The Currie Club
Radio - Louis Barfe enjoys a late-night snack of politics and sex
After Kenneth Clarke's Jazz Greats series ended, I thought about other politicians who have turned to the wireless. Some fare better than others. Once in the 1980s, when Neil Kinnock was depping for Jimmy Young, a cruel producer forced him to play Honeybus's 1968 hit, "I Can't Let Maggie Go". As I listened, I was willing him to make an aside about his parliamentary nemesis, but as the record faded, he did nothing of the sort, and lost my respect for ever.
One of the few to get a regular gig is Edwina Currie, reinvented as a pundit and racy novelist. For a few years now, she has also been a sort of Brian Hayes-lite, with her own weekend show on BBC Radio 5 Live, called Late Night Currie.
Picking an edition at random, it proved, happily, to be all about politics and sex. For the first hour, the points for discussion were the situation in Israel, the EU summit in Barcelona and the vote in the House of Commons on hunting with hounds. The remainder of the programme was a phone-in about the relaxation of the rules regarding the morning-after pill and Tesco's decision to stock it.
Throughout the political segment, a panel of "experts" known as "Currie Clubbers" was on hand. One of these, Tessa Dunlop, took a neatly snide view of almost everything under discussion, which translated roughly as "Am I being controversial enough to get another booking?". A fellow clubber, the psychologist Brian Cheeseman, was far less decisive. Asked whether Tony Blair's foreign junkets were not causing him to lose touch at home, Cheeseman garbled that "you do almost get the feeling that is, in fact, exactly what is going on". This translated roughly as: "No idea, but please book me again."
As for Currie's own performance, she was rather stilted on the harder-edged stories, placing her emphases in all the wrong places. However, she is much better at dealing with the supposedly normal listeners who take over in the second half of the show.
Currie asked whether free access to the morning-after pill was sending out the wrong moral signals to kids. In turn, I wondered whether freephone access to a national radio programme - a perk she kept plugging, in an attempt to drum up business on what seemed to be a slow night - would attract the wrong sort of callers, who might be deterred from airing their dodgy views if they had to pay for the call. When the first caller turned out to be a Catholic priest, the crisis seemed to have been averted. You can't go wrong with a man of the cloth, I thought.
Actually, you can. His stridency made it clear that he thought he was auditioning for full club membership. It was not until he declared foolishly that he would be boycotting Tesco that Currie got her chance to silence him. "You might be in some difficulties there. Sainsbury's and Boots are joining in as well," she observed pertly, forcing the chap to contemplate the horror of starvation and Elastoplast shortages.
Mercifully, as phone-ins go, Late Night Currie is breezily entertaining, although it could be improved with a stricter membership policy at the Currie Club.
Late Night Currie is on Radio 5 Live, Saturdays and Sundays, 10pm-1am