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Politics Doesn’t Always Add Up!

Monday, 12 June, 2017 -- Helen Wilson

DON'T tell her if you happen to bump into her, but that interview in which Diane Abbott demonstrated all the mathematical ability of kindergarten pupil at the bottom of the reception class, very nearly never happened.

The reason was simple: on a number of occasions the team and I had booked her the night before to appear on the next morning's show, and she'd failed to appear. After the third or fourth time, I'd had enough.

"That's it. I never want to see her name on the running order again," I barked as we were left with a gaping hole yet again with just seconds to go before we went on air coming out of some advertisements.

However, elections bring a different (and considerably stricter) dynamic and broadcasters have to provide balance to the major parties. Trying to coax Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to the studio proved as elusive as hoping for an England football team penalty shoot-out victory, so the then Shadow Home Secretary was automatically on the run down.

Admittedly, if you're in proper jobs such as medicine, law or money what happened next will almost certainly have passed you by. If you're unfortunate enough to be in the media however, Abbott's lamentable performance dominated the news agenda for the entire day. On reflection, what gave this story such "legs" was the silence that accompanied her stumblings, mumblings and shuffling of paper. Rather than dive in and bark further questions or highlight her incompetence with dramatic incredulity, I just stayed silent.

Why? Quite simple. I needed quiet to try and do the maths concerning how much would be paid to how many police officers. Suddenly I was back in one of those Eltham College classrooms, sitting on a type of chair deemed too uncomfortable for the Guantanamo Bay terrorist camp (they'd be banned on health and safety grounds now I reckon) struggling with everything from algebra to slide rules.

By the way, did anyone EVER use a slide rule once they got out of school? Well, certainly not in the field of journalism in any event. The only thing I can recall about them was one classmate running a roaring trade in selling you one if you lost your own, as they were being sold at a ridiculously inflated price and we were all too nervous of asking our parents for a new one if our own went missing.

The day of the general election in June, The Times decided to publish a list of who they thought had enjoyed a great election campaign and those who'd failed to pass muster.

No surprise to see Ms. Abbott high on the list of losers, but glancing at the supposed winners provided a shock.

There in second place (after Jeremy Corbyn) was "Nick Ferrari and his school maths teacher." Unfortunately, when the Daily Mail and Evening Standard had asked me for the teacher's identity a few weeks before, I'd had to confess I couldn't even remember his name!

If you think that seems hugely ungrateful, you need to realise I got grade D at O level and I don't recall a particularly inspiring period of tuition. If anyone reading this remembers, do send the name in as even the school seems to have lost any record!

Oh and do me a favour please ... don't tell Ms. Abbott about my grade!

Nick Ferrari (1977)

Nick Ferrari presents the weekday breakfast show on LBC radio.

The image of Nick is copywright LBC Radio