Fixing Britain’s crumbling schools and broken politics | Crooked Media
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September 07, 2023
Pod Save the UK
Fixing Britain’s crumbling schools and broken politics

In This Episode

Nish and Coco reflect on a scandal they think is a perfect metaphor for Tory-led Britain. Schools have had to close because they’ve been built using cheap and unstable concrete (called RAAC), while there are also concerns over hospitals and other public buildings. So as the country crumbles around us, who’s to blame?

 

Labour leader Keir Starmer has reshuffled his top team ahead of next year’s expected general election. Coco welcomes brand new Shadow Minister for Creative Industries and Digital, Chris Bryant, into the studio. He gives his reaction to his appointment and admits he’s a bit “discombobulated” after a whirlwind day. He reveals how reshuffles haven’t always gone well for him, and impresses Coco with his impression of Tony Blair. He also talks about his new book ‘Code of Conduct’, which seeks to provide a blueprint to make Westminster politics work better. 

 

Also find out Chris Bryant’s favourite Sugababes song, why Nish fears being kidnapped by Kevin Bacon, and which action hero should voice Nadine Dorries’ new book.

 

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Useful links:

Article by Merope Mills: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/sep/04/daughter-died-hospital-families-treatment-martha-rule

 

Guests:

Sir Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, and Shadow Minister for Creative Industries and Digital

 

Audio credits:

Parliamentlive.tv

ITV News

BBC Radio 4

@Ettifaq

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

[AD]

 

Coco Khan Hi, this is Pod Save the UK.

 

Nish Kumar I’m Nish Kumar.

 

Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan.

 

Nish Kumar And this week we’re asking is the country going to wrack and ruin?

 

Coco Khan Plus, like Rishi Sunak, I’ll be trying not to crumble under the glare of Labour MP and arch interrogator. Sir Chris Bryant.

 

Clip So the Privileges Committee has accused seven MPs of trying to undermine and impugn its work. The Leader of the House has condemned this. Do you think that they should apologize to the House? I haven’t actually gone through the report yet. So you haven’t read the report.

 

Coco Khan Chris Bryant will be here on the day he’s been promoted to a shadow minister job to tell us how he plans to save our parliament. Hi Nish. Oh, you’re not here again. What’s happened? Where are you?

 

Nish Kumar Coco. I am in rural Wales in glorious Brecon, where it is hotter than I’ve ever experienced in Wales. It’s so weird. I’m filming a whole different page, which is the show where I go and pretend to be a journalist at a local newspaper as opposed to our podcast where I pretend to be a journalist at a national newspaper.

 

Coco Khan Oh, that’s nice. What sort of stories have you done? Have you just been told to, like, routinely fuck off by everyone? You ask for comment?

 

Nish Kumar No, no, no. The local news. They’re very happy to see people from the local paper here. Very excited. Yeah. Yeah, I’ve done. Yeah, we. Yesterday, we actually went to the auditions for the Christmas panto. Oh, wow. Like an amateur Christmas panto. It was really. It was a very nice, wholesome afternoon. I will say that everyone we’ve run into so far has said thanks for coming to Wales. Sorry it’s so hard. They all seem sort of vaguely perplexed by the state, the state of the weather. I’m going to attempt the Welsh pronunciation of where I am. It’s Banai. Brooklyn Egg, I believe. Well, Welsh speaking listeners can definitely correct me. How are you? How’s your week been.

 

Coco Khan When we finished recording last week’s episode? I didn’t think I’d ever be sitting here being like, I can’t wait to finish about concrete. So, I mean, are you excited to have this chat about concrete next?

 

Nish Kumar I’ll tell you what, I would love to go back to a time before I’ve ever heard the term reinforced autoclaves aerated concrete. I would absolutely kill to return to that time. But talk about it. We must because this is the rack scandal or AC about cheap and lightweight type of concrete filled with tiny air bubbles that was widely used in the construction of public buildings between 1950 and 1990. The comparison that keeps being drawn with it because it’s a cheap and lightweight concrete, the reason it’s cheap and lightweight is that it’s full of tiny air bubbles is the comparison is a bit like an air robot. Now, I doubt if anyone outside the United Kingdom is familiar with an aero bar. It was a chocolate bar that felt like something you had because it was full of air bubbles. But all you really need to know is at no point has anyone ever looked at a building and gone, Wow, that building is strong like chocolate. It’s not a comparison that suggests structural integrity. And if the gods of metaphor want it to be any more heavy handed about the current state of the United Kingdom, it would have been simply impossible for them to do it, other than to say that the schools have been made of concrete. That’s an absolute shit, and it’s falling down potentially around our children. So the week the kids are supposed to go back to school, 147 schools in England have been affected so far. They’ve either had to close completely shut some buildings or take other mitigating measures to ensure safety. And that number is expected to rise when the government publishes a new list in the next two weeks. Figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still being compiled.

 

Coco Khan Rishi Sunak himself has been put firmly in the firing line after a former senior civil servant pointed out that when Sunak’s was chancellor, he halve the budget for school repairs in England in 2021 himself. Sunak hit back, saying it is utterly wrong to blame him.

 

Nish Kumar That luckily for Rishi Sunak and this may be the great silver lining of his tenure as Prime Minister, there is always someone willing to be more visibly incompetent that he could use as a human shield, and in this case is the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan. Here she is in a widely circulated clip after she finished an interview with ITV News. Literally seconds after the official interview finished.

 

Clip Thank you. You just came out of surgery. Does anyone ever say, you know what, you’ve done a fucking good job because everyone else is sat on their ass and done nothing? No, no, No signs of that now.

 

Nish Kumar She later had to apologize for her language. And I guess it’s a valuable lesson that we can all learn about not talking shit when you’ve clearly still got a microphone and a camera in front of you. I really don’t feel she should have been caught out like that. But what is even more unfathomable is that she did actually apologize for a language, but then she later told schools they need to get off their backsides and fill out a survey about whether they have unsafe concrete on site. So the message for Gillian Keegan is clearly, go fuck yourself. I’m so sorry. Please go fuck yourself. The schools are all clowns. I’m not sure what exactly was supposed to be thinking. So you take it all. It’s not really clear, but probably a more serious situation that now faces. Is that today The Daily Mirror has reported that a company called Center Prize, of which her husband, Michael is a non-executive director, was awarded a £1 million it contract from the Department for Education with that money coming from the same. Pots of cash earmarked for rebuilding schools. So it just it always goes to show that how bad the situation is. Someone affiliated to the Conservative Party has made good money.

 

Coco Khan So before we get any trouble, we should probably say that the Department for Education has said that ministers have had no involvement in the procurement process for these contracts. They were awarded in line with existing existing government commercial procedures. So just want to try and save you from another article in The Spectator, Nish.

 

Nish Kumar Listen, if you shit on your own front garden, it’s not illegal, but it doesn’t look great.

 

Coco Khan So the government put out a graphic to reassure people, saying, look, most schools are unaffected. But Labour took the piss with a spoof graphic referencing Jaws, saying that, well, you know, most most beachgoers are not eaten by a big shark either.

 

Nish Kumar Everybody’s really taken to social media, which is of no fucking use. Like, I just it’s just one of those things where I think I just it’s a personal frustration of mine where this instinct now to immediately, like, put out a sassy tweet, you just go, Fuck it, do something. Yeah. I don’t care how strong your meme game is. There’s bits of like cloud based concrete for Lego kids heads.

