Judges block Rwanda plan, plus who broke Britain with James O’Brien | Crooked Media
Pod Save America Live NYC & Boston guest hosts just announced! Get Tickets Pod Save America Live NYC & Boston guest hosts just announced! Get Tickets
November 16, 2023
Pod Save the UK
Judges block Rwanda plan, plus who broke Britain with James O’Brien

In This Episode

A frantic week in UK politics, that started with the sacking of Suella Braverman and the shock return of David Cameron, took another huge twist as the Supreme Court ruled that the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful. Rishi Sunak however came out fighting, announcing an emergency bill to keep the policy alive.


Plenty then for Nish and Coco to get their teeth stuck into with guest, LBC presenter and “conscience of liberal Britain” James O’Brien. His book ‘How they broke Britain’ features a cast of nefarious characters, including Cameron himself – how suitable is he for the role of Foreign Secretary? Also in the firing line is the right-wing media and Paul Dacre in particular, while we also learn about the less well-known shadowy cabal of conservative think tanks and the tactics they employ to influence public opinion. But is Jeremy Corbyn worthy of a place on James’ shit list?


Plus why Nish and James are ‘disaster capitalists’, Nish makes a shock news hat admission, and we have a bumper heroes and villains, as James weighs in with his selections. Find out what ITV has done to upset Nish, and why Coco puts James to shame by nominating 44,000 heroes!


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


Contact us via email: PSUK@reducedlistening.co.uk 

WhatsApp: 07514 644 572 (UK) or + 44 7514 644 572

Insta: https://instagram.com/podsavetheuk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/podsavetheuk

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@podsavetheuk

Facebook: https://facebook.com/podsavetheuk

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/podsavetheworld



James O’Brien, LBC radio presenter, and author of ‘How they broke Britain’


Audio credits:

ITV Breakfast/Edinburgh TV Festival

ITV Studios/@NigelFarage


Talk TV






Nish Kumar Hello. This is Pod Save the UK.


Coco Khan I’m Coco Khan.


Nish Kumar And I’m Nish Kumar.


Coco Khan This week we’re saving the UK from pig bothering former prime ministers.


Nish Kumar And poison pen letter writing former home secretaries.


Coco Khan Plus, we’ll be joined by LBC presenter James O’Brien, a man who’s been called the conscience of Liberal Britain.


Nish Kumar As opposed to me who’s been called the man who absolutely ruined Britain. No regrets. Hi Coco.


Coco Khan Hi Nish.


Nish Kumar Suella Braverman out of a job.


Coco Khan Oh yeah. Yeah.


Nish Kumar The Rwanda plan declared unlawful by the courts. Andre 3000’s got a new album coming out. It’s a Diwali miracle. The whole week has been it was the volley over the weekend. Happy Diwali to all parts of the UK listeners. Festival of Light and Hinduism and the light has shone through. Yes, there are heavy caveats to that Suella Braverman’s lost her job, which means she’s probably going to end up being leader of the Conservative Party the next time there’s a leadership contest. The Rwanda plan has been stalled by the courts, but that probably means she’s going to try and take us out of various international legislative agreements. And the Andre 3000 album is experimental jazz flute. So there are caveats to all of those things. But at the moment I on occasion, you have correctly castigated me for an excessive of negativity. So this week I’m full of sunshine. Fuck Suella, Fuck Sunak as his Rwanda plan and Andre 3000 is back.


Coco Khan That’s amazing.


Nish Kumar That’s great news for me.


Coco Khan What a beautiful week.


Nish Kumar Our inbox this week has been full of hat chat. Yeah, because last week you coined the phrase news hat. Yeah. You didn’t listen to last week’s episode. Please listen to last week’s episode. It was very good. But if you didn’t listen to last week’s episode today, wondering, what does that mean? None of us know either. Coco just used the phrase news hats, and our inboxes look like the inbox of a milliners with the amount of hat based conversation. This is from @SeaBich. That’s S-E-A-B-I-C-H which I really enjoy. They’ve tried to sort of work out what different items of clothing relate to in terms of news. So we’ve got news hat is the top news stories. News belt is middling new stories and news socks are the lighter side. @JWebster126 has said a hat is the last piece of clothing you’re putting on your head as you go out the door. A news hat is obviously the last story of the program to leave on a happy note. The news hat is the and finally. It’s moment of zen.


Coco Khan Oh I’m so like touched that the listeners have written in to be like “No no, don’t worry. It’s okay Coco, you’re not just a rambling, mad woman staggering through life, confused and shouting at clouds about news hats. We understand you.” That’s so nice.


Nish Kumar Someone called @Snug with 4Gs has said a news hat must be made from a copy of any of that day’s news papers.


Coco Khan Okay. What?


Nish Kumar And @VulcanNerd again, these usernames are all sensational, @VulcanNerd has said whatever the news hat is, I demand that Coco wear it in the next episode. So


Coco Khan I actually take back what I said. These. These listeners aren’t on my on my side.


Nish Kumar Are you not going to wear a news hat in the next episode?


Coco Khan No, I am not going to wear a paper hat made of yesterday’s newspaper.


Nish Kumar I’m just realizing as we’re having this conversation that I did a photoshoot for The Observer, which is the Sunday edition of The Guardian newspaper. I wore a hat made of newspapers that I wore like a paper hat. Yeah, but there’s an image of me with a wearing it literal news hat. That hadn’t occurred to me until literally this minute.


Coco Khan This time you’ve been making fun of me about a so-called news hat. And you have a news hat.




Coco Khan What a week it’s been. There’s lots more to be said about Cameron, Braverman, and the fallout from the reshuffle to end all reshuffles. But our top story is that the government’s £140 million plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, the central plank in their stop the boats policy now lies in tatters after the Supreme Court ruled it to be unlawful. Here’s Rishi Sunak trying to put a brave face on it at Prime Minister’s questions this morning.


