With Evan Davis. Should we plan for war with terrorists or Russia? Plus UKIP in chaos, meet the PM's top Brexit advisor and should African women stop kneeling in greeting?
Browse content similar to 22/01/2018. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
This programme contains scenes
of Repetitive Flashing Images.
For three decades, we've persuaded
ourselves we don't need
to fight other countries -
that war had changed,
it was all about insurgents.
Well, is it time
to change our minds?
Russia, I think, could initiate
hostilities sooner than we expect.
And a lot earlier than we would
in similar circumstances.
I don't think it will start
with little green men.
It will start with
something we don't expect.
Britain is set to have a new
Strategic Defence Review this year.
The Generals are making
the case for more money.
So tonight, we'll take a good look
at what our defence is for.
And we'll hear a view
from the US, too.
What do they think our
money should be buying?
Also tonight: They say attack
is the best form of defence,
which explains why the Ukip leader
is out to fight his
I shall respect the next steps
in the constitutional process,
and will therefore not be resigning
as party leader.
We tried the men in grey suits,
perhaps it's now time
for the men in white coats.
I don't know, he seems to me to have
lost all touch with reality.
We'll ask Ukip old-timer Suzanne
Evans whether the party is now over.
And, forget David Davis -
this is the man running Brexit
for Britain: Civil servant Olly
But Brexiteers worry that Whitehall
are not all with the programme.
The officials will do their best
to frustrate this process,
because as I say, it goes
against the grain so fundamentally.
And, should the tradition of African
women kneeling be scrapped?
Is it part of a proud heritage,
or an obstacle to social progress?
What is our defence budget for?
It's about 2% of our national
income, going up to about £40
billion a year by the end
of the decade.
Unfortunately, £40 billion doesn't
buy you as much is it used to.
And the Head of the Army,
General Sir Nick Carter,
set out the arguments for spending
more today - mostly by reference
to the threat of a stronger Russia.
Former Defence Secretary Sir Michael
Fallon said tonight we should aim
to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence.
But, you can't decide
what the right level of spending
is until you know what it's for.
You have to give the military a big
budget or narrow priorities -
you can't expect them to do
everything with nothing.
So, is fighting Russia what we think
British defence is about these days?
Or any country?
Britain is set to have a major
review of priorities this year -
which actually explains why
Sir Nick Carter made his pitch
today, so we'll look at some
of the central questions.
First, here's our Defence
Editor, Mark Urban.
So, the defence review that dare not
speak its name is dead,
long live the Strategic Defence
and Security Review.
It's not a pretty story
from the Government's point of view.
Faced with higher costs for buying
equipment from abroad
and an overset programme,
the Cabinet Office started looking
for cuts late last summer.
People in Whitehall told me it
couldn't be called a review
because the then Defence Secretary,
Michael Fallon, had conducted one
of those in 2015 and didn't
like the optics of having to do one
again so soon.
But it went deeper than that.
As the Cabinet Office
conducted its capability refresh,
as some people called it,
it started to look at possible deep
cuts to Britain's Armed Forces.
Details then leaked,
and MPs became outraged.
that the Royal Navy would lose its
ability to assault
Critically, when Newsnight broke
the news that there were plans
to get rid of the amphibious landing
fleet, it touched off angry scenes
Why should thousands of soldiers,
sailors and airmen be
lost, elite units be merged,
or aircraft, frigates and vital
amphibious vessels be scrapped long
before their out of service
When Michael Fallon resigned
in November, his successor, Gavin
Williamson, got the Prime Minister's
backing to stop the original
Now we can expect a full
Strategic Defence and
Security Review in
the spring and summer.
And today, the Army Chief
set the stage, warning that Britain
must do more to counter Russia's
enhanced military capabilities, and
willingness to use them.
I believe our ability
to pre-empt or respond
to these threats will be eroded
if we don't match up to them now.
They represent a clear
and present danger.
Critical to the exercise now is not
just an attempt to balance
the books, but to define the purpose
of the British Armed Forces
What hard power role does global
Britain expects to play,
and how much will that cost?
If Britain keeps on cutting.
An army of 60,000 was mooted
in the last exercise.
But what role can it
really play in helping
its friends, or making
realistic preparations for war
against another state?
