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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.
In the week U.K Home Secretary Suella Braverman was finally sacked, host Aggie Chambre asks what you actually have to do to get fired from the government — and what the calculations are for the leaders doing the firing. Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, recalls his "underhand" sacking of two junior ministers, while Cleo Watson, a former deputy chief of staff at Downing Street, reveals the secrets of the reshuffle whiteboard. Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan tells Aggie what really happened when she was sacked by Theresa May in 2016, and the "awkward" conversation that followed. And May's ex-chief of staff Gavin Barwell lifts the lid on what it's like to sack a minister — in this case Gavin Williamson — embroiled in scandal.Former Chief Whip Wendy Morton talks through her approach to sacking people, while former minister Matt Warman reveals what it was like being sacked by Morton. And Tory MP Paul Bristow — who was sacked as a government aide last month — explains why he has no regrets. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Revenge of The Blob

Revenge of The Blob


Britain's civil service is under fire like never before — criticised as an obstructionist "blob" by ministers and castigated for a "terrifyingly sh*t" response to the COVID-19 pandemic by former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings.So what do U.K. government officials — normally banned from speaking to the media — actually make of it all?This week in a special 'focus group' episode, five former mid-ranking civil servants sit down with host Aggie Chambre to lift the lid on life inside Whitehall.The panelists, who worked in departments across government — one for as long as 30 years — tell Aggie about the deteriorating relationship between ministers and officials, and about how difficult all that Whitehall bureaucracy makes their jobs.They discuss how rare it is for anyone to actually get fired from the civil service — and even reveal the secret formula for getting promoted which works almost every time.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
As war rages in the Middle East, host Jack Blanchard sits down with Alf Dubs, the 91-year-old Labour peer who arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport — which organized the rescue of children from the Nazis — aged just six.Dubs reflects on his experiences as a child refugee in 1939 and on how he forged a new life in the U.K. He explains why he got into politics, and how he has since devoted much of his life to helping other young people in dire need. He calls for more humanitarian support for those affected by the current wars in Israel / Gaza and Ukraine, and would like to see the U.K. government take a new approach toward those seeking asylum. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
With Labour Party leader Keir Starmer dragging his party onto the center ground, host Aggie Chambre asks what remains of the left in Britain — and what the future may hold for this increasingly marginalized group.She hears from three Labour MPs in the left-wing socialist campaign group, all former members of Jeremy Corbyn's shadow Cabinet. Dawn Butler, Clive Lewis and Ian Lavery describe a widespread sense of nervousness at being at odds with the leadership following what Lavery calls a "purge" of the Labour left.Corbyn himself urges left-wing Labour MPs to speak up, telling them that “being silent is never an option."Labour grandees Peter Mandelson and Neil Kinnock insist Starmer was right to marginalize the left of the party, to make Labour electable again.And Novara Media journalist Ash Sarkar insists there may yet be a powerful future for the left, sitting outside the Labour Party if necessary.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
One year on from Liz Truss’ chaotic premiership, host Ailbhe Rea takes on what remains a controversial topic: the role free-market think tanks really play in our politics. Ailbhe interviews the co-founder of one of these free-market think tanks, the ASI’s Madsen Pirie, and hears his candid account of how they wield influence across Westminster.  Then we dive inside the funding of these think tanks, with the man who beats the drum against so-called dark money in politics, investigative journalist Peter Geoghegan.And we reveal how close the IEA really was — and still is — to Liz Truss and her whole tax-cutting project, with the help of “Nina,” an anonymous IEA member of staff who witnessed it all. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
With 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. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Host 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. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
This 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. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
In 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. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
As 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. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
With Westminster largely empty during the summer recess, host Aggie Chambre heads out of London to watch MPs in different parts of the country meet the people who really matter — the voters.At constituency surgeries in Glasgow East, Pontypridd and North Norfolk, Aggie watches politicians help desperate constituents who have nowhere else to turn, hearing heartbreaking stories of poverty as well as local rows about overgrown trees and NHS dentists. And on doorstep visits she sees them met by barking dogs, angry voters and even the occasional slammed door.Aided by Tory MP Duncan Baker, Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones and SNP MP David Linden, Aggie explores how the job of an MP has changed — and whether this is really the sort of work they should be carrying out at all. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
