant that many are finding nursery fees unaffordable – even when both parents are in full-time employment. While fans of the government have welcomed promises to extend funded childcare hours both in age and quantity, critics have pointed to a blind spot in plans: there simply aren’t enough places to care for more children.

Outside of the numbers debate, the crisis in childcare has posed some more fundamental questions around raising children. Mums are far more likely to take career breaks, or even give up work, to be the primary caregivers for children, leading some to argue that the inability to tackle the childcare question is linked to sexist views of a woman’s place. On the other hand, some argue that governments should be focused on providing tax breaks to incentivise mothers to stay at home. ‘I wish I spent more time in the office instead of with my small children, said no one on their deathbed ever’, said Conservative MP Miriam Cates in response to the government’s budget announcing increased funding for childcare.

Some worry about what influence the institution of childcare might have on children’s upbringing. Many nurseries are no longer interested in the simple acts of feeding, sleeping and playing, with everything from development curriculums to sex education causing some concern among parents about what kids are exposed to. But others argue that returning to the model of ‘a village raising a child’ is good for children’s development, with childcare enabling mums and dads to stay in touch with the adult world, as well as exposing young children to social environments from an early age.

While mums are still expected to pick up the slack, is it possible to talk about childcare without addressing women’s freedom? Should governments be in the business of encouraging parents to make decisions, one way or another, when it comes to the organisation of family and work life? Are we being too narrow by talking about childcare and work – could a different model be imagined where creches offered respite for families on a more informal basis? And what is the conversation doing to the birth rate – are a young generation being put off having kids by the sheer scale of the challenge of holding the baby?

SPEAKERS
Anne Fennell
chair, Mothers at Home Matter; president, European Federation of Parents and Carers at Home

Naomi Firsht
journalist and commentator; co-author, The Parisians’ Guide to Cafés, Bars and Restaurants

Emma Gilland
politics student, University of Birmingham; co-author, The Corona Generation: coming of age in a crisis; editor, Redbrick

CHAIR
Beverley Marshall
AoI Parents Forum; working mum of three teenage children

2 0

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLkltVnNJQ2pCZXBR

The crisis of childcare: who's holding the baby?

99 views Friday 1 December 2023

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Read any report on how babies are fed in the early months of life, and you will soon come across references to the UK’s ‘dismal’, ‘troubling’, ‘low’ breastfeeding rate. Breastfeeding seems to be constantly in the news. Earlier this year, a study claimed that children who were breastfed were more likely to receive better GCSE results. In previous years, exclusive breastfeeding has been credited for higher IQ, babies who like vegetables more and less hyperactive toddlers.

‘Breast is best’ is not only promoted by the NHS and the government, it is written into law via restrictions on how formula can be marketed. Such is the preference for breastfeeding that many food banks are not allowed to provide infant formula to needy families. Supporters of breastfeeding describe formula as an ‘ultra-processed food’ which is both bad for people and the environment – pointing to previous scandals in developing nations around the marketing and use of formula milk. They argue that it is vital for nutrition and bonding between mother and baby, and that many women stop breastfeeding before they would like to because of lingering stigma around public feeding of babies.

At the moment, women clearly favour the bottle – only one per cent still breastfeed exclusively at six months, despite WHO guidelines. The fact that bottle-feeding can be shared by parents, friends and grandparents, with formula eliminating the need to pump, makes many women consider it a viable choice. When it comes to the claims for breastfeeding benefits, some point to the fact that studies on breastfeeding include confounding factors – things like education, opportunity and wider health issues – that make it impossible to prove the supremacy of breast over bottle.

Some view how to feed a baby as a practical, simple question. For others, it raises wider issues about motherhood and women’s autonomy. Should we care what way babies are fed? Is the fraught nature of the breast-is-best debate putting too much pressure on mothers? Should the formula industry’s eye-watering prices be challenged by a preference for breastfeeding? Or are those who campaign under the slogan ‘fed is best’ right to highlight the need for greater acceptance of formula milk?

SPEAKERS
Milli Hill
freelance journalist; founder, Positive Birth Movement; author, Positive Birth Book

Harriet Rudd
infant-feeding specialist; trainee Lactation Consultant

Dr Rebecca Steinfeld
independent policy advisor on infant-feeding policy and reproductive choice; co-founder, Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships

Dr Erin Williams
senior lecturer in reproductive anatomy and physiology, University of Edinburgh; co-founder and director, Feed

CHAIR
Ellie Lee
professor of family and parenting research, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Read any report on how babies are fed in the early months of life, and you will soon come across references to the UK’s ‘dismal’, ‘troubling’, ‘low’ breastfeeding rate. Breastfeeding seems to be constantly in the news. Earlier this year, a study claimed that children who were breastfed were more likely to receive better GCSE results. In previous years, exclusive breastfeeding has been credited for higher IQ, babies who like vegetables more and less hyperactive toddlers.

‘Breast is best’ is not only promoted by the NHS and the government, it is written into law via restrictions on how formula can be marketed. Such is the preference for breastfeeding that many food banks are not allowed to provide infant formula to needy families. Supporters of breastfeeding describe formula as an ‘ultra-processed food’ which is both bad for people and the environment – pointing to previous scandals in developing nations around the marketing and use of formula milk. They argue that it is vital for nutrition and bonding between mother and baby, and that many women stop breastfeeding before they would like to because of lingering stigma around public feeding of babies.

At the moment, women clearly favour the bottle – only one per cent still breastfeed exclusively at six months, despite WHO guidelines. The fact that bottle-feeding can be shared by parents, friends and grandparents, with formula eliminating the need to pump, makes many women consider it a viable choice. When it comes to the claims for breastfeeding benefits, some point to the fact that studies on breastfeeding include confounding factors – things like education, opportunity and wider health issues – that make it impossible to prove the supremacy of breast over bottle.

Some view how to feed a baby as a practical, simple question. For others, it raises wider issues about motherhood and women’s autonomy. Should we care what way babies are fed? Is the fraught nature of the breast-is-best debate putting too much pressure on mothers? Should the formula industry’s eye-watering prices be challenged by a preference for breastfeeding? Or are those who campaign under the slogan ‘fed is best’ right to highlight the need for greater acceptance of formula milk?

SPEAKERS
Milli Hill
freelance journalist; founder, Positive Birth Movement; author, Positive Birth Book

Harriet Rudd
infant-feeding specialist; trainee Lactation Consultant

Dr Rebecca Steinfeld
independent policy advisor on infant-feeding policy and reproductive choice; co-founder, Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships

Dr Erin Williams
senior lecturer in reproductive anatomy and physiology, University of Edinburgh; co-founder and director, Feed

CHAIR
Ellie Lee
professor of family and parenting research, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

5 1

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLjI3N2pFSEtpVlpB

Feeding babies: is breast always best?

209 views Friday 1 December 2023

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
One notable aspect of European Union politics in recent years has been internal tensions when member states’ national priorities clash with EU rules and priorities. Specifically, Hungary and Poland have faced stringent sanctions and have had billions of euros of EU funding withheld under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, for an alleged failure to uphold the EU’s foundational values. What have both countries done to warrant such actions and being targeted as the ‘bad boys’ of the EU?

For Poland, following the 2015 general election, the Law and Justice party (PiS) won control of both the presidency and the parliament. Since then, the government’s wide-ranging reforms of its judicial system are accused by the European Commission of undermining judicial independence. These laws certainly raise questions about Poland’s ability to apply EU law, from the protection of investments to the mutual recognition of decisions in areas as diverse as child custody disputes or the execution of European Arrest Warrants. But do these reforms mean ‘the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority’, as is alleged?

Judicial independence is also a key aspect of the EU’s dispute with Hungary, though issues relating to inadequate anti-corruption measures and media plurality have also been cited. Most recently, the EU has taken Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union for enacting child-protection legislation that forbids the promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment to those under the age of 18.

Hungary and Poland argue they are defending their democratic right to organise their affairs and protect their traditions and customs as they see fit. For example, as far as the Hungarian government and many others are concerned, the education and upbringing of Hungarian children is not the business of the EU and Hungary has every right to protect its children from inappropriate sexualisation. Despite claims to the contrary, Poland still seems to be a functioning democracy, with the results of October’s elections suggesting that PiS has lost power to a coalition led by a former prime minister and president of the EU Council, Donald Tusk.

To its critics, the EU is acting as an imperious technocracy, seeking to impose woke values on nations with different priorities and principles. However, others suggest that Hungary and Poland are using the rhetoric of national sovereignty to justify ‘democratic backsliding’, not just an affront to the EU club’s rules, but a threat to democratic norms domestically.

Is the EU right to intervene in defence of common values or is this simply imposing the values of Brussels technocrats on everyone? Are Poland and Hungary justified in asserting national sovereignty or is this just a smokescreen? What does this ongoing battle tell us about the future direction of Europe and democracy?

SPEAKERS
Steven Barrett
barrister, Radcliffe Chambers; writer on law, Spectator

Balázs Hidvéghi
Member of the European Parliament (member, LIBE and Foreign Affairs committees); former director of communications, Fidesz; former member, Hungarian Parliament

Agnieszka Kolek
head of cultural engagement, MCC Brussels; artist; curator; founder, Passion for Freedom London Art Festival; former deputy director, Ujazdowski Castle, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw

Anna Loutfi
equality and human rights barrister; consultant, The Bad Law Project

CHAIR
Tony Gilland
chief of staff, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
One notable aspect of European Union politics in recent years has been internal tensions when member states’ national priorities clash with EU rules and priorities. Specifically, Hungary and Poland have faced stringent sanctions and have had billions of euros of EU funding withheld under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, for an alleged failure to uphold the EU’s foundational values. What have both countries done to warrant such actions and being targeted as the ‘bad boys’ of the EU?

For Poland, following the 2015 general election, the Law and Justice party (PiS) won control of both the presidency and the parliament. Since then, the government’s wide-ranging reforms of its judicial system are accused by the European Commission of undermining judicial independence. These laws certainly raise questions about Poland’s ability to apply EU law, from the protection of investments to the mutual recognition of decisions in areas as diverse as child custody disputes or the execution of European Arrest Warrants. But do these reforms mean ‘the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority’, as is alleged?

Judicial independence is also a key aspect of the EU’s dispute with Hungary, though issues relating to inadequate anti-corruption measures and media plurality have also been cited. Most recently, the EU has taken Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union for enacting child-protection legislation that forbids the promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment to those under the age of 18.

Hungary and Poland argue they are defending their democratic right to organise their affairs and protect their traditions and customs as they see fit. For example, as far as the Hungarian government and many others are concerned, the education and upbringing of Hungarian children is not the business of the EU and Hungary has every right to protect its children from inappropriate sexualisation. Despite claims to the contrary, Poland still seems to be a functioning democracy, with the results of October’s elections suggesting that PiS has lost power to a coalition led by a former prime minister and president of the EU Council, Donald Tusk.

To its critics, the EU is acting as an imperious technocracy, seeking to impose woke values on nations with different priorities and principles. However, others suggest that Hungary and Poland are using the rhetoric of national sovereignty to justify ‘democratic backsliding’, not just an affront to the EU club’s rules, but a threat to democratic norms domestically.

Is the EU right to intervene in defence of common values or is this simply imposing the values of Brussels technocrats on everyone? Are Poland and Hungary justified in asserting national sovereignty or is this just a smokescreen? What does this ongoing battle tell us about the future direction of Europe and democracy?

SPEAKERS
Steven Barrett
barrister, Radcliffe Chambers; writer on law, Spectator

Balázs Hidvéghi
Member of the European Parliament (member, LIBE and Foreign Affairs committees); former director of communications, Fidesz; former member, Hungarian Parliament

Agnieszka Kolek
head of cultural engagement, MCC Brussels; artist; curator; founder, Passion for Freedom London Art Festival; former deputy director, Ujazdowski Castle, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw

Anna Loutfi
equality and human rights barrister; consultant, The Bad Law Project

CHAIR
Tony Gilland
chief of staff, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas

27 14

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLjI1Y1diX2R6V0Jv

Bad boys of the EU: demonising Poland and Hungary

691 views Friday 1 December 2023

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 on Sunday 29 October at Church House, London.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Over recent years, France has seemed to be constantly in flames. Thousands taking to the streets, mass arrests, vehicles set ablaze, buildings ransacked. The most recent unrest came after an unarmed teenager, Nahel Merzouk, was shot by police following a car chase in Nanterre. The riots afterwards were perhaps the most violent yet, and reflect how many from France’s migrant communities, often in segregated and deprived banlieue housing estates, feel totally disconnected from and discriminated against by the French authorities.

Taking to the streets has not been confined to the marginalised. Earlier this year, the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, used Article 49.3 of the French constitution to force through President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension-reform plan without a vote in parliament. As a result, millions were up in arms. Public militancy was so intense that a planned visit by King Charles was postponed.

And who can forget the gilets jaunes (yellow vests), dressed in their unmistakable hi-viz jackets, blockading highways and petrol stations, occupying roundabouts and toll booths, and marching through town centres. These protests in 2018 were initially sparked by a hike in fuel tax, but escalated to embody a wider resentment towards the status quo that became associated with international grassroots resistance to technocratic rule, far and wide.

This contemporary France seems far removed from the romanticised ideal of a liberal, secular republic based on a revolutionary land of liberty, equality and fraternity for all. Institutionalised rioting, racial segregation, deep-seated religious tensions – from the Charlie Hebdo massacre to the state’s burqa ban, heavy-handed, paramilitary style policing is now the order of the day. Following the Hamas attacks on Israel, a blanket ban was imposed on pro-Palestinian protests. What on earth has happened?

When Macron was first elected president in 2017, he talked hopefully of a better, fairer future and promised to overcome the left-right divide, to rule by consensus. Now, as Nabila Ramdani, a French journalist of Algerian descent and author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic argues, Macron rules by decree over an increasingly divided society.

Ramdani, herself born and raised in a neglected Paris suburb, will discuss these shifts along with a panel of respondents.

SPEAKERS
Dr Marie Kawthar Daouda
lecturer in French language and literature, Oriel College, University of Oxford; author, L’Anti-Salomé; fellow of Ralston College, Savannah

Dr Charles Devellennes
senior lecturer, University of Kent; author: The Macron Régime: the Ideology of the New Right in France

Nabila Ramdani
journalist and broadcaster; author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic

Dr Ralph Schoellhammer
commentator and podcaster; lecturer, Webster University Vienna and MCC Brussels

CHAIR
Fraser Myers
deputy editor, spiked; host, the spiked podcast

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 on Sunday 29 October at Church House, London.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Over recent years, France has seemed to be constantly in flames. Thousands taking to the streets, mass arrests, vehicles set ablaze, buildings ransacked. The most recent unrest came after an unarmed teenager, Nahel Merzouk, was shot by police following a car chase in Nanterre. The riots afterwards were perhaps the most violent yet, and reflect how many from France’s migrant communities, often in segregated and deprived banlieue housing estates, feel totally disconnected from and discriminated against by the French authorities.

Taking to the streets has not been confined to the marginalised. Earlier this year, the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, used Article 49.3 of the French constitution to force through President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension-reform plan without a vote in parliament. As a result, millions were up in arms. Public militancy was so intense that a planned visit by King Charles was postponed.

And who can forget the gilets jaunes (yellow vests), dressed in their unmistakable hi-viz jackets, blockading highways and petrol stations, occupying roundabouts and toll booths, and marching through town centres. These protests in 2018 were initially sparked by a hike in fuel tax, but escalated to embody a wider resentment towards the status quo that became associated with international grassroots resistance to technocratic rule, far and wide.

This contemporary France seems far removed from the romanticised ideal of a liberal, secular republic based on a revolutionary land of liberty, equality and fraternity for all. Institutionalised rioting, racial segregation, deep-seated religious tensions – from the Charlie Hebdo massacre to the state’s burqa ban, heavy-handed, paramilitary style policing is now the order of the day. Following the Hamas attacks on Israel, a blanket ban was imposed on pro-Palestinian protests. What on earth has happened?

When Macron was first elected president in 2017, he talked hopefully of a better, fairer future and promised to overcome the left-right divide, to rule by consensus. Now, as Nabila Ramdani, a French journalist of Algerian descent and author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic argues, Macron rules by decree over an increasingly divided society.

Ramdani, herself born and raised in a neglected Paris suburb, will discuss these shifts along with a panel of respondents.

SPEAKERS
Dr Marie Kawthar Daouda
lecturer in French language and literature, Oriel College, University of Oxford; author, L’Anti-Salomé; fellow of Ralston College, Savannah

Dr Charles Devellennes
senior lecturer, University of Kent; author: The Macron Régime: the Ideology of the New Right in France

Nabila Ramdani
journalist and broadcaster; author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic

Dr Ralph Schoellhammer
commentator and podcaster; lecturer, Webster University Vienna and MCC Brussels

CHAIR
Fraser Myers
deputy editor, spiked; host, the spiked podcast

10 3

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLlFDU0xGZi1hdlZJ

I predict a riot: France in flames

498 views Monday 27 November 2023

Recording of the debate the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,200 and wounded about 3,000. At least 200 were captured and taken to Gaza. How is it possible to begin to make sense of such a terrible event? Is this the return of pogroms of Jews? Clearly Israel is having to contend with a force that can truly be described as evil.

One issue is why and how Hamas felt so emboldened to launch this murderous assault. There seems to be a broad consensus that the success of Hamas’s brutal assault represented a devastating failure for Israel’s famed intelligence services and military. Some are wondering if this year’s bitter conflict over judicial reform in Israel proved to be a distraction from the deadly external threat. The country has been sharply divided, and military reservists in elite units, including intelligence, were encouraged by the protest movement to refuse to serve.

Perhaps a proper review of what happened will have to wait. Israel has enough to deal with and faces many other imminent challenges. There is the possibility of it becoming embroiled in a ground war in Gaza, which could bring with it a heavy human cost for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel faces judgement internationally on the scale of its response and the dangers posed to civilians in Gaza. The violent conflict could also spread to the West Bank and even within Israel itself. It is no exaggeration to say that Israel is facing the greatest challenge in its 75-year history.

How should Israel deal with the horrors it is enduring? What are the roots of these challenges and how can Israel best deal with them? Why was Israel so vulnerable in the first place? Will the unity of a country now under attack render recent divisions irrelevant? How can Israel deal with the strains of a war that may have to be fought on multiple fronts?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Dr Jake Wallis Simons
editor, Jewish Chronicle; author, Israelophobia

Lord David Wolfson
king’s counsel; member of the House of Lords; former justice minister

CHAIR
Simon McKeon
archivist and writer

Recording of the debate the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,200 and wounded about 3,000. At least 200 were captured and taken to Gaza. How is it possible to begin to make sense of such a terrible event? Is this the return of pogroms of Jews? Clearly Israel is having to contend with a force that can truly be described as evil.

One issue is why and how Hamas felt so emboldened to launch this murderous assault. There seems to be a broad consensus that the success of Hamas’s brutal assault represented a devastating failure for Israel’s famed intelligence services and military. Some are wondering if this year’s bitter conflict over judicial reform in Israel proved to be a distraction from the deadly external threat. The country has been sharply divided, and military reservists in elite units, including intelligence, were encouraged by the protest movement to refuse to serve.

Perhaps a proper review of what happened will have to wait. Israel has enough to deal with and faces many other imminent challenges. There is the possibility of it becoming embroiled in a ground war in Gaza, which could bring with it a heavy human cost for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel faces judgement internationally on the scale of its response and the dangers posed to civilians in Gaza. The violent conflict could also spread to the West Bank and even within Israel itself. It is no exaggeration to say that Israel is facing the greatest challenge in its 75-year history.

How should Israel deal with the horrors it is enduring? What are the roots of these challenges and how can Israel best deal with them? Why was Israel so vulnerable in the first place? Will the unity of a country now under attack render recent divisions irrelevant? How can Israel deal with the strains of a war that may have to be fought on multiple fronts?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Professor Anat Scolnicov
professor of Public Law, University of Winchester

Dr Jake Wallis Simons
editor, Jewish Chronicle; author, Israelophobia

Lord David Wolfson
king’s counsel; member of the House of Lords; former justice minister

CHAIR
Simon McKeon
archivist and writer

12 3

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLmhHQUlPOHl6X3Nz

Israel at war

535 views Thursday 16 November 2023

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
It wasn’t so long ago that the slaughter of over 1,300 Jews – by a Hamas assault on southern Israel – would have been unthinkable. If that’s not bad enough, a significant number of individuals worldwide seem to be justifying Hamas’s attacks. These are, in the words of one commentator, regarded as ‘excusable pogroms’. The once popular cry of ‘never again’ is sounding increasingly hollow.

Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group based in Gaza, has never made its intention to slaughter Jews secret. On the contrary, it is openly stated in its 1988 charter. Yet all too many in the West, particularly among the left and anti-Israel activists, seem blind to this fact. Either they do not care or they find it acceptable.

Meanwhile, members of the Jewish community live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school.

What is to be made of the return of what some call the ‘oldest hatred’? Anti-Semitism seemed to be a marginal force after the horrors of the Second World War. Now, at least in some sections of society, it seems to be an acceptable form of ‘progressive’ criticism of Israel as a uniquely evil apartheid state, colonialist, imperialist and racist. And when some Muslims living in the West express such views, the identitarian left looks the other way. In fact, many on the left nowadays increasingly present Jews as bastions of white privilege, only prosperous by exploitation. Does this outlook rehabilitate old notions of Jewish conspiratorial power?

How can we explain the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present or is it unthinkable in the wake of Hamas butchery – an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that appeared to have been marginalised, come to reassert itself? And why is it those who consider themselves the most enlightened who are often the worst culprits?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Professor Frank Furedi
sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation

Josh Howie
comedian; writer and star, Josh Howie’s Losing It, BBC Radio 4; actor, Hapless; television critic, Jewish Chronicle

Charlie Peters
reporter and presenter, GB News

CHAIR
Jean Smith
member, Tackling Antisemitism; co-founder and director, NY Salon

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
It wasn’t so long ago that the slaughter of over 1,300 Jews – by a Hamas assault on southern Israel – would have been unthinkable. If that’s not bad enough, a significant number of individuals worldwide seem to be justifying Hamas’s attacks. These are, in the words of one commentator, regarded as ‘excusable pogroms’. The once popular cry of ‘never again’ is sounding increasingly hollow.

Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group based in Gaza, has never made its intention to slaughter Jews secret. On the contrary, it is openly stated in its 1988 charter. Yet all too many in the West, particularly among the left and anti-Israel activists, seem blind to this fact. Either they do not care or they find it acceptable.

Meanwhile, members of the Jewish community live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school.

What is to be made of the return of what some call the ‘oldest hatred’? Anti-Semitism seemed to be a marginal force after the horrors of the Second World War. Now, at least in some sections of society, it seems to be an acceptable form of ‘progressive’ criticism of Israel as a uniquely evil apartheid state, colonialist, imperialist and racist. And when some Muslims living in the West express such views, the identitarian left looks the other way. In fact, many on the left nowadays increasingly present Jews as bastions of white privilege, only prosperous by exploitation. Does this outlook rehabilitate old notions of Jewish conspiratorial power?

How can we explain the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present or is it unthinkable in the wake of Hamas butchery – an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that appeared to have been marginalised, come to reassert itself? And why is it those who consider themselves the most enlightened who are often the worst culprits?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Professor Frank Furedi
sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation

Josh Howie
comedian; writer and star, Josh Howie’s Losing It, BBC Radio 4; actor, Hapless; television critic, Jewish Chronicle

Charlie Peters
reporter and presenter, GB News

CHAIR
Jean Smith
member, Tackling Antisemitism; co-founder and director, NY Salon

20 6

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLjQ0eTZ3WDVuR1I0

Israel: anti-Semitism today

740 views Thursday 16 November 2023

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Surrogacy is a complicated transaction involving at least three individuals, usually more, with moral complications and grey areas around the rights and responsibilities of the two active parties – surrogate and intended parent(s) – and the best interests of the child. The issue was thrust back into the headlines earlier this year with the Law Commission recommending changes to the law in the name of ‘benefitting the child, surrogate and intended parents’. Surrogacy divides its advocates on the specifics of its implementation, as well as there still being opponents of the process altogether.

Pro-surrogacy campaigners defend the bodily autonomy of surrogates and the fantastic outcomes it can have for families unable to bear their own children. It is argued that it is nobody else’s prerogative to decide what a woman does with her body and being a surrogate has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience for countless women. Complications in surrogacy arrangements are unusual, with their frequency sensationalised by the media.

For example, while the practice of the rich and famous paying another woman to have their child can create shocking headlines about wombs for hire, commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK. Surrogacy is also a biologically practical answer for many infertile or gay male couples, providing a way for people to raise the family they always wanted. Where is the harm if all are consenting adults? Moreover, pro-surrogacy activists suggest that children of surrogacy have performed better in life than the average, perhaps because every child of surrogacy is genuinely wanted and therefore loved.

Some feminists have argued surrogacy exploits vulnerable women and reduces them to vessels of people’s biological narcissism in a world where thousands of children are waiting to be adopted. Surrogacy now also features in contemporary rows on sex and gender identity with the accusation that surrogacy reduces women and their wombs to commodities in the reproductive marketplace, reducing the role of mother to that of egg provider and gestator. This criticism has a particular salience in an era in which it has become acceptable to refer to women in dehumanised terms such as ‘menstruators’ or ‘birthing bodies’.

There are also ‘post-feminists’ who argue surrogacy undermines the idea of motherhood per se, feeding the many social ills caused by the sexual revolution. From this perspective, surrogacy is an assault on an essential and foundational human relationship and contributes to gradual societal breakdown.

Surrogacy is not always an easy issue to debate. Those who have questioned the morality of gay celebs, such as Elton John and Tom Daley, having children via surrogates have been accused of homophobia. However, these morally charged questions need to be addressed.

With a declining birth-rate and growing prevalence of ‘non-traditional’ families, do we need to make all forms of reproductive technology easier to access and come to a moral and legal consensus? How can we balance the bodily autonomy of the surrogate with the interests of the intended parents, all while prioritising what is best for the child? And given the complex moral field in which surrogacy stands, can the process ultimately be justified at all?

SPEAKERS
Lexi Ellingsworth
co-founder, Stop Surrogacy Now UK

Sarah Jones
chief executive, Surrogacy UK

Gary Powell
European special consultant, Center for Bioethics and Culture; research fellow, sexual orientation and gender identity, Bow Group

Ella Whelan
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

CHAIR
Dr Jan Macvarish
education and events director, Free Speech Union; author, Neuroparenting: the expert invasion of family life

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Surrogacy is a complicated transaction involving at least three individuals, usually more, with moral complications and grey areas around the rights and responsibilities of the two active parties – surrogate and intended parent(s) – and the best interests of the child. The issue was thrust back into the headlines earlier this year with the Law Commission recommending changes to the law in the name of ‘benefitting the child, surrogate and intended parents’. Surrogacy divides its advocates on the specifics of its implementation, as well as there still being opponents of the process altogether.

Pro-surrogacy campaigners defend the bodily autonomy of surrogates and the fantastic outcomes it can have for families unable to bear their own children. It is argued that it is nobody else’s prerogative to decide what a woman does with her body and being a surrogate has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience for countless women. Complications in surrogacy arrangements are unusual, with their frequency sensationalised by the media.

For example, while the practice of the rich and famous paying another woman to have their child can create shocking headlines about wombs for hire, commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK. Surrogacy is also a biologically practical answer for many infertile or gay male couples, providing a way for people to raise the family they always wanted. Where is the harm if all are consenting adults? Moreover, pro-surrogacy activists suggest that children of surrogacy have performed better in life than the average, perhaps because every child of surrogacy is genuinely wanted and therefore loved.

Some feminists have argued surrogacy exploits vulnerable women and reduces them to vessels of people’s biological narcissism in a world where thousands of children are waiting to be adopted. Surrogacy now also features in contemporary rows on sex and gender identity with the accusation that surrogacy reduces women and their wombs to commodities in the reproductive marketplace, reducing the role of mother to that of egg provider and gestator. This criticism has a particular salience in an era in which it has become acceptable to refer to women in dehumanised terms such as ‘menstruators’ or ‘birthing bodies’.

There are also ‘post-feminists’ who argue surrogacy undermines the idea of motherhood per se, feeding the many social ills caused by the sexual revolution. From this perspective, surrogacy is an assault on an essential and foundational human relationship and contributes to gradual societal breakdown.

Surrogacy is not always an easy issue to debate. Those who have questioned the morality of gay celebs, such as Elton John and Tom Daley, having children via surrogates have been accused of homophobia. However, these morally charged questions need to be addressed.

With a declining birth-rate and growing prevalence of ‘non-traditional’ families, do we need to make all forms of reproductive technology easier to access and come to a moral and legal consensus? How can we balance the bodily autonomy of the surrogate with the interests of the intended parents, all while prioritising what is best for the child? And given the complex moral field in which surrogacy stands, can the process ultimately be justified at all?

