In This Episode
The Conservative Party heads to Manchester for its Conference as rumours swirl that Rishi Sunak is going to axe the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the HS2 high speed rail line that was supposed to unlock the potential of The North – a bit awkward then! Coco and her special guest Grace Blakeley discuss why it’s all gone wrong and what it says about us as a country that we can’t seem to deliver big infrastructure projects on budget, on time, or at all.
With party conference season in full swing, Lib Dem MP Layla Moran (and her cat Murphy) joins us after their shindig in Bournemouth. She discusses tactical voting and tells us that her party definitely won’t be going into coalition with the Tories – although it doesn’t have any ‘red lines’ for working with Labour. Plus she reveals the Labour ‘diss’ track she sang at the infamous Lib Dem ‘Glee Club’ karaoke night.
Coco and Grace discuss the scandal engulfing GB News, amid calls for it to be taken off air, following an avalanche of complaints over Laurence Fox’s offensive comments about a female journalist. And Coco asks Grace if she would go on GB News.
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Grace Blakeley, economist and author
Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and party spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Coco Khan Hello and welcome to Pod Save the UK. Nish is away filming. So we’ve called in a very clever friend Grace Blakeley to help us out this week. Regular listeners may remember Grace from episode 15 when we discussed Rishi Sunak’s Wealth, whether billionaires should even exist, and the fanciest meals we’ve ever had. Author and economist Grace Blakeley. Hi, welcome back.
Grace Blakeley Hello. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be back.
Coco Khan So Grace, as you know, we try and do this podcast by being very honest about who we are. We try to be different, not like the other girls. When you see them on the telly and you just think your friends of all those politicians you’re talking about, we know inside, deep down you are, We try and be a bit more honest. So let’s get to it. Your voting record. Let’s hear it.
Grace Blakeley My voting record is so I think the first election that I was old enough to vote and was 2015 and I voted Green, I was very much like anti-austerity, like, you know, I’m a socialist, basically. And since then I voted Labour and, you know, I’ve been pretty involved in the Labour Party, less so now, more so during the Jeremy Corbyn period. As I said, I’m a kind of proud socialist. Yeah. So technically that is supposed to be the ideology of the Labour Party. If you’re a member of the Labour Party and you turn over your membership card, it says it’s a Democratic Socialist Party, although at the moment it seems to be kind of moving away from that sort of ideology. But yeah, you know, I’m a democratic socialist. I think that ordinary people should be in control of the most important decisions that that affect their lives, whether that’s in the economy, at work, in politics. I think power should be kind of shared out amongst people rather than centralized among a few people at the top. That’s how I would explain it, basically.
Coco Khan So does that mean that, you know, you haven’t decided who you’re going to vote for in the next one?
Grace Blakeley It’s a tough it is a tough one because, you know, on the one hand, obviously, I want to see the Tories out. On the other hand, I don’t want to kind of give an endorsement to what I consider to be a pretty kind of lame set of policies that that Starmer is pushing. Then again, there have been some positive noises that he’s been making on things like removing anti-trade union legislation, which I think is really, really important. It’s so important that we have a kind of vibrant Labour movement that’s out there protecting workers rights and kind of and lobbying the government itself, actually, to kind of to do things that are a bit more radical. And I think, you know, if he comes out and says a bit more radical stuff on the environment as well, I will be pushed definitely in that in that direction. And then, you know, once you have a Labour government, it’s then on people like me to stand up and say, What are you doing? There’s this problem, let’s try and fix it.
Coco Khan Yeah, yeah, of course. It’s like a family relationship, you know, You’ve always got to keep at it. Yeah.
Grace Blakeley It’s a very difficult family relationship.
Coco Khan I guess the reason I was curious is about that, because I just had this vision. I was like, Oh, she said, you vote agreements. I guarantee you she’s going to get a DM from the Green Party after this episode.
Grace Blakeley But possibly I might get a job for that. Everybody being like, You’re out late, but whatever.
Coco Khan So look, politics at the moment is in this very weird period where Parliament has effectively shut up shop for a entire month, so all the major political parties can go off and have their autumn conferences. The Lib Dems have just wound up their shindig in Bournemouth while the Tories are heading to Manchester this weekend. Then a week later, Labour has its get together in Liverpool. Then it’s the SNP in Aberdeen. So a lot of conferences. I’ve never been to a single one. I think you.
Grace Blakeley Have a you are missing out. You don’t really have to be invited. You can I mean some of them you technically can just show up. I think if you’re a you’re a member or a journalist.
Coco Khan Situation, then it’s.
Grace Blakeley Not, it’s not technically I guess, the situation. Right, Right. I think if you remember, you can apply and if you’re a journalist, you can apply. But it’s quite a loose definition. So, you know, basically just rock up and hang out with all the the great and the good guys get.
Coco Khan Drunk actually happens at conferences.
Grace Blakeley So, I mean, I have I’ve been to lots of Labour Party conferences. I’ve been to one or two Conservative Party conferences as well because I used to work at a think tank. So we used to go to party conferences and kind of advocate on behalf of the things that we were researching. So I’ve been to a few Tory party conferences but never kind of really stuck around, always just hanging around around the fringes like, you know, spotting lots of largely old men walking around. And yeah, you know, I’ve been to a lot of Labour ones, which have always been.
Coco Khan Relatively fun.
Grace Blakeley Actually, I would say. I mean, it kind of feels like nerd summer camp, I guess. Okay. Like there’s this little universe and everyone kind of knows each other and you’re walking on the street and you’re like, Oh, has my favorite political channel? Shall I go up and ask for a selfie of like, whatever and everyone goes like Glastonbury? Well, yeah, it is Glastonbury for not like I would say. Yeah. And then everyone goes out, gets drunk and, and has fun and embarrasses themselves. And then there are people taking pictures that are going to be used to blackmail them in ten years time.
Coco Khan So I absolutely cannot ever go to conference because I’m 100% walking blackmail material.
Grace Blakeley Oh yeah. Okay.
Coco Khan Oh my God.
Grace Blakeley It’s actually after a few pipes.
