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The Spectator Podcast: has Brett Kavanagh cost Democrats their midterm victory?

26 October 2018

1:08 PM

26 October 2018

1:08 PM

Somehow it has already been two years into a Trump presidency, and America is facing midterm elections. Will Democrats win in a landslide? We also delve a little deeper at the political faultlines behind the Jamal Khashoggi story – is Turkey taking advantage of his death? And last, is the use of wild animals in circuses really the great injustice that campaigners say it is?


America is going to the polls again. This November, the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are facing re-election in the mid-terms. Some predict that the Democrats will win in a landslide and retake control of the currently Republican Congress. But Freddy Gray, editor of Spectator USA, writes in this week’s cover that the Democrats aren’t in for such an easy ride. Freddy joins the podcast together with Leslie Vinjamuri, Head of the US and the Americas Programme at Chatham House. Freddy argues that the Democrat response to Kavanagh has incensed the American right to vote Republican:

‘Often in midterms the problem for the incumbent party is getting their own vote out. Democrats have managed to find a way of actually doing that, which is spectacular. It leads to my theory that they’re a party with a death wish.’


We still don’t know all the facts in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. But what little we do know has been steadily released by Turkish authorities, who even claim that they have video and audio evidence of the execution. Hannah Lucinda Smith digs a little deeper at Turkey’s interests in the affair in this week’s magazine. She argues that, while the Saudis are rightly blamed for Khashoggi’s death, Turkey’s President Erdogan has also been taking advantage of the opportunity to attack Saudi Arabia, exposing a power struggle in the region between the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia. She joins the podcast from Istanbul, with Azzam Tamimi, friend of Jamal Khashoggi and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hannah highlights the hypocrisy in Erdogan’s approach:

‘President Erdogan tried to use the Khashoggi case to present himself as a voice of the free press… Now, this comes as Erdogan is launching his own crackdown on journalists in Turkey. It’s the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.’

Last, the government banned the use of wild animals in circuses earlier this year. But is the British use of animals really the great injustice that animal rights campaigners say it is? Ringmaster Dea Birkett says not in this week’s magazine. She points out that there are only 19 animals left in British zoos, and what’s more, none of them are the big cats or elephants that we envisage. Why aren’t campaigners going after more pervasive abuse, like the Grand National, or laws that allow wild animals to be kept as pets? Tim Phillips from Animal Defenders International, and Vanessa Toulmin, historian and founder of the National Fairground and Circus Archive go head to head. Vanessa thinks the animal rights campaign has been inconsistent, for exactly the reason Dea points out:

‘I applaud people who want to stop cruelty to animals. But I think circuses have been a soft target.’

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