In This Episode
The latest hearings at the Covid Inquiry reveal chaos and dysfunction at the heart of Government during the pandemic. Did Boris Johnson really think Covid was nature’s way of dealing with old people? Nish and Coco sift through the swearing and the gossip to get to the heart of what really matters about the latest revelations.
Coco tells Nish about her experience attending the huge rally, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel Gaza crisis, in London last weekend. How does she feel about Suella Braverman’s characterisation of the rallies as “hate marches”?
With Silicon Valley’s finest – and Elon Musk – in the UK for Rishi Sunak’s big AI Summit, Nish and Coco have a play around with ChatGPT…can it come up with a script for them to introduce the show? Cristina Criddle joins the show from Bletchley Park to take us inside the summit and explain what it may or may not achieve. Plus Nish and Coco’s hero and villain of the week, and do YOU find Rishi Sunak sexy?
Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.
Contact us via email: PSUK@reducedlistening.co.uk
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Cristina Criddle, Technology reporter at the Financial Times
UK Covid 19 Inquiry
The Cariuma x Crooked, Lovett or Leave It sneaker is available at crooked.com/store
Nish Kumar Hello. As part of today’s episode, Pod Save the UK is talking about A.I.. So we thought we would get Chat GPT to write our intro. Are you ready, Coco?
Coco Khan Affirmative. That’s just me. That’s not okay.
Nish Kumar Okay, Here we go. We’re now into Chat GPT. Hello, lovely listeners. I’m Nish Kumar.
Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan. Welcome back to another exciting episode of Pod Save the UK.
Nish Kumar The podcast where we navigate the murky waters of British politics, culture, and everything in between.
Coco Khan That’s right. We’re diving deep into the world of UK politics, which is sometimes as unpredictable as British weather, but way more interesting.
Nish Kumar And Coco, I hear you’ve got a special investigation lined up for today’s episode.
Coco Khan Absolutely. Nish. We’re uncovering the mysteries of British tea-drinking habits, The scandalous truth about sugar, milk, and the perfect dunking time will be revealed.
Nish Kumar It’s a matter of national importance.
Coco Khan Thank you for tuning in. And remember, it’s put Save the UK, the podcast where being British has never been so much fun.
Nish Kumar What do you think? Have we if we just put our producer out of a job?
Coco Khan It doesn’t make sense, Nish.
Nish Kumar No, it was absolute shite.
Coco Khan We just kept saying over and over again. Pod Save the UK Britain, Pod Save the UK Britian it’s like some weird Tory conference speech.
Nish Kumar Hi Coco.
Coco Khan Hi Nish.
Nish Kumar Very strange to read the Chat GPT intro.
Coco Khan Yeah, I liked the stage direction.
Nish Kumar That’s what we should clarify.
Coco Khan Yeah.
Nish Kumar The Chat GPT scripted it as a script, we put the request that was put in was that it would be an intro script. So it’s formatted like that and so it has stage directions. So what I said to you, the podcast where we navigate the murky waters of British politics that was instructed as slightly mock serious.
Coco Khan I think you nailed it. You’re a pro.
Nish Kumar I have genuinely no idea. But I feel like there are some people that would prefer if the podcast would just not be done.
Coco Khan Also, I like that you said Chat GPT said it would be a scandalous truth about sugar, milk and dunking. Scandalous. Oh yeah. I’m intrigued.
Nish Kumar Yeah. Like the sugar is being applied by someone dipping their dick in your tea.
Coco Khan Oh, I thought he was going to be something like, Oh, you know, Big Sugar. And we’re going to reveal the truth of Big Sugar and we’ll have like a picture of a mark on the podcast artwork, and it’ll be like, Do you know the real cost of your tea? This is good. Actually, I like the pictures.
Nish Kumar Well, look, later, the show will be with the Financial Times as tech reporter Christina Kendall, who is at Bletchley Park, which is the venue for Rishi Sunak’s Air Safety Summit. But before we get into that, we should briefly talk about this. Sophie from St Albans is what stopped us to say. I had no idea that the podcast was so politically influential. Today’s YouGov poll tracking the important political topics. Do you sit down hard or soft? Are you commissioning polling now? Sophie is asked. So just to be clear, you guv. This week we didn’t know they were going to do this. They’ve run a poll asking people if they sit soft like cocoa or collapsing into the sitting position hard like me.
Coco Khan And this was a reference to last week’s episode where at the end of the podcast we said, Oh, let us know. And we sort of joke being like, Oh yeah, this is the survey you guv would never do. And they said, Hold my drink. They read it. And the results are that 59% of Britans sit down soft like me, and it’s 25% for Nicias way, the hard way collapsing into the sitting position.
Nish Kumar I’m amazed that they’ve read the poll. I’m sort of thrilled. I feel slightly drunk with power. I’m excited to see what else we can get YouGov.
Coco Khan Maybe.Did you look into the results though? Did you actually?
Nish Kumar No, I didn’t. I was too flabbergasted by the existence of the poll. Made me laugh too much of that I didn’t realize. It’s only literally. We’ll be watching the wrap-up this morning that you said, Oh, well, there’s a whole breakdown. Yeah, it’s just something that’s a joke.
