In This Episode
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy reveals what it was like in Westminster when the news broke that a parliamentary researcher, with close links to leading Tory politicians, had been arrested on suspicion of spying for China. Mr Lammy tells Nish and Coco that the atmosphere at Westminster is “febrile”, with MPs having to think carefully about who they rely on for advice and research. He also sets out Labour’s position on the threat posed by China. Plus as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un hold an “evil bro hangout”, just how worried should we be?
Find out what UK Apprentice presenter Lord Sugar did to become our inadvertent hero of the week, while Coco calls out the Daily Mail for trying to use a black writer to publish critical views of the Notting Hill Carnival. Plus, British v Indian cold remedies – who comes out on top?
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David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, and Labour MP for Tottenham
Coco Khan Hi, this is Pod Save the U.K..
Nish Kumar I’m Nish Kumar
Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan.
Nish Kumar And this week we’re saving the UK from Chinese spies.
Coco Khan Our guest is Labour’s Shadow Foreign secretary, David Lammy. Heinisch. Or should we call you Scoop now?
Nish Kumar Only if it’s immediately following the phrase pooper. I mean, I’ve seen Kendall working at the Westmorland Gazette as part of a television show. I make it with my friend Joshua, too, where we go and work at local newspapers around the country. And last week I was in Wales, a look at a river clean up and watching a private Charlotte church. Genuinely.
Coco Khan I’ve got a local story for you, mate.
Nish Kumar Go for it.
Coco Khan Well, as you know, I’ve had a cold. Yeah, I’m on the ships right now. Strepsils prices. Strepsils got up to £6.
Nish Kumar Really?
Coco Khan Yeah. Crazy. And then I was like, Oh, are you ready for it? Talk about congestion charges. Oh, yeah.
Nish Kumar So what do you say? You’ve got a local news story. What you is you’ve got a I will say, excellent place of wordplay. Amazing.
Coco Khan Listen, all the best stories. Start with a pun. Let’s be honest. That’s how they all start.
Nish Kumar Well, let’s go. Whatever. What? I covered this call. What I’m looking for for you is guidance in how to be a professional journalist. What you’ve told me is all the best stories. Start with a partner. So that’s what I’m going through the world.
Coco Khan But it’s the price of being sick with a cold has now reached £15 because for me, I like to go all with soil strepsils balls, some tissues go to protect your nose. Nish you know, it’s because the fair.
Nish Kumar I like unfortunately sort of locked in the kind of old fashioned kids that my father used to make when they saw the old weird South Indian witch’s brew that he used to make. That was it’s a black tea. And he put pepper, ginger, garlic and honey in it. And it tastes honestly like the devil’s asshole. It’s disgusting. But I will say I very rarely have a goldfish. Will the two days Well, but fair play to the big man. It’s like a love for the motherland.
Coco Khan Queues have value. You probably saw in the papers over the last few days that they were reporting that turmeric is really good for your health. And I heard, Oh yeah, British South Asians just let out a grown into the air.
Nish Kumar Well, look, wallah, while I’ve been swanning around writing local news stories and you’ve been suffering with the ill effects of both the cold and the economic crisis, a lot has been happening in the news. We’ve had the manhunt for an escaped terror suspect who was, let’s be honest, very attractive. We can say it. We could say it because they’ve caught him again. Rishi say you like has in fact been back in the mother country, the source of black tea based remedies of the G20 in India. We’ve uncovered an alleged spy in Westminster. There’s been dangerous dogs roaming the streets, buying people. All the while, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong un have been having an evil bro hang out in Russia as we speak.
Coco Khan We’ll be getting into some of that with our next guest, Labour MP and Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy. Well, Nish, we can’t complain that the UK news is predictable, can we? So after spending a large part of last week’s episode talking about crumbly concrete hooch, Yes. That this week’s big political topic would be whether China has spies inside Westminster.
Nish Kumar Yes. This all got a bit John le Carre this week with the revelation that a parliamentary researcher with connections to a number of leading conservative politicians was arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing. Now, we should make very clear that he has denied all of the allegations and we’ve swept the studio for bugs. So we hope it is safe to welcome our very special guest, the shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Commonwealth and Development Affairs, David Lammy. Hello, David. How are you?
David Lammy Hello. It’s great to be with you. My first time. Very pleased to be with you.
Coco Khan It’s a pleasure to have you. I was interesting when it was like, always swept the bugs. The studio. Well, let me tell you, I’m ill. I’ve got a college. Not this blog. But you are in a safe distance, David, so far.
