Episode 87 – Tiernan looks at the collapse of Carillion, there’s a bit of Brexit, some loneliness, a teaspoon of trepanning for some reason and an excellent chat with Penny Andrews (@pennyb) on the ins and outs of political fandom.
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Tiernan looks at the collapse of Carillion, there’s a bit of Brexit, some loneliness, a teaspoon of trepanning for some reason and an excellent chat with Penny Andrews (@pennyb) on the ins and outs of political fandom.
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Hello and welcome to the Partly Political Broadcast, the comedy politics podcast that came 625th in the Fake News Awards for calling Trump in an earlier episode a radioactive Hate Gibbon. Apparently despite obvious hazardous outbursts he is definitely a very stable Hate Gibbon. This is episode 87, I’m Tiernan Douieb and as French President and Head Boy at school, well at least according to his wife, Emmanuel Macron has agreed to loan the Bayeaux Tapestry for display in the UK, I think we should give them a collection of prominent Brexiteers’ promises as that’d also be a large collection of historically inaccurate woolly yarns.
Along with pastries, kisses, saying the word happiness in the funniest way possible and fries the French have now added clear speaking politicians to the list of things they do better than us Brits. During his first visit to the UK since becoming French President or President Brie as it’s know to er, me at home, Emmanuel Macron spoke to Andrew Marr on his BBC show and to the shock of the nation, actually answered questions. I KNOW RIGHT? It was so weird. And he did it in his second language too. Macron said if the UK want access to the single market it’s either stay in the EU, otherwise it’s Norway or the poorly funded, badly regulated highway, which leaves all the Brexiteer notions of cake eating and cherry picking firmly without any dessert options on the table apart from, as usual, an Eton mess. In this case the Eton mess, as with most cases was soft play area gargoyle and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who proposed a cross channel bridge between France and the UK because despite the amount of time he spends with his head in the sand, he hasn’t noticed the whacking great tunnel we have. This bridge idea has already been discarded by the European commission, probably after realising that Boris’s other failed projects have included a garden bridge that had lost the plot before it started, an airport island that never took off and a cable car in the only area of London that had nothing to see on ground level. So we’ll never know if Boris’s bridge was going to be a arch villain one, a suspension of belief one, a Liz Truss one or just an expensive shit one. I’m sure we can all guess.
Prime Minister and old Austrian myth used to scare children Theresa May pledged to give £44.5m towards strengthening the French border with CCTV, detection technology and fencing because nothing wards of illegal immigrants like fancy sword play. May said this was because it was important to protect the United Kingdom border in Calais though I can’t help but wonder if France have cleverly worked out how to pay for their version of Trump’s wall to keep our future post Brexit economic migrants out. In return for this fee, France is loaning the UK the Bayeaux Tapestry an embroidered cloth depicting the Norman conquest of England which could be taken as a subtle hint to how France really feel about the UK adopting a Norway style deal.
Over in America, the US government is shut down, the senate can’t agree so it’s shut down, Trump says it’s not me and it’s shutdown, but democrats are angry so it’s shutdown. Apologies to Skepta. Yes exactly one year into Trump Presidency all government departments have been rendered completely useless in an event I like to call ‘the perfect analogy’. The Democrats blocked a spending bill in the Senate because President Trump aka the Badyear Blimp backed out of an immigration deal. Of course Trump has publicly blamed Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader to led the Democrats to block the bill, but everyone else is blaming Trump because well, I mean, look at him. You can’t just reject bills last minute because you can’t remember what they are about or who you are or what your job is or how to put your trousers on the right way round. This closed a week of American politics that also saw Trump’s fake news awards involve a tweet linking to the GOP website that promptly crashed because they’re clearly trying to gaslight your history too. Then the White House physician said that Trump is in excellent health and mental health although he didn’t say for what. I’m guessing on his two big macs, & a fillet o-fish a day diet, he meant for one of Jabba The Hutt’s family or a depressed manatee. Meanwhile a story has emerged about Trump paying off a porn star to cover up that he slept with her in 2006 while Melania was at home with their 4 month old son. Part of the story includes that Stormy Daniels, so called because Windy Stewart didn’t work as well, at one point had to spank Trump with a copy of Forbes magazine that had him on the cover, which must’ve been very confusing slapping an arse with a face like a slapped arse. 2018 is already a year where we can say the President of America has paid off a porn star, asked a doctor to lie and caused an entire government to stop working and we’re still only in January. Fingers crossed this shutdown is one that can’t be fixed with a quick restart but instead needs an entire reboot with a whole new operating system.
