Humza Yousaf's Shock Resignation: Are the Greens Seizing Power in Scotland? | Crooked Media
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May 02, 2024
Pod Save the UK
Humza Yousaf's Shock Resignation: Are the Greens Seizing Power in Scotland?

In This Episode

The Westminster rumour mill went into overdrive last weekend peddling an ultimately incorrect rumour that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was due to call a summer election. With suggestions that this rumour was started by the Labour Party, Nish and Coco ask whether progressives might be starting to control the narrative.


And might that change in power balance towards the Left also be coming to the fore in Scotland? Following the shock resignation of First Minister and SNP Leader Humza Yousaf, Politico’s reporter Andrew McDonald unpacks how the Green Party may have greater influence in Scottish politics moving forward.


And what are the radical solutions we need to address the crisis in Britain’s care system for children? The collaborators of the new book Free Loaves on Friday poet Lemn Sissay and journalist Rebekah Pierre explain why hearing directly from care leavers is vital for addressing problems across the system.


This week – we present the PSUK hero no one asked for and the villain you never saw coming. Move aside Idris Elba – Nish Kumar is coming for your spotlight…


Finally – make sure to look out for a bonus edition of Pod Save the UK this week where we bring you analysis from the results of the elections across England and Wales with Liz Bates.


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


Contact us via email: 

WhatsApp: 07494 933 444 (UK) or + 44 7494 933 444 (internationally)








Andrew McDonald, Politico

Rebekah Pierre, Journalist and Social Worker

Lemn Sissay, Poet and Activist


Audio credit:

Sky News


Useful links: 







Coco Khan Hi, this is Pod Save the UK.


Nish Kumar I’m Nish Kumar.


Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan.


Nish Kumar This week comes the use of shock defenestration.


Coco Khan We’ll be joined by POLITICO’s Andrew McDonald to unpick how it all went dramatically wrong.


Nish Kumar We’ll also discuss Britain’s broken care system with Lemn Sissay and Rebekah Pierre.


Coco Khan Plus, find out if the left are starting to hold more sway over our political narratives. Hi Nish. How are you? What have you been up to?


Nish Kumar You know, the usual, Coco?


Coco Khan Yeah.


Nish Kumar Sitting around my house. Staring into space.


Coco Khan Contemplating your own mortality?


Nish Kumar What have you been up to?


Coco Khan Do you know what? I’m actually in a tremendously good mood.


Nish Kumar Why?


Coco Khan I feel like spring is finally here. The birds chirping. The sun is out. Street harassment has begun.


Nish Kumar Oh has it?


Coco Khan Oh, it’s street harassment season.


Nish Kumar Is the season of street harassment?


Coco Khan Oh, yes. And that’s how you know it’s spring. that’s how you know it’s spring. Okay, so I have to tell you about this. My latest bit of street harassment. It’s been some time. So I was walking down the street.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


Coco Khan And this guy comes up to me and he’s like, excuse me, miss, are you married?


Nish Kumar Here we go.


Coco Khan I said.


Nish Kumar What an opening gambit.


Coco Khan Well, that is weird because I’m not I don’t. Yeah, anyway, I digress. Man comes up to me and he says, excuse me, miss, are you married? And I say, yes. And he says, wow, how could your husband let you go out with hair like that?


Nish Kumar What?


Coco Khan Right. So I was like, well, I stopped off angrily, being like, how dare you insult my hair? You reprobate and ruffian. That’s what I said in my mind. I just went, and then I met up with a friend and she said no. What he’s saying is, your hair’s so good. How could you be let out of the house with hair like this?


Nish Kumar Right? Okay.


Coco Khan You see what I mean? It’s very much the blue dress. Gold dress of street harassment.


Nish Kumar It’s. I would say it’s too abstract.


Coco Khan Yeah.


Nish Kumar If I was trying to critique this man’s street harassment, I would say it’s too abstract.


Coco Khan Okay.


Nish Kumar I don’t think you should have to sift through the wreckage of a complement looking for the black box recorder of its original intent.


Coco Khan Okay, well, there you go. If you’re listening, gentlemen, that approached me in Barking market needs improvement. Definitely needs improvement. I know you said you had a chill one.


Nish Kumar Listen, I watch the film Challenges. I had to have a cold shower afterwards. That’s the end of my film review.


Coco Khan You didn’t find yourself popping any political popcorn?


Nish Kumar Nothing got popped. A lot of things got popped in that movie. Let’s just put it that way. I mean, it’s one of the horniest films I’ve ever seen. Meaning you. If you go and see Challenges, I would recommend having a quiet moment with yourself afterwards. It’s one of the horniest movies I’ve ever seen.


Coco Khan I mean, about the potential election news and the idea that you might be celebrating in your home. Well, thank you for that image.


Nish Kumar Yes. I mean, I guess there is an element of celebration to it. I don’t know what it was, just another absolutely chaotic weekend.


Coco Khan Right. So, for any of our friends who aren’t completely wired into the news over the weekend from Friday afternoon, the rumor mill went into overdrive, essentially saying that a election was going to be called on Monday. The suggestion was that the Tories would want to get ahead of this supposed wipe out that’s coming on Thursday. It did turn out to be an incorrect rumor, though.


