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April 04, 2024
Pod Save the UK
Fighting the Rwanda Bill + Mr Kumar goes to Westminster

In This Episode

With the Government’s controversial Rwanda Bill currently stuck between the Commons and the Lords, this timely special episode focuses on the UK’s asylum policy. Nish takes up an invitation to speak about the issue at the House of Lords. The event has been organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, in conjunction with the makers of a new film called Io Capitano – which follows the perilous migration journey of two young boys travelling from Senegal to Europe in search of a better life. 

 

Nish joins Labour peer Lord Dubs, the co-chair of the APPG on Refugees, in his office afterwards to hear how he and his colleagues are “digging their heels in” to try and amend the Rwanda Bill. Lord Dubs tells Nish what he learnt from a recent trip to Calais to meet asylum seekers first-hand. They also discuss what a more humane asylum system might look like and whether the next Labour government can deliver it. Back in the studio, Nish and Coco discuss the extent to which arts and culture can have the power to bring about change.

 

With special thanks to Altitude Films and Think-Film Impact Production. 

 

Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.

 

Contact us via email: PSUK@reducedlistening.co.uk 

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Guest:

Lord Dubs, Labour peer and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees

 

Useful link:

Io Capitano trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6fLvLN2EqM

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

[AD]

 

Nish Kumar Hi, this is Pod Save the UK.

 

Coco Khan I’m Coco Khan.

 

Nish Kumar And I’m Nish Kumar.

 

Coco Khan As MPs and peers are away on their Easter holidays. It seems they’ll let anyone into the Palace of Westminster, including comedian.

 

Nish Kumar Yes, I’m off to the House of Lords for an event hosted by the all party Parliamentary Group on refugees.

 

Coco Khan With the passage of the government’s Rwanda Bill currently on hold, it’s a good time to ask what does a compassionate refugee and asylum policy actually look like?

 

Nish Kumar That’s one of the questions I’ll be asking Labour peer Lord Dubs, a former child refugee himself, who’s invited me to his Westminster office.

 

Coco Khan Hi, Nish. You’re looking very dapper. Is this all for me?

 

Nish Kumar Unfortunately, Coco, it is not. It is quite striking how surprised you look every time you see me wearing a shirt. I was stood up a moment ago before we started recording. And you said, God, those trousers look ironed.

 

Coco Khan They did have a very defined crease. You know. We respect it. So who is this in honor of?

 

Nish Kumar So look, the background to all of this is we’re having a week off this week. Yeah. You’re on holiday. So but the week before, the. You listening to this or watching it? I am going to the House of Lords. Like, I’m literally going in ten minutes. And this is all because, I went to see a film called Io Capitano with, our friend  Inua Ellams a great playwright, one of our nation’s great playwrights. But also a man who, when we went to see Avengers End Game, shouted Wakanda Forever when Black Panther appeared. So, like, I only say that to say he’s.

 

Coco Khan He’s a relatable genius.

 

Nish Kumar He can take multitudes.

 

Coco Khan Yeah.

 

Nish Kumar He just invited me, because he had two spare tickets to a preview screening of Io Capitano, which is an incredibly powerful film about, migrants making a boat crossing, from the northern Libya border to southern Italy. So it’s a it’s a migrant boat crossing about that specific region, but obviously it has a huge amount of, specific resonance in the UK. Given a conversation about boat crossings in the channel. Io Capitano is an extraordinarily powerful film, and it’s seeking to humanize some people who’ve been pretty routinely dehumanized, by a number of our politicians and in the media. So I go and watch the movie. It found it incredibly moving, incredibly powerful. And then, by sheer coincidence, the next day, I was contacted, by, the All-Party parliamentary Group, on refugees in colLabouration with, Think Film and Altitude, who, the production company involved in releasing Io Capitano to ask if I would come to the House of Lords and be part of a group of people, who were going to speak briefly, on, our feelings about refugees, asylum policy in this country. The event’s been put together, by Lord Dubs. He’s a Labour peer. He was a child refugee, and he spent a huge amount of time, especially in the last decade, campaigning on refugees and asylum rights, and particularly taking an interest in child refugees. It’s normally the sort of thing that I would say. No takers. It sort of is scaring the shit out of me. There are sort of two things at work. I think the the serendipity and coincidence of the fact that I literally seen this movie the day before. It felt too, like weird, a bit of fate for me to sort of not take them up on the invitation and also, you know. If people feel that I can help practically on this issue, it’s something that we both feel very passionately about. And we talked a lot about, on the podcast, especially in relation to the Rwanda bill, which again, as we record, is kind of stuck in legislative limbo because the Lords have kicked it back and it needs to go back for another debate. And, so it felt like something that I couldn’t say no to.

