The King’s Speech: Milli Vanilli in a gold hat | Crooked Media
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November 09, 2023
Pod Save the UK
The King’s Speech: Milli Vanilli in a gold hat

In This Episode

King Charles’ first State Opening of Parliament as monarch, provides plenty of pomp, pageantry and politics for Nish and Coco to get stuck into. It’s a spectacle that throws up lots of questions, including who is Black Rod, and why does an MP get taken hostage by the Palace? As the Government presents its legislative agenda for the year ahead, we ask why is it so slim? Could it signal an early election? Nish and Coco are also incredulous as to why, with so much that needs fixing in this country, valuable space in the speech is given over to cracking down on pedicabs!!


The New Statesman’s politics correspondent Zoë Grünewald is on hand to explain the splits in Labour over Gaza, as we see the first resignation from Keir Starmer’s front bench. We also discuss why so much political hot air is being expelled over this weekend’s pro-Palestinian protest – is it really disrespectful to have an anti-war march on Remembrence weekend? One of the loudest critics has of course been Home Secretary Suella Braverman – following a string of controversial pronouncements, we wonder if she’s actually trying to get herself sacked by Rishi Sunak?


Plus in our Hero and Villain of the Week section, find out how a bowl of Potpourri helped raise £50,000 for charity, and why an underwear magnate could soon be under a vest! Also, what exactly is a News Hat?


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


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Zoë Grünewald, Policy & politics correspondent at The New Statesman


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Coco Khan Hi, I’m Coco Khan.


Nish Kumar And I’m Nish Kumar.


Coco Khan Welcome to the state opening of Pod Save The UK.


Nish Kumar Yes. I’ve traveled to the studio in a golden horse drawn carriage. My baseball cap had a separate vehicle.


Coco Khan And I’ve access the studio by banging on the door three times with a big black rod. No, I’m not talking about an East London crowbar.


Nish Kumar Yes, you’ve guessed it. We’ll be discussing pomp, pageantry and the politics of The King’s Speech.


Coco Khan Also, is labour tearing itself apart over its response to the crisis in Gaza? And does the police have the power to ban protests over remembrance weekend?


Nish Kumar Here to help us answer some of that will be our special guest, Zoë Grünewald of The New Statesman. Hi, Coco.


Coco Khan Hi, Nish.


Nish Kumar How are you?


Coco Khan I’m good.


Nish Kumar We’ve we’ve already started in a bit of a giddy mood. Unfortunately, our producer, Musty, as part of the briefing before we start, it used the phrase news belt, which is so technical term of wrap up of a string of news stories. And for some reason, Coco just sort of said news hat with no context out of nowhere. It was I don’t know what what could you explain to me what you would possibly thinking.


Coco Khan At the time.


Nish Kumar Because all that came out of your mouth with World News hat, it looked like the worst improv game I’ve ever seen in my life.


Coco Khan In hindsight, I can see how it all sounded a bit. Gareth from the office. You know.


Nish Kumar Talk me through your thought process.


Coco Khan You said news belt. Yes. I thought that was a funny phrase. Yeah. Why not call it a news hat.


Nish Kumar I’d say you just said news hat out loud.


Coco Khan Yeah. Yeah.


Nish Kumar People think you have no filter and they don’t know.


Coco Khan The scale of it.


Nish Kumar The scale of.


Coco Khan They don’t know the half of it. No, no, I don’t have a filter.


Nish Kumar Listen, listeners, if you have a suggestion of what the news hat could possibly be, please, by all means, contact us. What have you been up to?


Coco Khan Not a great deal, to be honest with you.


Nish Kumar How’s your cat?


Coco Khan How’s my cat? Oh, sorry. Yeah, Because of the sitting on her.


Nish Kumar Not necessarily. Even because it’s sitting on. I’m just inquiring generally about the well-being of the pet.


Coco Khan Occasionally people come up to me being like, Oh, I sit soft.


Nish Kumar This is a reference to a conversation about how you sit down.


Coco Khan Yes.


Nish Kumar Inadvertently resulted us in YouGov commissioning a poll to find out how Britain sits down.


Coco Khan But we did a poll on Instagram and it all came out hard. And I think you’ve you did something to that.


Nish Kumar Well, you think there was election interference?


Coco Khan I think it was like Russian bots or style. I think you got people to say that they sit hard.


Nish Kumar Oh, no collusion. No, this is my January the sixth moment. Um listen. It’s been a big week in British politics. I think it’s the state opening of parliament. Coco, you’re a big fan of camp things.


Coco Khan Yeah.


Nish Kumar It doesn’t get camper.


Coco Khan Right. So I just want to say upfront that this is the first King speech I’ve ever watched because I’m not a loser.


Nish Kumar Well, I’d also to be clear, you are under the age of about 60 because there hasn’t actually been, obviously, for obvious reasons, a King’s Speech since 1951. Do you know who the last man to deliver a King’s Speech was?


Coco Khan The Last King.


Nish Kumar No, it actually weirdly wasn’t. It was a man called Gavin. It was a man called Gavin Symonds, who was the Lord chancellor and stepped in in 1951 because George the six was too ill. It was it was the year it was the year before he died. Right. And he and he was too ill to actually do the speech. So the Lord Chancellor, Gavin Symonds, stepped in at the last minute.


Coco Khan Oh, that’s I mean, big day for Gavin, really. I guess what I mean by The King’s Speech is I don’t mean George, I just mean.


Nish Kumar You mean any


Coco Khan The parliament.


