THIS INTERVIEW IS FROM EARLY 2010.
Adam Boulton is a legend and I have huge respect for him. He probably spends more hours live on air than any other political journalist. He has an incredible knack of explaining complex political issues to the Sky News viewers, he can be combative and is also increasingly opinionated. He’s been at Sky News since its launch in 1989 yet shows no sign of being bored or complacent. It was he who was the driving force between the Sky News campaign for prime ministerial debates and he is a constant source of innovation on the channel. One of the most striking TV scenes of the 2010 post-election period was the moment when Adam Boulton completely lost his rag, live on air with Alastair Campbell. Having conducted this interview with him only a few weeks prior to that, it didn’t especially surprise me. There’s clearly little love lost between them. His interviewing style is the opposite of that of Jeremy Paxman, but he arguably gets more out of his interviewees by allowing them to speak without being interrupted every two seconds. Boulton clearly loves politics but carefully maintains his independence from the politicians he mixes with. I’m a fan, as you can tell.
How did you get into politics and journalism in the first place? What sparked your interest?
I realised when I was late teenage years, that I wanted to be a journalist. It was largely because, looking at my general interests, I thought analysis, précis and having a wide range of subjects you could deal with was good for my talents. What really made me do it was that one of my best friends’ fathers was a Sunday Times insight journalist and to be honest, it sounds like a terrible thing to say, I’d not really thought about people who went to university who were educated becoming journalists. I suppose I had a rather sleazy image of a bloke in a dirty mac bothering people.
Hey, that’s you!
I suddenly realised it would be consistent with going to university and studying things so I did English at Oxford and then I did a degree in America in international relations. And by that stage, I decided I wanted to go into broadcasting rather than print, because I wasn’t interested in doing partisan journalism. I was lucky that I came at the ‘80s from America at the time when the new television channels were starting out, Channel 4, TVam and others. So I didn’t have a political grounding but the ‘83 election came along pretty soon and I got involved in that, so after that I tended to be asked to do politics.
So you didn’t actually go into it saying “I want to do politics”?
No, or news strangely enough. I think if you’d asked me, I’d have seen myself as a kind of a Panorama producer or something like that – doing detailed reporting. But what I realised very quickly was that that the technology was rapidly undercutting current affairs. When things like Channel 4 News and Newsnight came along you could do fairly detailed work on the day also I was interested in, having been in America in what you could do live. In 1983 when Greg Dyke was running breakfast television, I worked on the election with people like Diane Abbott, Marks Damazar and Jackie Ashley. Immediately after that, simply because I’d done some work with live outside broadcasts, I ended up doing By the Seaside with Chris Tarrant. So it was a fairly mixed if chaotic learning on the job type apprenticeship.
Have you ever thought about going to the other side, because a lot of journalists do drift into politics. Has that ever crossed your mind?
No, it hasn’t. Genuinely it has not crossed my mind. I do see what I’m doing as analogous a bit to being a sport commentator. There aren’t many sport commentators who qualify for a premiership side. Something dies inside me when I see a journalist becoming a candidate.
Do you think the Westminster lobby is an outdated institution?
I don’t really. I’ve been chairman of the lobby, and I’ve defended the lobby on occasions. We’ve had to fight continuously for access to the Commons and elsewhere and I feel if one said “Okay, well the lobby’s a terrible idea, let’s try something else” we’d be worse off. I think it’s certainly the case that the whole process has got a bit debauched during the New Labour years. There are some people who say that dated back to Bernard Ingham, although I would say he was straight operator compared to what came afterwards. There’s also a question about who is admitted to the lobby, because you’ve now got new media appearing. Since I’ve been in the lobby, it’s always been a fairly organic institution and people or organisations who were big figures in the lobby have faded away and new ones have come in. I know we’re just starting to see some of the online people come in, but I think the principle of having right of access on behalf of your news organisations to parliament because a lot of people often think it’s a deal between the government and the lobby, it’s not. The lobby is a parliamentary institution, it’s not a governmental institution. I personally think that is quite important, and I’ll be honest with you, I am one of those journalists who thinks that in a lot of areas that we can afford to lift our game. By which I mean that I would say there’s quite a significant chunk of my colleagues who I think are not primarily interested in politics, the decisions which parliament is taking, how it’s going to affect individuals. They’re interested in Westminster as a source of gossip and secondary stories. Sometimes I think we do need to think “why are we doing this?”
