Nish dismantles Sunak's attack on disabled people and Coco meets Caroline Lucas | Crooked Media
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April 25, 2024
Pod Save the UK
Nish dismantles Sunak's attack on disabled people and Coco meets Caroline Lucas

In This Episode

Rishi Sunak finally ‘got Rwanda done’ after a long and dramatic night as his Safety of Rwanda Bill ping-ponged between the Common and the Lords. Our guest, the Green MP Caroline Lucas, tells Coco what it was like to be in Westminster that night and criticises Rishi Sunak for holding a drinks party while the Bill – which she describes as “a piece of performative cruelty” – was still being debated in the Lords. She also discusses her new book about why the left needs to speak up for ‘Englishness’, and explains why she’s training to become a death doula.


Nish and Coco provide an indispensable guide to next week’s local elections, talking about why they’re important and analysing what they might mean for Tory and Labour prospects at a general election. They also discuss whether the new rules on voter ID are an attempt by the Conservative Party to suppress the vote.


For our hero and villain of the week, Nish is appalled by Rishi Sunak’s attack on the sick and disabled, while Coco has been enjoying The Menstrual Cramps! Plus what would happen if Nish and Rishi Sunak met at notorious Berlin club Berghain?


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


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Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavillion


Audio credits:

Sky News


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Nish Kumar Hi folks, we’ve got a great episode of Pod Save the UK coming up for you to enjoy. I just thought I’d pop on to explain that since we’ve recorded it, we’ve heard the news that the power sharing agreement in Scotland, called the Bute House agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, has collapsed. As I record this, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, who was a former guest on this podcast, has just given a press conference saying it was his decision to end the agreement which has served its purpose and that the SNP will continue as a minority government, which he admits will be difficult. The Greens, on the other hand, have accused the SNP of political cowardice. Now, the background to all of this is that the Scottish Government has scrapped its commitment to cut emissions by 75% by 2030, and that has kind of frayed the relationship between these two parties, which is seen as an important factor in the Scottish Parliament because it maintained a majority that were in favor of independence, puts the SNP and Humza Yousaf in a very, very difficult position and we will be keeping an eye on this story as it develops. In the meantime, here’s this week’s episode, which features an interview that Coco has done with Caroline. Lucas is an MP for the Green Party of England and Wales, which is a separate party to the Scottish Greens. Enjoy.


Coco Khan Hi, this is Pod Save the UK.


Nish Kumar I’m Nish Kumar.


Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan.


Nish Kumar This week Coco continues her flirtation with the greens.


Coco Khan Yes, I’ll be chatting to the UK’s only green MP, Caroline Lucas, about why she’s quitting Parliament to become a death doula and about why she wants the left to speak up for Englishness.


Nish Kumar We’ll also discuss whether the Tories are heading for annihilation at next week’s local and mayoral elections.


Coco Khan I’m find out why the menstrual cramps have made me happy this week. Hi, Nish.


Nish Kumar Hi, Coco.


Coco Khan Or should I say guten tag?


Nish Kumar You could say that.


Coco Khan That’s about as far as my German goes. That’s an afal saft.


Nish Kumar We should contextualize the reason you’re greeting me, Alf Deutsch. It’s. It’s. I’ve just come back from Berlin. I was doing a gig in Berlin on Monday night.


Coco Khan I do want to talk about Rishi Sunak being in Berlin at the same time. And in my fantasy, you crossed paths at Berghain.


Nish Kumar I think the only person less likely to be in Berghain than me is Rishi Sunak.


Coco Khan And it’d be one of those, like, weird encounters where you’re both very rude to each other. But obviously that’s the Berghain experience, so no one will know if you’re real enemies or not.


Nish Kumar I don’t think so. It is fucking Addidas sambas and poorly measured suit is likely to pass Berghain’s quite strict and rigorous entry requirements. And equally, I don’t think me in a soup stained Bob Dylan T-shirt is likely to pass it’s extremely rigorous entry requirements.


Coco Khan And I just had our producer Musty in my ear being like, please tell people Berghain is a club. Berghain is a nightclub, an iconic nightclub.


Nish Kumar Berghain is an extremely famous nightclub. Yes


Coco Khan Yeah. It’s like, is it still 24 hours?


Nish Kumar I believe it is still 24 hours, yeah.


Coco Khan 24 hour nightclub. So you can just drop in 11:00 and if you wish.


Nish Kumar But it’s got quite strict entrance requirements. And there’s some elements of the building that are not just devoted to dancing, shall we say?


Coco Khan Yeah. And you’re not allowed to bring your phones in there for that reason. And there’s a lot of black being worn it indexes high on metal studs.


Nish Kumar My friend Haymish is a more serious clubber and has been to Berghain and successfully got in. But I think I should make it clear that my friends, they can find themselves to the dance area of it. Though we support whatever you’re into on this podcast.


Coco Khan Do you remember that Louis Theroux back in the day, he used to do the weird, weird, weird weekends, TV show. And the idea was it was comedy about the fish out of water.


Nish Kumar Yeah.


Coco Khan I would love to see you go to Berghain in the spirit of that.


Nish Kumar Me in a sex club of any description.


Coco Khan Just shaking, being like I’m a very sex positive person but I feel uncomfortable.


Nish Kumar Exactly. Yeah, exactly. It’s it’s possible for me to be sex positive for other people. I’m completely kink positive for everyone around me.


Coco Khan But not me.


Nish Kumar I like to embody the contradictory idea of sex positivity and extreme, like brutal shame. But whatever you guys want to do is your business. But for me personally, I’m extremely uptight.


Coco Khan I like that, I respect that, I respect that, I mean, for myself, too. I’m very much like that. Some of my friends, they’re all on this polyamory thing because it’s very de jure in East London.


Nish Kumar Yeah, yeah.


Coco Khan Everyone’s doing the polyamory thing and they’re always telling me about it. And I just have this moment where I feel really, really old, where I’m like, that sounds nice.


Nish Kumar Tiring isn’t it.


Coco Khan Yeah.


Nish Kumar That’s what I think.


Coco Khan Do you have a spreadsheet? how does it work? Do you have a shared Google calendar like?