Nish Kumar And so again, for international listeners, we should contextualize and also we will try and take this slow because I understand constantly when people from the UK talk about this, we use terms that to outsiders will seem genuinely alarming. So what we should say is the state opening of Parliament happens every year and it’s the official sitting of the new session of Parliament and it begins with the reigning monarch delivering a speech written by the Government about the government’s legislative priorities for the next year of Parliament.


Coco Khan Right. And so in the Victorian era they added a whole bunch of rituals to this process to symbolize the distinction between the house, the kind of political house and the monarch. And so some of those rituals border on it depends on your reference listeners. You know, some of you might be RuPaul’s Drag Race, some of you might be my favorite showgirls, others might be just a good old fashioned pantomime. So, for example, the yeomen of the Guard arrives at 9 a.m. to carry out a ceremonial search for explosives. That’s a tradition stretching back to the gunpowder plot of 1605. So everyone’s just walking around being like, We don’t forget Guy Fawkes. We will never forget the Guy Fawkes. They wear all of their regalia. I know you’re a massive fan of the crown on your neck.


Nish Kumar Listen, I love the fact that there’s a man with a gold hat that gets to tell us what to do.


Coco Khan News hat. See, it works. Is this not a news hat?


Nish Kumar Sounds like one of those weird American news channels that is very in favor of Donald Trump and very against the COVID vaccine. Yeah, I mean, we should. Yeah, the gold hat. The gold is a very big part of all of this. And the king and queen arrive in the Diamond Jubilee Stagecoach and the crowns and Regalia travel to Westminster separately in their own carriage. So just to be clear, is what happened this week. Poverty levels in the UK, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, are simply not acceptable. This is a man called Oliver Disruptor who said that it was not acceptable that we have more than a fifth of the population in a rich country in the UK at risk of poverty. Drawing on government data showing that 14.4 billion people lived in relative poverty in 2021 to 2022, which is a million more than they were the previous year. And in that country, a man with a gold hat whose hat had its own Uber told people that everything was going to be absolutely fine.


Coco Khan Now you’re probably thinking.


Nish Kumar Britain 2023, baby.


Coco Khan Now you’re probably thinking, why would the average British person put up with this? Well, the truth is, is the average British person probably doesn’t watch it unless, of course, they like to see the absolutely stunning entrances by people like Black Rod, who.


Nish Kumar Again, so this is the term that I think we need to immediately contextualize. Yeah, the it’s the Black Rod is what we call the usher of the Black Rod, who’s an official who’s actually in parliament across the world because of the Commonwealth, which is a fun word for countries Britain used to own that we’ve now turned into like we’ve tried to turn it to like a fun gang of friends. But elements of the Commonwealth have different feelings about that. So there are equivalent positions to Black Rod in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. And so the Black Rod itself is actually a staff and it’s sort of Ebony staff topped with a golden lion. And so it basically black rod bangs on the door with the staff, said the usher of black Rod bangs on the door with Black Rod, the staff.


Clip Black Rod.


Coco Khan And right now we have our first female Black Rod.


Clip Mr. Speaker, the king commands this honorable House to attend His Majesty immediately in the House of Peers.


Nish Kumar The point of this is it’s supposed to symbolize the commons independence from the Crown. So it’s basically Black Rod saying to the House of Commons, The king is here to see you. And so it’s supposed to be a kind of demarcation is objectively bananas. Now someone else has picked up a gold mace and is leading people out of the room. So now that’s the formal invitation to go to the room where The King’s Speech happens. And so now everybody’s everybody sort of awkwardly following someone carrying a gold mace and someone carrying a big rod with a gold had announced arm wrestling knuckle walking forward. And they also have to the government and opposition walk in parallel lines. So they have to make sort of deeply awkward small talk. As I say, as you watch that footage, it’s probably important to reflect on 14.4 million people living in relative poverty in 2021 to 22. I hate to be a buzzkill, but something about it sits uneasily with me esthetically.


Coco Khan At the moment. Okay. Okay. But hypothetical, right? If we weren’t facing this once in a generation level of poverty, which is actually fittingly quite Victorian, given all of these traditions of Victoria, would you still be okay with the robes and the regalia?


Nish Kumar I think I find the whole thing quite deeply strange.


Coco Khan You don’t find it a bit Christmasy. They wear red and white all day.


Nish Kumar I like Christmas, but on the 25th of December, Father Christmas doesn’t get to dispense presence and then at the end say, and these will be the laws of the country for the next 12 months. I like Santa’s fine. I just don’t consider him to be a legislator.


Coco Khan I think that tells you about Christmas in your house, doesn’t it?


Nish Kumar Well, look, in terms of the strange traditions around this, there is none stranger than an MP who is kept hostage at the palace while the king is at Westminster. This year it was the Tory MP, Jo Jo Churchill, and again is a relic of historic distrust between Parliament and the Crown. And the hostage basically has a drink with the Lord Chamberlain while they watched the ceremony on the television. So now let’s have a quick clip of the gold hearted action.


Clip My Lords and members of the House of Commons, it is mindful of a legacy of service and devotion to this country set by my beloved mother, late Queen, that I deliver this the first King’s Speech in over 70 years. The impact of COVID and the war in Ukraine have created significant long term challenges for the United Kingdom. That is why my government’s priority is to make the difficult but necessary long term decisions to change this country for the better.


Nish Kumar It’s a look, we should also say, in terms of legislate. That was a slight misstep for me because it isn’t as if the king gets to write his own speech. This is a speech written for him by the government that he then has to. Absolutely. Milli Vanilli, in front of the assembled lawmakers have written it for them.


