My interest in politics started at an early age, perhaps when I was around eight years old. Over time it became a disease, an obsession, a compulsive disorder, that I have shared seriously over the years with a small number of those similarly afflicted. I should probably have aimed for law at university – more lucrative in hindsight – but I didn't. Law did not induce the shakes or the sweats in any measure comparable to politics, so politics it was.
The bacteria that drove the disease towards incurability was provided by all the people who asked questions in newspapers, weekly journals, TV news magazines, and later, academic publications. Although I have always held strong personal political views, somehow I could not restrict myself to reading ideas, analyses and interpretations, from only those sources that reinforced my own bias. This is because I have always been interested in the questions themselves and where they would lead, rather than any expectation of, or a desire for, any particular comfortable answer.
There have been many carriers of the disease in the media in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, during my travels. Through them the bacteria entered my system, too many to remember, but a few notable examples come to mind.
I still hear Robin Day's distinctive voice, badgering Harold Wilson for a straight answer, wrestling with the erudition of Roy Jenkins and Peter Shore, trying to force Edward Heath to expand through his natural reticence and then get a word in edgeways with Margaret Thatcher. I wonder how Mr Day would have got on against the bland stonewalling of Theresa May. Robin Day held a reputation equal to most of the politicians he faced, almost obliging them to answer him fully and with respect as millions watched.
One exception was the unfortunate John Nott, secretary of defence at the time of the Falklands war, whom Day forced to retreat, intemperately, from the interview simply by allowing him to expose his weaknesses in the glare of the television studio.
Robin Day was considered by many to be the doyen of the combative political interview, while David Frost became something much more enduring – I won't say endearing. The televised conversations that Frost had with former president, Richard Nixon, remain an extraordinary event. Obviously Nixon wanted a 'platform' from which he could give his side of the Watergate scandal, after the dust had settled. Frost had the courage to give it to him, knowing that it would be compelling television and an important record for the future. Few people will ever get to occupy the Oval Office, so the rest of us will never understand the effects it has on an incumbent. David Frost's questions offered us a level of access that no-one else has come close to.
Others come to mind. Naomi Klein asks possibly the most important questions and sets out wide-ranging answers on the relationship between our planet and the networks of self-interested corporate, military and political power. Michael Moore asks vital and timeless questions in his films about the power that materialism (greed) holds over our daily lives and the sometimes terrible consequences that we seem content to bear. The search for profit is clearly a virus perhaps more powerful than my own obsession.
In Britain, we still have the likes of Andrew Neil and Jon Snow, but their aggression in the bear pit lacks the timing that Robin Day had; they press relentlessly for victory and validation, rather than waiting for the tightening of the rope.
Then there is our own dear Kenneth Roy; quiet, civilised and utterly unrelenting. I met him only once, last year, but I knew him my entire life because he was on TV, feeding my obsession with the best of them. More than that, he showed all of us that the most important thing we can do as citizens is to keep asking questions and holding our public servants to account, whether they are elected or not. Politicians and civil servants, at every level, prefer to work quietly beyond the glare of public scrutiny – Theresa May is perhaps the most obvious current example.
Kenneth Roy would never allow that and his professional life was a constant process of considered thinking, precise questioning and illumination without favour and without him even attempting to become a part of the story as so many journalists and broadcasters do these days (Piers Morgan comes immediately to mind). Kenneth's absolute refusal to accept the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing as 'safe' was only one of his many finest hours, and in so doing he ran against every self-interested establishment agency on both sides of the Atlantic. Kenneth showed that independence of mind and unshakeable integrity are still more important human values than power, greed and the need for power.
In this age of information overload, manipulation and naked cynicism in politics and government, we need independent thought and integrity more than ever. Asking precise questions is now a 24/7 occupation that can only be properly undertaken by publications like SR because Twitter is simply not up to it. Thought, questions and illumination are Kenneth Roy's lasting legacy and it is now for all of us to carry it forward.