Nish Kumar So in conclusion, I did not go to Berghain. I did a stand up show. It was great fun. I had a lovely time. I did not interact with Rishi Sunak until. Okay. Based on the German press coverage that I encountered, no one knew he was coming. So it seems like Rishi Sunak may have just doorstoped the German government. But, you know, it’s nice to, it’s nice that the one under talented over promoted British Indian man left as the other arrived.


Coco Khan So one in one out policy isn’t it? I mean, it’s just like Berghain really isn’t in that regard? But moving on to politics, as you know, I’ve been having a bit of a flirt with the Greens over the last year on Pod Save of the UK. Last year I went down to their autumn conference in Brighton and got to hear more about their offer. And earlier I got the chance to have a sit down with the party’s undoubted superstar, the green MP Caroline Lucas, and it’s coming up next. As the great philosopher Kermit the Frog famously said, it’s not easy being green. And my guest today, Caroline Lucas, can certainly testify to that. For 14 years, she’s been the lone voice for the Greens in Parliament as Britain’s first and as yet only green MP. But not for much longer. She’s stepping down at the next election, and she’s leaving us with a parting message in the form of a new book called Another England How to Reclaim Our National Story. Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion. Welcome to Pod Save the UK. Hello!


Caroline Lucas Thank you so much for having me.


Coco Khan So we’re recording this a couple of hours early.


Caroline Lucas Thank you. That’s kind.


Coco Khan No, well, you know, I’m not a morning person, Caroline, so I apologize in advance.


Caroline Lucas Even more kind, then I’m sorry.


Coco Khan Oh well it’s because you’ve got a really busy day, haven’t you?


Caroline Lucas I’ve got a crazy day. So, the first thing that I’ve got and why I need to leg it as soon as we finish this is a meeting with the minister. And you don’t often get meetings with ministers. And Richard Benyon, who is the minister for Climate and Global Environment, has agreed to meet with the all party parliamentary group on climate change. Oh, this is a lot of jargon, but basically the All-Party parliamentary Group on Climate Change is a cross-party group that exists to push climate change higher up the agenda. I’m the chair of it. We’ve sought a meeting with him. He’s agreed to meet with us, so we’re going to lobby him around, for example, being more ambitious in the run up to the next Climate international conference, being more ambitious when it comes to the next biodiversity conference, stopping rolling back on the climate commitments that Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, has given in the past. So it should be quite a robust discussion, I think.


Coco Khan Well, I think that’s a reason to wake up early for me anyway.


Caroline Lucas  I think actually. I’m grateful.


Coco Khan I’ll get over my growly mama bear. You’re also working on the renters reform bill today?


Caroline Lucas Yes. So this renters reform bill has been so long in coming to us in Parliament, it has been promised for around five years. Then it came about a year ago, and then it was stalled again, because essentially, frankly, because landlords who are also MPs on the other side of the House, on the conservative side of the House, suddenly woke up to the fact that maybe they wouldn’t be making quite so much profit and exploiting people quite so much. So they’ve been pushing back. So there’s been a big fight in the Conservative Party. It comes back this afternoon. The big gain from it was going to be a ban on, on evictions on so-called section 21, no fault evictions. Even that has now been watered down. So it’s going to depend on more discussions in the courts before we can actually get that in place. One of the things I want to, do with that bill, because renting is a massive issue in Brighton, my constituency, the number of people who have bad experiences of renting there is huge. And, there are things called rent tribunals where you can, in principle, take your landlord to court if you think that your rent is unreasonable, if it’s suddenly been jacked up, for example. But at the moment the government is proposing that if you do that, there’s also a risk that they might decide that your rent isn’t high enough. So you could actually end up being worse off by challenging your rent than you were before you did it, which is obviously a big disincentive. So one of my amendments that I want to speak to this afternoon is to try to make sure that if you do take your landlord to a rent tribunal, you can’t actually be penalized for doing that.


Coco Khan I would imagine being the only green MP you have to go to a lot of meetings, you have to talk about a lot of bills because you are the sole voice for the Greens. I’m guessing that’s how you tell it. How are you?


Caroline Lucas Well, I’m I’m glad you asked. I might just have a quick comparison. No, I mean, it is exhausting, honestly, being the frontbench spokesperson on absolutely everything. So it feels that you have to be across everything. You have to have some lines on everything. And it is difficult, you know, and and it is a reflection if I can just make my point about, a fairer voting system. But, you know, in 2015, the election after the one where I was elected, a million people voted green. Now, under a fairer voting system, we could have had 20, 25 Green Party MPs at that point. And it just grieves me so much, partly that people don’t get the representatives they actually want because, the first past the post, the current electoral system, you tend to just end up voting for your least worst option, not for what you really want. And also because it just, it just kind of skews the outcome. You know, this should be 20, 25 green MPs in Parliament. And there aren’t that’s just me trying to do the job of 25 green MPs.


Coco Khan I mean, that must be a touch lonely. Is that too much to say?


Caroline Lucas They can be lonely. I can be lonely. I mean, you know, obviously I do have some friends in some of the other parties. Is not like I’m just sitting there.


Coco Khan Take a picture of, like, commons sense, like a school hall. You know, you can’t sit with us.


Caroline Lucas That is. No, it’s it’s friendlier than that. But, but just that sense that you have of, of fellow travelers who genuinely get the same political philosophy that you have. It is very sad that in the Commons, I don’t have that. Yeah.


Coco Khan Well, it’s obviously been big news in the Commons, big news in the political world about the hugely controversial Safety of Rwanda bill. So for our listeners, it’s finally passed. After two years of legal battles and political wrangling, it will become law this. The legislation compels judges to regard Rwanda as safe and gives ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions. Caroline, you were there at Westminster as the bill was ping ponging between the Commons and the Lords, until the Lords finally gave way and drop their final amendment. How was that for you?