 

Coco Khan It’s Nish Kumar doing some campaigning.

 

Nish Kumar Yes. Sort of. I’m sort of hoping the best I’ll be, if I may borrow a phrase from the film in the loop, meet in the room. I’m basically just hoping to make up the numbers. I basically hoping that I don’t spell anything.

 

Coco Khan It’s, you know, it’s fascinating because obviously, like, you know, a powerful work of art can do something. It can move the dial in terms of people’s understanding and feelings. We’re going to be talking to you when you come back from the Lord. Yes. So we will dissect it all then.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah. So I’m off to the House of Lords now. Very excitingly, I’m actually going to get to sit down with Lord Dobbs in his office at the House of Lords. So, I mean, here we go the next time we speak. It could be because I’m behind bars for knocking over a priceless statue in the House of Lords, or slide tackling a Tory.

 

Coco Khan I’ll tell you what. Like if you come back, we’ll know it’s. It’s a riddle. If you can just make it back to the studio, it’s gone well.

 

Nish Kumar That’s all we’re aiming for.

 

Coco Khan Yeah.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah. So I’ve just come out of. Well, I mean, I’ve just come out of that building, the House of Lords. We’re in committee room G. A couple of us gave, speeches about why we were there. I was pretty nervous as an experience on the show. We’ve talked to a friend of the show, Liz Bass. We talked to Nadia Witham, Labour MP, about this idea of what happens when you go into these buildings. If you’re not prepared for it, I will say you feel the effect of being spooked by the whole thing, like it feels, very imposing, and you can kind of smell the kind of musty odor of power. But it was it was amazing and inspiring. And the whole thing was kicked off, by, Lord Dubs, who spoke very movingly and articulately and very powerfully about the Rwanda bill and about how there are specific objections to it that are going on in the House of Lords. And hopefully we’re actually about to go and speak to Lord Dubbs, and I’ll get into that more with him. First of all, Lord Dubs, which I will not call you because I called you Lord Dubs repeatedly been told that I will be removed from your Christmas card list.

 

Lord Dubs Yeah, you’re just about on it if you’re careful.

 

Nish Kumar Alf, thank you so much. For first of all, take the time to talk to us and letting us doing it in your office. We’re in your actual, office in, in Milbank.

 

Lord Dubs Yeah. Well, happy you’re here, but thank you very much indeed for doing. And thank you for your interest and commitment in what is a very, very important issue.

 

Nish Kumar Obviously, all of this, is taking place in the shadow in UK politics of the Rwanda bill. I know that you’re keenly engaged in this bill. Can you just give us a quick update of where we are with the bill right now?

 

Lord Dubs Right. The we run the bill, which is an appallingly awful bit of legislation passed the Commons, got the Lords. Well, we moved ten amendments against the government, went back to the Commons. They reinstated the ten. It came back to us. It’s called ping pong. Yeah. And we then dug our heels in behind seven amendments. And that’s going back to the Commons. I think it’s on the 15th of April. And then if they reject them, it’ll come back to us on the 16th of April. So it’s all all in, all in action.

 

Nish Kumar Just to get into the kind of specifics of the legislation. What are the basis that you the sort of seven areas that you’ve sent back?

