What's worse than Ukip? Not enough kip...


I'm not sure why I agreed to go on the BBC World Service to be a guest on a show starting at 6.30am. I think that I partly just didn't register the early start when the offer came through, but also I have a deep love for the World Service that made it very difficult to say no.

As a child growing up in Lebanon, it would almost always be on in the background, a constant voice of reason and balance amid the chaos of the civil war there. Often we would find out who was shelling us, or what was going on down in Beirut, via the refined voice in London rather than any local source. Many friends and relatives dotted around the world listen to it, and this pleased me as I plonked myself down in the chair of the studio in BBC Gloucester. I was hungover and half asleep but tried to prepare myself to speak to the globe. It was a two-hour show in which the presenter meandered through every news story around, and then asked me to express an opinion.

It started OK; we talked about the Syrian crisis and I was able to use some of my experience of travelling around the country along with my role as an ambassador for Save the Children to talk about the appalling refugee crisis there. Then we moved on to a story about phobias, and I admitted to my crippling fear of spiders. So far, so good. But the programme rolled on and I soon longed to just say "Do you know what? I don't really have any opinion on this subject."

This, however is not an option when you are a guest on this kind of show, so I found myself talking while almost watching myself do it and wondering what on earth was going to come out of my mouth. I pretty much got away with it apart from when we were discussing the legalisation of the 11 million "illegal" people living in the US. All I was keen to do was not to sound like a Ukip type and I ended up proposing unlimited open borders, which even the presenter picked me up on. I then backtracked and refined my view and thanked the Lord I wasn't a politician.

The following day, I happened to see that Lily Allen was on Loose Women – a daytime television show in which a guest is plonked in the middle of four rather anodyne ladies. I sensed that Lily Allen might be a tad uncomfortable with the format but she behaved well and was not afraid to say, "I don't really have a view on this" when asked about whatever topic the Loose Women were tenuously debating. The Loose Women, however, were not having it, and poor Lily was bullied into giving an answer, whether she liked it or not.

This has spurred me on to be braver. I have promised myself that the next time I am invited on to a show as a talking head I shall answer every question with either "I have no idea" or "I don't really care." It'll probably be my last television appearance but what a gloriously nihilistic way to go out.

More importantly, it'll mean that my lie-ins are safe.

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