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Nigel Farage

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Real Politicians Love Cricket

Posted: 09/07/11 13:30

I always knew that there was something odd about Ed Miliband - it wasn't his voice, his clothes, or even his opinions. It was something indefinable. And now I know what it is, he turned down an invitation to appear on Test Match Special. It is the pinnacle of any English politician's life. And to my inner schoolboy's joy I was lucky enough to get an invitation a few weeks ago.

The week before was the normal run of a politicians' life: meetings, more meetings, the odd TV and radio slot, and a few interviews for the local papers. However, as the big day approached, this was eclipsed by my fixation on the long range weather forecast. And it wasn't looking good. Hampshire, it told me, (the test match against Sri Lanka was the very first full international to be played at The Rose Bowl, the beautiful new ground near Southampton) would be wet. I twittered my sarcastic frustration over our flaming June:

What fabulous June weather! Blast it: am on Test Match Special on the BBC tomorrow and want there to be some play!

But still a spot of rain never daunted an Englishman, if it did, we would be a timorous crew. So the next morning, with a feeling that I should be packing a thermos of tea and some cold bacon sarnies in tin foil I set off, giving thanks that the weather had finally turned.

Test Match Special is one of those broadcasting institutions that transcends its deliberate audience. Like the Shipping Forecast, its listenership is comprised by many who tune in chiefly not for its content, but that it gives the sense that all is right with the world. I know people with no interest in cricket at all who tune in to allow the hosts to soothe away summer troubles.

Waterloo Station was a delightful sight to behold. Hundreds of women dressed to the nines and heading for a days racing at Ascot. There were some wonderful sights but sadly not all of them good.

The train to Southampton was packed with fellow fans heading to the Test Match. A loud buzz of conversation regarding games past, and predictions as to what would happen as the day's cricket loomed large, dominated the carriage. It was then that the nerves began to creep in.

I am comfortable appearing on television and radio and I relish standing up in the European Parliament and lambasting the European Union. But this was Test Match Special. My God, was I about to make a complete fool of myself to an audience of cricket fanatics around the world?

Frantically I began to run through what to say. I can honestly say that I have never been so nervous.

When the train arrived at the station, we got off and queued to get on a fleet of buses to take us to The Rose Bowl. Spirits were understandably high as cricket banter continued to fill the air.

By this time I had started to be recognised. Nobody came over to discuss the Common Agricultural Policy or my speeches lambasting Barrosso. Usually the reoccurring question was: "Aren't you the bloke whose plane crashed?"

Arriving at the ground I endured the usual security checks and was then led into the inner sanctum of radio heaven - the broadcasting suite of TMS. I had expected a small cluttered room with men crouched over microphones. Instead I was led to a large airy studio in which the commentators were strolling around wearing headphones. It was stunningly casual and yet highly professional. I was very impressed.

At last I met my heroes like Geoff Boycott, Phil Tufnell, Vic Marks, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and the man who was to interview me - Jonathan Agnew.

They could not have been more friendly, even if Agnew off handedly informed the world that my blazer was a shocker.

After chatting to all of them I needed to spend some time to gather my thoughts so went into the ground to watch the game and sup a foaming pint or two.

Back to the studio for the interview and it could not have been better from my point of view.

While the charming Mr Agnew wanted to talk about politics, I wanted to talk about cricket. Luckily he allowed me my own way and we were soon deeply involved in a conversation about the way cricket is run not just in Britain, but throughout the world.

Engrossed as I was in the broadcast, I was aware that Geoffrey Boycott was nodding his head at several of the points I was making. I cannot tell you how much confidence this gave me. If Boycott didn't think I was making an ass of myself I must be doing all right.

More than half an hour passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye and then I was passing the headphones to the Yorkshire legend.

To my utter joy I heard the great man say, "He knows his stuff does that Nigel Farage. Tell you what, why don't we swap jobs - you do the cricket and I'll take your job and tackle those Europeans."

If only, if only.

 

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