Is the World Bank braced for turbulence ahead? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to the bank's interim President Kristalina Georgieva. For more than seven decades, the World Bank has been a pillar of international consensus forged in Washington – where ‘rich world’ money has been funnelled into poorer nations prepared to play by its rules. But maybe the consensus is breaking down. The World Bank is about to get a new Trump-nominated president who has been sharply critical of its past activities.
Is UK policing fit for purpose? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Michael Fuller, former Chief Constable of Kent Police. There’s been an alarming rise in knife crime in the UK and this prompted a bout of soul searching about the causes and responses. Many of the questions focus on the police. Are they doing an effective job? How well do they handle the challenges of policing in disadvantaged and minority communities? Michael Fuller is the only black Briton to have run one of the country’s regional forces.
Is there a way out of Venezuela’s protracted agony? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Juan Andres Mejia, Deputy of Venezuela’s Voluntad Popular party. For millions of Venezuelans every day is a struggle for survival. This is an oil rich country where the shops are empty, the power is out and healthcare is collapsing. And politics offers little hope of salvation. The Maduro Government is clinging to the trappings of power while the country’s other self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido leads mass protests against him. Juan Andres Mejia is one of Guaido’s key allies in the Venezuelan parliament.
Image: Juan Andres Mejia (Credit: Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)
Stephen Sackur speaks to Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, a prize-winning Israeli novelist who brings a trained psychologist’s eye to compelling stories set in her home country. Hers is a world of moral ambiguity where truth, memory, right and wrong aren't necessarily what they seem. Does her work tell us something important about the Israeli psyche?
Mental health is not easy to talk about, least of all for young men, so often brought up to regard emotional vulnerability as weakness. In a special edition of HARDtalk filmed in the BBC’s Radio Theatre, Stephen Sackur speaks to Stephen Manderson who is better known as the British rapper Professor Green. He has been very honest about his own struggles with mental health issues and is determined to break the taboos around the subject. Can we all learn from Professor Green?
Theresa May’s European parliamentary elections could be a defining moment in the struggle for the EU's future; a continent wide clash between the forces of liberalism and populism exists - perhaps best personified by French President Emmanuel Macron up against Hungary's Viktor Orban. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Italy’s former centre-left Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Politically he’s with Macron, but his country is led by populists sympathetic to Viktor Orban. Whose message is resonating with European voters?
Image: Paolo Gentiloni (Credit: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)
As the political debate over Brexit grows ever more polarised in the UK exposing deep fractures within the political parties, questions are also being asked about the how the machinery of government is working. Lord Ricketts, a former top diplomat, and national security adviser has very publicly condemned the current government’s handling of Brexit negotiations describing them as a fiasco and expressing the fear that Brexit will leave Britain permanently and significantly weakened. This public airing of views has created the impression that the supposedly apolitical civil service, particularly the foreign office, is institutionally and temperamentally opposed to Brexit – a policy which was of course approved by a national referendum in 2016. Does this represent a real problem in Britain’s democracy and in the relationship between the people and the government?
Is President Putin crushing press freedom in Russia? Since coming to power nearly 20 years ago, Vladimir Putin has been accused of gradually taking control of the media in Russia, and silencing those who would criticise him. Galina Timchenko was editor of Lentu.Ru until she was fired – she claims as a result of pressure from the Kremlin. She left Russia and with some of her former colleagues set up another news organisation - Meduza – in exile, in Latvia. It reaches millions of Russians. But what does her self-imposed exile say about media freedom in Russia? And should she have stayed to defend her journalism there?
Can Hungary's ruling party win Europe’s battle of ideas? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur is in Budapest to speak to the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó. Hungary is led by a nationalist, populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who believes his opposition to immigration and his defence of so called Christian values can transform not just Hungary but the whole of the European Union.
Image: Péter Szijjártó (Credit: Robert Ghement/European Photopress Agency)
Does comedy have the power to transcend borders, religions and politics and can it build bridges between different communities who may mistrust and misunderstand one another? HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi speaks to one guest that thinks so. He is one of the Arab world’s most popular comedians- Nemr Abou Nassar. Brought up in the USA and Lebanon, he quit his job as an insurance broker to become a stand-up comic. He believes humour can change the world. But does he risk promoting misunderstanding and perpetuating stereotypes through his comedy?
What makes a great photograph? HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur speaks to one of the great women pioneers of photo journalism, Marilyn Stafford. She was born in the United States but moved to Paris where she became the protégé of the brilliant Henri Cartier-Bresson. Like him, Stafford loved to capture intimate portraits of ordinary people. She's photographed everything from refugees fleeing war to models on the fashion catwalks. Now at 93 her work is being admired by a new generation.
