In This Episode
While we were busy being dazzled by glittery crowns and golden coaches…did the authorities sneak in and steal away our rights? New laws have given the police wide ranging powers to arrest protestors – scuppering the plans of anti-monarchy protestors to demonstrate against the Coronation. Instead they were arrested, detained and then released without charge – after the event was safely over. Nish and Coco ask barrister and activist Paul Powlesland and ask what happened to the British love of freedom?
Plus find out why a PSUK listener spent 15 hours outside his local polling station; why the Coronation gave Coco ‘Showgirls’ vibes; why Coco can’t wait for Eurovision; and why Labour and the Lib Dems are in danger of being ‘vagina adjacent’.
Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.
Contact us via email: PSUK@reducedlistening.co.uk
WhatsApp: 07514 644572 (UK) or + 44 7514 644572
- Paul Powlesland
- Good Morning Britain, ITV
- Paul Powlesland
- Video – Paul Powlesland
- Photos – Tom Garner
- Video clip – Good Morning Britain, ITV
- Video clip – Parliament.TV
Nish Kumar Hello and welcome to episode two of Pod Save the UK. I’m Nish Kumar
Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan.
Nish Kumar And we’re talking politics and protest.
Coco Khan Did our rights just get stolen from under our noses while the world watched the coronation?
Nish Kumar Did PC plod screw it up or are we the ones that got screwed?
Coco Khan I’m a journalist. He’s a comedian. And we love and sometimes hate politics.
Nish Kumar And we really believe Britain can do better than this.
Coco Khan Politics is not a spectator sport. We’ve got a vote. We’ve got free speech. And we want to use it.
Nish Kumar But we don’t want to end up in a police cell. So with the help of a special guest, one of the smartest activists lawyers around. We’re going to fix this.
Coco Khan Let’s do it.
Nish Kumar Welcome back to POD Save the UK. If you listened last week and you really should have done, you’ll know that we were talking about ridding Britain of the monarchy potentially, but sadly, Coco.
Coco Khan Well, I mean spoilers. We did not actually manage to do it. We tried. Our arguments were brilliant, but just didn’t inspire a revolution this week. But I mean, there will be others, although fair play to him. Graham Smith from the anti-monarchy group Republic. I mean, he had a good go. He and some of his mates ended up in a police cell when he should of course not have been. He was just exercising his right to free speech.
Nish Kumar Yeah, we’re going to come back to that later on in the show. But just sort of in brief. YouGov poll showed 54% of the UK watched some of the coronation. 31% watched none. 11% watched highlights. I actually didn’t realize they put highlights package together. Match of the day. Yeah, like Match of the day. Like it’s a sporting event we can just cut. We just show the goals.
Coco Khan Just like Grumpy Man. Grumpy Man. Grumpy man. We’ve Crown Grumpy Man Mistress with Crown. Good highlight reel to be that truly.
Nish Kumar The royal sidekick got her got the bug.
Coco Khan She did well. An inspiration to us all. Did you. Did you. Did you do this yet.
Nish Kumar To contextualize it? Last week I suggested that I was going to try and time a bowel movement at the exact moment the people of the United Kingdom were encouraged to pledge allegiance to the king. Sadly, I had a coffee too early. I mistimed it. I was. I’m not happy about the results.
Coco Khan So did you have to do the allegiance instead?
Nish Kumar No. I mean, I just think it’s a binary option. But if you have a double digit, you’ve got the allegiance. I unfortunately missed the allegiance, but I did watch bits of it. So I’m very much in the kind of, you know, 54% of people that watched some of it. Did you watch any of it?
Coco Khan I watched like 15 minutes of it before I was going out to meet some friends. The Republican in me just wouldn’t allow me to watch it all. But the 15 minutes I go was the best one. But it was just the horses coming in. Now, just as an aside, my favorite film of all time is Paul VERHOEVEN’S Showgirls. I mean, those horses had such a showgirl energy for a start. They’ve all got names like Icon and Shadow. It’s so camp. They’re all in their kind of plumage, like the Roman Centurions. And those horse riders could not keep control of those horses when you watch the parade. Oh, my God. £250 million, I estimate, was spent not enough on lessons. Some of those guys that they were going to follow. So I saw that and then I left. And then when I came back, there was a new king.
Nish Kumar I think at some point in the course of this podcast we will have to do some sort of special bonus episode about the fact that your favorite film is Showgirls. I didn’t know that. It’s new information to me.
Coco Khan Have you seen it?
Nish Kumar Of course I’ve seen Showgirls. This was exactly the right age to be a boy at the time for a sexual boy who was desperately trying to see boobs anywhere in the pre into the era showgirls. It was about all you got.
Coco Khan I’m very sorry to say.
Nish Kumar Televised Boobs.
Coco Khan But soon we’re going to have this conversation about showgirls. But all you need to remember is that those Windsor Grays, those those horses, that’s our version of it. That’s all you need to know, really. But anyway, enough about camp horses. Coming up, we’ll be finding out how to stage a protest. So let’s get into it. What are we saving this week, Nish?
Nish Kumar So we’re saving our right to protest. So over the course of the coronation weekend, there were 64 arrests on Coronation Day. Among those were six anti-monarchy protestors. Among those were also three people who weren’t protesting at all, but were actually employed by Westminster City Council to distribute rape alarms to women who were traveling home on their own. It has turned out to be something of a shit show. The key element here is that the police have been empowered by a new piece of legislation, which is the 2023 Public Order Act, which came into force in England, Wales few days before the coronation, And police have used powers that they were given by this act to arrest anti-monarchy protestors. They held them until the coronation was over and then let them go and actually issued an apology. So a small group of people who planned a legitimate protest and some of whom weren’t actually even protesting ended up arrested and then released without charge simply for expressing an opinion.
