The MP who gives away part of her salary, hope for Northern Ireland and Nish Kumar takes on the evil plotters | Crooked Media
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February 01, 2024
Pod Save the UK
The MP who gives away part of her salary, hope for Northern Ireland and Nish Kumar takes on the evil plotters

In This Episode

After nearly two years without a functioning Government, are the people of Northern Ireland finally about to see the power-sharing executive return to Stormont? Nish and Coco reflect on a dramatic week with journalist Amanda Ferguson.

 

The Labour MP Nadia Whittome talks of her frustration at her party’s stance on calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict, but says Labour’s position is now evolving. She insists the party is still a broad church but admits it is a problem that there are no MPs from the left in Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet. She also tells Nish and Coco why she donates part of her MP salary to worthy causes – in stark contrast to the Tory MP who resigned from his ministerial role because it didn’t pay enough! 

 

Coco celebrates the drag artist Crystal for taking down a high-profile right-wing troll, while Nish is left exasperated by the Tory ‘evil plotters’ WhatsApp group. Plus we find out why Coco wants a beard, and relive Nish’s childhood barbershop trauma.

 

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

 

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Guests:

Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Nottingham East

Amanda Ferguson, freelance journalist 

 

Audio credits:

BBC

Sky News

X/MANPalestine Action

 

 

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 On today’s show. The return to Stormont.

 

Coco Khan Just days before the two year anniversary of the collapse of powersharing. All the people of Northern Ireland finally getting their government back.

 

Nish Kumar And what’s it like to be a 20 something MP working in a crumbling old building, surrounded by equally crumbling old MPs?

 

Coco Khan One time baby of the house, Nadia Whittome, will be here to tell us what turned her into politics so young, and why it’s important for young people’s views and experiences to be represented in Parliament.

 

Nish Kumar Hi, Coco.

 

Coco Khan Sorry.

 

Nish Kumar Why are you immediately laughing?

 

Coco Khan I just don’t know. I feel like. I feel like you put me on the spot.

 

Nish Kumar Why am I going to put you on the spot? All I ever ask you is how are you and what’s happened / happening in your week? Do me a favor. Don’t ever be grilled on the news. If, if. What have you been up to is causing you to crumble mentally.

 

Coco Khan I’ve just had just one of those things. Like lots of deadlines all on top of each other. So I’ve been working a lot. And one of the things I find, I don’t know if the same for you, but when I go through these periods where I’m working a lot, these sprint periods where I’m really involved.

 

Yeah.

 

I go, I just go completely feral, basically.

 

Nish Kumar What do you mean, completely feral?

 

Coco Khan Just like.

 

Nish Kumar Is that rubbing yourself in mud and living in the trees?

 

Coco Khan No. Just like when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I’m like, oh, fucking hell. You know, like, I look unkempt, I look unclean, I find that I go through these because also I’m not seeing anyone. I’m quite a social animal, as you know about me.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan So if I don’t see people, it’s like I become. I lose my civil, civilizational skills.

 

Nish Kumar I think it’s just hard for people to, compute you being completely feral because obviously a lot of people listen to the podcast, but also you can watch the podcast on YouTube and you obviously look extremely put together. And I look like I’ve come to the studio every week fresh from being on the run from the police, like every week, it looks like somebody found me in a hedge.

 

Coco Khan But that’s but that’s very on trend.

 

Nish Kumar Is it?

 

Coco Khan Yeah. If you know, you know, everybody’s doing it, darling. Timothy Charlemagne, he’s also doing this is.

 

Nish Kumar I’m not sure there’s any comparison between me and Timothy. Shannon might be legitimate, but it’s there.

 

Coco Khan And if I find old pictures of you, is there a moment where you were trying out a different look?

 

Nish Kumar No.

 

Coco Khan Are you doing a kind of like I’m David Gandy moment? I’m looking into the middle distance. I am, you know, chiseled, I am clean.

 

Nish Kumar No, there’s never been a period of that in 2020 when we were doing when I was doing a TV show from my house because of the pandemic, I tried to trim my beard and accidentally shaved the whole thing off. And my girlfriend said I looked like the 18 year old intern, and she didn’t mean it as a compliment. She wasn’t like it’s taken years off you, she’s like, you look awful. You look genuinely terrible.

 

Coco Khan I’d love to see you without a beard. You got any photos?

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, I’ve got loads of photos. I’ll. I’ll be on. I’ll post them on. I’ll. I’ll send them to the producers and they can put them on the YouTube clips.

 

Coco Khan It’s funny because you can know someone so well, but do you really know them if you haven’t seen their chin?

 

Nish Kumar I, I think I look considerably worse without a beard. My mum’s like, you should get rid of the beard, but when I was a kid.

 

Coco Khan That’s what all mums are like.

 

Nish Kumar My mum used to make me. My mum used to tell the hairdressers that I had a side parting, which obviously for my hair is impossible. It’s absolutely impossible. So these people would. These poor hairdressers would try and find the side parting in the nest that is my hair, and I’d end up coming out of it looking like Samuel L Jackson in Unbreakable, where he’s got this sort of lopsided afro.

