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Coffee House The Spectator Podcast

The Spectator podcast: Sturgeon’s second stab

2 March 2017

12:26 PM

2 March 2017

12:26 PM

On this week’s episode we question whether Nicola Sturgeon might be tempted by a second independence referendum, consider the increasingly frosty relations between the USA and Russia, and ask whether city dogs are a menace to sheep.

First, Theresa May was in Scotland this week for meetings with Nicola Sturgeon ahead of Scottish Tory conference. Thanks to Brexit, the Scots appear to have another opportunity to try and go it alone, but with support for independence still routinely polling below 50 per cent, will she pull the trigger? Alex Massie joins the podcast to discuss the subject which he wrote his cover piece on, saying:

“Britishness still matters to many Scots — but for too many others, especially lower-middle-class swing voters, being part of the UK is increasingly viewed as essentially transactional. Unionists have inadvertently encouraged such thinking by casting the Union as an agreement between four ‘equal’ countries rather than as something which has value in its own right with the potential to be greater than the sum of its parts. The difficulty here is that a contest between Britishness and Scottishness is likely to end badly for the former.”

He was joined by Fraser Nelson, who told the podcast:

“I stopped making political predictions at the last general election and I’ve had ample cause to stick to that. That’s what makes me so nervous about this: my head says it can’t happen, but my head said a whole host of things couldn’t happen. So I’m going to let my head take a backseat for a while.”

Next, the image of Donald Trump as a Manchurian candidate, planted in the White House by Vladimir Putin, has been doing the rounds ever since his election in November. But is there any truth to it? Not according to the Oval Office, who reportedly briefed this week that any predicted detente with Russia was way off the mark. James Forsyth tackles this, increasingly Cold, situation in his column this week, writing:

“Donald Trump has not lost his capacity to surprise: few would have bet on him starting his address to Congress with praise for Black History Month. Tuesday night’s speech was the nearest Trump has come to acting like a traditional president. But one thing conspicuous by its absence was any mention of Russia. To Europeans, his Russia policy remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Joining him was Freddy Gray, who tells the podcast that:

“I think a lot of the rumour mill about Trump and Russia is a sort of elite obsession that doesn’t really boil down to much, other than we know that some people in Russia tried to interfere and intelligence agencies say it was the Kremlin. So I think it’s a sort of elite obsession and perhaps it doesn’t impinge on this thinking as much as people think it does.”

And finally: are urban dog owners doing enough to teach their canine companions about the dangers they pose to sheep? That’s what Camilla Swift asks in this week’s magazine, having witnessed a rise in ovine fatalities at the hands of poorly trained pooches. She writes that:

“Remember that video of Fenton the labrador chasing deer in Richmond Park? (Of course you do… ‘FENTOOOOOONNN!’) It was hilarious because we knew he was never going to catch one. But imagine if the focus of Fenton’s attention had been a flock of dopey sheep. Things might not have ended so well. Even if he hadn’t caught one, scared sheep have a tendency to bunch up together in small spaces and squash one another to death.”

Camilla was joined on the podcast by former Countryfile presenter and author of the book Labrador, Ben Fogle, who says:

“I’ve always thought – as a dog owner – we are part of a big club, so we all share one another’s responsibilities. So if a dog kills some sheep, I feel partly responsible, as a collective dog owning group of the nation. Same goes with dog muck on the pavement and in the parks not picked up. Any sort of behaviour is reflective on all of us.”


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