James O'Brien (broadcaster)

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James O'Brien
James O'Brien at the 2019 Chiswick Book Festival.jpg
O'Brien at the 2019 Chiswick Book Festival
James Edward O'Brien

(1972-01-13) 13 January 1972 (age 48)
Hackney, London, England[1]
EducationAmpleforth College
Alma materLondon School of Economics
OccupationJournalist, television/radio presenter
Known forLBC, Newsnight
Lucy O'Brien
(m. 2000)

James Edward O'Brien (born 13 January 1972) is an English radio presenter and podcaster. He is one of the presenters on talk station LBC, presenting on weekdays between 10 am and 1 pm, hosting a phone-in discussion of current affairs, views and real-life experiences. He hosted a weekly interview series with JOE titled Unfiltered with James O'Brien. He has previously occasionally presented Newsnight for the BBC.

Early life[edit]

O'Brien was adopted as a baby by Jim O’Brien, a journalist for The Daily Telegraph, and his wife.[2] He was educated at the independent Ampleforth College and later read Philosophy & Economics at the London School of Economics.[3]


Prior to his broadcasting career, O'Brien was an editor of the Daily Express gossip column written under the pseudonym William Hickey, and has had work published in Cosmopolitan and The Spectator.[4] In 2015, he published a book on attitudes about immigration, Loathe Thy Neighbour.[5]

On 1 November 2018 O'Brien published a book called How To Be Right... in a World gone Wrong in which he states his opinions on various matters of current affairs. The book reached fifth position in the Sunday Times Top 10 best sellers' list in December 2018.[6]His second book, How Not to Be Wrong: The Art of Changing Your Mind was released on 22 October 2020.


From 2000 to 2002, O'Brien was a panellist on the Channel 5 programme The Wright Stuff. In early 2001, he presented A Knight with O'Brien,[7] a talk show on Anglia Television.

With his wife, Lucy O'Brien (née McDonald), he fronted Channel 5's 2001 general election talk show 5 Talk, securing a review from Clive James, who wrote: "James, in particular, is a pink-shirted walking encyclopedia of political savvy".[8][9][10]


O'Brien first appeared on LBC during 2002 as a holiday cover presenter. His own weekly programme began in January 2003 and he became a full-time presenter in 2004. Regular features of his show include the "Mystery Hour," in which listeners phone in with various things that puzzle them and other callers attempt to give a solution.[4]

O'Brien made national headlines in April 2009 when footballer Frank Lampard phoned his show to object to tabloid stories about his private life and O'Brien's discussion of them. Lampard's former fiancée, Elen Rivas, had alleged that Frank Lampard had turned their home into a bachelor pad while she and Lampard's children were living in a rented flat. Lampard phoned in, objecting to the assertion that he was "weak" and "scum" and said that he had fought "tooth and nail" to keep his family together.[11] Public comments on Lampard's reaction praised Lampard's "brave" and "articulate" handling of the situation.[11] The exchange later earned O'Brien, who defended his conduct in an equally heated exchange with Kay Burley on Sky News, a Bronze Award in the Best Interview category of the 2010 Sony Radio Academy Awards.[12]

In 2013, O'Brien clashed with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in an argument over the Government's work programmes.[13] In May 2014, O'Brien interviewed UKIP leader Nigel Farage. During the interview, O'Brien picked up on Farage's comment that he felt uncomfortable on a train at not being able to hear anyone speaking English. Farage was also criticised by O'Brien for misinterpreting having English as a second language as being unable to speak English at all and for saying he would be concerned if a group of Romanian men moved in next door to him.[14] In October 2014, O'Brien breached broadcasting rules by his remarks during the Clacton by-election.[15]

O'Brien has claimed to be politically homeless, being against the British Left such as the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, but enjoys support from the liberal media of British politics e.g. the New Statesman and The Guardian.[16][17] He enjoys the freedom that LBC gives him to express his views.[18] O'Brien frequently discusses Brexit with callers who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum,[19] often claiming Leave voters had been deceived by the pro-Brexit campaigns to vote against their own interests.[20]


O'Brien began occasionally guest presenting on the BBC Two programme Newsnight in August 2014.[21][22][18] Following the widespread interest in O'Brien's interview with Farage, it was speculated[by whom?] he would be a permanent replacement for longtime host Jeremy Paxman, who intended to step down. The job was ultimately taken by Evan Davis.[23] The Sun criticised O'Brien's presence on Newsnight, calling him a "professional leftie propagandist".[24] O'Brien left Newsnight in January 2018 after being criticised for his anti-Brexit and anti-Trump views, which were felt to be out of step with the corporation's policy on neutrality. He departed on good terms, saying the BBC still had the finest selection of journalists in the world.[24]

In 2015, O'Brien presented an ITV chat show called O'Brien which aired for ten episodes.[25]


In October 2017, O'Brien began hosting a podcast at JOE.co.uk titled Unfiltered with James O'Brien,[26] which ran until November 2018. Guests have included Russell Brand, Alastair Campbell, Lily Allen, Jon Ronson, Gary Lineker and Sir Nick Clegg.[27]

A new podcast was started in March 2019 titled Full Disclosure with James O'Brien.[28] The first guest to appear on the show was former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Other guests included David Mitchell, Lord Heseltine, Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo.

Political activism[edit]

O'Brien has stated that he voted for future Prime Minister, Conservative candidate Boris Johnson in the 2008 Mayoral Election, though he now regrets his vote.[29]

O'Brien is an anti-Brexit campaigner and was part of the People's Vote campaign for a second Brexit referendum. He gave a speech at a People's Vote March "Put It to the People" on 23 March 2019 and at the People's Vote rally on 9 April 2019.[30]

Personal life[edit]

O'Brien is married to Lucy McDonald and has two daughters.[10] Politically, O'Brien prefers to be described as 'liberal' rather than 'left-wing'.[31] In terms of spirituality, O'Brien was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and refers to himself as a Christian.[32]


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  2. ^ Flynn, Paul (31 October 2018). "LBC's James O'Brien: meet the man behind the mic". Evening Standard. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  3. ^ Bland, Archie (24 March 2015). "LBC's James O'Brien: 'You have to be a bit more sledgehammer than scalpel on TV'". theguardian.com. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b "James O'Brien". LBC Radio Rocks. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  5. ^ Adams, Tim (8 January 2017). "James O'Brien: 'On radio, people still talk like no one is listening'". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Books: The Sunday Times Bestsellers, December 2". The Sunday Times. 2 December 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  7. ^ "A Knight with O'Brien (TV series) | BFI". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Clive James on (election) TV". The Independent. 30 May 2001. Retrieved 25 April 2009.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ James, Clive (13 December 2012). The Meaning of Recognition : New Essays 2001-2005. p. 152. ISBN 9780330527170.
  10. ^ a b Dorian Lynskey (3 February 2017). "How James O'Brien became the conscience of liberal Britain". New Statesman. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Frank Lampard's call to LBC: The full transcript". The Independent. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Sony Radio Academy Awards 2010 – Best Interview Nominations". Radio Academy. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010.
  13. ^ "Iain Duncan Smith: Remembering the time former Work and Pensions Secretary clashed with James O'Brien". The Independent. 19 March 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  14. ^ Wintour, Patrick (16 May 2014). "Nigel Farage aide disrupts interview amid racism and expenses claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  15. ^ "Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin" (PDF). Ofcom.org.uk. Ofcom.
  16. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (3 February 2017). "How James O'Brien became the conscience of liberal Britain". New Statesman. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  17. ^ Anne Karpf (28 January 2018). "We need to talk: why Britain loves radio phone-ins". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  18. ^ a b "James O'Brien: "On radio, people still talk like no one is listening"". The Guardian. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  19. ^ "James O'Brien demolishes Leave voter in farcical on-air standoff". The Independent. 11 July 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  20. ^ James O'Brien's clash with caller who tried to defend Brexit bus claim. LBC. 6 December 2019.
  21. ^ "Media Monkey's Diary: TV writers, Eddie Mair, Gardeners' Question Time". The Guardian. 3 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Newsnight's Race To Succeed Jeremy Paxman: LBC's James O'Brien Gets A Try-Out". Forbes. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  23. ^ "LBC's James O'Brien: "You have to be a bit more sledgehammer than scalpel on TV"". The Guardian. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  24. ^ a b "James O'Brien parts ways with BBC Newsnight rather than 'wind neck in' on Brexit and Trump". Press Gazette. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  25. ^ "O'Brien review, ITV: 'disappointing'". Daily Telegraph. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  26. ^ Rich Cooper, "JOE is delighted to announce a new podcast series with James O'Brien", JOE.co.uk
  27. ^ "Unfiltered with James O'Brien Episode List". Soundcloud. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  28. ^ "James O'Brien's New Podcast, Full Disclosure". LBC. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  29. ^ O'Brien, James (27 April 2020). "I voted for Boris Johnson to be Mayor in 2008. (Obviously, I've changed my opinion of him since.) One cult tries to use this fact to claim that I must somehow still support him. The other cult has to ignore it to claim that I'd oppose & criticise him no matter what. Stupid cults". @mrjamesob. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  30. ^ Open Britain [@OpenBritain] (9 April 2019). ""Brexit is the will of the people who were lied too." WATCH: @mrjamesob brilliant speech at the #PeoplesVote rally today - please RT:" (Tweet). Retrieved 16 May 2019 – via Twitter.
  31. ^ "How James O'Brien became the conscience of liberal Britain". www.newstatesman.com. 3 February 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  32. ^ Spanner, Huw (18 January 2019). "Interview with James O'Brien: 'When I'm wrong, I admit it. And that makes me right'". Church Times. Retrieved 9 September 2019.

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