Is there any political or diplomatic initiative capable of saving Yemen? The current limited ceasefire in Yemen between the warring parties has barely alleviated the suffering of the country’s people. The situation is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and millions of people are in dire need of food and medical assistance. HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur speaks to Yemen’s foreign minister Khaled Alyemany.
Is Kenya's ruling political partnership in danger of collapse? Kenya’s big ambitions to be the economic and infrastructure powerhouse of East Africa cannot be truly realised without political stability. HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur talks to the country's Deputy President William Ruto about fragmentation and factionalism at the top of Kenyan politics.
Image: William Ruto (Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)
Stephen Sackur is in Florida to speak to Cameron Kasky, who survived the Parkland School shooting in February 2018 and went on to co-found the March for our Lives movement. This organisation was committed to taking on America’s gun lobby and organised a demonstration in Washington D.C. that was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. But one year after the attack, has anything changed?
Image: Cameron Kasky (Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for March For Our Lives)
What draws the novelist to such dark visions of femininity? HARDtalk's Sarah Montague speaks to Leila Slimani, one of France’s most famous, and most controversial, authors. Her first book Adele, just published in English, shocked readers for breaking taboos about women and sex addiction. Infanticide is the subject of her second novel, Lullaby, which became a publishing sensation and has been translated into 40 languages.
Up until last month, Christian Zerpa was a Justice on Venezuela’s Supreme Court; now he is a high-profile defector from the Maduro regime. With two men claiming to be the country’s President and protestors on the streets, Stephen Sackur asks: is Venezuela's socialist revolution in its death throes?
Is Florida the state where the American dream turned sour? HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur talks to the writer Carl Hiaasen whose hugely popular newspaper columns and darkly comic novels cast a jaundiced eye on the Sunshine State where he was born and continues to live. His writing is fueled by anger - at rotten politics, crooked business and environmental vandalism.
Laura Boldrini is a centre-left Italian politician. Until last year she was the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the Italian Parliament’s lower chamber. She has received many online threats wishing her dead or raped. Zeinab Badawi asks the Sicilian MP about her experiences, and what her current situation tells us about the state of politics in Italy and Europe’s changing mood.
Image: Laura Boldrini (Credit: European Photopress Agency)
Shaun Ley talk to former spy chief Amrullah Saleh, now a candidate for vice-president in Afghanistan. Seventeen years on after the American-led invasion, the US and the Taliban are at last talking peace. With 45,000 Afghans who served their country dead in the last five years, and the Taliban still fighting, isn't it time for this war exhausted country to give peace a chance?
Image: Amrullah Saleh (R) is embraced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (Credit: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)
What drives an exclusive band of human beings to push beyond the boundaries of existing knowledge and experience? Hardtalk talks to Bertrand Piccard, the renowned explorer and aviator; the first to fly non-stop around the world in a hot air balloon. Right now, he’s using his own experience with solar powered aircraft to encourage sustainable tech innovation, but is decarbonising the global economy a challenge too far, even for this pioneer?
In little more than two months from now, Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union. That beguilingly simple statement is at the heart of a political crisis which deepens by the day. The ruling Conservative party is riven with splits; so too is the Labour opposition. If Parliament’s Brexit paralysis persists, then Britain will leave with no deal in place, no orderly transition, and the prospect of economic disruption. What will Labour do in this moment of political truth? HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur talks to the UK's Shadow Chancellor, Labour's John McDonnell.
Until last year, Malaysia hadn't experienced a real change of government in the sixty years since independence. Prime Minister Mahatir, sailing back into power in opposition colours, can remember when Malaysia threw off the British colonial yoke. He was in his thirties then. Now in his 90s he says next year he'll hand over to a former rival in his 70s. Malaysia’s Minister of Youth and Sport, Syed Saddiq at 26 is the youngest cabinet minister in Asia. Is it time to skip a generation?
Tanzania is one of Africa’s fastest growing nations economically and demographically. It’s also governed by one of the continent’s most controversial leaders, President John Magafuli. Tundu Lissu is one of his most prominent domestic opponents; at least, he was, until gunmen pumped more than a dozen bullets into his body in 2017. Lissu survived and, after recovering in hospital in Europe, he is determined now to rejoin the fight against a ruler he describes as a petty dictator.
Image: Tundu Lissu (Credit: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)
HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur is in Paris for an exclusive interview with the country’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. The political and economic mood in France has shifted dramatically in a few short months. Last summer President Macron was pushing ahead with his reform agenda claiming that France was back. Now he is besieged by critics, forced into retreat by the Yellow Vest movement and grappling with problems inside and outside the EU. Has the Macron moment already passed?