Nish Kumar I mean, there’s so much that we should talk to you about and we will talk about. But obviously, given what’s going on this week, let’s just pile straight in. What has the mood been like in Westminster this week? Is everybody sort of is there a sort of atmosphere of paranoia, like people are looking over their shoulders and being more careful about who they talk to?
David Lammy Slightly there, but for the grace of God, go I. Look, it’s not I think in the grown up world of Westminster, people do understand that countries spy on one another and indeed our great country spies on other countries. However, this essentially is a story about two things. Two or three things I think are important. One is that spies are alleged to have got close to someone who is now in charge of the country’s national security and someone who’s responsible in a parliamentary sense for foreign affairs. That is very, very serious. It makes all parliamentarians think about and reflect on the people who advise us and do our research. It comes on the back, of course, of just a year ago, our intelligence services issuing an alert on an individual who was close to a number of parliamentarians and of course, on controversies in relation to China having police stations effectively scattered across our country and what are Confucius Institutes up to? So there there has been a very febrile atmosphere in relation to this subject and a lot of a lot of concern.
Coco Khan So China came up, as we would expect, at PMQs. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended his government’s stance on China.
Clip But when it comes to China, Mr. Speaker, this government has put in place the most robust policy that has existed ever in our country’s foreign policy. It is to protect our country, to protect our country for the values of the interests that we stand up for. It is to align our approach with our closest allies, including those in the G7 and the Five Eyes, and is to engage where it makes sense either to advance our interests or, as I did at the weekend, to raise our very significant concerns. That is the right approach to China. It is one that is welcomed by each and every single one of our allies, and I’d be interested to know what he thinks he would do differently this time up. Well, that certainly wasn’t a yes. And what he says now is totally at odds with the parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee report of July this year that set out that the government has no clear strategy when it comes to China, has failed to support the intelligence agencies and is leaving the UK severely handicapped in managing our future security.
Coco Khan I mean, what do you make of it? Do you think that the response so far has been appropriate?
David Lammy Well, the Intelligence Security Committee of the House of Commons is very important because they are the the parliamentarians cross-party that sits on that committee do seek the intelligence and do have access to the intelligence agency on a very regular basis. And they looked in detail at China, and they were pretty scathing of the government’s handling of China and the security threats that they thought that China posed to our country. That was a year ago. The government were dismissive of that report when it initially came out saying it was sort of a bit old owl behind the times that things had improved. Said looked at the issues and they haven’t actually responded to the committee. They say they’re about to respond very shortly. So they the government was slightly hoist by their own petard because of the work of that committee had been doing. Notwithstanding that the committee had previously published some work on Russia that was very controversial because of Russia interference in our democracy. It goes back, of course, to Brexit and its success in other elections. But the idea that we needed to update our Official Secrets Act, which hasn’t happened. So I think the government is on the back foot, has been under some pressure. Clearly it’s divided. You know, you’ve got Ian Duncan-Smith pretty hard line on how he should be approaching China. You’ve got us in the opposition being very clear that we think the government’s been wholly inconsistent. David Cameron was talking about golden Age just a few years ago. We’ve got Chris Patten, a senior Tory, very upset at the Government’s position on Hong Kong. And then you’ve got the sort of the current Rishi Sunak’s position, which was different from Liz Truss position. So the truth is the Government’s got a problem with consistency of approach to China and then it’s got a problem with actually not listening to what so many people are saying about the need for that consistency and about the need for us to be very robust indeed.
Coco Khan And where do you sit on this, David?
David Lammy Well, my view is that there are threats to our country that clearly China poses, and we have to be pretty hard nosed. And they would expect us to be about our democracy, about those that advise us about our access to critical technology in relation to our country. And it’s extraordinary that we were just three years ago happy to for the Chinese to run nuclear sites and to be responsible for our 5G network. So we have to have a firewall between us and China on those key issues. And that does mean that we have to challenge China where necessary. But we have also got to recognize that this is £100 billion worth of trade with China, that it’s a country that has 140,000 students studying in higher education in our country at this time. It represents a fifth of the global economy. We have to cooperate with China on issues like climate issues, like pandemic preparedness particularly. And of course, we must compete with China where necessary. So it inevitably can’t be reduced to just one word. And some of the discussion this week has felt rather binary. Is China a threat or not? It does pose threats, but our relationship with China is much more complicated than that. And in that sense, I would agree with what the former head of my six, Alex Yanga, said about the way we should approach China as a whole.
Nish Kumar David, we’re talking to you. You know, in a position where we we’re an unspecified amount of time away from a general election. I mean, nobody wants to count their chickens in the Labour Party, in Labour HQ, I’m sure about this. But, you know, if the polling continues the way it is, and equally if the Conservative Party continue to self immolate at the rate they seem to be self-immolating. Well, we now on a Zoom call with the next foreign secretary. Do you have a sense of what a prospective Labour government’s position would be on his dealings with China? And is it what you were saying? You’re going to have to try and thread a balance between managing a threat, but also acknowledging that they’re one of our largest trading partners?
