In This Episode
Can the Labour Party save the UK? Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry is challenged by Nish and Coco over her party’s attack ads, and on the Labour manifesto – which she promises will help young people, and be bullshit free. Find out why she thinks being Labour leader is the hardest job in the world, and what she got up to behind the bike sheds with David Cameron.
Plus, Mr Sunak goes to Washington, Prince Harry goes to court, and a familiar Brexit campaigner returns (clue: his blood type is real ale). Plus find out why Nish feels like he’s in Mad Max, and why Coco is celebrating Bristol’s toilets!
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Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, and Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales
Coco Khan Hi, this is Pod Save the UK. I’m Coco Khan.
Nish Kumar And I’m Nish Kumar, don’t worry, we haven’t fallen out and are refusing to share the same studio together.
Coco Khan No, no. This week, Nish is bringing a little Canadian flavor to the show.
Nish Kumar Yes, I’m in Toronto on a family holiday, which, whilst lovely for me, is of absolutely no editorial use for us whatsoever.
Coco Khan But don’t worry, keeping me company in the studio instead is Labour’s shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry.
Nish Kumar Yes, that’s right. We’re going to find out if Labour has got what it takes to save the UK.
Coco Khan Hi Nish, how’s how’s Canada treating it? I read in the news today that Toronto is experiencing some substantial air pollution due to wildfires.
Nish Kumar Yeah. The Toronto sky has got an unsettling shade of red brown. Oh, God, it is. I don’t think it’s ever a compliment. When people say things, feel a bit like Mad Max, like, that’s never a good comparison to draw. And so, yeah, it’s gone. It’s a little bit mad. Max in the background. Toronto at the moment, Right.
Coco Khan Okay. I was going to make a joke about you being over there for a trade deal, but given the kind of natural apocalypse you’re facing, seems a bit maybe too soon.
Nish Kumar No. Yeah, it’s. It’s definitely. It’s dusty in those Toronto streets.
Coco Khan Okay, so let’s focus on the big political story of the week. So Rishi Sunak started the week in Dover. He’s picking up his Stop the Boats campaign, but right now he’s in Washington for his first official visit to the White House as prime minister. Now, I know we have a lot of international listeners to whom he won’t be quite as familiar as Boris Johnson. So, Nish, how about a quick guide to Rishi Sunak? You’ve got 60 seconds. Go.
Nish Kumar He is the first ever prime minister of color. He’s a British Indian man. He was educated at Oxford University and the elite sort of private school, Winchester. He has a background as an investment banker and working at hedge funds. He has a connection to America because he actually met his wife while he was studying at Stanford University in California. He still keeps a house in Santa monica and somewhat controversially, continued to hold a green card up to 2021. He’s had a meteoric rise to ten Downing Street. He was still not particularly known to the wider public when he replaced Sajid Javid as chancellor in February of 2020. On a personal level, he’s known to be a lover of the Star Wars film franchise and described himself as a Coke addict. Now, just to be clear, that is Coca-Cola at all. Rishi Sunak saving me. Fingers crossed. Joe Biden has lent his name by now because when he became prime minister, Joe Biden congratulated a man called Rashid Sanuk, which bears as much resemblance to Rishi Sunak’s name as Adele Dazeem did to Idina menzel in Travolta’s infamous Oscars gaffe.
Coco Khan Someone else who knows a lot about Rishi Sunak because she has to look him in the face every single day is our special guest, Emily Thornberry, shadow attorney General for England and Wales and Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury. She’s also a former Shadow Foreign Secretary and shadow trade Secretary, and she was effectively Jeremy Corbyn’s number two when he was leader. Hi, Emily.
Emily Thornberry Hello.
Coco Khan What’s your experience has been in the States and with President Biden?
Emily Thornberry I am. I’ve only met President Biden once and I met him in Britain. In fact, I was I was introduced to him by Theresa May through gritted teeth. And I spoke to him and he said, oh, Labour, Labour. If I was in the UK, that would be my party, right? And I said, Yes.
Coco Khan Oh, okay, cool.
Emily Thornberry That was it.
Coco Khan So what was he genuinely asking that like, right. Please confirm that, right?
Emily Thornberry Think it was just the way that he spoke and the way that he was. You thought. I probably need to affirm that he’s he is correct and he has any worries about it. Labour is his party. He doesn’t need to worry about it.
Coco Khan I just thought like Ed Davey had been in his ear?
Emily Thornberry No, no, no. Good Lord. No.
Coco Khan So part of Rishi Sunak’s being over there is to make a pitch for Britain to be an international player in AI, which, you know, sounds great, but ultimately is quite sad because we are not part of the global conversation because we’re out of the EU. I’m just wondering, Nish, what are your thoughts on on Sunak’s plans?
Nish Kumar Well, I mean, obviously, one of the things that was promised in the Brexit deal was that we would have a sort of UK US trade partnership. The fact that that’s not even being discussed is obviously suboptimal. But yeah, he’s gone out to try and pitch the UK as a kind of global leader on AI. It’s obviously a somewhat concerning situation given that experts, including the heads of OpenAI and Google DeepMind, have warned that artificial intelligence could lead to the extinction of humanity. And I again like to continue. The dystopian film theme is a little bit concerning when experts in the field are saying we’re basically on the verge of Terminator.
Coco Khan A.I. then. What’s Labour’s plan for AI?