 

Coco Khan Okay. I think that’s fair enough. You’ll actually note that you do raise a really important point in there because you know, Labour have known about this problem as well. This problem has been going on for a really long time. There is a question to be answered about who is exactly to blame.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, I mean, listen, this has been a problem that has been coming down the pipe for an awful long time. There’s been various audits and very sort of schemes over the last few years that have slowly discovered that this material that we were using really up to 1990 to build a lot of public buildings has really, really serious concerns around it. I think the difficult thing for the Conservative Party, as with all of these issues, is it’s very is all well and good to say Labour didn’t do anything about it, but the Conservative Party has been in charge of the country for 13 years. It’s an awful long way to reach back to try and particularly finger the blame anyone else other than their own organization. BBC investigation found that at least 13 schools confirmed to have right had funding to rebuild withdrawn in 2010. They’ve been approved for rebuilding under a Labour scheme and they were later scrapped by the Conservative led government. It feels like one of the consistent things that we look at whenever we try to talk about the problems facing the United Kingdom. A lot of them can be rooted back to the early years of the coalition government. We some chickens are coming home to roost from the kind of early Cameron era. It’s once again worth suggesting is there some sort of scheme where we can force David Cameron and George Osborne to sit in rooms entirely made of reinforced concrete and just and just allow them to consider their positions in history?

 

Coco Khan Hospitals, of course, can be the next big problem. NHS England has told hospitals to be ready to evacuate if buildings crumble. And there’s a unbelievable nugget in the Financial Times this week where they highlight that Hinchinbrook Hospital in Cambridgeshire has confirmed that since 2020 it had to confine the treatment of some heavier people to the ground floor owing to concerns about the state of the building. What a metaphor for the Britain that we live in.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, I mean, this kind of short term thinking about the obsession with saving money in the short term, the obsession with, you know, within an electoral cycle, trying to balance your budgets without considering what destruction that might wreak five, ten years down the line is the kind of thinking that has trapped Britain in this kind of state where it feels like the entire countries are falling down around us.

 

Coco Khan I regularly buy vintage clothes, and I can say for sure that clothes being made in the seventies, they’re just waiting to be set on fire. Those are not good materials. So I accept that, you know, things have changed in the in the the progress of material design through the years. But I mean, even back then, those decisions were made about this. It’s just doing it on the cheap. Do you know what I mean? And there’s always that classic thing. They always say, like, go buy cheap, buy twice. This is a thing that we know about good money management. And it’s I appreciate this is a legacy problem, but this is a we’re all we’re all part of this weird drug about buying cheap and it’s actually not the right approach. When I say we, I don’t mean me. I mean the governments. I mean.

 

Nish Kumar When Coco says we, what she means is she’s currently wearing a jacket that’s made of rack with an asbestos in it.

 

Coco Khan It would be like a really groovy eighties jacket that if I stand out in the direct sunlight will just explode. That’s what it would be.

 

Nish Kumar Most of the costumes in the film working of were made of asbestos. People don’t really talk about that now. It’s very dangerous now, of course I’m joking.

 

Coco Khan I just. I just. Okay, I’m glad we confirmed that. I want to start to. Talking about the reshuffle now, and I’m kind of loathe to do it because actually, what does it matter who is in the in the post? As long as what they do they say they’re going to do. They actually do it, you know what I mean? But nonetheless reshuffle we are at. Keir Starmer has been busy It’s a generally been a well received shuffle and it is seen as a strengthening his support, his packed his top team of centrists at the expense of the soft left. One MP was reported as saying even Tony Blair didn’t have this many. Blair rights in his cabinet.

 

Nish Kumar I don’t know how this affects their electability. I but my concern once again is, is the Labour Party proposing 1997 solutions to 2023 problems? And that’s the key idea that I keep returning to. My concern is if the Blair rights are planning to reheat Blairism we might all end up with a bad case of food poisoning.

 

Coco Khan Honestly, like at this point in life, I’m just like, I don’t care about the label. Just do the bloody job, you know? I mean, just that. But, you know, on the subject of that, you know, we had the the pleasure of having Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan join us on the sofa. We had a great time talking to her and she laid out a really genuinely moving vision for what mental health could be. And she assured us that that plan would be stuck to. So we were very alarmed to see that she has returned to the backbenches. After resigning as Shadow Minister for Mental Health, She argued in a very dignified resignation letter, one that we haven’t seen for quite a while, that the fact that this position was not going to be taking into the Cabinet made her feel like these commitments weren’t being taken seriously and she wouldn’t be part of it. I hope that is not the case and that actually the commitments will exist, even if the role doesn’t. But it doesn’t fill you with confidence. I mean, here she is chatting to us in an earlier episode.

 

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan Having an open access mental health hub, getting people to treatment when they need it, because prevention is more important and we know people get sicker the longer they’re waiting. But also what we’re saying is, is that we would have a specialist mental health support in every school. And it is bold. And I understand that that people are at breaking point now that they don’t believe the cavalry are coming. But I wouldn’t be sitting here and I wouldn’t have had this brief for three years and still be in it if I didn’t believe in it. And I didn’t believe that we. Looking to bring about change.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah. I mean, it was very. Powerful and it felt very moving to be sat opposite her when she said that. And it does deeply concern me that this is something that’s not going to be a priority for any future Labour government, given that, you know, there is a kind of slowly exploding mental health crisis that’s been exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic. And I can’t imagine that generation of young people that had to stay at home, be trapped indoors, miss out on a huge chunk of their development, and is now going back to school to find out. Bits of it falling down around them is going to be a generation that isn’t going to need mental health support. But it’s not even just young people’s elder people as everybody it does. I do find it sort of deeply concerning. I think at some point we need to know specifically what the Labour Party is going to do in office, because at the moment it’s just a blizzard of. A policy announcements that negates previous announcements. Like they’re basically just they’ve walked back on a lot of stuff and at some point we’re actually going to need Keir Starmer to spell out a positive vision for this country that isn’t. If I may borrow an old line from the sitcom The Iraq Make it 1997 again through either science or magic.

 

Coco Khan I mean, hopefully we’ll get some answers on that because coming up next, I’ll be speaking to a Labour MP who was handed a shadow ministerial job by Keir Starmer. So Chris Bryant will be here to tell me how the first PMQs of the new parliamentary term went on to explain all about his plan to save UK politics.

 

[AD]

 

Coco Khan So it’s good news in the Labour reshuffle for my guests, Sir Chris Bryant. This morning. He was appointed shadow minister for Creative Industries and Digital. Congratulations, Chris. Sounds like a cool job.

 

Chris Bryant It sounds very cool. Yes, I’m very excited, but I’m slightly discombobulated, I guess is the best word. You know, I had to do a debate this I had to lead for the Labour Party in the debate this afternoon on digital infrastructure. And all I know about digital infrastructure really stems from about the year 2010.

 

Coco Khan Well, I’m quite surprised by that because I’ve been reading your book Code of Conduct, and we are going to talk about it properly in a moment.

 

Chris Bryant I meant to wave it out, you know?

 

Coco Khan Yeah. I mean, listen, we’re all a fan of a grip and grin here at the UK, but I’m interested in that because you talk specifically about ministers being appointed roles where they don’t necessarily know about.