Caroline Lucas I mean, it was just awful, to be honest. I mean, this this bill is is a piece of performative cruelty. It is illegal, it’s immoral, it’s unworkable. It breaks international law. It trashes our standing on the international stage. It is just a disgusting piece of legislation. So in any scenario, seeing that go through the Commons was going to be pretty awful. I think part of me had hoped that the Lords might have have, you know, press their case a little bit stronger. I mean, I know they have done a fantastic job. And, you know, I sit here as someone who who’s not in favor of an unelected second house, but I have to say they’ve done a bloody sight better job than the elected House of Commons. They’ve done their best to keep pushing back. Some of the issues they were pushing back on were so important as well. So, for example, the idea that you can just make up your mind legislatively that a country is safe without actually looking at any of the empirical evidence flying in the face of the Supreme Court, who has said that Rwanda is not safe. The very fact that just in the last few months, Britain itself has offered, asylum to people from Rwanda would suggest that it’s not entirely safe. Yeah. So the idea that you can just legislate for fantasy is just barmy. So, so on so many levels. This is just a really disgusting piece of legislation. It lets down our country, I believe, and I’m very glad that Labour at least has said that they will repeal it if they form the next government. Well, you.


Coco Khan Spoke about the Lords. They’re doing their best. And there was a very rousing speech from your colleague, the former green leader, Baroness Bennett, speaking in the Lords that night.


Clip We are letting through an attack on some of the most vulnerable, desperate people on this planet. What more will we let through? I suggest to noble lords, as I leave this chamber tonight to ask themselves that question. With a desperate, flailing government party bereft of ideas and philosophy without principles. This House will keep being tested. So I ask these empty benches. You might be waiting for an election, but what kind of country will it be if you don’t stand up now?


Caroline Lucas Well said.


Coco Khan I know.


Caroline Lucas God. That was brilliant good old Natalie.


Coco Khan I mean, I saw it, online, last night, and I just was so saddened by the empty benches.


Caroline Lucas Yes.


Coco Khan Do do do people in Commons watch any of the conversations in laws? Do they. They see what we see?


Caroline Lucas I mean, a few of them do. But, you know, one of the kind of slightly obscene things about that night in the, in the Commons was that Rishi Sunak had arranged drinks in his office for, for his own side, so that in between pushing this legislation back to the Lords, MPs could just sit around drinking, you know, and that’s that I just think added insult to injury.


Coco Khan It’s chilling to hear that, Rishi Sunak had drinks with them. It does fit, you know, so much of the coverage around this bill has been about Rishi Sunak. You know what I mean? It’s all being presented as though is it a victory for him? Is it a loss for him? Is it a legacy for him? And obviously that’s a real human cost of the it was just yesterday. Five more lives were lost. I mean, I think it’s it’s pretty disheartening seeing that. But tell me it’s not over yet is it. We can still do something about this.


Caroline Lucas Well, I mean, this bit of legislation is over in terms of the of the legislative process. But there are, NGOs, non-government organizations and others who are trying to test it in the courts. So that’s where it goes next. And, you know, we know that the Supreme Court has already said that this is not a good piece of legislation, that it breaks international law. So hopefully some court cases might also act in the favor of of some humanity. And the bottom line is that, I mean, it is obscene and it is immoral. And frankly, even if it did work, it would still be obscene and immoral. But it’s not going to work, you know, people who’ve already put their lives at such risk to get to the coast of France. I’m not going to be put off by a 1% chance or less of being sent to Rwanda. It just doesn’t add up. It’s it’s on every level. It is a really, really dreadful piece of policy.


Coco Khan There is one news story. It was a I thought it was really significant, but there’s not been enough of a kind of fury about it, which is that the EU made a proposal for young people to be able to work and travel across the EU. It was rejected immediately, didn’t even have a conversation about it by the government and Labour. I know you’ve always talked about the UK should have a relationship to the EU. Is this conversation about Brexit still so many years later, so toxic we can’t even have a chat?


Caroline Lucas It is. That is exactly the right conclusion to draw from this. I mean, as you say. The government threw it back in the faces of the EU. And that, I guess, was to be expected because we know this is a government that is in favor of Brexit and doesn’t want to move away from it, even though all of the economic evidence demonstrates that it’s been a disaster. But for Labour, Labour to throw it back in the face of the EU as well without even saying, well, this is something we could consider. If they form the next government, they could have come up with a form of words that was more conciliatory. But this is something that is going to really harm our young people. I can’t bear the fact that now, as a result of Brexit, that right to live and love and work and travel across the EU has been taken away from our young people. The very people who are taking it away from them are the people who actually enjoyed that themselves. How dare they? Yeah, yeah. I mean, I just think it’s disgusting. This is a beautiful thing. I want to stand up for free movement instead of running scared of it. And Keir Starmer is running scared of just about everything at the moment.


Nish Kumar [AD]


Coco Khan Let’s talk about your your new book, so Another England: How to Reclaim our National Story. It’s very timely.


Caroline Lucas Thank you.


Coco Khan Saint George’s day yesterday. Yes. I made the mistake of looking on your Twitter where you had posted about Saint George’s Day. We can all celebrate it. And oh my God, racism beneath.


Caroline Lucas Yes, I said we should all be able to to celebrate it. Not that we can at the moment. And I was walking around Whitehall yesterday on my way to various meetings, and the people who were gathering under that flag were not welcoming. It was not the kind of place where you would want to hang out or I would want to hang out. So I’m saying that I want England to be a place where we can feel that it’s inclusive. Whatever your background, whether you are born here or not, that is my ideal. But I am saying we’re not there right now for sure we are not.


Coco Khan Slightly. Just for our listeners who may not have seen, there were, scuffles at the cenotaph where people celebrating Saint George’s Day ostensibly, but actually were wearing, you know, the England flag and had quite violent clashes with the police. So that’s. Yeah, really not the spirit you were describing. So the premise of the book is that Englishness has been hijacked by the right, presumably some of those people at the cenotaph.


Caroline Lucas Case and point.


Coco Khan Case and point. Exhibit A, and so for progressives, it’s become toxic to even mention English pride, but actually a revived, compassionate sense of Englishness. It’s not only possible, but actually necessary for Britain to thrive. I mean, what inspired you to write this book?


