In This Episode
As the Israel Gaza crisis continues, pressure grows on both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to back calls for a ceasefire. Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive of Amnesty International UK, explains why he supports it and what else needs to happen for it to be meaningful. He also has advice for how you can help, either through safe protest, or through donation. Nish and Coco also ‘celebrate’ Rishi Sunak’s year at Number 10, revealing their highs and lows of 12 months of Sunak.
Is the Government’s promise to end ‘no-fault’ evictions being kicked into the long grass? Nish and Coco try and work out the political manoeuvring, with the help of Toby Lloyd, who was the Downing Street housing adviser who persuaded Theresa May to promote the policy when she was Prime Minister. He also reveals what it was like to work inside the cramped rooms of Number 10…where there’s every chance that your meeting might be disturbed by the Chancellor’s wife coming home with the food shop!
Plus find out why Coco has been having a “fat bear week”. This week Nish and Coco’s great nominations for hero and villain of the week can be found on our social media platforms…find out by why bankers are winding up Nish, and why Coco’s fallen in love with a sheepdog.
Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.
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Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive of Amnesty International UK
Toby Lloyd, Housing policy expert
10 Downing Street
Coco Khan Hi, this is Pod Save the UK.
Nish Kumar I’m Nish Kumar.
Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan.
Nish Kumar And we’ll be sitting in judgment on Rishi Sunak’s first year as prime minister, a year that’s felt like 50.
Coco Khan The chief executive of Amnesty International UK will be here to tell us what you can do to help those affected by the Israel-Gaza crisis.
Nish Kumar Plus, have landlords managed to sabotage plans to ban no fault evictions?
Coco Khan Hi, Nish.
Nish Kumar Hi, Coco. How are you?
Coco Khan I’m actually having honestly, I’m having a really I’m having a really great week, actually.
Nish Kumar Talk to me.
Nish Kumar Well. Are you familiar with the Fat Bear week? Are you aware that?
Nish Kumar The hell are you talking about? What’s the Fat bear week?
Coco Khan It’s kind of. So before a bear goes into hibernation. Yeah, they’re at their fat ass. Yeah, because obviously they got that faster last in the whole winter. I am basically in my fat bear week. I am burrowing in for autumn. I’m sort of gathering. I bought some DVDs. Oh, yeah. I’m cooking more.
Nish Kumar Yeah.
Coco Khan I’m batch cooking things, putting them in the freezer. I’m really settling in. I’m feeling very level.
Nish Kumar I’m loath to remind you of this, but you are not able to hibernate. We have a weekly podcast to do.
Coco Khan The other thing I need to tell you is that my mum has showed me how to make a turnip curry. Oh, really? Yeah. Yes. Remember there was that thing with Theresa Coffey being like, We need to eat more British food. Leslie, tone it. Yeah. Everyone was like, Why did you have to pick? Why can’t you pick kale or something nice? Yeah. Picking turnips conjures up some image of like the Victorian poor left only eat right in turn. Yeah, right. Which is kind of actually in keeping with the times. But nonetheless, it turns out turnips tasty.
Nish Kumar So. Well, what’s happened is the government said we need to eat more turnips. And your mother has reverted to. Let’s face it, delicious. South Asian stereotype goes well. If we’re going to eat it, we’ll make it taste good. We’re not just going to eat boiled turnips. Oh, no. Tastes good.
Coco Khan Honestly, I was surprised when she told me.
Nish Kumar Can you share your mum’s turnip recipe?
Coco Khan Oh, no, because you know how it is with. With the aunties. Their recipes are not useful for the world because it would be like a bit of this when it looks nice, good.
Nish Kumar Yeah enough. You know enough of that. My grandmother always says enough. It’s how much of it? Enough.
Coco Khan Yeah, that looks very pointless for us. How are you anyway?
Nish Kumar Yeah, I’m good. I’m fine.
Coco Khan You eating any turnips?
Nish Kumar No, I’ve eaten no turnips.
Coco Khan Okay.
Nish Kumar I watched a three and a half hour Martin Scorsese film about how white people are evil. I’ve had a great week.
Coco Khan Did it just confirm your suspicions?
Nish Kumar Oh, it confirmed all my suspicions. Oh, it confirmed them all.
Coco Khan The last night. You know, I was on Sunday night. Cocaine bear. That’s what I watched. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about bears. Actually, Let me see.
Nish Kumar You’ve got a bear based week.
Coco Khan Very bear based week.
Nish Kumar Basically, you talk about fat bears and cocaine bears.
Coco Khan If you were listening last week, you know that we were expecting to be joined by Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf. However, he’s had to cancel because he’s busy dealing with the devastating flooding caused by storm Babette. If you did send in a question for him, don’t worry, we’ll keep hold of them and then will You will use them when he comes in.
Nish Kumar Yeah, he’s he’s doing his job and obviously all of our thoughts are with everybody who’s affected by the storm is absolutely miserable. So on the day that we record, it’s exactly one year since Rishi became prime minister. He failed. In his first tilt, the leadership was beaten by Liz Truss, who managed 44 days in the job, failing famously to outlast two letters. And he was elected the new leader of the Conservative Party on October the 24th, 2002, becoming our first Asian Prime minister and standing outside of Downing Street. He made this bold promise to the British people.
Clip This government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level. Trust is earned, and I will earn yours. I will always be grateful to Boris Johnson for his incredible achievements as Prime Minister. And I treasure his warmth and generosity of spirit. And I know he would agree that the mandate my party earned in 2019 is not the sole property of any one individual. It is a mandate that belongs to and unites all of us.
