AE: You have two young daughters, so what do you think of the current state of female role models they have?
ST: Growing up I was constantly reading stories to my girls and going “BUT it couldhave been more exciting than that, YOU could have been the hero." Its interesting that only now is there a black Disney princess and we have Mulan who are all a bit feistier than we had.
My two are feisty girls, I’m not worried about them at all. I have tried to introduce them to inspiring women such as Helena Kennedy who is the greatest human rights lawyer in this country — wherever there is injustice being done you will find her at the forefront putting it right. Plus the lovely Kate Mosse, who has done so much for women’s literature.
AE: You were named political humorist of the year in 2007…
ST: I think they were just running out of people. I’m not a big fan of awards.
AE: Do you feel that delivering political points with a comedic edge helps get the point across in a more effective way?
ST: Well here’s what I feel, I think that I worry about the engagement of the general population. They reckon at the next general election that 30 percent of the electorate won’t vote and women died for that right to vote. I almost don’t care how you vote, if people vote for the BNP then I wouldn’t be happy and it would say something about the state of the nation, however if you don’t do anything and then the BNP do gain more power then you are partly to blame.
One of the ways I do think you can engage people is through jokes, but you have to make sure you are backing up your jokes with really serious facts. I would love to see coverage on TV that made politics much more engaging and interesting. Newswipe with Charlie Brooker is fabulous. I think it would be great to have something like the Jon Stewart show here; we need something like that where we dare to be funny and we dare to call them (politicians) out.
AE: Do you have political aspirations, would you stand as an MP?
ST: No, I feel slightly sorry for MPs because they do work very hard and it’s a tough job. My father was an MEP so I do know something about how many hours they work. I suspect that I can do more good on the outside rather than from within. I haven’t really stood for anything, although I did stand for Chancellor of Oxford University and I did that because I thought someone had to stand up for the students.
No one was paying any attention to the undergraduates and I wanted to fight against student fees which I think is wrong. If they want us to be educated properly then we as a nation have to fund it. I am busy trying to pay for my kids to go through university because I don’t want them to be in debt, but not every child is that fortunate. I did get 25% of the vote and I thought, considering I was a Cambridge graduate, I did very well.
AE: Have you ever had a contestant on The News Quiz that you were excited by and then disappointed?
ST: Yes. But I won’t say who because I can’t be mean. It’s a programme that has been around for a long time so people are anxious before they arrive and I have had people on who have surprised and delighted me greatly – Susan Calman being one – she was knockout – but there are others who have disappointed and they quietly don’t return. It’s not something everyone can do. I would actually love for Susan Calman to take over The News Quiz from me, that would be wonderful.
AE: You have a following on the web who think you should have been chosen as the new Doctor Who, would you have taken it?
ST: Yes! I’d take it and it would be about time there was a woman. How can he come back as anything but never a woman? I just think, how great would it be to have a big old dyke. (laughs)
AE: We’ll start a Facebook campaign, that’ll do it
ST: I have done some acting and I just though how easy it was? You just learn your lines and say them, what an easy job
AE: Do you use social networking?
ST: No, honestly my life is too dull. What would I say? "Oh the tomatoes have gone off?"
AE: You could share your political views, that would be interesting for people
ST: I write a column every week in the Daily Telegraph and every month in Good Housekeeping plus I am starting a new one in a magazine called The Lady and I am writing my books so I just don’t have time. I have a daughter in Thailand and one in York who I do ping and Facebook under a false name and then I have lots of love notes to write for my wife… so that is a lot of writing already.
AE: You leave love notes for your wife around the house?
ST: Yes I do, I leave many… (laughs)