Do we get the leaders we deserve? | Live at the Cambridge Literary Festival


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Anoosh Chakelian chairs a special episode of the New Statesman Podcast, recorded live at the Cambridge Literary Festival.

In recent years, Britain has witnessed the unlawful prorogation of parliament; debacles in the management of public health, education and immigration; and scandals of cronyism, incompetence and sleaze. How has the cultural and political debate become so degraded? Can such failures of leadership be traced back to an unwritten constitution and a political system that rewards ambition over integrity, or should voters, the media and others take the blame for not holding the powerful to account? Is the British electorate the helpless victim of a new breed of brazen post-truth politics? Or do we simply get the leaders we deserve? 

Speaking for the motion:

David Runciman – a professor of politics at Cambridge University and the author of several books, including How Democracy Ends.

Stephen Bush – a political columnist and associate editor at the Financial Times, and the former political editor at the New Statesman.

Hannah White – deputy director of the Institute for Government, and author of the recent book Held in Contempt: What’s Wrong with the House of Commons?

Speaking against the motion:

Billy Bragg – singer-songwriter and activist whose most recent book is The Three Dimensions of Freedom.

Dr Rachel Clarke – a NHS palliative care doctor and best-selling author whose books include Dear Life and Breathtaking.

Lucy Nethsingha – a British Liberal Democrat politician, member of Cambridgeshire County Council since 2009. She was a member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the east of England from 2019 until the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in 2020. She was chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs.

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