IT’S TOUGH when two of your old Fleet Street friends broadcast current affairs shows which clash during the biggest news week of recent years: the three-day state visit of US President Donald Trump.
Anything which relieves the horror of two-and-a-half-years of Brexit going nowhere is a must-watch-or-listen in my book but which show would I tune to on Wednesday morning?
Normally between 7 and 9am I’m listening via the internet to my old LBC sparring partner Nick Ferrari, with whom I co-presented the breakfast show on LBC (and later at Talk Radio) before quitting London and heading north to Godzone in Northumberland.
Nick is the prize-winning headline act on LBC, which in my day stood for London Broadcasting Company but whose acronym now cleverly and correctly boasts ‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’. A hard act to avoid any morning of the week.
But this week Piers Morgan – the editor who followed me at the Daily Mirror when I was kicked upstairs to become editorial director – captured the Big One on ITV’s Good Morning Britain: an interview with Emperor Donald the Diplomatic who had ridden into town blazing away like a gun-toting geek with a grudge. Not to be missed!
So there I sat with my one good eye on breakfast TV (“I didn’t call the Duchess of Sussex ‘nasty’, Piers, she’s doing a great job!” sez the Prez) while one ear was glued to Ferrari through an earpiece into my laptop as he and his listeners grilled Conservative leadership outsider Esther McVey (“My odds are half what Jeremy Corbyn’s were and look how well he’s done,” said Esther, quickly adding, “. . . to get where he’s got to, that is!”).
Nick and McVey versus Piers and the Prez: tag team wrestling at its best. Strangely, I became bored with the same old stuff from the racist/misogynist Trump and warmed to Nick and his army of black-cab-driving right-wingers whose chorus is orchestrated and directed by my old LBC buddy. Because the headline moments didn’t stop there. . .
On Piers’ breakfast TV sofa (figuratively speaking, as the interview was pre-recorded) the Old Pals Act was reaching the apogee of loviedom.
PIERS: “You watched the coronation on TV with your mother when you were six years old. As I watched you at the state banquet I wondered what your mother would have made of her little Donald, President of the United States, being the Queen’s guest of honour?”
PREZ: “She would have been very, very proud.”
In my ear on LBC, Nasty Nick was pursuing Ms McVey round the studio table (figuratively, again!) seeking hard-to-get answers.
NICK: “I’ve asked you six times now – will you apologise to those who suffered and left without benefits for weeks when Universal Credit was introduced?”
ESTHER: “[Univeral Credit] has the support of all parties in the House. . .”
NICK: “But it was a disaster, wasn’t it?”
ESTHER: “It was introduced on a slow basis. . .”
NICK: “It wasn’t a successful introduction, was it?
ESTHER: “Well, if you class getting three-and-a-half million people into work as ‘not a success’. . .”
NICK: “It had to be halted, though?
ESTHER: “Well, as it is a new system you bring it in slowly, you don’t do a Big Bang change. . .”
And so on. I was in hog heaven! I can listen to Ferrari pinning butterflies of all political persuasions for days on end. Remember Diane Abbott’s car wreck interview? Or the impossibly posh Prudence (Baroness) Wheatcroft a week or so back?
He’s a master!
No doubt which show attracted the biggest beast: Piers has spent years sucking up to the likes of Donald Trump and his big-shot exclusive interview with the ‘Leader of the Free World’-God-Help-Us was a just reward.
And yes, Universal Credit ‘victim’ Esther McVey, with whom, incidentally, Nick and I worked when Nick managed the Mirror Group’s LiveTV while Esther and I presented programmes on the station, was small beer by comparison. But Ferrari reinforced his reputation as a dogged, cuss-awkward interviewer (even when talking to Tories!) as he hounded the Scouse former Work and Pensions Secretary for that public apology.
Incidentally while all this was kicking off in London, on the US side of the pond Late Show host Stephen Colbert claimed the Queen was mocking Trump when she presented him with a first-edition copy of Winston Churchill’s book on the Second World War. The president is known to be – ahem – not the most avid of readers, and Colbert’s impersonation of Trump’s acceptance of the book ended with the words: “Look, thank you so much but don’t tell me how it ends