I don't do a lot of speaking in schools and I feel guilty about it. I do get quite a few invitations, but if I am honest, I turn most of them down. Why? Because I am never sure I strike the right tone. As a 57 year old is it ever really possible to relate to a group of 11-18 year olds? I like to bounce off an audience. I find it incredibly difficult to do with that age-group.
I'm also reluctant to speak to private schools, so I generally only go to state schools. I am always amused to find out that Labour politicians and commentators seem quite happy to go to speak at Eton or Harrow. Or the Oxford Union. You won't catch me doing that. It's not a class thing, but I just feel that state schools and other universities should get more of a look in.
I did speak to Cambridge University Politics Society a few weeks ago, and to the University of Kent Conservative Society, but they are both close to where I live, or at least on the way. I keep having to say no and apologise for saying no to the University of Leeds and Durham. The trouble is, it takes a whole day out of the diary.
Last Friday I went from Good Morning Britain to Oaks Park High School in Ilford. I had originally accepted the invitation because I thought I could drop in on the way to Norfolk, as it's at the bottom of the M11. Best laid plans, and all that. I couldn't go to Norfolk in the end, so had to get the Central Line back into town to get the train home to Kent.
They had assembled a group of around 150 pupils in the main hall, ranging from the ages of 11 to 18. My remit was to talk about my career in politics and the media. As usual, I started nervously, trying to pitch it right. It was billed as a lecture, but I did it all off the cuff. Slowly but surely, the kids came alive and by the end I could tell they were actually quite interested in what I was saying - unless I got the wrong end of the stick!
Then I asked for questions. This is usually the embarrassing point, where no one puts their hand up. This time was different. At least half a dozen hands shot up immediately. First question: "How much do you earn?" I roared with laughter. I then explained that I had been on Good Morning Britain, having got up at 5.20am and asked them how much they thought I got as a fee from that. The answers ranged from £500 to £1000. When they heard the truth there was an audible gasp from some of them. They clearly expected political punditry to be much more rewarding!
Anyway, I answered questions for a good half an hour and enjoyed it hugely. And they asked some really good questions too. At the end several of them wanted selfies to show their parents who they said listened to me on LBC. Even three of the teachers wanted one! I then did an interview with a sixth former who is clearly destined for a career as a journalist, and whose parents love my show. The whole experience was really uplifting.
So when I got this letter from the head teacher a couple of days ago, you can imagine how much it meant to me.
I know this sounds pathetic, but the experience of speaking at Oaks Park, and indeed at the Latimer School in Hammersmith in September, has given me more confidence about speaking in schools a little bit more often.
Having said that, I'm not going to be able to do much in the next couple of months as I spend an increasing amount of time finishing my book.