Nish Kumar In many ways it was a sort of crackpot theory, because it doesn’t make any sense to call an election to, you know, happen imminently when the first week of the news cycle in that election was likely to conclude with a bollocking in the media because of bad local election results. There is a suggestion made, by the Guardian that this rumor was started by the Labour Party, essentially to kind of make it look like Sunak had backed out of something that he hadn’t actually called in the first place. Did you think it was going to happen?


Coco Khan I mean, to be honest, I lose all my critical faculties when someone says I might be election because I’m so exciting. I want it so much. A rumor like this hasn’t appealed to me as much as that time that I’ve had a body double like it’s really got admitted to baited me.


Nish Kumar So no one’s really clear on where this rumor started, and no one’s really clear if it was the conservatives trying to punish the Conservative Party or the Conservative Party trying to punish itself. But the conclusion everyone has come to is the Conservative Party is fucked. That seems to be that seems to be the sort of conclusion of all of the conversations around.


Coco Khan This is funny, isn’t it? Because it seems that, like there was a political purpose for both Labour and the conservatives, but not for me? I feel sorry to say I decided I wasn’t, I think over the weekend with this. That’s great.


Nish Kumar I have to say, like, there is this element of obviously we want an election. There’s an excitement about it. I am a kind of tipping point with this whole thing where I just want this Parliament cycle to end, because at the moment we are living in a constant theater of rumors and counter rumors. Because ever since Sunak has come to power, this speculation is purely been based on when there is going to be a general election and his government has, from day one, effectively been a lame duck administration with the kind of sort of faint memory of power within it, but no actual ability to enact any kind of policy. And the country is facing a crisis at the moment, is facing about five different interlocking related crises at the minute, and also internationally. The situation in Gaza is a crisis. The situation in Ukraine is a crisis. We and we don’t have a functioning government in it. The fact that the government can control the date of the election. To act solely in its own interest is a farce. I think possibly the only good thing that came out of David Cameron’s coalition government was that they at least implemented the fixed term Parliament Act, though this was then later repealed by Boris Johnson, because at this point we don’t have a government, they aren’t able to legislate on anything. The only thing they can do is quell rumors of an election that they themselves may or may not have started. It has to end. We desperately, desperately, desperately need to have an election because we need a functioning government and not one that is only able to firefight problems. It started for itself.


Coco Khan Now? Absolutely. And I mean, we’re not the only ones who think that even sitting MPs think that there was a defection this weekend, wasn’t there?


Nish Kumar Yeah. That’s right. A top Tory MP has defected to the Labour Party. So this is Dan Poulter, who’s the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich. He said the conservatives have become a nationalist party of the right that has abandoned compassion. Dan, where have you been getting your news for the last 14 years? Where have you been getting your? I mean.


Coco Khan You know, better late than never.


Nish Kumar Better late than never. How fucking late is it possible to be? Where have you been getting your information from for the last 14 years? The the. It’s come to my attention that the Conservative Party has become a nationalist party of the right and abandoned compassion. Well, the party that brought you austerity, the Windrush scandal, the mismanagement of Covid.


Coco Khan Look, I’m saying better late than never, but that’s being far too generous. This man helped push through David Cameron’s private sector friendly health and social care bill. I mean, how can you say that you care about the NHS if you agree to that sort of thing? And I think what’s more interesting about it is not so much this man’s rights and wrongs, but it’s more about, you know, how does the Labour Party see themselves? This guy calls himself a centrist. They’re happy to have him. What does that tell us about the Labour Party?


Nish Kumar I can understand why Labour happy about this. Only because he did 20 night shifts over the last year, and described doing them in an overstretched only department as truly life changing. And he said that persuaded him to defect, as he said that he believes Labour Party at the Labour Party is the only one committed to investing in improving the NHS, and he’ll sit on the Labour benches until the next general election. But where I also agree with you that I’m not sure how big a cause this is for celebration is that he’s announced that he’s stepping down. So he’s essentially sitting with Labour for about five minutes and then he’s fucking off.


Coco Khan And of course, the popcorn wasn’t just out for the Tories this week.


Clip To my wonderful wife, my beautiful children and my wider family for putting up with me over the years, I’m afraid you’ll be seeing a lot more of me from now. You are truly everything to me. And although, of course, as you can tell, I am sad that my time as First Minister is ending. But I am so grateful. I’m so blessed for having the opportunity afforded to so few to lead my country. And who could ask for a better country to lead than Scotland? Thank you very much.


Nish Kumar A clip there from the shock political news from the past Monday. Humza Yousaf resigning from his role as Scotland’s first minister after a disastrous week of mostly self-inflicted wounds.


Coco Khan To dig into how on earth this all happened? Over just a few days. We’re here with Andrew McDonald from Politico. Hello. Been a busy few days. Hey.


Andrew McDonald I has yeah. It’s just escalated.