 

Coco Khan Aww, I love the idea of baby lopsided Nish. That’s so sweet. My last question about the beard, because I’ve always.

 

Nish Kumar Wanted to have a beard.

 

Coco Khan Yeah. Kind of. Yeah. I like the aspect of because sometimes I put on different hats. When I put on a different. I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean, like I have hats and sometimes I wear different hats. It’s amazing how people treat you differently. If I wear a cap, I get one response. If I wear a hat, you know, with a brim.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan I might. I get a different response.

 

Nish Kumar Well, if I.

 

Coco Khan So if you wear a beard I’m just curious.

 

Nish Kumar If I trim my beard nicely. I look like as a respectable businessman. Yeah. At the moment, I look like I’ve been on the run from the law. And if I shave it into a mustache, I immediately go on a register.

 

Coco Khan How low can you get it? How long can you get it?

 

Nish Kumar How long can I get my beard? It goes long.

 

Coco Khan Really? Yeah.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, yeah.

 

Coco Khan Like I’m a. I’m a teacher of wisdom. Do you talk in that level of beard?

 

Nish Kumar No, no, no. It’s like, I’m wanted for war crime somewhere.

 

Coco Khan Okay.

 

Nish Kumar It’s it’s full. Like you’re watching this VHS of me threatening the West. Imagine having no proper, functioning government for nearly two years. That’s been the reality for the people of Northern Ireland. But it seems the white might finally be over. Following a tense meeting of the Democratic Unionist parties executive in County Down, which lasted over five hours. The DUP’s leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, finally emerged at 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning to confirm that an agreement had been reached for them to return to a powersharing government.

 

Clip We recognize that significant further advances have been achieved through these negotiations, and the details of the new package of measures will be published by the UK government in due course. This package, I believe, safeguards Northern Ireland’s place in the Union and will restore our place within the UK internal market. It will remove checks for goods moving within the UK and remaining in Northern Ireland, and will end Northern Ireland automatically following future EU laws.

 

Coco Khan The DUP calls the collapse of the country’s devolved government the Northern Irish Assembly, nearly two years ago, when they walked out in protest against post-Brexit trade agreements that have created trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We discussed this in an earlier episode of this podcast with the Sdlp’s Matthew O’Toole. That is definitely worth listening back to. Well, we also discussed the toll a lack of a functioning government has had on the country.

 

Nish Kumar Now, look, it’s worth explaining. The Northern Ireland government operates under a power sharing model devised as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Unlike a more usual political coalition where at least two parties agree to govern together, it’s mandatory for Northern Ireland’s political parties to share power. There must be representatives from both nationalist parties who want Irish unity and unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK.

 

Coco Khan The details of the deal agreed between the DUP and the government, will be presented in the Commons later today after we record this, but let’s talk to Belfast based journalist Amanda Ferguson, who’s been following developments from Stormont.

 

Nish Kumar Amanda, thank you so much for joining us. Can you just talk us through the dramatic events of the week that have brought us to this point today?

 

Amanda Ferguson What we’ve seen this week is Sir Jeffrey Donaldson finally moved to a position where he can make a decision and get the endorsement of his party and to head back into the power-sharing government. So the DUP had quite dramatic and meetings, had protests outside and had lots of very tired reporters waiting around. And there had been a press conference scheduled for for a half ten that didn’t end up taking place until one in the morning. And it was in a whiskey distillery, though, so I did have a little dram while I was there. But essentially, essentially what what we know is that while Sir Jeffrey Donaldson acknowledges that what he’s achieved for his party and for unionists in Northern Ireland isn’t perfect, it’s a it’s a vast improvement on what was there before and those post-Brexit trading arrangements that he had such concerns about. He feels more reassured about the UK government’s position, and the UK and the EU have agreed, and that, Northern Ireland’s place in the internal UK market is restored as unionists would view it, and then also the constitutional concerns that unionists have for kind of already taken care of by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace deal. So the peace deal was always very clear that Northern Ireland is a conditional part of the United Kingdom. Unless and until a majority of people would vote for something different. Now the UK government is going to offer a unionist reassurance on that. And I’m restate Northern Ireland’s place in the UK, but I think that is more for comfort than it really added. Sort of much weight to anything. So we’re still waiting for the details of the agreement between the DUP and the government, but at what stage will we know with any certainty what’s going to be in it? Well, the details have literally just been posted in the last couple of minutes as I’ve been talking to you as. So it’s essentially going to to show that the, that the Northern Ireland, place in the UK internal market that the there’ll be a reduction on trade on all the checks that that are due to take place. The and Northern Ireland will diverge from the rest of the UK. And in a way that is upsetting to unionists. And I think that the fact that the other political parties who aren’t, of a unionist persuasion, you know, seem quite relaxed about what’s likely, to be outlined this afternoon. It’s quite, you know, an important note because it is a power sharing government in Northern Ireland. So essentially, what we’re going to have is sequencing over the next couple of days of everyone getting to pore over the detail of what’s been agreed by the UK. And, the DUP. And then we’re going to see a move to recall the Assembly, have, speaker elected and then have first ministers, elected and then get back to the, to the normal sort of functioning devolved government that you would expect it in most jurisdictions. But the list of problems for the incoming executive is extremely long.