Coco Khan Right. And obviously, the police were saying, oh, we had all eyes on us. We just didn’t want to embarrass the UK with there being, you know, scuffles in the side or, you know, witty signs on the BBC footage. But of course it backfired because all anyone is talking about is these arrests. And actually it has been a bit of an embarrassment and it makes us look terrible, like a dictatorship, draconian, out of control. You mentioned there the new legislation that’s empowering it. So I’m just going to give our listeners some quick facts on it. It’s the government’s second big piece of legislation changing protest laws in less than two years. The first changes came in restricting how much noise you could make. And this new act goes a lot further. So protesters who interfere with key national infrastructure, I don’t know if our listeners in audio can see, but I am doing air quotes around key national infrastructure, including roads and railways Face a possible 12 months in jail.
Nish Kumar Yeah, the the air quotes may be a reference to the fact that we started recording this podcast an hour and a half after we were supposed to, because I had to use one of those key pieces of infrastructure, a train to get to London from Leeds.
Coco Khan Were you be really noisy? Were you being noisy?
Nish Kumar Let me tell you. The trains are disrupting themselves. If you want to arrest anybody for slowing down the UK, let it be the private companies that run our fucking train network. Forget about protesters. There’s also an important piece of legislation, and this was part of the grounds that a lot of the people were detained, certainly from the protest group Republic. Anyone who fixes themselves to an object or building to create an immovable object, a tactic which is known as locking on could be jailed for six months. Some of the protesters who were there protesting for the republic, they were they had luggage sort of ties with them. And these basic luggage charges were designed to put their signs together. But the police’s rationale was that they were going to use the luggage ties to tie themselves to bits of the road. The public order bill has already, even before has passed, been condemned. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said that it imposed serious and undue restrictions on the right to protest and described it as wholly unnecessary. The UK police already have the powers to act against violent and disruptive demonstrations. The actions of the police this weekend were even criticized by the leftist snowflakes of the Conservative Party. So the Conservative Party itself has been massively critical of it. The former Home Office minister, David Davis, told the Commons that the Home Affairs Select Committee should be invited to review the laws, and he actually said that within one week of the public order bill entering the law and in its first serious use, we end up with the head of the mat having to apologize to people who are wrongfully arrested. Various people who previously had criticized the legislation have essentially used the events of the weekend to say, Well, we told you so.
Coco Khan I mean, it’s super vague, you know, the language that they use. The new law bans, again, air quotes for the listeners. Serious disruption. I mean, who defines what is serious? I mean, they’re now saying that if you carry superglue, they have a right to search you. You know, I just have some trainers and the soles are coming off. I reckon they just need to just glue those back on. They use it for superglue. We are going to talk more about this, by the way, we’ve got a fantastic guest, one of the UK’s smartest activist lawyers. But I thought might be interesting to talk about our own protest experiences.
Nish Kumar Yeah, I was going to say, is this something that worries you as somebody who I know you’ve been on various protests in the past, is this law change something that now concerns you?
Coco Khan You know, it’s so weird because I don’t know. It’s something about me. I don’t know if I’ve got some sort of like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sort of thing about me. Yeah, she’s doing a Shakespeare reference.
Nish Kumar She’s listen, she will reference Showgirls, but she will also reference Hamlet.
Coco Khan Okay. She’ll do. What you’re going to get. You don’t know what you’re going to get. I sometimes wonder if I was destined to always be on the side of the action because I’ve been to so many protests, I’ve been to student protests about the tuition fees, many, many protests, you know, supporting anti-racist causes. Stop Brexit, protest, reclaim the street protest austerity. It is a weird list. I’m just like listing all that.
Nish Kumar Well, it’s an interesting list of everything that’s gone wrong in the country the last 30 years. I think what it is is a double indictment of the state of the United Kingdom.
Coco Khan Let’s do again. Let’s list all our societal open wounds. But, you know, so I’ve been to loads of them, and then I’ll go home and watch it on the TV and it’ll be on like there were water cannons today. That would be saucers. That’s like, really? I just sat in the sun and just like sort of jiggered around to someone playing a steel drum all day. So, you know, it’s weird because of course, all of these laws worry me terribly. But I do think it is worth saying that the vast majority of protests and protest is just very, very calm. And it’s very, very nice. And, yeah, you know, is just very unnecessary.
Nish Kumar Yeah. I mean, my history with protest starts with my mother not letting me go on the Iraq war protest because she was scared I was going to be arrested. I’ll be honest, the events of this weekend have not improved baby’s mood. They’ve not improved the mood one bit. But I’ve also done I’ve I’ve spoken at protests like I spoke at the Trump protest and I actually did stand up comedy at the Extinction Rebellion. I’m now left in a situation where I’m thinking is, would my comedy have got me arrested? I mean, I would describe my voice as causing serious disruption to most people who hear it. Thanks for listening to the podcast, by the way. But it definitely listen, based on this weekend, it does concern me and it does say that the bill has empowered the police to essentially take people into custody for a period of time. They get to determine and then release them with a quick apology, which doesn’t seem like a healthy, functioning democracy with the right to protest enshrined.
Coco Khan Can I just ask you quickly about your exile thing that. Yeah. Would you describe your concern as loud?
Nish Kumar Well, first of all, thank you for calling it a concert. I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled to be I’m thrilled to have my comedy described as a concert. Sound like I was giving a recital of some of the vowel d. I would definitely describe my performance as as loud.
Coco Khan Okay.