Coco Khan Literally every Sunday night I wake up like, Well, that’s in my career. Goodbye. So we will get to this week’s news in a moment. But first, I want to tell you about this. So at Crooked Media, we love books. They teach us new things. They expand our horizons. So we’ve actually created our own store front at Bookshop dot org, where you can find books published by Crooked Imprint and a selection of favorites from the cricket team. There’s loads more. Also, just to let you know, Manish, what kind of book people tell you. That’s actually how we met. We did a book project called The Good Immigrant and yes, you can find it in the Crooked Ortiz section. So Bookshop dot org directly supports local booksellers. You won’t be personally funding Jeff Bezos and whatever new yacht he’s got going on. So that’s a plus. So if you’re interested, please head to cricket dot com forward slash bookstore to find your next read. So as the UK’s political parties finalize their manifesto plans at their autumn conferences, the calculators are out and the country’s finances are being pored over where the money be saved. Where can it be spent? Taxation, pensions, spending plans and cutbacks. It’s all up for grabs as politicians search for ways to win your votes. But something we often hear about is that there’s not much money to play with. Is that quite true?
Grace Blakeley So I think this is something that we often hear from particularly like the right and to, to a certain extent cut to the center of the political spectrum, which is the idea that, you know, there’s no money left. All the credit card has just been there’s run up loads of debt and there’s obviously nothing we can do. There’s no money for public services, no money for investment or anything like that. And it’s just not true. I mean, the government has the capacity to raise money, to raise resources, not just three taxation. Obviously, if we’re in a recession or if economic growth isn’t that high, you’re not going to get as much money from tax. But the government has the capacity to mobilize resources through, for example, longer term borrowing. And the reason that that’s often, you know, there’s this idea that if you it’s like paying money on a credit card. Right. But that isn’t true. It’s more like if you’re a business, if you just stop spending money, if you’ve kind of stopped employing it, workers, stop paying your rent, decided that you weren’t going to invest anything in expanding your business, your business would soon shut down. Whereas if you borrowed a bit of money from a bank and used it to kind of expand your store or to invest in marketing or whatever, then your business will grow more over the long run. And it’s kind of similar when we’re talking about the economy. If you want to say increase connectivity, grows, create a better environment for businesses, create a more kind of educated workforce, you need to invest in things like transport infrastructure. If we want to save the planet, you know, we need to invest in renewable technologies. We need to invest in education. And all of that requires some level of spending. And that spending is completely affordable. It’s just a question of whether or not we’re using the resources in the wisest way possible. And historically, we haven’t done that. Historically, we’ve basically kind of borrowed lots of money, thrown it at the banks, thrown it, you know, businesses during various different crises, used it for very inefficient things like private financing initiatives and outsourcing and yeah, haven’t kind of invested that money wisely. So if we were to invest the money wisely, it would pay off over the long run.
Coco Khan Well, what a perfect introduction to the big spending news story of I’m going to say, like the last couple of years. Yeah, like this. You say it’s basically one of the most expensive infrastructure projects that we’ve had for a while. For listeners who are unfamiliar with it, the High Speed Rail project was intended to link London, the Midlands and the north of England, but it’s increasingly looking like that is just not going to happen. It’s not going to get much further than Birmingham.
Grace Blakeley Yeah.
Coco Khan Rishi Sunak is reportedly planning on axing the Birmingham to Manchester leg with the PM. Alarmed by suggestions that the cost of the project could eventually exceed £100 billion. There had been speculation that an announcement would come this week, but with the Tories heading to Manchester for their conference, that might also have been a bit too awkward. So it’s now thought that the announcement that the Birmingham to Manchester leg will be axed will wait until the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in November. Nonetheless, people are very upset about it. There’s an outcry, particularly from the northern city. So Grace, take us through some more of the eye watering sums around this project.
Grace Blakeley So initially, when HS2 was given the go ahead, the idea was that was going to cost around 32 billion. Now that’s obviously a lot of money, not as much as the latest figures which suggest it could reach more than 71 billion and that actually if it kind of continues as as we’re seeing now, eventually it could reach, as we just heard, over 100 billion. And I think, you know, the interesting thing here is like I’m 100% in favor of investing in transport infrastructure. It’s really important. It’s the kind of foundation of a lot of economic growth. It helps people to get around. It will help us to move towards a kind of more climate friendly, you know, foundation for all for our transport infrastructure. The issue is, is that money being spent wisely? And the reason I think the money around HS2 hasn’t been spent wisely. The decision was that it was going to be used to link a few major cities that were already relatively well connected. It was going to shave some like 20 minutes off the journey between Manchester and London. So to be honest, my view was always that it was going to be much, much better value for money, much better for growth over the long term, and also much better for addressing things like inequality and regional inequality. If we were to invest a bit more in rail systems and say, you know, linking different parts of the north, linking different parts of the Midlands, the Southwest, the East Midlands, all the way going up into kind of Scotland and Wales as well, that would have been cheaper. Land values aren’t as high, so it be easier to kind of get all the resources that you’d need to do it. And it would also, as I said, have these kind of spillovers that would help with this leveling up agenda that Boris Johnson was. On and we haven’t really heard much about since she’s that.
Coco Khan I mean, just the thing about it would show 20 minutes off. I do hear you, but also that bloody train. I have many, many times found myself at Euston Station, just simply unable to get on it. Yeah, no, it’s true. Honestly, the moment, the moment when you’re going yeasted and it comes up now boarding, it’s like the squid game. Yeah. And then everyone just pegs it elbows out to get onto this train. Many times I’ve been left crying on this platform.
Grace Blakeley Now, I totally agree. We need more investment everywhere in our rail network. Like that is absolutely unquestionable. But we do know that so far a lot of the investment that we have seen has been concentrated in and around London, and there are very good reasons for that. Right. London is by far the biggest city in the UK. Birmingham is the second biggest city. So it makes sense that you want to have good links between those two places. But the issue is, is that it kind of creates a self-reinforcing cycle, right? Where you look at the statistics in terms of economic growth. The Treasury uses this thing called the Green Book to calculate what the returns are going to be on infrastructure investment. And so they plug in all the numbers and they say, right, if we invest more in London because London’s already so big, then we’re going to get more of an absolute return on what we’re investing just because, you know, the numbers are just just bigger. It just makes more sense. Whereas if you were to look at those same statistics and, you know, put them in the north or whatever, then it looks like you’re going to get less of a return in terms of economic growth. But it’s quite a kind of short term way of looking about things because obviously you then say, well, we’re going to invest in London because there’s lots of people in London and it will improve growth and all the economic activity happens there. So you get more investment in London, which means more people move to London, more economic activity happens in London, and then it just kind of creates a self-reinforcing cycle. So actually, if we really wanted to. Yes, support, you know, people who are living in and around London and Manchester, but also make sure that we’re seeing enough investment in other parts of the country, then it would have made sense to probably scale down the ambition in terms of HS2 and also not use such a wasteful way of financing and operating it and invest some more money in transport and, you know, the North and the Midlands and.