You said you thought that print media was more to blame for this than broadcasting. Couldn’t you also argue that 24 hour news channels are to blame because they’ve got so much time to fill?
Sometimes I think you get bushfires, but I do think if they’re not very significant they tend to burn themselves out quite quickly. I think what we can do on 24/7 media is do things in more depth. Likewise we can show 20 minutes or half an hour of a news conference or a statement to parliament. That is how we fill the time.
You’ve been at Sky News since the beginning, how has your job changed in the years you’ve been doing it?
Over time, the nature of television news has changed. The formal two or three or minute package has become rarer. You do more stuff on the hoof so over time on air I’ve really evolved to doing almost exclusively live stuff, live interviews, presenting programmes and live commentary and building this machine. We’ve gone up from four people working in Westminster when we started, and we’ve now got about 30. It’s always changing, we’re now going to completely revamp and rebuild our offices for HD and change again, so I think it’s almost the restless nature of it that’s kept me in the same place. The other thing that happened is that we’ve gone online. There was a period in the middle of my period at Sky, where I was practically illiterate. I didn’t write anything down. But obviously with the growth of online I’m now writing much more really than I ever have done before in my career, in various forms. So that’s been a rediscovery of a lost art.
How do you see 24 hours news developing in this country? There are one or two people at Sky who would like it to develop into much more of a Fox news operation – much more opinion than straight reporting. Is that a route you’d like to see Sky go down?
I think there are big questions about television as a whole because the bar to entry has been lowered so much by digital technology. There’s a lot of competition coming. If you’re going to continue to be influential in the cacophonous marketplace, you need to have very strong relationship with your audience. You can go in different ways on that. In America, Fox News has identified a section of the audience, a section of the electorate and it caters to their needs and because there isn’t one dominant broadcaster providing its signal for free, you can make a great deal of money that way. While people want greater choice, they do want to look to their news providers for authority. Opinion polls show they trust broadcasters. I think if you just became another voice in this news market, in this news culture, I think you would rapidly disappear. It’s noticeable that – not at Sky – when other people have tried to do very strong opinionated news, they haven’t taken root to the extent that in other cultures talk radio has.
I certainly think that you and Jon Craig in particular have become slightly more opinionated. I don’t mean in the party political sense at all. I just mean that you do give your own opinions more than you did ten years ago, or am I imagining that?
I think there’s an element of truth in that, and I think that’s partly presuming on the relationship of trust you’ve built up with the audience, that they can take it. But one of the problems in political broadcasting is that we’ve grown up in a culture where balance is a bit from Labour, a bit from the Conservatives, a bit from the Liberals. I’m very conscious of trying to be fair, but sometimes the nature of the debate does involve being more explicit, and I think there are some areas where you can take a different position. Jon Craig is of the old school of “snouts-in-the-trough, how can MPs behave like this, let’s expose them, they deserve what they get” and that’s fine. But when I’ve been doing commentary I’m more concerned to try to explain to people how this had happened and almost to relate to it as human beings, how would you behave if you’d been in those circumstances.
Would you agree that the media often operate as a herd? We’ve all seen examples of Nick Robinson, you, Gary Gibbon and Tom Bradby expressing views and the print media falling in behind you all. Do you think that’s healthy?
I had a very bumpy relationship with Alastair Campbell, but he did say to me once that the difference about you – i.e. me – is that if you express an opinion you try and attribute it. I do see that as being quite important. I wouldn’t go on air and say “that David Davis speech, I was falling asleep” I would go on and say: “That David Davis speech, I saw quite a lot of people in the audience falling asleep.” They amount to actually pretty much the same thing, but I do think there’s a difference. Nick and Gary and Tom and I, we do work in isolation and we don’t actually see that much of each other because television tends to take you away a bit from the pack a lot of the time. But there are certainly occasions when big things are afoot where we do just in the margins in either side of going live at Downing Street, just say “what do you think, how soon do you think this is?”
So it’s like the sketch writers cartel where they basically sit together and decide how to carve it up!
No, we don’t do that and actually quite often, we might bump into each other and we might say “how are you doing it” which is a kind of reality check. It doesn’t mean we just sit down and say “right, definitely take this line.” And I think it’s been noticeable at the moment as elections come on that the BBC does have this quite strong balance tendency. It’s been pretty clear that ITN for quite a long time or ITV News has wanted to be very vigorous or very characterful in what its saying. And I would say, we’re somewhere in the middle precisely because in 24 hour news you are always a marketplace.
