Tim Shipman has been a journalist for 20 years, and he has spent 15 of those covering Westminster. He has reported on 4 general elections and 3 U.S. presidential elections, so his journalistic career is one of global proportions. He has worked for the Sunday Times as their political editor since 2014. We spoke to him in an exclusive interview to find out about his thoughts on the tumultuous politics of 2016, how the press and the media interact and how he can bring Westminster to life in his after-dinner speeches.
You published your book on Brexit and the political class last year, what was the biggest lesson you learnt from researching and writing this book?
So, when I published my book All Out War on the kerfuffle surrounding the referendum and the leadership crisis that followed, I learnt a lot of things. One of which is that if you are a prime minister with no plan it is very difficult to achieve your goals. David Cameron set off wanting to hold a referendum, not really knowing how he was going to win the thing, always assuming he was going to be fine and then the whole thing went pear-shaped.
The other thing I learnt was that it is very difficult to trust politicians, I was writing this book just 5 or 6 weeks, in some cases, after the events I was describing and hardly anybody could agree on what had happened!
Tim unearths for us what went on with 2016 politics
Your job allows you behind the scenes access to Downing Street, from your insights into the political inner circle, what are your predictions for 2017 and how Brexit will play out?
My predictions are 2017 are that it is really stupid to make predictions and from what we have seen over the last couple of years, any journalist that tells you what is going to happen is a mad man. But, what we can infer is that things are going to be pretty chaotic.
Theresa May is going to have to draw a line in the sand and tell everyone what she wants. But, as soon as she does that she is going to have people to the left and right of her armed to the teeth with knives and cannons ready to fire at her, because it is not a case of she won’t be able to satisfy everybody, it will be that she can’t satisfy anybody!
How do the press and the media interact?
This is one of those time-honoured questions that journalists always get asked. Enoch Powell had a phrase, he said that “politicians complaining about the press is like sailors complaining about the sea”. It is a bit like that, you have this relationship where you both need each other. Someone else described it as the dog and the lamppost, but who is the dog and who is the lamppost changes from week to week.
Enoch Powell aptly sums up the relationship between the press and the media
What type of speeches can you deliver and what do you hope your audience will take away?
I do several different sorts of speaking performances, I can chair panel discussions, I can do a quick breakfast event with an introduction to the events in politics and I can lead a Q&A. I can also give audiences a full 30 minute after-dinner speech. At the moment, I tend to concentrate on Brexit and the events in my book, as well as the election of Donald Trump, and what that means for the world.
There are quite a lot of parallels between the two and a lot of fun stories to tell. I can also tailor briefs to the client. I try to give a light-hearted but insightful view to what’s going on in Westminster, I know all the personalities, I can tell you what they are really like, I can tell you what they are like off the record and behind the scenes. Mostly, I hope people take away a little bit of insight and a little bit of humour as well.
Tim will be demanding answers from Theresa May on what is next for this government
What is next for you?
I have got to try to keep holding this government to account as political editor of the Sunday Times and try and reveal what Theresa May is really thinking, if she knows herself. I am working on another book, which I reveal the details of soon and I am keen to make more speeches. I want to keep bringing my insight from Westminster to the wider world.
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