The story of British politics continues in this episode as I talk to my Dad about the most recent developments, specifically the results of the snap general election which took place on 8 June.
A general election is when all the MPs in the UK’s House of Commons are chosen by voters across the country. The party with the highest number of MPs wins the right to form a government. The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister, the leader of the country.
At the moment our PM is Theresa May of the Conservative party and she called this election just 5 or 6 weeks in advance. I talked about it to my Dad last month. Her reason for doing it was to make sure she had a proper mandate from the people before beginning the brexit negotiations.
Everyone expected the Tories to win a bigger majority and for Labour to lose miserably.
But the results were quite surprising.
Here’s a very quick summary. http://www.bbc.com/news/election/2017/results
It’s a hung parliament. No party won enough seats to gain an overall majority.
The main parties are Conservatives and Labour.
Conservatives lost 13 seats. They now have 318.
Labour gained 30. They now have 262
This is a huge failure for the Conservatives.
SNP lost 21 seats. This is significant because they won so many in the last election and the SNP are all about gaining Scottish independence.
UKIP are out completely – they lost their single seat. They were the party campaigning for the UK to leave the EU and the immigrants to leave the UK.
Since the Tories are the incumbent party they get the first opportunity to try and form a government by making a deal with one of the other parties.
That’s the position at this moment. We’ll expand on it during our conversation but the words turmoil and disarray are again being used to describe the messy and complicated condition of politics in the UK today.
So let’s talk to my Dad – the professor of broadcast journalism and former BBC news man, for some much needed clarity on this whole subject in order to find out what happened, what it all means, how Northern Ireland and Scotland are involved and how this all relates to the ongoing story of Brexit.
As ever, watch out for all the key language as it appears. There is a lot of political language in this episode, which applies mainly to political systems in the UK but also could be used to talk about politics and international relations in other countries. Also, there are the usual fixed expressions, idioms and phrasal verbs that you normally find in any natural conversation.
Remember that in episode 352 of this podcast (nearly 100 episodes ago) I explained some key concepts and vocabulary related to this whole subject. So if you need some clarification and you want a reminder of some of the important words and terms relating to all of this, check out episode 352 in the archive.
But now, let’s hear from my Dad, Rick Thompson about the current state of politics in the UK, just after last week’s snap general election.
So there you are. I hope it’s all a little bit clearer now, but equally it might even be more complicated!
It is a complicated situation but I hope you agree that we’re quite lucky to be able to listen to my Dad talking about it in his typically lucid and articulate way.
Don’t forget that you can listen to previous episodes of this podcast in which I have gone into detail about the language of politics in the UK.
Episode 352 goes into detail about the vocabulary of Brexit and you can listen to that one again in order to learn some of the key language of this subject.
Also you can listen to episode 82 from way back in January 2012 when I did an episode about voting, elections, politics and government in the UK, in which I explain and teach all the essential language you need to talk about the political process and also you can listen to a funny sketch about a general election.
That’s it for now. As ever, I remind you to join the mailing list which will mean you get an email in your inbox whenever I post new content here.
That’s new episodes of the podcast but also I sometimes post something when I’ve been featured on someone else’s podcast and recently I was invited to talk on the English Across the Pond podcast, The Earful Tower podcast and the Rock n Roll English podcast. If you’re signed up to the mailing list you will get notified of those things and will easily be able to listen to those fun conversations I’ve had and find out about some other people’s podcasts that you might not know about.
I’m going to end this episode after the jingle by playing you parts of the speeches by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in the first session of Parliament since the election results came out.
Listen carefully to the voices of the PM and opposition leader as they make statements about the results and about the democratic process in Parliament over the coming months.
The cheering and jeering sounds you hear in the background are all the other MPs sitting in the House of Commons. It’s quite normal to hear them all shouting and cheering in agreement, or heckling and laughing at people they don’t agree with. I wonder if the parliament in your country is as loud and boisterous as it is in the UK.