Emily Thornberry I have to say, I mean, I wrote an article about this seven years ago saying how concerned I was that we didn’t have any we weren’t thinking this through and it could run away with us. You know, if you have artificial intelligence, that is it autonomous, that can make its own, that they can learn itself. That can be you know, the question is, can we pull the plug on it? Are we getting it into our systems in such a way that it will be able to make decisions that can be of enormous importance? It could be about safety, it could be about about, you know, to what extent might we even be using it in terms of warfare and and this sort of thing? And are we going to be able to pull the plug on it? That’s the real question. Can we unplug it or will we end up with it being so far into our systems that will affect our way of life so much and we will never have put down any sort of control? And that’s what I wrote seven years ago. As seven years on, nobody seems to have done anything really about that. But, you know, we do need to begin with that and we do need to begin with. Are we letting this into our systems without any control? Will it be able to make its own decisions? Will it profoundly affect us? If so, we need to have some form of of regulation of that. And we need to know where is it learning things from? What is it learning and how is it making decisions? And in what way will it affect us? And if people can’t answer those questions, we shouldn’t be using it. There are other ways in which you can use A.I. in limited ways that can really enhance our way of life. That can be incredibly helpful.
Nish Kumar There’s clearly some advantage to it, but there’s sort of no point in. I think this is also part of the problem when you have someone like Sunak in power who at the moment is almost I mean, you’re you’re talking to a guy who’s probably not going to be in the job in a year and a half. So we’re talking about things like I that do have, you know, plausible threats to the future of the species is a bit of an issue that we have somebody who may not be in the job in a year and a half time and certainly isn’t really able to maneuver a huge amount within his own party to actually get legislation passed.
Emily Thornberry I think that’s right. I think we have a zombie government. But I think that and I think if you look at AI is a very good example of what he does as he goes to the United States. And his answer is that he wants there to be an international conference in London about AI. He wants Britain to have an international research body. He wants the global watchdog on AI to be in the UK. All of which sounds fine. Let’s hope he can deliver it. But it isn’t really an answer in itself. But it kind of looks good. And that goes back to what I’m saying is that everything is kind of superficial. Everything is about trying to dampen down the problems, keep things calm, keep things relatively still, and hope for the best. At least they’re avoiding the worst. And that’s not exactly leadership. You know, that’s not exactly what our country needs at the moment when we have so many challenges. And frankly, if you look at what they have been doing for the last 13 years, you do wonder what is it that they can say next election? We have achieved this? Yeah, a Tory government has delivered this. Is anybody any richer? Well, the richest are richer, but is anybody else any richer? Are any of our public services any better? Have there been any big infrastructure projects? I mean, they’ve delivered Brexit, which is somewhat controversial, but otherwise, what are they achieved?
Coco Khan Well, someone who has been an unlikely ally in taking down the Tories is Prince Harry. I don’t know if there’s much coverage of this story over there, but it’s wall to wall today. As we speak now, he’s in the witness box giving evidence for a second day in his hacking case against the publisher of The Daily Mirror.
Nish Kumar For somebody who is still, at least in familial terms, part of the royal family, it’s a pretty extraordinary intervention. Harry said that Rishi Sunak’s government is at rock bottom and avoid scrutiny by getting in bed with friendly newspapers. And he actually told the High Court that our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our government, both of which I believe are at rock bottom, which is, I mean, pretty strong language for Harry to have used, to be honest. I’d have liked to see a little bit more of this in his book and a little bit less about him rubbing cream on his dick. I think that that might have made the book a bit more of a substantive text if it included a.
Coco Khan I don’t know man.
Nish Kumar Critique of the UK power establishment instead of being the old the old cream dick stuff.
Coco Khan Listen, it’s relatable content. That’s why he’s doing it. He’s just like everyone, I guess. Emily, can I offer a suggestion? Get Prince Harry to endorse the Labour Party. What do you think?
Emily Thornberry I think he just has.
Coco Khan Oooh. Touche.
Nish Kumar I think if you say something’s wrong bottom, you’re endorsing almost whatever the alternative is for that.
Coco Khan Well, that would be quite the plot twist, wouldn’t it? Prince Harry comes out, he’s got a little Labour rose in his profile. What?
Nish Kumar I like obviously, I’m following this odd lead, but I’m not there. How have the British press reacted to being called a bunch of assholes by a man who was already one of their least favorite people in human history?
Emily Thornberry They couldn’t get more across. I mean, they couldn’t be more cross anyway. So it doesn’t really matter. I mean, the the there was a nice bit of color, I think, in one of the papers about the The Guardian’s political correspondent, the one who sits up in the public gallery and makes jokes. And he was he had got a day off from Parliament and had gone off to to the Royal Courts of Justice and wanted to use the loo. And there was a big burly man standing in the way and he kind of pushed his way past and went into the loo and there was Prince Harry at the urinals. Stood next to him. Hello. Hello. That was its. Best bit of light we’ve actually seen from this.
Coco Khan This. I also would like to mention that even though Prince Harry has accused tabloids of hacking his voicemails, the publisher’s lawyers have said that legitimate sources were behind many of the stories about him, and they denied that journalists had acted unlawfully.
Nish Kumar Well, I think that’s covered us from being sued Coco.
Coco Khan *Laughs* thank you. Thank you. I’m doing my best.
Nish Kumar We just have to say allegedly a few times and then everything’s fine.
Coco Khan Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. On the subject of Prince Harry, you know how amusing it is. Aside, it does raise some very, very serious questions about who actually is running Britain, who is in power. But I mean, what’s your position? What’s Labour’s position on regulating the press?