SPEAKERS
Lexi Ellingsworth
co-founder, Stop Surrogacy Now UK

Sarah Jones
chief executive, Surrogacy UK

Gary Powell
European special consultant, Center for Bioethics and Culture; research fellow, sexual orientation and gender identity, Bow Group

Ella Whelan
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

CHAIR
Dr Jan Macvarish
education and events director, Free Speech Union; author, Neuroparenting: the expert invasion of family life

12 3

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLndNRmlYYVNwTFM0

The morality of surrogacy

471 views Wednesday 15 November 2023

Recording of a debate produced by the Academy of Ideas International Salon, via Zoom, on Thursday 2 November 2023.

INTRODUCTION
The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,400 and wounded about 3,000. Over 200 were captured and taken to Gaza.

If the barbaric slaughter was not bad enough, many have sought to justify Hamas’ attacks. Significant numbers at protests across the Western world have shown open support for Hamas – an organisation that makes no secret of its intention to kill Jews.

Meanwhile, Jews across Europe live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school. Weekly protests have caused alarm at the vociferous nature of some of the chants. Posters depicting hostages are frequently torn down. Students in elite universities take sides against Israel. In response, just days after it was launched, tens of thousands of people had signed the October Declaration organised by British Friends of Israel.

Yet many complain that any criticism of Israel’s actions is being shut down by the complaint of anti-Semitism. While many criticisms of Israel do seem to slide into anti-Semitic territory, how do we avoid the weaponisation of the term?

What explains the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present? Or in the wake of Hamas’ butchery, is that an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that many considered had been consigned to the past, come to reassert itself?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36; author, Off-centre: how party consensus undermines our democracy; Germany correspondent, spiked

Laura Dodsworth
writer; photographer; author, Free Your Mind and A State of Fear; co-initiator, October Declaration

CHAIR
Jacob Reynolds
head of policy, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas

Recording of a debate produced by the Academy of Ideas International Salon, via Zoom, on Thursday 2 November 2023.

INTRODUCTION
The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,400 and wounded about 3,000. Over 200 were captured and taken to Gaza.

If the barbaric slaughter was not bad enough, many have sought to justify Hamas’ attacks. Significant numbers at protests across the Western world have shown open support for Hamas – an organisation that makes no secret of its intention to kill Jews.

Meanwhile, Jews across Europe live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school. Weekly protests have caused alarm at the vociferous nature of some of the chants. Posters depicting hostages are frequently torn down. Students in elite universities take sides against Israel. In response, just days after it was launched, tens of thousands of people had signed the October Declaration organised by British Friends of Israel.

Yet many complain that any criticism of Israel’s actions is being shut down by the complaint of anti-Semitism. While many criticisms of Israel do seem to slide into anti-Semitic territory, how do we avoid the weaponisation of the term?

What explains the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present? Or in the wake of Hamas’ butchery, is that an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that many considered had been consigned to the past, come to reassert itself?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36; author, Off-centre: how party consensus undermines our democracy; Germany correspondent, spiked

Laura Dodsworth
writer; photographer; author, Free Your Mind and A State of Fear; co-initiator, October Declaration

CHAIR
Jacob Reynolds
head of policy, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas

13 2

YouTube Video VVVqb0Y0alM0b1I0NzlfWTJ5OU9rc2JnLjBqVkR0NXhXQ0Rv

In the wake of terror: anti-Semitism today

410 views Tuesday 14 November 2023


Battle of Ideas festivals 2023

In his recent book, Values, Voice and Virtue, British political scientist Matthew Goodwin argues that the ‘people who really run Britain’ are ‘a new dominant class’, that imposes its ‘radically progressive cultural values’ on the rest of the nation. Goodwin’s thesis has caused international controversy, with many labelled as the ‘new elite’ denying they have any power.
So, who is directing society in 2023, and what binds them together? Why do our elected politicians lack authority today, or are they simply unwilling to exercise their authority? Is it possible to reclaim power for The People?
On this ‘Keynote Controversy’ panel, filmed by WORLDwrite volunteers at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2023, the speakers are:

Pamela Dow: Chief operating officer, Civic Future

Professor Frank Furedi: Sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation

Matthew Goodwin: Professor of politics, University of Kent; author, Values Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics , National Populism: the revolt against liberal democracy and Revolt on the Right

Harry Lambert: Staff writer, New Statesman; editor, New Statesman Saturday Read

Professor Anand Menon: Director, UK in a Changing Europe
The chair is Claire Fox: Director, Academy of Ideas; independent peer, House of Lords; author, I STILL Find That Offensive!

Please could you donate by hitting the THANKS button under the video to enable the charity to keep its volunteer centre open and edit a further 36 debates from the festival.

In his recent book, Values, Voice and Virtue, British political scientist Matthew Goodwin argues that the ‘people who really run Britain’ are ‘a new dominant class’, that imposes its ‘radically progressive cultural values’ on the rest of the nation. Goodwin’s thesis has caused international controversy, with many labelled as the ‘new elite’ denying they have any power.
So, who is directing society in 2023, and what binds them together? Why do our elected politicians lack authority today, or are they simply unwilling to exercise their authority? Is it possible to reclaim power for The People?
On this ‘Keynote Controversy’ panel, filmed by WORLDwrite volunteers at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2023, the speakers are:

Pamela Dow: Chief operating officer, Civic Future

Professor Frank Furedi: Sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation

Matthew Goodwin: Professor of politics, University of Kent; author, Values Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics , National Populism: the revolt against liberal democracy and Revolt on the Right

Harry Lambert: Staff writer, New Statesman; editor, New Statesman Saturday Read

Professor Anand Menon: Director, UK in a Changing Europe
The chair is Claire Fox: Director, Academy of Ideas; independent peer, House of Lords; author, I STILL Find That Offensive!

Please could you donate by hitting the THANKS button under the video to enable the charity to keep its volunteer centre open and edit a further 36 debates from the festival.

208 36

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy4yODlGNEE0NkRGMEEzMEQy

POWER PLAY: WHO REALLY RULES TODAY?

6.3K views Thursday 2 November 2023

Recording of a debate produced by the Academy of Ideas International Salon, via Zoom, on Thursday 2 November 2023.

INTRODUCTION
The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,400 and wounded about 3,000. Over 200 were captured and taken to Gaza.

If the barbaric slaughter was not bad enough, many have sought to justify Hamas’ attacks. Significant numbers at protests across the Western world have shown open support for Hamas – an organisation that makes no secret of its intention to kill Jews.

Meanwhile, Jews across Europe live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school. Weekly protests have caused alarm at the vociferous nature of some of the chants. Posters depicting hostages are frequently torn down. Students in elite universities take sides against Israel. In response, just days after it was launched, tens of thousands of people had signed the October Declaration organised by British Friends of Israel.

Yet many complain that any criticism of Israel’s actions is being shut down by the complaint of anti-Semitism. While many criticisms of Israel do seem to slide into anti-Semitic territory, how do we avoid the weaponisation of the term?

What explains the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present? Or in the wake of Hamas’ butchery, is that an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that many considered had been consigned to the past, come to reassert itself?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36; author, Off-centre: how party consensus undermines our democracy; Germany correspondent, spiked

Laura Dodsworth
writer; photographer; author, Free Your Mind and A State of Fear; co-initiator, October Declaration

CHAIR
Jacob Reynolds
head of policy, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas

Recording of a debate produced by the Academy of Ideas International Salon, via Zoom, on Thursday 2 November 2023.

INTRODUCTION
The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,400 and wounded about 3,000. Over 200 were captured and taken to Gaza.

If the barbaric slaughter was not bad enough, many have sought to justify Hamas’ attacks. Significant numbers at protests across the Western world have shown open support for Hamas – an organisation that makes no secret of its intention to kill Jews.

Meanwhile, Jews across Europe live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school. Weekly protests have caused alarm at the vociferous nature of some of the chants. Posters depicting hostages are frequently torn down. Students in elite universities take sides against Israel. In response, just days after it was launched, tens of thousands of people had signed the October Declaration organised by British Friends of Israel.

Yet many complain that any criticism of Israel’s actions is being shut down by the complaint of anti-Semitism. While many criticisms of Israel do seem to slide into anti-Semitic territory, how do we avoid the weaponisation of the term?

What explains the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present? Or in the wake of Hamas’ butchery, is that an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that many considered had been consigned to the past, come to reassert itself?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36; author, Off-centre: how party consensus undermines our democracy; Germany correspondent, spiked

Laura Dodsworth
writer; photographer; author, Free Your Mind and A State of Fear; co-initiator, October Declaration

CHAIR
Jacob Reynolds
head of policy, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas

13 2

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy41NkI0NEY2RDEwNTU3Q0M2

In the wake of terror: anti-Semitism today

410 views Tuesday 14 November 2023

An excellent ‘Keynote Controversy’ panel, filmed by WORLDwrite volunteers at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2023. It's official title is appropriately 'WHATSAPPENED TO PRIVACY?' but search engines may find that tricky!

From intimate selfies to leaking of personal messages, the digital age seems to relentlessly blur the boundaries between private and public. Not only are we encouraged to bare it all for social media, but the idea of private or secret communication is increasingly seen as a cover for all kinds of ‘online harms’. 

But it is not just social media or new laws that seem to threaten privacy. Indeed, official bodies are subject to endless leaks, baring the details of this or that supposedly private meeting or conversation. But perhaps this is no bad thing: debate about crucial issues has been widely informed by the leak of previously private correspondence, such as the over 100,000 messages between former health secretary Matt Hancock and others at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

So, what is so valuable about privacy – and what is at risk if we lose too much of it? Should we welcome the tendency to make everything public, especially if it roots out backward attitudes or exposes those who misuse power? What’s the relationship between the public and private, and where does the balance lie?

