07/07/2014 Newsnight


With Kirsty Wark. The man who brought child abuse allegations to Westminster. Are civil servants too powerful? Plus, Nigerian corruption and does heightism exist?

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Noise around the abuse at Westminster and the role call of


celebrity accusations has forced there to be an independent inquiry


and review. With us is the former child protection professional who


raised the alarm that politicians were involved in child sex abuse,


and who has given his first television interview in 20 years to


the BBC today. The Cabinet Secretary from the 1980s


is here to talk amongst other things about a memo seen by Newsnight who


suggest it really is the Civil Service in charge of the country.


This Nigerian politician embeled millions, did he do it using British


aid money and did parliament know about it. It is aid invested in


companies alleged to be money laundering fronts for the biggest


crooks in Nigeria. If you are not going to prosecute that what are you


going to prosecute. Is the Speaker of the House of Commons, John


Bosnian Serbing co-right when -- John Bercow says mocking short


people is the same as any other discrimination right?


This is an extraordinary moment in the life of the parliament, and in


the actions of this Government, the Home Secretary has bowed to a


prevailing mood in the country in the wake of cases such as Jimmy


Savile and Rofl Harris, and the dogged determination of a backbench


Tory MP to announce, against expectation, an independent inquiry


in the handling of historic child abarks as well as how public


institutions deal with the issues of child protection. The Prime Minister


has promised they will leave no stone unturned. Was there a serious


clean-up needed in parliament. Were some of the most powerful people in


the country engaged in child abuse as has been suggested? A BBC


documentary broadcast a decade later included an interview with a


Conservative whip decribing reasons why the MPs might ask the whips'


office for help. Anyone who have in trouble would come to the office and


say I'm in a jam and can you help. It might be debt, it might be


scandal involving small boys or any kind of scandal. The BLOECHLT has


previously ruled -- the Government has previously ruled out holding an


inquiry into historic allegations of child abarks today the Home


Secretary announced two. Our priority must be finding the people


behind these disgust be crimes, and wherever the need to prosecute we


will adopt a presumption of maximum transparency. And where there has


been failure to protect children from abuse we will expose it and we


will learn from it. The first inquiry concerns the dossier written


by this man, the now dead MP, Geoffrey Dickens, which he handed to


the Home Office and then Home Secretary Lord Brittan. It detailed


the activities of a Westminster paedophile-ring, which has been lost


or destroyed alongside other relevant documents. I felt it was a


country where children could play happily. Mr Dickens campaigned on


paedophilia and regularly used parliamentary privilege to make


accusations. Newsnight has spoken to one person named by Dickens and


wrongly smeared in the 1980s, he said it ruined his life. Put it


before parliament that we castrate the buggers. So what do we know


about the man behind the dossier. Geoffrey Dickens was a serious man,


but until I actually mentioned the word "paedophile" to him, he had


never heard of it. And when I told him what was alleged to be going on


he took it up with great gusto and started creating these dossiers of


which there has been so much trouble and speculation. Why has all this


bubbled up now? Well the spiralling revelations about child abuse by the


likes of Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris reached fever pitch with


allegations of what Leon Brittan did with the dossier. Names of alleged


abusers have been swirling. People need to be careful if we want to


protect the victims and let them see justice. We must follow a process,


which I appreciate is annoying, if you have something that is exciting


and interesting and indeed very important and you want to get it out


there and make sure something is done about it. But sometimes, just


being a little bit calm about these things can get a better result in


the long run than rushing off and saying things in public early on.


Among the inquiries into historical paedophilia already, Jimmy Savile's


abuse at the BBC, following the revelations from the NHS last month,


the Metropolitan Police's post-Savile Operation Yewtree has


brought more accusations. And the examination of historical


allegations at Fernbridge, and there is a look at care homes and criminal


inquiry into alleged paedophile abuse in a residential school in


Rochdale in the 1980s. Allegations that the abuse of children was


suppressed by people in power. It can feel like another day another


abuse scandal, today Theresa May announced a Hillsborough-style


independent inquiry, investigating how public bodies from the police to


schools handled child sex abuse allegations. Why has the Home


Secretary changed her mind and added two new inquiries into the already


burgeoning numbers of investigations into child sex abuse in Britain.