If the normal political rules applied to Donald Trump he would be holed up in the white house in a state of deep despair. He’s at war with Democrats in Congress, the federal government machine is partially shutdown, his relationship with Putin's Russia is under fierce scrutiny, and his standing at home and abroad continues to take heavy hits. And yet, every day he come out punching; raising the stakes, not retreating. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Mica Mosbacher, Republican strategist and member of the National Advisory Board of Trump 2020. Is the Trump Presidency making America great, or greatly diminished?
Britain is in the grip of Brexit. To leave, or to remain in the European Union: that question has divided families, generations, and communities. Everyone seems to be shouting, no-one seems to be listening.
Well, that’s not quite true. Jonathan Coe has been listening to and writing compelling fiction about contemporary Britain for decades. Can this novelist, whose latest novel looks at the impact of Brexit, help us understand Brexit better than a parliament full of politicians?
There is plenty of disturbing data pointing to a significant rise in overt anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States. What are the reasons and how should the Jewish community respond? How much reassurance and protection is being offered to Jews whose past has so often been written in blood? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis. Is rising anti-Semitism a symptom of a liberal democratic order that is starting to crumble?
Image: Pinchas Goldschmidt (Credit: Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS via Getty Images)
HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Len McCluskey, leader of Britain’s biggest trade union and biggest donor to the Labour party. Brexit is tearing at the fabric of British politics. Theresa May’s proposed deal is hated by many in her Conservative party. It may well be rejected in a parliamentary vote next week. But the opposition Labour party is riven by division too. A clear majority of Labour members seem to want a second referendum as a pathway to reversing Brexit. But party leader Jeremy Corbyn says Brexit can’t be stopped. Could Brexit break the left apart?
Dr William Frankland is a world renowned expert on allergies and one of the last remaining British survivors of the Japanese prisoner of war camps in World War Two. His is a death-defying, life-affirming story. But at the age of 106, what keeps him going?
Stephen Sackur speaks to the author Lee Child. Storytelling is one of the most basic human impulses. But few are the storytellers who can draw in millions of readers all over the world, fewer still those who can do it repeatedly. Lee Child’s first thriller featuring former military policeman Jack Reacher was published 21 years ago. His latest is his twenty third and his book sales have topped a hundred million. Fans speculate endlessly about what drives Jack Reacher, but what drives Lee Child?
HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Gulnur Aybet, senior advisor to President Erdogan of Turkey. The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul put Turkey at the heart of a story about a shocking abuse of power and a total disregard for human rights. Turkey was the accuser, Saudi Arabia the accused. And yet for all its appeals to the international community, the Turkish Government itself faces condemnation for violations of basic human rights. When it comes to respect for universal rights and norms how much authority does Turkey have?
What drives musical creativity? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to songwriter Mark Knopfler. In the pantheon of rock ’n’ roll greats, a special place is reserved for guitar virtuosos – think Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Mark Knopfler, front man of Dire Straits, one of the biggest bands in the world in the 80s and 90s. Unlike so many other rock stars, Knopfler never fully embraced the world of excess and celebrity. He forged a solo career writing, performing and working with the likes of Bob Dylan, Tina Turner and Emmylou Harris.
It took former cricketer Imran Khan two decades of political slog to win power in Pakistan. It’s taken his critics just months to decide he’s out of his depth. They point to the country’s crippled economy, propped up by emergency loans despite the Prime Minister's promise to end the begging bowl culture. Is the PTI government strong enough to put Pakistan on a new course? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Pakistan’s finance minister, Asad Umar.
President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua has been in power for the past 11 years but this year he has faced popular protests and demands that he step down. His response has been repression and defiance. Stephen Sackur is in Washington DC to speak to leading Nicaraguan dissident, Felix Maradiaga- now leader of an opposition in exile. Is change finally coming to Nicaragua?
How do we decide what's important? How do we balance the priorities of the here and now with the big picture challenges that will determine the future of human civilisation? HARDtalk speaks to Sir Martin Rees, one of the world’s leading astrophysicists, who has recently been gazing into the future of our own planet. The next century, he says, will determine humanity's long term destiny; so are the prospects good, or grim?
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a mutiny inside her own Conservative Party, which threatens to scupper her Brexit deal and quite possibly her premiership too. If she loses the key parliamentary vote on her deal in just a few days time, the UK could plunge into political chaos. The stakes could hardly be higher for Owen Paterson, a Conservative MP and former Minister intent on rejecting Mrs May’s Brexit. Is it too late to avert a damaging national crisis?
HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Danuta Hübner, an influential Polish MEP who sits on the Brexit Steering Group of the European Parliament. In just a few days time the UK parliament will make a fateful decision; to accept or reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal painfully negotiated with the EU. Right across Europe the vote will have huge repercussions. For all of the focus on Britain’s political crisis, this is Europe’s problem too. Is the EU ready to deal with potential Brexit chaos?