David Lammy NISH We’ve said that we need a complete audit on our relations with China right across government. We would begin that work on day one. And the reason that I’ve been clear on that is because we do want across the Labour government a consistent approach to China. And we recognize that this is an approach that has to withstand generations of politicians. So we want a complete audit right across government. I think it’s very clear, as I’ve outlined, that the three C’s guide our approach. China and I happen to say I think that the Australian Government under Albanese has done well here. The US has done quite well in this area under Joe Biden and that is that we are in competition with China and we have to be pretty clear eyed about that competition. We have got to cooperate with China in key areas internationally. Let’s remember that we have the privilege status of being members of the Security Council of the United Nations. And then, of course, we have also got to challenge China and pretty robustly on areas of human rights, but also where we think China is harming our security or the security of our partners or the greater world. So that’s the that’s how I would outline our starting position. But I want a complete audit. I also want a complete audit because whilst as a privy council, I am subject, I do get briefings on matters that should rightly concern the official opposition. I do not have the day to day intelligence that those in government have. And it’s only when we see that complete picture that we can absolutely finalize the opposition, which we will do an integrated review on that.
Nish Kumar When we you told there has been some disquiet expressed by MPs about the timing of when they found out about this particular incident. Lindsay Hoyle The Speaker has said the MP who needed to be told was told at the time of the arrest, which took place quietly in March. When were you told about this situation?
David Lammy Well, I can confirm as the official opposition that we are part of that circle of members of Parliament who knew about this on a need to know basis. Of course, I would be breaching Privy Council rules if I went to detail about what we were told.
Coco Khan David, You know, Westminster is known for being a bit of a gossipy place. It is quite unnerving hearing this story, you know. I imagine it’s quite easy to find leaks. I mean, how confident can you be that the Labour Party hasn’t been infiltrated? I know the Times have been saying that some Tory Party candidates have been ruled out after advice from UK intelligence services. I mean, will intelligence services have any input into to Labour candidates, for example?
David Lammy Well, you know, again, it’s pretty alarming that the intelligence services are ringing up Conservative Party HQ and saying, look, you need to block those two candidates because we think they’re spies. I mean, that’s extraordinary. As far as I know, the Labour Party has not had a similar call. Having said that, this should this should be a wake up call to all political parties. The national security architecture makes sure that we I certainly in my role and people like Yvette Cooper, who represents have affairs, are on the latest in terms of how we should be conducting ourselves in public and and certainly smartphone use and and how we use computers and things we are assisted with. The best way for me to describe this is to say and one of the ways in which to understand what a government is up to in a particular country is to watch, listen very carefully to the official opposition, because we are watching the government the whole time. We are analyzing the whole time what they are up to. And if you just watch and listen to the opposition, you’ll be halfway probably there to what the government of the day is up to. So for obvious reasons, you’re absolutely right that we are at a sensitive position and there but for the grace of God, go I. On this wider issue, which is all those who want to commit treason and espionage, getting access to senior politicians of whatever party and therefore finding our national security compromised. Now, I do need to caveat that whilst we are watching the government, we as the opposition do not have access to, you know, top level, top secret documentation. We are not in the government. And for that reason it may well be we’ve not been targeted in the same way as we’re finding out or appear to be finding out about the government of the day.
Coco Khan David, I’m not going to lie to you. When you were describing that, they had a little moment where I thought if I was a spy, I’m going to get David Lammy. I mean, actually, if you were joking, you know, maybe I would get. This episode of Pod Save the UK is brought to you by Kari Uma, the cool, sustainable sneaker company with old school style and new school ethics. These sneakers are crazily comfy and consciously crafted. It’s no wonder they’re worn by celebrities and praised by publications like Vogue and GQ. Now, Manish. We’re not celebrities, but we do have a pair. I wear my carry Em is all the time. Listen, I go for whites, I go for neutrals. But if you like color, they have a really cool colLabouration going on with Pantone. So the kind of hot shades this season include Navy, Ruby wine and cacao nibs. I know it sounds like something you’d eat, but you can also wear it. So they ship all over the world and they have 60 day free returns. They deliver straight to your front door using single box, recycled packaging. If that sounds interesting to you for a limited time, we’ve got a voucher code for you so our listeners can get an exclusive 15% off. All you need to do is go to Carrie Uma dotcom so that c a r i you may become slash p UK and you get 50% off for a limited time though. So get it while it’s hot.
