Inside the room: The Good Friday Agreement 25 years on
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.
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6. What's the point of party conferences?41:10With Conservative Party conference about to commence, host Aggie Chambre asks the question on everyone's lips: What the hell is the point of the conference season anyway? She speaks to former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Hesiltine about what conferences used to be like in years gone by. Sky News' Sam Coates and POLITICO's own Jack Blanchard talk about their importance for journalists, and how and when conference events can shape the narrative.The Spectator's Fraser Nelson tells Aggie about his magazine's legendary conference drinks parties, and how grassroots members are no longer the central focus for conference organizers. Finally, British Chamber of Commerce director general Shevaun Haviland talks about why businesses go to party conferences ... while former CCHQ chief executive Mark MacGregor explains why they probably shouldn't bother.
5. The Battle for Scotland39:54Host Ailbhe Rea hits the campaign trail in the greater Glasgow constituency of Rutherglen and Hamilton West, where a high-profile by-election battle between Labour and the ruling Scottish National Party looks very much like next year's general election in Scotland in microcosm.Ailbhe meets the leaders of the two parties battling it out here: the SNP leader and Scottish First Minister, Humza Yousaf, and the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar. She meets their candidates, the SNP's Katy Loudon and Labour's Michael Shanks, and the voters of Ruthergen and Hamilton West. Everyone's favourite pollster, Professor John Curtice, explains what's at stake.And do be sure to check out POLITICO's brand new transatlantic podcast "Power Play," hosted by Anne McElvoy. In this week's inaugural episode, Labour leader Keir Starmer unpacks his vision for U.K. foreign policy should he make it to No. 10 at the next election.
4. Meet Robert Peston — ITV's political editor on friendship, loss and being the face of a crisis43:25This week host Aggie Chambre sits down with her old boss Robert Peston, the TV journalist who shot to fame during the last financial crash. Almost two decades on, ITV's political editor remains one of the best-known faces in U.K. politics. He's also joined a celebrity band with his pal Ed Balls, launched a high-profile podcast, and just published his second novel, a fictional work set in the chaos of the 2007/08 financial meltdown.In a wide-ranging interview Peston discusses the art and the ethics of journalism; opens up about love and grief, plus his battle with obsessive compulsive disorder; explains why he would never want to be a politician, and why he believes the country is in such a mess. Aggie also goes behind the scenes at Peston's TV chat show — and hears what his team really think of him.
3. What ex-prime ministers do next45:50In the week we marked the first anniversary of Liz Truss taking office — and Boris Johnson leaving Downing Street — host Aggie Chambre explores what former prime ministers do next with their lives.Former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, fired by Truss 38 days into her 45 day premiership, talks of the “emptiness” and “numbness” that comes with leaving Downing Street, and how he felt “let down” by his old friend. Speaking agency founder Jeremy Lee, recently retired, is gloriously indiscreet as he regales Aggie with stories of his conversations with ex-prime ministers seeking riches down the years. Political biographer Anthony Seldon takes Aggie through the history of former prime ministers, and how the role has changed since Winston Churchill’s Champagne-fueled heyday.Unherd journalist Tom McTague explores Tony Blair’s increasingly powerful Institute for Global Change, while POLITICO’s Annabelle Dickson tells tales of tracking down Boris Johnson in downtown Dallas.
2. Back to school briefing: A whirlwind guide to UK politics this autumn44:35As MPs return to parliament after the summer break, host Ailbhe Rea and an array of expert guests provide an essential briefing on everything that’s coming up in British politics over the next few months.The Spectator’s political editor Katy Balls takes Ailbhe through Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s "not-a-reset" leadership reset, and explains No. 10's thinking around reshuffles, the King's Speech, the party conferences ... and its plan to go "in the gutter" for a fresh wave of attacks on Labour leader Keir Starmer.Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank gives provides a debrief on the U.K.'s economic situation and looks ahead to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's autumn statement, while the Times’ Scottish political editor Kieran Andrews has everything you need to know about the upcoming Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.BBC Northern Ireland’s Jayne McCormack ponders whether Stormont might finally get up and running again this autumn, while POLITICO’s very own Eleni Courea has all the gossip on a Labour reshuffle — and explores Rishi Sunak’s hopes for the G20 summit in India.Finally, POLITICO'S Annabelle Dickson lifts the lid on what might yet prove to be the biggest political event of the year — the final Supreme Court judgement on Sunak's controversial plan to deport undocumented migrants to Rwanda.
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Westminster Insider trailer01:28Westminster Insider will be back next Friday! Hosts Aggie Chambre and Ailbhe Rea chat about what to expect from season 11 of the weekly podcast from POLITICO.
8. The dark arts of politics40:00In the final episode of the season, host Aggie Chambre explores the clandestine operations, secretive briefing wars and campaign stunts that make up the darker side of politics — and asks if there is still a place for such activities in 2023. She speaks to crossbench peer John Woodcock, who — in a former life — was a Labour Party researcher and occasional undercover spy. He tells Aggie how one secret mission in 2005 derailed the career of a former deputy Conservative Party chairman. Former Downing Street comms boss and News of the World editor Andy Coulson tells how, while working for David Cameron in opposition, he took advantage of Gordon Brown's decision not to call an election with a simple but eye-catching PR stunt. Another former Cameron aide, Giles Kenningham, explains why — with an election looming — political parties will now be building up treasure troves of secret recordings and other destructive data to deploy against their opponents.Former Labour Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong talks about the internal dark arts —underhand techniques used against party colleagues — and why her boss Tony Blair, no great fan of such methods, chose not to take action against a serial rebel on his backbenches called Jeremy Corbyn.Commons public administration committee Chair William Wragg and former Deputy Chief Whip Anne Milton explain why they think the dark arts are best left in the past.And Paul Staines, of the notorious Guido Fawkes blog, reveals some of the underhand tricks he uses to get his biggest scoops — and explains why for him, the very best stories are those that end politicians' careers.
7. The real Keir Starmer: Part II46:19In the second half of a two-part profile, hosts Ailbhe Rea and Aggie Chambre take a closer look at the man hoping to become Britain's next prime minister.This week they take listeners through Starmer's political career so far, from entering parliament as a political novice in 2015, through the difficult days of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, to his own successful leadership bid and beyond.They hear from Starmer's closest political advisers: Ben Nunn, his former head of communications; Chris Ward, formerly his deputy chief of staff; and key ally Jenny Chapman, who casts new light on the infamous pledges Starmer made — and subsequently broke — during the 2020 Labour leadership contest.They also hear from Corbyn’s head of policy, Andrew Fisher, for a very different take on Starmer's rise to power. Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting explains what angers the Labour leader around the shadow Cabinet table. And the podcast travels to Starmer's current neighbourhood in north London, visiting both his favorite pub and an infamous kitchen table.