10 podcasts progressives should not miss

microphone-audio-computer-sound-recording-55800-768x510Richard Angell picks his favourite podcast episodes from 2017

First published on ProgressOnline

Following Labour party conference 2017 Progress launched its own podcast, Progressive Britain. It is the brainchild of Alison McGovern – our amazing chair – and hosted by my colleague Conor Pope.

It is partly based on the model of my favourite podcast – Homo Sapiens by Will Young and Christopher Sweeney – which has a main show, normally with a guest, that goes out early in the week and a review show on Friday to include listener feedback.

Progressive Britain has just surpassed the 10 show mark, which is the point where my Guardian podcast tutor said we should have ‘found our voice’. Finger crossed our listeners agree.

I think three episodes stand out as particularly worthy of tuning in. First, Andy Burnham on homelessness; Thangam Debbonaire and Rachael Saunders on sexual harassment and #MeToo; and, Peter Kellner on productivity. Keen listeners will also like McGovern’s special on the budget – it finds a sweet spot of genuine economic analysis and engaging style. Considering the non-event the budget turned out to be, it is as relevant now as it was then. I doubt Philip Hammond has subscribed yet.

Every since we decided to set up this new broadcast format for the organisation, I have become podcast obsessed. To both benchmark the work we are doing and out of genuine interest at all the amazing content that is out there.

Here are my 10 favourite podcast episodes that I have stumbled across, and I recommend other British progressive listen to on the long train, car or plane journeys over this festive period.

1. Hilary Clinton’s official campaign had a pretty dry podcast – With Her – in 2016. But the launch of book spurred two additional episodes that should not be missed for anyone interested in progressive politics. ‘What Happened’ and ‘What Next’ are gripping listening. Raw, emotional and actually quiet motivating.

2. A selection of readings from a new biography of Nelson Mandela, followed by a discussion of his life, hosted at the Southbank Centre and introduced by former prime minister Gordon Brown.

3. Progress members will have heard of David Axelrod, the political consultant who charged Labour £250,000 to consult Ed Miliband on an election campaign the American later damningly described as ‘vote Labour get a free microwave’. He now has a long-running podcast, the Axe Files. Episode 184 is with the older Miliband on David’s then forthcoming book, Rescue (reviewed for Progress here). Axerod really gets the other David to open up. It is fascinating listening.

4. Matt Forde, formally of this parish, has long broadcast his Political Party show into a podcast. He finished 2017 with guest Jacqui Smith, still a regular contributor to Progress. The first woman home secretary opens up about why she had to leave her position in a great office of state, among other things. Others in 2017, with Jess Philips, Harriet Harman and Anna Soubry, are well worth a listen too.

5. ‘The Jon Lansman One’ episode of Political Thinking with Nick Robinson is worth a listen. Lansman does not do much media, but seems to go in for this kind of long form, less adversarial, format. Robinson gets some useful insights that those on Labour’s centre-left should understand better.

6. Tony Blair’s new Institute for Global Change has a podcast run by the executive director of the Renewing the Centre programme, Yascha Mounk. Following a paper from the institute the former prime minister talks openly in an episode called ‘EU migration, Open versus Closed Politics and a Modern Agenda’. It is fascinating about what reforms to migration can give the country greater control while staying in the single market and the customs unions. If you want to stop a hard Brexit, it is a must listen.

7. Spectator Books invited Philip Collins, author of When They Go Low, We Go High, to discuss the subject of public speaking with Sam Leith, in an episode titled ‘Speeches that Change the World – And Why we Need Them’ 

8. Episode one of Homo Sapiens with Owen Jones is really great place to start with this podcast. To be honest I enjoyed every episode afterwards just as much – the ones with Peter Tatchell and former soldier James Wharton in particular – but I chose Jones’ partly because he gives over something of the man behind the political column and the political argument. His point about ‘most homophobia is directed at straight men’ is food for thought and shows the distance we still have to travel before we have true equality.

9. To start the week, LBC’s For the Many with Jacqui Smith and Iain Dale is compulsory Monday morning listening. It is hard to pick an episode but it is a general good staple. It is a good warm up for Tuesdays, when the main Progressive Britain podcast comes out, but you already know that.

10. Finally, to finish your week (and once you have listened to the Progressive Britain podcast extra show that is published at 6am every Friday) you should listen to Commons People by the lovely people at the Huffington Post UK and then the New European’s podcast. Both are good summaries of the week, easy listening and full of little gems exclusive to their loyal listeners.

Over Christmas and the new year period we have Ayesha Hazarika on our Boxing day special, the Progress team reviewing the year on the last episode of 2017 on 29 December and a New Year special on the 2 January 2018 before resuming the normal schedule.

If you like what you hear, please subscribe. To encourage other listeners, please rate and review the podcast on iTunes.


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell


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