Podcast: Talking Politics

Podcast: Talking Politics
Podcast: Talking Politics
Corbyn! Trump! Brexit! Politics has never been more unpredictable, more alarming or more interesting. TALKING POLITICS is the podcast that will try to make sense of it all. Each Thursday, in Cambridge, David Runciman will talk to the most interesting people around: novelists, comedians, historians, philosophers - and even a few politicians - and ask them what they think is going on... Democracy is feeling the strain everywhere. What might happen next? How bad could it get? As the crazy stuff happens, TALKING POLITICS will be on it. It’s the political conversation everyone is having: please join us.
We talk to political economist Helen Thompson about the birth of the Euro and its tortuous recent history. Whose idea was it in the first place and how much of its current troubles were baked into its origins? A story of ambition, intrigue and unintended consequences.

Talking Points:

The euro was the brainchild of the French government, sometime around late 1987.
- The French had become extremely dissatisfied with the exchange rate mechanism. They thought the set-up benefitted Germany to the expense of everyone else.
- France saw monetary union as a way to Europeanize monetary policy.

The French persuaded the rest of the European community to set up a committee to look into monetary union, which was chaired by the former French finance minister.
- He understood that union would have to be on German terms: there would be an independent central bank committed to price stability.
- Helmut Kohl also wanted shifts on the institutional questions within the European Community.

The Maastricht Treaty was agreed in December 1991—ratification went on for two years.
- The treaty is about much more than monetary union.
- During contentious elections, Kohl started talking about monetary union as a symbol of European peace rather than a purely macroeconomic issue.

The general improvement in economic conditions in the mid-1990s allowed the monetary union to proceed.
- This doesn’t mean that there weren’t significant issues, but there wasn’t an existential crisis like the one that would emerge in 2009 with Greece.

Before the euro itself got going, there was the convergence of interest rates. Even for states like Italy and Greece, that has been a clear advantage.
- You also see some alignment on inflation.
- But you don’t get fiscal convergence. Some states run much higher deficits than others.

If the euro were to end now, it would be because of an implosion not states voluntarily seceding.
- There is more skepticism over the euro in Eastern Europe.

There is a recession coming; this will put more pressure on this system.
- The flashpoint may be Germany.
- There is going to be considerable pressure to go back to quantitative easing. Whether Draghi’s successor can secure tacit German approval is a different question.

Further Learning:
- Helen for the LRB: Will the EU hold? For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
 Talking Politics Guide to ... The Euro,
We ask regular TP contributors and guests to tell us about the books they've most enjoyed recently and the ones they are looking forward to reading this summer. History, science fiction, philosophy, memoirs and a little bit of politics too: it's all here.

Sarah Churchwell
- My Face for the World to See, Alfred Hayes
- In Love, Alfred Hayes

Chris Bickerton
- The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil

Hans van de Ven
- The Great Flowing River, Chi Pang-yuan

Helen Thompson
- Dominion, Tom Holland
- The Hotel Years, Joseph Roth
- The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald

Dennis Grube
- The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis
- Middle England, Jonathan Coe

Catherine Bernard
- In our Mad and Furious City, Guy Gunaratne

David Runciman
- From Bacteria to Bach and Back, Daniel C. Dennett
- Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang

Clare Chambers
- Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez
- Normal People, Sally Rooney

Chris Brooke
- On Mercy, Malcolm Bull

Paul Mason
- Love Song: The Lives of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, Ethan Mordden

Tom Holland
Nefertiti’s Face, Joyce Tyldesley For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Talking Politics Guide to ... Summer Reading,
We talk to historian of China Hans van de Ven about the origins of the CCP and its extraordinary rise to power. How has it managed to adapt to the changes of the last forty years and what lessons will be drawn as it approaches its one hundredth birthday?

Talking Points:

The Chinese Communist Party is an incredible success story. A group of students met in Shanghai; 30 years later, they were running a vast country.
- A lot of luck was involved. If the Japanese hadn’t invaded, they never would have gone anywhere.

