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Scots drivetime BBC radio host on fighting talk fuelling on-air duels

THEY are radio's odd couple bringing the sugar and spice to millions of drive-time commuters.

Veteran broadcaster Peter Allen's banter with Aasmah Mir has won them a growing army of fans for their Radio 5 Live's teatime show.

Aasmah, 39, yesterday admitted the on-air jousting between the pair is no act - and she is no walkover when it comes to fighting her corner.

She said: "He can be a bit annoying and has been there forever but I just tell him how I see it.

"We have quite an interesting on-air relationship because I annoy him and he annoys me. We don't fake it. When we argue, it's right out there and I have no idea whether it works or not but the figures seem to suggest it does."

Those figures recently reached 2.5million listeners, making it one of 5 Live's flagship programmes.

The station stretches from music to politics to culture. But it's probably better known for its sport and blokeishness, which takes a certain type of feisty female to cut it among all that testosterone.

But Aasmah, from Bearsden, near Glasgow, steps up to the mark. She has the academic credentials - a law degree from Bristol university - and a CV that includes STV and BBC Scotland, a variety of newspapers, and stints producing and in front of the camera in Nottingham and London.

Having arrived at 5 Live nine years ago, she is also a regular on Lorraine Kelly's ITV show.

But it is the pairing with crusty Allen that's making people listen in traffic jams across Britain.

Aasmah said: "We are polar opposites. He is incredibly grumpy and old-fashioned but he is a totem for people who are a bit like that - and there are a lot of them in the UK.

"Some of us are more forward-thinking. About the only thing we agree on is our common hatred of bad spelling, bad grammar and Facebook."

But it is a relief to know there is at least one man who is a match for the feisty Scot. She has been married for nearly four years to Piara Powar, the director of Football Against Racism in Europe.

Football has been an important part of her life since her days at STV when she was first asked who she supported.

The question then meant little to Aasmah, whose Pakistani/Scottish family were first-generation immigrants and far more enthusiastic about cricket than Scotland's national game.

At that point, she had little idea of how much would hinge upon her answer to the great Scottish football question.

In the end, she chose Celtic because they were then the underdogs. Aasmah said: "I've always had an affection for the underdog. But it never was going to be Rangers anyway - not since my schooldays when I remember these older guys coming to the school gates wearing Rangers tops and handing out leaflets supporting the BNP."

She met Piara first when she interviewed him and then again socially but it was not until their third date that she realised they were going out.

Their jobs now mean that grabbing time together is not easy. She is off to Florida to cover the US mid-term elections while he is flying out to carry the FARE banner in the Ukraine.

It is a problem that might drive some couples apart but Aasmah says they embrace it as a way of keeping things fresh. The only long-term argument they have is over her wish for a dog.

She said: "I'd love to get a dog but he doesn't want one. I think he is more of a cat person.

"When I lived in Glasgow I had two Alsatians and a cross between a boxer and a Labrador.

"It's impractical to have a dog at the moment because we live in a flat but I've made him promise that if we move into a house we'll get one."

But it doesn't look as if Aasmah will be moving to the country any time soon because life in the city is becoming even more hectic for her.

She has just moved on to the sofa with Lorraine Kelly, where she is a newspaper critic, and her success there is making her rethink her attitude to telly. Surprisingly, for someone who began their career reading the news, she describes TV as "totally terrifying".

She said: "My mum used to record it and I would watch myself on-screen transfixed by fear.

"Radio is much easier because you can just be yourself without thinking of how you look and about all the millions of people watching you.

"But being on with Lorraine as a contributor, the whole television thing has been much less daunting. I'm older and more confident. TV now would be a new challenge for me."

Whatever she decides to do, you get the impression that once Aasmah has made up her mind, very little will stand in her way.

She said: "I love what I do and put everything that I have into it."