The speakers on the panel are: 

Josie Appleton: Director, civil liberties group, Manifesto Club; author, Officious: Rise of the Busybody State; writer, Notes on Freedom

David Davis: Member of parliament, Conservative Party

Dr Tiffany Jenkins: Writer and broadcaster; author, Strangers and Intimates (forthcoming) and Keeping Their Marbles

Tim Stanley: Columnist and leader writer, Daily Telegraph; author, Whatever Happened to Tradition? History, Belonging and the Future of the West


The chair is: Ella Whelan
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

Please make a donation by hitting the Thanks button here on YouTube, to enable the charity to keep its volunteer centre open and edit and share a further 36 debates from the festival.

An excellent ‘Keynote Controversy’ panel, filmed by WORLDwrite volunteers at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2023. It's official title is appropriately 'WHATSAPPENED TO PRIVACY?' but search engines may find that tricky!

From intimate selfies to leaking of personal messages, the digital age seems to relentlessly blur the boundaries between private and public. Not only are we encouraged to bare it all for social media, but the idea of private or secret communication is increasingly seen as a cover for all kinds of ‘online harms’.

But it is not just social media or new laws that seem to threaten privacy. Indeed, official bodies are subject to endless leaks, baring the details of this or that supposedly private meeting or conversation. But perhaps this is no bad thing: debate about crucial issues has been widely informed by the leak of previously private correspondence, such as the over 100,000 messages between former health secretary Matt Hancock and others at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

So, what is so valuable about privacy – and what is at risk if we lose too much of it? Should we welcome the tendency to make everything public, especially if it roots out backward attitudes or exposes those who misuse power? What’s the relationship between the public and private, and where does the balance lie?

The speakers on the panel are:

Josie Appleton: Director, civil liberties group, Manifesto Club; author, Officious: Rise of the Busybody State; writer, Notes on Freedom

David Davis: Member of parliament, Conservative Party

Dr Tiffany Jenkins: Writer and broadcaster; author, Strangers and Intimates (forthcoming) and Keeping Their Marbles

Tim Stanley: Columnist and leader writer, Daily Telegraph; author, Whatever Happened to Tradition? History, Belonging and the Future of the West


The chair is: Ella Whelan
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

Please make a donation by hitting the Thanks button here on YouTube, to enable the charity to keep its volunteer centre open and edit and share a further 36 debates from the festival.

41 4

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WHAT'S HAPPENED TO PRIVACY?

1.2K views Saturday 4 November 2023

Filmed at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023, this inspiring panel sets the record straight.

Are the culture wars simply a Twitter sideshow to the more serious concerns of everyday life? Or is the way we relate to each other, and to our shared values, fundamental to how we plan for a future together? Given that dissent from so-called ‘woke’ ideas – whether on race, gender or culture itself  – has become impossible without being demonised as stirring up toxic, divisive and dangerous trends, is there any choice but to engage in the culture wars? Will it have to be reckoned with if we are to have a serious discussion about anything else? And if, as some argue, today’s culture war is a continuation of the age-old conflict between liberty and authoritarianism, does the claim that the culture war is a ‘distraction’ not in itself become a distraction from the issues that matter?

The speakers are: 
Professor Aaqil Ahmed - director, Amplify Consulting Ltd; professor of media, University of Bolton; former head of religion, Channel 4 and BBC
Andrew Doyle - presenter, Free Speech Nation, GB News; writer and comedian; author, The New Puritans: how the religion of social justice captured the Western world and Free Speech and Why It Matters
Professor Frank Furedi - sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation
Lord Ken Macdonald KC - barrister, Matrix Chambers; crossbench peer
Nina Power - philosopher; senior editor, Compact Magazine; author, What Do Men Want? Masculinity and its discontents
The chair is:  Claire Fox - director, Academy of Ideas; independent peer, House of Lords; author, I STILL Find That Offensive!

This debate was filmed by volunteers working with Worldwrite. Please help ensure the charity is able to edit a further 30 debates by hitting the THANKS button above and donating whatever you can afford. Thank you.

Filmed at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023, this inspiring panel sets the record straight.

Are the culture wars simply a Twitter sideshow to the more serious concerns of everyday life? Or is the way we relate to each other, and to our shared values, fundamental to how we plan for a future together? Given that dissent from so-called ‘woke’ ideas – whether on race, gender or culture itself – has become impossible without being demonised as stirring up toxic, divisive and dangerous trends, is there any choice but to engage in the culture wars? Will it have to be reckoned with if we are to have a serious discussion about anything else? And if, as some argue, today’s culture war is a continuation of the age-old conflict between liberty and authoritarianism, does the claim that the culture war is a ‘distraction’ not in itself become a distraction from the issues that matter?

The speakers are:
Professor Aaqil Ahmed - director, Amplify Consulting Ltd; professor of media, University of Bolton; former head of religion, Channel 4 and BBC
Andrew Doyle - presenter, Free Speech Nation, GB News; writer and comedian; author, The New Puritans: how the religion of social justice captured the Western world and Free Speech and Why It Matters
Professor Frank Furedi - sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation
Lord Ken Macdonald KC - barrister, Matrix Chambers; crossbench peer
Nina Power - philosopher; senior editor, Compact Magazine; author, What Do Men Want? Masculinity and its discontents
The chair is: Claire Fox - director, Academy of Ideas; independent peer, House of Lords; author, I STILL Find That Offensive!

This debate was filmed by volunteers working with Worldwrite. Please help ensure the charity is able to edit a further 30 debates by hitting the THANKS button above and donating whatever you can afford. Thank you.

282 57

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy5ENDU4Q0M4RDExNzM1Mjcy

ARE THE CULTURE WARS A DISTRACTION?

9.7K views Friday 1 December 2023

A terrific panel of free speech lovers brought together by Comedy Unleashed discuss what's going on.

At this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Comedy Unleashed’s show, featuring Graham Linehan, was cancelled because the venue did not ‘support his views’ and his presence would ‘violate their space’. The edgy spirit that used to characterise the Edinburgh Festival Fringe specifically, and stand-up comedy more generally, seems to have evaporated. There was no outcry from comedians attending the festival and very few publicly expressed even the mildest of support for free expression in the arts.
Why do comedians increasingly side with the Establishment? How can comics say that they are ‘punching up’ when they support the people being ‘cancelled’ by corporations? As society becomes more authoritarian, where is the satirical response and creative backlash?

On this panel, filmed by WORLDwrite volunteers at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2023, the speakers are: 

Miriam Elia: satirical conceptual artist; author, We See the Sights, We Go To The Gallery and We Do Lockdown; creator, A Series Of Psychotic Episodes

Dominic Frisby: writer; comedian; author, Bitcoin: the future of money?

Graham Linehan: creator and co-creator, Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd; comedy writer, Count Arthur Strong, Brass Eye and The Fast Show; author, Tough Crowd: How I Made and Lost a Career in Comedy

Andy Shaw: co-founder, Comedy Unleashed

A terrific panel of free speech lovers brought together by Comedy Unleashed discuss what's going on.

At this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Comedy Unleashed’s show, featuring Graham Linehan, was cancelled because the venue did not ‘support his views’ and his presence would ‘violate their space’. The edgy spirit that used to characterise the Edinburgh Festival Fringe specifically, and stand-up comedy more generally, seems to have evaporated. There was no outcry from comedians attending the festival and very few publicly expressed even the mildest of support for free expression in the arts.
Why do comedians increasingly side with the Establishment? How can comics say that they are ‘punching up’ when they support the people being ‘cancelled’ by corporations? As society becomes more authoritarian, where is the satirical response and creative backlash?

On this panel, filmed by WORLDwrite volunteers at the Battle of Ideas Festival 2023, the speakers are:

Miriam Elia: satirical conceptual artist; author, We See the Sights, We Go To The Gallery and We Do Lockdown; creator, A Series Of Psychotic Episodes

Dominic Frisby: writer; comedian; author, Bitcoin: the future of money?

Graham Linehan: creator and co-creator, Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd; comedy writer, Count Arthur Strong, Brass Eye and The Fast Show; author, Tough Crowd: How I Made and Lost a Career in Comedy

Andy Shaw: co-founder, Comedy Unleashed

101 21

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy41MjE1MkI0OTQ2QzJGNzNG

WHY DO COMEDIANS KEEP SIDING WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT?

2.5K views Saturday 11 November 2023

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
It wasn’t so long ago that the slaughter of over 1,300 Jews – by a Hamas assault on southern Israel – would have been unthinkable. If that’s not bad enough, a significant number of individuals worldwide seem to be justifying Hamas’s attacks. These are, in the words of one commentator, regarded as ‘excusable pogroms’. The once popular cry of ‘never again’ is sounding increasingly hollow.

Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group based in Gaza, has never made its intention to slaughter Jews secret. On the contrary, it is openly stated in its 1988 charter. Yet all too many in the West, particularly among the left and anti-Israel activists, seem blind to this fact. Either they do not care or they find it acceptable.

Meanwhile, members of the Jewish community live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school.

What is to be made of the return of what some call the ‘oldest hatred’? Anti-Semitism seemed to be a marginal force after the horrors of the Second World War. Now, at least in some sections of society, it seems to be an acceptable form of ‘progressive’ criticism of Israel as a uniquely evil apartheid state, colonialist, imperialist and racist. And when some Muslims living in the West express such views, the identitarian left looks the other way. In fact, many on the left nowadays increasingly present Jews as bastions of white privilege, only prosperous by exploitation. Does this outlook rehabilitate old notions of Jewish conspiratorial power?

