The New Statesman podcast, review: The difficulties faced by women in Westminster

The New Statesman podcast; The View from 22 podcast; Page 94 podcast

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The Independent Culture

It's rare, in this multimedia universe, to find a current-affairs publication that doesn't have an accompanying podcast. Such is the rush to ensure what the planks in suits call "total media convergence", you imagine it won't be long before The Economist is putting on its own club night.

For the time being, though, podcasting is the thing – and why not, when you can exploit your own content, draw on the expertise of existing contributors and pretty much run it on a shoestring?

The New Statesman's weekly podcasts have been running for two years and are expertly presented, fastidiously topical and clever without being obscure. Hosted by the publication's deputy editor, Helen Lewis, this week's programme pontificated on Labour's leadership contest and difficulties faced by women in Westminster.

On the former, Lewis and her colleagues gave clear, digestible rundowns of the candidates, in particular the unforeseen "problem" that is Jeremy Corbyn, and the broader difficulties of the Labour Party. Lewis then moved on to the ways women face discrimination in politics (while mothers often find MPs' hours incompatible with family life, child-free women are invariably criticised for having no lives beyond their jobs).

 

Lewis had written a feature on the topic, which was balanced and brilliant, but the cover illustration, which saw Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May, Liz Kendall and Angela Merkel crowded around a crib that contained a ballot box, caused an outcry on social media.

Here, Lewis offered a staunch defence of the image – she noted how some readers had "blamed the mag for the problem it was pointing out" – while reiterating and expanding upon many of the points in her piece. This, it occurred to me, is where magazine podcasts are useful, both in providing extra analysis and engaging directly with reader criticism.

The View From 22, the weekly podcast from The Spectator, does the same job of examining and expanding upon features in the print edition, and while it is laudably in-depth, it doesn't have the accessibility of the New Statesman's.

The host, Sebastian Payne, is a fine journalist but, as a broadcaster, doesn't quite have the charisma. That said, as companion piece to the magazine, or even an alternative, it does the job.

Page 94 is the podcast from the fortnightly satirical magazine Private Eye. It is now on its ninth episode, which, we were told, marks the end of the first season. "Nobody has punched a producer, so there may be a chance for me to return as host next time round," noted the presenter, Andrew Hunter Murray.

While I'd be happy to hear him host again, other, more fundamental changes are needed if the podcast is going to match the biting brilliance of the magazine. The sound quality was poor, the conversation rambling and the themes woefully out of date. This final episode came with a discussion about the honours system that referred to a feature that, as contributor Solomon Hughes blithely admitted, appeared "in the last mag but one". This makes it at least a month old.

Such slackness would be less of a problem were there some brilliant political satire in evidence. But while there were a couple of decent gags, the vibe was one of "Will this do?"

Twitter: @FionaSturges