Coco Khan Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And it’s sad that it’s so often been positioned as this kind of evil or like, you know, that they have to accept us to or that’s it that.
Grace Blakeley So yeah no.
Coco Khan More infrastructure is always good. Today five Labour Metro Mayors, London City Khan Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham, West Yorks is Tracy Brabin, South Yorkshire’s, Oliver Copper and Liverpool City regions. Steve Rotherham are meeting in Leeds to sign a joint letter to Sunak. They want him to go ahead with both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full. Northern Powerhouse Rail would be the railway for the northern regions. They say they’ve been inundated by concern from businesses and that failure to deliver HS2 and NPR will leave swathes of the north with Victorian transport infrastructure that is unfit for purpose and cause huge economic damage in London and the south, where construction of the line has already begun. And something that I’ve been thinking a lot about is why can’t we do it when so many other countries can? You know, Spain has rolled out 4000 kilometers of high speed track. France has 3000. Some of the things that I’ve been hearing is that partly it’s to do with just crazy property prices, you know, So it ends up costing quite a lot more money to do it here. What’s your take on on why Britain is just so crap at delivering massive infrastructure projects. You know, Wembley, Heathrow, Terminal five, Crossrail as well. I’ve got to mention Crossrail. That was 4 billion overbudget.
Grace Blakeley So, look, I think one of the big problems here when it comes to all kinds of infrastructure relevant and actually with housing development and with the property market more generally is that we have this system where the gains from development, the gains from any form of kind of investment are privatized whilst the costs are socialized. Basically that borne by by people in general by, you know, the state basically. So that means, you know, if you are going to build a new railway line, everyone knows that property prices in that area are going to go up, that you know, you’re going to get more economic growth. The it’s going to kind of support development in that local area. But a lot of that value ends up just accruing to the people who own land in and around that place. And this is something that we see with development more generally, right? So if, you know, developers will buy up big swathes of land, often relatively cheaply, wait for planning permission, then the value of the land will go up. You know, they may not even, you know, then actually use that to develop. They’ll just take the money that they’ve seen from the increase in in the value of the land as a result of planning permission being granted. And that, you know, the basically all of those resources that end up accruing to like a small number of quite wealthy and powerful people. So that’s a really major issue and it’s something that we need to rectify. The other challenge, which is kind of related is the fact that we just rely so much on. On the private sector when it comes to everything from financing big infrastructure projects to delivering them to operating them. So, you know, private financing initiatives, for example, were found by the National Audit Office to be about 40% more expensive and than, you know, just public funding. And that is when a big infrastructure project is planned. And rather than the government borrowing money, which is generally pretty cheap because, you know, borrowing from the government is quite good bet if you’re going to lend to anyone, lending to a big powerful government like the UK is is generally quite a safe bet. Instead of doing that, private finance is raised on private financial markets and then private actors then go ahead and develop the project. They invest in it, they operate it. So it’s all private money and it ends up being much more expensive. And I think that speaks to a got a much more general problem, which is the because of decades of privatization, underinvestment by the public sector, outsourcing, the capacity of the public sector has just been stripped right down. And we are forced often to rely on private financing, private organizations to deliver a lot of infrastructure investment. So what we need is really to kind of develop the capacity of the public sector both to kind of raise that financing on on its own and also to make sure that the contract writing process is getting a bit nerdy. But the tendering process is fair and efficient. Often we’ll have like big consultancies writing the contracts that are then being bid on by all these different infrastructure companies and then advising those infrastructure companies about how to win those contracts. So it’s kind of a bit of a crazy.
Coco Khan It is interesting though, You know, that was one of the things when I was reading about Spain’s efficiency on this is that they simply don’t put it out to tender until they’ve already got a robust kind of feasibility study that involves can we actually buy that land? Have we initiated conversations on that? And so even though okay, maybe it is granular to talk about like the administration of it, it does make a difference. And the other thing that I just thought was quite funny is that and I do hear people’s environmental concerns around it. I do understand that, and I think they should be considered. But it was fascinating how kind of a lot of the Oxfordshire landowners and property owners made quite a lot of money from this project, you know, selling their their property for this project to go on. But it just really put them off the Conservatives anyway because it happened and that was their core demographic and they’ll probably go Lib Dem now. So yeah, what a strike could be.
Grace Blakeley Yeah. Yeah. That could be something, you know, not too negative that comes out of it. Oh I think some wealthy land owners I think Tory.
Coco Khan Yeah I know exactly. You’ve got to find a silver lining. And the last thing I would just mention on this is that I came across a man called Roderick Smith.
Grace Blakeley Okay.
Coco Khan Yes. And he was the department for Transport’s chief science adviser when he was in that role between 2012 and 2014, he regularly said, we don’t need this line. Actually, what we really need was the kind of Northern Powerhouse.
Grace Blakeley Yeah. I mean, you know, as we’ve been saying, we could probably use both what like, but it’s a question of priorities.
Coco Khan It’s just funny how like, you know, there’s always this this phrase, you know, catch in hindsight that Boris and now Rishi used for for Starmer and just broadening that out to anyone that’s very critical of the government, they always say, Oh, it’s easy to look back now, isn’t it? I just think it’s worth mentioning that people were saying it before it was even begun. Yeah. Coming up next, our special guest, Layla moran, Lib Dem MP. So it’s been something of a rollercoaster decade for the Liberal Democrats. Up until 2015, they were in government as junior partners in coalition with the Conservatives. That taste of power came at a terrible cost, though the general election that year saw the party obliterated at the polls, going from 57 MPs to just eight. They still had just 11 MSPs in Parliament after the 2019 general election. But the party has since gained four seats following some spectacular by election victories and is hoping to snatch two more next month. So there was plenty of optimism around as the Lib Dems gathered in Bournemouth at the start of this week. The centerpiece was Ed DAVIES Leader speech with his ambitious plan for ending cancer delays and boosting survival rates. There were also plenty of digs at their former coalition partners, the conservatives, who he called clowns in the past. And he started with an apology to a Lib Dem party member who had complained about exactly that because he’s a clown himself.