Coco Khan So the results are broken down by region, social grade, age, gender and voting. How they write. And they polled just under 2000 people. So it’s like it’s a real thing that they’ve done. And then in terms of politics, it does feel like soft sitting tracks with Tory, which I’m not delighted about, to be honest. I don’t really know how to understand it. Is it something about like manners? Is it something to do with age? Because Tories tend to be older? And actually another aspect of this survey found that the older you were, the softer you.
Nish Kumar So that makes a lot of sense. Me You probably get a bit more careful with how you sort of throw your body around.
Coco Khan Oh, maybe that’s true as you get older.
Nish Kumar Yeah, yeah. Which makes sense to me.
Coco Khan But the other finding based on political parties is that the voters who voted for don’t know were strongly Liberal Democrat. And I found that very funny. I guess there was no option for sitting on the fence. Oh, well. Oh, I shouldn’t have said that now. I’m so angry.
Nish Kumar The holidays are coming up and the crooked store has everything you need to get festive, which I know is obviously everyone’s first priority.
Coco Khan And what better way to say thank God? 2023 is almost over. Then, with an indictment-inspired ornament to remember the year by.
Nish Kumar There’s also a bunch of cozy sweaters that are perfect for that family holiday party where you get courted by your conservative cousin.
Coco Khan Head to crook.com/store to shop.
Nish Kumar In UK political news, Parliament is once again in recess ahead of next week’s King speech. But there’s been no shortage of political theater thanks to the appearance at the Cole inquiry of some of the key figures at the heart of Boris Johnson’s Number ten. The inner workings of the small cabal of politicians and officials at the heart of decision-making inside Downing Street was laid bare in a series of sometimes excruciating private WhatsApp messages. Add to the inquiry.
Coco Khan If Boris Johnson was watching the live feed to see what his old colleagues were saying about him, he probably switched over to Homes under the Hammer. As we record this, the former deputy Cabinet secretary, Helen MacNamara, is giving evidence to the inquiry. She said it would be hard to pick a single day when COVID regulations were followed properly in number ten and the Cabinet Office.
Nish Kumar Earlier this week, Lee Cain, one of Johnson’s closest and longest-serving aides, pointed the finger at him for causing dither and delay and said COVID was the wrong crisis for this prime minister’s skill set. It’s hard to know what the right crisis would have been for this Prime Minister skillset, given that his skill set seems to just involve getting people pregnant. So, I mean, I’ve yet to be convinced of any of this man’s talents. But echoing what Lee Cain said, Simon Case, who was the most senior civil servant at Number ten, accused Johnson of constantly changing his mind, saying that he cannot lead. Johnson’s former chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, also had some choice words for those working around him in number ten, due in large.
Speaker 5 Part to your own whatsapps. Mr. CUMMINGS We’re going to have to caution our language somewhat. I apologize. You called ministers useless. Fuck pigs, morons, cuts in emails and whatsapps to your professional colleagues. Do you think you contributed to a lack of effectiveness on the part of ministers and of the Cabinet? Well, I think I was reflecting a widespread view amongst competent people at the Central Time about the caliber of a lot of senior people who are dealing with this crisis extremely badly.
Coco Khan Well, of course, the name-calling and tittle-tattle isn’t really what matters here. This is about the mishandling of a deadly pandemic, which cost thousands of people their lives. Probably the most serious and troubling bit of evidence to emerge this week came from the diary of the former chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, in which it suggested that Boris Johnson thought that COVID was nature’s way of dealing with old people.
Clip This is a a text for WhatsApp between you and I, between you and the Prime Minister on the BBC the 15th of October. He says, I must say I’ve been slightly rocked by some of the data on COVID fatalities. The median age is 82 to 81 for men, 85 for women. That’s above life expectancy. So get COVID and live longer. Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital. I no longer buy all this and it just overwhelmed stuff. Folks, I think we may need to recalibrate. And you say all understood. But how does this change the policy? Still not politically viable to change course. He says it shows we don’t go for nationwide lockdown. Now, previously we’ve talked about the economic arguments against lockdown. This seems to be introducing a slightly different theme. And I want to show you very briefly some other entries in Patrick Ellis’s diaries from around this time. So could we look at them sequentially, please? First of all, it’s 273901. First of all, page 150. So this was a little bit early in August. Patrick Vallance has recorded that the PM WhatsApp group kicks off because it’s not because the PM had read about the infection fatality rate. It says this He’s obsessed with older people accepting their fate and letting the young get on with life and the economy going quite a bonkers set of exchanges. We can look at page three of eight, please. On a similar theme. I’m picking up a couple of lines down. PM says his party thinks the whole thing is pathetic and COVID is just nature’s way of dealing with old people. And I’m not entirely sure I disagree with them.
Coco Khan That was Andrew O’Connor KC addressing Lee Kane at the COVID inquiry this week. Yeah. I mean, it’s awesome, isn’t it?
