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The Spectator podcast: The end of experts

12 January 2017

12:44 PM

12 January 2017

12:44 PM

On this week’s podcast we reappraise the role of experts, scrutinise the chaotic papacy, and check in with the court of King Donald.

First up: In this week’s cover story, Fraser Nelson writes that the definitive quote from the referendum was one that the speaker, Michael Gove, never meant to make. In an interview with Faisal Islam, Gove was heard to claim that the British people ‘have had enough of experts’. But was that really the point that Gove was making? And, eight months on, was he actually right? Fraser joins the podcast to discuss this, along with the Spectator’s Political Editor, James Forsyth.


So who should we be listening to? As Fraser tells the podcast:

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to experts, it’s just that there’s a difference between somebody who understands economics and somebody who’s able to predict the future. The best economists will tell you that they are not clairvoyants, they make this point quite forcefully. I remember Robert Chote, who runs the Office for Budget Responsibility, was once being challenge about his estimates, saying ‘what if they’re wrong?’, and he replied ‘well, of course they’re wrong, they’re economic forecasts. They’re always wrong.'”

Whilst Britain and the US hogged the headlines in 2016, the Vatican City was making waves of its own. Pope Francis, the Argentinian Jesuit championed by much of the press as a reforming force within Roman Catholicism, has fallen out of favour with some parts of his flock, not least Damian Thompson, who writes this week that the Pope is ‘simultaneously combative, charming, bad-tempered, idealistic and vengeful.’ Is the tide turning against Francis? Or is this just another day in the life of Catholic in-fighting? Damian and Cristina Odone, from the Legatum Institute, join the podcast this week.

In no uncertain terms, Damian condemns the Pope’s recent dealings, saying:

“It’s a very strange situation for Catholics to find themselves in, who do actually feel like they’re dealing with a party leader rather than the Holy Father. I think that gets to the heart of the question. You have a Pope who is pushing through an agenda which is controversial but very, very poorly articulated.”

But Cristina Odone is more sympathetic to Francis, claiming that:

“I think that Damian is allowing the snipers within the Church lots and lots of room for speculation about ‘is this Pope for real?’ or ‘is this Pope going to last?’. Actually, what matters is that the Pope’s standing worldwide has never been stronger.”

Finally, no current affairs round-up would be complete without sparing a thought for the American people, who, next week, will be welcoming President Donald Trump into the White House. In the magazine, Freddy Gray argues that the inauguration will, in fact, be a coronation, with King Donald intending to rule as monarch, alongside Princess Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as Prince Regent. Freddy joined the show to guide us through the new American Royal Family, saying:

“He doesn’t really think of himself as a President in any normal sense. He sees himself as an Emperor, an American Emperor… Americans are fiercely democratic but they also believe in dynasty in a big way. And so to replace this political class which they hated – that gave them the Bushs and the Clintons – it’s like they had to come up with something even more dynastic, and, in a way, the Trumps are a reality TV dynasty.”

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