Nish Kumar I would definitely say that that was. But but it does. The problem is because the law itself is vague, which is not really what you want from laws, it does seem to leave these huge gaps that are open to the specific interpretation of a specific police officer in that specific moment. So coming up next, we’ll be getting down to it with a man who knows all about protest and the law. Barrister and campaigner Paul Powers led a man who went viral after being threatened with arrest for holding up a blank sign.
Coco Khan Okay, So let’s talk to someone who can hopefully tell us everything we need to know about our rights and get us out of a police cell some time. Activist and barrister, Paul Poland. Hi Paul!
Nish Kumar Have you seen Showgirls?
Paul Powlesland I’m going to do that awful thing about Out of touch bar, since I don’t even know what that is.
Coco Khan Okay.
Paul Powlesland It’s like that joke in the nineties. He doesn’t. He didn’t know anything about popular culture.
Nish Kumar Oh, no. This is a film from the nineties. There’s absolutely no reason to. You know what?
Coco Khan Maybe it’s not a good film, but that is what makes it good. Anyway, back to you. So I just want to say I love your Twitter handle, which is writes of nature and climate activist, barrister and River Guardian. Love defending and protecting trees and rivers. So thank you for protecting all those things. And famously, many protesters, including Just Stop Oil. So very welcome to you. We like practical politics. So really, we just wanted to ask you, how can you protest without going to jail?
Paul Powlesland Oh, that’s a very wise question, isn’t it?
Nish Kumar I guess just in light of the weekend’s events, this is the first time we’ve seen the public order bill applied by the police. How do you actually avoid being arrested on a protest?
Paul Powlesland I think that’s the scary thing about what happened this weekend was that Republic and the head of Republic did literally everything you are supposed to do in order to stay lawful. You know, they are a legitimate, respectful, lawful organization. They’ve never done anything, any protest, unlawful. And they did the usual liaison, I suppose, to do the police, you know. If you go on Twitter and the head of Republic, Graham Smith, has listed all the meetings he had with the police where he outlined exactly what Republic was going to do. And yet that wasn’t enough to protect them from being arrested because the police seemed to just want to arrest them regardless.
Nish Kumar Can you just run us through briefly? You said they’ve done all the things that you legally required to do. Just can you give us the sort of top line?
Paul Powlesland What do you mean you’re not even legally required to do it, right? You know, Yeah. So lots of that. They went beyond the legal requirements of what they need to do to inform the police. They voluntarily told them all the details of everything they wanted to do, all the speeches where it was going to be, liaise with them, said, is that okay? And the police said yes. And then they still nick them and possibly use the intelligence they got from those meetings to know exactly where to arrest them. And I think that that’s that’s what scares me a bit about this legislation and the way it’s being used. And the key thing we need to remember is that when a new law is passed, there’s there’s different circles, if you like. The first circle is the kind of conduct which if if it goes forward to a court, the court will convict and say that that is a breach of the law and a criminal offense. Right. But beyond that circle is a whole extra circle of conduct which can be brought in by the police. Is reasonable suspicion to arrest you for the thing? Right. So there’s loads of conduct which wouldn’t actually be found to be a criminal offense if it goes to court, but which is enough to give you reasonable suspicion to arrest. And every time you expand the circle of things that are actually criminal offenses, you also expand the circle of things that the police can reasonably arrest for. And that’s what we saw on Saturday, was that by expanding this new law, which came in last week about lock ons, that then gave the police a whole new way to arrest people on suspicion of locking on. And in the case of a public, it was for having some luggage drops in their van.
Nish Kumar And then that’s why that’s why the overwhelming majority of these people were all released without charge. But what you’re saying is that they’ve been given powers essentially just to just to keep them locked up for the duration of the event that they’re protesting.
Paul Powlesland Effectively and using using the logic of the police on Saturday. It’s genuinely hard to imagine how you could go on a protest without having something that they could arrest for on similar grounds. You know, shoelaces by clocks, straps on the back of your rucksack. All of those are pretty much the same or indeed more serious in some ways than the luggage straps that the republic people were arrested for. So unless you’re going to go naked to the protests.
Coco Khan Which, that has other problems.
Nish Kumar Yeah, exactly.
Paul Powlesland It’s hard to say exactly how you can avoid it. And this is the problem. If we have a police force that seems to to want to go up to and beyond its powers to try and stop peaceful and lawful protest going ahead, it leads to a very scary situation.
Coco Khan And what should you do if you are encountering the police when you’re processing? I just mentioned this because there’s a video circulating of you online. You get challenged by the police and you kind of challenge back. Although, let’s have a listen to it first.
Clip You can come. We can be charged not like anyone with our. But you wouldn’t advise it. Why not? Because this is free speech. Why can’t we talk about my feelings escalate? What do you mean by escalate? Charging? It’s not allowed in the course of the public nuisance. What do you mean by public nuisance? The trying to do this? Let me. Yeah, I’m trying to work out why my right of free expression. Like we are entitled maybe for chanting, not making. These calls on public nuisance. By chanting, not making.
Coco Khan So. So what was actually. Happening there, Paul.
Paul Powlesland So it was just a group of Republican protesters who were chanting on the street, I think not my king. And the police came along and said, effectively, you may want to stop that, otherwise we may arrest you effectively. And the key thing that shows what you are probably doing a lot of situations is film it, because the police have repeatedly in the past lied about their interactions with members of the public in these instances. And if you’ve got it on film, then that’s direct evidence against it and also will hopefully make the police back away from going beyond their powers because they realize they’re on film. And it depends, obviously, on your your willingness to challenge the police. You know, as a lawyer, as a barrister who likes talking, likes a good argument. I’m willing to go up and say, no, that’s nonsense. This is not breaking the law. Tell me what section you’re saying is being broken here and how. But of course, to a lot of members of the public, if a police officer says don’t do that and it’s a criminal offense, they’re going to back down because they’re worried and afraid. They don’t want to spend the night in this house. And this is why what we call the chilling effect. So, again, you pass a new law. There’s the thing that could could actually be found to be a criminal offense in the Magistrates Court or in the Crown Court. But there’s also the whole area of behavior around it. The police can threaten for arresting for that, then chills people away from exercising their important democratic right to freedom of speech and protest.
Nish Kumar So let’s talk about the law in of itself. So Wendy Chamberlain, who’s the Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife, said that the problem was that there wasn’t enough time because it had been rushed through the royal assent, which is the final stage of a bill becoming law. Is the problem that this just hasn’t received enough scrutiny or is it just a bad piece of legislation?
Paul Powlesland I think the two are interrelated, aren’t they?
Nish Kumar Yes.
Paul Powlesland It’s it’s sort of a rush through act to deal with a political issue, a political issue that’s been made into a political issue, but actually isn’t a real issue in reality. You know, it’s this sort of like slight moral panic about just stop oil. But actually, they already have powers, for instance, to clear protesters who are blocking things. So if you’re blocking the highway by logging on, then there’s powers under under an obstruction of the highway to stop that. Yes. And I don’t think the government are providing the situation that needed this that wasn’t being dealt with before, but now is dealt with by this legislation and it’s badly drafted. It just says attaching yourself effectively and then going equipped to attach yourself, which is this problem. It brings in so many things and no one knows what. Yeah, I would genuinely say that, you know, people who go to protest on their bike and have a lock on, they’re a serious risk of arrest if the police want to. And it’s just.
Nish Kumar Because they’ve brought a bike.
Paul Powlesland Lock book by lock, and it’s an item that can be used to attach yourself to people.
Coco Khan Hazel.
Paul Powlesland Exactly.
Coco Khan I saw you. I saw you riding a bike.
Paul Powlesland Had one on Saturday, and that was I do it to what? Do I not go to protest? Do I not go to protest with my bike, or do I leave my protest of my bike at the protest unlocked so it gets nicked and the police would never investigate because they’ve given up investigating bike thefts. Now they’re too busy nicking peaceful climate protesters.
Coco Khan Yeah, I think just I just want to talk to you about just a royal very briefly, because I know they are a controversial group. I’m generally in favor of everyone doing something better than doing nothing. But I don’t think it’s a given that everyone is necessarily agreeing with the tactics or even on their side. I mean, I know plenty of Labor voters who have I use Labor as the barometer here. You know, whatever, like, you know, people who would ordinarily be critical of the government, who have felt that some of the tactics involved are unfair on just general public walking around. I’m really mindful I don’t want to sound like I’m being overly critical. I totally understand the point of these tactics is to gather press and media attention and and they has worked. There was one years ago, I remember it was like I think it was stopping a tube at Canning Town.
Paul Powlesland Infamous Canning Town.
Coco Khan Infamous. And I recall that moment. I mean, we’re from the same sort of rutted st part on East London and no canning towns, a very kind of low income area. And I just could feel that all those people were genuinely trying to get to work. They have no power over anything and I did in that moment I was like, I get it. I get how Now, obviously, just for clarity, after that, Extinction Rebellion said that they were going to review their tactics and they never did that again, which is great. And like break them up for doing that. But I’m just saying like it’s not a given that people can support this. Is there any other way that people can protest?
Paul Powlesland Mm. I guess is this from the not, not like that argument against protesting which is the you saying. I agree with them because who doesn’t agree that climate change is a serious issue and needs to be addressed. But the way they’re doing it is wrong and the way you respond to that is, okay, fine, we can have a complete multiplicity of tactics. What would you do? How would you protest? And what’s interesting about just stop oil is that, you know, a lot of it’s one of the big responses is, you know, why are you stopping ordinary people going to work or blocking roads or trains or that kind of thing, go and protest against the oil companies. What’s fascinating is just stop oil did that. They blockaded oil terminals and they went and smashed up petrol pumps directly targeting the oil companies. What happened? The oil companies went to the high court, used incredibly expensive and fancy lawyers, hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions of pounds worth of lawyers and bought their own laws called injunctions, which then stopped that protest and made it a bigger punishment to protest on an oil company for court, then you’d get elsewhere. So they effectively stopped that protest. Yeah. And basically made protesters risk their homes if they carry on protesting at oil terminals or on petrol station FORECOURTS. So then, of course, just a boy went back to the roads and protested there instead. You know, and what’s interesting is that they did go against and they did go against oil companies directly, and that was stopped by what I regard as quite an illiberal and unfair use of what’s called anti-protest injunctions.
Coco Khan I don’t think we’re going to solve it here. But I was just curious about the other tactics.
Paul Powlesland And also, I don’t think it should be taken as a given that people do necessarily disagree fully with groups that just support insulate Britain or indeed exile. There’s obviously quite a strong media campaign against them. But for instance, a video I think just the other day on Twitter where people were clapping just about protesters on the streets, and also more importantly, in a number of cases where these protest cases have gone in front of juries, juries have acquitted. Yes. Even when it’s clear the protesters were, in fact, blocking the street and legally appeared that all of the law, the law against them was made out. They still acquitted them on what’s called jury nullification, which means effectively the right of juries to acquit according to their conscience. And the law is now having to react to that because they don’t like it by not even letting these protesters stay in court. Why they’re protesting so recently.
Coco Khan Oh, my goodness.
Paul Powlesland Cracking down the ancient right to a judge has sent people to jail for saying climate change is quite good.
Coco Khan Wow.
Paul Powlesland For 8 weeks a guy got for saying why he why he was protesting.
Nish Kumar Oh, my God.
Paul Powlesland Yeah. And that’s happening.
Coco Khan That is very, very chilling.
Nish Kumar How have we ended up in this situation, Paul? You know, in terms of with this piece of legislation, is it because just stop oil? I mean, I think it’s incredible because I think what they’ve done is pushed the climate crisis to the forefront of the national conversation. And I think that that it needs to be massively commended. And part of that are specifically their tactics. I think that is to be commended. But is it because is it because they’ve been successful that we’ve ended up here, or is this sort of just the Conservative Party attempting to kind of culture war its way out of having caused the kind of finance is all right to protest a sort of casualty of the Conservative Party’s inability to talk about anything successful that they’ve achieved as a government?
Paul Powlesland I think that’s definitely part of it, although I also think that it the nature of the climate crisis was somewhat going to make this kind of crunch a little bit inevitable. Okay. Because what we have is a predicament. Effectively, we have a crisis whereby the continued operation of business as usual means the deaths of millions of people in the global South and possibly probably the collapse of our own civilization. And however our entire society is set up in a certain way to properly stop change. And the most powerful and richest people have the greatest interest in not changing. So in that circumstance, we were always going to get people who were going to protest in a way that was going to potentially send them to jail. And we were always going to have the inevitable crackdown. And I think we’re only in some ways at the start of this journey, and I don’t entirely know where it’s going to end up, but it is really crucial for everyone that we push back and we keep those rights and we wear rights to protest all threatened. We come back and challenge them. And as an example, for instance, back on the Republican protests in autumn last year, at the time of the accession of Charles, there were reports that people were being arrested for shouting Not my king or having a not my king sign. And so I went down there with a blank sign to try and control them effectively. Yeah. To say, actually, okay, you said you your resting for this. What about this. Yeah. And then got that officer on video saying he would arrest me if I wrote not my king on it. Yeah. On Twitter it went viral and the Met issued a statement rowing back and saying, actually, no, we’re not going to arrest people for having a note making sign. And next day, a group of activists went and did that protest. So rights are a constant. They’re not something sort of handed down. There’s a stone tablet. They’re always going to be there. They’re a constant, constant evolution back and forth. And if rights are threatened, we need to push back on that.
Nish Kumar Yeah.
Coco Khan Yeah. Paul, I wanted to talk to you about your tree protest. I know that you’re actually right now out on bail.
Paul Powlesland Yeah. And so I set up a group called Lawyers for Nature a few years ago off the Sheffield Tree scandal, where thousands of trees were threatened with destruction unnecessarily. And so now, if a tree is threatened somewhere, it will usually when the case will usually wind its way to me somehow via Twitter or whatever. And one case came to me earlier this year in Wellingborough, where a developer wants to chop down, I think, over 100 trees, these beautiful ancient, a beautiful veteran Lime Avenue, one of the glories of the town effectively. And I didn’t have. I’m saying why? It was probably on the evidence. Unlawful to chop those trees down because that tree preservation orders on them and thought that would be enough to save them. But it turns out it wasn’t because at least they wanted to help chopping down anyway. Well, so I then went. I then had a day off, so I went up to Edinburgh on the train to show my advice to the police in person. So I went to the officer on the ground and actually took him to my advice, saying This is the law. So this means that to chop these trees down is unlawful. And he’s like, That’s very interesting. Anyway, if only we don’t move out here, we can actually regulate trespass. And I was like, have you not? And there’s a video, me yelling the questions at him in my advice, like, what about the tree to tree tree preservation regulations with you? But what what about this lecture is like an automaton. He’s like, he says, you throw in the law and he’s like, Anyway, we’re going to nick you if you don’t move out of the way. And so at that point, I had a choice where basically either I had to just let them move me out of the way unlawfully as I saw it, and chop the trees down or do something else. So I literally got a protester help, shoved me off a tree and climbed the tree, and then they arrested me whilst I was in the tree. They put me under arrest, but I was still in the because they couldn’t like I see the officers, like, chanting like, oh, we want to we want to get you.
Coco Khan It’s like Tom and Jerry.
Paul Powlesland So I was under arrest for like 8 hours while I was also going viral on Twitter, telling everyone I was under arrest. I’m doing like news interviews in the tree. And eventually they managed to put like a pen around me and police tape around the edge.
Coco Khan To try and see how we can laugh about it now. But oh my gosh, you must have been so short.
Paul Powlesland This illustrates a really important principle, right? Which is what’s called punishment by process. So a lot of the time, even if arrests won’t stack up in court, the police will still arrest you on suspicion anyway. And that achieves what they want and that can be different things. So on Saturday, the punishment by protest for the republic demonstrators and the head of Republic was that they couldn’t do their key protest on what is probably the big yeah it’s like Christmas for that was even more important because a once in a lifetime thing Grant’s going to be looking forward to that protest probably most of his life. Yeah. And he was denied the chance to do it. In my case, in Wellingborough, the punishment by process would have been that they chop the tree down and that’s what they do. So the police would the police liaise with the developer so they arrest you to get you out of the way. The tree comes down and then they’re like, Oh, very sorry. It wasn’t aggravated trespass after all, but the tree’s not coming back as it. Well, of course, in that case they couldn’t do that because I was actually in the tree and they couldn’t actually get me out of it, which is why it was important. And I thought the postal process might happen the next day, because they they after the end of the day, I came down voluntarily and they bailed me not to climb any tree in Northamptonshire, one of the most comedy bail conditions you can probably imagine. And I thought, Oh, the tree is going to go. And then I woke up the next day on Twitter and someone from exile climbed it in the garden. And now those trees are still there and the local people are fighting in court to save those trees. But the point is, had I not climbed the tree, then they would be gone. The punishment, my process would have already happened. And there’s no way bringing those trees back.
