In this week's New Statesman podcast

Alien life, Conservative campaigning and hating on music festivals.

You can get the New Statesman podcast every Friday from, through this RSS feed or by subscribing in iTunes. Alternatively, you can listen using the web player embedded below.

This week, George Eaton (editor of our excellent Staggers blog) talks to the Conservative campaigner David Skelton. They discuss his ideas to bring about a resurgence in support for the Conservatives in the north of England and among working class voters and ethnic minorities.
I also attempted to join in with a conversation about the search for extra-terrestrial life between our science columnist Michael Brooks and our economics bloger (aka junior space correspondent) Alex Hern. Apparently, for the bargain price of £1m a year, the UK could be among the first to make contact with the little green men. Or something like that.
Our superb blogger Alex Andreou chatted to Helen Lewis about the current situation in Greece, as well as touching on the oft-rehearsed argument of BBC bias. If you've enjoyed Alex's posts on how George Osborne is like Fernando Torres only less effective or the unvarnished bigotry of Ukip, you have to listen to this.
Lastly, Eleanor Margolis - of Lez Miserable blog fame - enlarges on why exactly it is she hates music festivals so much.
Happy listening!

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

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Leader: Brexit and the future of the UK

The UK is worth preserving, yet it must be reconfigured if its constituent nations are to be better served.

The economic consequences of the Leave vote are becoming ever more severe. Rising prices, deferred investment and reduced vacancies all threaten prosperity and growth. The Conservative government’s signal that the United Kingdom may leave the single market has had the chilling effect that many warned of.

England and Wales can at least reflect that they voted for Brexit, but Scotland and Northern Ireland did not. By 62-38 and 56-44 respectively, both nations voted to remain in the EU. Now they face the prospect of a long, painful withdrawal. After the narrow vote against independence two years ago, Holyrood is understandably assessing its options. At the Scottish National Party’s conference in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon vowed to publish a draft bill for a second referendum on independence. “Hear this: if you think for one single second that I’m not serious about doing what it takes to protect Scotland’s interests, then think again,” she declared.

When a majority of Scots voted to remain in the UK, David Cameron had already promised to hold a referendum on UK membership of the EU. Yet he made this pledge in the belief that the vote would be won. The ensuing result and the UK’s likely withdrawal from the single market entitle the SNP to hold a second referendum. Should Britain leave the EU without having secured a new trade agreement with its former partners, Scotland’s economy would inevitably suffer.

Senior SNP figures are considering a pre-Brexit referendum in the hope that they would inherit the UK’s vacated seat in the bloc. That might be wishful thinking. “Twenty-seven [member states] would become 28 again,” said Mike Russell, the SNP’s Europe minister. A vote could be staged in the two years between the government invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and the UK’s anticipated withdrawal.

As well as the Scottish Question, there is the Irish Question to consider. The risks posed to Northern Ireland and the republic by Brexit are greater than those facing Scotland. The UK is one of the republic’s largest export markets, with €1.5bn of transactions each week. However, it is the political fallout on the island of Ireland, rather than the economic consequences, that should trouble us most.

Although the prime ministers of both countries have ruled out the return of a hard border between the north and south, the Leave vote has undermined the peace settlement. The principle that no change should be made to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without the consent of its people has also been imperilled. In Northern Ireland as in Scotland, the problem remains a UK that exaggerates the power of an overmighty England.

For Theresa May, the disunities within the kingdom are a threat and an opportunity. We have long argued that the UK, the most centralised state in Europe, should fully embrace federalism, with far greater powers devolved from Westminster. The UK, perhaps the most successful multinational state in modern history, is worth preserving. Yet it must be reconfigured if its constituent nations are to be better served. Brexit makes this task not merely desirable, but essential. 

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood