We start episode 74 of the Small Data Forum podcast – or “1 AB” as Thomas christens it; the first after B*ris – in what many are calling “the era past peak podcast”.
Things haven’t worked out as well for our medium of choice as Spotify predicted and gambled, and that includes the platform’s not-so-conscious uncoupling from the Sussexes. But we – like the relentless grind of British politics – carry on regardless.
Thomas recalls the halcyon days when democracy meant the executive, legislature, and judiciary: three, interlocking, interdependent branches that worked with checks and balances, each branch (or arm) keeping the other in its proper place.
In banana republics (like the US and UK), this breaks down when – usually – the army takes over; what was termed Gleichschaltung or a system of coordination or total control in Nazi Germany. There have been more than shades of this under the Johnson and Trump regimes from 2016 onwards.
The terrible two
Sam surveys the carnage in British politics in the past month.
Since we three last met, the House of Commons Privileges Committee has published its findings into the Partygate affair. Getting wind of a pre-publication draft, Johnson clearly saw the writing was on the wall for his political career inside Westminster, pronounced the Committee (and the report) a “witch-hunt”, and resigned as an MP.
He’d have been out on his ear when the report was published – recommending a 90-day suspension, triggering a Recall Petition and a by-election in his Uxbridge constituency – so rather than be pushed, he jumped. His pre-publication Trumpian rhetoric added to the severity of the punishment, and yet still Johnson didn’t care.
As Thomas is making his usual round of introductions for this, the forty-ninth episode of the Small Data Forum podcast, he comments on Sam’s status as a published author. “Published author you too!” booms Sam, celebrating Thomas’ first-ever, peer-reviewed, academic article, written with his doctoral supervisor – and recent SDF interview guest – Darren Lilleker.
Thomas summarises the arguments in the paper, of how Her Majesty’s Government’s response to the threat of the pandemic “has not been all that pretty”. After all the puffed-up, Cummings-laden rhetoric of the December 2019 election campaign which was supposed to be all about ‘getting Brexit done’ (“campaigning in poetry” to purloin Mario Cuomo’s phrase), Johnson’s cabinet of political pygmies has struggled to live up to the challenge of “governing in prose”.
Two Englishmen and a German talk about football… With SDF episode no. 48 being recorded sandwiched between the 1966 World Cup win (20,187 days ago, assuming Sam’s calculation is correct) and the 2021 final of the Euros (2.5 days ahead at the time of recording), we couldn’t possibly avoid the topic.
to without a doubt the most impressive achievement: Neville’s loss of over two stone in weight in eleven weeks (check out the Zoom video!), thanks to the NOOM programme, behaviour and mindset change, and a copious dose of strong will.
On health and behaviour change, Sam briefly mentioned the de Pfeffel government’s weight loss campaign post Alex’s brush with the cold hand of COVID: sunk without a trace, like so many test & trace and other emergency billions.
We did talk vaccination, from the US vaccination programme hitting a bit of a red wall (and no it’s not the same as in the UK, more like the opposite), where, via Tortoise Media, Sam tells us that anti-vaxxing Trumplanders are now blocking the way to nationwide herd immunity. Who would have thought…