Charlotte Gill’s Podcasts Review 7) Nick Robinson with Katharine Birbalsingh, Matt Chorley with Alok Sharma

22 Dec

Every fortnight, ConservativeHome will compile a handful of podcast recommendations – content that has been published in the weeks preceding – for its readers. Although these will mainly focus on podcasts for conservative listeners, we will try to include other options – should they be particularly interesting. Sometimes this feature will contain other types of media.

Title: Political Thinking with Nick Robinson
Host: Nick Robinson
Episode: The Katharine Birbalsingh One

Duration: 42:52 minutes
Published: December 17
Link: Here

What’s it about?

Readers of this podcast review may remember that Katharine Birbalsingh, the founder and headmistress of Michaela Community School, and more recently the Government’s new Social Mobility Commissioner, featured in my November round-up, when she was interviewed by Matt Chorley. So compelling is Birbalsingh that I must include a second conversation with her, during which she is interviewed by Nick Robinson. They cover a huge amount of ground, from whether she’s “the strictest head in Britain”, as the media once put it, to her upbringing and small-c conservative values.

Some teaser quotes:
  • On being strict – “It means immersing children in love.”
  • “In 2021, we as a people are letting ourselves down and letting our children down, because we’re not expecting enough of them.”
  • “I knew I was being naughty. I knew I was saying things you’re not meant to say.”
  • “I don’t want the limelight, but I have a duty… Somebody has to say something.”

An excellent exchange, in which Robinson is never short on challenging questions for Birbalsingh. The most interesting one is around whether she can create consensus in her new governmental role.

Title: Planet Normal
Hosts: Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan
Episode: Penny Mordaunt on Omicron hysteria, Tory rebels and Brexit

Duration: 58:36 minutes
Published: December 16

What’s it about?

This episode of Planet Normal is split into different segments, with fun and engaging exchanges between its two hosts, Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan, and then an interview with Mordaunt sandwiched in the middle. During the course, Halligan asks Mordaunt about her progress pursuing FTAs with the United States, as well as what she thinks about Omicron and the Government’s “Plan B”.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “We are doing exceptionally well, and we have these huge and deep trading relationships and cross-investment interests… but I think we can do more – and a super deal with America would be fantastic.”
  • “The response we’ve had at state level has been incredible… people want to have obstacles removed from them doing more business with us.”
  • “Brexit is not an event to be mourned by the international community, nor is it an act of self-harm or an act that requires us to be punished in some way. It is a huge opportunity and we need to start to encourage to see people in that light.”

An impressive discussion, which will fuel speculation about Mordaunt taking on an even higher role in government one day.

Title: Red Box
Host: Matt Chorley
Episode: Alok Sharma talks about the climate

Duration: 40 minutes
Published: December 16
Linked: Here

What’s it about?

In this interview, Matt Chorley sits down with Alok Sharma, the COP26 President, to find out the ins and outs of how he created one of the most impressive deals in world history. They cover all sorts of interesting territory, from how Covid affected this year’s climate conference, to Sharma’s experience seeing the effects of climate change up close, to why he’ll now be “auditor in chief”, as well as “shepherd in chief”, on environmental progress.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “Just look at what’s happened this year. You’ve seen terrible flooding in China, you’ve seen that in central Europe, you’re seeing wild fires raging in America, in Australia; I mean, even in our own country. Talk to farmers; they will tell you the impact that climate change is having on the yields of their crops.”
  • “Well I can tell you that my nostrils took quite a battering.”
  • On the decision to delay COP26 – “Climate change didn’t take time off during that year.”
  • “We helped delegates in over 70 countries get vaccinated as well.”
  • On ensuring countries didn’t pull out of the COP26 deal – “It literally is like playing Jenga.”

A comprehensive interview, which shows the huge amount of work that went on behind the scenes of COP26, as well as showing Sharma’s satisfaction with how it went.

Sam Hall: The Government’s eco efforts are increasingly winning over Tory Party members. Here’s how it can impress voters even more.

9 Dec

Sam Hall is the Director of the Conservative Environment Network.

A striking poll was published last month, showing the Conservatives are ahead of Labour on climate change.

According to Ipsos Mori, 35 per cent of the public believe the Conservatives have good policies on climate and the environment, compared to 32 per cent for Labour. While only a small lead, this reflects positively on the Conservatives’ relative performance on climate change in recent weeks.