In other news the liquidation of facilities management and construction services company Carillion continues to raise questions after it appeared the government awarded them several public sector contracts despite knowing they were in distress. I mean it’s hugely unlike the government to reward failure, well apart from with their own MPs, and Prime Minister. Labour leader and regular bit part in 90’s kids cartoon David the Gnome Jeremy Corbyn said that the collapse of Carillion was a watershed moment, which I guess is because straight after it happened everyone involved said fuck a lot.
The government have appointed Tracey Crouch as minister for loneliness, which considering how they’ve handled other areas to do with social care, I wouldn’t be surprised if they fail to give her a department and make Crouch work by herself. Jon Lansman, the founder of grassroots group Momentum along with two other left wing candidates were elected to Labour’s National Executive Committee in elections results last week, beating Eddie Izzard to the post by 25000 votes. I mean who wants a comedian in charge of the direction of the party? Every time you think you’re getting somewhere there’d be half a ton of tangents and when you finally think you’ve got a conclusion Izzard would walk back on to do 10 more minutes. Lansman said this election would bring the dream of a members-led Labour Party a step closer, which mainly says to me that he has very boring dreams as my last one was about being part of a Mad Max style tournament but where everyone could only fight using cutlery or babies toys. I mean, I hope that’s what Lansman means as it’ll make the next set of candidate selections really watchable.
And lastly, UKIP’s leader Henry Bolton is facing calls to quit after the NEC gave him a vote of no confidence, which means for the first time ever, I agree with them on something. Now all they need to do is continue to have no confidence in any future leaders, all former leaders, the NEC themselves, all their policies and their members, and then we can be pals. These calls to quit follow the leaking of racist texts from Bolton’s girlfriend who he says he has now ended the ‘romantic element’ of his relationship with. By that I’m guessing they’ve just continued to be together after 6 months. Several UKIP spokespeople have resigned from their posts in protest and but at the time of recording Bolton is refusing to step down. I find it bloody hilarious the leader of UKIP is now an ardent remainer.
Salutations pod listeners! How are you? … Oh that’s a shame, but there’s a lot of it going around. I hear you can get rid of that with some lemon juice, and trepanning so worth a try. I might start a petition to bring back trepanning. Think of all the stuff you could keep in a whole in your head? Your phone, your keys, a pet bird. Oh but what about when it rains? Good point. Petition cancelled. What am I on about? No idea but I am very glad you’re listening to it and thanks to all the congratulations and general warnings about my impending parenthood that you’ve sent over the last week after I mentioned it on last week’s show. We’ve got about 7 weeks to go and I spent the weekend clearing out lots of stuff we don’t need like, well, anything I own, to make space for baby stuff and no, I still don’t understand how someone so small needs so many things. Anyway the clearing out resulted at one point with me being trapped in the corner of the room for about two hours having accidentally constructed a wall of old crap around myself and somehow one of our house plants had a chair but I didn’t. I spent a lot of days very unsure of my adult status. Thanks also to Graeme for the ko-fi donation and if you would like to donate towards this podcast being better and having less trepanning talk or even more if you think it fills a gap, then you can do a one off donation to ko-fi.com/parpolbro of £3 or more, or you can join the Patreon for a regular donation at patreon.com/parpolbro. And as I say often I do this show because if I didn’t I’d spend a lot of my day screaming at people in the park, so it will always be free, but if you do have spare moolah then every penny I get as a donation I use to justify taking time off doing gigs in order to write and research this instead. Ultimately I’m hoping through generosity I can stop leaving my home altogether by about 2021. And if you don’t want to donate please do give the show a review on iTunes or Stitcher or Pod Gland or Cast Vom or whatever your favourite made up podcast provider may be.