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Coco Khan David, it’s so great to have you on the podcast this week because it’s been a really big week for foreign policy. I’m a Labour voter, been a Labour voter my whole life. I have an up and down relationship to the party. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt fully represented. Well, I have a bit of a blindspot about foreign policy at the moment. It’s quite easy to do that. You know, the schools are crumbling, the NHS is on fire. The the waters are full of shit. It’s easy to sort of forget about foreign policy and its importance. And I wonder if you could just take a moment. So any listeners are like me to explain why foreign policy is is crucial right now and how Labour differs from the Conservatives and why that should be something we consider at the at the voting booth.
David Lammy Well, thank you for asking this question. You’re asking me this question of an extraordinarily. Changing time for the global community. We have lived through effectively one superpower dominating the world, and that superpower is the United States of America. We’re now navigating a world in which there are two superpowers. The United States of America joined, of course, by China with a very different outlook on the sorts of freedoms democracy that we take for granted. We are also seeing the rising powers of India. We saw that on show last week during the G20 of countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, these middle powers as that being being called, being robust. So we are living in a geopolitical moment of a of a tremendous amount of variety and position. We’re having this conversation at a time when the UK finds itself outside of a major regional bloc, outside of the European Union, at a time when most countries, small and medium sized countries are scrambling for deeper partnership in the world because trade is changing, the world is not as open as it used to be. The Inflation Reduction Act in the United States has degrees of protection in it for the United States economy. Europe is moving in that direction. Not clear where the UK finds itself as a smaller power on its own in that context. I believe this is a time when we in Britain have to be absolutely clear on reconnecting ourselves to the global community. And let me just spell that out simply. The European Union is not our enemy. To have had a prime minister describe President Macron as an enemy less trusted. That is extraordinary. We want to be in partnership with the European Union, notwithstanding the decision that the British people made to leave the single market, particularly in the customs union. The fact that we’re not even got structured dialog with the European Union on the big issues of the day is extraordinary. And we’ve been clear. We want to review our trading arrangement with the European Union in 2025. This is an extraordinary time in which to have cut aid back from 0.7% to 0.5%. And then what’s left to be spending a lot of that money on housing refugees in our own country. So our reputation in the global South is lower than it’s been for many, many years. And by the way, the position we struck on the vaccine during the pandemic, we weren’t particularly perceived to be very generous in relation to that vaccine has also damaged our reputation at a time when the climate emergency is real and we’ve got a Prime Minister that debates whether he’s going to go to cop and worse is not going to the UN General Assembly next week even though we’re a member of the UN Security Council. So to summarize this, there are two visions of Britain. There’s Great Britain that looks outwards and there is little England that feels isolated and looks inwards. I think the current government represents the second. We’ve got to be outward looking at this time and the British people need us to do this because all of this comes back to the economy in terms of your utility bills, energy crisis, inflation, the hunt for new energy sources and renewables and the minerals that will service them. All of it comes back to foreign policy and needs Britain to be out there engaged in the world once more.
Coco Khan I’m so glad to hear you mention Brexit there because this is a real bugbear of mine. I honestly think sometimes you’re watching the news and it’s almost like a silence around the word Brexit. Brexit was an unmitigated disaster. No matter how you voted, it was a disaster. I feel like there’s an amateur over. I don’t think I’m alone in that.
David Lammy Well, look, I think that we had the most horrendous divorce that went on for years. In fact, we only decided what we were going to do with the children effectively. A few months ago when Rishi Sunak finally struck the Windsor framework deal. But as I say, we still hadn’t really properly on speaking terms with the European Union. You know, the economy coming out of the pandemic, I think now business, particularly small, medium sized business, is rediscovering its voice about the nature of the economy and the sorts of trade that we’re seeing. That’s down with our European partners, countries like Germany, France. Trade is down significantly. So the full effects on our economy, I think, are important. In the end, my party has to take the mood of business, particularly in the population as a whole. As I’ve said, we’ve been very clear and we’ve, you know, perhaps that’s why it’s that’s controversial that we do not believe that we can revisit whether we’re in the single market or a customs union. The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But we are absolutely clear that we’ve got a poor deal on trade with the European. Barak. We warned Boris about several things. He didn’t listen. We think we could have a and we deal. We think we should review the deal. We’ve got. There’s much that we can do. And we certainly think that we can be close to our partners in Europe and we would get on with that business if we were to win the next general election.
Nish Kumar David, I just wanted to ask you about. For a lot of Labour voters, specifically my age, I’m in my mid thirties bracket. It’s extremely late thirties, but I a shadow for me as somebody who’s been in life long Labour voters, that is foreign policy based because it is the Iraq war. And I mean that still for a lot of Labour voters, that’s still something that clouds, you know, the legacy of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. How much will that color your view and perception of shaping foreign policy in this country?
