Uk politics

Why has the election been called now?

15 min listen

Less than 24 hours after Rishi Sunak’s surprise election announcement, we look ahead to the parties’ campaigns. What has been the fall out? How have Labour responded to the shock news? And why didn’t Rishi have an umbrella? James Heale is joined by Isabel Hardman and former Labour adviser John McTernan to discuss.  Produced by Patrick Gibbons.

Sunak’s biggest gamble yet: a July election

12 min listen

Rishi Sunak has called a general election on July 4. A new parliament will be summoned on 9 July and the state opening will be on 17 July. Is a summer election a wise decision? Katy Balls and James Heale discuss from parliament. Produced by Natasha Feroze.

Cindy Yu

Is an election about to be called?

11 min listen

Westminster is awash with rumours today that the Prime Minister is about to call an election. On this episode, Cindy Yu talks to Katy Balls and Fraser Nelson about where this speculation is coming from and how seriously to take them. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Is there finally good news for the government?

11 min listen

The IMF has upgraded the 2024 economic forecast for the UK. What does this mean for the Government and could more good news follow this week? And, with speeches on tax, benefit crackdowns and tackling anti-semitism, what should we make of all this political activity? Will we see the return of ‘the hot lectern guy’? Kate Andrews and James Heale join Katy Balls to discuss. Produced by Patrick Gibbons

The whips’ office and their woes

18 min listen

There have been two recent defections from the Conservatives to Labour. There’s lots of chatter in parliament about a potential third defector. In this Saturday edition of Coffee House Shots, Katy Balls and James Heale hear from Gyles Brandreth, former MP and broadcaster. He takes us back to what it was like working in the whips’ office in the 1990s, and ask if he thinks there are more defections to come.  You can read Gyles’ diary here. Produced by Megan McElroy.

Can Hunt answer the Reagan question?

11 min listen

Ronald Reagan famously asked voters: ‘are you better off than you were four years ago?’ At the next election, the Tories face a public thinking over the last fourteen years. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gave a speech today defending the UK’s record tax levels and attacking Labour’s economic plans. But who should we trust more on tax? Fraser Nelson and James Heale join Katy Balls to discuss. Produced by Megan McElroy and Patrick Gibbons.

Has Starmer scaled down his pledges?

13 min listen

Keir Starmer has unveiled his six election pledges. In a nod to Tony Blair’s 1997 election card, the Labour leader has announced key promises to the public should they win the election. How are the commitments being received, and what will the impact of his speech be?  James Heale speaks to Katy Balls and Stephen Bush, Associate Editor at the Financial Times. 

Katy Balls

The Shabana Mahmood Edition

45 min listen

Shabana Mahmood is the shadow secretary of state for justice. She was born in Birmingham to migrant parents. After studying Law at Lincoln College, Oxford, where Rishi Sunak was a contemporary, she qualified as a barrister and lived and worked in London. First elected to Parliament in 2010, representing Birmingham Ladywood, she was one of the UK’s first female Muslim MPs. On the episode, Katy Balls talks to Shabana about her upbringing in the UK and in Saudi Arabia; how her faith is central to who she is as a person; and her approach to the tricky issues of abortion and assisted dying. Produced by Oscar Edmondson and Cindy Yu.

Why are Scottish nationalists so thin-skinned?

Scottish nationalists are not happy. What’s new, I hear you ask. Did they lose another leader? Has Sainsbury’s been selling Somerset strawberries in Stornoway supermarkets? Nothing quite so grave, but they are displeased nonetheless. The cause is Rishi Sunak, who has offended them with his Big Serious Speech at Policy Exchange on Monday. It was just a single reference, but that is the most Sunak has done to confront the SNP since he entered No. 10. In a speech that spoke about rogue states like China and Iran and other ‘extremists’ who are ‘exploiting these global conflicts to divide us’, Sunak said:  From gender activists hijacking children’s sex education to cancel culture, vocal

Will Sunak’s fighting talk work?

12 min listen

Rishi Sunak delivered a pre-election speech this morning setting out the dividing lines at the next election: security with the Tories or risk with Labour. Will it be enough to shift the dial? And is the Natalie Elphicke defection still haunting Keir Starmer? Natasha Feroze speaks to Katy Balls and Fraser Nelson. 

Can John Swinney turn it around for the SNP?

John Swinney, newly inaugurated First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the SNP, has been in the job for a week. What have we learnt since he took up the job, and can he turn things around for the party in time for a general election?  James Heale speaks to Lucy Dunn and Fergus Mutch, former SNP adviser. Produced by Megan McElroy.