And Mark Urban is with me now.
Ye used the word cutting, Mark. An
existing policy, is spending going
Cutting of capability is what
was in visit in this exercise in the
last few months. The Gus MacPherson,
we are spending more and more. --
the Government says. It is more and
more each year, a guarantee to spend
more of the information on
equipment. It's not enough, though.
Critically, the appreciation of
sterling on big programmes like the
F-35 fighter, Trident replacement,
has bitten in far more deeply than
those rises can cope with. The
forces have done what they've been
doing constantly since the war,
they've overstepped the programme.
They've put into many things, they
cannot afford all of their
We are going to have the
Strategic Defence Review this year.
Let's suppose we are going to do one
now in our guests with what the
priorities are. What is the question
and white with you the most critical
question is, the average member of
thinks the Armed Forces
are here to fight other countries if
that really has to happen. But the
truth is, since the end of the Cold
War, Britain simply doesn't have
that ability any more. And you can
park Russia and China. I mean, they
really mega- once, for a bit. Any
country or non-state actor, and
there are some, that can attack
warships with fast at supersonic and
shipping missiles, people with
submarines, that could be Iran,
North Korea, people with
sophisticated air defence networks,
all of these countries have
capabilities that the UK, really
either match, resist or take on.
Even the air defences of a country
like Syria were causing
consternation in the MoD when they
were asked seriously to look at 2013
at whether or not the UK could do
strikes. It is really about any
other country with sophisticated
weapons, fast jets, missiles,
submarines, and, critically, once it
starts, the stocks of things like
torpedoes, anti-aircraft missiles,
artillery shells, are so low that
Britain couldn't fight literally for
more than a day or two.
a good question, thank you very
much. Let's raise that.
Joining me now is Conservative MP
and former British Army
Captain Johnny Mercer.
I'm also joined
by military historian
and commentator Max Hastings.
And Kishwer Falkner,
Liberal Democrat peer and former
National Security Strategy Committee
Former Assistant US Secretary
of Defense, Graham Allison -
he's now Douglas Dillon Professor
of Government at the
Harvard Kennedy School.
He joins us from the US.
I will start with you if I may,
Graham Allison, thank you for
joining us. I want an American
perspective on a medium power,
medium-sized power, just off Europe,
across the Atlantic, watch it we be
spending on defence and what do you
think of our role is being so what
should we be spending?
It is a tough
set of questions and I know people
will struggle with it. But I think
Britain historically has played a
crucial role of leadership in
Europe. Britain will not be able to
defend its off against Russia. But
Britain as part of an alliance can
hope to create a stable Europe,
which in fact we've actually done
and seen in the period since World
War II, including after the Cold
War. So, Britain's military forces
are most of all about getting it a
seat at the table and a voice in
trying to shape sensible policy in
Europe. And indeed in the
relationship with the US.
really clear answer. Let me put this
to you, I think we get a seat at the
table if we spent 2% of our national
income on defence, that is the
native target. Most other Nato
countries are not even spending
that. Should that be our aspiration,
or should we go further to attain
that medium power role for
I believe the 2% is
important symbolically, because
persuading Americans that we should
spend more of our taxpayers' money
to defend Europe than Europeans do
is not a long-term winning
proposition. Trump expresses the
scepticism, it has a widespread view
in the US. I don't agree with that,
but certainly the majority would do
so. I think that having, that
keeping the US significantly in the
game and having Europeans play their
part is very important. Secondly,
more important than how much money
is spent, I think it's crucial to
meet the 2% criteria, but more
important is what to buy. And I
think unfortunately, both in the
American defence budget and in the
British defence budget, we are way
too far in the legacy systems that
are hugely expensive, and too short
on new technologies that could make
a more significant difference.
That's the place where I would drill
down if I were part of the British
thank you so much, that's a really
clear start to this does the
Goschen. Let me turn to my other
guests. Max Hastings, I want you to
paint for me a scenario that we
couldn't deal with now but you think
we should be able to deal with,
because you think we should be
The Russians our
overtime trying to push the
frontiers, especially in the Baltic
states. We have a small contingent
in the Baltic states up in the
moment. What Nick Carter was saying,
this is intended as a wake-up call.
In recent years, we have been
looking overwhelmingly at a
terrorist threat to Britain and we
have been worrying most about what
terrorists can do on the streets.
