Radio Times

Do fans of political podcasts actually like politics?

- See David’s pick of the week, The History of Bad Ideas, on the opposite page

The FT’s Stephen Bush made a good point on the Political Fix podcast. Elections are won and lost, he said, on the news bulletins of commercial radio stations. Because they only resort to politics when they absolutely have to, the stories they carry are the ones most likely to nudge a floating voter one way or another. Magic FM is what we should be listening to if we really want to get a feeling as to how it’s going to turn out.

This makes you wonder who can possibly be consuming all the seemingly endless hours of podcasts, webcasts, seminars, Instagram reels, YouTube shorts and TikTok *things*, the production of which went into feverish overdrive following the Prime Minister’s recent announceme­nt in Downing Street. Not the undecideds, that’s for sure.

No, these are for people who look to politics for entertainm­ent rather than edificatio­n. These are fans of the political process. There seem to be more of them than ever before. I think that’s all down to telly.

These are people whose view of politics has been shaped by behind-thescenes dramas like The West Wing, The Thick of It and Veep, where the people in the back office get to deliver zingers fashioned for them by the best scriptwrit­ers in the business. Conspiracy narratives like House of Cards, The Good Wife and Boss have encouraged them to believe that behind every arras in Westminste­r and Washington a titanic struggle between good and evil is being played out. Clinchingl­y, shows like Alpha House, Chief of Staff and Bodyguard have sold them on the idea that even low-paid political operatives can look fabulous.

So they listen to The Spectator’s podcasts, Pod Save America or Politics Joe not to have their minds changed but to pick up gobbets of insider informatio­n and polling jargon with which to dazzle their social circle. These people love the run-up to an election. The only thing they don’t like is the actual polling day. That’s when they face the fact they cast the same number of votes as the listeners of Magic FM. Which surely can’t be right.

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