Monday, 5 April 2010


"Of all the people I know,” one of my friends said, “it had to be you. And it had to be on the front page of the paper that everyone reads.”

She obviously wasn’t as shocked as me when I was woken up by a text at 07:54 from another friend, saying: “Seen your face this morning on front page of the Metro.” At this point I promptly got up, ran downstairs to ask my mum - who was just about to drive my brother to school - to pick up a dozen copies from Leigh-on-Sea train station. I then phoned my dad, who was on the train to London, and told him to look again at the front-page of his paper to see if I was on it. There was a slight pause, after which he said: “Yes, you are”. I asked him to pick up as many copies as he could as well. I also looked it up on the online edition: I had a feeling this was going to be a good day.

It has been quite an exciting week really, what with working at The Sunday Times, appearing on ITV News and Channel 4 News ten days ago, BBC Radio Four last Friday and Metro on Wednesday. Lots of people have asked me to explain how I ended up on the front-page of a national newspaper sharing a joke with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, so I thought I’d share the story with you on my blog.

It all started when I saw a competition advertised in the Metro on Friday 26 March where you had to email in your details for the chance to be in a Question and Answer session with 40 people and Gordon Brown the following Tuesday. I knew I was free that day and didn’t think too many people would enter, so went for it. On the Sunday afternoon, I received an email saying: “You have been picked to meet the Prime Minister at a central London location on Tuesday. The event will last from 4pm till 6pm. You will be send [sic] the location of the event on Tuesday morning.” Sounded like the script of a Bond film.

I then got a call and email on Tuesday at midday, saying: “Meeting is at 10 Downing St. Please arrive 4-4.15pm.” Now this was pretty exciting in itself. I’d only ever been to 10 Downing Street once before when I was working at Five News (part of Sky News) in September 2008, and didn’t actually go past the front door - I was in the press area outside. Anyway, I set off for Westminster not really knowing what to expect, and had two questions prepared for Mr Brown - one on whether public money should be spent on supporting local media; and another on the importance of visual marketing in election campaigns.

When I arrived, I was early and it was pouring with rain. I had to wait outside the door for a while under my umbrella until it was time to go in, and then we were escorted through the lobby area, leaving our mobile phones and coats behind. We were then taken upstairs into a reception room where drinks and refreshments were served, and I got to meet the other lucky winners. There were a few students there like me and we got chatting about what to expect, and trying to identify the paintings of the various historical figures around the room. I didn't do that well.

Just before 5pm, we were escorted into another room where chairs were already laid out, and told by Metro’s political editor John Higginson that the Prime Minister would be arriving in five minutes. As we waited, there was a sort of quiet tension that seemed to filter across the room, and then in the distance I heard that familiar Scottish voice. In walked Gordon Brown, and he went right around the whole room to shake the hand of everybody there. As he came round to shake my hand, I could hear the Metro photographer, Gretel Ensignia, flashing her camera wildly, so made sure I put on a nice big smile! More about my appearance in the paper later, but lots of people have asked me just what the Prime Minister said that made me laugh so much. Here is the transcript of the chat he was having with the girl behind me (in the bottom right-hand corner of the front-page photograph above):

PM: “It’s good to see you - it’s very nice to meet you. What do you think of this place then?”
Girl: “It’s lovely - it’s not like my house!”
PM: “There’s three parts to it - one is the rooms for official functions like this, secondly there’s a flat to stay in and thirdly there’s about 200 people working here, so it’s the three things in one. When you’re outside the front-door it looks quite small, but when you’re inside there‘s a lot of people working in the basement. You might see my kids running in to save me during this interview!”

What a joker. I had said to the other people present that the main thing I was interested in getting from the day was seeing what the Prime Minister was actually like. There is only so much you can tell from his appearances on television and radio, but he presented himself to us as a very charming man and interested about the individual person. There are those who will say he should do this as he is a politician after all, but he came across as very genuine to me. Regardless of political views, the Prime Minister is the most important person in this country (maybe after Simon Cowell), and it was a fantastic experience to meet him in person. I won’t go into much of what he said during the Q&A session, as you can read more about it in the Metro ( Talking of which...

I have appeared in national newspapers a few times in the past. One was in 2005, when The Times ran a page three feature on Marble Arch, and I was standing underneath it with my family when a photograph was taken (here is the article, but no picture I’m afraid: and I also had a letter in The Guardian in 2008 ( I’ve also produced and researched pieces for The People, Daily Mail and The Sunday Times.

But none of these were anything near getting myself on the front-page of Metro newspaper - read by around 3.5million people every day! It was great on Wednesday to hear from so many people I haven’t spoken to in ages, who happened to see it on their way to work and contacted me about the picture. Over 100 people did so in total, so Thursday felt somewhat like my birthday! Some of my favourite comments included:

- “I always said you'd be hanging with the celebs - I just didn't know it would be so soon!"
- "My bleary-eyed commute was made much more confusing by you staring back at me."
- "Had you just told him the one about the man on the bus with the glass eye?"
- "You know you have done it when you are on the front page of Metro!"
- "I love how you are admiring him and gazing into his eyes!"

Everyone has their moment of fame and it was quite something to see myself on the front-page of a national newspaper. It was also good to visit 10 Downing Street and meet the Prime Minister. But what was really great about the whole thing was how I received so many messages from friends and relatives who found it just about as hilarious and surprising as I did!