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Brexit Watch: The List

Brexit Watch: The List

🕔19.Mar 2019

We are living though extraordinary political times. The only thing to do in such circumstances is to write a list. 

I haven’t posted on the subject of Brexit for a little while, writes Kevin Johnson. There are several reasons for that, two of which are:

  • events are moving incredibly quickly;
  • lots of other people are reporting, commenting and analysing political developments rather brilliantly.

In other words, why attempt to compete on frequency or quality (especially as I have a day job)?

For many, given the lack of certainty, Brexit is now a crisis affecting the ability of businesses to plan and therefore having a direct impact on investment, location and employment decisions. For many others too, it is a matter of international embarrassment.

I don’t resile from either view, but for political nerds like me this is like England in a World Cup Final penalty shoot out, meets a close General Election all night count meets major international news event. In other words, a horror show from which I cannot avert my eyes.

So, I thought I would share a list of who I think is worth following on Twitter and elsewhere in the media. Many Chamberlain Files visitors, by their nature, will be familiar with some or all of them.

These are the people who might help you navigate Brexit over the next ten days and beyond as we see how the Government deals with Speaker Bercow’s ruling, it’s discussions with the DUP and how European leaders respond to PM May’s request for an extension to Article 50. Plus, whatever other “absolute scenes” (© Brexitcast) emerge.

One note of caution. To Brexiteers, this list may appear Remain/Remoan heavy. I think they all have knowledge, insight and communication skills which makes them highly credible, but there are very few with an out and out Brexit mindset. I try not to live in a media bubble of like minded folk, but collectively the list probably reflects my worldview to some degree.

Twitter

Almost all entries on this list are on Twitter. Indeed, I have created a Twitter Brexit List to which you are welcome to subscribe. Many of the people listed in one media category could just as well be assigned to one or more others.

But these are the people who I follow where their main output (at least that I consume) is via the social media platform.

  • David Allen Green – legal expert who has also recently re-started blogging, quite simply the go to person on everything Brexit and law (his tweets are usually locked so you will need permission to follow)
  • Anand Merron – ‘slightly matey politics don’ (who showed how calm, measured and brilliant he is on Question Time recently)
  • David Henig – expert on trade policy
  • Allie Renison – Head of Europe and Trade Policy at the Institute of Directors
  • Nina Schick – political commentator
  • Jo Maugham QC – specialist in litigating tax cases, but also now a major voice on Brexit
  • Henry Newman – leads the Open Europe think tank.

Podcasts

Brexitcast (produced by BBC News/BBC Five Live – main picture) has just notched up its 100th edition. It’s a must listen for all Brexit nerds – or Brexitcasters as they are known. Its four hosts qualify in many of the categories of this list, but given the recent centenary I’ve put them here:

  • Laura Kuenssberg – BBC’s Political Editor
  • Katya Adler – BBC’s Europe Editor
  • Chris Mason – BBC Political Correspondent
  • Adam Fleming – BBC Brussels Reporter.

Other podcasts (or programmes that turn into podcasts) to which I subscribe include:

  • Piennar’s Politics – BBC Deputy Political Editor Jon P’s Sunday morning show
  • Commons People – from Paul Waugh and the Huff Po political gang
  • Westminster Hour and The World This Weekend – stalwart BBC weekend programmes
  • For the Many – LBC’s political podcast with Iain Dale and Jacqui Smith
  • Political Thinking – Radio 4 Today presenter (and former Pol Ed) Nick Robinson’s relaxed political podcast that often generates a news line.

 

Talking of podcasts, a plug for Podcast Live Politics on 7 April in London. It’s the brainchild of a friend, former client and the big man of radio, Phil Riley. Many of these podcasts will be recorded live all in the same venue on the same day. (Usual fees apply, Phil).

Journalists

  • Peter Foster – Telegraph’s Europe Editor. His daily Brexit Bulletin is essential reading.
  • Tim Shipman – probably the best political journalist of the day to my mind. Author of the brilliant All Out War and Fall Out as well as Sunday Times Pol Ed.
  • Sam Coates – another great journo in The Times camp, but soon moving to Sky News.
  • Alberto Nardelli & Alex Wickham – Europe Editor and Senior Political Correspondent at BuzzFeed News who have been racking up some fabulous scoops (it would be ironic if BuzzFeed journos didn’t make it onto a list).
  • Rachel Sylvester – a superb Times columnist and interviewer (who has gently but effectively skewered several political careers).

