20 September 2019

Free Exchange: Marie Le Conte on how the Westminster bubble really works


This week it was our great pleasure to be joined by journalist Marie Le Conte, whose new book on Westminster gossip lifts the lift on how things really work in the corridors of power.

We sat down to chat about the power of WhatsApp, clashing political cultures, and the fine art of coffee hopping.

Marie Le Conte on….the importance of gossip

Informal conversations step up when formal channels don’t work properly.

The informal matters so much in politics because the only two things people want to know and need to know about you in Westminster are ‘what sort of person are you’ and ‘what you really want’. And if you can figure that out you basically know them.

For a lot of the stories in politics, a lot of the stories that matter, it’s hard to actually publish them in a paper and be sure that you won’t get sued over it.

on…. the Civil Service

Finding out that the Civil Service is as big a mess as the rest of Westminster was a big surprise.

The lack of good communication between mid-ranking civil servants and their minister is remarkable, so what happens is that a lot of the time Civil servants will reverse engineer what they think their minister wants and work on those policies. And that can lead to some surprising situations…

on… what it takes to get to the top

Leaders rise and fall depending on how they treat their MPs, who their friends are, who their enemies are.

I think you can get to the top without gossiping, but if you do it that way you play in ‘hard’ mode, and it doesn’t always work.

on… why understanding Westminster matters

There is this gap between politics and the public on many different issues and in many different ways, and I think a slightly greater understanding of how stuff works may help a tiny bit to bridge that gap.

Catch it on Acast: https://play.acast.com/s/capx/258965a9-c174-4e9d-82f2-ba695c006c82?autoplay 

Or Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/marie-le-conte-on-how-the-westminster-bubble-really-works/id1220313938?i=1000450422252

Or Spotify:

John Ashmore is Acting Editor of CapX