One of the things you never notice when you’re doing a job is what it takes out of you. When I left Biteback at the end of May I didn’t realise not only how much time it would free up, but also how much of a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I took very seriously the responsibilities I had to those who worked for me and to my principal shareholder. I’m not a natural numbers person so managing cashflow was always one of the things that took a lot out of me, and in the early days it was always a challenge. Publishing books is not a business for anyone interested in making a quick buck.
I don’t think anyone who’s never run a business understands the pressures on people who do. The present day narrative is that anyone who runs a business is just in it for themselves and wants to make the maximum amount of profit from those that they employ. It’s such a complete fallacy. What a pity it is that the few bad apples spoil the reputation of everyone else.
I’ve been thinking for some time what I should do with the rest of my working life. I know, sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Well, at 55 it’s probably wise! I’ve now been on the radio for eight years and I bloody love it. I did on day one. I do now. I’ve finally found something I think I have proved to be good at, and I hope I get the opportunity to continue doing it for years to come.
But in the last year I’ve started to do more TV too and enjoyed it much more than I used to. Maybe it’s because I’ve become more relaxed about it and know that I can give a reasonable answer to anything that’s thrown at me. When I got nervous about my first appearance on BBC1’s Question Time someone said to me they couldn’t understand it. After all, I spoke for three hours a day on subjects I often knew nothing about and no one seems to notice, so why should I be flummoxed by Question Time. Fair point, I thought. For the last year I’ve been doing CNNTalk, which generally concentrates on discussions about big global issues. Again a challenge, but in 14 months I honestly don’t think we’ve done a duff show. Perhaps that’s down to my fellow panellists Ayesha Hazarika and Liam Halligan, more than me! In recent weeks I’ve also been a panellist on The Wright Stuff a few times and have started doing some early morning slots on Good Morning Britain with Jacqui Smith and Ayesha Hazarika. I’d like to do more TV, maybe a bit of presenting and documentary making. Having said that, I have no desire to be a TV star. None at all. Like anyone who appears on the media, I have an ego, but I do not crave fame. I never have. However, I’d like to do things on TV I know I would enjoy and would stand a fighting chance of being good at. At my age I am beyond accepting everything I’m offered. What’s the point of doing something you aren’t comfortable with just for the fleeting glory of appearing on TV? There isn’t any point. So if I ever show any sign of going on Love Island, feel free to issue me with a reality check!
I’d also like to write a book, although I’m not quite sure what on yet. I always wanted to write the authorised biography of Cecil Parkinson, but maybe I ought to look at something more likely to sell a few copies. I did start a political thriller once, but the market for them is pretty limited. There’s always gay porn fiction, I suppose…
A few weekends ago I was invited to chair a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan. I rather enjoyed it and would like to do more of that sort of thing, as well as take part in panels. I used to do a bit of after dinner speaking but given I don’t finish on the radio until 7pm. But given what I know other broadcasters do, I think there are huge opportunities here.
All this is a roundabout way of saying that I have decided to sign up with Northbank Talent Management, who will act as my literary, broadcast and public speaking agency. I’ve never had a high opinion of agents, in whatever field. There are a few good ones, but an awful lot of charlatans. Northbank is a new agency started by Diane Banks, who I dealt with at Biteback, and backed by serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson – the man behind Pizza Express and Patisserie Valerie as well as former chairman of Channel 4. Diane has built a very impressive team and client list in a very short time. I went to a meeting with her and two colleagues determined not to agree to anything, but I was so taken by their ideas and what they thought they could do for me that I have signed up and am incredibly excited by the prospect of working with them.
I’ve made clear that my first priorities will remain LBC and CNN and nothing I do should interfere with my work for them. But there’s no doubt that my work on CNN has boosted my LBC audience, as has all the TV I’ve been doing. I know that, because of the emails and tweets I get.
Anyway, that’s my news.
Visit the Northbank Talent Management website