Columnists

  • Marina Hyde – it’s no exaggeration to say I, and many others, wait with baited breath for her Guardian columns to drop. Genius.
  • Tom Peck – a recent discovery for me. Great sketch writer (and tweeter) on the Indy
  • John Crace – Guardian’s parliamentary sketchwriter, took time to find his feet (or for me to tune in) following the death of Simon Hoggart, but has come into his own with the ‘Maybot’ and beyond.
  • Matt Chorley – editor of The Times Redbox, Saturday columnist (and could also make the Podcast section)
  • Andrew Rawnsley – Observer, probably had the best placed insight during the New Labour era, but still a highly knowledgable columnist. Stablemates Will Hutton and Nick Cohen also worth a read.
  • For the avoidance of doubt, neither Owen Jones or Boris Johnson make my list….

Broadcasters

  • Andrew Neil – the best interviewer and best analyst on TV. Period. The end of This Week is going to create a big hole in my political viewing habits.
  • Emily Maitlis – so much more than just a side eye.
  • Robert Peston – given my default to BBC News, I don’t see that much of ITV’s political editor on daily TV, but his Facebook posts (at least until a few days ago) and Tweets are well worth following. His eponymous weekly political programme often generates new storylines.

Bloggers/Digesters

  • Paul Waugh – his Huffington Post morning briefing of 5 things to know is an essential 5 minute read in my day. That said, there are a number of excellent morning/evening briefing emails around.
  • Andrew Sparrow – I always have a browser tab open with the Guardian Politics Live blog rolling. (The BBC daytime show of the same name is worth a few minutes watch if you need something political to accompany your sandwich at the desk).
  • Neither political website editors Kevin Schofield (Politics Home) or Ian Dunt (Politics.co.uk) do much to hide their sheer bewilderment at daily political machinations.

Pundits

  • Daniel Finkelstein – Conservative Peer and Times Columnist
  • Jonathan Freedland – Guardian Columnist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Long View
  • Stephen Bush – Political Editor at The New Statesman (with great insight into Corbyn’s Labour and much besides)
  • Katy Balls – Deputy Political Editor at the Spectator (I would have included the Speccie’s Isabel Hardman too but I am catching less of her on TV of late; Pol Ed James Forsyth also often worth a read).

Academics/Experts

  • Jill Rutter/Hannah White – Institute of Government folk who prove that we haven’t had enough of experts, Mr Gove
  • Nikki da Costa – ex Legislative Affairs Director at No 10 who combines parliamentary/legal expertise with an insight into what Downing Street is thinking
  • Prof Nigel Driffield – my colleague at the University of Warwick, an expert on global trade and investment, is never too far away from Twitter on the subject of Brexit.

Civil Servants/Diplomats

  • Former permanent secretaries Nick Macpherson (Treasury) and Simon Fraser (FCO) bring great insight (and a window into their incredulity) to events.
  • Ivan Rogers – used to be our man in Brussels. His two long but excellent speeches on Brexit are must reads. No, really.

Radio Presenters

  • Evan Davis – I miss him on Newsnight, but Evan is bringing his own style to PM on Radio 4.
  • The BBC is facing ever stronger competition from LBC, with its host of names. Eddie Mair left vacant the PM slot into which Davis stepped when he moved to LBC. Navigating commercial breaks has not impeded his wit.
  • Nick Ferrari and Iain Dale may be on the right of the political spectrum, but they are great broadcasters and equally challenging to Remainers and Leavers.
  • James O’Brien is one of the standard bearers for many who believe Brexit is a ghastly mistake. He can be a bit too much at times, even for people who agree with his outlook. But he can be responsible for some compelling radio and searing truths.
  • For the avoidance of doubt, Nigel Farage does not make my list of credible voices to follow….

Politicos

  • Dominic Grieve – the former Attorney General is probably the smartest man on the Government’s backbenches when it comes to Brexit and has tirelessly trounced the Government’s legal and parliamentary deficiencies. Not on Twitter, but often appearing on a TV screen near you.
  • Tony Blair – love or loathe him, his media appearances and articles are based on sound and insightful analysis of someone who has been at the top table.
  • Andrew Adonis and Alastair Campbell – you may have noticed the peer and former No 10 Comms director are never far away from Twitter championing a ‘People’s Vote.’ Like James O’Brien, they can be overbearing at times, but nevertheless difficult to ignore.
  • For the avoidance of doubt, Andrea Jenkyns does not make my list….

This list is not comprehensive and I’ve probably missed some obvious, stand out candidates. There are many more names I could have included…..

Sky’s Adam Boulton, Beth Rigby, Faisal Islam and Sophy Ridge, or Channel 4’s Jon Snow, Gary Gibbon or Krishnan Guru-Murthy…. Fiona Bruce and Jonathan Dimbleby chairing Any/Question/s Time, journalists at the FT or Politico website…and many more.

But this list represents the key voices who I happen to follow (and rate) on a regular basis.

Brexit can be frustrating and fascinating in equal measure. But it has also served to demonstrate the wide range of different voices on a variety of media platforms and channels who inform, educate and even entertain on the biggest political issue since the Second World War.

On that score, at least, Brexit has made us richer.

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