On this week’s episode, we look at the situation with Russia, and whether diplomatic relations have been poisoned. We also discuss the bullying scandal in Westminster and consider whether sledging in cricket has gone too far.
The nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury has led to an outbreak of antagonism between Britain and Russia. Theresa May has now expelled a host of Russian diplomats, but can anything be done to stop Putin’s assault on Western values? That’s the question Owen Matthews asks in the magazine this week, and he joins the podcast along with Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs select committee, and then former Foreign Minister of Poland, Radek Sikorski, joins us. As Owen writes:
“Putin lies, barefacedly and repeatedly. So do his acolytes. Even when the forensic evidence is massive and incontrovertible, Putin tells palpable falsehoods with easy fluency. In March 2014 he insisted that there were no Russian troops in Crimea, claiming that ‘anyone could buy’ Russian military uniforms. Within a month, he publicly thanked the troops that had participated in the annexation. With equal ease, he reversed himself on the presence of regular Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine — after two years of denying they were there, Putin casually acknowledged the truth in 2016.”
Two bullying scandals have descended on Westminster this week, one involving the Speaker, John Bercow, and the other seeing Debbie Abrahams step down from shadowing the DWP brief. Has Parliament not learned its lesson after the sleaze revelations at the end of last year? Or is the focus on bullying just further evidence of the toxic atmosphere in Parliament? Katy Balls has written for Coffee House about the latest revelations, and she joins the pod along with the Financial Times’ Laura Hughes. As Katy writes:
“Labour’s internal complaints body looks set to have a busy few weeks. After Debbie Abrahams was effectively suspended as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary over allegations of bullying, the Labour MP made a bullying allegation of her own. Abrahams claims she’s the one being bullied – accusing unnamed figures in the Leader’s Office of behaving in an ‘aggressive’ and ‘intimidating’ manner towards her. Adding to those two impending investigations is a report today by the Financial Times alleging that Karl Turner, Shadow Transport Minister, slapped a woman’s buttocks as she walked through his constituency office in the summer of 2015.”
And finally, sledging, the subtle art of putting your opponent off their game, has long been a part of cricket, but in the magazine this week Simon Barnes asks whether recent developments show things have gone too far. To discuss, we’re joined by Charlie Campbell, captain of the Authors’ XI and author of Herding Cats, and cricket fanatic, James Forsyth. As Simon writes:
“Sledging is hot again as the Test series in South Africa against Australia reaches new heights of bad vibes. And when we’re getting moral lectures from David Warner — the Australian player who thumped the England player Joe Root in a bar for the unforgivable sin of wearing a joke wig on his chin — well, we know we’re faced with one of those fascinating moral puzzles.”