Nish Kumar It’s hard listening, and I think it would be very easy to dismiss this as saying we all knew versions of this. And in a lot of instances, it’s confirming remarks that were rumored to have been made, especially the one about the get covered in live longer. That was something that had been reported previously. I think it’s definitely worth noting that that screenshot that that WhatsApp conversation comes from was the 15th of October 2020. So the Prime Minister’s very casual tone about this suggests that he learned absolutely nothing from the fact that by that point he’d contracted the disease and nearly died from it, and he survived in part because he was privy to the kind of medical care that ordinary people were not afforded and the kind of casual dismissal of people over a certain age essentially just being offered up to die is a disgrace in of itself. And then what compounds that is this idea that he didn’t understand that it also posed a threat to younger people and he learned absolutely nothing from his own brush with the disease. I think that there was a vacuum of leadership at the heart of government and someone like Dominic Cummings. It’s all very well and good him saying all of this now, but it all slightly reeks of an attempt to kind of write the history first of the events and try and push himself to the forefront. He seems to be a man with very, very little capacity for self-awareness or self-reflection. He seemed to be contrite for the language that he used and seemed more contrite about that than his actions when he broke lockdown regulations by taking a trip to the northeast of England, which he still maintains were within the boundaries of the regulations. I mean. It’s the whole thing is disgusting.
Coco Khan I feel like it’s a really good insight into the just like, pure selfishness at the heart of how he thinks and other conservative ideologues like him think. I mean, like, even if it’s true, I mean, of course I don’t agree with sacrificing elderly people in this way, but even if I did like that doesn’t even make logical sense. That’s not how families work. You have an elderly relative, you look after them. Now you’re out of the workforce. Now you’re getting ill. We are social animals. We work together. I feel like it reveals something about him being like you. You really don’t believe in society at all. Do you know what I mean? Like, it’s so individualistic. I’m not surprised. At the COVID 19 grief. Families for Justice have been absolutely outraged by it. I just want to read what they tweeted. It said, I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach after reading Boris Johnson’s messages this morning while COVID 19 was ripping through the country and I was doing everything I could to protect my mum, he was unable to take decisions and left the country at the mercy of the virus he was supposed to be protecting them from. By the time the second wave came around and thousands like my mum had died, he was saying that if you caught COVID you would live longer. He didn’t buy all this NHS overwhelm stuff and agreeing that we should let the old people get it. He clearly didn’t see people like my mum as human beings and thousands of others died unnecessarily after the same mistakes were repeated because of Johnson’s callous and brutal attitude. I’d do anything to spend another day of my mum. And now we know that we might have had years and years together if only the country had a more humane prime minister when the pandemic struck.
Nish Kumar I mean, it’s it definitely gives you pause for thought about what qualities we need from our leaders. Helen MacNamara, who was the target of some of Cummings’s most spectacularly bad language, has been giving evidence as we record. And she’s actually just told the inquiry that at one point the then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, posed as a cricket batsman whilst discussing COVID and said they bowled them at me, I knocked them away. And she said that it partly goes back to my point about nuclear levels of confidence that were being deployed. And I think that this cocktail of incompetence mingled in with absolute self-confidence, had fatal consequences for thousands and thousands of people and their families in the period of the pandemic. And whilst there’s a part of all of us that must naturally be looking at this thinking, well, we already knew that about this man and we already knew that about these people. It to me reinforces the essential work of this kind of public inquiry, not just in terms of the technical preparations that we would need to undergo to prevent the kind of consequences that any future pandemics might have on society. But I think it goes more fundamentally to the heart of what we want our political leaders to be and what kind of leadership we demand from them.
Coco Khan Yeah, and I think this is a culture that I can’t wait to see the back of basically.
Nish Kumar Will be returning to this subject again in future episodes of No doubt of that. Not least because Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are both expected to give evidence before the current inquiry module ends in mid-December.
Coco Khan Labour’s big issue this week continues to be the party’s response to the Israel-Gaza crisis, with 60 labour MPs now calling for a ceasefire in defiance of the leadership’s official position. Keir Starmer is facing one of his biggest challenges so far. So the labour leader made a speech this week to clarify his position. He said calling for a cease-fire was not the and I quote, correct position at the moment, and that a humanitarian pause was, again, a quote, The only credible approach.
Nish Kumar Said a pause would allow aid to get into Gaza and for hostages to leave. He also argued that a ceasefire would leave Hamas’s infrastructure intact, enabling the group, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by the UK, to carry out future attacks. Mayor Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, as well as Scottish labour leader Anas Sarwar and 15 frontbenchers are among those who have taken a different view. But there’s been no indication they’ll be punished for it. It’s a tricky position for stalemate now, right, because it’s not this isn’t like these aren’t fringe figures in the Labour Party. These are hugely significant members of the party and they’re now calling for a ceasefire as well. I’m sort of struggling to see why a ceasefire isn’t the right thing to do at this point in time. It is essentially accepting this huge amount of civilian casualties. And I think the cardinal principle here at all times, in all the ways we talk about this, is civilian death is unacceptable.
