Call Keir (LBC) | lbc.co.uk
Shade Podcast | www.shadepodcast.co.uk
We’ve been treated to Phone Farage and Call Clegg… now it’s Sir Keir Starmer’s turn to have a phone-in slot on LBC. Or “Ss-KEeah”, as most of the callers said his name, a little like a sneeze. On Monday morning, Starmer sat in on Nick Ferrari’s breakfast show, at the correct social distance, and answered listeners’ questions. Boris Johnson used to have a similar slot, but our prime minister doesn’t venture out of the house so much these days.
Starmer was good, I thought: calm, clear, direct. When asked for opinions he gave them. A caller brought up Barry Gardiner, the Labour politician who had attended a Black Lives Matter demonstration: “No, he shouldn’t have done it,” said Starmer. “He was wrong.” What about the new 14-day quarantine when arriving in the UK? Starmer would prefer on-the-spot testing on arrival and then a 24-hour wait for the results at an airport hotel. (The listeners weren’t fond of that solution.) Brexit? “It’s no secret that I voted Remain… but we have left the EU. The Leave/Remain divide is over, it is gone; the argument now is about what the future relationship with the EU should look like.”
Ferrari wondered if the Bristol statue of Edward Colston should have been toppled by demonstrators. It shouldn’t have been brought down “in that way”, said Starmer, but added: “That statue should have been taken down a long, long time ago… This was a man who was responsible for 100,000 people being moved from Africa to the Caribbean as slaves, including women and children who were branded on their chests with the name of the company he ran. And of the 100,000, 20,000 died en route and they were chucked in the sea.” There was no place for such a statue, he said, in 21st-century Britain. Good.
It was another of Ferrari’s own questions, the last one, which proved the most revealing. “So, your parents were quite politically minded?” he asked, after Starmer said that he was named Keir after Labour party founder, Keir Hardie, and Starmer agreed that, yes, his had been a Labour family. His dad, a toolmaker, “worked in a factory all his life” and his mum, who had been a nurse, died three weeks before her son was elected as an MP. She’d had a long-term illness, said Starmer. “What was the condition she had?” said good journo Ferrari, venturing where most polite conversations don’t. It was Still’s disease, a rare condition “where your immune system attacks itself”, Starmer said. In the last years of her life, his mother couldn’t walk or speak, and had her leg amputated. “She’s never spoken to our children,” said Starmer, using the present tense. “As a teenager I spent a lot of time in high dependency units with my mum, watching the NHS saving her life.”
You may like Starmer or you may not, but it was heartening to hear a politician who was steady and honest, who gave straightforward answers and was across the issues that mattered. Plus, he didn’t appear to be using the media for its ego-boosting jollies and rabble-rousing opportunities. Amazing how refreshing that seems now.
Also refreshing is the new batch of independent podcaststo enlighten and expand our thinking. Here’s one: Shade Podcast, hosted by writer and photographer Lou Mensah. She invites people from the worlds of creativity and activism to have conversations about anti-racism. Occasionally there are a few bumpy sound issues, but Mensah’s guests are fascinating – far from the usual hello-mate merry-go-round of podcast invitees. I hopped between episodes, choosing three. One featured curator Angelina Coronado, who talked about the black diaspora and Dominican people in particular; another, photography lecturer Daniel C Blight, who discussed the white gaze and the harm that “whiteness” (as opposed to just people with white skin) does to us all. And the third gave us Orla and Matilda, two sixth-form student activists from Fill in the Blanks, which campaigns to have British colonial history taught on the national curriculum. Mensah’s seriousness and personal approach meant that every episode gave me something new to think about. Inspiring stuff.
Three surprising podcasts about crime and the justice system
Aussie comedian Marc Fennell was last heard as the presenter of the 2019 hit podcast It Burns, where he tried to track down the world’s hottest chilli. Nut Jobs is another food-themed show that starts with a low-key premise: Fennell checks out the theft of a truckload of almonds in California. The story develops into a $10m black-market investigation, with Fennell examining every angle, from the undocumented workers to law enforcement officers to wellness food fads. His friendly charm means everyone opens up to him in this strange and fascinating tale.
The Great Post Office Trial
In the early 2000s, the Post Office installed new computer software that kept giving false accounts. The Post Office’s bosses ignored all reports of this, and instead insisted that many innocent subpostmasters were stealing money. The subpostmasters were fired, prosecuted and some went to jail. This disgraceful story is told in 10 15-minute episodes by Nick Wallis, the BBC journalist who, over 10 years, uncovered this appalling miscarriage of justice. Covered by Private Eye and by Panorama, it’s Wallis who did the hard work. He should win all the awards going.
Rob Morrison and Mike (Boats) Boateng met while doing time in Rochester prison. Claire, a prison lawyer who has worked with National Prison Radio, asks them questions and the resulting series is surprisingly upbeat. We hear about the prison process, the travelling from court to jail, about relationships inside, how you manage, and what it’s like when you leave. Both Morrison and Boateng gained qualifications inside, and are both now personal trainers, with Boateng working with professional footballers such as Jadon Sancho and Ryan Sessegnon, offering mentoring and protection. Honest and interesting.