My favourite John Sergeant moment came on an edition of Question Time. The panel were discussing the banking crash and the merits of punitive action against the bankers whose actions had put the world’s economy in peril. A Conservative politician had been waxing lyrical on the theme that sending bankers to prison “would not solve anything”. Enter Sergeant, “I’m not talking about solving anything, I want revenge !”.
John Sergeant is one of the many people whose time living and working in Liverpool marked a turning point in his life. He came to the city in 1967 having obtained a post as a trainee journalist with the Liverpool Echo, having turned to journalism after a short career as a comedy actor, appearing a BBC sketch show with Alan Bennett. In his autobiography, Give Me Ten Seconds, he recalls the flat he lived in at 6 Newsham Drive L6, a large Victorian house owned by a Mrs Arnott. He had major problems warding off the attentions of a fellow resident called Daisy. She was a seriously overweight Dalmatian dog whose amorous advances caused Sergeant to refer to her as Slobberchops.
He was initially set to train as a sub-editor but was soon told by the paper’s proprietor, Sir Alick Jeans, that he hadn’t ‘made it’ as a sub and he would become a reporter. For a while he edited the regular echo feature Over the Mersey Wall, but was removed from the job as he had failed to show sufficient interest in the silver and diamond weddings which were the column’s mainstay. In due course he was successful in getting a job with the BBC as a news reporter and he moved to London.
However, Sergeant gained more than journalistic experience from his sojourn in Liverpool. He gained a wife. Mary Smithies joined the Echo shortly after his arrival and they soon became ‘an item’. Unfortunately the paper did not rate her capabilities and she was not kept on after an initial six weeks. Sergeant believed that it was not to her advantage to have worn mini skirts to work. They were married on 4 January 1949 at the church in Mary’s family home of Goosnargh near Preston.
Having reported from around the world, covering some of the major events of the era, ne became the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent in 1992, a post he held until 2000 when he became political editor at ITN. Retiring from ITN in 2002 he has remained a familiar face on the small screen, famously competing in Strictly Come Dancing in 2008 where the support from the public antagonised the judges.
The house in which Sergeant had rooms during his time working at the Liverpool Echo.
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