 

Chris Bryant It quite right. Tony Blair, apparently when he was doing a reshuffle, that these are very chaotic things normally and sometimes they put there’s one time when they put they had all the names of all the jobs that they wanted. This was when we were in government and they put Post-it notes up with the names of all the people on them. And then somebody opened a window and they all got blown off. So people get old and then they go, Oh, I can’t remember who’s doing justice again. And then but then the march was instant. It was seduces talk about in code of conduct. The book is that is Tony came off the phone call having appointed somebody as a new health minister and he said I’m sure that person was you said that person was a man. I’m fairly certain I’ve just appointed a woman and he’s appointed he had indeed appointed the wrong Johnson. So Alan Johnston then had to get a different job entirely.

 

Coco Khan I mean, your book is full of amazing anecdotes. I was surprised by how much we have in common. We both like RuPaul and we both seem to have like. Like, All right, we love, we’re fans.

 

Chris Bryant Wash your mouth out woman.

 

Coco Khan I like that you referred to, you know, that very positive slogan of RuPaul’s. You know, if you can’t love yourself, how can you love not the one which refers to.

 

Chris Bryant Can I get an amen? Yeah. No, I think it’s a really important thing about, well, anybody in life. And actually, if you want to get very religious, it’s also a it’s a Christianity. It’s you know, it’s it’s it’s what’s behind Christianity as well, is that you have to love yourself to be able to love others. But and it says love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Coco Khan I just meant Chris, theres other RuPaul slogans that do apply to Westminster like Don’t fuck it up . That seems like a good one.

 

Chris Bryant I’ve used that. I use that in the Standing Committee was Yes.

 

Coco Khan Okay, so we’re keeping some good standards. I mean, I don’t. Oh, I see. Of course. Of course. We wouldn’t do swearing. You have to.

 

Chris Bryant Have standards, but. Well, yes, it is also known as doing a Jillian came.

 

Coco Khan Exactly. Exactly. Did you want to go back to us and the things that we have in common. One, RuPaul. And two, we have both at points in our careers been mistaken for younger people. Another great story that I think our listeners need to to hear.

 

Chris Bryant Is another Tony Blair. Tony had a series of reshuffles. He used to have one every year. And after this I’ve been in Parliament for two or three years and he called me in after reshuffle because everybody had been predicting that I would get the job. It was a bit weird and then I didn’t. And so Tony called me and he said, Chris, easy is terribly difficult, but you know that next one. Definitely.

 

Coco Khan That was chilling how good that was.

 

Chris Bryant Thank you. I know you’re like, I can do my worst. And a year later, he called me in again after another reshuffle in which he hadn’t given me anything. And he said, Chris, you know, definitely next time. And I said, and he said, You look miserable. I said, Well, yes, Tony, because to be honest, you said this last year. He said, Oh, did I? So it’s moving into King Charles now. And and he and he then said, but but, Chris, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. You’re in your early twenties. And I said, Tony, I’m 43.

 

Coco Khan Well, I mean, he must be buzzing now. Was it the same situation?

 

Chris Bryant No, very different. So what tends to happen is that the top jobs are done by the Prime Minister or the leader of the of the leader of the party. And then the next sort of tier of jobs is done by the chief whip. And so in my case, it was the chief whip, the running mate. And and I’m delighted because you’re you’re absolutely right. Quite often one of the problems in parliament is that people get you know, you put a square peg in a round hole and you have somebody who knows absolutely nothing about the subject. But in this case, I was on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for four years. I used to work for the BBC. I’m so proud of the creative industries in the UK because I think they had the biggest source of possible growth, economic growth. They’re about jobs, they’re about imagination. And you know, just one thing somebody asked me the other day, why did you read novels so much? And I said, Well, because it’s the only way that you really get to walk in somebody else’s shoes.

 

Coco Khan Well, it’s genuinely lovely to hear you talk about that because, you know, we care a lot about the arts On this show. A few episodes ago, we had. A whole episode about the nightlife economy. And we were talking about the just the revolving door of culture secretaries. I mean, who actually loves culture if you only stay in the role for a year? And also what kind of culture and what types of culture and is wrapped up in class, is it wrapped up in race and what might it be? So it’s really lovely to hear all those things.

 

Chris Bryant I absolutely agree. I think they’ve had 11 culture secretaries in ten years.

 

Coco Khan I think it’s 12 and 13.

 

Chris Bryant It’s roughly and now we know in other ones. Yeah. Bit in the dust today. And it does matter. I tell a story again in the book about how there’s a tunnel in my case. Well, from my constituency to another constituency in South Wales, it used to be a railway tunnel and we want to open it up and turn it into a tourist attraction. And a lot of bikes do it because it would make it the second biggest bike track tunnel in Europe and it’d be brilliant. We need support from the government to do it because it belongs to the Westminster government. I cannot tell you how difficult it has been to get to a meeting with the right minister because the ministers keep on either being sacked, resigning and resigning, being promoted, moved to another department, and just when I’m about to get something resolved, they move. And that is one of the problems I think, of government in the last few years. Ministers change far too much.

 

Coco Khan The book, by the way, is called Code of Conduct Why We Need to Fix Parliament. I actually listened to the audiobook version, Chris.

 

Chris Bryant And how was.

 

Coco Khan I, you know, animated?

 

Chris Bryant It’s not good. It’s the first time I’ve read it. I’ve written other books as well. That is the first time I’ve done it for myself.

 

Coco Khan But normally a good way to do it. I think it is a good way to do it. Can I can I be honest with you? I have. Maybe it’s just being a whatever.

 

Chris Bryant To be honest with me, if you’re going to be horrible.

 

Coco Khan I thought you liked honesty in politics. So you said, you know, But I’m teasing. But, you know, maybe it’s just my, like, disaffected millennial ness. But I have desired big ideas. The notion of the big idea is something that really appeals to me because I feel like small ideas are not going to do anything. But actually, in your book, Code of Conduct, obviously cumulatively is one big idea. But what I noticed was that it was all quite reasonable, wasn’t it? Well, yeah, you could do that. Yeah, Why not do that? Wouldn’t take long. Yeah, just do that.

 

Chris Bryant I think reasonable is a good thing. I say in the book quite often. Look, I may not be about to please you. I may be about to disappoint you because you may want may want an absolutist position. But I’ve never been a fundamentalist in my religion, in my politics, in my support for the Welsh rugby team or anything else. I’m open to persuasion. But the one thing that I think is really important is what I called our system has very few checks and balances. Once you become prime Minister, you can do pretty much you what you want as long as you maintain a majority in the House of Commons. And I call that to go ABBA, the winner take the winner takes it all.

 

Coco Khan Thank you. Thank you. Standing small.

 

Chris Bryant But that says is what it is. And I think it’s problematic. I think it makes it makes ministers too arrogant. It makes them try to protect their own position. It makes them abuse their power. And I think then that will be a big change.

 

Coco Khan I mean, one of the points that really stood out to me is when you talk about like, you know, why trust in politics matters. And it’s because, you know, obviously the relationship between the citizen and the state, the voter and the politician that matters, but also just globally, if everyone realizes that we’re all run by cronies, we’ll lose our Canary Wharf cities licking high end status that we have around the world, like it could genuinely have a whole range of impacts that we hadn’t really thought about.

