What's The Point Of

Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought-provoking look at some great British institutions.

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
0101The Archbishop Of Canterbury20080304

1/4: The Archbishop of Canterbury. Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought-provoking look at some great British institutions.

0102The Football Association20080311

2/4. The Football Association

Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought-provoking look at some great British institutions.

0103The Arts Council20080325

3/4. The Arts Council

Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought-provoking look at some great British institutions.

0104 LASTMichelin Stars20080401

Are the 'Food Oscars' a useful guide to good cuisine or an anachronistic piece of gastronomic snobbery we could do without?

4/4. Michelin Stars

Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought-provoking look at some great British institutions. Are the 'Food Oscars' a useful guide to good cuisine or an anachronistic piece of gastronomic snobbery we could do without?

0201The Privy Council20090512

Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought provoking look at the Privy Council.

0201The Privy Council *20090512
0202Formula One20090519

Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought provoking look at Formula One motor racing.

0202Formula One *20090519
0203Gibraltar20090526

Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought provoking look at Gibraltar.

0204 LASTThe British Zoo20090602

Quentin Letts takes a witty but thought provoking look at the British Zoo.

0301The Raf20100817

Quentin Letts asks if we still need an independent air force.

Quentin Letts returns with another series offering a witty and thought-provoking look at some of Britain's cherished insitutions.

Over the next four weeks he casts a quizzical eye over Marylebone cricket club, the public library, the Kennel Club - and the RAF.

All over the country, events are being held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, when the bravery of the Few saved these islands from a Nazi invasion.

Even if some historians have had the temerity to suggest it was actually the navy wot done it, it's an opportune moment for the RAF to remind us of their historic contribution, and why we need them in the future.

Which is why exactly?

Britain was the first country in the world to have an independent air force.

To get rid of it is unthinkable, isn't it?

Defence secretary Liam Fox has promised that the Governments strategic defence review will be ruthless and unsentimental - will he listen to the RAF's critics? They claim that a bloated higher command structure in Whitehall argues for fast jets we cant afford for a war we wont be fighting.

Oh - and its uniforms are horrible and they can't march properly.

Historian Max Hastings, War correspondent Sam Kiley, former defence secretary Geoff Hoon and retired Colonel Tim Collins are among those who join Quentin to ask the question, What is the point of the RAF?

Quentin Letts returns with another series offering a witty and thought-provoking look at some of Britain's cherished insitutions. Over the next four weeks he casts a quizzical eye over Marylebone cricket club, the public library, the Kennel Club - and the RAF.

All over the country, events are being held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, when the bravery of the Few saved these islands from a Nazi invasion. Even if some historians have had the temerity to suggest it was actually the navy wot done it, it's an opportune moment for the RAF to remind us of their historic contribution, and why we need them in the future.

Britain was the first country in the world to have an independent air force. To get rid of it is unthinkable, isn't it?

Defence secretary Liam Fox has promised that the Governments strategic defence review will be ruthless and unsentimental - will he listen to the RAF's critics? They claim that a bloated higher command structure in Whitehall argues for fast jets we cant afford for a war we wont be fighting. Oh - and its uniforms are horrible and they can't march properly.

0302Marylebone Cricket Club20100824

Quentin Letts examines the institution responsible for upholding the spirit of cricket.

What's the point of the MCC?

The celebrated historian George Trevelyan once wrote that if the French nobility had only played cricket with their servants they wouldn't have had their chateaux burnt.

Today, with the revolution taking place within the game itself, Quentin Letts casts a quizzical eye over Marylebone cricket club, the English institution responsible for maintaining its laws and upholding its spirit.

It's not easy for MCC to shake off the weight of history.

It resisted the demands of sexual equality almost into the present century, and it is still berated for its exclusiveness.

The programme hears from Rachael Heyhoe-Flint who captained the first English women's team allowed onto the Lord's pitch, and to another former Captain, Mike Gatting, who berates MCC members for a display of very ungentlemanly manners to fellow cricketer, Ian Botham.

The powerhouse of cricket is now in India, the governing body is in Dubai and the focus of the game is shifting from test match to twenty-twenty

But this private members club, the owner of the most famous sports ground in the world , still seeks a place at the table.

Quentin talks to MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw about what it's doing there - resisting the economic and global

forces of modernity or leading the charge of change?