Not much admin this week but I did just quickly want to say that I’ve had some lovely suggestions as to who to interview but quite a few of you have recommended various MPs which is something I said I wouldn’t do way back when I started this stupid show. Originally I didn’t want politicians on this show because rather than allow people who are already on tv and radio news shows and things like the Guardian or Times podcasts to push their party agenda, I thought it better to get other voices on who can talk without needing to spend every two minutes complaining about how they’re not as shit as this other shit lot. Also because I do most interviews over Skype and like allowing people to talk, I don’t feel I’ve got the ability to question as much as I’d like with a politician. But look, I’m open to suggestion, if you think I should change this, let me know and perhaps an MP to talk about a cross party issue would be ok? Or maybe get Jacob Rees Mogg to just talk about what it was like terrorising the Baudelaire children during all their unfortunate events? Let me know.
Oh and real important, my most recent filmed comedy special Miserably Happy is now exclusively on NextUpComedy.com. It is a subscription site but the first month is completely free and then it’s just £3.50 a month after that and there’s tons of other brilliant comedy specials on there too. If you have Amazon video on your tellies you can find NextupComedy on there too. So please head to nextupcomedy.com/Tiernan and give it a watch. It’s a whole of me doing jokes about how shit everything is. So if you like this podcast you’ll probably go ‘oh, more of that then’.
THIS WEEK I have a very fun chat with Penny Andrews all about political fandom for all you Cobynistas, Milifans, Mayites and er, Massive Johnsons out there. Plus Carillion, Brexillion and jokes by the million. Ok, by the few. Ok there are about 4 but they’re really good ones. Ok one is good. But before that, let’s kick off with this:
Minister For Loneliness sounds like the name of a badly written comic book assassin but while you might immediately worry that this is part of a government rebranding to be followed up with appointments for a minister of when you think there’s someone behind you but there isn’t and the minister for that really unpleasant feeling when you bite into a sandwich and your teeth crunch on something, actually Tracey Crouch’s new job is an important one. Loneliness is a big issue in the UK with research saying that over 9 million people feel often or always lonely which is a depressing statistic especially considering that if they knew that, maybe they could all hang out together? In 2014 the UK was deemed ‘one of the loneliest countries in Europe’ but hey now we’ve left at least we won’t get labelled with that again eh? Oh. While I’m being silly to make light of a sad situation, there are a number of factors causing this increase in loneliness including longer work hours & social media because it’s awful for everything and not just boring people to death through witnessing the millions of people do the same joke about Kim and Kayne’s new baby. But also and especially with the elderly, a big factor has been the closure of public facilities such as libraries and community centres which provide places for people to go at no cost, and be around other people. More than 400 libraries and 140 mobile libraries have been closed since 2010, which you don’t hear a lot about because every time someone pipes up about they get shhhhh’d. While you could argue that access to books is easy online, it’s crap argument so stop it, because it doesn’t provide face to face interaction and for the 12.6m adults in the UK without basic digital skills they are left lonely and without resources too. Tracey Crouch and her department will be looking into ways to tackle loneliness, presumably, as a team. First steps though, they should probably put funding into reopening or building new community spaces, then I dunno, maybe ban Twitter then have a big party for 9 million people with free tequila shots. What do you mean that’s not how you make proper friends? Oh. Oh dear. Seriously though if you do feel lonely, then there are a number of charities you can reach out to for help, including the Samaritans who are available 24/7 on 116 123 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’re under 25 there is The Mix who you can call on Freephone 08088084994 or via email or live message on their site at themix.org.uk. Failing that, drop me a line and I’ll hang out with you and within about 5 minutes you’ll demand some space, or at least, that’s what happens with my wife anyway. Sigh.