 

Chris Bryant I think the UK should stand for and historically has stood for a few things and the rule of law, the fact that nobody’s above the law, including Prime Minister, as we’ve recently shown, the fact that you, your property is protected, that your word is your bond, that we’re really good at selling, telling, selling stories, telling stories.

 

Coco Khan I know some people that are selling stories.

 

Chris Bryant I think they’ve been setting themselves well. They’ve sold out anyway. And I want to reinforce those things because I think otherwise people go, Well, hang on, what is the point of the United Kingdom?

 

Coco Khan Well, it’s weird because, you know, go back to the thing about the desire for the big versus the small. You know, I’ll be quite transparent. I would like to see things a little bit. I’d like to see the nationalization of the railways. I’d like to see more public spending. These are things I’d like to see. So you don’t really think that much about how people can just say it in Parliament and that is allowed. And actually these things do kind of all add up because it speaks to basically the voters voice being diminished because of how because of these processes in which you can just say what you like, do what you like.

 

Chris Bryant So sometimes I think that, you know, the big positions that people might adopt, for instance, about nationalizing the railways or better one, actually nationalizing the water companies.

 

Coco Khan Yes.

 

Chris Bryant All right. So I live in Wales. My constituency is in Wales at the water company in Wales is a not for profit company. I think that is a much better model. Wow. So some people would say you either have nationalized water companies or you have privatized.

 

Coco Khan Are you swimming in sewage, then.

 

Chris Bryant I’m no, no, we’re not.

 

Coco Khan I just wanted to.

 

Chris Bryant It’s better. I mean, there is an issue when you have very have. Very heavy rain about discharges. But we’ve learned today that they’ve been discharges in England, in rivers when there hasn’t even been any rain. And that’s when you go, I’m sorry. This is a system that is bust. So I but my point is basically sometimes there is a third way. There are alternatives which might work better. So they still protect the public good. It’s in the public interest. But they that they’re just more effective.

 

Coco Khan I just mean that, like, you know, when there is a public desire for things, sometimes it feels you communicate with your elected leaders and they don’t listen and they don’t have to.

 

Chris Bryant You’re right there. But look and. In the end, we have a democracy, which means that people get elected and they are charged with doing their job for a period. I think five years is too long. As I say in the book, I think it would be better before in Australia and in New Zealand it’s three where long compared to other countries in the world, in the United States of America, if you’re a member of Congress, you have to stand for election every two years. So there’s an argument for for shorter election periods. But in the end, how do I for instance, I read a poll the other day which said that the majority of people in the UK are in favor of the death penalty. I’m passionately opposed to the death penalty. I would I would go on the barricades to fight against the death penalty. It doesn’t work. It’s not a deterrent. So what should an elected MP do? If their constituents want the return of the death penalty? It should. They go. Yeah, okay. Right. I’m not in favor of the death penalty. Or do you want politicians who have some things that they believe in and they go to the electorate and they let to go as well? I like this bit and I like this button like this. I don’t like that bit, but I’m still voting for a fine. Well, that I think is is kind of how democracy works. And sometimes when you’re part of a team, you have to go, Alright, this isn’t my preferred direction of travel, but I’m going to buy it. One of the stories I tell in the book is about George Eustice, Tory MP, who when he was a minister and it said What a wonderful deal we were striking with New Zealand and Australia free trade deal and the moment he stopped making it and as you said, is a terrible deal. Now that that’s the point where you start to think, well actually wouldn’t you be better off saying I’m sorry I’m resigning because I don’t think it’s a good deal and so am I. But then he would have had no effect over the policy.

 

Coco Khan I wanted to show you a clip of PMQs today, and I it was great to see the fire in the house.

 

Clip The truth is, this crisis is the inevitable result of 13 years of cutting corners, botched jobs, sticking plaster politics. It’s the sort of thing you expect from cowboy builders saying that everyone else is wrong. Everyone else is to blame. Protesting. They’ve done a good job. Even if the ceiling falls. The difference, Mr. Speaker, is that in this case the Cowboys are running the country and. Isn’t he ashamed that after 13 years of Tory government, children are cowering under steel supports stop in that classroom, roof falling in. No more. Just seriously. I will calm down. First session. I understand people are excited to be back at school. Will be expect better behavior. Prime Minister. I feel well, Mr. Speaker. This is exactly the kind of political opportunism that we. Exactly the kind of opportunism that we’ve come to expect. From Captain Hindsight over here.

 

Coco Khan What did you think of that there? Do you think that this is the kind of jeering, the needing to be told to simmer down? Is that fine? Is it appropriate?

 

Chris Bryant I hate all of that argy bargy, the Prime Minister’s questions and it’s much worse at that and sometimes at the Budget as well. I mean, it’s awful. Somebody once said if you wouldn’t be allowed to do it in a classroom of 13 year olds, why are you allowed to do it in the Chamber of the Commons? So I would, I would want to change it. And. One simple thing we could do the questions. Prime Minister’s questions are different from any other day of the week. I mean, I also have questions to ministers because they’re not on specific subjects. They can be about anything. And I think that that that denigrates the nature of the debate. So I that’s one of the things that I would change. I note, incidentally, that later on you didn’t play Rishi Sunak’s response, but he he lied to the house. He said that Keir Starmer had never raised the matter of crumbling schools, which he did in June. There’s clips everywhere now going round showing that he did, and I bet you that Rishi Sunak will never correct the record. The one thing above all else that voters hate is MPs lying. And look, I’ll. But to be fair, sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes you say million instead of billion. We we make mistakes. And sometimes it’s because you’ve legitimately thought that this was the case and you’d be wrong. We have a system in Parliament for ministers to be able to correct the record, and it actually goes back digitally to the original and corrects it and says this has been corrected, but that’s only available for ministers. But it should be available to all members. But more importantly, if a minister refuses to correct the record when they’ve been categorically told by, for instance, the UK Statistics Authority that what they’re saying is untrue, then I think they should be out on their ear.

 

Coco Khan But you know, the lies already going around the world, it’s already been replicated in the media. So what do we do about that?

 

Chris Bryant Well, indeed. I mean, that’s difficult. But I tell you this. When you’re forced to apologize to the House of Commons, and I’ve had to do it on occasions because I’ve been naughty, boy, the when you’re forced to apologize, it does make you think twice then about the future. And all I want is ministers to think twice before they tell fibs.

 

Coco Khan Well, you tell me is part of it sometimes having to say, I suspect some so-and-so has done something and then then it’s investigated. And actually even in saying that, is that not, you know, Nigel Farage has basically been online today, shortly before you arrived, saying that you accuse him of things and it was very bad and therefore you should not be made a shadow minister if you come across this.

 

Chris Bryant No, you’re telling me something completely and utterly new. Right. But I have corrected the record in relation to Nigel Farage. It’s in the Hansard for the 19th of July, so anybody can check. And I’m sure he has.

 

Coco Khan Well, exactly. And so, of course I want politicians to be held to account. But I wonder, is there a concern that if you can’t say certain things that Well, I mean, the incident I was specifically thinking that was about Dawn Butler, who, you know, said that Boris Johnson was a liar and it was seems to be quite punished for that, which he turned out to be. Correct. And I wondered if a tightening of the rules might actually mean that, you know, Dawn Butler’s assertion there, there’d be even less of them, and that would make parliament worse. You know, people should be able to be look straight in the eye and said, hang on a minute. Yeah.

