A China crisis, a dodgy attack ad, and Titchmarsh’s trousers | Crooked Media
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March 28, 2024
Pod Save the UK
A China crisis, a dodgy attack ad, and Titchmarsh’s trousers

In This Episode

As Westminster goes on its Easter holidays, Nish and Coco reflect on a busy end of term that saw a couple of ministerial resignations and a diplomatic row with China. Nish asks if Lord Cameron’s post No.10 activities leave him compromised in dealing with China as Foreign Minister. Coco also raises the plight of the WASPI women, who lost out due to the change in pension age – will they ever see any compensation?


Special guest George the Poet joins Nish and Coco for a fascinating conversation that takes in disillusionment with Westminster politics and the pitfalls of getting into political arguments over social media. Plus he reveals which famous comedian gave him his stage name.


Nish takes aim at a villainous Tory campaign ad, while Coco celebrates the life of Richard Taylor, father of Damilola. Also, find out why Alan Titchmarsh’s trousers have been censored in North Korea!


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George the Poet, spoken word artist and author of Track Record: Me, Music, and the War on Blackness


Audio credits:

BBC News

The Conservative Party


Useful links:





Coco Khan Hi, this is Pod Save the UK.


Nish Kumar I’m Nsh Kumar.


Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan.


Nish Kumar This week Parliament gets a Chinese ban.


Coco Khan Why are politicians turning their backs on the Waspi women?


Nish Kumar And what has Kim Jong UN got against Alan Titchmarsh’s trousers.


Coco Khan Plus, our special guest is the spoken word artist and activist George the Poet.


Nish Kumar Hi, Coco.


Coco Khan Hi, Nish. How are you?


Nish Kumar Good. How was your week?


Coco Khan It’s been good, you know. So I’m going on holiday next week.


Nish Kumar Oh, fantastic.


Coco Khan Oh, yes.


Nish Kumar Where are you going?


Coco Khan I’m sort of.


Nish Kumar Would you prefer to not say?


Coco Khan I kind of don’t want to tell you.


Nish Kumar Is it North Korea?


Coco Khan No. I’m just going on a very nice beach holiday to Aya Napa.


Nish Kumar You go to Aya Napa.


Coco Khan This is why I didn’t want to tell you.


Nish Kumar The site of 90s raves.


Coco Khan 90s UK garage. All right. It never dies. It never dies.


Nish Kumar Wow.


Coco Khan But I’m actually. This is why I want to tell you. Because I knew you were going to jump to the conclusion. Now I’m going to be going and listening to, like, DJ, like an emcee. Neat. But no, I’m actually it’s just genuinely a beach trip.


Nish Kumar Right okay.


Coco Khan It’s very beautiful.


Nish Kumar Yeah, yeah. I mean, people always say that I the bit that isn’t so if sweaty clubs and rooms where the walls have STDs is apparently like a very nice, soothing and peaceful place.


Coco Khan It is very, you know, blessed in the Balearics. Right. So anyway, so that’s where I’m going. So all of this week I’ve been trying to because, you know, when you go on holiday, you have to do the work that you would normally do first.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


Coco Khan Does that make sense. So I’ve been kind of stressed out doing double time work.


Nish Kumar The week before the holiday is the worst possible week.


Coco Khan It’s pretty weird with that. Like I feel someone should address this. That needs is as a system needs to be fixed because before you go on holiday, you just have to do everything you did on holiday. Is it a holiday?


Nish Kumar Yeah. Well, I found a solution to that.


Coco Khan What’s that?


Nish Kumar Yeah. Never go on holiday.


Coco Khan Okay. Great. Great solution. Any way what have you been up to?


Nish Kumar I have had an unusually showbusiness week.


Coco Khan Ooooh well.


Nish Kumar On Friday. I went to watch, the Young Fathers at the Royal Albert Hall.


Coco Khan Yes.


Nish Kumar A for the Teenage Cancer Trust, who had incredible charity and, I think over 20 years they’ve done a series of fundraising gigs at the Royal Albert Hall.


Coco Khan I know I went to go see Franz Ferdinand, and it’s not really dating me now, isn’t it? Yeah, really. What was it? What year was that? 2004. Maybe five. Yeah.


Nish Kumar Oh that’s great.


Coco Khan Yeah, I recall it. The good gigs.


Nish Kumar And so that was great. And then on Monday, I went to the premiere of Monkey Man.


Coco Khan Okay.


Nish Kumar Which is Dev Patel’s movie that he has co-written, directed and stars in, and, is produced by Jordan Peele of Get Out film. And let me tell you, it was so much fun. It is incredibly violent.


Coco Khan Yeah.


Nish Kumar It also has a very strong subtext that is pretty critical of India’s current ruling government. So for me, ideal.


Coco Khan Right.


Nish Kumar Strong political subtext, hyper violent action movie. It’s absolutely ideal. The only thing that’s not ideal is, you know, as a, you know, Asian male working in the media, Dev is really making us all look bad.


Coco Khan I could see dev having a bit of a Bruce Lee flex, actually.


Nish Kumar Well, he’s been doing taekwondo since he was a kid.


Coco Khan I was going to say. Yeah,.


Nish Kumar I mean he’s he’s hench. He’s by all accounts very nice. He’s good looking. He took his mum to the Oscars.


Coco Khan Awww.