The CCP didn’t become a Maoist party until the Second World War.
- Communist parties are supposed to thrive in cities, but Mao turned his attention to the countryside.
- Mao was a great tactician of violence. He was heavily influenced by Clausewitz.
- Mao was also able to draw in both the youth and the intellectuals.

The West tends to see Mao’s death as the decisive shift, but Mao himself allowed new people to come to the fore, including Deng Xiaoping.
- Tiannamen was an existential threat to the Party, and it extended far beyond Beijing.

The Party is still the dominant institution in Chinese life. Although Chinese life is more pluralistic under market reform, the Party still calls the final shots.
- China has always been highly commercialized. Viewing reform as “Westernization” may not be the best approach.

A key element of the Chinese political tradition is a direct connection between the highest and the lowest rungs of society. New technology makes this easier.
- The leadership is extremely concerned with what people are thinking.

As the 100th anniversary of the Party approaches, the leadership faces a dilemma: taking the history of the Party seriously could threaten its present legitimacy.
- How do you explain all of the suffering? You can’t just ignore it.

Further Learning:
- Hans’ book, China at War: Triumph and Tragedy in the Emergence of the New China
- ChinaFile
- A guide to China from the Council on Foreign Relations

Recommended Reading:
- A Critical Introduction to Mao Zedong, Timothy Cheek, ed (CUP, 2010)
- Mao's Little Red Book: A Global History, Alastair Cook (CUP, 2014)
Red Flags: Why Xi's China is in Jeopardy, George Magnus (Yale, 2018) For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Talking Politics Guide to ... The Chinese Communist Party,
We talk to historian Sarah Churchwell about the Gilded Age in late nineteenth century America and the comparisons with today. Rampant inequality, racial conflict, fights over immigration, technological revolution: is Trump's America repeating the pattern or is it something

Talking Points:

In 1873, Mark Twain and Charles W. Warner coined the term “The Gilded Age,” in their eponymous novel.
- The phrase was re-discovered in the 1920s and applied retrospectively to the period of the 1870s-roughly 1900.
- The Gilded Age satirized the way wealth and consumerism were taking over American life and showed how this move towards a “huxterist” culture was subverting America’s democratic ideals.

Yet this was also a period of real growth.
- The major transformation of the period was the railroad.
- Rampant inequality characterized the era: the robber barons on the one hand, and poor immigrant communities on the other. But in the middle of this, there was also a group of people working their way into the middle class.

Immigration, particularly from Eastern Europe, exploded during this period.
- America did not have immigration control.
- The first immigration laws were passed in the 1880s and 1890s, most notably the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Reconstruction overlaps with the Gilded Age.
- There was no redistribution to the former slaves. Johnson effectively pardoned the former Confederates.
- The Klan emerged during this period as domestic terrorists.
- This ultimately leads to the Great Migration, African Americans leaving the South to seek opportunities further North.

The bridge between the Gilded Age and the Progressive Period was the age of populism.
- William Jennings Bryan was a grassroots populist who almost became president.
- There are many echoes to the present moment: white working class men asserting their right to be middle America at the cost of excluding other communities.

Is this a new Gilded Age?
- Today, the tech giants are cornering technology the way that Carneige cornered steel.
- But maybe the gilt is the story, and the exceptional moments are the aberrations.

Further Learning:
- Sarah’s book, Behold America
- Chapters of Erie, Henry Adams For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Talking Politics Guide to ... The Gilded Age,
Boris Johnson is off to see the Queen to become her 14th (!) Prime Minister, but where might he be taking the country this autumn?  We try to work through the various Brexit scenarios, from a renegotiated Withdrawal Agreement to a crash no-deal exit. Can the backstop be changed? What is a 'standstill' arrangement? Will Macron force the issue? Plus we explore whether an early election or a second referendum can really provide a way out of the mess. Something's got to give - what will it be? With Helen Thompson, Catherine Barnard and Chris Bickerton.