So thanks for listening, and keep on listening after the jingle if you’d like to hear the words of Prime Minister Theresa May and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn. (Image below, BBC.com)
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.
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.
Last week I asked my Dad for his opinions about recent news and we talked about Brexit, post-truth politics, the US election, the right-wing press in the UK, the political landscape in the EU, the rules of international cricket and the music from Tetris. You can listen to the conversation in this episode. Introduction and and ending transcriptions available below.
Introduction Transcript (script begins 1 minute into the episode)
My Dad is back on the podcast in this episode and in a few moments you’re going to hear our conversation which I recorded last week on Thursday 17 November 2016.
In the conversation we touch on these subjects: the weather (naturally), a bit about the rules of international cricket, then a Brexit update including details of the recent UK high court decision regarding the government’s power to trigger Article 50. Article 50 is a piece of legislation (part of the Lisbon Treaty) that when triggered begins the legal process of the UK’s exit from the EU. We’re not actually out of the EU yet, despite the result of the referendum. We have to wait for the government to ‘trigger article 50’ and then it all starts.
“Trigger article 50” – it sounds like something from Star Wars episode 3 “Revenge of the Sith”. In fact it feels like the political narrative these days is getting more and more similar to the plot to a Star Wars prequel, with lots of complex negotiations with shadowy trade federations, insidious political manoeuvring and the general sense of an impending journey towards the dark side, which is a pity isn’t it? “Trigger Article 50!” In Star Wars episode 3 it’s “Execute Order 66” which is an order by the evil emperor Palpatine to have all the Jedi assassinated by their own soldiers. “Execute order 66” “Trigger Article 50!”
But no, this isn’t Star Wars – we’ll have to wait until December for that.
You’ll also hear my Dad’s views on the presidential election result in the USA, some stuff about the UK’s right-wing press (newspapers), the OED’s word of the year – ‘post-truth’, ‘post-truth’ politics and general political trends across Europe and other regions at this time.
At one point the podcast gets interrupted when someone rings my Dad’s doorbell and it turns out to be a lost postman (which is actually quite a welcome break from all the depressing post-truth politics), then we somehow end up talking about the idea of a giant flea jumping over St Paul’s cathedral, a bit more about the joys of international cricket, the music from the classic Russian videogame Tetris and how a cup of tea is sometimes the best solution to almost any problem.
Language-wise this episode gets quite technical in places, especially when we talk about the UK’s constitutional, legal and political frameworks. So, watch out for lots of big words and big phrases relating to constitutional law, the inner-workings of government and even more complicated than both of those things: the rules of international test-match cricket.
Depending on both your level of English and your familiarity with these topics, this might be a difficult conversation to follow, but we all know that these challenges can be good for your English.
You might try transcribing some minutes of the episode (go to the transcript collaboration page to get started) or try some shadowing or any other techniques for active listening. Alternatively, just sit back, relax, have a cup of tea and enjoy the company of my Dad for a little while, as we try to work out what’s going on in the world.
I’ll talk to you again briefly on the other side of the conversation, but now you can listen to the Rick Thompson report.
So, there you go, that was my Dad and me going on about what’s going on. What do you think is going on? Get stuck into the comment section at teacherluke.co.uk if you’ve got something to share.
You can hear the Tetris music in the background. This one is Theme A – which I believe is a version of a Russian folk song called Korobeiniki. I’m sure many of you out there know more about it than I do, so I will let you explain the meaning of the song, and indeed the correct way to pronounce it.
For me, it reminds me of journeys in the back of my dad’s car, trying to get to level 9 on Tetris.
I actually prefer the B theme. It still gets stuck in my head to this day as I find myself humming it even when I haven’t heard it recently.
If you know about this tune as well, you can write a comment on the website.
Comments: Let me know what you think of these things
What do you think is going on generally in the world today?