What can the new ones achieve. It is where we need to be, so we can move


on to it and get answers to what went wrong, we can establish who was


part of the cover-up and identify some of the perpetrators that are


still walking our streets. Do you want a man to represent or a party


robot. Cyril Smith's alleged abuse was revealed by Mr Danczuk, but has


the Government been pushed into taking action. We feel if there is


not an inquisition into something the politicians aren't doing their


job properly. There is a real danger we get carried away here. I think


the politicians back there are getting too carried away. Back then


it took several years to clean the buildings of Westminster, cleaning


up what went on there is still on going.


We have our guest in the studio, the former child protection manager, and


the first one to raise the question of high-profile politicians being


involved in child abuse. What is your reaction to the news there will


be an inquiry and review today? It is a very positive step forward. I


wouldn't want people to think that is the end of the story. It is just


the beginning of a process that needs to start now. What about the


nature of this inquiry, that people are going to lead it? I think it is


absolutely crucial that survivors have the biggest say in who should


be in an inquiry, survivors will only come forward if it is people


they can trust and people who haven't let them down in the past.


When I say people I mean institutions, that survivors have


tried to talk to in the past but either haven't been believed or


their stories have been seen as not credible because of the size of the


galeses that they are making and the seriousness of them. In relation to


the NSPCC have you got concerns? From a number of survivors I have


spoken to and from a number of witnesses the concerns that they


have about the NSPCC is it is very much the charity of the


establishment and has for many, many years had people like Rolf Harris


and Jimmy Savile associated with the fundraising side of it. What are the


claims that you are actually making in relation to historic child abuse


centered around Westminster? Obviously I'm not going to say on


live television any details that might interfere with any police


investigations, but for the last 30 years and longer than that, there


have been a number of allegations made by survivors that people at the


very top of powerful institutions in this country, which include


politicians, judges, senior military figures, and even people who have


links with the Royal Family, have been involved with the abuse of


children. What was actually happening, can you give us some idea


of the seriousness of the allegations? At the most serious


level we are talking about brutal rape of quite young boys. Did you


take your concerns to politicians say 20 years ago? After an


investigation I was involved in was closed down before it had even got


off the ground. A senior police officer from the Metropolitan Police


and two very experienced investigative journalists and myself


had a meeting with a very prominent figure in the opposition party, the


Labour Party at that time and we essentially gave the details that we


want to give now but nothing came of it. You seem to be suggesting that


as far as Westminster is concerned paedophilia was used to create a


kind of indebtedness, it was used as a weapon? That's the impression you


would have from the statement Tim Fortesque. I'm saying that


paedophiles infiltrate every institution, but the more powerful


the institution it is, the more powerful the abusers are. And


unfortunately parliament, politicians haven't been immune from


the I will filtration -- infiltration of paedophiles. You


can't name any names, and a number of people that you are alleging,


that your survivors are alleging the perpetrators are dead. Are you


alleging there are still people in positions of power who were involved


20-odd years ago? Very much so. But what I must emphasise is this is


what survivors are saying, and the problem up until now is that it has


never been tested. There hasn't been the opportunity for survivors to be


listened to. And what are allegations may or may not be true,


but the allegations are there, and the allegations are against very


specific named individuals. The initial impression that I would have


is that there is a great deal of truth in them and they need to be


investigated in great detail. Please stay with us, thank you very much.