 

Lord Dubs Let me give you an example of some of them. For example, this bill overrides the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said one, there was not a safe country to which to send refugees. Can I add, reinforced by the fact that, we’ve taken that people from land and given them refugee status in this country? So how can it be safe to send refugees there if we’re taking refugees from there? But at any rate, the Supreme Court, said it wasn’t safe in this bill that says whatever the Supreme Court says, if the government says it’s safe, it’s safe. Secondly, and thirdly, we are stepping away in this bill from, international treaties and obligations. For example, sticking with the European Convention of Human Rights, which is a fundamental basis for human rights. The European Court of Human Rights. And we’re going to tear up the Geneva Convention on Refugees. So there are a lot of important things which are just being stepped away from. And I think it’s a betrayal of our traditions as a country, that that we are no longer sticking to our international commitments and obligations. So it’s an appalling bit of legislation, and it is intended in the government’s own language to say it’ll deter people from coming across the channel by boat. Well, I don’t believe it’ll do that for one minute, but what it will do is undermine the human rights of individuals who are fleeing here for safety. It is an awful, awful bit of legislation.

 

Nish Kumar Various refugee groups are warning the government that this won’t do anything to combat people traffickers and people smugglers. There’s an interesting dissonance, because at the same time, they’re portraying refugees and asylum seekers as sort of sponges who we don’t want to hear anyway, but also trying to tell us that this is for their own good because they protect them from people traffickers. But that’s that’s nonsense.

 

Lord Dubs It’s complete and utter nonsense. And to treat people who fled from those awful horrors, whether in the Horn of Africa or whether whether they’re in Syria or whether in Afghanistan or wherever, people are fleeing from terrible situations and, and and treat people like that and not even to give them the right. Not even going to be allowed to claim asylum here and be shipped straight out because the government say if you come across the channel by boat, that is an offense. I can’t speak to speak more highly of how awful the policy is. And I think I believe there are some government supporters who don’t like it either. They’ve they’ve admitted to me privately they don’t like it. But what good is that if they don’t vote against it?

 

Nish Kumar And this is really about a conservative party that’s resorting really to the sort of most basest impulses in British politics to save its own skin. Right. Because it does feel like they’re just trying to get a plane off the ground for political capital.

 

Lord Dubs Yeah. That’s right. Absolutely. And it is a nasty, nasty way of doing it. Because these are individual human beings. They’re all our fellow human beings. And I’m not saying we should take everybody one who wants to come here, but I think we should take our shared responsibility. And by treating people in the way, in the way we’re not doing that. That is that is just it’s not right. It’s against all our traditions. It’s against what I believe most people in this country believe in.

 

[AD]

 

Nish Kumar When we were in the committee room, you actually expressed, which I thought was a fascinating thing to hear. What kind of your own unease at being a member of the House of Lords that is pushing back on this bill? I think you said something like, you know, we’re we’re not elected. So I understand that that’s a difficult position. What do you feel your obligation is, within the House of Lords in terms of pushing back on legislation?

 

Lord Dubs Let me just say, I think the Hous of Lords should be elected, but that’s a discussion for another day. We don’t have a written constitution. We have a few international agreements which we’re taking up. And the House of Lords, in a way, is still a safeguard in terms of our basic rights, because the Commons are just doing what the government want them to do. The government have got a big majority there. They don’t have an overall majority in the Lords. And so our job is to protect the British Constitution is to protect the rule of law. There’s another issue, of course, about the bill as well. We’ve argued that any Afghans who helped the British army before the Taliban took over completely, should we give them refugee status here? And we’re arguing that no Afghan who comes, who’s got that background should should have the risk of being sent to and the government even opposing that one.

 

Nish Kumar On what basis?

 

Lord Dubs Well, they’re just saying we’re just saying that ought to change the bill. And anything we’re doing to change that. Change the bill is obstructing it. So we’re going to dig a heels in, I hope, for quite a long time. And certainly while I’ve got the energy to do it, I shall go on opposing this bill.

 

Nish Kumar Do you feel, optimistic that you could. Stop it entirely, or at least remove some of the worst elements of it.

 

Lord Dubs Well, we’ve tried I mean, twice we’ve tried to remove the worst elements with the amendments we passed and it’ll come back to us. The question is really no, it doesn’t depend upon us in opposition or the Lib Dems. It actually depends upon the crossbenchers. Independent peers are quite a large number. Many of them are lawyers, and they don’t like the idea of our taking up our legal obligations. I’m hoping they’ve got enough stomach for a decent fight on it. So it depends on them as much as anything else. We’ll split. We’ll say solid on this.

