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The Independent Culture
Last week Alan Clark popped up in the final episode of Adam Curtis's The Living Dead, deploying his languid intellect against the Churchillian myth of our island destiny. I can imagine that his manner drives some people into a state of helpless, carpet-chewing rage but I have to confess it makes me laugh. If God got bored with his Creation he might look like this - ineffably disdainful of human squabbles but too overwhelmed by ennui to get involved and sort it all out. He - Clark, I mean - was in fine form last night, kicking off Myths and Memories of World War Two (BBC2) by advancing the thesis that Britain would now be infinitely better off if it had made peace with Hitler in 1941.

Any hope that this challenging idea would be given serious consideration was scotched by the seemingly irrepressible belief that, when it comes to studio discussions, more is better. Producers stack the seats as an insurance against their greatest terror, a gap in the conversation. The result, unfortunately, is that you get a great deal of talk but not much said. So, rather than giving three well-informed minds time to focus on the problem, you were presented with a ruck of opinion - including a KGB man who had to be shoehorned into the debate for fear of wasting his airfare, and Mrs Vee Robinson, who had served on an ack-ack battery during the war and seemed to be on hand to speak for the spirit of the Blitz. Peter Taylor, the chairman, attempted to herd them all in the direction of a conclusion, like a shepherd without a dog.

The result was a debate that hiccupped forward, a mutual exchange of indignation and disbelief. Clark's thesis, incidentally, has a certain chilly logic to it, provided that you exclude any principle but self-interest (and he has some logical reasons for doing just that). Even then, you would have to ignore hindsight as well. This form of vision has got a bad name recently, as if it simply implied jumping to facile conclusions. In fact it also means that you have the privilege of knowing how things turned out. Even if the death camps were not an issue in 1941, even if total war against Nazi genocide allowed Stalin a free hand for his own exterminations, even if Churchill was motivated by self-interest, the discoveries of 1945 inevitably rewrite history. Sometimes you can do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

After Selina Scott's audience with Donald Trump I braced myself firmly for Millionaires (ITV). The subject matter, the television company (Carlton) and the time-slot seemed to guarantee dross, the reversed Midas effect of sycophancy. But the programme is redeemed by Philip Tibenham, an interviewer of the old school who knows how to put an awkward question. I don't want to get carried away - this is popular programming, not a searching moral inquiry. But it doesn't abdicate its editorial responsibilities. Last night's programme was about Bob Edmiston, a fundamentalist Christian who owns a multi-million pound company. Mr Edmiston has a ready answer to all that disobliging stuff in the Bible about camels and rich men: "It's all mine," he conceded, "though I regard everything that's mine as God's." This sharing arrangement works pretty well, given that God doesn't ask to use the swimming pool too often and always returns the Shogun on time. The film wasn't above a sly sideways glance either, not malign exactly but acknowledging the viewer's right to dissent. "How could God be impressed with the riches?" asked Mr Edmiston at one point. "After all, he made them all." Personally, I don't think it's fair to blame God for the confection of gilt and diamante we were shown as he spoke, nor the porcelain collectibles that followed. They can surely be put down to a regrettable abuse of free will.

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