Nish Kumar The unfolding of events has been warp speed, and it’s been sort of incredibly dramatic unraveling of the leader of the nation. So to properly understand it, we need to dig into how we got here, which begins with the coalition between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party, known as the Bute House agreement.


Coco Khan So let’s turn the clock back to when Nicola Sturgeon was First Minister, when she forged this deal to form a minority government following the May 2021 Scottish Parliament election. Here’s Sturgeon speaking after the agreement.


Clip Our parties will, of course, retain our distinctive identities. This is not a coalition and we do not agree on everything. But we are coming out of our comfort zones to focus on what we do agree on. Despite all of the risks inherent in any decision of two parties to cooperate more closely. We are choosing to work together. And we are doing so not out of political necessity, but for the common good.


Coco Khan So two specific issues sank the Bute House agreement and it ended up causing some friction between the parties. Firstly, a rollback on climate commitments and secondly, NHS Scotland implementing a pause on prescriptions for puberty blockers for children. That was recommended by the pediatrician Hilary Cass following her controversial review into gender identity services for young people. So, Andrew, can you just clarify what happened on both of these issues?


Andrew McDonald Yeah, so so on the climate targets Scotland under Nicola Sturgeon committed to this, this target of cutting 75% of carbon emissions by 2030. Now, this this was an ambitious target was a stretch target. And it was a fair bit more ambitious than the UK government’s own target. But in the last couple of years in particular, last few months, it started to become quite clear that this wasn’t a particularly realistic target. So they began to brief that they were dropping these targets two weeks ago, and then they dropped it on Thursday.


Coco Khan Right. And so what happened with the the Cass review recommendations was that this sort of similar pathway.


Andrew McDonald Yeah, it was you have to go back a little bit with this one to, to the Scottish Government trying to reform the process behind gender recognition. So to make it simpler for, for trans people to change gender. Now as we know, this was this was blocked by the UK government after Scottish Parliament passed it and then went to Supreme Court challenge on that decision, which and Supreme Court upheld the UK government’s veto. And at that point the Scottish Government decided not to appeal. And that that annoyed plenty of Green Party members back there. But they held their tongue at the time. And then we’ve seen this, this, this review by Doctor Hilary Cass. And what we saw then was two very different responses to that review from the two parties of the Scottish Government, while Humza Yousaf said we’ll look at what Doctor Cass has said and consider her recommendations. Patrick Harvie did an interview with the BBC after the report came out, where he said it was unscientific.


Nish Kumar So Andrew, in terms of this partnership, the Bute House agreement, it wasn’t it was never a coalition. And is there a sense that it was only really held together because of the sort of force of personality of Nicola Sturgeon and what kind of colossal figure she is in Scottish politics, and was it always destined to kind of unravel without her, or is there some other reason why this is kind of blown up in Humza Yousaf space?


Andrew McDonald So I think Nicola Sturgeon certainly could hold a lot of things together that not many politicians can. And as you say, it was not a coalition. But I think a problem for both Nicola Sturgeon and for Humza Yousaf was that it came to be described as a coalition. Yeah. And both parties have always thought it was unfair that, you know, people like me in the, in the media would describe it as a coalition. But at the end of the day, they had two ministers. They had a direct say in the policy prospectus of the Scottish Government. If it’s not a coalition, it’s something very, very close to a coalition in terms of whether it was always destined to unravel in the last. Year, Humza Yousaf started to chart a slightly different path to Nicola Sturgeon on policy and the big moment, which really sort of kicked off these these grumbles in the Scottish Greens membership was in October last year at the SNP conference, when Humza Yousaf, surprised us all by announcing a freeze on council tax. And that’s very unpopular with the Scottish Greens. That was the sort of start of a slight shift from Humza Yousaf, away from maybe the Sturgeon agenda of focusing on public services and and socially liberal policies.


Coco Khan So the way all of this shook out is substantially different to the situation following the Tory Liberal Democrat coalition back in 2010. And that was interesting because in the end, the Liberal Democrats kind of rolled over on a number of their principles to get this alternative vote. Election. It didn’t work out very well for them, but this is almost the inverse, right?


Andrew McDonald Yes. They ended up wielding a lot of power, and ultimately the Greens were able to to have a pretty big impact on the Scottish Government’s agenda.


Nish Kumar Do you think ultimately this was a case of political miscalculation on Humza Yousaf spot? Or was he given an impossible job? Because I do have the sense I have varying levels of sympathy for Humza Yousaf and Rishi Sunak, as people can imagine because of shared values, I would say. But I do have this slight sense that the SNP and the Conservative Party have gone, let’s give it to the Asian. Well, things are in their toilet like they were. I have that slight sense to the extent that I think Manchester United should my name be their next manager, just because just to follow the system of giving bloated, collapsing regimes to an Asian man doddle. Do you think that this was a miscalculation or was he in an impossible job, or is it both?