Nish Kumar He dedicated this film in the introduction to his grandfather who was like, and this is all about like the stories of Hanuman you taught me when you were growing up. And I have to say, I was not the only South Asian man in the audience. Just guy. You’re making us all look. You know what, dev?


Coco Khan Suck it. You know you have that moment. We are like, I’m glad you exist, but how do we contain you? How do we lock you away?


Nish Kumar Culturally thrilled by your impact? Personally, I’m furious about how bad you’re making the rest of us.


Coco Khan Look, okay. Well, I mean, again, as usual, you outshine me with your high end. The last film I watch was The Beekeeper. I finally watched it.


Nish Kumar You watched The Beekeeper?


Coco Khan Very good. I mean, what is good, but it’s, you know, good it.


Nish Kumar Did you enjoy the bit where he says to be or not to be?


Coco Khan Yeah, I very much did.


Nish Kumar The House of Commons has gone into recess over Easter, and you have to wonder how many conservative MPs will come back after the 20 day break, because currently they are dropping like flies. The Education minister, Robert Halfon, has cleared out his desk. He’s the latest conservative to quit his ministerial post and announced that he’ll be leaving parliament at the next election. And he’ll be joined by Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, who’s also resigned from his post. All of which meant that Rishi Sunak had to do a quick last minute mini reshuffle, most notably promoting backbench red wool blowhard Jonathan Gullies into Lee Anderson’s old role of deputy party chairman. Although I think we can all agree that unofficially his role is basically owning the libs by talking shit. One positive note for the beleaguered Sunak is that neither health nor hippie seem to be leaving. Both have written resignation letters that were incredibly loyal. They’ve they’ve not tried to leave by causing a problem, unlike the aforementioned Lee Anderson.


Coco Khan So a much more damaging story for the Tories is the resignation this week of their disgraced MP and gambling shill, Scott Benton. He jumped before he could be pushed. He was facing a vote by his constituents on whether to remove him after he was banned from the Commons following a lobbying scandal.


Nish Kumar Benton was filmed secretly telling undercover reporters, who were posing as gambling industry investors that he could lobby ministers for them. He was also recorded offering to table parliamentary questions and leak a confidential policy paper for up to 4,000 pounds a month. The by election in Blackpool South, which is one of the most deprived areas in England, will take place on the 2nd of May when voters in England and Wales go to the polls for local and mayoral elections, in which it’s predicted that the conservatives could lose up to 500 seats. And as for Scott Benton, what’s the betting that he lands a cushy job at a gambling company?


Coco Khan So let’s turn our attention to the plight of what’s known as the Waspi women. So that stands for Women Against State Pension Inequality. These are a group of 60 plus women who are expecting by now to be putting their feet up on a state pension. For years, the pensionable age for women were 60 and for men 65. Then in 1995, the conservative government decided it should be the same for both. It was meant to be a phase transition, but then the coalition government decided to speed it up. Many thousands of women said they had no idea they had to wait longer to receive their state pension, and they’ve suffered financial and emotional distress as a result. So a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, who spent five years examining the issue, recommended that the women should receive an apology and payouts of between 1000 pounds and 2950 pounds. However, the Ombudsman can’t compel the government to pay compensation, and said that DWP had clearly indicated that it would refuse to comply, which was, quote, unacceptable. This week, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride, told the Commons that the report would be properly considered and Labour, while calling on him to act quickly, also failed to say what they would do about compensation. Listen, I think this is a massive story that doesn’t get enough attention. I think we should all be seriously outraged about it. I feel like it’s it’s got Post Office scandal, ITV drama vibes about it. Like, I honestly think you could adapt it for TV and and really hit home to people how awful this is.


Nish Kumar Yeah. That’s right. And because as unfortunately with the post office scandal, lots of people have died without receiving any compensation. Right. There’s a figure that I’ve read that’s 270,000 of these women affected by that pension age change. Yeah, have died without receiving any compensation.


Coco Khan And I keep wondering, like, why is it not getting so much attention? And I wonder and I don’t know what you think about it, but I feel like us as millennials can be possibly apathetic towards these plights of an older generation. You know, the boomers were told to get everything, but, you know, of the boomers, they were working class boomers, you know, and a lot of the women impacted by this would have been working class women who were working in factories, working on shop floors, working as nurses, working. You know, it’s the 70s. Didn’t mean like it wasn’t exactly a time of the high flying, woman. And, you know, they they can’t do those jobs now at 66, 68 and upwards. And they should they shouldn’t have to. They would they were given a promise and that those promises should be kept. And also if they break the promises to them, then they’ll break them to us. Right?


Nish Kumar Yeah. I mean, currently, it feels like our generation’s plan for pensions is just to let the climate crisis engulf us like that. It does slightly seem like that fiery death. Yeah, yeah, we’re all just going to burn anyway, so spend the money while we can. But what I would say is the thing that’s confusing to me about this story. Why are the Conservative Party not more interested in pursuing this policy, and have they just fully given up? This is a policy that affects older people. They certainly not making inroads in younger generations. We talked a few times about how, you know, the median age for the population turning towards conservative. Two votes is rising year by year. You know, as the outcomes change for generations, there’s very there’s little for people to conserve. So they’re not turning to the Conservative Party as a kind of simplistic way of looking at it. But these are older people. These are supposed to be their voters. I know, but don’t understand. Is the Tory party on some sort of. Is this like a springtime for Hitler situation? Are they deliberately trying to tank their own party?


Coco Khan It’s not just the Tories, is it? I mean, Labour aren’t coming out better on this because the fact of the matter is, it will cost a ton of money to give these women compensation.


