POLITICO's Westminster Insider


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. 

More Episodes

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.