The Big Four and the revolving door

Finance should be a servant, but never a master. So when accountants and auditors become the story because of systemic failures and corporate malfeasance you know something has gone badly wrong. As big accountancy firms are increasingly embroiled in corporate scandals, how do we clearly define their role so they actually serve society instead of continually maximising profit for private and personal gain?

Big bad Vlad: the demonisation of Russia

The barrage of scaremongering by the British press before the football World Cup, painted the hosts Russia as a tyrannical country unsafe for tourists and football fans alike. But the reality has been very different. Visitors have taken to social media to explain that they’ve found Russia and her people hospitable and friendly. This wasn’t what they were told to expect. So was this media onslaught just a mistake? Or was this the latest instalment of post Cold War rhetoric designed to malign Russia? With relations between the West and Russia at an all time low, where next for this relationship? Joining us to discuss why both sides are locked in this frozen conflict is the writer and broadcaster, John White.

The Grandparents of Brexit

It is by far the most emotive and divisive issue of a generation: Brexit has split families, ended relationships, derailed political careers and divided a country. But was the outcome of the EU referendum on the 23rd of June 2016 a rash, knee jerk decision, or had anti-EU feeling been building for many years? If Brexit was a long time in the making, we ask: Who were the real grandparents of Brexit?

Thrown under the bus

Renationalising Britain’s rail system is a daily debate. As many commuters feel the full force of ineffective, privatised rail companies, they’re vocal about their plight. But surprisingly, there are far more British bus users than rail commuters. And they have been neglected. A privatised bus system has meant that many are left stranded. So, we ask: Why have so many people in the UK been thrown under the bus?

The not-so-free press

George Orwell famously said journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations. In a world festooned with PR exercises and reputation management, was Mr Orwell overly cynical, or was he well ahead of his time? With print media’s business model in free fall, newspaper proprietors are increasingly desperate to find ways to ensure financial viability. The problem with this approach is that corporate interests can and often do trump the interests of readers. Joining us to discuss how free the UK press really is are the lecturer in journalism and media studies at Birkbeck College, Justin Schlosberg, and the editor of Open Media at openDemocracy, James Cusick.

Empire of things

When we talk about consumerism, the emotive arguments for and against are always black and white. Consumerism is painted as unnecessary and low or no growth is seen as the optimum state for people and planet. But what if acquiring objects and possessions is intrinsic to human nature? What if, in reality, the consumerism argument is far more nuanced, which should make us rethink how we spend, what we buy and which things are most important to us. Joining us to work out where next for consumer spending and give historical context to the rampant consumerism we seem to love is the author of ‘The Empire of Things’, Professor Frank Trentmann.

Modern day propaganda

Influencing hearts and minds at home to achieve foreign policy objectives abroad isn’t anything new, but many people have become increasingly skeptical of half-truths in the mainstream media that help promote regime change in other countries. As public trust wanes and more critical questions are being asked about the real agenda around intervention, are we becoming more aware of modern day propaganda?

Weapons of mass distraction

Once again the west finds itself back in a familiar position with the press parroting one assured narrative, while the public is increasingly sceptical about their claims. So what is really going on? And have we not learned anything from interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya? Here to discuss the role of the media in support of the Western headlong rush to war is the economist and political analyst, Shabbir Razvi and former army officer, detective and counter-terrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge.

HSCB – A rebel bank with a cause

Artists and film-makers Hilary Powell and Dan Edelstyn took over a co-op bank to enact community driven debt relief, by the people for the people, in a bid to educate the public about how money and credit are actually created. And instead of putting the Queen on their money, they are making heroes out of the Garys, Sarahs, Tracys and Steves who are fighting for economic justice amid the fallout of the current system we are forced to live under.

RBS: the Hillsborough of British Business

If we were to tell you that you are a shareholder in a British bank you might be surprised. If we were to mention that that bank has been consistently running at a loss for a decade you may begin to worry about your investment. If we then said the organisation you’re invested in is accused of asset stripping compromised businesses to make a quick buck you probably wouldn’t believe us. Joining us to discuss RBS’ recent return to profit and whether it is now going to repay the British taxpayers is businessman, RBS victim and former CEO of Torex Retail PLC, Neil Mitchell.

Who are the real Olympic winners?

The sales pitch that is always used when bidding for the Olympics is that the legacy of the games will regenerate a part of the host country. This sounds wonderful in theory but in practice is the best policy for urban renewal to pay for expensive custom built sporting venues that are only used a handful of times? If not, we ask: who are the real Olympic winners?

The business of common sense

A cursory glance around the business world globally and you can tell that all is not well. Systems are broken. Bureaucracy is running riot. Management frequently does more harm than good. And despite the constant chat about culture, you can often find more culture in a pot of yoghurt. So as businesses begin to acknowledge how disengaged staff really are. We ask. How do you now build a business, an organisation that people genuinely want to work for?

Question everything

In a sensationalist world that operates at breakneck speed, many of us get caught careering between stimulus and response, rarely stopping to think critically about why we do what we do. More fundamentally, with nationalism on the rise, we ask: can philosophy enable us to think differently about our true identity? Stine Jensen is a Danish philosopher who lives in the Netherlands, a country and people that are not afraid of big or new ideas. We went there to meet her to find out about the importance philosophy has in our modern distracted world. We also wanted to know if Plato was right. Is the unexamined life really not worth living?

Event: How Economics Professors can stop failing us

Steve Payson, an US economics practictioner of long standing, will talk about his book ‘How Economics Professors Can Stop Failing us’ which provides an eye-opening expose on economics professors that will surely shock anyone who is not familiar with the topic, and even some of those who are familiar with it. Ellen Quigley has recently completed her research into economics education in the UK and will provide a perspective on our local profession.

The fiery ‘logic’ of James O’Brien

James O’Brien is a broadcaster and also one of the landlord’s of the British moral high ground. His notorious rants are self-assured but sometimes light on logic. See below to try and get into the mind of the broadcaster when giving his opinions about Russia and Western liberal democracy… Some of the reasoning may give you an ice cream headache.

The great British train robbery

Privatising British Railways was meant to bring innovation, efficiency, competition and therefore lower fares but the reality, well it’s been very different. The former British Prime Minister and devout neo liberal Margaret Thatcher was in favour of mass privatisation but even she claimed that privatising the British Rail System was ‘a privatisation too far’ but this didn’t stop her successors. So on this program we ask. Was the neoliberal dream of rail privatisation actually the great British train robbery?