David Lammy Oh, look, I think that. In the end, my job, if I become foreign secretary, is to navigate what’s in the UK’s national interests more than anything else. And that is, to some extent, to navigate power, a power of our friends, power of our foes as well. If any country has episodes it looks back on in its recent history. It’s a long term past history that governments today would do differently or indeed that yes, inform its national story. But aren’t the high points in its national story. I’m not sure that anyone is going to suggest that the Iraq war is a high point, no doubt about it. But it was 20 years ago, and the threats that the world faces today are different and complex threats. It’s still the case that the Labour Party has always been an internationalist party. We are the two party that has majored on international development in our history. We are the party that that supported intervention in countries like Sierra Leone, where we saw a terrible, terrible loss of life, previously intervention in former Yugoslavia, where we saw genocide being committed effectively, where the party that stood shoulder to shoulder with those that fought apartheid in South Africa. And yes, we look back on periods, you know, you could look back to the 1930s and those who wanted to appease Hitler, you could back you could look back to the Suez crisis and those who had an outdated imagining of what Britain should be in the modern world. And these are lower moments in our national story.
Nish Kumar Do you regret? Do you regret voting for the war?
David Lammy Oh, I look, I think I’ve been in Parliament for barely two years when the Iraq war came about. And like a lot of people, you know, I did I didn’t have access to the intelligence. I had access to what the government of the day was saying about weapons of mass destruction. Of course, I look back, I wish I’d voted in a different way. But I you know, in terms of the time, I also have, by the way, one of the largest Kurdish populations in my own constituency. And they didn’t have very nice things to say about Saddam Hussein because he gassed many of their relatives. So. So I I’m comfortable with the decision I made on the facts I had at the time. But, of course, if I knew now what I knew, that I’d never have voted for it. No.
Coco Khan So one of the things that I often notice is, you know, we talk about it in many sort of spheres of our political life, this this, this potent power of fear. Right. And if you put enough fear into the average citizen, you can kind of get them to agree to anything to give up as many rights as you know, possible. Really. I often think about surveillance and things like that as as an example. But genuinely, we have you here. Shadow Foreign secretary. How how in danger are we? I know today that Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong un, quite the meeting of minds. You know, should we be worried about the selling of arms? How far are we from a nuclear problem?
David Lammy Oh, I’m not going to talk up a nuclear war, although I think that the Oppenheimer film has reminded people how they about the birth of that period and about the horrendous possibilities. But but I don’t want to talk that out. I do want to say, though, that. Russia. China. Iran. North Korea. These are countries that have a fundamental difference of opinion on freedom. These are countries in which the questions that you’ve asked me so far in this conversation could not and would not happen. But these are you know, that’s the truth of it. You guys could be thrown in jail. And look at what is happening to women and those who are fighting for freedom in Iraq as we speak. It’s heartbreaking. Look at what’s happened in Afghanistan since we withdrew. So so, yes, there are some serious risks at this moment and there are certainly some serious risks if this group of countries gets to determine the new rules that should govern us unchallenged. Because, of course, I’m not suggesting that democracy doesn’t have its its big wrinkles. I’ve got some problems with the current government in our own country. But I am saying it’s preferable and it’s the best we’ve got. And so let’s stick with it.
Nish Kumar And before we let you go, David, I just want to briefly ask you, there’s obviously nations with which we have an antique, an antagonistic relationship. There are a group of governments that a potential star led government would have a huge amount in common with, including you’ve already mentioned ALBANESE in Australia out of Schulz in Germany. And obviously another one is, of course, the Biden White House. However, there remains the on flushable turd of global geopolitics in the shape of Donald Trump. You know, America is our it has historically been our closest partner. How concerned are you about a potential return of a Trump White House, and what would that mean for an incoming Labour government, given the ease with which I imagine relations would happen between a stable government and the Biden government? How concerned are you about the return of Donald Trump as the representative of the British government on the world stage?
Coco Khan Also. Yeah. Because, David, It will be you, won’t it? It will be you in the White House talking to the Orange Man. How is that going to be? You going to stomach it?
