One of the highlights of blogging for me has been the opportunity to appear on the radio. It's not something I've really covered on here much. Most other bloggers seem to take it in their stride and most "normal" (i.e. non-political) people I know are a bit nonplussed as to what it's all about.
But I have really enjoyed the times that I have been asked to go onto various radio stations and debate politics. Sometimes it has been over the phone but often it has been in the studio which has been a particularly fascinating aspect of it for me. I have always been very interested in broadcasting and although I never pursued it academically or career-wise (I always assumed it would be too difficult to break into and I'd be far better off following a safer bet - in my case software development) to have been able to see behind the scenes and be involved in radio shows has been a real privilege. It still happens a little bit nowadays. Only last week I was on with Jacqui Smith on LBC discussing the local election results (down the line). It's more infrequent nowadays though. Partly because I get less offers and partly because I am less able to get to studios these days and have to turn more offers down.
Through this process I have met and debated with some of the most interesting people involved in politics and political commentary including James Forsyth, Mehdi Hasan, Shane Greer (many, many times!), Lance Price, Iain Dale, Tim Montgomerie, Steve Webb, Olly Grender, Alex Hilton, Harry Cole and Kate Hoey (who is one of the nicest people I have ever met in politics) amongst dozens of others.
Some of the highlights for me of this rather unexpected facet of my political commentator life have been:
- The chance to meet and (slightly) get to know Ken Livingstone. He used to present a show on LBC (sometimes with David Mellor) and I was invited on several times around the time of the 2010 General Election. I got the feeling that both Ken and David quite liked me - indeed David even said as much on air, the old flatterer! Ken Livingstone is a political hero of some in my family who are of a bit more of a socialist bent than me. I told him so after the first time I was on (thinking it might be my last) and he had a big grin on his face. My scariest moment on air with Ken was when I was doing a paper review with him and we were talking about sects. He mentioned how the Scientologists once tried to recruit him and he referred to them as a "cult". I said "They don't like to be called a cult Ken" and for the rest of the show I was paranoid that I had tripped over my words and "done a Naughtie"! I think it was OK though...
- Being part of 5 Live's coverage following the final leader's debate during the 2010 election. Tony Livesey was the presenter and I was on the panel with Iain Dale and Will Straw. That was tremendous fun, especially the part where we were asked to answer questions as if we were our respective leaders. I mimicked one of the things Clegg had done during the debate (making out I couldn't see the questioner) which got a big laugh from the assembled audience. I also saw the way Will was able to handle a very hostile question with charm and skill which certainly made me think he will be an MP some day and could well go far.
- Being asked a few months ago to go into BBC TV Centre and be on about 15 different BBC local radio stations over the course of two hours discussing the "Cameron veto" and the Lib Dem response to it. It was fascinating being a part of how so many different local breakfast shows were being made. Some were pre-recorded but many of them were live. They all had the same introductory script for the piece but it was also interesting to see which ones stuck to it, which ones paraphrased and which ones just leapt straight in. It showed me there are all sorts of different ways to cover the same story and certainly kept me on my toes. I pretty much used all the notes I had prepared for that day.
At least I now know how it feels to be Nick Robinson.