Michael Sheen generated a powerful response as the first guest editor this year for Radio 4’s Today programme.
Twitter awoke to the Welsh actor and Unicef ambassador helming the BBC’s flagship current affairs radio show. Sheen covered topics from the plight of Syrian refugees to graphic novels with Neil Gaiman via prog rock, War of the Worlds, UK floods and the troubles facing his home town of Port Talbot.
But it was his closing remarks during a conversation with Today presenters Nick Robinson and Sarah Montague which caused the biggest stir.
“A lot of the talk today has been about, ‘Where does charity begin?’,” Sheen said. “Does it begin at home? Why should we be helping children and people from other countries when there’s so much suffering and challenges going on in our own country?
“And it is absolutely true. There is terrible, terrible poverty in this country; there are terrible conditions for certain people. And I can understand why people get so worried about giving money to other countries, but of course 0.7% of the national income goes on foreign aid.
“That is about being a member of the global community, taking that responsibility seriously. 99.3% of course goes on what goes on in this country. And the argument, the false dichotomy of pushing British people against foreigners, or shirkers against strivers, it’s a false argument. And it allows other people who have certain interests to get away with it.
“The argument needs to be, ‘What is our government doing for people in our own country?'” he said, before Montague asked him about the national media’s depiction of places like Port Talbot.
“The people of this country are amazing,” he said. “They are an amazing people, and no matter what the challenges are, their spirit comes through, and that’s nowhere more so than in Port Talbot. That’s what has shaped me, I’m proud to come from that people.”
When Robinson closed the show, he explained, “That is the voice of Michael Sheen. Those are his opinions by the way, and you will hear other alternative opinions from other guest editors in the days to come.”
People appreciated the change in the Today studio.
And Sheen’s passion had listeners fired up too.
Many were glad Sheen was allowed the opportunity to broadcast his opinions.
Although some felt Robinson’s qualification at the end required more tact.
The use of guest editors between Christmas and New Year has become a Today tradition, with past guests including Professor Stephen Hawking, Yoko Ono and Sir Richard Branson.
This year’s lineup includes cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins, lawyer Miriam González Durántez, former chief executive of BP Lord Browne, architect David Adjaye and human rights campaigner Baroness Campbell of Surbiton.
Today guest editors 2015
Monday 28 December – Michael Sheen
Tuesday 29 December – Sir Bradley Wiggins
Wednesday 30 December – Miriam González Durántez
Thursday 31 December – David Adjaye
Friday 1 January – Baroness Campbell
Saturday 2 January – Lord Browne