Nick Clarke's return
As keen listeners to Radio Four will know, Nick Clarke is easing himself back into work. An audio diary the other week (listen here), standing in for J Dimbleby on Any Questions... and then, all being well, he'll be back with us on The World At One from August 14th for an initial two days a week.
It's going to be a period of readjustment for all of us. Of course the overwhelming feeling is that we're all delighted Nick has got through such a traumatic period in such good shape and we can't wait to have him back here. But we're also conscious that we don't want to push him too hard too quickly: it's only a few weeks since he finished his long programme of chemotherapy, and within a month he's due to be anchoring three gruelling party conferences around the country.
Also, we're all very much aware how brilliantly Shaun Ley has held the role of presenter of WATO during Nick's absence. Given that I'd only just brought him in to the department as the presenter of The World This Weekend, his transition to WATO within two months says a hell of a lot about his natural skills in front of a microphone, not to mention his in-depth knowledge of politics and policy.
For the time being, Shaun will present Wednesday to Friday after Nick has kicked off the week on Mondays and Tuesdays. Mr Ley will also move back onto The World This Weekend (or TW2 as we know it)... which means Brian Hanrahan's stint on the programme comes to an end in a few weeks. Brian's been a huge asset on the programme - and many of his foreign-based editions, such as those from Jerusalem and Rome, have won a lot of praise from listeners and colleagues alike. Of course Brian has huge experience and his confident hold on TW2 won't have surprised anyone: I'm very grateful for everything he's done here to help develop TW2 over the past year.
Perhaps the most heartening aspect of the past year has been the audience's feedback. Listeners have at the same time been asking after Nick and looking forward to his return, while recognising and praising Shaun and Brian. I've been lucky to have had such strength in depth (I'm trying to steer clear of a tempting Gelsenkirchen contrast here...), not just in presenters but also with a production team which has maintained the programmes' high standards and moved them on despite the changes.
I'm sure Nick will slot back in effortlessly. Much will be familiar to him. Except perhaps a tradition introduced by Shaun - the presenter buys the first coffee-round of the morning, Nick.