‘Piers, you provide the Churchill spirit in this country,’ said Sajid Javid
MONDAY, APRIL 30 Chris Tarrant interviewed me at Good Morning Britain’s studios for new radio station Love Sport. I was curious how he felt about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? being revived with Jeremy Clarkson as host.
(For perspective, if Clarkson suddenly replaced me on GMB, I’d throw myself off Tower Bridge… tied to heavy weights.)
Tarrant’s face contorted into a variety of the expressions he used with contestants during his 16-year tenure as quiz master: pain, horror, exasperation, shock, bemusement and, finally, amusement.
Eventually he said: ‘The truth is that when I first heard about Clarkson I gave it a few seconds’ thought and then realised I truly and honestly… didn’t give a toss!’
Afterwards, I encountered a murderouslooking Janet Street-Porter as she stomped to Loose Women. Normal TV custom dictates that when two presenters meet by chance, they shower each other with fake compliments even if they hate each other. ‘Morning Janet!’ I exclaimed cheerfully. ‘F**K OFF, MORGAN!’ she bellowed back, not breaking stride. ‘Sorry?’ ‘Late night!’ she cackled, not bothering even to turn around.
TUESDAY, MAY 1 Two months ago, I wrote in this column: ‘I’d take Amber Rudd as Prime Minister any time – she’s a smart cookie with a good sense of humour who exudes a reassuring air of selfconfident authority.’
Perhaps inevitably after my enthusiastic endorsement, she’s now been forced to quit as Home Secretary over the Windrush scandal.
Rudd’s replacement is Sajid Javid, who – at the risk of wrecking his leadership ambitions – has also impressed me.
I particularly enjoyed his recent GMB appearance, when I asked him if Britain needed a more ‘Churchillian spirit’ in dealing with the EU over Brexit.
‘Piers, I think YOU provide the Churchillian spirit in this country,’ he replied.
Mr Javid would do well to heed this advice from Sir Winston as he takes over the most difficult job in government: ‘The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’
WEDNESDAY, MAY 2 Bumped into controversial outgoing Coronation Street producer Kate Oates in the ITV corridors. She’s been accused of making the storylines too grim by featuring male rape, sex trafficking, suicide and murder.
‘I’m still available to play Kym Marsh’s new love interest,’ I said.
‘That’s too dark,’ she grimaced, ‘even for me.’
FRIDAY, MAY 4 To Lady Margaret School in Parsons Green, west London, for Radio 4’s
Any Questions. To my surprise, I was left to have a pre-show dinner alone with two other panellists – Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, and Emily Thornberry, shadow Foreign Secretary.
To my greater surprise, given we’ve previously locked horns on air, the meal was very convivial. Especially when the conversation turned to artificial intelligence and, more specifically, sex robots.
‘Apparently the biggest customers are lonely, widowed old men,’ I ventured. ‘So they serve a rather laudable, higher purpose.’
‘Oh what a load of nonsense!’ snorted Andrea, who has a touch of Maggie Thatcher about her. We moved on to President Trump, whom Emily loathes.
‘You’d probably like him if he joined us now for dinner,’ I said.
‘NO, I WOULDN’T!’ She retorted, stabbing her shepherd’s pie with a fork so violently the table shook.
I asked who she thought was her most capable opponent in the Tory ranks. ‘Amber Rudd,’ she replied, instantly and sincerely.
As we walked to the school, Emily began frantically puffing on a cigarette. ‘Nervous?’ I asked. ‘Oh God, I always get so anxious before these things. It sometimes makes me feel physically sick. I did Question Time two weeks ago and started shouting too much because I was so wound up.’
I found this admission rather endearing. It’s often too easy to forget that politicians are actual human beings.
The AI discussion continued in the green room with our fourth panellist, writer Jeanette Winterson. ‘I rather like the idea of a robot Prime Minister,’ I suggested. ‘We already have one…’ she countered. Before we went live, host Jonathan Dimbleby warned us to be careful about how we hydrated ourselves.
‘On television the viewers can see what you’re doing. On radio, especially if you pour too close to the microphone, it can sound like something altogether less innocent.’
To demonstrate, he then took a bottle and poured it into his glass right by his mic. It did indeed sound like someone urinating.
As with the TV counterpart, the panel gets a dummy question to warm everyone up. Ours tonight was: ‘How would you wish to be remembered if you live to be 100?’
I answered: ‘I doubt I’ll live that long, but if I do, and then die, I’d expect my tombstone to say: he will be sorely missed by a grateful nation.’ To which the packed school hall burst into cruelly hysterical laughter.
Leadsom went next: ‘I’d say: love me, hate me, just don’t ignore me.’ No wonder we got on so well. After a fun show, during which I declared ‘I’m a feminist’ to further gasps of incredulity, I was approached by a large group of students.
Dimbleby looked on in disbelief as the impressively intelligent and confident young ladies peppered me for advice about how women can best succeed in life. ‘I’m a feminist icon, Jonathan,’ I explained. ‘God help us all!’ he roared.