 

Nish Kumar And is there a chance that any of this could be derailed?

 

Amanda Ferguson There’s always a possibility of a last minute spanner in the works, but, all of the sequencing so far is pointing towards a recall. The current speaker, Alex Maskey, sent out a directive this afternoon essentially, alerting MLAs to be on standby at short notice, for a meeting of the assembly. So unless something major happens, you know, this is sort of 99% there. And I wouldn’t want to say that things couldn’t fall apart, but it’s, it’s unlikely that they would at this stage. They’ve got quite a lot of work to do, even though. Two years without a government. Yeah. The health service is in a mess. Public sector workers are on strike. There’s going to be. A strike action that takes place tomorrow. The public transport workers strike still is going ahead because members have been balloted and and they are not holding out for a promise. While it looks very likely that their government is going to be back by the weekend, early next week at the very latest. They still haven’t got their pay claim honored. And also the money that’s part of the 3.3 billion daily, that the UK government agreed with, the parties that are eligible to form government, about 600 million of that is for public sector workers pay. But that doesn’t explain exactly how it’s going to be divvied up. And it doesn’t include future pay can sort of margin that the trade unions will be looking very carefully at what’s been agreed.

 

Nish Kumar Okay. Amanda, thank you so much for joining us.

 

[AD]

 

Coco Khan Our guest today is the labor MP for Nottingham East, Nadia Whittome. She entered Parliament in 2019 when she was just 23, which at time made her the official baby of the house.

 

Nish Kumar I was trying to remember what I was doing when I was 23, and I’m pretty sure that was the year I got so drunk that I fell asleep, on a train leaving London that was supposed to go to Croydon. And I woke up in Brighton because I wasn’t.

 

Nadia Whittome Oh that’s better than waking up in Croydon. Let me say.

 

Nish Kumar That’s where my family’s from. Nadia.

 

Nadia Whittome My family’s originally from Croydon, too.

 

Nish Kumar Really? Yeah. I’m trying to envisage myself at 23, and I can’t understand how it would have felt for me to walk into Parliament. What was that like for you?

 

Nadia Whittome Oh, it was. It was so wild. Honestly, it was such a baptism of fire because I got selected. So like voted by local party members to be the candidate. Just I think it was the day before the snap election was called. And that was kind of the first shock, because no one expected the 23 year old to win this election. And then we were straight into this campaign. Got elected on early hours of Friday morning in Parliament on Monday getting sworn in. It was it was such a baptism of fire.

 

Nish Kumar What made you stand as a as an MP? You know, especially at that sort of young age. It’s incredible.

 

Nadia Whittome It it wasn’t the plan and it being able to choose my time. It wouldn’t have been that time. But I guess like that was the kind of time that presented itself. Right. And the reason I joined the Labor Party and got active in politics was because of the bedroom tax. That was back in 2013.

 

Nish Kumar Just remind people what the bedroom tax is.

 

Nadia Whittome So this was the the policy that was introduced by the Tory led coalition government. That meant that if you live in a council home and you’ve got a spare room in your house, then you have to pay an extra tax on it. And I was so angry about this that we’d had three years of austerity by that point. I was sick of like, benefits being cut, like access to services, just being so short that, you know, I was seeing friends just waiting for what felt like forever on mental health waiting lists, on cams, waiting lists and, yeah. So I got involved in the labor policy. Bedroom tax was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Really, even though it didn’t affect, us affected lots of people in my community.

 

Coco Khan One thing that’s well known about you is that when you became an MP, you pledged to keep just 35,000 pounds of your then 86,000 pounds yearly salary keeps you in line with the national average, and you donate the rest to good causes. Why did you decide to do that? And how is that going?

 

Nadia Whittome So my take home is 35 K rather than the the salary. So I take home 35 K and I donate the rest to local causes. Organizations in my community that are fighting austerity, that are serving the community in the face of these really brutal cuts. And that’s because, well, firstly, I think it’s kind of a representative principle that if you come to Parliament as a workers representative, I didn’t want to be on a wage that massively separated me from the community that I represent. And it’s still like quite a lot of money. It’s more than I was raised on. It’s more than a lot of people earn. But it’s also about like, redistributing what I’m earning and sharing it.

 

Coco Khan Well, the subject of MP salaries comes up quite a lot. It’s obviously quite a controversial issue. Just a few days ago, there was a story about the conservative minister, George Freeman. He’s had to resign from his ministerial post because apparently his salary of 118, roughly thousand pounds a year, wasn’t enough to pay his expenses. He’s had a mortgage hike. Many of us are facing that. How do you feel hearing that?