 

Chris Bryant So this is one of the things, again, I think we’re going to have to change. So we have a rule that you can’t say anything. You can’t call another member of Parliament, anything that implies that they’re dishonorable. So you can’t call them a coward. You can’t say that they’re lying and and various other things say so and all. In one sense, that is good because it takes some of the argy bargy and the kind of name calling out to the system. That is good. But on the downside is when you know and it is self-evident that somebody has lied, you should be able to say that. And we, we had this weird situation in relation to Dawn Butler. The Dawn accused Boris Johnson of lying. Everybody knew he lied. Boris Johnson knew he lied. He’d been sacked multiple times for lying. And what happened? She was the person who was thrown out of the chamber for the day. Now she knew that that was going to happen, and in a sense she was making a point and she made it very effectively. But, you know, I mean, I think that rule has got to change. I think.

 

Coco Khan It’s good. You know, people aren’t name calling. And I think, you know, you are setting an example to people about how we should conduct ourselves. And if, you know, if you can’t swear in a workplace, as you say, why should you be able to to do it there? But it is fascinating, as you put in in your in your book.

 

Chris Bryant You talk about I’m sorry, but if you did just allow a free for all I mean, in the words of the Sugababes, that is a one way ticket to a mad man destination.

 

Coco Khan Of course.

 

Chris Bryant I just wanted to get your question. Sorry, it’s obsessed with Sugababes.

 

Coco Khan Oh, really? What’s your favorite tune? Is it that one?

 

Chris Bryant Oh, yes.

 

Coco Khan How do you feel about Heidi joining in line?

 

Chris Bryant Okay. I love very much an original line up person.

 

Coco Khan Yeah.

 

Chris Bryant We went to see them in Bristol last year. And weirdly. We just got to stand in a go. And there was another Labour MP standing next to me.

 

Coco Khan Wow I had no idea. Well, I mean, the point you make in the book as well as you know, so many things in Parliament are done on gentlemen’s agreement. And that idea of gentlemanly ness and the name, the lack of name calling kind of speaks to that. And on the one hand, that sounds really wonderful, but of course, what happens when people aren’t gentlemen in real life?

 

Chris Bryant Well, as we’ve seen in this parliament, I mean, that’s you know, what prompted me writing the book in the first place was this in many regards, this is the worst parliament we’ve ever had because we’ve had. Well, when I wrote it, it was 21 and then 22, and now it’s 23 members of parliament who have been suspended for a day or more or have left before a report into their misconduct came out. And that is really problematic. You know, quite a few people who’ve got into parliament in recent years just are not gentlemen. They’re not. And so you can’t rely on gentlemen’s agreement. I’m sorry. There’s casual sexism in there. Yes, but but but it makes a point, really? About what? What? You know, everything relies on what it used to be like. It’s just like when I first arrived in parliament, it was not uncommon for an older male MP to slap a younger woman members backside or to grab them and or to hug them in a way that they didn’t want to. And in those days, we just used to brush all of that under the carpet. And I’m really glad that now we’ve got a system, the independent complaints and grievance scheme, which means that you can report people for that and it will be investigated. And people have been thrown out of parliament for sexual harassment of their staff.

 

Coco Khan Well, what are the headlines in the book? That is, you too have experienced that yourself. I mean, what course did you have to to have this investigated back then?

 

Chris Bryant Well, none back then. And of course, lots of people who have been because all of these are my cases, they’re all more than 15 years ago. And and a lot of people, of course, who have been either groped or abused or whatever or harassed go through a very complicated process of deciding whether or not to report, even when when there’s a fully confidential system. And I gather and I think it’s wrong for us to try and force people into it because into making allegations or reporting stuff, because who knows what’s going through their mind and their heart and so on. But today, it’s very different.

 

Coco Khan Well, I mean, is it that different? Because we’re also looking at news stories with, you know, Tory MP Chris Pincher.

 

Chris Bryant The truth is that Chris bencher groped two men and it was particularly bad because and he was a very senior person in the government deputy chief whip. And the people concerned said in their statements that they they were very conscious of his position. And that then becomes an abuse of power as well as the as the grope element. So, you know, I mean, I’m not a prude. I, I people can have sex with whoever they want to as often as they want or as infrequently as they want. And with as many people in the room as I don’t guess as long as it’s all out completely consensual and informed consent.

 

Coco Khan But do you think that the way the case was handled was handled correctly? I’m just I’m trying to get a sense of is Westminster improving on this?

 

Chris Bryant Yes, definitely. It definitely. 15 years ago, he somebody would have said somebody would have just taken him into a corner and said, that’s terribly bad. And bearing in mind, you know, a few years ago, one of the reasons Boris Johnson fell from power in the end was over the cross bench of gays, because he said that he didn’t know anything about previous allegations about crossbencher. And it turned out he did. He’d been directly informed of them. So we know that in the past these things were sort of brushed under the carpet and now they’re not. I think and I was really pleased. So he appealed our decision. So my committee said he should be suspended for eight weeks. If you’re suspended for more than ten days in from parliament now and you can face a by election. And and we knew that when we gave that that that sanction of eight weeks. He appealed that to the new appeal body that we set up. And they decided that we had behaved impeccably because that there are two sides to this, which is you want to make sure that everybody gets a fair hearing and due process as an MP when you’re because otherwise anybody can make allegations about anybody at any all the time. And but you also want to make sure that parliament is a safe place for everybody to work.

 

Coco Khan One of the things is suggestion that you make in your book is about having security cameras around the lobbies. Yeah, and I was a bit taken aback by that for two reasons. One, I don’t know how I feel about security cameras in general. So there’s that. Also, you know, I wonder if it’s like that’s sort of not how bullying and sexual harassment works quite often. It happens in closed doors.

 

Chris Bryant Yes, sure. Look. Well, one of the problems in parliament is the building was built in 1850 or opened in 1850 after the farney of 1834. And it’s just full of nooks and crannies and nearly everybody is in an office. Behind you. No oak doors with one other member of staff. And that is problematic.

 

Coco Khan Yeah. That doesn’t sound great.

 

Chris Bryant As I tried to explain in the book. On top of that, you’ve got a system of patronage and of power. Quite a few, because we the salaries that we’re able to pay staff are really pretty mean, I would argue. And quite often these are stuff you’ve just come out of university as their first job. They’re quite vulnerable. I would say equally so for gay men as for anybody else. And all of that makes quite a toxic mix. Hmm. And then on top of that, you’ve got long working hours. I’m going to go back to Parliament. I was in parliament this morning, eight. I’ll be finishing tonight at 9 a.m.. That all of that is just not great.

 

Coco Khan So, I mean, your your book outlines many, many recommendations. You know, you look at it, why aren’t you up? There were things I didn’t just didn’t necessarily agree with.

 

Chris Bryant No, I meant did it make you feel, Oh, my God, Parliament is even worse than I thought?

 

Coco Khan No, actually, not at all. All right. I have very low expectations. I think I think that says more about me. But I thought it was great that, you know, it felt like there were low hanging fruit, that things could be improved quickly within, you know, ten years, 15 years, my lifetime. Sometimes, you know, I’m 35 and I feel like know 30 by 35. That’s what I mean. Mistaken for younger. It happens. You meant younger. That right? That’s what I have to say.