It's not easy for MCC to shake off the weight of history. It resisted the demands of sexual equality almost into the present century, and it is still berated for its exclusiveness. The programme hears from Rachael Heyhoe-Flint who captained the first English women's team allowed onto the Lord's pitch, and to another former Captain, Mike Gatting, who berates MCC members for a display of very ungentlemanly manners to fellow cricketer, Ian Botham.

But this private members club, the owner of the most famous sports ground in the world , still seeks a place at the table. Quentin talks to MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw about what it's doing there - resisting the economic and global

0303The Public Library20100831

Quentin Letts asks if we have lost sight of the original purpose of public libraries.

Question: Where can you go to reduce your fear of crime, have a massage, ring a church bell, get some information about council tax, and engage in some heavy petting without being told off?

Quentin Letts is surprised and sometimes disheartened by the answer; a library.

Of course, you can borrow a book as well, but campaigners argue that - with some authorities spending less than ten per cent of their library budgets on books -something has gone very wrong with the way the service is being managed.

Public Libraries have come a long way since Manchester opened the first in the 1850s.

But where is the service going? Gleaming new buildings have opened in Newcastle, Whitechapel and Brighton - but more than 80 other libraries have been closed in the last five years; an age of public spending cuts surely means more.

Former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, campaigner Tim Coates and Arts minister Edward Vaizey join Quentin Letts as he asks, what's the point of the public library?

Public Libraries have come a long way since Manchester opened the first in the 1850s. But where is the service going? Gleaming new buildings have opened in Newcastle, Whitechapel and Brighton - but more than 80 other libraries have been closed in the last five years; an age of public spending cuts surely means more.

0304 LASTThe Kennel Club20100907

Quentin Letts considers the work of the club which regulates the world of pedigree dogs.

It has a fine dining room and a celebrated collection of canine art.

It has a charitable trust and organises the greatest dog show on earth.

That doesn't stop Quentin Letts asking, "What's the point of the Kennel club?"

The kennel club was founded in 1873 by twelve Victorian gentlemen who liked dogs and dinners in equal measure, and wanted to bring some discipline into the world of dog breeding and showing.

It's struggling to do that today.

Some breeders and showers are in open revolt against Kennel Club health regulations.

Others from the welfare lobby say the Kennel club hasn't been doing enough to tackle the suffering caused to dogs by generations of inbreeding.

Quentin enjoys the sunshine, spectacle and order of a dog show in Worcestershire, goes for a walk with a breathless dog suffering a range of genetic disorders, and enters the hallowed halls of the Kennel club Clarges street as he considers whether this British institution still has the teeth needed to improve the lot of dogs in this country.

It has a fine dining room and a celebrated collection of canine art. It has a charitable trust and organises the greatest dog show on earth. That doesn't stop Quentin Letts asking, "What's the point of the Kennel club?"

The kennel club was founded in 1873 by twelve Victorian gentlemen who liked dogs and dinners in equal measure, and wanted to bring some discipline into the world of dog breeding and showing. It's struggling to do that today. Some breeders and showers are in open revolt against Kennel Club health regulations. Others from the welfare lobby say the Kennel club hasn't been doing enough to tackle the suffering caused to dogs by generations of inbreeding.

0401Lord Lieutenants20120808

Quentin Letts returns with another series offering a witty and thought-provoking look at some of Britain's cherished institutions. Over the next three weeks he casts a quizzical eye over universities, pubs and in the first programme, Lord-Lieutenants.

The office of Lord-Lieutenant was created by Henry VIII in 1547. They were the eyes and the ears of the monarch in the shires when there was a real prospect of sedition and rebellion. They also had the job of raising a militia when the country was under threat. The military functions of Lord-Lieutenants have long gone and their main duties now are to organise official Royal visits to their county. With Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee this year Lord-Lieutenants have perhaps never been busier, or had such a high profile. But how many could name the Lord-Lieutenant in their area, or could even explain what their job is, or how they're appointed? In an era where democratic accountability and transparency are increasingly important, what's the point of Lord-Lieutenants?

Quentin Letts asks if the Queen still needs 98 personal representatives around the country

0402University20120815

As A-level results come out, Quentin Letts asks, 'What's the point of university?'.

"The noblest task of a university is to encourage its students in the disinterested and relentless search for truth" - so said the Archbishop of York in 1953. But the search for truth doesn't necessarily lead to a job and could land today's students in debt until their fifties, so what is the point of university in double-dip Britain?

