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An Anatomy Of Truth: Conversations on Truth-Telling

Explore the joys, limits and liabilities of truthfulness in the company of a politician, a journalist, a scientist and a poet at ‘An Anatomy of Truth’, in Westminster Abbey.

Not everyone tells the truth. ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’ ‘This isn’t going to hurt.’ ‘I see no ships, my lord.’ ‘Of course I love you.’ When can we know what to believe? Four out of five of us don’t think politicians tell the truth, according to a recent MORI poll. But is telling the truth always the right or best thing to do? If it isn’t, what happens to trust? If it is, are there different kinds of truth? Do we always want to hear the truth? Do different professions need to have systemically different attitudes to truth-telling? Is there a moral difference between outright lies, falsehoods, deceits, dissimulation and just plain old ‘economy with the actualité’?



Claire Foster-Gilbert

Director of the Westminster Abbey Institute

Claire Foster-Gilbert is Director of Westminster Abbey Institute and founder of the Ethical Dimension & the Environmental Dimension. She trained in theology, moral philosophy and environmental ethics, and has taught ethics to business people, professionals, academics, teenagers and lay people; advised bishops; developed policies and effected large-scale change in public and voluntary institutions. She writes and broadcasts on moral philosophy, medical ethics and environmental issues, and in 2009 founded the Ethics Academy.

Wendy Cope

Award-winning poet known for her witty lyrics and satirical approach to sexual politics

Wendy Cope OBE read history at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford. She then worked for fifteen years in London primary schools, eventually becoming a deputy head. Since the publication of her first book of poems, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986), she has been a freelance writer. Her most recent book Family Values (2011) is her fourth collection of poems. Her work has won awards on both sides of the Atlantic. She also writes poems for children and has edited several anthologies.

Max Hastings

Military historian, journalist and broadcaster

Author, journalist and broadcaster whose work has appeared in every British national newspaper. He has written thirty books of which the latest ABYSS: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 will be published in September 2022. He has received awards both for his books and journalism, the most recent being a 2019 Arthur Ross Literary Award from the US Council on Foreign Relations for Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy 1945-1975. He was editor, then editor-in-chief, of The Daily Telegraph from 1986-1995, and of The Evening Standard 1996-2002.

Jack Straw

Former Foreign Secretary

Cabinet minister in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, where he served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the Commons, and Justice Secretary. Labour MP for Blackburn from 1979-2015. He is a Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy at University College London.

Robert Winston

Professor Lord Winston is a medical doctor, scientist, television presenter and politician

Lord Winston is Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London. In the 1970s he developed gynaecological surgical techniques that improved fertility treatments. He later pioneered new treatments to improve in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and developed pre-implantation diagnosis. He now runs a research programme at the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College that aims to improve human transplantation. Robert Winston has over 300 scientific publications about human reproduction and the early stages of pregnancy. Robert Winston is also Chairman of the Genesis Research Trust – a charity which raised over £13 million to establish the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology and which now funds high quality research into women’s health and babies.