So questions both at the heart of the investigations are huge whether


some senior politicians in the 1980s may turn out to be paedophiles and


whether public institutions in which we trust may have allowed children


to be abused. But is this a proportionate response or are we in


danger of being swept along in a moral panic. We have our guests in


the studio. First of all, do you think this investigation and indeed


the review has come at the right time? It seems to me that we are so


addicted to inquiries and investigations that it is acquiring


a ritualistic, almost pointless character. We are always told this


investigation or inquiry will put things right and bring closure, but


you will find for many, a long, long time now, we have this continuous


obsess why you desire to rummate with the past. It has almost been a


psychological displacement strategy that we are losing sight of the fact


that there are issues we can deal with the here and now. Some people


can't get on with the here and now as we know with the Harrison and


Savile case until these things are dealt with probably? These


ritualistic performances do not bring closure but incite more


denunciations, they lead to more people becoming the target of


investigations. A complete proliferation of investigations


going on. Obviously it would be awful if anyone who was innocent


were accuse of anything of nefarious and terrible as child abuse, but if


you were a parent of one of these children, would you not wish for a


thorough investigation, for a public investigation to take place? It


seems to me that the idea of investigating this historic, these


historic wrongs and I'm sure a lot were done, retrospectively invites


as much confusion as solutions. In a different climate if you had the odd


individuals being investigated that could work. But surely it is


actually preferable to have these things investigated and then


discounted than not investigated at all? Exactly, to have a culture of


secrecy. We have to remember that we weren't going to have this


investigation even last week, do you think there is a danger here that


what the Government is doing is responding to a rising hysteria? I


don't think it is a rising hysteria, I think it is a rising anger. For


once I think moral indignation and moral outrage are exactly the mood


of the people and the mood that we should espouse at the moment. But


that can lead to mistakes? Not always. And could lead to people


being beaten up that were innocent? I think it could be if one innocent


people were beaten up, but we want justice? People are not demanding,


they come from a small section of society. I don't believe that. If


you talk to normal human beings they don't get up in the morning and say


we need yet another inquiry and judicial inquest, that is not what


people are worried about. Is there are a danger of witch-hunts, the man


burned in Bristol wrongly accused. You have a witch-hunt and a mob? My


church, the Catholic Church only recently was investigated in this


way, and they had to turn themselves inside out and people said, and


Catholics said is this a witch-hunt? No. I think it is not. The way it


has been found out and dealt with in the Catholic Church was specific. We


don't have names or anything, I assume, approaching that kind of


scale at Westminster? But we are beginning to see a culture of


secrecy, and cover-up at Westminster, as there was within the


Catholic Church, and I think the same impulses of "we're in power, we


can abuse the most vulnerable among you", that is there. Let me ask


Peter that, without naming names is what Christine is saying right, that


there is a culture of those in power thinking they can do anything with


impunity, was that the atmosphere described by some of the survivors?


That is my experience and my view, yes. I must say I find it


disappointing that after all these years that the views of Mr Fered


direction are still being put across in a programme like this, when all


we are asking for is to look at the evidence, to listen to survivors and


to discount rumours, false allegations and just concentrate on


very clear, solid allegations. And once and for all allow the


opportunity for survivors to talk about their abuse in a very calm


manner to very trusted people. Do you have a concerns about creating a


kind of atmosphere where children think particularly of men as sexual


predators? I think we already have that, if you look at the way that


generational relations are managed in our society, adults, and not just


men, but also women have become physically and distanced from


children. We have children warned about the danger of strangers to the


point of which the spontanity and informality of society no longer


exists. I worry about what it causes children. That is a difficult thing


to counter? It is true and it is a very price for us to pay. But when


you look at the Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile images and you think


stranger danger might have been a good lesson for those children


learned. I would rather my children went on the street had a bit of


freedom and had independence. And pawed by Rolf Harris. We can make


them aware of the risks. Thank you very much. The complex and fraud


relationships between Government ministers and civil servants have


provided endless fodder for satire, but Newsnight has discovered fury at


the heart of Government over what amounts to the job specification for


permanent secretaries, a job brief which suggests which many have long


suspected that their role is not primarily to serve the Government of


the day in an impartial way, but rather as it states, to balance the


needs of the politicians with the long-term aims of their particular


department. Here is our political editor.


You just say everything the Civil Service programmes you to say, are


you a man or mouth? Very amutesing. It must be hard for a political


adviser to understand this, I'm merely a civil servant, I do what


I'm instructed by my master. This was fiction in the 1980s, but is it


fact now. Does life imitate art, are today's Sir Humphreys dancing to the


tune. The minister in charge of the Humphrey its, Francis Maude has


circulated to cabinet colleagues, a document, seen by Newsnight, which


he says breaches constitutional propriety, a Civil Service coup.


What has sparked the row is a job description for permanent


secretaries, or the most powerful officials in the land N it they talk


about the needs of balancing the immediate demands of ministers with


the long-term aims of the department. For insiders that is as


close as civil servants have ever got to decribing themselves as


important if not more than elected politicians. If that is the case,


that is quite a challenge to our democracy. It is a handful of


sentences that alarm politician, a Permanent Secretary, the document


says, must have the X Factor, being able to tolerate high levels of


ambiguity and uncertainty, and at seems irrational political demands.


