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Andrew Neil

Andrew Ferguson Neil (born 21 May 1949) is a Scottish journalist and broadcaster.

Andrew Neil
Andrew Neil FT 2011.jpg
Neil in 2011
Born Andrew Ferguson Neil
(1949-05-21) 21 May 1949 (age 69)
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Nationality Scottish
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Occupation BBC television presenter,
Chairman: Press Holdings
Notable credit(s)
Spouse(s) Susan Nilsson (m. 2015)[1]

As of 2018 Neil presents live political programmes This Week on BBC One and Daily Politics on BBC Two. He was the editor of The Sunday Times for 11 years. Neil is the former editor-in-chief and current chairman of the Press Holdings group, which owns The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator.[2]


Early life, career and politicsEdit

Neil was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire. He grew up in the Glenburn area and attended the local Lancraigs Primary School. At 11, Neil passed his 11-plus examinations and obtained entrance to the then-selective Paisley Grammar School.[3] His father was an electrician and member of the Territorial Army, and his mother worked in the local cotton mills.[4][5]

After school, Neil attended the University of Glasgow,[2] where he edited the student newspaper, the Glasgow University Guardian, and dabbled in student television. He was a member of the Dialectic Society, the Conservative Club and participated in Glasgow University Union inter-varsity debates. In 1971, he was chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students. He graduated in 1971, gaining an MA with honours in political economy and political science;[2][6] he had been tutored by Vince Cable and had a focus on American History.[7][8]

After his 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 TimesEdit

Neil was editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 to 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.[9]

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, by using photographs and testimony from former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, as his greatest scoop as an editor.[10] During his editorship, the newspaper lost a libel case over claims that it had made concerning a witness, Carmen Proetta, who was interviewed after her appearance in the Death on the Rock documentary on the Gibraltar shootings. One of The Sunday Times journalists involved, Rosie Waterhouse, resigned not long afterwards.[11][12]

While at The Sunday Times in 1988, Neil met the former Miss India, Pamella Bordes, in a nightclub, an inappropriate place for someone with Neil's job according to Peregrine Worsthorne.[13] The News of the World suggested Bordes was a call girl.[14] Worsthorne argued in an editorial article "Playboys as Editors" in March 1989 for The Sunday Telegraph that Neil was not fit to edit a serious Sunday newspaper. Worsthorne effectively accused Neil of knowing that Bordes was a prostitute.[15] He certainly did not know about Bordes,[14] which the Telegraph had accepted by the time the libel case came to High Court of Justice in January 1990,[13] but the paper still defended their coverage as fair comment.[16] Neil won both the case and £1,000 in damages[17] plus costs.

During Neil's time as editor, The Sunday Times backed a campaign to prove that HIV was not a cause of AIDS.[17] In 1992 Neil was criticised by anti-Nazi groups[18] and historians like Hugh Trevor-Roper[19] for employing the Holocaust denier David Irving to translate the diaries of Joseph Goebbels.[18]


Neil (centre) with Sky News anchor Adam Boulton (left) in 2013

In 1988 he 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 downmarket, 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 Isleworth on 5 February 1989 to witness the launch of the service. 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, but a 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 it was beginning to suffer from embarrassing breakdowns. Acquiring BSB's healthier advertising contracts and equipment apparently solved the problems. BSkyB would not make a profit for a decade but by July 2010, it was one of the most profitable and successful television companies in Europe.[citation needed]

End of the Murdoch connectionEdit

According to Neil, he was replaced as Sunday Times editor in 1994 because Murdoch had become envious of his celebrity.[17][20] Many years later, in November 2017, former Conservative cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke said Neil had been removed because Neil's article about corruption in the Malaysian government of Mahathir Mohamad conflicted with Murdoch's desire to acquire a television franchise in the country. The Malaysian prime minister at the time told Clarke on a ministerial visit that he had achieved Neil's sacking after a telephone conversation with Murdoch.[21] The conflict between Neil and Mohamad did become public knowledge at the time.[22][23] The British minister of state for trade Richard Needham criticised Neil and the newspaper for potentially putting thousands of jobs at risk.[24]

Neil's departure from his role as Sunday Times editor was officially reported in 1994 as being merely temporary, as he was to present and edit a current affairs show for Fox in New York.[25] "During my time, the Sunday Times has been at the center of every major controversy in Britain", he said at the time. "These are the kind of journalistic values I want to reproduce at Fox".[26] Neil's new television programme did not make it to air. A pilot produced in September had a mixed internal response, and Murdoch cancelled the entire project in late October. Neil did not return to his job as Sunday Times editor.[27]

Post-News Corp careerEdit

Neil became a contributor to 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 closed down in February 2008. He exchanged his role as chief executive of Press Holdings for chairman in July 2008.[28]

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.[29] Neil served as Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1999 to 2002.