David Lammy Just on the first part of that, I’m looking forward potentially, and I’m going to be in Montreal, Canada this weekend with other progressives. And we’ve got our Canadian friends, of course, our Australian, German, Norwegian and indeed American friends, all with progressive governments. And there could be a progressive moment, actually, when we win, if we win the election next year. I want to say that our relationship with the United States goes way beyond the individuals that occupy Number ten and the White House. Our countries are deeply connected on issues of foreign affairs and security. They have been we are part of that rules based order. It’s why we have a seat on the Security Council with the United States and we agree with them on most really on all the serious issues facing facing the global planet at this time. My view is that Donald Trump, if he were to come back into the White House, actually some of the sorts of stuff he says on the stump in the end in the White House, the State Department and others, that the policy direction is broadly the same. But yes, of course, the language, the tone, the rhetoric, populism is something that none of us think is a great thing for any democracy. But I do believe, having studied and worked in the United States, that America represents a great, great democracy. And we should not underestimate the checks and balances that exist in that country, notwithstanding the nature of what feels like a pretty divided politics, I’m not sure it’s that different to our politics in some ways over here. And you’ve always got to be gentle, I think, when you’re talking about fellow democracies, because democracies are allowed to go in different directions, the people of America will decide who should be their next president. But in the end, they’re democracies. They can tough out one person, put somebody else in, and there are massive checks and balances. The journalism is fine. The judiciary works in a particular way. There are checks and balances on that democracy. And that’s why I say in the end, Russia, China, Iran, countries like that in a very different place.
Coco Khan David, thank you so much for your time. We have to let you go.
Nish Kumar I’ve got a very important question to ask David Marks out of ten so far for us to calculate. I know that you’re a Tottenham fan.
David Lammy I think he’s done well.
Nish Kumar Marks out of ten. It’s been a strong start, I doubt.
David Lammy Oh, I think I think it’s definitely out of ten. I think that’s a much better than I expected. As to without Kane, he’s called big ideas for a reason. He’s doing a fantastic job. I haven’t been to a fixture yet. I hope to fix that in the next few weeks.
Coco Khan Is that the fighting bell in the background?
David Lammy That is the bell you.
Clip Can hear.
David Lammy Calling me to vote.
David Lammy You can live on the podcast. If I get there, I will be in a lot of trouble. So I actually got to dash.
Coco Khan Thank you so much for your time.
David Lammy Thank you. I look forward to doing it again.
Coco Khan Great.
Nish Kumar Yeah see you again soon! Thank you
David Lammy Take care. Okay. Thank you. Thanks. Bye.
Coco Khan Time for us to announce the Pod Save the UK hero and villain of the week. Now, Nish, I know who you’re choosing as your hero. I understand there’s a bit of irony at play.
Nish Kumar Not even a little bit, Coco. Not even one vague soup sort of irony. My hero of the week is Lord Sugar, a man who is single handedly helping the government with the money needed to fix the crumbling concrete in England’s skills. For anyone who doesn’t know, Alan Sugar is, of course, the founder of computing company Amstrad and the presenter of the British version of The Apprentice. And according to the Sunday Times Rich list, he’s worth £1.1 billion, which makes him the 165th richest person in Britain. And he has also paid a whopping £186 million in tax. Now, did he want to pay that tax? No, he did not. And a joint investigation by the Sunday Times at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that he attempted to avoid that £168 million payment to HMRC because the payment itself was on one of the largest dividends in corporate history, which was a £390 million award that he was drawing from his company in the 2021 2022 tax year. And he tried to get out of it by arguing that he was not based in Britain at the time because he had spent a large chunk of that year in Australia hosting their version of The Apprentice. However, he didn’t realize that because he’s a member of the House of Lords, he automatically qualifies as a resident of the United Kingdom. So he wasn’t able to claim the non domiciled status that would have got him out of that tax. And the reason that this is noteworthy, well, I mean, it’s noteworthy for a number of different reasons. I mean, a £186 billion tax bill is an eye watering sum of money. Given that at the moment, the cost of fixing school buildings affected by the crumbling concrete that we discussed in last week’s show is estimated to be around £150 million. Also, even without crumbling concrete, £186 million is I think this is a technical accountancy term, a metric fucktard of money. So even just that as a as a headline is noteworthy. But the reason that Lord Sugar’s tax affairs and his attempts to get out of PAYG tax do seem a tad hypocritical is that he’s been very vocal in the past about paying tax. In 2014, he declared. You’ve got to pay tax. It’s as simple as that. I don’t want to live a life dodging taxman. In 2020, he labeled a critic, accusing him of tax avoidance as an ignorant twat. Writing on Twitter, it makes no difference. Whereas with the world I’m a UK citizen and a tax payer, so he’s clearly been hoisted by his own petard by his status as a member of the House of Lords. He’s been forced into paying tax and for that reason he is my completely unironic hero of the week. Because sometimes it’s not about why you do the right thing. It’s about why you’re forced to do the right thing.
