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...
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.
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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:...
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
Swords need words: conquest generates a demand for writing and explanation.
- In the mid-18th century, literacy began...
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 -...
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?
Niall argues that COVID is more like the Asian flu in ‘57/’58 than the 1918/1919 Spanish...
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.
Gordon Brown says that Scotland is a 30-30-40 nation.
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.
Old timers at the CDC say that things began to change...
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...
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
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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...
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...
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.
The message of Biden’s early presidency is that he understands the...
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
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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.
The transition away from fossil fuels to...
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.
Rishi Sunak’s plan in the short-term is to...
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.
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.
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?
Is Johnson’s political position more secure now?
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.
What has the...
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.
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.
Historically, the Kings of England considered themselves rulers of the whole...
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...
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.
In some ways Germany is...
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...