View From the Sofa: For a financial adviser, Denise Lewis was a brilliant athlete

Right on the Money Live, BBC 2

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I’m going for a world record later in the year: the fastest traverse of a 34-mile-long trail near where I live. Because thanks to Strava, the athletic tracking app, I have found a piece of the planet where, apparently, nobody has attempted to time themselves running. Get Guinness on the phone, the record is mine to snaffle.

I refuse to reveal the location of this trail (although it does appear on Ordnance Survey maps, so is a legitimate path) as I am fully aware that I am underqualified when it comes to distance running records. If anyone speedy ran the same trail, my dream of a record would evaporate like a puddle in summer. I know my limits. And I know what I am good at – finding places on a map where few people choose to run.

Sticking to what she was good at may have been a problem growing up for Denise Lewis: she ended up doing no fewer than seven different athletic disciplines in her successful attempt at winning an Olympic gold medal. But since hanging up her spikes (and javelin and shot) she has evolved into an insightful athletics pundit.

So it would obviously follow that she appeared on daytime television every day last week co-hosting, with Dominic Littlewood, a programme about saving money.

Littlewood is more than qualified – shows about rip-off Britain, scroungers or cowboy builders aren’t complete without the estuary-accented everyman as a host. But Lewis? She admitted herself very early in the five-show run that she may not be the best person for a programme on money advice.

Take Monday’s episode, which had a feature on whether pound shops offer value for money. “I have only been in a pound shop a handful of times,” she said. Cheers for the input, Denise.

Or on Tuesday, when the attention was turned to saving on utility bills. “I try to sit down and sort them out, but it is too much effort,” Lewis said. Then there was the piece on impulse buying: “I bought myself a dress once, a designer dress, and I only wore it once.” Denise Lewis, woman of the people.

Lewis’s former life was not mentioned once throughout the week. Although if Paula Radcliffe hosted a gardening show or Gary Lineker fronted golf (perish the thought) the subject of marathon world records or England goal tallies wouldn’t come up. Because gardening has as much to do with distance running as... well, heptathlons have to do with ISAs.

So why was Lewis on the show? Yes, she is a mum of three (as she reminded us more than once) who both earns and spends money, but those qualifications aren’t exactly unique.

Did she just happen to be stalking BBC Salford HQ at the right time? Or is this a new initiative, to justify the licence fee, giving staff wider remits across different departments? We will know if this is the case when John Humphrys hosts Match of the Day.

Whatever the reason, there is no avoiding the fact that Lewis’s expertise lies in athletics, not financial advice. Just as mine is in creating niche records to break.