Talking Points:

Can you change the backstop?
- Deep changes seem unlikely, though maybe some changes around the edges would make it more sellable.
- If the DUP won’t swallow it, will Johnson have to essentially sacrifice Northern Ireland to get a deal?
- But cutting out the DUP presents a problem for parliamentary arithmetics.
- The things that Johnson wants to discuss are in the withdrawal agreement. Europe is not open to talking about these things.

What is GATT Article 24 5b?
- This is the idea that you could have a “quick and dirty” free trade agreement ready to go on the 31 Oct.
- The trouble is that the law gets in the way: the EU has to agree with it.
- From the EU perspective, any agreement will require that the UK addresses citizens rights, money, and the backstop.
- The idea that there’s some kind of standstill option is a unicorn.

There’s a change of leadership in the EU as well. Does it make any difference?
- The instability in German politics deserves more attention.
- The Franco-German relationship is in a worse place than it was in March.
- If the German position is weakened, this could strengthen Macron and the harder line.

When will the moment of truth come?
- The sequencing here is incredibly complex.
- At some point, Johnson’s government will have to make a choice. Will it be over an election? Over no deal?
- A confidence vote isn’t a last resort for Tory remainers, but it’s very close to it.
- We also need to think more about the legal realities of a no deal Brexit.

Mentioned in this Episode:
- Who is Boris Johnson?
- More on GATT Article 24

Further Learning:
- Catherine on the EU and the conservative leadership race
- Helen on geopolitics, the EU, and Brexit

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
 Autumn of Chaos,
Barring an act of God, Boris Johnson is going to be the next leader of the Conservative Party. We're exploring what that means in two parts. Today, Helen and David talk about the domestic implications.  Can Johnson avoid an election? Can he hold on to the seats he needs while winning others he doesn't have? Will he unite or divide his party? Will Labour be able to stop him either way? Plus we talk about what's at stake for the Tories in Johnson's relationship with Trump.  Next week: Europe and Brexit.

Talking Points:

What shifted to make Boris Johnson’s victory almost inevitable?
- We need to go back to the third attempt to get the meaningful vote through the House of Commons. That was Theresa May’s chance.
- After 31 March, the political calculus changed.
- If May had been able to pass her deal, there might have been more of an effort to stop Johnson from becoming PM.

Labour is now the more divided party. And the Conservative Party has united around a very unpopular leader.
- There are some parallels to the United States.
- The Labour remainers have been emboldened since the 31 March, but Labour also looks more divided than it did a few months ago.

Are there enough people in the parliamentary Conservative Party who would be willing to precipitate a general election if Johnson pursued no deal?
- It’s not impossible, but this would be a big deal.

Could Johnson usher in a new relationship with the United States?
- A lot would ride on his relationship with Trump—that’s risky.
- Is there anything that Johnson can say that will not alienate Trump and not alienate the British public?

The most important decision next week, if Johnson becomes PM, will be who he appoints as Chancellor.
- Whoever it is will likely have a lot of power.
- What happens with Brexit will be crucial to what kind of economic policy comes next.
- The Conservatives will need to maintain their coalition, and probably make up for seats in Scotland.

Will the opposition to a Johnson prime ministership coalesce around Labour or not?
- Last time, the Conservatives committed an act of destruction with the social care issue.
- And if the next general election happens after Brexit, there will not be the same disciplining effect.
- If Johnson can walk a very narrow path in the next 6 months (which is far from certain), he could be prime minister for a long time.

Mentioned in this Episode:
- Hunt and Johnson on Trump’s tweets
- Steve Baker’s tweet in response to Trump’s tweet
- John Lanchester on Universal Basic Income
- Adam Tooze on Germany

Further Learning:
- Who is Boris Johnson?
- The Party Splits! (In 1846!)

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Waiting for Boris,
What is happening in Hong Kong? We talk to a professor of Chinese history and a Hong Kong journalist about the recent wave of protests there and try to discover what is really at stake on all sides.  Who are the protestors? What are their core demands? Can these be met? And what will happen if they aren't? Plus we explore the parallels with other protest movements around the world and look at the possible knock-on effects, from Beijing to Taiwan. With Hans van de Ven and Angus Hui.