Clip Also, the Supreme Court gave a judgment on the Rwanda plan. They confirmed that the principle of removing asylum seekers to a safe third country is lawful. There are further elements that they want additional certainty on and noted changes and noted that changes can be delivered in the future. To address those issues. The Government has been working already on a new treaty with Rwanda and we will finalize that in light of today’s judgment. And furthermore, if necessary, I am prepared to revisit our domestic legal framework. Let me assure the House my commitment to stopping the boats is unwavering. Yeah.


Nish Kumar So obviously, I mean, he’s just being openly laughed out of the commons. There’s a lot more to talk about this, but let’s just get straight into it with today’s guest, the journalist, author and broadcaster James O’Brien, who has just hotfoot it over from doing a show. LBC, which is the most popular talk show in British commercial radio.


James O’Brien Apparently so Nish, apparently so.


Coco Khan His new book called How They Broke Britain is a damning account of how the country ended up in this current mess.


Nish Kumar Welcome to Pod Save the UK, James.


James O’Brien Thank you for having me.


Nish Kumar Well, it’s an absolutely pleasure to see you. Let’s just go straight in on this. So this is this bit the flagship policy that has crashed and burned a couple of few different times now.


James O’Brien I kind of I mean, not not in any meaningful sense of the word policy, actually, because the more you dig into it, the more you look at what’s happened today. You remember that it was Boris Johnson that started it. You said with Priti Patel in the Home Office, which means it’s a Boris Johnson style policy, which means it was never actually designed to deliver anything substantive or meaningful when they were presented with this real problem or their problem with small boats. So we can’t fix it, but we can’t admit we can’t fix it. So we’ve got to say something. I know. Let’s deport them all to Rwanda. Johnson would have been happy with that because his job was only ever to get through the next news cycle and then the next bucket of crap that landed on his desk he’d deal with in exactly the same way. What’s weird is that Sunak, I guess, stuck with it when I suppose politically he had no choice but read it. It’s not really a ruling or it’s certainly not a judgment in a technical definition of the word, because all all the although the Supreme Court has done is remind everybody what the law is. Yeah. And under that reading, it was never going to get put through.


Coco Khan Do you think secretly they might be pleased about this ruling because now they have a reason not to enact it? It would have cost too much. It’s not workable. Not really. And they have a whipping boy. You know those leftie judges? Yeah.


James O’Brien Enemies of the people. I think if it hadn’t gone so far, they might of derive some solace from that. But it made it categorically clear that even if we’d somehow extricated ourselves from the European Convention on Human Rights, we would still be breaking all sorts of international law by trying to send people to a country are judged to be unsafe. So there’s 50 odd of them Tory MPs and a couple of Ulster Unionists who’ve already the mandate was introduced earlier this year. They’ve already said, Well, let’s get rid of all the laws, let’s get rid of the torture one, let’s get rid of the United Nations Convention on torture, let’s get rid of the United Nations Convention on Refugees. And these are the things that were put in place in the 1950s to prevent another Holocaust. And I saw Iain Duncan Smith and certainly some other Tories in characteristically smug and arrogant fashion, insisting that the policy was something quite different from what it actually was. So a lot of people who supported it believed, for example, that an asylum seeker would go to Rwanda, have the application process there, according to British law, and then if successful, successful, come back and live here as someone who had been granted asylum. But in fact, it’s not that at all. If it is, you apply to the Rwandan system of asylum and if you fail, God knows what happens to you. But if you succeed, you stay in Rwanda for the rest of your life. So, so many people who thought they supported it were not even supporting the scheme as it was. Even I, I say even I because I do this for a living, I didn’t realize that it was the Rwandan asylum application system that would be applied to everybody. We shipped there and we sort of wash our hands of it. And as you say, it’s already been shown that the Rwandan asylum application system has a long record of sending people back to countries where they have suffered torture or persecution. It’s I mean, it’s just bonkers. This is really geeky. It’s paragraph 56 of the court’s ruling today that shows you or at least a very obliquely, but but obviously suggests that ministers were being told constantly. Constantly, constantly comedy that this was not going to work and that this was the almost inevitable. And they knew that. And accidentally in her mad post sacking letter SUELLA Braverman kind of gave the game away when she said to Rishi, she said, And you haven’t done this and you haven’t done that and you haven’t done this. When all of those things were things that would need to have been done in order to circumvent the law that has been re enforced today or we’ve been reminded of today.


Nish Kumar Yeah. I mean, that’s a perfect point to bring up. Sue Ellen, Battle of intellectual diarrhea. I mean, it’s it’s promised a lot of, you know, bits of information. It’s suggested that it’s hinted that she has some evidence that Sue has gone back on promises that she’s made. But was it possible to read that letter was anything other than the starting gun for her campaign to be the next leader of the Tory Party?


James O’Brien Well, I mean, you could read, I suppose, as the finishing line for any vestiges of credibility that she possessed. It was a sort of screeching, hateful, vitriolic, rallying cry, wasn’t it, for the maddest members of the lunatic fringe, of the lunatic fringe, of the lunatic fringe of the Tory party? And as such, it was it was probably quite effective. But the question for some time now for a couple of parliaments has been how big is that lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe? And I don’t think it goes close to triple figures, so I’m not quite sure what she’s doing. She’s only fifth on the approval ratings of the Conservative Party membership, so she’s not doing a truss or a badenoch and wooing the party faithful with a sort of combination of delusion and and dishonesty says that’s not working. She’s alienated the population, 70% of whom thought Rishi Sunak did the right thing by sacking her. It’s arguably and you need to check this it might be the most popular thing Rishi Sunak has ever done.


Coco Khan Exactly what is going to sound like. Oh, I thought this actually might play really well having seen them just then in PMQs where he kind of said, Actually, no, you know, I stand by everything. Yeah, they’re not far off.