Caroline Lucas Well, two things. First was the sense that England, as usual, is just kind of not looking at the rest of even the rest of the UK, never mind the rest of the world. So in Scotland, even though the SNP, the Scottish National Party, isn’t doing terribly well right now, nonetheless, there is a solid group of people that still want, independence. And the demographics suggest that within 10 or 20 years, independence for Scotland could well happen. Northern Ireland, we’ve now got Sinn Fein, a Sinn Fein first minister, saying that by 2030 she is imagining that we could have a referendum on reuniting Ireland. Even in Wales, there is a revived kind of nationalism. There’s a commission on the Future of Wales, which suggests independence is one of many options. So I am simply saying that at a time when the UK is more fractured and potentially fractured than ever before, at least some kind of conversation should be had about this in England. What kind of England would we be left with if Scotland did leave? If Wales left? If Northern Ireland left, what would we be left with? And I guess the other part was, was just remembering those, those days straight after the results of the EU referendum. So I’m taking you back to 2016 and, and I just remember people around me, I was obviously on the, on the remain side, and I heard many of my colleagues say, I don’t recognize my country anymore. And so I traveled to quite a lot of the early voting areas, like Dudley and Dagenham and Huddersfield and, and talking to people. Two things came out. One was a huge sense of pride in where they were from. And so in Dudley, for example, you know, they are so proud of their industrial heritage and rightly so. But at the same time, there was this sense of powerlessness that London could be on another planet for all it felt relevant to, to people there, and they didn’t feel that they had a control over their own communities and what happened in their communities and so forth. So I set out to try to unpack what is happening in England. Why aren’t we having this conversation, and how can we make England essentially a better, greener, fairer, more inclusive place?


Coco Khan And you do spend some time? I have to say I did English at university and some time since I looked over some medieval texts.


Caroline Lucas Yeah. Yeah, it was fun to go back. I have to say.


Coco Khan But part of this for the list is part of what Caroline does in the book is she looks back at old texts, old kind of historical artifacts, not necessarily all old as well, some of them more from the kind of contemporary period to say that actually the history of England is quite progressive and can be quite radical, contrary to what they might tell you, which is that it’s all hierarchy and domination of this class or this ethnicity of this person. I suppose, you know, it’s a fascinating idea. Like you said earlier, it’s what you want, but feels far away, doesn’t it?


Caroline Lucas It feels far away. But one of the reasons I think it feels so far away is that we have allowed the right to tell the stories of England, and so the only people who even dare speak about England now tend to be the cheerleaders for Brexit, for imperial nostalgia, for exceptionalism. You know, Boris Johnson blathering on about everything, about us being world beating and all of this. And it’s not surprising that then the left kind of just kind of recoils and just feels like I’m not going there. But if we if we do that, then we allow the right to dictate that story. And I think we need to get on the pitch and start telling better, better stories.


Coco Khan I mean, there are moments where the progressive people on the left do dabble in that mean. Keir Starmer I recently wrote a piece in The Telegraph this week claiming that Labour was the true party of patriotism. What did you think?


Caroline Lucas Well, I was fascinated by that article because throughout that article, Keir totally keeps moving between England and the UK, and Britain Without recognizes winning when he’s talking about. One. And when he’s talking about the other, that’s utterly muddled. You know, he says how proud he is to be English, and then he’ll start talking about the NHS, which is not something specific to England, for example. And I just think that’s so it’s so indicative of an attitude of English people who assume that what is good for England is good for the UK. John Denham, who’s an academic in this area, has called this some kind of Anglo centric British nationalism, just this assumption that, England is Britain and and, you know, that that really, was reinforced by that article. And it was just so ironic because obviously he was trying to appeal to the idea of, of Labour being the, the true party of English patriotism. But beyond wrapping himself up in the flag, he wasn’t actually doing the legwork of saying, well, what kind of England do we want? What kind of relationship is there already between the different nation states of the UK?


Coco Khan So I’m going to be honest with you, the idea of calling myself English makes me squirm a little bit, presumably because, you know, I grew up in this time of English nationalism. I grew up in, you know, one of the places you visited. Yes. It was it was, you know, they like to punch in ethnic. Let’s just say that. Yeah. Know my experience growing up. So I actually if I had to describe myself, I often liked British because it seemed more administrative. Yeah. It didn’t have that sense of it being, something you’re born with. Yeah, it was a sense of, like a consensual agreement almost. And it’s more inclusive, isn’t it? Yeah. And I quite like that. And then after that, I would probably call myself a Londoner. Obviously you spent some time talking about English regions and them having their own identity and that being recognized. How do you square away the issues of ethnicity and immigration in terms of an English identity?


Caroline Lucas Well, first of all, to say, I think you’re absolutely right. And Britain has been an incredibly helpful construct. I think in some ways, in terms of enabling people from all different kinds of backgrounds to feel more comfortable here. And you’re right, people are much more likely to describe themselves as black British than they would, black English or something. I really get that. And I and I’m not saying that that the English identity has to trump the British identity. I’m just simply saying that if we don’t try to make English identity something that it’s that is less, discomforting than we do, just concede it to the people that you saw and I saw in Whitehall yesterday. And I think that matters. So it’s not about denying that reality that you have so eloquently described. And I know that that’s very real. But it is about saying, well, hang on a minute, what kind of tradition have we had, for example, in England of, of of challenging some of those colonialist imperialist attitudes? And okay, it’s probably quite an obvious example, but I go back to Shakespeare in The Tempest, and it was interesting that even back in 16, I can’t remember my my dates now. Kind of the beginning of the 17th century. Even in The Tempest, you had Shakespeare, who was challenging the idea that it was perfectly okay to rock up on someone else’s island and stick a flag on it and claim it to be your own. That’s kind of what was at the heart of The Tempest, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that when he wrote it, there were all kinds of real, colonialist adventures going on and boats being wrecked and so forth that he used as a kind of basis for his play. So I just think that maybe we can get some inspiration from the fact that there has been a tradition that we can see of people who who can put a different, a different kind of story about how England has fought against that, as well as being as I will be the first to admit, totally complicit in it as well.


Coco Khan Well, no, it’s fascinating you say that. I mean, certainly in my more recent years reading more about imperialism and reading about how, you know, at the time in the Victorian age. So the people saying this is a bit much, isn’t it? Should we be doing this? This isn’t really okay. I mean.


