Robert Peston: the most annoying man on TV?

Forget Fred the Shred: in his weird, garbled tones, it’s the BBC’s business editor who’s been talking us into a recession.

Patrick West

Patrick West

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Who would you say is the most annoying person on British television?

It’s a tricky question because there is a bewildering cornucopia of contenders. Noel Edmonds, Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton and Davina McCall are all self-evident candidates. Then there is Richard Hammond, who’s made a living out of having a crash and now gets on everyone’s nerves with his adverts for Morrisons. Even Adrian Chiles and Neil Oliver are starting to become irksome: the former seems incapable of not mentioning West Bromwich Albion in every programme he does, the latter unable to find anything uninteresting.

And just as Neil Oliver finds everything ‘spectacular’ or ‘amazing’, Jeremy Paxman insists on being cynical about everyone and everything. Ricky Gervais is starting to look a bit too pleased with himself. Andrew Marr seems to have become an authority on everything. And even my beloved hero Jeremy Clarkson is starting to test my patience. I, too, have doubts about the accepted theories of climate change, but the evidence suggests something is happening, and it shouldn’t be treated as a joke. You can’t just answer every question by replying ‘you’re an ecomentalist who wants more speed cameras’.

Then there are your sports pundits. Rugby presenter John Inverdale has an inexplicably large head that makes you forget just how many points Italy are losing by this week. Football’s Garth Crooks talks about the game with such absurd earnestness; Alan Hansen says the same thing every single week (‘dreadful defending’, ‘appalling defending’, ‘abysmal defending’); and Mark Lawrenson consistently just talks utter bollocks. And don’t believe anything anyone says about the Olympics on television: no one cares about Team GB’s cycling, swimming or athletics teams, apart from during two weeks every four years.

One could add fictional characters to this list, such as Charlie Slater off EastEnders, the most pointless character in the history of soap operas. The entire cast of Hollyoaks should be executed for playing good-looking spoilt bastards who have terrible lives because they are rich and pretty, as should the programme’s creator, Phil Redmond, for creating a world in which no one smokes.

But surely the most annoying person on television today is the BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston. Yes, turn to BBC1 news, the BBC News Channel or tune in to Radio 4, and, like a nagging cold that leaves you with perennial snot on your sleeves, he’ll be there forever prognosticating in his weird, garbled tones and cold, meandering eyes about how the economy is going down the toilet and how we’ll all be starving and living in the forests by next year.

There is a much-used saying these days that we are ‘talking ourselves into a recession’. I believe this, and I also believe Peston’s persistent gloomy predictions are making things worse. Consider the beginning of the credit crunch in the summer of last year, when we were told there was a housing crisis in America. Up comes Peston to inform us that this was going to be catastrophic for the world. As a consequence, a fearful public in the UK stopped spending, and as a further consequence businesses are now going out of business.

I’m no expert on economics. I do have an A-grade in A-level economics, but I’ve forgotten nearly everything about it, apart from that thing about guns and butter. But I do recall that capitalism is based on faith and confidence. Things will go bad when people think they will go bad. And vice versa. It was no coincidence that the Dow Jones and the FTSE rallied this week after a leading American economist predicted that the recession would be over by later this year.

Peston was admirable in exposing Northern Rock’s crisis in 2007. But there’s been too much emphasis on the ‘fat cats’ in the banking system, too much blame placed upon RBS, HBOS, AIG and other institutions that prefer having abbreviations rather than proper names. Yes, they lent recklessly. But we the public moronically borrowed recklessly. Moaning about large pensions being paid out to banking executives is merely scapegoating – a case of the irresponsible blaming the irresponsible. Sir Fred Goodwin has become a convenient bogeyman, a modern-day witch on whom we can project all our woes – woes that actually were partially self-inflicted.

So what to do? For one, I would suggest more talk about borrowing. It is not a bad thing in itself if you are using it as capital to invest, or for a mortgage you know you can pay back. But borrowing is stupid if you just want a new plasma television or ‘half-price’ sofa (are sofas ever sold at full price?), and it’s especially dumb for a house you can’t afford. There should be a taboo on borrowing altogether, something a previous generation understood. But then again, we are told that taboos are a bad thing, because they are ‘repressive’. How many articles in liberal-left newspapers have you read that have been headlined ‘The Last Taboo’, going on to explain how cannibalists, necrophiliacs and serial killers have been unfairly marginalised by our ‘judgemental’ culture.

But most of all, let’s get Robert Peston off the telly, and off the radio, before he turns us all into communists. He’s only making things worse. The best way to get ourselves out of this recession is to think positively. Thus, I think Noel Edmonds should be the BBC’s next business editor. We could harness some of his ‘cosmic energy’. Edmonds may be just as creepy as Peston, but at least he realises that there needn’t always be problems – sometimes there can be solutions.

Patrick West is spiked‘s TV columnist.

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