Nick Carter says we are living in a
It is an old world,
Not quite. The old idea
that you have a state of peace and a
state of war is off the agenda. What
Graham Allison among other people
have written a very vivid account of
in the last year or two is that we
have moved into a new world in which
we are never going to have,
hopefully, we may not have a big war
but we are very unlikely to have
absolute peace. And we are going to
be having to cope with all sorts of
threats of different levels.
Electronic threats, cyber threats,
and also perhaps low-level military
threats in places like the Baltic
states. Nick Carter said today, you
said one platoon of boots on the
ground is worth more than a squadron
of aircraft. At the moment, last
summer, an American general said to
me, very frankly and bluntly, he
said the British Armed Forces have
now become so small that they are
not taken seriously by either your
friends or your enemies. And I said,
I hope the next time that you see
our Prime Minister, you say that to
her. Americans are often too polite
to us, they don't tell us what they
are really thinking.
scenario, a Russian incursion into
Estonia or something like that where
we want to be players. Do you agree
we should be able to make a real
contribution on an occasion like
that was not absolutely. We are
committed to it through Nato
apart from anything else.
But it also comes back to a
situation where we can't... The
public have got to use the wars of
choice. Was in far-away places where
we have informed debate, we have
debates in Parliament and then we
decide whether we want to intervene
or not. Wrongly, in my opinion, in
2013 on Syria, when we should have
intervened. But I don't think the
public understands that there is
such a thing as a potential European
theatre. And there is such a thing
as state to state warfare in a way
that they haven't seen in new
Quickly, Johnny Mercer,
do you agree that we need to be able
to deal with that kind of situation.
I just want to see if you all agree?
The only thing that should define
the size and strength of the Armed
Forces is the Afri Sarries we are
against. You could talk about 2%...
You could say, Estonia, we don't
have to care about it?
That is a
line on the ground, it's the whole
process of Russian aggression and
what they have done in Ukraine and
how it has
how it has manifested itself in
different types of what.
What I want
to get is how much extra we have to
spend in order to deliver that. We
are at 2% of GDP. 2.5%, 3%, what is
The chap from America had it
spot on. That is a signal of intent.
The real question is, what is the
future of the British Armed Forces?
What do we want from them, what is
the threat we are up against?
want to go into Estonia and make a
It should be
welcomed that Nick Carter has come
forward with a light in point of
view that the character of conflict
has changed, we have to have a
national discussion, because
taxpayers pay for it ultimately.
will come back to you. What do you
think we need extra to spend?
The right way round to look at this
is not to say, should it be 1%, 2%,
we should be saying what can we do
in the New World. We have had
defence review after defence review,
and they are always a joke. We have
so many ring fenced areas. I believe
that the Trident nuclear deterrent
is no longer relevant to the
particular situation we are in. But
no British political party is
willing to talk about that. Nobody
is willing to talk about
is willing to talk about scrapping
the Gurkhas. Until we have a
realistic defence review in which we
look realistically at the threats
out there and what we want to
achieve, until we stop playing
political games, we are not going to
have credible Armed Forces.
have an idea? I buy everything USA
in, you need to work out what you're
going to do. And the Chancellor, you
are the Defence Secretary, how much
actually do you need, 2 billion, 20
You need a fairly
significant chunk extra. It is
impossible to put a figure, but
there are a couple of things you
could do. You could remove cyber
from the budget and have a corporate
levy or something like that, because
our cyber defence capabilities are
used across the board by public
institutions and things like that,
you could look at the defence review
and the capabilities that you need,
and then very carefully see where
you can get the maximum value added.
We have got two aircraft carriers.
We know that we will never be able
to have task force groups for both
of them, so we need to think how we
ended up having two. It is done for
important point in this whole debate
is this is an attempt, rather brave
attempt, backed by the Defence
Secretary, to try to get the British
public to look at what is going on
out there in the world.
He is the
elected MP and has voted to deal
with. Extra money for the NHS
The NHS in some ways is
similar because the challenge
throughout the NHS is changing all
the time. With defence, it is the
same. The threat is changing. And as
politicians, we have to meet that.
There is no use having your...
want more money... You want more
money on defence, more money on the
NHS, you're not going to have extra
borrowing. You need taxes to go up.
