Best politics podcasts of 2023 – critics reviews

When it comes to British podcasting, politics seems to be king, said Patricia Nicol in The Sunday Times. Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart’s “The Rest is Politics” consistently tops the charts, and now has an interview offshoot show, “Leading”. “The News Agents” (with Lewis Goodall, Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel) has become “a daily fix” for many. A more “knockabout” podcast, “The Trawl” – a scroll through the news via Twitter with Jemma Forte and Marina Purkiss – has found a loyal audience. So too has “Novara Live”, an alternative news bulletin “for those whose leanings are more Corbynite than Conservative”. Its popularity reflects the move away from traditional media by younger audiences.

Politics podcasts are indeed big business now, said James Marriott in The Times. But long before the “sold-out shows, the swanky studios and the wodges of cash”, there was the late and much-lamented “Talking Politics”, a “charmingly cerebral” show from academics David Runciman and Helen Thompson. Now they are back, but separately – “Lennon and McCartney are not reuniting”. Runciman’s venture is called “Past Present Future”, and it continues in the “impeccably highbrow” and invigorating tradition of “Talking Politics”. Thompson’s new show, hosted with Tom McTague, the political editor of UnHerd, is called “These Times”, and is “the slicker, more commercial proposition”. The duo’s personalities mesh nicely – “McTague the chirpy journalist; Thompson the drier academic” – and they are unafraid to disagree. “I pride myself on having a sixth sense for promising podcasts and I think this one could be really great.”

The twice-weekly “Pod Save America” has been combining political commentary with comedy since 2017, said Fiona Sturges in the FT. It’s chatty, clever, unashamedly partisan (a left-liberal answer to right-wing talk radio) and extremely funny. Now there’s a British version, “Pod Save the UK”, and it’s got off to a cracking start. The Guardian journalist Coco Khan and comedian Nish Kumar have “chemistry and an unruly energy, and the ratio of serious to funny is expertly judged”. 

Other popular politics podcasts worth seeking out include “Oh God, What Now?” and “Rock & Roll Politics”, said Rachel Cunliffe in The New Statesman. Plus, aimed squarely at political junkies, “The Power Test” is a terrific new podcast from Ayesha Hazarika, a former Labour special adviser, and Sam Freedman, a former Conservative (now left-leaning) adviser. The focus is on the path to a future Labour government and what the party should do if elected. Hazarika and Freedman both “delight in being self-confessed policy wonks” and make a fun pairing. “If you’re a political obsessive too, you’ll adore it.”