Nish Kumar Right.
Paul Powlesland And that punishment, that process still carries on. Right. So even if I go forward and get convicted, I don’t think I woke the laws on my side. I think, yeah, judging by my own advice, which I hope sticks out, But even if I go forward and get convicted the most, I get aggravated. Trespass is a small fine. I’ve already lost more in lost wages and train fares having to go out and do a police interview and go back again another time, you know, and all the stress and hassle of it. And that’s a lot of the time what happens, the stress and hassle that you have from being arrested and going through the court and police process is actually more than the punishment. If you get guilty.
Coco Khan They know that someone who is not a barrister will be very afraid to go through that. Yeah.
Nish Kumar Thank you so much, Paul. That was.
Coco Khan Genuinely so inspiring.
Paul Powlesland Thanks. It’s really important stuff.
Coco Khan Yeah. No, absolutely.
Nish Kumar As is watching Showgirls.
Coco Khan Follow Paul Powlesland on Twitter, he is doing the Lord’s work.
Nish Kumar Okay, so the coronation. For all the issues around it could not have come at a better time for one man. Weirdly, I’m not talking about Prince Charles. I am, of course, talking about the Indian Prince Charles. Rishi Sunak. Because the timing of the coronation meant that none of us were really talking over the course of the weekend about the fact that the Conservative Party exceeded their own worst case scenario in the recent local elections. They lost over 1000 seats. And just before we started recording today, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer was doing his level best to put the focus back on this disastrous election result at Prime Minister’s questions.
Clip The Prime Minister said he was going to lose 1000 seats. How many ministers, after 13 years of Tory promise, they actually have broken? And this is the primate. She’s only had to fight for two things in his life. Last year, he lost a Tory beauty contest to the member for Southwest Norfolk, who lost to Alexis last week. When he finally came into contact with voters. He lost everywhere. No matter who the electorate is. The Prime Minister keeps entering a two horse race and somehow finishing third. Given his track record. Who does he think he’s actually got a mandate from?
Coco Khan So how are you feeling about the results, Nish?
Nish Kumar Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I always find it funny when conservatives lose. But I also, you know, we’ve talked a little bit about on the podcast already about this concept of get banged, of which you made American say, which I will never, ever stop being grateful.
Coco Khan Saying that is really interesting because you say it really formally like a sort of saying it like a a Latin phrase for a species of Felix Curtis chat shit, get bang. It’s just it’s not how you say it. But anyway, that’s fine. Let’s move on.
Nish Kumar I’m now trying to posited as a serious piece of political analysis, because here’s the thing. There have been consequences for the Conservative Party. There are various reports across different newspapers that conservatives on the campaign found that they were constantly having the specter of Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, thrown back in their face, and Rishi Sunak has been unable to detoxify the party. And so they have got banged in the way that we can bang politicians, which is by hitting them at the ballot box. And so in a sense, I do think that this is a sort of positive thing because there have to be electoral consequences when you do something like, say, for example, wiping £30 billion off the public purse in the course of a single mini budget. So from that perspective, I feel very good about it. How are you feeling about the.
Coco Khan Likelihood I mean, I feel like is the it’s kind of signaled to the world, well, certainly signaled to Westminster, rather, that the culture war stuff isn’t working. You know, the conservatives have tried every cultural tactic they can in the book, even the voter ID thing. There was nothing there was no evidence of major electoral fraud. That was what was that play. So I think actually the public have seen through it and said, yeah, but, you know, my bills are still astronomically high and getting worse. You know, we’ll talk later in the series about housing. The Tories said they were going to do something on housing and they haven’t done anything. They’ve kicked it into the long grass and the problems are getting worse and worse and worse. So I think that actually, like it was it was nice to see the public say, not today, Satan. We see we know what’s going on. Having said that, though, I am nervous about kind of labor complacency. Yeah, I still believe they’re not saying what they’re going to do and they’re not saying anything radical. And we really need radical change. And I’m nervous that if they just think, Oh, we’re just going a plain sale to number ten, we’re not going to get the long term problems solved.
Nish Kumar Well, Labor were definitely absolutely buoyed by these results, and Keir Starmer looked as full of beans as it’s possible for him to look at PMQs. And he also said that they showed that the party was ready to be the next party of government, but also ready to win an outright majority. And that one thing is possibly where Labor optimism needs to be tempered because Sir John Curtis, who’s renowned for his kind of political analysis, shifted the focus onto the total number of seats won, rather than just focusing on the amount of seats the Conservative Party lost. And in that final analysis, Labor ended up winning 2603 seats and the Conservatives won 2217 seats. So when you take out the amount of seats that they lost and you look at the amount of seats that both the parties actually won, the difference is 386 seats. So it’s very much all to play for. And in terms of establishing a parliamentary majority, which the Labor Party will need to win at least 326 seats to do that still is in the balance. So now we’re kind of starting to have conversations about possible coalitions. And the Lib Dem leader, Sir Ed Davey over the weekend refused to rule out a coalition with the Labor Party. Do you think that the pathway to victory is some sort of vaguely progressive alliance?
Coco Khan Listen, I’ve long believed in proportional representation and actually I think like parties working together might be a good thing. Having said that, though, that whole condemned thing that was going on with the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, that didn’t work out so great. So, you know, it remains to be seen. I just think that most important is that Labor doesn’t get complacent, doesn’t take it for granted its voters. Yep. And actually come out with some radical changes that we really, really, really, really need and actually are probably not that radical because most of the public really want the trains nationalized. So anyway, I just do that. Why did it do it?
Nish Kumar Well, in terms of significant things we’ve learned from this local election beyond just the results themselves. These were the first elections where people were required to use voter I.D. and.