Talking Points:

The protests in Hong Kong are now in their second month. As many as half a million people have taken to the streets.
- There is also a smaller group of much younger people who occupied the legislative council chambers last week.
- The initial protests were about repealing an extradition law. But the protest now seems to be about the entire system.
- This is the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The protesters want to show that Hong Kong is not China.
- Is this a threat to one country, two systems?
- The Umbrella Movement in 2014 was about suffrage and democracy. Is this going beyond that?
- One country, two systems was meant to last 50 years. We are now 22 years in.

What would the protesters count as success?
- Independence is an unrealistic goal.
- The protesters want three things: 1) The withdrawal of the extradition bill 2) An independent investigation committee into police violence against the protesters and 3) protection from prosecution for the protesters.
- A real win would be a genuinely elected chief executive and a genuinely elected legislative council. This would involve negotiations with Beijing.

Even if these protests fade, the issues remain and will only get more serious.
- What is happening in Hong Kong is the building up of a tradition of protests that will feed on each other.
- There is a broader breakdown in trust between mainland China and the people living in Hong Kong, including the fear that the social credit system may be introduced in Hong Kong.

Mentioned in this Episode:
- English language news sources on the situation in Hong Kong

Further Learning:
- Background from the NYTimes on the protests
- More on the umbrella revolution
- More on Christianity and the Hong Kong protests

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Hong Kong ,
What does it mean when Facebook says it wants its own currency?  We explore the power, the potential and the pitfalls of Libra. How does Facebook plan to make money out of making money? Can anyone stop it? And does this represent a fundamental shift in the model of surveillance capitalism? Plus we consider some of the rivals it faces: Bitcoin, WeChat and the good old dollar. Finally, this week we pay tribute to our dear friend and regular Talking Politics contributor Aaron Rapport (1980-2019) with some memories of his many appearances on the podcast.

Talking Points:

What is Libra?
- A digital currency that Facebook unveiled in a White Paper last month
- It aims to be a global currency that will bring the unbanked into banking and make certain transactions, such as remittances, easier.
- Libra itself would be managed by an association of members, including big finance companies, big tech companies, and NGOs. But Facebook would control Calibra, the wallet that would allow people to actually use the currency.

How is Libra different from Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?
- Unlike Bitcoin, Libra would be pegged to a basket of currencies. This would make it less volatile, but more centralized.

What would it mean if Facebook started issuing money?
- If Facebook were a state, it would have more subjects than any country on earth.
- Regulation remains a huge question.
- What will happen if Facebook has leverage over both social and economic capital?

If Libra isn’t stopped before it launches, it could quickly become indispensable.
- There are huge potential benefits, especially in terms of facilitating remittances and increasing the efficiency of payments.
- But there are also risks: this could allow Facebook to go even further in accumulating new kinds of data and monetizing human behaviour.

Mentioned in this Episode:
- Facebook’s Libra white paper
- John’s column on Libra

Further Learning:
- TP talks to Shoshana Zuboff about Surveillance Capitalism
- The Talking Politics Guide To … Facebook

