Nicholas Anthony "Nick" Robinson (born 5 October 1963) is a British journalist and political editor for the BBC. Robinson was interested in politics from a young age, and went on to study a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics degree at Oxford University, where he was also President of the Oxford University Conservative Association. Starting out in broadcasting at Piccadilly Radio, he worked his way up as a producer eventually becoming deputy editor of Panorama, the world's longest-running current affairs programme, before becoming a political correspondent in 1996. He became the BBC's chief political correspondent in 1999, and between 2002 and 2005 he worked for ITV News as political editor, but then returned to the BBC assuming the same role, which he has held since.
Noted for his confrontational and provocative approach, Robinson has on several occasions caused a stir with his style of questioning, particularly of world leaders such as George W. Bush. His history of Conservative affiliation has been controversial, particularly when allegations of bias were made during his coverage of the 2010 United Kingdom general election. He has presented a variety of programmes, including Westminster Live, Weekend Breakfast and Late Night Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, and Newsnight.
Born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, in 1963, Robinson was interested in political journalism from the age of eight. He was educated at Cheadle Hulme School, an independent school in Cheadle Hulme in Cheshire, followed by University College at the University of Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. At university he was President of the Oxford University Conservative Association. In 1982, while travelling in Europe, he survived a car crash in Lille, France, in which the car, a two-door Beetle, exploded and his friends James Nelson and Will Redhead (son of Brian Redhead, a journalist and co-presenter of Today on BBC Radio 4) were killed. Robinson was "severely burned", spent five weeks in hospital and had to defer his university place. Brian Redhead became Robinson's mentor, and later encouraged his career in political journalism, giving him a copy of Tony Benn's Arguments for Socialism for his birthday. However, his early political affiliations were to the right. In 1986, Robinson spent a year as national chairman of the Young Conservatives, and earned the nickname "Blue Robbo", in reference to Derek Robinson, a trade union spokesman who was known as "Red Robbo".
Early career: 1986–1996
Robinson's first position in broadcasting was at Piccadilly Radio in Manchester, which he took up while recovering from his injuries. He joined the BBC in 1986 as a production trainee, and later worked extensively as a television and radio producer for a variety of shows including Newsround and Crimewatch. He then became an assistant producer for On the Record, and in 1993 was promoted to Deputy Editor of Panorama, the world's longest-running current affairs programme, a position he held for three years. In 1995, while Robinson was at Panorama he wrote an internal BBC memorandum questioning how an interview with Prime Minister John Major could be defended in the run-up to the Scottish local elections. When leaked it gained attention from the Labour Party, who perceived it as the legitimised denial of equal time in the run up to local elections.
Political correspondent: 1996–2002
In 1996 he became a political correspondent, presenting Weekend Breakfast and Late Night Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, and in 1997 he covered the general election for BBC Radio. In October 1999 he became BBC News 24's chief political correspondent, and also presented Westminster Live. In the run-up to the 2001 general election, Robinson started keeping a daily diary of the campaign. Entitled "The Campaign Today", it later became Newslog, and continued to be updated until Robinson left the BBC. When he returned in 2005 he began a new blog with the same name.
ITN political editor: 2002–2005
In 2002, Robinson left the BBC for Independent Television News (ITN) as ITV News' political editor. Tom Bradby, who later succeeded him, described the appointment as "bold, imaginative and instantly successful". Robinson stayed with ITN for three years, and caused a major stir early in the 2005 election campaign at the unveiling of a Labour Party poster. The poster claimed the Conservative Party would initiate cuts of £35 billion to public services if elected; Robinson challenged Prime Minister Tony Blair, claiming the poster was misleading, which forced Blair to admit the £35 billion figure was "disingenuous". Later on in the election campaign, Labour announced that Tony Blair would be making "the most important speech of the campaign" on immigration, with a specially invited audience. Robinson asked Blair why there were only white people in the audience, and Blair pointed out a single Asian man to disprove Robinson. Later, Robinson stated "We know that the big two parties carefully select audiences to give a particular appearance. Is it a great controversy to point this out? That's informing the audience." On election night, Robinson joined presenters Jonathan Dimbleby and Alastair Stewart to reveal the results with political analysis.
Return to the BBC: 2005–present
Robinson left ITN and was appointed as the BBC political editor in preference to fellow journalist Martha Kearney in August 2005, replacing Andrew Marr.
Robinson continued his provocative approach to journalism, and on more than one occasion had run-ins with powerful politicians. During Tony Blair's visit to Israel in 2006 to discuss the Lebanon war, journalists were asked not to bring up the ongoing rift with Gordon Brown. Tom Bradby, the ITV political editor, asked a question on the subject but was told it was "disrespectful". Robinson then followed on the same topic, asking a difficult question on the feud between the Chancellor and Prime Minister. He was criticised for distracting from the main issue of the conference, but he argued that "I'm paid to ask questions... particularly at a time when there are incredibly serious allegations... I react very badly to organised attempts to stop journalists asking questions." Robinson later criticised Blair's announcement of his intention to stand down. He explained how he considered the setup "stage management", and how no journalists were allowed to ask questions.
In December 2006 he got a very hard stare from George W. Bush when he asked him if he was in denial about the situation in Iraq (since the most Bush had said about the situation was that the increase in attacks was "unsettling"). Bush replied coldly "It's bad in Iraq. Does that help?". He had another run in with Bush at a press conference at Camp David, when Bush asked him "you still hanging around?". He then suggested to Robinson, with reference to the heat, that "next time you should cover your bald head". As Bush walked away Robinson replied "I didn't know you cared", to which Bush responded "I don't". Robinson described his quip as a "fatal error" on his blog. In a final encounter in 2008, Bush joked with Robinson about still not wearing his hat.
Robinson continues to keep a blog on the BBC website, which discusses politics. His posts have occasionally caused controversy: on 5 May 2006 he raised eyebrows with the revelation that when hearing of Charles Clarke's sacking in the 2006 Cabinet reshuffle, he was "naked in bed." He later apologised, saying he was "merely trying to add authenticity. That's the naked truth." This incident briefly earnt him the nickname "Naked Nick". Another post dated 25 February 2008 criticised MPs defending Michael Martin against allegations of expenses misuse, which caused controversy in parliament.
Outside of his work as political editor, Robinson has also worked on politics-related programmes, such as The Daily Politics, Newsnight and Today on BBC Radio 4. He joined David Dimbleby, Jeremy Paxman, Jeremy Vine and Emily Maitlis to report and provide analysis on the 2010 United Kingdom general election night. He has also appeared as guests in other television programmes, including Children in Need, Have I Got News for You, and Top Gear. In May 2011 he presented the documentary The Street That Cut Everything, a programme in which residents of a street in Preston, Lancashire had all their council services withdrawn for six weeks as an experiment.
Robinson has been criticised for allegedly reporting with a pro-Tory bias, and Alastair Campbell brought up his history of conservative affiliations when confronted with a difficult question. Bias was claimed particularly in the 2010 United Kingdom general election coverage; a Facebook group entitled "Nick Robinson should not be the BBC's political editor" was set up and as of August 2010 has over 2000 members. In a 2005 interview with David Rowan, the UK editor of Wired News, he insisted "that his involvement [with the Conservatives] ceased 20 years ago".
Nick Robinson has, in his BBC Radio 4 series "The Prime Ministers", used historian Professor Jane Ridley as an expert commentator. Professor Jane Ridley is the daughter of the late Conservative politician Nicholas Ridley.
He has also reported receiving hate mail about his distinctive Gucci glasses, including one advising him to "go to Specsavers". Advised by a fashion expert to get a distinctive pair, "or risk fading into the background", they have become his trademark, along with his bald head and provocative approach to journalism and politics. When he joined BBC News in 1999, he was almost made to wear contact lenses instead but he refused, stating they were "like large pieces of grit in [his] eye".
