On this week’s bumper episode, we say farewell to the EU, look at the most high-profile mismatch in boxing history, and speak to two living legends: actor and director Simon Callow and explorer John Hemming.
First, with the trigger pulled on the Brexit starting gun, we gathered to reflect on the process so far and how divorce proceedings are likely to go. In this week’s magazine, James Forsyth advocates for ‘a Brexit that works for everyone’ and he joins the podcast to discuss this, along with Fraser Nelson and Hugo Dixon, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Remain-supporting InFacts. In James’s piece, he imagines the future, writing that:
“On 29 March 2019 the Queen should have a state dinner and invite the European Union’s 27 heads of state and its five presidents. The evening’s purpose would be to toast the new alliance between the United Kingdom and the EU: one based on free trade, security cooperation and shared democratic values.”
But Hugo Dixon has his doubts:
“I think it is an opportunity, but I think there are lots and lots of pitfalls. The piece that James has written – if it actually ends up the way that James has sketched it, with a deep and comprehensive free trade, and cooperation on foreign policy and defence and security… and, after the macho words, an amicable velvet divorce. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but I think it would be a good second option.”
They also discuss our chances of getting a good deal, ‘crashing out’ without a deal of any kind, and consider the percentage chance of the UK not going through with Brexit at all.
Next, we turn our attention to a clash between two boxers, which represents something much more than that: it is a winner-takes-all brawl between the old guard, boxing, and it’s snappy-dressing younger sibling, MMA. Can boxing survive the competition of UFC’s riches? And might Dublin cage fighter Conor McGregor upset the odds and beat Floyd Mayweather at his own game? Damian Reilly writes about this in the magazine this week, and he joins the podcast along with Matt Christie, editor of Boxing News. As a McGregor supporter, Damian notes:
“There are plenty of good reasons Spectator readers should join me in supporting McGregor when he takes on Mayweather. For a start — and without wishing to seem too pious an observer of a sport in which men try hard to beat one another unconscious — it must be said that Mayweather is a convicted beater of women with a lengthy track record of assaults.”
But Matt Christie doesn’t fancy the chances of it being a good fight:
“My concern here is that people will be expecting this bloodbath, they’ll be expecting this frenzy of excitement. And it just won’t happen… I’d put my mortgage on Floyd Mayweather, to be honest.”
We were then joined by two men who could fairly be described as legends in their field. Actor and director Simon Callow, who writes in this week’s magazine about the trauma of being trashed by Michael Tanner in The Spectator, and explorer John Hemming, who has penned a long evisceration of Percy Fawcett, the man who led a doomed mission towards an imaginary city in the Amazon.
First, Simon Callow talks about the bad review of his new book:
“It made me laugh, actually. It really genuinely made me laugh. I mean, it’s so extreme that you assume that people who read that sort of headline, or indeed the review in question, will assume that whoever’s reviewed this obviously has some kind of axe to grind, rather than, perhaps, it just being a truly, truly dreadful book – which is perfectly possible of course!”
And, finally, John Hemming writes about the inexplicable elevation of Fawcett’s reputation:
“The new film The Lost City of Z is being advertised as based on the true story of one of Britain’s greatest explorers. It is about Lt-Col Percy Fawcett. Greatest explorer? Fawcett? He was a surveyor who never discovered anything, a nutter, a racist, and so incompetent that the only expedition he organised was a five-week disaster. Calling him one of our greatest explorers is like calling Eddie the Eagle one of our greatest sportsmen.”
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