Talking Politics

David Runciman’s weekly political chat, produced in partnership with the LRB.
This is just a selection of episodes. For more, subscribe on the links below.


David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 3 March 2022

3 March 2022 · 42mins

David, Helen and Catherine get together for the final episode of Talking Politics, to reflect on podcasting through six extraordinary years of politics, and what it means to be ending at the beginning of a war. They talk about the current crisis, how it connects to the crises of the past, and where it might fit in to the crises of the future. This episode is dedicated to Finbarr Livesey and Aaron Rapport.

Helen Thompson/Disorder

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 25 February 2022

25 February 2022 · 49mins

For the podcast’s penultimate episode, David talks to Helen about her new book Disorder: Hard Times in the Twenty-First Century. It’s a conversation about many of the themes Helen has explored on Talking Politics over the years, from the energy transition to the perils of QE, from the travails of the Eurozone to the crisis of democracy, from China to America, from the past to the present to the future.

The Meaning of Macron

David Runciman, Helen Thompson and Christopher J. Bickerton, 22 February 2022

22 February 2022 · 48mins

David talks to Shahin Vallee and Chris Bickerton about the upcoming French presidential elections and the Macron years so far. Can anything or anyone stop Macron? Why has French politics moved so far to the right? And what do left and right still mean in the absence of economic disagreement?

The Meaning of Boris Johnson

David Runciman, Helen Thompson and Chris Brooke, 10 February 2022

10 February 2022 · 55mins

David, Helen and Chris Brooke have one more go at making sense of the tangled web that is British politics. Can Johnson really survive, and even if he does, can his brand ever recover? Is this a scandal, a crisis, or something else entirely? Does history offer any guide to what comes next? And what might be the really big lessons from the last two years of Covid-dominated politics?

Putin’s Next Move

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 3 February 2022

3 February 2022 · 53mins

David and Helen talk to Shashank Joshi, defence editor at the Economist, about what Vladimir Putin hopes to get out of the Ukraine crisis and what anyone can do to stop him. Is some sort of invasion inevitable? Is Russia’s goal to sow dissent or to achieve regime change? What leverage does the rest of world have over Putin and his allies? And at the end of the episode, David and Helen announce that the podcast will come to an end in March, after six years.

The Next Big Thing

David Runciman and John Naughton, 3 February 2022

27 January 2022 · 45mins

David talks to John Naughton about what’s coming next in the tech revolution and where it’s taking us. From quantum computing to cryptocurrency, from AI to the Internet of Things: what’s hype, what’s for real and how will it shape our politics. Plus they discuss what China understands about technology that the rest of the world might have missed.

American Civil War?

Helen Thompson and David Runciman, 20 January 2022

20 January 2022 · 55mins

One year on from Joe Biden’s inauguration, David and Helen talk with historian Gary Gerstle about what’s gone wrong. What is the strategy behind this presidency? Has it tried to do too much or too little? And should the original American Civil War really be used as the template for political breakdown?

Boris: The Ghost of Christmas Present

Helen Thompson and David Runciman, 10 January 2022

6 January 2022 · 52mins

David and Helen talk through what’s going on with the prime minister, the pandemic and the state of British politics. Is Johnson still in touch with public opinion on Covid? Why is hypocrisy more toxic than lying? What are the historical parallels - if any - for the Tories’ recent by-election disasters? Plus we try to decide what 2021 will be remembered for politically in the years to come.

1848 and All That

David Runciman, Helen Thompson and Christopher Clark, 4 January 2022

16 December 2021 · 56mins

David and Helen talk to historian Chris Clark about the 1848 revolutions and what they teach us about political change. What explains the contagiousness of the revolutionary moment? Is it possible to combine parliamentary reform with street politics? Where does counter-revolution get its power?

Supply Chains, Inflation & the Metaverse

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 22 December 2021

2 December 2021 · 59mins

In a special episode recorded live at the Bristol Festival of Economics, David and Helen talk to Ed Conway, economics editor at Sky News, about the biggest challenges facing the global economy. How will the supply chain crisis be fixed? Is inflation the threat it appears? Can the world economy really wean itself off coal? And will Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse ever escape the brute facts of economic reality?

Where Is China Heading?

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 7 December 2021

18 November 2021 · 48mins

Helen and David talk to Cindy Yu, host of the Chinese Whispers podcast, about the trajectory of Chinese politics. What is Beijing’s political strategy for Hong Kong and Taiwan? Is Xi Jinping really a socialist? Can the CCP escape its history? And why didn't Xi show up in Glasgow?

Climate Ambition vs Energy Reality

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 10 November 2021

4 November 2021 · 55mins

David and Helen talk to Jason Bordoff, Dean of the Columbia Climate School and former Special Assistant to Barack Obama, about climate, COP26 and the enormous challenges of the energy transition. How can we balance the need for energy security with the need to wean the world off its dependency on fossil fuels? Why is China still so reliant on coal? Who will pay for the energy needs of the developing world? Plus, just how scared are the oil companies of public opinion?

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel, David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 28 October 2021

28 October 2021 · 57mins

In a special episode recorded in front of a live audience for the LRB’s Subject/Object event series, Helen and David talk to Hilary Mantel about power, monarchy and political intrigue, from the Tudors to the present: from Henry VIII to Boris Johnson, Thomas Cromwell to Dominic Cummings.

Free with Lea Ypi

David Runciman, 28 October 2021

21 October 2021 · 1hr 01min

David talks with Lea Ypi about her remarkable new memoir Free: Coming of Age at the End of History.

German Lessons

David Runciman and Helen Thompson, 23 October 2021

7 October 2021 · 56mins

David and Helen are joined by Politico’s chief Europe correspondent Matthew Karnitschnig to explore the consequences of the German elections. Who were the real winners and losers? Are there lessons for centre-left parties in other countries, including the Labour Party in Britain? And what are the choices facing Germany as it decides on its place in an increasingly unstable world? Plus we ask whether this was a Covid election. If not, why not?