Caroline Lucas Even Edward Colston in Bristol, the famous, famous example of where the statue of of of Colston was, was pulled down by, bye by, by the local community, essentially because they didn’t anymore want this, slave owner and trader presiding over the city. I mean, that wasn’t the first time the questions have been raised about about Colston. You know, right back 100 years ago, people were raising questions about how appropriate was to have this great statue sticking up there.


Coco Khan It’s nice to be reminded of that, because I think, to be honest, a lot of progressives in England are like, oh God, will be doomed to Tory rule forever. England is conservative by its nature, and we need Scotland and we need Wales. And that’s why your vision of a more federal Britain, you know, probably that’s why there’s resistance in England to it. I mean, do you think that’s true, that England is intrinsically conservative?


Caroline Lucas I think there’s a more radical tradition in England as well. I get why people are worried about Scotland leaving, because we know that it’s Scottish votes up until now that have, when when we have managed to not have Tory rule, it’s often because of Scottish votes. But that makes it even more urgent, doesn’t it, that if Scotland might become independent within 10 to 20 years, then it gets even more urgent that we look to how we can make England a place where more progressive? Policies, adopted and and promoted. And I don’t think that’s impossible. I think, for example, if we had a far more, devolved and decentralized set of policies than local areas for start off could feel more, more able to make their own decisions. And I think that would be a really good thing because we are so centralized in England. You know, local authorities have hardly any powers at all anymore. They have to go cap in hand to to Westminster to get finance, to do even the most basic things. I think if we trust people, we might just end up with more positive results. And one of the examples I would cite because like, you’re looking skeptical, like so much has been picked up, but you are definitely looking skeptical. But one of the things that I take some, confidence from or reassurance from is, is the whole kind of citizen’s assembly movement. Now, you’ll know that that increasingly difficult, knotty subjects, whether that’s abortion or whether it’s climate change or whatever, are being put to genuinely representative groups of people. So on the climate change citizens assemblies, which the ones that I know most about, these are not people necessarily who who think that climate is a priority or even think it’s something they much care about. But when you give people independent evidence and ask them to come up with policies over time that they think would be appropriate, they are always more radical, more bold, more ambitious, more fair than anything the governments come up with. So I am hoping that people actually are probably more fair and, better than than our current political establishment would lead you to believe.


Coco Khan Well, sadly, you won’t see it because you are leaving politics and you are stepping down. And normally when you say to someone about a politician stepping down, you imagine they’re going to join a lobby group or big tech, but not you. You’re going to become a death doula. So just please explain to us a what that is and why.


Caroline Lucas Well, yes. And just to be clear, I know some headlines have made it sound like I’m leaving Parliament to become this person who works on death. And those two things are not entirely related. I’m leaving Parliament. And then people kept pressing me. Well, what are you going to do? What are you going to do? And I just said once, and it’s not been picked up until time since. But one thing I am interested in doing, and I’m already doing a course on it, is, is learning to become somebody who helps people towards the end of life. A death dealer is somebody who who hopefully is able to be alongside family, alongside the dying person if they want them to be there and just help support in a practical way, but also have those conversations before the person dies that perhaps have been difficult to have been had with with family because death is such a taboo in this society, isn’t it? We never talk about it. People will cross the road rather than talk to someone who’s had a bereavement, because we don’t know the language to use to to do it. So I’m just really interested in how we can try to do medicalized death a little bit where that’s appropriate. So it’s it’s about learning about that, hopefully maybe volunteering in a hospice. I don’t know that that’s the kind of thing that very interested in doing.


Coco Khan We do need to let you go. But before I do one final question, of course, that means when you leave the Commons that you will not be knocking on doors. What is one conversation on the doorstep you’re glad to never have again?


Caroline Lucas Ohhh. I wanted to leave on something positive. Well, I think it is frustrating to, to have the conversation where people are trying to work out whether or not to vote Green or Labour. That’s quite an obvious one. And it’s just frustrating to to say to people, why don’t you vote for what you really want in Bristol, for example, why not give Carla that vote? Because the worst thing can happen if if she doesn’t get enough is you get the Labour person you’re going to get anyway. So why not just please vote for what you believe in, vote where your heart tells you to go. And that’s the way we get a better politics.


Coco Khan I mean, I’d say that is a good place to leave it to be honest. Caroline Lucas, thank you so much for your time.


Caroline Lucas Thank you so much. Thank you.


Coco Khan [AD]


Nish Kumar Next week, voters in England and Wales will go to the polls for a set of local elections. That could have huge consequences for both the Conservative and Labour parties as they prepare for the coming general election. An annihilation for the Tories could leave Rishi Sunak open to yet another conservative leadership challenge. Where is a better than expected result for him will likely increase the jitters from an already cautious Labour leadership.


Coco Khan So next Thursday, on the 2nd of May, more than 2600 councilors will be elected in 107 local authorities across England. As we’ve discussed on an earlier episode of this podcast, many councils are facing a funding crisis and have put up council tax and cut services as a result. So it will be interesting to see if anger over this is reflected at the ballot box. There are also 39 police and Crime Commissioner is being elected across England and Wales. PCCs were introduced in 2012 and are intended to make police forces more accountable and responsive to their local community. No elections are taking place in Scotland or Northern Ireland.


Nish Kumar Ten English regions will elect metro mayors, three of them for the first time, who will collectively control more than 25 billion pounds of public spending. That will include in London, where Labour’s Sadiq Khan is going for an unprecedented third term. While a former guest on this show, Labour’s Andy Burnham, is expected to be reelected in Greater Manchester. There’ll also be a lot of attention on Tory mayors, Andy Street in the West Midlands and Ben Houchen in the Tees Valleys, with their fates seen as barometers of the extent of conservative unpopularity.


Coco Khan Plus there’s also a byelection taking place on the same date, which is only likely to pile on the agony for the Tories. Constituents in Blackpool South will choose a new MP after their former conservative MP, Scott Benton, was caught in a newspaper sting offering to take money to lobby on behalf of the betting industry.


Nish Kumar What are your thoughts on local elections, Coco? Do you always vote 100%?


