Launching a new programme is always nerve-wracking. I’m sure Eddie Mair and I shared that slight empty stomach feeling today. His programme and mine were very different to the previous shows in our respective slots. Radio audiences are very conservative beasts. They don’t like change. I’ve already talked about the format of my new show in a previous blogpost. Would it work? Well, I’m delighted to say that judging by the reaction on email, texts and social media it seems to have gone down very well indeed. More on that in a moment.
Firstly, I have to say I sat in the newsroom just after 4pm wondering where to put myself. If you click on the Audioboom link above and you listen to the first few minutes, you’ll maybe understand why. Eddie Mair opened his show with most wonderful tribute to my stewardship of Drive you could ever hope to hear. He didn’t have to do it at all. I’ve never heard any radio presenter do anything like this before. I was deeply moved. In fact I didn’t know what to say to my colleagues in the newsroom who were listening along with me. When he said “Iain Dale is the best Drivetime presenter in the country, including me”, I nearly fell off my chair. Quite a moment.
The above clip contains 16 minutes from Eddie’s first show. His wonderful sense of humour shines through. I didn’t listen to all of his show because I was busy preparing for my own, but you’ll hear for yourself what a natural he is with callers. OK, some of you will be wondering how genuine this ‘mutual admiration society’ actually is, but I can assure you we have the highest regard for each other, and in a way that has helped both of us adjust to all of this. If someone I really didn’t rate was taking over my show, I might have reacted somewhat differently!
I’m very proud of the way Eddie, LBC and I have handled this transition. These things are never easy. I remember when I took over from James Whale and James got into his head that somehow I had engineered it. I hadn’t at all, but no doubt someone had whispered poison into his ear to cause trouble between us. They succeeded. It took more than eighteen months for our relationship to be repaired and James came to realise that none of it was true. And now I am up against him in the same timeslot!
You’re going to think this is a funny thing to say, but after a very short time of presenting my first show, it felt like coming home. After all, I presented in this time-slot from September 2010 until March 2013, so I should have known. I’d forgotten how much I loved it. I never wanted to move to Drive in all honesty, but when you’re offered the opportunity you don’t turn it down. At the time I knew I’d miss presenting in the evenings, but you just get on with it.
The Newshour was the one hour I was unsure of. Were we seeking to pack too much in? Had we allowed enough time for things to breathe? In the end we only had to drop one item. We had far more calls in that hour than I expected - in fact I did wonder if we’d get any, but in the end we only managed to get 3 on air I think. We had a sparky interview with Tory MP Nick Boles, reports on Myanmar, Sajid Javid’s sex abuse announcement, Kevin Maguire on Labour’s woes plus brilliant business, sport and political roundups with Christian May, Rob Maul and Camilla Tominey. It was pacy, informative and even entertaining, I think.
Our hour long antisemitism panel discussion was both thoughtful and sparky. My producers, Sophie and Jakub, had done a brilliant job in booking the right mix of guests. And the call volume was amazing. And in our final hour we did a regular LBC format phone-in on organ donation. Again, load of callers, all of which had a story to tell.
You know when you’ve done a good programme, and we were all buzzing at the end. Now all we’ve got to do is repeat it tomorrow!