There are also signs that the Government’s climate change efforts are viewed increasingly positively by Conservative Party members. Notably, Alok Sharma rose up this site’s cabinet minister approval rating rankings this month, from bottom of the table on +6 to twelfth from bottom on +30, perhaps reflecting members’ approval for his determination and success in securing a good deal at COP26.

It certainly seems possible – perhaps likely – that the significant climate policy announcements in the run-up to COP26 has bolstered the government’s standing in this area. Policies such as the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, an end to the financing of overseas fossil fuel projects, and generous grants for heat pumps were all warmly welcomed by environmental groups, many Conservative MPs, and by much of the media. Similarly it was hard to miss Boris Johnson and Sharma’s international leadership on climate change at COP26.

Why does this matter?

There’s been a long standing view among some political strategists on the right that the Conservatives can never win on climate, because it is inherently a left-wing issue which only energises left-wing activists.

Others argue there’s no point making it a core part of the party’s platform: since the Conservatives are ahead on the economy, immigration, and law and order, people argue that it’s better to focus on those issues.

But Conservatives cannot ignore climate change given how salient the issue has become among the general public. Ipsos Mori found last month that four in 10 voters cite climate change as a concern – a record high – while one in five say it’s the biggest issue facing the country, ahead of Covid, the economy, and immigration.

Some of this is undoubtedly related to all the media coverage on climate around COP26. But, with climate change and the environment steadily moving up the public’s priorities for years now, it is increasingly hard to deny that the Conservative Party needs to win on climate change at the next election and beyond if it is to remain competitive. This latest polling demonstrates this is within reach.

How can the party consolidate its lead?

A key challenge for the public’s perception of the Government’s climate record is domestic fossil fuel production. The proposal for a new coal mine in Cumbria is one ‘barnacle’, even though the Government has now called in the decision for a review.

Similarly the Government’s position on UK oil and gas – that it wants to assess new licences against climate targets on a case-by-case basis – leaves them open to attacks from NGOs and activists in the media.

The Government should be clearer that it is working with the industry to transition away from fossil fuel production in line with projected falls in UK demand for oil and gas, due to the uptake of electric vehicles and the decline in gas demand for heating and electricity generation. One potential solution is for the Business Secretary to seek the advice of the respected and independent Climate Change Committee before awarding new oil and gas licences.

Across the country in the 2022 elections, particularly in the ‘Blue Wall’ in the South of England, Conservatives face strong challenges from Lib Dems and Greens on environmental issues. In fact, as I wrote in May on this site, the Conservatives are already losing council seats to the Greens. In response, the Government must address some of these critiques of its climate record.

There’s also a need to demonstrate the employment uplift from net zero in the ‘Red Wall’. Public First research showed that the phrase ‘green jobs’ does not resonate with the public, who might not see those jobs as durable or good quality. To tackle this misconception, there must be a greater emphasis on near-term delivery ahead of the next election, for instance through a new energy efficiency grant scheme for homeowners, which could be rolled out quickly and create jobs.

Finally, there is undoubtedly still a challenge with winning over people who are more sceptical of decarbonisation and worry about the costs. That’s why the Government must continue to emphasise the importance of technology cost reduction and private sector investment in delivering net zero.

And in the immediate term, the Government must help consumers with the rising costs of electricity when the energy price cap is revised in the new year. Despite being driven by high international gas prices, electricity bills could be cut immediately through policies such as eliminating VAT (currently five per cent), or by funding some of the social and environmental levies out of general taxation.

The Ipsos Mori polling proves the Government is making progress in convincing people about its climate credentials. It must maintain the momentum if it wants to capitalise at the ballot box in May and at the next general election.

Sarah Ingham: People voted to take back control of Britain’s borders – the time is well overdue for some political will

26 Nov

Sarah Ingham is author of The Military Covenant: its impact on civil-military relations in Britain.

This weekend brings the First Sunday in Advent, the start of the liturgical year in the Christian calendar.

For most of us, it signals that other annual rite – the Countdown to Christmas. Shopping! Santa! Sleighbells in the snow! And endless lists: cards to be sent, presents to be given, food to be shopped for. It’s little wonder that those responsible for producing lunch or dinner on the 25th collapse into a Quality Street-Netflix coma on the sofa on Boxing Day.

