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Expert anecdotes

08 February 2019


The BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, on Radio 5 Live’s Brexitcast

The BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, on Radio 5 Live’s Brexitcast

MAKE a date in your diary: 24 February, Sharm El Sheikh, the meeting of the Arab League and the EU. That is when it’s all going down; that is when the deal will be done — At least, according to Brexitcast, Radio 5 Live’s podcast (downloadable from Thursday of last week). They are going to make us sweat until then; and under the Egyptian sun they will relent and do something about the backstop.

There is nothing like the intimacy of a podcast to make you feel that you are party to inside information. The informality, the banter, the first-hand anecdotes — and, of course, the cast of experts, which here includes all your favourite Brexit nerds: Laura Kuenssberg and Katya Adler from TV, and John Campbell, who knows more about the backstop than is healthy.

As podcasts go, this one is fairly successful in maintaining a semblance of presentational decorum, and (at least until the final minutes of this episode) reining in the incontinent giggling that arises from the knowledge that you are being listened to by a vanishingly small audience that consists entirely of Brexit fetishists.

Brexitcast gives the impression that its experts are able to read the situation better than the layperson, who receives only the monotonous jargon of the politicians. Whether any of it can be trusted remains to be seen; but there is still a ring round that date in my diary.

There is no giggling in the Channel 4 podcast Ways to Change the World (downloadable from Wednesday of last week), by which listeners can hear the full versions of important interviews carried first on Channel 4 News. After the United States District Court verdict last week that the death of the journalist Marie Colvin was an act of murder by the Syrian forces, her colleague, the photographer Paul Conroy, recorded an extensive interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy which is worth hearing in full.

The story of Colvin’s death, and Conroy’s wounding, in 2012, is powerful in itself, but here we get something more: a textured account of life as a photo-journalist, and of a character apparently incapable of staying out of trouble. There are machismo, high jinks, and adrenalin in Conroy’s stories — from Colvin as much as from him — but there is also a painful authenticity.

The death of the comedian Jeremy Hardy last week was marked with an appraisal in Last Word (Radio 4, Friday). A hugely popular guest on The News Quiz, Hardy was never better than when ranting about middle-class hypocrisy, to the wild approval of his middle-class audience.

But, as his fellow comedian Mark Steel and fellow campaigner Jeremy Corbyn made clear, Hardy really meant it. The charmingly surreal images that he conjured up belied a real class anger; and, in this respect, he joins that small band of Socialists, led by Tony Benn, whom Radio 4 listeners cannot help but love.

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