Who are ‘the blob’?

Liz Truss calls them the ‘deep state’, Dominic Cummings ‘the blob’ and for Sue Gray they are simply former colleagues. But most of the public – and indeed, most of the political class – know very little about them at all. Permanent secretaries and directors general, the two most senior rungs of the civil service, wield substantial power and influence. This is not shadowy or improper, but their job. When ministers make a decision, they usually do so on the basis of advice shaped by their department’s top officials. When civil servants have concerns about the propriety of a task, it is senior officials who guide them. And permanent secretaries

Can Lammy charm Trump?

14 min listen

This week, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy is stateside, meeting with senior advisors to Donald Trump and hoping to charm them. Meanwhile, David Cameron gives his first set-piece policy speech. Who is the more credible statesman? Cindy Yu talks to James Heale and Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Why does Labour want Natalie Elphicke?

12 min listen

The MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke, has shocked MPs and pundits across the political spectrum by defecting to the Labour party today. In her resignation letter, she accused the Conservative party for having ‘abandoned’ the ‘centre ground’. But for someone who has vocally criticised Labour in the past, how helpful is Elphicke’s defection? Oscar Edmondson talks to Katy Balls and Isabel Hardman. Produced by Oscar Edmondson and Cindy Yu.

Lloyd Evans

Keir Starmer is ashamed of his party

Questions from backbenchers dominated PMQs. Sir Edward Leigh is keen to end unfettered immigration and he announced a way to stop the boats that might actually stop the boats. ‘Detain all those who land illegally on our shores and offshore them immediately,’ he said. His specific goal was to prevent children from being shoved onto leaky inflatables crewed by emaciated refugees who paddle across channel at the dead of night. ‘End this callous trade,’ he said, citing the risks to innocent kids. No one could quibble with that. The PM agreed.  Sir Keir Starmer has quietly rebranded the Labour movement as ‘the changed Labour party’ ‘He’s right,’ said Rishi. He

Will there really be a hung parliament?

14 min listen

It’s the first day back after the local elections. Following Thursday’s results, some polling suggests that if the votes were replicated in a general election, there might be a hung parliament. Could this be a reality?  The Spectator’s James Heale and Katy Balls are joined by Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta.  Produced by Megan McElroy. 

What does Andy Street’s defeat mean for Rishi Sunak?

The local elections results are in, and the Conservatives have lost more than 450 council seats. After a full recount, Labour’s Richard Parker beat Andy Street to become West Midlands mayor, with only around 1500 votes in it. What does his loss mean for Rishi Sunak, and where do the overall results leave him? Katy Balls and James Heale speak to Megan McElroy. Produced by Megan McElroy. 

Tories aren’t panicking – they expected a drubbing

Unsurprisingly, the overnight results from the local elections have been very bruising for the Conservatives. Local election results day is often quite formulaic, though, given there are always predictions of a ‘bloodbath’ for one party or the other for months ahead of polling day. This means that the losses can be priced in to the political narrative, and the spinners for the most damaged party can highlight surprising results. This morning, the Tories are putting great store by holding onto Harlow, which Keir Starmer visited twice during the campaign. They are also relieved to have only come second, rather than third, in Blackpool South, given how hard Reform campaigned in

Can Ben Houchen save Rishi Sunak?

12 min listen

Tomorrow, voters go to the polls for the last set of local elections in this parliament, alongside 11 mayoral elections in England, 37 police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales plus the London Assembly elections. Could Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, help turn Rishi Sunak’s fortunes around? You can read James Heale’s assessment of the key battlegrounds here.  Also on the podcast, a look at rumours that Labour are in talks to water down their employment policies.  Lucy Dunn speaks to James Heale and John McTernan, former adviser to Tony Blair. 

Lloyd Evans

Lindsay Hoyle is a hooligan

How does it feel to wake up and discover that you’re a socialist? We got the answer at PMQs where the TV cameras were trained on Dan Poulter – or ‘Doctor Dan’ as he likes to be called – who recently quit the Tories and joined Labour. But his awakening seems to have poisoned his mood. His cheeks were pale, his eyes lifeless and dull as he glared at his former colleagues across the aisle. There was more absurd behaviour from the SNP’s Stephen Flynn. Why not celebrate with a cheeky smirk? He looked like a man whose knee operation has just been transferred to Wales. And he seems to