Andrew McDonald It’s definitely a bit of both. I think the direct circumstances that led to him having to resign on Monday, with no one having expected that to come three days earlier, is complete political miscalculation from him. Yeah. He decided on Wednesday night that he was going to ditch the Greens. Well, he clearly did not do was work out the ramifications of pissing off your coalition partners. Well, result in them deciding they want to get rid of you. Yeah. And there’s this word that people have used a lot in the last few days, right. In conversations with me, it’s war gaming. That’s what is important for politicians. You got flowchart. You’re right. I get rid of the Greens. What next? I think just there was a lack of of foresight into what was going to happen next in the fact that. Right, if I get rid of the Greens, the Scottish Tories could then force a vote of no confidence in me. Am I certain that if I get rid of the Greens, they will not vote for that Tory motion.


Nish Kumar For the sort of immediate future? There’s been a few names thrown out as a potential next First Minister as of now, on Wednesday morning, where are we with the most likely frontrunner?


Andrew McDonald No one has declared as of Wednesday morning where we are right now. But we have John Swinney, the former SNP deputy first minister and actually former SNP leader. Back in 2004 when I was quite literally five years old. John John Swinney led the SNP for a few months and then was forced out by what became known as the Men in Gray Kilts, who decided his leadership wasn’t cutting the mustard.


Coco Khan And so you’d have to please eLabourate on men in gray kilts. That’s not something I think everyone is familiar with.


Andrew McDonald So I think in in UK politics, I think this is face of the men in gray suits who, who used to decide the fate of, failing Tory leaders in the past and, some very creative journalists and senior SNP sources in the early 2000 decided to come up with their own version.


Coco Khan And that’s why they get the big money. Next is because of that witty banter. Hundreds of the Brits. Anyway, sorry, I’m.


Nish Kumar Just dealing with the revelation that you were 5 in 2004. I think everyone, I think everyone, there’d be a lot of people listening right fucking now. Yes.


Andrew McDonald So yes, John, John, John Swinney is a C and people tell me he is basically just this figure who can unite the SNP.


Nish Kumar The safe pair of hands for it.


Andrew McDonald He is that. He is the safe pair of hands there. The candidate who can unite the SNP in its most difficult moment, I think who can like, you know, take them for a very difficult Westminster election. For them, stemming the bleeding was the phrase I heard yesterday.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


Coco Khan Well okay, so even if the SNP can settle this leadership crisis, it sounds like it’s very important. I think we should all be paying strong attention to it. On Wednesday, the government faced a vote of no confidence table by Labour and narrowly defeated through the support of the Greens. So in whose interest would it be to blow up the Scottish Government? Like when presumably whatever happens is going to be a substantially disempowered SNP?


Andrew McDonald Scottish Labour, right. Yeah. Scottish Labour I would love an election right now because they are, probably the only party who would really stand to gain and who have a realistic chance of replacing the SNP in the Scottish Government. I wouldn’t say it’s a universal position within Scottish Labour. I’ve talked to a few people who think maybe they’re not quite ready and maybe a few months more. Maybe that timing might work. Better. But at the same time, given we’ve had every news bulletin being focused on chaos within the SNP, I think they they would still very much like an election right now with that in people’s minds.


Nish Kumar Andrew McDonald, thank you so much for joining us on the couch today.




Coco Khan So we want to help bring some deserved attention to an issue that’s not talked about nearly enough here in the UK, and that is the youth care system. So this is the system that concerns children and young people living under the care of their local authority, including in fostering and independent living arrangements.


Nish Kumar It’s a system that’s hugely complicated and difficult for the young people experiencing care and care leavers are some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.


Coco Khan So joining us on the Pod Save the UK sofa now, our social worker and journalist Rebekah Pierre and activist and poet Lemn Sissay. You’ve both collaborated together on a new collection of essays, Poetry and Letters. It’s called Free Loaves on Fridays.


Nish Kumar For the listeners, Rebekah, just waved the book.


Coco Khan Welcome, Rebekah and Lemm.


Rebekah Pierre Thank you. It’s honestly such a pleasure to be here. And just thank you for spotlighting this issue. It’s just so, as you know, glossed over and everyone from, you know, Parliament to the press look the other way. And so it means a lot to have this space.


Nish Kumar And is that the impulse of putting the book together, presumably to try and get it foregrounded like this.


Rebekah Pierre It is well, to be real with you, it was never my idea. As these things on. I wrote an article for The Guardian a couple of years ago about care, and an editor got in touch and said, hey, would you like to write about it, put an anthology together? And between us, my response was absolutely not, because in my mind, an anthology was a limited selection and I could not get my head around the concept of rejecting, you know, people coming with their stories from care because that is, you know, a community where there’s so much rejection. So it’s the first mainstream anthology known really to have a no rejection policy. So we’ve got 100 stories from people aged 13 to 68. And I’m just so, so happy. We’ve got the brilliant part of it as well.


Lemn Sissay And I’m really honored to be in this, in this book, as somebody who was in care myself, but also this idea of having a no rejection policy, it makes one think, you know, could the quality, not, you know, not work. Yeah. You know, but actually it does. It really does. This book is, is is it’s a beautiful testament to the true experiences of young people who are in institutions and in foster care around the country.


