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Born in Birmingham, she was educated at Oldfield School in Bath, Somerset, and Woodhouse Sixth Form College in Finchley, north London. Hartley-Brewer studied PPE at Magdalen College, Oxford, and then at the Centre for Journalism Studies, Cardiff.
Hartley-Brewer began her career in journalism at the East London Advertiser in Bethnal Green. Later she worked as a news reporter and political correspondent for the London Evening Standard and then joined The Guardian, working at the latter until September 2000. She then moved to the Sunday Express as Political Correspondent, becoming Political Editor from 2001 until 2007 and then Assistant Editor (Politics), also writing a weekly opinion column. She left the Sunday Express in February 2011.
In 2006, she presented and narrated two political documentaries for BBC2/BBC4 about the history of British deputy prime ministers, called Every Prime Minister Needs a Willie, and the history of the leader of the opposition in The Worst Job in Politics.
She has appeared as a panellist on the comedy quiz show Have I Got News for You seven times as well as being a regular panellist on BBC1's Question Time and Radio 4's Any Questions? She is a regular pundit and commentator on TV and radio, including for Sky News, the BBC News Channel, BBC1's The One Show, ITV's Tonight show, Lorraine on ITV, This Morning on ITV1, The Agenda on ITV1, Radio Five Live, and Radio 4's Today and PM programmes. She appeared as a contestant on "Pointless Celebrities" in October 2014, winning the prize for her chosen charity, the Miscarriage Association.
- "Julia Hartley-Brewer biography". LBC radio site. LBC. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
- "Julia Hartley-Brewer". JLA. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
- Julia Hartley-Brewer contributor page, The Guardian website
- "The Worst Job In British Politics? The Leader of the Opposition". BBC programmes index. BBC. 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
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