Nish Kumar It’s certainly a story that I’m glad you’ve brought to the attention of the listeners, because I do think it’s not receiving enough attention.


Nish Kumar [AD]


Coco Khan So let’s turn our attention to a major diplomatic route brewing in the Far East.


Nish Kumar Now, I’m going to take a swing at this and assume you’re talking about China and not the diplomatic row that’s brewing over North Korea. Censoring Alan Titchmarsh’s trousers.


Coco Khan Well, he, you know, he writes raunchy novels.


Nish Kumar Does he really?


Coco Khan Yeah, he does.


Nish Kumar I didn’t know he wrote. He writes erotic?


Coco Khan Yeah, he writes erotic literature.


Nish Kumar For listeners who are not from the United Kingdom or not over 35 years old. We should clarify. Alan Titchmarsh, very inoffensive, well-liked British broadcaster specializing in programs about gardening. But North Korea’s state television channel have censored a episode of one of the BBC gardening programs is Alan Titchmarsh Has Garden Secrets, which, if I’m honest, does sound like the name of a porn movie.


Coco Khan Thank you.


Nish Kumar A 2010 episode aired on North Korean state television, but they have blurred out his trousers. Now, there’s a lot of things to unpack here. We’ll try and do it briefly, because it’s clearly not the important news story of the week in regards to a diplomatic row with the country in the Far East. But what I would say is that a North Korean state TV shows, Alan Titchmarsh podcast from 2010.


Coco Khan It’s universal babe.


Nish Kumar I mean, that is a residual check. I don’t think Titchmarsh could have been anticipating. But the reason that they said that they’ve, censored it is they censor jeans because they’re a symbol of Western imperialism. What I would say is I have seen, photographs, still photographs of the censor jeans. And it looks like Titchmarsh has got a raging boner.


Coco Khan See! This? This is.


Nish Kumar There’s no way to talk about it other than that, it looks like not only does take too much time because they’ve only really blurred out the pelvis.


Coco Khan The crotch areas. Well, I mean, in fairness, I when I first saw the image, I didn’t actually know the story and I thought it was an erotica thing. Gene is synonymous with male erotica. George Michael’s Faith video.


Nish Kumar Did the Andy Warhol cover for rolling Stone Sticky Fingers?


Coco Khan Yes, exactly. So I thought, well, he does write erotica so.


Nish Kumar Well, look.


Coco Khan Maybe he’s thirsty. Alan Titchmarsh, we don’t know.


Nish Kumar If I was Alan Titchmarsh, I wouldn’t dispel any of these rumors, because somehow North Korean state TV has made it look like he’s packing serious heat. That is some an impressive piece of gardening equipment. But before we go down a road that is only going to be edited out of the final broadcast, please move on to the actual significant story that.


Coco Khan A major diplomatic row has broken out between the UK and China, after Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden accused China of being behind malicious cyber campaigns that would be against MPs and the Electoral Commission.


Clip I can confirm today that Chinese state affiliated actors were responsible for two malicious cyber campaigns targeting both our democratic institutions and parliamentarians. First, the compromise of the United Kingdom Electoral Commission between 2021 and 2022, which was announced last summer. And second attempted reconnaissance activity against UK parliamentary accounts in a separate campaign in 2021.


Nish Kumar Rishi Sunak is reportedly facing anger from some MPs over what they have characterized as a feeble response from the prime minister. That’s after the government announced sanctions against two hackers and a small firm in Wuhan. A lot of stuff going on in Wuhan. A lot of stuff going on in Wuhan.


Coco Khan I’m glad you mentioned that.


Nish Kumar I really am surprised that we’re back talking about who had a guide.


Coco Khan And the most high profile figure to be targeted by the Chinese is the former conservative leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who’s a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which scrutinizes and often criticizes the activities of Beijing. He likened the government’s announcement of sanctions to an elephant giving birth to a mouse. The Chinese Embassy in the UK says the allegations are completely unfounded and amount to malicious slander. This is a far cry from the days you remember those days when David Cameron would have a pint with President XI Jinping?


Nish Kumar Yeah. That’s right. Cameron visited Beijing when he was prime minister in 2013 and called it the start of a golden era between the two countries, and said that the UK would be the country’s strongest advocate in the West. Then in 2015, he really rolled out the carpet for XI Jinping. Took him for a pint, to a pub, in, checkers. And he also, posed for a selfie with Sergio Aguero when the two men visited Manchester City’s training ground. Then after leaving number ten. And this is where we get into somewhat sticky terrain. Okay. Because obviously this is a serious diplomatic row that’s brewing. And the given that David Cameron has made an unfathomable to many of us return to politics as Foreign secretary. It is an issue that David Cameron, after his time in number ten, continued to engage with Chinese interests, leading $1 billion. UK China Investment Fund, for which he visited Beijing and had dinner with Jie in 2018. He also took on a paid role supporting a major port project in Sri Lanka, which is backed by huge Chinese state investment. Now, to be clear, Cameron’s spokesperson has said that he has not engaged in any way with China or any Chinese company in regards specifically to his appearances on behalf of the Colombo Project. But, you know, I imagine there is some concern here, and also there is a problem with us trying to talk tough on China. The cabinet minister, Gillian Keegan, basically admitted as such when she said that we get a lot of our imports from China. So look, there is an issue with talking tough on a country so much of whose money is pouring into Britain. And it is worth asking the questions of David Cameron about his conduct. There is starting to be the sense that David Cameron basically left number ten with an assumption that he would not return to politics. That’s my personal view on this situation. It feels like everything that Cameron’s done, not just on this issue, but if we look at the sort of scandal around his involvement in Greensill, there is a sense to me that David Cameron left politics and thought, well, I’m never going back there again. He was flipping everyone the middle finger on his way out, and he was basically now thinking, well, I’ll basically cash in on my ministerial influence. Now he’s returned to politics that period of time where he was out in the political wilderness, but in the financial dumping ground of just huge stacks of money into his account. There are serious questions for Foreign Secretary David Cameron. And there are also serious questions over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s judgment in bringing Cameron back into frontline politics.


