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444. The Rick Thompson Report: Snap General Election 2017

Politics is back on LEP as I talk to my Dad about recent developments in the UK, specifically the General Election which is due to take place on 8 June.

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Introduction & Summary Transcript

Last week something surprising happened. The British PM Theresa May announced a “snap general election” – meaning, she called an election earlier than expected and with a short time between the announcement and the date of the election. That’s what a ‘snap’ general election is. In this case the general election is going to happen on 8 June this year.

So this is a general election, which means that all the MPs in the UK’s House of Commons in Westminster, London could change. I don’t think they will all change but we will see a different arrangement for sure, with parties either losing or gaining seats, and the government could change as well. The House of Commons is where all the MPs sit. Each seat in commons represents a different part of the country – the different constituencies. People will go out to the polling stations, vote for an MP for their constituency and the one who wins the most votes in that constituency gets that seat. The party which gets the majority of seats in the House of Commons has the right to form a government. At the moment that’s the Conservatives since they won the majority of seats by a fairly small margin in the last general election we had, which was in 2015, i talked about it on this podcast. How is our parliament and our government going to change with this election? How’s that going to affect the direction the country goes in?

So, politics is in the news (as it always is) so I think it’s time to talk some more about this subject on this podcast, so let’s talk to my dad Rick Thompson again. My dad is a journalist who worked at the BBC for years and he’s also a visiting professor at the University of Central England. Generally he’s a well-informed and articulate person and certainly he’s the one I always ask when I want to know all about something that’s happening in the news. So, let’s talk to Rick Thompson about this snap election, what it all means, and how it relates to this ongoing story of Brexit and politics in the UK.

Before we do that I think it might be necessary to give you a bit of a summary of the story so far, in terms of British politics. This will take about 10 minutes but it’s important context.

I’ve been covering politics in the UK since the 2015 election, doing episodes every now and again about the political situation and events, attempting to talk about them in a balanced way while also giving my personal take on things. You can go back and listen to them – since summer 2015.

In any case, here’s a brief summary of British politics over the last couple of decades to just make it as clear as possible because context is everything. Without context it’s just a bunch of big sounding words and events that might not seem to have any significance. Also, it’s a good chance for you to hear some of the language of politics that you might have heard on this podcast before.

You can read this introduction and summary on the page for this episode. Watch out for certain terms and language relating to politics. There’s some nice vocabulary here and you can pick it up and use it when you discuss this subject too, because I’m sure many of you are discussing these things – politics in Europe but also politics in your countries. A lot of the language is basically the same.

A Summary of British Politics – The Main Parties

So we have two main parties in the UK and some other smaller ones which are still important, especially today.

The Conservatives – centre-right to right wing
They’re often described as the party of the rich. They tend to promote free market capitalism with the belief that allowing business to flourish benefits society as a whole because the money trickles down to everyone else through the creation of jobs etc. They believe in the private sector as the solution to society’s problems and that introducing competition in the marketplace between companies seeking profit will create the best conditions in all services, rather than the government stepping in and controlling things with regulation. So the Tories believe in small government. They’re the party that says they support hard work and dynamic entrepreneurialism – the idea that you can build a business yourself and if you work hard and have good ideas you can get rich and do great things and this benefits society in general. They’re criticised for not caring about ordinary working people, just supporting their friends at the top, being out of touch with ordinary life. They currently are the governing party.

Labour – centre-left to left wing.
Believe in supporting working people and creating conditions in which everyone can have a decent life. They believe that the government needs to support people in all areas by providing welfare, guidance and regulation to keep things balanced for all. The public sector has a responsibility to take part in many areas of life in order to constantly protect the interests of all people. More public spending, and re-distribution of wealth through higher taxation on the rich and higher public spending for services for the poor, equal opportunity programs etc. Criticised as being soft, idealistic, the ‘liberal left’, politically correct, tolerant of radical islam, incapable of managing the economy due to high levels of public spending and taxation which damages business. Being too controlling, too much influence in all areas of life like in people’s business concerns, the nanny state trying to control everything and stifling entrepreneurial instincts. They are the opposition party at the moment, struggling with their leader Jeremy Corbyn who is popular with Labour voters, but unpopular within the MPs themselves.

Liberal Democrats in the middle – they almost never get power and just sit in this kind of lukewarm water where they pick up voters who don’t really agree with the other two big parties. Considered a bit vague and untrustworthy considering they made U turns on many principles in their time in coalition govt with the tories and lost loads of seats in the last election. These days they are one of the the only major parties in England which is anti-Brexit.

Green party to the left of Labour – don’t get a lot of votes because they’re just too left wing even though their policies are about fairness and environmental protection. The left is criticised for being idealistic because they believe in high public spending, and “where’s the money going to come from?” Essentially they are a bit anti-capitalist because they’d make businesses pay for their programmes.

UKIP on the right of the tories – always focused on getting out of the EU and cutting immigration. Many members deny climate change, blame immigrants and the EU for all our problems and like to think they are the party for people who are sick of the political class.

SNP – the party for Scotland. Focused on protecting Scottish interests. Generally left wing policy for Scotland. They want independence.

Smaller parties include Plaid Cymru for Wales and several parties in Northern Ireland.

British Politics Since WW2

Over the years our country has generally swung between The Conservatives and Labour.
Following WW2 a Labour government set up the Welfare State – the state took control of the big institutions and utilities like the National Health Service, the railways, water, electricity, coal, steel etc that were like massive pillars of British economic and social life. This is what the country looked like in the decades after ww2.

In the late 70s and early 80s Thatcher (Conservative) totally changed the country by pushing liberal free market economics and beginning the dismantling of the welfare state. She oversaw the privatisation of state owned institutions, letting the markets and the private sector dominate our economy, making it very hard to go back.

The left wing was badly hurt. Partly due to failures in the pre-Thatcher era with the country being dominated by the labour unions and with a lack of growth in the economy. THatcher did revitalise things but she also damaged a lot of the working communities that relied on industries like coal mining. She pushed the country towards liberal economics like Reagan in the USA and we’ve been following that ever since.

Left wing was a bit stuck for a long time, nearly 20 years of Tories.
Tony Blair in the mid-nineties revitalised the Labour party by re-branding it “New Labour”. He took a centrist position, known as the ‘third way’ or Blairism.

Essentially this was the social position of the left with the economic position of the right.
Free-market capitalism was allowed to flourish, but with redistribution of wealth, high public spending on welfare services, progressive policies.

A lot of it was funded by the financial markets, banking ‘trickery’, credit, lending and so on.

It was like a Thatcherite economic model but with the heart of the left – he claimed to represent ordinary working people and wanted to create a level playing field in society to give everyone an equal chance. He was popular in the beginning and won a landslide victory in 1997. Generally he was quite good, but it all slipped when he took the country to war in Iraq and there were questions about the way he justified that.

Also the reckless manner in which the financial markets were allowed to play with our money led to a banking crisis as all the lending backfired when basically people couldn’t pay back all the debt and banks lost a lot of money.

It came from a culture of risky investment and frankly dodgy debt trading, which is kind of what happens when you let the markets just get away with anything.
Because our society is utterly dependent on credit, our economy took a big hit, just like it did all over the world.

Tony Blair handed over to his partner Gordon Brown who inherited this mess and tried to solve things with a mix of quantitative easing and other policies. Lacking the charisma of Blair and arriving at a time when everyone was a bit sick of Labour. Brown is remembered as a bit of an unpopular guy who also had to deal with the fallout of the Blair years.

Labour took a big hit in the 2010 election and lost.

Voter apathy and general distrust in politicians led to low voter turnout in 2010. The Conservatives got more votes than the other parties but not enough to form a government so they formed a coalition with Liberal Democrats who took the opportunity to play a role in government.

The government pushed an economic policy of austerity. The Liberal Democrats compromised a lot of their principles because the govt was basically led by the tories. They lost a lot of public support.

Scotland had a referendum to leave the UK but the vote ended up being to stay, but the SNP gained a lot of support and Scotland still might vote to leave the UK in order to remain in the EU.

The Tories continued to push austerity as their solution to the economic crisis.

The next election saw a surprising win for the Tories. They managed to win an outright majority. This is mainly because the SNP stole votes from Labour in the north. The Lib Dems lost loads of seats because people had lost faith in them. Labour’s leader Ed Miliband just wasn’t convincing enough. People probably felt that the Conservatives had a plan for the economy which they had to finish. Also the usual voter apathy meant that a lot of people didn’t vote and as a result only a portion of the population got what they wanted.
So the Tories carried on with their policy without the influence of the Lib Dems. No more coalition, just the tories.
Their policy: Cut public spending and yet relieve pressure on businesses to stimulate the economy. It also looked like they were making working people pay for the economic crisis caused by rich bankers who were also their friends.

Labour, in opposition, looked for a new leader. Surprisingly an old member of the party, Jeremy Corbyn, was chosen. He’s quite radically left wing. He’s popular with the grassroots voters, but not popular with the more centrist members of the party, including many Labour MPs and the party is quite split.

Meanwhile the economic crisis, unemployment and increasing immigration caused more competition in the job market and the cut in public services caused a lot of frustration among middle class and lower class people. UKIP gained more support by campaigning to reduce immigration and make Britain great again by getting out of Europe. They posed quite a big threat to the Conservatives both among voters and within the party. David Cameron the PM and Tory leader faced quite a lot of pressure from this growing Eurosceptic faction.

He came up with a plan to satisfy those Eurosceptic members of his party and prevent UKIP from stealing too much support from them. He had to be seen to be addressing the EU situation, taking a tough position.

He called a referendum on Europe while also planning to try and renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership. I think he believed he could use the referendum as a bargaining tool in Europe to get a better deal with more control of immigration and more control of business rules.

He thought the EU would say “ok you can have what you want, just don’t leave us!”

Dave imagined the referendum would be a choice between a better deal with EU or out.

He didn’t get the better deal he wanted, and you know how the anti-EU supporters campaigned hard for a leave vote by making lots of untrue claims, promises they couldn’t keep, presenting Brexit as the solution to all of the UK’s problems.

Surprise surprise, the country voted to leave the UK. 51.9% voted leave, 48.1% to remain.

Cameron, who had campaigned to remain promptly resigned, suggesting that he wasn’t the right man to lead the country into Brexit. There was a slightly messy leadership campaign, with Boris Johnson ultimately stepping down because he made a fool of himself with his leave campaign – too many promises he couldn’t keep and false claims. Theresa May was chosen by the Tories as the next leader. She was officially anti-Brexit during the referendum campaign, but she was chosen as the PM to lead the country through the Brexit negotiations. Crazy times.

A lot of people were angry with Jeremy Corbyn the Labour leader because he did not argue against Brexit strongly enough. As the leader of the left, he didn’t seem to care about Brexit that much and this probably damaged the remain campaign. It seems he doesn’t like Europe much. He lost a lot of support from shocked remain voters.

There was a high court claim by various people which argued that the government didn’t have the right to trigger article 50 (start Brexit process) without Parliament voting on it first. The claim was a success. Parliament voted to trigger article 50. In March Theresa May triggered Article 50. She also promised many times that she wouldn’t call a general election, and that “now wasn’t the time”.

Then, wow, she called a snap election and here we are. It was a surprise because we she didn’t need to do it until 2020.

Another general election on 8 June 2017.

Why has this happened? What’s the significance of this? What does it mean?

Let’s talk to my dad and see what he has to say.

 


What happened?
Theresa May has called a ‘snap’ General Election, to take place on 8 June 2017.

What does this mean?
That voters in the UK will be choosing new MPs in the house of commons.
We’ll get a new government, new arrangement in Parliament

Why did Theresa May call this election? She didn’t have to do it until 2020.
She says it’s because the country needs a united government. May needs a ‘mandate’ from the people to be able to oversee Brexit.
But really, this is just an opportunity for the Tories to grab more power because the opposition is a disaster.

How is this possible? How often do we have elections in the UK?
We have elections every 5 years more or less, but the government has the right to call elections whenever it wants. In the case of a ‘snap’ election like this, Parliament votes on it and it needs a ⅔ majority to go through. That’s going to happen because Corbyn has said Labour will back the snap election.

Why is Corbyn backing this election when it’s pretty certain that Labour will lose seats?
He’s in a Catch 22 situation. If he says no to the election it’s like admitting defeat.

What is going to happen?
Tories will gain a bigger majority, Labour will lose seats, Liberal Democrats will gain (because they’re the only ones fighting against Brexit so remainers will switch to them). But, anything can happen in politics, so let’s wait and see.