 

Nish Kumar In terms of the Rwanda bill as a as a deterrent. You’ve actually been to Calais. You’ve spoken to asylum seekers and refugees who are trying to make the crossing across the channel from your expense to talking to them. Do they talk about the Rwanda policy? Do they see it as something that’s going to put them off coming?

 

Lord Dubs No, no they don’t. Can I say a bit to Calais a number of times? The first time the jungle was still there, part of it. And I was shocked then that there was a shopping street, and I was shocked to see tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. And I said, what are they doing here? And the then French government had apparently been worried about that with the National Front in that Calais area, and they’d used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear half the camp which had been cleared. So the long history of this, which is shocking. My most recent visit to Calais was in any in many ways as depressing as any, because it was it would be wet. They were all, sleeping under tarpaulins. The fields were sodden, wet. And, they said, look, the only hope we have is to come to Britain. And they said they’re not even able to claim asylum in France because they were fingerprinted when they got into Greece and Italy. And once they’ve done that, they can’t claim asylum in France anymore. And there were then some of them said, as in El Capitan, of some of them said, blessed hope these were Sudanese who had no money. They said, we can’t afford to pay the traffickers, but if the traffickers want us to steer the boat, then a couple of us will get a free trip, free trip across the channel. And that’s what we’re seeking to do. Others had money to pay the traffickers. But it was a very depressing situation. And I’m sure the one the, the underbid was, was something that probably went too well and certainly was not influencing them. Yeah. No, maybe maybe they could have had better advice and so on. But the view across Europe has been that the two countries to go to a Germany in the UK. Yeah. Maybe there are better ways, maybe that other countries to share responsibility. But, I don’t think that one thing will for one moment deter people. I think other things will deter them. Like if there was a better way of coming here, if we had safe and legal routes from from Calais to this country, particularly for those that have family connections here, we should do that. And that’s a much better way of dealing with things and the, the, the, the which is the moment.

 

Nish Kumar You’re an expert on this policy. That’s the only real way. Anyone who actually knows about refugees asylum policy will tell you to combat people traffickers. It’s safe and legal.

 

Lord Dubs But if there are safe and legal routes and can’t take everybody, but if they’re safe and legal routes and we can cooperate with the French and say, look, these are the people that’s got some connection with this country, language or family and so on. Let’s give them part in and bring them over safely and legally and, and, and that way the traffickers will have no business.

 

Nish Kumar This is personal for you as much as it’s political. Isn’t it because of your own background? You were a child refugee that came here.

 

Lord Dubs Well, I should add that, of course, the case for refugees and and a humanitarian approach to asylum seekers should not depend upon the personal expenses of the individual putting the argument. However, it would be naive of me to pretend that I’m not emotionally involved with the issue. And when I meet a boy or another boy from the Horn of Africa and I talk to them and they understand a little, they had a very difficult journey. And my journey wasn’t too difficult, but they understand that I had some of the same issues affecting me, like English as my third language, affecting me as as it affects them so that there’s a bit of empathy between us. And that’s good when I talk to them. So I feel I feel happy that those that are here, that they’re here and anybody that can get here and who’s got a good claim to asylum status under the, Geneva Convention, I welcome them and hope they’ll have a good life here.

 

Nish Kumar You’ve also been trying to, make a case that in a similar way that we took Ukrainian refugees in, we should be doing something similar for people in Gaza at the moment. Is that right?

 

Lord Dubs I think we want to be careful, but the answer is yes. Of course. The Palestinians are anxious that we don’t simply denuded the Gaza Strip of Palestinians. I mean, it’s a terrible situation in Gaza. The appalling the ceasefire can’t come soon enough. But I think where where the, arguments for family reunion, that’s to say, Palestinians in Gaza who’ve got family here, or who is so ill that they need medical help they can’t get in the region that I think we should take them. And there’s certainly a lot of Palestinians in this country who are arguing that they want their family members to be here. But we’ve got to be careful because we shouldn’t say to Gaza, everybody should get out of Gaza, because that is politically very damaging thing for the cause, the cause of the Palestinians.

