The Londoner: Humphrys: from bulldog to bullfrogs

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Former big beast of the Today programme John Humphrys attacked the gender pay gap and called for a female director general of the BBC on a London stage last night — though described his controversial discussion about pay “banter”.

“I think it’s high time we had a woman director general of the BBC,” Humphrys told an Intelligence Squared Event at Westminster’s Emmanuel Centre last night. “I think it’s 100 per cent unjustified for men to be paid more than women,” he went on.

Humphrys caused a ruckus when he was recorded “joking” about his pay package with the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel — it was more than four times that of co-presenter Sarah Montague. Hardly a laughing matter. But Humphrys said he regretted the airing of his words with Sopel, calling them “a strictly private chat”.

“I made some daft remark, just banter — or whatever you call it nowadays — and that became... insane,” he said. Of life in retirement, Humphrys said it was “bliss” not to have to wake up at the crack of dawn each morning, but said he did miss the “arguing”.

“Two days ago I found a frog in the sink, that couldn’t get out... I scooped it out. And as I did so, it started doing what frogs do: ribbeting.

“And I started arguing with it.” The frog may have interviewed better than most senior politicians. He added that he was listening to the show about half the time, and is tempted to text his former colleague with question suggestions as he sometimes gets angry about the lines of inquiry: “I think, ‘Oh, why the hell isn’t he asking that question?’

“A number of times I’ve gone on my phone to text the editor and have my finger poised over the button before I’ve realised.”

Nothing like a back-seat driver.

Brexit... just as Boris and Jennifer like it

Some see it as tragedy but publisher Blink is set to paint Brexit as a “comedy of errors” in a new book. William Shakespeare’s Brexit by Boris Starling, which comes out later this month, has reunited stars of the iconic Eighties satirical show Spitting Image for the audiobook. Steve Nallon, who voiced Margaret Thatcher in Spitting Image, will play David Cameron.

After Boris Johnson’s American buddy Jennifer Arcuri said they bonded over a shared love of the Bard, this be a cultural offering they could enjoy together.


As The Clash’s London Calling album turns 40, guitarist Mick Jones reveals on BBC 6Music they came up with the tunes on the bus travelling from Harrow Road to their rehearsal studio in Chalk Farm. Imagine what we could all achieve if we used our transport delays for art.


The Tate Britain’s new William Blake exhibition comes with a “content warning” concerning “strong and sometimes challenging imagery”. UCL history of art professor David Bindman tells us this is “unnecessary”. “There are a few scenes of death and suffering but they are presented in such a generalised manner that they can hardly discomfort anyone.” Talk about the snowblake generation.

Sienna recalls that 'G.I. Joke' at screening of her new film, American Women

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Sienna Miller has learnt a lesson or two about which roles to accept. “You can tell very quickly if a film is good or not,” she told a Q&A at a screening of her new film American Woman. “You have to trust your intuition and lean into it.

“I haven’t always in the past. G.I. Joe [for example],” she said, referring to the 2009 film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. “Or G.I. Joke…” The actress also told The Londoner about the emotional drain of American Woman’s heavy subject matter (the film is about a woman whose daughter goes missing): “There were moments where I fell apart, for sure.” The screening was attended by Princess Eugenie and socialite Mary Charteris.

Elsewhere, Paloma Faith popped up at the opening of Finchatton’s Twenty Grosvenor Square apartment block. Dancer Eric Underwood also made the occasion with socialite Tamara Beckwith, as did actors Kaya Scodelario and Jeremy Irvine.

Rihanna commits to London life

Superstar singer Rihanna has been living in St John’s Wood and fans who fear her moving away can breathe easy — she tells Vogue that she will split next year between LA, Paris and London.

It seems the capital has helped the former party girl live a cleaner lifestyle. “I’m definitely feeling a shift,” she says. “I’m growing up. There’s things that I’m paying attention to that I’ve never paid attention to.” Like what? “Like supplements. And working out. And hearing about my bones.” Tell us about it.

The Londoner hopes she ditches the other cities and makes us her home.


Jo Johnson has claimed Michael Gove was “the biggest leaker in government” during David Cameron’s premiership. Writing in the Spectator, Johnson claims that the Surrey Heath MP was “so distrusted” that when he was made chief whip, Downing Street “secretly introduced the ‘Gove Protocol’

to limit his involvement in policymaking”. Accusations of leaking? Could Gove be the Rebekah Vardy (below) of British politics?


Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney blasts “an embarrassment” of Remainers for singing an anti-Brexit song that he claims is a rip-off of theirs: “They can’t even think up their own chants.” Well, they say the devil has the best tunes...


Labour MP Conor McGinn is looking for a new parliamentary assistant but one of his stipulations caught The Londoner’s eye. The ideal candidate must have “a sense of humour”. There’s no other way to get through parliamentary life.


Quote of the day: 'If you break it down it is easily justifiable'. Chef Tom Kerridge defends his £32.50 fish and chips, which includes "incredibly expensive" potatoes.