How is this related to Brexit?

What about the 48.1% that voted to remain?
Who do they have to vote for? Corbyn basically agrees with Brexit so the only party left is Lib Dem and they’re just not strong enough to win this. The Tories are bound to make big gains.

  • Some vocabulary
  • U turn
  • Voter turnout
  • Voter fatigue
  • Campaign
  • Televised debate
  • Polls
  • Brexit negotiations
  • Mandate

 

432. British TV: Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (Part 1) [Video]

Talking about restaurant culture in the UK, an introduction to one of the UK’s most famous chefs and a chance to learn some authentic English from a popular British TV show featuring Gordon Ramsay. Video available. Includes swearing.

Audio


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Introduction Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English. Here is a new episode for you to listen to and indeed watch, because I’m videoing this one. You’ll be able to find the video on the page for this episode on my website, or by visiting the YouTube channel for Luke’s English Podcast.

A lot of what I am saying here – particularly in this introduction is written on the page for this episode. So you can read it with me, or check it for certain words you hear me using. The best way to get access to these pages is to subscribe to the mailing list.

In the last episode of this podcast you heard me talking to Amber about restaurants and hotels and some crazy TripAdvisor reviews.

At one point in the episode we talked briefly about Gordon Ramsay – one of the UK’s most famous chefs, and his TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” which was a really popular show in the UK a few years ago, and I thought it could be interesting to do a whole episode about that.

So in this one I’m going to talk a little bit about Gordon Ramsay and then we’re going to listen to some YouTube clips from one of his TV shows and I will help you understand all the language that you’ll hear. No doubt there will be some new vocabulary in the process – probably on the subject of food, cooking, restaurants and kitchens but lots of other natural language that just comes up, including plenty of swearing, because Gordon Ramsay is known for his frequent use of swear words.

Yes, there will be quite a lot of swearing in this episode, and you know my position on this. I’m choosing to show you the language as it is really used and that includes the rude words, but don’t be tempted to start throwing swear words into your everyday English. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that swear words are a short cut to sounding exactly like a native speaker. Often it just gives people a bad impression of you. We’ll go into it more later, because there are quite a lot of unwritten social rules around swearing that you need to be aware of – the main one being, that with swearing it is much much easier to sound rude and inappropriate than it is to sound cool. Think of swearing as a motorbike – you might think it’s cool but unless you really know what you’re doing you’re likely to seriously injure yourself. Similarly, swearing can be cool when it’s done in movies or even by someone like Gordon Ramsay, but if you try and do it in your normal life there’s a good chance you’ll just offend people.

So anyway, we’ll listen to some of the English in these YouTube clips and analyse the things they’re saying so that in the end you can understand it all just like I do, which should help you learn some real English in the process. You’ll also learn a thing or two about restaurant culture in the UK and about Gordon Ramsay who is one of the most well-known people in Britain.

Who is Gordon Ramsay and what’s the TV show?

Gordon James Ramsay, is a British celebrity chef, restaurateur, and television personality.

*Difference between a chef and a cook? Basically, a chef is someone who’s had professional training – at least a culinary degree, but a cook is just someone who cooks food. Both might work in a kitchen, but mainly being a chef is about having the status of culinary qualifications and experience.

Ramsay is one of the most famous chefs in the UK and probably in the world too. He has a reputation for being an excellent restaurateur and chef, and also for his extremely strict and direct style. He’s often very rude, saying exactly what he thinks about the people he’s working with in the strongest most colourful language. Imagine an army captain shouting at a platoon of soldiers during military training, but with really good food.

Ramsay was born in Scotland, but he grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is in fact not far from where I grew up in England). So, he is Scottish but doesn’t speak with a Scottish accent.
Ramsay now has restaurants all over the place – in London, in Paris and in New York. During his career he has trained at the highest level with French chefs in the UK and in Paris. He specialises in Italian, French and British recipes, and his cooking is known for being simple, unpretentious, high quality and delicious.

His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in total. The term “Michelin Star” is a hallmark of fine dining quality. Michelin stars are very difficult to win and restaurants around the world proudly promote their Michelin Star status if they have one. His signature restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London, has held 3 Michelin stars since 2001, which is a mark of extremely high quality in restaurant dining.

As well as being a top chef, Ramsay is also a TV presenter. He first appeared on TV in the UK in the late 1990s, and by 2004 Ramsay had become one of the best known celebrity chefs in British popular culture, and, along with other chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Delia Smith, he has influenced viewers to become more culinarily adventurous.

As a reality TV personality, Ramsay is known for his fiery temper, strict demeanour, and use of expletives. He often makes blunt and controversial comments, including insults and wisecracks about contestants and their cooking abilities.

Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on British TV a few years ago – probably around 10-15 years ago now. These days you can find most of the episodes on YouTube.

Local restaurants vs manufacturing companies and processed food

Ramsay is actually very passionate about local restaurants in the UK.

In the UK our eating out culture is vibrant and successful but it is being undermined by a number of factors. One is the industrialisation of food culture. THis means that big businesses are involved in preparing food at an industrial level and then selling it to restaurants as part of a large corporate chain.

These chains might be restaurants which are all owned by one company, or food manufacturers who dominate the wholesale market, driving down their prices and pushing out competition such as local producers who sell fresh products.

In these industrial food manufacturing companies, the food is prepared in high quantities and then sold off to other companies and restaurants as part of a corporate supply chain for food.

There’s a big infrastructure for food purchasing in the UK which is dominated by these big food manufacturers. As a result, many smaller restaurants are forced to buy industrialised and mass-produced food because it is cheaper and more convenient than fresh food which you can buy direct from farms or markets.

If you were a struggling restaurant owner in a town in the UK, what would you do? Buy your food fresh from a local producer and then make sure you sell it in a short-term period, or buy similar products from a mass producer but at a lower price, and it’s food which you can store for longer because it has been processed to stay fresh.

In the end, people choose to eat at home, especially during an economic crisis.

So, economic factors are having a negative effect on the restaurant culture in the UK to an extent. Family owned restaurants should be where you get proper traditional and delicious local food, but these restaurants are being squeezed economically and forced to go along with the industrialised food manufacturing process.

Also, there are many chain restaurants which you find on high streets in the UK. These are not locally run, but are owned by big companies who have a single business model which they apply to all their restaurants. The fact that these places are part of a big corporate chain means that they can drive down their prices, making it very hard for local restaurants to be competitive. As a result, these smaller places suffer, struggle and often close down.

Gordon Ramsay believes that these local restaurants are the backbone of our restaurant culture in the UK, and he strongly believes that they need to be supported so they can compete with the corporate chains, and given training so they can serve the best food possible. Essentially that’s the concept behind Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but also it’s just entertaining watching him shouting at incompetent chefs. You sort of let him get away with the way he bullies people because you believe that really he’s just trying to help them to learn the discipline you need to run a really good restaurant.

But he does seem really passionate about proper restaurant culture in the UK and I like that about him. Even though he’s making this reality show and he’s making money from doing it, I think he really does care about improving restaurant culture in the UK.

On the other hand, he is very good at TV. He knows how to make entertaining TV, and he’s got a good formula for it. Basically, this means that he takes the harsh discipline and the no-nonsense brutally honest approach that he applies to his kitchen management, and uses it when giving feedback to the restaurants which he visits.

Let’s listen to a few scenes and I’m going to make sure you understand everything that’s going on and everything that’s being said.

Let’s learn English with Gordon Ramsay

The TV Show

Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on UK TV about 10-15 years ago.
The format is this – Gordon Ramsay visits a failing restaurant somewhere in the UK. So, restaurants that are failing – e.g. losing money, getting terrible reviews etc. He goes into the restaurant and spends a week there, observing the way the owners run the kitchen, how the business works and what’s going on at all levels. Usually he starts by sitting down to eat the chef’s speciality dish, and it’s nearly always disgusting, and Ramsay comments on how it tastes, how it looks, and also the decor of the restaurant and the service from the staff.

Then Ramsay gives his feedback to the owner and the chef, and it’s always a massive reality check, and it usually involves very strong words and lots of swearing. This is what happens when a top-level chef enters the world of a crappy low-level restaurant.

Then over the course of the week, Gordon helps the managers turn the restaurant around. It’s almost always a huge challenge and often the most difficult part is dealing with the psychological aspects – the stubborn chefs, the relationship issues in the kitchen, the fact that these people have personal issues which are causing the business to go horribly wrong.

It is car-crash TV. We see arguments, meltdowns, unhappy customers and so on.
In almost every episode Gordon seems to go hopping mad as he can’t believe the incompetence or shockingly low standards of service shown by the people in the restaurant. He then tries to help them change everything and turn the business around. It all makes really great telly.

And by the end of the episode, with Gordon’s help they have usually turned the restaurant into a successful business again.

There’s a UK version and a US version.

If you search for Kitchen Nightmares on YouTube you will probably find the US version first, but I think the UK version is better!

But really, it is better because the US version is horrible. It’s full of really fast editing and there’s loads of music which is added in order to tell you how you should be feeling about what’s happening. It’s distracting and patronising.

Example of the US version (just listen to all the distracting sound effects and music)

The UK version just has some rock music in the background at the start, but then during the show it’s more simple and you can just focus on what’s happening without constant sweeping sounds and tense music.

Let’s listen to some scenes from one of the episodes.

These scenes actually come from an episode called “Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmares” which was shown on TV between series 5 and 6 of Kitchen Nightmares. It’s basically the same as any other episode of the series.

Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare – Dovecote Bistro

Summary
Gordon goes to visit a restaurant in Devon called Dovecote Bistro, which is run by a guy called Mick.
Mick is a former truck driver and burger van operator who has opened this bistro with his wife and adopted daughter, Michelle. Ramsay is firstly appalled by the psychedelic wallpaper decorating the restaurant, and then his attention turns to the food and the way it is cooked. While Ramsay is impressed with the simple menu, he is furious to find that Mick has very little cooking ability, using orange squash to make a sauce and using vacuum-sealed pre-cooked lamb shanks in a microwave bag. Not only does he show little responsibility in the kitchen, he is also secretive with his spending and is hugely in debt. Mick is adamant that the problems in the kitchen are not his fault, and his stubbornness causes a rift with his wife and daughter. Ramsay solves the crisis by taking the business matters out of Mick’s hands and kicks him out of the kitchen. His daughter, Michelle, is placed in charge of the kitchen despite having no cooking experience. She rises to the challenge, and while Mick is not convinced over replacing his microwave food, the reopening is a success.
Months later, Ramsay returns to find that the restaurant is making profit. He sent Michelle for further culinary training, and she impresses Ramsay with freshly cooked food.
The restaurant was renamed Martins’ Bistro during production.

Video 1 – Flourescent duck cooked in orange squash

Vocabulary

Let’s see what this ex-trucker can do
Lamb shanks
Fuck me! (surprise / shock)
Your blouse matches the wallpaper
I feel like I’m tripping out!
I’ve never touched the stuff but I feel like I just swallowed an E.
The hideous wallpaper
On paper it looks delicious
Orange squash
A spoonful of gravy
Fuck me do I need sunglasses!
That’s worse than fucking Benylin
They’re actually vacuum packed
They can last for about a year
They’re bought in, they’re vacuum packed
They’ve got a shelf life of about a year
Well, fuck me!
That might be the worst food I’ve ever come across
He might be beyond my help
It doesn’t need refrigerating
How in the fuck could you charge 11 pounds for that?
E numbers, like Tartrazine
Do you feel like having a shit?
Thank fuck I didn’t eat it.
I’m surprised you haven’t killed off half the population of Okehampton

End of part 1 – part 2 available very soon!

417. New Year’s Resolutions and Language Learning in 2017

Let’s look towards the coming year and talk about new years resolutions for language learning in 2017. I talk about the UK’s most common new year’s resolutions, my resolutions for improving my French and then talk about ways we can work on our language learning this year.

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The UK’s Most common New Year’s resolutions

Source: ComRes poll

  1. Exercise more (38 per cent)
  2. Lose weight (33 per cent)
  3. Eat more healthily (32 per cent)
  4. Take a more active approach to health (15 per cent)
  5. Learn a new skill or hobby (15 per cent)
  6. Spend more time on personal wellbeing (12 per cent)
  7. Spend more time with family and friends (12 per cent)
  8. Drink less alcohol (12 per cent)
  9. Stop smoking (9 per cent)
  10. Other (1 per cent)

www.telegraph.co.uk/wellbeing/health-advice/common-new-years-resolutions-stick/

www.theweek.co.uk/80420/the-most-common-new-year-resolutions-and-who-has-stuck-to-them

Making New Year’s Resolutions about Language Learning

We don’t usually stick to our new year’s resolutions. I think it helps to make one resolution which is quite specific.

