Written by Noah Keate
If you want to listen to someone with longstanding expert political analysis, you can’t go far wrong with Steve Richards’ ‘Rock n Roll Politics’ podcast. Based on his live one-man theatre show, the title aims to reflect the turbulent, volatile nature of our political times. From one show to the next, nobody is ever quite sure how politics will have transformed, amazed and horrified those of us constantly engaged in following it.
Richards, in both his show and podcast, tries to offer a degree of calm and cut through the noise. He aims to present the long view, often looking to the past to inform our understanding of the present and speculate on the future. As a longstanding broadcaster and commentator for the BBC and Independent newspaper, Richards is in prime position to offer a useful, thoughtful perspective which ensures his listeners always feel informed.
While the show has only recently returned to a live setting in different theatres after being presented from home, the podcast has remained a vital weekly installment over the last year. Though initially intermittent, its newfound regularity allows Steve the opportunity to hone in on one vital issue in depth, deconstruct the key political issues and provide a different take. Though Richards’ politics are obviously on the left, his musings remained nuanced and engaging.
His monologue on the week’s events is then followed by listener questions, thoughts and reflections. I like this section, not least as - full disclosure - my questions have featured a number of times. They provide a great opportunity for listeners to ask difficult or thought-provoking questions, with Richards offering a worthy, insightful reply. A large amount of listeners hail from overseas, ensuring that international issues are provided with just as much coverage as domestic stories.
Despite the volatility in political stories being widespread and fast moving, Richards manages to ensure that some themes remain throughout his discussions. For example, there is frequent focus given to the need for space within the media, so that stories have time to develop. These are now often provided by podcasts when news organisations so often don’t have that time. Similarly, Richard believes strongly that political actions have consequences and that these must be effectively scrutinised. Fighting for this to occur is a strong part of what drives Richards’ podcast to be successful.
Steve is also a big believer in context and this shines through every episode. While contemporary events are the focus, Richards explores these through the lens of, say, the governments of Harold Wilson or Tony Blair. Times where a political scandal may have erupted, a minister may have got in trouble or a group of workers have gone on strike in the present will be brought to the forefront alongside occasions of that happening in the past. If the political situation is especially unprecedented, that will also be made clear.
Within every podcast, even the most politically confident of individuals should hold within them a willingness to face challenges and scrutiny. Steve is no different here. While some listener questions will just provide contributions or agree with Steve’s remarks, others will probe him on what he has said and offer an alternative opinion. For example, Richards believes former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should have the parliamentary whip returned, which is opposed by some who email in. Richards is admirable for allowing those challenges to be heard and making it clear to listeners that dissent exists.
Despite the heavy politics, the podcast also manages to include some light and shade in the form of a lifestyle and wellness section - do not worry, it does not head anywhere near Gwyneth Paltrow Goop territory! Instead, listeners remark on what they do while listening: running, making bread, knitting, relaxing, often to the amusement of Richards. Those who bake or cook sometimes even provide recipes for their truly unique creations, which never fail to keep the podcast on the ground. This ensures the podcast always has the listeners at its heart.
Politics is unlikely to reduce its tumultuous, volatile nature any time soon. For that, informative, measured, reasonable political arguments have never been more necessary. Steve Richards always ensures that political analysis remains strong and that the prevailing opinion, simply because it is popular, is not allowed to automatically triumph. This allows his podcast to go from strength to strength, and hopefully remain on the airwaves for many years to come.
Photo source - Flickr (Paul Hudson)