 

Chris Bryant All right. Well, you just real in the compliment.

 

Coco Khan Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But, you know, and I sometimes genuinely have this fear that, like, you know, big changes won’t I can’t see in my lifetime because they just require too many seemingly insurmountable hill. So actually, the book was gave me hope that things could be done, but there were things I didn’t agree with. Now, can we talk about second jobs in my piece? You think that some second jobs are fine and I don’t really actually, I think probably would be helpful for our listeners if you could outline your position on second jobs.

 

Chris Bryant Yeah. So there’s a fundamentalist position on the second jobs, which is no MP should be allowed to earn any any other money than their salary or engage in any other kind of paid employment. I understand that argument. It’s I think it’s intrinsically it seems to.

 

Coco Khan Make sense, though, right?

 

Chris Bryant It makes a lot of sense. Makes a lot of sense, yes. However, what do you do about somebody who decides to write a novel on Sunday mornings and between 5:00 in the morning and 8:00? Is that problematic?

 

Coco Khan I mean, a novel seems fine, isn’t it?

 

Chris Bryant Okay, so we’ve got novels. What about writing? You know what I’m going to do? I’m just going to.

 

Coco Khan Do what you.

 

Chris Bryant Said. So the point is, of course, employees have to have some time, which is their own.

 

Coco Khan Okay.

 

Chris Bryant And and and I would argue, incidentally, about books, because there’s an obvious I used to write, you will have a second job because you’ve written a book and you’ve been paid for it.

 

Coco Khan You knew it was coming. No, no, no.

 

Chris Bryant It’s fine. And I refer to it in the book, which I’ve written, because I think politics is about three things. It’s about what you believe in. It’s about how you put that across to speeches and manifestos and so on. And it’s about what alliances you create so as to win votes to change things. But the second bit, some sometimes if if you want to make you can make a speech in the House of Commons, nobody will notice. Yeah, you can call you know, you can make a speech in your constituency. Nobody will notice. You write a book and people notice. So it’s actually part I would argue certainly this kind of book is very much part of doing politics is part I think is part of my job. Mm hmm. Now, what about a farmer? So you run a family farm, right? You get elected because your constituents in you’re in a rural constituency and they go, I really rather like the fact that he’s a farmer, you understand? Or she is a farmer. They understand how the constituency works and agricultural issues and all that kind of stuff. Should the farmer, who still probably lives in the farm, not be allowed to earn any money off their farm any longer?

 

Coco Khan It would be interesting to know how you would police the farm or not doing farming in their own time. That would be.

 

Chris Bryant I mean, are they allowed to milk the cows or the goats.

 

Coco Khan For the expectation that they might get, you know, staff in to cover them while they like the idea that.

 

Chris Bryant So. So you see this. So I think the issue about two jobs is different from how most people perceive it. Right. I think it’s about are you doing a proper job? Are you? And most voters know in a constituency whether somebody somebody’s swinging the lad or really doing the job properly, you know, whether they get replies from their MPs swiftly, whether they deal with things, whether they’re present, all that kind of stuff. And the second thing is whether there’s a conflict of interest. So I don’t think you should be allowed to have a job where there’s any kind of conflict of interest between you being a constituency MP or and, and, and, and the other job that you’ve taken on. So for instance, you shouldn’t be allowed to sell your knowledge as an MP, Right.

 

Coco Khan Because that’s buying access by.

 

Chris Bryant You completely and I think is important information and, and we’ve had a sort of. The rule against that since 1695 when the Orphans Act was taken through.

 

Coco Khan Everybody’s doing it, Chris.

 

Chris Bryant Well, no, it’s actually really it’s a very small number now. And the new rules that we introduced earlier on this year have tightened that. And I think we should go a couple of steps further to tighten it even further. So no directorships and things like that.

 

Coco Khan Well, look, you know, Chris, you’re a obviously very wonderfully direct person and you talk a lot about ministerial impunity and ministers being able to say what they like. I mean, are we going to see a very outspoken minister if Labour wins the election?

 

Chris Bryant I think it’s really important that politicians speak with honesty and integrity. And there are there are times when you simply can’t answer and you’d be better off saying, I’m really sorry about this. I can’t answer that question because I won’t be able to answer it fully and honestly. And I think voters respect. But just as they voted as I was on Question Time once and somebody asked me a question about something, I said, you know, I haven’t the faintest idea. I haven’t got a view on this policy. I don’t know any of this subject matter behind it. So I’m not going to opine. And it got the biggest round of applause I’ve ever had on Question Time. Yeah. So I think sometimes we just need to learn that way of because you know what? The one thing you can smell through a television is when a politician is just giving you the party line.

 

Coco Khan Absolutely. I also wanted to I wanted to put a political conundrum to you. Right. So we get another word. Conundrum. Conundrum is a good word. Yeah. So we get agony. Aunt and uncle emails in from our listeners. We had one from Matt. So I’m going I’m going to put this to you. Said the past year has been great. This is Matt speaking, not me. Yeah, the past year has been grueling to behold. As a steadfast Labour supporter, Starmer has abandoned trans rights, U-turn, lifting kids out of poverty, effectively committed to furthering economic status quo, mocked green policy. The claim that he’s just posturing for the for the right leaning electorate and will change once elected doesn’t hold water anymore. Some months ago, Emily Thornberry told us on this podcast that there’s no money left after Truss’s tanking of the economy whilst sounding reasonable on first glance, that’s not true, and energy companies and banks are enjoying record profits in billions. It’s shameless, patronizing and insulting as the main opposition to Shrek one show, to say that nothing can be done under the current Labour leadership. Queer people, environmentalists and those fighting for economic prosperity and opportunities for all cannot be expected to vote Labour just because they’re not the Tories. It has to be change in attitude and willpower from Starmer and his leadership. Polling numbers shouldn’t be the final arbiter of policy. So I wanted to ask you what you would say to Matt, who sort of wavering about voting Labour.

 

Chris Bryant I would say, first of all, and Keir laid out when he became leader that he had to do three things. First of all, he had to detoxify the Labour Party because we were in a really, really bad way. Lots of people in my constituency and they’re on the which is the only seat in Britain that has been Labour since 1885. They were saying, I’m not voting Labour because I just can’t support the party as it is at the moment. So we had to detoxify it first and I think we’ve done a good job of that. Secondly, we had to take we had to prosecute the case against the Tories, which again, I think we’ve done very effectively. Everybody knows that, you know, the country’s broken, it’s in a terrible mess. We don’t know what the financial situation is really, and you don’t get to know until you’re in the last few months before a general election, which is when you start writing a manifesto. But the third thing. Absolutely right. Perfectly fair point is we’ve got to offer hope for change. And look, the Labour Party is a changed party. It’s about change. There’s no point in the Labour Party if it isn’t about change. It’s got to be a passion for justice and equality and all of those things. But sometimes you also then have to go right. There’s 150 things I want to do, which are the ones I can do in the first year or the first week or the first hour or whatever, and which are the ones which I’m No, I’m going to have to leave for later. And I tell you now. Between now and the general election. When we have a big poll lead, there will be lots of people who say, well, you should be much more adventurous, much bolder. You should make all sorts of public statements. You should spend money. You should announce all the spending. This is the most difficult point for a party. It’s when you start making promises that you might never be able to fulfill. That’s when voters really start to hate you. So I’m sorry, I’m 100% behind care. I’m queer. I’m also 100% trans supportive. 100%. I also happen to know the difference between a man and a woman. You know, I’m not. All those culture wars, I think, are absolutely preposterous. But of course, we’ve got to offer nuggets of hope.