There are a lot of things I would like to achieve this year but I’ve decided to focus on my French because I’ve neglected it.

Stop making excuses, release the pressure and enjoy it.

I want to improve my French because it’s still not good enough, even though I live in France.

As I often say, my French isn’t doing very well but my excuses are improving all the time.

So, as ever I plan to stop making excuses and to apply my own knowledge about language learning to my learning of French. Olly Richards’ advice from episode 332 still stands of course, and we know it to be true:

  • Add little bits of language learning practice into your daily routine and make it a habit.
  • With regular, habitual practice your learning will progress properly.
  • Then you can build on those habits and spend more and more time per day.

I’m pretty embarrassed by my lack of French and so I have to pull my finger out. It just shows, and we already know this, that learning a language doesn’t happen magically, that you also have to use specific techniques, work at it, do it regularly and be organised.

I should do an episode all about my French and I plan to.

My specific aim for my French this year is to read graphic novels in French, like this one. (pics)

Some suggestions for resolutions about English

It’s important to start the year in a positive and determined way and then keep it up! Not many of us maintain our resolutions.

Maybe we should to maintain our resolutions for 3 months, and then revisit them, making new ones or reestablishing the old ones. So, perhaps at about Easter we can evaluate them.

I encourage you to make some resolutions about your English. Just choose to do one thing on a regular basis and make it a habit. You could write about it in the comment section.

Another idea is to get a Netflix account and switch on the subtitles. Then get addicted to a show (e.g. The Crown) and before you know it you’ll have binge watched 10 hours of TV in English while noticing all the language in the subtitles.

You could keep your vocab notebook with you to note down new words, or note them down in your phone. Perhaps you could use the voice recorder on your phone to record yourself saying some sentences with those new words and then at the end of the month you review them all and listen to yourself saying the words and phrases – in some sort of meaningful sentences. That could be a great way of teaching yourself some language.

Remember that when you’re practising language, like new words or expressions, to use meaningful examples. Make sentences that are expressions of your real opinion or which are about something important to you. You might find the words stick more easily that way.

Think about one area of your English that you need to improve and focus on that this year. For example if you need to improve your writing in particular, try getting a book on email writing (e.g. Email English by Paul Emmerson) or if you have a job interview coming up consider getting some italki lessons specifically to practise interview scenarios.

There are plenty of other ideas that you could come up with. Feel free to share some ideas in the comment section if you like.

Thanks for listening. Speak to you soon.

Luke

391. Discussing Language, Culture & Comedy with Alexander van Walsum

Here is a new episode featuring a conversation with a friend of mine who originally comes from the Netherlands but he has lived all over the world. You’re going to hear us talking about cultural differences, Dutch stereotypes, doing business in France, the UK and the USA, the different communication styles in those places, doing stand up comedy and getting Darth Vader’s signature. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it.

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Alex performing at Le Paname Art Cafe in Paris

You can see Alex performing at “WTF Paris? – Comedy Therapy for Expats” with Amber Minogue at the SoGymnase comedy club in Paris every Friday evening at 8pm. Details here www.weezevent.com/wtf-paris
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377. Holiday in Thailand (Part 1)

This episode contains stories and descriptions of my recent holiday in Thailand. You’ll hear some facts about Thailand, some descriptions of Bangkok and a few stories about funny experiences that happened while we were there. Part 2 is coming soon. More details and transcriptions below. Enjoy!

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Transcript

Hello everybody, I’m back from my holiday so here is a brand new episode for you to listen to. If you’re new to Luke’s English Podcast, then “hello” and welcome to the show. I have no idea how you found the podcast. It was probably on the internet, that’s how it normally happens. I doubt that you actually tripped over it in the street or anything. Oops ,what’s that – oh, it’s Luke’s English Podcast. I might as well have a look. You probably found it online, perhaps through iTunes or a friend recommended it to you perhaps. In any case, regardless of how you found me, welcome. My name’s Luke – and this is my podcast. It’s primarily for learners of English although I also have native English speakers listening to this too. In these episodes I talk to you in a personal way, telling stories, sharing some things about my life, discussing different topics, teaching you English and giving you the motivation to improve your English for yourself. I try to keep the podcast varied and I’m willing to talk about pretty much anything at all as long as it’s interesting. I’m an English teacher from the UK. I speak British English – with a standard accent from the South East of England. I’ve been teaching for more than 15 years so I have lots of experience to draw from. I’m also a stand-up comedian which means that when I’m not teaching English or doing the podcast I like to stand up in front of audiences of people and make them laugh with jokes and stories and things. I regularly perform comedy shows in Paris.

One of the principles which underpins what I do in episodes of this podcast is the understanding that simply listening to natural, spontaneous speech is a vital part of the process of learning English to a good standard. Obviously, you have to get an understanding of the grammar rules, develop an extensive set of active vocabulary, practise pronouncing the language and so on, but doing plenty of listening is an essential foundation. I usually recommend that LEP is best enjoyed as part of a balanced study program. For example I suggest that you also do plenty of speaking in order to activate the English that you passively pick up from these episodes. There are lots of ways to improve your English and you can just listen to previous episodes of the podcast to get my advice on that. At the very least, you can just relax and enjoy listening to my words on a regular basis, and I hope that it’s a fun process too. Certainly, I am sure that my podcast can really help all the other aspects of your English, not just your listening. I also believe it’s important to listen to English which is spoken at a pretty natural speed, which is spontaneous (i.e. not just written from a script) and I think you should listen regularly for fairly long periods, long term. Make it a part of your lifestyle to listen regularly and don’t give up.

I want my podcast to help you to do exactly those things, and so I try to make my episodes genuine, personal and humorous. So, if you’re new to the podcast – welcome and thanks for listening. I hope you stick with it. I believe that if you do continue to listen, you’ll see significant results in your English. Check out the episode archive on my website teacherluke.co.uk and you’ll see that you have plenty of other episodes to explore and enjoy.

If you’re not new to the podcast, and you are in fact a long term LEPster then welcome back! How are you? I hope you’re well. Did you have a good August? Have you listened to all the episodes I published before I went away? I hope so.

In any case, here is a new episode of this podcast and it is about my recent holiday in Thailand.

Holiday in Thailand

Yes, we went to Thailand this year and I’m going to tell you about it in this episode. In fact, in this one I’ll talk about these things:

  1. Why we went to Thailand
  2. Where we went in Thailand
  3. The things most people know about Thailand
  4. Some things you might not know about Thailand
  5. A few anecdotes about what we did and saw during the holiday
  6. A few dodgy jokes!
  7. An embarrassing story involving nudity
  8. A sad old memory that came back to me at a specific moment in the trip
  9. A mouse-related update (if you heard the last episode of the podcast, this will make sense to you)

We got back just the other day. I’m still a bit jet-lagged. I woke up at stupid o’clock this morning. My body is still on Thailand time, so at about 5AM my body woke up saying “hey it’s time to get up and go walking around temples in very hot temperatures! We’re on holiday come on!” No doubt I will randomly fall asleep this afternoon when my body decides that it’s bedtime. I have a sun tan – correction, I had a tan, until the flight back. As a very white English man, I have a slightly tricky relationship with sun tans. At the moment I am sporting the typical English man’s tan.

I have no idea how long this episode will be but I can just split it up into different chapters and it’s all good.

You will find some of this episode transcribed on the episode page on my website. Not all of it is transcribed, but a lot of it is, and you can read my notes too, which might be a good way to check out the spelling of any words you hear me use. They might be written on the page. By the way, if you’re just reading this – I strongly recommend that you listen instead of reading. Remember, anything that is written here is supposed to just accompany what I’m saying in the audio recording.

Why did we choose Thailand?

– My wife and I wanted to go somewhere exotic and far away (we want to explore places which are a bit further before we have kids)
– A break and a chance to get away from it all
– Never been before
– We like food !
– It’s quite diverse in terms of the things you can do – city, culture, beaches
– It’s not too expensive

Why didn’t you do an LEP Live event?

It was a holiday – so I was not working. That means I didn’t organise some sort of LEPster meet-up, or live podcasting stand up comedy extravaganza. I didn’t meet up with Olly Richards even though I have since learned that he was out there too learning Thai – no, it was all about walking around sweating, visiting temples, sweating, exploring street food markets, sweating, worrying about food poisoning, sweating, going to the beach and sweating there, learning how to cook local food, eating the local food with lots of chilli, sweating, doing yoga and meditating, drinking water and sweating! Just the average holiday abroad for a British person!

Where did you go?

In a nutshell, here’s where we went.

Bangkok for a few days, then up north to Chiang Mai for a few days, then down south to Koh Samui for a few days and then back to Bangkok for a few days and then home! Boom!

That’s the usual tourist route. It’s Bangkok in the middle, temples, treks into the forest, elephants, night markets and cooking classes in the north, then islands, beaches, diving, snorkelling and full moon parties in the south.

We didn’t go to the islands on the west side like Phuket because of the climate in August.

Also, just before we left and even while we were there, there were some explosions – some bombings, which was a bit worrying. We even considered not going, but then we thought – well, we live in Paris and we’ve got as much chance of being blown up there as in Thailand, so what the hell!

In fact our time was very peaceful.

Usual things people think about Thailand

The most typical clichés or stereotypes about Thailand: Busy, crowded, amazing food – specifically green curry and pad thai noodles, weird sex tourism in Bangkok, ladyboys, bizarre sex shows involving ping pong balls, full moon beach parties, buckets full of ridiculously full cocktails, kickboxing, temples, westerners being locked up in prison for drug possession, scooters, Sagat from Street Fighter 2 (Tiger uppercut), snakes, golden buddha statues, amazingly friendly and smiling people and the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

That’s partly true (perhaps for the average western tourist) but obviously it’s not the full picture, especially for the locals.  I will go into more detail about what it’s really like in this episode.

Things you might not know about Thailand

1. Full name of Bangkok. It’s the longest city name in the world. “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.”

2. Thailand, or “Prathet Thai” means “land of the free”…

3. Thailand has never been colonised by a foreign power, unlike other neighbouring countries which were colonised by European nations like Britain, France and the Netherlands. Thailand had a few wars with Burma, but was never successfully invaded. Well done Thailand.

4. Thailand has more than 1,400 islands. The most famous ones are in the south, and they are beautiful. Probably the most well known is Koh Phi Phi, which is where The Beach was filmed. (By the way, it’s a rubbish film)

5. It’s illegal to leave the house without underwear on. I don’t know how they enforce this law. Are they doing random underpant checks?

6. Thai currency is called the Baht and it’s illegal to step on Thai Baht. Now, you might be thinking – well, I don’t every go around stepping on currency anyway, so that’s not a problem. But the point is that this is because of the high level of respect that the Thai people have for their royal family. Like in the UK, a picture of the monarch appears on every bank note and the image of the monarch cannot be desecrated, in fact it is a crime to disfigure a picture of the king or queen in any way. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, a bit like the UK, and they hold their king and queen in high esteem. There are lots and lots of images of them all over the country, sometimes you find little shrines in the street devoted to them.

7. The feet are considered to be very unclean (both clinically and spiritually) and so it is very rude to reveal the soles of your feet to anyone. So, don’t sit with your feet facing outwards, or put your feet up on the table like we do in the west sometimes. It’s also rude to point at people with your feet, which is fine because I literally never do that anyway. I’m sure I heard someone do standup about that and I can’t remember who, but it was very funny.

8. Similarly, the head is the highest point on the body and is considered to be sacred, so don’t touch it, slap it, poke it or whatever. In the west you might rub someone on the top of the head as a sign of affection, or whack someone round the back of the head to express annoyance. Don’t do that in Thailand. To be honest, I wasn’t going to do that either. I rarely touch the head of random strangers that I meet in public. I certainly wouldn’t slap the back of the head of someone. E.g. “Waiter, excuse me – we asked for 2 bowls of rice and you gave me one! Can we have another one? Thank you!” SLAP. No.

9. 95% of people are buddhist. It’s quite common to see Buddhist monks walking around. We talked to one of them and I’ll explain what he said later in this episode. Also there are buddha statues everywhere. There are thousands of them. It’s just buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha. Climb to the top of a mountain, there’s a buddha. Inside a cave? Buddha. Under a nice tree? Buddha. Inside this big temple? Buddha. In front of the big buddha statue, lots of other buddhas. In front of them, buddhas. Buddhas everywhere – which is great. They are beautiful, peaceful images and of all the religions I think Buddhism perhaps makes the most sense. Just try to reach a higher level of consciousness. Realise that everything is connected and that there is one universal vibration which passes through the entire universe. Reject selfish and materialistic urges in favour of achieving individual spiritual enlightenment. Fine.