Emily Thornberry I genuinely think it comes back to the BBC. I think having as a a load bearer, a a an institution which is run by public money, which is independent of government, but who can be relied on and trusted and isn’t subject to pressure from government. And I think that most people get their news from the 10:00 news and they get entertainment from the newspapers. And I think that actually the print printed media is sets the agenda in a way that it shouldn’t. And the BBC and following its ITV and Channel four should have more confidence in being able to make their own decisions about what is. And I think you see it more and more. And the and the print journalism having less influence than they think they do. But I mean, I can’t pretend that we aren’t mindful of what the printed media says, not because of what necessarily that many people reading it and believing every word, but because it affects broadcast media. Broadcast media is really where it’s at. And I think that as we get increasing other, you know, social media as well becomes more important and Facebook becomes more important. So I think we’re seeing the kind of, you know, the print media being in in great difficulties and not being trusted source of information anymore.
Nish Kumar [AD]
Nish Kumar Well, we’re thrilled to be joined by Emily Thornberry today on Pod Save the UK. And we have spent the last few weeks largely slagging off the Tory party. And I hold my hands up as being principally responsible for that. Emily I’ve always like my cards on the table. I am a lifelong Labour voter who lacks imagination in the voting booth. I’m not sure that there’s any institution apart from maybe the BBC that I have such a complicated relationship with and yet continue to support unequivocally. Maybe Manchester United. I think it’s those three. Is the Labour Party, Manchester United of the BBC. Now it’s kind of as we speak, the Labour manifesto is being worked on. And given the state of this country and given the changes that are needed. I think there are a lot of us who would like this to be a bold and radical manifesto. So my first question for you, Emily, is am I going to be disappointed?
Emily Thornberry I think that what you’re going to get is you’re going to get a manifesto that will have real substance to it, but will also be completely believable and realistic. I think that we need to be an antidote to 13 years of Tories who constantly promise the world and don’t deliver anything. And what we want to be able to do is we want to be able to say, we will do this and the money will come from here. We will do this. And here is the the the background in terms of policy and the legislation that we will do and we will do it well and we will slowly bring our country out of the mire and we will be a country to be proud of again. And we will have an economy that will be growing. We will look after public services, we will have a more equal society, and we will be able to hold our heads up high. And we’ve and what we’ve done is we are beginning the process. So we you know, we’re beginning the process in terms of we have Keir talks about missions and talked about the sort of things that he wants to do in relation to the NHS, state of the economy, crime of crime on our street, opportunities for young people. And the most important one of all, of course, which is the issue as to what we are going to do about the future of the planet. And and we will have policies. We are in the process of putting them together and it’s taking us some time and we’re doing it with great care. But we’re serious about government and we want to do it well. And if the public give us the great honor of letting us serve them, we want to step up and to be worthy of of the opportunity that will be given.
Coco Khan Starmer’s personal ratings are pretty underwhelming. Are you concerned about that?
Emily Thornberry Well, I think that when Keir talks about things that he really believes in, you can see it. You can see I mean, I was there when he did a speech about crime and about how it had been his lifelong mission to make people feel safer, to ensure that people were brought to justice. And unfortunately, not very many people saw it, you know, But I was there and I was sort of 20 feet away. And I mean, it was amazing. I sent him a message saying, I honestly have not seen you speak like that for a very long time. And it was just because he spoke directly from the heart. So it’s certainly there. I mean, he is also, you know, what happens with Labour leaders, right, Is and I think maybe they say with all leaders is you got to be perfect, right? You can’t make a single mistake. You can’t say anything wrong. You can’t scratch your nose, you can’t eat a bacon sandwich. But on the other hand, you’ve got to be relaxed and you’ve got to be like people are and you can’t be both. And yet, you know, and it doesn’t matter. And if you go down one path, then you get criticized by the other half. And if you go down this way, then people say you’re not perfect enough. And so it goes on, you know, and they’ll make exceptions, you know, for some Tory leaders, but they’ll never make that exception for a Labour leader. And that is the truth. I don’t know why we are, but we are we are held to a different standard. And that’s just kind of like there’s no point saying, you know, it’s not fair because it doesn’t matter really whether it’s fair or not. It’s the truth. And so we’ve just got to you know, he has a there isn’t a more difficult job in the whole world, I don’t think, than being leader of the Labour Party when we are in opposition because of the tabloids, because of the attitude and because of this kind of you’ve got to prove yourself. You had to prove yourself. You’re not in power, but you still got to prove yourself, you know, And you know, you may not have a civil service, but we want to have the the all the details of your policies, you know, before you get into government. And we the Tory Party, can be in government and we can make ridiculous promises that we will never deliver. And everybody knows that we won’t deliver. But somehow or other, that’s all right. But the Labour Party has always got to be absolutely truthful and sound.
Coco Khan So, Emily, I just want to play you a clip here. Earlier in the series, we interviewed Will Moy, CEO of fact checking charity, Full Fact.
Clip Manifestos. We call them bullshit manifestos. They are about a world that doesn’t exist and making promises about. Well, that kind of exists. What is the point of writing a manifesto? What’s the point of reading it? And to be honest, I have some sympathy with people who say, what is the point of voting? So we’ve got to push back and expect more than that. We want to end bullshit manifestos. We want to hold parties to a standard where you’ve actually got to show how your manifesto adds up. You’ve got to make claims that are actually checkable and meaningful so that people can ultimately work out whether your promises work and whether you’ve implemented them in the end.
Coco Khan So can you promise us a bullshit free manifesto?