James O’Brien You know what he said there was? She didn’t dump me. It was mutual.


Nish Kumar Yeah. Here’s the thing. I just wonder if I’m just really burned by the last decade and a half where the hard right of the Tory party and, in fact, the hard right of British politics. Full stop. Want something to happen? Everybody says it’s definitely not going to happen and that it happens. And it starts with hacking the state to the bone through an austerity program that we’re still counting the cost of Brexit, the prime ministership of Boris Johnson. These are all things that star on the hard right, British politics, the hard right of the Conservative Party and then end up happening. So again, I now assume that Rishi Sunak is going to try and circumvent international law and then so, so at the bottom it’s going to be Prime Minister and then by as such are my guilty of overstating the power that this right wing fringe still has.


James O’Brien No, I mean, not least because of course they have the full throated support of of most of the newspapers still. And that is why the momentum you describe can build despite the fact that there’s a lack initially of popular support.


Coco Khan So let’s get onto your book then, James, How they Broke Britain. So it has a chapter on ten individuals that you’ve singled out as being responsible for breaking Britain. I mean, just in this conversation here, we’ve spoken about a lot of very bad people.


James O’Brien Yes, we have.


Coco Khan How did you whittle it down?


James O’Brien It was really easy. It was really easy. I wasn’t sure it would be initially. It was going to be called The Man Who Broke Britain. But then Liz Truss happened. I had to give her a chapter, albeit it’s a very short chapter for obvious reasons. I well identify three engines and we’ve touched on two of them already. You’ve got the mad far right element of the Tory party, which isn’t really an element anymore. They’re in charge, have been since they got rid of Theresa may. Really. And then you’ve got the right wing newspapers, so you’ve got Murdoch’s empire, you’ve got Paul Dacre Daily Mail empire, and then you’ve got the Telegraph, which is the maddest of them all, actually. They’re the ones that run comment pieces saying things like Kwasi Kwarteng budget is the finest budget of my lifetime with no concerns. You don’t get punished. A week later, when the economy has been driven off a cliff. And then the third elements of it, which I think is possibly the least understood or the least obvious, is this a coterie, a very incestuous network of lobby groups, secretly funded lobby groups, essentially operating shilling for big business, whether it’s tobacco or banking or junk food manufacturers. It’s just wealth and wealth. And they call themselves think tanks. And they, of course, pop up all over the place with fancy names that are completely made up, like the Institute of Economic Affairs or Center for Policy Studies. And they’ve got no more qualification to talk about any of this stuff than the average school leaver has in most cases. Yeah, And yet they’ve managed to infiltrate every single lever the British media putting forward precisely the same bogus free market ideology that what used to be the lunatic fringe of the Tory party promote.


Nish Kumar I hadn’t expected to discuss this with you at all, given his return to prominence, but let’s start with David Cameron. I don’t think any of us. Expected to be here discussing David Cameron, No. Foreign Secretary on Monday. Coco and I did a kind of bonus podcast, although bonus normally made something good as happens.


Coco Khan I know, I know.


Nish Kumar We did a reverse bonus episode to cover the return of Cameron. Just I mean, just because I can’t think there’s a clip that summarizes David Cameron’s political career better, let’s just remind ourselves what the actor and modern philosopher Danny Dyer said of David Cameron after he quit after the Brexit referendum.


Clip So what’s happened to that twat, David Cameron? Who will this be? Fair form former broadcaster If it comes, he can scuttle off. He called all this on. Yeah, yeah. He has no regrets. Where is he? Is he in Europe? In Nice with his trotters up? Yeah. Where is the geezer. I think he should be held account for it. Well I think he should be held accountable. So it’s a valid point. A lot of people do feel. Twat. That the the second twat.


Coco Khan That the second twat.


James O’Brien It’s a double twating, That’s perfect.


Nish Kumar Each of the chapters starts with a quote. So very good to be illustrative of the chapter. And you’ve baked that that he died like no context. So he said that in 2008. And at the time I didn’t think it was possible that there’d be a better capital itself for his political career. What do you make of the comeback of David Cameron?


James O’Brien It’s hard to see what’s in it for Rishi Sunak Yeah, I presume some sort of hope that there will be a political osmosis. Cameron won one and a half elections, one with an outright majority and one which saw him go into coalition. There is again largely because our print media is so bent, there is a perception that he was good at stuff, although I think one Labour MP today are soon to mention a foreign policy triumph that David Cameron had delivered and they couldn’t.


Nish Kumar Because he said he organized, he organized a very good G8 summit.


James O’Brien Yeah. Its incredible. Isn’t that incredible? This lovely guy said we had some lovely canapé. It was the best, the best sandwiches that, gee, I seriously shouldn’t have missed that G8 from Cameron’s point of view. I think quite happily for me, the chapter makes it perfectly clear why he thinks he’s perfectly suited to come in and be Foreign Secretary because he still thinks he’s a genius. He still thinks he’s some sort of political sage.


Coco Khan But how can he think that after? Well, I mean, there’s too many mistakes to name. Yes. I mean, obviously austerity, Libya. But I do want to focus on Greensill.


James O’Brien Yes.


Coco Khan Because.


James O’Brien Oh, no, no, no. That’s all been done dealt with Coco. Have you not been paying attention, I’ve. I’ve answered all these questions before. That’s all been dealt with entirely to my satisfaction.


Coco Khan Yeah yeah. That was weird. It was like he was in the room.


James O’Brien That’s what he does, that’s what he does.


Nish Kumar After just in case there are listeners that don’t know about this, that may well be because it seems.


James O’Brien  Because of the newspapers.


