Saturday, 24 July 2021

I was first TV journalist to interview Ed Miliband

IT seems so long ago now, but less than two weeks ago a man called

IT seems so long ago now, but less than two weeks ago a man called Ed Miliband thought he might be prime minister and a lot of the country agreed with him.

So anything that he did and had done was of interest, including his first ever brush with the media in 1991 when he was a student at Oxford University.

Miliband was briefly interviewed leading a rent protest outside his college and the story was splashed all over the newspapers and was reported by ITV.

What is less well known is that it was Henley Standard drama critic and occasional contributor Mike Rowbottom, from Stoke Row, who first put the future Labour leader on screen.

In those days Oxford was covered by Central TV News for whom Mike then worked.

He recalls that it was a slow news day so he went with a cameraman to the university demonstration and spoke to a few of the protestors.

He says: “I remember the story but not for the fact that I interviewed Ed. I had no idea it was him until some old colleagues from Central contacted me to tell me that ITV Meridian had dug it out of the archive and were going to play it to Ed in a live interview.

“I was out of the country when it went out but one of my presenter friends, Anne Dawson, now a senior academic at the University of Gloucester, posted it on Facebook and I was able to watch it while toasting in the Mediterranean sun.

“I probably gave him an easy time, there was no need for anything else. Sometimes we were all over politicians in Paxman-style interviews but Ed was still a student.”

Mike adds: “What I always liked about covering Oxford was that we rarely came across the contempt for the media that other student bodies had.

“It was probably that they were too bright to be bothered by it.

“Anyway, a great many of them were probably expecting to wind up in TV so there was no point in making enemies.”

In the interests of balance, I should point out that Mike was also at the Witney count in June 2001 when David Cameron was first elected.

Mike says: “He was hardly going to lose â?? it’s almost as safe a Tory seat as Henley â?? but there was an air of misery about because his party was being walloped by Tony Blair.

“I was in a bit of a bind because Mr Cameron was still on the board of my employer, Carlton TV... should I give him a hard time or an easy ride? I opted for the tough line and he took it very well.”

Mike adds: “We don’t see him at our occasional company reunions.”

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