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Five years old

Jamie Donald | 10:47 UK time, Thursday, 10 January 2008

The Daily Politics was launched five years ago this Wednesday; next Thursday it will be five years since the launch of This Week; and as we enter the sixth year, both programmes are doing well.

The Daily Politics logoLet’s get the back patting out of the way: audiences for both were up last year, to new highs, so too were the measures for audience appreciation.

This Week can now keep well over a million people up and watching long past midnight in an age of gazillions of channels. Both programmes have won a number of national and international awards, which is rare for political programmes which have no special category in the luvvie and media firmaments. So happy birthday and well done to all who’ve sailed in the good ships Daily Politics and This Week since first they floated.

Diane Abbott, Michael Portillo and Andrew NeilA great deal has been constant for both programmes. Andrew Neil has presented throughout. Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo have remained the mainstays of This Week. The approach for both hasn’t altered, which is to concentrate on people not process, be brave and have fun. People still say they don’t really feel like BBC programmes, and I still take that as a compliment.

But a great deal has changed too. We’ve seen two Labour prime ministers, three Tory and four Lib Dem leaders. Several wars have come and gone; we’ve survived the Hutton Report and general elections both real and imagined. The BBC has thrown at us ‘Make it Happen’, ‘Value for Money’, ‘Creative Futures’ and now five more years of budget cuts.

Andrew Neil and Daily McAndrewWhen we first launched The Daily Politics I was convinced that a set involving green satin seats, pink cushions and a yellow lighting wash would make for an exciting and politically balanced look. The first review remarked on how Andrew Neil looked like the cherry on a particularly nasty knickerbocker glory.

We’ve gone all staid since. Daisy Sampson, Andrew’s first co-anchor became Daisy McAndrew and left for ITN, to be replaced by Jenny Scott. Laura Kuenssberg is now a regular on the Six and Ten O’Clock News. Ed the Bookie has had his day. And the competition for the mug – the great Daily Politics mug – was suspended last year, though I hope it will return next week.

Jenny Scott and Andrew NeilNot everything has gone right. When we first launched This Week, Michael and Diane were an emergency pair because Oona King had pulled out on us with a week to go.

My original plan had been to replace both Michael and Diane with another pair for the summer term, and to try yet another pair for the winter after that. We’d already signed Ann Widdecombe for the summer – but Michael and Diane proved so irresistible after the first run we didn’t use Ann as promised.

To this day this great media stalwart won’t appear on any of my programmes. The This Week election titles with Andrew in a feather boa miming to a satirized version of ‘Show me the Way to Amarillo’ wasn’t universally acclaimed. And the odd guest, like Shane McGowan from the Pogues, has provided endless hours of fun for the TV blooper programmes.

Alesha Dixon and Vince CableBut both programmes have also provided some vintage moments: for The Daily Politics my personal favourite was Andrew’s scoop that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and his questioning of the party leaders during their election press conferences; for This Week it was last month’s Christmas special with Vince Cable and Alesha Dixon dancing the waltz together (which you can watch here). If you have some vintage moments of your own you can go to the programme websites here and post your nominations.

As for the future, it’s steady as she goes; more of the same with a little less money. I know the programmes aren’t to everyone’s taste. Luckily the BBC has a plurality of political programmes, something for everyone – while the competition now seems to have none. But this year, after five years, I’m beginning to worry whether the programmes are as cutting edge for politics as I once thought them to be - still as relevent and challenging – or whether after all this time they could benefit from a fresh eye, a new look, and a different approach. If you have a view, let’s hear it.


  • 1.
  • At 12:36 PM on 10 Jan 2008,
  • Martin wrote:

Whenever the BBC refer to anything being 'cutting edge' or 'relevant' it inevitably ends up with some pretty young presenter standing in a studio, mouthing words she seems to have little understanding of or interest in. - please leave them alone - they are fine as they are.

Ok, some of the This Week guests look scared of the camera and it's sometimes unclear if anyone has checked that they're capable of articulating a sentence on camera but mostly they reflect a different and honest take on politics.

The only crime with both shows is one your bosses are guilty of, namely shoving them away in the schedule when for a PSB they ought to be aired slap bang in the middle of the schedule.

Politics actually matter a lot more than a lot of the stuff the BBC broadcasts and if there's space for hour long lottery shows in prime time there ought to be time for an hour of political discussion on the one day a week the Prime Minister answers questions to Parliament.

Ditto when Brown holds his monthly press conference.