 

Coco Khan Just on the quickly, you know, the parliamentary reform bill you talk about, you would like to see that existing. Do you think Labour will do it?

 

Chris Bryant I don’t know. Keir came up to me today and said, Really well done on the books. Well, I mean.

 

Coco Khan He’s got to read it.

 

Chris Bryant Slightly worryingly, Michael Gove came up to me and said, I think your book is brilliant. So I’m not I don’t know. So I suppose part of the point is I didn’t want the book to be too partizan because I do want change. I believe in democracy. Passionately believe. I see. I. I train to be a priest many years ago and part of my time I trained in Peru. And then in Argentina. And in Argentina. They just had a military dictatorship. And friends of mine have been tortured. I know what the alternative to democracy is. It’s authoritarian rule. And if we keep on denigrating the way politics works and undermine and tarnishing the reputation of parliament, then the danger is that people will turn to authoritarian alternatives. But I would say I have hope that the Labour Party, we will lay out, I think, starting with conference in a couple of weeks time, we will be laying out a program and people go, You know what, I want to buy a bit of that. It’s not just that I want the Tories out. It’s not just that I want to press the reset button, it’s that I actually want Labour.

 

Coco Khan Great. Well, listen, I think that’s a wonderful place to leave this. Thank you so much, sir. Chris Bryant, the newly appointed shadow minister for Creative Industries and Digital, which I just realized maybe your our minister we do a podcast.

 

Chris Bryant Maybe.

 

Coco Khan Great.

 

Chris Bryant But um.

 

Coco Khan Hope you like an e-mail.

 

Chris Bryant We can ditch the survey.

 

Coco Khan Thank you so much, Chris.

 

Chris Bryant Thank you for having me.

 

[AD]

 

Coco Khan So it’s time to hand out the medals. Nish your kicking us off with your villain of the week.

 

Nish Kumar My villain of the week is absolutely. I would imagine a lot of people’s villain of the week. And that person is Jordan Henderson. He’s obviously been the subject of a huge transfer from Liverpool Football Club to the Saudi Arabian Pro League side. Athletic fat is a huge controversy this summer because of Henderson’s previously very public support for LGBTQ causes. But he has returned to England this week of the international training camps by the England football team, and he gave an interview to the Athletic. And as I was reading the transcription of the interview, which the Athletic published in full, rather than writing it out, they published a transcription issue, presumably because they assumed that if they didn’t do that, people would think they were making this shit up. It’s one of those things where you read that interview and halfway through you think, I don’t understand why I’m now not reading the phrase at this point. Henderson’s representative rugby tackled him, gagged him and dragged him out of the room before he could squeeze his feet, which he should be using for other, more professional purposes. Directly into his mouth is a spec tacular own goal, if I may continue the footballing analogy. First of all, he’s claimed that he’s gone to Saudi Arabia and he had nothing to do with the money. He had absolutely nothing to do with the money at all. But when pushed on his previous support for LGBTQ causes, Henderson actually came out swinging. I honestly think that people would probably have less of a problem if he just came out and said, You know what? It’s just all about the money. This is a career for me. And, you know, he might be right to point out why are we holding footballers to a specific standard of behavior when we don’t hold governments to that kind of standard of behavior? You know, in terms of like our government’s own dealings with the Saudi Arabian government. However, instead of saying that, he tried to argue that because he’s a positive person and because he’s, you know, previously been an advocate for those causes, that he might actually go out there and do some good, which is pretty extraordinary. Yeah, There was this sentence that I actually think in its own perverse way might actually benefit all of us in the long run in terms of what it has to say about performative activism versus actual engagement with causes and activist groups. He said this that I have so much sympathy and the last thing I wanted to do is upset anyone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. All I’ve ever do, all I’ve ever tried to do is help. And when I’ve been asked to help, I’ve gone above and beyond to help. I’ve worn the laces, I’ve worn the armband. I’ve spoken to people in that community to try and use my profile to help them. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do. I would say that if you’ve gone above and beyond to help the LGBTQ community, you need to cite more examples that I’ve worn the laces and I’ve worn the armband. It’s an astonishing thing to conflate putting a piece of fabric on your arm and changing your fucking shoelaces with actual activism. As if. We’re all guilty and we’re all complicit in it. There’s definitely been times in my life where it’s all, of course, I’m helping. I hit a retweet, I shared a post. But at the end of the day, if you’re not going to back up your good intentions with actions, especially when the whiff of huge amounts of money is in the air, you really are going to run the risk of being labeled a hypocrite.

 

Coco Khan Okay. Yeah, but devil’s advocate and I can’t believe that I sound like I’m defending Jordan Henderson here. But he does have a point that people hold footballers and celebrities to this quite high account when we actually don’t have any evidence that they are really committed to these things, that they’ve read a book on these things or that they have any meaningful power for to kind of do anything. So, you know, the UK is about to host Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi’s ruler. It’s his first official visit since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence believe NBC ordered. There’s loads of people that are hypocritical about Saudi. Are we going to see the same level of anger and frustration piled onto the companies that work with them, to MPs, to government? You know, it is a bit one sided, a bit.

 

Nish Kumar You know. There’s a part of me that’s like, listen, we need to be balanced about this issue and we need to maybe target our frustrations, more socio politically powerful people. But on the other hand, fuck Jordan Henderson.

 

Coco Khan Well, you know, it’s like we say, why not do both? You can attack the politicians, but also him. You’re completely right. You know, people really care about those causes, and he just borrowed them for what? Clout on the ballot for office. But really, doesn’t it?

 

Nish Kumar What I will say is I have enough anger for all of them. I have enough rage within me to go around this now. Sure. Want my anger is a permanent renewable source of energy. If only we could work out a way to power a building through my sheer righteous, ultimately futile indignation.

 

Coco Khan You know, people talk a lot about an abundance mentality, and normally it’s about love, actually, you know, we have deep wells of love and we can share around. I’ve nobody heard about anger. And, you know, maybe this is your moment.

 

Nish Kumar I have an abundance of hate. My cup runneth over. Abundance of hate would be a good Russell ignites me.

 

Coco Khan Yeah, that would be good.

 

Nish Kumar Well, look, get us back to a more positive track by name. You’ll hear over the week who I believe is somebody who is absolutely pursued an extremely worthy cause.