As students in England anticipate their A' level results tomorrow, Quentin Letts canvasses the views of people within and beyond the ivory towers about the value of a university education. Is it becoming purely a means to an economic goal, a route to a better job, or is it an end in itself, learning for learning's sake, the true benefits of which cannot be appreciated in advance?

0403 LASTPubs20120822

With 12 pubs closing every week, Quentin Letts asks what's the point of pubs?

They've been with us for centuries and are the heart of local communities, but are we falling out of love with pubs? Since 2001 almost 10,000 have called time and pulled their final pint. Those that survive often now look more like restaurants. With beer sales falling and more of us preferring to drink at home, Quentin Letts asks what is the point of pubs?

0501The Chief Rabbi20130724

Quentin Letts questions the continuing relevance of the office of the Chief Rabbi.

Sir Jonathan Sacks stands down this August after more than 20 years in a job that some people have described as tougher than the Archbishop of Canterbury's - but with better jokes.

The office of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the United kingdom and the Commonwealth - to give it its full title - has always had close links to the political establishment.

First Edward V11 and now David Cameron have spoken of "My Chief Rabbi." A seat in the House of Lords seems to go with the territory these days. In September, Ephraim Mirvis will become the next Chief Rabbi, with ready access to the stars of the Cabinet and the Media. So what does the Chief Rabbi do? How much does it cost to run his office?

The full title is important. It's especially important to Reform and Liberal Jews who point out that the Chief Rabbi (of the United Hebrew Congregation of the United kingdom and the Commonwealth) doesn't represent them. In fact, he represents only about half of Jews affiliated to a synagogue. The fastest growing Jewish denomination is the ultra Orthodox - and he doesn't officially lead them either.

So what's the point of the Chief Rabbi? Historian Geoffrey Alderman thinks that, if there used to be a point to the office, there is no longer; Michael Howard thinks the point of the Chief Rabbi is to present a moderate religious voice in a world of growing religious extremism, and Vanessa Feltz thinks it's so that she has someone - other than herself - to argue with.

Producer: Rosie Dawson.

0502The Tate20130731

This year Tate Liverpool celebrated it's 25th birthday. Together with Tate St Ives they represent Tate's attempt to make available to a wider public the national collection of british and international art held at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. When Henry Tate donated his collection of modern art to the nation at the end of the 19th century he could not have envisaged how Tate would grow into multi-million pound institution with almost 7 million visitors a year to its London galleries. But in an age of austerity with public funding of the arts being squeezed, Quentin Letts asks how much does Britain benefit from a national collection of art and who should pay for it? In fact what is the point of Tate?

Producer: Amanda Hancox.

Quentin Letts asks how much Britain benefits from a national collection of art.

0503Lawns20130807

We British are obsessed with our lawns. It's estimated there are between 15 and 18 million of them and every year we spend hundreds of millions of pounds and dedicate countless hours on them in pursuit of the perfect striped manicure. The roots of our love affair with lawns go deep in to our nation's history. The first record of what we would recognise as a lawn was in the 17th century and along with our passion for cricket, bowls, football and lawn tennis we've spread the art of lawn-making around the world. But at what cost? With pesticides, fertilisers, all that water and the carbon footprint of hour upon hour of mowing some would argue that lawns are anything but green. And with so many other things to fill our time, is it really worth all that cost and effort to produce mown concrete? What is the point of lawns?

Quentin Letts examines the British love affair with lawns.

0504 LASTLord Mayor Of London20130814

On the second Saturday in November the Lord Mayor of London follows a time honoured route from the City's square mile to the Royal Courts of Justice Westminster where he swears an oath of loyalty to the Monarch. In days of old this was perhaps more necessary than it is today - the Lord Mayor's power rivalled that of the King; he held the purse strings of the City. The Capital's wealth could fund the King's expensive trips abroad - to Agincourt, for instance.

Today the Lord Mayor's role is part ceremonial, part ambassadorial. He represents the City's financial and business sectors. Should he therefore use his office to speak out more about the banking scandals ? As head of the London Corporation, he oversees the spending of the City's historic wealth - the City's Cash. How is it spent? Is it used well?

And does London need a Lord Mayor in a State coach any more now it has Boris on a bike?

Quentin Letts asks, What is the point of the Lord Mayor of London?

Does London need a Lord Mayor in a state coach now it has Boris on a bike?