On this week’s Spectator Podcast we look at the final Brexit war amongst the Conservatives. We also discuss the maverick politician taking Ukraine by storm, and get on the blower with Blowers.
First up, with a 4,000 word intervention by Boris Johnson doing the rounds this week, ahead of Theresa May’s pivotal Brexit speech in Florence, the Conservatives look more divided than ever on the European question. Will it be EEA minus or CETA plus? Or are we headed for an even more mongrel departure? These are the questions James Forsyth asks in this week’s cover piece, and he joins the podcast along with Henry Newman, director of Open Europe. As James writes:
“The time for choosing is fast approaching for Theresa May. Soon she must make a decision that will define her premiership and her country’s future. The past few days have shown how hard, if not impossible, it will be for her to keep her entire cabinet on board with whatever EU deal she signs. It is imperative that she now picks what kind of Brexit she wants. But doing so will risk alienating — or even losing — various cabinet members. She has been trying to blur the lines for months, but as one of those closely involved in this drama warns: ‘She can’t fudge this forever.’ Another participant in the struggle says: ‘She’s got to decide who she wants sitting round the cabinet table.’”
Mikheil Saakashvili has a reputation as something of a maverick in European politics. Having been President of his native Georgia – in that time waging war on both corruption and Russia – he has now set his sights on the top job in Ukraine. Is this rabble rouser for real? And could he be Ukraine’s best chance of cleaning up its act? Owen Matthews profiles Saakashvili in the magazine this week, and he joins the podcast along with Kim Sengupta, defence and diplomatic correspondent at The Independent. As Owen writes:
“Having spent time with Saakashvili (at the presidential palace in Tbilisi during the war, where I scribbled furiously to keep up with his mile-a-minute conversation as he drank red wine with correspondents late into the night, and later in New York, where he transformed himself into a Williamsburg hipster during a brief post-presidential retirement), I have come to believe that both sides are right. Saakashvili combines high principle with almost manic personal ambition, rashness with ironclad self-belief. It makes him both one of the most inspiring and flawed political figures of modern times.”
And finally, Henry Blofeld, known to many as ‘Blowers’, has retired from commentating on cricket this month after 45 years with Test Match Special. He writes a notebook in the magazine this week, ahead of a special evening where he’ll be in conversation with the Spectator’s sports columnist, Roger Alton. As he writes:
“This retiring is a hectic business. When I said in June that it was going to be my last year with Test Match Special, it never occurred to me that I would have to do much more than float quietly into the sunset. Yet I suddenly became a much greater object of interest than I had managed to be in my previous 46 years behind the microphone. In no time at all, I found myself sitting on Andrew Marr’s sofa, before shifting to Piers Morgan’s boudoir for Good Morning Britain. And on it went. I flitted from studio to studio and on the journeys in between I was bombarded with calls from local radio stations as far apart as Radio Cornwall and Radio Norfolk.”