Then the snappily titled strategic interpretation, civil servants have


a pivot point, managing expectations versus leading their department. A


pivot between serving and leading, but politicis believe civil servants


should always serve. There is much sensible stuff about supporting


ministers, enbeginedering trust and so on, but in the most incendiary


passage it says permanent secretaries should know how to


balance ministers immediate needs with the long-term aims of their


department. I think this is an extraordinary document. I mean we


are used to being amuse bid the idea of Sir Humphrey pursuing objectives


that have nothing to do and can be opposed by the Government of the


day. But this is beyond a joke. It is real. We can't have a permanent


Government deciding it has its own -- a permanent bureaucracy deciding


it has its own priorities against an elected Government for obvious


reasons. This does go to some of the problems we are seeing in a Civil


Service which is sometimes resistant to change, we can see why. Lord


Butler disagrees, over a 37-year Civil Service career, he was private


secretary or Cabinet Secretary to five prime ministers. Ministers have


a political agenda that civil servants can't get into. Although


you are working closely together you have to keep some distance. Is there


a single bit of the document you disagree with and wouldn't have put


down in black and white? No, I think some of it could have been more


straight forwardly expressed. No I think it does reflect the borders


that permanent secretaries can't cross. But it is that attitude that


has enraged cabinet ministers and in another letter, seen by this


programme, the minister in charge of Civil Service reform, Francis Maude,


writes to his colleagues and sharing the document asks for their help in


writing the fresh job description. He says civil servants don't exist


to serve the long-term interests of their department, as the document


suggests, but instead they need to serve the Government of the day.


Ever since Sir Humphrey was in short trousers there were tensions between


mandarins and their masters, this is worse now as the coalition unleashes


an aggressive programme of Whitehall reform. It is not possible minister.


It is. It isn't. It is. It isn't. It is. It isn't. It is, it is, it is,


it is. Tonight some think civil servants have been caught


overstating their power. A permanent Government, but will Sir Humphrey


always be so steady? I'm joined now by the two people you


saw in that film, Lord Butler, and Nick Herbert, the former Government


minister leading a cross-party project looking at the reform of the


Civil Service. This is really the natural order of things, ministers


come and go, and are of mixed ability, you need some continuity?


Ministers might come and go and be of mixed ability. Some kind of


permanent Civil Service, serving the Government of the day, clearly has a


role. But the issue here is whether they should have their own agenda


and whether it is legitimate for them to have a different view from


that of ministers. It is one thing I think for the Civil Service to warn,


counsel and advise, and privately disagree. But they can't actually


say, as this document suggests that the leaders of the Civil Service


can, that it is legitimate for them to have their own agenda that is


separate from the elected Government of the day. You heard Lord Butler


saying there was nothing in the original memo he would disagree with


but he would have put it more plainly? I was astonished by that.


The words speak for themselves, the Civil Service can decide when to


serve the Government of the day, that should be beyond without. DOURT


doubt. And you have to deal with irrational politicians' demands.


