Andrew Neil is a fiercely Scottish journalist and broadcaster, principally for the BBC, on Politics Live and The Andrew Neil Show. Or at least, he was. Today it was announced that Andrew Neil is leaving to launch a 24-hour, TV channel, GB News, to rival rolling news from the BBC and Sky, from the New Year.
Formerly editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 to 1994, in 1988 Andrew Neil became founding chairman of Sky TV and since July 2008, he has been the chairman of Press Holdings Media Group, whose titles include The Spectator.
Following the revamp of the BBC's political programming in early 2003, Neil presented the live political programmes, This Week on BBC One and Daily Politics on BBC Two, that latter replaced by Politics Live, which Neil continued to present. From 2007 to 2010, he presented the weekly one-on-one political interview programme Straight Talk with Andrew Neil on the BBC News Channel. He also presented Sunday Politics on BBC One between 2012 and 2017 and occasionally guest presented Newsnight on BBC Two following host Jeremy Paxman's departure in 2014.
Neil played an important part of the BBC general election night coverage in both 2010 and 2015 and provided commentary on foreign elections, and with Katty Kay led the BBC's overnight live coverage of the US presidential election in 2016. In the run-up to the 2017 general election he interviewed five of the political party leaders on BBC One in The Andrew Neil Interviews. This was repeated for the 2019 election, but famously his former employee Boris Johnson – who Neil had once fired from The Spectator – refused.
Andrew Neil will be the face and chairman of GB News, described by the Financial Times as "right-leaning. He tweeted out the news, as well as that he had been talking to the new Director-General of the BBC about this. "With heavy heart I announce I will be leaving the BBC. Despite sterling efforts by new DG to come up with other programming opportunities, it could not quite repair damage done when Andrew Neil Show cancelled early summer + Politics Live taken off air. But I leave with no animosity or desire to settle scores. I look back on my 25 years doing live political programmes for the BBC with affection. And gratitude for brilliant colleagues at Millbank, who always made sure I went into the studio fully briefed and equipped for the fray. They were/are the best of the best. If they can make me look good, they can make anybody look good. There could have been a different outcome but for reasons too dull to adumbrate, we'll leave it there. I wish the BBC and the new DG well. The BBC will always be special to me. As for the future, I'm delighted to announce I have accepted the post of Chairman of GB News, a new news channel to be launched early in the New Year bringing new perspectives to the news. I will also be presenting a new nightly prime-time show on GB News. Watch this space."
Neil stated that the channel would be aimed at those who feel "underserved and unheard by their media", and is planned to launch early next year, for which he will also host a flagship evening programme. "GB News is the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years. We will champion robust, balanced debate and a range of perspectives on the issues that affect everyone in the UK, not just those living in the London area. We've seen a huge gap in the market for a new form of television news. GB News is aimed at the vast number of British people who feel underserved and unheard by their media."
BBC News Press Team issued a statement thanking Neil for his work. "We'd like to give our heartfelt thanks to Andrew for his many years of work for the BBC, during which he's informed and entertained millions of viewers. From his early broadcasting days on Despatch Box in the 1990s to his recent forensic and agenda-setting political interviews, he has proved a formidable and hugely talented broadcaster. For years, he was at the heart of the irreverent and much-loved This Week and played a key role in the Daily and Sunday Politics, Politics Live and the BBC's general election coverage. We wish Andrew every success in his new role; we're sorry the US election coverage will be his last BBC presentation work for the foreseeable future but he will always be welcome at the BBC." Neil replied "Thank you for these most gracious sentiments. I reciprocate entirely. Indeed have just tweeted to that effect. With a tear in my eye, bye! PS You forgot Midnight Hour!"
GB News has been founded by media execs Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider, with Discovery, Inc is the lead investor, and intend to employ a staff of over a hundred journalists across the United Kingdom, with more than 6,500 hours of exclusive content a year.
Affectionately known as "Brillo" or "Brillo Pads" for his rather unconvincing hair topiary in the past, Andrew Neil is also well known to Private Eye readers for a photo of him in a vest and baseball cap, taken with a much younger girlfriend at the time. Readers often write into the letters pages with a spurious request to see it again, and also because it really annoys him. Expect a number with a request similar to this article's title.