Coco Khan Right? Absolutely. I think it’s not complicated to say that civilian death is wrong. I don’t think it’s complicated to say that children being killed is wrong. So I feel like Starmer is very much out of touch with the people. I’m very interested to see how that plays out in terms of votes. And it is also just interesting that his official position. labour’s official position is the same as the Government’s. Okay. I suppose the only contrast is at this moment in time it doesn’t seem like he’s going to sack any politicians who who don’t tow the line. That is obviously in contrast to the Conservatives. Rishi Sunak has sacked MP Paul Bristow from his government role as a ministerial aide after he wrote to Sunak demanding a cease-fire.
Nish Kumar And we’ve lived through this before already within this century, where a terrorist attack with appalling civilian death toll leads directly to collective punishment. And we had a labour government that enthusiastically supported that policy and it got us absolutely nowhere. And so. I, I don’t see how calling for a ceasefire now. Is still considered to be a kind of fringe position. I just think that there’s a danger here that we’re not learning the lessons of extremely recent history.
Coco Khan Compassion, peace, solidarity. Right. That’s the only thing that can challenge this idea of we are in opposite sides and there is no middle ground. Do you know what I mean? It’s it’s sad to see our leadership not supply that when there is so much of it abundantly on the streets in the general public.
Nish Kumar Well, look, on that subject, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets around the UK and have done so over the past three weeks to show their support for the Palestinian people. There’s also been support and sympathy for the families of the Hamas victims and hostages after the 7th of October attacks of the former group of marches. Let’s listen to what Home Secretary Suella Braverman thinks.
Speaker 6 You’ve seen now tens of thousands of people take to the streets following the massacre of Jewish people. The single largest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust. Chanting for the erasure of Israel from the map. To my mind, there’s only one way to describe those marches. They are hate marches.
Nish Kumar You were on the ground? Yes. At one of these marches over the weekend. Did it feel like a hate march to you?
Coco Khan I mean, it didn’t feel anything like a hate march to me. You know, the kind of main chant being chanted. There were quite a lot of them. But the main one was cease-fire. Now, most of the parties were around. Ceasefire now. I would actually say that the most the kind of most poignant emotion that I observed when I was there was was one of grief. I think everyone was very, very sad. Everyone was very down. You know, look, it was a huge demonstration, I think, as quotes of up to half a million people there. I was there, you know, to see what was happening. But also, yeah, I do support Ceasefire. So and that was what that march was was for. I’m sure there was a minority of people, opportunist bigots who see this conflict and want to use it to push their hateful, twisted agenda. And those people should be dealt with by the authorities and also be dealt with any protesters who see it, you know, pull them offstage. There’s no space for racism, anti-Semitism, abuse in a peace movement that just isn’t like, oh, please, fuck off. But, you know, it’s just to smear all of those people families, children, elderly people of all races, all religions. It seemed like it was a real proper mix of people to say that all of them support terrorists and that they want war and blah. I mean, it’s just it’s just not right. And that is not, in my view, leadership leaders are meant to help society see the humanity in each other. They’re not there to throw fuel on the fire, Do you know what I mean? And I was really disappointed to see those comments.
Nish Kumar It also erases the huge role that in this country and across the world, including in Israel, that Jewish groups are playing in protesting the conflict. It seems to me to completely ignore and you know, you can this very easily accessible to find the footage because they protest movements. They want people to see that there’s huge Jewish voices calling for cease ceasefire and calling to an end to violence in Gaza.
Coco Khan Oh yeah. I mean, yeah, like I say, that that diversity on the ground, visibly Jewish people, visibly Muslim people. I have my theory, which I think is that Suella Braverman is she’s shoring up her leadership play. I think also this is.
Nish Kumar Like a plate of like she’s throwing red meat to the right, the hard right.
Coco Khan Exactly. And I think also we have to see this in the context of protest in general. So everyone hates protest. But I also have a personal theory, which is I’m not sure she’s ever been to a protest. I do wonder, like just in terms of reality of what happens, a protest and in reality of what happened. Why did she. What planet is this woman on?
Nish Kumar Well, I would simply say that Suella Braverman has repeatedly been asked by groups monitoring anti-Semitism, and there’s many Jewish people and Jewish groups to stop using phrases like cultural Marxism, which is an anti-Semitic trope dating back to Germany of the 1930. She that that has happened repeatedly to her antisemitism Islamophobia. Neither have any place in a credible peace movement. And serious global conflicts cannot be an excuse for you to bump up your leadership bid.
Nish Kumar [AD]
Nish Kumar From Palo Alto, California, to a small town just outside Milton Keynes. Anyone who’s anyone in the tech industry, including Elon Musk, has decamped to Bletchley this week for Rishi Sunak’s Big AI safety summit. The political attendees aren’t quite so starry. It’s Kamala Harris. Rather than Joe Biden and other leaders like Macron, Shultz and Trudeau have also opted out. But significantly and somewhat controversially, China have sent a delegation.