On December 11th, two and a half years of posturing, politicking and poisonous disagreement come to a head: the UK Parliament will vote on whether to accept the Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated with the EU. Her case boils down to this: it’s the least worst option. But many in her own party, as well as the opposition, simply don’t buy it. Stephen Sackur speaks to former minister Jo Johnson, who resigned in order to oppose the deal. Does he have a credible alternative?
Can anyone or anything challenge Saudi authoritarianism? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Abdullah Alaoudh, a Saudi exile whose father is facing charges that carry a death sentence. President Trump says he doesn’t know whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and frankly he doesn’t seem to care. Safe to assume then that he also doesn’t care about the hundreds of clerics, intellectuals, and dissident activists locked up by MBS’s security forces.
Israel’s seemingly indestructible Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dodged another political bullet. After the recent flare up of violence in Gaza, his defence minister quit and another key cabinet hawk- Naftali Bennett, said he would go too if he wasn’t given the defence portfolio. The prime minister called his bluff, and Mr Bennett, who speaks to HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur has decided to stay put after all. What’s behind the chaos in Israeli politics? Are the right wing factions putting their own interests before those of the nation?
How do you stop prime ministers and presidents lining their own pockets with the country's wealth? US Judge Mark Wolf is lobbying for the creation of an international anti-corruption court. Judge Wolf knows the territory well, having helped expose the corrupt links between the FBI and a notorious gangster in Boston. He says countries that can't or won't hold government thieves to account should let the court do the work. But when his own government suggests it wants international justice to "die", what hope is there of holding the corrupt to account?
Mohamed El-Erian’s career has been at the top end of economic advice. Along with writing several best-selling books, he spent 15 years at the International Monetary Fund, headed the investment giant PIMCO, advised President Obama on global development and is now the chief economic adviser at the insurance company, Allianz. The American economy is booming. Growth is well above 3% and unemployment is near a 50 year low. President Trump claims it’s the best it has ever been and has claimed the credit for that. But he’s threatening a trade war with China at a time when many economists are warning that the US and the world face another recession. Hardtalk’s Sarah Montague asks Mohamed El-Erian, if he sees dark days ahead for the American - and therefore the world’s - economy?
In a special interview to start the BBC’s Beyond Fake News season, Stephen Sackur speaks to The Washington Post’s editor Martin Baron about the fractious relationship between the White House and the US media.
The US mid-term elections were a mixed picture for President Trump. Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and that will allow them to block the President’s legislative agenda. As a leader Donald Trump has been accused of dividing the country and now Congress is split. Sarah Montague speaks to one of America’s best known and celebrated military leaders. General Stanley McChrystal oversaw the American war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since leaving the military he has studied and taught the principles that make good leaders effective. So what kind of leadership does he think the US needs now?
It is an age old debate that engages scientists and philosophers; which is the more powerful influence on who we are, nature or nurture? In recent years, genetic science has done much to reframe the debate by highlighting the connections between our individual DNA and our traits and behaviours. At the forefront of this research is Robert Plomin, a professor of behavioural genetics at Kings College London. To what extent are our genes our destiny?
American politics in the era of President Donald Trump is a polarised, partisan arena. But still there are pillars of the US system of governance such as the constitution and the courts that are supposed to safeguard the liberty of all, irrespective of creed, colour or politics. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to David Cole, the legal director of the American Civil liberties union- the century old guardian of citizen rights. Has the ACLU betrayed its mission by putting partisanship before principle in the age of Trump?
With Brexit the main preoccupation for politicians in Britain, the opposition Labour Party has announced a shift in policy which would see the UK retaining most of the elements of its current relationship with the EU. It wants Britain to have full access to the single market and stay a member of the customs union. But that does not go far enough for some staunchly pro-EU members of the party who want Britain to stay part of the European Economic Area. HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi speaks to Labour MP and prominent EU campaigner Chuka Umunna about challenging the Conservative government and his own Labour Party leadership on Brexit.
It's hard to imagine how the US-Russia relationship could be any more dysfunctional. Each accuses the other of consistently malign action and intent. 'Worse than the Cold war' was the way it was described by Russia's foreign minister. And yet, the two presidents, Trump and Putin, appear to have some regard for each other. What does it all mean? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to former US ambassador to Russia, and Obama adviser- Michael McFaul. How deep does the poison in the relationship run?
The National Assembly in Pakistan has been dissolved ahead of the general election in late July. Just as eyes were turned on him when he was a top international cricket star, much attention is focussed on Imran Khan who abandoned sport for the far less gentlemanly arena of Pakistani politics. He established his own party- the Movement for Justice Party, more than 20 years ago and says he wants to create a new Pakistan. In the last elections in 2013, his party came third. So can he make it to the position of Prime Minister this time round? And is he the right person to steer Pakistan given criticisms about his performance?