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Westminster Insider


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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.

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116 Episodes
As Reform teeters close to overtaking the Conservative in the polls, Aggie Chambre goes inside Nigel Farage’s party and asks if he will could actually achieve his takeover of British politics.Starting in January, when Aggie first asks Farage if he’s planning to return to frontline politics, she tracks the party’s journey from small start-up to a shock poll putting it ahead of the Conservatives.In February, she hears from the Wellingborough candidate Ben Habib about the progress he has made on selling Reform on the street.With material spanning months and with help from shunted aside Leader Richard Tice, the party’s only London Assembly member and pollster Alex Wilson and Farage himself, Aggie tells the story of how Farage threw a grenade into the U.K. election, and looks at their electoral chances on July 4.And she spends an entertaining day with Lee Anderson, the only man to ever be a Reform MP. The former deputy chairman tells her his views on female firefighters and global warming, and admits he’d rather Keir Starmer was PM than Rishi Sunak. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
As Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer prepare to launch their manifestos, host Sascha O’Sullivan takes a look at what goes into the making of the crucial documents that spell out each party’s plan for government.Former Tory adviser Cleo Watson recalls how it all went wrong for Theresa May at the 2017 election when a manifesto pledge on social care blew up.Authors of the 2019 manifesto Rachel Wolf and Rob Colvile explain how the slogan “Get Brexit Done” got the election done for Boris Johnson.Stalwart of the New Labour years Patrick Diamond, who wrote manifestos for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, recalls struggling to pinning ministers down agree on policy, while Torsten Bell, 2015 manifesto author, discusses how to stick to pledges in government.And Sascha also speaks to Andrew Fisher, writer of the Labour Party’s 2017 and 2019 manifestos, who fesses up to historic mistakes and talks about how the leaking of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 plan ended up being a boon rather than a bust. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Days before this general election's first television debate, host Aggie Chambre looks back at the history of debates in this country and asks how politicians go about winning them. ITV's Julie Etchingham, who will host the first debate Tuesday, recalls being asked to take on the gig, explains what she's thinking during these set piece events and reveals what really happens before and after the debates take place. Reform's Nigel Farage, who has performed in several TV debates, gives his tips for how to get airtime and why it matters which podium you stand at. BBC political correspondent Joe Pike reminisces with Aggie about pretending to be politicians in rehearsals, and talks about what candidates do to prepare, including the party leader who hid out in a barn in Kent to undergo a thorough practice.Former Lib Dem spinner Sean Kemp said he believed the debates in 2010 were "the reason why David Cameron didn't win a majority."Former Sky News boss John Ryley talks about the campaign he spearheaded to get American-style debates going in the U.K. and explains why he believes they are so important for election campaigns.But former No. 10 director of Comms Craig Oliver describes the idea that debates have been some great service to democracy as "nonsense." Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Will the Sun win it? After Rishi Sunak called a shock general election, host Aggie Chambre set out to discover just how much influence newspapers will have in this campaign. Former Labour Leader Neil Kinnock tells her what it was like being attacked in the press in the run up to the 1992 election.Former Sun editor David Yelland reminisces about Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair's relationship — and said it was like a "love affair." He says getting the backing of Fleet Street can be a "self fulfilling prophecy." Sky News Political Editor Beth Rigby explains how Labour Leader Keir Starmer is going about trying to get a "fair hearing" in the press, and talks about the symbiotic relationship between broadcast and print. Former News of the World editor and director of comms Andy Coulson explains how you go about securing newspaper endorsements and says everyone underestimates how much they still matter. And finally, former Downing Street director of comms Lee Cain explains how the way we consume news has changed. And says he believes Brexit still would have won even without the backing of some newspapers. This episode has been updated to correct the attendees of a 2005 dinner. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Just how much power do the economists of Threadneedle Street really wield? As the Bank of England grapples with whether to keep interest rates at an all time high, host Sascha O’Sullivan goes on a mission to find out.In this week’s episode, she speaks to those who have been at the very heart of Westminster's relationship with the Bank for the last three decades.Former Prime Minister Liz Truss tells Sascha exactly why she believes Bank of England economists were attempting to pull apart her mini-budget and "take her down."Former shadow chancellor and Gordon Brown adviser Ed Balls explains how the Bank's independence came about in 1997, and suggests some of the people sitting on the Monetary Policy Committee have developed a spot of group think in their decision making.Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation and former adviser to Alistair Darling, talks about how the 2008 global financial crisis changed the powers the Bank could deploy in times of emergency.And Andy Haldane, the former chief economist for the Bank of England for more than 30 years, reveals how close to a political intervention the then-Governor Mark Carney came during the Brexit years and how, after the pandemic, the Bank's economists missed inflation coming down the track. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
After the Tories' drubbing in the local elections and the many, many rumors about efforts to unseat Rishi Sunak, Aggie Chambre talks us through how to prepare a secret Conservative leadership campaign.Former No. 10 head of political comms Adam Jones takes us inside Liz Truss's "fizz with Liz" soirees, explains why she took *that* picture in the tank, and says his former boss got "punch drunk" on love from Tory members. Former adviser Lucia Hodgson, who ran Andrea Leadsom's 2019 leadership bid, explains the years of work they put into that campaign, and reveals why you need to know everything you can about your opponents. Aggie speaks to former Tory contender Michael Heseltine about what he did and did not do before his infamous run in 1990 — about his regrets, supporters and missteps. And former Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries claims it’s nigh on impossible to get any work done in government when everyone is so obsessed with who the next leader of the Conservative Party will be. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