Coco Khan Having said that, though, on a on a genuine sincere note, like isn’t it fascinating that most people don’t really watch the speech, that the king delivers whatever the government says, and they could get away with saying anything they like because they’re probably not going to be in government next year?


Nish Kumar Yeah, this specific King’s speech feels particularly empty. It carries huge, I guess, emotional significance because it is the first official King speech, though. Then Prince Charles in 2022 did step in for his unwell mother and deliver the speech. It was still officially the Queen’s speech. So this does carry tremendous emotional resonance. But in terms of actual meaning, given the state of this current government’s position at the polls, it does feel slightly empty.


Coco Khan But why then, given that he’s got nothing to lose, did he go so hard on petty cash? I didn’t even know Unlicenced petty cabs was an issue.


Clip A bill will be introduced to deal with the scourge of unlicensed pedicabs in London.


Coco Khan Genuinely, I have used them. I haven’t checked the license. They are the. They are the high heel wearing woman’s friend. You know, you come out of the bar, worn shoes are too uncomfortable. You cannot get to the six minute walk to Tottenham Court Road. There they are. Rickshaw Jason Derulo Very loud. I mean, what’s not to love.


Nish Kumar This is the thing so gay listeners outside of flooded the one of the pieces of legislation announced in the King’s speech a better one given the series of crises the UK is facing, was that there will be harsh regulation on unlicensed pedicabs in London. Now pedicabs appears to be some sort of fancy word for cycle rickshaw, which is what they are. London Basically the streets in central London on a Friday, Saturday night particularly are full of these cycle rickshaws that have speaker systems in them. It’s just a place. Yeah, pop music from about ten years ago.


Coco Khan Party rockers gonna rock tonight.


Nish Kumar You can sort of sit in them and be cycled we’ve all sat in one in my case we’ve all sat and looked as the driver suddenly realized their passenger was slightly heavier than they’d anticipated. On first glance, I’d say, too, about so desperately struggle to move you along. He likes listening to. Right now.


Coco Khan I could do £10. But for you, sir, I’ve got to be 20.


Nish Kumar But yet so hardly the scourge of pedicabs was a legislative priority for the government. The fact that that was included as a legislative priority, given the state of the United Kingdom at the moment, is a bit like a doctor prescribing athlete’s foot medication to a guy who’s broken his jaw like it was an absolutely unfathomable priority.


Coco Khan You know, licensing I think is a good thing. I didn’t realize that those pedicabs were unlicensed, you know, anything carrying, you know, potentially vulnerable people like a knife. The veteran saying, of course they should be licensing, but you just think you have nothing to lose, mate, you’re not getting in. This is your time. This man with the hat will say anything you want to say. And he’s like, I’ve got an idea. Pedicabs.


Nish Kumar We should also mention that the Not My King protests were made by about 200 members of the campaign group Republic who booed the king along part of the route to Westminster. If you remember or think back, we’ll have a listen Back to our first full episode. We discussed the idea of Republicanism in the light of the ascension of King Charles. Yeah. Look, the interesting thing is that they were right at the front of the room, so they were quite visible and presumably audible to the king. And whilst again, it doesn’t, it’s sort of swallowed up in the general pageantry and ceremony of the day. It definitely feels like a level of public hostility that his mother wasn’t necessarily exposed to.


Coco Khan Coming up in a moment, we’ll get into some of the actual content of The King’s Speech. Plus, we’ll talk about labour’s response to Gaza and the plans for protests over remembrance weekend with our guest, Zoë Grünewald of The New Statesman.


Nish Kumar [AD]


Nish Kumar Is the labour Party in danger of tearing itself apart over its response to the Israel-Gaza conflict? Over the last couple of episodes we’ve spoken about the difficulties that the parties having in reaching a unified opposition leader, Keir Starmer’s attempts to hold his M.P.s to the party line of calling for a humanitarian pause rather than a cease fire looked to be falling apart after frontbench MP Imran Hussain quit over his desire to strongly advocate for a cease fire in Gaza.


Coco Khan Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a growing number of local councilors quit the party and more MPs joined the call for a cease fire in defiance of the leadership. But the resignation of Mr. Hussain, who was the shadow minister for the New Deal for working people, takes the split in the party well and truly out in the open.


Nish Kumar Here to help us work out what’s going is Zoë Grünewald, politics and policy correspondent of The New Statesman. Zoë thank you very much for joining us.


Zoë Grünewald Thank you for having me.


Nish Kumar How significant is this most recent development for the labour Party?


Zoë Grünewald Well, so clearly, this is one of the most significant challenges to Keir Starmer’s Authority. Yet at present, the labour Party has actually been pretty good at keeping party discipline and check actually very much to the frustration of quite a lot of journalists in that there is very rarely news on the labour side unless they want to make news because nobody ever wants to break the party line because there is absolutely this culture of discipline at the very top. But obviously, as soon as the terror attack happened in Israel and the resulting war between Israel and Hamas, we’ve seen a real challenge to Starmer’s ability to keep the party in check, because this is a huge issue for labour, not just because it’s an incredibly difficult political geopolitical situation, but also because of the allegations of antisemitism that have plagued the labour Party for many years and Starmer’s desire to move away from that. We know that the party’s fairly split over labour’s line, which is that labour will not be calling for a cease fire, but instead be calling for something, a sort of humanitarian pause, which is one of those phrases that’s quite hard to define.