10. It’s a very hot place – especially Bangkok. The hottest time of year is April where temperatures rise to 40 degrees C or more, with high humidity levels too. In August it’s the rainy season but it still gets really hot – it was regularly in the high 30s and with very high levels of humidity. Showers that happen in the evenings are a welcome break from the heat!

Read more about this on ‘the internet’ matadornetwork.com/trips/19-things-probably-didnt-know-thailand/

Bangkok

There are lots of stories about it, like the dodgy ping pong shows, the sex tourism and other weird and lewd things, but of course not everywhere is like that. We avoided the dodgy tourist parts such as Patpong, where there are these weird sex shows. Now, while I am quite curious to learn about the bizarre skills that some women have developed – I mean, some of the things are quite impressive. For example, apparently in these shows, some women are able to launch ping pong balls across the room – and not with their hands if you know what I mean, and some of them can even write letters with a paintbrush or pen, again, not with their hands. THat’s actually quite impressive, but I don’t really need to see it, and apparently the people who run the shows are very dodgy indeed and they lure you in with false prices and then when you try to leave they force you to pay a lot of money and it gets pretty ugly, so no thanks. No ping pong shows for us.

A mix between the chaotic and slightly sketchy places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc and the more modern JPN, particularly parts of this area where we stayed.

The streets are vibrant, chaotic, noisy, smelly, polluted, full of life. Scooters, cars, crossing the road. Nobody walks! Traffic is incredibly busy. There’s an amazing metro system called the sky train. Tuk tuks, taxis and so on.

Lots of street food, with people cooking all sorts of things on little mobile carts – chicken skewers, lots of seafood, noodles, fruits like mango and some things I didn’t recognise. People eat in the street sitting on little plastic chairs.

Incredible Japanese BBQ. Daimasu.

Massages

Onsen experience

Expectations vs reality.
Naked bald midget.
Only had a tiny towel. Not big enough to go around me.
A bunch of other naked guys, including a group of old men in the corner watching. They broke off their conversation to have a look at me when I walked in.
Only foreigner there.
Not normal in my culture.
I felt really embarrassed. Not because of my size – because I have nothing to be ashamed of in that department. Some might say I’m gifted, I would prefer to say I am average for a guy of my height, but I should add that I have massive hands and feet. Just saying. Anyway, I don’t really need to be ashamed of myself but this was very awkward for me but because I’m not used to being seen, and the natural response is to be self-conscious about your size, even in front of other men. You might think it’s not important what other guys think, but I’d never had to rationalise it before and the fact is, is still matters for some reason.
Size is important, even when it’s other guys. I can’t really explain that.
Of course I shouldn’t be bothered by it at all, but I’m English and it’s just part of our culture. First we don’t ever get naked in a public situation, except perhaps at a sports club but then it’s brief.
Also, for some reason it feels like you’re being judged. I did feel judged. I felt incredibly self co anxious.
Maybe I was being a bit paranoid, maybe not, but people weren’t shy about having a look. The old guys stopped their conversation to take a look at me. Others turned their heads etc.
Nerves = natural body response to protect the Crown Jewels.
Stayed in jet bath.
One by one the guys came over to the adjacent bath and had a look at me. Every time I thought “oh for fucks sake!”
I stayed there for 20 minutes not knowing where to look and absolutely boiling!
Tried to make a break for the next nearest bath but it was the cold one – no way.
Went for the soda bath. High CO2 apparently good for me but I thought I was going to die.
Left and got changed.
An absolute fountain of sweat.
Wife waiting for me, totally dry.

The massage was quite brutal, but ultimately nice.

Holiday = sweating, great discomfort, great comfort and relief, good food, discomfort, sweating, relief, sweating etc.

Rude massage joke

 

Thanks for listening – subscribe to the email list at the top-right of the page. :)

Luke

351. BREXIT: Should the UK leave the EU? (A Conversation with my Dad)

Hello everyone, I hope you’re well. Here is an episode featuring a conversation with my Dad about Brexit – The UK’s referendum on the EU. Finally! I’ve been mentioning this for a while so here it is. You’ve seen it in the news, you’ve read it in the papers – the UK is having a referendum on membership of the European Union and who knows, we might end up leaving. It’s all over the news and the internet in the UK at the moment, everyone’s talking about it – you can’t escape it and it’s going to get more and more intense the closer we get to 23 June, the date of the referendum. I’ve had plenty of messages from listeners asking me to talk about this on the podcast, so here we go.

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Brexit: A Complex Issue

I’ve been wondering how to approach this topic for ages. It’s actually a very complex issue which I would like to cover properly, taking into account the different arguments in some detail in order to bring some genuine insight to the issue. I think that one of the problems with the subject of the EU and Brexit is that the issues are genuinely difficult to understand, and it takes proper effort and patience to understand them fully. I think it’s fair to say that these days people just don’t feel they have the time or the willingness to look deeply at the issues, and instead just arrive at their opinions based on an emotional reaction. There’s little tolerance for nuance or broad-mindedness it seems. So, I could just skate over the issues and cover this in just one short episode – but you know, I don’t like to do that on this podcast, and in fact podcasting as a medium is generally a great way to have an extended conversation on a topic. You rarely get extended, natural conversations on TV or on the internet about subjects like this. More and more there’s a pressure to make TV broadcasts short and quick, but as a result some of the subtleties are lost. There’s a tendency towards soundbites and short emotion-driven arguments. As a result, some of the more complex arguments are not heard. Certainly with the issue of Brexit in the media – our emotions are being played upon all the time – it’s either ‘fear’ like in the case of David Cameron who suggested that a Brexit could lead to World War 3 or it’s patriotic nationalism on a ridiculous level, like Boris Johnson comparing the EU to Hitler and saying that Britain could be the heroes of Europe. That’s all highly emotional political rhetoric. But let’s have a normal conversation about it shall we?

I think there are several ways to deal with the Brexit subject on this podcast. I could start with the vocabulary and terminology – because there’s a lot of specific language involved in this, when you consider that the whole thing relates to issues like the economy, immigration, sovereignty, legislative procedure, social policy, the environment, security and the workings of the EU institutions. So, I could take a bottom up approach and start with the terminology or the language of Brexit. Or I could go with a top down approach and just talk about the subject. In the end I’ve decided to go with the latter – and that’s to just jump right into the topic here by having a conversation about it. And who better to talk to than my Dad, Rick.

So this is the first thing you’ll hear on the subject – a conversation with my Dad – before I expect to go into Brexit in a bit more detail in some later episodes.

Now, you’ve probably heard my Dad on this podcast before. I thought it could be interesting for you to hear on this podcast a conversation between a well-informed, articulate and intelligent man, and his father. (ha ha)

 

Just one final point here before we listen to the conversation. The day before I spoke to my Dad for the podcast, I posted a question on social media, saying “My Dad’s going to be on the podcast talking about Brexit – do you have any questions?” I got loads of questions from interested LEPsters. Thank you very much if you wrote one. What I did was to consolidate all your queries and points into a just a few simple questions which I then used as a basis for this discussion. So, I don’t actually read out your questions or mention any names, but thank you for your questions – I think we managed to cover a lot of them in our conversation. Anything we didn’t deal with, I’ll come back to later on.

Alright, so without any further ado, let’s now hear the conversation with my Dad Rick about the UK’s referendum on Europe, and here we go.

*Conversation Begins*

The questions below are a summary of the questions I received from LEPsters on Facebook.

1. WHAT IS BREXIT?

2. WHY HAS THE BREXIT QUESTION COME UP NOW?

3. WHAT ARE THE MAIN ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST BREXIT?

  • The ‘leave’ campaign
  • The ‘remain’ campaign
  • What are the main arguments of the ‘leave’ campaign?
  • What are the main arguments of the ‘remain’ campaign?

4. WHAT WOULD BE THE CONSEQUENCES? (I don’t think we really answered this – so I’ll come back to it)

5. WHAT DO WE THINK PERSONALLY?

*Conversation Ends*

I said there at the end that it’s all a bit complicated. While recording that interview I was thinking that it was bound to be very difficult to follow. Actually, after listening back to that conversation, I think we managed to deal with it in a fairly clear way, especially my Dad, who is very articulate and well-informed on the subject.

I have a variety of listeners with varying levels of knowledge of this subject, so I’m sure some of you followed that without too many problems whereas others might have been a bit lost at times.

So, I do think it’s worth talking more about Brexit on the podcast and I plan to go through some of the key vocabulary associated with this and also revisit the main arguments in forthcoming episodes. Also, as we move closer to the referendum date I am sure more things will happen in the news and it will be interesting to keep an eye on the opinion polls. So watch out for more Brexit-related commentary in the near future.

As ever I am very keen for you to express your opinions on the website. So please leave your comments. What do you think? What do you think about my Dad’s opinions in this episode, and how would you vote in the referendum?
Should the UK leave the EU or should the UK remain a part of the EU?

The LEP EU POLL

In fact, let’s do an LEP EU Referendum of our own, shall we? I wonder how the LEPsters would vote in this referendum.
I have opened up a Brexit poll on my website (you can see it below) – so please visit and cast your vote. It’s anonymous and you don’t need to add your email address.

Thanks very much for listening and take care! BYE!

Luke

Comments & Questions from LEPsters on Facebook

General questions and points of view

Luciano: What is BRETIX??!!
Elizabeth: Right now the UK has some bargaining power. Instead of leaving they should use that to see if they can’t get the worst transgressions off their back. Right?
Roland:  UK has been EU member since 1973. I am wondering why did brexit question come up now? Isn’t it because of the massive migration problem in continental Europe and part of Uk population tend to mix up the two different issues (migration vs. uk-eu renegotiation)?
Mollie:  Happy Birthday , Teacher Luke !
Luciana:  I’d like to know what is the real motivation behind the pro exit campaigners. Will they have any personal gain? Or is it only an ideological matter?
Alessandro:   Hello everybody, hi Luke, I’ve spoken to many Britons so far and all of them are for remaining in Europe. Is there anybody who’s really going to vote leave? In my view many are unable to decide what to do because they have different feelings or there are different things they want. My question is: is the referendum ripping apart British society?
PROs & CONS
What are the main arguments for and against us leaving?
Ricardo:   Hi Luke, my name’s Ricardo and I’m from Brazil. for that Reason I don’t understand why Uk still have a Queen and what’s pro and con for UK’s to be membership of EU.
Aritz:  Hello Richard! Hope you are fine!
My question: why do you think it’ll be better for the UK to stay or to go out? (depending on your point of view).
I’d like a precise answer, and nothing vague please. I’m from Spain and I live and work in London, so I am deeply interested in this issue.Thank you very much!!!
CONSEQUENCES

Anna :  If the UK finally decides to abandon the EU, would it still be a member of Schengen area? Yaron:   I would like to know how it going to affect you personally, if UK will leave (as English man who currently live and work in France)… In addition, I would find it interesting if you will discuss whether UK will leave the EU, would it be the start of the end of the EU. ie, would other countries will also leave the EU eventually (maybe not France and Germany… But other nations)

Kenichi : I would you like to summarise how people supporting the Conservative party or the labour one think about the Brexit. And If the Brexit happens, what would happen on daily goods imported from other EU countries such as wine, beer, sausage, etc. The reason why I’m asking is because I suppose the UK has been getting a lot of benefits from the cheaper trade as a member of EU so far, and those benefits would be lost after the Brexit.

Robert:  If UK leave UE, it will mean that citizens other EU other country (for example Polish) have to leave UK? What do you think. If UK leave UE it would be end of EU?

PERSONAL OPINION

Anna:  Luke, what is your personal attitude towards this issue? How are you going to vote?