Clip Clowns didn’t waste billions of pounds of our money on dodgy PPE contracts. Clowns in prop up are lying lawbreaking prime Minister and then allow him to put his cronies in the House of Lords. Clowns didn’t do it. The conservatives did. So let me take this opportunity to apologize unreservedly to that party member. And the whole clowning community. I’m sorry. I use the wrong C-word. So let me let me try again. It’s time to get these conservatives out of number ten.
Coco Khan We’re joined by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is also party spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development and Science, Innovation and Technology. Hi, Layla. Thank you so much for joining us. Let’s kick off with hearing a little bit more about you. You know, we are living in a two party system and one of them is generally not the liberal Democrats. We’ve also had, you know, we have Mhairi Black on the show. A little while ago, she talked about being an S&P MP and basically she came from a Labour family and she decided to step away. I understand you had something of a similar journey. I just wanted to hear about what that moment was for you.
Layla Moran Yeah. So I mean, it was I wouldn’t say the family policy, but my father really credits Labour for he was the first in his family to go to university, and he’s had a very successful career since then. But he absolutely owes he, in his eyes, his education and therefore his career to being able to get that degree when his parents didn’t have very much at all. And so, you know, he calls himself a Labour man. But I should say, like when I was a young person, I just didn’t take any interest at all at all in politics. I was I did a first degree. I then went into physics teaching. That was really my thing. But education was like the Segway. And I then learned more and more about education and equality and that whilst I was in incredible schools, actually not every kid is in an incredible school and they should be and they deserve that. And then I looked at, well, why is that? And actually what’s the best policies to fix that? So I looked at all the political parties on, you know, science background. So I gave everyone a fair shot, made a bit of a grid and, you know, and the best one in terms of what I was studying and my masters at the time versus what policies they had was the Liberal Democrats. So I was like, Well, that one then. And there we are.
Coco Khan I mean, I can I just I just really respect that level of research that you put into it. Good for you. I hope all our listeners do the same. So but I also want to talk to you a little bit about your your election strategy as in the Liberal Democrats at the moment. I saw a little statistic that said that at Davis speech, he talked about the conservatives over 20 times and he didn’t talk much about Labour, and there was only like three mentions. Which kind of tells you what the strategy is, which is take some away from the Tories. Now, listen, lay low. I’ll be transparent. You know, I’ve traditionally voted Labour. I am delighted to see any votes taken away from the Conservatives. But how does that actually work? And is there a risk that you cut away from the progressives as well?
Layla Moran Mm. So some of it is just quite pragmatic. Every political party, including Labour and the Tories, not least because we do have limits on election spending, you know, some countries don’t, but we do. We’ll have to make choices about where they prioritize. And because we are in a first past the post system, whoever gets the most votes when we do, by the way, want proportional representation. We don’t think that that delivers the best government. There are lots and lots of votes in this country that are wasted. And what we want is for governments to be returned that reflect, frankly, the progressive majority that does exist in this country. It’s just it’s not always expressed in the way the first past the post system works. So in the absence of that change, which by the way, will be a core plank of all manifesto, we have to target where we where we put in our resources. We will run candidates everywhere. We think people should have the choice. There’ll be no deals or pacts or anything like that. But in the seats where we all second to the Tories, especially with the utter shambles that they are now, the clowns that they are, no offense to clowns. The clowns, clowns. We love you. Then that’s where we’re probably going to be targeting our resources. So my area of Oxford, West and Abingdon has either ever been either Tory or Lib Dem. And so, you know, that’s one of the reasons we campaign to Labour voters. We say you should have the ability to sort of rank and put people in a choice and do things differently. But unfortunately, first past the post means you’ve got to make a choice. Please vote for me to kick the Tories out. And so a lot of them do.
Coco Khan I love the honesty of that because I’m sure lots of our listeners will be faced with that exact scenario that you’ve just painted there. I am curious about how it will work in terms of Brexit though. The Liberal Democrats have always been quite open about keeping that conversation. I mean, is Brexit going to feature in your election strategy, do you think?
Layla Moran Yeah, well, so what we did at this conference and it was quite an important conference because we haven’t had one in four years. So I mean, just to put it in perspective for people, for political geeks like me, conference is like a festival, which is why my voice.
Grace Blakeley We’ve just been discussing it.
Layla Moran Like seriously, it’s like my voice is gone, but it’s awesome and it’s joyous. And imagine, you know, you haven’t seen a lot of your friends for like four years, and it was really important to do that. But also it’s potentially the last one before a general election that may or may not happen in May next year. I mean, who knows? But that’s one of the dates that’s that’s being thrown about. So we revealed our party manifesto. And in there we talk specifically about two things that are related to Europe. One is the economy. The cost of living crisis without a doubt is the most important thing. The top of the list, you knock on a door. That’s what people talk about. They can’t make ends meet. They’re doing everything they can. And the stories I mean, I can’t tell you the stories. They are heartbreaking. That is the top of the list. But it would be foolish to look at the economy, look at the state of small businesses, farmers, fishermen, and not point out that one of the reasons they’re struggling right now is because of the trade and cooperation agreement. So, you know, we voted against it. We knew it would be ruinous for the country, Labour voted for it, Tories voted for it. We all going to be talking about how it needs huge change and we need to rebuild those relationships with Europe.
Coco Khan Good. Yeah, that’s my thoughts. I’m glad someone’s talking about it because it genuinely drives me mad sometimes. You know, I watch, I’ll watch a question time and no one is going to mention the B word.
