Matt Forde’s Political Party podcasts have become essential listening for both comedy fans and Westminster wonks. And now, after a pandemic hiatus he has made it big, settling into the West End for a run of live recordings in which he gives politicians a grilling. First up was Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who received more of a light toasting.
Before welcoming his interviewee Forde flexed his stand-up muscles with some quickfire satire. Following Boris Johnson’s recent Kermit namedrop the host wondered if the PM might have eyes for Miss Piggy. Some gags were creaky – squaddies being called in by the SNP was likened to “Ajockalypse Now” – but you can see why he misses Trump, he does a fantastic Donald impersonation.
After the break the chat with the former Labour Cabinet Minister mixed serious ruminations with relaxed anecdotage. Burnham had hot-footed it from the Party Conference in Brighton, so unsurprisingly various levelling up soundbites were familiar. He wants Manchester’s bus network to copy London’s model to reduce fares. He wants “Social care on NHS terms.” Both very reasonable.
In fact, if there was a downside it was that the black-clad politician was so reasonable the talk never quite ignited, leaving the audience gently entertained but rarely thrilled. When prodded for criticism of Sir Keir Starmer, he said that he supported the opposition leader, who just needed to come up with something to “cut through”.
There was frustratingly little on Burnham’s own ambitions, even when handed a T-shirt bearing a “Future PM” slogan. The Merseyside-born guest appeared happier underlining his Mancunian credibility, recalling seeing Johnny Marr perform on Saturday and how he might invite the world’s unlikeliest raver Michael Gove to a Hacienda night when the Conservative Conference hits the north next week.
Like a seasoned interrogator, Forde closed with his toughest question, asking Burnham his opinion of Angela Rayner’s “Scum” description of the Tories. “I wouldn’t have used that kind of language,” he said, which was almost word-for-word what Keir Starmer said. Maybe the two are not so different.
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