“There’s a couple of lads that would like to meet you. They read your blog.” The words of Dawn Parry, the Tory candidate for Newport West in 2010. From memory we were at the Tory conference in Bournemouth. At that point my blog was at its most popular with tens of thousands of readers every day.
And there it was that I first met the 17 year old Grant Tucker. All five foot five of him, pudding basin haircut and all. He and his mate were very proud that they appeared to be the only Tories in the village in Newport, where they had helped Dawn fight Paul Flynn in the 2010 election. Anyway, we had a nice chat and that was it, or so I thought.
At that time I had just started my LBC evening show, and I was running Total Politics and Biteback Publishing. To be honest, it was already proving to be a strain. There weren’t enough hours in the day. I decided to remedy this by doing two things – learning to delegate more, and by appointing a personal assistant. I put out an advert for a PA and much to my surprise I had more than sixty applications. One of them was from Grant Tucker. The outstanding candidate was actually one of the interns at Total Politics, Joe Pike. I would have happily given him the job but I felt he wouldn’t be stretched and might get bored. In the end, I introduced him to LBC and he was taken on as a producer before moving on after a a few years to ITV News. He’s now their political correspondent in the north. The boy’s done well!
Anyway, I interviewed about a dozen candidates, and narrowed it down to two, one of whom was Grant. Normally, I am very decisive when appointing people to jobs. I even got a colleague to sit in on the second interviews because I just couldn’t make up my mind. On paper the other candidate should have walked it, but there was something about Grant’s personality that in the end swung it for him.
He became a big part of my life for three years and we became good friends as well. He produced the LBC Book Club for me, getting the most amazingly high profile guests – Joan Collins, Joan Rivers and Miranda Hart spring to mind. He became a very popular addition to the office at Biteback. Grant was not the greatest organiser in the world but the sheer force of his personality and networking ability made up for any of the traditional PA roles which he possibly found a little challenging. He could make friends with anyone and did. I remember him telling me he saw Cilla Black in the street and walked up to her to introduce himself. Within a few minutes they were having tea at the Dorchester. That is a talent. John Major came to a booklaunch at Biteback. He left after an hour but a minute later popped his head around the door and said: “Where’s Grant. I didn’t say goodbye to him.”
Grant soon became part of the Westminster furniture. Everyone knew him. I have never met a single person who didn’t like him. Eventually he moved on to the Institute of Economic Affairs, where also made a big impact.
From there he joined the Times Diary, where he has risen to Deputy Editor. He’s an ideal diarist given his ability to get to know the great and the good (and the bad), and he’s had some big successes. He’s also written some great features for The Times too – usually quite quirky ones. I well remember his articles on going sockless and also wearing shorts with a suit jacket.
The reason for this article is because it was announced last week that Grant is going to be the new Media & Entertainment Editor for the Sunday Times. Not reporter. Not correspondent. Editor. At the age of 25. Clearly the editor of the Sunday Times saw exactly the same thing in him that I did.
This is a new position so Grant will have to prove himself in all sorts of ways. It’s a massive challenge and I am sure there are a lot of people who will be waiting for him to trip up, not least all the hugely qualified people he no doubt beat to get the job. Sunday newspapers provide huge challenges to the journalists that work on them, not least to provide a big story, a potential front-page splash, every week. You’re only ever as good as last week’s story, which is immediately forgotten as the editor rings you every day to ask what you’ve got for next week. Grant knows this and I know he will rise to the challenge.
I know how proud Grant’s family are of what he has achieved. And so am I. I gave Grant his first break in London and I hope I have played a small part in helping him become who and what he is today. He remains the same person I first met in 2010. Success hasn’t changed him in any way and that’s testament to the grounding his parents gave him, back in Newport. He remains close to his friends and family back in Wales and goes back to visit them often. His Welshness is an integral part of him and although he might live and breathe the media and Westminster bubble, it doesn’t obsess him in the way it does for some people, whose lives it can take over in a very unhealthy way.
I wish Grant all the luck in the world in his new role for the Sunday Times and I know he’s going to be a huge success. I’ve never had kids, and never wanted to, but if I had ever had a son, and he turned out like Grant, I’d have been a very proud father indeed.