Layla Moran The B word itself is is very much that of past looking. I mean, I think. The way I would put it and the way we put it is that we want to take away as many barriers to trade as possible. That’s that’s what we’re talking about. But we are talking specifically about Europe. We want to be at the heart of Europe again. And to do that, you have to start by rebuilding those relationships which have been ruined by the Tories. They’ve been antagonized. They’ve been you know, Truss wasn’t that long ago. It’s just ridiculous that we’ve got to the stage when 40% of our trade is with the European continent. It shouldn’t be like this.
Coco Khan So I want to ask you about some of the big promises that were made at a conference. It was great to hear about the NHS and cancer patients getting the treatment that they need. I’m just curious because I think some of the criticism that will come your way, you say all that’s easy to say. Well, what do you say to that criticism?
Layla Moran Well, I would say I mean, at speech he made really clear that’s really not an easy promise at all to Kate. He was really personal, actually, in his stories and spoke about he lost both of his parents to cancer, ended up being a young carer himself with his brothers. I mean, I was I was crying, you know, it was a a moment and and it’s so brave of him to share that story. And then he says, you know, don’t feel sorry for me. I want you to know that I share your pain because so many families, unfortunately, do have stories like that. He highlighted cancer, but actually this could well apply to all those families whose, you know, second operation has been canceled and there’s hundreds of thousands of them. I mean, it’s it’s now at crisis levels in the NHS. And what we talk about is social care. You know, he was a carer really valuing those carers, but not just this carers that are paid to do it and they deserve more pay. We think that they need a bonus to the minimum wage. They’re not paid enough. We need to attract people into that profession. That itself will help the NHS because that’s what’s stopping people from being able to be discharged from beds that’s blocking beds in hospital. And then there’s that knock on effect. It also starts to pay for itself, by the way, because there’s huge inefficiency in the system when you’ve got that happening. And then he said, and it’s so easy to say, you know, we just blame everything on the Tories. Actually, we don’t, He said. This is above party politics. We need a national consensus on how we’re going to fix the NHS. And I think he was really brave to say that the easy thing to do is just say, you know, it’s all one person’s fault. Actually, it’s one person’s fault, it is the Tory party’s fault. Sorry, it is, but it’s everyone’s problem. And we need all political parties now to come together and find those longer term solutions.
Coco Khan So you mentioned earlier proportional representation. That’s something that doing this podcast comes up a lot. Yes, definitely a desire for it from lots of people. And maybe that would kind of put the the conversation about tactical voting to bed. But nonetheless, that that conversation is is big at the moment. And I wanted to take advantage of you being on the show, too, to field a question from about this topic directly from a listener. So one of our listeners, James Whittaker, has a question. And yeah, I’d love to get your thoughts on it.
Clip Hey guys, I love the show. I just wanted to drop a quick note about tactical voting. It gets brought up a lot on the show and I’m sure it will more as the next election comes up. But I hate tactical voting. I think it’s the reason why we’re all so disillusioned with politics, because ultimately, if we’re not voting for the policies we believe in, then we can’t hold our politicians accountable for any changes they make, any U-turns they make, any failed pledges they make. But if we changed our voting based on the policies that would allow us to hold our politicians accountable, after decades of people voting based on who they want to help and things like that, I don’t think it’s got us anywhere, and I think it’s completely disillusioned, my generation, the next generation. So, yeah, I hate tactical voting. Thanks, guys.
Coco Khan So James Whittaker says tactical voting doesn’t work and is bad for politics. What do you think, Layla?
Layla Moran I actually agree with him in that I also hate tactical voting. I think people shouldn’t have to do it. And that’s why we want fairer votes. That’s why we want proportional representation. So in this country and by the way, we’re really out of step with other countries. Other countries have worked this out. It doesn’t deliver good governance With your one vote, you’ve got to pick who the next prime minister is, what the make up of the next parliament is, and also your local MP, which is someone who is linked to your area. He’s meant to be your local champion. All three of those things are actually quite big, meaty, important things, and sometimes your vote wants to do different things and you then have to work out well, who do you who do you like least? And you’re voting on the basis of who you like. Least that is not a positive way to vote. You know, that is not the hard way to vote. And at the moment, a lot of people have to with their heads in their hearts. Do different things. Proportional representation allows you to have a conversation about how do we stop that from happening? And actually to the wider point about malaise in politics. I mean, it’s not just that, is it, James. It’s also that we have been so badly governed that our government is shocking and doesn’t just want to play politics and divide people and be populist. They also want to break the law and in fact have and actively talk about it and antagonize the courts people and anyone who doesn’t agree with them. All of that, I think, desperately needs change. And I think one of the ways you do that is to spark that conversation of ferryboats. So that’s why as a policy, we advocate for it. It’s in our manifesto and we all going to be talking about wider political for reform as well. All I would say to James is in the interim, you know, if you don’t like it, then that’s why we believe in giving people the choice. You know, if they don’t want to do it, they shouldn’t have to do it. And so we’ll be standing candidates everywhere. I wish we didn’t have to tactical vote. And I agree with you, but I don’t think tactical voting is the problem. I think the voting system is the problem.
Coco Khan I guess my concern is when it works well, it works well when it doesn’t work well, it’s quite alarming. So, for example, I’m just going to be completely upfront with you, Layla. What? How can we be sure there’s not going to be a repeat of 2010? Progressives give their vote to the Liberal Democrats and then they end up supporting the conservatives. That’s the kind of nightmare situation that I think people that voted tactically in that what we’re kind of not really expecting race. I don’t know what your thoughts are on this.
Grace Blakeley One thing I would say in response to James’s point that we can’t hold them accountable once they get in is it’s not true. There are lots of ways to do politics, not just voting. If we are, you know, really aggrieved with the government down to the streets, protest, you know, join your Labour movement, actually, like get involved in politics in those ways because politics is really diverse. But I did also want I had a few questions for Layla myself. Actually. The first thing I just wanted to ask really about is you spoke really passionately and eloquently about education, about the cost of living crisis. But I don’t feel like I’ve heard anything particularly compelling from the Lib Dems on any of those things. I want to hear interesting, punchy things from the Lib Dems on these points, and I just don’t feel like I’m getting it.
Coco Khan Well, let’s get it now then. Yeah, let’s have it now. Layla, what do you think?