How can we explain the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present or is it unthinkable in the wake of Hamas butchery – an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that appeared to have been marginalised, come to reassert itself? And why is it those who consider themselves the most enlightened who are often the worst culprits?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Professor Frank Furedi
sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation

Josh Howie
comedian; writer and star, Josh Howie’s Losing It, BBC Radio 4; actor, Hapless; television critic, Jewish Chronicle

Charlie Peters
reporter and presenter, GB News

CHAIR
Jean Smith
member, Tackling Antisemitism; co-founder and director, NY Salon

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
It wasn’t so long ago that the slaughter of over 1,300 Jews – by a Hamas assault on southern Israel – would have been unthinkable. If that’s not bad enough, a significant number of individuals worldwide seem to be justifying Hamas’s attacks. These are, in the words of one commentator, regarded as ‘excusable pogroms’. The once popular cry of ‘never again’ is sounding increasingly hollow.

Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group based in Gaza, has never made its intention to slaughter Jews secret. On the contrary, it is openly stated in its 1988 charter. Yet all too many in the West, particularly among the left and anti-Israel activists, seem blind to this fact. Either they do not care or they find it acceptable.

Meanwhile, members of the Jewish community live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school.

What is to be made of the return of what some call the ‘oldest hatred’? Anti-Semitism seemed to be a marginal force after the horrors of the Second World War. Now, at least in some sections of society, it seems to be an acceptable form of ‘progressive’ criticism of Israel as a uniquely evil apartheid state, colonialist, imperialist and racist. And when some Muslims living in the West express such views, the identitarian left looks the other way. In fact, many on the left nowadays increasingly present Jews as bastions of white privilege, only prosperous by exploitation. Does this outlook rehabilitate old notions of Jewish conspiratorial power?

How can we explain the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present or is it unthinkable in the wake of Hamas butchery – an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that appeared to have been marginalised, come to reassert itself? And why is it those who consider themselves the most enlightened who are often the worst culprits?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Professor Frank Furedi
sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation

Josh Howie
comedian; writer and star, Josh Howie’s Losing It, BBC Radio 4; actor, Hapless; television critic, Jewish Chronicle

Charlie Peters
reporter and presenter, GB News

CHAIR
Jean Smith
member, Tackling Antisemitism; co-founder and director, NY Salon

20 6

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy41MzJCQjBCNDIyRkJDN0VD

Israel: anti-Semitism today

740 views Thursday 16 November 2023

Recording of the debate the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,200 and wounded about 3,000. At least 200 were captured and taken to Gaza. How is it possible to begin to make sense of such a terrible event? Is this the return of pogroms of Jews? Clearly Israel is having to contend with a force that can truly be described as evil.

One issue is why and how Hamas felt so emboldened to launch this murderous assault. There seems to be a broad consensus that the success of Hamas’s brutal assault represented a devastating failure for Israel’s famed intelligence services and military. Some are wondering if this year’s bitter conflict over judicial reform in Israel proved to be a distraction from the deadly external threat. The country has been sharply divided, and military reservists in elite units, including intelligence, were encouraged by the protest movement to refuse to serve.

Perhaps a proper review of what happened will have to wait. Israel has enough to deal with and faces many other imminent challenges. There is the possibility of it becoming embroiled in a ground war in Gaza, which could bring with it a heavy human cost for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel faces judgement internationally on the scale of its response and the dangers posed to civilians in Gaza. The violent conflict could also spread to the West Bank and even within Israel itself. It is no exaggeration to say that Israel is facing the greatest challenge in its 75-year history.

How should Israel deal with the horrors it is enduring? What are the roots of these challenges and how can Israel best deal with them? Why was Israel so vulnerable in the first place? Will the unity of a country now under attack render recent divisions irrelevant? How can Israel deal with the strains of a war that may have to be fought on multiple fronts?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Dr Jake Wallis Simons
editor, Jewish Chronicle; author, Israelophobia

Lord David Wolfson
king’s counsel; member of the House of Lords; former justice minister

CHAIR
Simon McKeon
archivist and writer

Recording of the debate the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,200 and wounded about 3,000. At least 200 were captured and taken to Gaza. How is it possible to begin to make sense of such a terrible event? Is this the return of pogroms of Jews? Clearly Israel is having to contend with a force that can truly be described as evil.

One issue is why and how Hamas felt so emboldened to launch this murderous assault. There seems to be a broad consensus that the success of Hamas’s brutal assault represented a devastating failure for Israel’s famed intelligence services and military. Some are wondering if this year’s bitter conflict over judicial reform in Israel proved to be a distraction from the deadly external threat. The country has been sharply divided, and military reservists in elite units, including intelligence, were encouraged by the protest movement to refuse to serve.

Perhaps a proper review of what happened will have to wait. Israel has enough to deal with and faces many other imminent challenges. There is the possibility of it becoming embroiled in a ground war in Gaza, which could bring with it a heavy human cost for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel faces judgement internationally on the scale of its response and the dangers posed to civilians in Gaza. The violent conflict could also spread to the West Bank and even within Israel itself. It is no exaggeration to say that Israel is facing the greatest challenge in its 75-year history.

How should Israel deal with the horrors it is enduring? What are the roots of these challenges and how can Israel best deal with them? Why was Israel so vulnerable in the first place? Will the unity of a country now under attack render recent divisions irrelevant? How can Israel deal with the strains of a war that may have to be fought on multiple fronts?

SPEAKERS
Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Professor Anat Scolnicov
professor of Public Law, University of Winchester

Dr Jake Wallis Simons
editor, Jewish Chronicle; author, Israelophobia

Lord David Wolfson
king’s counsel; member of the House of Lords; former justice minister

CHAIR
Simon McKeon
archivist and writer

12 3

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Israel at war

535 views Thursday 16 November 2023

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Surrogacy is a complicated transaction involving at least three individuals, usually more, with moral complications and grey areas around the rights and responsibilities of the two active parties – surrogate and intended parent(s) – and the best interests of the child. The issue was thrust back into the headlines earlier this year with the Law Commission recommending changes to the law in the name of ‘benefitting the child, surrogate and intended parents’. Surrogacy divides its advocates on the specifics of its implementation, as well as there still being opponents of the process altogether.

Pro-surrogacy campaigners defend the bodily autonomy of surrogates and the fantastic outcomes it can have for families unable to bear their own children. It is argued that it is nobody else’s prerogative to decide what a woman does with her body and being a surrogate has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience for countless women. Complications in surrogacy arrangements are unusual, with their frequency sensationalised by the media.

For example, while the practice of the rich and famous paying another woman to have their child can create shocking headlines about wombs for hire, commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK. Surrogacy is also a biologically practical answer for many infertile or gay male couples, providing a way for people to raise the family they always wanted. Where is the harm if all are consenting adults? Moreover, pro-surrogacy activists suggest that children of surrogacy have performed better in life than the average, perhaps because every child of surrogacy is genuinely wanted and therefore loved.

Some feminists have argued surrogacy exploits vulnerable women and reduces them to vessels of people’s biological narcissism in a world where thousands of children are waiting to be adopted. Surrogacy now also features in contemporary rows on sex and gender identity with the accusation that surrogacy reduces women and their wombs to commodities in the reproductive marketplace, reducing the role of mother to that of egg provider and gestator. This criticism has a particular salience in an era in which it has become acceptable to refer to women in dehumanised terms such as ‘menstruators’ or ‘birthing bodies’.

There are also ‘post-feminists’ who argue surrogacy undermines the idea of motherhood per se, feeding the many social ills caused by the sexual revolution. From this perspective, surrogacy is an assault on an essential and foundational human relationship and contributes to gradual societal breakdown.

Surrogacy is not always an easy issue to debate. Those who have questioned the morality of gay celebs, such as Elton John and Tom Daley, having children via surrogates have been accused of homophobia. However, these morally charged questions need to be addressed.

With a declining birth-rate and growing prevalence of ‘non-traditional’ families, do we need to make all forms of reproductive technology easier to access and come to a moral and legal consensus? How can we balance the bodily autonomy of the surrogate with the interests of the intended parents, all while prioritising what is best for the child? And given the complex moral field in which surrogacy stands, can the process ultimately be justified at all?

SPEAKERS
Lexi Ellingsworth
co-founder, Stop Surrogacy Now UK

Sarah Jones
chief executive, Surrogacy UK

Gary Powell
European special consultant, Center for Bioethics and Culture; research fellow, sexual orientation and gender identity, Bow Group

Ella Whelan
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

CHAIR
Dr Jan Macvarish
education and events director, Free Speech Union; author, Neuroparenting: the expert invasion of family life

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October 2023.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Surrogacy is a complicated transaction involving at least three individuals, usually more, with moral complications and grey areas around the rights and responsibilities of the two active parties – surrogate and intended parent(s) – and the best interests of the child. The issue was thrust back into the headlines earlier this year with the Law Commission recommending changes to the law in the name of ‘benefitting the child, surrogate and intended parents’. Surrogacy divides its advocates on the specifics of its implementation, as well as there still being opponents of the process altogether.

Pro-surrogacy campaigners defend the bodily autonomy of surrogates and the fantastic outcomes it can have for families unable to bear their own children. It is argued that it is nobody else’s prerogative to decide what a woman does with her body and being a surrogate has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience for countless women. Complications in surrogacy arrangements are unusual, with their frequency sensationalised by the media.

For example, while the practice of the rich and famous paying another woman to have their child can create shocking headlines about wombs for hire, commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK. Surrogacy is also a biologically practical answer for many infertile or gay male couples, providing a way for people to raise the family they always wanted. Where is the harm if all are consenting adults? Moreover, pro-surrogacy activists suggest that children of surrogacy have performed better in life than the average, perhaps because every child of surrogacy is genuinely wanted and therefore loved.