Coco Khan Our special guest this week is George Mpanga, better known as the spoken word artist, poet, podcaster, rapper, author, activist George the Poet. Have I missed anything?


Coco Khan I don’t know.


Nish Kumar Have you thought about taking up welding? Just let’s just keep adding jobs to that list.


George the Poet It’s on the to do list. It’s on the to do list. But thank you very much for having me, guys.


Coco Khan Thank you for being here.


Nish Kumar Yeah. Thank you for being here. You’re about to publish a new book, which is a sort of memoir. It’s called Track Record: Me, Music, and the War on Blackness, and it’s a book that you. I can’t remember the exact phrases. You’ve set out to write an autobiography. Yeah. And then I got, I’d say, very sidetracked.


George the Poet Yeah, yeah. You could say sidetracked. I guess I became very immersed in the context of my story. And the context is a global one. You know, I think we can all look at our, our stories are journeys, those of our forbearers in the international historical context. And I think that’s something that we should try and do a bit more.


Nish Kumar I mean, the context of your background is, is fascinating in so many ways. Your grandmother was actually a Ugandan politician.


George the Poet Mmmhmm.


Nish Kumar That’s right.


George the Poet That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Joyce Mpanga, she was the first minister for women’s Affairs in Uganda in the 86 government.


Nish Kumar That’s absolutely incredible.


George the Poet I’d say so.


Nish Kumar You actually I mean you contemplated going into politics at one stage.


George the Poet Can you imagine? I did


Nish Kumar I don’t know, George. I mean, the I mean, you seem clean and articulate and that would put you above, I would say, 99% of the Conservative Party right now. Have you seen a photo of Jonathan Gullies? The man looks like he woke up in a hedge.


George the Poet Yeah. I mean, the state of our politicians isn’t anything to judge ourselves by, but. Yeah. No, I was interested in potentially, trying to enter Parliament in some way. I didn’t know what to make of how I would be positioned. And a lot of this book is me finally articulating things that I knew would be real sticking points if I was to pursue a political career.


Coco Khan I mean, you occupy a really interesting position. I think that reflects us as well. You know, we are from the arts and culture space. You know, this idea that politics doesn’t just happen in Westminster. Politics happens in everyday life, like how you live the day to day of your life, what you eat, how much you can afford, the bins being taken out. That’s politics. And so when you feel that politics is on the street and politics is in culture, what use is there for politics of Westminster? And I wondered, could you said earlier you thought about getting into politics and now that what is your relationship to Westminster now? How do you feel about it?


George the Poet I feel very alienated from Westminster, as I think many, if not most of us do. I the election of George Galloway was interesting. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. It, I know, is that it caused a shift within me to think, oh, maybe, maybe this thing, if that was to happen across the country and people were to, align with their, whoever they felt most reflected what was most important to them as whole constituencies, maybe. But, I feel deeply cynical towards Westminster at this time of see so much disingenuous, lip service paid to, values, principles and morals that they don’t adhere to. Time and time again. I was doing my A-levels. I think when the. Do you remember the expenses scandal?


Nish Kumar Yeah.


Coco Khan Yes.


George the Poet Yeah. I was in politics A-level when the expenses scandal broke. And I remember being like, these people are not nice.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


George the Poet They’re not nice people. And. I just feel like everything I’ve seen since then is is more of that. So maybe, you know, I’m open to the idea that there might be a generational change, since I do believe millennials and Gen Z, are highly skeptical of these institutions. But yeah, it wouldn’t be my first port of call.


Coco Khan Do you vote?


Nish Kumar And also, George Galloway is the best we could muster for representation then we’re fucked. It’s just.


George the Poet Crazy. It’s crazy out here.


Nish Kumar Yeah, yeah.


Coco Khan Do you vote? Sorry I was just curious when you were talking. I was like, oh, do you. I was yeah, just curious.


George the Poet I haven’t voted in a while.


Coco Khan Right.


George the Poet Haven’t voted in a while. I don’t I don’t know what I’m going to do next election. I mean. Yeah.


Do you spoil or do not show.


George the Poet Do I spoil  or not show?


Nish Kumar Spoil your ballot paper.


George the Poet Oh no I just, just stay away. If I


Nish Kumar I would say that’s probably pretty damning indictment of the state of our politics.


Coco Khan Well exactly someone who’s.


Nish Kumar Someone as politically engaged as you.


Coco Khan Exactly.


George the Poet Yeah.


Nish Kumar Has feels that they can’t affect any change even by voting.


George the Poet And for years I’ve been approached by, organizations that want me to promote the vote.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


George the Poet And I’ve just been like. This doesn’t feel serious. It doesn’t feel real. And yeah, that’s a that’s a that’s a real it’s a growing problem in my life. I don’t know what I’m going to do.


