Segments in this Video

Meet the Panelists (03:24)


Debate moderator Stephen Sackur outlines the discussion on power in Western democracies and references Zimbabwe's political situation. He introduces the Guardian's Polly Toynbee, the Times' David Aaronovitch, and Panorama reporter John Sweeney.

David Aaronovitch: the Pitch (03:09)

Aaronovitch suggests that politicians lose popularity when they become "useless;" we project our own insecurities onto them. Leaders may have been historically more competent, or Western society is increasingly difficult to govern. Humans may want to be governed by a “parent” figure.

Polly Toynbee: the Pitch (03:21)

Toynbee argues that our expectations for democracy are unreasonable. We criticize politicians but as voters, we are responsible to educate ourselves on issues. She would make voting compulsory, and does not think leaders are better or worse than in the past.

John Sweeney: the Pitch (03:56)

Sweeney describes corruption in the Sochi Olympics. He says that criticizing political leaders is not possible in Russia or North Korea, and agrees that Western democracy is a better alternative to those systems. He commends the Labor Party for losing gracefully.

Theme One: Do We Scapegoat Politicians? (04:08)

Toynbee argues that most people enter politics for ideological reasons; press vitriol has worsened and social media makes it difficult to stay "clean." She urges commentators to be civil.

Theme Two: Is the Media to Blame? (09:58)

Aaronovitch describes scenarios in which politicians are caught in sting operations. He argues that they are human, and we should only judge them based on leadership abilities. Sweeney says they should apologize publicly for mistakes, and commends democracy for tolerating mockery of leaders.

Theme Three: How Can We Create a More Mature Politics? (10:13)

Aaronovitch says that healthcare funding and other key issues were not addressed before the last British election. Toynbee argues that journalists did not pressure candidates. Sachur and Sweeney disagree whether Singapore's economic success justifies its undemocratic system. Sweeney calls for politicians speaking their mind and Toynbee urges greater voter participation.

Credits: Killing the King: The Myth of the Strong Leader (00:06)

Credits: Killing the King: The Myth of the Strong Leader

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Killing the King: The Myth of the Strong Leader

Part of the Series : Institute of Art and Ideas: Cutting Edge Debates and Talks from the World's Leading Thinkers
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
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3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Ancient cultures often chose their leader and gave them unbridled power of life and death. But if the crops failed the leader was killed. Are voters still in thrall to the same fantasy believing each new leader will work miracles? Do we demand the impossible or are our leaders simply incompetent?

The Panel

Outspoken columnists Polly Toynbee and David Aaronovitch and journalist John Sweeney put our chiefs on trial. HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur hosts. In association with Guardian Live.

Length: 39 minutes

Item#: BVL115748

ISBN: 978-1-63521-104-7

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.