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All alone in my own BBC studio

Posted on 3 June 2010 | 2:06pm

OMG, as the yoof says, if they (the BBC top brass of course) could see me now .. all alone in a BBC studio, sitting at a BBC computer, eating a BBC tuna melt. They’re very trusting these BBC people — I reckon if I twiddled enough of the hundreds of knobs in the vicinity, I could get on air somewhere.

Not that I want to. My voice is starting to go a bit already, having done breakfast telly and then 19 local and regional radio interviews, all in the interests of publicicing a book which, if my twitter friends are anything to go by, is not in all the right places yet and has already sold out on Amazon …. Grrrrrr, market economics my foot!.

These mass interviews are organised by something called BBC GNS, and it works like this – you (or in this case the publisher) tell GNS that you’re available on such and such a date between x and y o’clock. They send out an advisory to the dozens of local stations who come back to say if they want you or not. Then you pitch up in the studio and a nice man called Pete links you up one by one to all the stations who got through first.

It’s amazing what you learn along the way … I didn’t know Anne Diamond was on Radio Berkshire. What’s more, she sounded like she had read the book (the same could be said for some though not all — and I can always tell when they’re busking it, no names no packdrill.)

Great to hear Ed Doolan on Radio WM still going strong. He asked me to go back on for a full hour in the studio. Happy to. Ed is something of a Midlands institution, and he also – I don’t know if I ever told him this – was one of TB’s favourite interviewers.

Fred Macauley at Radio Scotland is one of mine – I’ve probably just ruined a career there. He has a lovely languid style, and manages to ask needling questions without making you feel needled. Down at the other end of the country, Radio Cornwall was ruined by the admission of the producer that she was a Blackburn fan, and she couldn’t resist taunting me about Burnley’s relegation and Rovers’ double over us. On air … I wonder if I can get into BBC personnel on this computer?

Most of the interviews focused on fairly obvious questions – why now, what’s new, TB-GB, what do I think of the coalition, Question Time row, etc – but I was surprised just how many mentioned Adam Boulton’s on-air meltdown when he and I were talking to Jeremy Thompson a few weeks back.

One of them, I can’t remember which, said something to the effect that ‘everyone’ was aware of it … but that can’t be right. Not many will have seen it live I wouldn’t have thought. For obvious reasons I don’t think Sky have shown it since. I’m not sure it made the Beeb or ITV, though it has been replayed to me once or twice in interviews since. And though it has been a bit of a hit on YouTube, I think we are still talking hundreds of thousands rather than millions.

One of the themes of my interviews, and indeed the book, is that I became a controversial figure in part because I was the one dealing with the media for TB at a time the media age became a reality, and with it the media became obsessed with itself, so that writing and talking about me the whole time was a way of discussing themselves. The focus on the Boulton spat is part of that really.

On Breakfast Time this morning, in the light of Boulton apparently apologising, or at least expressing regret for his meltdown, I was asked if I would like to say something similar. Like what? LIke I apologise for being there when big Adam loses the plot? What an odd question.

I did enjoy Bernie at BBC Northampton – first because he said he loved my novel, All In The Mind, but second because he said he was the founder of ‘slap-a-journo-for-Christmas’. An entertainer by trade, he said he really didn’t like what modern journalism had become. I ended up having to defend the media! I must be going native. Time to finish the tuna melt, get out of there, and get home.

But first, and finally for today, I have a meeting with Richard Bacon on Five Live. I’ve not seen him since election night, when he interviewed me at Labour HQ, just before I had an on-air spat with …. oh no …. Adam Boulton …

Anything could happen now …

*** Buy The Blair Years and raise cash for Labour

As for Prelude to Power, go to Amazon if you like. I’ve stopped looking, because I’m worried my temper won’t take the ‘temporarily out of stock’ sign that was there every time I looked yesterday. Waterstone’s shoppers continue to let me know if you can’t find. Have been assured gremlins are sorted.

  • Simon

    Out of stock is good. ‘Artificial scarcity’. It makes us want the book all the more…

  • Jayne.

    Ah, the Boulton spat made the Beeb. It was used as a question on ‘have I got news for you’ and they slowed the clip. I’ve seen that episode repeated already too.

  • Stray

    If you look across the spread of clips of it, I think the Boulton-craziness has had about 1.5 million views on YouTube.

    That’s probably tantamount to ‘everyone’ in media terms – after all, only people directly connected with the media and their immediate friends and family actually count 😉

  • Graham Jones

    You underestimate the interest that the Adam Boulton scenario has generated. It was featured on HIGNFY a couple of weeks ago. Ian Hislop accused you of trying to shut down the BBC, which I don’t think is quite true. You certainly went to war with them, but there was never a sense the BBC were under threat. They’re too big for that. Everyone criticises the BBC from time to time, but the country would balk at the thought of the BBC disappearing.
    During the election, the best interviews, and indeed the best debate was at the BBC, and at the next election it will be the same. We need them.

