I’d been president of Manchester University Students’ Union. And in the course of that job, I bumped into a chap called Norman Quick, who ran a big Ford car business in the north west. And he’d been made a director of the soon to go on air commercial radio station, Piccadilly Radio. And he said to me, “What are you doing?” He was of a Conservative persuasion, I think you could say about Norman. “What are you going to do when you stop all this student union politics nonsense?” And I said, “Well, I see you’re a director of this radio station, and I’d quite like to go on the radio, and report on news and politics and stuff like that.”
Anyway, I got a job at Piccadilly Radio, but initially it wasn’t broadcasting because we weren’t on the air. This was the creation of commercial radio; up to that point the BBC had a complete monopoly on radio. I worked for the managing director during the winter of 1973/4, and then I got a chance to broadcast, and this goes to the sort of era which perhaps a lot of people wouldn’t fully appreciate now. There was a more ad hoc approach to getting jobs in broadcasting, whether it be television or radio at that time, and you could, through the route that I’ve just described, actually get a start. I hadn’t professionally trained as a journalist and I was given this chance to go on air. And it was a great opportunity in the late 1970s to do that, because the radio station had to do quite a lot of news and current affairs in those days. And I got a chance to report on Manchester City Council and all that sort of thing.
Then I went down to London, and for two years worked as a lobby correspondent with Independent Radio News with Peter Allen, who went on to be, for a short while, political editor at Granada actually.
Then I went back to Piccadilly Radio in a more senior position, and at that time began to really focus on trying to get into Granada and made a number of applications, and wasn’t successful. I then tried to get in at Yorkshire to work for Calendar, which was their regional political programme. Eventually in the spring of 1987, I managed to drop on Granada Reports. I mean, there was a sort of recognition that I had some expertise in politics and that sort of thing, Julie Hall I think was the political editor at the time. So I began in April ’87, and Mike Spencer, my dear friend, was my mentor, because immediately we’re into the ‘87 general election, Mrs Thatcher’s last successful election. So I was sort of plunged in the deep end, working out of Quay Street initially.
Julie Hall was the political correspondent/editor at the time, and of course she then went on to work for Neil Kinnock in the ‘92 election. And when she left, I became political editor.