The week in radio

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The Independent Culture
ON MONDAY night Radio 5 broadcast Candidate for London, a live debate from County Hall between Labour's three potential London Mayoral candidates. Chaired by Andrew Neil, the programme opened with sound bites from the three hopefuls and promised the trio would be grilled by some of the the party activists whose votes will decide their fate.

Ken Livingstone must have been caught on the hop. "Every opinion poll for 18 months has shown I'm the candidate most likely to win it for Labour. In the same reason we ran Tony Blair for Prime Minister because he was the candidate most likely to win - it would be nice to win it." What? Nice try Ken, now let's take that again from the top.

Glenda Jackson was less than modest in her opening gambit. "Uniquely, I have an international image. There isn't a country in the world where my name is not known. I could open a lot of very important doors for London." Internationally known name eh? OK, let's try this: "Hugh Grant for Mayor". "Naomi Campbell for Mayor". "Adolf Hitler for Mayor". It doesn't do it for me.

Frank Dobson was much more self-effacing. "I want to take this once in a lifetime opportunity to pay back my debt to London and my fellow Londoners." Bless him, an honourable sentiment. I wonder how much he owes.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's Today programme (Radio 4) was a veritable joy. The lovely Sue McGregor interviewed Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen. No brat pack video artist Steve. After receiving the award (a nice fat cheque for twenty grand), he went off home to do some Hoovering, a little bit of dusting and changing nappies. (I can't imagine the other Steve McQueen doing that, can you?)

"So, you're a family man who has to make money to look after babies and that sort of thing?" asked Sue.

"I'm a happy amateur," replied Steve

Nervous laughter from Sue. An incomprehensible interview followed with Steve inarticulately explaining the meaning of his videos. Tricky explaining your art on radio at the best of times, but if you've been up all night changing nappies it must be nigh on impossible. Then Sue got down to the nitty gritty. What was he going to spend his prize money on?"Putting it together with some money to buy a house with a garden."

"Which your baby will enjoy too?" asked Sue. "Absolutely, that's the whole idea," said Steve. Oh, heaven. I haven't been this much in love since Antony Gormley was on Desert Island Discs.

They moved swiftly on to Northern Ireland.

John Kavanagh, the Today programme's political correspondent was asking various luminaries "How has Mr Mandelson been received and how important was his role in brokering the deal in its last stages?" Much praise was heaped on Mandy, and rightly so. But while Mo Mowlam was criticised for concentrating on the tactile rather than tactics, rumour has it that her successor isn't the icy Prince of Darkness he's reputed to be.

Kavanagh spoke to Monica McWilliams of the Women's Coalition. "He has a good sense of humour he's not the cold person by any means that's reflected in the press," cooed Monica. "But he doesn't hug people like Mo Mowlam did," said Kavanagh

"Actually, that's amazing that you say that. He does," responded Ms McWilliams.

"He's hugged you, has he?" asked an incredulous Kavanagh.

"He has actually stood in corridors and put his arm around members of the various parties."

"Including yourself?" Kavanagh persisted.

"Including myself and including others," replied Monica fondly.

"If you've been hugged by Mr Mandelson, let us know," Naughtie requested in the jolly tabloidese that now constitutes the Today programme.

Wow, Handy Mandy. A momentous week for Northern Ireland, a stupendous one for the rest of us.

By the way, Monica, forget it, babe. You don't stand a chance.