In the first episode of season 14, host Aggie Chambre tells the inside story of how POLITICO broke the Westminster honey trap story, and goes in search of who is really responsible.She hears from most of the key characters involved in the scandal that rocked SW1. Two victims tell Aggie about their messages and one of them explains what happened when he organized a meeting with the catfisher. POLITICO's own Dan Bloom reveals for the first time that he received a message from the mysterious catfisher and talks through his part in breaking the story. The BBC's Henry Zeffman describes what it was like to be targeted and why he initially smelled a rat. The Times’ Aubrey Allegretti gives behind the scenes details of his initial phone call with William Wragg, when the MP admitted some involvement in the scandal. And Ciaran Martin, former CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre, explains how the scandal shed "a lot of light on the vulnerabilities of our political system." Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Host Sascha O'Sullivan delves into the secrets of the polling industry and asks — if the polls were wrong before, could they be wrong again?David Cameron's former pollster Andrew Cooper tells Sascha how the Conservatives upstaged the polling industry in 2015 and pulled an unexpected election victory out of the bag.Labour polling stalwart Stan Greenberg, who has run the numbers for Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Ed Miliband, explains what the other side of the 2015 campaign was like.Tom Lubbock of JL Partners and Josh Williams of Labour Together explain why voter archetypes — from "Mondeo Man" to "Stevenage Woman" — are so beloved by the media ... and how they're actually useful for politicians seeking to win elections. Sascha also tags along to a series of focus groups — including with More in Common's Luke Tryl — to see how they really work.And the New Statesman's associate political editor, Rachel Cunliffe, and pollster Scarlett Maguire explain how communicating polling can be twisted or over-egged — and why we really should be talking about more than just the top line.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
This week, Aggie Chambre looks at the art of the leak and asks — why do people do it, and what happens when your political secrets are exposed?Former Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green talks about helping to leak Home Office secrets when Labour was in charge.Aggie hears from journalist and author Isabel Oakeshott about her controversial decision to leak Matt Hancock’s Covid WhatsApps — and why she had to adopt a disguise during the process.POLITICO’s Jack Blanchard and Jeremy Corbyn’s former spinner James Schneider tell Aggie about the infamous 2017 Labour manifesto leak and the consequences for the party’s campaign.And Times political editor Steven Swinford, recipient of a hefty chunk of Westminster’s secrets, talks us through how he got leaked information about the second Covid lockdown and government decisions around Huawei.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
New host Sascha O'Sullivan explores Westminster's obsession with all things Australia — and considers the lessons British politics might learn from down under.From the U.K. Tory party's succession of Aussie campaign chiefs to the varying attempts to deploy Australian-style immigration policies, Westminster has held an enduring fascination with its rougher political cousins down under. Sascha speaks to former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who has long enjoyed links with the U.K. Tory party and who was the first premier to vow to "stop the boats."Rohan Watt, a Queensland native who worked in Liz Truss's No. 10 Downing Street, explains how Australian advisers have long been surfing the coattails of legendary campaign guru Lynton Crosby, and how their blunt style of communication has made them mainstays in British politics. Australian-British journalist Latika Bourke considers the brutal campaign tactics sometimes deployed down under, while foreign policy expert Sophia Gaston explains how the recently-signed AUKUS security pact will reinforce relations between the two countries.Comms guru John McTernan, who worked for both Tony Blair in Downing Street and Australian PM Julia Gillard in Canberra, explains why Australia can offer a helpful election playbook for British politicos to follow — but why Westminster should be wary of stealing their ideas wholesale. And Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson tells how she recently undertook a fact-finding trip to Australia to gather advice on childcare policy from the Aussie Labor Party — as well as tips on how to help U.K. Labour win an election.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
By now, surely everyone in Westminster knows how to get ready for government — but have enough considered how to prepare for opposition?In this week's episode, host Aggie Chambre tackles the conundrum of how to prepare for the one job in politics no one wants. She speaks to former opposition leader Neil Kinnock about his time in charge, including the advice his children gave Tony Blair's kids. Conservative peer George Young, who has been around since 1974, talks about all the times his party has gone from government to opposition. Tories Robert Buckland and Charles Walker consider what their fellow MPs are thinking about life after polling day as they teeter on the edge of opposition.Labour MP Diana Johnson, who has spent the last 14 years on the opposition benches, explains how best to make an impact while you're out of government. Academic Nigel Fletcher runs through the history of the formalization of opposition — dating all the way back to 1937. And Cath Haddon from the Institute for Government tells Aggie the hardest thing about going from government to opposition.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
As the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches, Jack Blanchard returns home to the north of England to hear the stories of the refugees who arrived there in 2022 — and of one small town community which opened its arms to help.Jack meets those who hosted Ukrainian people in their homes, and hears from the Ukrainians themselves about what it's like to arrive so suddenly in a far-off land. Community organisers discuss how they rallied round to help, while former Refugees Minister Richard Harrington explains how the government worked at breakneck speed to get the complex scheme off the ground. Jack's own mum even makes a guest appearance, with a very special family story to tell. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Diary of a by-election