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
We talk with Gary Gerstle about the big issues roiling US politics with likely aftereffects that will long outlast Trump's presidency. First up: the fight over the census. What's a stake in the citizenship question? How has American politics been shaped by people-counting in the past? And what is the Supreme Court likely to decide? Plus we look at constitutional reform, the environment and impeachment. These are the battles that could have consequences for decades to come. With Helen Thompson.Talking Points:The Trump administration wants to put the “citizenship question” on the U.S. census.Lines are being drawn between personhood and citizenship.If immigrants avoid the census, there could be consequences for Democrats.The Republicans know that demographics are against them.Trump probably wouldn’t have won the Republican primary without the backlash against immigration.The United States was the first country to put a census in its constitution.  The census is not connected to citizenship: it’s connected to personhood. Counting for the purposes of elections becomes complicated when you have a significant number of people in the country who are not citizens.The census gives you the numbers, but what happens is up to the states. This is why state-level offices are so important. If Trump wins a second term, he will likely appoint two justices to the Supreme Court.He has promised that he will only appoint people approved by the Federalist Society, which promotes an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.There can still be meaningful differences when people get on the court: Gorsuch, for example, has been more willing to side with liberal justices than Kavanaugh.But Kavanaugh and Gorsuch both are unlikely to uphold environmental regulations. If a Democrat wins, he or she will have to contend with a court that opposes the regulatory state.What about the impeachment question?Is there a principle at stake here? If not now, when?The Mueller report is damning—it emphasizes that the fact that they are not indicting the president does not mean they are exonerating him.Mueller’s July testimony will be significant: if impeachment is going to happen, the next few months are crucial.Mentioned in this Episode:The GOP gerrymandering architect and what his daughter found when she died.Further Learning:What are the conditions at the U.S. border?President Bernie?Trump after MuellerAmerica First?And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Outlasting Trump,
The current crisis for the Conservatives is often described as the worst since the party split over the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. So we talk to historian Boyd Hilton about what really happened back then and what it meant for British politics. Why were the Corn Laws so divisive? How did public opinion impact on the politicians?  Did Peel betray his party or did he do what needed to be done? And what are the real lessons for Brexit and for the Conservative Party today?  With Helen Thompson. * We have extra show notes below, with a guide to the historical timeline and some further reading suggestions.Talking Points: What were the Corn Laws? From 1815-1846, a series of tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported grains kept prices artificially high to favor domestic producers. The laws were controversial from the beginning (but there wasn’t sizeable, collective opposition until later). The Corn Laws benefited those who owned land, but they increased food prices and the costs of living for most of the British public. Manufacturers also opposed the Corn Laws, which they saw as inhibiting free trade.Scarcity and self-sufficiency were part of the motivating ideology behind these laws. But in practice, they made Britain vulnerable to bad harvests. In 1846, under increasing pressure, Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel went against his own party to repeal the Corn Laws with the support of the Whigs. This split the Party, and kept it out of power for almost a generation.A Corn Laws Timeline:1815: Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the first Corn Laws were introduced to protect British grain production from outside competition.1832: The first Reform Act partially extends the franchise to include certain segments of the population who do not own landed property. It also redistributes seats from the agricultural south and west to the industrializing north. 1834: A new poor law is passed, establishing workhouses and leading to the effective criminalization of poverty.1836: The Anti Corn Law Association is founded (in 1839 it becomes the Anti-Corn Law League).1841: Peel’s Conservatives take control of the House of Commons. This is the first time that a majority government is thrown out by the electorate since 1708.1844: As part of Peel’s deflationary program, the Bank Charter Act restricts the powers of British banks and gives the Bank of England the exclusive right to issue banknotes. This act creates a ratio between gold reserves and currency circulation.1845: The great famine in Ireland begins.1846: The Corn Laws are repealed, leading to a split in the Conservative Party and Peel’s resignation.1848: A series of revolutions and uprisings take place across Europe, including, most notably, in France. Anxiety over revolution leads to the repression and ultimate destruction of Chartism.1850s: Britain enthusiastically