Nish Kumar Exactly. Greensill was a company that Cameron was working for after he left office and left politics, we thought. And during the pandemic, he was found to have been lobbying on their behalf to get pandemic relief money, including correspondences with the then chancellor Rishi Sunak. And a Treasury Committee report found that he hadn’t broken any of the rules, but only because the rules were wholly inadequate. And he actually suggested that we need to actually revisit the conduct of people who have been prime minister.


James O’Brien He didn’t get any of that. He didn’t get any of the loans. But Sunak it was I think it’s fair to say he was getting the kind of personal responses from Rishi sitting at the rest of us might struggle. Yeah. To have secured during that time.


Nish Kumar And also big question marks over Cameron’s links with China as well.


James O’Brien I think even bigger potentially on the on the on the sort of world stage.


Nish Kumar Starmer went in very hard on those channels at PMQs today. Here’s a clip.


Clip A few months ago, the Intelligence and Security Committee said that the now foreign secretary’s role in a Chinese investment fund may have been and this is their words, engineered by the Chinese state. I hardly need to remind the Prime Minister of the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party or the intimidation against members of this House. So when will he instruct the Foreign Secretary to give full public disclosure of his work for Chinese interests? Asia.


Coco Khan So I just want to ask you, do you think he’s fit to be foreign secretary?


James O’Brien Well, without the full disclosure that Keir Starmer has just called for or without proper accountability for that, for the millions of pounds that he took from Greensill shortly before it went bust? I’m not sure he is, actually, but this is very much the theme of the book the old standards, the old requirements. The most basic sort of checks and balances on power have just completely disappeared. They’ve been completely torched. He’s not by some distance, the most egregious offender, but, you know, puts you in mind of the Russia report that Boris Johnson sort of tried to keep under the sofa and just. Lots of other. And the Privileges committee deciding that Johnson was in contempt of Parliament and then half a dozen Tory MP came out and attacked the privileges committee and went out and Patterson was found to have lobbied against the rules. Traditionally, you take your medicine, you know, you take your punishment like a man, they would say in those circles, but they didn’t. They all banded together Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Charles Moore and a few others, and they formed the Save Owen Patterson Society. So at some point between 2016 and now, these people became morally corrupt. And and when one of their own is caught out, they don’t just afford impunity. They try to tear up the actual rulebook, which is what they did with Patterson. So I’m not sure Cameron is fit, but in the current climate, he’s supremely qualified on that.


Coco Khan Because you know, something we talk a lot about on this podcast is of course, you know, individuals should be held to account, but it’s worthwhile trying to analyze the structures and the systems in which certain behaviors are incentivized because you can take the player off the the pitch. But if another player will just come on rice like a hydra. And I wondered why you decided to single out names because you could have done a chapter on I don’t know what about corruption or a chapter on it, but you decided to pick people. Why was that?


James O’Brien I think it’s really important that people are reminded of their actions, and I think there’s too much of what you’ve just described as. There’s too much of sort of ducking the issue. I’ll give you a really good example. Alex Chalk, the justice secretary, has just tweeted before I arrived here today about the importance of the rule of law, and that is directed at Lee Anderson, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, who, as we discussed a moment ago, has invited the British public to pick and choose which laws they think should be obeyed in which most shouldn’t. But he doesn’t say so. It just leaves it in the margins. And I don’t want to leave it in the margins. I want to hang it around their necks, you know, but what Paul Dacre has done to this country with regard to racism and immigration and everything from single mothers to benefits claimants to food banks is just disgusting. It is objectively and historically vile. So I don’t just want to say the problem with news editors. I want to say the problem with this bastard.


Nish Kumar Who was the editor of The Daily Mail.


James O’Brien During that period up until now. He’s now the editor in chief of the mail group. But he’s always had is he’s always had his hand on all of the driving wheels, all of the steering wheels of all of the papers until that brief hiatus when Boris Johnson tried to make him chairman of Ofcom. Yeah, yeah. And indeed put him in the House of Lords. But that’s when Paul Dacre smashes into the reality that I tried to describe in the book, because they’ve created this ecosystem. But we’ve still got some another reason for hope now. We’ve still got some protection from the corruption because the House of Lords Appointments Committee and the Ofcom selection panel looked at Paul Dacre and decided, no, no, no, no, no, no. In much the same way that Wikipedia looks at the Daily Mail and decided to remove its designation as a trusted news source. But if you live in this country, if you live in this ecosystem, most of this stuff you won’t have realized because it’s happened incrementally and in plain sight.


Nish Kumar Yet again, we should say Ofcom is the regulator for the whole of the British media, broadcast media.


James O’Brien It would be the Internet as well. And he apparently doesn’t even have a computer.


Coco Khan One thing I would say about this book is that you kind if you follow the news media, you kind of know all of it, but there’s something about the power of it all being put together. So even just then you reminded me about the Ofcom. Paul Dacre I forgot about that. I raised it from my mind because it’s just too much to keep up with.


James O’Brien It’s almost an attempt to have the entire media reflecting your own warped world view. So, so you know, where does dissent come from? Well, it doesn’t come from any of the places that we’ve talked about. It doesn’t come from the telegraph or the mail or the Times at times a little bit, although that’s getting worse because the bloke who edits The Times now used to edit the telegraph, he used to edit the Sun. It used to be deputy editor of the Daily Mail. I don’t think people fully appreciate how incestuous this all is. I honestly think they look at the BBC Channel four and to a lesser extent Ofcom and think, Well, if we can just get them scared as well and there’ll be nothing to challenge the unleavened diet of propaganda and and othering. Paul Dacre doesn’t think it’s propaganda. He honestly is terrified of all the things he tells his readers to be terrified of, but the rest of them are doing it cynically. Murdoch is doing it cynically for commercial reasons, and they hate the BBC for two reasons. Number one, it can offer up an alternative to the diet of propaganda and hate. And number two, they’re not making any money out of it.


Coco Khan Yeah.