Nish Kumar You’ve taken sort of great care to platform the voices of care leavers and selves. What does that bring to the conversation, and how do you guys hope that that would inspire change?


Rebekah Pierre Well, from my personal experience, care leavers are often written about, but very rarely with. So I know both of us have access to our care files. And I requested mine two summers ago and honestly, I think to see myself written about and I’m a social worker too, so I’ve, I know how hard it is to write case notes with so little respect and accuracy was really hard. So this is about flipping the narrative and say, hey, hang on, we’re not just protagonists, we can be the authors of our own narrative as well. So it’s about breaking stereotypes, educating and informing the public who we are and what we’re about.


Coco Khan It is a horrible facet of our media that this is not the only subject where you see people talking about a group of people and you never hear from them, you know, trans people, refugee sex workers, all of them. It’s very radical to put those voices front and center. And I wondered when I was reading your piece, particularly Rebekah. And I know, Lem, you’ve done the same about opening your record. To what extent do you think that’s required? Because there’s a disbelief from people, i.e., you have to have the record to say, believe me when I say this happened.


Rebekah Pierre It’s a huge question. Actually. One of my case notes, well, the word alleged comes up all the time. And if I asked you to think about getting deep here, I’ve only met you five minutes ago, but one of the most, you know, traumatic things that’s happened to you in the last 5 or 10 years and suddenly you’re opening up to authority. And that’s described as an allegation. It hurts and it’s heartbreaking. And there is a narrative of disbelief. And I think, honestly, when I think about my care records, as a social worker myself, I almost have a level of pity for the social worker who wrote them, because she didn’t think in a million years that, you know, a teenage kid from Blackpool with all this baggage and trauma would ever grow up to have the wherewithal or the education or the power to know how to access those records.


Lemn Sissay So you’re recognizing the power in those individuals and also the power of the witness statement. And these are witness statements from people to say, this happened to me in my childhood. It may be horrific, but I can I can walk with it. The normal horror stories, by the way. But they are. I believe that writing is a kind of witness statement, a creative witness statement. And, I’ve never seen a book like this.


Rebekah Pierre What you’re saying makes me think about those very people. We’ve got people here who have never had any GCSEs, who, you know, just me. Well, that’s that’s crazy. This is exactly who we need to hear from. It’s not the polished. Publishing, you know, the Oxbridge story for, you know, if you went to Oxbridge, which.


Nish Kumar Sadly, not.


Coco Khan We did not.


Rebekah Pierre But it’s a real people who have been imprisoned or who have been excluded.


Nish Kumar I want to talk about policy. We’ve we’ve had a comment from a listener, Stephen, for our who said, it just seems a no brainer for US society to invest in children who will contribute much as what you because you’re saying about the diversity, the backgrounds of people who go on to do amazing things from care. It seems a no brainer for us side to invest in children who will contribute back to that society over their lifetime. We all know from our own families how childhood trauma can affect many generations. Most of us can recover with the right support, but what if there’s no one there to help us? It’s really important that we all feel loved and secure to become fully functioning members of society. This makes economic sense and improves the functioning of society. And how is the care system currently funded and what do you feel needs to change in that area?


Rebekah Pierre I’m so glad you brought this up because as a social worker, I have witnessed the devastating impact of austerity, you know, over the last 13 years. So it is centrally funded. However, that is, you know, local authorities have discretion. But actually, last week, a report came out to say that 51% of local authorities are possibly having to think about submitting a section 114 notice in the next five years, which for listeners who don’t know, that’s declaring bankruptcy 51%. And at the same time, that just leaves the gates wide open for privatization. So care is very lucrative. Last year, you know, 1.63 billion pounds was made in this sector, 300 million pounds of profit. And when you think 300 million pounds of profit, made in the sector. And yet the independent care review, that asked for 2.6 billion pounds from the government.


Lemn Sissay Josh McAllister.


Rebekah Pierre Josh McAllister. You know, he asked for 2.6 billion and only got 200 million pounds. That’s nothing. That’s literally that’s two thirds of, you know, what private companies are profiting under. I know I’ve lived in unregulated placement as a teenager, and in some of those placements, the charge is 7,000 pounds per week per teenager. Now, three weeks in care in, you know, a crap hostel in the middle of nowhere should not equate to three years at university. I’m going to stop now because I’d go on my high horse.


Nish Kumar We actually should brief people beforehand. This is a safe space for your high horse riding.


Coco Khan It is mad though, just hearing those numbers because it really speaks to the madness of privatization. Because, you know, 300 million pounds left in profit. Imagine what could be done if that stayed in and was reinvested, how many lives of children could have been helped?


Rebekah Pierre And not just offshore investors.


Nish Kumar We want to draw attention to the problems, but also to the solutions. So the McAllister review you just referred to, it was a review in an independent report into children’s social care, and it recommended some pretty substantial revisions to funding and management of care. So this is the author, Josh McAllister, speaking to Sky’s Kay Burley back in May 2022.