Layla Moran So to your point about, you know, would we go in with the conservatives next time that has been categorically ruled out? That has been absolutely ruled out. And the reason for that is because look at them. You know, even I’m so sorry.
Coco Khan There’s no you never need to apologize for your cat. I’m a cat person myself.
Layla Moran I’m so sorry.
Coco Khan No, no, no. What was her name? Murphy. Murphy.
Layla Moran Murphy. The cat.
Coco Khan Is that because of Murphy’s Law, anything that can happen will happen.
Layla Moran My third year of university. And as you can see, she’s very fluffy and black and white. Oh, and so if you turn her upside down, she looks like a pint of Murphy’s.
Coco Khan Such a good that. But anyway, we digress.
Layla Moran We digress. Sorry. So to to you know, would we go in with the toys? Absolutely. No. I mean, I would also point out, though, you know, our focus right now is influence in the next government. Because the other thing that I would say and I know, you know, you vote Labour and I have huge respect for that, but I believe that there are things that Labour policy does that I don’t agree with. So one of them is not reversing, for example, the to child cap on universal credit. I did that enough. Right. And moreover, I think it’s really, really wrong that they apparently have passed something just this week to say that no one can even debate that at their conference. I mean, that’s just not the Lib Dem way, the Lib Dem way. Even when we disagree, we don’t stop our members from disagreeing with us publicly. We cherish that. So in terms of specific policies, one of the ones that we’ve been highlighting is that we think social media giants should be taxed more to pay for a qualified mental health professional. In every single state school in the country, there are 22,000 schools. Now that’s hugely ambitious. Is tackling the mental health crisis, which we’ve always championed as a party right at the very highest levels. But it’s speaking to actually the real lived experience of young people at the moment. And there really is a crisis out there, I have to say.
Grace Blakeley Layla, I just want to follow up with you on some breaking news that we’ve we’ve heard about today. It’s that the UK’s largest untapped oil field has been approved by regulators for full exploration. So Rosebank, which is located eight miles off west of Shetland, is estimated to contain 500 million barrels of oil. Last month, 50 MPs and peers from all major parties raised concerns the fields could produce 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Now this is obviously one of, if not the greatest challenge that we’re facing as a country. And I’ve been I think a lot of people have been really disappointed with most parties actually when it comes to stuff on climate breakdown, you know, where she’s, you know, just had this massive U-turn, of which this is a poll. The Labour Party aren’t saying anything particularly ambitious about the need for just real a lot of investment basically in renewables in transitioning to a to a green economy. What is your view? What is the liberal view on this? Because, you know, it’s all very well talk about the free market, but we’re not going to have a market if we don’t have a planet.
Layla Moran Yeah, I agree with you. So that that plan, that green manifesto that I was telling you about, the conference strand, too, is climate crisis, is the climate emergency. And our view is that we shouldn’t even be settling on net zero by 2050. We have a plan for 2045 because we need to be driving these industries as fast as possible. The U-turn last week made me so angry, and I remember when I was very first elected 2017. To my delight, climate change became something that people were talking about in that election. It was like it felt like a breath of fresh air for the first time. And in particular it was young people like Murphy. It was so beautiful.
Grace Blakeley She’s agreeing.
Layla Moran She’s agreeing. Cats care about the environment, too. But what they they were protesting and coming out of school and deciding every Friday to come and protest and wanted this to be to be the top priority. So the Liberal Democrat plan is actually to push further faster on on this one. I mean, this is just completely against what the IPCC says. If we’re serious about taking net zero to its end, then we shouldn’t be taking fossil fuels out of the ground. There is an issue around what do we do with the North Sea oil in Scotland and a just transition for those communities. What we cannot end up with is a situation like during the mining crisis where you dial down those industries and leave nothing behind. So as part of this plan, it would include training, money, replacement jobs in those communities, particularly in places like Shetland, Aberdeen, those sorts of places. So it’s not about, you know, leaving them high and dry, but taking fossil fuels out of the ground when you’ve got a climate emergency just strikes me as clearly the wrong thing to do. And I should say it is one of the biggest concerns that I get in my MPs email like my constituents just do not understand this.
Coco Khan Mhhmm Well, I mean, you know, the Liberal Democrats could find themselves again the kind of kingmaker in the elections, and you’ve articulated a number of places that you disagree with Labour. Are we right in thinking that you’re already thinking about your red lines with the Labour Party if you were to go into a coalition with them? And can you tell us what those red lines might be?
Layla Moran Yeah, we aren’t thinking in terms of red lines or not. We are thinking in terms of values and what we would champion. And as I pointed out, we aren’t the we aren’t Labour like. We ought to realize we have a long standing liberal tradition that harks back hundreds of years. We’ve had Liberal prime ministers. We have a long, long history and long may it continue. And yes, we are 50 now, but we fully hope and intend to grow and spread that because you don’t have to have one or the other. We are entirely different approach, community led and bottom up. And so those five strands, which is, you know, growing the economy fairly, pushing us back into the heart of Europe, rebuilding those relationships, the climate crisis. Proportional representation and a real focus on that fair deal between you and the welfare state and the government. Those are the things that we will be championing. And you know, where Labour gets it wrong, we will tell them, you know, where they’ve got the wrong approach. We will tell them. We don’t think, for example, that doing top down in the way that Labour quite often do a little bit dictatorial, a little bit centralized. We don’t think that that gets you the results. So wherever we disagree with Labour, we will be also quite vociferous about it.
Grace Blakeley Layla, can I just follow up with one more question here, because all of this sounds amazing. It is obviously going to cost money. And what we’re hearing from both political parties at the moment is a real insistence on basically kind of austerity. So the Tories, it’s very obvious with Labour that there’s this arrangement that they don’t want to really be boring very much money, and it’s all going to be within these fiscal rules, which all, you know, calculated in a slightly weird way. What is your view? What is that a view on actually borrowing to invest in things like getting getting around climate breakdown?
