357 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.
Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics

TALKING POLITICS Talking Politics

    • News
    • 5.0 • 1 Rating

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.
Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics

    Q & A with Helen and David: Geopolitics

    Q & A with Helen and David: Geopolitics

    In the first of a short series of episodes, Helen and David do their best to answer your questions about anything and everything. Here, it's the geopolitics of vaccines, Germany as a 'useful idiot', the Great Game in the 21st century, oil prices, green finance and the risks and rewards of 'Japanification'. Next week, they tackle UK politics and the future of the Union.


    Talking Geopolitics… from our archives
    - Michael Lewis on the Pandemic (June 2021)
    - After Merkel… What? With Hans Kundnani (April 2021)
    - The Tragic Choices of Climate Change with Adam Tooze (March 2021)
    - Germany, Italy, Coalitions and Vaccines (January 2021)
    - China, Climate, Covid: The New Energy Map with David Yergin (November 2020)
    - Post-COVID economics… with Adam Tooze (November 2020)
    - Adam Tooze on US vs China (May 2019)
    - Oil! With Helen (June 2017)


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
    Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics.

    • 50 min
    Ed Miliband's Big Ideas

    Ed Miliband's Big Ideas

    David talks to Ed Miliband about the thinking behind his new book Go Big. What are the ideas that have the power to change British politics? If they have been shown to work elsewhere, why are they so hard to make happen? Is it the politicians or the public who are reluctant to make the shift? Plus, we discuss whether the Tories might be better at the politics of change than Labour.


    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    - Ed’s new book, Go Big: How to Fix Our World
    - Ed’s podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful


    Further Learning: 
    - Ed on why the Labour Party should think big for the Guardian
    - More on the Vienna model of social housing
    - Matthew Brown on what Preston council can teach Labour


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
    Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics.

    • 45 min
    Covid-Union-Labour-Brexit-Climate

    Covid-Union-Labour-Brexit-Climate

    This week David and Helen take stock of the state of British politics, looking at how the big themes of the last year fit together. They try to join the dots between the pandemic and the fraying of the Union, the weakness of the Labour party and the fraught politics of climate change, along with the lingering impact of Brexit on everything. We are also looking for your questions on these topics too - please let us know what you would like David and Helen to discuss next: https://www.talkingpoliticspodcast.com/contact


    Talking Points: 


    Incumbents, under the conditions of vaccine politics, have done well. 
    - The next phase will be about the economy, but we aren’t out of the vaccine stage yet.
    - When an inquiry happens, there will be some tough questions about the British state.
    - If the economic recovery goes well, there will be space for critical reflection. But if recovery stalls or is skewed, that will be the main focus.


    The Northern Ireland question may pose a real challenge to the politics of the Union.
    - This may be the government’s number one problem right now.
    - The UK government is extremely constrained. 
    - The EU has invested a lot of its credibility in defending the single market.  
    - The perverse consequence of Brexit is that it embroiled the EU into the politics of Northern Ireland.


    Is the First Past the Post system propping up a moribund Labour Party?
    - The electoral system works to Labour’s favour when compared to continental centre-left parties.
    - But the thing that Labour has to deal with that is unique is the Union question.
    - Labour has always struggled to win a majority of seats in England.


    In 2020, Britain and the EU diverged on the question of China. 
    - Biden wants to bring the EU toward the American position. And the EU has moved a bit already.
    - This might dilute the advantage that Johnson thought he might gain with the Biden admin by being tough on China.


    The geopolitics of climate change are bound up in the EU/US position on China.
    - Merkel has been inclined to treat China as more serious about climate change.
    - Johnson wants to put Britain at the head of ‘green finance.’
    - Climate change is not currently an electorally contested issue in Britain. But that might not be true for much longer.


    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    - Our Union series… on Scotland
    - David Frost’s FT column on the Northern Ireland Protocol


    Further Learning: 
    - Helen on Labour and the ‘English Question’ for the New Statesman
    - More on Johnson’s ‘green finance’ plans
    - Talking climate change with Helen and Adam Tooze


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
    Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics.

    • 45 min
    Why Constitutions Matter

    Why Constitutions Matter

    David talks to historian Linda Colley about her new global history of written constitutions: the paper documents that made and remade the modern world. From Corsica to Pitcairn, from Mexico to Japan, it's an amazing story of war and peace, violence, imagination and fear. Recorded as part of the Cambridge Literary Festival www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com


    Talking Points:


    Swords need words: conquest generates a demand for writing and explanation.
    - In the mid-18th century, literacy began to increase in many societies and printing presses became more widely available. There’s not much incentive to circulate political texts if you can’t have a wider audience. 
    - The cult of the legislator fed into the idea that iconic political texts could be useful in new and divergent ways.


    By the mid-18th century, big transcontinental wars were becoming more common. 
    - Hybrid-warfare is expensive. Navies are hideously expensive.
    - Shifts in warfare fed into constitutions because constitutions function as a kind of contract.


    Constitutions can do a lot of things. They can be used to claim territory, for example. 
    - They can extend rights, but they can also withdraw them. 
    - Once something is written down, it becomes harder to change. In addition to spreading democracy, constitutions codified exclusion and marginalization.


