A few years ago, politics and current affairs were seen as boring, with endless budgets and chat about policy, and politicians wearing hard hats on construction sites. But in the last few years, with Brexit, Trump, Covid, Truss, and more, the world seems to have turned upside down, and we’re all constantly wanting to know: “what on earth is going on?”.
Seeing as the country has just gotten another new prime minister (fast becoming an evergreen statement), we thought we’d round up a few of the best political and current affairs podcasts, so you can keep informed on what’s happening at home and abroad and how it affects you in an easily digestible way, without having to watch dull Parliament committee meetings or wade through tedious op-eds in the broadsheets.
The News Agents
At the time of writing, The News Agents podcast is at No. 2 on Apple’s podcast charts in the UK, with their episode on Boris Johnson backing out of the Prime Ministerial race being No. 1 on the top individual episodes chart. It’s a pretty recently created podcast, having only released its first episode back in September, but has already rocketed in popularity thanks to its in-depth and informative analysis of British politics, and the star power of its journalist presenters: former BBC News journalist and presenter Emily Maitlis, US politics expert and former BBC correspondent Jon Sopel, and Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall. With their immense shared experience and journalistic contacts, together they make the show one of the very best for getting insider knowledge and expert analysis on the nooks and crannies of Westminster and beyond.
The Rest Is Politics
The News Agents are currently No. 2 on the Apple podcast charts because at No.1 is another political podcast that’s snowballing into something of a phenomenon: The Rest of Politics also launched earlier this year and is now not only one of the most popular podcasts in the country, but also selling out live shows at the London Palladium. Both its hosts have been at the heart of government – former Conservative MP Rory Stewart was in Theresa May’s cabinet and also ran for London Mayor, and former Labour communications director Alastair Campbell was closer than perhaps anyone to Tony Blair during much of his time in Downing Street. The pair bring their extensive experience of the ins and outs of government to each episode, and while they often argue on issues, both also agree on a lot – the two of them know who would and wouldn’t make a good PM, and both know how tricky making decisions is. A must listen for anyone wanting analysis on politics from two people from both sides of the political divide, and who’ve seen it all.
The BBC’s Newscast is, effectively, BBC News in podcast form. Hosted by chief political correspondent Adam Fleming, the show is one of the most popular on BBC Sounds, and takes a look at the day’s events, and analysing the news and talking points. Previously entitled Electioncast for the 2017 election and then Brexitcast until 2020, the show seeks to help you gain a better understanding of what’s going on in the political world in a more balanced and impartial way than other podcasts out there, and acts to inform rather than give opinions. Newscast interviews a variety of guests for their take on things happening in the world, from politicians (Keir Starmer was recently interviewed following Liz Truss’ resignation) to celebrities (Zoe Ball was featured earlier this year) to experts and analysts (Money saving guru Martin Lewis has been interviewed a few times on the cost of living crisis this year). There are also sister shows Americast, which is a similar podcast covering US news and issues, and Ukrainecast, launched to focus on the War in Ukraine. All are a great listen to keep you informed and in the loop.
Pod Save America
Travelling across the pond for our one non-British podcast on this list, Pod Save America is one of the most popular current affairs podcasts in the US, and is hosted by former Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett, and Dan Pfeiffer. Borne out of the early days of the Trump administration, the show generally takes a pro-Democrat or at least anti-Trumpism slant to things and covers both politics and a range of important current issues affecting America. The show has featured plenty of guests (again largely from the Democrat Party), including both Barack Obama and Joe Biden, as well as Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, and others, and aims to have a “no-bullshit” conversation about politics. With the continuing influence of Trump and events like the overturning of Roe V Wade, Pod Save America attempts to act as a beacon of light and trustworthiness in tumultuous times for the country.
Reasons To Be Cheerful
Back over to the UK now, with the also optimistic podcast Reasons To Be Cheerful. This show is hosted by radio presenter and writer Geoff Lloyd and former leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband. While Miliband may have not gotten into No. 10 and had a tough time with the media, he’s since cultivated a following for his affable and self-deprecating persona, and (as well as serving in the Shadow Cabinet) presents this podcast on a quest to find intriguing, big ideas. With the many problems and difficulties facing the world that can often feel overwhelming and misery-making, Reasons To Be Cheerful aims to find the people, movements, and ideas that are trying to solve these huge challenges and change the world. Featuring thought-provoking interviews with “smart thinkers and inspiring campaigners”, the show wants to try and inspire a sense of optimism in difficult times.
Page 94: The Private Eye Podcast
For a more comical and light-hearted look at the news and politics, try Private Eye’s official podcast Page 94. Hosted by Andrew Hunter Murray and Eye editor and Have I Got News For You team captain Ian Hislop, the show takes a dive into our news landscape with the acclaimed magazine’s signature sense of humour. All kinds of issues and current political events are featured, and while Private Eye is satirical it still employs robust and thorough journalism to make sure every joke is on point and well-researched.
The Bugle, created back in 2007 by John Oliver (pre-Last Week Tonight) and Andy Zaltzman, now features Zaltzman and a rotating series of co-hosts including Alice Fraser, Nish Kumar, and Anuvab Pal. It takes a comic and satirical look at global news stories, mostly in the UK and US, and examines and skewers them. Both podcasts are well worth your time if you want to digest current affairs with a laugh.
Politics Weekly UK
A straight-laced look at the week’s events and political news, Guardian political columnist John Harris hosts this show that provides insight into current affairs and helps break down what’s going on in the world in an accessible yet still informative way. While acting as the official podcast of The Guardian, the show makes sure to feature a diverse cast of voices from around the country, as well as from different parts of the political spectrum, to make sure all bases are covered and all viewpoints heard. It’s one of the best and most popular politics podcasts for its straight-to-the-point and insightful approach, which cuts through the noise so that you can get a firm idea of the latest political developments.