I have a very fond memory of Anthony Howard.
I was a young BBC reporter on duty on the day that Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister. I was mid-way through a three-month stint on The World at One.
News of the resignation broke out of the blue round about mid-morning. I was assigned the task of compiling the look-back at Wilson’s career. Working with producer Robin Malcolm, we had about 90 minutes to do the pull-together.
Needless to say it was something of a scramble obtaining all the material from archives and elsewhere. As one o’clock came closer and closer it became apparent to Robin and me that there was no way we were going to be able to pre-record the package. There simply wasn’t time. Instead, I would have to go live, with Robin playing in the clips between my links – always hairy. In other words, a wing-and-a-prayer operation.
I slipped into the studio during the news bulletin ready to launch forth, looking with some trepidation at Robin through the cubicle glass. I then discovered that sitting opposite me across the studio table was the august presence of Antony Howard, one of the country’s most distinguished political correspondents. He was to be interviewed by the presenter immediately after my report. In other words, he would be sitting there all the way through my report, which lasted the best part of 10 minutes. That only added to my nerves.
Robin and I got through the live package without any major hiccups. As I delivered the final link, I looked up to see Anthony giving me a thumbs-up and a warm smile, a generous acknowledgement that we’d got through the live package and that its content had covered the ground on Wilson, on whom he was an authority. I’ve never forgotten that gesture.