Disabled peer chosen for prestigious Today guest editor slot


One of the country’s most influential disabled campaigners is to take control of BBC Radio’s flagship news programme for its first show of 2016.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell (pictured) has been chosen as one of six guest editors who will each take over the Today programme on Radio Four for one day between 28 December and 2 January.

For her slot on New Year’s Day, the BBC has said she will examine reform of the House of Lords by asking a new SNP MP to “find out whether working peers can justify their existence”, while also going “head-to-head with Times columnist Matthew Parris on the right to die”.

In its announcement of her guest slot, the BBC referred to Baroness Campbell’s background of activism, which helped lead to the Disability Discrimination Act 20 years ago.

But Baroness Campbell is also a patron of the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive, and was a co-founder of the National Centre for Independent Living, and has campaigned on independent living issues for most of her adult life, so there are hopes that these subjects could also be aired in the programme.

Baroness Campbell told Disability News Service that being a Today guest editor was “a huge privilege and one that carries great responsibility because choosing five or six features, when I have so much to say about the world, was much harder than choosing my Desert Island discs”.

She said she could not comment on what issues she had chosen to cover, apart from the two mentioned by the BBC, but added: “I hope listeners (whoever is awake at that time, besides our Labrador, at 6am on New Year’s Day) will appreciate the mix.”

Parris has already been interviewed by Baroness Campbell for the 1 January programme about his views, originally expressed in a column in The Spectator, in which he put forward the “Darwinian” argument that “tribes that handicap themselves will not prosper”.

He argued in the column in September that “as medical science advances, the cost of prolonging human life way past human usefulness will impose an ever heavier burden on the community for an ever longer proportion of its members’ lives”, and that eventually it will be thought “selfish” to “want to carry on” when life is “fruitless”.

Parris wrote about his interview with Baroness Campbell in his Times column this week, admitting that when she asked him if “people like me should be exterminated” his defence was that “we can’t all be in the House of Lords and have vastly expensive help and technology to sustain us”.

Other guest editors chosen for the week are cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins; architect David Adjaye; Lord [John] Browne, former chief executive of BP; actor Michael Sheen; and lawyer Miriam González Durántez.

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