Coco Khan You know, it’s refreshing to have a kind of Boris on the floor here. You know, it’s just a point of difference for an off season season.
Nish Kumar This is this is the one, the last remaining use of the House of Lords as a practical body to force people to pay their bare minimum tax. How do we get various other people like Jeff Bezos, the Lord of Amazon Shire, or some shit that Google saved to pay his tax? Honestly, that’s as meaningful to me as the current system by which peerages are handed out in brackets. Being friends with Boris Johnson, he gets called Lord Sugar on the show. How did he forget that he was a member of the fucking House of Lords? Anyway.
Coco Khan Lord Sugar is going to be one of those names that our American listeners are like, Oh, that’s funny.
Nish Kumar Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Because it sounds like Willy Wonka for American listeners. His name is Alan Sugar. That’s his real name. And he because he’s a member of the House of Lords, his legal title is Lord Sugar. So, you know, basically at this point, it’s a real close call for who has the worst apprentice. But tell us who the best UK villain of the week is.
Coco Khan So my put of the UK Villain of the Week is surprisingly for the first time ever, the Daily Mail. I know you’re thinking oh so obvious, isn’t it? But actually the thing about this particular story is that it’s not been that obvious. It’s not been that reported, it’s not been talked about really as much as I think it kind of should be. And so the story basically is this a journalist called Dominique Samuels, You might know her. She’s sort of a commentator. She she sort of does the rounds on the right wing kind of circuit. She tweeted recently in after Notting Hill Carnival had finished over the Organs August Bank holiday. And she tweeted, I was asked to be the face of a ghost written negative version. Writing on race, his piece by the Daily Mail paper last year about Carnival and eventually turned it down because it was a complete misrepresentation of what I witnessed while I was there. So the reason this is obviously terrifying is because it reveals that editors are giving columnist lines essentially, essentially, you could argue, writing the piece for them and then looking for a face to be put on onto it. You effectively launder these opinions, which are, let’s be honest, kind of race is kind of derogatory, Right. Now, Samuels herself said that she used the word manufactured, which really tells you something, and she said that these opinions were being pumped out. It sort of speaks to a kind of industrial level of this stuff. I was joking earlier about, like all good headlines start over pun. Well, that’s one way to do it in a nice way. Another way to get people to click on your head headline is to like, write inflammatory toxic shit, right? You can also do that. And this one off tweet basically revealed gave you an insight into the manufacturing, the industry of outrage that was kind of happening from the paper. Now, we should say that we reached out to the Daily Mail and they did give us a statement. And that statement says when the mail commissions comment pieces, we always discuss the points to be raised with the authors and sometimes supply help with the drafting. Articles are not published without the author’s cooperation and approval. On this occasion, a year ago, after an exchange of drafts, Dominique Samuels decided she did not wish to proceed and nothing was published. Now, Samuels was saying all this is industry standard when people sort of, you know, were outraged by this tweet and they went back to her and said, oh, was this ghostwritten? Was this ghostwritten about her own work? You know, she did try and kind of row back a bit and said, look, this is an industry standard practice. I’m not convinced that it is. It’s nothing that I’ve seen before. And there were other journalists coming in here coming into the conversation saying it’s not something that they’ve seen before, actually. Really? What was it that that meant these editors were feeding these lines to her? Is it because she was black and they wanted to take advantage of this young, hungry journalist who wanted to make a name for herself, who wanted those bylines, who didn’t, you know, terribly disagree, but maybe wasn’t even in authority. You know, what’s going on here with the laundering and the use of black and brown faces to kind of push these opinions. I think that it’s really worth looking into by the press and standards, if by IPSO who kind of look over this sort of stuff and I don’t care what an investigation would find. The Daily Mail, you’re my villain of the week and probably for all time.
Nish Kumar Oh, absolutely. She, Dominique Samuels, is admitted to at least one other piece bearing her name, which is about Meghan Markle and racism claims that the royal family was ghostwritten. She also said they was pretty much standard for like newspapers to essentially, like, provide it, which is worrying. And obviously there’s kind of two strands to be concerned about. One is to what extent, you know, basic journalistic practice is being violated. I’ve written some opinion and editorial columns because I’m a journalist, right? Like, I think I’m a celebrity of the absolute loosest definition of the word. But like I’ve written op ed columns for Coco’s employer, The Guardian. And at no point did they ever say, We will write it for you and you just write your label. So there’s a kind of journalistic standards of practice in here. But also there is the more serious question of are these papers essentially writing racist articles and then putting black and brown people’s faces on them to try and give them a kind of false legitimacy? And those are both incredibly serious charge. It’s like I think you are so right to have raised this Coco, because I would really like to see more discussion around this because I think it’s quite a serious issue.