Coco Khan Always. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah. I love a local election. You know how it is. You know, how we live locally is how politics impacts our real life. You know, it’s. Yeah, it’s the bins. It’s the leisure centers. It’s the potholes. It’s it’s quite often how we experience policy decision-making. So I think they’re really important. Also, I quite enjoy the opportunity for tangible things on a leaflet to come through your door. So last time I had a local election, you know, quite literally the Labour leaflet said we’ll build a swimming pool. And they told us where. And I thought, all right, that sounds good.


Nish Kumar Did you get the swimming pool?


Coco Khan No. Not yet. There were funding issues so, so that’s the end of that. But anyway, it’s you know, it can feel a lot more tangible, as with what I’m getting at.


Nish Kumar Yeah. You’re right and you’re right to highlight that, you know, local elections aren’t just, used as bellwethers of national electoral contests. Although, that being said, I, I’m immediately going to move on to that was about what the National Guard said. So in terms of, results, losing 100 seats would be seen, as a good result, I think, for the Conservative Party. 250 would be bad, but not catastrophic. But some Tory insiders say they’re resigned to losing around 500 seats, which should be nearly half of the seats being contested in total. A key factor here is the last time most of these seats were contested was in 2021, on something of a kind of Tory high point, maybe the last really visible conservative high point. Boris Johnson’s leadership just got a bounce from a successful vaccine roll out, and Starmer had just lost the Hartlepool by election and sort of, by his own admission in subsequent interviews, was truly thinking about quitting. The Conservative Party was ten points ahead of Labour in national polls, and that was at a point where one newspaper headline predicted a decade in power for Boris Johnson. Wow. So, you know, the national picture going into these, like, elections is wildly, wildly different. I always think the worst sign of these things is that a lot of Andy Street’s leaflets, these campaigns with West Midlands, via a recent poll, has found that he trails behind the Labour candidate, Richard Parker, by 14 points with Parker and 42% of the vote, compared to streets 28%. But a lot of Andy Street’s campaign literature has really tried to distance himself from the Conservative Party. I saw on the leaflets and I think it was green, like he’s even moving away from conservative colors. There is a real desperate attempt for him to move away from his affiliation with the Conservative Party, which that that kind of embarrassment at a local level doesn’t speak positively at the national picture.


Coco Khan No, not at all. And then we’ve got Ben Houchen in the Tees Valley. Bear in mind that last time he won, he got 73% of the vote. He’s meant to be the poster boy for the party’s leveling up policy. But the latest poll I mean, he’s tying he’s tying with Labour’s candidate, Chris McEwan. So I mean, there’s been controversy about his involvement in developments around the Teesside Freeport, but he’s meant to be the guy. There’s a you know, he’s a home banker. He’s a home run. Yeah. It’s it’s looking shaky for him too. Does it mean it’s an easy win in a cakewalk shall we say for Labour.


Nish Kumar No, no. Absolutely not. Obviously, the most recent debacle was at the Rochdale byelection, where the party disowned its candidate and George Galloway won a shock victory that, by the time it happened, didn’t feel like much of a shock. And it shows how much the issue of Gaza is hurting the party. Some 70 councilors have quit Labour over its Gaza stance in recent months, leading the party to lose its majority on five councils. And the most recent revolt came when 20 councilors in Lancashire’s Pendle district last week quit to sit as independents, and they accused Labour officials of aggressive bullying tactics, targeting councilors and stifling free speech. So it’s, you know, once again, we’re back into this kind of Labour’s greatest enemy at the moment is itself and internal infighting and the way that Keir Starmer is choosing to run the party. The left wing group momentum accused him of marginalizing left and having an authoritarian, anti-democratic approach to internal affairs. Prominent Labour Party members like the journalist David Jones, have said they no longer feel at home in the party after the leadership ditched radical economic policies such as nationalization, free tuition or rising income tax on top earners.


Coco Khan You mentioned Owen Jones there. You know, he’s released a video urging other people to consider whether they also want to, you know, like him, revoke their membership or consider other options. But in the video, interestingly, he does say, unless of course, you have a great Labour MP, Labour MP, which is in recognition that there are still lots of really great voices in the Labour Party. So that idea of the individual MP. I wonder how significant that’s going to be. It used to be my early voting, experiences, for, you know, I mean, other people have mentioned you vote for the party, not the person. I think that’s changing.


Nish Kumar Well, one Labour politician that has enjoyed electoral success in an otherwise difficult period for the party is Sadiq Khan, who’s going for an unprecedented third term as mayor. He’s up against the conservative candidate, Susan Hall, who is, to be absolutely fair to her, participating in a noble tradition of conservative London mayoral candidates having very, very not ideal views on race. Khan has called Susan Hall the most dangerous candidate of fought against her past. Social media activity includes liking a post which called Mr. Khan a traitor rat, and sharing another post which referred to him as the Mayor of London, Heston. During the 2020 US presidential election, she posted on social media Come on Donald Trump, make sure you win and wipe the smile off this man’s face while sharing a video of Mr. Khan earlier in 2020. She liked a post which had an image of Enoch Powell, an iconic figure in British racism, and the words it’s never too late to get London back, I mean. Listen, this could absolutely still blow up in everyone’s face because of the changes to the electoral system. The London mayor previously has been elected with an election where you can vote for a first choice and then have second preferences. And certainly the second preferences are seen as a big factor in getting Sadiq Khan, certainly over the line in the last election when he was up against Shaun Bailey. It’s now change to appear first past the post system, so it will simply be a case of you vote for your candidate. The candidate with the most votes wins. There is a concern within the Labour camp about the vote being split, and there is still a concern that Susan Hall could end up being mayor of London, which would be a I sort of catastrophic disgrace. And what we don’t want is a city which is as diverse as London, being represented by someone who thinks that, you know, sharing images of Enoch Powell and that London needs to be gotten back from some invisible force. Who was she fucking talking about? We know she’s talking about. She’s talking about you mean Sadiq Khan? Like, let’s not beat around the bush here. In addition to the changes, that are being made specifically to the London election, we should also really, really highlight wherever you live in this country, voter ID is going to be used. It was first used in England, Wales at the local elections this time last year. But this will be the first time that millions of voters have come across the new rules. And also it’s the first time it’s been a requirement in the mayoral elections. At last year’s local election, the reports that thousands of people were turned away from polling stations. So, again, just to be clear, we take your ID with you to the polling station. Accepted. Voter ID is your passport, your driving license and your older or disabled persons travel pass. To be clear, a young person’s railcard is not accepted. Again, sometimes it’s just very clear what’s going on. Sometimes it’s extremely clear what’s going on. This is a change fundamentally to the way that we conduct our elections. That is borne out of voter fraud. That is so minuscule it is barely registering as data. It’s very clear that the Conservative Party no longer feels that it can win elections without putting impediments. In the way of young people, for example, from voting, it is very clear what’s going on with this.


