Neil, photographed in 2011
|Born||Andrew Ferguson Neil
21 May 1949
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
|Alma mater||University of Glasgow|
|Occupation||BBC television presenter,
Chairman: Press Holdings
|Notable credit(s)||This Week,
|Spouse(s)||Susan Nilsson (m. 2015)|
Andrew Ferguson Neil (born 21 May 1949) is a Scottish journalist and broadcaster, who was editor of The Sunday Times for 11 years, and currently presents live political programmes, Sunday Politics and This Week on BBC One and Daily Politics on BBC Two. He is also the former editor-in-chief and current chairman of the Press Holdings group, which owns The Spectator.
Early life and career
Neil was born in Paisley. 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. His father was an electrician and member of the Territorial Army; his mother worked in the local cotton mills.
After school, Neil attended the University of Glasgow. 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, having been tutored by Vince Cable.
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.
The Sunday Times
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.
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. 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.
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 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. In 1992 Neil was criticised by anti-Nazi groups and historian Hugh Trevor-Roper among others for employing, as a translator of the diaries of Joseph Goebbels, the Holocaust denier David Irving.
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. 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.
Post-News Corp career
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.
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. Neil served as Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1999–2002.
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 Is This Your Life? (made by Open Media for Channel 4), which was nominated for a BAFTA award for "Best Talk Show", and on which Neil interviewed a wide variety of personalities, from Albert Reynolds and Morris Cerullo to Jimmy Savile and Max Clifford. He also acted as a TV newsreader in two films, Dirty Weekend (1993) and Parting Shots (1999), both directed by Michael Winner.
Following the revamp of the BBC's political programming in early 2003 Neil has presented live political shows, This Week on BBC One and Daily Politics on BBC Two. From 2007 to 2010 he also presented the weekly one-on-one political interview programme Straight Talk with Andrew Neil on the BBC News Channel. He has also presented Sunday Politics on BBC One since 2012 and has occasionally guest presented Newsnight on BBC Two, since Jeremy Paxman's departure in 2014.
Neil has also played an important part of the BBC General Election night coverage in both 2010 and 2015. Neil interviewed various celebrities on the River Thames for the 2010 election and political figures in the studio for the 2015 election.
Earlier in his career, the 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.
A photograph of Neil in a vest and baseball cap, embracing a woman (often mistaken for former Miss India Pamella Bordes, but is in fact an African American make-up artist with whom Neil was once involved) has appeared frequently for many years in 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 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. Neil has found "fascinating" what he sees as an example of "public school racism" on the part of the magazine's editorial staff.
Neil married Susan Nilsson on 8 August 2015. Neil had dated the Swedish civil and structural engineer for several years. Nilsson is currently Director of Communications of engineering and environmental consultancy Waterman Group Plc. By 2006 he had 14 godchildren, although he has no children of his own.
- Dearden, Lizzie (15 August 2015). "Andrew Neil married: BBC presenter weds Swedish partner in French Riviera". The Independent (London). Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- Newswatch – Profiles – Andrew Neil, BBC News, 10 June 2004, retrieved 24 April 2009
- 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
- Mary Riddell "Non-stop Neil, at home alone", British Journalism Review, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2005, p13-20
- Andrew Neil: 'I am a better journalist than I am a businessman' – Profiles – People - The Independent, retrieved 1 May 2015
- "Andrew Neil biography from Biogs". Biogs.
- Why Vince Cable is not too sexy for his party The Spectator, 19 September 2009
- Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London: Macmillan/Pan, 2003 , 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
- "Vanunu: Israel's nuclear telltale". BBC. 20 April 2004. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- John Pilger "Murdoch: a cultural Chernobyl", New Statesman, 23 July 2009, as reproduced on ITV's Pilger website
- Ben Summerskill "Paper tiger" The Observer, 28 July 2002
- Rosie Waterhouse, et al "Irving back to anti-Nazi fury" The Independent on Sunday, 5 July 1992
- 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
- Stephen Brook "Neil takes step back from Spectator", The Guardian, 8 July 2008
- Stephen Brook "Andrew Neil consortium buys PFD talent agency", The Guardian, 18 June 2008
- Open Media, accessed 24 April 2009
- A.A.Gill, The Sunday Times, 6 August 1995
- Dale, Iain (2010-05-10). "In Conversation with Andrew Neil". Total Politics. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- Walker, Tim (20 September 2011). "Haunted by that photo: One for the album?". The Independent. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
- "Bachelor of Fleet Street ties the knot". The Times.
- "Andrew Neil: 'I am a better journalist than I am a businessman' - Profiles - People - The Independent". The Independent. 15 January 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
- Ross, Deborah - Andrew Neil: An audience with the broadcaster - The Independent 19 July 2006
- Andrew Neil on Twitter
- Archive of Neil's recent articles at The Scotsman[dead link]
- Observer: Biography
- London Speaker Bureau: Biography
- The Business Magazine: Publisher in Chief
- BBC News: Biography
- The Daily Politics website
- Toby Young article in Vanity Fair[dead link]
- Andrew Neil interview, Rob McGibbon, Access Interviews, 15 February 2008
- MediaGuardian's stories on Andrew Neil
|Editor of The Sunday Times
|Editor of The European
|Rector of the University of St Andrews