Episodes
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...
Published 06/03/21
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 -...
Published 05/27/21
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...
Published 05/20/21
David and Helen are joined by the historian Colin Kidd to try to make sense of last week's elections in England, Scotland and Wales. What do they mean for the future of the UK? What do they mean for the future of the Labour Party? Are either (or both) in terminal trouble? Plus we explore how Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson are going to resolve their standoff over a second Scottish independence referendum. Talking Points: Gordon Brown says that Scotland is a 30-30-40 nation. - Scotland...
Published 05/13/21
We talk to Michael Lewis about his new book The Premonition, which tells the story of the people who saw the pandemic coming and asks why they couldn't get a hearing. It's a tale of short-term failures and long-term trends in US government and it follows on from his previous book about the risks America has been running in hollowing out the administrative state. A sobering account with glimmers of hope for the future.  Talking Points:  Old timers at the CDC say that things began to change...
Published 05/06/21
We talk to Hans Kundnani about the prospects for German politics in the run-up to September's federal elections, now that the cast list of possible successors to Merkel is known. Can Laschet escape from her shadow and does he want to? Would a Green led government be radically different from the alternatives? Is the age of the 'grand coalition' over? Plus we consider the historical parallels, from Bismarck to Adenauer to Kohl: do long-serving leaders ever manage a successful...
Published 04/29/21
David and Helen talk to Mike Kenny about what devolution has done to the politics of the UK as seen from Westminster and Whitehall. How have we ended up with a Unionism that is both complacent and aggressive?  What lessons has the pandemic taught about the need for co-operation? And can the UK survive without a fundamental constitutional rethink? https://bit.ly/3xc7Kns   See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics.
Published 04/22/21
As part of our series about the future of the Union, David and Helen talk to Dan Wincott of Cardiff Law School about the history of Welsh devolution and the possibility of Welsh independence. How has English dominance shaped Welsh attitudes to the Union? What did the Brexit vote reveal about the different strands of Welsh and British identity? Has the pandemic made the case for more devolution and even independence for Wales stronger? Plus, what happens to Wales if Scotland votes to leave the...
Published 04/15/21
This week David talks to the celebrated film-maker Adam Curtis about his new series Can't Get You Out of My Head, which tells the history of the rise and fall of individualism. Why do so many people feel so powerless in the age of the empowered individual? How has digital technology turbo-charged our feelings of alienation? And what has all this got to do with behavioural psychology? Plus much more: Nixon, China, Dominic Cummings, complex systems, Max Weber and conspiracy...
Published 04/08/21
70 days into the first 100 days we take the temperature of the Biden presidency and ask how he's doing, and how he's doing so much. What made sleepy Joe such an active president? Is it him or the people around him? And how should the Republicans respond? Plus we discuss what it would take to restore America's standing in the world - does anyone want that anyway? With Helen Thompson and Gary Gerstle. Talking Points:  The message of Biden’s early presidency is that he understands the...
Published 04/01/21
David and Helen talk to Chris Bickerton about how technocracy and populism have come together to create a new form of democratic politics. From New Labour to Macron's En Marche, from Dominic Cummings to Five Star, we discuss what these different forms of politics have in common and whether the pandemic has entrenched the hold of technopopulism or whether we are on the brink of something new.  Technopopulism: The New Logic of Democratic Politics   See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out...
Published 03/25/21
David talks to Helen Thompson and Adam Tooze about the choices facing the world in addressing climate change. Can we transition away from fossil fuels while maintaining our current ways of living? Will we act in time if we also insist on taking our time? Can the West uphold its values while getting its hands dirty with China? Plus we discuss whether American democracy is the worst system of all for doing what needs to be done. Talking Points:  The transition away from fossil fuels to...
Published 03/18/21
This week we discuss the government's post-Budget economic strategy and the new dividing lines in British politics. Have the Tories stolen Labour's clothes? Is there a new consensus emerging on tax and pend? What can Keir Starmer do to carve out a distinctive economic position? Plus we consider whether a new Labour leader in Scotland can kickstart a revival of the party's fortunes there. With Helen Thompson and Chris Brooke. Talking Points:  Rishi Sunak’s plan in the short-term is to...
Published 03/11/21
 In the latest in our series on the fate of the Union, we talk to historians Richard Bourke and Niamh Gallagher about the history of Northern Ireland's relationship to the rest of the UK. From the Anglo-Irish Union to partition to the Troubles to the Peace Process to Brexit and beyond, we discuss what makes Northern Irish politics so contentious and whether consensus is possible. Plus we ask if Irish re-unification is coming and what it might look like. Talking Points:  The Anglo-Irish...
