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BBC Radio 4 - Reith Lectures 2010

The Reith Lectures

Significant international thinkers deliver the BBC's flagship annual lecture series

The Reith Lectures

  • 5/5. Shifting the Foundations
    Jonathan Sumption argues against Britain adopting a written constitution as a response to political alienation. The former UK Supreme Court Justice has argued that politics is in decline partly, at least, because the courts and the law is increasingly doing what politicians used to do. This has indirectly contributed to the electorate’s increasing rejection of the political process. There is growing resentment against the political elite. So what can we do? Lord Sumption makes some suggestions to restore faith in democracy – starting by fixing the party system and changing the way we vote. The programme is recorded in front of an audience at Cardiff University. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson

  • 4/5. Rights and the Ideal Constitution
    Jonathan Sumption assesses the US and UK’s constitutional models. He describes Britain's unwritten constitution as a political institution. The US Constitution is by contrast essentially a legal document. This has led Americans to address what should be political questions – such as the right to abortion – via the courts, rather than through politics. Britain, Lord Sumption argues, should learn from the United States be careful about which rights should be put beyond democratic choice. The programme is recorded in front of an audience at George Washington University in Washington DC. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank. Editor: Hugh Levinson

  • 3/5. Human Rights and Wrongs
    Jonathan Sumption argues that judges - especially those of the European Court of Human Rights - have usurped power by expanding the interpretation of human rights law. Lord Sumption argues that concepts of human rights have a long history in the common law. But by contrast, the European Convention on Human Rights has become a dynamic treaty, taking on new interpretations and powers. Article 8 – the right to private and family life – is the most striking example. Should these decisions be made by judges or parliament? The lecture is recorded before an audience in the old Parliament House in Edinburgh. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank. Editor: Hugh Levinson

  • 2/5. In Praise of Politics
    Jonathan Sumption explains how democratic processes have the power to accommodate opposition opinions and interests. But he argues that in recent years that politics has shied away from legislating and now the courts have taken on more and more of the role of making law. Lord Sumption was until recently a justice of the UK’s Supreme Court and is a distinguished historian. This lecture is recorded in front of an audience at Birmingham University. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank. Editor: Hugh Levinson

  • 1/5. Law's Expanding Empire
    Jonathan Sumption argues that the law is taking over the space once occupied by politics. Lord Sumption was until recently a justice of the UK’s Supreme Court, as well as being a distinguished historian. In this lecture, recorded before an audience at Middle Temple in London, Lord Sumption says that until the 19th century, law only dealt with a narrow range of human problems. That has now changed radically. And he argues that the growth of the law, driven by demand for greater personal security and less risk, means we have less liberty. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson