BBC's This Week to end after 16 years as Andrew Neil steps down

Lighthearted late-night politics show will conclude in the summer when its current series ends

The BBC’s long-running late-night politics show This Week is to end after its presenter Andrew Neil announced he was stepping down.

The BBC One show, which airs on Thursdays after Question Time, will be taken off air this summer when its current series ends, the corporation said.

Neil has fronted the show since it began in 2003 and regular guests include former Conservative MP Michael Portillo and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

Fran Unsworth, BBC director of news, said: “We couldn’t imagine This Week without the inimitable Andrew Neil, one of Britain’s best political interviewers. After 16 years, Andrew is bowing out of late-night presenting on the show, at the top of his game.”

Neil will continue to present Politics Live on Thursdays, Unsworth added, and the BBC wants to keep the 69-year-old “at the heart” of its political coverage.

The role of Neil at the corporation has come under scrutiny in recent times, with Guardian commentator Owen Jones among those questioning the presenter’s impartiality. Neil is the current chairman of Press Holdings Media Group, whose titles include the right-wing weekly magazine the Spectator, and previously edited the Sunday Times. The broadcaster is known for voicing strong opinions on Twitter, and was criticised in November for referring to Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr as a “mad cat woman”.

This Week is known for its lighthearted look at politics, with Abbott and Portillo forming an unlikely on-screen double-act, despite being on opposite sides of the political divide. The series regularly features novelty musical numbers, as well as guests from outside of politics. A recent clip from the show attained viral status after guest Bobby Gillespie of the rock band Primal Scream looked on in stony silence as Neil, Portillo and Labour MP Caroline Flint performed a novelty dance.

The move to axe This Week comes amid uncertainty surrounding the BBC’s news output. Earlier this week, BBC journalists wrote to the broadcaster’s director-general to oppose the decision to shorten News at Ten after it emerged it would be cut by 10 minutes to make way for youth programming and Question Time. Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen and other foreign correspondents have asked Lord Tony Hall to reconsider the decision, which they wrote had caused “a huge amount of disquiet and anger”.

Last year, the BBC cut back its political coverage, axing the national edition of Sunday Politics. It also replaced the weekday Daily Politics programme with Politics Live.

• This article was amended on 18 February 2019. An earlier version incorrectly said that Politics Live had replaced the Sunday Politics programme.


Gwilym Mumford and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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