Hero or Villain? Robert Peston


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The Independent Online

Fiscal policy, eh? Phwoar! Triple-A ratings: they get the blood pumping, don't they? And don't even get us started on eurozone rescue-fund implementation...

So it's entirely understandable that Robert Peston, the prolix BBC business editor (formerly, full disclosure, City editor of this newspaper), became a little tongue-tied while discussing the implications of IMF head Christine Lagarde's pronouncements on the British economy on Radio 4's PM.

Though it was less her comments on the Government's plans to cut the deficit and more her apparently beguiling presence that got him all a-tizz. "She is one of the most charming politicians in the world," he casually threw in. "And in her sort of silken way..." he continued, at which point PM presenter Eddie Mair, with whom Peston has more than a bit of history, goaded him, "Are you smitten?"

Peston, ever the pro, responded, "I have to say I've met her a few times and she's a very seductive politician," before stumbling over his words and asking for a glass of water. While we're certain he meant "seductive" in a so-clever-you-can't-help-but-listen rather than a bunga-bunga way, it's an interesting adjective to use for a married man. Interesting, and applaudable. Why? Because while, on more than the odd occasion, Radio 4 presenters can come across as meatily intellectual robots, Peston is only human, and if he can't help but ogle Lagarde's big intellect – well, so be it.

It's the same human side he shows when liberally peppering his stories with his catchphrase, "As I exclusively revealed" – and who doesn't indulge in a bit of one-upmanship? When not letting anyone else get a word in – he just wants to make sure the public don't miss out on his exclusives. When denying dyeing his suspiciously dark hair – it wouldn't do to be too obviously vain. When he is accused of being too "close" to News International honcho and near-neighbour Will Lewis – but who wouldn't want to live in lovely, tree-lined Muswell Hill? Or when his wife, the writer Sian Busby, can be heard calling out "Bye" while he's being interviewed on air, thereby giving the game away that sometimes he gabs on about Mervyn King from home – most likely in his pyjamas. Because which of us doesn't dream about a quicker commute?

There you go, then: any snide comments are just envy. Really, we all want to be Robert Peston.