‘The more the merrier’ is the plucky response to the arrival of unexpected guests. It is Christmas, after all. Time to eat, drink and be merry. There’s plenty of room around the table (‘budge up’) and the garden chairs can be brought in from the shed. Extra roast spuds mean no-one will notice any shortage of turkey, but if it looks like guests might go short, FHB.

Family Holds Back brings us to the vexed issue of immigration, dominating the headlines again with the tragedy in the Channel on Wednesday.

Although immigration is an area of public policy that affects each and every citizen, governments throughout this Elizabethan age have allowed it to become so seemingly intractable that they have frequently appeared to give up on it – or to make maladroit interventions such as the Hostile Environment strategy.

Never mind the 2005 ‘Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking?’ series of election campaign posters, what on earth were the Coalition thinking in 2012 when it signed off the Hostile Environment as a good idea? In 2018, this was blamed for the Windrush Scandal, which continues to cause misery for those affected and blight the reputation of Conservatives.

Further entangling immigration with the always sensitive issue of race is not the most sensible way of resolving a problem which frequently troubles so much of the electorate. This concern peaked in 2014 and stood at around 45 per cent in the months leading up to the June 2016 Referendum, according to IPSOS-MORI’s regular Issues Index poll. After the vote for Brexit, voters were no longer so bothered. As an issue worrying them, it plummeted to 10 per cent in late 2019, the lowest level since March 2001.

This contraction of concern suggests that, while the association between race and immigration looms large in the minds of policymakers – often to toxic effect – most voters are able to decouple the two issues.

Indeed, the electorate could well suspect that invoking racism has long been a convenient if cynical means by which politicians close down any debate on the immigration, perhaps in the forlorn hope that the problem will go away. This was reflected by Gordon Brown during his mask-slipping encounter on the 2010 campaign trail with ‘that bigoted woman’.

In voting to end free movement of people in the Brexit Referendum, voters showed the country of origin of those people was pretty irrelevant. Belgium or Brazil or Benin, who cares? To paraphrase the PM, they issued their instruction: they wanted Britain to take back control of our borders.

Earlier this month, YouGov reported that immigration is once again back among on the public’s agenda, with 73 per cent saying the Government is handling the issue badly. Ministers must brave opponents’ inevitable if hackneyed accusations of ‘dog whistle politics’ (ironically, itself a dog whistle for accusations of racism) and exert some political will.

Voters are alarmed, not just by the tens of thousands of migrants landing on Britain’s beaches in the past year, but by the latest terrorist attack in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday. The suicide bomber, a failed asylum seeker, was able to game the deportation system for seven years, not least by faking conversion to Christianity. Adding to disquiet is what appears to be an act of hybrid war against the West: the recent weaponization of migration by Belarus, who encouraged migrants illegally to enter the EU via its borders with Poland and Lithuania.

In squaring up to confront immigration, ministers could do worse than re-read the 2019 General Election manifesto. Even the most hardened Corbynista could not object to a system that aimed to be ‘firm, fair and compassionate’. The current apparent free-for-all is grossly unfair to almost everyone apart from people smugglers, but especially to the 27 migrants who drowned off the French coast on Wednesday.

With net migration to the UK standing at 313,000 in the 12 months to March 2020, policymakers should be asking themselves whose quality of life worsens thanks to the current unplanned mess. Hint: it’s not, for example, the residents of Surrey’s ritziest gated communities, who can access private schools, private hospitals, private dentists, private doctors, private carers for their old age and private security guards. Former Prime Ministers with extensive property portfolios also escape the adverse impact of too many people chasing too few resources.

To permit such massive influxes from overseas without providing commensurate public services is have spent the past two decades expecting the vast majority of the British public, whatever their ethnic background, constantly to budge up. Successive governments have not bothered to get in the extra spuds; Family Holds Back seems to have been the overarching policy response – if one indeed exists.

The Conservative party is the party of immigrants, many living the British dream who make a positive contribution to the country. Despite missteps like the Hostile Environment, we are the party of hope, not hate.