Emily Thornberry That’s what I’m saying. And and in order for us to be able to have a manifesto where we can cost everything, we will. We’ll put that before people and it will be realistic and it will be costed and then people will go. So where are the unicorns? You know, that’s the point. And the Tories can promise the unicorns. And somehow or other, that’s all right. But, you know. But we will be. That’s what we’re going to do. You know, we’re we’re going to produce a manifesto that that that will be, you know, subject to a huge amount of scrutiny. And it needs to be kind of bomb proof.
Coco Khan I was glad to hear you talk about, you know, ultimately when voters give you their vote, it’s a it’s an honor and it’s a privilege. I’m also a lifelong Labour voter, but I’ve felt quite taken for granted. I think, you know, I’m a person of color. I’m for working class background. I live in London. I think everybody knows where my vote is going. And sometimes I felt kind of frustrated that I’m just assumed that I will continue to vote Labour. And that’s maybe not necessarily always the case. The next general election will be the first at which millennials are likely to outnumber boomers. Young people have had a very bad ride, 13 years of it. I’ve actually never voted for a party That’s one that’s more about my age, I think. But I wanted to ask you about the where you see young people in Labour’s mission.
Emily Thornberry I think what was said about housing is kind of absolutely speaks to a generation that has just been ignored. And if people just don’t have a chance of being able to own their own homes or rent anything halfway decent, because in the end we don’t have enough houses, we don’t have enough homes and we have to. And Keir has made it clear and I think it was actually this was a radical. But you want a radical policy. That’s a radical policy, You know, saying that we will be we will change the planning system. We are going to build homes. We are not going to have. No, we’re not. We are going to be ignoring the naysayers. We are going to be building. And if we have to build on the greenbelt, we’ll build on the greenbelt, but we’re going to build and we’re going to have regional targets and local authorities must, you know, must must deliver on those targets. And and there is no ifs or buts. That’s it. They’ve got to do it because my generation are fine. You know, my generation, as you say, you know, I’m a I’m a boomer and I’m fine, you know, and my generation of either got secure social housing or got onto the property ladder at a time when it was really quite cheap. It was alright. We could get there, you know, I mean, I lived in a hard to let flat I live in are hard to let. I mean people don’t even know what that is. Now that was a council flat that nobody wanted, It didn’t have any heating and the lift was a bit dodgy, but at least it was my flat and it cost £14 a week, you know, in Poplar. And I saved enough money to pay for a deposit. And then my ladder, my.
Coco Khan Spirit leaving my body. When you said 14.
Emily Thornberry I know. Imagine. Imagine. As I say, it was cold. Yeah. Well so yeah, you know, it was a shame the heating, it didn’t work, but you know, but nevertheless, that’s the point is I’m from a different generation and and I’m all right. And what we need to do is have a bit of imagination, a bit of empathy for a younger generation that has had nothing done for it. And, you know, my generation, you know, has gone to the pension funds and has eaten all the fashion, killed all the tigers and has homes and everything else. And the younger generation should be much angrier, I think, than they then they are and they certainly should vote.
Coco Khan Yeah.
Nish Kumar Well, I just want to pick up on something you said previously about in terms of it being an easier game for Tory leaders in some in some instances I would 100% agree with that. I think for the last 30 years because of the political weighting of the print media, particularly, which sets the political agenda for the country, is being a Tory leader is politics on easy mode. And and but in terms of.
Emily Thornberry Can I just can I just give you an example of that? So I so I when Cameron was leader of the opposition, he would cycle in and say what I said we would meet at the bike shops.
Nish Kumar Have a cheeky cigarette. A cigarette.Emily.
Emily Thornberry Yeah. Well on my part. Yeah. Anyway and, and the point was that I met him again, we were both for some reason sort of getting on bicycles again. But he was prime Minister at this stage I don’t quite know why but anyway he was, and he was having suddenly a hard time because he was trying to argue that against the, against the print media that we should remain in the EU. And suddenly they were turning on him and he was saying they’re being so terrible. And I just said, welcome to my world. This is what it’s like being in the Labour Party all the time. But he was so shocked that things had turned on him the way that it had.
Nish Kumar But just speaking as a Labour voter, I know there’ll be a lot of people listening to this podcast that might have some concerns around Keir Starmer’s integrity and the integrity of his promises, because in his leadership campaign there were certain pledges around the abolition of tuition fees, taxation of the highest earners and nationalization of key industries that have fallen by the wayside. So I guess my question. Is how can we trust this round of manifesto pledges?
Emily Thornberry So I think that what we have to look at and I think is always the way in politics, is that you may make pledges at a certain time, at a point of time, but then a lot happens. Since since Keir made the pledges in advance of the leadership competition, we have had COVID. We’ve had the Tories crashing the economy. We’ve had a bad Brexit and things are very different, unfortunately, than the way that they were in 2018, 2019. So that’s why the politics has changed, the economic economics has changed. And so Keir has had to change with it. That doesn’t mean that you don’t believe the same things that you did before, because you do. And there are many good things that we want to do as Labour politicians. But we will be constrained by the fact that, you know, it happened six months ago, the Tories completely crashed the economy. And again, it’s as if it didn’t happen. Nobody talks about it now. It’s as if people are expected to just forget about it. Well, we haven’t forgotten about it. And unfortunately, as for example, people with fixed mortgages, when they get their new mortgage come in, it will be much more expensive. But it’s also much more expensive for the economy. For the economy now, because the economy was crashed in the way that it was and because we’ve had no growth and we’ve got a bad Brexit and we’ve got a Brexit deal that doesn’t work for our country and they’re doing nothing about repairing it. So there are all of these different things. And then obviously, you know, there is the huge debt that was that was brought in during COVID and all of the fraud and all of the bad contracts, and they are not doing anything about getting the money back.
