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30 June 2021

Anne Robinson Q&A: “I come from a long line of wild, alcoholic wolves“

The Weakest Link and Countdown presenter discusses her Irish family, Margaret Thatcher and her earlier career as a newspaper journalist.

By New Statesman

Anne Robinson was born in Lancashire in 1944 and in 1967 was the first young female trainee at the Daily Mail. She has since presented TV programmes including “Points of View” and “The Weakest Link”.

What’s your earliest memory?

My father capsizing our boat in the lake at Lytham St Annes when I was two. My mother, who was very much of the Harvey Nichols tendency, didn’t speak to him for days.

Who are your heroes?

As a child, Jacqueline Forster (née Mackenzie), who was an actress, then went on to be a superb television presenter. Her coverage of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly’s wedding won her the Prix d’Italia. She not only set the scene, but as a gifted mimic could take off all the people she encountered. I wanted to be her. 

What book last changed your thinking?

Recently, I was given a copy of Time to Think by Nancy Kline. It makes a convincing case for allowing a junior member of a team uninterrupted time to have their say, and for you to give their contribution your full attention. I’m notoriously impatient and Kline has taught me a worthwhile lesson.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Michael Foot, briefly and unsuccessfully leader of the Labour Party but so much more. An intellectual, a superb writer, a famous orator. 

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Margaret Thatcher. As a Daily Mirror columnist, I covered her three elections. I went with her to China on her first visit as prime minister, when she battled fruitlessly to achieve any meaningful deal for the citizens of Hong Kong after the island was to be handed to the Chinese in 1997. We are now seeing the consequences. 

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The reign of Elizabeth I, for the frocks.

What TV show could you not live without?

Location, Location, Location.

Who would paint your portrait?

Lorna May Wadsworth. If you see her portrait of Margaret Thatcher, you’ll know why. 

What’s your theme tune?

Well, obviously “Mrs Robinson”.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

There are no victims, only volunteers. I’ve done my best to bear it in mind.

What’s currently bugging you?

Matt Hancock. 

What single thing would make your life better?

More people loving, admiring and respecting me as much as Hattie, my spaniel.

When were you happiest?

I come from a long line of wild, Irish, Catholic, alcoholic wolves, so “happiest” descends and disappears on a daily basis.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I’m not convinced that any job would be as magnificent as being a newspaper journalist was in my time. It trained me to deal with the unexpected, to act with speed and to write with precision. But a barrister, teacher or actor would do as second best. They’re all suitable for a show-off. 

Are we all doomed?

I’m not. But whoever at the New Statesman thought up this pointless question is.

Anne Robinson hosts “Countdown”, every weekday at 2.10pm on Channel 4