Have you ever had to deal with that? Nick may be surprised to know I


absolutely agree with him. The job of a Permanent Secretary is to


loyally try to deliver the policies of the Government of the day. But of


course the Permanent Secretary also has another responsibility. He has


to be able to lead a department that can serve a different minister, or


serve a different Government. So you can't think that politicians and


civil servants are exactly the same. But when the minister decides on the


policy it is whole hearted lie the duty of the -- whole heartedly the


duty of the civil servants to deliver that policy. The original


memo, essentially the job description we were talking about it


is said is without constitutional propriety, that is a bit of a slap


down? I don't think that is right. It is the permanent Civil Service,


that has served the country very well. But the Civil Service doesn't


have a policy of its own. Let me give you an example, a Department of


Pensions may want to do something to reduce the cost of old age pensions


in the long run. If the present minister doesn't want to do that,


that is the duty of the Civil Service to do what the minister


wants. Imposing long-term priorities, that is another of the


things? I think if you have a memo that selects for future permanent


secretaries on the basis that they are likely to be able to take a


different view from the view of ministers, is to invite them to


breach the Civil Service code itself. Article 14 of which says


that civil servants should serve with complete impartiality. The


Government of the day. When did the Civil Service stop being able to do


that, and who do they answer to to have an agenda of their own. You


can't have a permanent bureaucracy unanswerable to no-one. The


legitimacy can only come from elected politician, and it is not


just wrong it is potentially dangerous, if you card getting a


cadre of people who think they have a right and role to pursue policies


that are not democratically set. The danger is in the words as well


"long-term aims", you are not really allowed to have long-term aims? I


entirely agree with Nick, that the people who rule. That is fantastic,


I love the way you are able to say you entirely agree but disagree with


him! I agree but things need to be done in the long-term. We need to


produce departments that can serve equally loyally Governments of a


different party. It looks like this job speck was written by a civil


servant because it can mean anything to whoever is reading it? It gets it


absolutely right that civil servants must whole heartedly support the


elected Government. But they also do have a long-term policy of being


able, a long-term duty of being able to lead a department that can


support another minister or Government. You are not in favour of


moving to a more American-style system, where actually the Civil


Service is of a particular political hue along with the politicians in


power? No, I'm not. But essentially with Civil Service reform it might


end up moving towards this? There might be some who suggest that. At


the moment I think the overwhelming view in this country is we should


have an impartial Civil Service, that is required under the law. That


requires them to be constantly impartial. It does not allow what


this memo suggests, which is that they are some how able to balance


their own views, who is to be the arbiter of those views. To whom are


they to be accountable with those of the elected Government. It is in


plain English. That is not what the memo says, it is for future


permanent secretaries drawn up by the Civil Service themselves. Have


you had an irrational demand by a minister posed to you that you have


had to bat off? Not that I have had to bat off. Ministers sometimes have


to make decisions for political reasons that a civil servant may not


think are very sensible. It is still their duty to carry them out. Do you


put your fingers behind your back and cross them? What do you do, do


you say minister this is not tenable or do you go away and say to other


civil servantses that you have to move on it because it is not


tenable? Suppose the minister says we want to reduce immigration by


100,000 over the next two years T may be the duty of the Environment


Secretary to I is a, minister I don't think -- to say, minister I


don't think we can do that it is not practicable. If the minister says do


it? We will do our best. Can I move back a bit to talk about the top of


the programme and talk about Theresa May's announcement of both an


independent review and investigation. You were around very


much in the 1980s and a acceptor civil servant in the 1980s, did you


have any idea of a Home Office cover-up of paedophile rings? I was


principal secretary when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister at the


relevant time, I never heard anything about it. Is it conceivable


as Lord Tebbit says that there was a cover-up? All I know is what I read


in the papers. It says there is 114 files, it is difficult to imagine


there could be a cover-up with all that without people knowing about


it. At the time were you aware of a paedophile-ring or rumours of child


abuse within the corridors of power? No. Not at all? No. International


aid is one of the Government's key commitment, but now the Serious


Fraud Office is accused of turning a blind eye to alleged corruption


involving millions of pounds for aid for Africa. An and Newsnight


investigation has found that a department has referred itself to


investigation. Tens of millions were veg invested in companies linked to


some of Africa's most corrupt politicians. The former aid


secretary, Andrew Mitchell is accuses of making misleading


statements on the matter. One of Africa's most corrupt


politicians are serving a 13-year prison sentence. There is evidence


that millions of pounds in British Government aid may have been used to


lawneder money he looted. The aid department turned a blind eye. The


public money, intended for development aid, being invested in


companies that are alleged to be money laundering fronts for one of


the biggest crooks in Nigeria. If you don't prosecute that what will


you. The department under fire, founded in the 1940s, was previously


a small branch of Britain's aid effort, investing in the private


sector and known as the Commonwealth Development Corporation. Times have


changed. It is now plain CDC and booming on the back of private


equity funds. With assets of ?3 billion in public money, Andrew


Mitchell says it is the future of aid policy. He says the shift of the


market is addressing what he calls a deficiency in the Civil Service's


DNA. Critics say it is creating a climate where corruption can


flourish. The investment in this case, ?23 million, went from CDC to


the American private equity fund Emerging capital Partners, ECB, they


put it into a fund which invests in a range of African companies, some


allegedly linked to James Ebore, the rut politician. The claim is that by


mixing his money with development funds from Britain was able to clean


up to lawneder millions he looted from the Nigerian state.


