David Banks: Ferrari is definitely up to speed with Natalie Bennett

Journal columnist David Banks on his radio days with presenter Nick Ferrari - the interviewer in Green Party leader Natalie Bennett's on-air disaster

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett

In all the brouhaha surrounding the Green Party leader’s disastrous ‘brain fade’ radio performance this week, one key character has been largely overlooked: the LBC interviewer who tongue-tied poor Natalie Bennett.

He’s a slick presenter is Nick Ferrari, and I should know: we spent several years partner-presenting a number of radio shows on Talk Radio (later Talk Sport) and LBC after I lured him away from the Daily Mirror – where he had worked under my editorship – to join me at the microphone.

Over a fun-filled four years we invented a raft of comic characters for live sketches we wrote and performed ourselves, campaigned for a variety of causes and carried out some big interviews, most notably a tense, exclusive sit-down with one of the teenagers accused – and initially acquitted – of murdering Londoner Stephen Lawrence.

Sadly for me, my illness ended our partnership (though not our friendship) while Nick went on to scoop several Sony Awards (British radio’s Oscars) as LBC’s outspoken ‘presenter provocateur’, nowadays indelibly linked with such groundbreaking regular political segments as ‘Call Clegg’, ‘Phone Farage’ and ‘Ask Boris’. And now, of course, ‘Bamboozle Bennett’!

In fairness to the Greens’ leader, a refreshing candour in admitting a failure to command her grasp of Green policies compared at least favourably to the week’s other political scapegoats, Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind, who blustered and obfuscated after falling for the Channel Four ‘Dispatches’ cash-for-access sting.

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s knack of extracting controversy from his high-profile interviewees makes him a must-listen for me now that LBC stands for ‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’ instead of the London Broadcasting Company, available even up here in Godzone via online, Freeview and the DAB radio network.

If you have politics like mine (and most of you don’t!) he’ll drive you mad. But he’ll make you laugh at the same time.

After all, he had a good teacher!

:: Talking of female politicians, The Byreman recalls a wonderful story about Britain’s first woman MP, Nancy Astor.

Apparently Lady Astor’s top brass naval escort, an admiral, blushed the colour of his Red Duster when she canvassed a rather rough area of Plymouth in 1919 and had one doorknock answered by a girl who explained that her mother wasn’t at home.

“But mum said if a lady came to the door with a sailor,” said the child, “I was to tell them they could use the upstairs room and leave five bob on the mantelpiece!”

:: Honestly, I don’t know why I’m bothering to make the trek to Potato Day in Kelso this Sunday.

What’s the good of turning up at Springwood Park to select from a hundred different varieties of chippers, mashers, bakers and salad tatties – even if they are a bargain 15 pence per tuber – when thanks to the constant vandalism of the NCC my wife/gardener is left with less and less garden in which to plant them?

NCC? No, not the county council (although their decision to direct timber lorries along the B road through our village is vandalism enough); I’m referring to ‘Northumberland’s careless carriers’, hulking great lorries which, when confronted by an oncoming vehicle of equal size, mount our unfenced front lawn and churn another two feet of billiard-smooth sward into mud tracks on the tarmac.

Watching our boundaries creep nearer and nearer our front doors my neighbour and I are beginning to feel like those Yorkshire folk who live beside the North Sea despite the certain knowledge that the cliffs to which their homes cling are crumbling away.

Build a wall, I was told; put up a fence or dig a moat! No good, I fear: the parish council warns that if any (trespassing!) motorist is harmed in collision with my property I may be held responsible.

So it’s a clear case of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.

I’ll be at Tattie Day on Sunday to buy my mixed bag of Shetland Black (they really are) and Pink Fir Apple (they’re really not!) and then home again to find somewhere to plant them.

In the tyre tracks on the tarmac, perhaps?



David Whetstone
Culture Editor
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