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The conversation: We chat to journalist Lynn Barber

By Oscar Quine

The journalist and so-called demon Barber of Fleet Street spills the beans on her worst interviewees, her foibles, and what's lurking in her bathroom cabinet.

Q: You've recommended rooting around in an interview subject's bathroom cabinets if you get the chance. What would I find in yours?

A: You'd find a really embarrassing amount of products connected to corns on feet. Every variety of corn plaster. And not much else of any excitement.

Q: Who would you invite to your celebrity dinner party?

A: Dinner parties are my idea of hell so I wouldn't have anyone. I don't like that idea of lots of people showing off. I just go completely silent in those contexts. While my husband was alive, we gave regular dinner parties and he enjoyed attending them. But even towards the end, he was getting fed up of going to them. But he still liked giving them. And when he died, I thought, "Well, I don't have to do that any more".

Q: How much say do you have in who you get to interview?

A: I have a wish-list of people I want to interview if ever the chance comes up.

Q: Who's on the list?

A: Ed Miliband, I guess. Mick Jagger, I always want to do. But the person I really long to do is Rupert Murdoch. But I never will - I don't think he does interviews.

Q: What is it about him that interests you?

A: I think he's an incredibly powerful and influential figure who we really don't know very much about.

We know a lot about the businesses he owns and all the rest of it, but what motivates him, what drives him? We don't know much about his personal life, really.

Q: Generally, is power what interests you in people?

A: I suppose I'm interested in powerful people.

What I'm absolutely not interested in is actors. Except the other week, they told me, "Oh, Michael Gambon is going to give an interview but we knew that you didn't do actors". And I thought, "Oh damn, I would have liked to have done him".

Q: Is there anyone you've ever felt 'You're not a nice person'?

A: David Attenborough gave me quite a hard time and I felt quite put down a lot of the time. And I did one once with John Thaw - he was so monosyllabic, I can't think why he agreed to do the interview.

Q: Two of your own favourite questions now. Firstly, what do you think is your worst fault?

A: I'm very dither-y. And I don't think I'm as kind as I wish I were.

This is something that, as I've got older, I've tried to rectify, but I wasn't brought up to think that kindness was a virtue at all. I was just brought up to be clever.

Q: And, number two, how much do you pay your cleaner?

A: £13 an hour, which is quite good.

Q: Lastly, what would you have asked you?

I wouldn't particularly ask me this, but a useful question is, "Would the 13-year-old you have been surprised to find the 70-year-old you where you are now?"

I didn't have any specific ambitions. But I suppose I did always imagine I'd be a writer. So yes, I'd be glad to find that I was still writing at age 70.

I think, certainly materially, I've done quite well.

And I was lucky to have a very good, long marriage, although my husband died. But anyway, that's enough.

The plug

Lynn Barber (70) is widely regarded as one of the UK’s best celebrity interviewers. She has won several awards and her memoir, An Education, was turned into a hit film. She lives in north London.

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