By Jason MacKenzie, Managing Partner, Corporate Communications
The political rollercoaster keeps taking sharp turns, banking hard to the left and to the right. A slow-paced summer recess lulled us into a false sense of calm, then the House returned with a burst of activity, now Parliament has been prorogued. It’s not dull, but can we cope with the adrenaline rushes?
I work alongside colleagues in public affairs*. We keep a close watch on proceedings in Parliament and throughout wider politics. But it’s harder than ever to follow every convoluted contour of Brexit, let alone stay attuned to the world of developments beyond the ‘B’ word.
We receive (and write) bulletins and briefings, watch rolling news, scroll through social media, and read (rapidly). For quality insights, though, you can’t beat conversations with politicians on both sides of the aisle, and frequent dialogue with those who advise them. But how else can you be across every issue?
I find Conservative Home and Guido Fawkes useful, alongside mainstream media. The former is a barometer of Conservative opinion, and the latter invariably quick to the punch, with close access to the pulse of Parliament. Attending events is time-consuming, yet fruitful in terms of building a network.
We scan sector-specific media and follow the legislative agendas within a range of industries and professions. We try to graze (and glean) efficiently. I also read the excellent Politico London Playbook every morning: it’s an essential daily primer, perhaps more so now than the (formerly) indispensable Today Programme on Radio 4.
But the most efficient way for me to bring myself up to speed on a daily basis is by redeeming the time I spend commuting. I spend up to three hours each weekday on trains, tubes and trams (yep, a slightly unusual combination, granted) – so the discovery of political podcasts has been a boon. I subscribe to around a dozen. Here are the three I enjoy the most, and why I think you should give them a listen.
The Spectator is a rare creature: a weekly news magazine in publication since 1828, with a star-studded cast of former editors, including the current Prime Minister. Its growing print circulation is well-deserved, and driven in no small part by its digital content.
Most impressive of all is this podcast. Join Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth, Isabel Hardman, Katy Balls et al for incisive commentary on a daily (sometimes twice daily) basis. Typically around 15 minutes. Always fast-paced. Time well spent.
Christopher Hope (Chopper) is the Telegraph’s political editor – and a jolly good one he is, too. He hosts this podcast from The Red Lion pub, a favourite haunt for denizens of SW1 and interviews a varied cast of characters.
It’s longer and less frequent than Coffee House Shots, so you’ll typically need to set aside 30-40 minutes each Friday to keep up. It has a clear Conservative bias, as you’d expect from the Telegraph – but Chris is a fair host and a fun character, to boot.
Whereas Coffee House Shots has an ensemble of Speccie journos and guests, and Chopper flies his podcast solo with a line up of interviewees, this is a double-header featuring broadcaster and pundit, Iain Dale, and former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.
They have a lot of fun, and evidently great chemistry, despite their obvious political differences. It’s bawdy, and certainly ruder (!) then the other two podcasts: approach with caution. But this unvarnished, good natured banter-filled content is a must. Set aside at least an hour on Sunday, mind – it’s never brief (unless Iain’s hard drive fills up). Don’t ask.
And a few more
If you’re a real political junkie (or have a lot of commuting time) I’d also recommend:
- All Out Politics (Sky News)
- Brexitcast (BBC)
- Commons People (HuffPost UK)
- FT Politics
- Political Thinking with Nick Robinson
- Politics Home
- The Moggcast
- The Red Box Politics Podcast
Let me know how you get on. Happy listening!
P.S. thanks to Jenni Field, whose social media post about Coffee House Shots yesterday morning prompted me to write this.
*Disclaimer – I’m not a lobbyist, I’m in corporate communications – but I take a keen interest in politics and public affairs, and Nudge Factory has a strong public affairs practice.
Photo credit: Pexels.com