On a positive note, what are you looking forward to? What are you optimistic about? Is there anything coming up that you’re impatient for? (On that note, I am looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars film, which is a prequel to the original trilogy, as many of you will know. This one isn’t a sequel to episode 7, it actually takes place between episodes 3 and 4. Yes, they still can’t count in the Star Wars universe. So far they’ve gone in this order 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 7, 3.5 and after that it will be 8. I’m looking forward to it just because I love the SW universe, and the trailer looks pretty good – although I’m a bit concerned by the script which seems a bit dodgy in places (“This is a rebellion, isn’t it? – I rebel.” It’s not Star Wars without a bit of clunky dialogue) I expect I’ll be talking more about this soon. Anyway, what are you looking forward to exactly?
Are you a fan of cricket? Have you ever heard of cricket? Do they play cricket where you live? Do you understand the rules at all?
Going back to Tetris – Did you use to play Tetris? Do you still play Tetris? What do you know about the history of this classic game? Do you have any stories to share about Tetris, including how it was developed and the people who created it? Or stories about how you played it, and how you used to get that tune stuck in your head, and how you’d play it until you got ‘Tetrisitis’?
So, feel free to get involved in the comment section.
Listen to Australian comedian Jim Jeffries trying to explain cricket to some Americans *contains rude language*
Join the mailing list
It’s the best way to get access to the page for the episode where you’ll find notes, transcripts, videos, links, other useful bits and pieces, as well as easy- access to the episode archive, the comment section and lots of other things.
Another note about the transcript collaboration team
This is now called The Orion Transcript Collaboration Team, which is cool. I didn’t name it – the name was chosen by Antonio because “Orion” is a constellation of stars in the night sky, and the members of the team are also a group of stars – so the name seems appropriate now. I like it anyway.
The team have been doing a great job. Go to the website -> (hover the mouse over TRANSCRIPTS -> TRANSCRIPT COLLABORATION and click the red, yellow or green buttons to access the google docs.
Episodes are divided up into 3 minute chunks. You transcribe your 3 minutes. Other people check your 3 minutes and make corrections. Eventually the whole episode is transcribed – it might not be completely perfect, but it’s done. Next, I have to proofread them all! So actually, this project rapidly creates more and more work for me. I am going through them *extremely* slowly, and publishing the full scripts on the website. It might be necessary to employ some proofreaders to check the finished scripts. Perhaps I should launch a kickstarter campaign for that or something, because it’ll cost money to get a pro to do the final proofreading.
I got a message from Antonio about this recently and he said this at the end:
I laugh a lot when someone corrects my chunk and I see certain mistakes I do. But I have improved a lot my understanding and can watch the BBC TV, not only the news, understanding much, much more than before I started transcribing you episodes. Maybe in this area, I am experiencing the famous breakthrough all teachers speak about. See you, Luke and thanks again for your commitment. Antonio
BENEFITS OF TRANSCRIPT COLLABORATION Catherine Bear Since I’ve been proof-reading a little bit of the transcripts, I have the feeling that my short term memory has improved considerably. So, guys, I would encourage each of you to do little bit of transcribing. Also shadowing is a nice way to improve not only the short term memory but also the sentence stress, intonation and pronunciation. I used to speak with a kind of American accent, but since I started actively listening to Luke’s English Podcast back in August and doing lots of shadowing (like 5 minutes in one go, a couple of times a day) — my English accent suddenly started to switch towards the British RP English. :) Guys, let’s share some personal success stories related to Luke’s English Podcast.
Yes, please do share some personal success stories of learning English!
Talking with two American friends about journalism, how the internet works, the US presidential election results, California’s new marijuana laws and puffins.
In this one you’ll hear me in conversation with Molly Martinez and Dane Nightingale.
Molly has been on the podcast before – she was in episodes 198 and 199 – have you heard those? They’re fun episodes. In those episodes we talked about her studies as a journalist, we tested each other’s general knowledge of the UK and the USA and I tried to teach her how to do different regional accents in British English. That was episodes 198 and 199, in 2014 – ah, 2014, such fun times, such innocent times… Those episodes are still available for you to hear in the episode archive.
