Gavin Esler

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Gavin Esler
Born (1953-02-27) 27 February 1953 (age 62)
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Nationality Scottish
Education University of Kent,
University of Leeds
Occupation Journalist, presenter
Employer BBC
Notable credit(s) Newsnight
BBC News at Five
Partner(s) Anna Phoebe
Website Gavin Esler's Website

Gavin Esler (born 27 February 1953) is a Scottish BBC television presenter and author. Esler was a main presenter on BBC Two's flagship political analysis programme, Newsnight, from January 2003 until January 2014.[1] He is currently the deputy presenter of BBC News at Five and a relief presenter on the BBC News Channel. For the BBC, Esler is also the main presenter of the weekly news discussion programme Dateline London and its Scottish equivalent Dateline Scotland (not to be confused with the satirical comedy series of the same name).


Born in Glasgow, Esler was educated at the independent George Heriot's School, Edinburgh. He gained a BA in English and American literature from the University of Kent[2] and a MA in Anglo-Irish literature with distinction from the University of Leeds.[3] He entered journalism via the Belfast Telegraph and has two honorary degrees, including a Doctorate in Civil Law from the University of Kent.


Esler joined the BBC in 1977 as a Northern Ireland reporter, and extended his role after joining Newsnight in 1982. Esler was then appointed Washington correspondent and later chief North America correspondent for the BBC, in charge of shaping coverage across the whole continent for the corporation, and covering both the earlier George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. His report on the military buildup in the Aleutian islands as part of the Reagan administration's New Maritime Strategy earned him a Royal Television Society award.

Esler's reporting extended further across the globe, and he has reported for news and documentary programmes across Europe, Russia, China and North and South America. In 2007 he won a Sony Gold Award for his radio documentary report on Sami al-Hajj, one of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Following the broadcast al Hajj was released from American custody.

Esler combined reporting with presenting from the mid-1980s on BBC One's regional news programme for London and the South East of EnglandNewsroom South East. He then joined the BBC News channel (then known as "BBC News 24") from its outset, presenting its primetime slot with Sian Williams for several years.

In January 2003 he joined Newsnight, replacing Jeremy Vine, who had left to take over from Sir Jimmy Young on Radio 2. During his career Esler has interviewed heads of state and government including Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac and King Abdullah II of Jordan. He has also interviewed a wide range of cultural figures including Dolly Parton, Doris Lessing, Penélope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, V. S. Naipaul, Roger Waters, Vikram Seth and Seamus Heaney. Esler left Newsnight in January 2014, and was replaced by Laura Kuenssberg.

Esler also presents Dateline London on BBC News and BBC World News most Sunday mornings at 11 am. He also the Deputy presenter of the BBC News at Five on the BBC News channel on Fridays and when Huw Edwards is away. Esler has also hosted Radio 4 factual series, Four Corners along with fellow Scottish broadcaster, Anne MacKenzie. He has a regular slot on the BBC News Channel 10am-2pm (Saturday) and 2pm-7pm (Sunday).

Esler is the author of five novels and two non-fiction books. His novels – Loyalties, Deep Blue, The Blood Brother, A Scandalous Man, and Power Play. A Scandalous Man was described by fellow author Bernard Cornwell as "a compelling book, its political sophistication made luminous with wisdom sympathy and story telling." Other reviewers were equally complimentary. His fifth novel, Powerplay, was published by HarperCollins in August 2009. Esler's first non-fiction book, The United States of Anger published in October 1997 (Penguin), explores America's discontent with itself and was described by the New Statesman as "a vivid portrait of America in the 1990's". Esler's most recent book is Lessons from the Top published in August 2012 (Profile). In it Esler examines how leaders use stories to mould their audience's perception of who they are. For several years he wrote regular columns for The Scotsman, The Independent and other publications.

Esler was appointed as the sixth Chancellor[4] of The University of Kent on 24 January 2014.

George Galloway and Hillary Clinton[edit]

In 2005 Esler interviewed George Galloway on Newsnight regarding the London bombings. The BBC was reported to have received hundreds of complaints about Esler's interview alleging Esler's questioning was "rude and aggressive". Peter Barron, editor of Newsnight, defended Esler's questioning of Galloway's tactics: "...I accept entirely that while Mr Galloway's views run counter to those expressed by mainstream politicians they are views that may be held quite widely across the country and perhaps particularly in parts of London such as Mr Galloway's constituency. The thrust of Gavin's questioning was to ask if it was wise to express these provocative views – effectively "I told you so" – at a time when many politicians and Muslim leaders had been appealing for calm. I believe that was a fair and appropriate line of questioning."[5]

In 2007 a BBC publication investigating into impartiality in the organisation criticised an unnamed BBC news presenter for writing an article in the Daily Mirror newspaper entitled "Why the World Needs Hillary", stating they had been "unwise" for doing so. The article appeared to endorse Hillary Clinton to be the next US President and it soon emerged that the newsreader in question was Esler. The BBC report noted that the article "could make it hard for that presenter to conduct American political interviews".[6][7][8]


Gavin Esler has written the following books:

Title Publication Date Genre ISBN
Lessons from the Top: The three universal stories that all successful leaders tell 2013 Non-Fiction 978-1846685002
Power Play 2010 Novel 978-0007278114
A Scandalous Man 2008 Political fiction 978-0007280919
The United States of Anger 1998 Non-Fiction 978-0140269277
The Blood Brother 1996 Novel 978-0006493044
Deep Blue 1992 Novel 978-0006472759
Loyalties 1991 Novel 978-0747234388

Personal life[edit]

In 2007 Esler separated from his wife of 28 years, Patricia Warner, who lives in the family home with their two children. In late 2008 Esler began living in a townhouse in west London, with rock violinist Anna Phoebe.[9][10] Phoebe and Esler have a daughter, born in 2011.[11]

His hobbies include camping, hiking and skiing. He is a fan of progressive rock,[12] citing King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Colosseum and Pink Floyd as favourite bands, and presented Prog magazine's Progressive Music Awards for three consecutive years between September 2012 and 2014.[13][14][15]


  1. ^ John Plunkett "BBC Newsnight recruits ITV's Laura Kuenssberg", November 2013
  2. ^ "Kent Alumni". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  3. ^ University of Leeds. "Who's been here | Media". Retrieved 6 January 2007. 
  4. ^ "Gavin Esler appointed Chancellor of the University of Kent". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Ungallant to Galloway?". BBC News. 11 July 2005. Retrieved 12 October 2006. 
  6. ^ Thompson, Damian (19 June 2007). "The BBC can't kick its addiction to bias". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  7. ^ "Is Gavin Esler ready for another Clinton?". The Daily Telegraph (London). 8 August 2007. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Newsnight's Gavin Esler goes public with his Vixen of the Violin at art exhibition". London: Daily Mail. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  10. ^ Newsnight's Gavin Esler splits from wife and moves in with raunchy violinist lover | Mail Online
  11. ^ Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler has a baby by Anna Phoebe – Telegraph
  12. ^ Gavin Esler – "Why I love Prog Rock" Why I love prog rock
  13. ^ "Newsnight host Esler to front rock music awards gig". BBC News. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Hawkwind star honoured at awards". BBC News. 4 September 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "Peter Gabriel honoured at Prog music awards". BBC News. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Jeremy Vine
BBC's Newsnight presenter
with Jeremy Paxman, Emily Maitlis and Kirsty Wark
Succeeded by
Laura Kuenssberg
Preceded by
New Post
Friday presenter of BBC News at Five
(BBC News Channel)

2008 – present
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Robert Worcester
Chancellor of the University of Kent
2014 – present