Nish Kumar Very little of that has aged well. Praising Boris Johnson, that’s not aged well. Boris Johnson’s allies definitely can agree on one thing, and that is they don’t think Rishi Sunak earned that mandate and they don’t think it was a mandate for the Conservative Party that he gives very specifically a mandate for Boris Johnson. He said that he was going to restore trust and integrity, but then he gave jobs to Dominic Raab and Gavin Williamson, who both had to leave their post Suella Braverman through some miracle or first monkey poll that she purchased was reinstated by Sue Doctor, a job that she had had to leave over a data breach a week before. She’s had been on a sort of rampage with a series of just horrific remarks about immigrants and migrants. She tries to jostle of position as the next leader of the Conservative Party. Sunak’s position is so weak that he is unable to rein her in, or perhaps he’s simply unwilling to rein her in, in which case you have to ask serious questions about what the value is of having the first Prime Minister of color. If he won’t stand up against policies that discriminate against people of. Marginalized groups. In terms of his five pledges, he is going to struggle to get anywhere with the stop the boats pledge. He’s going to struggle to get anywhere In terms of reducing NHS waiting numbers. It remains to be seen if he’s going to be able to get debt down. He has managed to halve inflation, though even when that pledge was made. A lot of experts at the time said it was a spit tacular lie low bar to clear. And it remains to be seen whether he’s going to be able to get government debt down in terms of his political standing. He’s lost a string of by elections. His approval ratings are in the toilet. It’s been an awful year. But just on a personal level, I would say that one of his most toxic legacies that he’s going to leave this country is him trying to turn the climate crisis, which is a matter of science, into a culture war and a wedge issue, because he is ultimately a craven, stupid and venal man. There is no level he will not stoop to in name of his own personal ambition. I think he’s an absolute fucking disgrace. And Rishi as one bafflingly over promoted under talented Asian man to another, you’ve fucked it.
Coco Khan Also, don’t forget. We’ll see down to full length trousers. I wear trousers all the time and I show my ankles in shame now.
Nish Kumar That was the good stuff.
Coco Khan The worst thing he said is ruined crop trousers for me.
Nish Kumar [AD]
Nish Kumar Rishi Sunak was in Israel last week having discussions on opening up humanitarian routes for a crisis that continues to bring devastation to civilians in both territories. The world health organization reported just this morning that there have been nearly 200 attacks on health care services. There are also growing concerns of fuel and emergency supplies running out.
Coco Khan We may be a few thousand miles away, but the effects continue to be felt here. Downing Street confirmed this week that at least 12 British nationals are known to have died either in or since the 7th of October. Attack by Hamas with five people still missing. Hamas is described as a terrorist organization by the UK and many other governments. Some of the British based families spoke of their grief at a press conference in London on Tuesday.
Ofri Bibas Levi It’s like living in a nightmare and the pictures keep running in front of my eyes and I feel guilty for eating and I feel guilty for sleeping in my own bed. I feel guilty for playing with my children or covering my children at night. It’s really confusing. It’s like a psychological torture for us. The families hearing the release in this one or this one, we want them all, all of them back. And we want all of them back now together.
Coco Khan That was Ofri Bibas Levi , whose brother Yarden was taken by Hamas along with his wife, Sherry, and their two children.
Nish Kumar According to the health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, more than 5000 Palestinians, nearly half of them children, have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes. More than 1400 Israelis have been killed, most in the attacks more than two weeks ago. And there is still no ceasefire in sight. More than 100,000 people joined a pro-Palestinian protest in central London at the weekend, while thousands of people attended a rally in support of Israel in Trafalgar Square.
Coco Khan So we’re joined now by Sacha Deshmukh, who is the chief exec of the human rights organization Amnesty International UK. He’s also led the children’s charities UNICEF, UK and War Child. Thank you so much for joining us.
Sacha Deshmukh Thank you.
Coco Khan So listen, you know, on this podcast, we always want to look at solutions and we know that this issue is something that our audience that we ourselves care a lot about. And being on social media. One of the things that comes up quite a lot is this, you know, is the call to give aid, whether it be to medical aid Palestine. The Red Cross is this. There’s many others. My very first question for you is the aid that’s going in at the moment. How much is it and is it enough?
Sacha Deshmukh So if you look back at the history in Gaza in particular, you’re looking at a 16 year blockade of Gaza. And that meant that the United Nations Trade and Development Council has, as the conference excuse me, has said, that 80% of people in Gaza were living dependent on aid even before the current crisis. Two thirds of people were living in poverty. And back in 2008, Gaza was dependent on around 2 billion USD worth of aid. But even in 2022, so before this crisis, that had dropped to about $250 million, much less than really could support people living in any kind of comfort at all long before this crisis began. So I think the the unfortunately, sadly, the decades over a decade long, six years long blockade of Gaza has meant that it has a civilian population who are dependent on aid. And aid is absolutely critical for day to day life, for any kind of safety, for any kind of healthy living in Gaza and has been for many, many years.
Coco Khan And what’s your your take on the the assertion that actually if you give aid, it doesn’t go to the people that need it most.
Sacha Deshmukh Well, there are many reputable and well-organized aid organizations working in Gaza. I clearly work for a human rights organization now, but you mentioned that previously. I’ve worked for some large aid organizations and I obviously now work with a large number of aid organizations in different places around the world. And I know speaking to them that they have staff who are dedicated, who are delivering aid of different kinds. They have doctors on the ground. They have health care workers on the ground. They have people distributing aid and they have for many years in Gaza as well as obviously in other areas of the occupied Palestinian territories. They have people who are sadly currently in Gaza under some of the greatest threat. Given what’s happening that any of us have seen to aid workers anywhere. So I think that there is clearly a critical role for aid. And one thing I would like to say absolutely, clearly, absolutely, clearly, is that there is never a justification for a civilian population being denied food, being denied health care, being denied water. There is never a justification for that under international law, and there’s never a justification for that. I believe thinking as a humanitarian, either.
