So, it's just two middle-aged Centrist Dads in a room talking about what's happened, what's happening and what's going to happen. But it's still compelling, instructive listening for anyone who's interested in what's going on in the world and how to think about it - in other words, for any debater.
This is partly because Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart - the joint hosts of The Rest Is Politics - are not just any old Centrist Dads. From 1997 to 2003, through the first six years of Tony Blair's reign as Labour prime minister, Alastair Campbell was one of his closest advisers (he was sometimes - not without reason - referred to as the de facto deputy prime minister). He was at the heart of government throughout that time, seeing how politics worked at a granular level, while also working closely with a range of world leaders. Rory Stewart was a Conservative MP from 2010 to 2019, serving during that time as a government minister. Following Theresa May's resignation as prime minister in 2017, he stood in the election to replace her (Boris Johnson won). He has also been an officer in the British Army, private tutor to Princes William and Harry and a best-selling author. He has walked across Afghanistan and governed a province of Iraq following the US-led invasion of the country in 2003. He currently runs an international charity and lives in Jordan with his Jordanian wife.
Their combined backgrounds mean that the insight that the two of them bring to current events is unique. They constantly refer back to their personal experiences in politics, often with revealing anecdotes about the people involved. They also work hard to inform themselves - often at very short notice - about the latest developments. Recent editions (in June 2023) have covered breaking stories like Boris Johnson's resignation and the attempted coup in Russia. Both have parted company with their original political parties (Labour for Campbell, Conservative for Stewart), but remain 'critical friends'.
The rapport between co-hosts is an important ingredient in the chemistry of any podcast. While these two obviously get on, they're very different in many ways. Campbell is a northern grammar school boy, and an avid Burnley fan; Stewart is an old Etonian, and a friend of the royal family. Campbell is chippy and bullish; Stewart is urbane, emollient and charming. The contrast in their backgrounds and personalities makes for a creative tension, and broadens the perspectives they bring. They're not complacently matey; listen to the episode on the twentieth anniversary of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq (now almost universally acknowledged to have been a disastrous error), in which Stewart takes Campbell to task for his role in Tony Blair's active support for this misadventure.
Highly recommended for all debaters. Download some episodes and take them on holiday with you