Jairo:   I am going to borrow a question from BBC News and ask your dad :

What do you think the EU referendum says about Britain ? ,
tell us in ” six ” words 😊.
Adam:    However, I think I know how you are going to vote, but am curious to hear your father’s point of view, cheers
Piedad:  What will happen with EU citizens already living in UK?
Gabor:  and the same question from a different point of view, what will happen with the UK citizens living abroad in the EU?
Jean:   what will be the real consequences if UK choice to exits from UE… Try, please, to explain us this complicated topic with some examples. Thanks 😉
Abdelhmide:   Hi Luke , my question is ; if the UK leave the EU will you would need visas to go to EU ??Thanks
Other comments from listeners
Burak: Dont exit from EU ..
Adam :  I believe that if Brexit actually happens, the EU will then browbeat the UK to accept some new treaties like those of Switzerland or Norway so that the UK wouldn’t be totally free of the EU anyway. Moreover, this argument is actually being skated around by the Brexit campaigners. Not that I am particularly fond of the EU myself, but still don’t think there is an alternative to it than just being part of the block and fight for a shift.
Nataliya :  Boris Johnson VS David Cameron on this matter
Francesco :  I’m gonna answer you with a Pink Floyd quote: “Together we stand divided we fall”.
Konstantinos : Hello Luke. Thanks for asking.. I don’t think that the Euro-zone has any future in case that the citizens of the United Kingdom, would like / take the decision to continue their destiny as a country, outside from the Europe. The question there is, what are the advantages or disadvantages from this kind of catalytic decision? ..and what’s will be going on with a large group of people who live and work in the UK? Of course, and as we all understand, there’s a domino under the possibility of the negative answer, but from the other side, the British have the opportunity with that referendum to think finally, what are their interests for them and for their country.. My point of view..(?) I think the result surprise us positively.. The sure is that would be a historical moment for the England, which the humanity will remember forever.. and by the way If I have a title earlier in advance for this mini article that would be “The Funeral of the Europe”..
Francesco:   It’s more of an opinion than a question, but here it is: i think it would be really bad for us all if you left the EU and the UK would lose a great deal!

325. Catching Up with Oli / Future Predictions (Part 1)

Here’s a 2-part episode featuring a conversation with my cousin Oliver in which we talk about first some challenges he faced over the last few years (including dramatic things like a scooter crash, a tropical disease, a burglary and how he completely flooded his own house) and then some more positive things about being a father and predictions for how society will be different in the future. Also, listen for some general news and announcements about Luke’s English Podcast.

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Announcements & News

  • I hope you enjoyed the episodes I recorded as a tribute to David Bowie. Unfortunately, so soon after we lost Bowie, the news came that another great person has died – the British actor Alan Rickman, who like Bowie was 69 years old and died from cancer. He’s most famous for playing the part of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, and the part of Hans Gruber the bad guy in the film Die Hard with Bruce Willis – both very enjoyable and distinguished performances, but he played many other roles too. Alan Rickman was known for his sardonic humour, his wonderfully rich and unique voice, and for bringing a great amount of weight and humanity as well as humour to his roles. He will be missed too.
  • And, I haven’t even mentioned Lemmy – the lead singer of the group Motorhead, who also died recently. Lemmy played a massive part in the invention of heavy metal music, and was generally a huge personality in the world of British rock. He was on the scene all the way from the 60s until this year when he passed away due to cancer. Lemmy was known for his gravelly voice, his appearance (he looked like a biker dressed in leather with big mutton-chop sideburns and moles on his face – he wasn’t a pretty guy like Bowie by any means), his hard-drinking speed fuelled lifestyle and his bizarre obsession with Nazi regalia – clothing, weapons and so on from the Nazi era. He wasn’t a bad guy, he just liked the designs and imagery from that time – it had nothing to do with the ideology, and at heart he was just committed to playing loud and fast music and living a loud and fast lifestyle – and he will surely go down in history as a true legend of the music world. So, that’s three people, at least. So, can famous British people stop dying please!? If we carry on at this rate there’ll be none left by the end of the year.
  • But let’s not dwell on these dark things any more! I’m glad to present you this episode today because this one is all about the future, and new life because my cousin Oli is going to be a Dad for the first time – his wife is expecting a baby daughter at any time, so let’s look to the future, with new life and positivity and all that stuff! We’ll start that in just a minute, but first – a little bit of admin…
  • The comments issue on the website is fixed. I just needed to do a few updates. You can now post comments on the homepage again. No worries!
  • Email subscribers – are you still receiving emails when I post new episodes? I had a couple of messages from listeners recently who said they hadn’t received emails with new episodes. How about you? If you’re an email subscriber, could you let me know if you received emails for the David Bowie episodes, the episode called With the Thompsons, and the Star Wars spoiler review.
  • Picture comp is finished – so, don’t send me any more photos please! Thank you for the photos I have received in my email account, and, of course, I have loads of pictures. They’ll go up on the website soon and you can pick your favourite. I’m a little bit concerned about how that’s going to work because there are about a billion photos, but I’ll work something out.
  • I’ll be meeting Paul and Amber again soon. Firstly to catch up with them both – because quite a lot has happened since we last spoke on the podcast. Amber went to Costa Rica, and Paul Taylor is now something of a celebrity as his comedy video about kissing in France went super-viral over the last few weeks. His video, “Paul Taylor – La Bise” is about his frustration with the French custom of kissing people when you meet them. It was uploaded onto Robert Hoehn’s YouTube channel French Fried TV on new year’s day and within the space of just a few days it got over 1 million views. He was featured on lots of French websites, radio and TV, and then the video went global on the BBC’s website and more. Paul also has a new solo comedy show every Saturday (as well as the one with me on Thursdays) and it’s completely sold out for the next 10 weeks or something. Wow! Remember when he was on this podcast talking about how he quit his job to do comedy? Remember how difficult it was in Edinburgh? Well, things seem to be working out for him now! Good news!

  • Also, I hope to get Amber and him on this podcast again (if he’ll come on now that he’s such a big celebrity) in order to do that interactive version of the Lying Game – remember that? Listen to “318. The Rematch (Part 2)” to find out the details. Basically, this is a chance for you to get involved in another version of the lying game.  All three of us said some statements, and you now have to write questions in the comments section for episode 318. IN the episode we’ll ask each other your questions, and answer them. Then you can decide if they’re true or lies. Again, listen to 318. The Rematch (Part 2) for all the details (listen until the end).

Introduction to this Episode

As you know at Chrimbo I want back to the UK and stayed with my family, and with my cousin at his home in Bristol. It’s been a while since he was last on the podcast, and quite a lot has changed with him. In our conversation we talk about lots of things and I really think this is an interesting episode, and a very valuable one from a language point of view. The topics we talk about are diverse and quite in-depth and as a result we use lots of different features of grammar and vocabulary. I always encourage you to notice language while listening to native speakers on this podcast, so try to do that in this episode if you can. First we talk about what happened to Oli since the last time he was on the podcast, so watch out for the ways in which we talk about the past – tenses, and other forms. Oli faced a few difficulties and challenges, so watch out for the ways he describes those things. Essentially, he tells me a few anecdotes about some of his difficulties in London, watch out for past tenses and so on. Then we talk about the future, and about various predictions for the next 10-20 years, so naturally you can try to notice the specific language, tenses and modal verbs that we use to describe the future, make predictions and make judgements about the future. As well as that, there’s a lot of vocabulary related to technology, transport and communication.

In my opinion this is a very useful conversation for you to listen to. I loved catching up with Oli and I sincerely hope you enjoy listening to it, and by the way, listen all the way to the end to hear Oli play a bit of guitar – and he’s a really good guitarist.

That’s it!

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280. The UK’s Top 13 Superstitions

Hello listeners, this episode is all about superstitions. Every country and culture seems to have particular superstitions. They can be quite a large part of the life or culture of that place. For example, if you’ve been living in a different country for a while, you’ve probably noticed that certain things are part of the common belief system, and that will no doubt involve some superstitions. Even if you don’t really believe in them, it’s quite useful to know about the main superstitions in a country, so that you can avoid doing something wrong (like opening an umbrella indoors in the UK) or you can just follow what is being talked about and understand all the reference points in conversation, and perhaps add your own comments as part of every day conversation – such as using expressions “touch wood” or “fingers crossed” – both of which are very commonly used phrases which are connected to superstitious beliefs. Now, since Luke’s English Podcast tends to focus on all things British or all things UKish – what are the top superstitions in the UK? What are those things that many people in the UK follow as every day superstitions? Well, in this episode I’m going to go through a list of 13 superstitions, unlucky for some, which are commonly held in the UK. We’ll also consider where these superstitions come from and why people still hold on to them. Join me! And in the comments section you can tell me if you share these superstitions in your countries, what the most common superstitions are where you come from, and generally what you think about superstitious beliefs.


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A lot of what you are hearing is written on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk. If you want to do some studying, you most certainly can. You can check the script – compare what you heard with what you can see. Check out new words, add them to a vocabulary bank, repeat certain phrases after me, record yourself reading parts of the transcript and then compare them with me, or record yourself repeating the transcript, or simply record yourself speaking freely and then listen back to it for some perspective. That can be a good way of self studying with Luke’s English Podcast. Or, if you prefer, you can just sit back, brew a cup of tea or whatever, and enjoy listening to another episode of this podcast! If you fancy making a donation to reward me for my hard work and dedication – you can. There are donate buttons on the page for this episode. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of that offer from Audible – go to audibletrial.com/teacherluke to sign up for a 30 day trial membership. They’ll let you download one audiobook for free. If you don’t like Audible you can just cancel the membership, and keep the audiobook for free! I’ve been recommending some popular books, but they have about 180,000 titles to choose from so you can just explore the website to find out – but remember, if you’d like to get that 30 day free trial, do it by visiting audibletrial.com/teacherluke. Alright, let’s carry on talking about superstitions.

What’s a superstition?
It’s the belief in unnatural causality – the idea that one thing causes another thing to happen, even though there is no scientific evidence to explain it, for example the idea that crossing your fingers helps to bring good luck, or the idea that if you talk about the devil he will magically appear. These are ‘leaps of faith’ – beliefs that require you to suspend your need for evidence and just believe something that has no rational explanation, and so many of us make leaps of faith on a daily basis – some more than others, but even the most rational person can be influenced by superstitious beliefs and behaviour.

I don’t believe in superstitions because I like to believe I’m a modern, scientifically minded person. But saying that, I do find that from time to time my behaviour betrays my rational thinking. For example, I don’t like to open umbrellas in the house, walk under ladders, and I often will touch something that’s made of wood and say “touch wood” to avoid tempting fate. I can’t help it! I know that there’s no evidence that superstitions are real, but sometimes I just can’t help acting on some superstitious beliefs. Of course, I’m not the only one.

So, let’s consider the UK’s most common superstitions, and of course I would be delighted if all of the LEPsters in different countries around the world shared their superstitions too. What are the superstitions in your countries? What do you think of the superstitions I’m describing in this episode, and generally – do you believe in any superstitions? Why? Share your thoughts and practise your English too.

Here’s a list of the UK’s most common superstitions, with some explanations too.

Two-Black-billed-magpies-0011. Magpies

What’s a magpie?
Black and white birds
Quite big, long tail
Related to crows (corvid family)
Quite noisy
They steal shiny things.

Magpies have different superstitions based on how many you see, as this 18th century poem explains:

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret, never to be told

This relates to the number of magpies you see. Most people know at least the first two lines of the rhyme.
I’m not superstitious, but even I find that if I see one magpie, I often will look around and try to find another one to make myself feel better.

2. Mirrors

Watch out when you’re moving house or doing some DIY and you break a mirror – if that happens you’ll get 7 years of bad luck.

What’s weird about mirrors? Why are we superstitious about breaking them?
Mirrors were once believed to be windows into other worlds – often worlds where things were the wrong way around.
People may also have been frightened that a person’s reflection shatters when a mirror is broken.
One theory is that mirrors contained a person’s soul, so if you break the mirror, you break the person’s soul.
People used to believe some pretty stupid stuff!
It just shows, that superstitions come from our general fear and mistrust of things we don’t understand. If it’s amazing and unexplained, then people are likely to make up all kinds of stupid stuff, e.g. those superstitious emails. www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/social-media/if-you-break-the-chain-you-will-have-bad-luck-for-the-rest-of-your-life/

Some people also believe that mirrors should be covered up during births and funerals, for fear the person’s soul might escape through them to another realm.

There’s also an urban myth that if you look into a mirror and say “bloody mary” three times, you’ll conjure up the ghost of a woman called Bloody Mary. This comes from old folklore – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Mary_(folklore)

3. Umbrellas
Is it a surprise that there’s a superstition related to umbrellas in the UK?
Can you guess what the superstition is?
You might be thinking something like this: “If you don’t bring an umbrella when you go out, it’s unlucky”.
That’s not exactly right.

The myth is that it’s unlucky to open an umbrella indoors. This is probably related to the fact that umbrellas used to be quite awkward, large and difficult to open, and since our houses used to be quite small and cramped, there was a chance that you’d break something, or knock something over with an open umbrella in the house.

