On this week’s episode we're wondering whether Theresa May can weather this latest storm, speaking to a robot expert (and a literal robot), and getting the inside story of male allyship workshops.
The Prime Minister’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed since her disastrous election, but a yuletide season of relative calm has been replaced by her greatest challenge yet. 'Lead or go': that’s what James Forsyth says in this week’s cover piece, as pressure mounts on Theresa May to cobble together something resembling an agenda. He joins the podcast along with Giles Kenningham who worked at No.10 under David Cameron. As James writes:
"The Prime Minister is either unwilling or unable to tackle the single biggest question facing the country: what will the ‘end-state’ relationship with the EU look like? We have barely more detail now than when she delivered her Lancaster House speech more than a year ago. Is this because May doesn’t dare to be specific, as she knows she’ll disappoint — at the very least — one wing of her party? Or because she can’t decide? Tories who complain that civil servants have captured the process are aiming at the wrong target. They are only filling a vacuum where the political leadership ought to be."
When it comes to robots, it feels like it’s the ‘killer’ and ‘sex’ varieties that hog the headlines, but there is actually a much more realistic use for the technology: social care. Can a carer robot ever replace the intimacy of human contact, asks Simon Ings in the magazine this week, or will we have to lower our expectations before the automaton takeover? He joined the show along with Sanbot, a new care bot from Robots of London. As Simon observes:
"The question is not whether we should employ robots. Given the lousiness of some institutions, why on earth wouldn’t we? The question is whether the robots we employ will be any good, and whether we can accept them as substitute humans. We’d like to think not, but there’s evidence to suggest that we’ll bond with even a basic machine far more easily than we’d like to believe."
And finally, with the #MeToo campaigning asking men to reflect on their actions, it seemed a good time to send intrepid reporter Cosmo Landesman to a male allyship workshop, where he might learn to be a better feminist. So, how did it go? Cosmo joined the podcast, along with David Brockway, project manager for the Great Men Initiative. As Cosmo found out:
"Our workshop takes place in the study room of a language school for foreign students — which is appropriate as we learn a whole new language of male oppression. We are taught terms like ‘misogynoir’ (the misogyny and anti-blackness that black women experience), ‘mansplaining’ (men explaining something to women in a patronising or condescending manner) and — here’s a new one on me — ‘tone policing’, when a man demands that a woman points out his sexist behaviour in a ‘nice’ way."