POLITICO's Westminster Insider

POLITICO's Westminster Insider

POLITICO’s weekly political series hosted by Jack Blanchard 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.

Episodes

October 8, 2021 46 min

As Britain's political parties finish their annual conferences, Jack Blanchard invites a selection of top speechwriters from both sides of the Atlantic to consider what makes a great political speech.

Tony Blair's former chief speechwriter, Philip Collins, talks us through the techniques he used when penning Keir Starmer's leader's speech at this year's Labour Party conference. David Cameron's former chief sp...

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This week Jack Blanchard sits down with Lee Cain, who spent three years at Boris Johnson's side as his spin doctor and closest aide.

In his first major interview since leaving Downing Street, Cain recalls Johnson's extraordinary journey from U.K. foreign secretary, to backbench rebel, to all-powerful prime minister with a commanding majority in parliament. Cain reveals Johnson's campaign secrets and lifts the lid on the ...

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As Germany goes to the polls for an historic election this weekend, Jack Blanchard looks back at some of the great pre- and post-war German chancellors and the impact they've had on Europe and on Britain.

Sir Christopher Clark, emeritus professor of history at Cambridge University, and Anglo-German historian Katja Hoyer discuss Otto von Bismarck and his role in creating a powerful new German nation, as well as his less-celebrate...

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As Michael Gove is appointed Britain's new housing secretary, Jack Blanchard investigates the crisis gripping the sector and asks why Britain seems forever unable or unwilling to build enough homes.

He speaks to three former ministers about their efforts to solve the crisis — including Gove's friend and ex-flatmate Nick Boles, who admits his radical planning reforms of 2013 were a failure. Tony Blair's housing minister N...

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In a special edition to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, Jack Blanchard asks the most senior officials in Tony Blair's government to reflect on one of the seismic events of our age.

Blair's former Cabinet secretary Richard Wilson recalls the chaos in Whitehall as Britain scrambled to protect itself from possible copycat attacks. Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell recalls the tense phone ca...

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September 3, 2021 39 min

Jack Blanchard explores the thorny topic of political lying, and considers whether dishonesty is really getting worse in the so-called 'post-truth' era.

Labour MP Dawn Butler and maverick journalist Peter Oborne explain why they believe Boris Johnson to be more dishonest than any prime minister in recent history, while Johnson's former campaign aide Richard Holden defends the PM against all charges. The former Cabinet Mi...

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Jack abandons Westminster politics for a week to hear about the struggles families in Sheffield face to get the support their children need. Sheffield Heeley MP and shadow Cabinet minister Louise Haigh says helping parents whose children have special educational needs has become a massive part of her weekly casework, with demand for services rocketing and councils facing a huge funding shortfall. And mother-of-three Rachael Crolla ...

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August 20, 2021 39 min

As the chaos unfolds in Afghanistan, Jack Blanchard speaks to three politicians who devoted many months of their lives to trying to secure and rebuild the war-torn nation.

Former U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart reflects on the three years he spent trying to help people out of poverty in Kabul. Commons foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat discusses his former role as a senior adviser to the...

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In a special episode marking the fifth anniversary of the Brexit referendum, Jack Blanchard interviews the two men behind the crucial spin campaigns for Leave and Remain.

In a rare interview, Paul Stephenson, director of communications for Vote Leave, reflects on the often-controversial tactics pioneered with his friend Dominic Cummings, which convinced millions of Brits to vote to leave the EU. On the opposing side, Craig Oliver — ...

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June 11, 2021 38 min

As the G7 summit gets underway in Cornwall, Jack Blanchard speaks to Tony Blair and a host of former senior government officials about what it's like to attend these surreal events — and whether they're really still relevant in the modern age.

Blair reminisces about his first big summit — a Bill Clinton-hosted G8 in Colorado in 1997 — and the most memorable, the G8 in Gleneagles in 2005. Former diplomat Peter Ricketts explai...

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Jack sits down with the Tory MP and former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson, whose wife Rose killed herself last summer. Owen talks about the shock of learning that someone you love has died by their own hand, and the devastating impact it has on all those around them. He shares his favorite memories of his late wife, and reflects on the changing nature of grief. And he explains his campaign for greater suicide awareness, and for mor...

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In the week of Dominic Cummings' jaw-dropping testimony to Parliament, Jack Blanchard takes a closer look at the role special advisers play within government, and at just how powerful these shadowy figures really are.

Theresa May's former chief aide Nick Timothy talks about his all-powerful role inside Downing Street, and what it feels like to become a magnet for unwanted press attention. Two more former Tory advisers, Salma...

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May 21, 2021 39 min

As pubs and restaurants finally reopen across Westminster after lockdown, Jack Blanchard takes a closer look at the centuries-old drinking culture that pervades British politics.

Former UKIP and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage discusses his favorite liquid lunches, while the journalist and author Isabel Hardman considers why some MPs drink so much. Former Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan explains the concept of "red wine dip...

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After a tumultuous week for the U.K. Labour Party, Jack Blanchard sits down with deputy leader Angela Rayner to discuss where the party goes from here.

Rayner discusses the challenge the U.K. Labour Party faces in winning back its former heartlands, and explains the appeal of Boris Johnson to voters in the North of England. She also opens up about her relationship with Labour leader Keir Starmer following his decision to remove her ...

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May 7, 2021 38 min

As the dust settles after the Hartlepool by-election, Jack Blanchard looks back at some of the great by-election contests of recent years — and ponders whether these quintessentially British political battles are always as significant as they seem.

Lib Dem MP Sarah Olney recalls her famous Brexit-fuelled victory over Conservative Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park in 2016, while Labour campaign chief Andrew Gwynne reveals how he masterm...

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With the Scottish parliament election less than a week away, Jack Blanchard looks back at the history of the Scottish nationalist movement and explains how it shifted from a fringe pursuit to perhaps the majority view in Scotland.

Former First Ministers Alex Salmond and Jack McConnell — who between them ran the Scottish government for more than 13 years — discuss the collapse of Scottish Labour in the mid 2000s and the extraordinary...

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The new season of Jack Blanchard’s weekly podcast on how Westminster really works kicks off on April 30. Subscribe now and never miss an episode.
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Jack Blanchard heads back to Westminster on the anniversary of the first coronavirus lockdown to hear how the pandemic has changed British politics for good. Guests in this season's finale include Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, who discusses the pros and cons of a more digital parliament, and opens up about his home life during lockdown. Lord Speaker Norman Fowler laments the closure of his favorite House of Lords bar; ...

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Jack Blanchard sits down with Rishi Sunak to discuss his whirlwind first year as U.K. Chancellor, and hear more about his Hindu faith, his fears for the future and his love of computer games. In a wide-ranging interview, Sunak reflects on the 13 months in which he was dramatically elevated to the second-biggest job in British politics as Chancellor of the Exchequer — and then immediately plunged into the biggest global crisis since...

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Jack speaks to Richard Wilson, Cabinet secretary under Tony Blair, about his years as Whitehall's top official, and his memories of crises including the 9/11 terror attacks. Suzanne Heywood, widow of the legendary Cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood, reflects on her late husband's long career in government and considers the extent to which unelected officials can end up shaping government policy. The Institute for Government&#...

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