Clip Over five years, we’re calling for 2.6 billion pounds to be injected into the system. That’s not going to come from. Well, the the issue is if we don’t, actually bring about some major change in the system, will be on track to have 100,000 children in care by 2032, and that will cost us 15 billion pounds a year. So the choice for the government here and for all of us, frankly, is do we keep pouring money into a system that’s faltering and letting down too many of the most vulnerable, and it will get worse and and more expensive? Or do we actually take some bold action now smart and invest and change that.


Nish Kumar Lemn you called the McAllister review the best review of children’s social care. Also, you said the government has disappointingly cherry picked from the recommendations. What do you recommend about the review and what do you think needs to be enacted from it that the government is avoiding talking about?


Lemn Sissay Well, the first thing to commend about the review on behalf of the government, even, is that, that 2.6 billion that, Josh McAllister was saying that needed to be spent was saving about 5 billion. So whenever you hear the numbers that he’s mentioning, he specifically, designed the answers to a failing care system to look after the child that comes into the care system and also to save money for the government. But it means that the government would have to think in long term.


Rebekah Pierre The review was saying, actually we can do more preventative work early intervention. So not just leave it till crisis point, then children going into care and, you know, these extortionate kind of fees coming up. So part of it was was there. But also if a child is prevented from going into. To care. It’s also the the long term, you know, prevention of homelessness, prevention of, you know, criminal justice system and, and all the thousands that goes into, you know, the upkeep of, of people in that system and so on. It.


Lemn Sissay Was talking about the quality of care that they get when they’re in care as well, because I think one of the things that Josh was saying is a child can go into the care system, and then the system can exacerbate the problems that the child may have been going through. They came from a traumatic situation. They’re leaving their parents, they come into care and they’re moved, for example, from one foster parent to another. The I think the average amount of moves over ten years is five times for a kid in care. And and he, he, he, he was wanting for fostering to be, a better solution that doesn’t actually make the child need more services from the care system and therefore save money. Why is it that when a child goes into care, the problems begin? It’s called care. The problems are supposed to end there when they enter care. That is supposed to be our government saying this is the most vulnerable person in our society. It is a child without family who’s in distressed and previously traumatized.


Coco Khan Well as you say, I mean, you outlined in your introduction in the in the book, Rebekah, you know, you talk about all these, failing systems and how they kind of coalesce around this problem. And by the time the child is taken into care, there were already loads of failures, weren’t there? There was failures in access to mental health. There was failures in terms of potentially domestic violence services. A thing that I found really hard hitting is when you talked about property prices and the impact of that. And so, you know, children are moved to the northeast because the the property is cheaper there. I mean, that can be hundreds of miles away from their, their neighborhoods and communities, their friendship circles. I suppose this is a really long way of saying, to what extent can this actually be resolved or improved, by the next Labour government? Or do you think actually it’s going to take lots of, input? It’s going to take successive governments that what do you think? Where are we?


Rebekah Pierre Well, firstly, absolutely needs cross-party political ambition and not not for government to just lay waste to the care system and feed it to, you know, privatization. But going back to what you said about children going miles away. So I’m from Blackpool and, a report came out, from the Appg, the Child of the North report last week that said 1 in 52 children in Blackpool are in care. Now, if you just take a moment to sit with that figure 1 in 52 and I’m from Blackpool, you know, have a big heart, a big love for that town. But I know there is a huge amount of poverty of, you know, unemployment, that there’s nothing for young people, homelessness. And we know there is a link between poverty and children going into care. So also it’s about the government not just wanting to fix the care system, but holistically looking at, okay, we invest in in early years, sure, start health schools and eradicate poverty, which is something this government has no interest in in my opinion.


Nish Kumar [AD]


Coco Khan So I think it’s important to say that in this collection of stories, there are a lot of uplifting stories. You know, you really can get a sense of like when the system’s done well, it’s amazing to be proud of, but there’s no denying that a lot of it is painful reading and it’s traumatic.


Rebekah Pierre Huge question. Well, like a protective sibling, really, I am the first to criticize the system because I, you know, I lived through it. And also I’ve been a social worker seeing the reality of that, you know, like many people from care, I went back to the system to fix it and then found that’s not possible because it’s desperately underfunded when it comes to the state role. I mean, we hear the term corporate parent bandied about a lot. It’s something that I personally hate. The first time I heard it, in a local authority office, I honestly thought it was a joke.


Coco Khan I’ve not heard that. What is that?


Nish Kumar Yeah. What does it mean? Corporate parent as an idea.