Nish Kumar [AD]


Nish Kumar We talked a lot about the individual politicians that are kind of enacting a lot of these policies. We talked a lot about the press that amplifies their perspectives on things and that kind of allows austerity to go unchecked for years and years. And now nobody can get an ambulance or say that. Doctor. Can we talk a little bit now about lobby groups? This is the bit that most people will be least aware of, aside from seeing them pop up on news programs where they’re interviewed and you devote a whole chapter to Matthew Elliott. So you briefly kind of summarized his career as being think tank vote leave.


James O’Brien He’s my Totem, if you like, for the much broader problem, the much broader malaise, because probably the Institute of Economic Affairs is the best example of how awful this world is. But because he sets up vote leave and because Cummings gets a chapter, I thought there was a sort of narrative symmetry to giving him the nod. But what they do and what was remarkable, actually, and I couldn’t believe this is I found a book by a bloke called Mattson Perry, who sets up something called the Adam Smith Institute 30 or 40 years ago, which does exactly the same job as the Center for Policy Studies, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Taxpayers Alliance. They just represent the interests of wealth while pretending to be profoundly academic and authoritative. And he actually wrote an autobiography called I think it was even called Think Tank. And in this autobiography, he gave the game away. He said, When we first started out, we’d all meet on Saturday nights in the Coke and Bottle Wine bar in Leicester Square, and there’d be me from the Adam Smith Institute and maybe a colleague from there. But a couple of the guys from the Institute of Economic Affairs, a couple of leader writers from that, from The Telegraph and maybe from the Times, couple of special advisers from the Conservative Party, maybe a couple of, you know, up and coming young employees. And we would sit there on Saturday nights and discuss how we were going to help set the agenda for the week ahead. And I’d end up with the journalists writing the articles that they wanted to write. At the same time, Andrew Neil was editing The Sunday Times and was putting pamphlets published by the Institute of Economic Affairs in the newspaper as if they were news, particularly a character called Charles Murray, who was very much into the underclass. He was constantly writing about the underclass and suggesting even that single mothers should have their children taken away by the state and put into kind of orphanages or put out for adoption by more middle class couples, more middle class families. And all this was percolating. And Perry writes it details the extent of their media, their print media influence, and then writes quite a poignant line I found, which is something like. But but of course, we had no ins whatsoever into broadcast. And now you cannot turn on Question Time or the daily politics or even my own radio station, not not on my watch, but on what programs presented by both any decent people. Producers need to book someone to put forward a certain position and time is short and they will book someone from one of these outfits. And Civitas is another one was even part of the Institute of Economic Affairs. It just hived off because I think they realized about 15 years ago that the more names we’ve got, the more different names go, even though we’re all in the same building effectively, or certainly in the same tiny little corner of Westminster Circle centered on Tufton Street, which has become a byword for this for this network. The more names we’ve got, the more programs will appear on. Even though we’re all singing from exactly the same hymn sheet, they can’t have someone on today from that outfit if it’s got the same name as the outfit that the fella was on from yesterday. So let’s all give each other. Those all have different names and Shamdasani who history will judge very warmly a very brave, very brave young man who blew the whistle on the vote leave law breaking.


Coco Khan Yeah.


James O’Brien He then segued after Brexit over to the Taxpayers Alliance and detailed the modern equivalent of Madam Perry’s meetings in the Coke Bottle wine bar when he talks about what his lawyers later described as the nine entities. So nine separate organizations, all ostensibly different meeting every couple of weeks under the same roof and discussing. One has to presume one doesn’t have to presume on those discussing how they were going to help set the agenda for the fortnight ahead.


Coco Khan Before we started talking, you mentioned like Christmas sales of the book and I just thought, well, that would be an unhappy Christmas just reading all of this.


James O’Brien Yes.


Coco Khan But obviously, you know.


James O’Brien Buy it for someone you hate.


Nish Kumar We should talk briefly about the kind of outlier in the book, which is Jeremy Corbyn, which I sort of found a strange inclusion only because I’m not going to relitigate the Corbyn years because we didn’t have time, but only because I think for somebody my age, a lot of the problems you describe in the book in terms of austerity, Brexit, it part of the reason Corbyn was I think, so popular certainly initially and a big part, the reason I think he won the Labour leadership is. Because it was the first time I felt I wasn’t being Gaslit about the 2008 financial crisis. Now we’d spent years hearing that it was a result of excessive public spending. And so if Corbin, is it surely not a failure of the entire rest of. British politics that nobody else was saying and of making any sort of offering to this or post 2008 financial crisis generation.


James O’Brien Yeah, I think Ed Miliband would dispute the idea that no one had challenged the Tory narrative, but Corbyn certainly seemed to offer up something very new and very fresh, and that was the work of the people around him. So well, that chapter explains, is really how his great tragedy was that he was a representative of something very attractive. But as an individual he was almost supremely ill equipped to actually deliver it. So you saw it this week and his phrase, I don’t say very often, but on Piers Morgan’s program.


Clip Are they a terror group? Everybody knows what they are. They’re terror group. So, Piers, can you say to you, Piers, calmly about this and you say it, can we have a discussion? You call them a terrorist? We have. Then you call them a terrorist. Is it possible to have a rational this are you prepared to call a possible terror group? Is it possible? Have a rational talk to me.


