Five Minutes With… Kurt Barling

Resource type: Podcast

In this episode of Five Minutes With… we speak to Kurt Barling, Professor of Journalism at Middlesex University and former BBC Special Correspondent. Kurt explores how we need to approach the challenges facing society, and how we can avoid polarisation in public discourse to find just responses.

You can subscribe to Cumberland Lodge’s podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud, and other major podcast platforms.

You can learn more about our work on our About Us page.

The views expressed in these podcasts are those of the speakers and not necessarily reflect those of Cumberland Lodge.

Episode transcript

00:00 – 00:35

Christina Ogwang (CO)

What are the most important conversations we need to be having today, and how can young people contribute to these conversations? These are the questions we ask our guests to answer in Five Minutes With… In this episode, Cumberland Lodge Fellow Eleanor Clarke sat down with Kurt Barling, Professor of Journalism at Middlesex University and a former BBC Special Correspondent. So we leave it to Eleanor to ask…

Eleanor Clarke (EC)

What are the most important conversations we need to be having in the UK today?

00:35 – 01:11

Kurt Barling (KB)

I think there are a lot of challenges we face, and the most important question in some ways is not the question of those challenges, because we know what they are: climate change, economic change, the route forward in domains like higher education and education. But the big question is: how we can face those challenges, how we can avoid polarisation in public discourse in order to find practical, effective, efficient, and just responses to those challenges.

01:11 – 01:33


Inevitably, there will be winners and losers, but the only way in which we can be sure that we’re being fair and just as a society, is to have the kind of open dialogue which will take us toward the solutions to many of those challenges that we face.


Follow up question, how can young people contribute to these conversations?

01:34 – 02:06


It’s not just how they contribute, but it’s recognising that they do have an important contribution to make. The reality is, is that many people still feel that you only really mature in your outlook once you get into your late 20s, early 30s. The reality is, young people are having to make lots of choices very young, and if we expect them to make choices, we must also involve them in the conversations about the kind of things which are going to be part of the world that they inherit.

02:06 – 02:32


I think the education system needs to be a much more open education system. It mustn’t be just trying to force young people into passing exams. It must be forcing them into how to think critically about the problems we face. It’s not just telling them what the problems are, but engaging them in discussion about what the response is, even if they don’t have the answers because they don’t have the experience that’s required to find the answers.

02:32 – 03:03


They do have responses. So, for example, of local authorities that are trying to get to net zero should be finding out from young people what it is they aspire to within the context of a net zero conversation. Are young people worried about there being high charges for cars in their local authority? Let’s take London with ULEZ, are young people more inclined to charge people who drive cars? By the way, most of them won’t be driving cars themselves.

03:03 – 03:31


So perhaps they will be inclined. So who’s defending? What’s the status quo? Often it won’t be young people. It won’t be lost on a lot of people that those who lost out, I’m not making a political point here, but those who lost out most in the debate about whether Britain should be inside or outside of the European Union, arguably were young people, the very people who weren’t part of the conversation or the decision making process.

03:31 – 03:53


And yet, of course, eight years on, most of those young people, the ones who are suffering the consequence of that, which is an argument to say young people need to be involved in the conversation, and we need spaces in which those young people can be part of that conversation. It could be at local authority level. It could be at school level.

03:53 – 04:22


It’s certainly should be university level. And Cumberland Lodge, of course, is part of that ecosystem of public discourse. And we need to encourage public discourse if we want our society to be a just society, not just a well-run society.


A final message, maybe?


Well my message always is one of we’re surrounded by complexity and often darkness, and we need to find the light and the hope.

04:22 – 04:39


And in order to do that, we need as many people of different backgrounds and different outlooks to come to the table to discuss that in a society that we want to be open, fair, and free.

04:39 – 05:01


You can keep up to date with all the work of Cumberland Lodge on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook @CumberlandLodge on our website Thank you again to Kurt for joining us and thanks for listening.