376 episodes

Coronavirus! Climate! Brexit! Trump! Politics has never been more unpredictable, more alarming or more interesting: Talking Politics is the podcast that tries to make sense of it all. Every week David Runciman and Helen Thompson talk to the most interesting people around about the ideas and events that shape our world: from history to economics, from philosophy to fiction. What does the future hold?
Can democracy survive? How crazy will it get? This is the political conversation that matters.
Talking Politics is brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, Europe's leading magazine of books and ideas.

TALKING POLITICS David Runciman and Catherine Carr

    • News
    • 4.7 • 1.9K Ratings

Coronavirus! Climate! Brexit! Trump! Politics has never been more unpredictable, more alarming or more interesting: Talking Politics is the podcast that tries to make sense of it all. Every week David Runciman and Helen Thompson talk to the most interesting people around about the ideas and events that shape our world: from history to economics, from philosophy to fiction. What does the future hold?
Can democracy survive? How crazy will it get? This is the political conversation that matters.
Talking Politics is brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, Europe's leading magazine of books and ideas.

    Finale

    Finale

    David, Helen and Catherine get together for our final episode, to reflect on podcasting through six extraordinary years of politics, and what it means to be ending at the beginning of a war. We talk about the current crisis, how it connects to the crises of the past, and where it might fit in to the crises of the future. This episode is dedicated to Finbarr Livesey and Aaron Rapport.
    So you don’t miss us too much…  
    You can follow Catherine’s work on Relatively and The Exchange on R4. She tweets @CatherineECarrRead David in the pages of the LRBOr check out his most recent book, Confronting Leviathan Helen’s new book, Disorder is now out! And she writes a column for the New Statesman and tweets @HelenHet20Our website - keep an eye out for archive curation - underway soon!
    In grateful memory of our colleagues Aaron Rapport and Finbarr Livesey

    • 39 min
    Helen Thompson/Disorder

    Helen Thompson/Disorder

    For our penultimate episode, David talks to Helen about her new book Disorder: Hard Times in the Twenty-First Century. It’s a conversation about many of the themes Helen has explored on Talking Politics over the years, from the energy transition to the perils of QE, from the travails of the Eurozone to the crisis of democracy, from China to America, from the past to the present to the future. In this book, she brings all these themes together to help make sense of the world we’re in.
    Talking Points: 
    Suez is often seen as a crisis of British imperial hubris. But it’s also about energy.
    The US wanted Western European countries to import oil from the Middle East.But the US at the time was not a military power in the region.So the US essentially became a guarantor of Western European energy security, but implementation was dependent on British imperial power in the region.When Eisenhower pulled the plug on Suez, Europe panicked. 
    The aftermath was hugely consequential.
    France turned to Algeria, but that went badly.Europe also embraced nuclear power to pursue energy self-sufficiency.And finally, this precipitated a turn to Soviet oil and gas and the construction of pipelines between Soviet territories and Western Europe.
    The shale boom was a double-edged sword: it also destabilized the alliance with Saudi Arabia and increased competition between the US and Russia.
    Meanwhile, Chinese demand has been increasing. The US today imports much less oil from the Persian Gulf, but the US Navy still provides energy security in the region, even though most of that oil goes to China and Japan. 
    QE created a wholly new situation in the Eurozone.
    Everyone in the Eurozone game essentially understands that if QE is going to continue, there will be constraints around what can happen in Italian domestic politics.The current prime minister of Italy is the former president of the ECB.
    One of the risks of democracy is democratic excess. But democracies can also experience aristocratic excess.
    In US elections, people need a lot of money to compete. This means that there is not really an outlet for genuine democratic demands.
    Mentioned in this Episode:
    Helen’s book, DisorderJames Macdonald, A Free Nation Deep in Debt
    Further Learning: 
    More on Nord Stream 2 Helen, on how the rich captured modern democraciesHelen on Ukraine for the New StatesmanWhy the Ukraine crisis is a modern crisis
    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

    • 46 min
    The Meaning of Macron

    The Meaning of Macron

    David talks to Shahin Vallee and Chris Bickerton about the upcoming French presidential elections. Can anything or anyone stop Macron? Why has French politics moved so far to the right? And what do left and right still mean in the absence of economic disagreement? Plus we discuss what the Macron years - the five that have gone and the five probably still to come - have taught us about the changing character of European politics.

    • 45 min
    The Meaning of Boris Johnson

    The Meaning of Boris Johnson

    David, Helen and Chris Brooke have one more go at making sense of the tangled web that is British politics. Can Johnson really survive, and even if he does, can his brand ever recover? Is this a scandal, is it a crisis, or is it something else entirely? Does history offer any guide to what comes next? Plus we explore what might be the really big lessons from the last two years of Covid-dominated politics.
    Talking Points: 
    It’s obvious why Boris is a problem, but it’s not clear who would replace him.
    There will probably need to be a decisive marker, either the May local elections or the police report could be it.The strategic question for the Conservative party is, can it win enough seats to form a stable majority government?
    Boris won’t go voluntarily. But can he survive?
    Newer MPs are not loyal to Johnson, but older ones are more wary of defenestrating a leader who won big majorities.A lot of people have left number 10. It will be hard for him to govern.
    In 2015, Ed Miliband was leading in the headline polls. But there were signs of weakness.
    Labour wasn’t winning local elections. And Cameron was polling better on two key questions: leadership and the economy.Labour has now moved ahead on both. It would still be hard for Labour to win an overall majority, but defeat in local elections might spook the Conservatives.
    The politics of scandal are different from the politics of crisis.
    Scandals change how politics are conducted, but they don’t usually trash the party’s reputation.Helen thinks that it is a politics of chaos.
    This particular scandal is bound up in Johnson’s appeal. 
    On most issues, the outrage of the other side works for Johnson.Outrage about the parties is different: Johnson was a hypocrite.He has trashed his own brand this time, but he still doesn’t think the game is over.
    Were the pandemic years a dress rehearsal for the politics of climate change?
    To reach net zero, governments will need to ask people to make sacrifices. Will future politics be a politics of limits?The pandemic has also deepened generational divides. 
    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    Recent polling data
    Further Learning: 
    Isaac Chotiner asks David about hypocrisy and Partygate Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves on Labour optimismDavid on Dominic Cummings’ blogFrom the archive… Who is Boris Johnson?
    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

