POLITICO's Westminster Insider
POLITICO's Westminster Insider
About POLITICO's Westminster Insider
POLITICO’s weekly political series lifts the curtain on how Westminster really works, offering in-depth insight into the political issues which typically only get broad-brush treatment in the wider media. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Aggie Chambre explores the best and worst political U-turns of recent times — and ponders how and why certain politicians get away with abrupt changes of heart. Former Lib Dem Cabinet Minister David Laws recalls the tuition fee furor that sunk his party, while former Downing Street chief of staff Fiona Hill discusses Theresa May's swiftly-abandoned 'Dementia Tax' of 2017. Liz Truss' close allies Simon Clarke and Sarah Ludlow relive the U-turn over her disastrous 'mini-budget' of 2022, while ex-Home Secretary David Blunkett picks over the most significant U-turns of the New Labour years. Former Thatcher aide John Whittingdale discusses what happens when your leader simply refuses to change course despite massive opposition, while Tory peer Daniel Finkelstein argue that U-turns are actually a cause for celebration in a complex world. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Co-host Aggie Chambre sits down for a rare interview with former Downing Street chief of staff Fiona Hill to talk about her central role in Theresa May's first government, the astonishing highs and disastrous lows of life in No. 10, and the devastating impact of being fired after the failed 2017 general election. Hill reveals the years of secret plotting behind Theresa May's successful bid to become prime minister; the inner workings of May's dysfunctional Downing Street operation; and the surprising politician who helped her when she was floored by her departure from No. 10. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
New host Aggie Chambre takes us inside the world of TV News, and asks how the advent of 24-hour rolling coverage has shaped British politics. Sky News presenter Sophy Ridge explains the importance of the Sunday shows to the Westminster news cycle, and reveals the reaction from Downing Street after she asked then-PM Theresa May a question she really didn't want to answer. Her outgoing boss John Ryley, head of Sky News, tells the podcast how his channel transformed 24-hour political coverage, and takes a final swipe at his TV news competitors. ITV's Rachel Bradley and veteran broadcaster Michael Crick lift the lid on the art of the doorstep interview, while former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale explains the misery of embarking on a round of broadcast interviews. Craig Oliver recalls his time running David Cameron's comms operation and explains how much thought goes into every TV image. And Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, explains what really happened that time he fell over on Brighton beach — and how much damage the endless TV coverage caused him. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Ailbhe Rea takes you inside the weird and wonderful world of the House of Lords, and explores the increasingly bitter battles over its future. Paralympic gold medallist and crossbench peer Tanni Grey-Thompson lifts the lid on what life in the Lords is really like, and Ailbhe has a rare meeting with an endangered species: a hereditary peer, the Earl of Caithness, in his natural habitat. John McFall, the Lord Speaker, takes us on a guided tour of the grand building itself — and explains how it actually works — while POLITICO's very own Esther Webber explains the joys of covering the second chamber as a journalist. Jess Sargeant from the Institute of Government provides a whistlestop tour of efforts to reform the Lords down the decades — some more successful than others. And we look at the internal debate within the Labour Party over former PM Gordon Brown's recommendation to abolish the House of Lords altogether. Henry Stannard, who worked closely with Brown on his commission, defends the plans, while Labour grandees Neil Kinnock and David Blunkett take radically different points of view. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Ailbhe Rea tells the inside story of Liz Truss' chaotic, historic 49 days in No. 10 Downing Street, via candid interviews with those in the room where it happened. Speaking publicly for the first time about that turbulent period, Truss' former special adviser Hugh Bennett and ex-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's former aide Celia McSwaine lift the lid on life inside Truss' Downing Street — and how it all went wrong in six short weeks. They are joined by Truss' former speechwriter Asa Bennett, her biographers Harry Cole and James Heale, and her political opponent, Labour's Pat McFadden. Using their voices alongside multiple off-record-interviews, Ailbhe retells one of the most extraordinary stories in modern British politics — the rise and fall of the 49-day prime minister. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
For the final episode of the year, host Jack Blanchard looks ahead to the biggest political stories coming down the track in 2023. Guests include Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies; former U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon; Katy Balls of the Spectator; Stephen Bush of the Financial Times; Ipsos pollster Keiran Pedley; Tory peer and elections expert Robert Hayward; Jill Rutter and Giles Wilkes of the Institute for Government; and POLITICO's own Jamil Anderlini and Cristina Gallardo. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Ailbhe Rea looks at the world of political punditry with the help of some of Westminster's best-known commentators and producers, and the comedian Joe Lycett. Rob Burley, who spent years running flagship political programmes at the BBC including the Andrew Marr Show and Politics Live, explains why Lycett's infamous appearance on Laura Kuenssberg's show in September enraged him, and discusses whether conflict is ever engineered on his shows. Scarlett Maguire, producer of the Andrew Neil Show, explains how pundits are selected and why they are needed in political broadcasting. Katy Balls and Stephen Bush, a common TV punditry 'couple', and political journalists for the Spectator and the FT respectively, explain what makes a good or a bad pundit. James Schneider, former head of strategic communications for Jeremy Corbyn, bursts the bubble on the cosy pundit chat and explains why he thinks very little of it is worth listening to at all — but also how Team Corbyn still felt the need to use political punditry for its own ends. And finally Joe Lycett himself, the comedian and one-time "terribly right-wing" commentator, gives his take on his brief turn at political punditry. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Jack Blanchard speaks to former U.K. energy ministers and policy experts about the chequered history of British energy policy over recent decades — and how the nation was left so vulnerable to Vladimir Putin's energy price war. Guests including former Energy Ministers Charles Hendry and Michael Fallon, and former Whitehall policy chief Adam Bell, explain how what should have been a smooth transition away from fossil fuels has been blotted by a stalled nuclear program and endless rows about wind turbines. And Stag Energy's George Grant and the Financial Times' Nathalie Thomas rue Britain's failure to invest in undersea gas storage sites which might have offered an insurance policy against the current crisis. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Ailbhe Rea takes a closer look at the shadowy world of the whips — the sinister party enforcers whose job it is to keep MPs in line. Michael Dobbs, the creator of "House of Cards" and one-time chief of staff to Margaret Thatcher, lifts the lid on the murky world of whipping that inspired his novels and the hit TV dramas, while Jacqui Smith, a chief whip to Tony Blair, describes how she did it in the era of Blair/Brown plotting. Playwright James Graham — whose hit play "This House" brought the dark arts of the whips' office to London's West End — discusses the hung parliament of the 1970s, the most legendary period in whipping history, and Wendy Morton discusses her unique experience as chief whip to Liz Truss. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Jack Blanchard sits down with Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, to discuss life, politics and the Labour Party over a bottle of red wine at an exclusive Westminster restaurant. Streeting, tipped by many as the next Labour leader, discusses his poverty-stricken childhood, his recent battle with cancer and his vision for the future on the eve of his 40th birthday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
As U.K. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveils huge spending cuts and tax hikes in his Autumn Statement, host Ailbhe Rea looks back at the economic program still haunting the current debate: the austerity of the early 2010s. David Gauke, one of former Chancellor George Osborne's must trusted lieutenants, opens up about how the big decisions were taken and reflects on how he'd do things differently if he had his time again. Torsten Bell, head of the Resolution Foundation think tank and formerly head of policy for Labour leader Ed Miliband, considers the effects of the spending cuts and the differences between the Labour and the Conservative positions, while Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, talks about what he thinks his party got wrong. Carys Roberts, executive director at the IPPR think tank, discusses the way the public debate played out, while Professor Michael Marmot considers the impact of austerity on life expectancy and health inequalities across the U.K. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Following Rishi Sunak's unprecedented 50-day turnaround from defeated leadership candidate to U.K. prime minister, Westminster Insider host Jack Blanchard looks back at some of the great political comebacks of our times. Guests include Peter Mandelson, who shocked Westminster — and himself — with a sensational return to the U.K. Cabinet in 2008 after four years away as an EU Commissioner; and U.S. historian John A. Farrell, who recalls Richard Nixon’s extraordinary rise to the American presidency in 1968, eight years after his crushing defeat to John F. Kennedy. Professor Edith Hall tells the story of the great Roman leader Cincinnatus and his return to power from his humble plow — famously namechecked by Boris Johnson in his farewell speech as prime minister. Professor Nicholas Allen recalls other great British political comebacks of the 20th century; while POLITICO's own Meredith McGraw assesses former U.S. President Donald Trump's prospects of a return to the White House in 2024. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Ailbhe Rea profiles the U.K.'s new prime minister, with the help of those who know him best. From his early years in Southampton and his lifelong Hindu faith; his elite education at Winchester, Oxford and Stanford; to his rapid rise through the political ranks, his time as U.K. chancellor and his machinations for the top job, we uncover the values, personality traits, priorities and potential pitfalls of the new man in No. 10. At the Hindu temple in Southampton that Rishi Sunak's family have been attending for generations, we learn about what he was like as a young boy and the values instilled in him by his faith. Shabana Mahmood, now his opponent as Labour's national campaign coordinator, recalls Rishi the "library geek" from their days at Oxford together, and Alan Mak, a former Treasury minister and the Conservative MP for Havant, recalls the buzz around this high-flying banker when he arrived in parliament in 2015. Peter Cardwell, now political editor at TalkTV, looks back on being a special adviser working with Sunak in his first junior ministerial role. Cardwell's book is "The Secret Life of Special Advisers." Sky News' deputy political editor Sam Coates analyzes Rishi Sunak's rise through the ranks at Westminster — his strengths, weaknesses, and the help of Dominic Cummings — while one of the prime minister's former advisers and closest allies, the education minister Claire Coutinho, describes his approach to economics and being vindicated after the leadership contest. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
