Eddie Mair: with Theresa May in sight “I was suddenly gripped by a desire to be naughty”

What would you do if you could give the Prime Minister a piece of your mind? Eddie Mair had just that opportunity...and blew it

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Theresa May is walking towards me and she looks bloody annoyed. It’s a Friday night at New Broadcasting House, just after six o’clock.

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You may be familiar with parts of our workplace from the TV show W1A, or from the time some pranksters got into the building and wandered round videoing it for a Facebook giggle. There are two banks of lifts flanking the middle of the building. Each bank has four lifts, and each lift relays the output of a different radio station. It’s pot luck which one you get. Radio 3 perhaps, or the Asian Network.


I slightly dread getting in the 1Xtra lift because, well, they didn’t have someone of my vintage in mind when they drew up their playlist. I’ve been up and down in the 1Xtra lift more times than I care to recall and on no occasion has there been a peep from Tony Bennett.

If you’re very unlucky and find yourself in the BBC Radio 4 lift between 5 and 6pm on a weekday, you’ll have me for company. There’s no mute button! Someday one of these lifts will get stuck between floors when I am on the air – I can only apologise in advance to the poor souls inside when that happens.

So here I am, footling down in one of the lifts just after the programme. I get out and walk towards the central security doors. As always, there are people doing the same thing from the opposite direction, having emerged from the right-hand lifts. And who do I clock? Well, the clue is at the start of this column.

I’m used to seeing famous people in BH. The other day I passed Fiona Bruce (ouch!) and I almost said hello, before remembering that I knew her only from the telly and she wouldn’t know me if I stood up in her soup and sang the national anthem. The person Fiona glanced at had his mouth half-open in readiness for a greeting that never came and a confused expression on his face. I think she assumed I was an eejit and, candidly, no jury would demur.

The Prime Minister is flanked by her security heavies, and James Harding, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, who is not at all heavy. She has just recorded a Newsnightinterview and is about to exit through the security gates at the exact same time as me. Outside I can see two vehicles ready to leave from the piazza, or plaza, or whatever they call it.  

She looks straight at me, and I have a slight Fiona Bruce moment. As I negotiate the slow-moving security doors, I’m suddenly gripped by a desire to be naughty. I briefly entertain the idea of yelling a question at her, as hacks do. “Are you going to resign, Prime Minister?” By now we are both about to exit the main doors onto the piazzaplaza. There is a small crowd and more scary-looking security folk. The door of the prime ministerial car has been opened and I’m panicked by the urge to rush into the back seat before she does. If I sprint I can make it.

It’s a genuine impulse, which, naturally, I fight… not least because James Harding would sack me on the spot, plus I’d be shot dead by the PM’s security detail, which would be a double whammy to really round off the week.

In the end I say and do nothing, apart from watch as the prime ministerial car sweeps away and wonder what might have been.

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Eddie Mair presents PM and iPM on Radio 4