We heard from an anglo-African businessman of money laundering


going into companies by the corrupt politician. The agency responsible


for CDC insisted he was wrong. It has now emerged, behind the scenes,


that that DYFID weren't so sure. They publicly continued to deny.


This view is now backed up by the parliamentary ombudsman. In a report


on corruption, he says that the Metropolitan Police actually told


DIFID's anticorruption unit there was evidence going back years,


linking the bent Nigerian politician to three of his alleged front men.


Yet they still maintain the investments were


Yet they still maintain the about. They should have allowed a


proper and thorough investigation of the allegation, not just simply


refer the allegations to the fund manager and accept the fund


manager's denials at face value. The people you were making allegations


against, they chose to take their word for it? Not only did they


choose to take their word for it, but they took their word for it when


there was independently available evidence to the contrary. The former


development secretary, Andrew Mitchell assured Caroline Lucas that


DFID had no evidence of wrongdoing. He makes a big point that he's


writing in extreme depth and he underlines things so he has gone


through the letter and hand underlined it. And finally his point


is he hopes very much this is the end of the affair and essentially


you will stop bothering me about it. To give those kinds of assurances


means he wasn't taking the issue seriously or he wasn't in possession


of all the facts. Either of those two conclusions is not comforting


when talking about the Secretary of State in charge of a good deal of


tax-payers' money. Since the year 2000, Emerging Capital partners... .


We now know Britain's aid was invested blind. The emerging fund


merge from ECP didn't have to say what checks it had made before


putting money into companies allegedly linked to James Ebore. It


seems astonishing that tax-payers' money is being used in a way that


has no oversight. The man who raised the alarm says he's shocked


supervision was so loose. It appears that at quite an early stage into


the investigations, DFID and CDC decided to ignore the serious red


flags about the way those investments were being made. Either


to protect their reputation or to protect their finances.


At the start of this year, five years after these concerns were


first raised about British aid money and the private equity fund ECP, the


Serious Fraud Office was finally called in. This month the SFO made


its contribution to this alphabet soup of a saga by giving its


response. There are, they concede, grounds for concern, there may be


evidence of malpractice. What are they going to do about it? They will


pass the case on it the Americans. Now they will ask the US authorities


to investigate. We seem to be in some kind of Kafka-esque story,


where nobody will take responsibility and the buck is


constantly passed. In an e-mail to the NGO Corner House, they say ECP


is US-registered and it does not appear that CDC have lost out


financially by engaging with ECP. That is unbelievable, it is like me


arguing that, or the police saying they couldn't prosecute me if I


tried to murder you because I failed to do so. And you survived and were


thriving afterwards. In Nigeria, the cost of corruption is paid by the


poor. The people who ought to be benefitting from Britain's aid


programme. The critics we have spoken to are ardent supporters of


overseas aid, but despair at what they see is the department to


account for its mistakes or correct them.


CDC, the aid department's private sector arm says in a statement it


remains unclear whether the allegations are true or not. They


are proud of their systems but no vetting system is perfect. ECP said


in their statement that there is still no evidence to support


allegations of improper funding, DFID told us they have implemented


new procedures and are happy to look at any new information. Andrew


Mitchell said he had nothing to add. Should David Cameron have made a


joke that referred to John Bercow as one of the seven dwarves, or is


height unacceptable as racism. John Bercow said he was never bothered


about being short, but in an interview this weekend he questioned


why it was acceptable to question someone about their height when


jokes about race or sexuality was wrong. Leave the chamber, get out we


will manage without you. You are adding nothing, you are subtracting


a lot, it is rude, stupid and pompus and it needs to stop. You are


yelling across the chamber, be quiet. Quiet. Calm yourself, take up


yoga. John Bercow is the referee of the Commons, and not afraid to


threaten a red card from time to time. But after being on the


receiving end of some of unkind remarks about his statisticture, he


says it is wrong for people to play the man not the ball. Where as


nobody these days would regard it acceptable to criticise someone on


grounds of race, or creed or disability or sexual orientation,


some how it seems acceptable to comment on someone's height or lack


of it. Mr Bercow was an athlete in his youth, an outstanding tennis


player, a perspective Greg Rusezski. He kinds the jibes schoolboyish.


