BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 09 FEB 2011


Bob Peston may or may not be a great investigative journalist. He seems to inspire love and hate in equal amounts. I’ve heard of business people who would personally be willing to string him up.

There is no denying, though, that his idiosyncratic vocal style was as much the making of him as anything else. (And being in the right place at the right time when the shit hit the financial fan… oh and his book, Who Runs Britain, is very readable).

But something has happened to Bob; I just saw it on the lunchtime news. He’s definitely gone from Bob to Robert. Smoother, sleeker and altogether more polished. The side burns are pointy and sharp; the hair is borrowed from the good looking bloke from the Champions; the shirt and tie are a smidgen better and neater; the suit sharper and everything is just a bit more buffed up. It’s all a bit more Times than Guardian.

Now that’s all very well and Robert’s maybe making a few more bob now he’s famous- that’ll explain the better threads- but his delivery style has become a whole lot more Robert, too. The range of his voice seems a little less considerable; it’s far from flat but he doesn’t appear to be being goosed occasionally either. The awkward pauses and staccato delivery mechanism have been smoothed over; like he’s gone from manual to automatic transmission? Robert’s now a smoother ride and has lost his go faster stripes. And those interminable elongated vowels we all knew and loved (or hated) have all but disappeared.

This is all a good thing, provided it goes no further. Adding a bit of smoothness and professionalism, for want of a better word, does no harm. He’s still very listenable to and retains a good measure of personality and individualism. The danger in him not getting some of the rougher edges sorted in the past wee while, as he was getting a higher profile, is that might overplay those specific aspects of his character and became a parody of himself. This is not a good thing for a serious political journalist’s career on the box.

When Billy Connolly burst onto the screen in the 1970s he was as rough as a badger’s arse: very Scottish, very raw, and very aggressive. Over the years he’s changed radically, to the extent that some of his fellow Scots periodically howl that he’s sold out. This is nonsense, of course. We all have to change: sometimes circumstances change us; sometimes we are told to change; sometimes forced to; and sometimes we just know that we need to adjust a few things to make ourselves better at stuff. In Connolly’s case he’s escaped what might have been a few hundred quid on the club circuit in Bonnie Scotland and maybe some telly work to thrive in global superstardom.

There are plenty people who play golf or tennis just as badly as they did a decade ago because they are not willing to look at tweaking a few things here or there, or getting some advice when needed. Bob deciding to become a proper Robert seems like a good plan and he’s more likely to be seen as a replacement for Paxman on Newsnight in this guise.

Robert Peston has left Bob for good is my guess but there’s still enough of the old version there; one wonders what might have happened if he’d been christened Jeremy in the first place.


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