Coco Khan Hmm. You’re gonna have to figure out soon because it’s coming really fast.


Nish Kumar I mean, yeah, because I mean, I would always say like because I’ve also done similar things, like to get out, especially people of color, to go and vote, because I still always there’s still a part of me that believes like we have to sort of the engagement is still the the best way of like tilting policy towards making things that actually have relevance to our lives. You know, I think, yeah, because we get you get trapped. I think you get trapped in a situation where if the only people that vote are old white people, which statistically, unfortunately, is the only people that vote. All of the parties manifestos that come back are just policies aimed at old white people.


George the Poet Yeah. That’s, one way of conceptualizing, a situation where I get stuck is, obviously what is on offer. Obviously. I don’t see much divergence. I don’t see much variation. And the parameters of debate nowadays just seem to be narrowing and narrowing. And I do think it’s, something to just keep us a little busy, you know, make us feel like we’ve, we are part of the political process where there’s, a much deeper process of, I think, political sensitization, expanding the conversation. That’s that’s the end of politics that I’m on. Yeah. At one point that was meaningful. There was something meaningful in saying that I’m going to vote, Labour. But now, you know, Labour as opposed to the Tories. We spent the last, however many years under Tory rule. When I was a kid, it felt like there was there was some kind of polls and it was some kind of difference. Now, I do not believe that is, on the table. I don’t know what you guys think. Do you think there’s any wiggle room?


Nish Kumar Well, at the moment, it’s very hard to know what Labour stands for because the entire tactic seems to be. Say nothing. Hope for a Tory. But.


George the Poet But do you believe that there is an identity to the Labour Party at this point?


Coco Khan I mean, I’m really conflicted a lot. You you know, I grew up in, like, council housing, like, you grew up in the INS. And, you know, I remember the Labour years being a bit better for my family and my community. I remember that like 97 to what was it, 20, 2010, 2010? I remember that being improvement. So I still have a little bit of that in me saying, like, okay, it’s not far enough. It doesn’t go where I want it to go, but it is better. And can I not help participate in like lifting the just the weight on that community just a little bit more? And I’m really conflicted by that. Other times I feel like I’m being bribed because the other guys are so bad that I’m being bribed into it. And then all the times I feel genuinely quite inspired where I’m like, The Labour Party is not just the leadership, it’s the movement. It’s the trade unions, it’s the activist, and that’s got a really long legacy.


Coco Khan And you still believe that it’s all of those things.


Coco Khan I don’t know, but those are my conflicting thoughts. And it’s weird, isn’t it? You have all of them at once. Yeah. And I understand is what I’m saying, I get it, I get why people say this situation is not what I want to participate in. I’m sort of not very clear. I think you know where you are.


Nish Kumar I mean, I there’s also part of me that’s just, I think just mechanically, this the ruling party has to be removed at the moment because I think just it’s not we don’t have a functional government at the at the minute if you look at. Actual policy making that it isn’t just a question of I disagree with the policies that they’re producing. They are unable to make policy because all it is is it’s a kind of weekly psychodrama, and Sunak’s position is essentially untenable. You know, he knows that he wasn’t wanted by the membership of his own party, so he spends all of his time trying to appeal to them. That means that he doesn’t actually, you know, they what policy achievements can they point to because they they are politically unable to make it because either we just at the end of it’s the latest basically like the Conservative Party in the 19 mid 90s, which is at the end of a cycle of government. So I my main overriding feeling at the moment is that they just need to go.


Coco Khan I mean, we’re talking about we’re all talking about the Labour Party here, but there are other options you know.


George the Poet I was about to ask about that.


Coco Khan Yes. I mean, I would put lying if I wouldn’t say I am tempted by the Greens. Yeah. I’m like, oh, hello. Maybe I can answer that call. You know what I mean?


George the Poet Yeah, most definitely. I do think, the Greens are probably going to have going to make some significant gains in the next election. And I’m for the first time in my life taking them seriously. I will never forgive Labour for their support for this genocide. It’s just is what it is.


Nish Kumar Either they don’t know or they don’t care. But I really, one way or another, the Labour leadership I don’t think is properly calculated. The impact it the rhetoric around Gaza is having on its own vote. I think, aside from the moral imperative, which is obviously the most important thing, I, I also I don’t think that they’ve realized electorally the damage that it’s doing them with their own base. Well, I mean, I don’t know what maybe they don’t realize, maybe that, okay, I can’t I can’t definitively answer that one way or another. But either way, it seems it seems astonishingly self-defeating.


Coco Khan But if not Westminster, well, I mean, this is something you talk about in the book, like how do you make political change? What can it look like?


George the Poet I think the one thing that we don’t have is, grassroots culture of political education. So most of us are thrown into the, political space when we’re old enough to vote and we take our cues from media. And, many of us just never get the time to really deep dive into where our political culture evolved from, why it is that the Labour years felt so different from, you know, today. Why why is that even Middle East policy within the Tory party, within the Republican Party was so different, you know, or not so different, but had significant differences from the 80s to now. These are things that we really need to wrestle with over our lifetimes, not just when it’s an election cycle. And I think that is the missing piece in our democracy, long term political education. At the start of my journey, I was just trying to generate ideas for the creative milieu that I came from, the social media that I came from, you know, as from the working class black community, the artist community of a certain generation. We came up under the first wave of grime, and I saw guys develop so many talents and opportunities and cultural touchpoints. I just saw Mo, the comedian on Jimmy Fallon the other night, and he was very much part of that generation. He was part of my come up.


