The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - PUZZLE TIME -


Flew into Lon­don to­day to an­chor my CNN show from my home­town dur­ing the Olympics, and went straight from the air­port to an in­ter­view with Tony Blair.

He looks in fine fet­tle — he’s phys­i­cally fit for a guy of 59 (‘I work out four or five times a week’) and was sur­pris­ingly sar­to­ri­ally re­laxed in a shirt un­but­toned al­most to Cow­ell-es­que lev­els — and he is clearly itch­ing for an­other re­ally big po­lit­i­cal job again (‘I don’t rule it out’).

He’s taken a lot of flak since leav­ing of­fice, par­tic­u­larly for the dis­as­trous Iraq war, but it would be churl­ish to deny he had some great achieve­ments as British prime min­is­ter, too. I asked him, if he could re­live one mo­ment of suc­cess again, what would he choose? He smiled. ‘You rarely get mo­ments of suc­cess in terms of a de­fined thing that hap­pened on a par­tic­u­lar day, at a par­tic­u­lar hour. I’m prob­a­bly proud­est of the Good Fri­day agree­ment and the peace process in North­ern Ire­land, which thank­fully is still there and work­ing well.

‘But in terms of an ac­tual mo­ment, I guess when I heard we’d won the Olympic bid was one of those few times when I danced for joy as prime min­is­ter.’ ‘Did you lit­er­ally dance?’ ‘I did!’


Mitt Rom­ney is squar­ing up to Barack Obama in what many be­lieve is al­ready the clos­est and most bru­tal Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial race in mod­ern his­tory.

To­day, the Repub­li­can can­di­date was in Lon­don for a brief Olympics stopover, and ran into im­me­di­ate trou­ble by ex­press­ing con­cern over whether Lon­don was ready, ques­tion­ing the pub­lic’s en­thu­si­asm for the big sport­ing event, and ‘se­cu­rity is­sues’ in par­tic­u­lar.

These, of course, have been ex­actly the same crit­i­cisms hurled at Olympic or­gan­is­ers by the British them­selves for the last month. But that’s not the point — you don’t visit some­one’s house for din­ner and lam­bast their cur­tains, even if they don’t like the cur­tains them­selves.

By the time he got to me for our af­ter­noon in­ter­view at the Old Royal Navy Col­lege in Green­wich, bat­tered into mol­li­fy­ing sub­mis­sion by the British me­dia at Down­ing Street, he was in ur­gent need of com­fort food.

‘I need a McDon­ald’s!’ he cried, as his Se­cret Ser­vice agents raced him inside. And a McDon­ald’s he duly ate.

When we started the open-air in­ter­view, two haz­ards im­me­di­ately reared their ugly heads: 1) It was very windy,

‘I like to think my los­ing to you pro­pelled me to work harder and do bet­ter,’ Serena Wil­liams mes­saged

me. ‘I owe you’

send­ing Rom­ney’s hair into a per­ma­nent tail­spin (not a cool look for a usu­ally im­mac­u­lately groomed would- be pres­i­dent); 2) the skies were buzzing with he­li­copters fly­ing on and off HMS Ocean next door, caus­ing film­ing to con­stantly stop and start, usu­ally at a cru­cial mo­ment of the in­ter­view. To his credit, though, he saw the funny side.

‘ I’ll have to deal with worse than wild hair and noisy chop­pers if I be­come pres­i­dent!’


I used to play cricket 40 times a year. Now I play once, in an an­nual fam­ily match against my lo­cal vil­lage in East Sus­sex. But this is no or­di­nary game. Ever since the vil­lage sneaked a bril­liant Pak­istani ringer into the first fix­ture 10 years ago, it’s been war. I’ve gone into bat­tle with a mul­ti­tude of my own ringers over the years, in­clud­ing many of the world’s great­est crick­eters. But to­day I ex­celled my­self — per­suad­ing Eng­land su­per­star Kevin Pi­etersen to come and play with re­tired le­gends Fred­die Flintoff and Devon Mal­colm, and for­mer World Heavy­weight Box­ing champ Len­nox Lewis. Len­nox and I be­came friends dur­ing the film­ing of the US Celebrity Ap­pren­tice. ‘Can you ac­tu­ally play cricket?’ I asked. ‘ Dude,’ he replied non­cha­lantly. ‘Re­lax. What­ever I hit stays hit.’ Fred­die, a huge box­ing fan, was be­side him­self with joy when I told him Len­nox was play­ing. ‘I’m his big­gest fan!’ he ex­claimed, ‘Please warn him.’

Un­able to con­tain his ex­cite­ment, Fred­die turned up half an hour early at the ground. Len­nox, clearly able to con­tain his, turned up 45 min­utes late, when we’d al­ready taken the field. ‘He’s here!’ I shouted at Fred­die, who did an in­stant jig of de­light on the square. Len­nox marched out in his whites, to rau­cous In­ter­viewed Steve Red­grave to­day. ‘Pre­sum­ably you want to thank me for my Twit­ter cam­paign to get you to light the Olympic caul­dron?’ I be­gan. ‘Yeah,’ he replied. ‘Thanks a bunch. You made me such a favourite for this great hon­our that they clearly de­cided the big sur­prise was gone, and made me hand it to those young­sters to light the caul­dron in­stead!’ He was only half-jok­ing.

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