How did you get where you are today?
Blame Margaret Thatcher. I started out on local papers in north London that covered her constituency of Finchley and acquired a taste for political reporting. I moved to the KM Group in 1995 as political correspondent. I happened to arrive just as then Prime Minister John Major triggered a leadership contest.
What are your main tasks?
It varies. I could be covering a meeting at County Hall or meeting a contact but, like a lot of journalists, I seem to spend an ever-increasing amount of time on the phone in the office talking to MPs and councillors. I provide political coverage for all our papers and write regular columns, so deadlines are fairly constant. Providing our online news service with political coverage has become increasingly important, and occasionally I will do interviews for our radio stations.
What are the most important things to know to do your job?
Being able to cut through political spin and the incessant flood of PR puff that lands on my desk. Councils rarely do anything these days without thinking about how it will play with the public. Knowing the mechanics of how local government works might be boring but is fundamental, as you need to know who does what.
What is the key to success in your specialism?
Accepting that there will always be a natural tension between journalists and politicians. A healthy degree of scepticism and a thick skin is pretty helpful. Some of the best stories are buried in innocuous-looking council reports.
What do you dislike about your job?
Politicians who think that by asking awkward questions, you have some kind of agenda. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been accused of being a member of this party or that. Most politicians do accept you have a job to do. And if someone takes umbrage at a story, I usually take the view it means I’ve done my job properly. It goes without saying that exposing hypocrisy, double standards and political humbug can be immensely satisfying.