Coco Khan Yes, absolutely. And it is, you know, when you see all the different voices who have talked about how unnecessary this is, how damaging this is, the Labour mayors have got together to say it’s, you know, not far off voter suppression. The electoral reform have said it’s unnecessary. It’s basically everybody saying it’s bad, but they’re still pressing on with it.


Nish Kumar Yeah, it’s it’s the Labour. Mayors actually specifically drew the analogy, calling it a Tory attempt to make it easy for the Conservative Party to win. And inspired by the voter suppression tactics of the US Republican Party, which I mean, all American listeners will know all too well the extent to which sort of gerrymandering and active voter suppression are now just a part and parcel of the way that the elections run. It’s a very, very dangerous road, and our American friends are constantly warning us against going down it. But it’s a road the Conservative Party is hellbent on dragging this country down.


Coco Khan Well, on that very cheery note, don’t forget to participate in this very difficult uphill struggle for progressives. So every adult in England and Wales, you’ve got a vote to use next Thursday. Please make sure you use yours, whether it’s for a local councilor, for a mayor, or for a police and crime commissioner, just make sure you take your ID with you please.


Nish Kumar Please.


Speaker 1 [AD]


Coco Khan So, Nish, who’s your PSUK villain of the week?


Nish Kumar Well, Coco, I would love to have something clever or interesting to talk to you about or bring something new to the table, but I’m going to take this opportunity to talk once again about Rishi Sunak. Now, last week on the show, we discussed this idea that the Conservative Party just seems to spin away every week and wherever. It just has the names of various different vulnerable or marginalized groups on it, whether it’s refugees or transgender people, they just spin it and just pick that groups of attack. So last week, they clearly spun the wheel and landed on the sick and disabled. Sunak’s welfare speech on Friday was unfortunately straight out of the Tory textbook, which was just a scapegoat, a demonize and punch down. Just to get yourselves a few positive headlines in the right wing press. It doesn’t get much lower in politics than threatening to take disability benefits away from people with mental health conditions. There is nothing compassionate about leaving a generation of young people to sit alone in the dark before a flickering screen, watching as their dreams slip further from reach every passing day. And there is nothing fair about expecting taxpayers to support those who could work but choose not to. So Sunak gave a speech last Friday where he focused on a kind of culture of sick notes, using excuses to get out of work, which, again, is just a complete fabrication. It’s a complete fabrication, but it’s a classic Conservative Party tactic to not bother looking at the causes and just get someone who’s not a doctor to tell people that they’re on sick. So Sunak has also announced a review of personal independence payments, which are designed to help cover the extra costs that come with disability. Proposals include asking for more medical evidence before awarding the benefit. Looking at whether some payments should be worn off rather than ongoing, and withdrawing money from some people living with mental health problems and replacing it with treatment. And it would signal this idea a total break with the principle of social security for disabled people rather than a recurring entitlement. This is cash that can be withheld or swapped at the state’s whim. We live in a country with universal healthcare. Benefits should not need to be exchanged for medical treatment because that is what we pay our taxes for. Also, 48 hours after he announced his desire to get people off disability benefits, it emerged that the government had axed a key scheme that helps disabled people get into work. Everything about this whole story, the idea that people are faking mental health problems or trying to cheat the system, or that we have a sort of sick note culture is a way of avoiding facing the truth, not even avoiding. It’s willfully turning your head away from the problems of this country. Britain is significantly sicker and poorer than it used to be, and the most important factor in that is 14 years of conservative rule the effects of austerity, the effects of Brexit. We’re seeing record high NHS waiting lists, widespread food poverty, stagnant wages, low benefit rates, crippling housing costs, a broken social care system and inadequate mental health services. That’s what’s causing the sick note culture. But once again, instead of choosing to blame the people responsible, Sunak is going after vulnerable people. And the reason he’s doing that is because the people responsible are the Conservative Party, who’ve been in charge of this country for 14 years. And just briefly, before we move on from Sunak, it’s also worth pointing out that this week he’s been criticized both by Chris Stark, who is the soon to be outgoing head of the climate change committee, and Claire O’Neill, who is a conservative minister, for politicizing conversations around the climate crisis and net zero. Sunak will not be prime minister for very much longer, and ultimately his political tombstone will simply read that he offered the country nothing other than division. And in the most crucial issue facing us as a species. He turned that into a political football. We were so fortunate in this country that up until this point, the commitment to net zero and the commitment to fight in the climate crisis was a cross-party issue that hadn’t been politicized, as it has done in countries like the United States. Sunak. If he has any regard for his legacy, if he has any iota of self-awareness, which I’m not sure that he does, it would give him sleepless nights to understand that what he has poured into this country is a poison that could prove fatal for so many people. And whether it’s his comments on, disabled people, whether it’s his attitude to the Rwanda policy or whether it’s the climate crisis, he’s a national disgrace.


Coco Khan Well, on that note, it seems like a good cue to show you that one of our extremely talented listeners, Beth Knight, she’s an artist, has sent us some mugs of Rishi Sunak as a penis. I mean, that that makes it sound more crude than it is. It’s very elegantly done, but the the entendre is clear. The face is elongated, the hair not far off.


Nish Kumar I think the hair is the key giveaway that it’s Sunak. That’s.


Coco Khan And that it’s a penis. You don’t think?


Nish Kumar Yeah I.


Coco Khan See again. Double meaning.