Coco Khan Do you know when an election is going to be? Because I’m 35 and I am I need to have a child soon, I’m told by a cliff, a political podcast. So I don’t really want to be going into Labour as Labour come in. It’s poetic, but it’s not really what I’m after. So, you know, I mean, any ideas?
Emily Thornberry Nobody knows because he hasn’t decided yet. I mean, I think he’s kind of hoping to to spin out as long as possible. And as I say, hope that something turns up or that Labour makes a mess of things. But they don’t have a plan as far as I know. And obviously, the local elections were so bad for them that I think that it’s pushed an election further into the future. They’re not rushing to the polls, are they? They’re just hoping that something will change.
Coco Khan It’s going to be such a classic, isn’t it Nish? Labour will come in. I go into Labour. What a nightmare.
Nish Kumar Not enough political shows where the interview is just outright ask politicians. When should I start trying for advice?
Coco Khan They don’t. The priorities are all wrong.
Nish Kumar Those are the most important questions to ask.
Coco Khan So, Emily, we thought that maybe you could help us with our mailbag. So that’s where we get our correspondence from the listeners. We set ourselves up as an agony aunt and uncle. I’m still not happy about this terminology. I can see that Nish is doing a thumbs up for this.
Nish Kumar Of course I’m happy about it. I’m literally an uncle. As of about four days ago, my brother’s wife gave birth to my nephew. So for me to quibble about being considered uncle now is literally nonsense because I am quite literally someone’s uncle.
Coco Khan Well, I am not anyone’s auntie. And I’m, as everybody knows, 21 so is far too young to be an aunt. But anyway, we’ve had a few interesting emails bringing up tactical voting that we’d love to get your thoughts on. Emily. So this is coming from Laura. She says, This is my dilemma. Traditionally, I have always voted for the Green Party and I consider myself a left wing socialist or socialist adjacent voter. And if that’s a reference to you, nish, because you love an adjacent. However, in the last election, I voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party as I believed in what they stood for and felt they had a good chance of convincing enough voters to oust the Tories. Since Keir Starmer has taken over, I’ve been very unhappy with his treatment of unions, his disdain of the left of the party, and his backtracking on progressive policies. But it seems like they might actually be able to beat the Tories this time. So do I vote for a party I don’t believe in because anything is better than the Tories? Or is tactical voting ever right? Please help me.
Emily Thornberry Vote Labour. Vote Labour and vote Labour as a Greens should vote Labour because you know what? We are the Green Party. Because look at our policies. Look what we said at the last conference. We talked about investing in our country and changing the way in which our economy runs. We talked about bringing doubling the amount of offshore wind, doubling the amount of onshore wind, making sure that we had factories for making batteries for electric cars so that we can keep our car industry in this country alive, making sure that we have enough charging points, ensuring that we insulate homes, making sure that our bills go down forever, that we are never dependent on Putin or Saudi Arabia or anything else. Our bills will go down forever. We will be able to look after ourselves and we will have a different type of economy and we will grow. Now, if you want to vote Green. Or do you want to vote Labour? Vote Labour.
Coco Khan One thing I would say just to sort of chime with some of Laura’s concerns, I’ve been a Labour voter my whole life. Very, very rarely, I would say actually never has the leadership totally represented all of my opinions. But I’ve given the vote to the Labour Party because it’s not just the leadership, it’s the party, it’s the membership, it’s the movement, the coalition of people who have a shared vision, even if they have different ideas of how they want to do it, even if some are more left than others or whatever it might be. Is the Labour tent getting smaller? Is the big tent still there.
Emily Thornberry Now where the Coalition on the left with the Coalition on the left and the Tories or the Coalition on the right, and there are some of the minor parties, but I would say vote Labour.
Nish Kumar But is there a danger, Emily? I mean, for example, I’m just thinking about something that’s happened in the last week or so with the row over Jamie Driscoll, the decision of the Labour Party to block Jamie Driscoll from running to be the mayor of the new sort of north east area. And there’s a sense that or certainly he believes it’s because of the perception that he was a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Is there a danger that this kind of aggression towards the left of the party could put off some of Labour’s core support? Is there a danger in the sort of whacking of the left that it could have the effect of depressing the vote?
Emily Thornberry I mean, I don’t think I agree with the with the question, really. I mean, I believe myself to be on the left of the party and I want us to be in power. I don’t want to be a party of opposition. I don’t think we can achieve anything in opposition. I’m fed up with being in opposition. I want to be in government and I want to be able to change people’s lives. And that does mean getting people who voted conservative last time to vote Labour as well as, of course, looking after a left flank as well. So it is a coalition and it is a difficult balancing act to make. But when it comes to candidates, we do have to be quite strict about who it is that is going to be a Labour candidate and who isn’t. And I mean, I’m not I’m not on the NSC. I never have been. But I know that there are quite, as I say, strict criteria that have been introduced recently, and that has been controversial in some cases. But I’m not really I’m not in a position to be able to comment in any particular case. But, you know, we need to be a professional outfit.
Coco Khan To be honest. Emily, I did have a moment when I was like, I’m surprised you still in the party because you are left wing.