Nish Kumar I don’t think people realize that. Like, he’s very sort of of that kind of.


George the Poet Yeah, he gave me the name George the Poet. He didn’t realize it.


Nish Kumar Did he really?


George the Poet Yeah. He, I was he was just I didn’t really have a stage name. And he would just introduce me as George the Poet.


Coco Khan Wow.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


George the Poet Other people kind of contributed some ideas this as well. So I’ll, we’ll put it one on this one. I remember him, being the but ultimately I was like, look, we generate all of this cultural activity. How can it translate into a way of organizing our community? And again, you get to organize in the communities that the answers to the questions that you’re asking. Coco. Like, ultimately, this is where we will be able to make our decisions about the direction of our society at a community level with some level of coordination across the country. And it happens. It happens in various ways. There’s a reason why, motor comedians on Jimmy Fallon, of course, primarily his hard work got him there. But in a broader sense, our colLabouration, our cultural artistic space got him there, got me here, allowed British rap to be become a best selling genre, which was unheard of when we were growing up. So what more could we achieve?




Nish Kumar Where do you stand on the idea that artists have an obligation to engage politically with the like, the circumstances in which they’re making art.


George the Poet Yeah, that’s not a mainstream idea right now. It’s not a very popular angle. I think it comes from the breakdown of our responsibility to each other. I think because we can no longer assume that we have a responsibility, a collective responsibility to society, because we are made to feel so individualized, and we propagandized in these ways from all sorts of angles. It’s very difficult to to convince most people that artists who come up in this context should also be speaking to our political, reality.


Coco Khan Well, if they are really down there.


George the Poet I don’t even know. Yeah, yeah. But this is the thing again, going back to political education. Yeah. Most of us are, unable to really comment. Most of us, made useless, made redundant to the political process by, an education system that doesn’t require us to engage with it. So, you know, there are no short answers to to the way out. This is why, when you ask me what I think should happen, it is a pivot towards long term grassroots political engagement. And just once or for all abandon in this culture of it being, cool to stay aloof and somehow promote what I’m promoting to you is success without responsibility. That has to die.


Nish Kumar The success of that response. But I mean, that’s a great phrase. Well, you’re you’re really just watching. I should be surprised that you could tell a price, but that it’s a great. Yeah. Success with that responsibility.


Coco Khan It’s like why he’s mad. I mean, when I first started doing journalism about arts and culture, like that tension about like, oh, you know, why they gotta talk politics about it? It’s annoying or what? And I’m actually now there’s a sense of like, it’s gone so far that they’re only doing it for clout. And that’s really an impossible thing to deal with. Like where, you know, our faith in each other is so poor, but then perhaps there is some truth in it. There are those. It’s really. Oh, okay.


George the Poet There are those. But but ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, right? To what extent are we really able to get to the root of what is, disturbing us as a society? You can pose and you can pretend for a while, but ultimately it will be the people to say whether or not you have, raised their consciousness, whether or not you really are helping them practically deal with the reality of their situation. So yeah, I’m, I’m aware that there are, you know, clout chasers in this, but I do think given enough time, the truth will reveal itself about who’s committed.


Coco Khan So. Okay. But being in the public eye and, you know, this first hand people are very unforgiving. You know, you’re growing in the developing as a person in the public eye. You’re not fully formed by the time you become a creative star, right?


Nish Kumar You know, so you’ve been in the public eye since you, I mean, I just.


Coco Khan Yeah. Really? Yeah, yeah. And people are very unforgiving. Like, you know, this must have been moments where you look back, what you’ve done, stuff that you’ve said, stuff you’ve participated in, things have been not sure. It doesn’t really matter who I am now, but, hey, you know what? I was learning. But people won’t forgive, right? So one, what are your thoughts on that sort of level of forgiveness? Do you think that actually we do need to better accept, cultural leaders, makers, as they grow? And what does that mean for the discourse? Doesn’t that mean we dumbed down our dialog? What about standards? And also, can you tell us about a time that you were human?


George the Poet Yeah. I actually mentioned this in the book. There was an incident about a few years ago now when, I did an interview. The interview was about prison education. I’d been doing some work in the prison education space. And in the interview, what I meant to say, I think what I did say was, when you find someone in prison, there is a unique space that that you can find them in where you can actually provide opportunities for some real education. It’s just been my thing for a while.


Nish Kumar I use an observer interview and a because I didn’t know about it until I read the book. But yeah, it’s an observer interview, and you’re talking about specific work that you’ve done with people who are incarcerated. Yeah, giving you experience of that.


George the Poet What I didn’t realize is that it would kind of come across as if I’m advocating for the carceral system in general. And, many people took it like that online. And, you know, the conversation just got very crazy very quickly. And there was a mix of people that had, critiques that I needed to hear with regards to how I present myself in media and how I present my arguments and how it is then framed. I needed to hear some of that stuff, but then there were people that were doing a lot, you know, like you said, the very unforgiving, very nasty, side of social media. And it kind of all got mixed up. And I responded in a human way. I was kind of dealing with people one on one.


Coco Khan That’s what I would say.


George the Poet The sharpie print kind of approach with some people. But I was trying to be, smarter than that. And it was just kind of impossible because that was a time where I feel like I should have just listened and, you know, maybe made a statement to clarify what I believe and left it there. But, you know, you get dragged in. They drag you in and they beat you.


