Ahead of her new BBC1 show examining society’s attitude towards money, Anne Robinson doesn’t mince her words as she tackles the thorny issues of benefits and TV ageism. Oh and fox hunting…
Are we a nation obsessed by money?
I believe it rules most people’s lives.
How much money have you got?
I don’t know! I’m not really interested in money, as long as there’s enough for me to spend. I am an unashamed spender.
What’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought for yourself in the past year?
A wonderful Prunella Clough painting. It was about 40 grand. It’s an investment, and much cheaper than my second divorce.
Have you ever been very hard up?
Yes, because I had a serious drink problem 36 years ago, and while I was busy trying to end my life – not that I intended to, but that’s the amount of drinking I was doing – I certainly had no money then.
Did you enjoy getting back on the road for Britain’s Spending Secrets ?
I just got a bit tired of wearing a cocktail dress. It’s what I do: ask awkward questions. I don’t think it’s ever happened on a documentary before, but I did have my own make-up person. I think I spent more on the clothes I wore than they paid me for the documentary, but never mind. I’m nearly 71, I’m the oldest woman on primetime not baking cakes. Life’s too short to bake cakes. I can’t dance, I can’t bake, I can only be clever.
Was there anyone in the programme with whom you empathised?
I thought Charlotte, the benefits mum, was heroic. Two babies under four, another on the way, no permanent partner and in debt. You’d need to be Houdini to get out of that. She was intelligent, articulate, and I can see more clearly now how you get yourself into a bind where there’s not only no light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s no tunnel. I don’t blame her for holding on to her dignity by things like deciding she doesn’t want cheap sausages.
Some people might say if you’re on benefits, the state shouldn’t help you upgrade your sausage choice?
Look. If I were on benefits I would definitely need cigarettes, booze, illegal drugs, Sky TV and Netflix. I think it’s heroic for any woman coping on her own with three children under four. I think it’s doubly heroic if you’re in debt and you can’t see any way out.
Why aren’t you on reality shows?
People do it to keep themselves on the screen, but I’ve never bothered with any of that. I think the last offer from I’m a Celebrity was about half a million. But I just wouldn’t do it.
How have you survived so long?
I’ve always been clever at moving on. I’ve never been dragged out kicking and screaming. The trick for women’s longevity on television is that you’ve got to be clever, versatile, funny and thin. I’m working at it!
What’s your take on TV ageism?
If Huw Edwards or Evan Davis had identical twin sisters they wouldn’t be reading the news or presenting Newsnight. I’m not saying they’re both ugly. It’s just a fact, particularly in light entertainment, that it’s all about pretty girls in the front row. But I’ve just never worked within those confines. I never got hired because I had beautiful breasts. I got hired because I could write and I could be funny.
As you’re on a roll, what’s your view on fox hunting?
I’m a libertarian. I think there is more cruelty going on with dogs being kept in high-rise flats and not fed properly than with people who want to take part in a centuries-old sport.
Britain’s Spending Secrets is on Wednesday 18th August at 9pm on BBC1