Emily Thornberry But I’ve always been in the Labour Party. I was born in the right party. I don’t believe in that. There is a better government than a Labour government no matter what. And that. I have always worked for is for a Labour government, and that’s what I want. And I, you know, I, I joined the Labour Party because, you know, my I was brought up by a single parent on a council estate. I, you know, failed my 11 plus. And I had free school dinners. We lived on benefits and the world was unfair. And only the Labour Party could make that that world better. That’s why I joined the Labour Party. That’s why I’m committed to it. And I do believe that we can make a difference. I wouldn’t bother getting up in the morning if I didn’t believe that.
Nish Kumar I definitely share that kind of sense of what the Labour Party can and has been for the country. But I do think that there are areas where some of us maybe feel a little queasy, certainly around like, for example, the issue of migration and some of the kind of dog whistle racism that’s being used in the press and also by front line members of the Conservative Party. I don’t know what your personal relationship is with Suella Braverman, but like, what the fuck is up with her? I guess you can tell us Emily. Fuck is up with Suella?
Emily Thornberry She was attorney general for some time and and the shadow attorney general. And we had an interesting relationship. She’s something else, isn’t she?
Coco Khan We’ve got a lovely clip of you and Suella to play.
Clip Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. And can I say what an honor it is to be at this dispatch box facing the next prime minister. As she rights a call from the past. A true honor. Although colleagues will have noticed in her list of leadership priorities last night, the attorney General had absolutely nothing to say about tackling the epidemic of crime in our country or ending the culture of lawbreaking in our government, both of which have flourished under her watch.
Coco Khan So I see it’s very cordial.
Emily Thornberry I was just congratulating her, what’s the problem?
Coco Khan Fair play though she’s opportunistic, she’s clearly gunning for it, isn’t she?
Emily Thornberry She’s clearly going for it. She’s clearly going for it. I think she’s clearly thinking that if the conservatives lose power next time, they won’t have the ability to have a sort of self-reflection that they need to have. And they will think that they what they need to do is be more right wing. And good luck to them. And that’s what they want to do. And if they want Sowell as leader, good luck to them.
Coco Khan Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about Suella Braverman on this. But, you know, you’re from the Labour Party. You’re in front of us. So we have to ask you those attack ads with Rishi Sunak that was full. Is this what we can expect, this kind of mudslinging, maybe a little bit of dog whistling even from our side in the run up to election?
Emily Thornberry Why do you say dog whistling?
Coco Khan If the Conservatives are pushing this idea of Pakistani grooming gangs? And then there’s a Labour attack ad with a South Asian man on it saying that he’s not doing enough on sexual violence against women? I’m not sure the average person knows the difference that Rishi Sunak is not Pakistani or not. Do you know what I mean? I think if you were to look at the optics of that, it’s just that it’s both sides dog whistling about Asian men and that as a podcast we’ve hosted by two South Asians makes us very, very uncomfortable.
Nish Kumar Yeah, I have to say that when I saw the the sneak attack ads, the picture of Rishi Sunak next to do you think Adult was convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t. And especially when I sort of looked into it and found that, you know, for some of the period covered by the kind of explaining caption underneath it seem that it wasn’t even sort of in government. I have to say that my dog whistle racist spidey sense tingled that. I don’t think there’s a more side to this. I wish there was a more scientific way that I can put it than that. But there is just sometimes this feeling in your stomach when you look at something that doesn’t feel right to me. And it made me, you know, I want the Labour Party to be the party of ideas and ideals.
Emily Thornberry All right.
Nish Kumar So fully costed, practically executed ideas of course.
Emily Thornberry So let me just I mean, obviously, let’s just put it out there of it that the vast majority of people who groom young women are white. And what Suella Braverman says about the majority of child groomers being poor Pakistani men of Pakistani origin is a lie. Right. That’s just like, let’s put that straight. And then the other question is this, right? It’s one of the things that happened when Rishi Sunak was elected was that we all celebrated the fact that it didn’t make any difference, that where it was that he came from, that he’d become leader, that he was from the South South Asian heritage, but that.
Coco Khan He was just your normal millionaire like the rest of us.
Emily Thornberry I mean, all I’m saying is that is that, you know, we all were celebrating the fact that, you know, look at British politics. It doesn’t make a difference. Now, so what we wanted to do with that advert was to say, yeah, he’s trying to make this into a presidential system. He’s trying to say that it’s all about him, that somehow or other that he has become the new Tory party, that he is the new Tory party, and yet we’ve had 14 years of failure on crime in Britain. And the and the statistics are appalling, you know, that it takes three years for a case, a rape case to come to court, that less than 2% of of reported rape cases even come to court, you know. So that’s that’s. That’s the legacy that we’re getting and we want to hold the Tories to account. What we don’t want is for him to float off and somehow say the Tories are great because I’m great. And we wanted to say, now you’re the Tory leader and this is the failure that the Tories have had. And so you have to you have to be held accountable to that. That’s what the reasoning behind it was that I mean, that is the reasoning. And of course what happened was that there was a hell of a hullabaloo about it for a good week or so, which kind of was good because we were able to talk about crime because we couldn’t get it onto the agenda otherwise. You know, So yeah, we talked. We blamed him for that. We blamed him for a whole load of things. I mean, it wasn’t just that. I mean, there were other things. There was I think there was knife crime we blamed him for. There was, you know, I mean, there were things that weren’t on the on the crime brief, but there were other things that we and we used the same thing. You know, Rishi Sunak doesn’t believe in this because if Rishi Sunak did believe in, you know, doing something about this, he would do something about it. I mean, it’s just like, you know, you’re in charge of the country. Do something. Here are the problems. Do something. If you don’t do something. You must think that it’s okay.
