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The Spectator Podcast: Macron vs Salvini

7 September 2018

3:46 PM

7 September 2018

3:46 PM

This week antagonism between Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Matteo Salvini ratcheted up over immigration – are they the leaders of an ideological battle in Europe? But pro-immigration or not, both Macron and Salvini smashed through conventional politics in the global surge of populism. As we reach the tenth anniversary of the 2008 crash, we ask, did the financial crisis lead to greater populism? And last, why have Americans been boycotting Nike?

First, is there a battle brewing in Europe over immigration? On the one side, Emmanuel Macron seems to represent the ideals of a globalist EU, the natural successor to Merkel’s liberalism; on the other, Italy’s Matteo Salvini is bringing anti-immigrant populism into the very heart of the EU, supported by movements across the continent and fellow leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban. Christopher Caldwell argues in this week’s cover piece that this is an ideological battle for Europe’s future. He joins Isabel on the podcast, together with Sophie Pedder, the Economist’s Paris Bureau Chief and author of ‘Revolution Française’, a new biography on Macron. Sophie tells us of Macron’s strategy when dealing with right wing populism:

‘One of the things that struck me when I interviewed Macron for my book was the point he made about how populism has mastered the language of emotion… He has taken on board the need to carry people through with a sort of dream, a spirit, something emotional that will counter the appeal of populism on an emotional basis.’

Globalism or not, it seems that the biggest trend in Western politics in the last ten years is really the rise of populism and extreme politics. It’s not just the rise of populism in Europe – back home Ukip has come and gone, leaving Brexit in its wake, Corbyn has hijacked the Labour Party, and across the Pond Donald Trump’s presidency continues to shock every day. In this week’s magazine, Liam Halligan takes a look back over the ten years since the financial crisis and asks – how much of the rise in extreme politics is because of the way we dealt with the 2008 crash? Liam talks with economist Ann Pettifor, who advises the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Ann and Liam agreed on some things, but not much. Liam tells us that post-crash, government spending hasn’t really gone down:

‘Even though there have been certain instances and certain localities where government spending has been curtailed, the big picture which economists need to keep their eye on, the big picture is that we’ve seen massive fiscal expansion. Government borrowing has gone from 40% of GDP to 85, 90% of GDP.’

For Ann, this was symptomatic of a different problem:

‘The fact of the matter is that the public debt has risen because austerity has contracted the economy. The way to reduce the public debt is to expand tax revenues… The private sector is almost comatose, and that is the moment in which the roaring lion that is the public sector should step in.’

And last, you might have seen the hashtags ‘just burn it’ and ‘boycott Nike’ trending on Twitter recently. These are just some of the responses to Nike’s new ad campaign, featuring Colin Kaepernick, the first American footballer to protest the national anthem through kneeling instead of standing and with the slogan, ‘believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything’. Kaepernick says he was resisting structural racism and police brutality in America, but Simon Barnes asks in this week’s magazine – can Nike claim equally lofty motives? And will this controversial campaign work? Freddy Gray, our USA Editor, and writer Coleman Hughes talk to Isabel. For Coleman, Nike’s decision says something about the public conversation stateside:

‘It’s very telling that a multi-billion dollar corporation like Nike judges from its own self-interest that it is smart to endorse a basically far-left cause. That that is a way to maximise their profit, rather than something to avoid, tells you something about how dominant that strain of thinking has become in the culture.’

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