Coco Khan This gathering has been driven by our very own tech bro, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is attempting to position the UK at the center of international efforts to regulate A.I.. The political and industry leaders are expected to back new efforts to promote so-called responsible A.I., a term that refers to stopping the technology from causing societal harm. So Cristina Criddle, tech reporter for the Financial Times, is at Bletchley Park. Hello. Hi. Hi. Let’s talk about Bletchley. It’s a hugely iconic choice of venue. How close to the action are they are they letting you get?
Cristina Criddle The media are being kept in a media center, which is in a building very separate to the delegates are we’re allowed to watch some sessions, Not that many virtually. And we do have some briefings happening, but we’re definitely not able to meet around and speak to delegates at all. Well, but we have still been able to chat to some people before organizing them ourselves. But it’s been a little bit tricky. But as you say, very historical venue and there’s lots of very high profile people here. You’ll see that there’s Elon Musk, Sam Altmann, Eric Schmidt. All of those people probably don’t want mobs of journalists approaching them.
Coco Khan Okay, So thinking about who’s not there, though, there’s been some criticism for not involving civil society organizations. Of course, the likes of TUC would be very interested, not least because of the impact of AI on jobs. Amnesty and Liberty have also signed an open letter warning that little can be achieved without their presence as well. I mean, what’s your thoughts on on who isn’t there?
Cristina Criddle Definitely. And there’s a big debate going on here. There are some members of civil society invited here, and you have some academics here as well. But there’s certainly a feeling that not everybody is at the table at the moment and perhaps not the most present risks are being discussed. There’s lots of talk of catastrophic risk, and that’s what you’re seeing in the communique that’s being signed by the countries today. And so there’s lots of focus on very existential problems that could cause in the future, whereas we know there are lots of problems like algorithmic bias, which are happening right now, and those aren’t being discussed as much as perhaps other people would like.
Nish Kumar Can you can we just drill down into that the sort of more day-to-day concerns like algorithmic bias? Can you just unpack what we what you mean by that phrase?
Cristina Criddle Sure. I mean, we’re seeing how algorithms can be biased in the way that they operate. Some of the most common examples are in things like health care, where they might only have data on a specific type of skin that people have or a specific gender. And then that means that when that’s fed into a computer, it only delivers outcomes for those people. And so it’s partly a problem with the data that we have in society as well, which tends to favor white people and men. Also, there’s things like algorithmic decision making and, you know, whether you’re getting a mortgage or something like that, which would be which have been discussed in the past, things like facial recognition as well have flaws. And these are the things which are present in our society now. The risks are already known and being debated, but they’re not a big feature of the summit here.
Coco Khan This summit, what what are the express aims of it is the idea that everyone will leave and they’ll know exactly what’s going to be bad. What is it going to be banned. Watson Design principles are or or what? Some testing principles. What’s the aim of it?
Cristina Criddle The aim is absolutely not regulation. I mean, I think they have tried to bring lots of people to the table, but you’re not going to come out of this summit with like, okay, this is what regulation is going to look like. This is what’s allowed. This is what’s not allowed. This is very much a place where people from companies, people from different governments, which might not be aligned on the values, are coming to discuss what the risks are, what potential solutions might be, but not to make any decisions about it. But that in itself is still something to be recognized. The fact that you have China here and China signing a document which says they’ll work together with governments around the world is still pretty impressive. So I think that has to be recognized. But things like concrete legislation, which lots of people are waiting for, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see anything like that coming out of the summit.
Coco Khan I wondered if you could sort of talk a little bit about the kind of arms race in terms of the development of AI and how quickly we’re moving.
Cristina Criddle So one of the reasons they’ve decided to convene this summit now and do it so quickly, the governments pulled it together in a matter of months when normally this kind of. Thing could take at least a year to organize. The reason they’ve done that now is because we have these new chips. Which power A.I., which power computers. They’re coming out now. And so the next generation of AI models is going to be coming very soon. The U.K. government wants it to bring everybody together before those happens. So you can talk about the risks and understand what those risks are before the next step of the technology comes through. And and they were saying today, you know, people don’t know actually what the capabilities of this next law of the A.I. is going to be. And that’s actually a real concern. It could be this huge existential harm, but it could also be used for good. And so the reason they want to be talking about it now is because there is this imperative and that is this gap between the next models coming through, whether regulators and governments can catch up and actually put something into law before then, it’s still really unclear.
Coco Khan You’re sort of in the room with the kind of major players in this. Do you get a sense that they want any kind of regulation or, you know, what’s your sense from from the actual corporates? So the big.
Cristina Criddle Tech companies have been saying, you know, we want regulation. We’re speaking about this now. We want governments to be telling us what to do. Obviously, they’ve already stepped ahead of that and signed up their own voluntary commitments form their own Frontier model forum for the leading tech companies in this space. Some critics are saying that’s their attempts at regulatory capture to basically frame what these laws are going to look like before the lawmakers even get that themselves. There are a lot of criticisms that that they’re at this summit, that they’re some of the most influential voices at this summit as well. And we know the lessons of social media where big tech companies were basically not really regulated at all until all of those comms started coming out. And we only just got the UK online safety bill through Parliament now kind of years later. So I think there’s this awareness that Tech does like to self-regulate. Its incentives are commercial obviously, but they have both been vocal about wanting regulation, but they do know that it takes a long time to.