Coco Khan Listen, we’ve got no problem of holding Rishi Sunak to account, but there is just a reality that, you know, we don’t want our ethnicity to be used as a political football. And when you have a brown man’s face on a poster so that this person doesn’t care about the grooming, of.
Emily Thornberry I’m past that I’m talking about him as prime minister, he’s the prime minister and I should be able to hold him to account the same. You’re not telling me that I should hold them to account a different way?
Coco Khan I’m just saying I would expect the Labour Party to be a bit more sensitive to the on the ground experience of Brown people.
Nish Kumar I also desperately want Rishi Sunak to be held to account for his record as Chancellor. The eat out to help out scheme, the inability to find huge sums of money that seem to have disappeared in the government’s COVID procurement schemes that his record for the Conservative Party’s record on crime. I do want the leadership held to account, but can you see how from my perspective, I might have found the tone of that Labour attack? You know, as a South Asian man, I might have found the execution of that accountability discomforting.
Emily Thornberry I mean, I think my challenge to you that we shouldn’t be treating Rishi Sunak any differently to anybody, any other prime minister that we want to have is is a true one, you know, and is a hope I’m for you to get over. I mean, that’s all I’m saying is that we treated him like we would treat anybody if it had been a white woman, a white man, an Asian, Asian woman, an Asian man. You go for him because they were because they are responsible for the Tory record. And we cannot allow them to get away. We have no clue. They can’t just like, oh, look, I’ve got into my time machine, I’ve come out, I’m a different person. We have a new Tory party. No, we’re not accountable for anything else the previous ones have done. Yes, you are 13 years. You are now the Prime Minister and you’re going to be going to the next election and you’re going to say, Oh, don’t blame me for what happened before. Look at me, I’m cuddly. Rishi Sunak Well, no, you’re not. You are the leader of the Tory party and you have done all this to the country.
Coco Khan I think we can talk about this more, but for now you may be aware that we have a special segment on this called Heroes and Villains. And I understand that you might have a hero for us.
Emily Thornberry Oh, yes. Heather Hallett And how it’s wonderful. Heather Hallett, who is in charge of a an inquiry into what happened in Britain during COVID and in particular the government’s response. And so the government set up an independent inquiry with pretty broad terms, but it was to be independent and they put the glorious Heather Harris in charge of it. Heather Hallett had done an inquiry into seven seven and had done it in a way that nobody can criticize. And now she wants to have the WhatsApp messages of the former prime minister. And whilst Boris Johnson seems to be at least claims that he’s happy to hand over everything, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office are having a blue fit and don’t want to hand it over and have decided to judicially review her now. Well, you don’t, you judicially review is you take a case to court and you say to a judge, this decision that’s been made is is is is outside of the remit is is quite extraordinary, needs to be looked at carefully. We think that they you know, there’s something very wrong with the way that they’ve been making this decision. And please look at it again. And normally the government will be on the receiving side. You know, people will take ministers to court for making terrible decisions. But this time, the government has taken a judge to court for making a wrong decision. Heather Hallett Heather Hallett was the first woman to, I think the first woman to be in the Court of Appeal. Heather Hallett walks on water. I mean, she’s a she and there’s going to be a judge somewhere who’s going to have to decide whether. Heather Hallett I mean, I’m not just talking about half the Labour Party here. I mean, she is, you know, without through the through the legal establishment, thought extremely highly of. But she has decided to take an independence. It doesn’t matter what the government says. She says, I want to see the messages. They say they’re not relevant. She says, well, let me have a look at them and I’ll decide. And they’re saying, No, we’re going to take you to court. It’s the most amazing thing anyway. She is standing her ground. And if I was if I was a family member who had lost someone because of COVID and wanted to get some truth out of the COVID inquiry, I would think to myself, well, this Heather Hallett looks like she’s.
Nish Kumar Got the business. I think Heather Hallett clearly has got some steel because I don’t think there’s a force in the world that would make me want to look through Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp. I mean, given some of the stuff that matters is happy to say publicly his WhatsApp. I mean, the the family filter is off. Let’s just put it that way.
Coco Khan Emily Thornberry We have to say goodbye, but thank you so much for your time today.
Nish Kumar Thanks, Emily.
Coco Khan So it’s time now for the bit that I know many of our listeners look forward to. It’s PSUK’s Hero and Villain of the Week. We heard from Emily earlier. But Nish and I also have prepared something, so I’m going to kick off with our hero, which is the Bristol Community Toilet Scheme. This is a very classic Coco Khan story, as you know. I love to think about how the political impacts, the personal and what could be more personal than our toileting habits. Now, the number of public toilets has drastically dropped over the last 15 years. It is causing difficulties for all manner of people, older people, pregnant women, menstruating women, people who just want to be out and about for longer than a few hours. Something I always think about and this on this topic is how one of the suffragettes very first issues that they took up was around public toilets, because, of course, if women were kept on what they described as a urinary leech back then, they couldn’t really travel much beyond their house. They couldn’t be in public life. So for me, toilets are emblematic of a whole raft of things that we should be thinking about in society inclusivity, participation, blah, blah, blah. So anyway, back to Bristol. They’ve had some of their public toilets closed down, and so the Bristol Community Toilet Scheme basically asks venues, churches, village halls, whoever wants to, to offer up their toilet to people. So the hero of the week is anyone who has done that. I think that’s quite a big deal. I’m sure it has practical ramifications, even just the extra cleaning of it. In fact, actually, there’s a discussion going on at the minute with Bristol Council about whether they could reimburse some of those venues. And if you want the UK line on that, yes, you should. Bristol Council, That’s only seems fair. Obviously, it’s one of those things that you wish didn’t happen. I wish there were ample public toilets, but in lieu of that, to see a community getting together and opening up their toilets for everyone, I think it’s absolutely wonderful. So big up the Bristol Community Toilet Scheme.
