Sue Lawley, this is your interviewing style

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The Independent Online
There has been criticism recently of the way Sue Lawley conducts conversations with her guests on Desert Island Discs, with some people thinking that she adopts too fierce a tone, and other people tending to agree with that. In order to give her a chance to defend herself, we now bring you this exclusive interview with Sue Lawley, conducted under strict Sue Lawley rules.

Sue Lawley, you were born on 14 July 1946. Did this come as a great shock to you?

Well, in what sense?

There you were, one moment, a happy little embryo in your mother's womb, the next moment dragged kicked and screaming into a world that no one had consulted you about.

And it was not the ideal world to be born into. Europe was war-torn and shattered. Rationing was rife, Britain was in debt and the Empire had gone. Things looked pretty grim.

Well ...

So, who did you blame? You must have felt outrage at being born into such a depressing world, so who did you think should take the responsibility? The government? The Americans? Or was it your parents?

No, I ...

Was there ever a time when you felt that one or both of your parents should have resigned over this?

Not particularly, because ...

Then came the 1950s, Sue Lawley. You went to school in Worcester. Then came the 1960s. You went to Bristol University. The 1950s were the era of Elvis Presley and the Angry Young Men. The 1960s saw the Beatles and the birth of the modern era. Yet all you did was go to school and university in the provinces somewhere between here and Wales. Not exactly an exciting way in which to pass two crucial decades, was it?

Well, at that age ...

At Bristol you studied modern languages. Some people would say that your subsequent career, in which you have publicly spoken nothing but English, was a betrayal of your university teachers' efforts to make you a polyglot - even worse, a waste of taxpayer's money.

Oh, I don't think ...

There was, I believe, more than one embarrassing incident at Bristol University involving you.

Well, if you are thinking ...

Then you emerged into the 1960s, a time when young people finally found themselves as a generation, and did their own thing, a time of Woodstock and the Rolling Stones and drugs and Indian gurus and sitars and the Oz trial!

However, you chose to celebrate this decade of freedom and individualism by taking a Thomson Newspapers graduate trainee scheme with the Western Mail in Cardiff, then going to BBC Plymouth as a junior reporter. Hardly a case of doing your own thing and letting it all hang out, some might say.

Yes, I suppose ...

You also got married, not once but twice. The fact that you got married a second time suggests very strongly that your first marriage was a failure.

Yes, it ...

You must have been devastated at the time.

What time?

So there you were, Sue Lawley, nearing 40 and apparently not making a go of it. You couldn't make up your mind about marriage, you couldn't make up your mind whether you were a journalist or broadcaster, an interviewer or reporter. Then out of the blue in 1988 you were offered Desert Island Discs. You must have thought: here's a cushy little billet!

Oh, no, I ...

Desert Island Discs had been created by Roy Plomley as a friendly haven where he and a guest would chat amiably about the guest's life and tastes and music. You, however, have turned it into something very different. You have tried to make it confrontational. If a politician comes on, for instance, you find it hard not to ask him when he first realised he would never be Prime Minister.

No, I don't think that's ...

You yourself have been known to refer to the programme as an interview or even a cross-questioning. It has now got the point where Roy Plomley's widow, Diana, has publicly expressed unease over the fierce style you have adopted. It must be very distressing for you to be disowned by her.

No, I ...

We now come to the Gordon Brown affair, over which many people felt that you should have resigned ...

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