As this project has settled down a bit, we're going to try and transcribe episodes, for those without access to audio, with my hearing impairments. As you might imagine, this is a rather labour-intensive job, so you will have to bear with us on this: of course, if you'd like to help out, then just drop us a line, using the contact page.
Episode 1: An odd start
It's probably fair to say that my starting point is that I've misjudged the situation about Britain and the EU. Until the exit poll on Thursday evening of this week, I thought the referendum was something that was a distant possibility, that no party was likely to win a majority or be in a position to impose itself on others and that we would have some kind of on-going discussion about Britain and Europe, but without any great resolution or critical juncture.
With the results all now in of the General Election, and the Conservative party that has a small but clear majority in the House of Commons, it's evident that this referendum is now a racing certainty. By the end of 2017, the Tories have committed themselves to holding a renegotiation of British membership and putting that to the public for a vote.
Now, that changes rather what my tentative plans have been over the spring for this podcast: I thought this was maybe a good way of exploring some basic questions for a general audience, drawing on my experience as somebody who researches the EU, euroscepticism and related kinds of questions, who's done a lot of talking to different kinds of groups and has found lots of gaps in knowledge and understanding.
Now there's a clear rationale.
It's evident in the context of a referendum there's a very basic problem, which is that most people don't feel very confident that they understand what's going on.
It's my aim in this series of weekly podcasts - in nice, short bite-sized pieces - to explore the basic questions, to help inform you and help you make an informed decision about what you want to do, in terms of a vote. Because a 'Yes' and 'No', an 'In' and an 'Out', by themselves don't actually mean very much. What does it mean to be a member of the EU? What are the costs? What are the benefits?
Similarly, if we're talking about a 'No' - about leaving Europe, leaving the EU - what does that mean? Do we have nothing to do with the remaining member states, or do we do something in particular, and we're not really clear about that.
So, by giving you some exploration of these issues, we'll build up (hopefully) a rounded sense of all the things that are there.
Now, in all this, you're going to be asking: why should I listen to you?
Well, you don't have to, obviously, but I like to think that I can bring some kind of experience and knowledge and understanding - both of the issues and also in communicating them in ways that are hopefully not too complicated - to help you make that decision.
Now, my agenda here one about information. I'll admit that at this stage that I think that membership is a good thing (on balance) for the UK. But I'll equally happily say that there are plenty of things are wrong with the way that the relationship works, wrong with the way the EU functions and I want to talk through those different kinds of things.
So again, I'll lay my cards on the table, but I want to be driven as much as possible by you and your interests.
So this is how we're going to do it.
Each episode, each podcast, I'm going to take a basic question, an essential, easy-to-understand question: how are decisions made? where does the money go? what about fraud? who decides what? Those kinds of things. And, in just no more than five minutes - because, frankly, life's too short - talk about them.
Now, I've got questions that I'm going to answer, one's which I've been asked over the years and increasingly so in recent months. But if you've got a question, then I want to hear from you, because I don't just want to talk about my agenda about is important, I want to know what you think is important.
I can pretend that I know everything about everything - although you might doubt that as we go on - but I'll give it a try and if I can help, then I'll do my best.
So, with all that in mind, have a good first weekend of what is going to be a very long referendum campaign and I'll see you in the next episode.