INTERVIEW PART 1 –
I’ve been a member of a few fan clubs in my life, with probably the most memorable being the He Man Masters of The Universe fan club which I joined at a very young age. You got a crappy red vinyl with the he man theme on one side and the beast man theme on the other side, which was exactly the same but with slightly different words. Then you got some stickers and a card with your secret codename on it. I was well excited as mine was Taran Dobor, but then I saw my friend’s one and his just had his normal name on it and it was at that point I realised they’d just really misspelled my name. Sad, sad times. Anyway, some politicians have fan clubs. Or at least fans. Yes really. Most recently there have been Cameroons, Milifans, Corbyinstas, and weirdly of course, Moggmentum supporters because they probably hope that like with Despicable Me, they’ll end up with their own far more popular offshoot franchise. But political fandom goes back a very long way, much like Rees Mogg’s politics, and is actually more important to the political world than just some fancy badges, classy memes or people shouting at you on Twitter because you’ve criticised their idol with a silly joke. Ahem. No it can help with activism, the humanising of the role of politicians and an awareness of what they do.
This week I spoke to Penny Andrews, an expert in political fandom, but also social media and quantified work. Most recently they have written a conference paper on Thatcher fandom for the Thatcherism Now event in April, and several talks on GIFs, memes, politics and Ed Balls day at a number of academic conferences. Penny explained to me exactly why political fandom is an important part of all politics, what it’s all about and why we should all better get your Sire Desmond Swayne pin badges ready because Sleepy Swayne is clearly going to be the next big hit with his face like a stupid dog and his falling asleep in the commons all the time like a stupid dog. I’m already planning a ton of dog animations of the Brexiteer saying things like I’ll only go for a walk away from Brussels etc etc. Ok we didn’t discuss that at all. But we did have a very fun and very interesting chat.
INTERVIEW PART 1
We’ll be back with Penny in a minute, but first:
CARILLION – PRIVITISATION
Welcome to the Castle of Carillion! Give us all your gold and your men, we’ll take them then completely die, and the world of privitisation will never be the same again….
I know Carillion sounds a lot like a prog rock band that your dad often tells you he saw live in the 70’s at some now defunct venue but now they aren’t the same since Steve Windwand and Phil Blouse split up and now tour separately as Steve Windwand’s Carillion and The Carillion Experience or something. But actually, Carillion and it’s recent collapse, is a huge deal way bigger then when Phil Blouse got David Ladel to guest on the bass for their hit ‘Run Marble Donkey Run’ at Drabfest. Carillion are a massive construction company with 43,000 staff around the world and half of those are in the UK, and back in 2016 it was making a £5.2bn of sales and it’s business was worth at least £1bn just last July. Then due to delays in payments for work in the middle east as well as a number of public sector jobs that were delayed due to various difficulties, they had three profit warnings last year, lost £1.5bn of value from their contracts and to use clever technical terms got completely fucked up by £900m of debt and £600m of pension deficit, their shares collapsed, banks wouldn’t lend them anymore money and now they’re all deaded. And that seems like a rapid collapse but there’s been indications that Carillion was getting too big for it’s steel capped boots back in 2013 when it failed to acquire construction company Balfour Beatty and financial experts noted that they were taking over 120 days to pay subcontractors so were clearly on the sort of shaky ground any sensible construction company would avoid building on. And all the way up to 2016 their annual reports said that their dividends to shareholders were increasing, despite the pension deficit. It’s amazing how often share holders ruin two nice words in one go. I’d much prefer they taint the words money and grabbers.
But still even after all that Transport Secretary and one of the worst bits about the film Prometheus Chris Grayling, still awarded them a £6.6bn joint venture contract for everyone’s least favourite sequel, well apart from Prometheus, that’s right HS2. Yes it seems Grayling a persistent failure rewarded a persistent failure with a persistent failure. I wouldn’t be surprised if he next touted a huge government spend on a new chocolate teapot start up. Grayling has defended this decision by saying it would be unlawful to rule out a company from a consortium bid because of profit warnings, and that without these contracts Carillion could’ve collapsed earlier. Whereas I’d cynically ask if the real reason is because the chairman of Carillion Philip Green – not the awful tax dodging Philip Green who owns Topshop but another awful one – was adviser to Theresa May on corporate responsibility. Yes the man who was the chairman for a company that agreed to pay it’s former chief exec £660k in salary & £28k in benefits for nearly a year after he left, while being completely aware of the financial issues the company had, gave the PM advice on corporate self-regulation. I hope her next hiring is for the ghost of Oliver Reed as an advisor for alcohol self-regulation.
