Andrew Neil

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Andrew Neil
Andrew Neil FT 2011.jpg
Born Andrew Ferguson Neil
(1949-05-21) 21 May 1949 (age 65)
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Nationality Scottish
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Occupation BBC journalist
Author
Television presenter
Notable credit(s) This Week
Daily Politics
The Sunday Politics
Partner(s) Susan Nilsson

Andrew Ferguson Neil (born 21 May 1949) is a Scottish journalist and broadcaster.

Neil currently works for the BBC, presenting the live political programmes, Daily Politics on BBC Two, The Sunday Politics on BBC One, and This Week on BBC One. He also anchors BBC's Straight Talk With Andrew Neil and makes documentaries.[1][2][3]

Neil is Chairman of Spectator Magazines, Chairman of ITP Magazines (Dubai), and Chairman of World Media Rights (London).[4]

Neil made his name at The Sunday Times where he was editor for 11 years. In 1995, he was made editor-in-chief of the Press Holdings group of newspapers, owner of The Business, and (from 2005) The Spectator, moving up to become chairman in July 2008.

Early life and career[edit]

Neil was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire. He grew up in the Glenburn area, and attended the local Lancraigs Primary School. Aged 11, Neil passed his 11-plus examinations and obtained entrance to the then academically selective Paisley Grammar School.[5] His father was a professional soldier who had worked his way up through the ranks; his mother worked in the local cotton mills.[citation needed]

After school, Neil attended the University of Glasgow.[6] While there, he edited the student newspaper, the Glasgow University Guardian and dabbled in student television. He was also a member of the Dialectic Society and the Conservative Club and participated in Glasgow University Union inter-varsity debates. He graduated in 1971 with an MA with honours in political economy and political science,[6][7] having been tutored by Vince Cable.[8]

After graduation, Neil briefly worked as a sports correspondent for local newspaper, the Paisley Daily Express, before working for the Conservative Party as a research assistant. In 1973, he joined The Economist as a correspondent and was later promoted as editor of the publication's section on Britain.

A passionate follower of cricket, Neil is a member of Marylebone Cricket Club.[citation needed]

The Sunday Times[edit]

Neil was editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 until 1994. His hiring was controversial. It was argued that he was appointed by Rupert Murdoch over more experienced colleagues, such as Hugo Young and Brian MacArthur.[9]

Opposition to perceived public school and Oxbridge attitudes was a hallmark of Neil's Sunday Times editorship. Neil regards the newspaper's revelation of details of Israel's nuclear weapons programme in 1986, using photographs and testimony from former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, as his greatest scoop as an editor.[10] During his editorship, the newspaper lost a libel case over claims it had made concerning a witness interviewed in the Death on the Rock documentary on the Gibraltar shootings.[11]

While at The Sunday Times in 1988, Neil met the former Miss India, Pamella Bordes, in a nightclub. The News of the World suggested she was an up-market prostitute. Sir Peregrine Worsthorne argued, in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, that Neil was not fit to edit a serious Sunday newspaper, on the grounds that "playboys" should not be editors. In a subsequent libel case, Neil sued Worsthorne and won £1,000[12] plus costs.

The Sunday Times during this period campaigned for a fringe and already discredited claim that AIDS was not an infectious disease and was not caused by HIV.[12] In 1992 Neil was criticised by anti-Nazi groups[13] and historian Hugh Trevor-Roper among others[14] for employing, as a translator of the diaries of Joseph Goebbels, the Holocaust denier David Irving.[13]

Sky[edit]

Neil (centre) with Sky News anchor Adam Boulton (left) in 2013

In 1988 he also became founding chairman of Sky TV, also part of Murdoch's News Corporation. Neil was instrumental in the company's launch, overseeing the transformation of a down market, single channel satellite service into a four channel network in less than a year. He also brought The Simpsons to British television.[15] Neil and Murdoch stood side by side at Sky's new headquarters in West London on 5 February 1989 to witness the launch of the service at 18.00. Sky was not an instant success; the uncertainty caused by the competition provided by British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) and the initial shortage of satellite dishes were early problems.

The failure of BSB in November 1990 led to a merger, although few programmes acquired by BSB were screened on Sky One, and BSB's satellites were sold. The new company was called British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). The merger may have saved Sky financially; despite its popularity, Sky had very few major advertisers to begin with, and was also beginning to suffer from embarrassing breakdowns. Acquiring BSB's healthier advertising contracts and equipment apparently solved these problems. BSkyB would not make a profit for a decade but is now[when?] one of the most profitable and successful television companies in Europe.[citation needed]

Post-News Corp career[edit]

He eventually parted company with Murdoch on bad terms and became a writer for the Daily Mail. In 1996 he became editor-in-chief of the Barclay brothers' Press Holdings group of newspapers, owner of The Scotsman, Sunday Business (later just The Business) and The European. Press Holdings sold The Scotsman in December 2005, ending Neil's relationship with the newspaper. Neil has not enjoyed great success with the circulations of the newspapers (indeed The European folded shortly after he took over). The Business also closed down in February 2008. He exchanged his role as chief executive of Press Holdings for chairman in July 2008.[16]

In June 2008, Neil led a consortium which bought talent agency Peters, Fraser & Dunlop (PFD) from CSS Stellar plc for £4 million. Neil will be chairman of the new company in addition to his other activities.[17] Neil served as Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1999 – 2002.