What’s the competition like between you? Because 10 years ago, Sky and all the BBC felt they had won if they got a story on the screen quicker than another. Whereas I get the feeling that now that’s changed and the competition is a bit more subtle than that?
I would say that we’ve always wanted to get things on first, but we’ve always wanted to get them on right in the sense that we would break a story, but we wanted to qualify it with saying “this is the best information we have at the moment” or “more on that story”. I think there was a period when Roger Mosey very much wanted to just compete on that basis as to who is doing things first. And I think it got a bit slack with people just rushing to break things all the time and getting things wrong. I would say the BBC got it wrong more than we did. I think the BBC News Channel is probably less of a priority for the BBC than it was a few years ago and that therefore has given us a bit more space.
How much influence does Rupert Murdoch have in what you do? How often do you see him or speak to him? Does he ever ring you up?
No, I’ve never been rung up by Rupert Murdoch. I’ll now be dropped from the Guardian’s 100 most influential people in the media! The truth is that I think in more than 20 years at Sky, I’ve probably been in the same room as Rupert Murdoch about half a dozen times. And I’d say I’ve probably had three conversations with him.
Do you ever feel used by politicians?
I do think that’s part of the deal, at one level. John Lloyd said that journalism has three functions: it has reporting, it has analysing and it has commenting, and a lot of 24 hour news, a lot of the news business is reporting. It’s getting to people, finding out what they want to say, pushing them that bit further to say what they really mean and getting that across. So you know, politicians don’t have a right to get on the airwaves, but part of our job, I think, is to facilitate them and to say what they’re doing. But if politicians lie to me I do remember it.
Give me an example.
Well, I always resented the fact that Nick Raynsford lied to me about running for London mayor. I had asked him in an interview: “If Frank Dobson comes into the race, you’ll pull out in his favour, won’t you?” He flatly denied it and then I think eight days later he opened the Frank Dobson campaign with the words “everyone’s always known I would always support Frank if he came into the race.” I just feel that kind of thing is unnecessary. If someone flatly denies something and says “that’s not true” and subsequently you read in their memoirs or somewhere “tough interview but I think I managed to brush him off” that annoys me.
You must get that every day though? What about Alastair Campbell’s briefings? You only need to read his diaries to see how many times he would mislead the lobby.
While I have admiration for a lot of Alastair Campbell’s professionalism, I think the problem was that he introduced a culture where it was OK to lie. There were occasions when he actually said to me, while he was still in the job, “Oh, sorry about that Adam, but you know why I did it” and I just think there are some lines you shouldn’t cross. And I think that became a culture which is satirised brilliantly in The Thick of It. It’s not just Labour but there are some people who think the job of press officers or spin doctors or special advisors is to lie. Call me naive, I don’t think that is the job and I think it’s corrosive.
The Sky campaign to get the party leaders to debate each other has been a massive success for Sky. How did it come about?
Well, we also did the BBC and ITV a favour as well. Had there not been the Sky campaign concentrating minds on all sides, I personally don’t think the debates would have happened. That’s me beating Sky’s chest but I think you can ask other people and they might well agree with that. It was quite simple. John Ryley, the head of Sky News, is a thinker and he sent round a paper saying that he was concerned about the lack of political engagement which we can see in the decline in our audiences for elections and obviously you can see it in voter turnout and all the rest of it. He canvassed ideas for what we should do about it and I think we concluded that it wasn’t our place to campaign for turnout or to run celebrities saying “use your vote” or whatever because that would be a kind of intrusion in the market place. We ended up with a campaign which basically was us saying “listen, we think there should be a debate, we’re going to stage it. Be there or be square” and of course Cameron and Clegg said very quickly they would take part.
Will the debates dominate the whole campaign? Each debate will probably take up three days’ news agenda – so it’s 9 days out of the campaign which will be dominated by them.
I don’t know. I think we’ll have to see. But the print boys are quite sulky about the whole thing. I’ve been surprised talking to the parties how little they are varying their timetable of battle busses and news conferences.
Are you surprised the two main parties agreed to let Nick Clegg in on all of them. Because I’ve been told by someone on the Liberal Democrats negotiating team that they didn’t expect to be let in on all three of them and that they would have been happy with two, but the other parties didn’t even mention the possibility.