In 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.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
In 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.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
In the first part of a major profile of Labour leader Keir Starmer, podcast hosts Ailbhe Rea and Aggie Chambre take a deeper look at the man hoping to become Britain's next prime minister.Starting their journey from the kitchen of the house in Surrey where Starmer grew up, they follow his path through childhood and university toward a stellar legal career, speaking to those who’ve known him along the way.Andrew Cooper, a schoolfriend who would go on to be an adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, reveals the early antics — and politics — of the young Starmer, while John Murray, a university pal, lifts the lid on their laddish student life.The pair then follow Starmer’s journey up the career ladder as a lawyer, a barrister and eventually director pf public prosecutions (DPP). Ken Macdonald, a crossbench peer and Starmer’s predecessor as DPP, recalls Starmer’s approach at the Bar — and his real thoughts on law and order.Denis Bradley, former vice-chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, explains the tricky role Starmer took on as human rights adviser in Northern Ireland following the Good Friday Agreement — and how this role eventually led Starmer to abandon a successful legal career for the murky world of Westminster.The Times’ Tom Witherow evaluates Starmer’s record as DPP, while Scarlett MccGwire, a legendary Labour aide who has worked with four party leaders, reveals how Starmer finally began to make inroads into the world of politics. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Two weeks ago, POLITICO revealed Geraint Davies was accused of sexual harassment by 5 different women. The Labour MP said he did not recognize the allegations but apologized if he inadvertently caused offence to anyone.This week, host Aggie Chambre asks why we keep hearing new allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying in the British parliament, and asks what can be done to make it better.She speaks to her POLITICO colleague Esther Webber, who has broken numerous stories on inappropriate behavior. Esther tells Aggie her theories on what is going wrong and how it can be fixed.Former clerk Jenny McCullough tells Aggie about her experience of being bullied while working in Westminster.Labour MP Jess Phillips talks about what she would do if someone came to her and said they were being bullied, and ponders whether it's something about MPs that makes Westminster susceptible to this sort of behavior. Tory MP Mark Jenkinson questions whether some bullying allegations should really be described as bullying, and says politics is no place for snowflakes.Former special adviser Lucia Hodgson talks about setting up parliament's the independent complaints scheme.And listeners hear again from the focus group of former staffers, who appeared at the beginning of the season. The group talks about how parliament can be an intoxicating place, and they describe what it's really like to work in Westminster.  Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Host Ailbhe Rea explores how and why dealing with migrants crossing the English Channel has shot to the top of the prime minister’s to-do list — and what he’s actually doing about it.Pollster Scarlett Maguire outlines the political headache for Sunak, while disgruntled Tory MP Matt Warman explains how this has now become the top issue of concern for his constituents in Boston and Skegness — hundreds of miles from the Kent coast.Ailbhe also meets an Iranian asylum seeker, Ali, who made that dangerous journey across the Channel himself — and was then left waiting years for a decision on whether he can stay.And we take Sunak’s pledge on its own terms and ask two very different experts — immigration lawyer Colin Yeo, and former head of the UK Border Force, Tony Smith — whether the prime minister really can stop the boats. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
Host Aggie Chambre speaks to Westminster spouses from across the political spectrum about the ups and downs of life married to a British MP.Felicity Mercer, wife and constituency aide of Tory MP Johnny, tells of her pride in her husband's work, but also of the political abuse they receive — and what happens when that reaches your front door.Tory MP Mark Fletcher and his charity worker husband Will discuss the struggle of life in such a long-distance relationship, while vet Kate Carmichael, wife of Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair, explains how she copes with being the furthest-flung political spouse of all.Opera singer — and avid tweeter — Nevana Bridgen, wife of former Tory MP Andrew, explains why she feels the need to defend her husband's explosive comments on COVID vaccines, and opens up about extra-marital affairs in Westminster and what it's like watching women hit on your husband.And Labour MP Cat Smith and SNP MP David Linden discuss how they found love in SW1 across party lines, as they walked together hand in hand across Westminster Bridge. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
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.  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
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