Beckoned into the dark-lit space of the Cromdale Theatre at Edinburgh International Conference Centre, we were immediately exposed to the dramatic tones of the BBC News jingle, the Question Time theme, and various other political melodies. It set the tone of the show as some sort of high-brow and sophisticated spectacle, similar to the kind you might see on national television around an election. Despite the fact that this show would feature on Iain Dale’s All Talk podcast in a month or so, the event felt much more down-to-earth and relaxed than you might expect.
And this was no thanks to Dale’s guests, Ash Sarkar and Owen Jones, both well-respected journalists and political commentators in their own right. Ash Sarkar, senior editor at Novara Media – yes, the same person who put Piers Morgan in his place by telling him ‘I’m a communist, you idiot’ – and Owen Jones, Labour-leaning columnist for the Guardian and king of the Twitter comeback. Sat in a room together alongside Iain Dale, this made for an interesting conversation.
Of course, the first thing Dale wanted to focus on was Ash Sarkar’s declaration of support for communism; as if she had radically aligned herself with Lenin, dreaming of the same level of poverty as Soviet Russia. Was he trying to catch Sarkar out in the same way that Piers Morgan had tried and failed? Ash responded engagingly and comedically, setting the record straight. To her, communism meant a redistribution and overthrowing of top-down wealth, in favour of a system where everyone benefits, workers have better rights, and class inequality is toppled.
Speaking about class, Dale responded, It all feels very 1930s to me. Such a dismissal of the relevance of class in our current society was strongly rebutted by the audience and indeed Sarkar, who argued that it couldn’t be more relevant in a time where people are struggling with a cost of living crisis, whilst utilities companies are simultaneously reporting record profits. This resonated strongly with the audience, who all seemed equally fed up with current living standards in Britain.
Moving onto Owen Jones, Dale wanted to focus on his commentary about the Labour Party. Having once been a staunch ally of the party, closely connected with its policy-making, Owen is now known as one of Keir Starmer’s biggest critics. Jones described Labour’s current leader as a man with no principles, pushing Labour to the right and in the process abandoning all of the values that should be upheld by the Labour Party, such as its support for working people. He ran the most dishonest leadership campaign in British politics, Jones declared. And whilst Dale argued that there was no credible alternative to the Conservative Party, and that surely this must mean both Sarkar and Jones should vote for the Labour Party in order to get rid of the Conservatives, they argued that their vote was valuable and it had to be earned rather than assumed.
Ultimately, Sarkar and Jones shared such a genuine chemistry, providing witty comebacks for anything Dale tried to put to them. It was truly brilliant to see that kind of dynamic, as Dale tended to assume the position of most mainstream national media; poking fun at the communist argument, dismissing the relevance of class in a society that is, at its core, capitalist. This line of attack from journalists is now overdone and has, quite frankly, lost its effect. It was refreshing to see two young and socially aware journalists take this ineffective line of questioning and squash it, providing an intelligent and radical alternative to the kind of British politics we have now been subjected to for over a decade.
‘Iain Dale: All Talk With’ continues at the Cromdale Theatre at Pleasance at EICC with guests such as Dr David Starkey and Jess Philllips. Dates and times vary.
Image used with permission of author, provided to The Student as press material.