Diary of a by-election


As the people of Wellingborough headed to the polls for a historic vote, hosts Aggie Chambre and Sascha O'Sullivan took a train to the East Midlands to see how by-elections really play out on the ground. Over the course of a month, they went door-knocking with the candidates, spoke to disenfranchised voters and, finally, stayed up all night to watch the count. They watched Reform’s Ben Habib drive round in an gigantic, double-decker blue bus and Labour’s Gen Kitchen show off her Taylor Swift friendship bracelets. They listened to the Liberal Democrat’s Ana Savage Gunn regale stories of her former life as a police firearms officer ... and even managed to track down the elusive Tory candidate, Helen Harrison.And the duo consider what this show-stopping by-election result will mean for the upcoming general election. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Host Jack Blanchard goes for lunch with the Sunday Times' chief political commentator, Tim Shipman, as the deadline for his new Brexit tome approaches.Over a bottle of claret and (medium) rare steak, Shipman discusses the art of long-form political writing; recalls his best and worst interview experiences, from Donald Trump to Theresa May; considers his favorite moments of the chaotic past decade in British politics and offers tips to aspiring journalists on how to do a "proper" political lunch.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Inside GB News

Inside GB News


For the first episode of the year, host Aggie Chambre goes inside right-wing TV channel GB News and investigates the role it might play in shaping the future of the U.K. Conservative Party. And she looks at the scandals, controversy and culture that has surrounded the channel so far. With the help of the channel's chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos, and former presenters including Simon McCoy and Guto Harri, Aggie tells the story of how the organization went from a chaotic launch to finding its place in the media landscape.GB News host, and founder of the Reform UK party, Nigel Farage, boasts of the "extraordinary" freedom he enjoys at the organization, while his colleague Lee Anderson, a Tory MP, says GB News has given unrepresented viewers a "safe space" to go. Former Labour MP and current GB News presenter Gloria De Piero and Conservative Home's Henry Hill look ahead to the election, and discuss the impact the channel could have in the upcoming year.And former BBC Westminster boss Katy Searle, and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, compare the channel to America's Fox News, and ponder whether regulator Ofcom should be doing more to intervene.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
For the final episode of the year, host Jack Blanchard and a series of expert guests look ahead to 2024 and what is certain to be an extraordinary year of world politics.The Spectator’s Katy Balls and the Times’ Patrick Maguire survey the election prospects of Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer respectively, while More in Common’s Luke Tryl — a polling and focus group expert — assesses Britain’s current electoral landscape.The Resolution Foundation’s David Willetts looks ahead to the Budget in March and considers how the state of the economy will affect the U.K. general election, whenever it is held.Beyond Britain, POLITICO’s Meredith McGraw, Shawn Pogatchnik and Stuart Lau discuss the impact that elections in the U.S., Ireland and Taiwan could have on the Western world.And former U.K. Foreign Office chief Peter Ricketts considers how the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East are likely to play out in 2024. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Host Aggie Chambre explores the crisis in Britain's prison system and asks what can be done to fix it. She goes inside a prison riddled with drugs and violence, and hears from the governor and from long-serving inmates about what's really going on. Justice Secretary Alex Chalk sets out his plan to overhaul the sector, and why he believes part of the answer is to stop handing out jail terms for less serious crimes. Former Tory leader Michael Howard relives his famous "prison works" speech of 1993 and considers whether he would make the same speech again today. Aggie meets Charlie Taylor, Britain's chief inspector of prisons. He tells her of the harrowing scenes he has witnessed in prisons around the U.K. this past year.And the Howard League's Andrea Coomber, a prison reform campaigner, calls for politicians to be brave in explaining to the public that prison does not work the way they think it does.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
