Heart of the Matter - Heart FM column with newsreader George Painter
AM I a victim of pogono- phobia? This is the question I have been asking myself for days (must stop doing that at bus stops) and I am still not sure. It is, of course, the irrational dislike of facial hair. I have a beard. I've had it for so long I have stopped thinking about it – like my tongue it's just there (oops now I can't stop thinking about my tongue).
This all changed recently when Jeremy Paxman burst into unsuspecting TV viewers' living rooms flaunting a thicket of facial hair. The reaction to Paxo turning up to present Newsnight still sporting his annual 'holiday beard' was hysterical.
Within minutes "Paxman Beard" became one of the most debated topics on the social networking site Twitter. His new whiskers appearance became (briefly) more talked about than One Direction (imagine if one of them got a beard).
It instantly highlighted that a bearded current affairs television presenter is as rare as…well…a bearded Prime Minister. In fact is it a coincidence Number 10 and the TV news studio seem to be the two places where men with facial fuzz fear, or are unable, to tread? Whilst women may swoon over silver fox Paul Hollywood from Great British Bake Off – would the average voter trust a similarly hirsute man to present the news about the budget, let alone deliver the budget?
Alistair Darling famously clung onto his beard in the early days of the New Labour government (long after Peter Mandelson ditched his) despite rumours he was being told behind the scenes to lose it. Darling did shave it off and eventually became Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have to admit – even as a bearded chap myself – Googling old photos of Darling with a beard makes me wonder whether he would have got to Number 11 looking like that.
Luckily, as a radio news presenter, I have no such worries. In fact my colleagues will tell you they are lucky if I remember not to wear my slippers to work.
However the "Paxman Beard" debacle has got me wondering where I would be today if I hadn't decided to grow what my 88 year old nan still refers to as "that beard".
George Painter is the Heart Breakfast news reader