Broadcasting[edit]

Nick Clegg being interviewed by Andrew Neil for The Daily Politics

As well as Neil's newspaper activities he has also maintained a television career. While working at The Economist he provided news reports to American networks. When at The Sunday Times he contributed to BBC radio and television as well as commenting on the various controversies provoked by the paper in his role as Editor. During the 1990s Neil fronted political programmes for the BBC, notably Despatch Box on BBC Two and the interview show Is This Your Life? (made by Open Media for Channel 4) which was nominated for a BAFTA award for "Best Talk Show".[18] One episode of Is This Your Life? – the interview with Jimmy Savile – can be viewed here.

Following the revamp of the BBC's political programming in early 2003 Neil has been the presenter of the BBC One weekly political roundup show, This Week, and co-presenter of Daily Politics which broadcasts every day that Parliament sits.[6]

In November 2004, it was announced that Neil was to become chief executive of The Spectator.

After being overlooked to present the BBC's flagship news programme Newsnight, Neil has presented This Week with ex-Conservative minister Michael Portillo, and Alan Johnson.[6] Neil also presents the weekly one-on-one political interview programme Straight Talk with Andrew Neil on the BBC News Channel. He began regularly presenting Newsnight in 2014 following Jeremy Paxman's departure.

Private Eye[edit]

British satirical and investigative journalism magazine Private Eye frequently refers to Neil by the nickname "Brillo", after his wiry hair which is seen as bearing a resemblance to a Brillo Pad, a brand of scouring pad.[19]

A photograph of Neil in a vest and baseball cap, embracing a woman (often mistaken for former Miss India Pamella Bordes, but in fact African American[19]) has appeared in numerous editions of the magazine. A long-running joke within the letters page is that a reader will ask the editor if he has any photographs related to some topic in the news, frequently accompanied in by a reference to the woman's ethnicity. By double entendre it can be construed as a request for this photo, which is duly published alongside the letter.[20] Neil has found "fascinating" what he sees as an example of "public school racism" on the part of the magazine's editorial staff.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Neil has never married and, although he has 14 godchildren, he has no children of his own.[22] Neil has dated Swedish-born IT engineer, Susan Nilsson, for a number of years. Formerly a competitive swimmer, Nilsson is a graduate of Stockholm School of Economics and is presently director of operations at EF Education First.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BBC News – Straight Talk with Andrew Neil
  2. ^ BBC – BBC Two Programmes – Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain
  3. ^ BBC News – Andrew Neil previews US Tea Party documentary
  4. ^ http://twitter.com/afneil
  5. ^ BBC Documentary – Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain. First broadcast – BBC2 January 26, 2011 at 21:00 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00y37gk#broadcasts
  6. ^ a b c d Newswatch – Profiles – Andrew Neil, BBC News, 10 June 2004, retrieved 24 April 2009 
  7. ^ Andrew Neil
  8. ^ Why Vince Cable is not too sexy for his party The Spectator, 19 September 2009
  9. ^ Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London: Macmillan/Pan, 2003 [2004], p.387. Greenslade uses the word "many", but cites only Paul Foot's essay "The Slow Death of Investigative Journalism" (in Stephen Glover (ed.) Secrets of the Press: Journalists on Journalism, Allen Lane, 1999, p.79-89, 85) as evidence
  10. ^ "Vanunu: Israel's nuclear telltale". BBC. 20 April 2004. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  11. ^ John Pilger "Murdoch: a cultural Chernobyl",[dead link] New Statesman, 23 July 2009, as reproduced on ITV's Pilger website
  12. ^ a b Ben Summerskill "Paper tiger" The Observer, 28 July 2002
  13. ^ a b Rosie Waterhouse, et al "Irving back to anti-Nazi fury" The Independent on Sunday, 5 July 1992
  14. ^ Peter Pringle and David Lister "Hitler apologist does deal for Goebbels war diaries: 'Sunday Times' contract with David Irving over rediscovered Nazi material alarms scholars" The Independent 3 July 1992
  15. ^ Martin Rosenbaum "Is The Simpsons still subversive?", BBC News, 29 June 2007; Retrieved on 27 April 2008
  16. ^ Stephen Brook "Neil takes step back from Spectator", The Guardian, 8 July 2008
  17. ^ Stephen Brook "Andrew Neil consortium buys PFD talent agency", The Guardian, 18 June 2008
  18. ^ Open Media, accessed 24 April 2009
  19. ^ a b Dale, Iain (2010-05-10). "In Conversation with Andrew Neil". Total Politics. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  20. ^ Walker, Tim (20 September 2011). "Haunted by that photo: One for the album?". The Independent. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  21. ^ Mary Riddell "Non-stop Neil, at home alone", British Journalism Review, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2005, p13-20
  22. ^ Deborah Ross "Andrew Neil: An audience with the broadcaster", The Independent, 19 January 2006
  23. ^ Richard Kay "The Swede who tamed Andrew Neil", Daily Mail, 27 July 2011

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Frank Giles
Editor of The Sunday Times
1983–1994
Succeeded by
John Witherow
Preceded by
Charles Garside
Editor of The European
1996–1998
Succeeded by
Gerry Malone
Academic offices
Preceded by
Donald Findlay
Rector of the University of St Andrews
1999–2002
Succeeded by
Clement Freud