So, be aware that if you come into a house or building in the UK and leave your umbrella open, perhaps on the floor to dry off, the Brits might be stressing out quietly.

Again, this is still something that I can’t help feeling slightly uncomfortable about when I see, which is not logical, but it’s hard to completely escape these superstitious feelings.

On the subject of umbrellas – another cultural myth is that Brits always have umbrellas with them. That’s not exactly true.
Equally, I’ve met plenty of foreigners who are surprised that we don’t all carry umbrellas – they are surprised by the frequency with which we get caught in the rain. I think this is due to the unpredictability of British weather. It’s hard to be prepared all the time!

4. Crossed fingers

This is a way to ensure that lucky things will happen. It really means “Let’s hope it happens!” or “Let’s hope for good luck”.
“Fingers crossed!” = good luck!
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you today!”

Also, crossing your fingers is considered a way to get away with telling a lie. This isn’t related to the good luck superstition.
For example, if someone says “I won’t tell anyone” but they secretly have their fingers crossed behind their back, it means that they’re lying!

Is it the same in your country?

5. Don’t step on the pavement lines.

When we were kids we used to say “Don’t step on the cracks or the bears will get you”. What bears?!

Why is it necessary to tell kids that there are wild animals waiting around the corner, who hate it when you step on the cracks between paving stones?
Truth be told – I think we never really believed the thing about the bears. It was just part of a game where you had to avoid walking on the cracks.
When we were kids we used to make up those kinds of games all the time. Not for superstitious reasons, but just for fun. That’s what kids do. For my brother and me it was always sharks and lava. We used to put cushions on the floor between the chairs and the sofa, and those cushions were little stepping stones or islands. All the carpet between the cushions was either lava or shark infested waters. If you so much as stepped on the carpet you’d be killed by the lava or eaten by the sharks. Then we’d run around climbing and jumping on the sofa, chairs and cushions. Good times.

Back to the superstition…

Another rhyme is:
‘Don’t step on a line or you’ll fall and break your spine! Don’t step on a crack or you’ll fall and break your back!’

It seems that bad luck is waiting everywhere for you! Just walking down the street in the wrong way can cause you to have a serious injury or even worse to be attacked by dangerous animals.

Reasons:
Cracks in the pavement can be dangerous. You could trip and fall. Could you really break your spine?
In the past, the pavement was probably less even or safe than now. Today you can even sue the council for an accident caused by an uneven pavement.

6. Numbers

What list of superstitions would be complete without something about numbers?
Lucky and unlucky numbers are common in many countries and cultures – and the UK is no exception.

Seven is usually seen as the luckiest number. Here’s some info on that from PsychicLibrary.com psychiclibrary.com/beyondBooks/lucky-number-7

By far the unluckiest number is of course 13 – especially the date Friday 13th. This goes back to the Christian belief that the 13th person at the Last Supper with Jesus was Judas, who betrayed him and led him to be crucified, and ‘unlucky Friday’ was the day Jesus died.

13 is such a powerful superstition that many hotels don’t have a 13th floor, football players don’t like to wear the number 13 and some people even take a day off work to avoid going outside on the 13th.

More details about 13 mentalfloss.com/article/23266/13-reasons-people-think-number-13-unlucky and here www.writing.ucsb.edu/sites/secure.lsit.ucsb.edu.writ.d7/files/sitefiles/publications/2014%20Narula.pdf

Here is some interesting stuff I found from the pages linked above.

There’s a Norse legend that has 12 gods sitting down to a banquet when the 13th (uninvited) god, Loki, shows up. Loki killed one of the other gods, which led to events that eventually resulted in Ragnarok — the death of a bunch of gods, a slew of natural disasters, and the eradication of everything on earth save for two human survivors. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but you get the general idea.

Traditionally, there used to be 13 steps leading up the gallows. There’s also a legend that a hangman’s noose traditionally contained 13 turns, but it’s actually more like eight.

Apollo 13 is the only unsuccessful moon mission (intended to get men on the moon, anyway) thus far. An oxygen tank exploded and the survival of the astronauts on board was pretty touch-and-go for several days, but they did all come home safely in the end (but you already knew that).

There’s an old superstition that says if you have 13 letters in your name, you’re bound to have the devil’s luck. Silly, yes, but slightly more convincing when you consider that Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all contain 13 letters (I know, I know, what about their middle names?).

Kids officially become teenagers at the age of 13, and we all know that’s a scary phase.

There may also be a mathematical theory behind it too.
Throughout history, the number twelve has long been connected to the idea of “completeness.” There were twelve gods on Mount Olympus, twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve months in a year, and twelve apostles. Therefore, people viewed 13 as 12+1, or “completeness plus one” (Lachenmeyer 24). This idea of being one away from completeness gave people a sense of uncertainty and unpredictability; thus they associated the number 13 with these feelings (Lachenmeyer 24).

Generally, the whole idea of superstition is fascinating to me. Why do we believe in these things, even when we know they’re not true? Or is there some actual truth in it? For example, if you stay in room 13 in a hotel, are you more likely to experience bad luck? Is this just the placebo effect? I mean, if you feel you’ve been cursed by bad luck, will you be more likely to accept bad things happening to you?

Let’s look at some possibilities.
John Smith stays in room 13. He’s superstitious.
He then believes he’s been cursed.
When he’s driving he’s sure that he’s going to have an accident.
This expectation leads him to somehow make it happen – he subconsciously proves his thinking to be correct.
It sounds like nonsense to me.

Here’s another idea.
John stays in room 13 and is superstitious.
He then drives in his car the next day and has an accident. Someone pulled out of a junction without looking and hit him.
He decides that it happened because of the hotel room he’d stayed in.
But there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest it was the hotel room. It probably would have happened anyway.
However, there’s no way of proving it. We can’t go back in time to do a test.
But John needs an explanation. He doesn’t want to believe that the universe is basically chaotic and random, or at least far more complex than his head can contain.
So, he chooses to believe in the superstition because it makes it easier to live in the world. It’s easier and more comfortable for John to believe in superstition than to know that some things are just completely beyond his control or understanding. It’s not pleasant to know that some things are not within your own control. So the superstition allows him to get some more control. He feels that he can control the chaos slightly. Next time he won’t stay in room 13.
I’m sure this accounts for a lot of our beliefs. We believe things like superstition, conspiracy theories or even god, because it explains unanswered questions and allows us to hide from the fact that the universe is chaotic, unordered and out of our control.

Have a nice day!

Let’s carry on with these superstitions because they’re fun to share!

7. Wishes: birthdays and bones

You’re celebrating your birthday in the UK and your English friends have bought you a cake. That’s not the bad luck – that you have to eat an English cake. No. Actually, our cakes are delicious thank you very much. No, the thing is, there are candles on the cake – of course there are. It’s a birthday cake. Everyone’s singing happy birthday. You have to blow out the candles – but here’s the thing – make sure you blow them all out with one breath because if you don’t – bad luck!

Also, what you really should do is close your eyes and make a wish first, then blow out the candles. If you manage to blow all the candles out with one breath, your wish will be granted. If not, you won’t get your wish. Of course, this has no validity to it at all – it’s just a superstition! But, it’s quite normal for people to say “Make a wish!” before blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.

Why do candles on birthday cakes have magic powers?

It’s not just birthday cakes though, it’s chickens or turkeys too, when they’re cooked for a Sunday roast. There’s a wishbone – it’s at the end of the neck of the bird (where the neck meets the body). It’s forked in shape – with two little bones forking out at angles. The tradition is for two people to hold onto the two bones with their little fingers, close their eyes, make a wish, then pull. The one whose bone doesn’t break (the one who ends up with the bigger piece) will have their wish granted.

8. Weddings

Weddings are already complicated enough because you have to worry about invitations, seating plans, food and wine choices, location, music, vows, transport options, speeches, the dress, the rings, the readings, the RSVPs, children, babysitters, flowers and photographer, but if that wasn’t complicated enough, there are also some superstitions to be aware of.

According to superstition, brides should wear ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’ as part of their outfit. Something old – could be a piece of old jewellery from a mother or grandmother, something new (obvious), something borrowed (obvious), and something blue (also obvious – it’s the colour). If not – then I suppose the wedding will somehow be cursed.

Then, there are loads of other things including the colour of the dress (one verse goes: ‘Married in white, you have chosen right; married in black, you’ll wish yourself back’), to the day of the wedding
‘Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday best of all,
Thursday for losses,
Friday for crosses,
Saturday for no luck at all’
to the things you see on the way to the ceremony (for brides, lambs are lucky but pigs are unlucky; for grooms, policemen and clergymen are lucky).

For more on UK wedding superstitions, click here www.corsinet.com/trivia/scary3.html

9. Ladders
Never walk under a ladder in the UK… Apparently it’ll bring bad luck because it used to be associated with walking to the hanging scaffold.

That sounds a bit grim doesn’t it.

The fact is, many Brits will cross the street rather than walk under a ladder, me included.
Perhaps there’s some common sense in this. Someone who is up the ladder might drop something on you.

10. Sneezing

You probably know it’s polite to say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes in the UK, but did you know the custom might have originated in the sixth century? The theory is that sneezing was seen as the first symptom of the plague, so people would say a blessing to ward off the disease.

Another theory is that people thought sneezing stopped your heart, just for a moment, and saying ‘bless you’ would make sure your heart keeps beating.

11. Keep your shoes off the furniture

And not just because they’re dirty! According to one UK superstition, putting shoes on the table (especially brand new shoes) is bad luck. Some people even avoid putting shoes on chairs or footstools. One explanation is that in coal mining communities, particularly in north England in the 19th century, a miner’s shoes would be placed on the table if he was killed in an accident. The gesture then became a symbol of death.

12. Black cats
Confusingly, black cats can be both lucky and unlucky in the UK, depending on who you ask. Some people say it’s a sign that good things are to come if a black cat crosses your path… while for others, it’s a terrible warning.

How about this: Recently I was walking down the street and a black cat started walking across my path. It stopped and looked at me and got scared and ran away. What does that mean?

13. Rabbits
Rabbits are supposed to be good luck. For some reason keeping a rabbit’s foot will bring you luck. Some people have one in their pocket or attached to their key ring. That’s right – an actual dead rabbit’s foot. Just the foot. You can get fake ones now apparently. Weird isn’t it.

Saying the words ‘white rabbit’ are also supposed to bring good luck, especially at the beginning of the month.

Other things:
– Walking over 2 drains is lucky, but 3 is unlucky.
– Horseshoes
– Egg shells (crack them so the devil can’t make a boat – the devil must be a badass dude if he uses an eggshell as a boat)
– Making eye contact when you say “cheers” – this is growing in popularity, mainly because of the influence of other cultures where this is kind of a big deal.
– “Jinx”, when people say the same thing at the same time by accident, the first one to say “jinx” can avoid the bad luck.
– Lucky underpants


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270. UK General Election RESULTS

In the last two episodes I went into quite a lot of detail about the context and predictions for the general election in the UK which took place just over a week ago. The results came in on the morning of Friday 8 May and a week later we now have a new government which is already getting itself ready to run the country over the next 5 years, implementing various plans, policies and legislation. Listen to this podcast episode for the full details and read the transcript below in order to follow almost all the words and phrases I use in this episode.


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Surprises
The results were pretty surprising in the end, which was a surprise in itself. Despite the fact that we knew the result would be unpredictable, nobody expected a surprise and for that reason the surprise that we got was pretty surprising. It shouldn’t have been a surprise of course, because we all knew that we didn’t know what was going to happen, and because of that, any result would have been surprising. So, what was the surprise? The Conservatives won an outright majority. There was no hung parliament, no coalition, no negotiations and no deal making. Just 5 more years of a David Cameron led Conservative government without the influence of the Liberal Democrats. Just the Tories running the whole show.

Let’s have a look at what happened, and what we can expect over the next 5 years. Of course my comments here are predictions and speculations and I don’t guarantee that it’s all going to happen as I describe it. As ever, we can’t be completely certain about what the future will bring. So, again, you can expect some more surprises. So, be ready to be surprised, if that is possible. Is that possible? Surely if you’re ready for a surprise, it won’t be a surprise. But according to last Friday’s result, that is possible, because we were all ready for an unpredictable result, and then when the actual result wasn’t predicted, we were all surprised by it. Anyway, enough of all this nonsense about surprises.

Is that confusing? Probably. Don’t worry, I’ll make it a bit clearer in a moment.