Nish Kumar Is there is there a generational issue with the gap between law makers having to make laws around technology that they simply don’t understand?
Cristina Criddle Certainly that’s a concern that some people have and also something which I know a lot of people in Silicon Valley use is sort of, you know, there’s no point regulating us because you don’t understand anything so quickly. So it’s not going to happen anyway. I think that’s a convenient excuse and certainly, like AI is really hard to understand and the more you learn about it, it’s even harder to understand. But that shouldn’t be a reason not to try and not to try and regulate. And actually the UK government has been hiring lots of people who do know about AI. They’ve set up an AI task force to address this kind of thing and hire more people with expertise into government to understand it better. And also it’s the onus is on the companies to to be more transparent as well about how their systems work to everyone, to the public, to lawmakers to really be able to explain what the risks are. You need to understand how these things are operating.
Coco Khan Something that I’ve been thinking a lot about and to quote the great Rosie Gaines, ooh, we’re moving too fast. And I don’t think it’s right is about how, you know, there’s this culture from Silicon Valley, like, you know, move fast breaks, break things. Right. And I just in the context of society. I’m not I’m not sure that’s great. I don’t think we should be breaking things. I’m all about like, let’s go slow and be considered. You know, that’s what I’m looking for. You know, you’ve got all these leaders together. Is there a sense of a slowdown or a sense of maybe we need to stop and think a little bit, lads?
Cristina Criddle I don’t see a lot of the companies slowing down at all, and so it’s kind of a moot point until that really happens. Meanwhile, these chips are really hard to get hold up, but some people do have hold of them and they are developing on them. The capability is coming. The air is getting even more advanced faster. Really, really impressive. And so if we wait. If we pause, are we going to get to the point where it’s accelerated so fast that it’s beyond control? Right. That’s something to consider.
Nish Kumar Just viewing this from a sort of UK political lens and soon. Mark is definitely trying to push the idea that the UK is now a leader on air regulation. But that’s not really accurate, is it? Because the US has announced a raft of measures at the start of the week? The EU is pushing something through at the moment. To what extent is he succeeded in pushing the UK to the forefront of this conversation?
Cristina Criddle Yeah. As you see, the the US has benefited a little bit. I would say this week you’ve seen the executive order coming out just as the summit was about to begin and you’ve seen this the announcement of an air safety institute by the US as the UK air summit tries to do the same. So there’s certainly a view that the US is asserting its dominance. At the same time, the EU’s Air Act is kind of the most advanced legislation we have. The UK will hopefully have something similar soon, but we don’t know when that’s going to be. I think one of the benefits of the UK and something that the Government has been keen to emphasize is we’ve hosted this event, we’ve brought everybody together. We do have this historic base of being somewhere for tech. We do have a lot of talent coming in universities and tech companies here and they’re desperate to hold onto that title. But again, what the legacy will be, especially what Rishi’s legacy will be if we have a different government soon. And where our place is. And I is still up for grabs. And and I don’t think we’re even close to overtaking the U.S. or China in in that position on I.
Nish Kumar So we temporarily lost Christina. We’ve now got her back due to some tech problems, which the whole thing feels very apt given the sub technical problems may as well be the whole the whole by light of the type thing.
Coco Khan So, you know, we’re talking a lot about the the problems with AI. But I feel like the case for A.I. has never really clearly been made. Our politicians tend to sort of look at technology as the sole will to everything, to all surveillance problems, to all policing problems or health problems. Meanwhile, I’m having issues nearly every day. Unexpected item in bugging area how I long for a cashier. And so I just wondered what actually are the tangible benefits of AI?
Cristina Criddle I think there are lots of ways A.I. has already made our lives better. So things like drug discovery or in scanning for viruses, cancers, you know, you can use AI for good and I can just process data at a scale that humans can’t. And so if it’s used in the right way, it can definitely bring positive things to society. They’re talking about how it can be used for good in education as well. I think it’s good for us to focus on the positives and I think there’s probably lots of ways the AI is impacting our lives that we don’t really realize the goods, but we should be cognizant of what the flaws are as well.
Nish Kumar Around the time that this episode comes out. Rishi Sunak’s going to sit down for a one on one chat with Elon Musk streamed live on X. Is Musk really the right man for this, given previous comments he’s made on his record, specifically on regulation, is this the right conversation for you to be having?
Cristina Criddle Musk is obviously a controversial figure. He has been involved in the space for a very long time from its very beginnings. I mean, he helped to create open AI, which is now one of the leading companies in the space. It wasn’t a company at the time. He knows a lot about this area. He’s obviously one of the richest men in the world. He’s hugely influential and. X or Twitter, whatever we’re calling it, huge platform. Still lots of people will be watching. And I do think it’s positive that the prime minister is trying to engage with with the public on something like that. Will be interviewing who I will be very interested to see and how it manages. It will be quite interesting to see as well from from what I can tell today, he’s very much being in a listening position, so he’s not said very much. He’s just been in the sessions taking it all in what persona he’s going to have in the interview. Who knows? He’s very unpredictable.