Nick Clegg (right) being interviewed by Andrew Neil for The Daily Politics

As well as Neil's newspaper activities he has maintained a television career. While he worked for The Economist, he provided news reports to American networks. At The Sunday Times, he contributed to BBC, both radio and television. He commented on the various controversies provoked by the paper while he was 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"[30] and on which Neil interviewed a wide variety of personalities, from Albert Reynolds and Morris Cerullo to Jimmy Savile and Max Clifford.[31] He acted as a television 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 presented the weekly one-on-one political interview programme Straight Talk with Andrew Neil on the BBC News Channel. He presented Sunday Politics on BBC One between 2012–2017 and has occasionally guest presented Newsnight on BBC Two ever since Jeremy Paxman's departure, in 2014.[2]

Neil 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. He has also provided commentary on foreign elections, and with Katty Kay led the BBC's overnight live coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election.[32][33][34][better source needed] In the run-up to the General Election in 2017 he interviewed five of the party leaders on BBC One in The Andrew Neil Interviews.[35]

Neil earned £200,000 to £249,999 as a BBC presenter in the financial year 2016–17.[36]

War in AfghanistanEdit

Neil was a vocal and enthusiastic proponent of British military involvement in Afghanistan, deriding those who opposed the war as "wimps with no will to fight", while labelling The Guardian as The Daily Terrorist and the New Statesman as the New Taliban for publishing dissenting opinions about the wisdom of British military involvement.[37][38] For questioning whether "Bush and Blair are leading us deeper and deeper into a quagmire", Neil ridiculed Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover, calling him "woolly, wimpy" and "juvenile".[37] He compared Tony Blair to Winston Churchill and Osama bin Laden to Adolf Hitler, while describing the United States invasion of Afghanistan as a "calibrated response" and a "patient, precise and successful deployment of US military power".[37][39]

War in IraqEdit

Neil was an early advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, describing the case for war and regime change advanced by Tony Blair and George W. Bush as "convincing" and "masterful".[39] Neil claimed, in 2002, that Iraq had "embarked on a worldwide shopping spree to buy the technology and material needed to construct weapons of mass destruction - and the missile systems needed to deliver them across great distances", and that "the suburbs of Baghdad are now dotted with secret installations, often posing as hospitals or schools, developing missile fuel, bodies and guidance systems, chemical and biological warheads and, most sinister of all, a renewed attempt to develop nuclear weapons."[39] He also claimed that Saddam Hussein would provide Al-Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction and had links to the September 11 attacks.[39][40]

Private EyeEdit

The British satirical and investigative journalism magazine Private Eye has referred 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.[41]

A photograph of Neil in a vest and baseball cap, embracing a woman (often mistaken for Pamella Bordes, a former Miss India, but really an African-American make-up artist with whom Neil was once involved)[4] 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 was duly published alongside the letter.[42] Neil claims to find it "fascinating" and an example of "public school racism" on the part of the magazine's editorial staff.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Neil married Susan Nilsson on 8 August 2015.[1][43] He 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.[44] By 2006 he had 14 godchildren but he has no children of his own.[45]


  1. ^ a b Dearden, Lizzie (15 August 2015). "Andrew Neil married: BBC presenter weds Swedish partner in French Riviera". The Independent. London. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Newswatch – Profiles – Andrew Neil, BBC News, 10 June 2004, retrieved 24 April 2009 
  3. ^ BBC Documentary – Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain. First broadcast – BBC2 January 26, 2011 at 21:00
  4. ^ a b c Mary Riddell "Non-stop Neil, at home alone" Archived 23 December 2012 at, British Journalism Review, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2005, p13-20
  5. ^ Andrew Neil: 'I am a better journalist than I am a businessman' – Profiles – People – The Independent, retrieved 1 May 2015 
  6. ^ "Andrew Neil biography from Biogs". Biogs. 
  7. ^ Why Vince Cable is not too sexy for his party The Spectator, 19 September 2009
  8. ^ Martinson, Jane (2016-02-24). "Huw Edwards to take over BBC general election role from David Dimbleby". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  9. ^ Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London: Macmillan/Pan, 2003 [2004], 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, pp. 79-89, 85) as evidence
  10. ^ "Vanunu: Israel's nuclear telltale". BBC. 20 April 2004. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Bonner, Paul; Aston, Lesley (1998). Independent Television in Britain: ITV and IBA 1981-92: The Old Relationship Changes. Basingstoke & London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 75. 
  12. ^ Page, Bruce (2011). The Murdoch Archipelago. London: Simon & Schuster. pp. 299–300. 
  13. ^ a b Greenspan, Edward (29 January 1990). "Sin, sex, news editors fill London front pages". Ocala Star-Banner. Toronto Globe and Mail. p. 43. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Greenslade, Roy (2004). Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda. London, Basingstoke and Oxford: Pan Mamillan. pp. 503–5. 
  15. ^ Heller Anderson, Susan (31 January 1990). "Chronicle". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ "Libel case Journalist Taken Back to His Schooldays: Court Told of Afternoon on the Art Room Sofa". The Glasgow Herald. 27 January 1990. p. 7. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  17. ^ a b c Ben Summerskill "Paper tiger" The Observer, 28 July 2002
  18. ^ a b Rosie Waterhouse, et al "Irving back to anti-Nazi fury" The Independent on Sunday, 5 July 1992
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ "The Wapping Kid". The Daily Telegraph. 28 October 1996. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  21. ^ Ponsford, Dominic (24 November 2017). "James Harding was sacked as Times editor by Rupert Murdoch because he backed Obama, CMA told". Press Gazette. Retrieved 22 December 2017. 
  22. ^ Davies, Patricia Wynn (18 March 1994). "Neil attacks Mahathir 'lies'". The Independent. Retrieved 22 December 2017. 
  23. ^ Murphy, Paul; Teather, David (19 February 2001). "It'll cost you..." The Guardian. Retrieved 22 December 2017. 
  24. ^ Davies, Patricia Wynn (8 March 1994). "Newspaper attacked for Malaysian trade claims". The Independent. Retrieved 22 December 2017. 
  25. ^ "PROFILE: Life enters yet another section: Andrew Neil, an editor in love with America". The Independent. 6 May 1994. Retrieved 22 December 2017. 
  26. ^ "Times of London Editor Neil to Anchor New Fox Program". Los Angeles Times. 4 May 1994. 
  27. ^ Heller, Zoë (13 April 1996). "The Show That Didn't Go On". The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 22 December 2017.  (reprinted from Granta, April 1996)
  28. ^ Stephen Brook "Neil takes step back from Spectator", The Guardian, 8 July 2008
  29. ^ Stephen Brook "Andrew Neil consortium buys PFD talent agency", The Guardian, 18 June 2008
  30. ^ Open Media, accessed 24 April 2009
  31. ^ A.A.Gill, The Sunday Times, 6 August 1995
  32. ^ Barnes, Joe (November 9, 2016). "BBC and Andrew Neil slammed over 'terrible' and 'biased' US election coverage". Daily Express. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  33. ^ "Election Night in America". The Radio Times. November 8, 2016. 
  34. ^ "US 2016: Election Night in America". BBC. November 8, 2016. 
  35. ^ "The Andrew Neil Interviews". BBC. June 1, 2017. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ a b c Neil, Andrew (21 October 2001). "Folly of the wimps with no will to fight". Scotland on Sunday. Edinburgh. p. 16. 
  38. ^ Rusbridger, Alan; Taylor, Craig (29 December 2001). "When the World Stood Still". The Guardian. London. p. 17. 
  39. ^ a b c d Neil, Andrew (15 September 2002). "Peace party seems strangely oblivious to the lessons of September 11". Scotland on Sunday. Edinburgh. p. 15. 
  40. ^ Neil, Andrew (10 March 2002). "The case against Iraq". Scotland on Sunday. Edinburgh. p. 18. 
  41. ^ Dale, Iain (10 May 2010). "In Conversation with Andrew Neil". Total Politics. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  42. ^ Walker, Tim (20 September 2011). "Haunted by that photo: One for the album?". The Independent. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  43. ^ "Bachelor of Fleet Street ties the knot". The Times. 
  44. ^ "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. 
  45. ^ "Andrew Neil: An audience with the broadcaster". 19 January 2006. 

External linksEdit