Radio 4’s Any Questions presenter Chris Mason has become the second leading candidate in days to pull themselves out of the race to replace Laura Kuenssberg as BBC political editor.
Mason, 41, has joined Kuenssberg’s deputy Vicki Young, 50, who was the favourite for the role, in saying publicly that he did not want to be in the running for the job.
Kuenssberg, 45, is stepping down after seven years, having taken over from Nick Robinson in 2015 as first woman to hold the role – seen as one of the most prestigious in British journalism.
Mason, a BBC political correspondent, decided to rule himself out of being Kuenssberg’s successor because he wants to focus on presenting Any Questions on Radio 4 – a role he would have to quit if he were to become political editor – and on writing a book, reports The Times.
Earlier this week, Young announced she would not be putting her hat in the ring to replace Kuenssberg for ‘personal reasons’.
It is understood that her husband, former journalist and PR professional Rae Stewart, is being treated for cancer.
‘Been getting lots of nice messages about #BBC Political Editor job so wanted to let you all know that for personal reasons I won’t be applying,’ she tweeted. ‘But look forward to supporting whoever gets this incredible role.’
Radio 4’s Any Questions presenter Chris Mason has become the second leading candidate in days to pull themselves out of the race to replace Laura Kuenssberg as BBC political editor
Young started at the BBC as a reporter at BBC Wales before joining the One O’clock News as a political correspondent. She was a correspondent for BBC Breakfast from 2008 to 2011. Pictured on the right is her husband, Rae Stewart
Young had been the favourite to replace her boss, but today announced she would not be putting her hat in the ring
Kuenssberg, 45, is stepping down after seven years, having taken over from Nick Robinson in 2015 as first woman to hold the role
Mason, from Yorkshire, joined Kuenssberg, Adam Fleming and Katya Adler on the Brexitcast to cover Brexit, and has spent nearly 20 years as a broadcast journalist. But he has joined Young in ruling out taking over Kuenssberg’s role.
Young’s announcement that she would not run for the role prompted surprise from other senior journalists.
Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy said it was a ‘shame’, telling Young: ‘Have been saying how good you’d be.’
Young started at the BBC as a reporter at BBC Wales before joining the One O’clock News as a political correspondent. She was a correspondent for BBC Breakfast from 2008 to 2011.
Mason, from Yorkshire, joined Kuenssberg, Adam Fleming and Katya Adler on the Brexitcast to cover Brexit, and has spent nearly 20 years as a broadcast journalist. But he has joined Young in ruling out taking over Kuenssberg’s role
Who could replace Laura Kuenssberg as BBC Political Editor?
Current job: N/A. Sopel stepped down as the BBC’s North America editor in October to ‘write a book’.
Salary: £235,000 – £239,999.
Profile: Sopel joined the BBC in 1983. He has since BBC News, BBC World News and its Politics Show.
In 2014, he was appointed North America editor, based in Washington. He held the role for seven years before stepping down in October.
Job: BBC Media Editor
Controversial Amol Rajan has come under-fire recently after historic anti-royal family tweets came to light.
However, he is still considered one of the BBC’s biggest stars and has been tipped to replace Kuennsberg.
Rajan spent several years at the Independent, working in various reporter and editing roles.
In 2013, he became the first non-white editor of a national newspaper at the Independent.
Rajan’s role as editor-at-large for The Independent website ended after he was appointed the BBC’s first Media Editor in November 2016.
Earlier this year, he was named the BBC’s fifth Today programme presented.
Job: BBC Newsnight Policy editor
Salary: Not published by the BBC, suggesting it is under £150,000
Goodall began his career as a producer and reporter at the BBC in 2012, working there until 2016 when he left to join Sky News as a political correspondent.
In January 2020, he returned to the BBC to join Newsnight as its policy editor.
Goodall also occasionally writes for the New Statesman as a guest.
Job: BBC Diplomatic Correspondent
Salary: Not published by the BBC, suggesting it is under £150,000
Landale began his career as a reporter with The Times, where he later became Assistant Foreign Editor.
He later joined the BBC in 2003 and worked as the chief political correspondent until 2009 when he became Deputy Political Editor under Nick Robinson.
He presented programmes such as The Andrew Marr Show, Daily Politics and The World This Weekend.
Job: BBC News Economics Editor
Ahmed was formerly an economics correspondent for The Observer newspaper before becoming business correspondent for Channel 4 News in May 2004.
He went on to become economic editor at Channel 4, before becoming Sky’s political editor in 2014.
In November 2018, it was announced that he would replace Kamal Ahmed as BBC News’s economics editor.
