Michael Vestey

Poetic valediction

It is with great sadness that we heard of the sudden death of Michael Vestey on Friday. For more than ten years, he had been The Spectator’s radio critic — indeed the first and only one. His column was perceptive, authoritative, witty, sometimes caustic and opinionated, but always immensely readable. We asked him to file

About turn

It must be a nightmare when you spend weeks making a current-affairs programme only to find that days before it’s broadcast the subject you’ve been exploring is turned upside-down. That’s what happened to Radio Four’s Inside Money, the sister programme to the excellent Money Box, almost a fortnight ago (Saturday, repeated Monday last week). The

Personal rapport

What really goes on between world leaders at summits? Sir Christopher Meyer, former press secretary to John Major and later ambassador to Washington, told us in How to Succeed at Summits (Sundays, repeated Wednesdays), an entertaining two-part series on Radio Four. Meyer told us that, for example, when President Bush made a jokey reference to

The good things in life

Listening to The Archive Hour: Down Your Way Revisited on Radio Four (Saturday) made me wonder why the network got rid of the programme in 1995. It had been running since 1946, with a simple formula of interviews and music, the idea of a producer called Leslie Perowne. It visited towns and villages across the

American beauty

Listing page content here Although I don’t buy it often, I’ve always liked the New Yorker magazine, not only for its good writing but also for the humour. The cartoons are consistently sharp and amusing and the owners have cleverly marketed them as greeting cards, as The Spectator did recently.     The magazine has somehow survived

Office politics

The slot at the end of The Westminster Hour on Sunday evenings (repeated Wednesdays) is rarely dull and often quite informative. The last two maintained the consistency — the first, ‘The Gentleman Usher’, had an interview with a former Black Rod, Sir Edward Jones, explaining the nature of his work; and last Sunday’s, ‘The Lloyd

Honest John

Although writing a biography of John Osborne can’t be the most difficult task as Osborne left voluminous and laceratingly honest diaries Although writing a biography of John Osborne can’t be the most difficult task as Osborne left voluminous and laceratingly honest diaries, as well as the two volumes of autobiography, I thought John Heilpern’s new

Honours and rebels

With the government and the opposition flogging peerages to raise money for party funds, Radio Four decided to look back at the 1920s master of this practice, the former Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George, and J. Arthur Maundy Gregory, the crook he used to negotiate prices (The Man Who Sold Peerages, Easter Saturday). Matthew

The murky side of Murano

This is Donna Leon’s 15th Commissario Guido Brunetti novel set in Venice and once again the author succeeds in capturing the light and shade of a city that has plenty of both. As in this edition she even provides maps, including the island of Murano, so that the reader can follow the detective’s various per-

House proud

Since I first became aware of it, I’ve always loved Broadcasting House in Portland Place. The first time I started work there I had to sit in a café down the road and gaze up at its magnificent white Portland stone art deco fa

Fighting talk

Radio Four listeners have been complaining about the John Humphrys ‘interview’ with David Cameron on Today a fortnight or so ago. So they must have been even more irritated to hear the programme’s deputy editor, Gavin Allen, defending the encounter on Feedback last week (Friday, repeated Sunday), even going so far as to describe it

Sobering thoughts

The astonishing removal of Charles Kennedy for having been a heavy drinker confirmed my long-held belief that the Liberal Democrats are by far the nastiest and most ruthless bunch of all. It was frustrating to see gullible people regarding them as the nice party when I knew differently. Their dirty tricks in election campaigns are

Abuse and censorship

The distaste for torture and abuse of prisoners or detainees has never been shared by everyone in this country, though on the whole we’re better than those in many other countries. We have our own sadists who somehow end up in charge of others as well as those who, under pressure to provide results, overstep

Mercy killing

The good end-of-year news was that Home Truths on Radio Four (Saturdays) is to be taken off the air in the spring. Unfortunately, it seems likely to be replaced by something similar. The new show, says Mark Damazer, the network controller, ‘will continue to feature the sometimes extraordinary experiences of its listeners’. Damazer explained that

Anything goes

Concern for the English language is one thing but diehard pedantry is another. It seems that Stephen Fry has started shouting at the radio when Radio Four listeners write to or email Feedback to complain about grammatical errors and solecisms they’ve heard on the network. There are certainly more mistakes than there used to be,

Schoolboy favourites

I suppose if I had to name my favourite children’s author it would have to be Richmal Crompton and the William stories, followed not far behind by Anthony Buckeridge and Jennings, and Enid Blyton with the adventures of the famous five. There are numerous others, of course, but I enjoyed reading these three the most

Digital watch | 22 October 2005

As we’ve seen in the past week, the full cost of providing services that no one asked for, digital radio and television, will fall on the licence-fee payer, with the BBC demanding annual increases of 2.5 per cent above inflation. It wasn’t entirely obvious in the early days of digital promotion that this was something

Bush bashing

America, more than any other country I can think of, encourages such extreme opinions that it’s sometimes difficult to analyse why such views are held. There are rigid anti-Americans, of course, who variously dislike its capitalist and free-market system, its silent majority’s lack of sophistication, or its military and technological might. Much of this is

A victory and a sell-out

News of England’s Ashes victory spread rapidly though Cortona’s ancient streets last Monday evening, as those with satellite TV rang the mobile phones of friends and families to pass on the momentous news. It was not, of course, Italians calling; Tuscans observed uncomprehendingly as the holidaying English roared at the result; and one resident Englishwoman

Royal scandal

The Document series on Radio Four is often an absorbing pursuit of information triggered by the discovery of one document which leads to another. The sleuthing involved can be revealing about an historic event and occasionally is of some importance. But not always, it seems to me. This week’s programme, A Right Royal Affair (Monday)