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Radio review: Today, The Rest is Politics, London Calling, and Religion Media Centre Podcast

27 January 2023

Rest is Politics/Facebook

On the podcast The Rest is Politics (released Wednesdays), Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart bash through the major news stories of the week

On the podcast The Rest is Politics (released Wednesdays), Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart bash through the major news stories of the week

A REPORT from late last year revealed that Radio 4’s Today programme had lost 600,000 listeners over the previous 12 months. Presumably, the Beeb has started to consider what will happen to the behemoth which is its news division once the licence fee model is abandoned. In the meantime, the old-style knockabout which is the template for political interviews on Today and elsewhere appears to be pushing its listeners away, and into the welcoming arms of various podcast outlets.

Dialectic appears to be one of the popular alternatives; or, to put it another way, “odd-couple” broadcasting. Two characters with different backgrounds and perspectives in a studio thrashing it out. Unlike in the typical interview driven by the power struggle between host and guest, the odd-couple relationship is symbiotic. Both are invested in the delicate task of balancing antagonism with tolerance.

Judging by the success of The Rest is Politics (released Wednesdays), the model is popular. The show brings together Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart to bash through the major news stories of the week. From time to time, the duo congratulate themselves on how they are able to maintain courteous relations despite their political differences; but in truth there is not a great deal which divides them. They are united in contempt for Brexit and Boris; and both introduce their arguments with phrases such as “I would argue that . . .”, to cushion the impact of anything too forthright.

Shift to the political right some distance, and you find no such niceties in the podcast London Calling (released Mondays), in which the free-speech champion Toby Young and the journalist/critic James Delingpole provide their take on the British news for a mixed home and transatlantic audience.

Covid vaccines and “wokery” loom large on their agenda; but it is the nature of their disagreements which is equally fascinating: a perfect instantiation of the cock-up/conspiracy archetype. For Delingpole, everything is about the World Economic Forum and its strategy to turn the citizenry of the world into supine slaves; while Young clings on to the hope that humanity is flawed but redeemable. On occasion, it is only with the deft insertion of an advert that calm is restored.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for proper discussion of the religious news, then you could do worse than the Religion Media Centre Podcast (released Thursdays), which last week assembled a suitable cross-section of opinion to discuss same-sex marriage. And, as you might expect, the contributors were united in their condemnation of the recent proposals.

On Today (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week), the Archbishop of York was asked by Nick Robinson “Will gay or homosexual sex be regarded as a sin?” The Archbishop was on a dodgy line, his answer mangled, as if subject to audio redaction. Somehow, it all seemed singularly appropriate.

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