Nish Kumar There’s food and water is getting in. Fuel is proving to be a sticking point in negotiations, and the need for fuel is hugely pressing because hospitals are unable to run without it. And the U.N. has said that it would have to end its operations if no more is delivered. Israel is claiming that Hamas is hoarding fuel and keeping it from its own people. How do you see that situation playing out? Because it’s it it’s clear the fuel does need to reach Gaza.
Sacha Deshmukh It’s not just water. It’s not just food. It is power that’s essential for services such as health care. And Israel has occupying power responsibilities when it comes to Gaza and the other occupied Palestinian territories. Those responsibilities extend to the protection of the civilians within those areas. That includes the protection of services like health care, which are dependent on on power. And I’ve talked to doctors who are who are in Gaza and other areas in the occupied Palestinian territories, but in Gaza, who’ve told me about their fears of incubators turning off imminently. And yet that is something clearly that does require power, that does require fuel, and we all have a duty. But in particular, any country that is an occupying power does have a duty to the civilian population. That includes the protection of health care, that includes the protection of other services that are dependent on fuel. Those aren’t just matters of opinion. Those are those are matters of international responsibility and international law.
Coco Khan So, Sacha, I just want to ask you about what you think of how the political establishment has responded to this crisis. The prime minister and the Leader of the Opposition are coming under increasing pressure to back calls for a cease fire. Here’s a former guest on this podcast, SMP deputy leader at Westminster Mari Black, questioning Sunak at PMQs.
Mari Black Yesterday, the UN warned that hospitals in Gaza had just 40 hours of fuel left to keep that electricity going. That was 20 hours ago. The electricity runs out tonight. Now we have a human responsibility to all the people in Gaza, but we have a particular responsibility for UK citizens, some of whom are in those hospitals with no food, no water, no medicine and no way out. So I want to ask the prime Minister how much worse does the situation have to get before he will join us in calls for a humanitarian cease fire?
Coco Khan Meanwhile, Labor leader Keir Starmer is coming under pressure from within his own ranks. More than 150 Muslim labor councilors have written to him demanding he call for a cease fire in Gaza. You know, we’ve seen some of the biggest protests the UK has seen in a really, really long time. It feels like from where I’m sitting that the people have one opinion and the political establishment have another. Are you able to tell me what’s left to do? Where are we with a ceasefire?
Sacha Deshmukh I guess anyone who is focused on human rights would always ask themselves two broad questions about about the call for a ceasefire. Does the situation where you are now mean that if there were a ceasefire it would massively benefit one side in a military conflict over another? And the second question you ask is would a ceasefire aid in the provision of humanitarian aid, aid and support for the most basic elements of human rights, people’s ability to actually continue to live and continue to to to have health, continue to, you know. Eat, etc.. And I think in this case, we can see that there are strong arguments, very strong arguments for why a ceasefire could be the right thing for now. Absolutely. And I think that what’s critical in that is it’s not just a call for a ceasefire. It would need to also be a moment that the international community is absolutely clear that all parties must adhere to international law. That means that there should not be any continued hostage taking. There should never have been hostage taking. But clearly, hostages should be returned. But it also means that actions such as the blockade cannot continue because or actions such as calls for the mass population to move from one part of Gaza to the other, which arguably is a form of forced displacement, which again is a contravention of international law. So if there is a ceasefire, which can be critically important for the safety, immediate health of people, of course it can. It shouldn’t just be a cease fire, not accompanied by, I think, the international community saying, right. This is a moment where we need these critical first steps to happen if there’s going to be even a chance of a road out of this moment and the chance of this moment being one which starts to address decades long root causes to to the conflict that have affected so many civilians horrifically on all sides.
Nish Kumar In terms of individual protesters rights within the UK. I think there’s still some confusion about what the public order bill has changed in terms of individual protesters rights. What advice would you give anyone protesting who does find themselves dealing with the police?
Sacha Deshmukh So if you think so on. This. Obviously Amnesty did have deep concerns about the public order bill, public order that that was passed and did change many hundreds of years of British tradition and law surrounding the right to protest. Having said that, what I would be saying to to people now is that you do still have a right to protest. And actually, I would also say to politicians of all parties that they should respect the rights of and not just the right sorry, the duties excuse me of police to be properly applying the law should not be trying to put any pressure on those police over and above the powers that the law the law gives. There is good advice available and actually you can find pointers to that quite well if you are considering organizing a protest or participating in a protest that talk about the ways in which you can organize protest safely, it’s important that people have the ability to express their views. That does not mean, though, that a protest can contravene laws around areas such as hate crimes, etc. but those are well-established in the law. And I think this is where politicians in particular need to be careful. The law has been carefully and well drafted when it comes to areas such as hate speech and hate crime. Police and the courts are the right place for the adjudication of that. There is no role for politicians trying to express over and above what the law says, what may or may not be people’s rights in related in relation to protest.
Coco Khan If there is one thing you could say to our listeners, i.e. if you care about this crisis, this is one thing you should do today, what would that be?
Sacha Deshmukh It’s absolutely important and critical to be speaking out about crimes against international law, about war crimes, Whoever has committed those crimes. Absolutely. Hamas and armed and other armed groups. But also even if by our allies or friends, we must speak out if we’re going to be showing the kind of leadership as a country that we need to. I think people should be saying that clearly to their to their political leaders, whether that is through writing to them or whether that’s through supporting campaigns of organizations like ourselves. The other thing I would say is that there are, you know, many excellent organizations, many of them, you know, charities and NGOs that will be familiar to to people listening to this who have been for years doing incredible humanitarian work. Now, more than ever, those organizations need your help. Some of the people who are working and running those organizations are not just at the moment thinking about how to maximize the support they can give to civilian populations who faced appalling, appalling circumstances over the last few days. They’re literally worrying about and having to deal with questions of the safety of their their staff, of their colleagues that they have on the ground, the family members of them. That’s not unheard of for organizations providing emergency aid around the world. But I’d say in my experience, that’s probably this is probably one of the more severe situations that aid organizations are facing that perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Gaza in particular is such a concentrated place, if they’re even pennies or pounds that anyone can give to support people who are trying to do work on the ground now more than ever, they need your help.