Coco Khan Since, I mean, one thing that I am slightly confused about is why calling for a cease fire is so controversial. You know, as a citizen, I want cease fire and I use the language cease fire, not just because I obviously want there to be a pause in the shooting, in the bombing for humanitarian aid to get in there, but also to register my desire for a kind of peace process to begin, not just a pause and then more fighting. I want to see a pause. I’m actually moving in towards a peace process. So that doesn’t feel that different from a humanitarian pause either. We had stalled my saying recently that he would use the pause to negotiate a peace. What is this, a crisis of language? Why is this word ceasefire so difficult for the labour Party?


Zoë Grünewald So I think what’s particularly difficult about this for Starmer is the the suggestion that if he was to back calls for a ceasefire, he would be essentially backing calls for Israel to lay down their defensive war, which is what they’re calling a defensive campaign in Gaza, to wipe out Hamas, to make sure that none of this happens again and to and to get back to to free the hostages. And it would almost be, you know, and it would be seen as asking Israel to let Hamas regroup or to stop defending themselves. And obviously, leaders are saying all over the world, you know, Israel have a right to defend itself against terror. So ceasefire in that in that sense, that particular word is very provocative. But obviously, as you say, the humanitarian pause aspect, that doesn’t seem to be a lot that actually differentiates the two. I think the pause sounds less permanent than a ceasefire. You know, it sounds like this is a chance to open the borders, get aid and get refugees out, whatever needs to be done. But you’re right, If time is then being taken to come to a diplomatic solution to the fighting, then it’s almost like, why don’t we call a spade a spade? I think what storm is doing here and you have to remember, he’s actually doesn’t really matter in terms of what’s actually going on, what the labour leader thinks because he’s not in control of foreign policy. But you have to remember that Starmer is basically a prime minister in waiting. It’s generally accepted that unless something drastic happens between now and the next general election, labour will form the next government. And so it’s really important for Starmer that he acts like a leader. And with Israel being so closely aligned to the UK and the US, I think he’s really keen to take the position of a sort of strong statesman rather than calling for something that would be different from what the government is currently calling from. And we have to remember as well, the government will take any opportunity they can to attack the opposition. So if he puts a lot of water between himself and the government here, then he opens himself up to scrutiny and criticism from the conservatives who will say there is not defending Israel, not defending one of our closest allies. Do you really want this man in charge of foreign policy? And we know that was a criticism that was quite heavily levied against Jeremy Corbyn. But you’re right. I mean, you kind of get the sense that the party is concerned about this, that there is definitely a moral argument for a ceasefire. I think we should also say.


Nish Kumar Especially, you know, organizations like Amnesty, they’re explicitly calling for a cease fire. One of the things that is a contingent part of that is negotiating the safe release of hostages. So, I mean, this really is a ceasefire is also about protecting the Israeli lives that are under risk as much as it is with Palestinians. It is a there should be a unified humanitarian case for a ceasefire for the benefit of the entire region, but also in terms of international leaders. How important do you think it is for Starmer to remain aligned with Joe Biden? Because the language that Tom is using is essentially a copy and paste of everything that Biden has said in the last few weeks?


Zoë Grünewald Yeah, I think that’s essentially it. We know that Starmer and Rachel Reeves and Evette Cooper and David Lammy have all been shoring up those international relationships. We saw that Rachel Reeves recently went to the US and she you know, she spoke to the administration there. They’re all basically acting like they are this government and waiting, you know, that that that they’re playing this diplomacy now. You know, David Lammy is having conversations with the EU about closer ties. You know, this is very much something that the labour Party are working on because they are very much of the view that they will be probably taking a seat in in Britain in the next year or so. And, you know, we know that the UK and the US have this special relationship. It’s vital now, especially having left the EU, that we keep those ties close for, you know, our economy. We know Sunak’s been trying his hardest to try and get a trade deal with Biden. You know, this is absolutely something that that the UK government is is really keen on and storm is no different. So it’s absolutely imperative. I think that Starmer feels that they have to be aligned with America in terms of foreign policy as well.


Nish Kumar And so I just want to pivot to the upcoming weekend of protests. We’ve seen political pressure building all week over the prospect of another huge pro-Palestinian protest taking place in London over Remembrance weekend. I feel personally there doesn’t seem to be any dissonance marking a celebration of peace and the end of war by having an anti-war march. That seems to me to be two things that are in complete alignment in terms of their values. But Rishi Sunak and his home secretary sort of criticized the timing of the march because the 11th of November is Armistice Day and have put pressure on the Met to ban the march. So what is the point of this? Because the police can only enforce the laws of the country as they stand. So when Sunak’s says that he’s going to have to sort of take action if the police don’t crack down on the protests, what is the point of that? Is this just him just playing to the base?


Zoë Grünewald Yeah, And I think that’s all that the conservatives really have left now. What we’re really seeing a lot of from Sunak is very little substantial policy and anything that is substantial is just red meat. So interfering in the police’s operational independence, evoking this sort of culture war over what people can and can’t do on Armistice Day is, you know, is really ridiculous. As you say, there are no powers just because you don’t like the fact that someone might protest on Armistice Day. It doesn’t give you the right to then stop it. And they, of course, well know that. But by bringing this to the attention of the public, they’re trying to make it an issue. And I think what the conservatives are really trying to do a lot of at the minute is to stoke up anger amongst the electorate to get people looking at issues and going, oh, yeah, that really annoys me. And I actually think this potentially could make things a lot worse. And I and the police have now said there is no mechanism to ban this covering unless we get sort of considerable intelligence that this there’s a threat to life or a real substantial threat of violence. This gathering has to go ahead. And they, of course, knew that would be the advice. And I completely understand why people would want to keep Armistice Day sacred. But we have Remembrance Sunday, the next day. The protest groups have already said they’re not going to do it until a couple of hours after the two minute silence. They’re going to avoid Whitehall. You know, they’re really trying their best to make this as respectful as possible. There’s no logical reason for starting a fight over this. It’s just red meat. And it is all the Conservative government have left to offer, I think.


