Entertainment Radio

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Darragh McManus on the radio: Brexit rollercoaster gets crazier and crazier by the day


Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wirer.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wirer.
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more crazy, British politics found a whole new gear. Recent days have seen Boris Johnson proroguing parliament - hands up who'd ever heard that word, let alone understood what it meant - and an escalation of UK/EU/Ireland sabre-rattling.

Most seismically, the PM lost a vote to a coalition of opposition MPs and Tory rebels, thus preventing a no-deal departure. Bryan Dobson, on Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am), put it thus: "Britain's Brexit rollercoaster has taken another sharp turn."

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Sean Whelan pointed out that the dissidents included "some very high-profile people": Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer until July, ex-Minister Rory Stewart, "and people who would pretty much embody the term 'Tory grandee': Kenneth Clarke, working with the party since the 1960s, or Nicholas Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill - the Prime Minister who Boris Johnson most admires."

It truly is through-the-looking-glass stuff at this stage. Even the rowdy hollers we heard on Today in Parliament (BBC Radio 4, Mon-Fri 11.30pm) after the vote was announced, with someone roaring "Not a good start, Boris", seemed more akin to a scene from Regency-era Blackadder than a real-life parliament in 2019. And Johnson's high-speed bluster and Jeremy Corbyn's beyond-parody whine added to the sense of the surreal.

Meanwhile James O'Brien (Mon-Fri 10am) on talk station LBC had on a pro-Brexit fella who seemingly wanted the right to breathe dirty air and, for some reason, no limits on the size of hand towels. Surreal, again, although at this point, I feel broadcasters like O'Brien are shooting fish in a barrel by engaging with eejit callers - and certainly don't capture the complexity of this situation.

As a respite from Brexit, I delved into Nadine O'Regan's My Roots are Showing podcast. Essentially this is her formerly long-running Songs in the Key of Life Today FM show, transposed to podcast.

I still don't understand why the station dropped O'Regan; this iteration proves again how a simple idea, done well, can be quite a powerful thing on-air. She talks to well-known people - mostly, though not solely, from arts 'n' ents - about their lives, their cultural tastes, what inspires them, what moves them.

The most recent episode had Graham Norton. He's rightly regarded as a brilliant interviewer but is equally good as an interviewee: charming, witty, smart. A joy to listen to, really, and O'Regan is a lively, perceptive and well-briefed interrogator.

All podcasts are available to listen back; the recent one with Jon Ronson, another charming man, was great. Apparently Paschal Donohoe is on the way - please, don't let him talk about Brexit, my sanity can't take it…

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