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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.

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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.

SPONSORED CONTENT: Can Britain become an energy exporter?

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As the world grapples with the energy crisis stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, energy security has climbed to the top of the political agenda.

Successive U.K. governments had already laid out strategies to decarbonize all sectors of the economy to meet net-zero targets by 2050. Now, in the sprint towards energy independence, pledges have been made to make the U.K. a net energy exporter by 2040.

But is that possible? Spoiler alert: not without renewables.

Presenter David Baker speaks to Lord Adair Turner, chair of the Energy Transitions Commission, about the U.K.’s potential to harness vast amounts of energy – quite literally – out of thin air. Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive at Energy UK, explains how simplifying the country’s planning system would make it fertile ground for investments in renewables. Finally, Sam Peacock, managing director of Corporate Affairs and Strategy at SSE, says partnerships between government and the private sector will be essential to preserving the U.K.’s leadership in renewables.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Oct 28 2022

18mins

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Trussonomics and the 1972 ‘Dash for Growth’

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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.

Oct 14 2022

43mins

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Diary of a Tory conference meltdown

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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.

Oct 07 2022

48mins

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Meet Laura Kuenssberg: the most famous face in British political journalism

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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.

Sep 30 2022

42mins

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Why we secretly love party conferences

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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.

Sep 23 2022

40mins

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The Queen: The ultimate Westminster Insider

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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.

Sep 16 2022

41mins

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After Boris: What now for the Tories?

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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.

Sep 02 2022

39mins

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What's the point of Prime Minister's Questions?

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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.

Jul 15 2022

43mins

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Through the lens of Twitter: Watching a government collapse in real time

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As the jaw-dropping downfall of Boris Johnson plays out on Twitter feeds across Westminster and far beyond, Jack Blanchard looks at how the social media platform has revolutionized the way we watch, write about and conduct British politics.

Co-host Ailbhe Rea, Twitter executive Nick Pickles and freelance journalist Marie Le Conte discuss how Twitter has become the main platform through which political junkies now view major events such as the end of a prime minister's premiership, and how it offers the whole world a window into the once-closed world of Westminster.

Labour MP Jess Phillips and Tory Michael Fabricant discuss how Twitter has boosted their profiles, and how it offers opportunities to connect with voters which simply did not exist 15 years ago. And Jeremy Corbyn's former strategic comms chief, James Schneider, explains how the platform can be harnessed to affect real political change.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Jul 08 2022

39mins

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Labour's Tom Watson on political plots, weight loss and living with ADHD

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Co-host Ailbhe Rea sits down with the Labour Party's charismatic former deputy leader Tom Watson to discuss his life in politics and much beyond.

Watson recalls his central role at the heart of the Blair/Brown battles of the 2000s, and the showdown with Rupert Murdoch which saw him propelled into the limelight — and trailed by private investigators — in the 2010s. He opens up about his chaotic years as Jeremy Corbyn's deputy, on his life beyond politics as chairman of UK Music — he spent last weekend at Glastonbury festival — and the dramatic change in lifestyle which has seen him shed eight stone in weight.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Jul 01 2022

40mins

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Why Britain always hates its leaders in the end

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In the wake of Thursday's crunch by-election results, Jack Blanchard considers why Britain always seems to turn against even its most popular prime ministers in the end.

The Atlantic's Tom McTague and pollster James Johnson discuss the collapse in Boris Johnson's popularity, and whether it's still possible for him to turn things around.

And former Downing Street officials Caroline Slocock, Jon Ashworth, Paul Harrison and John McTernan explain how it all went wrong for past leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Theresa May. 

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Jun 24 2022

44mins

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A boozy dinner with David Davis MP

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This week Jack Blanchard sits down for dinner with former Brexit Secretary David Davis to discuss his 35-year career in politics. Over ribeye steak and too much Malbec in an exclusive Westminster restaurant, Davis muses on the Brexit negotiations which will prove his legacy, and his personal relations with David Cameron, Michel Barnier, Theresa May and other key players of the recent past.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Jun 17 2022

37mins

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Casinos, coups and life on the breadline with Labour’s Jon Ashworth

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Co-host Jack Blanchard speaks to Jon Ashworth, Labour’s pugnacious shadow work and pensions secretary about his extraordinary childhood and his 20-plus years in Parliament.

In the week Boris Johnson faced down an attempted Tory coup, Ashworth recalls the tumultuous years he spent working for former PM Gordon Brown as Labour MPs plotted to bring him down. He discusses the frustrating past decade in opposition, and where Labour has got it wrong since 2010. And he opens up about his remarkable childhood, with an alcoholic father who worked as a croupier in a Manchester casino and a mother who worked as a Bunny Girl waitress in the same venue.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Jun 10 2022

32mins

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Victims of The Troubles: A year of turmoil in Northern Ireland

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Host Ailbhe Rea takes us on her year-long journey covering the British government’s contentious efforts to find peace and reconciliation within Northern Ireland’s war-torn past.

She travels back to her homeland to hear the emotive testimony of the families of some of those murdered during The Troubles, and their anger at Westminster proposals for an effective amnesty for those responsible.

But she hears too from Conservative MPs – and former soldiers – like Johnny Mercer and Mark Francois, who say pursuing elderly ex-servicemen for alleged crimes from many decades past is vindictive and wrong.

And she speaks to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who last week published fresh legislation he claims will finally bring some closure to one of the darkest chapters of modern British and Irish history.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Jun 03 2022

38mins

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Inside the Lobby: Westminster's political journalists

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New host Ailbhe Rea explores the quirks and the controversies of the pack of journalists who inhabit Westminster, known universally as 'the lobby.'

We take a trip down memory lane with the legendary Andrew Marr, former political editor of the BBC, and tour the 'Burma Road,' the historic corridor in the House of Commons where political reporters have their offices.

We hear Alan Rusbridger, the former editor-in-chief of the Guardian, air his concerns about the way the lobby goes about its work, and then we head to the famous Red Lion pub for a debrief from the Sun's political editor, Harry Cole.

Aletha Adu, political correspondent at the Daily Mirror, talks about the lobby's notorious diversity problem, while Ali Donnelly, the former deputy official spokesperson for Theresa May, describes the view from the other side — and what it's like to suffer a daily grilling from Britain's top political hacks.

Finally, Ailbhe and a more familiar voice, POLITICO's own Jack Blanchard, reflect on the pros and cons of this intriguing but imperfect system.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

May 27 2022

40mins

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Westminster Insider Trailer

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POLITICO’s weekly narrated story, hosted by Ailbhe Rea, lifts the curtain on how Westminster really works, and looks in-depth at political issues which typically only get broad-brush treatment in the wider media.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

May 21 2022

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Coming soon: Westminster Insider returns

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Westminster Insider is back ... with a twist. In this sneak preview, Jack Blanchard meets the new voice of Westminster Insider, Ailbhe Rea. Together, they give you a teaser of what to expect from the new season of the weekly podcast from POLITICO.

Subscribe now — and never miss an episode.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

May 20 2022

4mins

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The road to Brexit — 30 years since the Maastricht Treaty

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Jack Blanchard speaks to some of the key U.K. players involved in the passage of the Maastricht Treaty and ponders whether this was the moment which set Britain on the path to Brexit.

Former British diplomat John Kerr recalls the epic all-night negotiations in Holland, including a session where he hid under a table to offer secret advice to Prime Minister John Major. Treasury Minister Francis Maude tells how he was dispatched to sign the treaty by his then-boss, Chancellor Norman Lamont, who seemingly did not want his own name enshrined upon the document.

Rebel MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Bill Cash recall the heated debates in parliament which then followed, with Tory Euroskeptics working hand in glove with opposition Labour MPs led by shadow Europe minister George Robertson, who also appears on the podcast.

Former Tory whip Andrew Mitchell recalls the Major government's valiant but ultimately abortive attempts to push the rebel MPs back into line. And Cambridge University's Professor Catherine Barnard explains the wider significance of the Maastricht Treaty and its impact upon Britain, 30 years on.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Mar 18 2022

51mins

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How to avoid a nuclear war

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As Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine continues, Jack Blanchard speaks to diplomats, nuclear experts and historians about how we can best hope to avoid the conflict escalating into full-blown nuclear war.

Former Foreign Office head Sir Simon Fraser and former NATO Policy Chief Fabrice Pothier analyse Western policy toward Russia since the end of the Cold War, and explain how they believe the current crisis is likely to play out.

The Russian Cold War historian Professor Sergey Radchenko provides some historical context, detailing moments during the 20th Century when tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S. almost spilled over into direct conflict — and how disaster was ultimately averted.

And the Norwegian academic Dr Kristin Ven Bruusgaard, an expert on Russian nuclear strategy, explains the circumstances in which Russian President Vladimir Putin might actually reach for the nuclear button, and how he might yet be deterred from doing so.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Mar 11 2022

59mins

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Bar room talk with Labour’s Andy Burnham

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This week Jack Blanchard heads north to Manchester to talk music, football, history and politics with Mayor Andy Burnham. In his favored city centre bar, Burnham — currently the favorite to succeed Keir Starmer as Labour leader — talks about his childhood growing up on the outskirts of the city, and how Manchester's legendary music scene inspired him to Cambridge University.

He discusses the highs and the lows of his 20-year career in Westminster, and the struggle he faced even as a senior minister to get the Whitehall machine delivering for the North. He also runs the rule over Starmer's performance as Labour leader so far, and admits his own fears for the future as Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine spirals further and further out of control.

Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Mar 04 2022

40mins

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