On this week’s episode, we look at Germany’s political nightmare, speak to one of the world’s most eminent psychologists, and get excited by the Winter Olympics.
First up, since last year’s election, Angela Merkel’s chancellorship has seemed to be on thin ice. Her party, the Christian Democrats, have a coalition offer pending with the SPD, which would, at best, see the far right AfD become the main opposition. What is fuelling this unrest? And how long can Merkel continue in the current climate? Thomas Kielinger writes on the future of Germany’s leadership in the magazine and he joins the podcast along with Anne McElvoy, head of Economist Radio. As Thomas writes:
“On Monday, Angela Merkel did something quite extraordinary. As speculation about her party’s leadership mounted, she named an apparent successor: thae 55-year-old Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, appointed as the new general secretary of her Christian Democratic Union party. The choice came like a lightning strike: AKK, as she is already called, was to leave her job as a successful minister-president of the tiny federal state of Saarland and assume the governing position in her party. Now she sits as the CDU’s crown princess, looking to take the throne at (or even before) the next German election in 2021.”
Are things really as bad as they seem? No, says the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, who chronicles a world getting, by and large, better in his new book, Enlightenment Now. He writes this week’s diary in the magazine, and sat down to discuss small matters about our existence with our literary editor, Sam Leith. As Steven writes:
“Though I have no children, a year ago I became a grandfather when my stepdaughter had a baby boy. Solly and Yael have been living with us while waiting for an apartment, and for the first time I’ve experienced some of the perquisites of parenthood, such as being kept up by nighttime caterwauling and catching a disease from the baby germ pool. As a scientist who for most of my career specialised in language development, it was humbling to find how few of his first words I could decode compared with his more observant mother and grandmother.”
And do tune in to the latest Spectator Books podcast for a full conversation between Steven and Sam.
And finally, whether it’s stones sliding across the ice, skiers slaloming down the slopes, or body parts making unexpected appearances during the figure skating, the world has had its eyes on the Korean district of Pyeongchang where the 23rd Winter Olympics are being held. But why can’t we, as a nation, fall in love with snow sports? Roger Alton discusses this in the magazine and he joins the podcast. As Roger writes:
“Despite the best efforts of this column (and the BBC), too many Brits regard the Winter Olympics with the same enthusiasm as they would a traction engine rally or a village fête. Well you are so wrong, people. Admittedly you can get fed up with the BBC TV breakfast presenters nattering away about how they are going off after the show to watch the Nordic combined, as if they really believe we believe them. And when you find yourself in the small hours, like me, watching the curling mixed doubles or listening to ice hockey commentary on the radio you are forced to question whether your life has gone seriously wrong somewhere. But hey, they are only on every four years and there’s plenty of reasons to love these Games.”