Coco Khan Let’s dip into our mailbag. We obviously we the royal we I interviewed Labour’s Chris Bryant last week and it seems to have really got our listeners riled up. I want to read an email here from Rhiannon. So she said Big fan of the part I was listening to last Thursday’s episode on Fixing Britain’s Schools and Broken Politics, and I found your interview with Chris Bryant really interesting, but I wish he pushed back on his response to the listener comment that Labour had abandoned trans rights and U-Turned on lifting kids out of poverty. To respond to that, there are things that they, you know, we’ll have to leave for later. Felt like a brush off and it implied that to Labour the lives of kids in poverty and trans people were just not a priority and could wait for Labour to get around to them eventually. I love hearing you guys give politicians for honest views and disagreements. Keep up the good work, Richard, and thank you so much for the comment. Rhiannon And I feel like yet those issues are something that we need to talk to the Labour Party more about because, you know, when it comes to human life and the quality of those human life, those are things that they can’t and shouldn’t weigh, you know.
Nish Kumar Marcus also emailed about his conversation with Chris Bryant and he takes issue with comments about Welsh water. There was conversation about nationalization, and Welsh Water’s brought up as an example of how to do things differently because they run as a not for profit. But Mark says Welsh water are a horrendous polluter of our water licenses. Could you correct the record as Chris Bryant, rather glossed this over, runs slightly differently? They may be, but look at their pollution record 6959 hours of sewage dumping in the Wye in 2022, contributing to this river’s ecological collapse and nearly 600000 hours of total dumping in England and Wales. The same year, more than 25% of the total for all water companies. I live a stone’s throw from the Y, so this is not abstract to me. Thank you, Mogg. I should also say that I was in Wales last week and Charlotte Church. The voice of a generation is very active in kind of protesting around river pollution. And we were at the River Usk, which is a river that comes under the remit of Welsh water. And at one point and this comment was substantiated by an expert who is with with us Charlotte Church. He used the following phrase I’m going to be honest. The eco law is the least of our problems about the water. So it’s a it’s a real serious problem and I’m really glad that Mark raised it. I’m also obliged to read a response from Welsh Water reacting to some insight. So you highlight the head of Welsh water, Peter Perry, accepted to a certain extent that said that Wales is not where it should be on water quality, but pointed out the 41% of rivers in Wales are of good status under the Water Framework Directive, compared with 14% in England. He also defended his salary of £333,000, plus pension contributions and bonus payments, saying My pay is not determined by me. I do get the fact that I’m well paid. I’m not going to try and deny that I’m pretty much the lowest paid of my equivalents enabled the Welsh truly to play the smallest violator the world of Peter Perry. And we do that while smelling our rivers filled with shit.
Coco Khan And just to finish off, I just want to remind listeners to the podcast that they can watch us on YouTube too. It’s the same show, but you get to get to see us and more crucially, you get to stare into nicias dreamy eyes That glass spider. A user commented, Dear me Nish, his eyes are gorgeous. Sorry, what were you all say? That was a bit distracting. Really? Only studio lighting finish going forward, you know, someone else chimed in. They say Mish has sensual, mesmerizing eyes. I am just noticing. Not sure if he’s using a filter or not, though. No.
Nish Kumar No. This is no, this is no filter. But I am a deeply embarrassed, sensible Nish.
Coco Khan Is it sensual?
Nish Kumar Yeah, I think unfortunately, I think I wrote it when I opened my mouth. I think whatever sense of whatever sensual, mesmerizing sensation created by my eyes is quickly dissipated by my nasal wind jibber voice.
Coco Khan Oh, no. So you can get in touch with us by emailing PSUK at reduced listening dot Co dot uk. We love hearing your voices, so do send us a voice note you can get us on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514644572. Internationally, that’s +447514644572. We’d love to get your thoughts on what we’ve discussed on this episode. Or you could nominate your own heroes and villains. Or listen, you can just send us in a question for your favorite political agony aunt and uncle. Email us at PSUK at Reduced Listening dot co dot UK. Pod Save the U.K. is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.
Nish Kumar Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz digital producer Alex Bishop.
Coco Khan Video editing was by David Koplovitz and the music is by Vasilis Fotopolous.
Nish Kumar Thanks to our engineer David Dugahe.
Coco Khan Executive producers are Louise Cotton, Dan Jackson and Madeleine Heringer with additional production support from Ari Schwartz.
Nish Kumar Watch us on the Pod Save the World YouTube channel or follow us on Twitter or TikTok or Instagram where we’re at Pod Save the UK.
Coco Khan And hit Subscribe for new shows on Thursdays on Spotify, Amazon or Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.