James O’Brien And he couldn’t do it, Which is fine if you’re a backbencher, but if you’re going to win an election in the country I describe in the book, you simply can’t bring that level of baggage to the table. And the people that put him in charge in position, chiefly John Landsman momentum. They they, they kind of knew that he was an empty vessel. They thought they could pour what they wanted into him and he would then become that the leader of. It’s not even hard left compared to most of northern Europe, but compared to the recent history of British politics. It is. But you can’t. You need two things. You need to be you need to be likable and winning. And all of the people that really like Corbyn are the people that never saw him being interviewed by Krishnan Guru-murthy quite early on in Channel four News or haven’t seen what happened on Morgan’s show the other night. He was always petulant, thin skinned, petulant, arrogant and not very bright. So it doesn’t matter how beautiful the policy offer is. By the time you come to the 2019 election and somebody somewhere had to try to stand against the unconscionable Boris Johnson, we as a country ended up with the unelectable Jeremy Corbyn, and that is part of the national tragedy. After the 2017 result, you start believing his own hype. He started he drank the Kool-Aid of his own sort of cultish support, which was a shame. I defy anyone not to have their head turned by that. But the 2017 result was all about Brexit. That was people thinking this is our last chance to possibly press pause, maybe to measure twice, once, possibly even to have another referendum. And obviously by 2019 everyone had realized that ship has sailed. And part of the reason why it sailed is because Corbyn never really campaigned for Remain and certainly never did anything after the result came in to give genuine hope to people who realized that becoming the first population in history to vote to impose economic sanctions on itself was a very stupid thing to do.


Nish Kumar Isn’t that more to do with a wider failure That’s borne out of all of the things you talk about elsewhere in the book in terms of the press, media, the idea that every single Labour leader that’s been put up in the last 13 years has been found to be too left wing can’t eat a bacon sandwich.


James O’Brien Yeah, but but there’s a big difference between a bacon sandwich and invited IRA terrorists for tea on the House of Commons or put a warm emoji on on a Facebook post of a profoundly and obviously anti-Semitic mural or wrote a forward for a book that is virulently and obviously anti-Semitic or has previously described Hamas as his friends in the past and then not being entirely honest about the circumstances in which that happened. And that’s the point message is that in order to resist the kind of environment that would describe Ed Miliband dead father. As the man who hated Britain, the last thing you can be is petulant and resentful. You’ve either you’ve either got to be incredibly emollient, you know, soothing, ignoring it, letting it all wash over you, or you’ve got to be incredibly effective at pushing back against it to sit there surrounding yourself only with people who agree with you and avoiding proper scrutiny and interview with people who are just going to be objective in their inquiries. They watch the interview with Krishnan. I mean, you know, that’s Channel four News that’s supposed to be a bastion of leftism. And he he can’t keep a lid on his temper even there.


Coco Khan I wanted to ask you, you have to argue with people all the time.


James O’Brien No, I don’t.


Coco Khan But genuinely, like I feel stressed when I listen to your show. Do you meditate? Like what? What is this secret that you have?


James O’Brien I’m very Zen these days. I didn’t used to be. I had a ton of therapy about five or six years ago for a bunch of reasons that I wrote about in the book before this one, actually. But and it’s not quite like it was. People who watched the clips think I’m still butting heads with everybody. But in fact, there’s not a lot to talk about anymore. If you think about the three key issues, which I kind of cut my teeth. On it would be Brexit, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. And I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been fairly well vindicated by events on the fact that all three of those were very, very bad ideas. So I don’t get the calls I used to get in that sense. But when it comes to having a, you know, a frank exchange of views, I just love it. You know, I want I’ll ask you a question until we get to the heart of the issue. And then if you can’t answer that question, I’ll relish the silence on the other end. At the other end of the phone line.


Nish Kumar I want to ask you something, just because I think there’s like a vague loose parallel between us in the post 2016 post-Brexit post-Trump. There was a kind of explosion of interest in. Political commentary and. Comedy that engaged with the news from somewhere from the left center, left to the broad left, there was a kind of level of interest I felt in my career, an upswing in terms of the level of attention. And I sometimes feel like a you would meet disaster capitalists.


James O’Brien Yes.


Nish Kumar Like, I, do you.


James O’Brien Yeah, of course I do.


Nish Kumar Do you ever get that feeling sometimes?


James O’Brien Of course, it was good for business, bad for the soul is how I describe it. But it’s I’ll tell you, I mean, and you’ll be the same. You know, this is we’re not faking it. But if we were trying to move into that space cynically or dishonestly or greedily, then I hope the kind of people who like our work would would see through us like a plate glass window. So yeah, I would rather. But this is a misused word. But as someone who is patriotic in the in the simplest and the purest sense of the word, I would rather that my career had stayed in third gear and my country had stayed sane.


Nish Kumar Yeah. I say that to people when they come, but they won’t believe it.


Coco Khan Are you familiar with the dating app Hinge?


James O’Brien Only by reputation, Coco.


Coco Khan Basically, the slogan is “designed to be deleted”. This idea is it’s so good. And then obviously you meet someone in deleted.


James O’Brien That’s clever.


Nish Kumar Right? Yeah. Yeah.


Coco Khan And in a way, you could say your career is ought to be deleted.


James O’Brien Isn’t it designed to be canceled or destined? Well, I’d happily I’d happily endure a downturn in my fortunes if it was an upturn for the for the country, for democracy.


Nish Kumar So, look, before we get into heroes and villains, as if to sort of illustrate the point about the speed of things.


James O’Brien Yeah.


Nish Kumar Rishi Sunak has just given a press conference where he said that he will pass an emergency law saying that Rwanda is a safe country and therefore will not let the European Court of Human Rights block deportation flights. He said that he doesn’t agree with the Supreme Court decision, but he accepts it and respects it. Then he says the rule of law is fundamental in this country. But he says he’s going to introduce emergency legislation which will assert that Rwanda is safe. Now, The Guardian has made the connection that this is a suggestion that was floated in a Daily Mail column. So, again, your your book is coming true. I mean, your your book has been clearly illustrated by this because Johnson in back in June used his Daily Mail column. Editor in chief of the Daily Mail group is, of course, Paul Dacre to say that the way to end the legal blockade in Rwanda would be to designate it as a safe country.


Coco Khan I honestly don’t understand. I don’t understand how he could do that.