For a few days Molly is back in Paris seeing friends and visiting her old haunts, and this time she is accompanied by Dane Nightingale, who I think you will agree has a rather fantastic surname. (by the way, a nightingale is a bird that sings a beautiful song but only during the night time).
They’re both here for a couple of days and thankfully I managed to grab them both (not physically of course, just figuratively) for about an hour of conversation on this podcast.
Overview of this episode (to help you keep up)
This episode has a light-hearted bit at the beginning, then quite a serious bit in the middle, then another light-hearted bit at the end. The serious bit is when we start talking about the election, and there is a palpable shift in tone in the conversation at that point – so look out for that.
In the first light-hearted bit we establish these things:
They’re an item – they’re going out with each other – they’re going steady (I think this is the expression in NAmE) – they’re boyfriend & girlfriend, but they don’t live together – so they’re not living in sin, as you’ll hear them say.
Molly is a journalist for CBS in SF. She’s mostly on the production side but she does some on-air stuff (like reports to camera) as well as video editing and writing for anchors.
Molly is also a stand-up comedian who tells jokes on stage. She also tells quite a lot of jokes off-stage too. I think it’s fair to say that she’s something of a compulsive joke teller, which is alright in my book.
You’ll hear that Molly makes a joke about how I’m the heir to the BBC fortune, which makes me sound like I’m set to inherit the entire BBC (quite funny). I then explain in huge detail how in fact the BBC is publicly funded (not very funny).
Dane works for a start-up called Fastly, which makes the internet faster.
He tells us how the internet is basically just a series of tubes, and how my audio episodes travel from my servers in Tower Bridge, London to users all over the world, and how the start-up company that he works for, Fastly, aims to make this process faster by allowing data to be stored locally. I’m not sure I understand how it works!
Molly tells us about the 5 things that make something newsworthy: relevance, time, novelty, proximity and cats.
Then the serious bit begins when I ask them about their reaction to the US election. Hopefully you’ll find it interesting to hear about this story directly from the mouths of two US citizens from San Francisco. We try to understand how Trump won and Hillary lost, including the motivations of the voters, the campaigns of both candidates and also how the electoral system had an impact on the result.
Then the podcast becomes slightly less serious again and the conversation turns to the subject of marijuana laws in the USA, how Molly once met Tommy Chong (one half of the stoner comedy duo Cheech & Chong on an airplane – high in the sky, especially him) and then how both Molly and Dane are going to Iceland where it might be very cold, and where people might eat puffins – lovely little birds with colourful beaks.
You should also be aware of the meaning of these two words:
A puffin, puffing.
Puffins – cute birds which are protected by law in the UK but are very common in Iceland and apparently eaten there as a traditional delicacy. Puffing – the gerund form of the verb ‘to puff’ which means to take smoke from a cigarette or perhaps a pipe, or a perhaps joint in the case of California. “To puff a joint, or take a puff from a joint, or toke a joint or take a toke from a joint”.
So – “enjoy your puffin”, can have two meanings – enjoy eating a little Icelandic bird as a delicacy, or enjoy smoking some weed (especially in California where it has recently been made legal).
Right, you are now ready to listen to the conversation, so here we go!
*Conversation starts – light-hearted bit – serious bit – light-hearted bit – conversation ends*
I just want to thank Molly and Dane again for coming on the podcast. They took some time out from their holiday to talk to me, and you, and some of that time was spent going over the election, and things did get a little heated during the serious part of that conversation.
Molly expressed her frustration about the standards that people seem to have about women in positions of power – something which Sarah Donnelly also talked about when she was on the podcast talking about Hillary Clinton recently.
Specifically regarding the public’s perception of female candidates, maybe it is harder for a woman to capture the trust of the nation, because she’s expected to have so many conflicting qualities all at the same time. If she’s too warm she’s considered too emotional, but if she keeps the emotions in she’s judged as cold. That’s, I think, what Molly was talking about when she said it’s a double-standard. The point I was trying to make was that I think voters respond to certain personal charisma regardless of their gender, but thinking about it maybe women are judged differently than men and it’s harder for them to strike the right balance.
