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Martin Kelner, Journalist, Author and Radio Presenter.
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Being Mistaken for one of the more famous Kel(l)ners
By Martin "No job too small" Kelner on Mar 9, 2014 - 6:51:48 PM

The more observant amongst you will have noticed I wasn't on Channel Four's Morning Line on Saturday morning.   I waited all week for the call, having advertised via all electronic means currently available my perspicacity in backing Bally Legend, 28-1 winner of the Betbright Handicap at Kempton Park.    My lack of any horse racing background, I felt sure, would be merely a minor impediment for a man in such blistering form.


Imagine, then, my disappointment on checking my emails and texts early on Saturday morning - not in any kind of a desperate way, you understand - to find no last minute booking, this paper being represented instead by Tom Segal, aka Pricewise.  


Admittedly, Tom's suggestions were likely to be more helpful than mine - he was said in one show to have "whipped up a punting storm" with one of his tips, something I could never be accused of - but still, in the same way as Paul the psychic octopus was recruited to predict the scores in the 2010 World Cup - remember - I could have had a bash.


In fact, I am sure in the past I have read a newspaper feature where they gave a chimpanzee a pin and a racing card, and tested his picks against those of an expert, finding little difference in profit and loss accounts.   I could be that chimpanzee.    


I think they tried it with stock market tips as well, with similar results, proving that deep down none of us knows anything much about anything.   I know I don't.   Since my recent brush with death, I find myself moving closer to the Monty Python view that we are all just "spiralling coils of self-replicating DNA."   


All right, I'm probably not the perfect fit for Morning Line.   While Clare Balding was being brought up with horses - possibly even BY horses - I was brought up with a variety of unreliable motor vehicles starting with my dad's second-hand Hillman Husky, which was in the repair shop so often it may have done more miles vertically than horizontally.


In any case, the best I could do last Saturday was a few bob each way on Renard in the Grimthorpe Chase, which went some way towards financing my other useless picks.   In short, I seem in no immediate danger of losing my amateur status, so it's probably just as well the 'phone never rang.


Actually it did ring.   It was a young chap called James, a producer at BBC WM radio in Birmingham, asking for my views on the possibility of a televised debate between deputy PM Nick Clegg and UKIP leader Nigel Farage ahead of the European elections.  


I raised an eyebrow at this - inasmuch as it's possible to do that over the 'phone - but, not wishing to be rude, said I thought Clegg's invitation to Farage to face him on TV was either a high-risk strategy by the Lib Dem leader or a last desperate throw of the dice depending on how you look at it.  TV debates can influence elections, though, I added, citing the famous 1960 Kennedy-Nixon meeting which as good as secured the Presidency for the telegenic young Senator.


"Great," said James, "Can you come on our breakfast show in the morning to talk about it?"   "Well, OK," I said, still with eyebrow raised.   I knew there was no money in it, what with BBC local stations being strapped for cash, but am always happy to share my views on subjects about which I know nothing, as regular readers of this column will confirm, so agreed.  


I assumed I had been chosen to address the heartland of England as a famous watcher of telly rather than for any political expertise.


"How should we describe you?" asked James, "Journalist, legendary lover, and inventor of cling film, will do," I replied, "No seriously, just 'journalist' is fine."   "And of course, you work in political polling," he said, which was when I twigged that he had confused me with near-namesake Peter Kellner, proper political journalist and president of YouGov.


"You mean you're not him?" was the response, followed by the stunner, "Well, can you come on anyway?"   So I did, informing the West Midlands that as Clegg's last big triumph was in the TV debate before the last election he was probably trying to recapture past glories, "rather like Spandau Ballet going back out on tour," at which point they cut - a little too rapidly, I felt - to the travel news.


This is not the first time this has happened either.   A few years back I took a call from TalkSport asking if I could come on and talk about "the Portsmouth situation."   (It was when Tony Adams was manager)   "Well I can," I said, "But I only know what I've read in the newspapers."  


"Well, there's a story in one of the papers that he is going to bring you in as defensive coach," the young chap replied.   I had to tell him that despite some success in junior football and the odd showbiz Xl, such a move was unlikely, concluding that his call owed more to my proximity to Martin Keown in the TalkSport contacts book than my undoubted tactical acumen.


I was that close to going on, though.   Meanwhile, I live in hope that Morning Line may one day mistake me for someone who knows something about horse racing.









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