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« Plain packaging: those TV interviews | Main | Five Live reports "unbelievable reaction" to news of plain packaging legislation »

The longest day: speaking to the media on plain packaging

Well, that was a long day.

I finally got home at 9.00pm having set off from Cambridgeshire at 3.00 in the morning.

The BBC invited me on BBC Breakfast and I volunteered to go to Media City in Salford because experience has taught me it's (a) far better to be interviewed in person than down the line in a remote studio; and (b) it can lead to interviews with other BBC news programmes and radio stations because word gets round that you're there.

A slight complication was the fact that ITV's Good Morning Britain also wanted an interview – at 6.20am – so we came to an arrangement. GMB would send an outside broadcast unit to interview me in a car park in Media City but I had to be there at 6.00.

That meant getting up at 2.30 (I'd only gone to bed at 1.00!) and driving to Salford. En route I had the strange experience of hearing my voice on the hourly news bulletins on Five Live's Up All Night.

When I arrived (with minutes to spare) it was still dark and bitterly cold. Miked up I chatted with the cameraman and sound engineer who were friendly but very anti-smoking. One had worked in a pub and hated people smoking.

A third member of the team, another anti who was in the OB van listening to our conversation, felt so strongly about the issue he left his position and bounded over to take part. Talk about facing a firing squad!

As for the interview (with presenters Ben Shephard and Charlotte Hawkins) it was so cold I found it hard to think let alone speak but I stumbled through.

Anyway, after interviews with BBC Radio London (Penny Smith and Paul Ross) and BBC Radio Wales I found myself on the BBC Breakfast sofa talking to Charlie Stayt and Louise Minchin.

Unusually I was the sole interviewee but it turned out they had talked to a tobacco control campaigner earlier. And credit to the BBC Breakfast presenters, they are always fair and impartial.

After that I was whisked off to the BBC Radio Manchester studio to record an interview with a very down-to-earth Mike Sweeney who I liked a lot. You can listen to the interview here. It begins 11:55 minutes in.

Next up was the BBC News Channel. This time, instead of sitting in a studio, I had to perch on a high stool facing a remote camera with the BBC Manchester news team behind me.

I don't know who the presenter was (I couldn't see him) but he was quite aggressive. I gave as good as I got (I think) and quite enjoyed it! If I can get hold of a clip I'll post it later.

More local radio interviews followed before it was time to speak to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2.

I was now operating from a small dark soundproofed booth in reception. Also on the programme was Professor John Britton, a trustee of ASH and director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies.

The 'discussion' can be heard here. It starts 07:00 minutes in. I like being interviewed by Vine. He gives interviewees a fair crack of the whip. I've no proof but I sense he's also fairly libertarian at heart.

While all this was going on I was missing calls from quite a few local radio stations but the BBC was putting together a schedule and at 1.30, when I was contemplating driving home, I was sent a list:

1500 Nottingham rec
1508 Cumbria rec
1515 Cambridge rec
1522 York rec
1530 Lancashire rec
1538 WM rec
1545 Berkshire live
1552 Hereford & Worcs rec
1600 3 Counties Luton live
1608 Derby live
1615 Gloucestershire rec
1622 Bristol live
1638 Stoke live
1645 Shropshire live
1652 Wiltshire live


In the event two of those interviews didn't happen because a couple over-ran. In total though I think I did 22 radio and two TV interviews.

There was one final interview on the Mark Forrest Show, "bringing you the best of BBC Local Radio across England and the Channel Islands, 7-10pm on weeknights across 39 BBC stations". I did that at 7.15 from a motorway service station on the M6 toll road.

It was good to know that the IEA and Institute of Ideas were out there as well. I know Chris Snowdon did Five Live Breakfast and the Today programme. (You can listen to the latter here. It begins at 01:22:05.)

Good too to hear the tobacco industry speaking out. This morning Imperial Tobacco's Axel Gietz was on the Today programme. More please!

And finally … on Wednesday night I did my first ever interviews on Skype. I don't have the Skype app on any of my computers but my daughter has it on the desktop in her bedroom.

Sky News was the first to suggest using it and so I found myself in my 17-year-old daughter's bedroom hurriedly covering up the fairy lights and scatter cushions on the bed behind me.

Later, at midnight, I was forced to wake her up so I could another interview, this time for Good Morning Britain. In fact she was present throughout the interview, buried under the duvet and under strict instructions not to come out!

I don't know if GMB used any of it but I'm told my Skype interview did appear on Sunrise on Sky News. Goodness knows what it looked like.

Anyway, make that 22 radio interviews, three television appearances, two Skype interviews and several news bulletins.

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Reader Comments (5)

I don't know how you do it Simon. As I demonstrated yesterday, I am so badly disappointed by the political elite that I can no longer bring myself to be polite about them.

To bring this revolting piece of ideological nonsense before the house of commons is as far as I am concerned a cowardly , pointless betrayal of trust, and of British values. To use children to justify authoritarianism is unethical and rather pathetic. Andy Burnham seems to want to make such behaviour official Labour party policy and I am hearing precious little dissent from any other party.

The government that surrenders to the extremists and opens the floodgates for mandatory state controlled packaging of anything that the healthists choose not to like will long be remembered. Not very fondly by the majority but that no longer seems to be a priority.

Friday, January 23, 2015 at 18:47 | Unregistered CommenterChris Oakley

Chris, I agree completely. That's why I am seriously considering not voting Conservative at the general election even though I am a lifelong Conservative voter and never want to see another Labour government in my lifetime. However the lack of Conservative principle in this decision makes it very hard to vote for them.

Friday, January 23, 2015 at 20:27 | Registered CommenterSimon Clark

I have posted the following comment at a few media sites but they have seen fit to remove (censor) it. Nevertheless, it might interest readers here.

"Plain packs are ridiculous. They won't reduce smoking. In Australia (which is the model tobacco control advocates point to) the results are not as successful as claimed. The smoking rate was declining before the move to plain packages, cigarettes sales increased, youth smoking actually increased, and illicit tobacco smuggling and black market cigarette trade increased."

Friday, January 23, 2015 at 21:25 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Only considering voting Tory? In a similar way I had been a lifelong Labour supporter until 2007 and will never vote for them again. At the last GE, I did think of voting of Tory but after meeting my MP it became apparent that they were not going to be any different in respect of the persecution of smokers. I think you know what you have got to do and who to vote for!!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 11:58 | Unregistered CommenterGeoff

Me too Geoff.

I was lifelong Labour. I even walked my legs off back in the 90s to canvass for them. Then when they attacked me and socially excluded me from every single public place, while trying to deny me rights to healthcare, employment, fresh outdoor air, and housing too, I realised I needed to swap support and vote for a party that represented me and would not discriminate against me based on the type of legit consumer products I used.

I first rang the Lib Dems and asked them about their policy and was told in no uncertain terms that I was scum unworthy of any support. I then went to the Tories and was told they backed the persecution. So where else could I go? There was only UKIP left.

It is no coincidence that the UKIP vote - practically non existent in 2007 began to creep up after 2008/9 when smokers began to realise that the only way to ensure they had the same rights as other consumers in the UK was to vote for them and as UKIP is the only party that offers that fairness, then there is no one else to vote for.

Get wise smokers and begin to use the hashtag #WeSmokeWeVote until it begins to sink in with political parties that if they want to win elections they need us too.

Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 16:18 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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