POLITICO's Westminster Insider
Friday, May 26, 2023
The art of the political interview
Season 10, Ep. 2
POLITICO’s Ailbhe Rea takes us inside the art of the political interview.In a rare conversation on the other side of the microphone, Today programme presenter and ex-BBC political editor Nick Robinson opens up about what’s going through his mind in the middle of a high-profile grilling, politicians lying, persuading them to come on the Today programme, and what happened behind the scenes when he notoriously told Boris Johnson to “stop talking.”Rob Burley, who has plotted political interviews with the greats including Andrew Neil, Andrew Marr, Jeremy Paxman, Emily Maitlis and now Beth Rigby at Sky News, takes us through how they game-plan a big interview, the great interviews of political history — and what Paxo was thinking when he asked Michael Howard the same question 12 times.Former Westminster Hour doyenne Carolyn Quinn reveals the complex human relationships between interviewers and politicians, while former Tory comms staffer Laura-Emily Dunn reveals what’s happening on the politician side. Andrea Leadsom and Rachel Sylvester each — separately — recall Leadsom’s car crash “motherhood” interview during the 2016 Tory leadership campaign, which, of course, prompted her to drop out of the race and left Theresa May as Prime Minister.
Friday, May 19, 2023
Why the hell would you work for an MP?
Season 10, Ep. 1
In a special episode, host Aggie Chambre gathers a group of 20-something politicos who spent years working as aides and researchers for some of Britain's best-known politicians — and hears what working for an MP is really like.They tell stories of drunken sleepovers in parliament, MPs' texts at 4 a.m., and high-pressure casework for distraught constituents which changed their lives forever. And the group explains how in the world of Westminster, your MP is also your "judge, jury, and executioner" — meaning if you work for the wrong person, things can quickly go badly wrong.
Friday, April 7, 2023
Inside the room: The Good Friday Agreement 25 years on
Season 9, Ep. 8
In a special anniversary episode 25 years on from the agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, host Ailbhe Rea heads home to Belfast to retell the gripping story of how a historic compromise was reached.Former British PM Tony Blair and former Irish premier Bertie Ahern explain why — and how — they decided to pursue a peace deal when they both came to power in 1997, and recall key moments of drama from inside the negotiating room.David Kerr, right-hand man to the late David Trimble — the UUP leader who would go on to win the Nobel Peace prize for his role in the talks — describes the splits and crises within unionism at the time, while chief SDLP negotiator Mark Durkan, later to become deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, explains how his boss John Hume’s thinking infused the entire peace process.Mitchel McLaughlin, spokesperson for Sinn Féin during the negotiations, describes the challenge his party’s leadership faced in trying to take the entire republican movement with them. Jonathan Powell, chief of staff to Blair, explains what it was like to face Sinn Fein across the negotiating table. And Monica McWilliams, co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, shares her memories of those tense final days and hours inside Castle Buildings.Ailbhe also meets Cathy McCann and Betty Speers, two victims of an IRA bomb in 1990 — Cathy was severely injured and Betty’s brother was killed — as they reflect on what the Good Friday Agreement means to them. And Ailbhe ends the episode with Sara Canning, the partner of the late journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed by dissident republicans on the 21st anniversary of the agreement, four years ago.
Friday, March 31, 2023
How to become an MP
Season 9, Ep. 7
In the week Jeremy Corbyn was blocked from running again as a Labour MP, host Aggie Chambre takes a look at the secretive world of MPs' selections — and learns how insidery cliques, funding and old-school sexism can all be barriers to entry.Aggie takes a road trip with the man who helped select Rishi Sunak for his North Yorkshire seat, and hears more about the prime minister's slick sales pitch to local members. Tory peer Anne Jenkin discusses her efforts to get more women into parliament, while Labour MP Stella Creasy recalls what it's actually like to go through the high-pressure selection process. Aggie also speaks to journalist Michael Crick about his work cataloguing the 2024 election candidates selected so far, and to author Isabel Hardman on why we get the wrong politicians. And former Momentum boss Jon Lansman has his say on Corbyn's de-selection, and explains how he believes selection 'stitch ups' in the Labour Party could lead to the rise of fascism in Britain.
Friday, March 24, 2023
Meet Rachel Reeves — Britain's next chancellor?
Season 9, Ep. 6
Westminster Insider profiles the woman who could be running Britain alongside Keir Starmer in a year's time. Host Ailbhe Rea sits down with Labour Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves to explore her background, her political instincts, her successes and failures ... and tries her hand at a game of chess against the former child star.Reeves takes us back to the south London of the 1980s where she grew up; the Oxford University of her New Labour years; her career in banking both pre-and post-global financial crisis; and her early experiences as a young female MP — and picks out the moments that made her the politician she is today.
Friday, March 17, 2023
How to U-turn and get away with it
Season 9, Ep. 5
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.
Friday, March 10, 2023
Meet Fiona Hill: Inside the collapse of Theresa May’s government
Season 9, Ep. 4
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.
Friday, March 3, 2023
The secrets of TV news
Season 9, Ep. 3
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.
Friday, February 24, 2023
What's the point of the House of Lords?
Season 9, Ep. 2
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.