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The Spectator Podcast: the New Narcissism

9 August 2018

5:52 PM

9 August 2018

5:52 PM


Are young men becoming too self-conscious of their body image? We discuss the trend to diet and use food replacement powders in a bid to become superhuman. We also talk about the Crocodile’s election victory in Zimbabwe – is British foreign policy in Africa too negligent? And last, how are pale rosés driving dark rosés into extinction?

Huel – short for ‘human fuel’ – is taking the world by storm. This powdered food claims to have all the nutrients a human needs to survive, while being vegan, environmentally friendly, and cheap. But Lara Prendergast isn’t convinced, and in this week’s cover piece, she argues that Huel is a symptom of a wider phenomenon of male dieting and self-consciousness. She joins the podcast, together with Tom Reader, a YouTube adventurist and so-called ‘Hueler’. Lara tells us about her take on the trend behind Huel:

‘It’s this idea that man is destroying the planet and the male appetite bad, and actually needs to be suppressed. So you instead need to streamline your diet, cut out all the bad stuff… and bring it all down so you’re not doing any more damage to the world.’


The British government seems to have forgotten about Africa. In most of its embassies in sub-Saharan Africa, the Foreign Office has no more than two members of staff. The last British Prime Minister to visit any African nation was David Cameron, five years ago. By comparison, senior Chinese leaders have visited the continent 79 times in the last ten years, and France’s Macron has already visited eight times. What can explain this failure of British diplomacy in Africa? Xan Smiley, the Economist’s Editor at Large, poses the question in this week’s magazine. He joins the podcast, together with Alex Vines, head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House. Xan points to the big problem in British foreign policy as a lack of self-interest:

‘There is much less of a sense of realpolitik. Countries like, for example Zimbabwe, which has received huge amounts of British taxpayers aid – nearly ten billion in the last ten years or so – with almost no thanks and no payback.’

And last, Rupert Wright has a bone to pick with ladies who lunch and order very pale rosé. The pale variety is blander than the full-bodied dark rosé, Rupert argues, but the fad of the pale rosé is driving its quality cousin extinct. Rupert is the author of Notes from Languedoc, and he joins me today. Also on the podcast is Sophia Money-Coutts, Sunday Telegraph columnist and author of The Plus One. Rupert argues that pale rosés are blander, so why would you have them?

‘To me, the whole pale thing is a little bit more like if you were to go to Wimbledon, and you would be confronted a row of punnet of strawberries, and everyone would immediately go, “give me the palest strawberries”… If you think about it, when you’re buying red fruit, you want the reddest strawberries.’

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