James O’Brien Well, my immediate reaction is they’re saying I believe this, but I don’t believe that. But I do and I don’t. And I do. But I don’t. I do. I think and this is off the top of my head, so forgive me if I get it all horribly wrong. You can you can change the British law in order to designate Rwanda a safe country, but you’ll still be in obvious breach. So there’s two problems with that. You’ll still be in obvious breach of international law. So you’re essentially stepping out of the network of obligations and laws that protect civilization. And I’m pretty certain that they’d have to get it through the House of Lords. So good luck with that. Even though they’ve got David Cameron, I suppose they’ve added to the benches this week. I can’t see David Cameron being comfortable with any attempt to. You can’t say and this is very Johnson ish. Yeah. You can’t say we respect the rule of law while simultaneously subverting it. So those are the two most obvious problems, is that we would be stepping into a kind of international no man’s land, legally speaking. And we’re not the only country in the world that’s got problems with refugees or asylum seekers, political problems as well as perceived problems. And the second part is they’d have to get it through the House of Lords. And they wouldn’t. They couldn’t.


Nish Kumar But Sunak because also so venal and spineless. You’ve got a prime minister who essentially is because he has no mandate, is essentially completely being puppet mastered by the fringes of his party, essentially.


James O’Brien Well, it’s always a possibility. I thought this week, earlier this week that he might be just cutting his losses and deciding to go into the next general election, at least being true to whatever his principles are. So.


Coco Khan Right.


James O’Brien So he got rid of Braverman and put Esther Mcvey in a non-existent job.


Nish Kumar Yeah. The minister for pushing woke people over.


James O’Brien Gammon Maypoles.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


James O’Brien He was kind of you know to calling time on the culture Was this this. I don’t know. I think that 24 hours from now the conversation might sound slightly different. I cannot see how a government seeks to subvert really, never mind avoid some really important international supranational legislation.


Coco Khan Like you said. And it’s just just two days ago we were talking about perhaps the real Rishi Sunak has finally arrived and maybe he’s more to the center than we thought. But it’s yeah, he’s quite scary in some respects because the fact that you don’t know what he believes is even more chill. You should put him in the book.




Nish Kumar James is kindly staying with us for a few more minutes to help us pick a hero and villain of the week. James I feel like you’re somebody who’s never short of a villain. You’ve written a whole book full of them. Who would you go for?


James O’Brien Andrea Jenkins, actually. Dame. Dame Andrea Jenkins, as she is now, who wrote a letter of no confidence in Rishi Sunak that was both close to illiterate and she was an education minister for 10 minutes. And during that curious Johnson Truss and over to education. And she’s the one who famously.


Nish Kumar That it’s one of the indelible images of the Johnson administration. There were protesters booing outside Downing Street and she she flipped them off.


James O’Brien She did flip them off and then got utterly probably the most inexplicable damehood in the history of damehoods as presumably as a reward for whatever it was she did for Boris Johnson. But I find that combination of ignorance, arrogance and entitlement absolutely fascinating and in a grim Labouratory conditions kind of way, how she can think that she’s a player or bright or any of those things, and then write down on paper incontrovertible evidence of how stupid she is and not and still not notice is is a source of never ending wonder to me.


Coco Khan I mean, Nish that’s a pretty good villan of the week.


Nish Kumar That’s a pretty good villan. It’s a pretty good villan.


Nish Kumar My choice is is ITV for one simple reason that not one simple reason 1.5 million reasons. They have allegedly paid one and a half million pounds into the opportunistic, money grubbing hands of Nigel Farage in exchange for him appearing on I’m a Celebrity. Get Me Out of Here. Farage is going to be on the show this year following on from Matt Hancock of the phrase Another catastrophic error by Health Secretary Matt Hancock appearing at his appearance last year. But it’s let’s just listen to a bit of Farage.


Clip People ask me, Why are you going into the jungle? Well, it’s very simple. Number one, big new audience that’s also. Number two, proper test. How? By up to it. And number three, I’ve got to tell you, the money’s really good. And what is wrong with that.


Nish Kumar He’s what’s wrong with that. It’s a long list of reasons. The reason I’m picking ITV, not Farage, is because once again, this is an example of enabling and effectively, for want of a better term, fun washing a deeply, deeply unpleasant, vile man whose propagated some of the most hard right conspiracy theories. And I mean, for better or worse, absolutely for worse. Knowledge of fraud ultimately is the most significant and influential politician of the last 15 years in British politics, maybe this century in British politics, because he has essentially called the tune that the Conservative Party has danced to because of their fear of him on the right flank. And now the man who stood in front of a breaking point poster, which was eerily reminiscent of 1930s Nazi propaganda, is now going in to a fun reality show where he gets to eat bugs and present himself as being a relaxed, fun guy at various comedy entertainment shows, namely, Have I Got News for You were guilty of doing this with Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg, and no lessons have been learned. James, Nigel Farage obviously is one of the chapters in the book.


James O’Brien I’ve just realized we hadn’t mentioned that one had we. That’s amazing. That’s astonishing. It’s always just like we’ve sort of moved towards this dreadful shit covered pinnacle of,.


Nish Kumar Well, how, how do you feel hearing that he’s going into the jungle?


James O’Brien I try not to feel anything, actually. Yeah, but I do think it might prove to be significant. You know, people like him because they don’t know this stuff about collaborating with Alex Jones. Long after Alex Jones called the Sandy Hook parents, actors and and frauds and they don’t know about the stuff he said about the Jewish lobby in America or his associations in the past with some profoundly far right people. They probably do know about his hero worship of Enoch Powell. So it’s grim. I think you’re right to pick ITV instead of instead of picking him. I hope that is part of his slightly unexpected journey into light entertainment because awful though that would be it would be better in many ways than a return to politics.


Coco Khan But I mean, you know, you said with your book you want them to wear their crimes. So to speak.