Nish Kumar Yeah. Like Godfather III. Every time you think you’re out they pull you back in.


George the Poet Yeah. No, I learned from that experience. I used the word woke in a way that was not. That is now associated heavily with the right wing. Yeah, which I wasn’t. I hadn’t read the room at the time. I didn’t realize that at the time. The word woke, unfortunately, had been appropriated away from its origins. And I believe the black American community and, it was being used as a parody for anyone that believes in anything progressive. And I, I said something I there’s the problem with woke culture when I was talking about performativity.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


Coco Khan Right. I see okay.


George the Poet So there’s all sorts of conversations happening. It’s just hard there’s levels to this. But yeah, it’s hard to, navigate that. And part of that is just, you know, part and parcel of being a public figure. As I’m sure you guys will.


Nish Kumar Know, it’s hard to it’s hard when it’s your team.


George the Poet Yeah.


Nish Kumar Like, I think because if like I assume if a bunch of I assume you are similar person to me, there’s certain people that give you grief. Where you go? Yeah. Good. Yeah. I did I be doing something profoundly wrong if you liked my boobs. But when it’s I. You know, I’ve had various experiences of this in the past where where it’s people you broadly agree with. You like this. There’s a defensiveness, I think, where you go. Oh, hang on. I’m actually I’m a I’m one of the good cop. And that that first impulse of I’m a good guy is often I think, what actually makes things worse. But it’s a totally human thing. It’s a totally human thing to it for the first thing you think to be. But I’m one of the true. But if you don’t, I think if you don’t push against that impulse, you, you just become more and more defensive. I think, you know, I think you learn and I think that’s my experience of these things. When you first.


George the Poet You’re arguing from a place of ego, rather than principle.


Coco Khan And we’re all using words being like, well, actually, I don’t think that’s very feminist, but really, you just want to say, shut up you prick.


George the Poet Yeah, that’s what you really mean.


Nish Kumar But, I’m really glad to talk about this because I feel like we haven’t touched on this, really on the podcast. It’s just whatever I hear people, conservative people talking about, oh, the cozy consensus on the left. I’m like, what leftwing people do, you know?


Coco Khan Yeah.


Nish Kumar It’s hard to get 5 left people to agree on when to eat on a Friday, anything. But yeah, it’s and also but I also really value that because I think actually. Out of those constructive arguments, you can actually either learn something and change your perspective, or actually understand and reinforce something you believe in. It’s a really important part of moving your thinking along. A very good point. But it’s hard when we have the shut up you prick.


George the Poet Yeah, yeah.


Nish Kumar I think the shut up, you prick factor is what if we’re going to have grown up progressive conversations?


George the Poet Yeah.


Nish Kumar We have to have disagreements like we have to, but we have to take the like. Shut up, you prick out of there.


George the Poet Shut up you prick. Is is.


Coco Khan Is human.


George the Poet It’s human, right?


Nish Kumar You’ve got such academic authority. This already feels like a like an actual piece, Next up. Of course, George the Poet Shut up you prick.


George the Poet Let’s get into the shut up you prick. I think if you look at how most of us were using social media 15 years ago, it’s different from how we’re using it today. And in 15 years time, it will be different. We look at things that we did 15 years ago and we cringe.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


George the Poet They’re always cringeworthy. We all have friends who have stuff that we did on social media. So a lot of that, a lot of what is happening is, us moving through this new media space and learning what works and what doesn’t. And as much as it is easy to get into a shop, you pick space. We on the left ultimately want progress, so we’re gonna have to figure it out.


Nish Kumar Is that a big part of why writing a book is so important to you? Because it means you can. Because you can. It’s a brilliant book. And part of the reason that I think it’s so good is that it this the weaving of the personal, the political, it’s kind of seamless. There’s no gap between the personal stories that you’re trying to share with us and the political ideas that you’re trying to advance.


George the Poet Thank you.


Coco Khan On that note, guys have to say, thank you so much, George the Poet for your time. And his new book is a searing read. It pulls no punches. I think it’s fair to say. And yeah, it’s a beautiful summary of all your thoughts in your lyricism.


George the Poet Appreciate it. Thank you, thank You for having.


Coco Khan It’s out.


George the Poet It’s out on April 25th.


Coco Khan Great. Thank you.


George the Poet Thank you.


Nish Kumar Thanks, George.


Nish Kumar If you’re currently tuning in to this episode on Google Play, listen up.


Coco Khan Starting next week, the Google Play app will no longer be in use. Make sure to save Pod Save the UK on your next favorite podcast platform so you never miss an episode.


Nish Kumar New episodes out on Thursday.


Coco Khan Nish, you’re back on familiar territory, giving a beat down to our villain of the week. So who have you gone for?


Nish Kumar I’ve gone for Conservative Party headquarters for their absolutely unfathomable attack ad on London Mayor Sadiq Khan in support of the party’s candidate for London mayor, who is called Susan Hall, a name that I think we can all agree. None of us know we live in London. We have very little idea of who she is. But, a quick Google reveals that she’s called Susan Hall and she’s, on social media, expressed their support for Donald Trump. So that’s exciting. That’s exciting for the City of London. The clip, which was posted on social media by the Conservative Party, portrays, London as a city sort of gripped by a fear of crime, with people cowering indoors, too afraid to leave the house. It had to be taken down and re-edited almost immediately because it used footage of a stampede in a New York City subway station to depict panic in London.