 

Nadia Whittome It’s it’s a slap in the face, isn’t it? I think particularly for for our generation, when he’s complaining about his his mortgage, this is the same policy that says, live within your means. Yeah. And Lee Anderson, the former, deputy chair, saying that people should just look for certain meal recipes. But when when you’re saying that you can’t afford your mortgage on an 118 K salary, and you’re speaking to people who are in the midst of the worst cost of living crisis, the worst housing crisis, like our generation is spending half of their salaries on rent. Rent hikes just happening whenever the landlord fancies it. Whenever the landlord fancies an extra skiing holiday, probably, people are getting evicted like I my my friends who, are living in London in their late 20s, having to like, shell out a grand for one room. Yeah, in a big flat. And how can you even start off? Think of, like, starting a family or living a reasonable, proper life on that?

 

Coco Khan I mean, one of the things and this is just an aside, it always reminds me of, it’s like there’s this particular reality TV trope where they’ll take sometimes a politician or a celebrity, and they make them live like real people. And there’s always this moment where they’re like, oh God, it turns out it’s quite heart. And you have this moment being like, why is this a surprise? Like all those people had been saying for ages, this is really difficult. So I feel like maybe we should invite this minister to be, you know, distanced.

 

Nadia Whittome Even the TV.

 

Coco Khan Show.

 

Nadia Whittome But even that was give him like a a good standard of living. You know, I can get, a delivery when I want, I can I’m not promoting delivery, by the way. Awful, awful workers rights practices. But, you know, like, I have a comfortable life.

 

Coco Khan I know, but when he sits in Commons with his friends who went skiing, he’s going to be, like, so hurt that he couldn’t go to a whatever. Well, if it’s like, you know, he.

 

Nish Kumar Went to marry black was in here on this podcast. She said that she’d been told by an MP who she didn’t like. To be fair, she. But she said she’d been told by an MP that if you’re not a millionaire in this job, you’re doing it wrong. You really fucked up. No idea.

 

Coco Khan Oh, yeah. Are you doing sorry, mate.

 

Nadia Whittome I can that could have been a lot of people, though. It’s.

 

Coco Khan I thought earlier we were discussing the big story of the week, the potential return of a power sharing agreement in Northern Ireland. What’s your reaction to the news?

 

Nadia Whittome I mean, for for the last two years, the people of Northern Ireland have essentially not not had a government that has been run by civil servants on a sort of form of autopilot. Yeah. I’m really relieved to hear, about the, restoration of power sharing. I think it’s also important to remember the reason why we got here in the first place is that the DUP resigned in protest of, of post-Brexit trade agreements. We’re seeing play out. And currently what everybody warned would happen at the time of the Brexit campaign. But I think there was no way near enough attention or scrutiny on that.

 

Nish Kumar And it must be frustrating for you to sit in the house with people who have manufactured that problem and who will now presumably take credit for resolving it.

 

Nadia Whittome Yeah, yeah, exactly. Or just rewrite history, like Andrea Leadsom said that, that people were warned at the time that this might be tough for businesses. I don’t think people leading the Brexit campaign did want that. No, I think they they said the opposite of that.

 

Coco Khan Yeah, yeah.

 

Nish Kumar We were told we were going to be swimming in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

 

Coco Khan But and like my favorite bit, my favorite, I mean, you know, least favorite bit was that when anyone mentioned anything, people would say, stop being negative. I was like, what is this, the hands meeting? I’m just hanging out with my girls. Oh, stop being negative. That’s not politics.

 

Nadia Whittome Like there’s no bad vibes.

 

Coco Khan Exactly.

 

Nish Kumar Nadia, I’d like to talk to you about the difficult position the Labor Party has found itself in. In response to the Israel-Gaza crisis, you were a number of labor MPs who defied the party leadership to vote in support of a ceasefire in Gaza. Jess Phillips resigned as a shadow minister for doing so. Another of your colleagues, the MP Cosmo, has been suspended by the party for adding a reference to Gaza to a tweet marking International Holocaust Day. I just want to play this clip from a recent fundraising event in Stockport, where the deputy leader, Angela Rayner speech was interrupted by a man called Tallulah Nadir, who’d lost his mum, brother, pregnant sister in law and two nieces in the bombing of Gaza.

 

Speaker 7 I guess my family dogs are. Just a second. I want to show you my mum. I lost my family in Gaza. I want to thank you, okay? I just. What kind of fun is. Right. I look like the god. Danny. What can I say? I like my mom. I do not demand the quantifier.

 

Nish Kumar Just to explain to listeners the clip that we’re watching, new hearing, ends with a man being manhandled out of the room, while Angela Rayner looks on. I have no idea. How do you feel seeing obviously very distressing scenes like that playing out.

 

Nadia Whittome Honestly, I just I feel heartbroken for for that man who I cannot. None of us can comprehend the scale of the death and destruction in Gaza. I, I could not imagine losing multiple members of my family while the world sort of just looks on and and shrugs. Essentially 1% of the the whole population has been killed. 2 million people are being deprived of clean water and food that are on the brink of starvation. We’re hearing stories about children who are writing their names on their hands so that when when they’re brought out of the rubble, people know who they are. Children having to bury their younger siblings, amputations being performed without without anesthetic. It’s it’s beyond comprehension. And it’s it’s not surprising that 71% of the UK public supports a cease fire. And I completely agree with them. That is what I’ve been calling for since. Since October.

 

Coco Khan And what’s going on? Why can’t labor adopt this position?