Carillion’s demise is pretty grim news for the 20,000 employees but also for the 450 governmental contracts to the value of about £16bn, which they had in everything from HS2 to the Battersea power station redevelopment or the 50 prisons they maintain or the 218 schools they provide meals to or the military personal or hospital beds or a number of other public services that they managed. They were described as an integrated support services business but really they were more like a greedy zombie parasite who took over too many host bodies to the point where they couldn’t control them even though the decaying husks they now occupied now needed them to survive.
There are lots of questions to be asked about what happened with the company, including not only choices made by the current government but also the privatisation pushed forward by the previous New Labour government too and the Conservative government before that. A number of stories have recently emerged about local councils having to return services back to in house, which is a cool way of saying nationalise. How’s your parks service? Yeah, I got it in house. Etc etc. But this is because private companies have 15-25 year fixed price contracts that become unaffordable with constant local cuts. Councils are left shelling out tons of dosh to companies that pay their workers low wage, give a crap service and they can’t do anything about it till the contracts up. I mean I thought people only got suckered into deals that bad with iPhones.
PFI deals or private finance initiatives were recently deemed by the National Audit Office to cost the taxpayer 40% more when it came to schools and 70% more for hospitals than if it had been government funded. The Treasury insists it only approves contracts that are value for money but I’m not sure if they mean that one is what they sacrifice for the other.
Privatisation was seen as the better value for money way to bail out the public sector but the last few years have shown that hasn’t really worked from G4S forgetting to turn up for the Olympics and the army stepping in, to issues with unqualified staff at Virgin Care, to Eddie Stobart nearly running criminal aid, to the big bail out of Virgin and Stagecoach’s East Coast rail where they got paid a lot of money because they were running it badly. Its like successive governments realised how much of a British institution Fawlty Towers was and felt that needed to be commemorated in the most expensive way possible. Corbyn said that this collapse is a political watershed moment and he might well be right as it’s come at a point where not only the public but also a large amount of civil servants are keen to nationalise certain services again. Though with Carillion, Kier services have already stepped in to take over HS2 and highways contracts and Kier have also recently been given a £160m public health contract for a bioscience facility in Harlow. Meanwhile Galliford Try and Balfour Beatty have taken on Carillion’s Aberdeen bypass scheme, so who knows it could all end up back in the hands of other companies which is a good thing for workers. But it does also feel like it is restarting the full Carillion experience featuring David Ladel.
For some excellent info on reasons to renationalise, check out weownit.org.uk who I’ll hopefully get on this show at some point. And look, if you are the government and you’re listening to this, I’ll happily do a really bad job at stuff for way less money so why not do the Carillion jobs in-house and properly and then chuck me a few grand and I’ll accidentally set fire to a kitchen while making toast or something. Deal?
INTERVIEW PART 2
Thanks tons to Penny for the chat. You can Penny on Twitter @pennyb or at pennybphd.com. I’ll be adding the follow recommends to the Twitter & Facebook this week like I completely forgot to do with Phil Hammond’s recommends last week until the brilliant Kat Day added them to the linear notes she does for this show every week that will soon also be found on the website that is almost done. Almost. Turns out it takes ages to add 80+ episodes onto a site. Who knew? I’ve got the next two, possibly three weeks of interviewees in the bag but I always need more suggestions for who to interview. And I should add that I have had some brilliant suggestions from you all but if I haven’t had them on the show yet it’s because either they’re too famous and busy to respond to little old me, or they just haven’t responded anyway because let’s face it my name sounds like something a spam aggregator has pulled together. Anyway, if you do have any further suggestions please get in touch @parpolbro on Twitter, the Partly Political Broadcast facebook group or email@example.com. Or you could send me a message via a tiny insect drone that will fly for miles and miles to deliver your message only to land in my kitchen, be immediately placed in a glass and thrown outside again, or worse, get eaten by the cat three doors down that we call Colin even though it’s not his name, but he really looks like a Colin, and then he’ll get ill because he’s eaten a drone and then you’ll be responsible for that. As always, it’s probably best to email.