    Constitutions are sticky; even failed constitutions leave a legacy.
    - People get used to having a written agreement.
    - The Tunisian Constitution of 1861 only lasted until 1864 but it remains important in Tunisian political memory. 


    The U.S. constitution had a disproportionate impact, not just—or even primarily because of its content.
    - Because the U.S. press was so developed, hundreds of printed versions emerged very quickly and traveled across the world.
    - When new powers started drafting constitutions, however, they looked at many constitutions, not just the American one. Most modern constitutions are a hodge-podge. 


    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    - Linda’s new book, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World
    - The Meiji Constitution (Japan’s 1889 Constitution)
    - The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
    - Also by Linda: Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837


    Further Learning: 
    - The Talking Politics Guide to … the UK Constitution
    - Linda on ‘Why Britain needs a written constitution’ for the FT


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
    Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics.

    • 44 min
    England, Their England

    England, Their England

    We talk to the historians Robert Tombs and Robert Saunders about the history of England and the future of the Union. Is the size and complexity of England the real problem in holding the UK together? What can England's past teach us about the present state of British politics? Does England have a 'Northern Question' to go with its 'Scottish Question' and 'Irish Question'? This is the final episode in our series about the constituent parts of the UK. Find the others - on Scotland, NI, Wales - at https://www.talkingpoliticspodcast.com/


    Talking Points: 


    Is the island of Britain a natural seat of government?
    - England is not an island; and the English are not an island people.
    - The Norman conquest attached England to the continent; leaving Scotland outside.
    - As a maritime power, it was useful for England to move its borders to the sea. 
    - The strategic arguments for the existence of the UK are perhaps weaker in an era of more diffuse and global security threats and frameworks.


    Most people probably don’t know that the Union was a Scottish creation.
    - The lack of interest in developing ‘Britishness’ at the English center has had consequences. 
    - England is now more dominant in the Union than it used to be.


    Governance of the Union has changed: the leadership of both major parties in Westminster is now almost exclusively English and they compete for almost exclusively English votes. 
    - There is a separate leadership class in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 
    - The electoral politics of asymmetrical devolution lead to intense secessionist pressure from Scotland.
    - No government in Westminster can govern without English support, but it is possible to govern while being insensitive to Scottish or Welsh opinion.
    - The dynamics of the Union incline toward Conservative power in Westminster and SNP power in Scotland. This is an unstable dynamic.


    The English don’t really have a story about before the Union in part because the English have never really seen the Acts of Union as dividing lines in English history.
    - Is the ‘Northern question’ a perennial question in English politics? Right now, this is the heart of the electoral conflict.
    - In every part of England that isn’t London, you can find anti-London sentiment. 
    - There’s a lot of resentment toward the Union in England, but the Union is a pretty good deal for England.


    Mentioned in this Episode:
    - Talking … Wales
    - Talking … Northern Ireland
    - Talking… Scotland
    - The English and their History, Robert Tombs
    - The Making of English National Identity, Krishan Kumar


    Further Learning: 
    - This Sovereign Isle, Robert Tombs
    - Tim Shippey on Alfred the Great for the LRB


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
    Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics.

    • 44 min
    Niall Ferguson on Catastrophe

    Niall Ferguson on Catastrophe

    We talk to the historian Niall Ferguson about the politics of catastrophe, from pandemics and famines to world wars and climate change. Have we been worrying about the right things? Why have some countries done so much better than others with Covid? And what can history teach us about the worst that can happen? Plus, how likely is it that a cold war between the US and China turns hot? 


    Talking Points:


    Niall argues that COVID is more like the Asian flu in ‘57/’58 than the 1918/1919 Spanish flu.
    - However the economic response is unprecedented; the Internet made lockdowns at this scale and duration possible.
    - Lockdowns were a near panic response that were necessitated by initial political failures in the West.


    When we’re trying to assess the political impact of a disaster, the body count is not the most important thing.
    - A disaster can kill a lot of people and be virtually forgotten if it doesn’t have cascading consequences.
    - We will probably remember the experience of lockdown more than the mortality rates.


    What did we get wrong about the COVID response?
    - Controlling travel early on made a difference, and most Western states did not do that.
    - The network structure of a polity is the most important thing in a pandemic, especially in an era of globalized travel.


    The distinction between natural and manmade disasters is a false one.
    - The scale of impact is a function of how we, collectively and our leaders, individually make decisions.
    - Humans do not seem to be very good at thinking pragmatically about risks; we tend to ignore them in practice while simultaneously constructing apocalyptic fantasies. 


    Mentioned in this Episode:
    - Niall’s book, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe
    - Larry Summers and David Cutler on the costs of COVID
    - Graham Allison, Destined for War


    Further Learning: 
    - More on Taiwan’s COVID response
    - Why do so many people live near active volcanoes? 
    - ‘The Really Big One’ (the earthquake that will devastate the Pacific Northwest) 
    - The Talking Politics Guide to… Existential Risk


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
    Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics.

    • 36 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
1 Rating

1 Rating

Top Podcasts In News

Listeners Also Subscribed To

More by Talking Politics