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Coffee House General Election 2017 The Spectator Podcasts

The Spectator Podcast: The May manifesto

18 May 2017

3:30 PM

18 May 2017

3:30 PM

On this week’s episode, we discuss Theresa May’s lurch to the left, the NHS’s looming crisis, and how Americans should talk about Trump.

First up: Theresa May has launched the Conservative party’s manifesto this week, but whilst much has been made of the slow death of the Labour party, the Tories appear to have borrowed rather liberally from Ed Miliband’s 2015 offering. This is what Fraser Nelson says in his cover piece, claiming that the Conservatives have become ‘the party of Brexit’ rather than of low taxation. He joins the podcast along with David Goodhart, who writes this week on how Theresa May is finding a new middle way.

As Fraser writes:

“The Ed Stone, the much-mocked slab of limestone on to which Ed Miliband inscribed his agenda, was smashed up soon after the election. He ought not to have been so bashful. Within months, several of his ideas — a national infrastructure commission, grandparents sharing parental leave, that national living wage — had been adopted by Conservatives. The idea of taxing employers to fund apprenticeships was discussed before the Labour manifesto but didn’t make it in because Miliband thought it a step too far. It is now Tory policy.”

David, meanwhile, sees potential in this strategy:

“The Tory modernisers were wrong to think that the most fashionable ideas were the best prescription for the future. There is no appetite for returning to 1950s paternalism, but there is a desire to balance liberal Anywhere preferences with some real choice and greater respect for tradition. Moreover, people yearn not be judged solely on merit, but to be recognised as members of a national political community.”


Next, we turn our attention to an NHS in crisis. Much has made made of budget cuts, work days and junior doctor strikes, but few have been willing to go as far as Max Pemberton, who writes this week that the health service is in a full-blown crisis and needs urgent repair. He joins the podcast to discuss his experiences, and is joined by Lord Saatchi, who proposed a Royal Commission into the NHS’s future.

As Max writes:

“The NHS as we know it is dying. It’s no longer a matter of if it will collapse, but when. Those of us who work on the front line have known this for some time, and it’s heartbreaking. Last week’s ransomware cyber-attack served to highlight how frail and vulnerable the health service is. While many tried to blame Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for failing to prevent such a disaster, the archaic IT system is actually emblematic of how the NHS as a whole has struggled to keep up to date and adapt to the modern world with the necessary speed.”

And Lord Saatchi concurs, telling the podcast:

“Max is a distinguished observer from the inside of the NHS, so everything he writes one must take very seriously, because he has a full understanding of it. In my own case, the Centre for Policy Studies decided some time ago that, although we generally concentrate more on economic issues, the questions that Max was raising in relation to the NHS were so hard to comprehend that we should study the subject, and we recently published a paper which calls for the Prime Minister to create a Royal Commission on the NHS.”

Finally, all across Britain, American ex-pats are facing the tricky dinner party question: ‘how do you explain Donald Trump?’ The author Lionel Shriver has a novel answer – Trump is suffering from dementia – and she joins the podcast to deepen her diagnosis of the President, as well as touching on the cultural appropriation row which she waded into last year.

Lionel writes in her diary:

“Many of Trump’s characteristics point toward dementia: forgetfulness (leaving an executive order photo-op without remembering to sign the order); volatility, irritability, impulsivity and paranoia; anxiety about stairs and inclines (re: gripping Theresa May’s hand); poor concentration and degraded syntax: reliance on placeholders (‘very, very, very’ buys time), small vocabulary, fragmented sentences. I just listened to Trump’s 1998 Oprah Winfrey interview. If still arrogant, Trump was lucid, coherent — almost articulate. He didn’t sound like an idiot. He could talk. He can’t talk now.”

The Spectator Podcast will be appearing in its regular Thursday slot throughout the election campaign, but we’ll also be providing you with daily editions of Coffee House Shots, our political podcast, so do subscribe on iTunes to get our take on the latest twists and turns as soon as they happen.


This podcast is sponsored by Berry Bros. & Rudd, who have long supplied wine for The Spectator. If you’ve always wanted to start a wine cellar, 2017 could be the perfect time. Whether you are looking to buy for future drinking, for investment or a little of both, Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Cellar Plan is designed to suit all tastes and budgets. A personal Account Manager will be on hand to offer advice and assistance, and enable you to benefit from three centuries’ worth of relationships with the leading wine growers. To find out more about starting a wine cellar with Berry Bros. & Rudd, visit bbr.com/cellarplan

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