Whenever Huw Edwards leaves the BBC News studio and the safety of his big fancy desk to report on location, my world makes a little less sense. Huw Edwards should be securing my personal news-planet and making sure it doesn’t spin off its axis by directing operations on the bridge of the news-ship, like Lord Nelson in a good suit.
But Huw (may I call you Huw, Huw?), in the open air, in public? Ah, that’s another matter. Alfresco Huw is like an antelope lapping at a water hole in the desert, fair game for hyenas. Or in this case, members of the public.
As soon as I switched on the BBC News during Brexit breakdown day, I knew Huw and I would have to face our foes and get through this together. He was badly lit and squinting in the open air, a tethered balloon at a provincial fair with the waltzers on one side and the ghost train on the other.
Throughout his afternoon reports, poor Huw and his guests, pallid men sweating in wool, had to put up with a cacophony of noises, the shrieks and yells of members of the public. Whether they were pro- or anti-Brexit I couldn’t hear, it all became a symphony of British unrest, the dissonance of impotent fury, illustrated by someone waving Union Jack and EU flags frantically in the background.
Everyone was so giddy. On Radio 4’s Today that morning, John Humphrys, interviewing the Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer after David Davis resigned (and before Boris Johnson packed his hairbrush), referred to the Labour Party as “your lot”. “Your lot”? Whatever you might think of them, they are still the Opposition, not a rival pub quiz team.
Maybe the madness was fuelled by the fact it was meltingly hot. If all of this had happened on a chilly winter afternoon there wouldn’t have been the mounting hysteria, everyone would have been a bit more circumspect and would have talked with the unhurried gravitas that can come only with the wearing of a cashmere scarf.
But as the temperature rose, cameras were trained for hours on Boris Johnson’s front door and we all went a tiny bit mad. A nice door, with a lovely period street light outside. But still, it was a front door. None of this flim-flam helped to contribute to the sensible debate we all needed, it just stirred the pot of hysteria-stew.
Meanwhile, back to Huw at large in Westminster. Someone had started playing music at top volume, or maybe it was open-air karaoke, but if a man pushing a cart had come past selling candyfloss at that precise moment, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Over on Channel 4 News, Jon Snow told the protesters, politely, to “shut up, guys”, but Huw was one step away from having to scream at his interviewees as he struggled so manfully against a tide of disrespect. Oh, Huw, if only you’d stayed in the studio, in your very own environment, one that you can master and control.
But you were still there at 10pm for the main bulletin, and it was only a matter of time before some random bloke stood behind you and started waving at the camera. In fact, this interloper seemed to be watching the news on his phone so he could see himself waving. People, this is Britain, right now. What are we to do?