BBC Radio 4’s Today programme announces guest editors for 2014 festive period

Today’s Christmas guest editors bring us stories, angles, and interviews we wouldn’t normally find ourselves.Jamie Angus, Editor Today
Category: Radio 4; News
BBC Radio 4’s Today has announced the names of the five guest editors who will take over the programme during the festive period. For the past 11 years, the programme has handed over the editorial reins to public figures during the week between Christmas and New Year.

The five guest editors for 2014 will be:


  • Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons
  • Tracey Thorn, singer, songwriter and author
  • Lord King of Lothbury, former Governor of the Bank of England
  • Lenny Henry CBE, actor, writer, comedian and producer
  • Lady Butler Sloss, former President of the High Court Family Division


The programmes will air on Radio 4’s Today between Friday 26 and Wednesday 31 December.

Beginning the guest editor take over on Boxing Day, the Speaker John Bercow will look ahead to parliament’s 750th anniversary. He’ll ask Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales how to re-tool the House for the digital era and interview Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi about Myanmar’s fledgling democracy. He’ll also speak to personal hero Roger Federer about staying motivated in old age and pushy tennis parents.

On 27 December, former Everything But The Girl singer Tracey Thorn will bring her musical influences to her programme by paying homage to Kate Bush with her own cover of Under The Ivy. She will also look at how the internet can be a positive force for teenagers, rather than the threat we often hear about.

With social mobility never far from the headlines, on 29 December Mervyn King returns to his old school in Wolverhampton to find out how to teach aspiration. He’ll also be looking ahead to next year’s bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and asking whether German footballers are cleverer than English ones.

Taking the helm on 30 December, Lenny Henry will explore diversity on his show, featuring interviews with the people who broke down racial barriers a generation ago and asking how much more progress is needed in broadcasting, business and sport. He will also look at comic books and the black literary canon.

Finally, as the year draws to a close, on 31 December Baroness Butler Sloss will visit Gibraltar to find out what the future holds for this much overlooked British outpost. Her programme will also tackle how the media misunderstands the countryside and how stressful the life of a parish priest can be.

Jamie Angus, Editor of Today, says: “Today’s Christmas guest editors bring us stories, angles, and interviews we wouldn’t normally find ourselves. This year’s crop has reached the very top in politics, finance, the law, and entertainment. The breadth of their experience and the diversity of their interests will provide a real treat for the listeners.”

Lord King of Lothbury says: “For me, editing the Today programme is a wonderful opportunity to work with a team of talented broadcasters to see the news from the other side. We will be investigating some of the big issues facing the country in 2015.”

The guest editors are live in the studios and take responsibility for around half of the programme’s output, with the support of Today producers and reporters to bring their ideas to air. The usual day and night editors are on hand to make sure that the material is newsworthy and meets the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines.

Previous guest editors have included Michael Palin, Professor Stephen Hawking, PD James, Eliza Manningham Buller, Dr Rowan Williams, David Hockney, Melinda Gates and Lord Tebbit.


Notes to Editors

John Bercow

As the youngest Speaker of the House of Commons in recent times, John Bercow’s reforming zeal and outspoken manner have earned him both bouquets and brickbats. His programme takes a look at digital democracy, inviting Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to a tour of the House of Commons.

Born in north London in 1963, Bercow was Britain's top-ranking junior tennis player until glandular fever ended his hopes of turning professional, though he remains a qualified tennis coach and used to be David Cameron's doubles partner. In his programme he interviews his personal hero Roger Federer about staying motivated and pushy parents.

He took a First in Government from the University of Essex, where he was a right-wing student activist and, for a time, a member of the Conservative Monday Club.

After a spell in merchant banking, Bercow worked as a political lobbyist for the advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, while pursuing a fledgling political career, serving as deputy leader of the Conservative group on Lambeth Council, the youngest in the country.

He worked as special adviser to a number of ministers in the mid-1990s before being returned to the Commons for the safe Conservative seat of Buckingham in 1997.

He married Sally Illman, a Labour supporter, in 2002. The couple have three children.

And the man seen as a Thatcherite 'attack dog' set out on a political journey which saw him resign from the Tory front bench team in 2004, after the party's MPs were ordered to vote against allowing unmarried couples to adopt children.

He was elected the 157th Speaker, to the dismay of some Tory MPs, in 2009, and vowed to demystify Parliament's rituals and make it more accessible to voters.

Tracey Thorn

As one half of the pop duo Everything But The Girl, the singer, songwriter and musician Tracey Thorn was one of the most recognisable faces of the 1980s and 90s. Today she is an acclaimed writer and columnist.