Nish Kumar But just on everyone’s favorite zoella, I read a report today that there are rumors that she’s now just actively trying to get sacked because we should also say that she’s been really stoking a lot of these conversations around these marches. But we also we also saw this week Suella Braverman make comments about homelessness being. A lifestyle choice. And float the idea that charities would be fined for providing tents to homeless people, which was rumored to be a policy that was going to be in The King’s Speech. No, it wasn’t actually in The King’s Speech in the end. Between that between her comments about protest, it made sense to me when I read these reports that she is now just trying to get fired. We’re in a situation now where the home secretary is essentially just agitating for their next job. Surely that is sort of untenable. It’s not going to have to do something about Zoella.


Zoë Grünewald So there’s the argument that Suella actually has served not quite well and that she’s kept the right of the party on his side. And she also appeals to the very sort of kind of right wing base of voters who do kind of like the stuff she says. And he gets it to be said in his name without him actually saying it. So he can kind of have this, you know, this reasonable doubt in voters minds that he doesn’t really think that. See whether he thinks that. But I think you’re right in that. I mean, I actually think Suella has been trying to get fired for a long time. She has always been daring Sue, not Ted, to get rid of her and to sort of assert her power. I mean, there have been several situations now where she has said stuff. So it’s not just the comments this week, but she did that speech in the US about immigration being a hurricane and, you know, all these kind of really incendiary things. And her comments this week not only about the protest, you know, calling it hate marches, but also to suggest that homelessness, you know, is living in a tent as a homeless person is a lifestyle choice. I mean, you know, it’s so just provocative. Does she want to get sacked because then she can turn around at all her failures. She can light someone else’s door because it’s very easy to take on a brief that is mainly kind of crime and immigration and all these sticky issues where the government has been failing for the last 13 years and say, I’m going to fix it. But if she walks away, she can say I really wants to fix it. But it was soon as he was stopping me from fixing it. And if you allow me to be prime minister, I will push to leave the European Convention on Human Rights and I will get that flight taken off from Rwanda. You know, all those things that actually she knows she can’t do because it’s not just sunak’s. There’s like loads of reasons why those things don’t work. Most of them just are unworkable. But it’s almost like she’s she’s already presenting herself as that individual who would go a step further if she wasn’t being tethered by the government line.


Coco Khan Well, look, on the subject of law and order, it was a significant theme in The King’s Speech. You know, there was many things that were covered. If one of them was whole life sentences for the worst murders, measures to force criminals to appear in the dock for sentencing. We discussed that, didn’t we, in the episode about the Lucy Levy case? I mean, what was your reading of it? Does such a thin legislative agenda signal an early election to you?


Zoë Grünewald So I think in that there was not really much going on there. You definitely get the feeling that they are ready for a general election in that they don’t really have much else to offer. So considering considering soon, I presented this as long term decisions to build a brighter future. I am racking my brain, really racking my brain to find some long term decisions and not tougher sentencing. More prison terms. Great. We have a prison estate with only five or 1050 places left in it. Right? And most of those present. So falling apart, you know, is all of these kind of little tiny drops of policy that actually don’t make any substantial impact to the issues this country are facing. And, you know, there is having said that, there is the Autumn Statement coming up. They’ll be the spring budget that will obviously see a manifesto published sometime in the next year. You know, this is I’m sure Sunak’s allies would argue, going to be his chance to actually set out a substantial plan with a mandate for, you know, real reform or real, you know, mechanisms that can really change the country’s prospects. But I just think, you know, Sunak has never really offered anything in the way of vision. And if you look at who he is, you know, he’s a Goldman Sachs hedge fund manager. He doesn’t have creativeness or vision in his CV like he is a fixer and he’s an analyst and he might look at risk and weigh up, you know, the political ramifications and then make decisions. But it what this country need, which is actually quite a lot of substantial change. I don’t think he really knows how to offer that. And then, of course, he’s also hampered by backbenchers who are obsessed with tax cuts, which means that any kind of room for the government to actually create reform or change through investment is really difficult.


Nish Kumar Let’s see. This is a kind of part one and a kind of tone setter for something that will eventually culminate in an election manifesto. So one of the key things that they did set out was this. Broad hostility towards net zero or certainly broad apathy towards net zero. But obviously that is in of itself quite strange for a couple of reasons. One, because one of the things that they announced was about licensing for oil and gas in the North Sea, which the government is able to do every year anyway, it hasn’t actually changed any policy that doesn’t already exist.


Coco Khan But that’s why it’s perfect for it to announce it, because you can announce a thing knowing it’s already there, but you didn’t know it. It made it didn’t need to create anything. You cannot create anything.


Zoë Grünewald And by doing that particular thing, he’s basically throwing the ball into Keir Starmer’s court by being like, If you’re Prime minister, will you reverse this? Will you reverse all these new jobs for people? You know, some of it is upsetting for labour as well, I think.


Nish Kumar But he is. Is there something basically quite strange, though, about a king who really, if he’s known for anything outside of being the queen’s son, is known for quite a strong commitment towards environmental and climate change policy. He’s been quite sort of open and public advocate, certainly one that I think has at times sort of stretched the boundaries of royal convention. How? Basically we it is to watch somebody that spent most of their life advocating for the climate be dragged into a position where they’re just saying, well, they’ll probably all be fine cause a good.


Speaker 4 This bill will support the future licensing of new oil and gas fields, helping the country to transition to net zero by 2050 without adding undue burdens on households.


Zoë Grünewald Yeah, I really it was it was strange and I think it was one of the things that most journalists would be very closely watching King Charles’s face when he read out the new oil and gas licensing, because, as you say, he is a king far more than the queen who has made his political views on certain things quite well known. I always I actually I’m not really a fan of of the monarchy or the royal family, but I did.


Nish Kumar You’re on the right podcast.


Zoë Grünewald I did have a yes, but I did have quite a bit more respect for him when there was that video clip of him meeting Liz Truss and he goes, Oh, dear, back again. You know, it was very like you could see it written all over his face exactly how he felt about her. We shouldn’t really know because of the way our country broadens. We shouldn’t really know what it is the monarchies is thinking. But we do because he is a slightly more progressive king. And I think also in the sense that actually the environment wasn’t this politicized before he was KING You know, most parties were aligned in the fact that absolutely, we have to get towards net zero. And although that is broadly still the government’s position, I mean, there has been so much anti net zero rhetoric that it has become quite heavily politicized. You know, it’s become another cultural battle. So but that is British politics.


Coco Khan Well, on the subject of strange things in British politics, the COVID inquiry is continuing. This week, one of Boris Johnson’s closest advisers, Lord Adonis Lister, confirmed reports that the then prime minister offered to be injected with COVID 19 live on TV to prove it wasn’t harmful, and that he did recall Johnson saying he’d rather let the bodies pile high than go back into lockdown in September 2020. Here’s labour leader Keir Starmer asking him explicitly about that at Prime Minister’s questions in April 2021.


Clip Mr. Speaker, it was reported this week, including in the Daily Mail, the BBC and ITV, backed up by numerous sources that at the end of October the Prime Minister said he would rather have and I quote, Bodies pile high than implement another lockdown. Can the Prime Minister tell the House categorically yes or no? Did he make those remarks or remarks to that effect? Prime Minister. No, Mr. Speaker. And I think what I think the right honorable gentleman is, is a lawyer. I’m given to understand. I think that if he’s going to repeat allegations like that, he should come to this House and substantiate those allegations and say and say where he heard them and who who exactly who exactly is supposed to have said those who exactly is supposed to have said those things? Mr. Speaker?


Coco Khan So, Zoe, what did you make of this week’s I wouldn’t say revelations, but they’re not revelations. They’re confirmations of what many of us already knew. What do you what do you make of all of this?


Zoë Grünewald Well, I think you’re right. I think although there have been over the last couple of weeks with the COVID inquiry, some really interesting lines that have come out, that have been extraordinary to read, you know, the WhatsApp messages and the misogyny and the comments from the prime minister and, you know, the lack of empathy for for all people. But this is a conservative government whose core voter base are the old. And it was extraordinary to me that because I’ve always viewed the Conservative Party as a party that doesn’t care about young people, but now it’s well, they don’t care about anyone, you know, they really don’t. It’s if they if they don’t even care about their sort of core voter base. I don’t know who they represent. And it makes you just realize that it really is about the economy for them. And I think that seeing that callousness play out, you know, it was like, well, who cares if all the sort of over eighties die, they’re going to die anyway is so devoid of empathy. It’s just really extraordinary. Unfortunately for Sunak, he was also part of that administration. And I think it’s going to play very, very badly with voters. And it has given the Labour Party an excellent line of attack because their hands are clean in this. They weren’t part the government at the time. So they’ve basically there’s a couple of messages now that have basically been to the extent of know we are totally effed, you know, written down on a piece of paper and shown as evidence. I mean, that’s that’s the new. Sorry, there’s no money left. Yeah. Yeah, I would I’d post that to every voter’s door if I were in labour HQ at election time. So yeah, I think it could be the kiss of death for the Conservatives.


Nish Kumar Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask you sort of by way of wrapping up the chat, Zoe, I have been literally wrong about every single election since 2000. Said so it’s is I start to feel, I start to sort of see myself as being a kind of like reverse pull the octopus with the football. Told about what he was guessing correctly. He was going to win all the games. I seem to be the kiss of death for everybody except Sadiq Khan with is loved it by the intellectual victories. But like so well, I’m looking at this thinking there’s no way they’re going to win this election. But then I think about the past 30 days. I think, well, that just definitely means it’s going to have a 150 seat majority. Is any of this actually going to work?


Zoë Grünewald So I think I don’t think what Sunak’s offering, which is mostly kind of cultural stuff, as we’ve discussed, will be enough to combat the damage that has been done to the economy, which most people put at the door of Tory infighting, the less trust administration. And I also don’t think it will over. I don’t think it will compensate for COVID and the response to COVID, particularly party gay and now the COVID inquiry. I think they are all such significant things. One, you know, the economy is that people vote with their pockets. You know, people want to feel better off. And also the economy is the thing that the conservatives are known for doing well. So if they’re doing badly, it just feels like what’s the point of voting conservative, right? But then when you add to that sleaze scandal, infighting, people partying while they let your crown die, I just I just don’t see how you can come back from that. And I think that’s what’s different. Yeah, I agree with you. There are so many events that have happened in the last decade that we didn’t predict. I didn’t didn’t think Trump was going to win, didn’t think we’d leave the EU, you know, but there have been significant events since the pandemic. You know, it was a significant trauma point for everybody in the UK, everyone across the world. And then to have the economy, which was such an important thing for the conservatives to be trashed quite so badly by the Conservatives themselves. I just think you can’t escape that. And I don’t think vote voters have short memories, but I don’t think they will have short enough memories in the next year to forget that. So you can play politics with the environment, but I don’t think it’s enough. I don’t think it stands up to scrutiny either. So I just yeah, I think they’re done. And oh, the only thing I think that could change is actually if labour starts to fall apart, which is why the next few months are really, really important for labour. But actually we might have underestimated how much ill feeling there is towards the Conservatives across the country.


Coco Khan Listen, thank you so much, Zoe. You’ve been fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.


Nish Kumar Thank you very much for your time.


Zoë Grünewald I enjoyed it.


Nish Kumar And also providing, I guess, the Labour Party with the next electoral slogan. What’s the point?




Nish Kumar Coco. I know that. Much like Bonnie Tyler, you’re always holding out for a hero. Who’s your PSUK Hero of the week?


Coco Khan So my hero of the week is someone you probably know, but that’s not related to this. This is. We don’t do nepotism here on Pod Save the UK. This person very much deserves it because they took something bad and made something good out of it. It is Joe Lycett.


Nish Kumar Mummy. That’s how Joe refers to himself and how he signs off his text messages.


Coco Khan Mummy.


Nish Kumar My mother is not saved as Mummy in my phone, but Joe’s saved as Mummy in my phone an if I get a text message, it makes me look like a very strange posh boy with some borderline Oedipus issues.


Coco Khan So mummy is in order that you look silly when you look at your phone?


Nish Kumar No, Mummy is how Joe refers to himself just in life.


Coco Khan Right.


Nish Kumar Mummy’s going to the shops. Mummy’s doing this. Mummy’s that.


Coco Khan Okay, so earlier this week, as we discussed, Suella Braverman suggested that homelessness could be a lifestyle choice and said she wanted to prevent charities from providing tents to rough sleepers. This is what Joe posted on Saturday. In response to that, my old friend Suella Braverman has described rough sleeping as a lifestyle choice. I always thought lifestyle choices were things such as cargo pants, fishing and decorating your bathroom with a bowl of pot pourri. Let’s see if this image I found on Google described as wooden, botanical fragrant pottery bowl with lemon can raise £50,000 for homelessness. Charity crisis UK Airbnb. Remember to add gift aid because then Swedish government have to give an additional 25%. LOL. Then on Tuesday morning he posted this message. I woke up this morning to see that a picture of a bowl of potpourri I posted just over two days ago has raised £50,000 for crisis. A huge thank you to everyone who donated for that generosity. Of course, my main thanks must go to Suella. Without your lifestyle choice of being callous and cruel towards the most vulnerable people in society. None of this would have happened. He added, There is another choice coming to all of us fairly soon. It’s called an election. Best of luck with it, babe. XoXoXo.


Nish Kumar Oh, lovely from Joey. Absolutely lovely. 50 grand for crisis.


Coco Khan That’s great. I a couple days as well. And did those people get their potpourri?


Nish Kumar I don’t think they actually get the potpourri.


Coco Khan Potpourri? Yeah, that’s how we’re saying it.


Nish Kumar I think it’s potpourri.


Coco Khan Okay. Ooh.


Nish Kumar I think of it as being, like, a thing that was in people’s houses in the eighties and nineties.


Coco Khan Right.


Nish Kumar It’s like. I think it’s like, dried up flowers.


Coco Khan Right right right.


Nish Kumar To make your house. But to me, if I smell it, it’s like I’m going round my aunt’s in 1991.


Coco Khan Oh. I don’t think I’ve seen potpourri in potpourri sounds.


Nish Kumar I genuinely don’t think it’s something that people really have that much anymore. Right. I think that’s what’s fun about it.


Coco Khan Okay, that’s good.


Nish Kumar It is kind of subcategory of hero of the week. I’d just like to briefly thank the staff Croydon University Hospital who looked after my grandmother this week, it was been a slightly stressful week for my family. But as always, God bless the NHS.


Coco Khan Well, look, from the best of us to the worst of us. Who’s you’re villain of the week.


Nish Kumar Right. Okay. My villain The week is Michelle Mone. Now Michelle Mone is a Tory peer and the lingerie entrepreneur who has finally admitted her links to the firm PPE Medpro. Three years after the Daily Mirror wrote claims which she repeatedly denied about her and her husband’s involvement with the firm. Now Mediapro want a £200 million government contract during the COVID pandemic to supply millions of face masks and sterile surgical gowns. About £120 million worth of the product supplied turned out to be useless. Now, the thing that makes this even worse is that these contracts were processed through the Department of Health’s VIP high priority line, which fast tracked offers of PPE from companies with connections to the Conservative Party or the government. In January last year, the High Court ruled that the use of the high priority line was unlawful after three years of continual denial from their lawyers. A spokesperson for the couple told The Guardian. Like many other peers and employees on the high priority line, Mone acted as an intermediary liaison between PPE Medpro and the Cabinet Office to slash Department of Health and Social Care in April 2020 to Mone and her husband’s properties in London and the Isle of Man were raided by the National Crime Office, suspecting criminal offenses committed in the procurement of PPE contracts. And in December last year, it was announced that Bowen was taking a leave of absence in the House of Lords in order to clear her name of the allegations that have unjustly been leveled against her. So having denied it for three years this week, she has admitted to it the sort of stench around the PPE process. It shows you how much we still need to kind of untangle about what happened in and around the government in 2020 and 2021. As with a lot of things in the pandemic, understandably, people can’t really focus on it because the collective trauma was it was too recent. But I think it’s really, really important that things like the COVID inquiry are happening and it’s very. Really, really important that some accountability is coming to Michelle Mone if she, as is being alleged, enriched herself using the VIP lane.


Coco Khan I can’t believe that I have to. The only little bit of justice I can get around this situation is me waiting for Michelle Mone to go onto some Channel four reality TV show.


Nish Kumar Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Coco Khan Something’s going to be done about this.


Nish Kumar We’re sort of been treated to the spectacle over the last few weeks of Matt Hancock going on an SAS reality show and being sort of called names ritualistically. But I think, to be honest, I’d rather he wasn’t getting paid to do it. I would happily donate my time pro bono to call Matt Hancock a fucking asshole up to his. I’m willing to do that out of the goodness of I would. I’ll do it gratis. Listen, let’s step straight into the UK mailbag.


Coco Khan Yes. So we’ve had a message in from an anonymous listener relating to my Hero of the Week in our previous episode. They say Hi, I reckon you could have given RMTt. That’s the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. A bit more credit in reversing the ticket office closures. You focused a lot on the consumer side of things. That is important. But in this case there was also the action from the workers who had their jobs threatened and the rest of the workers in their union striking against the proposal. They won this government U-turn and we should all thank them for protecting our services and support them in their other disputes about pay and conditions. So listen, anonymous listener, you didn’t need to be anonymous. I agree. I’m totally in agreement with you. What I hope from that segment was to highlight a really good example where the public and the unions and even some politicians work well together because that is the perfect synergy. I think we can all agree that Pod Save the UK is a very big fan of trade unions and it’s not a competition, Nish. But I am actually a member of not one but two trade unions.


Nish Kumar You’re the queen of the unions.


Coco Khan Oh yes, we love unions and you should definitely join one.


Nish Kumar That is the official position of PSUK. Elizabeth has WhatsApp’d us, Hi Nish and Coco. I love the show. My parents put me onto it and I’ve listened to all of the episodes. Unfortunately, I’ve got nothing interesting to say about them and I’m here to ask for something. I absolutely respect the honesty of this. I’m 13 and I work on my schools newspaper up at a town near Glasgow. We thought it’d be really great if we could get an interview or even some writing slash podcasting advice, seeing as you’re doing so well. Keep up the show, Elizabeth.


Coco Khan Awww.


Nish Kumar That is absolutely fantastic. And Elizabeth, we will do that interview where we will we will work it out. We will make it work and we will do your school newspaper’s interview. I think people genuinely.


Coco Khan That’s going to be a grilling. I think, oh, my goodness me.


Nish Kumar We’re going to get absolutely flame grilled. Yeah, we’re going to get absolutely flame grilled the audience. The audience of 13 year old journalists is. That’s going to be that’s going to be tougher than any discussion program you and I’ve been involved with. Elizabeth, we will absolutely do that. We remain thrilled that young people listen to this podcast and listen to the political ramblings of two geriatric millennials as they complain about the Fast and Furious franchise and compare notes on how to sit down. Thank you very much, Elizabeth. And we will be going to do, which is what what 100%? Although I would say like as far as podcasts take advice from what I could tell, it’s the only useful advice I could give is get good producers who do all the work for you. And former operatives of the Democratic Party kick some cash you like. But yeah, genuinely, we would be we would be absolutely thrilled to do that.


Coco Khan So we were also talking about whether it’s possible to fancy a politician last week and someone got in touch with us to discuss it. So Act one, Midnight Fish got in touch to say being attracted to politicians may be a separate sexual orientation and definitely not my own. Having said that, I may be tempted by Angela Rayner or Humza Yousaf So Act one Midnight Fish, we actually having Humza Yousaf on the show in the near future will be sure to put in a word for you. The thing I like most about this one is it really reminds me of a chat I had with my This is 100% true. My GP a couple of days ago my GP was like, Do you smoke Ms.. Khan? And I was like, Oh no, no not at all. Although I do occasionally have a cigarette and he just laughed on the phone and was like, Well, that means you’re a smoker, mate. And it’s just funny because of this comment. You know, they write in to say, Oh, it’s definitely not my it’s not, not my sexual orientation. I couldn’t possibly fancy a politician, but I would say.


Nish Kumar But for the benefit of people listening to the podcast, when Coco said, I’m not a smoker. I’m afraid I was not able to disguise my face. I’ve been at the pub. I’ve seen you smoke.


Coco Khan I don’t consider myself a smoker, and that’s really all that matters.


Nish Kumar You have the occasional cigarette.


Coco Khan It’s an emotional truth, Nish, that I am a non smoker. You can get in touch with us by emailing  We love hearing your voices, so do send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 87514. 644572. Internationally, that’s +447514644572. We’d love to get your thoughts on what we’ve discussed on this episode. Or you can send in a question about British politics or suggest something you’d like us to cover.


Nish Kumar That’s it. Send something in about questions about British politics. Send something you’d like to cover. Stick it all in the news hat and we’ll have a rummage around.


Coco Khan Um I had an idea for a joke, but I’m not sure if it works. You can leave your news hat on. Is it good? Does it work?


Nish Kumar Let’s end the show now.


Coco Khan Okay.


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


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


Nish Kumar Video editing was by Dan Hodgson. The music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.


Coco Khan Thanks to our engineer David Dugahe.


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


Coco Khan What is on the Pod Save the World YouTube channel? Follow us on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram where we’re Pod Save the UK all one word.


Nish Kumar And hit subscribe for new shows on Thursday on Amazon, Spotify or Apple or wherever you get your podcasts. Stick it in the news are.