Coco Khan We shall certainly be watching closely. Thank you so much, Christina. We really appreciate your time today.
Nish Kumar Thanks, Christina.
Cristina Criddle Thank you.
Speaker 8 [AD]
Coco Khan So just time for our Pod Save the UK hero and villain of the week. Nish, you’re going to kick us off with your villain.
Nish Kumar It’s the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship Conference, which is a new global right wing conservative group which has been holding its first get together in London this week. This is global Britain, guys. Please come over here and spread your crackpot marmalade all over the toast of our nation’s national discourse. Appearing with speakers ranging from the entire spectrum of politics. As long as your spectrum for politics is about 2%. And it’s quite hard to the right. The Conservative Party. Jordan Peterson, the new U.S. Speaker of the House. Mike Johnson, a man who infamously said that America desperately needs to go back to 18th century values, was actually a century that existed before the abolition of slavery. His predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was also there. Former Australian prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott were there and there was strong representation from the Conservative Party can be Badenoch Michael Gove, Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger were all there. And also apparently, according to the Daily Telegraph, a surprise cameo from one of my coworkers. Apparently Jimmy Carr was present holding court. Far be it for me to disparage the personal activities of any of my fellow comedians, but I don’t know if the Botox has drifted in Jimmy’s mind, but it does seem to be an interesting choice of activity for him of a weekend. Good luck to the guy, I guess.
Coco Khan I guess.
Nish Kumar Good. Good luck to the guy and I guess get fucked. The event is part of efforts to shift the gravity of the Tory party to the right and link up with like-minded politicians across the world. Another speaker there will be Vivek Ramaswamy, who’s a prospective presidential candidate. I guess in a weird way, though, as much as I am a prospective presidential candidate, given what he’s applied for is the job of the Republican candidate at the next American election, which is presumably at this point going to be Donald Trump appearing live via FaceTime from a jail cell. But there’s a huge amount of climate denialism. There’s a huge amount of Old Testament biblical rhetoric flying around. But unbelievably, the stated goal of this entire thing is to try to solve the fragmentation division, polarization and intolerance afflicting society. And on that, I would say sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief. I would just say, maybe if you’ve caused a lot of fragmentation, division and polarization and intolerance, you know how to deal with it. Okay, Take us out on a cheerier note. Who’s our hero of the week?
Coco Khan So the hero of the week is, as is every week, the great people. It’s the people. It’s a great story of people power this week because this is about the companies who helped force the government to U-turn on closing hundreds of train station ticket offices. I think we spoken about this on the podcast before. It really wound me up. The plans were put forward by train operators as a way to save money. It would have resulted in almost all of England’s remaining 1007 ticket offices closing in the next few years. You know, there’s a book by Carolyn Criado Perez. The book’s called Invisible Women, and she talks about a world designed by men and how it lets women down and potentially puts them in danger. For me, this was an example of a world designed by people who obviously have money comforts, perfect health, youth. It just sort of stank because there’s so many people who need train station ticket operators. You know, if you have a disability, if you are elderly or even if you just skin and you don’t have a phone that has access to constant Internet data, you know, like you need these people here. And it was really heartening to see that there was a U-turn. Now, the reason for that was because of the fantastic work of some unions. There were several protests. There were threats of legal challenges from disability campaigners and from five labour metro mayors. But also there was just a swell of outrage from the general public. So the passenger watchdog’s transport focus in London Travel Watch objected to the proposals and they received 750,000 responses from individuals and organizations in a public consultation. Listen. Never, ever, ever dismissed the power of a British strongly worded letter. You cannot stop a British strongly worded letter. They are extremely potent things, and I’m just absolutely delighted that this is a victory for that. It’s it’s a is a testament of people power. It’s a great example of how we can all work together politicians, activists, unions and people. And I just only wish I had some of the complaints hear to read them. I bet the sort of the sort of suburb equipped would have just just bounced off the page, you know, to me. So, yes, our Hero of the week is the great British public. There strongly worded letters ad for getting this U-turn done.
Nish Kumar Fantastic.
Coco Khan So we’ve had a few messages coming in about our chats on last week’s podcast with housing policy expert Toby Lloyd. It’s well worth listening to If you haven’t heard it, you can find it on our feed. So on YouTube, CaraCast5488 posted this comment. It said, I love Toby Lloyd talking about how he changed the messaging at Shelter to appeal to the people that needed to hear it, i.e. conservative politicians. I think that more organizations need to do this. So many get so into their message and the praise they get from their circle that they forget to actually get something done.
Nish Kumar Yeah, I mean, I loved talking to Toby and it was interesting and inspiring to hear somebody talking about things that they’ve been able to achieve and hopefully push through while they were in government. @AnnieNewForest2533 makes a really important point about renting again off the back of the chat with Toby. The psychological toll of renting cannot be underestimated on any estate agent website it’s all red carpets, champagne and Vivaldi for owners, it’s just water and bread crumbs for the unworthy applicant. In the estate agents world, the distinction between property and property loss couldn’t be sharper. One is an inherently deserving human being, the other a means to an end. You’re lucky we’re here to take your money, they say. A wretch whose parents didn’t love you enough to buy you a house.