Rebekah Pierre So it’s, the idea that the state, is acting in, loco parentis. But, yes, they have the legal duty of a parent to a child. So any child who’s in the care system has the state as their corporate parent. So, yes, the state does have a role. Absolutely. Not only to, respond to the trauma that children faced pre care, but also whilst and after they leave care as well. But we know that at the moment in some local authorities are waiting lists for up to four years for children and adults mental health services, which quite frankly is a disgrace because some children will have literally aged out of the system by the time they get help. So, to your question, how bad can it get? I could sit here and talk about the statistics, which are hugely depressing, but it manifests in many ways. It manifests in, lack of opportunities. So there was once, an erroneous statistic going around that said children from Cat are more likely to end up in prison than university. Thankfully, that isn’t true, and it has been disputed. However, there is some truth in that. You know, it’s easier to get into the criminal justice system than it is to university. I know that firsthand. When I lived in an unregulated accommodation, which was a bedsit with 16 to 25 year olds, you know, just to be real with you, I probably shouldn’t be saying this is a podcast, but I, you know, I used to shoplift from Primark and Tesco just to get by all the time. And really I don’t have a criminal record because I was lucky, but it was so much easier. I was drawn into that life to survive than it was to study for A-levels in a dark room where, you know, this is only in 2011 and I’d do my coursework with a pen in one hand and a candle in the other, which just sounds Victorian so it can manifest it in many ways. And unfortunately, without early intervention, without investment in mental health services, it’s going to get worse.


Coco Khan Well, the reason I ask that is because, you know, in that clip, Kay Burley very quickly retorts, where are you going to get the money for that? And I often think to myself, what is the price of trauma? What is the actual what a question, you know, and I think this is, I sometimes get very frustrated when everything boils down to money, but I think we can all agree we’re walking around in a society at the moment where it’s not nice. You know, there’s a lot of people suffering. Yeah. You have an example in your introduction where you talk about a, a company that was offering care to, you know, young people and then realize it was more profitable to pivot. So just closed it down and just made them homeless. And they can do that.


Rebekah Pierre Absolutely. When they’ve got no personal investment. It’s not like a local authority, homegrown organization that is deeply invested in caring for the children in its locality.


Nish Kumar I was just going to ask you what it was like to reflect on your own diary entries, because your chapter is a kind of collage of you writing now your actual case files, which you talked about, you both have had access to, and then also your teenage diary at the time. And what is that like? How hard is that to be sort of confronted by your own you, by yourself as a younger person who’s going through it at the time?


Rebekah Pierre It’s a huge question. And to be real with you, I had to have therapy throughout this process because it was really hard. I mean, the first part of me thinks, oh my goodness, if my teenage self knew I was, you know, airing my emo teenage diaries, I should be, quite frankly, horrified.


Coco Khan I mean you come across very articulate.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


Coco Khan I mean, my 16 year old diaries would be like, woo, Radiohead. I hate him. He’s such a jerk. Like, that’d be my my, like, rotation of anxieties about school or whatever. But you came across incredibly compassionate, thoughtful, self-aware, like, yeah, you shouldn’t be ashamed.


Rebekah Pierre It was totally that as well, though. There was like the bitty school dinner arguments. And, you know, my crush at the time who was ignoring me and all that. But thank God you won’t see in the book because you’d pay not to read. But but thinking about it was incredibly hard, and the only reason I actually went to the diary entries was because a few years ago, I was writing a journal paper on the harms of unregulated care. I thought where best to go then to my own experiences. So I dug out my little shoe box, which had, you know, diary entries going back to to teenagers. And I found one. And honestly, the the heartbreak and the despair really struck with me because those, you know, you forget what it’s like, don’t you? So it was incredibly hard and I had to take breaks at many times. But I also felt it was important for teenage Becca to have a voice because she can speak to the authentic experience way more than I can now, you know, in a relatively privileged position. I’m not having to, you know, live in a bedsit with no electricity and skip meals and all of that now. So she’s closer to the truth than I am.


Nish Kumar One of the most critical elements of the McAllister review was the recommendation that care experience should become a protected characteristic on the show. Earlier this year, we profiled Terri Galloway as our hero of the week for his work campaigning on this exact issue. But could you remind us of what that means?


Lemn Sissay There is a prejudice against a person who’s in care or has been in care. That prejudice means they may not get, a house, a flat when they apply to get a flat. That prejudice might mean even that a hospital won’t do certain operations, because you haven’t got the family who will look after you after the operations. Yes. It may mean that the police will look at you as an actual problem because you’ve you’ve been brought up in care, and you’re or you’re from care. It may be that a person in a job doesn’t want to employ you because they think that children in care are naughty kids. So this is an experience that children in care who become adults have to come through all the time. And the proof of it is, for example, in prisons, see the amount of people who’ve been in care between the ages of 18 and 25 is is off the scale. Yeah. So to protect your characteristic of being in care means the society will defend that person against the housing officer who doesn’t want to put them into a flat against the police, who immediately may feel that this person’s a little bit tricky because they’ve been in care against a social worker who may think, oh, that families have a bad family. They’ve obviously got people in care that, you know, oh, by the way, there are people who think that if you’re worth less, if you’re worth less money, you are less. And the protected characteristics says. That is not right. You are not less than a person who has got a family. If you’ve been in care and that we as a society will protect you.


Rebekah Pierre Yeah. So so important. And I think it’s a brilliant recommendation in putting those ring fences around. But it isn’t a silver bullet. You know, it needs to be protected characteristics and ring fenced funding for this group. Because without that, it’s a label that local authorities can opt in or out of ultimately.


