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Home Life Weekend

'Johnny Rotten's a pussycat compared to Farage'

Susanna Reid is stepping away from the Good Morning Britain sofa to host a new show about saving money and eating well. She tells Jeananne Craig about the joys of live TV... and boozy nights out with Piers Morgan

By Jeananne Craig

As Monday mornings go, it's been an eventful one for Susanna Reid. She's just come off air after a particularly heated instalment of Good Morning Britain, where former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and ex-Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell went head-to-head over Brexit and even Reid's co-host, Piers Morgan - never one to shy away from a verbal sparring match - struggled to get a word in.

"It was like the dinner party from hell, wasn't it?" Reid asks with a laugh, still in her GMB hair and make-up as she settles into a sofa in an office high above London's Southbank, where the show is filmed.

"It's hard enough to get a word in when Piers Morgan is there, let alone when Alastair Campbell and Nigel Farage are almost coming to blows," she adds. "I did think I was going to have to get the bouncers in."

The Brexit debate was followed by an interview with former Sex Pistols hellraiser John 'Johnny Rotten' Lydon.

"I would have thought Johnny Rotten would be the one who was out of control; he was like a pussycat compared to them," Reid says.

After more than two decades working in TV, she clearly still relishes the challenges the job presents and the range of topics covered on Good Morning Britain.

From the window of the room we're in, there's a clear view of Westminster Bridge, where she and Morgan reported from the morning after the recent terrorist attack.

"It was just utterly shocking," says the former BBC Breakfast host.

"We haven't yet got to the bottom of why, or what the connections were. But I don't feel less safe than I did the day before. We're incredibly resilient; we've been through 7/7 and all the threats. There's always something, but I'm happy we're all carrying on. My thoughts and sympathies are with the families of those who've been killed."

Reid's latest project sees her stepping away from breakfast television to host Save Money: Good Food, in which she and chef Matt Tebbutt offer top tips on how to be a smart spender without sacrificing quality, or taste, at mealtimes.

The pair will spend time with different families to show them how to transform their boring mid-week meals into something special - for a fraction of the cost.

"As a journalist, it's always interesting investigating things which are relevant, especially to our viewers," says Croydon-born Reid.

"We know food prices are already going up and inflation's up, so what better time for us to investigate how that will impact families' budgets? Also, these lovely families are all interested in how they can save money and prevent waste, and that's always relevant."

Reid cooks every day for her three sons with ex-partner Dominic Cotton, and while she tries to cook from scratch where possible, "I will hold my hands up and say fish fingers regularly make an appearance".

"I will definitely use processed food when I need to, and we regularly get takeaway food," adds the 46-year-old. "I know that's not the most cost-efficient way to spend my money, so I was really interested in how we can save a bit of money here and there."

Having already appeared on Strictly Come Dancing (she made the final in 2013), Reid isn't looking to the Save Money programme to show viewers a different side of herself.

"I'm pretty open about who I am on air," she says. "I mean, I'm very private about my family life and my private life, but viewers, I think, know me.

"It's probably nice to see me standing up in a kitchen, as opposed to sitting down on a sofa - that's what's different.

"They've seen me interview the Prime Minister, they've seen me do a paso doble, and now they can see me chopping some onions and investigating big issues like food waste and super-cheap food."

When asked if it was nice to get a break from Morgan, Reid - who at times seems as exasperated with the outspoken host as many of us at home are - is diplomatic.

"We have a good professional relationship," she says. "He's notorious for talking a lot and being controversial, and he's extremely opinionated. He's determined to force opinions out of me, and of course, having been at the BBC for a very long time, I maintain an air and sense of neutrality all the time. But he's got somewhere with getting an opinion out of me on some of the less political subjects."

While she says they're "genuinely friends", they aren't ones to pop out for a quick pint together. "We've been out a couple of times and both times it's got quite messy," Reid reveals. "So, we like to keep those as few and far between as possible. It's go hard or go home, really, with Piers."

One thing Morgan (who, as he loves reminding us, has five million-plus Twitter followers) has taught her, is how to handle social media trolls. "Piers is the absolute king of dealing with them," she admits. "That's one of the greatest lessons I've learnt from him. If I ever show him my phone and go, 'Look at that', he'll say, 'Just block them'."

Whether it's for reining in Morgan, or "flirting" with male guests such as David Beckham, Reid regularly makes headlines; most recently after finding herself at the mercy of comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer during a Comic Relief sketch.

The pair left the usually unflappable Reid unsure where to look when a kilt-wearing Reeves (playing his comedy alter ego Davey Stott) appeared to flash a fake appendage.

"I don't know what it was; I knew there was something there, I wasn't going to take a detailed look," Reid says of the skit.

"When you work in television, you know that anything can happen in live TV, and to be quite honest, anything did happen."

  • Save Money: Good Food, ITV, Tuesday, 8pm

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