Coco Khan Well, I mean, very well said. And yeah, I mean, I don’t think anyone who’s listened to this that rents would disagree.
Nish Kumar A friend of mine is in the process of trying to rent a new flat and was finding that every single place was going for above the stated monthly rental price. And sometimes they were finding that out during a viewing with the estate agents. You know, you interviewing with the estate agent. The estate agent just says, Oh, you know what, forget it. They’ve already someone’s willing to pay £100 more than the asking price, which. And that process is so incredibly stressful, looking for a place to live. And the instability of being a renter in the private sector is terrifying.
Coco Khan Especially especially if you have kids or you have, like, accessibility issues. I mean, it’s an absolute nightmare. This is kind of related, but there’s a scheme going on in Hastings at the moment, a bit like Homes for Ukraine, but instead of your spare rooms going to a refugee, it’s just other people in Hastings. Wow, There’s that little housing. What the fuck? Yeah. So, yeah, it was such a crucial conversation to have with Toby Lloyd about getting stuff built. You know, I met up with him for. For succeeding in moving that conversation forward.
Nish Kumar Elsewhere in the mailbag, we’ve had quite a troubling email come in. And not just because it’s sent by someone whose name they have given us is BigTits. Anyway, this is what a Big Tit says. Do I need my leftist credentials revoked for fancying Rishi Sunak? Oh, and I don’t sit down Nish style. I actually feel sick reading this, but I probably would if the seat in question was Rishi’s lap.
Coco Khan My whole body cringed. I didn’t know that the sort of I didn’t know knees could cringe, but they did. They did.
Nish Kumar Big Tits just tried to drag us into this as well and said, could Nish and Coco discuss if there’s any Tories that they fancy?
Coco Khan Absolutely not. No, no, not at all.
Nish Kumar It does feel like it’s quite a big it’s a big no-no.
Coco Khan I feel like maybe, you know, probably someone I fancied between the ages of 16 and 21 where it all, whatever our political selves were, maybe not fully fledged. Maybe one of them became a Tory.
Nish Kumar Yeah.
Coco Khan I could imagine that may be happened. But a politician.
Nish Kumar Well, I hate to speak for Big Tits, but I think they are specifically referring to politicians. Just to be clear, I’m not sure that I fancy any politicians. I don’t know. I think that there maybe is like a mental block that I’ve got.
Coco Khan Well, I mean, politics is celebrity for ugly people. Everybody knows that.
Nish Kumar I thought that was comedy.
Coco Khan Oh, I thought that was media. Oh, right. Okay. Obviously, a lot of sectors.
Nish Kumar I guess. I guess what we’re learning is that just there’s a lot of hungry people around. We sort of managed to create miniature ecosystems in which we become attractive.
Coco Khan Oh, no. Is that good or bad? But listen, Big Tits, who you desire is up to you.
Nish Kumar Yeah. There’s no judgment. There’s a little judgement, but there’s no more judgment. There’s no more judgment than you absolutely anticipated when you sent that message to us.
Coco Khan I would genuinely like to know, and I’m nervous about asking it, because then we’ll get a response and then maybe we’ll read out, and then maybe we’ll perpetuate this dishy Rishi business. Yeah, you should. You know, I get so I’m very much against. But what is it about Rishi that Big Tits likes? Is it the short trousers?
Nish Kumar I’ve no idea.
Coco Khan Is it the. The sort of robot speech.
Nish Kumar People kept marrying Boris Johnson. We have to assume that tastes are broader than the human mind could possibly phathom.
Coco Khan Well, you can get in touch with us by emailing.
Nish Kumar Multiple women have married Boris Johnson.
Coco Khan How many wives has he had?
Nish Kumar I genuinely can’t remember. But wives is only about a third of the problem.
Coco Khan You can get in touch with us by emailing PSUK@reducedlistening.co.UK. We love hearing your voices, so do send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514644572. And internationally, that’s +447514644572. I’m trying to do it from my brain.
Nish Kumar And you did it. Successfully
Coco Khan Maybe. A little bit. Anyway, we’d love to get your thoughts on what we’ve discussed on this episode. You can send us in a question about British politics or suggest something you’d like us to cover or you just thoughts on Rishi Sunak sexually, I think is also welcome. Is it welcome?
Nish Kumar Pod Save the U.K. is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.
Coco Khan Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz and digital producer Alex Bishop with additional production support from Annie Keates Thorpe.
Nish Kumar Video editing was by Dan Hodgson. The music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.
Coco Khan Thanks to our engineer David Dugahey.
Nish Kumar The executive producers are Anushka Sharma, Dan Jackson and Madeleine Heringer with additional support from Ari Schwartz.
Coco Khan Watch us on the Pod Save the World YouTube Channel. Follow us on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram, where we’re @PodSavetheUK – all one word.
Nish Kumar And hit Subscribe for new shows on Thursdays on Amazon, Spotify or Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.