  • Dan

    Another good post, the night waves interview was very good, a long way from the soundbite culture we are currently enduring. I blame you and Lord Ashcroft for re-politicising me, and I only came to your site to see how like Malcolm Tucker you were: (he’s funnier, you’re far more likeable).

  • Em

    I’m learning a lot too…no Burnley teasing? Really? You mean, not at all? Seriously?

    You are underestimating your moment with Boulton, it made the news across the Atlantic.

    I saw the Breakfast Time interview. The pinafore lady is very pretty but every question she asked was painfully predictable. Except when she asked about an apology to Boulton. Was that meant to be a provocative question? Sheesh…

    I can’t believe Amazon. They’re a WAREHOUSE. They can afford to take the risk of having excess copies of a brand new book.

    I’m wondering whether your publisher has a big enough first run and how hard they are working on the next ones. There are hundreds of political bloggers out there who didn’t get advance copies and who will write reviews in weeks to come.

    In my experience, summer sales can keep their momentum quite nicely. Word of mouth in the summer means customers don’t all buy books at the same time. They often wait just days before they are leaving for their holidays. This means sales don’t necessarily start dipping after the first week of a media blitz; they often maintain themselves week after week.

  • Amy


    I’m a yoof who is partway through The Blair Years and have just landed my first grown-up’s job in communications – thanks for providing quite a bit of inspiration, I look forward to the new book!

  • Nigel Standige

    Hi Alastair,
    Cast your mind back to Sat 27 Feb after the Pompey home game in the Hargreaves suite(tribute to Jimmy Mcilroy). You signed your book for me, fully paid up member I might add, and I was unable to take it with me as I was going “down town” Well anyhow, I am about to be made redundant and will have a little more time on my hands to read it! Mines the one with “To Nigel” written on the inside cover.
    Hope you can forward it on to me.
    All the best Nigel
    ps Dave Burnley can vouch for me!!!!

  • Anna

    I’m sure the Bolton spat was re-run several times on TV. We had BBC News 24 running pretty well 24/7 during the post-election stitch-up so I’m pretty sure that’s where I saw it.

    And I watch it on youtube when I want a laugh.

  • Matt

    The Adam Boulton spat was recorded by a member of the public and pasted all over YouTube and Twitter when it happened and even trended for quite a few days. Do not underestimate the power of social-networking, Alastair.

  • Salmondnet

    We pay the BBC licence fees totalling around £4 Billion in order that it should be free of adverising, yet it provides you with free adverising to sell your wretched books – presumably, just so they can fill some dead air (well it couldn.t be because they sympathise with you politically, that would be unthinkable ……….wouldn’t it?).

    Another excellent reason for privatising the Corporation.

  • Ben Taylor

    I watched the Adam Boulton spat on youtube and i’m sure its just something that he had been wanting to do for years and saw it as his chance. you didn’t say anything that warranted such a bitter outburst so i’m sure thats what it was. it was a ‘you can’t talk to me like this anymore’ hissy fit. before he started shouting his body was rocking like a drunked pikey on his way back from the chip shop, he was just waiting for you to say anything at all to jump down your throat. certainly sour grapes with a ‘we’re in now’ look in his eyes! quite uppity for a feller who looks like a reflection in a funhouse mirror!!

  • Tim

    Unrelated to your blog post but I’ve just read Harriet Harman’s idea that half the shadow cabinet should be women under a quota system. Horrible idea. If a woman can do a job, give it to her. If she can’t, don’t do so because of her sex.

    Labour’s all female shortlists gave us some very average performers in 1997, plus the horrendous Helen Clark (Brinton as was) here in Peterborough.

    Give someone a job on merit.

  • Alan Quinn

    You were honoured the other day on Steve Wrights show, you must have got nearly 20 mins on air, normally he only interviews for 10 mins.

  • Jock Menzies

    By the way, did anyone read Jenni Russell’s piece in the Guardian complaining of the media’s treatment of the coalition? Very revealing. Not a word of criticism from the paper over the past two years about the relentless propaganda offensive against Gordon Brown and the Labour Party.

  • Robert Jackson

    Ed Doolan certainly is a Midlands Institution.

    He was broadcasting his edgy consumer affairs stuff way back in the mid 1970’s under Harold Wilson.

    Then, though, he was on the opposition BRMB not the BBC and was one of their stars.

  • Brian Tomkinson

    Your narcissism is something to behold.

  • Nick

    Thought you handled that idiot on BBC Leeds very well. Alex Belfield is so annoying, and as you pointed out “not very good at this”.