Some feminists have argued surrogacy exploits vulnerable women and reduces them to vessels of people’s biological narcissism in a world where thousands of children are waiting to be adopted. Surrogacy now also features in contemporary rows on sex and gender identity with the accusation that surrogacy reduces women and their wombs to commodities in the reproductive marketplace, reducing the role of mother to that of egg provider and gestator. This criticism has a particular salience in an era in which it has become acceptable to refer to women in dehumanised terms such as ‘menstruators’ or ‘birthing bodies’.

There are also ‘post-feminists’ who argue surrogacy undermines the idea of motherhood per se, feeding the many social ills caused by the sexual revolution. From this perspective, surrogacy is an assault on an essential and foundational human relationship and contributes to gradual societal breakdown.

Surrogacy is not always an easy issue to debate. Those who have questioned the morality of gay celebs, such as Elton John and Tom Daley, having children via surrogates have been accused of homophobia. However, these morally charged questions need to be addressed.

With a declining birth-rate and growing prevalence of ‘non-traditional’ families, do we need to make all forms of reproductive technology easier to access and come to a moral and legal consensus? How can we balance the bodily autonomy of the surrogate with the interests of the intended parents, all while prioritising what is best for the child? And given the complex moral field in which surrogacy stands, can the process ultimately be justified at all?

SPEAKERS
Lexi Ellingsworth
co-founder, Stop Surrogacy Now UK

Sarah Jones
chief executive, Surrogacy UK

Gary Powell
European special consultant, Center for Bioethics and Culture; research fellow, sexual orientation and gender identity, Bow Group

Ella Whelan
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

CHAIR
Dr Jan Macvarish
education and events director, Free Speech Union; author, Neuroparenting: the expert invasion of family life

12 3

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy45NDk1REZENzhEMzU5MDQz

The morality of surrogacy

471 views Wednesday 15 November 2023

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 on Sunday 29 October at Church House, London.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Over recent years, France has seemed to be constantly in flames. Thousands taking to the streets, mass arrests, vehicles set ablaze, buildings ransacked. The most recent unrest came after an unarmed teenager, Nahel Merzouk, was shot by police following a car chase in Nanterre. The riots afterwards were perhaps the most violent yet, and reflect how many from France’s migrant communities, often in segregated and deprived banlieue housing estates, feel totally disconnected from and discriminated against by the French authorities.

Taking to the streets has not been confined to the marginalised. Earlier this year, the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, used Article 49.3 of the French constitution to force through President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension-reform plan without a vote in parliament. As a result, millions were up in arms. Public militancy was so intense that a planned visit by King Charles was postponed.

And who can forget the gilets jaunes (yellow vests), dressed in their unmistakable hi-viz jackets, blockading highways and petrol stations, occupying roundabouts and toll booths, and marching through town centres. These protests in 2018 were initially sparked by a hike in fuel tax, but escalated to embody a wider resentment towards the status quo that became associated with international grassroots resistance to technocratic rule, far and wide.

This contemporary France seems far removed from the romanticised ideal of a liberal, secular republic based on a revolutionary land of liberty, equality and fraternity for all. Institutionalised rioting, racial segregation, deep-seated religious tensions – from the Charlie Hebdo massacre to the state’s burqa ban, heavy-handed, paramilitary style policing is now the order of the day. Following the Hamas attacks on Israel, a blanket ban was imposed on pro-Palestinian protests. What on earth has happened?

When Macron was first elected president in 2017, he talked hopefully of a better, fairer future and promised to overcome the left-right divide, to rule by consensus. Now, as Nabila Ramdani, a French journalist of Algerian descent and author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic argues, Macron rules by decree over an increasingly divided society.

Ramdani, herself born and raised in a neglected Paris suburb, will discuss these shifts along with a panel of respondents.

SPEAKERS
Dr Marie Kawthar Daouda
lecturer in French language and literature, Oriel College, University of Oxford; author, L’Anti-Salomé; fellow of Ralston College, Savannah

Dr Charles Devellennes
senior lecturer, University of Kent; author: The Macron Régime: the Ideology of the New Right in France

Nabila Ramdani
journalist and broadcaster; author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic

Dr Ralph Schoellhammer
commentator and podcaster; lecturer, Webster University Vienna and MCC Brussels

CHAIR
Fraser Myers
deputy editor, spiked; host, the spiked podcast

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 on Sunday 29 October at Church House, London.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Over recent years, France has seemed to be constantly in flames. Thousands taking to the streets, mass arrests, vehicles set ablaze, buildings ransacked. The most recent unrest came after an unarmed teenager, Nahel Merzouk, was shot by police following a car chase in Nanterre. The riots afterwards were perhaps the most violent yet, and reflect how many from France’s migrant communities, often in segregated and deprived banlieue housing estates, feel totally disconnected from and discriminated against by the French authorities.

Taking to the streets has not been confined to the marginalised. Earlier this year, the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, used Article 49.3 of the French constitution to force through President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension-reform plan without a vote in parliament. As a result, millions were up in arms. Public militancy was so intense that a planned visit by King Charles was postponed.

And who can forget the gilets jaunes (yellow vests), dressed in their unmistakable hi-viz jackets, blockading highways and petrol stations, occupying roundabouts and toll booths, and marching through town centres. These protests in 2018 were initially sparked by a hike in fuel tax, but escalated to embody a wider resentment towards the status quo that became associated with international grassroots resistance to technocratic rule, far and wide.

This contemporary France seems far removed from the romanticised ideal of a liberal, secular republic based on a revolutionary land of liberty, equality and fraternity for all. Institutionalised rioting, racial segregation, deep-seated religious tensions – from the Charlie Hebdo massacre to the state’s burqa ban, heavy-handed, paramilitary style policing is now the order of the day. Following the Hamas attacks on Israel, a blanket ban was imposed on pro-Palestinian protests. What on earth has happened?

When Macron was first elected president in 2017, he talked hopefully of a better, fairer future and promised to overcome the left-right divide, to rule by consensus. Now, as Nabila Ramdani, a French journalist of Algerian descent and author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic argues, Macron rules by decree over an increasingly divided society.

Ramdani, herself born and raised in a neglected Paris suburb, will discuss these shifts along with a panel of respondents.

SPEAKERS
Dr Marie Kawthar Daouda
lecturer in French language and literature, Oriel College, University of Oxford; author, L’Anti-Salomé; fellow of Ralston College, Savannah

Dr Charles Devellennes
senior lecturer, University of Kent; author: The Macron Régime: the Ideology of the New Right in France

Nabila Ramdani
journalist and broadcaster; author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic

Dr Ralph Schoellhammer
commentator and podcaster; lecturer, Webster University Vienna and MCC Brussels

CHAIR
Fraser Myers
deputy editor, spiked; host, the spiked podcast

10 3

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy5GNjNDRDREMDQxOThCMDQ2

I predict a riot: France in flames

498 views Monday 27 November 2023

This lively lunch-time debate was filmed at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023.

The furore over the widening of London’s ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) to include all London boroughs has been identified by many as the latest battleground in a ‘war on the motorist’. Low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) have proliferated across the UK, making getting from A to B more difficult and increasing traffic jams on main roads nearby. All that on top of high taxes on fuel – in September 2023, around half the ‘pump price’ was made up of tax. 
When so many people rely on cars for personal transport and the whole country relies on vans and trucks to move goods around, why has government at local and national level made driving harder? Is there really a ‘war on the motorist’ when driving is relatively cheaper and more popular than ever before? What’s wrong with encouraging people to cycle, walk or use public transport?

The speakers are:
Mary Dejevsky - former foreign correspondent in Moscow, Paris and Washington; special correspondent in China; writer and broadcaster
Alan Miller - co-founder and chair, Together Association;
Simon Nash - environmentalist; speaker; activist and founder, Green Oil bicycle lubes
The chair is: Dr Paul Reeves - developer of manufacturing simulation technology

This debate was filmed by volunteers working with Worldwrite. Please help ensure the charity is able to edit a further 30 debates by hitting the THANKS button above and donating whatever you can afford.

This lively lunch-time debate was filmed at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023.

The furore over the widening of London’s ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) to include all London boroughs has been identified by many as the latest battleground in a ‘war on the motorist’. Low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) have proliferated across the UK, making getting from A to B more difficult and increasing traffic jams on main roads nearby. All that on top of high taxes on fuel – in September 2023, around half the ‘pump price’ was made up of tax.
When so many people rely on cars for personal transport and the whole country relies on vans and trucks to move goods around, why has government at local and national level made driving harder? Is there really a ‘war on the motorist’ when driving is relatively cheaper and more popular than ever before? What’s wrong with encouraging people to cycle, walk or use public transport?

The speakers are:
Mary Dejevsky - former foreign correspondent in Moscow, Paris and Washington; special correspondent in China; writer and broadcaster
Alan Miller - co-founder and chair, Together Association;
Simon Nash - environmentalist; speaker; activist and founder, Green Oil bicycle lubes
The chair is: Dr Paul Reeves - developer of manufacturing simulation technology

This debate was filmed by volunteers working with Worldwrite. Please help ensure the charity is able to edit a further 30 debates by hitting the THANKS button above and donating whatever you can afford.

8 3

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy40NzZCMERDMjVEN0RFRThB

IS THERE A ‘WAR ON THE MOTORIST’ ?

171 views Thursday 23 November 2023

CAN RENEWABLES POWER THE WORLD?

452 views Friday 17 November 2023

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
One notable aspect of European Union politics in recent years has been internal tensions when member states’ national priorities clash with EU rules and priorities. Specifically, Hungary and Poland have faced stringent sanctions and have had billions of euros of EU funding withheld under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, for an alleged failure to uphold the EU’s foundational values. What have both countries done to warrant such actions and being targeted as the ‘bad boys’ of the EU?