Clip Gripped by the tendrils of rising crime, London citizens stay inside. The streets are quiet, quieter at night now than they used to be. A 54% increase in knife crime since the Labour mayor seized power. Has the metropolis teetering on the brink of chaos, and in the chaos, people seek a desperate reprieve, egged on by the Labour mayor, who wants to decriminalize the use of illegal drugs.


Nish Kumar Yeah, so the footage of that stampede was from New York’s Penn Station following false reports of gunfire in 2017. I mean, there’s a lot to talk about in this video. First and foremost, why is the narrator American? Well, and also, what part of America is that person from Gotham? See, I am from America. I am definitely not a British man doing an American accent. The the narrator warns of squads of Ulez enforced. This is a direct quote. I feel like I’m drunk. This is squads of Ulez enforcers dressed in black faces, covered with masks, terrorizing communities at the beck and call of their Labour. Mayor. Master, who was it? It was implemented a tax on driving, forcing people to stay inside or go underground. Does that mean use the tube? Or is this person implying that the Ulez taxes forced people in London to become Ninja Turtles? It also says gripped by the tendrils of rising crime, London citizens stay inside. The streets are quiet, the streets are quiet because no one can afford their mortgages. Because of the conservative prime minister who lasted less time than a fucking vegetable. The video also refers to Sadiq Khan as seizing power, rather than being lawfully elected twice. Susan Hall, the candidate who we all think is a real person, has actually distanced herself from the video saying that she hadn’t seen it and it had nothing to do with a campaign tape. It was created by, the Conservative Party headquarters, responding to the video’s claim that crime in the capital had risen during his time in office, Sadiq Khan said because of government cuts over the last 14 years, we’ve lost thousands of police officers. The mayor also added that crime had fallen in a number of categories, including homicides, gun crime and burglary since he first took office in 2016. So the video is horseshit from beginning to end. It’s also really badly made. I showed it to a friend of mine yesterday, and he thought that I was playing a prank on him, and that it was a sketch that had been made. It’s so abysmally put together. I truly, my 17 year old cousin, could have done a better job given 25 minutes and access to iMovie. It’s absolute horseshit. We just, I, I just at a certain point, is it time for the Conservative Party to just be wound up? And we all just said it, said it off, give it a Viking funeral. I just wind it up. And small conservative people in this country maybe just start a new political party, maybe just start from the ground up. Because based on this video, I’m afraid this thing is now just rotten to the core.


Coco Khan Never forget that. Susan Hall said she got robbed, but she didn’t. Someone just she dropped her wallet and someone gave it back. Do you remember? Do you remember that whole thing?


Nish Kumar I don’t know who Susan Hall is, and I’m not convinced she exists. That’s my conspiracy theory for the week, I don’t think. Susan Hall exists.


Coco Khan Susan Hall is AI?


Nish Kumar I think Susan Hall is AI. I think they’ve hired an actress. All I would say is, if you think that this is us big, irresponsible broadcasters spreading half baked conspiracy theories based largely on falsehoods, I would say you should spend your energy being angry on the Conservative Party for making this fucking ad this week. Coco, who’s your hero of the week?


Coco Khan So this week I’m going to talk about a hugely brave and inspiring man who sadly passed away this week. It’s Richard Taylor, sir. He’s the father of Damilola Taylor. We’re about the same age, Nish. So you will remember the news stories about Damilola. He was just ten years old when he was stabbed and left to die in a stairwell in Peckham in south London, 24 years ago. It was horrific. And it’s just sent chills up the spine of every, every family, you know? Richard made it his life’s work to tackle knife crime. Since then, he was particularly really moved by the stories of families with young children impacted by that. And he did amazing things. He was appointed as an anti knife crime envoy by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and was later made an OBE for his services to reducing youth violence. He said he wanted his son to be remembered as a boy of hope, and for his legacy to be a better life and opportunities for underprivileged young people. I mean, I’ve spoken in this section before about like the mothers who something happens to their children and they they basically say, you know, my child could not exist in this world. The world wanted my child to change or be someone else. And so actually, instead, I will change the world. And I always thought that was really moving. And, you know, actually there’s plenty of fathers as well. And Richard is one of those. So I just think his work is incredible, said the Damilola Taylor Trust runs a number of outreach programs, including internship schemes, educational courses and mentoring projects that will still continue, so his work will still go on. And Harriet Harman, I think, said it best, really. The former Labour minister and MP for Camberwell and Peckham paid tribute to Mr. Taylor on saying he never stopped fighting for other children to have the chances that his son never had.


Nish Kumar It’s an incredible man.


Coco Khan So get in touch with us by emailing PSUK@ReducedListening.co.uk. We’d love to hear your voices so if you’re feeling brave, send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514 644572. And internationally that’s +44 7514 644572.


Nish Kumar Don’t forget to follow @PodSaveTheUK on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find us on YouTube for access to full episodes and other exclusive content. Also drop us a review if you like, but only if it’s positive. We literally couldn’t give a shit about your negative reviews.


Coco Khan We’re very, very thin skinned.


Nish Kumar Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.


Coco Khan Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz.


Nish Kumar Production support and video editing was by Narda Smilianage and the music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.


Coco Khan Thanks to our engineer David Dugahe.


Nish Kumar The executive producers are in general Dan Jackson and Madeleine Herringer with additional support from Ari Schwartz.


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