Out of date, middle-class and generally a bit mimsy: the verdict of a focus group on the Today programme’s Thought for the Day was so unambiguous that not even the BBC could ignore it. Will its replacement in the “God slot” work any better? A transcript of the first Celebrity Thought for the Day leaves room for doubt.
“Look. I didn’t come here because I fancy sitting in some bleedin’ cupboard at the BBC. I came here because I’m Sir Alan Sugar, right? I’ve worked my way up from being a raggedy-arsed kid on the streets of Hackney who literally left school when he was seven years old. When other kids were learning their algebra and biography in school, I was out in the real world, kicking backsides and getting things done.
“That’s why today I drive a Bentley with customised number-plates and enjoy a luxury celebrity lifestyle. Because I bloody earned it. I run a company which makes available the best of the new technology for very reasonable prices. No big deal. Nothing special. Sorry. It’s the way I am. Success is what I do.
“Now what really gets me going, right, is when I see an organisation that’s not maximising its investment opportunities, that could be making a decent return and isn’t. That to me is waste. So when some haddock-faced berk from the BBC sits in my boardroom and asks me if I want to give a sermon on BBC radio, I’ve got just one question. What’s in it for Sir Alan Sugar?
“‘There’s not much money, Sir Alan, but your reward will be in heaven,’ goes the haddock. ‘Tax free, open ended.’
“I talk to Nick and Margaret, the two grey-hairs I like to have near me to make me look good. Between them, they’ve been in business for 112 years. They’re nobody’s patsies. ‘This Celebrity Thought for the Day thing,’ I say, ‘I think it could be goer. Am I right, guys?’
“‘Yes, Sir Alan,’ they say.
“I gotta tell ya that I’ve got a good feeling about this one. I know that a lot of good people have done their bollocks investing in religion but I just know in my gut that I can do to Christianity what I did to Amstrad – turn it into a stylish, must-have brand with upmarket design values but available for every budget.
“‘You’ll have carte blanche,’ the haddock’s going.
“‘Hold up, sonny,’ I say. I wink at Margaret, who likes my little witticisms. ‘Let’s not put the carte blanche before the horse, shall we? Who’s the chief honcho in this Christianity lark. Whose arse is it on the line if the whole thing goes tits up?’
“It turns out that my opposite number in the Church of England plc is a guy called Dr Rowan Williams. He’s someone I can do business with – we’re both of an age. OK, I’m a knight of the realm and he’s only a doctor but Sir Alan Sugar was never one to get hung up on titles.
“‘Doctor, I gotta be frank,’ I tell him. ‘I’ve looked at your outfit and I’ve seen better-run whelk stalls on the Old Kent Road. I don’t even know what you sell.’
“He thinks for about half an hour and then says, ‘Christians live among an immensity of meanings which, in a purely epistemological sense, defy summary explanation.’
“‘Stop, stop! You’re doin’ me head in, doctor. I’m offering to turn around your business and you’re giving me GBH of the lughole about episiotomy or whatever. I’ve looked at your mission statement and frankly I thought you were having a laugh. Blessed are the pure in heart? Tell that to a roomful of reps at a sales conference and they’d burst their haemorrhoids laughing. The meek shall inherit the earth? Not while Sir Alan Sugar’s around. Blessed are the arse-kickers – now you’re talking. For they shall soon be driving a Bentley with customised number-plates and enjoying a luxury celebrity lifestyle. I’m right, Nick and Margaret, aren’t I?’
“‘Yes, Sir Alan.'”