I was surprised that it wasn’t such an issue. As you said it wasn’t basically discussed and I give credit frankly to the other parties on that. What I think happened was that separately, everybody looked at what the possibilities were and basically concluded that realistically within the bounds of possibility on the basis of number of seats contested, shares of votes, credible shares of votes, that there were only three people who could be Prime Minister after the next election and everyone seemed to have reached that same conclusion therefore there wasn’t that much discussion of it.
Do you think it’s a shame that the format is so rigid and there are so many rules? Would it not have been better, at least in one of them, just to plonk the three of them on the stage, have no moderator at all and let them have a dialogue with each other and the audience?
Listen, it’s taken us fifty years to get here! Certainly for Gordon Brown and David Cameron, it has involved conceding quite a lot of ground or potential advantages certainly passed in the direction of Nick Clegg. Therefore, I think it’s only right that there should be a bit of a softly, softly approach this time round. Secondly, as I’ve said, just to get it done and to get it done away from the election campaign there was a strong desire to negotiate with the broadcasters as a block. Therefore I think it’s understandable that this time around people have gone for similar formats. What I think will happen is that the debates will look and feel very different. ITV, BBC and SKY have very different styles in the way they do things. I think that will come through. I think once people become more familiar with what’s going on there will be developments in what goes on. The big issue that we’ve had this time around has been the issue of the audience. People are used to BBC Question Time and regional shows which basically end up pitting the audience against the panel and I do think it’s a different concept this time around. You don’t want them forming a panel against an angry public. So I think that’s a new dynamic which we’ve got to explore.
You’re moderating the SKY debate. Do you still get nervous about these things like that or do you take them in your stride?
Oh yeah. It certainly gets the adrenaline going. It’s a big gig. You always wonder when you first open your mouth if there’s going to be a dreadful croak which is going to come out. And for me personally, because it’s been a SKY campaign and I’ve been very invested in trying to get debates going, I desperately, desperately want the debates to succeed and to be successful and useful and informative, and all those things are things which are going to be on your mind.
What kind of campaign do you thing we’re going to have this time. Do you think it’s going to be a very dirty campaign?
I think we’re going to have a personalised campaign partly because there is big convergence between the parties in a lot of areas and almost where they are most different is in the personal contrasts of David Cameron and George Osborne, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. So I think there’s going to be a lot of that. What I hope is going to happen is that it’s going to be less gimmicky because there is a sort of yawn yawn factor now when there is another poster launch or even another clever internet viral, or whatever, and what I hope the debates will do is just engender a culture of people and politicians actually trying to sit down and tell people how it is and what the consequences are going to be. I’m not sure that that is necessarily going to happen.
Where do you stand on paid for political advertising? If parties can buy slots in cinema why shouldn’t they be able to buy slots on SKY News?
Well I think SKY has a position on this which is that we’re not opposed to it, so that is where I stand. I do think that money is a big issue and if you allow a total free for all then I don’t think you necessarily improve politics, particularly in a system where we’ve got such a strong party structure. Would the world be a better place if instead of spending 20 million pounds each party spent half a billion pounds? I just think there might be better things to do with the money overall.
You’ve got a problem though after the next election though whoever wins because there’s going to be between probably 250 and 300 new MPs. How on earth a) will that effect what you do and b) what kind of parliament do you think it’s going to be?
Well we thrive on change and actually where I think SKY has been good and where hopefully I’ve been good as well is actually trying to make sense of what’s going on rather than going by any preconceived notions of who matters and who doesn’t matter, so in that sense it’s going to be a bit of free-for-all – I’m looking forward to that. I think we do need fresh blood and different types of people. And one thing that we’ve been doing at SKY is meeting quite a lot of the PPCs from all the parties. I do think they are different types of people who are coming into politics and I that’s a good thing. The era of the special advisor becoming a cabinet minister is drawing to a close and I think that’s probably a good thing. In the end I do think that all politicians would be well advised to work towards a system where Parliament and the government are slightly more separate from each other and Parliament has slightly more of a scrutinising role. I detect that a lot of the new people coming in just won’t accept as many three line whips.
How many hours a week do you work when Parliament is sitting?
I’ve not quite worked it out. I don’t know sixty? Something like that.
Whenever a big job at the BBC comes up, your name is always in the mix. I’ve always thought that you’d hate to work at the BBC because you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do what you do at SKY.
Yes there’s a lot of truth in that. I’m not at the BBC am I? I would say that there are three people, all men I regret to say, that have jobs as good as me, in the totality of what they do. And that would be Jon Snow, David Dimbleby and Jeremy Paxman. This job is as good as that, but it obviously means that there are a lot of people who might say ‘why don’t you go and do that’ but I’m just not really that interested.