 

Nadia Whittome I have also been frustrated, very frustrated with, Labor’s positioning on this. I’m glad that it has begun to shift, but I think that I still happening too slowly and not far enough. And I think some of the messaging, it can seem quite contradictory. So I understand that, you know, it’s a very fast moving situation and people are being put on the spot in, in media interviews. But the party needs to be very clear about where we stand, and that needs to be in support of an immediate cease fire, for a proper peace process that begins with ending the blockade of Gaza, ending the illegal occupation off of the West Bank, ending illegal settlements. And for a solution that that supports the the rights and the the self-determination of of both peoples. And we need to be clear and consistent.

 

Coco Khan It was good to hear you say that Labor’s shifting a bit on that, because as a labor voter, I’m on the fence at the moment, I’ll be honest. And this whole situation, it’s not it’s not warming me to the cause or to the party. Sorry. I’m really glad to hear that, because I don’t feel that that’s necessarily being communicated to me as someone who’s interested in politics and cares about this issue. I don’t think I’m alone in that, either. The, Guardian’s front page has a story about labor losing support amongst its Muslim community, but also younger people, urban people, millennial people. You know, I mean, there’s a lot of us who are really unhappy. I mean, are you concerned about this loss of support?

 

Nadia Whittome I mean, when I say that we’ve seen a shift now the position is for, a permanent and sustainable cease-fire. But that obviously should have been the position a very long time ago. And. You know, whipping an abstention on the SNP’s amendment that would if, that would have called for the UK parliament to, be pushing for a cease-fire was, in my view, the wrong thing to do. That’s why I voted for that amendment. I am very concerned about not not just about that polling. You know, I’m glad that the polling has happened. I’m glad that it’s been reported that the party is worried about this, because there obviously is an electoral consequence of taking these positions, but it’s also a moral imperative. I’ve received more emails about Israel and Palestine than I have on any other subject since becoming an MP by quite some way. And that’s not just from Muslim constituencies, from constituents of all demographics.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, we should always say and our sister shows Pod Save American Pod Save the World are also very keen to stress this, that the internal debates within the Democrat Party, in the Labor Party are not the priority here. The priority here is, preventing further civilian loss of life, getting hostages released. That’s the important thing here.

 

Coco Khan I worry that we live in very cruel times. The only reason I mention that is because I’m going to ask you about another really cruel thing, in my view, that’s been going on, which is about the safety of Rwanda bill. I know it’s something you care a lot about. It’s something that we care a lot about on this show. And you also went to the, Bibi Stockholm, the accommodation barge, which is moored in Portland off the coast of Dorset. What was that like? What did you make of it?

 

Nadia Whittome It was. It was horrific. I wrote last year to. The Home Secretary twice spoke to Home secretaries because the first time it was well apart from men. And then it was James Cleverly to seek permission to enter the baby Stockholm barge to see for myself. And I did this alongside other MPs. We wanted to see for ourselves the the conditions on board. What is the government hiding? We didn’t get that permission, so I just went anyway and spoke to the people on the air seeking asylum and the conditions that they described to me. They were. It’s like a prison. Health care is completely inadequate. That I spoke to somebody who was a torture survivor. And in the Home Office’s own guidelines, it says that torture survivors should not be housed on this. They’re not asking for for special treatment. They want the right to work so that they can, you know, live normally in the community with everyone else rather than being forced to live on 49 pounds, £0.18 a week. They want the their cases to be dealt with quickly because it’s a political decision to to let this, this backlog grow and build. And they want safe and legal routes. You know, if you want to stop channel boat crossings, then you need to introduce safe and legal routes, because what the what the government’s current policy reads like is like a traffickers charter.

 

Nish Kumar We get quite a lot of correspondence from younger listeners, and a message we often get is a kind of disillusionment with politics in general at the moment. I just want to play this and then ask you a question off the back of it. This voice note has come in from Charlie, and it’s a response to a message we played a few weeks ago.

 

Clip Hello, my name’s Charlie. I’m calling you from Malvern in the Midlands. I was reminded when you had your message from your 18 year old in Shrewsbury, whom said that she had met someone who was not interested in news, not interested in politics to get involved. And it reminded me of friends of mine who have been very reluctant to get off the bombs and vote. And a lot of the time the message is that there isn’t anyone for them to vote for. So I just wanted to get your thoughts on spoiling your ballot paper. A little while ago, a comedian was talking about how valuable that can be and how there are statistics on spoiled ballots. So just wondering what your thoughts are if everybody who didn’t want to vote went to the polling station and spoiled their ballot paper and wrote something useful, like, none of these people represent me or something. Whether that would have any impact at all on, you know, how politics works in this country. It would be amazing if it did. But I don’t know how optimistic I am.

 

Nish Kumar What do you make of that?