James O’Brien Yeah. I mean, I mean, I’d much rather he got, I don’t know, strung up from a palm tree, metaphorically speaking, of course. And there might be a couple of people in there. But it’s very hard to think of people who’ve gone on to I’m a celebrity and have trashed their reputations. Most people come out with their reputations, enhanced.


Nish Kumar The concern that I have is that Farage goes into the jungle. He, you know, emerges once again as a sort of avuncular figure rather than a dangerous, divisive, far right politician who I think has done more damage to his country that anybody else. But he relaunches it as a party. I mean.


James O’Brien You can’t rule anything out. He is shameless. He is utterly and entirely without shame. And therefore you can never rule anything out. And I do I do think ITV have I want to know I wondered a bit about actually, and because they’re not stupid and they’re not politically disengaged and one presumes that they would be as repulsed by elements of Farage’s schtick as as all decent people are. And I wondered whether any of it would tarnish their reputation, but I suspect not.


Nish Kumar Let’s finish on a positive note, James, Have you got anyone to nominate as a hero of the week?


James O’Brien Have I got a hero of the week. I don’t know that I have. That’s how bleak everything is at the moment. I’m going to pick Stuart Lee because he’s my hero every week. And he very, very unexpectedly agreed to interview me on stage for the London leg of my book tour. And I think it was probably the best night of my career. And I say it’s pathetic, selfish, conceited, self-referential. But no, he’s an he of course is someone who never stops. Just like, you know, she never tires of of somehow managing to combine comedy with a critique of just how bloody awful everything is.


Nish Kumar Yes, he’s a comedic, but he’s a comedic icon and I think he would not enjoy the term beloved elder statesman, which is why I’m going to call him a beloved elder statesman.


James O’Brien He hates it.


Coco Khan So the convention on this show, James, is that normally I will pick the hero. And you know that moment there where you thought, Oh, who could I pick? They’re in short supply? You’re right. They are sort of in short supply. So increasingly, I’ve just been just pushing the boundaries of what a single hero is, to be groups of people, the collective heroes, see what I’m doing. And so this week we’ve got another one of those because my hero are foster parents.


James O’Brien Okay.


Coco Khan So fostering adoption, The situation with children in care is something that I hope we’ll be able to talk about on the show more deeply. But in a nutshell, the bleak picture has been getting worse for some time. We’re expecting the latest figures for this year to be released or hopefully on the day this podcast comes out. But all the murmurs are it’s going to be worse than last year. Last year, over 80,000 children were in care waiting times for secure placements. Extremely high campaigners of. A national child protection emergency. There’s also the issue of declining numbers of foster parents, not to mention lack of funding. The children who wait longest for placements tend to be black children, siblings and kids with additional mental or physical need. And annoyingly, that’s more than annoying, really. It just doesn’t seem to be on the agenda for any of the main politicians. It’s not in any manifestos. It doesn’t seem to be a priority. And I think that’s really, really sad. It’s a systemic failure, let’s be frank about it and so many children into care because of poverty. But nonetheless, some foster parents are still doing it, even though it’s there’s so many hurdles to to cross, they still provide this amazing service. So there are 44,000 foster families in England looking after 57,000 children just above. I mean, look, every single family deserves to be out here of the week. I did find one case study from Plymouth.


James O’Brien Hang on. Can I just withdraw my nomination, please?


Coco Khan It’s hard to top foster families, isn’t it?


James O’Brien Jesus. I’ve been ambushed.


Coco Khan They’re so brilliant. I would love to have, if I could, I would read out the names of the 44,000 foster families, but I don’t have them. But yet, as I say, I came because one lovely case study just recently, last week, a family based in Plymouth took to the BBC. A lady couldn’t show and a husband decided to foster before they had their own children. They’ve now got two of their own children, eight and 11 years old. She said her two biological children have had to become young carers. She doesn’t beat around the bush, you know, like it is hard. Of course it is hard. But she has a beautiful family now, a mixed family. And her 11 year old Erin said it was really nice to have a foster sister around. She said she helps me with my homework if I ask for it, and she’s always there for me when I’m feeling sad. Michelle said being a foster parent brings joy to her life every single day. So all the foster parents of Britain, you all are here, right?


Nish Kumar And you pick Stuart Lee because he interviewed you about your book.


James O’Brien Jesus. Just awful. Wow.


Nish Kumar The conscience of Liberal Britain. That’s what the New Statesman called you?


James O’Brien This is a new low.


Nish Kumar That was very, very lovely. That’s all we’ve got time for this week. Before we go, massive. Thank you to James O’Brien, our guest for joining us.


Coco Khan Yes, thank you so much.


James O’Brien Thank you for having me.


Nish Kumar Thank you for giving us so generously of the time.


James O’Brien Thank you.


Coco Khan And just a reminder, his new book, How They Broke Britain is out now. Am I right? Now?


James O’Brien Oh, yes.


Coco Khan In all good bookshops.


James O’Brien And mediocre ones.


Nish Kumar You can get in touch with us by emailing PSUK@reducedlistening.co.uk We love hearing your voices, so do send us a voice now on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514644572. Internationally, that’s +447514644572.


Coco Khan We’d love to get your thoughts on what we’ve discussed on this episode, or you can send in a question about British politics or just suggest something you’d like us to cover.


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


Coco Khan Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz and digital producer Alex Bishop with additional production support from Annie Keates Thorpe.


Nish Kumar Video editing was by Will Darken and the music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos


Coco Khan Thanks to our engineer David Dugahey.


Nish Kumar The executive producers are Anushka Sharma, Dan Jackson and Madeleine Herringer with additional support from Ari Schwartz.


Coco Khan Watch us on the Pod Save the World YouTube Channel. Follow us on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram where we’re Pod Save the UK. All one word.


Nish Kumar Hit subscribe for new shows on Thursday on Amazon, Spotify or Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.