Jeremy Vine is a TV personality and radio hostSarah Jeynes for the BBC

Upturned collars, unkempt hair and some questionable colour combinations – not what you might expect of Jeremy Vine, business-like host of BBC Radio 2’s lunchtime show. But in the mid-1980s, Vine and his brother, comedian Tim Vine, founded the punk band The Flared Generation, who Smash Hits Magazine dubbed “the most unfashionable punk band in the country”.

He laughs when I mention the band. “Oh, God,” he says, putting his head in his hands. “We misunderstood punk to such an extent that we wore flared trousers. We only got anywhere because we were a joke!”

Having just spoken at the Cambridge Union, Vine’s demeanour is relaxed as he tells me about his younger days. His journalism career spans decades and continents, but it all started in Cheam, trying to make it as a band with his brother and two friends. “Tim was the only one of the two of us with any talent. I think he saw the comedic value we had and decided to pursue that.”

Vine, however, chose a different path. After an internship with the Coventry Evening Standard in 1986, he moved to the BBC, working on Radio 4’s Today Programme before becoming a political reporter. His work has taken him across Europe and Africa, where he reported on the Angolan Civil War, the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and interviewed Robert Mugabe. His Newsnight investigation into police brutality in South Africa won the Silver Nymph Award at the Monte Carlo Television Festival, and resulted in the suspension of 22 police officers.

“Look a little bit beyond where you are right might find that the world is going to change”

This all sprouted from Vine’s days at Durham University, where he was Editor-in-Chief of student newspaper Palatinate. “The people I did student journalism with […] they’re still my friends, I saw two of them a couple of days ago,” Vine tells me, leaning back in his chair. “But we were sitting there with old manual typewriters, dreaming of working for newspapers, and when we went out into the real world, the newspapers had collapsed.” He pauses, considering: “What we should have done, really, is look at computers. My advice would be to look a little bit beyond where you are right now, because you might find that the world is going to change.”

The multi-media nature of journalism is something Vine has embraced during his career. Alongside his radio show, he presented Panorama, the BBC’s investigative documentary series, from 2007-2010; he currently hosts quiz show Eggheads and presents Jeremy Vine, Channel 5’s current affairs show. Vine is also active on Twitter and TikTok, with 135,000 TikTok followers, though he sheepishly admits that he has someone younger managing it.

And yet, Vine knows all too well the harm the online world can cause. In September 2022, former BBC Radio Leeds presenter Alex Belfield was jailed for five and a half years for stalking Vine and three others. Over several years, Belfield made YouTube videos about his victims, sent them messages on social media, emailed them, and encouraged his followers to target them. The judge noted that one victim, Bernard Spedding, was left a "shell" after being harassed for nine years.

In a Newsnight interview last year, Vine told Victoria Derbyshire that he believes someone would have died if the courts hadn’t stopped Belfield. He spoke of his fear for his teenage daughters after their home address was leaked by Belfield. “I felt broken over it,” he said then.


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“It really was a facer for me,” he reflects now. “I hadn’t seen such an avalanche of hatred coming from one person before. But they really need to do something about it – the idea that this guy still has half his videos up on YouTube is nuts.”

When I ask if he suspects a gender bias in the sentencing – Belfield was found not guilty of stalking all the female employees who came forward – he thinks for a second. “Unfortunately, I think they’d been terrorised by him for so long that juries can think that if it’s been going on so long without being reported, you can’t have been that bothered.” He condemns the “bad advice” given to the women by the BBC, who advised them to block and ignore Belfield – Vine argues that they should have been urged to log and report the incidents. The women – Liz Green, Rozina Breen, Helen Thomas, and Stephanie Hirst – have called for an independent investigation into how the BBC handled the situation.

“But we’re at the start of all this,” Vine goes on. “We’re learning.”

There is much we haven’t had time to discuss: Vine’s love of cycling, his time on Strictly Come Dancing, and his patronage of hospital radio. All of this is a far cry from the rockstar career he might have imagined for himself back in his Flared Generation days – but it’s not bad for a former member of Britain’s least fashionable punk band.