Born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire in 1962, Thorn performed with the trio Marine Girls and studied at the University of Hull, where she met the musician Ben Watt and formed Everything But The Girl in 1982, taking the name from a sign in the window of a furniture shop in the city. The couple married in 2008 and have twin daughters and a son.

The duo's soulful, intelligent work, exemplified by songs like Each And Every One and a wistful cover version of I Don't Want To Talk About It, brought them consistent success through much of the 1980s and 1990s. On her programme Tracey Thorn will pay tribute to Kate Bush’s live comeback this year with a cover of one of Bush’s songs as well as delving into young adult fiction.

It was a remix of their 1994 single Missing which brought Thorn and Watt their biggest hit, reaching Number 2 on the Billboard chart and sending them in a new direction, electronic dance.

More recently, Thorn's bestselling memoir, Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up And Tried To Be A Pop Star, received rave reviews and led to her writing a regular column for the New Statesman and, as a guest editor, she will investigate the positive aspects of the internet for teenage users.

Lord King of Lothbury

As governor of the Bank of England between 2003 and 2013, Mervyn King was one of the UK's most familiar faces during the financial crisis, which began in the autumn of 2008 and was instrumental in cutting interest rates to virtually nothing in response.

Educated at Cambridge University, where he took a First in Economics, Lord King - who sits as a crossbench peer following his ennoblement in 2013 - served as professor of economics at the London School Of Economics.

As an academic he co-authored a well-received textbook on the UK tax system, joined the Bank of England in 1991 before becoming its deputy governor seven years later. As a Today programme guest editor, Mervyn King returns to his old school in Wolverhampton to look at social mobility and how we teach aspiration. He also reconnects with a couple of female Cambridge contemporaries to find out why there are so few women in economics.

In May 2012 he delivered the second annual Today Lecture, only the second time that a governor had delivered a speech on radio in peacetime, explaining how the "implicit taxpayer guarantee" to prevent banks from failing led financial institutions to over-extend themselves.

Earlier this year the Queen appointed him a Knight of the Garter and, more recently, it was announced that the lifelong cricket fan, and president of the cricketing foundation Chance to Shine, would become president of Worcestershire County Cricket Club in 2015.

His programme will also look forward to the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015, featuring the descendants of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte. He will also examine whether German footballers are cleverer than English ones.

Lenny Henry

The son of Jamaican immigrants, Lenny Henry was born in Dudley in the West Midlands in 1958 and burst onto the scene in 1975, when his comic impersonations saw him win the television talent show New Faces.

As one of Britain's first major black TV stars, he was a regular on programmes like Tiswas and Three of a Kind. In addition, his stand-up comedy performances, honed in working men's clubs, became a staple of the 1980s alternative comedy scene. Lenny Henry’s programme will focus on diversity in politics, culture and media.

As well as starring in a host of TV series, including The Lenny Henry Show, Chef! and Hope and Glory, Henry has been a major supporter of the Comic Relief charity.

After having already taken on a number of straight acting roles, Henry drew both popular and critical praise for his lead performance in the 2009 Northern Broadsides production of Othello. Since then, he has examined Shakespeare's works in the BBC Radio 4 series Lenny and Will, as well as making his Royal National Theatre debut in 2011 as Antipholus Of Ephesus in The Comedy Of Errors. In 2014 he was named best actor at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards for his role in a production of the August Wilson play, Fences.

As a guest editor he will also examine how comic book heroes are changing, what lies behind the enduring popularity of jazz and what constitutes the black literary canon.

Lady Butler-Sloss

Cross bench peer Elizabeth Butler-Sloss spent 35 years at the heart of the English judicial system. She was the first woman to sit as a Lord Justice of Appeal, and presided over the High Court Family Division from 1999 to 2005.

As a judge she was involved in a number of high-profile and often sensitive cases. She chaired the inquiry into the Cleveland child abuse scandal, which resulted in the 1989 Children Act, ruled that the killers of the toddler James Bulger should be entitled to lifelong anonymity and blocked a mother's attempt to have her 29 year-old mentally disabled daughter sterilised.

In July 2014 she was appointed to lead an inquiry into allegations of historical child abuse but stood down before it began after some MPs questioned whether she was the right person to investigate allegations of paedophilia from the time of the Thatcher government, as her brother, the late Lord Havers, had served in it as an attorney general.

In her programme, Baroness Butler-Sloss visits Gibraltar to examine what the future holds for this contested British outpost. She will also look at how the London-based media misrepresents the countryside, as well as seeing just how stressful the life of a parish priest can be.