Nish Kumar And big up you, Coco Khan, for saying in lieu of that, not making some sort of toilet based joke. You know what? Also, you’re absolutely right. The politics of public toilets is such a specifically specific story.
Coco Khan That is my niche That is the Venn diagram of my politics. Is that niche. What about your your villain of the week?
Nish Kumar Well, it’s lovely to hear from such a positive scheme. People do it good for their own communities. Now for the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, a villain of the week. A villain really of the decade, maybe even of the century. I’m going to return to everyone’s everyone’s favorite pro-Brexit campaigner whose blood type is real ale. Nigel Farage. He, in his continued ceaseless grift of a career, has launched a new subscription service on Twitter where you can pay £5 and you get access to Q&A. He’s on Twitter spaces exclusive behind the scenes, content from the man himself. And you’re able to win a pint with Nigel as part of the Subscribers club. Let’s actually hear from the Shitbag himself, Nigel Farage, about why you should subscribe to a service.
Clip Are opening from today Twitter subscriptions for 4.99 a month you will get for me not only exclusive direct content my own thoughts on things, things that perhaps should be said in private, not necessarily public, but through Twitter spaces. I will do live broadcasts where you can come on, ask me questions directly, and there’ll be prize draws every month. The winner comes to get a pint with Nigel. Oh, but also be free bottles of Pharaoh’s gin to give out. So come on, join me on Twitter subscriptions. Give it a go for a couple of months. I promise you, it’s going to be the most enormous fun I will be at times wholly irreverent. But I’ll tell you what I really think. Cheers
Nish Kumar Unsurprisingly, Nige is a big fan of what Elon Musk has done with the platform, and part of the reason he’s clearly so enthusiastic about it is it’s the latest avenue for one of his stupid fucking grift better. In recent years he’s been doing all sorts of hugely significant activities like encouraging people to buy silver and gold. He’s got his own line of gin, which is 40 quid a bottle. And at one point he was on the video sharing platform cameo where he charged 75 quid to go to record a personal message. Obviously, people played absolute merry hell with that. And there were video circulating on the Internet of Nigel Farage saying pro IRA messaging. But in a weird way, you have to respect Nigel Farage because he has no agenda other than his own personal enrichment. In another way, you have to have absolutely no respect for Nigel Farage because he’s an absolute fucking asshole and he his capacity to generate revenue for himself is his only point of interest. And it is absolutely unfathomable that we allowed this man to have any influence on our politics whatsoever.
Coco Khan You know, what’s sad about that is that I really agree with everything you said, but I also thought I am signing up for Nigel Farage’s Twitter. I’m doing it. I’m going to do it right now, just for my own entertainment.
Nish Kumar I can’t I didn’t even find out about this from Twitter. I found out about this because the good people at Politico have been doing so, but they’ve been doing God’s work. They’ve been reporting on Nigel Farage, his activities, and they were. It was through their website that I found out about this, through their trawling of the murky sewers of Nigel Farage, his latest grift I found out about it.
Coco Khan How do we know he’s not on Onlyfans? Do we know for sure?
Nish Kumar Aye, aye. Farage only fans, I think, would be the least sexual thing of all time. I think if I saw a sexy photo of Nigel Farage, I would become unable to ever sustain an erection for the rest of my life.
Coco Khan Maybe this is like. Maybe this is like a findom situation, isn’t it? We give him money. This is a findom, that all makes sense.
Nish Kumar You just leaving the phrase findom situation out. But please clarify for the non deviant community of our listeners.
Coco Khan Right. Yeah. Yeah. Fin dom is like financial dominatrix or financial domination. It’s a kink. And I think that if you are giving Nigel Farage £5 a month, I’m sorry to tell you, you are in a fin dom situation. We all have to learn about our kinks somehow. I’m glad that I can help you today.
Nish Kumar *Laughs*
Coco Khan So if you’d like to get in touch with us, you can email on PSUK at reduced listening dot co.uk or you can even send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514644572. And internationally, that’s +447514644572. If you’re new to the show, remember to hit follow on your app and you’ll get every new episode every week. Also, if you didn’t write down those numbers, it’s fine. It will be in the show notes.
Nish Kumar We’ll be back next week when I will return from Canada.
Coco Khan With a trade deal.
Nish Kumar With a trade deal stuffed full of poutine and wearing a big mouse’s hat.
Coco Khan Excited. I’m excited.
Nish Kumar See you then.
Coco Khan Pod Save the UK is a reduced listing production for Crooked Media.
Nish Kumar Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz and digital producer Alex Bishop.
Coco Khan Video editing was by David Kaplovitz and the music is by the Vasilis Fotopoulos
Nish Kumar Thanks to our engineer David Degahe.
Coco Khan The executive producers are Louise Cotton, Dan Jackson, and Madeleine Heringer.
Nish Kumar Watch us on the Pod Save the World YouTube. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Pod Save the UK.
Coco Khan And hit Subscribe for new shows every Thursday on Spotify, Amazon, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.