 

Nadia Whittome I think that’s completely the wrong strategy. I understand why, why people are very frustrated, about the political system that we live in. I think I think it is a bit of a myth that young people are a political target. We’re a very politicized generation, and we’ve seen that through the the mass mobilizations around climate, not around Gaza. But I think the problem and and what Charlie highlights is people feel disillusioned with mainstream politics. They feel that they’re not listened to by politicians. And I think there’s this vicious circle, isn’t there, with political parties not offering policies for young people to vote. For many young people, they’re not voting. And then political parties not not making that offer. And it’s it’s the responsibility of political parties to break that vicious cycle. I do think it’s extremely important to vote. If you believe that any change at all is possible through Parliament, no matter how minor, in in the grand scheme of things, then it’s important to engage with that parliamentary system. Even if you think that the Labor Party should be offering more. I would like the labor policy to be going further, but I think voting it takes five minutes. You go in, you choose the policy that, well, that will move us furthest towards the the kind of world you want, and then you can spend the rest of your time campaigning for something even better.

 

Coco Khan So can I ask you a question? And this is one that’s been on my mind for a lot. Traditionally, when I voted labor in the past is not because I felt especially represented by every aspect of it, but I knew that there was a big tent, and there were people that were a bit more like minded to me in that tent, and I trusted that that movement together would nudge things in a direction that I wanted to see, things to go right now with the party. My concern is that all the lefties are gone, basically. And so I’m scared that the tent is not big. You are one of those lefties. I’m sure it’s very lonely. I wondered if that idea of the tent, is that something that can still survive? Is that something that exists?

 

Nadia Whittome I completely agree with you. The the broad tent within the party is. Is so important. I think it’s what makes the party stronger. You know, when we listen to each other, when we have disagreements, but we disagree. Well, and, we we do that democratically through debates. Clearly. I mean, there are no, MPs from the left of the party in the Shadow cabinet. I think that is a problem. I would like to see the party listening to to the left. Because I think we still do have a lot of the answers to the crises that we’re facing. You know, things like, a 15 pound, 15 pounds an hour minimum wage that would not only improve people’s lives, put money in their pockets, but that money will go into the local economy and grow the economy. Things like rent controls. That would mean that people can actually have security rather than being scared off of their landlord, increasing their rent whenever they want to. And I think it’s really important for, for those views to be listened to and taken on board if we’re to have a chance of fighting the cost of living crisis and fighting the climate crisis.

 

[AD]

 

Coco Khan So you were on the front cover of the Gay times recently. They awarded you for their Their Future Fighter title. Congratulations for a start.

 

Nadia Whittome Thank you.

 

Coco Khan Very well deserved. Hearing you speak there, I’m like, yeah, future fire. I can hear it. I can hear it. You’re a huge supporter of the LGBTQ community, so I wanted to ask you about what the fuck is going on with this trans debate. Oh, my God.

 

Nadia Whittome I don’t think it will go away if an election is called. Because the Tories have already said that they, that they intend to fight the election on cultural issues. Yeah.

 

Nish Kumar Every week in PMQs, Rishi Sunak, regardless of the question he’s asked, seems to bring it up, which I mean, points. It seems like he’s, he’s lost complete contact with reality.

 

Nadia Whittome Or is he playing a drinking game? Or is he like.

 

Nish Kumar It is a culture war drinking game. It’s, boat crossings Keir Starmer doesn’t know what a woman is like. It really is like, it’s it’s a bingo card of absolute prejudice at this point. Like, I’m. I feel nothing but like, sympathy for the transgender community because it’s just being used as a political football. I mean, what’s it like for you as a representative of the wider LGBTQIA community?

 

Coco Khan I guess its the tenor as well. It’s so nasty. It definitely feels that like any level of decorum or respect on this issue is just gone. Disappeared.

 

Nadia Whittome It’s it’s disgraceful. And it like the, the way that it’s being weaponized, you know, like we we laugh about Rishi Sunak bringing this up at every opportunity even when there isn’t an opportunity. But like this is people’s lives and it’s incredibly serious. What we’re seeing is the, the Tory government and the right wing press. They’re waging an ideological war on just the, the right of trans people to simply live their lives. And already the trans community and of course, the the wider LGBTQ community faces massive discrimination. Two and three young trans people, a bullied at school because of their gender identity. Trans people face disproportionate rates of domestic and sexual violence. People are waiting seven years just for an initial NHS assessment and then, you know, sometimes taking their own lives as they’re languishing on those waiting lists. But instead of improving that situation, we’re going backwards. And even when I look back to when I was elected first in in 2019, at that time, the conservative government had promised to ban conversion therapy and to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier to get a gender recognition certificate. Now they’ve they’ve dropped, that pledge to, to ban conversion therapy. And instead of reforming the the Gender Recognition Act to make it better, they’re talking about. They say reforming, but, watering down the Equality Act, changing it to remove the rights and protections that we already have. And yeah, this is this is because they’re using trans people and sometimes it’s trans people, sometimes it’s migrants. Sometimes it’s people of color. But they will always use a scapegoat to divide and rule, to say to people, it’s, it’s not us who are responsible for your for your problems, for your drop in living standards. It’s this, this boogeyman that will continue, particularly as the Tories. I focused on that during an election time because they have no solutions to offer, because they don’t have any solutions. They’re the ones who caused the problems in the first place.

 

Coco Khan So just before you go, we want to ask you just for your reaction to the news that shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves confirmed that labor wouldn’t be bringing back the banker bonus cap.

 

Nadia Whittome Obviously, I’m very disappointed by that news, but that’s not going to stop me from fighting. Not just for bankers bonuses to be caps. You know, this was something that was introduced, after the 2008 financial crash, and it’s ever more relevant and necessary now that we’ve got a massive gulf between the very rich and the very poor. And that inequality is, is only growing. But we also need things like wealth taxes, like, to redress that balance, to redistribute wealth and power in this country, but also, you know, so to fund our public services. And that doesn’t have to be very, very radical. Like you could, for example, equalize capital gains and income tax. Something so radical that the Tory chancellor, Nigel Lawson, was in support of it.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, yeah.

 

Nadia Whittome That would raise 8 billion pounds a year. Yeah. And these are the things that we, the Labor Party is going to have to look at in government.

 

Coco Khan Because I always keep saying they don’t want to turn the taps on but turn them on. I’m thirsty. Everybody’s parched. It’s hard not to get disillusioned when you hear things like that. But you think that I mean, look, you’re still in the party. You still believe in the power of the party. And I just want to just hear from you. Like, should we still have faith in them?

 

Nadia Whittome I don’t think it’s about having faith. I don’t think we should have faith in in anyone but our our collective power to to make sure that things happen. And I absolutely think that people need to vote labor at the next election. We need to get the Tories out. And we we need to bring ourselves closer to the kind of world that, that we need.

 

Nish Kumar Nadia, thank you so much for coming in. We really appreciate your time and good luck with the next year. It’s a big old campaign.

 

Coco Khan Yes.

 

Nish Kumar We so appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.

 

Nadia Whittome No, thank you so much for having me. It’s been fun.

 

Nish Kumar [AD].

 

Nish Kumar Coco. Who’s your PSUK hero of the week?

 

Coco Khan So my hero of the week is the drag artist Crystal for taking on and beating the actor turned rightwing troll Laurence Fox. So a High Court judge has ruled that Laurence Fox, former GB news host and leader of the Reclaim Party, did libel Crystal, whose real name is Colin Seymour, as well as Stonewall trustee Simon Blake and actor Nicola Thorp. Nish’s mate.

 

Nish Kumar My friend.

 

Coco Khan Exactly.

 

Nish Kumar Congratulations to them all.

 

Coco Khan Well, Fox called them all pedos.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan Called your mate?

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan A pedo, right? Which is not really cool for anyone.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan And that was in a heated exchange on Twitter, so there was quite a lot of counterclaims. Fox claim that he’d been defamed when Kristol called him a racist, for example. And it is all a bit complicated, but the judgment was emphatic. Mrs. Justice Collins Rice said foxes comments were seriously harmful, defamatory and baseless. Doing a victory lap of the TV studios the next day, Crystal absolutely went for it. She pulled no punches in in commenting. What a nasty man. He’d been through the proceedings and really hitting home why it was significant and why it was important to not let these comments slide. But she did it all in high heels and dressed up like Elle from Legally Blond. So, listen, that’s the only way to dress after legal victory, so it’s quite fabulous.

 

Clip I think if I’d known at the outset that it was going to be three and a half years later that we’d still be talking about this, I may have thought twice, but. Honestly. He’s he he’s a bully. And and accusations of pedophilia against people in the queer community against drag queens. These are old, old tropes. And, I didn’t want to stand for it. I didn’t want to let that slide. I honestly felt like if I didn’t pursue this to the very end, that it was a tacit admission as well. I needed to I needed to see it through and make it clear that there was no basis in fact to this.

 

Coco Khan So that clip was from Sky news. Oh, poor Crystal. So she wasn’t able to celebrate the victory with a few drinks, as you’d kind of expect, because she agreed to do that appearance on Sky. That meant a 3 a.m. start to fit in two hours of meticulous drag makeup. So listen for taking on and beating one of the, I’d say, highest profile right wing trolls out there and doing it while looking fabulous. Is anyone here of the week? And it’s got to be Crystal.

 

Nish Kumar Absolutely outstanding choice.

 

Coco Khan So Nish, who’s your villain of the week?

 

Nish Kumar It’s Tory MP and trade and industry secretary Kemi Badenoch. Good old Kemi. She was doing the rounds, in the TV studios at the weekend. She was on Laura Kuenssberg show on the BBC, and she’s been urging unity and urging the Conservative Party to get behind Rishi Sunak.

 

Clip After Liz Truss left. I stood, I stood up and said, I’m not running again. Rishi is the person who should do the job, and I did so because I’d worked with him in the Treasury. I knew he had a handle on the economy, but also I saw just during that previous leadership campaign just how many nasty and unpleasant personal attacks that he had been getting. And I thought, this is a good guy. He does the right thing and that’s the team I want to be on, not on the team of the bullies or the people putting out nasty personal abuse, but on the team of people who are focused on delivering for the country.