For Poland, following the 2015 general election, the Law and Justice party (PiS) won control of both the presidency and the parliament. Since then, the government’s wide-ranging reforms of its judicial system are accused by the European Commission of undermining judicial independence. These laws certainly raise questions about Poland’s ability to apply EU law, from the protection of investments to the mutual recognition of decisions in areas as diverse as child custody disputes or the execution of European Arrest Warrants. But do these reforms mean ‘the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority’, as is alleged?

Judicial independence is also a key aspect of the EU’s dispute with Hungary, though issues relating to inadequate anti-corruption measures and media plurality have also been cited. Most recently, the EU has taken Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union for enacting child-protection legislation that forbids the promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment to those under the age of 18.

Hungary and Poland argue they are defending their democratic right to organise their affairs and protect their traditions and customs as they see fit. For example, as far as the Hungarian government and many others are concerned, the education and upbringing of Hungarian children is not the business of the EU and Hungary has every right to protect its children from inappropriate sexualisation. Despite claims to the contrary, Poland still seems to be a functioning democracy, with the results of October’s elections suggesting that PiS has lost power to a coalition led by a former prime minister and president of the EU Council, Donald Tusk.

To its critics, the EU is acting as an imperious technocracy, seeking to impose woke values on nations with different priorities and principles. However, others suggest that Hungary and Poland are using the rhetoric of national sovereignty to justify ‘democratic backsliding’, not just an affront to the EU club’s rules, but a threat to democratic norms domestically.

Is the EU right to intervene in defence of common values or is this simply imposing the values of Brussels technocrats on everyone? Are Poland and Hungary justified in asserting national sovereignty or is this just a smokescreen? What does this ongoing battle tell us about the future direction of Europe and democracy?

SPEAKERS
Steven Barrett
barrister, Radcliffe Chambers; writer on law, Spectator

Balázs Hidvéghi
Member of the European Parliament (member, LIBE and Foreign Affairs committees); former director of communications, Fidesz; former member, Hungarian Parliament

Agnieszka Kolek
head of cultural engagement, MCC Brussels; artist; curator; founder, Passion for Freedom London Art Festival; former deputy director, Ujazdowski Castle, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw

Anna Loutfi
equality and human rights barrister; consultant, The Bad Law Project

CHAIR
Tony Gilland
chief of staff, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas

Recording of the debate at the Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Sunday 29 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
One notable aspect of European Union politics in recent years has been internal tensions when member states’ national priorities clash with EU rules and priorities. Specifically, Hungary and Poland have faced stringent sanctions and have had billions of euros of EU funding withheld under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, for an alleged failure to uphold the EU’s foundational values. What have both countries done to warrant such actions and being targeted as the ‘bad boys’ of the EU?

For Poland, following the 2015 general election, the Law and Justice party (PiS) won control of both the presidency and the parliament. Since then, the government’s wide-ranging reforms of its judicial system are accused by the European Commission of undermining judicial independence. These laws certainly raise questions about Poland’s ability to apply EU law, from the protection of investments to the mutual recognition of decisions in areas as diverse as child custody disputes or the execution of European Arrest Warrants. But do these reforms mean ‘the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority’, as is alleged?

Judicial independence is also a key aspect of the EU’s dispute with Hungary, though issues relating to inadequate anti-corruption measures and media plurality have also been cited. Most recently, the EU has taken Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union for enacting child-protection legislation that forbids the promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment to those under the age of 18.

Hungary and Poland argue they are defending their democratic right to organise their affairs and protect their traditions and customs as they see fit. For example, as far as the Hungarian government and many others are concerned, the education and upbringing of Hungarian children is not the business of the EU and Hungary has every right to protect its children from inappropriate sexualisation. Despite claims to the contrary, Poland still seems to be a functioning democracy, with the results of October’s elections suggesting that PiS has lost power to a coalition led by a former prime minister and president of the EU Council, Donald Tusk.

To its critics, the EU is acting as an imperious technocracy, seeking to impose woke values on nations with different priorities and principles. However, others suggest that Hungary and Poland are using the rhetoric of national sovereignty to justify ‘democratic backsliding’, not just an affront to the EU club’s rules, but a threat to democratic norms domestically.

Is the EU right to intervene in defence of common values or is this simply imposing the values of Brussels technocrats on everyone? Are Poland and Hungary justified in asserting national sovereignty or is this just a smokescreen? What does this ongoing battle tell us about the future direction of Europe and democracy?

SPEAKERS
Steven Barrett
barrister, Radcliffe Chambers; writer on law, Spectator

Balázs Hidvéghi
Member of the European Parliament (member, LIBE and Foreign Affairs committees); former director of communications, Fidesz; former member, Hungarian Parliament

Agnieszka Kolek
head of cultural engagement, MCC Brussels; artist; curator; founder, Passion for Freedom London Art Festival; former deputy director, Ujazdowski Castle, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw

Anna Loutfi
equality and human rights barrister; consultant, The Bad Law Project

CHAIR
Tony Gilland
chief of staff, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas

27 14

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy4zMDg5MkQ5MEVDMEM1NTg2

Bad boys of the EU: demonising Poland and Hungary

691 views Friday 1 December 2023

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Read any report on how babies are fed in the early months of life, and you will soon come across references to the UK’s ‘dismal’, ‘troubling’, ‘low’ breastfeeding rate. Breastfeeding seems to be constantly in the news. Earlier this year, a study claimed that children who were breastfed were more likely to receive better GCSE results. In previous years, exclusive breastfeeding has been credited for higher IQ, babies who like vegetables more and less hyperactive toddlers.

‘Breast is best’ is not only promoted by the NHS and the government, it is written into law via restrictions on how formula can be marketed. Such is the preference for breastfeeding that many food banks are not allowed to provide infant formula to needy families. Supporters of breastfeeding describe formula as an ‘ultra-processed food’ which is both bad for people and the environment – pointing to previous scandals in developing nations around the marketing and use of formula milk. They argue that it is vital for nutrition and bonding between mother and baby, and that many women stop breastfeeding before they would like to because of lingering stigma around public feeding of babies.

At the moment, women clearly favour the bottle – only one per cent still breastfeed exclusively at six months, despite WHO guidelines. The fact that bottle-feeding can be shared by parents, friends and grandparents, with formula eliminating the need to pump, makes many women consider it a viable choice. When it comes to the claims for breastfeeding benefits, some point to the fact that studies on breastfeeding include confounding factors – things like education, opportunity and wider health issues – that make it impossible to prove the supremacy of breast over bottle.

Some view how to feed a baby as a practical, simple question. For others, it raises wider issues about motherhood and women’s autonomy. Should we care what way babies are fed? Is the fraught nature of the breast-is-best debate putting too much pressure on mothers? Should the formula industry’s eye-watering prices be challenged by a preference for breastfeeding? Or are those who campaign under the slogan ‘fed is best’ right to highlight the need for greater acceptance of formula milk?

SPEAKERS
Milli Hill
freelance journalist; founder, Positive Birth Movement; author, Positive Birth Book

Harriet Rudd
infant-feeding specialist; trainee Lactation Consultant

Dr Rebecca Steinfeld
independent policy advisor on infant-feeding policy and reproductive choice; co-founder, Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships

Dr Erin Williams
senior lecturer in reproductive anatomy and physiology, University of Edinburgh; co-founder and director, Feed

CHAIR
Ellie Lee
professor of family and parenting research, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas festival 2023 at Church House, London on Saturday 28 October.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION
Read any report on how babies are fed in the early months of life, and you will soon come across references to the UK’s ‘dismal’, ‘troubling’, ‘low’ breastfeeding rate. Breastfeeding seems to be constantly in the news. Earlier this year, a study claimed that children who were breastfed were more likely to receive better GCSE results. In previous years, exclusive breastfeeding has been credited for higher IQ, babies who like vegetables more and less hyperactive toddlers.

‘Breast is best’ is not only promoted by the NHS and the government, it is written into law via restrictions on how formula can be marketed. Such is the preference for breastfeeding that many food banks are not allowed to provide infant formula to needy families. Supporters of breastfeeding describe formula as an ‘ultra-processed food’ which is both bad for people and the environment – pointing to previous scandals in developing nations around the marketing and use of formula milk. They argue that it is vital for nutrition and bonding between mother and baby, and that many women stop breastfeeding before they would like to because of lingering stigma around public feeding of babies.

At the moment, women clearly favour the bottle – only one per cent still breastfeed exclusively at six months, despite WHO guidelines. The fact that bottle-feeding can be shared by parents, friends and grandparents, with formula eliminating the need to pump, makes many women consider it a viable choice. When it comes to the claims for breastfeeding benefits, some point to the fact that studies on breastfeeding include confounding factors – things like education, opportunity and wider health issues – that make it impossible to prove the supremacy of breast over bottle.

Some view how to feed a baby as a practical, simple question. For others, it raises wider issues about motherhood and women’s autonomy. Should we care what way babies are fed? Is the fraught nature of the breast-is-best debate putting too much pressure on mothers? Should the formula industry’s eye-watering prices be challenged by a preference for breastfeeding? Or are those who campaign under the slogan ‘fed is best’ right to highlight the need for greater acceptance of formula milk?

SPEAKERS
Milli Hill
freelance journalist; founder, Positive Birth Movement; author, Positive Birth Book

Harriet Rudd
infant-feeding specialist; trainee Lactation Consultant

Dr Rebecca Steinfeld
independent policy advisor on infant-feeding policy and reproductive choice; co-founder, Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships

Dr Erin Williams
senior lecturer in reproductive anatomy and physiology, University of Edinburgh; co-founder and director, Feed

CHAIR
Ellie Lee
professor of family and parenting research, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

5 1

YouTube Video UExVSkdPQ004Y1VKa1IzbFlJR19CY3lhNmxzRDY1SkVDNy5EQUE1NTFDRjcwMDg0NEMz

Feeding babies: is breast always best?

209 views Friday 1 December 2023