Lemn Sissay I mean, what Terri’s doing is getting all of the local authorities to to to say, we want we want to sign up to a protected characteristic. And he’s got, I think, about 90 local authorities around the country at the moment. So this is a really big deal I’ve never seen in my life time. Half of the children in care rights movement, I’ve never seen this kind of like above the crease activity. And it it’s very, exciting. And if Labour get in, it would be wonderful if they took on the. What they’re all of the councils around the country are taking on, which is the protected characteristic.


Nish Kumar So between the findings of the review and this protected characteristic idea, there are solutions out there. And it absolutely is about.


Coco Khan You know, starting the conversation up, kicking, you know, taking it further. It’s nice to end such a painful section on something hopeful. So thank you for that.


Lemn Sissay Thank you.


Rebekah Pierre Thank you so much.


Nish Kumar Thanks for joining us  Rebekah and Lemn. It was an absolute pleasure.


Lemn Sissay Thank you.


Rebekah Pierre Nice to be here.


Coco Khan So, Nish, since we last spoke, something surprising, should we say has happened in your life? It’s, quite well timed, actually, because we normally have a PSUK hero and villain around this time in the show, and I think this may be the hero we did not need and the villain we never saw coming. It’s you as James Bond. Please explain.


Nish Kumar So a few weeks ago, I didn’t interview with, the Guardian, your habitual employer, and I was asked a question about the fact that James Acaster is in the new Ghostbusters movie, which he is, which is very funny and very exciting for us. It makes me laugh, though. In the interview it’s reported he’s described as my colleague, which I really enjoyed, and now I only refer to him as my colleague James Acaster. It’s not clear what office. He and I are working in the office of Human Laughter. But, the insider asked me if there was a film franchise I would be interested in participating in, in the way that, I guess has been with Ghostbusters. And I said that I thought it would be funny if I was made James Bond because of the collective meltdown. It would inspire in a certain section of the British media and British society. And I thought that it would be a funny prank for Barbara Broccoli to play. And I think I said something like, they’ve made enough money out of James Bond, and now they should purely be hiring on a prank basis. And I, I thought that that would be funny. And the interview has just come out this week. And obviously, you know, sometimes you do an interview and you think, I don’t remember saying anything like that. I read and I was like, yeah, I said, everywhere that I’m available, if the bond producers want to hire me purely as a prank, I think it would be extremely funny. Obviously, what then happened was that that interview was posted this week on the golf website, and it was in the paper, and then people had an absolute meltdown about it. Right on cue, people of the internet with more time on their hands than common sense. I think just genuinely thought that I was applying for the job of James Bond, which I think is very funny.


Coco Khan There was definitely a lot of, grumbling about this idea that you were self nominating yourself for this prestigious character, and it was all very, you know, the folks have gone mad, but a lot of people online did have some actual good fun about it. So I’m just going to read you some of my favorite comments. Right. I haven’t watched a bond movie since Timothy Dalton. This would get me back. It’s quite high praise. Very. Another person says I’d pay good money to see that film. Just nish in a tux, having a breakdown and repeatedly calling the bad guy a C-word for 90 minutes while the bad guy froze him. Very good. And then, there was seemed to be a hashtag that was going our bond titles with one suggestion that says, doctor, a question mark. No, I’m a comedian, but mum says she’s still proud of me. If anyone else has any, hashtag bond titles, I would be very interested. I was having a think yesterday from Croydon with love. That’s as far as I got. And just really quickly, I was thinking about you as James Bond, and I promise that this does have a point. I went to a very multicultural secondary school, and the teachers were always working hard to pronounce everybody’s names correctly. And I remember this time where we were in class and the white teacher was going through really proud of himself. You know, Kelvin said it right. Jamal said it right. And then says, James, have we got John in today? He like, ethnic fied. This guy James his name. So that’s you James Bond. Here you are. Oh, also, before we go, there’s two important things we need to tell you about. The first is to announce that everyone gets a double helping of us this week.


Nish Kumar Yeah. So amongst those of you listening and watching right now, we imagine many of you have gone to the polls to exercise your right to vote in the elections taking place across England and Wales. I’m sure you’ve already voted. If you haven’t yet, there is still time. Go now. And after that, keep your eyes peeled for an extra bonus episode from us. After the election results on Friday. Well, we’ll be analyzing it all with our special guest, our good friend Liz Bates.


Coco Khan And our guest for next week is the wonderful Aisling Bea. If you have any burning questions for her, please do so send them in. You can get in touch with us by emailing PSUK@ReducedListening.Co.Uk. We really love hearing your voices, so if you’re feeling brave, send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07494 933444. Internationally, that’s +44 7494 933344.


Nish Kumar Don’t forget to follow at Pod Save the UK on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find us on YouTube for access to full episodes and other exclusive content. Why not drop us a review if you like, but only positive?


Coco Khan Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media thanks to.


Nish Kumar Producer James Tyndall and digital producer Alex Bishop.


Coco Khan Video editing was by Will Dawson and the music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.


Nish Kumar Thanks to our engineer Alex Bennett.


Coco Khan The executive producers are Anoushka Sharma, Dan Jackson and Madeleine Herringer. With additional support from Ari Schwartz.


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