In the week Boris Johnson finally said sorry for the mistakes made by his government during the COVID-19 pandemic, host Aggie Chambre explores the art of the political apology — and asks how politicians can redeem themselves after completely screwing up. Johnson's former Downing Street aide Cleo Watson analyses her former boss's apology, and why he chose to deploy it this week. Neil Parish, the former Tory MP who apologized — and quit — after getting caught pornography in the House of Commons chamber, discusses his slow path toward redemption. And former minister Brooks Newmark recalls his bleakest moments after he was embroiled in an infamous sexting scandal in 2014, and why he felt he had no choice but to apologize and resign.Veteran journalist Steve Richards recalls some of the most famous political apologies of our age. And former Lib Dem aide Sean Kemp explains how Westminster's most famous apology of recent times — his old boss Nick Clegg's "sorry" over tuition fees — actually came about.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
With opposition parties starting to dream about life in Whitehall as the next election looms, host Aggie Chambre takes a look at how politicians actually prepare for government. She hears from the key players involved in the 2010 election — the last time opposition parties came to power. The former Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell, then the most senior civil servant in the country, recalls an eyebrow-raising chat with David Cameron when he was leader of the opposition. Former Tory minister Nick Boles reveals some disastrous first meetings between shadow ministers and civil servants during preparatory talks. Another ex civil servant, Una O'Brien, recalls awkward moments when her ministerial bosses spotted her headed to private talks with their opposite numbers. And former Lib Dem Minister David Laws reveals his fear of walking up Downing Street for the first time.  Meanwhile the Institute for Government's Emma Norris, POLITICO's Dan Bloom and former Labour adviser Matt Lavender set out what Keir Starmer's party is doing right now to try to prepare for power. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
With opinion polls showing Donald Trump beating President Joe Biden in key battleground states a year out from the next U.S. election, podcast host Jack Blanchard asks whether Westminster is even remotely ready for the prospect of a second Trump presidency.Britain's former Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch and ex-Downing Street comms chief Katie Perrior recall their own interactions with Trump during his first tenure as president, while Keir Starmer's former chief of staff Chris Ward considers how the Labour leader might respond to Trump's special brand of diplomacy if he becomes prime minister next year.Polling guru Joe Bedell of Stack Data Strategy sets out just how likely Trump really is to win again in 2024, while POLITICO's own Eugene Daniels — co-author of our Washington D.C. Playbook emails — explains the political factors driving Trump's seemingly unlikely return. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Comments (3)


Good episode but disappointing to hear some of the opinions on bullying. It's not about the type of person on the receiving end, its about the person doing it and that bullying shouldn't be done in the first place. Huge difference between being direct and saying work isn't good enough, versus yelling/swearing/abusing staff. You can deliver the same feedback, same message, without bullying staff and just been a professional.

Nov 15th

Midnight Rambler

silly lefty whining

Jun 28th

Sabine Schnittger

Great show. Really thoughtful discussion on this anniversary.

Feb 13th