 

Coco Khan Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know if I should say it’s a positive story. It definitely isn’t. It’s just heartbreaking, to be completely honest with you. But she is undoubtedly a hero. She’s a fellow journalist peer Mera P Mills. Basically, one of the worst things that could ever happen to a person happened to her. Her daughter, Martha was just 13 years old when I, you know, a cycling accident on a family holiday happened. And yeah, she ended up passing away from it. And the thing that’s obviously all of it’s very tragic and horrific. But one of the things that’s particularly traffic is that she could have survived, you know, a an investigation into her death, ruled that the care in the hospital that she was in, it just wasn’t good enough. And, you know, when you hear these stories about, like care not being right in hospitals, NHS hospitals, we often think it must be an underfunding thing. But actually that wasn’t really the case here. Rather, what happened is just the family. They just weren’t being listened to. They were almost being managed. They couldn’t cause a fuss. But of course when you do that to to to patients and the patients families or patients carer, you kind of stop them from advocating for their patient. You take away a little bit of their power. As it turns out, you know, Mary and her family were advocating for Martha, saying that she needs to be seen, she needs to be seen. And they were keeping information from them and making it harder for them to be heard. And in the end, sadly, the mill family were right and the doctors were wrong. She did need urgent care. She didn’t get it. And now she’s you know, they all have to live with that grief. Merapi is now campaigning for something called Martha’s Rule, which would give patients of families the right to a second opinion from other medics in the hospital. As part of this campaign, she’s put together models of how it can work from across the globe. She’s analyzed if it could overwhelm doctors and NHS trusts. And the answer is not, Look, you know, it’s amazing work and doing all of that through grief is incredible. I cannot possibly do justice to Merapi and Martha’s and the Mills family’s heartbreaking story. Merapi has been writing about it in The Guardian. I’d really urge you to read it. It’s it’s very touching read. And she also spoke with Michelle Hussein on the Today program is an interview that will move you to tears. Here’s a clip now.

 

Clip I think about her. All the time. Every day. And. He had one of the world’s greatest laughs as a gift to the world. Laugh. It was the sort of laugh that was an invitation to be part of whatever she. Was finding funny and the joy she was getting out of life. And every day I see something I want to show her or tell her. Just so I can see her smile like that again. I think about what she’d be doing. On how much fun she would be having and how much fun she’s already missed. And I hope that in having these conversations we can stop all the people going through this horror.

 

Coco Khan So through Mera P’s campaigning and of course, the Mills family’s work around this, Wes Streeting has confirmed that Labour will write Martha’s rules into the NHS Constitution. And Steve Barclay said he’s looking at introducing it as well. So look, those rules could take time. But the fact that she did all of that, that the family did all that for that grief is just incredible. And I honestly think it will change lives. I’ve never been in the situation that they have been, you know, thankfully. But as someone who has caring responsibilities, who’s been in hospital wards, you know, families have a really crucial role, particularly when you’re looking at, you know, changing staff. You might not always have the full picture being that constant presence in the ward, you know, is valuable. And I think it can change lives and change outcomes. And that deserves to be recognized and for the patients and their families to be heard. So yeah, Anyway, Mera P, total hero and our hero of the Week.

 

Nish Kumar Lots of reaction in our mailbag to last week’s interview with Matt Shay, the documentary filmmaker who took us into the murky world of misogynist Andrew Tate.

 

Coco Khan So Sam from West Virginia has also emailed in. He says he’s seen Tate pop up in his nephew Social feeds and has tried to talk to him about it, but is worried that he will end up just denouncing him too emphatically. His nephew will no longer be comfortable asking him questions. Sam says until recently, he’d given up on trying to define healthy masculinity as it reinforces a binary notion of gender that he thinks is demonstrably wrong. But he says if people like us are bad in the field, then many young men will simply seek answers to their questions about masculinity from phonies like Tate. So what do I want to tell my nephew about what it means to be a good man? For me, it means caring about other people. It means empathizing with folks who have completely different life experiences than mine. It might also mean being brave, but not necessarily in the cartoonish action hero sense. Instead, for me, bravery might just mean sharing some part of me that I am afraid to show someone else. P.S. In the wildly unlikely event that any of you ever visit West Virginia, let me know and I’ll take you hiking or rafting. What a nice offer.

 

Nish Kumar And I thought that was a really, really interesting thing from Sam. Thanks very much for contacting us. And I really think, yeah, defining what masculinity looks like and also considering a different version of what bravery looks like and allowing it to encompass things like emotional openness and willingness to discuss mental health is a really, really important thing. I would say if we do end up in West Virginia and we do end up on a hiking rafting trip, I will not be an asset to that trip. I think Coco would be great. I would suggest we all get together. You and Coco go for a hike in Iraq and I’ll meet you in a bar afterwards.

 

Coco Khan Yeah, Yeah. You know, as you say, there’s different ways to show bravery and go, Yes, I see you. I’m like, Just this is an aside, but I actually really would like to do something like that in America. So if any of our listeners suggestions like I really want to do the sort of, you know, America, yeah, I really want to do those sort of experiences like see some trucks fly each other or something. Do you think about that?

 

Nish Kumar I got no interest and I’ll tell you why. I’ve got no interest. I have no interest in whitewater rafting, because when I was a kid, one of the films, me and my brother of my parents would watch over and over again is The River Wild, which is what I imagine a very, very serviceable 1990 thriller. And I’ll be honest with you, doesn’t look fun like a suit. As we go out whitewater rafting, I’d be worried about being taken hostage by Kevin Bacon. That would be my number one concern. Let’s finish with a marketing suggestion from Andrew McCall, who says, Is it wrong that I want Coco to do? Nadine Dorries is audiobook and a Jason Statham voice. I’m sure its content would destroy my sanity, but it would be a hell of a way to go.

 

Coco Khan Oh, that’s really nice. Surely it would be better to get actual Jason Statham to do it.

 

Nish Kumar Listen.

 

Coco Khan Is he doing much?

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, he’s got he’s always got a film coming out constantly. The man is an absolute sausage factory of solid action thrillers. If anyone does have an end with Jason Statham and would be willing to have him read small sections of Nadine Dorries is book out, we would be happy to broadcast.

 

Coco Khan Do we know that he’s on? Is he on Cameo? Do we know? I think that’s it for us. That’s a piece of work for us to do next.

 

Nish Kumar I imagine if Slater is on Cameo, that’s a really, really extremely expensive cameo.

 

Coco Khan Okay, so anyway, next crowdfunder for the UK. We’ll do a whip round to get Jason Statham to do some clips. That seems like a good use of money.

 

Nish Kumar If we have a whip round for anything, it’s surely got to be to try and pay for a pull to cupboard in a kid’s skull. Yeah, I really feel like, given that we talked about all the money that’s been wasted, the worst thing we could do is go. And now, if you would like to donate to our crowdfunder to get Jason Statham to read out a bit of why imaginable the worst work written in the English language, please donate here.

 

Coco Khan You can get in touch with us by emailing PS UK at reduced listening dot co dot UK. You can also send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514644572. Internationally, that’s +447514644572. I reckon in a few more episodes I’ll have this memorized. You know, this is the only number that I say out loud, unless it’s like 111 occasionally. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what we’ve discussed on this episode, or you can nominate your own heroes and villains, or just asks a question, you know, as your favorite political agony aunt and uncle. Email us at PSUK at Reduced Listening Dot co dot UK. Pod Save the U.K. is a reduced listing production for Crooked Media.

 

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

 

Coco Khan Video editing was by David Koplovitz and the music is by Vasilis Fotopolous.

 

Nish Kumar Thanks to our engineer David Dugahe.

 

Coco Khan The executive producers are Louise Cotton, Dan Jackson and Madeleine Heringer with additional production support from Ari Schwartz.

 

Nish Kumar Watch us on Pod Save the World YouTube Channel, and follow us on Twitter, Tik Tok or Instagram, where we’re at Pod Save the UK.

 

Coco Khan And hit Subscribe for new shows on Thursdays on Spotify, Amazon or Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

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