As Liz Truss considers another humiliating budget U-turn, host Jack Blanchard looks back at the U.K.'s infamous 1972 'Dash for Growth' budget — when another Tory Chancellor announced unfunded tax cuts and sent inflation through the roof — and considers the parallels with Truss' chaotic first month as prime minister. Historians Duncan Needham and Nick Thomas-Symonds explain the backdrop to that 1970s meltdown, while economists Paul Johnson, Gerard Lyons and Soumaya Keynes consider what's gone wrong in the U.K. economy today. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Host Ailbhe Rea goes behind the scenes at this week's chaotic Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, with newly-installed leader Liz Truss already on the ropes. The conference saw Truss openly criticized by members of her own government and forced to U-turn on a flagship tax cut, just 10 days after it was announced. Ailbhe gives the inside story from the biggest speeches, the fiery fringe meetings and the late-night drinks parties as Tory MPs despair at the new regime. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
POLITICO's Ailbhe Rea meets the ultimate Westminster Insider, Laura Kuenssberg, until recently the BBC's political editor and the new host of the BBC's flagship Sunday politics show. In a rare interview, Kuenssberg discusses her early career, life covering the tumult of the past seven years in British politics, and how she managed to survive the relentless pace at the coalface. She discusses the sisterhood in Westminster, how it feels to be at the center of heated rows about bias and impartiality, and reveals what she really thought of British comedian Joe Lycett's controversial appearance on her debut show. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
It's time for the weirdest few weeks of the British political calendar: conference season. Host Ailbhe Rea takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the speeches, fringe events, champagne receptions and bad karaoke parties that happen at the annual Conservative and Labour conference, with the help of Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow attorney general and a conference veteran. Two former advisers to Conservative cabinet ministers, Tim Smith and Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, tell the inside story of some of their party's best and worst speeches and some of their own conference memories. Mikey Smith, the Mirror's Whitehall correspondent, discusses the conference "gaffe" — and how he derailed Labour conference when he recorded the party's Deputy Leader Angela Rayner calling the Tories "scum." What's it all for? Why do insiders love it? And does any of it really matter? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Behind the scenes, the late Queen Elizabeth II was the ultimate Westminster Insider. Host Ailbhe Rea and POLITICO's Annabelle Dickson uncover how the Queen received a daily dose of gossip from deep inside the heart of government, and speaks to two of the politicians tasked with sending that private missive to Buckingham Palace: former Conservative whip Anne Milton, and former Cabinet minister Julian Smith. Simon Lewis, a former communications secretary to the Queen and later to Gordon Brown in Downing Street, shares the inside track on the red boxes and the "golden triangle" that kept the Queen intimately informed of what was going on in her government, and Dr Michelle Clement, historian at King's College London and researcher in residence at No. 10, discusses the all-important private audiences between the Queen and her 15 prime ministers. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
With days to go until Boris Johnson’s replacement is announced, host Ailbhe Rea considers whether the Conservatives are now on their way out of office — or whether this is just one more clever shape-shift from the most successful political party in the world. She meets Johnson’s cheerleaders and his critics, grassroots members and expert advisers, to discuss how Boris Johnson changed the Tory Party — and what on earth it will do when he’s gone. Ailbhe asks Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary and an early Boris believer, about what makes Boris Johnson a winner. David Gauke, the former justice secretary, and ex-minister Margot James recall being ousted from the party during the Brexit wars of 2019, and unpick how the party has changed. Rachel Wolf, the co-author of the Conservative manifesto from 2019, explains how Boris Johnson consciously went after new voters, while pollster James Johnson discusses the huge challenges ahead. At hustings in Norwich, grassroots Conservative members share their thoughts on where the party goes next. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
As Boris Johnson prepares for his final session of Prime Minister's Questions, Ailbhe Rea takes a look inside the weekly showdown at the heart of British politics. Former PM David Cameron explains what it's really like to stand at the despatch box for a noisy session of PMQs, and reveals how he prepared and strategized for the toughest event of his week. Ayesha Hazarika, a former adviser to Ed Miliband, lifts the lid on the different pressures faced by a leader of the opposition, while Theo Bertram, a former adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in No. 10, considers why these sessions matter beyond the cut-and-thrust of Westminster. Finally, Quentin Letts, the Times’s sketchwriter extraordinaire, recalls great moments of PMQs from years gone by and pays tribute to a British institution where the human drama of British politics is best explored, and where leaders rise and fall. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
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