Coco Khan For no reason. We don’t understand why. Just for clarity.
Nish Kumar Yeah, this is the amount of electoral fraud is absolutely infinitesimally tiny. It’s it’s very small. And a lot of the ID, as we previously discussed, did favor older people. And there is a fear that this has been designed to. Disenfranchized younger people. Now it’s too early to know the full extent of the impact. Turnout wasn’t significantly down on previous elections, which is a good thing. But it’s also worth bearing in mind that turnout in local elections is often appallingly low. There’s anecdotal evidence of voters being turned away from the polls across England. Perhaps the most concerning thing is that the Electoral Reform Society has said that if these rules were applied to a general election where millions more voters across the whole country will be voting, the outcome is likely to be worse. And it’s already calling for the law to be repealed.
Coco Khan But the main thing is if there is a coalition, what are we going to. really condemn? That was a bad thing that happened. But it was zingy, wasn’t it? Is it going to be lib lab.
Nish Kumar Lib, lab.
Coco Khan Touch vagina? And it is a touch on the vagina side, which I have no problem with. Vaginas are sturdy, they are important and we should all know more about them. You know, they are wonderful organs, but it’s certainly.
Nish Kumar It’s certainly a about it’s a vaginal no vagina.
Coco Khan Adjacent is what you would say. That you would phrase it. Which brings us quite neatly on to what? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Nish Kumar Talk me through this Segway whilst on the subject of sagittal adjacency.
Coco Khan Okay? Yeah, I accept that there’s actually no relationship while.
Nish Kumar We’re on the subject of voter I.D..
Coco Khan Yeah, yeah, yeah. While we’re on the subject of voter ID, that brings us on neatly to our favorite section, Heroes and villains of the week. I guess I get to start this week. Well.
Nish Kumar Talk us through it. I mean, the way that it is striking down at the moment is that we’re sort of falling into roles of you try to celebrate people and me constantly just try to tear people down.
Coco Khan I don’t think that’s falling into a role. That’s all. That’s, that’s that’s that’s how we are.
Nish Kumar That’s an accurate summation of our personalities and careers.
Coco Khan Yeah. I feel. You know what? I was spoiled for choice this week. I was really, really tempted to go for, of course, Graham Smith, CEO of anti-Monarchy Group Republic. I mean, what a week he has had and the things that he has done are so important. You know, Paul described, you know, those those battles, those little tiny battles he has are affecting all of us and we all reap the rewards. And he’s not getting enough credit, which makes me feel bad that he is not my hero of the week. Sorry about that, Graham. But you’re, you know, hero of all time. I’m actually going to go for Tom Garner from Kenilworth. Tom heard us talking about the new voter ID requirements for the local elections on last week’s POD, and he got in touch to tell us about his long and lonely one man protest at the ballot box last Thursday.
Tom Garner So I spent all of polling hours 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the 4th of May, sitting outside my local polling station with a placard in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, against the new voter ID laws. I work as a historian and was shocked to discover the English voters had not been required to produce formal I.D. since 1832. This was during the reign of King William, the fourth in the year of the Great Reform Act. I want everyone to vote, but voter I.D. rings democracy at the expense of certain demographic groups. On the day itself, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went. I expected some opposition, but many voters agreed with my stance. A lot said good on you as they walked past. So that was the day friends and family came to visit and kindly provided me with food and drink. I was even given a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits by a man I’d never met before, which was delightful. Clearly, this is an issue that voters care about. I’m aware that one man’s protest will not change the law, but I hope that by raising the issue, it can at least be debated most of all. And I think this is important. I think that it shows that civil discourse is not dead in British politics, and I hope people can be encouraged by that.
Nish Kumar That was so wonderful.
Coco Khan That was very nice. I feel I feel genuinely emotional.
Nish Kumar That was so wonderful Tom. That is so brilliant. I mean, that is what sort of celebrates the kind of best of this country, which is, you know, people participating in democracy, people engaging in peaceful protest, which this country does have a very long and important tradition of. And most importantly, that would be brought to you.
Coco Khan Yeah. It’s a very, very British protest and we rate it very highly.
Nish Kumar So Tom got in touch with us through WhatsApp, and that is an option for you if you want to get in touch with us on WhatsApp. The number is 07514644572. That’s 07514644572. And if you don’t live in the United Kingdom, the number is +447514644572. That’s +447514644572.
Coco Khan Great. Well, I mean, it’s going to be hard to top that. The legendary status of Tom Garner. Well, I do need to ask you to just bring the mood down a bit.
Nish Kumar Yeah. I feel crazily realizing we’ve done this in the rodeo that we should have we should have finished by celebrating, Tom. But instead, let’s open the floor for a stream of invective and bile from everyone’s favorite Mohamed Salah tribute act. Maybe it’s time for Villain of the Week. This is a man who has been a villain on many weeks. It’s Matt Hancock, the man who puts the Matt Hancock into the phrase. Another catastrophic error by Matt Hancock after he had to leave his job as health secretary after having mishandled the pandemic and then mishandled a woman’s ass. He appeared on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, for which he was paid £320,000. In an interview with Good Morning Britain a couple of months ago. He said that he’d given £10,000 of that fee to charity. Here’s him talking about it.
Clip Well, I did absolutely give some of the money to charity. £10,000. And there are two brilliant charity. No concern about the amounts, not the charities. £10,000. If you didn’t do it for the money, why not. Give the money to the causes which need it? I said I didn’t primarily do it for the money, but also, you know, if you’re only getting £10,000 to charity and you’ve kept 320, it would seem to most people who can do basic arithmetic that you did do it for the money. And I’m not saying that that’s necessarily well. I just want a clear and honest answer. Yeah, that’s what I’m giving you. I didn’t primarily do it for the money. I primarily did it to try to show who I really am, primarily kept the money and I gave a five figure sum to charity. £10,000 out of 330. Sure. And you keep skating off and saying, well, a substantial sum. Yes. It is. And it is. You know. I and I’m really proud of the money. That I’ve raised for charity before, and I’ll do lots in future. And, you know, I think that it’s good giving money to charity.