That's only been partially redressed by sticking on the under funded, under advertised BBC Parliament.

It's the sidelining of these important issues for The Weakest Link, State run gambling and the desperate to be canceled EastEnders which undermines the BBC's case for a LF increase.

I'm fed up with BBC News telling me what happened at PMQ's rather than - as TDP does - letting me see and hear for myself.

Why does PMQ's get less time than a story about a football sacking/hiring/ result?

  • 2.
  • At 02:28 PM on 10 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Daly wrote:

I wonder how you still get guests for the Daily Politics when the interviews often consist of Andrew Neil launching a lengthy verbal assault and shouting down any attempt to answer the accusations. Too often this ends with a final insult without any right of reply because you have to move on. Andrew also has the annoying habit of switching from a loud voice to a soft whisper that seems to defeat your sound production technology and my hearing.

Mr Neil is a very experienced journalist and has a wealth of knowledge to draw upon which would be better used if he could restrain himself from dominating the rest of the participants. The guests should have a fair chance to respond and be challenged accordingly to extract more information. After all, the show is intended to inform your viewers, isn't it?

  • 3.
  • At 05:57 PM on 10 Jan 2008,
  • Dontmindme wrote:

Well, I love This Week. (being not of independent means, I must earn a living in trade, so I do not get to see the daily politics).

Andrew, Michael and Dianne make the show Educated, Informative, and Entertaining. Surely what a BBC programme ought to be.

Tell Andrew, I will buy a bottle of Blue Nun to celebrate next Thursdays birthday.

There is a lot of things wrong with the BBC, but This Week is not one of them.

Although fun, unfortunately both programmes have propagated the idea that Westminster tittle-tattle actually has any relevance to peoples lives. And have tried to make important the stupid gladiatorial contest that is PMQs

I believe these programmes, fronted by the ego that is Andrew Neil's personal agenda are adding the the argument that the presentation of politics by the BBC is nothing to do with the good of the country but is a ratings exercise.

The pity in all this is that the true champion of political reporting on all of British television, Newsnight, is having it's budget cut.

Better to drop this irrelevant nonsense and put the funds Paxman and team who have at least something sensible to say.

The 59 million people who DON'T watch these programmes don't care a fig about Westminister gossip. So it is strange that you dedicate 7 hours a week to it.

  • 5.
  • At 09:25 AM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Bowie wrote:

The Daily Politics and This Week are the only reason I'm happy to pay the licence fee.

You're right in that they most certainly do not 'look' like BBC output because they are presented by a guy who has a mind of his own.

This is shown as Andrew does not toe the pro labour BBC editorial line, manages the see through the spin of any politician plus he can think on his feet and really listens to the answers. Andrew gets his facts in hand before pressing politicians hard, and they often have no defence - fantastic viewing.

Here's to 5 more years of Andrew fiddling with is cufflinks!

  • 6.
  • At 10:09 AM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Simon Chapman wrote:

This Week is tremendous. I just wish it were on a little earlier, as I always regret it on a Friday morning when I have watched the whole thing. Don't fix what isn't broken. Occasionally some of the guests miss the mark, but the combination of Andrew Diane & Michael is excellent. It's the grown-up, informed analysis that counts, put across with humour and enjoyment.

  • 7.
  • At 11:18 AM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Bowie wrote:

Best two programmes on the Beeb. Andrew is a star, and I wholly support his robust questioning of poorly prepared ministers toeing the party line.

Andrew obviously prepares thoroughly and takes his interviewees to task regularly - great stuff.

Please don't change the format Jamie!

  • 8.
  • At 11:41 AM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Courtney Taylor wrote:

I think both TDP and This Week are the 2 best political shows on the Beeb. Neil is a great presenter, at once funny, witty and packing a punch to some of his guests also. The previous comment referring to Neil not letting people get a word in - I totally disagree. Besides, he, along with Paxman, actually asks the questions of our politicians that the public want asking. Too many BBC journalists take it easy on the Government, and fawn around them, but at least Neil and Paxman get stuck in.

On a lighter note - I loved the Amarillo montage, very funny, and the combination of Diane & Portillo is a winner. Jenny Scott is also a pleasure to watch!

  • 9.
  • At 01:07 PM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Mac Greenwood wrote:

Jamie Donald writes in paragraph six of his blog "When we first launched The Daily Politics...". So how many times has it been launched? Or did he mean "When we launched The Daily Politics..."?

  • 10.
  • At 02:05 PM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Martin wrote:

I believe both programmes are insightful, useful and entertaining. I regularly watch both - but alas! no mention of one hell of a big blooper (or conspiracy?) - cutting away from Blair's last comments in the commons and missing his standing ovation to go to a soggy (and empty) wimbledon tennis court. Though it was perhaps beyond your control, and whether or not a fan of Blair, it was a BBC cockup on a scandalous scale...

  • 11.
  • At 02:16 PM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Robbie Corbett wrote:

Mr Donald, PLEASE don't tamper with the formulae of either programme because YOU are getting itchy feet: they are perfect as they are and long may they endure.

In response to "Joss Sanglier's" post: you stick with Paxman if you wish, and allow those who prefer Neil, Abbott and Portillo our late-night choice.

A Happy Birthday to all involved.

  • 12.
  • At 02:38 PM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Anthony Myers wrote:

Happy Birthday to both!

Beyond fulfilling the duty of its public service remit, the BBC with these programmes is providing much needed commentary, analysis and reflection for the most important issues on the day. Some people may say that PMQs are irrelevant but the answer to switching people back on to politics is not a lower profile but a higher profile. Do we need to encourage even more apathy in our country, more egoism amongst it citizens? So how about a 5 minute highlights/summary of PMQs after the Six O'Clock news on a Wednesday?

No, these programmes aren't perfect, but they are the best we have: Andrew may dominate TDP (poor Jenny) but at least he is a figure of some weight and significance. This Week's levity might, at times, be a bit far-fetched, but where else on British TV can you find intelligent, detailed, incisive but accessible and witty commentary on the politics and current affairs of the day? Certainly not on ITV...

To the hardcore detractors of these shows: they're not prime time (sadly), they're not costly and they don't interfere with the scheduling of Holby shut up!

Anthony, London

  • 13.
  • At 02:52 PM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

As a younger viewer, I absolutely love This Week, and I do try and catch up on The Daily Politics when I can - now its repeated on BBC Parliament - so thats good.

Andrew Neil is simply class!

I can imagine why some people object to Andrew Neil's style. After all, he's not fawning, or gracious. He's also not overtly left-wing unlike the Today programme presenters which is no doubt why he's sidelined by the Beeb.

Andrew Neil attacks in direct proportion to the ego of his interviewee. That was why he tore a strip off Keith Vaz last year, an interview that I won't forget and neither will Vaz.

There are few moments in a politician's career where they know they will be nailed. Paxo is one. Neil is another. Keep up the great work, Andrew, because I have yet to see another reporter who works so hard to be informed about the subjects that he interviews on.

  • 15.
  • At 07:34 PM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Douglas wrote:

Don't you dare mess with either programme. They are magic. One of the few things on telly I regularly watch. Some of the celebrity This Week guests have been particularly dull and uninformed but they are very rare. Imagine the rating This Week would get if it was scheduled a little earlier. I too would like to see Jenny do some more analysis especially since she is highly qualified economist and can properly critique the government's finances. Never have I been so glad that Oona King and Ann Widdecombe were not used. Diane, Michael and Andrew are brilliant. Andrew is a tough interviewer and has great historical knowledge to bring to bear on those whippersnappers of government ministers and is well connected.

  • 16.
  • At 08:47 PM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Tim Mark Riley wrote:

I stay up every week to watch this and really enjoy the show. Please leave it alone; there is an obsession at the BBC with appearing 'relevant'. The people who are going to watch This Week are already doing so, you won't attract 'youth' viewers no matter what you do - aim to attract intelligent viewers, age is then irrelevant.

I am a politics teacher in a London comprehensive and regularly use snippets of the show in my A Level lessons, my class has no difficulty in relating to the issues discussed. They like the way the show deals with issues in an entertaining and non-patronising way. They come from a range of ethnic backgrounds but all agree that Michael Portillo is usually spot on with his analysis and that Diane Abbott is politely listened to by the others but usually misses the point. We also don't like the way that she tends to bully guests that she doesn't like. However overall we would still rather the show was simply left alone. One million viewers for a show airing at 11.30 about politics - pretty good I think.

  • 17.
  • At 09:13 PM on 11 Jan 2008,
  • Paul Owen wrote:

I remember sending a message to the programme when I read about the mooted new line-up after the first series. I pointed out that Michael and Diane had, perhaps accidentally as is so often the case, got a real chemistry with each other and Andrew. They also didn't tend to toe the party line and so were objective and interesting. The same is true now. I've no idea if my view had any influence but I'm glad you were ultimately of the same opinion. Ann Widdecombe would have been awful.

