Ferrari on his fear of writing and a surreal show on ice

By Caitlin Pike

After 40 years spent working in print, television and radio, Nick Ferrari is showing no signs of starting to slow down.

He’s just had his first book — The World According to Nick Ferrari — published, his breakfast show on LBC has a growing number of listeners and he’s been nominated for a Sony Radio Academy Award for the second year running.

As if this wasn’t enough, his recent live radio interview with David Cameron made headlines and fuelled a story which ran in the papers for days.

Ferrari set Cameron so at ease, the Conservative leader revealed his feelings on members of UKIP in no uncertain terms, calling them "fruit cakes, loonies and closet racists".

Ferrari’s Cameron interview was in contrast to the one conducted by John Humphrys on the Today programme in March.

Humphrys’ interview resulted in a mass of listener complaints claiming he hadn’t let the Tory leader speak. The BBC issued a statement saying that Humphrys agreed the interview "hadn’t gone to plan".

Ferrari believes he was always destined to be on radio. Despite preferring "newspaper people", he has just renewed his LBC contract for another three years.

"If I were trapped on a desert island with people from a particular brand of the media, I would pick newspaper people because they are without doubt the ugliest, they tell the best stories and the best lies, so you are very rarely bored in their company.

"TV people are interesting, but they are always worried about whether their suits are strobing. Radio people are a balance of the two, but newspaper people are the great raconteurs.

"Having said that, I think I was born to do radio and it’s just taken me a long time to get here."

Ferrari, who started as a reporter on the Sunday Mirror in the ’80s, was the news editor of Sky News when it launched in 1989. In the early ’90s, Murdoch promoted him to vice president, news and programming of Fox TV in New York.

Stab in the back

After three years he returned to the UK and says he was ‘parked’ as assistant editor at the Daily Mirror while he found something to do.

"It was great being at the Mirror as my dad had been there [Lino ‘Dan’ Ferrari was a senior executive of the Mirror and started Ferrari’s Press Agency] and I got to know David Banks [former editor of the Daily Mirror] really well, he effectively got me into radio."

Ferrari describes how Banks invited him onto his Sunday lunchtime show on LBC to review the papers.

"From that point I managed to stab him in the back quite quickly. I got hold of the bosses, told them I could do a better job for less cash and that was that.

"As he was on the way to do his show one Sunday I called him and said, ‘Don’t bother coming in mate’."

Banks and Ferrari are still talking, so much so that Banks helped Ferrari with the recent stage tour of his radio show.

Ferrari says the shows sometimes resemble a pantomime.

"They were never going to be desperately serious events where I sit down and discuss globalisation or the Northern Ireland peace process.

"The one at the Hackney Empire was riotous. I am sober when I start but I have a glass of red or a bloody Mary during the interval. If it’s a tough show I may have two."

Surprisingly, Ferrari finds talking live on stage, radio or TV less daunting than writing. "Even though my whole training was in print, I am now far more nervous when I sit down to write.

"Occasionally I do a column for the News of the World, I really enjoy it and am grateful to [editor] Andy Coulson for offering it to me, but I am far more nervous talking to Andy about what’s going in my column than I would be talking to George Galloway on Richard and Judy about Iraq."

Extended column

Ferrari says sitting down to write a book was a nightmare: "I used to be happy if I got 250 words in The Sun with my name at the top of them. The idea of writing 40,000 words is terrifying."

None of this apprehension comes across in the book, which reads as an extended column. It covers everything from the failings of UK politics and the royal family, to the joys of driving, journalism and the inefficiencies of the BBC.

Ferrari’s arguments are entertaining rather than comprehensive and, on finishing the book, you feel like you could have been with him in the pub.

In the book, Ferrari writes an ode to Farmers Weekly and describes a boyhood love of the magazine and ambition to be a farmer. I ask him if he plans to retire to a plot of land in the country.

"I no longer dream of living on a small holding, but when you hear about a bloke in Peckham getting murdered for his mobile phone, the quality of life in London scares the shit out of me.

"I don’t think London is an easy place in which to grow old, but whether that means I’ll end up a farmer in Ayrshire remains to be seen."

So what is left for Ferrari to do? At this point the interview takes a surreal turn and Ferrari’s sense of humour steps up a level.

"What is left to do? Good question. Ahh, yes, it has to be… Nick Ferrari on Ice. I’ll put the whole thing on ice — starting with my early interviews with Kelvin MacKenzie in The Sun.

"Kelvin will be played by Christopher Dean and Jane Torville will be Wendy Henry.

"Janet Street Porter would have to feature, but she won’t have any skates.

No, we’ll put her on the thin part of the ice. ‘Here comes Janet’ someone will cry and boom, she’ll crash through the ice."

Who else will be on top of the ice, preferably with skates on? Ferrari says he loves reading Jane Moore in The Sun, Richard Littlejohn and Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail, so they’d be in the show.

Coming back to reality, how does Ferrari feel about the forthcoming Sony Awards, in which he has been nominated for Best Breakfast Show?

"Well, I thought I was in with a good chance last year as Best Speech Broadcaster, but Jeremy Vine got it.

"But whenever he runs out of things to say he can just stick a record on, it’s cheating. This year I’m up against the Today programme and a bunch of shows from the North.

"We’ll see, the Today programme is a mammoth show, but I really believe LBC deserves to get something."

The World According to Nick Ferrari is published by John Blake, price £12.99.

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