Layla Moran Yeah. So what we’ve said, I mean, some policies pay for themselves. So the one around personal care at home for those who are sick, actually if you do that over a very short period of time and we we announced it in this conference, it would cost 5 billion. But actually in the medium term you would save that 5 billion by people not bed blocking in the NHS. So there are ways of doing things that might have an upfront cost and would be an investment. But actually if you invest wisely, you can recoup that money. And then there are things that you know, you just have to do. So we talk a lot about having, you know, funds to insulate homes and, you know, tackle the climate crisis. I think the Tories are trying to paint this as something that we need to do to somehow help the poor. Well, first of all, chance would be a fine thing if you ever actually did that. But let’s not let’s not go. This is not them. And that’s not why they’re doing that. We know why they’re doing that. They’re playing it to the right wing and they think it’s going to play well with a core of votes that that frankly, you know, we’re probably not after anyway. We are very keen to make sure that climate justice is something that can be used to tackle poverty. And in the same paper I talked about, we spoke about how do we get in, you know, deep poverty to zero over the next ten years. And part of that is going to be around things like home insulation, things like making sure you’ve got cheaper energy bills and making sure that you’ve got jobs that are fair and spread across the whole of the United Kingdom. So we’ve had that announcement from HS2 this week. We don’t agree. We think that actually you need to be investing in our railways. It is an investment in the future and it’s short termism to try and, you know, take some of that money now and not invest in the medium and long term.
Coco Khan Layla, we are going to have to say goodbye to you. But before you go, I’ve got a really tough question for you. I hope you’re ready. What song did you sing at the conference Glee Club? I thought.
Layla Moran Well, you might not like this, I’m afraid. And so Glee, for those who don’t know, and I think I need to put it in its context, I don’t know when it started. It’s madness is I mean, the way I puts it to a roomful of diplomats that I was speaking to some foreign affairs folks and, you know, I was talking about Europe, among other things. And I was like, if you go to Glee, just just be where British eccentricity is real. And so what we do is we take well-known songs. So in my case, it was to the tune of oh, Tenenbaum Christmas Tree, you know, Christmas tree. But.
Coco Khan Right, right, right, Yeah.
Layla Moran Out the Labour Party not being great. And the reason for that and we are we were we had an alliance with Labour and the Greens in the County Council in Oxfordshire and Labour pulled out and I was really upset about it and they pulled out because.
Coco Khan So you did this truck.
Layla Moran So I go there, we talk to Labour. Yeah.
Coco Khan Sorry about that. Release the tapes, Layla, I need to hear it. Where can I hear it, please? Would you sing this a bit, please? No, I don’t have.
Layla Moran It with me because the lyric is like mad. The song is called Pink Flag, and it’s the Liberator Song book is available to buy. I’m reliably informed, and you can get it online if you want to see. Yeah, it’s at this song against Labour. Sorry.
Coco Khan Oh, wow. Okay, Well, well, Mike, you’re up. And Bob Michel to leave this interview out. Thank you so much for your time, Layla moran. And we’ll definitely be following yourselves and the liberals as we run up to election. So thank you so much.
Layla Moran Thanks so much.
Coco Khan So it’s time to name our Pod Save the UK hero and Villain of the Week as you are our guest. Grace, I’ll let you go first. You’ve got a hero for us. I believe.
Grace Blakeley I do have a hero. My hero this week is the Good Law projects and they have brought up a legal challenge with the government that has succeeded to bring missing storm overflows into the government’s plan to tackle sewage dumping. Basically, all coastal waters and estuaries have now been included in the government’s plan to reduce sewage dumping thanks to the Good Law Project. This is something that I feel very passionately about. As someone who likes to surf, I’ve just come back from a lovely weekend away to croyde how to surf. It was freezing, but it was lovely.
Coco Khan And now you’re very sick.
Grace Blakeley I’m actually good. ALl you need is a very thick wetsuit. Yeah, of course. Good waves. I was happy about that. But no, it is very good to know that someone is taking the government to task on just the astonishing under regulation of the water companies, which shouldn’t even be private companies anyway, like they should be, you know, public, democratically owned and run institutions, because at the moment they just have a monopoly and they’re able to do whatever they want, which isn’t really that great, because that dumping lots of sewage into the sea. Not nice.
Coco Khan Shit in the sea is not nice.
Grace Blakeley And as anyone who serves knows, if you all going surfing, you are going to get a wave on the head, you’re going to get dragged under, you’re going to probably accidentally swallow some water. The last thing you want when you pop back up again is to think, I’ve just had some breakfast in my mouth.
Coco Khan I know. Going well, okay, well, I have the the job of doing Villain of the Week. So in a strange way, I’m kind of blessed because there’s so many villains to choose from.
Grace Blakeley So many.
Coco Khan It’s just so many of them Suella Braverman we can’t pick her because we pick her every single week. But she does. She is the villain that keeps on kicking. She’s been in Washington where she’s just been doing her usual racist rhetoric is gone up a notch, though, by calling for the UN Convention on Human Rights to be torn up. But something that’s been really dominating the news today has been about GB News and its favorite NAPO baby actor turned rightwing shock jock Laurence Fox. He’s been spouting misogynistic hate about a female political journalist ever. EVANS He was on Dan Wootton’s show. So if you haven’t quite followed this, what happened was Laurence Fox was asked to comment on a segment in which Eva Evans appeared, which he was not on. Buckley Eva Evans said some comments, which she later said that she, you know, it wasn’t quite what she wanted to articulate. She was maybe, you know, it sort of came out.
Grace Blakeley I was like, when you’re doing, you know, live TV, Or any kind of TV.
Coco Khan You know, I don’t know
Grace Blakeley Well, yeah, I mean, even just doing this, you know, sometimes you’re saying something and it comes out in your like way I didn’t mean that.
Coco Khan Right, Right.
Grace Blakeley Brain to mouth like that did not work that well.
Coco Khan And it’s sort of mean for someone then to take that onto a different show. And they’re like, I had a look what they said, filled out your dick.
Grace Blakeley And you kind of expect it to be honest, because that’s why, you know, when you go on shows like this, you expect people of a different political persuasion to take the least charitable interpretation of something that you’ve said. But that isn’t what’s happened here. This is Laurence Fox, who has gone live on air with Dan Wootton, another unsavory character who’s dealing with some sexual allegations. At the moment. We don’t yet know anything about that. It’s kind of ongoing. But Laurence Fox said on this show that no one would want to shake her watch, just like.
