The most interesting person I’ve ever interviewed is Nelson Mandela. I’ve interviewed him three times. He was incredible because only two or three people, perhaps, had interviewed him before me. He hadn’t become the way politicians are, with their glib way of dealing with questions. He actually answered the questions you asked, which is extremely rare in any interview.
My strangest news story was when I covered a siege in Ireland. A Dutch businessman was held in a council house by two IRA Bonnie and Clyde types – Marion Coyle and Eddie Gallagher. We were sitting in a field opposite this building, and occasionally a policeman would attempt to scale the building up a ladder. One of them went up the ladder and his finger was shot off by one of those miscreants. It’s one of those things that you feel would have lasted five minutes if somebody had dealt with it rather better.
The weirdest thing I’ve ever done? I don’t really know. I’m weird enough myself without covering any weird stories.
I do watercolours. That’s weird, isn’t it?
What would be your choice of superpower? God, that’s a big question. I think to have the capacity to feed the world.
My favourite tie and sock combination? I’m pretty keen on turquoise. Turquoise is good. Yellow doesn’t really work well on telly, but I’m keen on yellow.
I once sat on a whoopee cushion on air that somebody had put in the studio. But my most embarrassing moment was having to interview somebody without actually knowing who he was. That can be problematic. I didn’t know what his name was, or indeed why I was interviewing him, so I was trying to find out who he was during the interview. “It was good of you to join us. Tell me, how do you feel about all this?” “All what?” “Well the way things have turned out.” “Well how have things have turned out?” et cetera.
Guests I would have at a dinner party? Lena Dunham, Silvio Berlusconi and Claudia Winkleman.
I cried at 12 Years A Slave. It’s one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen. I cry a lot, I think one should.
As a child, I wanted to be a Conservative MP. I met Macmillan when I was six, and I thought, “Gosh, to get a car like that!” – he had a Humber Super Snipe. “And to live in a house like that!” – he lived in a very large house in a village. “I think I would like to be a Tory MP!”
A song that summarises myself in one song title? ‘Ain’t Nothin But A Hound Dog’, by Elvis Presley.
With thanks to York Union for arranging this interview.