It is not a grown-up question to say
it is got to be the NHS or defence.
In a grown-up world we have to look
at the whole range of issues facing
government, and it is what happening
at the moment is that government has
to become so fixated with the NHS
and social spending that we are not
thinking nearly hard enough about
But if taxes have to go
up, they have to go up.
all very much indeed.
Well, having talked about defence,
we can turn to war now -
as that is where Ukip
finds itself at.
The leader, Henry Bolton,
is not resigning.
He came out just after 4pm this
afternoon to tell us that.
But 14 or 15 of his
senior colleagues -
we've literally lost count -
have quit their roles
because they want him to go.
The party's National Executive
Committee had already voted
no confidence in him,
but Mr Bolton chose not
to bow to the pressure,
and instead promised to take
on the party apparatchiks.
He said he'd "drain the swamp".
John Sweeney has been
following today's Ukip developments.
This happy breed of men, this little
world, this precious stone, is now
banned in with shame, with inky
blocks and rotten parchment. That
Ukip, that was want to conquer
others, hath made a shameful
conquest of itself. Four years ago,
Ukip won more votes than any other
party in the European elections.
Eventually forcing David Cameron's
hand to call the Brexit referendum.
I will go to Parliament and propose
that the British people decide our
future in Europe through and in/ out
referendum on Thursday the 23rd of
That one, then Nigel Farage
quit, Diane James was queen of Ukip
to 18 days, then came Paul Nuttall,
who fell after the party got a
drubbing in the general election.
Next, Henry Bolton. The former Army
trooper made a splash when he said
he could kill a badger with his own
hands. When it came out that he had
left his Russian wife from model
half his age, that was bad. When she
was found to have tweeted racist
claptrap about Prince Harry's bride
to be, Meghan Markle, that was bad
bad. Today Mr Bolton put his foot
I shall respect the next steps
in the constitutional process, and
will therefore not be resigning as
party leader. I shall repeat, I will
not be resigning as party leader. It
is now time to put an end to the
infighting that has been going on
within the party for some time. And
to remove those who have been part
of that. In a single phrase, it is
time to drain the swamp.
I think it is a
foolish decision. I have no reason
to believe that the party will
support him. In fact, I think he
will go down to an overwhelming
defeat, which will add further
humiliation to his recent
experiences. I think it is all very
sad. We tried the men in grey suits,
perhaps now it is time for the men
in white coats. He seems to me to
have lost all touch with reality.
The troubled leader, when looking
for a shoulder to cry on, and
tonight found anything but.
turned this into a soap opera, and
in doing so have brought the party
I wouldn't agree
with that, Nigel. At the meeting
yesterday, there wasn't one charge
laid against me apart from that I
had left my wife.
What is Henry
Bolton do if it all goes wrong next
I'll cross that bridge when I
come to it. I am still going to be
campaigning solidly. I am not going
to go away in that respect, no way.
Henry Bolton can't last long, so
focus returns to the party's once
and perhaps future king. Someone
once said of Nigel Farage he doesn't
just want to be the bride at the
wedding but also the corpse at the
funeral. With Ukip going the way it
is, he may well get his wish.
Now I'll speak to Suzanne Evans,
former Deputy Chairwoman of Ukip
and a former leadership candidate
for the party.
Good evening to you. What happens if
Henry Bolton doesn't go, do you
I really wish he would, as I
think do the majority of members in
Ukip. He really has brought the
party into disrepute, and it's not
just about the fact he left his wife
and very young children, the fact
that he's taken up with a woman who
is younger than his eldest daughter.
There is actually a little bit more
to it than that. The membership
feels very strongly that they've
been misled from the start about the
nature of this relationship, and NEC
members, too, have pointed out that
it wasn't just about his personal
life and the chaos that is brought
to the party, but it is about other
things as well. One NEC member today
saying it was about his mishandling
of events, his political naivete,
negligence in his role, Mr deadlines
and political ineptitude. So I
really do wish he would go, as do
most other people, I think. This
whole farce that we are now going to
have an emergency general meeting
which is going to cost time and
money, at which I fear he is going
to be humiliated, just seems like a
pointless attempt to cling on to
what, really? He has lost the
support of a robbery.
