Baroness Butler-Sloss to be among Today's Christmas guest editors

Baroness Butler-Sloss, who stepped down as chairman of an inquiry into allegations of child abuse by establishment figures in the summer, is to be a guest editor of Radio 4's Today programme.

The former head of the High Court's family division will be among the prominent figures who take over the programme annually during the festive season.

She stepped down from the inquiry in July as she acknowledged that her family links to a former attorney general would "cause difficulties" for the process.

Lady Butler-Sloss had faced pressure over her appointment as the investigation would have been expected to examine the handling of allegations of abuse by her late brother, Sir Michael Havers.

She will also be interviewed live during the programme, after Today editor Jamie Angus insisted that the guest editorship must include a chance for the editor to be quizzed on air.

He has also made clear that there should be no attempt to mess with the established Thought For The Day slot which is used exclusively as a reflection on faith.

Angus said: "There are two cardinal rules now. One is that you can't mess around with thought for the day, or use it as an excuse to have an atheist do thought for the day and the other rule is that you have to give an interview. PJ Harvey didn't do one last year, which I wasn't very happy about."

Musician Harvey had also initially tried to insert an address she had commissioned from Julian Assange into the Thought For The Day section of the programme, although it was later given a different status as an "alternative" thought when it was deemed too unsuitable.

Angus said: "It was very thoughtful. It was kind of spiritual in a secular way. I thought he had a really good go but in the end, we looked at the script and thought we can't run this as Thought For The Day."

He said Harvey's programme led to "several hundreds" of complaints, all of which he said he answered personally. He admited there were also discussions beforehand about whether the show should even have been broadcast.

Angus said: "We knew the PJ Harvey programme would be controversial. We sat down at the time and had a really good hard look and thought about whether to put it out or not. We took the view in the end that it was the right side of the line. It was very close to the line.

"But I admired her. She grasped the size of the opportunity we give to people in the guest editor's slots. She really pushed it and we asked her to do it.

"They should be a bit challenging otherwise why have a guest editor. You've got to be taken out of your comfort zone a bit.

Four other guest editors will be announced later in the year. During her interview for the show Lady Butler-Sloss will talk about her departure from the abuse inquiry and her programme will also tackle attitudes towards those who live in the countryside.

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