Do you prefer reporting presenting or interviewing? At the moment you’re doing all three, but which do you get the most kick out of?
Well presenting and interviewing they go together. I like all three. To me what is good about what I do in whatever form I do it is that it’s raw and it’s first hand. I think there’s been a slight problem, it doesn’t bother me, but perhaps in people assessing me, in as much as we’ve tended to have this hierarchy that you know you’re a reporter and then you graduate and you become a presenter and an interviewer and so its seen as a step up, whereas I’ve managed more in the American style to mix the two and therefore I don’t really have that strong a preference. Probably the television skill I’m least good at is reading the autocue.*
*I’ve always thought it’s really weird on your Sunday show when you’re not there they don’t actually have another one of the political team doing it. They seem to pick random people to do it. Or in fact they don’t even do a proper programme they just make it into a news programme – I’ve never quite understood the logic of that.
Well it’s always good knowing that you haven’t got a great substitute.
When you married Anji Hunter did you find that you had a bit of a problem with Conservatives at that point because they felt that maybe that was a signal that you were closer to the other side.
Not to my face. No I never had any problems. When I met Anji I think I did have an independent track record doing what I’m doing. In fact the day that all the gory details were all over the front page of the Mail on Sunday, I was interviewing Ian Duncan Smith, then the Tory leader and you know before we went in I said, ‘you might want to see this’. And he said ‘it doesn’t make any difference to me. I know you, I know what you do, and I hope it works itself out’.
Some people, and you read this a lot on blogs, think that SKY News is a New Labour dominated institution and there are other people that think it’s completely right wing. The lazy answer is to say that you must be doing something right to have offended both sides…
Yes, that is the lazy answer. Or another answer is that everyone knows that New Labour was very right wing. Look I think that I would have two answers to that. One is the standard sticks and stones answer. But the other one is when people make criticism of you, at least to entertain it. As I’ve tried to explain, I don’t really think in party political terms personally. My view about New Labour, as I said in the book I wrote about Blair is that so far it’s been the political story of my lifetime. I’ve known these people all the way from before they were cabinet ministers and before they were in Parliament all the way through to when they’ve become ex-cabinet ministers. And so inevitably I’ve known a lot of people in that world, I’ve known a lot of New Labour people. Likewise, in terms of my background in public school and Oxford and all that, it’s not as if Tories are an unknown species to me and, or Liberals either. So I just think that you have to take it on. I think it would have been a bit different if I’d married Alastair Campbell.
Completely different. For all of us.
I think Anji has an independent record of her own and she’s been out of politics since 2001.
What does she make of your book? I remember going to the launch and she said that she point blank refused to talk about the book while you were doing it. I assume she’s read it.
I’m not sure she’s read it cover to cover. She respects the book. I said to her right at the beginning that it might be difficult for us and I could not do it. She said ‘no, I think you should do it’. A lot of the things in it she got quite cross about. She was very unimpressed when the paperback serialisation went to the Mail on Sunday. And I told her on the Saturday before the Saturday.
I can imagine her being unimpressed by that.
So she generally supports me in my work as I support her in her work, but people find it hard to believe, but she doesn’t have much influence beyond that.
Is it an issue do you think sometimes when journalists can get too close to the political set? I don’t know whether you have or not. I know some journalists have spent the night at Chequers for example… have lunch…
I’ve spent the night outside Chequers. You can be drawn in. Journalists are only human beings and I think you can be drawn in to something and I think that New Labour was that kind of entity. It was quite intoxicating at one stage. People did get… I’m not saying you did, but I think some journalists did get drawn in too much. I think there is a fact that you could want to be…. you get so close to people that you want to be a cheerleader for them and all that. You have to be aware of that.
That’s enough about Kevin Maguire…
One of the things I’ve noticed as the election has got closer is that, without blowing smoke up your arse, I would exempt your site, but actually a lot of the Tory sites, or Tory leaning sites I think have become a lot less worth reading. I think Guido has been poor, Coffee House has been poor. I think ConservativeHome has become poorer than they were 18 months or two years ago. Because clearly they have an investment in this outcome.
What did you get out of your time in America last year? To me, you did something very different in that period where you were doing mini documentaries. I thought they were absolutely first class. Did you gain an appetite to do more of that sort of thing?