Why don't you
leave Ukip has joined the
Conservatives, active interest?
think there is very much a role for
Ukip in public life. I think people
today have been very keen to try and
say that Ukip's finished, but this
is its 25th year, and there hasn't
been a single year in which someone
somewhere hasn't said, Ukip is
finished, it's all over, probably.
We are still polling above the Green
party. Just last week we had triple
the Lib Dem vote in a local election
by-election in Bolton. I don't think
anyone's talking about the demise of
the Lib Dems all the greens.
don't seem to get on with each
other. I can't find any policy
difference between you all. It seems
to be totally personal. What is it
about Ukip people that has made this
party so dysfunctional over the last
couple of years, do you think?
first years in Ukip were actually,
it was a honeymoon period I suppose
if you like, and I really do trace
this back to 2015 when Nigel Farage
failed to get elected in Thanet
South as he desperately wanted to
do, seemed to throw all his toys out
of the pram. There was this
disastrous resignation and
unresignation which again seemed to
bring disrepute to the party, and I
think from there it has been
downhill all the way. And I think it
is a bit rich of Henry to talk about
kicking and people who have been
involved in infighting, he could
probably be kicking out quite a few
people including Nigel Farage and
It will make a great
episode in the reunion one-day!
Suzanne, thank you very much indeed.
There is someone you really
need to know more about.
He is Olly Robbins, the Prime
Minister's Chief European Advisor.
Her sherpa, to use
the European language.
He is a public servant,
and his job is basically
to help deliver Brexit.
As far as that's concerned,
you might say he's the second most
important person in this country
after Theresa May -
although David Davis
and Boris Johnson might
beg to differ.
I suspect if you don't know
Olly Robbins' name already,
you'll get to hear it this year.
But don't wait.
Our Political Editor, Nick Watt,
has been scouting around looking
at what Mr Robbins is up to.
Brexit is the most radical change
of direction for this country.
The idea that any bureaucrat
could be in favour of radical
change is a nonsense.
The civil service may well
have its own agenda.
But ultimately, with
a strong government,
it should be the Goverment's
will that the civil
I don't think that, watching him
with three Prime Ministers,
there'd ever be a moment
that he would be in any way be
patronising about the fact that he,
you know, has more information
at his fingertips.
He's one of the tallest men
in the British Establishment,
with one of the lowest profiles.
Yet he wields some of
the greatest powers.
He's never at the
centre of attention.
But he's always in the room,
by the Prime Minister's side.
Olly Robbins, Theresa May's
Chief Adviser on Europe,
is being dubbed 'the real Brexit
Possibly eclipsing David Davis.
Beyond the world of Whitehall,
most people have no idea
who Olly Robbins is.
But, day by day, he is shaping
the nature of Britain's departure
from the European Union.
He has the Prime Minister's
ear in Downing Street,
and he's in the engine room
for the nitty-gritty of the Brexit
negotiations in Brussels.
Well, every European Prime Minister
or President has an Olly Robbins.
Has someone who works closely
with them, whom they trust,
who is in permanent contact
with all the others.
These are people who telephone
each other, e-mail each
other, text each other.
The actual formal meeting
where we all see people sitting
around a table for a split second,
that's the tip of the iceberg.
A recent adviser to Theresa May says
Olly Robbins has a knack of winning
the confidence of Prime Ministers
and senior mandarins.
Olly was somebody who really had
the full trust of that team.
Had the full trust
of the Prime Minister,
had the full trust of Jeremy Heywood
as well, and was able to really sort
of on meetings and run meetings
in a way that made the process very
smooth and very effective,
and probably one of just a few
officials who actually had that
level of trust and access, I think.
So, what are the instincts
of the man shepherding us
through this defining moment
in British history?
A good starting point
is the place where his worldview
began to take shape.
Olly Robbins embarked on the first
steps of what must have looked
like a classic journey
through the Establishment
when he studied politics,
philosophy and economics
here at Oxford in the 1990s.
But there's a twist.
He chose Hertford College, which,
despite the wooden panelling,
has pioneered a much more
inclusive admissions policy.
An Oxford contemporary who later
worked with Olly Robbins
in Downing Street had an inkling
he would go far.
Even at university, it was already
clear that this was a guy
who was going to make a success
of whatever he did.