The time is long overdue for a government with a near 80-seat majority and a Cabinet which includes Sunak, Patel, Javid, Zahawi and Raab, not to mention ministers Sharma, Badenoch, Cleverly and Kwarteng to take control of immigration

Charlotte Gill’s Podcasts Review 3) Cindy Yu with Oriana Skylar Mastro, Matt Chorley with Allegra Stratton

28 Oct

Every fortnight, ConservativeHome will compile a handful of podcast recommendations – content that has been published in the weeks preceding – for its readers. Although these will mainly focus on podcasts for conservative listeners, we will try to include other options – should they be particularly interesting. Sometimes this feature will contain other types of media.

Title: Chinese Whispers
Host: Cindy Yu
Episode: Will Xi invade Taiwan?

Duration: 31:28 minutes
Published: October 18
Link: Here

What’s it about?

During the course, Cindy Yu sits down with Oriana Skylar Mastro, fellow at Stanford and the American Enterprise Institute, to discuss the future of Taiwan – in the wake of China’s recent actions. Readers of this site may be aware that earlier in the month, China celebrated its national day by flying a record number of aircraft through Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Yu and Skylar Maestro explore what this means; whether it was “performative” by China, or has more serious implications.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “The military itself has been preparing for relatively traditional military activities to retake Taiwan by force, and there are four main ways they can do this.”
  • “The Chinese military is absolutely not more powerful than the US military, but it’s also somewhat irrelevant, that question.”
  • “Some people I think have a false impression that all of a sudden, the United States has woken up to the threat of the Chinese military. And that this military has been threatening for so long and we just didn’t notice. That actually has not been the case. Instead, it’s just that China has made such great advancements in such a short period of time.”

A fascinating and in depth conversation – and part of a series that’s well worth subscribing to.

Host: Matt Chorley
Episode: Matt Chorley: Allegra Stratton Q&A

Duration: 29:59 minutes
Published: October 26
Link: Here

What’s it about?

With only a few days until COP26 in Glasgow, this interview gives key insights into what we can expect from the much-anticipated conference. Matt Chorley has the chance to put listener questions, from Times Radio’s audience, to Allegra Stratton, the spokesperson for the event. Chorley dives straight into the hard questions – from whether COP26 is destined to be a failure without Putin and Xi, of Russia and China, respectively, on board – to Stratton’s own vehicle use, which became the subject of numerous headlines earlier in the year.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “In Paris there wasn’t much talk, which you will hear lots of at Glasgow.”
  • “We need Glasgow to get the highest ambition out of countries. It’s not either or; it is every single commitment we can get from countries on coal, cars, cash and trees”.
  • “the Government has gone further and faster than a great number of governments in setting out how we are going to get to Net Zero Britain… It was quite striking to me when I was reading the drafts of the Net Zero strategy, and that sentence in it, that says that from 2050, the UK, because of the plans in this document, will no longer contribute to global changes in climate.”

A must-listen for anyone wanting to know about the more intricate details of COP26.

Title: Triggernometry
Hosts: Konstantin Kisin and Francis Foster
Episode: How Do We Stop Bad Ideas Destroying the West? Gad Saad

Duration: 56:23 minutes
Published: October 24

What’s it about?

With 47,134 views (at the time of writing) on Youtube since it premiered three days ago, Triggernometry’s interview with Gad Saad, an evolutionary psychologist and one of the world’s leading public intellectuals, looks set to be a big hit. In the discussion, Saad explores trends in the West through the framework of his fourth book The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “Believe me, we will wake up in 50 years or 100 years, and say, “how did this happen?” And if people have a copy of this conversation, they will know how it happened; it’s because of cowardice, it’s because of apathy, it’s because of diffusion of responsibility onto others that these idea pathogens proliferate. If we all talk against them, we will solve the problem by next week.”
  • “Each of these idea pathogens free us from the pesky shackles of reality. Utopian aspirations are exactly that; I don’t like the pesky, cruel world, therefore I will erect edifices of bulls**t that ultimately feel good. It’s a form of ideological dopamine”.
  • “You would think that scientists are somehow inoculated from these idea pathogens and these parasitic ideas, but the reality is they’re the ones who spawn those idea pathogens.”

A fun exchange – which lightens up some very heavy topics.

