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The Spectator Podcast: can we fight back against digital addiction?

21 September 2018

1:57 PM

21 September 2018

1:57 PM

It seems that everyone, young or old, has a smartphone these days. But why are the brightest in Silicon Valley taking screen time away from their children? Have they realised that we’re addicted? Also on this podcast, Tory MEPs recently voted in favour of the Viktor Orbán government in European Parliament. Are British Tories flirting with the far right? If they are, it could be because the Conservative Party has no attractive policies. Should we return to One Nation Toryism?

First, it’s time for a wake-up call. Smartphones now seem so attached to us that they may as well be organically grown. Both adults and children are addicted, and it’s having an impact on their mental health. But what’s more, Jenny McCartney finds that there is a growing movement in Silicon Valley among technology’s best and brightest – to take screen time away from their loved ones. She writes about this in this week’s cover piece, and joins the podcast along with Jamie Bartlett, author and tech blogger. Jenny tells us how smartphones are a blessing and a curse:

‘Now it’s tipped into slightly obsessional, it’s compulsive, it’s so interesting. I mean it’s such a scene change in accessibility to information that actually, there comes a point when one has to be quite strict and say, “it has to cut off now”. I mean I found myself at two in the morning Googling dog breeds. I don’t even have a dog.’


Next, in a recent European Parliament vote, Tory MEPs swam against the current by voting to protect Viktor Orbán’s far right government in Hungary from European sanctions. Tory MEPs lost the vote, but Anne Applebaum asks in this week’s magazine, why are British Tories flirting with the far right? Paul Stocker, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, and Frank Furedi, sociologist and author, join the podcast to discuss. Paul argues that Brexit holds the answer:

Tory MEPs ‘are clearly [voting with Orbán], and Michael Gove as much as said this, in order to get a better Brexit deal… Viktor Orbán and many other people who feel like they have been trampled by European institutions, the Conservative Party feels like they are their closest allies and are not prepared to criticise them.’

One explanation for why the Conservative party is tacking right could be because it’s simply run out of ideas. Paul Collier, Professor at Oxford University, writes in this week’s magazine that both the Labour and Conservative parties can learn a thing or two from the ideals of one nation Toryism, which values the cohesion of community and the welfare of the marginalised. Paul argues that both major parties have forgotten the importance of the community. He joins the podcast with Chris Skidmore, Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party. Paul tells the podcast:

‘I think that since the 1980s, a lot of divergences have happened because we’ve neglected the sense of “being together”… There’s a big new spatial divergence between the provinces and London… I can sense the anger of my provincial relatives and the sort of disdain and contempt coming out of the metropolitans. Until the 1980s, for a hundred years, the spatial divide had been narrowing. So something’s gone wrong.’

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