I think a recent highlight was when Diane revealed how MPs had indeed been told to prepare for an election and some had bought new suits in readiness with some sitting but soon to retire MPs told that they might have to stand again. This gave the lie to the assertions of the PM and made great political tv. Love the programme although could live without some of the lighter froth. Keep up the good work.

  • 18.
  • At 10:49 PM on 12 Jan 2008,
  • Rob wrote:

Of all the programs on tv there are only a few which I go to the trouble of iplayer'ing if I miss them, Dateline london from news24, Top Gear (of course) and This week, altho seemingly I can't seem to find it on iplayer????? (please fix this)

All these programs have something in common, they consist of strong characters who unabashedly give their opinions on their areas of expertise, I respect these people and like to listen to their opinions on the weighty subject of the day.

However if there was one criticism I have of This Week, I generally find myself turning off for the last segment, when some particularly tenuous person is speaking tenuously about a fluff subject they don't know alot about... I'd rather listen to Andrew, Portillo and Dianne talking about something interesting for another 20 minutes than that.

  • 19.
  • At 02:45 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Davies wrote:

As both programmes continue to increase their audience, you must be doing something right.
Both TDP and This Week have evolved and adapted in the 5 years they have been on air. Both programmes go from discussing the big issues of the day, to irrelevant, but none the less interesting topics effortlessly, (a piece on how old greyhound dogs are treated comes to mind). No other political programme on either satellite, or terrestrial TV comes close.
Andrew Neil is obviously comfortable enough in his own skin to stand his ground with today's 'professional politicians', and as he often says after an interview 'he'll let the viewers make up their own minds'!
Highlights so far - 'Andrew's Grand Tour' discussed some of the big issues of our time - more of these types of reports please!
So I'll raise a DP mug (if I had one)full of Blue Nun, and say happy birthday, and congratulations to you all, here's to another 5 years.

  • 20.
  • At 07:35 PM on 13 Jan 2008,
  • E Bellamy wrote:

Like another of your correspondence, Daily Politics and This Week may the licence fee worthwhile. Andrew, Diane and Michael, together with Jenny - superb

I'm another This Week devotee, and I'm glad to see it's now available on the iPlayer so I don't have to remember to record it or sit up until wee small hours to watch it.

I like the fact that it is intelligent without being the haranguing argument you get on Newsnight. And that it doesn't take its self too seriously.

Have you thought about making it available as a podcast? The value of the programme is all in the speech; so I would have thought it would transfer very well.

And well done for Andrew getting through last week's programme... many other presenter would have cried off.


'Several wars have come and gone'

Which wars have gone then? As far as I can see, all the wars that Britain has started (well, two unless I'm missing any) in the past five years, we are still bogged down in.

Love This Week though!

  • 23.
  • At 09:41 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • ben wrote:

This week is the best programme on the BBC and one of very few programmes on the whole of television worth arranging your evening around.

Don't change anything. Put it on earlier.

Actually maybe one less 'feature' to make room for 10 minutes more discussion would be good.

  • 24.
  • At 10:45 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • marty wrote:

Written and presented for an intelligent and informed audience, these programmes are strikingly different. Andrew Neil brings a journalistic hunger for the real story. The contributors bring knowledge and expertise. The subject is stuff that really matters. It's a winning combination for both programmes. Please, long may they continue!

  • 25.
  • At 06:47 AM on 16 Jan 2008,
  • Megan wrote:

I really enjoy both This Week and The Daily Politics - which was part of my daily student ritual not-so-long-ago; on Weds the whole house would watch PMQs together (we were politics students though) and we also used to watch it in the 6th form Common Room. They (along with Top Gear) are the only programmes I really miss having moved away from the UK. This Week would be good earlier - but that would mean moving Question Time.
It is great that This Week gets such good viewing figures at that time of night.
I wish I had a Daily Politics mug though.

  • 26.
  • At 02:07 AM on 26 Jan 2008,
  • Roy Whitehair wrote:

I agree absolutely with Chris Bowie
(No5 11th Jan). Andrew Neil is excellent
Both Daily Politics & This Week are
two of the best programmes on BBC.

I do NOT agree with Joss Sanglier
(No4 11th Jan). Newsnight is a disgrace.
Paxman is rude and insulting to many
people including foreign dignitaries.
He is well past his sell by date. It is
time to get rid of the BBC's rottweiler
together with his nasty accomplice
Michael Crick. TIME FOR A CHANGE and
certainly no more money.

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