Well I know people won’t believe this. It wasn’t my idea to go to America. It basically came from the editorial people at SKY who just said that Obama was a big story and they wanted some way to marking it. They asked me if I thought that we would have an election at the beginning of 2009 and I said no chance and so I was very happy to be asked to go there for four months and it happened to coincide with Anji being between jobs so she was able to come too. I always relish doing things which take you out of your comfort zone and which develop new skills. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy doing sport and entertainment interviews on my Sunday show. Would I like to do more of that? Yes. I think varying the pace of what you do if you have the opportunity is always exciting. But you have to remember that this is a competitive environment and you don’t want to give up the day job. A special project is normally one stop from the door.
When you had that blow up interview with Gordon Brown last year, when he stomped off in a huff, what went through your mind at the time?
What you want to do when you interview someone, particularly politicians, is to make a connection. Because politicians are interviewed all the time and the last thing you want to see is them walking out with their advisors and saying ‘that went well…. there was nothing in it’. What you’re trying to do is to make a connection which involves pushing them away from the line to take at a certain time and getting under their skin and within that you have your own style. What I want to do is to ask them a question that makes them think and to give me a reply that isn’t premeditated. Therefore, with Gordon you could see I’d made a connection and so I was pleased by that. When he said I’d become a campaigner I was also quite interested in that as well but there is a certain kind of way in which journalists are conniving little bastards. If you’re interviewing someone and they’re making a fool of themselves, it’s not your job to stop them. If they’re given the opportunity to express themselves or they’re losing their temper, again, it’s probably not good if you lose your temper as well. It’s best to keep them calm. In that sense, I just felt that it was an interesting interview. I was sure that there was some outside thing not to do with me but to do with the fact that this was the morning after The Sun had switched its allegiance. If I get a response from someone, I don’t blame them for it necessarily.
Did you think “we’re never going to get an interview with him again”?
No. I didn’t think that. I didn’t think he’d think that either. The only person who won’t do interviews with me is Prescott. But in Prescott’s case it seems to be more to do with the fact that we broke the story of the punch. I still think that a deputy Prime Minister shouldn’t go around belting the electorate. It still seems to annoy him.
Who do you find the most difficult to interview?
The most difficult class to interview are people who don’t want to engage. People who just basically turn up and say “I’ve got my message I want to get out”. Consistently the most difficult class of people to interview are actors, because in their own right a lot of actors don’t actually think a great deal for themselves. They’ve waited for someone to write the script.
When there’s been some awful disaster or awful tragedy, it’s actually not that difficult to interview people. Bizarrely, people do want to talk about it. I hope I’m a professional interviewer, I don’t find it extraordinarily hard to interview people. Just occasionally you might be doing an interview with someone and you just realise that you’re basically on completely different planets that they are worried about their next meal, the roof over their head they don’t really know who Gordon Brown is.
What’s the worst moment you can remember live on screen when something went wrong or someone said something that they shouldn’t have?
I love live television and I think that when things go wrong, the autocue goes down, the lights go out all of that pumps the adrenaline. It’s never a good moment when you get someone’s name wrong, or you say “Mr. Johnson” and he says “no, actually it’s Robinson” or when you’re interviewing someone and you’ve just got to the key question, so you say to her “are you going to resign” and they give you an answer but you don’t hear it because someone says in your ear “one minute to go Adam” and then you have to recover from that. One disaster was interviewing Sarah Myles and asking her if her memoirs were true and she started crying. This was a moment where you felt that perhaps this has not been a triumph.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Game changer – about the American 2008 campaign.
Your favourite view?
Probably somewhere in Northwest Norfolk, on Brancaster beach or something like that
Favourite holiday destination?
I want to go back to Sicily
Best friend in journalism?
This is a chance to offend millions of people. Probably Michael Brunson
What is the music that makes you dance?
I’m not a great dancer. Usually those things that it’s compulsory to dance, like Scottish reels. Agadoo, I’ve always liked Agadoo.
Last film you cried at?
I know people think it’s terrible, but the Burning Issue, the Sandra Bullock film has its moments.
Ever thrown a Nokia?
Yes, by accident. I was doing a “quick draw” on my phone out of my pocket and sent it flying. So yeah. I’ve gone through a few Nokias in my time, but more in sorrow than in anger.
I do think Melvyn Bragg is a very good interviewer.
Favourite hate figure?
There’s a classics don called Mary Beard.I think she’s the worst of kind of modern liberal. Or you could widen it to the London Review of Books
And finally, guilty pleasure?