When I saw the comments I thought typical Bercow, trying to get


publicity and make himself a victim. It is total rubbish. What a dreadful


speaker he is. You have to bear in mind that the smallness of a


politician or public figure can be interesting. If you have President


Sarkozy of France. He was a tiny little fellow. And he had special


high heels, he was some how a more interesting figure because of his


very smallness. Speaker Bercow is a short chap, and to see him


surrounded by the vast chair makes him a more theatrical personality


lend him political power. Let's leave personalities out of


this for a moment, and feature interesting facts about height. It


seems men of five foot four or less can live for up to two years longer


than taller contemporaries. But taller people may be more


intelligent, thanks to mum and dad. Apparently clever people tend to


seek tall partners, and they may earn more. Perhaps because some


bosses link height to status. Height traditionally has been seen as a


masculine trait, to be a tall man is to be seen traditionally as a more


masculine man. I think perhaps by drawing attention to someone's short


stature, in a map, particularly, that would be seen as an insult.


There is no comfort in a bus or train, his head catches in the


luggage rack. It is not all the upside, as Ted Evans can tell you,


England's tallest man at seven-and-a-half foot. Great height


can lead to cruel or thoughtless remarks. After extensive research at


the next set of desks, we found Hugh Pim, six foot seven of him. Most


people if they spot me say do you want a game at centre half big man,


or what is the weather like up there. It is the height, and I do


feel, and other tall people feel the same, that it is a bit of a liberty


isn't it walking up and making a comment about somebody being tall


when they wouldn't necessarily, in fact rarely if ever would make


comments about people's appearance in other areas. But being tall it


seems to be fair game. I'm not sure it is fair game. Order, order.


Order. Mr Bercow's view that mocking people about their stature is


comparable to racism or homophobia is not backed by the Equality and


Human Rights Commission. Long story short, height is not a protected


characteristic under the law. That is the beginning and the end of the


matter. Joining me now to discuss heightism are two men at five foot


four are both a clear two inches shorter than the speaker. We have


the founder of the website Support for the Short. And our studio guest.


Is the website about trying to stop humour about the question of height?


It is making the issue of heightism known. It is not something


recognised. I was listening very carefully to-to-what they were


saying before I came on. We want to educate people, and show people,


especially short people that heightism exists. That people who


are short are victims of discrimination. I think it is high


time that short people started unifying and acting as a group,


rather than just a bunch of individuals. So a bit of pressure


group fresh, and you as a comedian use your stature for comedy? That is


because people think it is funny in many ways. I don't know whether it


is just a new "ism". We're not an oppressed bunch. We have never been


stopped from getting on a bus or prevented voting. The only thing not


allowed on is a rollercoaster, that is fine because of the height


measurements. An "ism", you are talking about genetics, you are


genetically five foot four, and black, brown and whatever, why is it


different from racism. I think there is a debate to be had. Do we then


stop making jokes about people with big noses, sticky out ears. Do we go


all the way down the line. I don't know that we do, don't we start


living in a duller world. Would it be if we didn't talk about people's


attributes, be it height or ears or whatever? We're trying to get this


away from the individualistic side of T we are looking at it as a


collective trait. When you call somebody a derockry name or


disparaging name based on their height, it should be viewed on the


way other groups see disparaging words affecting them. Is it


discussions, jokes about height actually undermine your confidence?


Of course it never helps your confidence to be a member of a group


that can be easily and wantonly disparaged at a moment's notice. It


is always difficult to combat these things, if you happen to be one of


the people that want to combat these things, you will find there is


tremendous resistance against you. Can humour be a weapon for you? And


that five foot four comedian is not helping matters any. You are not


helping matters any? I don't think there is a problem to be helped. I


think it is, I don't find it, that height is a very different thing to


discriminate against. We are not oppressed. I find the line odd. You


never feel you are being patronised because of your height? I had a


friend at school the same height as me, and in later years went shopping


in a well-known supermarket and fell into a freezer chest, I couldn't


help but laugh at that. It would be sad if we didn't. Is it different


for men who are short stature or women? I don't know that it is. If


it is used as a weapon against you, then that is a fair point. But I


think in my experience it rarely is. It is not, I don't get abused


because of it. Thank you very much. That's all we have time for. Good




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