What can I say about BBC Radio 2 except that I am the luckiest person alive to have two hours every day to discuss the news with ― well, with you.
The Jeremy Vine Show does crazy stuff, it does serious stuff. We had Gordon Brown in the studio in 2010 and it felt like it turned the general election.
Then in 2015 it was Ed Miliband’s moment and I was handed this piece of paper to attach to the end of the brief, which told me, as you can see, to ask Miliband about his popularity rating of “minus 18” and then a phenomenon called Milifandom: where young women were deluging social media sites with comments about how sexy the Labour leader was.
I read some to him.
“Aisha says ‘I love Ed Miliband so much it is painful,’ and Mel says she is ‘hinting, desiring, wanting’ you after sending her friends the image of a life-size Miliband cutout. You were also mobbed by a hen party while campaigning. What is your response, Mr Miliband?”
I can tell you, this is one of the strangest questions I have ever asked a politician.
Miliband must have felt the same, because he went, kind of, “Errrrrrr.”
My mind flashed the thought: oh, this really is the best job.
Because there are moments of profound seriousness too. When we discussed the prosecution of the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, Henry Ferster joined us from our Manchester studio. To my astonishment it turned out this was his first ever interview.
Henry, known to his friends as Chaim, brought a piece of paper to make sure he forgot nothing. He wanted to speak about being a Jew in Auschwitz, and how the bookkeeper, despite his age, should be punished.
But before we even started to talk, Henry was crying. I introduced him and I simply heard weeping down the line. I won’t ever forget that sound.
So, if you ask me the one word that defines my show, it is the word
When I worked on high-and-mighty programmes like Newsnight, we had an editorial meeting where we decided what the stories were. People working on that show were as sharp as tacks and they seemed to know. But on Radio 2 we simply throw open the windows and you tell us what’s going on. The presenter doesn’t dictate the news to the audience; the audience dictate it to us. Isn’t that the right way round?
It gives us a little wariness where experts are concerned (or, as I find myself calling them in moments of exasperation, socalledexperts). I see news programmes all the time where a guest seems to have been booked on aston-power: the ‘aston’ being the TV term for the caption that runs underneath them as they speak. The longer the title, the more important the speaker ― right? But hang on, I ask myself, why interview a Professor of Parenting instead of a mum of five? Isn’t an expert in ladders someone who’s fallen off one? Can’t the chief of a remote African village who has never seen a microphone before be just as interesting as a cabinet minister in Westminster? Could we even add the really subversive thought: Could he be more interesting?
We could debate all of that. Maybe the listener-first approach leads us into too much storytelling by anecdote. Maybe it prizes first-hand experience over academic knowledge and context. Perhaps it wouldn’t be right for Newsnight. But it feels perfect for Radio 2.
And we really do cover everything. All human life is here; plant life too. During a discussion about the dangers of certain poisonous flowers last week I noticed our website seemed to be giving me a new title:
A little unfortunate, but a small price to pay for having my staff pass work the Radio 2 turnstile. Say we made a list of the five greatest pop broadcasters in this country since the invention of the microphone? I would say the chart-topper ― Britain’s greatest DJ ever ― would be Kenny Everett. Number two, John Peel. The other three, in no particular order: Terry Wogan, Chris Evans, Steve Wright.
So three of our All-Time Top Five are still alive. And those three all produce versions of the same BBC pass and walk through the same turnstile that I use in the morning, and do shows here on Radio 2 where they use the same chair as me and the same water cooler.
That’s what I call a great job. Sharing a water cooler with Wogan.
But I am only here because you tune in. So thank-you.
Click to listen again to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2