Nish Kumar All right. Thank you so much, Sacha. We really appreciate your time and thank you very much for talking us through this.
Sacha Deshmukh Thank you.
Coco Khan [AD]
Coco Khan So bruised from two by election losses this week and hounded by questions of when Rishi Sunak will call a general election. The government nonetheless staggers on.
Nish Kumar On the House of Commons agenda this week the much trumpeted renters reform bill was back for its second reading and it was the first chance for MP to debate it. The bill would make it illegal for landlords and agents to refuse to rent to people on benefits, all with children. And most importantly, it would abolish Section 21 no fault evictions, which allows a landlord to get a court order to remove a tenant from their property without needing a reason.
Coco Khan So back in May, in our third episode of this podcast, we celebrated the arrival of the Renters Reform Bill as a victory for tireless campaigners who’d been calling on it for four years. Really. But despite the bill passing its second reading in the Commons this week without a hitch, we wanted to return to it as there appears to have been some backsliding. Very crafty on that. All important banning of no fault evictions.
Nish Kumar Housing Secretary Michael Gove wrote to backbench Tory MPs, 68 of whom are themselves landlords, to say that the Government won’t implement the abolition of Section 20 ones until sufficient progress has been made to improve the court system, effectively kicking it into the long grass, something the National Residential Landlords Association has claimed as a huge win. Following extensive lobbying and Labor’s Michael Gove yesterday, he just happened to be speaking at the National Residential Landlords Association Conference.
Coco Khan So what happens now? To help us answer that is Toby Lloyd. He’s an independent housing policy consultant. In his previous role as a special adviser on housing to Prime Minister Theresa may. He persuaded her to propose banning Section 21 orders in the first place. Welcome, Toby.
Toby Lloyd Thank you.
Nish Kumar We’ve obviously discussed Section 21, but I guess the first question to ask is how did you become a Tory SpAd, given that you are. Not at all.
Toby Lloyd Yeah, it was it was a surprising career move for moving at that. I was I was head of policy at Shelter for seven years and we’ve done a lot of campaigning on the private rented sector. Abolishing Section 21 was top of all of our list there, and we got nowhere, bluntly. I mean, we spent years trying to get housing up the agenda, which really targeted the 2015 election, and we thought we did a really good job with a massive advertising campaign. We’d got it up to. It was number four on the issues facing the country kind of opinion poll tracker. So yeah, we thought it and great job New government comes in first. He says he wants a really big bill on housing. Hurray And then he’s like the worst bill on housing we’ve had in 30 years.
Nish Kumar Wow.
Toby Lloyd Big disaster.
Coco Khan Oh, by do something, they mean make it worse.
Toby Lloyd As it turned out, it’s not enough just to get your issue up the agenda. You know, we had to actually persuade a conservative government to do the right thing. Yeah, it turned out the shelter hadn’t been as good at that as we thought. And, you know, Donnelly’s because it was for the people like me, it was full of urban lefties. Yeah. That don’t naturally talk to conservatives or don’t talk in a way that they’re willing to listen to. So I spent quite a lot of time just trying to change Shelter’s message so that we could get a Conservative government to listen. It wasn’t him talking about parenting. It was more about how you get houses built and social housing. And it worked so well that they they listened and said, Yeah, okay, well, we’ll think about that. And then they fired me up the next day and said, Yeah. Would you like to come and be a special adviser to the Prime Minister?
Nish Kumar Wow.
Toby Lloyd So, yeah, I do have a bit of a long, dark night of the soul and thinking, Can I do this? But then, as I have with myself, I only spent seven years trying to get the government to listen. Now they say they want to listen. What are going to say? No, no, I’d rather be ignored.
Nish Kumar How did you change the messaging? What does that involve?
Toby Lloyd I had I had a little bit of help from a very special friend, namely Prince Charles.
Coco Khan Oh, I was not.
Nish Kumar Yeah.
Coco Khan Wow.
Toby Lloyd I was expecting that one either.
Nish Kumar I thought you were going to say alcohol.
Toby Lloyd No, I got invited to a launch event, as you do. And kind of policy was. Yeah, Some of the think tanks written another report on housing saying it’s a mess and this will happen to me by the Prince’s Foundation. And it turned out was this really posh in in the palace we have do all the weird stuff that you do when you meet royalty.
Nish Kumar Handshakes.
Toby Lloyd And very odd. But at the speeches they had all of these organizations with kind of August establishment bodies like the National Trust in the Country Land and Business Association and the civic form and very, very respectable Tory friendly organizations.
Nish Kumar This was before the National Trust has suddenly become the conservative public. Had a bit of a what?
Toby Lloyd Yeah, well, before the Conservative Party lurched so far into this. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I agree. But they all saying the same thing that shelter was. Yeah. So I think we’re just missing a trick here where somehow we just talking to our own kind of leftie bubble, and we’re not communicating to the people. We actually need to communicate. You having to be the government. So had a bit of an epiphany and just looked at all Schulz’s output, and it was funny. It was all kind of big red banners, lots of photos of concrete tower blocks and kind of inner city urban families, I think. Am I surprised this doesn’t particularly appeal to conservatives? All the language is about kind of social justice. Right? Yeah. You know, fighting the power and things. Well, again, it’s it’s not really designed to appeal to Tories. So just changed all of, all of the the branding. I didn’t change the policy and can’t do that. We’re trying to get into to understand complicated failings in the land market and why you need to be more money in social housing.