embraces free trade, this appears to be validated by the economic boom of the 1860sKey Terms and Figures:Sir Robert Peel: The two-time, technocratic Conservative Prime Minister who repealed the Corn Laws. Although he was elected on a protectionist platform, Peel played a key role in Britain’s embrace of free trade. In 1846, he bucked his own party to join the Whigs and the Radicals to repeal the Corn Laws. This led to his resignation that year.Benjamin Disraeli: A two-time Conservative Prime Minister who played a key role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party. He clashed with Peel over the repeal of the Corn Laws.The Anti-Corn Law League: A highly successful, predominantly middle-class political movement that opposed the Corn Laws. Chartism: A working class parliamentary reform movement... For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
The Party Splits! (In 1846!),
We try to work out what the current favourite to be next Tory leader actually stands for. Can his time as Mayor of London tell us what kind of PM he might be? Will his journalistic past come back to haunt him? Does he have a political philosophy beyond 'doing Brexit'? Plus we discuss whether the Johnson-Trump comparisons really stand up. With Helen Thompson and Chris Brooke.Talking Points:What does Boris Johnson stand for?He’s emphasizing is his experience as Mayor of London, especially his ability to assemble a good team (of course this can be debated). But the other side of his pitch is about Brexit, and the politics of that are going to overshadow everything that a Johnson cabinet could do. He would need a chancellor to do a lot of heavy lifting. Who would that person be? And is Johnson self-aware enough to see this?Johnson wallows in imperial nostalgia. This puts him in direct opposition to Corbyn. Could this lead to more public sparring over foreign policy?Could Johnson’s journalistic past create problems for him? On the one hand, the people he offends aren’t likely to vote for him anyways. It’s hard to imagine a skeleton that would cut across political divides.Michael Gove is clearly being held to a different standard right now. In some ways, Johnson has set himself outside of the traditional boundaries of political morality.At the end of the day, however, the Conservative Party needs someone who can appeal to the Brexiteers, even if it might lose them some support elsewhere.Does Johnson have a political philosophy?He’s not particularly ideological.His best pitch might be tax cuts plus Brexit, which looks a lot like Trump.A lot of Conservative MP’s don’t like Johnson at all—they think he’s only out for himself.Hunt is saying that the one thing we cannot have is an election; Johnson is saying the one thing that we cannot do is stay in the EU. Which is riskier?The Conservative Party is in a bind, and it’s not clear how it will get out of this crisis.But the problems run deeper than the Party.Part of the reason for this impasse is that politicians keep postponing the moment of reckoning. Nothing that has happened so far has changed the fundamental issues.Mentioned in this Episode:Johnson recites Kipling in MyanmarConstitutional BreakdownFurther Learning:Brexit LessonsMore on Boris Johnson, political satire, and “Have I Got New For You”On Johnson’s mayoral recordAnd as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
Who is Boris Johnson?,
We ask whether the UK constitution is cracking up - and if so, where's the breakpoint going to come? Is Brexit at the heart of the current crisis or does it go deeper than that? What's the role of the Supreme Court? And the Queen? Could the Bank of England play a part? And where does Scotland fit in? We try to piece it all together with Helen Thompson, Chris Bickerton and Kenneth Armstrong.Talking Points: The British constitution is under big strain right now, and not just because of Brexit.The British constitution is a political one, and If there is a crisis it is a crisis of politics. Fundamentally, this is about representation.What happens if the next Conservative leader doesn’t command the confidence of Parliament?Right now, the constitution is facing multiple sources of strain including the Fixed Term Parliament Act, Brexit, and problems within the Union.To survive, the constitution has to adapt to all of these things simultaneously.Would things be better if the constitution were codified?If elections have been played down as a political tie breaker because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, is there space for something else?The rise of the Brexit party could create a real complication.At a certain point, it becomes difficult to disentangle the party dynamics and constitutional issues.Where are the pressure points in Scottish politics now?The most immediate one was the other week when the Scottish government published the referendum bill. It doesn’t provide for a second referendum.This is a way of trying to corral politics toward a second referendum without pushing a button immediately.Scotland is itself a vexed constitutional question.Mentioned in this Episode:The Economist on Britain’s constitutional time bombPoliticalBetting.com on the odds of having four prime ministers in four yearsFurther Learning:David’s series on rethinking representation for the BBCDavid on representation in UK democracyAnd as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
Constitutional Breakdown,
We talk to the author of Guns, Germs and Steel about his new book on nations in crisis. Jared Diamond argues that personal crises are a good way of thinking about national ones. He tells us about one of his own personal crises and we see whether the lessons really apply to politics. Plus we discuss what's gone wrong with political leadership in the US and we explore what it would take to tackle the global environmental crisis.Talking Points:The premise of Jared’s new book is that the outcome predictors for personal crises can also be applied to national crises.How much does timing matter? Are early life crises different from late life crises?National crises, like personal crises, might begin with a sudden shock or unfold slowly.Individuals are biased: that can make thinking about the arc of a life hard. But collective action problems do not necessarily map onto personal crises.A key example is leadership: it matters for nations, but not individuals.In a globalized world, we don’t have the luxury of an isolated collapse.What happens when the system that needs change also has to affect that change?It’s impossible to get away from politics.Jared thinks that this is where leadership comes in. Leaders make a difference under some (but not all) circumstances.Democratic politics has a tendency to defer difficult decisions. But the world does have a track record of dealing with really tough problems.Mentioned in this Episode:UpheavalDemocracy for Young PeopleFurther Learning:Jared Diamond on his new bookTalking Politics with Yuval Noah HarariAnd as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
Jared Diamond,
David and Helen catch up with the European election results and the Tory leadership race - there's lots to talk about. How can the Tories compete with the Brexit Party? Are the Liberal Democrats a real threat to Labour? What does it all mean for Ireland? And for Scotland?  Plus, is the surge in support for Greens across Europe a signal that it's time to take environmental politics seriously?
Split Down the Middle,
As Theresa May's premiership gets very close to the end, we talk about who and what might be coming next. Can her successor re-establish the authority she has lost? Can anyone govern in this parliament or do we need a general election? Is the age of long-serving prime ministers also coming to an end? Plus we discuss what lessons can be drawn from the recent election in Australia: what does it tell us about the politics of climate change? With Helen Thompson and Chris Brooke.Talking Points:Theresa May’s prime ministership is nearing its last week. She has no authority left.Is it about her and her mismanagement, or has something happened to the office?Will her successor have any more luck? (It seems unlikely)It doesn’t seem like there was any realistic scenario in which May could have peeled off significant numbers of Labour MP’s. But the fight over the people’s vote within Labour could have turned out differently. If the leadership had succumbed, Labour MP’s in Leave constituencies might have done something different. October will be a month of high drama: both the Brexit deadline and the party conferences.Also the three options will look more like two: everyone has to take no deal seriously at that point. Could there be a general election in the autumn?If Labour doesn’t want to define itself according to Brexit, is there a plausible case for the Lib Dems to become the opposition?A revival of the Lib Dems hurts the Conservatives much more than Labour. Both main parties have a clear interest in having both Remain and Leave voters in their party. The problem is it means that neither of them can deliver Brexit.The long premierships of Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair are historical exceptions. A lot of what’s going on is the absence of a parliamentary majority: that’s the norm in British politics.But on the Conservative side, it’s also about the particular way they elect a leader. In parliamentary politics there’s a pressure towards a soft Brexit, but the Conservative leadership is in the hands of the members. We don’t know that much about them, but everyone seems to think that the membership is very Brexity. That sets up the instability.There are also substantive issues that have historically driven instability in UK politics: difficult questions about the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world, and difficult questions about the UK as a multi-national state.Did Australia just have a Brexit moment? Or is this something more familiar?There are parallels to the Major/Kinnock election in 1992.But there’s also the risk that the takeaway will be that going big on climate change is not a great strategy.Mentioned in this Episode:Paul Mason in The New StatesmanFurther Learning: The End of the Party?More on Corbyn and Labour’s strategyOn climate change and the Australian electionSocialism in this Country? And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:
The Next PM,
We talk to historian Tom Holland about the fall of the Roman Republic and the parallels with today. Why does Roman history still exert such a strong pull over our imaginations? Are politicians like Trump and Berlusconi recognisable types from the ancient past? And is contemporary democracy vulnerable to the same forces that brought down the Roman Republic? Plus, we discuss Putin's claim that Russia is now the Third Rome. What is he getting at? With Helen Thompson.
Death of the Republic,
An extra episode with Adam Tooze to catch up on the latest in the US/China trade wars. What's really at stake and what does Trump want?  Is this about economics or security? What does it say about the future of capitalism? And where does Joe Biden fit in? With Helen Thompson.
Adam Tooze on US vs China,
We talk about socialism in America: where it comes from, what it means, why it's so associated with Bernie Sanders and whether it can actually reach the White House. What's the difference between democratic socialism and social democracy? How would the workers gain control of businesses like Facebook and Amazon? Who are the workers these days anyway? Plus, we ask what a Sanders vs Trump contest would actually be like. With Adom Getachew, from the University of Chicago, and Gary Gerstle.Talking Points:In the U.S. context, is there a meaningful difference between democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders and social democrats like Elizabeth Warren?Warren is more focused on politics: reforming the Senate, imposing taxes on corporations, etc.Sanders sees socialism as a revolution, but his actual aims are fairly modest: strengthen labor, etc.Warren wants to break up Amazon; Sanders wants to empower the workers to take on Amazon themselves.One key difference is that Sanders comes out of a grass-roots, movement-type politics. Warren does not, and she’s explicitly denied a commitment to socialism.Can you have socialism without a labor movement? What takes its place?In 1935, 35% of American workers belonged to a union. Today it’s only 11%.There have been a number of strikes during the Trump presidency, such as the teachers strike.We need to reimagine who the working class. It’s not the industrial working class anymore. It’s the service sector, and these are historically unorganized labor forces.Today it’s the precariat, not the proletariat.How does a labor movement speak to a radically altered working population?For many young people, the Occupy movement was a moment of political awakening.The establishment seemed unable to deal with the crisis, and this opened up a new sense of political possibility.For many young Americans, who have grown up in the absence of a real Left, Sanders represents an authentic commitment to a different kind of politics.There may be some problems for Sanders. For example, his reluctance to support reparations opened him up to criticism about a blindness to racial justice.A socialist in the U.S. has never become a major party nominee. The historical role of socialism in the U.S. has been disruptive, pressuring centrist candidates to move left. Can Sanders break that mold?The American political project is designed to be slow. To have big change, you need a mass movement outside of politics too.Mentioned in this Episode:Adom’s new book, Worldmaking after EmpireIsaac Chotiner interviews the editor of the Jacobin on American socialismFurther Learning:Alissa Quart on the “precariat”More on the history of American socialismThe Talking Politics Guide to… the U.S. ConstitutionGreen New Deal?And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:
President Bernie?,
Are the UK's looming European elections making a mockery of democracy, or is this how democracy is meant to work? Would cancelling them at the last minute make the situation worse? We talk about trust in politics, the threat to the two main parties, and the knock-on effects for the rest of Europe. Plus we discuss what can meaningfully happen before the end of October, and whether the events of the last few weeks have done permanent damage to the Tory brand. With Helen Thompson, Catherine Barnard and Chris Bickerton.Talking Points:Local elections and the European parliamentary elections are the closest that UK voters have been to getting a say on what’s going on—even if they may not actually have any consequences.Are they good or bad for democracy?People’s faith in democracy overall is declining.Because of Brexit, and the upcoming elections, the fracturing in British party politics is greater than ever before—what does this mean for British politics?We overestimate how often we’ve had a two-party system. It’s actually rare (1832-1870 and 1945-1970)You need a stable UK to have two party dynamics.Brexit has shaken up the parties in fundamental ways.Whether or not Britain leaves the EU, the next Conservative leader will likely be a leaver.With this Parliament, if it does come down to no deal or revoke article 50, what will it do?This partially depends on the EU’s position.There is still the problem of sequencing when it comes to leaving the EU.The UK has become a geopolitical issue for the EU in a way that it wasn’t before. This is why Merkel and Macron are fighting.Mentioned in this Episode:Sir John Holmes’ statement on uncertainty around European electionsThe Pew polling on people’s faith in democracyFurther Learning:On the 2019 European electionsAnd as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
A Mockery of Democracy?,
An extra episode in our climate season: we talk to Sir David King, former Chief Scientific Advisor to the British government, about what's now known about the scale of the threat and the urgency of the need for action. What has happened since the Paris agreement? What is the Chinese government most afraid of? What is the meaning of Extinction Rebellion? And is it time to start talking about refreezing the poles to repair the damage already done?
David King on Climate Repair,
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