    • 52 min
    Putin’s Next Move

    Putin’s Next Move

    David and Helen talk to Shashank Joshi, Defence Editor of the Economist, about what Vladimir Putin hopes to get out of the Ukraine crisis and what anyone can do to stop him. Is some sort of invasion inevitable? Is Russia’s goal to sow dissent or to achieve regime change? What leverage does the rest of world have over Putin and his allies? Plus we explore where the roots of the crisis lie: in 2014, in the end of the Cold War, or even earlier still?
    Talking Points: 
    What does Putin want from Ukraine? 
    He wants to stop Ukraine’s westward shift, which is about more than NATO. Ukraine was probably not ever going to join NATO. In that regard, Putin already has what he wants.What else is he upset about? Britain is building a naval base on the Sea of Azov. Britain and the UK are training Ukrainian troops. Weapons are flowing in, too. Putin worries about Ukraine becoming a more militarily and economically capable actor. 
    What would Putin count as a success in the current crisis? 
    Logistically speaking, Putin could stay there for months. But he has troops from the Eastern military district there, who can’t. And the weather will change after March. Perhaps the biggest problem is psychological: backing down would look like giving in. Does Russia want regime change?
    Kiev seems less convinced about the imminence of an invasion.
    Are they deluded? They definitely want to avoid panic, especially economic panic. 
    What is different today from 2014? 
    Ukraine is in an even worse economic position. Ukraine is a transit gas state; Putin has been trying to end that for a long time, and he is getting close with the near completion of Nordstream.Another difference is America’s position in the world. 
    NATO allies should still feel reasonably secure.
    But in middle areas, such as Ukraine, or the countries in central Asia, things are less certain.
    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    Shashank’s latest for the Economist: How big is Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine?More on Biden’s global posture reviewAn interview with Dmitri Trenin: are we on the brink of war?
    Further Learning: 
    Our last episode with ShashankMore on javelin missiles in UkraineMore on the Russia-Belarus integration
    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

    • 50 min
    The Next Big Thing

    The Next Big Thing

    David talks to John Naughton about what’s coming next in the tech revolution and where it’s taking us. From quantum computing to cryptocurrency, from AI to the Internet of Things: what’s hype, what’s for real and how will it shape our politics. Plus we discuss what China understands about technology that the rest of the world might have missed.
    Talking Points: 
    The metaverse is the next big thing in Silicon Valley. It feels like the logical conclusion of prevailing trends.
    This is not actually a radical break.The gaming industry is developing the metaverse. And big tech is investing heavily in gaming. The metaverse bypasses many elements of the real world that people like Zuckerberg are keen on, such as government regulation.
    What will be the next big technological shift? Are we in a kind of lull?
    The internet of things has not gone away.Blockchain, which enables crypto, is still a significant technology.Proponents of Web3 want to disrupt centralized control of the Internet.
    Does the Chinese system show us that there is another choice on technology? 
    The general view of autocracy is that it can’t be done. The problem is imperfect information.Has technology made it possible to escape the autocrat’s trap?
    Technology has undeniably changed our lives, but the liberatory promise does not seem to have been realized.
    When will technology give us control over our own time? The kind of capitalism that drives the tech industry is unstable unless it grows.The relentlessness of consumer society is antithetical to a particular kind of creativity and a particular kind of politics.
    Mentioned in this Episode:
    John’s column for the ObserverNeal Stephennson, Snow CrashJohn on TP talking about LibraKeynes’ essay, ‘Economic possibilities for our grandchildren’History of Ideas, Hannah Arendt on ActionThe Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy
    Further Learning: 
    What is the metaverse, exactly? What is Web3? More on Microsoft’s takeover of Activision Blizzard
    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

    • 42 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
1.9K Ratings

1.9K Ratings

mullini 1 ,

End of talking politics

Absolutely brilliant, so sad it’s finished but if someone told me I was fated to spend the next few years listening to a repeat episode a day that would be fine! Interesting, massively informative and thought provoking, a little enriched of life. Massive thanks to all involved!

Johnny Latics ,

Precision entertainment . . .

Without doubt the best political podcast. As a politics teacher who travels under the misconception of thinking I know something about the subject, I find that every episodes deepens my understanding and leaves me scratching my head about questions I’d never previously thought to think. The highlight of every week. The whole family download & enjoy.

@RBW ,

Analysis

Excellent detailed analysis. No egos, no quips just straight detailed discussion. The stand out Political podcast in this regard.

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