Nish Kumar I think it’s what shows you that it’s not any run of the mill penis, but a Sunak penis. For people listening to the podcast, it’s a penis with the ears drawn on the side and Rishi Sunak’s haircut and then a shirt, sort of full suit with a blue tie on. And Beth has really done a bang up job of this Sunak as penis. I wonder if Beth is going to do a sequence of them for all the various conservative prime ministers. I mean, Johnson, it would be appropriate, given it, he thought, with his most of his life. But yeah, it’s a, it’s a it’s an absolutely lovely work of art. Thank you very much for sending that, Beth.


Coco Khan I mean if any other listeners also, would like to creatively replicate an MP with potentially lewd subtext, we are open to receiving them and showing them.


Nish Kumar We’re open to receiving them. Yeah, we’re open to showing them only if we’re legally able to.


Coco Khan *Laughing*.


Nish Kumar Who’s our hero of the week?


Coco Khan So my hero of the week is a young queer punk band from Bristol called The Menstrual Cramps. I mean, I could just leave it there.


Nish Kumar Great name. Fantastic.


Coco Khan But actually it’s because in true punk rock style, they are taking on the man. They are leading a boycott of the Great Escape music festival in Brighton over its sponsorship by Barclays because of the bank’s links to arms sales to Israel. So here’s the band singer Amelia. She sent us a voice note to explain.


Clip We have power as artists, as musicians to say that we don’t want to be involved in, you know, helping bankroll the genocide that’s going on in Palestine right now. And our voice and boycotts are important, and they’ve always been important in history. And this is our chance to do something and take a stand. So. Yeah.


Coco Khan Good for them! That’s amazing.


Nish Kumar Spirit of punk baby. That’s the spirit of punk.


Coco Khan And I also again, spreadsheets.


Nish Kumar What?


Coco Khan Well I just think, you know, people activism punk. It’s a lot of Excel spreadsheets isn’t it a. Listen, they’ve got 216 artists to sign up. That’s more than half of those due to appear at the festival. Many emails were sent in the making of this revolution. So. Yeah, so. So half the artists, just over have signed up to a statement of protest, while 30 acts, two record labels and one venue have already pulled out completely. So the look, you know, the Great Escape, it’s all for, up and coming new acts. And when you’re an up and coming new act, like every gig matters. Yeah. And I just think it’s really, really cool that they just, you know what, know, for our own moral principle, forget how it might damage our career or how much of a kind of career change this might be for us. We’re not going to do it. And I think that really deserves our salute. Also, can I just tell you that they have two albums and they are called and I quote, we’re not overreacting as in ovaries.


Nish Kumar Yeah. I think we need to stress. It’s o-v-a-r-y-acting. That’s lovely word play.


Coco Khan And the other one’s just called free bleeding. They’ve got tracks like Tory Scum. The Tories. So into it. We asked The Great Escape for comment, but they haven’t replied. To be honest, I think this is something that festival promoters, they need to really be thinking about it. You know, this issue’s not going to go away. Menstrual cramps actually were inspired because something similar happened at this year’s South by Southwest that was sponsored by the American Army. And I think this is an issue we’re going to see run through the whole summer. You know, there’s loads of festivals affected. Barclays is also a sponsor of the Isle of Wight Festival of latitude of Download. Yeah. And many, many more. So Barclays have put out a generic statement over this issue and other protests and boycotts, saying as a universal bank, we provide a range of client services in relation to the shares of publicly listed companies, including those in the defense and security sector. Such client driven activities may result in Barclays holding shares in those companies. Barclays does not itself intend to make any direct strategic equity investments in the defense and security sector.


Nish Kumar Big shout out to The Menstrual Cramps. That’s so cool.


Coco Khan I know it’s awesome. So yeah well done.


Nish Kumar We’ve had lots of responses to last week’s episode. Lots of you enjoyed our chat with Labour’s Jess Phillips, including at Jeremy Baumeister 215 said that MP, quite simply rocks banana socks. “Clone an American version of her please.” Not everyone, was a fan, though. An at Tamworth Febreze is written in praise of you challenging her over her treatment of Diane Abbott. Coco. So this is coming directly to you. They’ve said it’s a long overdue reminder that actions are felt differently by different audiences, and those feelings are valid.


Coco Khan Well thank you. That is very much appreciated. We have also received some criticism though. So, you know, it was a wide ranging conversation with Jess. And we did touch on the Cass report, which was, into how the NHS deals with under 18, with gender identity issues. And a number of people got in touch to, you know, to add a voice about that. So for example, V0 818 says, I’d like the show to look again at the cast report, because it is important to note that as someone who literally just came from a Glasgow protest with the local gender clinic is now no longer offering treatment to under 18 off the back of this report, the real harm it’s already doing is not being covered, Alex Stevenson emailed in to say, as a trans listener, I was very disappointed to hear your uncritical mentioning and seeming support of the recent Cass review within the community. This has been a devastating blow. As someone who has been on the NHS waiting list for five plus years, seeing further restrictions makes my heart bleed. This podcast has usually been a rare safe space for me with trans issues, with your unequivocal support for us as people and opposition to our weaponisation in politics. However, the casual, supportive mention of the review was anything but that. To everyone else who wrote in or commented on this subject, we take your feedback on board. Many of you made valid points about last week’s brief discussion. Look, it’s a topic we intend to return to in the future and cover in more depth.


Nish Kumar Yeah, absolutely. It’s too important a subject that has too many potentially devastating effects for people living in this country to just warrant a kind of cursory mention, in that way. And, yeah, I really appreciate the feedback from our listeners.


Coco Khan You can get in touch with us by emailing PSUK at Reduced Listening. Co.Uk. We really love to hear your voices. So if you’re feeling brave, send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07494 933444. Internationally, that’s +44 7494 933444.


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


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


Nish Kumar Thanks to senior producer, Musty Aziz and digital producer Alex Bishop.


Coco Khan Video editing was by Dave Kaplovitz and the music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.


Nish Kumar Thanks to our engineer Alex Bennett.


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


Nish Kumar Remember to hit subscribe for new shows on Thursdays on Amazon, Spotify or Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts.