The Rest is Politics marks 20th anniversary of Iraq War with controversial episode

Heated discussion between co-hosts Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart causes online debate

Goalhanger’s chart-topping current affairs podcast The Rest is Politics has released a special episode on the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war which has sparked controversy online. 

The first part of the special, released yesterday, talked about the build up to the invasion while the second episode - which came out this morning - spoke about the aftermath and implications of the Iraq invasion twenty years on. 

Both co-hosts of the podcast brought a personal connection which informed their take on the discussion. Alastair Campbell was one of former prime minister Tony Blair’s closest aides at the time, while Rory Stewart governed two provinces following the US-led invasion when he was posted to Iraq. 

Despite intense disagreements between Campbell and Stewart, the co-hosts were praised online by fans of the podcast for their ability to have an open and unfiltered debate, despite having majorly opposing viewpoints. However, the podcast also drew criticism on Twitter for profiting from an event that killed thousands of people and turning it into content, with some labelling Campbell a “war criminal”. 

The Rest is Politics has been a constant name at the top of the UK podcast charts with a record of nearly three consecutive weeks at number one on Chartable in October 2022, but Campbell tweeted that yesterday’s episode was the highest single number of daily downloads for the podcast.

The co-host also has a background as a trained journalist and has previously told PodPod when he featured as a guest on the podcast that The Rest is Politics has given him a “renewed political platform” and that podcasting as a medium has allowed him to be less restricted speaking as himself as opposed to working in mainstream media. 

“I don't feel like I'm a propagandist in the way that maybe I was, when I was a journalist, and tended to avoid saying anything that was bad for the Labour Party,” said Campbell. “I think I've got a more open mind about stuff.”