Coco Khan You just put everyone in Tweed.
Toby Lloyd No, I think that would have been a bit unsubtle, but I did choose the color. The colors were kind of Barbour jacket green. Just special permission to vary the shelter brand guidelines. So one report only and I included photos not of kind of concrete tower blocks, but of Prince Charles’s developments, you know?
Nish Kumar Right. Yeah.
Toby Lloyd Nice. Kind of comforting thatched roofs and, you know, old villages and stuff, because actually shelter is not there to defend brutalist architecture. That’s his job. Is that to get social housing built into and homelessness and just change the pictures in the color so the.
Nish Kumar Policy were the site.
Toby Lloyd Oh, absolutely.
Nish Kumar That’s lovely. That is it Incredible. That’s it. What was it like? I mean, in 2008, we all remember we all lived through it. What was it like being in government at that point and trying to get something that wasn’t related to Brexit done?
Toby Lloyd The really weird thing about it was just how kind of calm, easy and nice it was, right? Yeah. Which is not what I was expecting. I was just getting kind of like thick of it, levels of kind of screaming and kind of long nights and desperate panic. I think it’s because Brexit was taking up all of the energy. So that end of the card I was probably held to working by the kind of social policy bit which Theresa may. I was keen to have a social policy agenda and a domestic agenda, but they just left, left us to get on with it and just quietly kind of proposed things. In a few minutes you’d get every month they’d be kind of breaking the news agenda for one day. It wasn’t going to be about Brexit and the kind of message would come down saying, We’ve got a day for the domestic agenda, we’ve got to have you got anything we could do? And at that point I had to do this. I think everyone thinks, great, we’ll do that.
Nish Kumar So there was an advantage effectively. No, it was distracted by, but.
Toby Lloyd It was actually a good opportunity for kind of sneaking more progressive ideas through the system than would otherwise have got.
Coco Khan Through. So is that how the scrapping of Section 21 sort of came to be this break in the Brexit cloud? Well, that may be the Brexit silver lining.
Nish Kumar Yeah.
Coco Khan That’s nice.
Toby Lloyd Benefits of Brexit, right?
Nish Kumar Yeah, that’s great. I’m surprised they’re not talking about you more often.
Coco Khan And so what was the response at the time.
Toby Lloyd Was exactly what you’d expect. The landlords were up in arms but think, you know, the political logic was very clear. They weren’t exactly going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party anyway, so there wasn’t the kind of conservatives wouldn’t lose anything politically with with that backlash. Yeah, the sector was the housing sector was pleased but kind of suspicious, you know, Will this ever happen? Because everyone knew at that point that Theresa may was not not going to be prime minister for a very long time. Yeah, you can announce something like this, but it’s going to have to be legislated. There was no hope. She was going to pass a bill before she left, so people didn’t really think it would happen. And the amazing thing is it survived. It survived to change the prime minister, six changes of housing minister and four years of parliamentary back and forth.
Coco Khan So. So how are you feeling this week, seeing that there’s a bit of a backslide? How does that make you feel personally? And also, are you feeling hopeful that this this scrapping of Section 21 will someday happen soon?
Toby Lloyd I’m fine. I’m feeling really positive about obviously the the backslide is is not that big a deal in my be there’s always a there’s always what’s called commencement dates issues with legislation. Everyone is very excited about the bill passing but there’s always a clause in it which says this won’t come into effect until the secretary of state says go. And sometimes that can be years afterwards. If I often it never happens at all. A lot of bills that people fight tooth and nail over are actually you know, they get passed eventually and you know, governments fall and these resign and they never get commenced and never actually comes into force. Happens all the time. So it’s not a big deal that there’s going to be a bit of a delay before commencement. It’s normal, especially given that there’s a general election in the next year. It’d be very unlikely for this bill to be brought into force before the election anyway, So it’ll probably be a decision for the next government.
Nish Kumar In terms of jumping to the potential of a Labor government next time around. How do you feel about this Bill? I want to talk about Labor’s housing policy in a second, but let’s start with this specific bill. Like in terms of Section 21, do you still feel you feel pretty confident that it’s going to this is going to happen?
Toby Lloyd Yeah, I think getting legislation passed is a critical first step. The fact that both main parties are supporting it means it will go through in in law. Yeah, sure. It’d be great if this government commenced it rather than waiting for the next one. But given the timescales, it’s not particularly a big deal either way. The really I mean, the really good news is that if it comes, I think this is a chance if it’s done by a conservative government, it’s much more like to stick. I don’t want with this whole thing of there being a kind of political football as it has been. You know, we’ve seen progress, deregulation, this country veer from the most draconian, kind of overregulated, kind of controlled in the world to the most liberal free market, Wild West, unprotected sex in the world and back again, you know, several times. Neither. You know, and that’s partly why the debate get so hot is because we’re used to very extreme swings. Actually, most countries have something kind of vaguely in the middle. It’s just not that big a deal. Getting this change is important. First step. Section 21 repeal by Conservative government just means it’s going to stick because you’ve actually got some cross-party consensus, and I think that’s massive. You know, I’d rather if it was being commenced tomorrow, because, you know, any any delays too much people, someone gets a Section 21 eviction every 15 minutes in this country and with rents going up is going to have more and more. So the sooner the better. Any delay is essentially cruel, but in terms of parliament, it’s just it’s nice. It’s not the end of the world.
Coco Khan Well, this week we’ve seen kind of, as you describe there, you know, troubling reports from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. They have found that last year, 3.8 million people were destitute, which means that, you know, they lack the basics to stay warm, dry, clean and fed. Housing plays a very big part of that. I watched a horrible Channel four report yesterday where they interviewed a man who, you know, he was a mechanic. He got ill. He received universal credit, just shy of £900. He was just about managing. And then his landlord put the rent up to £620. That’s insane. That’s two thirds of his income. And he was left with £30 a month to to essentially feed himself. It was a horrifying report. And I just had this moment going, How on earth can a landlord do that now? This is a really long way of me saying outside of this rent, which I could do for a long time on housing. Is this going to go far enough? Section 21 And what’s next? What’s the next battle we need to have?
Toby Lloyd Yeah. Thank you. Is sacred to me. On its own is not enough. But it is a really critical first step because the security it gives you allows lots of other things to happen. You know, as long as you have this lot of detail and we’ve got to get right, we’ve got to make sure the grounds for eviction aren’t too easy. You know, they don’t want to let it in through the back door as a critical point about about rent rises. Because if you if the landlord could just say, I’m not evicting you, I’m just raising the rent to £1,000,000 a week. Right. And you know, that’s the same say, you know, you’ve got to make sure all the policy detail is correct and then we close off all those loopholes. But once you have that, that gives tenants much greater negotiating strength. So landlords actually, you know what? No, you’re not going to raise the rent, you know, £2 million a week. I will take you to the rent tribunal. I’m not afraid you’re going to swear me out. You can do that now. But no one dares because landlords just fire you out. I will complain about that awful damp that’s been like my house for years. You know, we worry about damp in the social housing sector rightly is three times more likely to have mold and damp in a private rented home is by far the worst quality tenure in the country and the most expensive and the least secure. Now, dealing with all those things is difficult, especially starting with the security is the best because that allows you to then start getting into the other ones. And this bill does do some of that as well as the decent home standard is going to be extended to the fiber into sector finally, which is I think will be a really important first name trying to raise those standards. You know, there’s more we could do. I think energy efficiency is going to be the next big one. It’s a real shame that Rishi Sunak, that road back on that one as part of is getting rid of the green crap. Yeah, yeah. Which because again, it’s, it’s by far the least energy efficient housing is in the most expensive private rented sector. I think it’s about 14% of of all private rented sector homes are in the least efficient EPC banned a zillion homes.
Nish Kumar And that. That costs many people money.
Toby Lloyd It costs a fortune because you know it means that their their energy bills have gone through the roof and they’re just leaking heat.
Coco Khan Okay, so what about rent controls. I’m all for it.
Toby Lloyd That first owner. There’s lots different types of rent control, right? Okay. So the first kind is actually what we really talked about. You need to have that some level of stopping that. I was just evicting.
Nish Kumar Yeah.
Toby Lloyd By raising rent to £2 million. Right. So you need that kind of minimal rent control just to give people security beyond that. And you can go for forms of rent control. I personally support where you just limit the increases is to an index. And the moment there is the rule, which is AmerisourceBergen will be now with section 21 going that says you can only raise the rent by the going market rate of 40. That can be pretty steep and has been recently. So, you know, really you’d want that to be more like an index, like inflation or wage inflation. So it’s not you know, it’s not getting more expensive for people. And then there’s a third kind of rent control, which is the kind of one where the government literally comes around, looks at house and says, I think you can you can charge this much rent for it. No, many people really advocating that anymore. And it’s quite intrusive. It’s quite complicated and bureaucratic. So it’s more about actually controlling rents in tenancy and giving tenants more security. And then you can actually have a proper negotiation about what the rent should be.
Coco Khan I mean, house building obviously plays a massive role in that. You know, we don’t have as much supply of rented properties as we we probably could. Keir Starmer has made a big play about he’s going to be the party that next government will be the party of house building. I mean, what’s your take on it? Do you feel that these planning reforms are actually going to do anything.
Toby Lloyd Honestly to encourage actually, I mean, confessing, I’m I’m a housing geek and this is this is my thing. But the fact that.
Coco Khan Speak out Toby, you’re in a safe space.
Toby Lloyd It’s nice to know.
Nish Kumar I think I should I definitely think we should encourage people who know about things to talk about them. I feel like that’s the part.
Toby Lloyd I mean. You can always edited out afterwards. They Yeah, I was really encouraged because I know I’ve been buying stuff for a long time, so that’s what I was doing. It shows I was trying to convince the government that there’s better ways to do house building to get more homes built. Just saying tear up the planning system and let the volume house builders rip will not do it. That’s what we’ve been doing for 40 years and we’ve been building fewer and fewer homes. They’ve got worse and worse quality and more and more expensive. It just does not work. I’m a big fan of markets in lots of ways, but they’re not very good at land. Yeah, you actually. That’s why even the most free market libertarian countries have quite tight land use planning controls. You just have to because the land is fixed, Supply says. Kind of. Yeah, that is as simple as that. It’s it’s like.
Nish Kumar You can’t make more land.
Toby Lloyd And as I. That’s it. That’s it. And the story and that’s why you know if people bang on about Singapore on terms I think brilliant in Singapore the government owns all the land almost They control all of the housebuilding, they control the rents and it’s the most cost a socialist housing policy imaginable.
Nish Kumar Every time I hear somebody talk about Singapore on terms, I sort of feel like, Have you Googled Singapore? Like, have you actually just looked at the basic terms by which Singapore is run?
Toby Lloyd And the reason why they do that is because they know that if you want to have a free market, open trading economy, which they do, you have to control the property market or it will just eat your economy. And that’s what we’ve seen in this country. Housing is is eating our economy. People spend the vast bulk of their income on it. Private renters typically spend 30, 40% of their income just paying the rent. You know, all of our wealth is tied up in housing. Yeah, that’s what people say is my pension is crap pension because you can’t like, cash out very easily. It doesn’t work very well as a pension. It means that all of our financial sector is just geared towards mortgages. That’s all they do. They just give mortgage lending because it’s easier than, you know, awkward, messy things like growing businesses. Yeah. In Germany, where they have the other way around, banks spend all their time actually funding businesses. And guess what? Their productivity in their industrial sector is a lot stronger. So, yeah, housing is the kind of central problem of the of the UK economy and getting the planning bit right is part of that. But it isn’t just a matter of tearing up the system and letting the like the volume builders go. Keir Starmer stuff was was good actually because he was talking about taking, you know, a confidence state, that approach to where homes need to go. And if you need a big building at scale that’s got to be organized by the government.
Coco Khan So listen, if you were back in number ten with the PM there, what solutions would you be pushing?
Toby Lloyd Well, I’ll be pushing exactly what they’ve kind of hinted at on the on the house building side. So, you know, strategic state organized doesn’t have to do everything. There’s plenty of room for the private sector, for the voluntary sector, for communities to do house building that we need a more diverse mixed economy there. But the state needs to organize it and decide actually we are going to expand to London or Manchester or whatever in that direction. It’s going to be there. We cannot override people. Some people are going to be upset about it. Tough national decision. And there’s a lot of information that we need to get right. But, you know, reasonably encourage that the thinking in the right direction there. Private sector. Yeah continue carry on get that get that I’m cited and enforce get there section 21 repeal properly enforced have make sure learners have to register. We don’t even we don’t even ask landlords to tell anyone that they’re a landlord.
Nish Kumar Which seems unfathomable. Right.
Toby Lloyd Especially when you consider how much of the nation’s wealth is tied up in property. And we’re just it’s kind of no questions asked. It’s crazy, right? So no wonder we don’t get much tax from it. And I say it’s because they basically have to beat down the door with the revenue saying, please, please take my money.
Nish Kumar You go. Certainly, I think an interesting career trajectory. Maybe you the first person we spoke to that has had this sort of trajectory and it’s exactly the sort of thing people say they want more of in government, which is specialists and experts. The current housing secretary made a very famous comment suggesting he was somewhat expert skeptic, but I don’t think he was necessarily speaking for the country in that regard. What did you learn about going from, I guess, working in the kind of work in the charity sector, working in kind of trying to pressure and effect policy? What did you learn about making that switch into actually making policy?
Toby Lloyd Take the opportunity if you can. One doesn’t. I mean, this was the collapsing. Chaotic conservative government, which I have kind of no friends within. You know, it felt like that was an impossible job. Do anything.
Coco Khan You just on your own in the in the canteen.
Toby Lloyd Yeah. Yeah. I got an I got far more done in 14 months there than I did in ten years of campaigning.
Coco Khan Wow.
Toby Lloyd From the outside. Right. Because just once you’re on the inside, you can just get stuff done. So firstly, definitely take the opportunity if you get it.
Nish Kumar Yeah.
Toby Lloyd Because there’s just no substitute for being close to real power.
Coco Khan Did you get on with Theresa?
Toby Lloyd Um, yeah. I mean, she was too perfect. Perfectly nice. Probably civil.
Coco Khan You know, giving me what I want. What I want. You know, now that you’re out of government, I want you to spill the tea. Give us some tea.
Toby Lloyd I’m giving. I’m giving you the truth, Coco. What can I say? She. The truth is, I think I must have met him maybe five or six times in that whole time. Yeah, So I. It’s not. It’s not like we know each other. Well. She was always perfectly nice. Listen carefully. Amazingly diligent. She really read the brief. I mean, alarming. So one of the things I got when I was and that was the the first draft of the report on building safety following the Grenfell fire, which is, you know, enormous in fact document but real technical expertise. A lot of it was completely over my head and I’m supposed to be the expert advising her. You know, I did my best, summarized in a note and gave it to her. She read the entire thing and made careful note. She was, you know, really almost almost too diligent. You know.
Coco Khan That’s actually nice to hear.
Toby Lloyd But she was very, very thorough and considered.
Nish Kumar I lived in the vicinity of Grenfell when it happened and it was sort of it sort of lived as this kind of shadow on the skyline around the whole of West London. Do you think we’ve adequately learned the lessons of what happened?
Toby Lloyd No.
Nish Kumar Because the cladding still is still in.
Toby Lloyd Its because quite apart from just being this appalling tragedy. What it immediately revealed is just this incredibly complicated web of failure that just reaches absolutely everywhere into the whole of the building safety system, the whole of the way that housing is managed, the whole way that social tenants are listened to or mournfully not listened to. You know, just and, you know, when I got to government, this was a year after Grenfell, so the department, it was just setting up new teams all the time because everything they, every stone they overturned revealed another kind of mess of horribly complicated failures that been going back decades.
Nish Kumar I just also want to quickly just circle back to something you said about Theresa may and about being detail focused. And he thought that that might even almost be a weakness in a prime minister. Why is that?
Toby Lloyd I mean, to be fair, I don’t mean to be rude about, if anything, I think has a failing in the Prime Minister. She was she was too thorough. She had bigger stuff to worry about than reading the small print of a an inch thick document.
Coco Khan I don’t want you to be rude about it, I just want to know what happened.
Nish Kumar I want you to be rude about it.
Coco Khan It’s just funny, isn’t it? Because, you know, there is a kind of gentlemen’s agreement. If you work in these places that you’ve see, you can’t divulge the little cos the the culture of the space. Right. I’m a journalist myself and you know, I wouldn’t come into a podcast and tell everyone about the chats we have around the WaterCooler. But umm.
Nish Kumar I do do that by comedy and it’s one of the reasons why I’m wildly unpopular.
Toby Lloyd The thing about working Downing Street, it’s not like working anywhere else in government. Most of government is just it’s just like another office, right? There’s nothing particularly exciting or interesting about that is just bonkers. It’s this weird, weird place. You know, my office was clearly like a servants bedroom with, like, six desks awkwardly squeezed into it and doesn’t. It’s a rickety old house with pasties. Yeah. Physically in downing ten. Yeah. Oh, right. Where? You know, it takes a while to get your head around it. Just finding your way around because they’re trying to squeeze all the kind of office features you need for modern office, plus all the weird shit you need for the security services and everything into this kind of crumbling series of 18th century houses that have been badly knocked together. So it’s the weirdest place to work, You know, to find a meeting room like any office is impossible. All my in one was that was called the lift lobby. Just that little space at the top of the tiny little lift that squeezes money. If you have a meeting there and some woman with shopping bags for dogs just walk you through because that’s the door to the chancellor’s flat and it’s his wife just coming home from the shops. This is not normal.
Coco Khan Yeah.
Nish Kumar Final question, quick question. Keir Starmer gets elected. He calls you up and says Toby.
Coco Khan I heard you on Pod Save the UK. I thought you managed all the questions very deftly and I trust you won’t slack me off.
Nish Kumar Would you go back into government?
Toby Lloyd Yeah, of course. Because as I said, you know, there’s just no substitute for actually getting things changed. You know, however difficult ever compromising, however messier, is, Yeah, there’s pretty much no problems that don’t need the government to do something.
Coco Khan And it’s good to know there’s experts like you out there. We only hope you get listened to a bit more.
Toby Lloyd Thank you.
Nish Kumar Thanks, Toby. Just time for a quick look into the mailbag. And it seems the number one concern of our listeners is how are you and your cat getting on? Here’s a voice note from Lally.
Listener Hi, team. Just wanted to say cats definitely do hold grudges. Our cat always sits on my partner’s lap instead of my lap and will only resort to going on my lap if his isn’t available. And even then he will put a paw on my lap, look at me and remember and then move away. Love the show, by the way, we listen every week.
Nish Kumar Lally, thank you for that voice. Now, if you don’t understand why this has happened, last week, Coco opened the show by revealing that she had sat directly on her cat and she was concerned that this might lead to her cat holding a grudge against her. Lally appears to confirm that cats do hold grudges. Coco, how you feeling?
Coco Khan Someone phoned to just tell me. Yeah no they do hold grudges, mate. You fucked it.
Nish Kumar I love that. I absolutely love it.
Coco Khan Well, I mean, if everybody’s interested. My cat and I, we seem to be getting on well, and we’re working through our issues, and I think, you know, we we, we do continue as a unit. So that’s good to know. But it is interesting because.
Nish Kumar This sounds like like a celebrity after their spouse has been caught having an affair. We’re working through these issues as a partnership.
Coco Khan It’s a little bit like that. But it’s really easy to.
Nish Kumar You and your cat like Will Smith and Jada. Well, let me try and put your mind at rest by reading some comments from YouTube.
Coco Khan Okay.
Nish Kumar At TammyLynn8273 said, I actually sat on my cat once. I also sit like next as the chair was dark brown and my cat was solid black. He was stunned and so was I. He was fine and lived to be 19, so everything’s fine. Just also, to be clear, the way that I sit down is we discussed this last week. Coco said part of the bonus was that she sits quite gently, so she didn’t actually do too much damage to a cat. Whereas I said, The way that I sit down is I try and make my ass make contact with the chair as quickly as humanly possible.
Coco Khan You just sort of lose your bones and just fold into it.
Nish Kumar Yeah, I just didn’t like to just collapse into a chair. There’s another comment from at Sharps 2571. My cat burrows under my duvet when she gets frightened, which is frequently. And yesterday I sat down full force Nish-style. Oh, I can’t believe that my name is now synonymous with just sitting down quickly. Actually, it completely fits. That niche style would be a description of a way of settling down. I think my true legacy is the lab is sitting down. I sat on full force in the style of my bed. It felt something organic beneath my butt.
Coco Khan Oh God.
Nish Kumar It turns out it was my hot water bottle. But I did have a small heart attack for a moment thinking I had squashed the cat.
Coco Khan Oh, my gosh.
Nish Kumar Also, we want to hear from you about a number of the serious issues raised by this podcast. But we also want to know, do you sit Coco style or do you sit Nish style.
Coco Khan The survey that you got wove around. But it’s very important to the health of the nation.
Nish Kumar How much force do you apply from your buttocks to whatever receptacle it is you’re sitting down on?
Coco Khan And you can get in touch with us by emailing PSUK@reduced listening.co.uk. We love hearing your voices, so do send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514644572. And internationally that’s +447514644572.
Nish Kumar We’d love to get your thoughts on what we’ve discussed in this episode, or you can send in a question about British politics or suggest something you’d like us to cover or tell us if you sit Coco style or Nish style.
Coco Khan Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.
Nish Kumar Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz and digital producer Alex Bishop with additional production support from Annie Keates Thorpe.
Coco Khan Video editing was by Dan Hodgson and the music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.
Nish Kumar Thanks to our engineer Alex Bennett.
Coco Khan The executive producers are Anushka Sharma, Dan Jackson and Madeleine Heringer with additional support from Ari Schwartz.
Nish Kumar Watch us on the Pod Save the World YouTube Channel. Follow us on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram where we’re Pod Save the UK. All one word.
Coco Khan And hit subscribe for new shows on Thursdays on Amazon, Spotify or Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.
Nish Kumar Nish style.