Anyway, that’s quite enough politics for this episode. I just wanted to say thanks to Molly and Dane for talking about the election because they’re on holiday and this is probably a story that they’re quite sick of, after a year and a half of election coverage in the media back home, and I expect they’re glad to be away from it all for a few days. So, I hope you’ll join me in expressing your gratitude to them for taking the time to talk about it to us on this podcast. I very much enjoyed having them on the podcast, for their honest reactions and for the light-hearted bits at the beginning and the end.
~Lots of people have shown interest in hearing a conversation with my Dad about the recent news, including the election results and about recent political developments in the UK. I am planning on talking to him soon, so that episode should arrive before long – as long as I don’t get snowed under with work, or snow, or fall into a wormhole or something like that. I’m a bit wary of doing politics too much, for obvious reasons, but many of my listeners have sent me messages assuring me that they appreciate the commentary, so I won’t abandon the subject, but I will be getting on to other topics on this podcast as well as getting back to basics with some episodes about language.
~The next episode is #400, which is cool isn’t it? Not bad really, considering how long some of my episodes are. That must be about 400 hours of podcasting for you to hear. I’m quite proud to have made it this far. It’s mainly thanks to my listeners, your enthusiasm for this podcast, your support and the support of my sponsors. I’m not sure to what extent I’ll celebrate during episode 400 or anything. I did quite a lot of celebrating in episode 300 in which I had contributions from many of the guests I’ve had on this podcast over the years, as well as a few daft celebrity impressions by me and my brother. We’ll see… perhaps I’ll just switch on the mic and have a ramble, perhaps I’ll have some guests. We’ll see.
~Amber and Paul are both very busy at the moment. Paul continues to have success with his TV series which is called WTF France – an affectionate piss-take of French culture from the English point of view. It seems the French, generally speaking, are being very good-natured about it and are lapping it up. The show is now being broadcast now on Saturday evenings on Canal+, which is one of France’s major TV channels. That’s quite a big deal. Paul is now Saturday evening prime time entertainment! Amber and I are proud of him of course, and also pleased because we helped him to write some of the episodes. You can see them all on the YouTube channel called “What The Fuck France”.
Now, you might not understand the appeal of the videos if you don’t understand the specifics of French culture and it might just look like he’s insulting everyone, but the humour comes from the familiarity with French life, particularly in Paris and really he’s saying the sorts of things that most Parisian people think, but doing it in English. Also, the videos are really nicely produced and directed. They look great.
~The LEP anecdote competition is still open – in episode 396 you heard 10 anecdotes so please do vote in the poll. You can find that page by clicking the blue button on my website. I’ve decided that as a prize I’ll spend some time talking to the winner 1-to-1 on Skype. I hope the winner considers that to be a prize. It may or may not be recorded and published, we will see.
~Don’t forget to join the mailing list
~Follow me on FB and Twitter where I post other bits and pieces from time to time.
~Thank you if you have sent me messages in various forms and apologies if I haven’t replied.
More episodes are coming. I have lots of ideas and things in the pipeline, but there’s no telling sometimes what’s coming next. Often I just record and publish on an episode by episode basis – and the topic and content is often decided by whatever inspiration strikes me at a given moment. It seems quite random, but there’s a method to the madness.
Have a lovely day, night, evening, morning or whatever and speak to you soon. X
In this episode I want to talk about two things: My first impressions of the US Presidential election result, and then some things I said in the last episode of this podcast. I just want to clear up some comments I made last time. I just want to get straight into it. So here we go.
Oh my god, can you believe it? You’d better believe it because it’s true. More on that in a minute.
I just want to record this episode and get it out there to you quickly without spending time on pre-production and all that stuff so it might be a bit rambly and a bit sketchy.
The main reason I’m recording this is that I have a couple of things I want to get off my chest in response to the previous episode of this podcast. Just some things on my mind that I want to communicate to you, and that’s the main reason I’m recording this quickly now on Tuesday 9 November.
But also, of course the big news of the day is the US presidential election – and that’s what’s going on, certainly in my world – probably in your world too – it’s all about the election because the result came in just a few hours ago that Trump has been elected president.
Let me say that again – Donald Trump is the 45th President of the USA.
So, I have got to talk about that a bit at the top of the episode here.
I hope you don’t press stop ❤️
Please do stick around for the whole episode. I do hope you listen to it all because I have some sincere things to say to you. Yes, don’t press stop! Please do listen! Please feel completely welcome at all times while listening to this! I hope you don’t press stop! In the last episode I know that I said some dismissive and glib things like “you can stop listening if you don’t like it” – sorry, I hope you didn’t feel that was dismissive and unfriendly sounding. I was just feeling a bit… ‘hangry’ or frustrated. Of course I always want you to listen and I am extremely happy when people do listen. I’ll talk more about that stuff later. I’ve got some things to say to you my audience – so I hope you do stick around for that.
But first – Donald Trump
Yes, the joke going round is that the UK is no longer the most stupid nation on earth. After Brexit we had the title for about 5 months and now it’s gone back to the USA, back to normal. Back to that good old feeling that we had when they elected George Bush twice in a row. Ah… That is the joke that people are making…
Except this time it seems worse somehow – at least it seems more shocking, I don’t know – what do you think? Are you shocked, glad? A lot of feelings will be flying around today I expect, especially if you care about this subject at all.
That Brexit feeling is back again.
It’s a strange feeling.
A huge event has happened. It’s a historic moment.
What a year it has been.
I’ve tried to capture how it feels.
How did Trump win?
An interesting article from TheWeek.co.uk: http://www.theweek.co.uk/theweekday/story/78497
I know this isn’t for everyone, but check out the anecdotes which have been sent to me. You might be pleasantly surprised. There are some great little stories in there and a lot of people are really showing off their good English. I’m very proud of everyone who got involved.
Just enter that link into the search function in your podcast app and you’ll find it (including the iTunes store)
Then listen to the entries when you’re out and about. You could mark the entries you like by favouriting them (most podcast apps allow you to add a star to the episodes you like) then vote later.
I want to say a massive thank you to all the LEPsters in the comment section of my website recently, particularly all the amazing feedback they’ve been writing in response to the competition entries. I’m really impressed. Some LEPsters, particularly Olga, have written individual feedback for every single competition entry there. Generally the response has been absolutely brilliant and I urge you to get involved too.
I know it’s difficult to listen to all the entries because there are so many, but check them out and you’ll see that there are some really entertaining stories there. The other night I walked home from a restaurant for about an hour, just listening to the competition entries. I was going to take the metro but I decided to walk all the way because I wanted to keep listening. I’m really pleased that so many people got involved and told their stories, even if it was difficult.
Give yourself a big pat on the back if you sent me an entry, or if you have voted or left feedback. Some of you are feeling a bit embarrassed because you don’t like the sound of your own voices or you’re comparing yourselves to people you think are better, but never mind all that – everyone did really well so congratulations.
The voting in round 1 ends on 21 October, so you have another week left.
The Rick Thompson Report
Now, let’s move onto this episode, which is called The Rick Thompson Report. Yesterday I spoke to my dad on FaceTime and asked him to give us a report on some recent news. We ended up talking about a few things, including a Brexit update, some stuff about Barack Obama’s plans to send a manned mission to Mars and my dad’s thoughts on the US Presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I know some of you have been keen to find out what my dad has to say on that particular subject after I talked about it in the last two episodes of this podcast.
Because we’re talking about politics in this episode, I am sure that some of you will disagree with what you’re going to hear, which is fine, but if you’re planning on writing comments expressing your disagreement then I just encourage you to try to articulate those thoughts properly, explaining your reasons and developing your points, rather than just writing some angry knee-jerk reaction.
That’s if you disagree. If you agree with us, then of course you can write about that too.
Generally, I hope you respond in some way. You’ll hear us comment on some global events, and it’s quite interesting to me how we all seem to have different versions of those events depending on which media outlet we are exposed to. For example, the narrative about global events in the UK media is probably quite different to the narrative in the Russian media or the Chinese media. We are all subject to media bias, but let’s try to focus on the simple truths and facts at the heart of any story. That’s easier said than done, but I guess a starting point is to realise that things aren’t always the way they are portrayed in the media in any country. There’s always a certain amount of bias.
Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction. Now, I’ll let you listen to the Rick Thompson Report, with Rick Thompson.
So that’s our conversation, I hope you found it interesting. As I said before, I look forward to reading your comments if you have any.
Don’t forget to get listen and vote in round 1 of the anecdote competition.
I got a message about why I don’t get many comments from Chinese listeners – apparently it’s because so many web services are blocked in China, and that included Disqus – my comments system, but my website is visible. So the Chinese listeners can listen to the podcast but can’t comment on the website unless they’re using proxy servers or something. So, China I just want to say hello and I wonder what you’re thinking. I’m assuming that you like the podcast because you’re my #1 country. Anyway, hello China, and hello everyone else too.
Thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again soon. Bye!
Here is part two of my conversation with Sarah and Sebastian from the USA about the upcoming presidential election. In this episode we turn our attention to Hillary Clinton.
So, that was our conversation about the election. There were opinions flying around. There were words flying around. There was a hell of a lot in there. I could spend forever untangling it all and explaining the words, breaking it all down bit by bit so you understand it all. But frankly, that would take me hours and hours and I just can’t do that. In the end, I think perhaps the best thing to do was to play you a natural conversation about it instead, even if it was hard for you to follow.
Perhaps because we were talking rather quickly. Perhaps because we were talking over each other a bit. Perhaps it was difficult because of the American accents of Sebastian and Sarah. Perhaps because you don’t know the subject well and that made it hard to understand. So, if it was a struggle to understand everything, well done for making it through to the end of the episode here.
If it wasn’t a struggle and you feel you understood a lot of the conversation, then well done you!
I expect some Trump fans out there listening to this got triggered by some of our comments. You might have strong feelings. Can I suggest that before you do that you take a deep breath before you start writing. Also, I’m sure there are some anti-Hillary people out there. Again, don’t spread hateful comments on the website. Instead I encourage you to present a developed argument, and not the sort of hateful nonsense you find under the average YouTube video.
Whatever your thoughts and feelings, please join in the conversation and leave your comments on the page for this episode. I have a few questions for you. You can answer as many as you like.
How was the conversation for you? Did you understand it all?
What do you think of Hillary?
What do you think of Trump?
Who do you think will win?
Who do you hope will win?
I look forward to reading your thoughts on the website.
The presidential election in the USA is about a month away and I’ve been meaning to talk about this subject on the podcast for ages. So in this episode you’re going to hear me in conversation with a couple of American friends of mine who you might already know from their previous appearances on this podcast – Sarah Donnelly and Sebastian Marx. We sat down in my flat today to talk about the elections, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, their thoughts, feelings, opinions and predictions on the whole thing.
The conversation you’re about to hear is very fast moving with quite a lot of specific vocabulary about American politics. It’s quite passionate and opinionated in places. I certainly hope that it is an interesting conversation for you to listen to and that you enjoy hearing about this subject from two American people in their own words.
Because it is so fast moving and we had so many things to say I expect that this will be a difficult one for you to follow. I think this will be a challenging episode. So, if it’s hard to keep up with – don’t be surprised. That’s quite normal because I think this is a fast conversation for any learner of English to keep up with.
Alright, I don’t want to go on about it any more in the introduction here, suffice to say that I know this is a fast moving and opinionated conversation so strap in, focus, listen carefully and I hope you enjoy it.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
(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
The House of Commons
a landslide victory
a hung parliament
a coalition government
the welfare state
allow businesses to flourish
private sector / public sector
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