Coco Khan It’s just pathetic. Isn’t engaging at all what she said. You know, if he wanted to say I think actually the words she used there, they were talking about male mental health.
Grace Blakeley Yeah.
Coco Khan If he wanted to, that would be absolutely fine. But we didn’t really even comment on that. He was just tell you what, I wouldn’t shag.
Grace Blakeley It’s relevant. Relevant, isn’t it? It’s just like, Oh, grow up. It’s the kind of thing that you would expect from, like literally, you know, a debate on the playground, like when you haven’t got anything of any, like, remotely intelligent to say or just like, Oh, you look funny or whatever. Like, Oh, I don’t want to get with you.
Coco Khan You know, we talked about Dan Wootton there. He was seen laughing and during the footage and it’s caused a bit of an outcry, as understandably it should either herself commented that she felt sickened by it, that there was a segment on television broadcast about like how someone would want to shake her. Even Dan Wootton, he’s he’s trying to in the clip, if you see it, he tries to row back a little bit and say, Oh, no, no, no, but she is attractive. So that is a good thing to say.
Grace Blakeley It’s just so bizarre like that.
Coco Khan In that way.
Grace Blakeley Nobody would want to shag you all. Oh, actually, she’s felt as though like a woman’s worth. And your right to an opinion should be, like, determined by either of those factors. It’s utterly gross.
Coco Khan So it’s it’s it’s caused an outcry, understandably. Also good news. I mean, it’s amazing. They can just get lower and lower and lower. And I think this is yeah, that there’s lots of people who also women have had similar misogynistic experiences, maybe not necessarily in a sexualized way, but certainly in other ways. So it’s all sort of come to a head. There’s been plenty of complaints, have gone to Ofcom and they have actually suspended him. You might think that’s the end of the conversation. But actually, as we record this, it’s still going on in. Two bits of it that I found quite interesting was that Dan Wootton issues an apology. He says, Oh, I was laughing out of shock and I was looking at my computer and I didn’t really know. And of course this is totally unacceptable and I should have called it out. Laurence Fox was obviously furious about that, that he clearly felt that he’d been thrown under the bus. So he released some private messages between him and Dan, where Dan is seen laughing about the comments after the fact. So this idea that like, oh, you know, I was all in shock. Jobs reacting quickly, We’re not quite sure if it’s there. He also released a follow up post where he shows the information that he’d sent to the producer before recording, telling the producer, I am going to say these lines. So there were numerous opportunities for this to be pulled. And it’s really reflective of the fact that GB News trades in this. They like it. It works for them. There’s money for them in doing this. And I’m just really enjoying the snakes eating each other.
Grace Blakeley Oh, it’s beautiful to watch. I’m like guarantee. But of course every time this happens they get loads of traction. Yeah, You know, that is, that is a part of the problem. So I don’t know what there was to do about that other than just, I don’t know I out any mention of GB news on Twitter.
Coco Khan Well it’s got, it’s got to be a job for, for Ofcom. I mean shadow attorney General Emily Thornberry, she had sort of tagged them in a post asking them to intervene. She she joins a number of politicians who who are raising the call. I mean, there’s always been a concern with GB News and their relationships to government. I mean there are MP to appear regularly. You do wonder if they will continue to appear. Ofcom statement was we can confirm we’ve received a number of complaints about comments made by Laurence Fox on GB News last night. We are assessing these complaints against our broadcast rules and will publish the outcome as quickly as possible. You don’t do GB news though, do you guys?
Grace Blakeley I, I don’t I don’t do GB news I’m you know I’m not really that bothered about like the political persuasion of the outfit like outlets I do a parent I go on like right wing news channels I’ll even you know debate Tories or debate whoever on, on their podcast and stuff. I’m kind of.
Coco Khan That’s what they want. They’re like debate me.
Grace Blakeley Well, I’m very happy to debate about it, you know. No question I just haven’t done GB news. I don’t think it’s worth it. The I think the editorial standards of we’ve seen a pretty low there are certain people that I’m just like I wouldn’t want to go on with because I just think you’re like gross or whatever. So you know the lines I think for me already political, they’re more like, you know, about what I’m comfortable with and and that sort of thing.
Coco Khan I think it’s a bit like if imagining this was one of those outlets that you do what for and this happened, do you think you would withdraw your Labour from appearing? Do you think that’s something that we should sort of expect from other people that appear on this?
Grace Blakeley Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, I yeah, I can see that this would be if, you know, we had a where I have a conversation about this and Ava says I think that people should now like start saying no categorically to going on this show because of what’s happened to me. I would hundred percent support that. You know, same with any other any other show if this happened. And that was like a kind of effective way of of mobilizing a campaign. I kind of think generally around these questions, you know, should we boycott was that show? I think that if it’s part of a big campaign. So if people are saying we are going to come together to boycott this specific show in order to achieve this goal, I’m all for it. If it’s just a kind of blanket, we won’t appear on anything that doesn’t align with our politics. I don’t think that’s practical. So, you know, it’s it’s kind of a bit of a gray area.
Coco Khan I think if you have any comments on anything we’ve discussed today, you can get in touch with us by emailing PSUK at Reduce Listening dot Co dot uk. We love hearing your voices, so do send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514644572. Internationally, that’s +447514644572. We’d love to get your thoughts on what we’ve discussed or just send us a question or if you’ve got any political dilemmas or I don’t know, just anything we just like just we just like being contacted, you know, we like to be loved. So that address again is PSUK at Reduce Listening dot co dot UK. So what you’re hearing now, that’s the music, that’s the end. It’s time for the credits. Grace, you ready? You’re picking up for Nish. Okay, here we go. Pod Save the UK is a reduced listening production for Crooked Media.
Grace Blakeley Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz and digital producer Alex Bishop with additional production supports from Annie Keats-Thorpe and Dawn Emory.
Coco Khan Video editing was by David Koplovitz in The Music is by Vasilis Fotopolous.
Grace Blakeley Thanks to our engineer David Dugahe.
Coco Khan The executive producers are Dan Jackson and Madeleine Heringer with additional support from Ari Schwartz.
Grace Blakeley Watch us on the Pod Save the World YouTube Channel. Follow us on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram, where we are Pod Save the UK. All one word.
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