What were the predictions?
Although we knew it would be difficult to predict, most people were sure that neither of the two big parties (Con & Lab) would gain enough seats to form a majority government (326) and so we’d have another hung parliament like last time.
So, we expected there to be a period of negotiation in which firstly the Conservatives attempted to make a deal with either the Lib Dems if they won enough seats, or possibly UKIP if they won enough seats. I expected that it would be too difficult for the Tories to do this, they wouldn’t be able to make a coalition deal with anyone and then it would be up to Labour to try and make a coalition with either the Lib Dems (difficult to imagine) or the SNP (also difficult to imagine). In fact, most of the outcomes were difficult to imagine for various reasons – most of them being that the parties had ruled out almost all kinds of coalition deal with each other. So, we expected lots of political manoeuvring during the negotiation period, and then some kind of complex and unsatisfying partnership between parties that didn’t really see eye to eye on everything.

A lot of people expected Ed Miliband to be the next PM as it looked more likely that he’d be able to make a deal with one or more of the other parties.

In the end, despite the fact that we all knew the results would be unpredictable, the outcome was generally surprising for everyone. The Tories won an outright majority, with a win of 331 seats – a small majority.

What were the numbers?
Conservatives won 331 seats (up by 24 seats)
Labour won 232 (down by 26 seats)
Liberal Democrats 8 (down by a huge 47)
SNP 56 (up by a massive 50 seats)
UKIP 1 (up by 1)
Plaid Cymru 3 (no change)
Green 1 (no change)
18 seats went to other parties.

What happened to the leaders & parties?
Conservatives
It probably felt like an amazingly huge victory in comparison to what everyone expected – a hung parliament.
Apparently Cameron was surprised by the result. It must have been exciting for him, but I expect the honeymoon period is wearing off now as he faces a number of challenges as PM.
It will certainly be easier for the Tories without the influence of the Lib Dems, but Cameron faces division within his party, particularly over the EU (some Tories are keen to leave, others not), a powerful SNP who will not only block some of his plans but may also demand a Scottish referendum. He will also have to push forward with more unpopular austerity measures.
He made a speech highlighting the importance of unity. He said he plans to be a ‘one nation PM’ – meaning he hopes to appeal to everyone in the UK. He’s pushing that line because he wants to reach out to all the people who didn’t vote for him, and also he must work hard to make sure the whole of the UK doesn’t break up – mainly as a result of Scotland campaigning for more independence.
It’s quite interesting to note that London Mayor Boris Johnson is now an MP. He was a candidate in a London constituency called Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and he won it. So he’s in the House of Commons now too. That’s interesting because we know he’s ambitious and probably has his eyes on the PM position. It was probably a calculated move by the Tory high command. In the event of a possible negotiation with UKIP the Tories would have needed another option for leadership – someone who is quite Eurosceptic and popular with the electorate and Boris fits the bill quite nicely. But since the Tories won an outright majority, Boris has to keep quiet for the time being. Cameron’s leadership is not in question at this moment. However, he has promised that at the end of this term (5 years) he will stand down. Then I expect it will be time for another leadership race for the Tory party and Boris could be in pole position.

By the way, on Saturday there was already some civil unrest with protests in central London against further spending cuts by the government. People lined up near Whitehall to demonstrate, and a few people were arrested. Plenty of people are unhappy with the Conservatives and their plans to make even bigger cuts to public spending. In fact, Iain Duncan Smith has already stated plans to cut £12 billion from the welfare budget. Welfare – that’s state run programmes to provide money and services to people who need it, like sick people, the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, single mothers and so on. £12 billion cut from welfare programme.

Labour
Labour lost loads of seats in Scotland. Their hopes of forming a government were dashed.
Ed Miliband resigned/quit/stepped down.
The party also lost a lot of other key MPs including the shadow chancellor Ed Balls. Yes that really is his name.
The party is now leaderless and is ‘licking its wounds’. The next thing for Labour to do is to find a new leader and a new direction. Essentially it’s a question of ‘go left’ or ‘aim for the centre’. Either they pursue a more traditional left wing line, in order to compete with the SNP or Green parties, or they become more populist and centrist, aiming for a similar tactic as Tony Blair in 1997, when he chose the ‘third way’, which basically means adopting some aspects of the left (the socially minded side) and borrowing some from the right (the private sector led, free market economy). It’s going to be difficult for Labour to choose their approach, and their choice of leader is vital.

Why did Labour lose?
It seems that there is a rule in UK elections – no party has ever won when the leader is less popular than his/her rivals and when people don’t fully trust the economic plan. These seem to be the crucial things – a convincing leader with a convincing economic plan. In the end, Ed was not convincing enough, and neither was the Labour plan. Perhaps the Conservative rhetoric worked – “5 years ago we were in a mess because of Labour. They borrowed too much, taxed too much, spent too much and got the country into loads of debt. Then the tories took over and we’ve been following a strict long term plan, and it’s working. Let us finish the job, and don’t let Labour mess it all up again.” In the end that worked out very well for them.

Lib Dems
Liberal Democrats lost loads of seats. It was a terrible night for them. Most of their seats went to the Tories, but also some in Scotland.
Their leader Nick Clegg quit/resigned/stepped down.
They’re now leaderless too, out of government, and suddenly much less influential in government than before.
They also lost a lot of key members.

Why did the Lib Dems lose so many seats?
Essentially, the Tories devoured them. The Lib Dems took the blame for a lot of the failings of the previous government. They didn’t stand out. Their whole message was just “you need us in any arrangement” and it wasn’t really clear what they would do other than prop up another party, and moderate them. This was a compromised position and I suppose voters aren’t fully convinced by that kind of vague rhetoric.

SNP
The SNP won a landslide victory in Scotland, even more than predicted.
They now are in a position to have a big influence on policy, legislation and the way the whole country is run.
For the Scottish, this is generally a good thing. It means more power for Scotland.
For some non-Scottish people, it’s a worrying prospect, for a few reasons.
For the Tories, they’ll have a tough time convincing the SNP to vote in favour of austerity measures. Also, the Scots may demand their influence to demand more public spending in Scotland and other things, including a possible new referendum for Scottish independence. They said they wouldn’t push for that, but there are suggestions that in fact they will. Having such a large presence in the House of Commons means that they’ll be in a much better position to get an independence referendum if they want it. With all the support they seem to have in Scotland, perhaps the result will be YES next time, and Scotland will leave the union. Goodbye the UK. United Kingdom – well, just the Kingdom (not so united) or the Divided Kingdom, or Queendom in fact, because we’ve got a Queen of course.

What’s the Queen been doing?
I expect she’s just been observing, reading the papers, watching the TV, drinking cups of tea, smoking (rumours are that she’s a smoker, but I don’t believe it), getting advice from experts at the Palace. Then, she met David Cameron last week, and since he got the mandate from the people (Well, some of the people) she invited him to form a government, which gives him the authority to run the country.

What about UKIP?
They got one seat. Not that much really. Nigel Farage lost his seat. He wasn’t elected in his constituency. It must have been either a kick in the stomach, or a relief (he’s been campaigning hard). He promptly resigned as leader of the party, suggesting he’d take the summer off before deciding if he’d apply again. The party refused his resignation. So, that’s it – he’s still the leader, even though he’s not an MP.

Why did the leaders resign?
Some people – students, listeners, seem surprised that the leaders of losing parties resigned. That’s normal in the UK. The idea is that the leaders take responsibility for the defeat, and it allows the party to then bounce back, find a new leader and move on. It’s quite common. Also, this time it’s particularly relevant because Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg failed to inspire the electorate. Their popularity is now damaged beyond repair really. It would be hard for them to come back from such a clear defeat, much of it due to them as individuals. They have to go in order to let the parties have a decent chance of succeeding next time. Ultimately, the parties are bigger than their leaders.

Some Vocabulary
(OK, I didn’t have time for this, but here is a list of some words and terms that you heard in the last episodes – do you know them all?)
the political spectrum
constituencies
MP
The House of Commons
Parliament
seat
Cabinet
ministers
ministries
parties
decentralisation
devolution
a landslide victory
voter apathy
candidates
a hung parliament
a coalition government
austerity measures
welfare payments
the welfare state
benefits
allow businesses to flourish
thrive
private sector / public sector
tuition fees
macroeconomic factors
referendum

268. UK General Election 2015 (Part 1)

This podcast contains everything you should know about the general election which is happening across the UK this Thursday 7 May 2015. This could be a long episode, but I’m so determined to cover the whole story that I don’t mind how long it takes. I feel it’s worth spending some time to cover this topic in enough detail to make it genuinely interesting and informative. I’m not there in the UK at the moment, so I’m not able to take part in the discussions, or watch all the coverage on the TV, but I care about this a lot and I’ve just got to get this stuff off my chest – which means, I’ve got a lot of things inside that I want to tell you about. This is an important election (like any election) and it’s interesting because we genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen, and the consequences of the different outcomes could be quite drastic. Voting is on May 7, but I’ve already voted – I did it by post (yes, that’s possible in the UK). No, I’m not going to tell you who I voted for – I’ll let you try and work that out if you want.


Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD] [PART 2]
I was on TV last week talking about this election last week. I wish I had been as prepared then as I am now! It was a live TV debate on France24. They invited me on at the last minute because they needed a guest who was British and was able to talk about the election. I knew a few things about it because I’ve been covering this topic in my classes this year, and last year and so I agreed to go on the show. Also, I think they were interested in having a comedian on the show, and so they ended up with Luke from Luke’s English Podcast in the studio! 2 hours later I was on live television, and yes I did manage to plug Luke’s English Podcast, as well as suggest to President Francois Hollande that he take English lessons with me. So, Francois – if you’re listening, the offer is still open! I did okay in the TV debate, although I was a little unprepared. Now, after having dealt with this subject in class a few times this week already I feel like I am even more prepared, and actually have a good grasp of the situation, good enough to be able to explain it to you, here, in this podcast, clearly and simply.
That is my challenge in this episode – to get across the complex facts and issues relating to this election in an understandable and engaging way. Your challenge is to just try to follow it step by step! The end result should be that you’re more well-informed about this significant moment in British life, and I’m sure you’re going to pick up plenty of language in the process.

You’ll be glad to know that you can read a lot of what I’m saying here on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk. If you want to follow this, read these words, repeat it yourself, check some of vocabulary in a dictionary or whatever studying method you have, you can do it. Not every word is transcribed as I might improvise and go off script from time to time, but the main content is certainly there for you to read. :)

This subject is relevant to you
You might not think this subject is particularly relevant to you, but I’d like to try and persuade you that it is.
The UK remains one of the world’s most important countries. What happens here is in the interests of the whole world.
If you’re in a European country it is particularly relevant, because what happens in this election could dictate the UK’s relationship with the EU, including steps towards our exit from the union.
This election is fascinating because we really don’t know what’s going to happen. Usually, it’s pretty obvious. Not this time.
It could result in big changes to the UK’s constitution, including the our exit from Europe, Scotland’s exit from the UK, a fairly significant social and economic change of direction for the country, and changes to the way our government operates within Parliament. Is this the end of an age in UK politics? Maybe.
So, I think it is relevant to anyone interested in significant events beyond their borders – and I imagine that if you’re a listener to this podcast, you have some curiosity or relationship with the UK, which could make you want to know more about this big moment.

This is the number 1 story in the UK at the moment. There’s a huge buzz about it in the newspapers, on TV, all over the internet. It’s the big story – much bigger than the birth of the second royal baby, which happened on Saturday, and named yesterday (Charlotte Elizabeth Diana). So, in this episode I’ll explain the main details and nuances of this story, specifically for you as a non-native speaker, so you can understand it’s significance.

And as if that wasn’t enough you’ll get plenty of vocabulary, the opportunity to hear the leaders of 7 political parties in the UK. That’s 7 different voices from 7 different key figures in this election, including 1 Scottish accent and 1 Welsh accent. At the end of this episode, you’ll be far more informed about British politics than you were at the beginning, and we all know that knowledge is power. You may be able to impress people with your ability to chat about UK politics. Honestly, I’m often surprised at how little people understand politics, including fellow Brits. I think everyone benefits when we engage in politics. I’m certainly not cynical about this subject, and I definitely do not find it boring. Cynicism about politics is dangerous, because if we don’t care about politics, and ignore the subject – it doesn’t go away, it just gets dominated by people who do care about it – and often that means people with extreme, fringe ideas. So, let’s engage in politics because it’s not only fascinating, but vitally important.

So, are you convinced? I hope so.