I think it was fair to say he's
the sort of person you'd be more
likely to see in tweed
than in a football kit.
You know, but that phenomenal brain
was very much there.
But also that sense of humour.
The intellectual clout of this
modern college in an ancient setting
was shown when Olly Robbins
and three other graduates
of Hertford controlled intelligence
at the heart of Whitehall.
The Hertford Gang say it was
a conspiracy that never existed.
I've spoken to one Tory Brexiteer
who went to a grander Oxford
college, and is wary of Olly
"They're all commie geographers",
this Tory told me of
the Hertford College alumni.
Brexiteers were delighted when it
emerged that at Oxford,
the young Olly Robbins had written
that the Soviet Union
wasn't all bad.
I understand that David Davis,
the actual Brexit Secretary,
who has something of a prickly
relationship with Olly Robbins,
has a habit of opening meetings
with him by welcoming colleagues
to the Olly Robbins People's Soviet.
Everyone reportedly has a chuckle.
But some Leave ministers
are suspicious of him,
and regard him as a classic civil
servant who sees Brexit is a crisis
to be managed rather
than an opportunity to be seized.
I was, as you know, a member
of the Thatcher government.
We came in and introduced a radical
change in economic policy.
And all the officials were aghast.
They thought it would be a disaster.
But at that time we had a strong
Cabinet, led by an outstanding
Prime Minister, and they accepted
the leadership, the
as is constitutional duty.
If a soft Brexit is being
negotiated, it must be
the will of the Prime Minister
and her Cabinet.
How can we possibly be
in a position where the Cabinet
and the Prime Minister has a certain
direction and the Civil Service
is taking it a different way?
That surely is a sign
of a weak government.
Olly Robbins fears that
the Cabinet Brexiteers,
notably Michael Gove
and Boris Johnson, are on his case.
He worked hard to win
them over in the run-up
to the Prime Minister's EU speech
in Florence last September,
making changes on the way.
But in the tense week in December
when the phase one Brexit
negotiation deal appeared to be
on the verge of collapse,
there was some frustration
in the Cabinet Office that those
ministers were less supportive.
Well, I think, inevitably,
because of the role that Boris
and Michael played during the Leave
campaign, clearly they are big
figures who need to be part of this
process and brought into it.
And from what I've seen,
I think Olly deals with them
and their offices very effectively.
And again, brings a level
of diplomacy to the whole thing.
Deep in the basement of the Guardian
newspaper lies one final clue
to the character of Olly Robbins.
with impeccable manners.
Angle grinders and drills
were wielded by senior Guardian
editors to destroy files which had
been leaked to them
by Edward Snowden.
Olly Robbins had issued a stern
warning to the Guardian
that its continued possession
of the files marked a threat
to national security.
He brokered a deal where the files
were sawn to bits in an operation
supervised by Government agents.
was the Guardian verdict
on their Whitehall adversary.
So, a consummate Whitehall operator
with experience in the smoke
and mirrors world of intelligence
is guiding the Brexit process.
But in his mind, the painful
business of cutting deals and making
compromises lies in the hands
of his political controller.
Nick Wood what is with me. It was
interesting to hear Lord Lawson --
Nick Watt. He is so wary of the
civil service's role, their mindset
and ability to thwart all of this.
Civil servants were frustrated
because it goes against the grain,
but those remarks have clearly
struck a raw nerve in Whitehall,
because the Cabinet Secretary Sir
Jeremy Heywood has this evening
rally to the defence of the civil
service. He doesn't speak out that
much, but he issued a statement the
Newsnight after the comments by Lord
Lawson about the civil service in
general. Sir Jeremy says the civil
service take great pride in
supporting the elected government of
the day, and the mission is to
deliver Brexit. He says the civil
service is putting enormous effort,
and many of its very best people
into making a success of the
project, that is Brexit. He says,
interestingly, it is being tested on
a daily basis and I'm very proud of
what we have so far delivered.
it is a sensitive point, but the
civil service strikes back. Nick,
thank you very much.
Now, have a look at these images.
These show something pretty everyday
in parts of Africa: a woman kneeling
at the feet of an elder.
It is a traditional way in some
cultures of a woman showing respect.
In some, you might find men doing
the same, but it's not as common.
