Your career climbed fairly quickly. Tell me about the early days.
I started at a local paper, earning £39 a week. There were loads of youngsters working there, all competing for the same thing. I got lucky and landed a job writing showbiz news for the Sunday Mirror. It was a great way to get my foot in the door. I wrote pieces on Bucks Fizz, and interviewed Paul McCartney, which certainly got me noticed. I spent 12 and a half years working for Rupert Murdoch, across three different continents.
Did you notice a difference working in Australia and the USA, compared to the UK?
Australia is great fun, but the media is not a big industry out there. New York is a vibrant city, but news is done in a very different way – it’s much more domestic. Unless America is at war, they tend not to run foreign stories. British papers are the best and give a far better view of global news.
Is there anything you dislike about the UK media?
There’s a lot of control. Obviously you need legislation, but I would love to see something like Fox News in the UK, or a more left-wing newspaper. The TV industry in particular is extremely regulated – no one is allowed an opinion.
Have you ever had to censor yourself because of this?
Radio has been great for me, because my show is based around my opinion, which is why it works so well. I can say what I think. On TV I don’t have so much freedom.
You’ve worked alongside household names – who’s been the best to work with?
Gloria Hunniford was wonderful to work with. We first met doing a show for the BBC, since then she has become a real friend of mine, to the point that we regularly spend New Years together.
Who has been your most memorable interviewee?
I’ve found that my best interviews have been with the most high profile figures. Not only are they seasoned interviewees with many tales to tell, they’re always the most charming. My first interview with Paul McCartney, after John Lennon was murdered, got me lots of attention, and in some ways took my career to the next level. Lionel Richie was extremely charming and knew how to give you the perfect ‘line’ for your story. And I was lucky enough to interview David Bowie many times. He had a tremendous sense of humour and was a pleasure to be around.
You’ve had an extremely successful career. What would you say are the three characteristics that make a great journalist?
Inquisitiveness, perseverance and a sense of humour. The latter is particularly important if you’re working for a tabloid. I did a lot of door-stopping in the past. I’ve sat outside everyone’s house, from Princess Diana to criminals. Without a sense of humour, you’d go mad!
When did you realise you’d “made it”?
I still don’t think I have. The minute you think you’ve made it, it’s probably the end. I’ve been very fortunate in having moved to different levels of media, from local to national, to working abroad, to TV, to radio. I’ve not had a chance to become complacent. Complacency is the quickest way to lose everything you’ve achieved.
The three things that would make London a better place to live and work?
Get rid of the cycle lanes, take away speed bumps and create a beach by the riverbank to soak up the occasional burst of UK summer sun.
What do you look for in an accountant?
Honesty, ingenuity, professionalism and speed. Journalists are notorious for working right up to a deadline – we live our lives according to deadlines, and always leave stories to the last minute so we can get as much information as possible. Unfortunately, this also happens with my taxes! You can expect me to be doing them in the early hours of April 3rd, so I need an accountant who knows this and can work in this way.
What is the most important financial lesson you’ve learnt?
Finance is complicated. When people start talking about VCT, offset mortgages and the likes, it’s all jargon to me. If you don’t have a clue what your accountant is talking about – and why should you – ask. You’re not a money genius, so force them to explain in plain English. It’s important to understand what’s happening to your finances.
What’s the plan for the next few years? Do you think you’ll still be at LBC in five years’ time?
I’d love to say I’ll still be at LBC, but that lies in the hands of the bosses! I love broadcasting – it’s the second best job in the world, after being a dad.
And finally, what would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
Hopefully the highlight is still to come. I’m waiting for that story to come my way.