Robinson was again a figure of controversy in October 2010, after being caught on camera seizing and tearing up an anti-war, anti-cuts placard that a protester had been waving behind him during a live news report outside Parliament. Speaking after the incident, Robinson was at first defiant, declaring "I'm not remotely ashamed of myself. Why should I be ashamed of myself?". He later wrote that he "regretted" losing his temper, but added that he regarded the protester's display of the sign as inappropriate. Some days later, Robinson read out a jokily ambiguous 'letter of apology' on Have I Got News For You?, broadcast on 4 November, 2010.
Robinson met his wife Pippa, a relationship counsellor, at university and they married in 1991. He has three children: Alice, Will (named in memory of Will Redhead) and Harry. He lives in North London, close to Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. He is a lifelong Manchester United fan, and enjoys sailing and the theatre.
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- ^ a b c d e f McSmith, Andy (19 September 2006). "Nick Robinson: Northern, arsey, confrontational". The Independent (London: Independent Print Limited). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/nick-robinson-northern-arsey-confrontational-416446.html. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
- ^ "Oxford University Conservative Association". Oxford University Conservative Association. Oxford Conservative Association. http://www.oxfordconservatives.com/associations/ouca.php. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
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- ^ Wynn Davies, Patricia (31 March 1995). "Labour says other leaders should join Major interview". The Independent (London: Independent Print Limited). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/labour-says-other-leaders-should-join-major-interview-1613487.html. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
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- ^ a b c d Rowan, David (4 May 2005). "Interview: Nick Robinson". Evening Standard. Associated Newspapers. http://www.davidrowan.com/2005/05/interview-nick-robinson-itv-news.html. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
- ^ Whitworth, Damian (2 August 2007). "Nick Robinson: Leader of the awkward squad". Times Online (London: News Corporation). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/men/article2180853.ece. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
- ^ Porter, Andrew (18 April 2008). "George Bush and Nick Robinson: the real special relationship". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group Limited). http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewporter/4041751/George_Bush_and_Nick_Robinson_the_real_special_relationship. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
- ^ Robinson, Nick (5 May 2006). "In and out". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2006/05/in_and_out_1.html. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
- ^ Robinson, Nick (6 May 2006). "Naked truth". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2006/05/naked_truth.html. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
- ^ Robinson, Nick (25 February 2008). "Theories on the Speaker". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2008/02/theories_on_the.html. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
- ^ West, Dave (26 February 2008). "MPs attack Robinson blog on Speaker row". Digital Spy (Digital Spy Limited). http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/broadcasting/news/a90270/mps-attack-robinson-blog-on-speaker-row.html. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
- ^ "BBC election coverage: Log on and tune in". BBC. 6 May 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8662141.stm. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
- ^ "Reasonably-priced Kia is new Top Gear star". Auto Express (Dennis Publishing Limited). 28 June 2010. http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/news/autoexpressnews/253723/reasonablypriced_kia_is_new_top_gear_star.html. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
- ^ Robinson, Nick (16 May 2011). "The Street That Cut Everything". BBC News (BBC). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13416205. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
- ^ Greenslade, Roy (14 May 2010). "Facebook campaign urges BBC to fire Nick Robinson for pro-Tory bias". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited). http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/may/14/nickrobinson-bbc. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
- ^ Day, Elizabeth (11 April 2010). "Nick Robinson on the election". The Observer (London: Guardian Media Group). http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2010/apr/11/nick-robinson-agenda-upcoming-election. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
- ^ "BBC's Nick Robinson 'not ashamed' after stamping on protester's sign". The Independent (London). 21 October 2010. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/bbcs-nick-robinson-not-ashamed-after-stamping-on-protesters-sign-2112968.html.
- ^ Robinson, Nick (21 October 2010). "Last night's Six O'Clock News". Newslog (BBC News). http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2010/10/last_nights_six_oclock_news.html. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- ^ "BBC's Nick Robinson has run-in with anti-war protester". The Spy Report (Media Spy). 22 October 2010. http://www.mediaspy.org/report/2010/10/22/uk-bbcs-nick-robinson-has-run-in-with-anti-war-protester/. Retrieved 22 October 2010.