The election is on Thursday, just a couple of days away. So, by the time you listen to this, the voting will probably have finished and there will probably be a new government in power. Many of you may be listening to this ages after the event. I still think it’s relevant, even some time after the election, because it’ll give you insight into not only the background story of what happened in May 2015 and the context of what’s going on in the UK at the moment, but it should also help to explain events that are happening in the future.

Context – the last 5 years
Traditionally, the UK has been dominated by two political parties – Conservatives (right) and Labour (left).
Now we’re seeing a much more diverse set of parties who not only represent different positions on the political spectrum, but also different regions in the UK. This is a story of not just right and left, but of England and Scotland, and also Wales & Northern Ireland of course. It could be the end of the two-party system, and the centralisation of Westminster.

Let’s just have a reminder of some basics of politics in the UK
The whole of the UK is divided into constituencies – these are political areas of the country. Each constituency votes for an MP to represent them in The House of Commons, which is in Parliament, which is in Westminster, which is in London, which is in England, which is in Britain, which is in the UK.
Each constituency has a seat in the House of Commons. There are 650 seats for 650 constituencies. So each seat is occupied by an MP who represents his/her constituency, including the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet (ministers of different ministries, such as the Ministry of Education, etc) members of the opposition etc.
Those MPs represent different parties of course. That includes the main ones – Conservatives (302), Labour (256), Liberal Democrats (56) and also other ones with smaller numbers of seats, particularly parties that represent specific interests of other nations in the UK, such as the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein from N.Ireland, the SNP from Scotland and Plaid Cymru from Wales.

Those MPs vote on laws that affect the whole of the UK. After the laws have been passed, and given Royal Assent by The Queen (she basically stamps them “Yes, fine” next! I don’t think she actually does it herself), they are applied in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. But, thanks to a process of decentralisation of government power called ‘devolution’, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own parliaments which have a certain amount of independent power. They can adapt some of the laws from Westminster, and can write some new laws which apply only to those regions. This is particularly true in Scotland. England doesn’t have a devolved parliament like the other countries. We take laws from Westminster, unchanged. This arrangement has been relatively problem free for England, because the number of MPs from the other 3 countries in Westminster has been quite low, so it’s no big deal. But, if the SNP get lots of votes this year, it means the number of SNP MPs could rise by 40-50 seats, and that means that suddenly a lot of English laws are being voted on by Scottish nationalists. That’s making some English MPs freak out a bit. Do you understand that? Don’t worry if it’s a bit complex. It might make more sense later.

Basically, this is going to be a big year from the Scottish National Party and they’ll probably have a much bigger presence in Parliament than ever before, and that’s going to make a big difference to the way that government is run in the UK. The Scots will have much more influence.

What happened in the last election?
To form a majority government, one party needs to get at least 326 seats in Commons. For example, in 1997 Tony Blair’s Labour Party won 418 seats – that’s a big victory. They assembled a majority government that enjoyed a lot of support from the public (at the beginning). Labour won the next election too, but in the end, Blair lost the public’s support, mainly because he chose to get involved in the Iraq war in 2003 against public opinion. People decided that, with George Bush, he’d lied about his intentions for going to war in the middle east. He said it was about weapons of mass destruction, and it became clear that it was more about imperialism and a struggle for oil. Blair stepped down eventually, and was replaced by another Labour MP called Gordon Brown (an imposing Scottish guy who specialised in economics, was a bit more socialist in nature than Blair, had one eye and was unable to fake a smile on live TV) after a damaging power struggle within the party. Basically, Brown and Blair set up New Labour together in the 90s. They had an agreement that Blair would be the leader, and Brown the finance minister, and that after something like 8 years, Blair would step aside and let Brown have a go at leadership. I think Blair didn’t want to give up the leadership (if we can learn one thing from this episode, it’s that power is massively seductive, and when power is within reach people will be willing to change even their most important principles in order to get it). So there was an internal struggle within the party, and Brown won and became PM, but it left the Labour party divided. Blair is now generally disliked. Brown was also pretty unpopular. He didn’t have the charisma or charm of Blair, and he was PM at the time of the economic crash. A lot of people blame him and Labour for that. This is around 2008, 2009. In 2010 it was time for another election.

There was a lot of voter apathy, and there still is. This is the feeling among voters that voting is a waste of time and effort, because all the candidates are basically the same, they all lie, they don’t keep their promises, they’re corrupt and just seek power and don’t really have our interests at heart. That meant that we had a fairly low voter turnout at the election, and also the nation wasn’t particularly passionate about one candidate in particular. The three main candidates were David Cameron of the Conservatives, Gordon Brown of Labour and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats. None of them did particularly well, and neither Conservatives or Labour got the magic 326 seats to form a majority government. So, the negotiations began. What negotiations? The negotiations to form a coalition government. This is when several parties get together and form a joint government. Usually a smaller party will join a bigger one if they can agree on certain policy ideas and an agenda for government. This involves the usual things you would expect from a negotiation – conditions, concessions, trading powers and so on.

The Conservatives
It was the Tories (Conservatives) and Liberal Democrats who made a deal, and formed the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition which has been in government for the last 5 years. They came into power when the UK was suffering a large budget deficit (the country just didn’t have enough money to pay for everything) as a result of the financial crisis. The Conservative solution to this was to introduce sweeping austerity measures – that means spending cuts. This is one of the key policies of The Conservatives, and part of their ideology. Stop spending money on social services. That means cutting welfare payments or cutting benefit given to people in society who need help, or anything that the state pays for. The logic there is that the state can save money by spending less on its people.

At the same time, they wanted to reduce taxes for the rich, and allow businesses to flourish (to be successful), especially the financial sector (the banks, particularly in London). Don’t tax corporations, banks or businesses too much – let them thrive. If businesses are successful, if there is wealth at the top end of society, that will benefit everyone because the money will come trickling down from top to bottom like a magical waterfall, it will lead to job creation, more people will have spending power and everything will be wonderful. This was the Tory plan. Cut public spending, promote the private sector. The Liberal Democrats, in joining the Conservatives, moved to the right (because Conservatives are a bit right-wing, and the Lib Dems were in the centre, to the left of the Tories). So the Lib Dems moved away from the left in order to get into government. Nick Clegg justified this by promising to protect certain key things – like tuition fees for example (that’s the price you have to pay to go to university in the UK). He promised to make sure the tories didn’t raise tuition fees. But he failed his promise and the government did raise tuition fees. In fact, generally, the coalition has been bad for Nick Clegg because he’s had to compromise lots of his principles, and he keeps having to apologise for it.

So, the Conservative-Liberal coalition went ahead with large spending cuts. Lots of people in the UK protested against the cuts, saying it was unfair and that the conservatives only cared about the rich, and didn’t care about ordinary working people, and they had a point. Anyway, ‘austerity’ has been the big word of this government. Spending cuts. For many people, particularly those in working class or poor communities, this was pretty bad news because suddenly they had fewer services, longer hospital waiting times and so on. So, austerity, austerity, austerity. The tories say “we have a long-term plan for the economy – it’s tough, but it’s necessary”.

Maybe they’re right, because according to lots of analysts, the UK’s economy has had more growth than most other countries in Europe. Maybe it’s been working – but it’s unclear if this growth is due to spending cuts, or if it would have happened anyway. Maybe there are macroeconomic factors which are beyond the control of the tories, which mean that the UK’s economy would grow out of recession quickly anyway, and that if they cared more about communities, then people would generally be happier and quality of life better.

Ultimately, it’s a question of values. We’ll come to that later.

This is long isn’t it! But I hope you’re keeping up!!!

So, the most recent government is David Cameron PM, Nick Clegg deputy PM – conservatives and Lib Dems together, with austerity measures their main economic policy.

The Scottish National Party
Then of course last year we had the high profile Scottish independence referendum. As part of a deal agreed by David Cameron some time before, the Scottish were given the choice to be in or out of the UK. I did a podcast about this before, which was very well received by my listeners. There were two camps – the “Yes Scotland” campaign (for independence) and the “Better Together” campaign (against independence). In the end, 55% of people voted “no” for independence. Scotland stayed in the union. Part of the reason people voted “no” was because it was still a pretty good option for them as all the MPs from England (Lab, Lib and Con) all promised to give Scotland more devolved powers as long as they stayed in the union. “We’ll give you more power – but please don’t leave us!” So, the campaign was such a great advert for Scottish political interests in the UK that the SNP have since attracted loads and loads of support in Scotland. All that campaigning for Scottish rights has been wonderfully helpful for Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of SNP. Now, the SNP are probably going to win a landslide victory in Scotland, stealing a lot of seats from Labour. 40-50 extra Scottish MPs are probably going to arrive in Westminster. How’s that going to affect UK politics?

So, tories are in government, pushing spending cuts and being accused of just looking after their rich friends in the banking industry (who appear to have got away with losing/stealing all our money). Lib Dems have been supporting them, but trying to stop them going to far.
SNP have been getting loads of support in Scotland.

What about Labour?
After losing out in the last election they changed their leader. There was a race for leadership, and it ended up being between two brothers. Ed Miliband and David Miliband. In the end, Ed won, but he had to stab his brother in the back to do it (not literally). Basically, he got ruthless and undermined his brother’s campaign, making friends with key Labour supporters, and pushing a more traditional left wing agenda. So, Ed Miliband became the new Labour leader. The thing is, he’s not particularly impressive. His party is more popular than him really. He’s a bit awkward, makes some clumsy mistakes like forgetting important details in speeches, or stumbling over his words sometimes. He also looks a bit odd, like a character from a Wallace and Gromitt cartoon, and he has a nasal sounding voice. Also, he comes from a fairly wealthy background, despite being quite left wing. All those things work against him, but nevertheless he and his party have consistently challenged David Cameron’s government over their position on social and economic issues. He’s emerged as a candidate who actually cares about ordinary people, and who has the guts to take tough decisions and lead the country. So, although he’s not quite as popular as the Labour Party itself, Miliband could be our next PM. It all depends on small details in the voting on Thursday, and whether the tories can make a coalition deal with other parties or not.

Oh, I forgot something important – UKIP and Nigel Farage.
We’ve seen from history that whenever times are tough and there’s a financial crisis, people get scared and insecure, and they look for a scapegoat to blame for all their problems. That scapegoat is often foreign people, immigrants and their damaging effect on a country. UKIP stands for the United Kingdom Independence Party, and they have, in my opinion, some slightly dangerous, reductive and simplistic solutions to the UK’s financial and social problems.
Essentially, for UKIP, all of our problems are caused by our open door policy on immigration. The government doesn’t have enough money – immigration, we’re spending too much on welfare for immigrants. You can’t get an appointment to see a doctor? Immigration. You can’t find a job? Immigration. There’s too much traffic on the road? Immigration. You’ve got a bit of a headache? Immigration. You keep losing socks in the washing machine? Immigration.
Oh and the other problem is the European Union. According to Nigel Farage, the UK needs to leave Europe. If we do that we can choose our own laws, close the open door to immigrants, and save billions of pounds a year.
Farage has quite a high number of very vocal and loyal supporters. Sometimes they’re accused of racism. Sometimes UKIP members and supporters are racist, and then Farage has to make a statement saying “I’m disappointed in this person, they don’t represent the views of UKIP etc”. I’m sure it’s a familiar story to you – I’m sure there are similar parties in your countries that tell us that the source of all our problems is the dirty, criminal, lazy, disease infected influence of ‘other people’ from across our borders. In my opinion it’s small minded, it’s distorted by prejudice, it’s backwards looking (in the mind of Nigel Farage, Britain was at it’s best when fighting against foreign invaders) and it’s dangerous.
Farage wants the UK to have an early referendum on the EU.

There are arguments for leaving the EU – like that it would save us money, and we could be free to choose other trading partners, but I wonder if there’s real truth in them. If we did leave the EU, surely we would lose billions from all the lost business, the companies that would close or pull out of the country, the trade deals we would lose with our biggest market, the bad faith that would develop between the UK and other European nations, etc etc.

But, lots of people seem to agree with him and there’s a chance that if UKIP get enough support in enough places, that they could gain enough seats to be in a position to form a coalition government with the Conservaties, and that is bound to involve one key condition – a referendum on the EU. So, watch this space – Britain’s exit from the EU (or Brexit) is more likely than you might think. Would the conservatives offer an early referendum on EU membership if it guaranteed them power? Yes, I think they would.

There are also other parties, with less influence, but who could be important in any coalition deals. This includes the left-wing Green Party, Plaid Cymru (representing Welsh interests, also quite left wing) and parties from Northern Ireland such as the Ulster Unionists (would support the conservatives).

End of Part 1 – 1hr05min
Click here to for part 2.
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