One of her virtues is being good at saying sorry, even when she doesn’t feel she’s in the wrong, says Victoria Derbyshire. “I want things to move on and be nice again,” she explains. Derbyshire declines to analyse this appeasement impulse, but it surely stems from her Lancashire childhood, and the physical and emotional abuse she says that she, her mother, and her younger sister and brother suffered at the hands of her father.
That is a subject we must return to, but for now I want to know when she last said sorry. “Last night, to my partner [senior BBC editor Mark Sandell],” she admits. “I’m getting up early a lot at the moment, and at 7.30pm I said I was going to bed, even before the children [she has two sons, aged 11 and eight]. I said, ‘I’m really sorry about this. It’s going to be like this for a while.’ But he understands.”
The Sony Award-winning 5 Live presenter left her radio job at the end of last year to front an ambitious new television venture, which starts on Tuesday, and for which preparation is intense, hence all the early starts.
The show, called simply Victoria Derbyshire, is a daytime news and current affairs programme, and in the first month its focus will be on the general election. One aim is to attract a younger audience to current affairs, especially women. “If you ask [young people] whether they are engaged by politics, they’ll probably say, ‘Ooh, no’. But ask them whether they’re interested in local schools and hospital, and they’ll say, ‘Yeah’.”
Significantly, Louisa Compton, editor of Radio 1’s Newsbeat, will oversee the show, which will be transmitted simultaneously on BBC2 and the BBC News channel.
But how will the election coverage differ from other shows? “We’ll be going round the country, holding debates… but we won’t have a panel. The people we have on will sit among the audience, who are just as important to us as the politicians. And I’m just the facilitator. If there’s dialogue between a politician and a member of the audience, not involving me, that’s fine.”
Derbyshire adds, “I won’t be sitting at a desk, delivering news from on high. There will be an informality, a feel of radio, about it.”
Nevertheless, it will be telly, of which Derbyshire has done relatively little, other than a few stints on Newsnight. “Yes, I’m a novice,” she says. “I’m ten per cent excited, 90 per cent daunted. But I like to feel nervous. It makes me more alert, makes me work harder.”
She is also prepared for the jibes about clothes and looks that, regrettably, follow high-profile female presenters. “Yeah, there was one when I did Newsnight, saying, ‘I notice the camera never gives you close-ups’.” A sigh. “It is what it is. In the end I look like a 46-year- old working mother-of-two. I can’t do anything about that, and I wouldn’t want to.”