Emily Carver: The UK’s efforts against climate change will mean nothing without the world’s biggest polluters onboard

27 Oct

Emily Carver is Media Manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The pinnacle of every environmentalist’s calendar is upon us! With only four days to go until COP26, ministers are falling over themselves to talk up the conference.

Their adoption of the language of crisis is stark: Alok Sharma has said that “If we don’t act now, the end destination is climate catastrophe”; the Prime Minister has warned that we must act “before it is too late”; while Downing Street has even hosted a ‘Kids Climate Press Conference’ to help win the “fight against climate change”.

Outside of government, the refrain that we’re not going far enough continues. Activist Greta Thunberg is rallying the troops to join the climate strike in Glasgow. National treasure David Attenborough has delivered his annual warning to save the planet from extinction. And then there’s the interventions from our favourite luvvies, like Ab Fab’s Joanna Lumley, who has suggested with all seriousness that we “go back to some kind of system of rationing”.

The problem with all this, of course, is reality. A month ago, Johnson hailed COP26 as a “turning point for humanity”. Now, the chances of COP26 success are “touch and go”, as he told children that he’s “very worried” the conference may not secure the agreements needed to avert climate change.

The harsh truth is that our entire net zero strategy relies on other countries following suit. Acting alone, or even with similar-minded nations, will make little to no dent in global emissions. This is not controversial. Indeed, it was acknowledged at the time of the formation of the Climate Change Committee, the independent body that is responsible for advising government on climate policy, that the success of the UK’s decarbonisation strategy depends on high-emitting countries adopting similar carbon targets to our own – otherwise, our efforts to prevent climate change would prove utterly futile.

It’s true that more and more people are demanding for something to be done to avert the rise in global temperatures. A new poll undertaken by the UN Development Programme and the University of Oxford, found that 65 per cent of the nearly 700,000 adults surveyed across G20 countries believe climate change is a ‘global emergency’. Whether this translates to advocacy for specific or costly policies that hit people in the pocket is, of course, harder to gage.

But, while the public calls on the UK government to do more, global carbon emissions are only on their way up. According to the World Meteorological Organization, even though the pandemic saw a 5.6 per cent overall decline in emissions of carbon, the build-up of warming gases in the atmosphere rose to record levels; it is predicted that this will drive up temperatures in excess of the goals of the Paris Agreement of two per cent. The UN has also issued a warning that greenhouse gas emissions are on course to be 16 per cent higher by 2030 than they are now.

Many high-emitting nations are either avoiding COP altogether or stalling when it comes to committing to carbon targets. China has said that fossil fuels will form less than 20 per cent of its energy mix by 2060, and that it will peak coal emissions by 2025. Hard to believe, considering it continues to invest in new coal mines and, last year, built more than three times as much new coal power as the rest of the world combined.

Crucially, it has also made clear that climate policy will not come at the expense of its other priorities, including energy security and other economic interests. Then, there’s Putin, who has now committed to reaching net zero by 2060, but will not show his face at the climate summit. And at the same time, leaked documents show that countries including Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia, and India are reportedly lobbying the UN against moving away from fossil fuels.

This is not to say that the UK and others should give up on going green. The possibilities of green technology are hugely exciting, and the benefits to our economy of pioneering new eco-friendly innovations are very real. However, it would be deluded to believe that the likes of China and India will come to the world’s rescue and slash their carbon emissions in line with our own – at least not anytime soon.

As a new paper from the Institute of Economic Affairs lays bare, the UK’s Climate Change Committee has failed to address the reality that it is highly unlikely that the UK’s leadership and influence will be enough to bring about the reductions in global emissions, and limit temperature rises, to the levels considered necessary to avert damaging climate change.

Therefore, if the world is indeed heading towards climate catastrophe, the UK desperately needs a rethink. First, we should ask why is the CCC and government prioritising mitigating climate change over climate adaptation? Why are we putting our energy security at risk, by subsidising green technologies that may or may not stand the test of time? And, crucially, why is the CCC and government not asking if the costs borne by British taxpayers, consumers and businesses have yielded proportionate benefits?

Over the next two weeks, we’ll see world leaders flexing their muscles, extolling the importance of cutting emissions to avert climate change. However, as it becomes ever more obvious that a global consensus is a pipedream, it’s clear we urgently need a review of our climate policy priorities – and an injection of realism.