Published 03/04/21
This week we talk to Suzanne Heywood about her memoir of her late husband, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood - the man who helped to run Britain for more than two decades, working with four different prime ministers. From Black Wednesday to Brexit, from the Blair/Brown battles to the surprising successes of the Coalition, Jeremy Heywood had a unique position at the heart of British politics. We discuss what he did, what he learned and what he wished had turned out differently.  Talking...
Published 02/25/21
David and Helen talk to Nick Timothy, former chief of staff in Downing Street under Theresa May, about the future for Boris Johnson's government. Is he now safe from leadership challenges? Can he hold together the coalition that won the 2019 election? Is Keir Starmer the one under pressure? Plus we discuss where the next big destabilising threat to this government might come from: Scotland, Northern Ireland, the EU, China? Talking Points: Is Johnson’s political position more secure now? ...
Published 02/18/21
David talks to Bronwen Maddox, Director of the Institute for Government, about how well the Johnson government has performed over the past year of the pandemic. There have been some successes - the furlough scheme, vaccines - and plenty of failures - education policy, health outcomes. But which were the key choices? Who can claim the credit? And where does the blame really lie? Plus we discuss how much personality still matters in political decision-making. Talking Points: What has the...
Published 02/11/21
In this extra episode David catches up with Thant Myint-U to discuss the latest developments in Burma (Myanmar), following the overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi's government. What prompted the generals to act? What do the protestors want? And what does it mean for the future of Burmese democracy? Thant Myint-U is the author of The Hidden History of Burma. Further...
Published 02/09/21
For this first in our series looking at the future of the UK, we talk to the historian Colin Kidd about the origins of the Union and the ideas that underpin it. Is the island of Britain a natural territorial political unit? Is nationalism compatible with Unionism? What changed in the 1970s? Plus we discuss how the shifting character of the SNP has shaped the arguments for and against the Union. Talking Points: Historically, the Kings of England considered themselves rulers of the whole...
Published 02/04/21
This is episode 1 of the new HISTORY OF IDEAS series from Talking Politics. To hear the remaining 11 episodes, please subscribe to History of Ideas! Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality (also known as the Second Discourse) tells the story of all human history to answer one simple question: how did we end up in such an unequal world? David explores the steps Rousseau traces in the fall of humankind and asks whether this is a radical alternative to the vision offered by Hobbes or...
Published 02/02/21
We look at two countries where things may be changing: Germany, as it starts to imagine life beyond Merkel, and Italy, after the resignation of the prime minister. Would Armin Laschet as Chancellor mean business as usual? Can Conte cobble together a new government? Where are the biggest challenges to the established order coming from? Plus we talk about the new politics of vaccine nationalism. With Helen Thompson, Hans Kundnani and Lucia Rubinelli. Talking Points: In some ways Germany is...
Published 01/28/21
David, Helen and Gary reflect on what lies ahead for American politics and for the Biden administration. Does Trump pose more of a threat from inside or outside the Republican party? Is immigration about to become the central partisan dividing line once again? How much good can calls for unity do in such a fractured country? Plus, we look at Trump's list of entrants for his garden of national heroes. From Emily Dickinson to Hannah Arendt to Woody Guthrie - but no Bruce Springsteen. What's...
Published 01/20/21
David and Helen are joined by Diane Coyle and Anand Menon to have another go at pinning down the long term consequences of Brexit. Now we have a deal, what are the prospects for rebalancing the UK economy? Do EU politicians want a post-Brexit UK to succeed or to fail? Can Labour really avoid re-opening the Brexit wars for the next four years? Plus, an update on the next series of History of Ideas. Talking Points:  Because of Brexit there is more friction in trade with the EU.  - People...
Published 01/14/21
David talks to historian Jill Lepore about what took place at the Capitol on January 6th. What should we call it? What can we compare it to? And what should happen next? Plus we ask how Biden ought to address what happened in his inaugural next week. Are we past the time for talk about reconciliation? Talking Points: Is there a word for what happened in the US on 6 Jan?  - Many Republicans are still defending the insurrection. The likes of Limbaugh and Gingrich are calling it a ‘march.’ ...
Published 01/11/21
David and Helen look at what's changed - and what hasn't - since we last spoke, from Brexit to Biden to Covid. Has the Brexit deal really given the UK a chance to do things differently? Do Democrat wins in the Georgia Senate races open up new possibilities for Biden? What is at stake in the politics of vaccination? Plus, we talk about where things now stand for the future of the Union. *Recorded before the events in Washington on Wednesday * Talking Points: What can the UK do that it...
Published 01/07/21