 

Nish Kumar Then, later on in the week, it was revealed that she was the member of a conservative WhatsApp group called Evil Plotters. That’s the name of the WhatsApp group is Evil Plotters. I’m sick of the country being governed by banter. Yeah, I’m absolutely sick to the back teeth of it. You know, organizing a stag or hen do. You’re supposed to be running the country. The focus of the Conservative Party is on its own survival, its own self-immolation. So Kemi is pretty Machiavellian in her villainy. She sort of largely has gone under the radar. She’s been letting other people do her dirty work while she sits back and waits for the opportunity to take over as leader. We’ve discussed on the show when the kind Andrews was on, that he still believes she’s going to be Britain’s first black prime minister. But the fact that she has been talking about how they need to be more unified whilst also being a member of, this evil plotters WhatsApp group, is an absolute hypocrisy. You know, we’re at the point where, a lot of the people that work within the NHS are suggesting that they need to declare a state of emergency to help save the service. There are real crises going on in this country, but once again, the government of the day is solely focused on its own internal psychodrama. And Kemi Badenoch this week is the protagonist of that psychodrama that distracts from the real issues of governing the country. I also can’t fucking stand to bear in mind that I feel like we don’t talk about this enough. Carrie admitted that in 2008, she hacked Harriet Harman’s website in order to put up a fake post saying that she was supporting Boris Johnson to be London mayor. The thing about conservatives is they are exactly who you think. Instead of going out and getting hammered like most people in their late 20s, she was hacking labor MPs websites to spread bullshit about them.

 

Coco Khan Oh, so I think the only person that can use evil plotters is Stephen King.

 

Nish Kumar They. It’s pathetic. Okay. Can we is there a way that we can make a decree that ministers can’t have whatsapps like they could only use WhatsApp so that personal use WhatsApp groups are for like talking about the traitors and planning weekends away. They’re not for governing the fucking country.

 

Coco Khan I mean, I agree with all of the above, but just as an aside, what is the weirdest name you’ve had in for WhatsApp?

 

Nish Kumar Oh, I mean, so many. It’s it’s come to the point where you look at WhatsApp groups. Sometimes you think, I don’t even remember what this in-joke is a reference to. I have no clue what this in-joke is a reference to. What does Popping your socks on it acts on it mean? I don’t know, I don’t know, but I’ve got 25 messages on my phone from it from.

 

Coco Khan From popping your socks on it?

 

Nish Kumar Popping your socks on it. No idea.

 

Coco Khan Popping your socks on it?

 

Nish Kumar That’s a genuine name of a WhatsApp group.

 

Coco Khan I don’t know what those words were you said.

 

Nish Kumar Absolutely no idea. Absolutely no idea. By all means, listeners, send us your weirdest named WhatsApp group.

 

Coco Khan Yes, I’d love to hear it.

 

Nish Kumar Send us the name of a WhatsApp group that you can’t remember why it’s called that.

 

Coco Khan So while we’re on the subject of WhatsApp, we should say that former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is in front of the Covid inquiry as we speak, she’s been quizzed about her WhatsApp. She says she did not use informal communications like WhatsApp to reach decisions or to have substantial discussions. She’s been questioned by lead counsel Jamie Dawson KC. Sturgeon admitted to deleting her messages, but said that everything of relevance was available on the public record.

 

Nish Kumar And next week we’ll be joined by Nicola Sturgeon’s successor as Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf. So if you’ve got a question for him, send it to us by emailing PSUK at Reduced Listening dot co dot UK. It’s also always nice to hear your voices. So do send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514 644572. Internationally, that’s +44 7514 644572. We want to hear your weird ass named WhatsApp group, and I will be changing ours from PSUK discussion to Coco Khan’s Weird Dreams.

 

Coco Khan Don’t forget to follow Pod Save the UK on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find us on YouTube for access to full episodes and other exclusive content. And if you’re as opinionated as we are, consider leaving us a review.

 

Nish Kumar Our WhatsApp group is just called PSUK.

 

Coco Khan I know it’s so awful we should get another one.

 

Nish Kumar I’m changing that this week.

 

Coco Khan Oh really?

 

Nish Kumar Coco’s weird dreams? I’m trying to get to Coco’s weird dreams as soon as we finish recording.

 

Coco Khan Oh because this whole. This whole podcast is a weird dream.

 

Nish Kumar Oh come on, this isn’t Dallas. Another up to date reference for our younger listeners.

 

Coco Khan I didn’t even get that. What is that?

 

Nish Kumar There was a whole plotline in the soap Dallas, the IT soap. That was completely undone when it was revealed it was one of the characters dreams.

 

Coco Khan Really? Listen, they don’t make TV like that anymore.

 

Nish Kumar They don’t make tv like that anymore.

 

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

 

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

 

Coco Khan Video editing by Will Darken and the music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.

 

Nish Kumar Thanks to our engineer David Dugahe.

 

Coco Khan The executive producers are Anushka Sharma, Dan Jackson and Madeleine Herringer. With additional support from Ari Schwartz.

 

Nish Kumar Remember to hit subscribe for new shows on Thursdays on Amazon, Spotify or Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

Coco Khan You could do, like, a little fade out. Dreamy music now.

 

Nish Kumar Wake up, Coco, wake up. It was all a dream. The Tories didn’t win the 2010 election.

 

Coco Khan Wow. Wow.