Now, of course, for years this kind
of greeting has been taken
for granted in certain African
cultures, just as curtseying
to the Queen is here.
But we now live in a globalised era,
where news, culture
and people travel.
And clearly, from a Western
perspective, kneeling can be seen
as an undignified reminder
of women's low social status imposed
by a male-run society.
So, it was just a matter
of time before the practice
came to be challenged.
And it was the Head
of Oxfam International,
Winnie Byanyima, who was born
in Uganda but lives in Britain,
who sparked a row about it,
tweeting, "How do we stop
this humiliating practice?"
Well, this may sound like just
another debate about gender
and identity politics,
but it cuts across the usual lines.
For some, Byanyima is
speaking up for women.
For others, she's disrespectful
of the cultural heritage
of the African societies
that practice kneeling.
I'm joined by Dami Olonisakin
and Nicky Olatubosun.
I am joined by two women from
cultures where kneeling is common.
Dami, tell us about the kneeling,
when do you kneel, or what form does
the kneeling cakes, why do you
Kneeling is a form of
respect. When you greet someone who
is older than you, you do this to a
family, you do this to relatives. It
is a very popular part of Yoruba
culture within Nigeria. It is
something that both men and women
do. It is not just one-sided. It's
something that everybody does.
actually your need touching the
ground, it is not just bending down.
It can be, depending on how old the
person is, the last time you saw
them, if it was someone quite close
The further down you go, the
You could definitely
say that, yes.
I understand, Nicky,
that of course men and women do do
it. But it is a gender element or
Personally I feel like it is to
do with both genders. Men are
supposed to prostrate, my done on
the ground, and women are supposed
in Neil Stubley but the men don't
always prostrate themselves. No,
It is no different to
how women gently bend down
sometimes. I feel like as long as
you are signalling that type of
respect, you are still acknowledging
that somebody is older than you and
your store greeting them. Nobody is
asking you to plank on the floor!
The traditional serving your
husband's meal, how does that go,
You are meant to hold it out
to him like he is a king.
sounds like quite a gender thing.
Most definitely, especially within
Nigeria and culture, we believe that
the man is the head of the house,
but it is not necessarily something
that all cultures do.
interesting and complicated. Nicky,
you are not keen on it and think it
is past its sell by date.
basically... I feel like I shouldn't
have the kneel down, like, I
understand, OK, it's about the
respect part of it. I'm respecting
my elders. I feel like you can be
verbally respectful. I can do a new
balance, a Coetzee, I shouldn't have
the kneel on the ground to greet
you. Especially when my parents
don't require it. -- a curtsy. I
shouldn't have to kneel down to
You know, I feel like
in different cultures all over the
world there are different ways that
we use nonverbal actions to display
a form of greeting, I don't feel it
should be scrapped. It has been done
for centuries. Just being able to
greet someone who is older than you.
In my culture...
I feel like it
should be more of a formal thing
rather than informal as well. Every
time you see someone, you are meant
to greet them that we.
reserve it for state occasions,
weddings, things like that.
came to a traditional wedding, if I
was marrying a you read the man, I
would kneel down for his parents as
required. -- eight you read the man.
We have changed lots of things in
That's the thing, you
can really compare other things the
kneeling down, that is problematic.
Tribal marking is automatic, and we
acknowledge that. Showing respect by
kneeling down to someone is showing
that you come from a good
background, when you are doing it,
we are thinking, your parents have
raised you write. It is a reflection
of your upbringing. That is how
Yoruba people see it.
If you don't
do it, do people think you are being
I have never come
across that. I don't believe in
kneeling down, I honestly don't, my
mum doesn't require it of my friends
and people she meets, therefore I
don't feel that I should have two.
Thanks for giving us an insight into
the debate about it.
That's it for tonight.
We end with proof that Germans
are not after all a nation
of humourless engineers.
They are, it seems, a nation
of very silly engineers.
So we leave with the alleged
creation of Johannes
and Phillip Mickenbecker
- the bathcopter.
MUSIC: Mars Theme by Nick Cave.
# We're coming in too fast and.
# Everyone is burning bright
# 182 seconds, baby
# And heaven is a trick of the light
# We're coming in too fast,
# Heaven is a trance unknown #.