Last week the EU Withdrawal Bill passed in the House of Commons by 29 votes including not keeping the European human rights charter because why would we need rights post Brexit when everything will be lawless anyway as we all fight for water? Former Education Secretary Justine Greening used her new position in the back benches to warn the government that a future generation of MPs may seek to improve or undo Brexit if it doesn’t work for them, a line that I doubt even pierced the brains of the front bench because as soon as they hear the words ‘future generation’ their minds freeze until its safe to only think about old rich people again. The withdrawal bill will now go to the Lords so there is still some chance for change but I mean, which is a weird thing to say about the Lords but judging by the last few years they fall asleep less in their debates than the Commons do.
President of the European Council and 3D cartoon mouse Donald Tusk has said that the UK is welcome to reverse Brexit if it wants to. Well actually he said our hearts are still open to you, which judging by how many of our top doctors are leaving since the referendum is not something I’d risk. But his offer is also something that European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker has also said is possible using Article 49 which spells out how countries join the EU. I’m now certain Article 48 is top ten tips for when sexting the EU, with Article 47 being how to get the EU to like your instagrams. Staying in the EU is also something French President Emmanual Macron mentioned during his visit to the UK, but he also pointed out that was one of the only ways we’d have full access to the Single Market. Either that or a Norway style deal, otherwise we can’t just cherry pick the elements we want, especially as without free movement we won’t have any workers to do labour on the fruit farms. But Macron did say that the UK could have some sort of special deal with the EU with deeper relations than Norway has, which has no doubt made Norway hella jealous and I bet we’ll see them all done up to the nines at the club any time soon trying to make the EU all jealous. Macron’s comments take down the words of the Brexiteers in government who both believe the EU is planning for a no-deal, something that if they were, they were only doing because the UK kept banging on about making sure that was what they got, and that they’d be able to get what they liked from a deal. So pretty much what was guessed which is that we can’t have what we had before and if we do want that they we have to pay more to have less say about it all. I’m amazed the government didn’t hand negotiations over to Carillion. Meanwhile the UK will have restrictions on rules for immigration, trade and fishing during the transition deal after March 2019 until March 2021, with the EU likely to extend full freedom of movement till then. So really not so much a transition period as enough time to collect all our stuff but we can only do it when they’re in because we’ve handed back the keys already.
And that’s kind of it this week for Brexit stuff, except, well, sigh, I’m sorry but Boris fucking Johnson said last week, as well as his stupid bridge plans, that the problem with that big fat lie about £350m going to the NHS post Brexit that was slapped on a bus, was a gross underestimate. Is he going for the Hitler idea that if you make a lie big enough no one will believe you have the arrogance to distort the truth that much so it must be true? Well the mistake he’s made is that everyone knows he does have that level of arrogance so now he just looks like an even bigger tool than he already is. I very much hope that when it’s put to the test and likely fails, Boris is forced to be plastered to the side of a bus for a month while people point at him and say ‘that liar is a gross obstinate’.
And that’s all for this week’s Partly Political Broadcast podcast. Thanks very much for listening and if you enjoy this show please do spread the word like verbal, er, butter, yeah I’m never saying that again and please review the show on your podcast apps, donate to the patreon and ko-fi and do get in contact about pretty much anything you like from politics all the way to your favourite migratory bird paths or best words spelled in spaghetti hoops. All of it is welcome. Well not all of it. Most of it. You can of course drop me a line @parpolbro on Twitter, the Partly Political Broadcast Facebook group or firstname.lastname@example.org. Do also check out my comedy show on NextUpComedy.com if you can.
Big thanks to Acast for hosting the show and to my brother The Last Skeptik for all the musics.
This will be back next week when we’ll be saying yes Boris you go ahead and push to improve relations with Europe by having a large catapult at Southend that fires you to Amsterdam, as long as you test it out first.
This week’s show is brought to you by Henry Bolton’s Boltons. Once you attach, they will never ever let go even if you really want them to. Bolton’s Boltons will attach to everything from young racist women all the way to party leaderships and really stupid out of date ideas.