Nish Kumar Yeah, he’s absolutely he showed us exactly who he is. I also think. He’s a singularly unimpressive man. The fact that he has not even thought that this might come up as a question and seem surprised and flustered and gets panicked into saying, I think it’s good to give money to charity.
Coco Khan It’s so weird.
Nish Kumar Can you imagine? This man was in charge of our public health response to a global pandemic. And he crumbled under questioning that he presumably knew in advance was going to happen. £10,000 out of £320,000 is about 3.13% of the total. He said he was going on it to let people know who he was and he said he was going on it not primarily for the public, but he still walked away with a clean £310,000. But what makes the story even worse and why he is absolutely Villain of the Week is in the most recent update of all of the MPs registered interest, which is all of the money that they earn outside of being MP. It transpires that for that interview Good morning. Britain paid Matt Hancock £10,000, so he was already donating a dog shit sum of money, but he then got reimbursed the same dog shit sum of money to go on television and explain how dog shit the sum of money is. The man is an absolute fucking waste of space and a piece of shit to add to the fact that he already looks like a child’s drawing of an adult man and the child hasn’t bothered filling in any of the goddamn features. Matt Hancock. You are villain of the week, your villain in all of our hearts for as long as there is breath in the body of this nation. Before we go. And I have to sort of lie down and relax to recover. Quick quiz question for you.
Coco Khan Go and hit me.
Nish Kumar What is the most watched non-sporting event in the world?
Coco Khan EastEnders.
Nish Kumar It’s not EastEnders, although I do absolutely love the idea that you think of EastEnders as an event.
Coco Khan Oh, it is a sport for me.
Nish Kumar You know what I’m talking about. You know what I’m talking about.
Coco Khan I’m talking. You’re talking about Europe.
Nish Kumar Is the Eurovision Song Contest. There’s a massive Eurovision party happening with the song contest in Liverpool this week. There’s going to be an estimated 100,000 visitors descending on the city from around Europe and beyond. Coco, Surely with your love of hot pop bangers and ceaseless pageantry, the Eurovision Song Contest is right up your street.
Coco Khan Oh, yeah. When? When I think of it’s coming home, I’m thinking of Eurovision. Obviously, the whole time. And I’m also very proud that we’re actually taking it seriously this year because I have previously felt that we’re not trying. And that is rude. Britain, It is rude not to send your best to Eurovision, no show to previous Eurovision contenders. I’m very not.
Nish Kumar There was huge. It was an eclipse worth of shite going on.
Coco Khan Britain has some of the best music around, you know, pop music around the globe. But still.
Nish Kumar Unquestionably.
Coco Khan Harry Styles. Chaz and Dave. So many of them. And we never put our best beat before because we think it’s cringe or something. You know, it was like the King’s coronation.
Nish Kumar Let’s just think about that. The better.
Coco Khan Yeah.
Nish Kumar Why was Lionel Richie there? Where was Robbie Williams? I think sort of three quarters of take that turning up to headline wasn’t a great look. And Captain tax avoidance might well get his knighthood.
Coco Khan So where I live, the local famous band is E17.
Nish Kumar Of course. Yes, of.
Coco Khan Course. And so that’s.
Nish Kumar E17 for the sake of our international listeners were a British boyband who had a real heyday for about two years, I would say.
Coco Khan Yeah, yeah, about two years. Iconic puffer jacket. Yes, but they play plenty of Local Walthamstow related events, and that coronation concert had that kind of local concert vibe. But anyway, I digress. The point is, we’ve really pulled out all the stops this year and last year. That’s why we performed so well. I’m really excited and delighted to see how we’re going to do, and I will avidly be watching it. And on a serious point, I’ve been I’ve always had this theory that actually our cultural offering as the UK is very much neglected. I don’t think it’s there. I think it’s a fact, but it’s neglected by the government. I like it makes sense to invest in arts and culture because it brings in tons of money. Galleries are known for reinvigorating coastal towns that have otherwise seen better days and to see the numbers of people in Liverpool, the money that’s being spent. The vibes is a vibes times, vibes, vibes squared. It is. Yeah. I think it’s an amazing lesson for investing in our arts and culture and also it’s just going to be fabulous. The costumes are going to be amazing.
Nish Kumar 100,000 visitors descending on Liverpool from around Europe is is very, very exciting. The last time we actually won it was 1997. Wow. You know, it’s weird. You want.
Coco Khan So does that mean we get to 97? That’s when Blair came in. So you get to blame the Labor government for that as well.
Nish Kumar This time next week, we’ll be back at POD Save the UK and we’ll be able to find out whether our Eurovision success has saved the country. But thanks very much for listening.
Coco Khan And if you have any thoughts, comments, feelings, not complaints, complaints won’t be accepted for anything else. Please email us at P.S. UK at Reduced Listening UK and tweet us at pod. Save the UK 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 David Caplivitz and the music was by Vasilis Fotopolous.
Nish Kumar Thanks to engineers Alex Bennett and Hector Lee.
Coco Khan The executive producers are Louise Cotton, Dan Jackson and Michael Martinez.
Nish Kumar Watch us on Pod Save the World YouTube. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at Pod Save the UK.
Coco Khan And hit Subscribe for new shows every Thursday on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, or wherever you get your podcasts.