 

Nish Kumar One of the things that was discussed again in the committee room is the importance of public opinion on this. People who feel strongly about this, what’s the action that they could potentially take?

 

Lord Dubs Yeah. Public opinion is crucial because in the past when I had an amendment done about taking unaccompanied child refugees, it was public opinion that woke up to what was happening and the Syrian boy lying drowned, or, Alan Kurdi on a on a mediterranean beach. Public opinion suddenly woke up. In fact, it was a woman who shouted at me that walking down the street normally when they shot at politicians, it’s abuse. Actually, she said, keep going with the amendment. Yeah. So, so I think public opinion is important when we have a government is ostensibly so hostile to refugees. The human rights of these people then then I think, I think public opinion is one of the things we’ve got on our side for anything that gets public opinion with us, which means telling the story of what asylum seekers have been through when they fled, and the very dangerous journeys they’ve had. Telling that story is what is crucial in terms of getting public opinion to be aware and understand. Of course, we’ve got government ministers who talk about them as being invaders, and so invaders are normally the enemy. And so we’ve got the government is using language which is appalling and hostile, as part of this nasty legislation that’s going through. But the more we can tell the real story about asylum seekers and refugees and why, as a country, we should share responsibility for taking them, then I think we can we can begin to win that argument.

 

Nish Kumar The film is, a fictionalization, of boat crossings in, Libya going into Italy. But it is based on a series of real stories. And the screenplay was produced in colLabouration with, people living in Italy now who had made that journey. And a huge amount of their life experience is in the film, and they’re credited, as consultants because I’m always sort of wary about over, emphasizing the importance of art and culture and stories. But is there an argument that films like this do have a real role to play in changing public opinion?

 

Lord Dubs I think absolutely, because, you know, you don’t just want politicians talking about it, but a politician should talk about it and condemn what the government is doing. But there’s more to it than that. And the more we can reach out with, particularly with films, the more we can spread the word to people, tell them what the message is, tell them what the background is. Get them to be more sympathetic to the to the to the cause of refugees. So films, the art world generally can be of enormous assistance in helping to win public opinion over, as as can footballers and other people. The more these people speak out, the better it is, and the film can be such an important part of it. So I welcome the film as making a really terrific contribution to understanding and helping the cause of refugees.

 

Nish Kumar How can we change the. Conversation around this in this country, you know, because I feel like for my entire life there has been constant scaremongering about immigrants, migrants, refugees. Sometimes those terms used interchangeably. I feel like and especially, I think since the financial crisis, since the kind of cost of living and the average wage and living standards deteriorating for people in this country. The kneejerk response from the conservative government over the last 14 years has been to sort of say that it’s because our resources are stretched by the numbers of people coming to this country. How do we begin to shift that dial?

 

Lord Dubs Well, I, I had a discussion on a doorstep some time ago with a woman who was hostile to people coming in, and I said, look, I had a one day medical procedure in the local hospital. Everybody who treated me was either an asylum seeker or refugee, whether it’s a doctor, the nurses or whatever. And where would we be without them? Health service and social care system depend very much. We need. We need more people for the job, the job market, the hospitality industry that needs more people. So as a country, in terms of economics, now, it’s a matter of human rights, which is even more important than economics. But in terms of economics, this this matters as well. These people come here and they make an enormously important contribution to our local communities, to our public services and to life generally. And we’ve got to get that message over anybody who’s treated in Hospital City, in many parts of the country. They must welcome the fact that they are refugees and migrants and people from other backgrounds who are there helping us and saving our lives.

 

Nish Kumar You’ve got no desire to slow down or retire in any way. I mean, I’m getting that flight today.

 

Lord Dubs Look, today is a great privilege to be here, and it’s a privilege to be in the Commons before that. It was a privilege to be head of the Refugee Council for a time. These are all privileges, but, well, must use those privileged privilege positions in order to do something that matters. And there’s no point in hanging about doing absolutely nothing. It’s not wonderful being in the Lords for the sake of it. It is an opportunity to do things. And as long as as long as I’ve got the physical energy to do it. And as long as my mind is clear enough to do it, then, I think, I should go on doing it. And certainly there are many people working for refugees who I think might feel let down if I just said, oh, I’m, I’m bored with this. I’m going away. I’m not bored with it. I think it’s one of the most important issues that affects all of us.

 

Nish Kumar And I think inherent within that there is optimism and hope. You’re still working because you have an optimism and a hope that things can get any better. Where do you draw that hope from especially? You know, there’s been a kind of there’s a sense of despair taking hold in the country. Now that I feel and I see and hear from people in all kind of walks of life, there is a despair taking hold. Where do you draw your hope from, and where should people draw their hope from?

 

Lord Dubs Well, I can speak for myself. Look, when I have met refugees who got here, who are doing very positive things, when I feel that some of them I’ve helped because of amendments have moved to legislation and which have got through, I feel that those, those amendments, unaccompanied child refugees coming here, they’re having a chance to actually develop their lives. And they understand that. And I feel hopeful that, look, even if one person comes here, that makes a difference to one, one human life, that’s not enough, of course, but one shouldn’t. One shouldn’t say, I can’t do this because not enough. We’re not winning enough battles. I think any human being who’s given a chance to have a decent, better life is one victory for for us all. I believe we can have small victories, but we’ve got to keep going. And I’m, you know, bloody. I hope that be a change of government. And, we’ll have more sympathetic policies and, but I would say to the next government, if they’re not good enough, we’ll be after them too. You know, we’re not going to accept anything. I should work very hard to have a change. Achieve? Achieved change. A change of government. Yeah, because I believe that commitment to refugees and a whole range of other issues is there. Well, I want to see that translated into practical policies. So yes, I have a lot of respect for that. Cooper, shadow home secretary. I believe she’ll do a good job. But we’ll make sure she does a good job and we will give her all the support to do it. But, look, you know, one has to believe in something in life and in public life. If one does believe in anything, there’s no point of being there. So I believe that our better prospects for the future, I believe we can do it. The situation across Europe as regards asylum seekers is very depressing. The right wing parties exploiting the situation for their own cynical political ends. But we’ve got to hold out against that. And say that there’s a better way of doing it. There’s a better approach. I’d like us to be more international. Well, Angela merkel took a million Syrians into Germany. She asked for help. People didn’t help. There should be more international cooperation. Despite the right wing parties on the continent. And again, the more we can do that, the better. But we in this country have also got to see that we get a government that is committed to humanitarian causes. And refugees are one of the big humanitarian causes.

 

Nish Kumar We should also say that, the, the right wing parties are very much in conversation and cooperation with each other. You know, there is that, you know, that, Hungary under Orban, Italy under Giorgia meloni. You know, Sunak has had a lot of, a lot of conversations with George Meloni, and they’ve been comparing notes on their immigration policy. How important is it that progressive parties across the continent start working in Congress with each other?

 

Lord Dubs I think it’s very important. I believe one of the best futures for Europe as regards sensible and humane policies is international cooperation. We should cooperate. We are. I think, in relation to our size, we’re 17th out of 18 European countries in taking asylum seekers. You know, contributions are still a small one. And so you’d think of a millions of people coming in boats across the channel. This is a manageable issue. It’s a manageable situation. Or we can do the right thing. And and I believe the international cooperation is important. And I believe that those of us in political parties that see things in this way should cooperate more than we are doing in order to in order to move forward. Unfortunately, the extreme right and, bit in the ascendant in many European countries, and I think we just have to redouble our efforts to cooperate. So we move forward in a more sensible way. Otherwise, the world is becoming a nasty, a nasty world. And I don’t want a nasty world. I want a better world.

 

Nish Kumar You’ve had such a kind of long and storied career in politics. It’s still something that’s a part of your day to day working life. You work tremendously hard within the House of Lords trying to effect change. I guess just before we go, I want to ask you one final question. And that is, do you still believe that government has the power to change people’s lives for the better?

 

Lord Dubs Yes, I do, because I wouldn’t be in the Labour Party and I wouldn’t be working for the Labour Party to to win the next election, and I would be campaigning for refugees. I do believe governments have governments have the power to change the lives of ordinary people for the better. And by ordinary people, I also mean the vulnerable asylum seekers or those seeking to come here. We can’t take them all, but we can take we can take our shared responsibility for them. And I think we should do that. So in that sense, I’m an optimist. Yes.

 

Nish Kumar Alf, thank you so much for your time.

 

Lord Dubs Well, thank thank you for this this chance to talk about it.

 

[AD]

 

Coco Khan So welcome back to the studio, Nish. How did it go? You went to the House of Lords? Do I have a key ring?

 

Nish Kumar No. And I should have got you a souvenir because I just went past the gift shop. Yeah, on our way to the committee room. Genuinely, I just I didn’t realize the House of Lords had a gift shop, to be honest with you, but I will say it did seem to predominantly be whiskey.

 

Coco Khan Well, it is full of manly men there. So.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, I mean and me.

 

Coco Khan I’m glad you said it and I was like, oh, should I make this joke? Is this nice?

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, yeah.

 

Coco Khan I thought we were on good enough terms to make this joke.

 

Nish Kumar I actually judge you for not making it. It was. Yes, it was quite, it was quite, quite the experience to be sort of ushered in there, you know, like going through essentially airport security. Yeah. I, I also I don’t have a driver’s license. So and you had to bring photo ID, so I just had my passport with me. So I just looked like I didn’t really trust under a conservative government, but I wouldn’t be seized in the House of Lords and deported.

 

Coco Khan Always got your papers.

 

Nish Kumar You can’t get me. You can’t get me back off, Suella.

 

Coco Khan So wait. Hang on. So you did a speech.

 

Nish Kumar I said that I didn’t understand why I was invited initially and fell underqualified, but then remembered that it was the House of Lords. And where else can an unqualified person be allowed to have a political opinion? And that there were people as unqualified as me that didn’t just get to voice their opinion, they got to vote on issues around it.

 

Coco Khan And we’re talking like laughter, or tumbleweed. What we get?

 

Nish Kumar Went, well.

 

Coco Khan Okay.

 

Nish Kumar Say what you want about me, but I’m used to working small rooms. And, but then I sort of explained that I felt I was there, in my capacity as a British citizen and voter, and that I wanted the view represented that there were a lot of people in this country that are sick of, the lies coming out about refugees and asylum seekers and that our heating bills are not increasing because of refugees and that our shopping bills aren’t increasing because of refugees, and that our mortgage payments are not increasing because of refugees. And and then I talked a little bit about how I also was sick of the idea that these bills are being brought in to counteract people smugglers, when actually all of the groups there and obviously there were people there who know this, and know this all too well. There is no evidence that that actually prevents people smuggling. And actually more prohibition is actually something that encourages more illegal groups. And, you know, and then I talked a little bit about my discomfort, my personal discomfort as a British Indian man, watching the rhetoric come out of the government and specifically Suella Braverman, the most recent Conservative Party conference speech, which we talked about at length on the show, and hearing the ghost of Enoch Powell, making a speech about my family, coming out of Suella Braverman, who, you know, that speech was really written about her family and the fact that there was so many echoes of it I found profoundly disquieting, you know? And. So it wasn’t all lulls.

 

Coco Khan I mean, it sounds like it really.

 

Nish Kumar Was it all?

 

Coco Khan It sounds like a conversation that needs to be had in a space like that. I mean, you know what I’m going to ask next? Were there any Lords actually there?

 

Nish Kumar Well, there were so obviously Lord Dubs was there and Baroness D’Souza was there. But the only thing I will say, the sort of limitations of this is it was largely it was people who agree. Right. She’s, you know, and they the only limitation of something like this, an event like this, which is incredible and was put together by the film production company and a group that works in activism around films about real issues, is that, you know, no conservatives turned up, you know, so once again, the you feel the limitations of an exercise like this. And that is this message getting to people that actually need to hear it.

 

Coco Khan So reading between the lines there, I feel like there were disadvantages today, i.e. there weren’t other people in the room.

 

Nish Kumar This film is brilliant and it’s a brilliant piece of work. How do you how do we make sure that it is seen by the people that need to see it?

 

Coco Khan They don’t want to see it though right?

 

Nish Kumar The film company’s taken all of the steps that they can touch. You know that they’ve taken the film to Westminster and that was very powerful. The challenge is, how do you get that in front of the, you know, policy makers? The reality is it’s going to be very difficult to. Yeah. So the only thing that you can do is get the general public to go and see these films. And that was the thing that Lord Dub said, that he feels that part of the reason that he was able to get an amendment through a few years ago that guaranteed the security of child refugees is because public opinion, right, turned in favor of it. And so I think, you know, in terms of what our listenership can do, right, to local MPs, keep pressure on, especially with this issue about this Rwanda bill, because it is going to have to go back to the Commons again. So there are still things that people can do, you know, write to local MPs, create pressure around this kind of an issue. I really hope that a lot of people go and see your capital now, because even if we set the politics of it aside, it’s a brilliantly made film. Ghana is an extraordinary film maker and the you know, the cinematography alone is sort of so breathtaking and the performances of the two leads are incredible and there’s so much humanity in their story. They’re two goofy kids who want to, you know, make it in the music industry. They want to go to Europe and make it in the music industry. And that, to me is the core of that movie. It’s just two goofy teenagers with a dream. And that’s the thing to get across the humanity behind the statistics. And hopefully that’s the way that you can change minds. That was certainly what Lord Dubs was trying to stress. What we can try and do is get all the members of the public to go and see this and mobilize them in the way that the post office drama did, you know?

 

Coco Khan Yeah.

 

Nish Kumar We’re only we’re only a couple of months out of that TV show having a direct impact on government policy. So, I mean, I sort of have to believe, well, maybe that’s part of that, that kind of chang is possible.

 

Coco Khan We’ve talked we talk a lot about activism and activists and their role that is quite often, not given enough credit really. And we focus a lot on the circus of Westminster. I don’t know. I mean, how do you feel personally? Do you think you’d go back and do something like that again?

 

Nish Kumar Well, my kind of main takeaway from it is that, as long as there are lawmakers like Alf Dubs working in Westminster, there is still a reason to engage and believe in. Central government is a place where things can happen to improve people’s lives. Like it was very profoundly moving and inspiring, meeting him and getting to spend the time with him. So just a reminder. The film is called Io Capitano, and it’s released in the UK on the 5th of April.

 

Coco Khan We’d also love to hear from you. Get in touch with us by emailing PSUK@ReducedListening.Co.Uk. We love to hear your voices, so if you’re feeling brave you can send us a voice note on WhatsApp. That’s 07514 644572. That’s the phone number, by the way. Internationally that’s +44 7514 644572.

 

Nish Kumar Yes. Please keep getting in contact with us. This episode was supposed to be a mailbag special, where we went through the mountains of correspondence that that come in that we haven’t got to yet. We will please keep sending them in. We will get to it. The plan was somewhat derailed by me being invited to the House of Lords, which, let’s be honest, nobody thought would happen and arguably probably shouldn’t have happened.

 

Coco Khan It’s so weird. This is not, anything to do with anything, but sometimes things are said in my mind. Imagine something else. So when you said mailbag, I just thought you meant, a a male, like a not a female, but a male.

 

Nish Kumar A man’s bag. We do keep.

 

Coco Khan I thought it was like an insulting term for a man.

 

Nish Kumar We keep all of your correspondence in a man’s bag. That man’s name is Alex Bishop.

 

Coco Khan Yeah, oh God.

 

Nish Kumar He’s on holiday this week. When he gets back, we’ll go back through his bag full of mail.

 

Coco Khan Anyway, please don’t forget to follow us at, Pod Save the UK on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find us on YouTube for access to full episodes and other exclusive content. And yeah, drop us a review.

 

Nish Kumar Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.

 

Coco Khan Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz and digital producer Alex Bishop, with additional support from Narda Smiliaiche and Annie Keats Thorpe.

 

Nish Kumar Location filming was by Campbell Allen and video editing was by Will Darken. The music is by Vasillis Fotopoulos.

 

Coco Khan Thanks to our engineer David Dugahe.

 

Nish Kumar The executive producers are Anoushka Sharma, Dan Jackson and Madeleine Herringer with additional support from Ari Schwartz.

 

Coco Khan And remember to hit subscribe for new shows on Thursdays on Amazon, Spotify or Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts.