This article was first published on Reaction.
The Imposter podcast with Tom Harris
Tom Harris was a Labour MP between 2001 and 2015. He was also one of the first MPs to harness the power of the internet through his blog, And Another Thing. But in 2010, he announced he was retiring from blogging. He said “it was getting me involved in too many squabbles”, and was having a negative effect on his mental health. He was right to do so. I did the same a month later. His blog also played a major part in him losing his dream ministerial job as a Transport minister in Gordon Brown’s government. After he lost his Glasgow South seat in 2015, along with every other Labour MP in Scotland bar one, he started writing a daily column for the Telegraph Online and he’s never looked back.
This new podcast is rather innovative. Each episode is 12-15 minutes long – a sort of bite sized podcast. In each episode he regales a story from his life in politics. I can’t work out whether he’s reading from a script or it’s all spontaneous. It’s almost like listening to a chapter at a time from the audiobook of his autobiography. It’s all highly entertaining and at the end of each episode you are left wanting more. The theme running through most episodes is his immense feeling of inferiority, which we now have come to know as “imposter syndrome”. I suffer from it myself to one degree or another. Neither of us went to public school or Oxbridge, and that’s got a lot to do with it. There’s that constant feeling of not quite belonging in the milieus in which we move.
The series is only half a dozen episodes old, but in those six episodes we learn a lot about the Labour Party in the 1980s and 1990s. There are some hilarious anecdotes too, as the young Tom Harris makes his way in the strange world of politics and seeks to make progress in the Labour Party.
I find myself longing for extra episodes where we’ll find out more about his life as a backbencher, a blogger, a minister and how he then came to vote Conservative. One thing we can be assured of – there will be a lot of laughs, and possibly a few tears along the way.
An Inconvenient Ruth with Ruth Davidson, Global Radio
An Inconvenient Ruth started life as an occasional interview podcast but has now become a weekly, Sunday night programme on LBC (the broadcaster I work for), which is then turned into a podcast. Most of us know Ruth Davidson as the highly successful leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who almost singlehandedly turned around the party’s fortunes north of the border. She’s a naturally ebullient character who commands respect across party boundaries. Since she stood down from the leadership and had a baby, she has broadened her horizons and returned, in part, to her past. She started out as a journalist on BBC Scotland.
The secret of being a good interviewer is to enable your interviewee to relax, and she does that incredibly well. She’s also able to attract a very wide range of guests, who in recent months have included politicians, pop stars, media types, sports personalities and many others. She is well prepared and does her research on each of her subjects but gives the show/podcast an air of naturalness that some interviewers find difficult to achieve. It’s much more of a conversation than a grilling. And most important of all, she lets her guests speak. There is no constant interruption or hectoring, which is so prevalent among interviewers trying to prove themselves to their bosses. Ruth Davidson has nothing to prove to anyone, and that’s what makes these conversations so riveting. Her personality shines through and her little asides are often both hilarious and insightful. In a recent episode she interviewed the master of interviewing, Sir Michael Parkinson. It was an absolute delight to listen to, as was her encounter with Sir Nicholas Soames. While I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to her chats with Paloma Faith or Eddie Izzard (life is too short), I’m sure they are equally brilliant.
Ruth Davidson is clearly enjoying life at the moment, but she is soon going to have to make a choice. I think it is now inevitable that there will be a second Scottish independence referendum. In that referendum, the Remain campaign are going to have to campaign in a very different way to 2014. It can’t be about Project Fear. It has to be a campaign which points out the positive sides of the Union. It must appeal to hearts as well as minds. Gordon Brown can appeal to people’s minds, but not their hearts. Ruth Davidson can do both. Her country still needs her.