Job: BBC Political Correspondent
Salary: Not published by the BBC, suggesting it is under £150,000
Alex Forsyth started as a political reporter at the BBC in 2010.
She later served as a Home Affairs Correspondent and Middle East Correspondent before becoming a Political at Newsnight.
Two months later, she became a Political Correspondent for BBC News and has been in that position since 2014.
*Odds by Ladbrokes*
In 2015, she was promoted to the role of BBC News’ chief political correspondent. Since 2020, she has been the Beeb’s deputy political editor.
Her exit from the race leaves former North America editor as favourite on 11/4 followed by Amol Rajan on 5/1.
Newsnight policy editor is on 6/1 and economics editor Faisal Islam on 12/1.
‘It is a ferociously hard life in terms of the hours and what is expected of you, and to pile on top of that the expectation that you are going to be public enemy No 1 for all the Twitter keyboard warriors in the most vituperative, personal and unpleasant terms — that’s a very hard thing to cope with,’ Marr told the Times. ‘You need a skin like a rhino and a powerful constitution to keep going.’
Sarah Sands, the former editor of Today, told the Times: ‘It is the most important job at the BBC and the most exposed. You are also never off duty. Laura would be on the phone to me after 11pm and back on the Today programme first thing… I quite understand how those who have recently crossed to be presenters and who probably have young families would run a mile from it.’
Some believe Jon Sopel, 62, the former North American editor and former BBC political correspondent could be in the running – but it remains a mystery who will take over.
A BBC journalist told the newspaper: ‘When you go for a job interview at the BBC, you always ask, ‘Who’s already got it?’ In this case, I believe that is Sopel.’
Marr said: ‘It is now Jon Sopel’s to lose — both because he has done a very big job in Washington recently and because he has long-term experience in Westminster. If they are going for a safe, reliable pair of hands, he is the obvious person to go for.’
The news comes at a difficult time for the BBC, with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries today signalling that the licence fee will be scrapped after 2027.
Ms Dorries indicated that she wants to put in place a new funding model for the broadcaster when the current licence fee deal expires in five years’ time.
The Cabinet minister has hit the Corporation with a two-year licence fee freeze and her allies have warned ‘the days of state-run television are over’, as tensions between the Government and the BBC continue to rise.
Ms Dorries tweeted: ‘This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over.
‘Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.’
Ms Dorries was speaking as it emerged Boris Johnson was planning a policy blitz dubbed Operation Red Meat, targeting disaffected Tory voters – and MPs – with a series of populist moves including a crackdown on cross-Channel migrants aimed at deflecting attention away from Partygate.
Tense negotiations between the Government and the BBC over the cost of the annual fee until the end of 2027 have concluded, with Ms Dorries deciding to hold the licence at £159 for the next two years.
Officials calculate that – due to inflation currently running at 5.1 per cent – the Corporation will have to find savings of more than £2billion over the next six years.
However, Ms Dorries is also considering pegging future fee increases below inflation between 2024 and the end of the current Royal Charter on December 31, 2027 – meaning the savings the BBC must make could end up being even higher.
Kuenssberg’s future role at the corporation has yet to be revealed, but the BBC said she will take part in a range of news and current affairs projects across TV, radio and online and that more details will be announced in the new year.
It was previously suggested said that Kuenssberg, who earned £250,000, could become a presenter on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme as part of a major reshuffle of senior on-air staff.
However, she has also been mooted as a potential replacement for Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning politics show.
Marr presented the last episode of his long-running Sunday politics programme yesterday, leaving the BBC after 21 years to host radio shows on LBC and Classic FM, for rival broadcaster Global.
Commanding a salary of more than £250,000 as political editor, Kuenssberg also found a new audience by appearing on the Brexitcast podcast throughout the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the EU.
However, she has faced accusations of bias from across the political spectrum.
Last year, she was criticised after appearing to defend Dominic Cummings following reports that he had flouted lockdown rules.
Within 30 minutes of the story breaking, Kuenssberg had shared a rebuttal from an unnamed source claiming that the then Prime Minister’s senior aide’s 260-mile trip from London to his parents’ home in Durham was ‘within [the] guidelines’.
In response to the Daily Mirror journalist who broke the story, Kuenssberg tweeted: ‘Source says his trip was within guidelines as Cummings went to stay with his parents so they could help with childcare while he and his wife were ill – they insist no breach of lockdown’.
Her reply was immediately met by a chorus of condemnation from Labour-supporting trolls, with some accusing her of being a ‘mouthpiece for the Government’ and a ‘Tory stooge’.
Miss Kuenssberg was revealed to be Mr Cummings’s only regular contact, due to the broadcaster’s ‘special position’ in the country.
Kuenssberg’s replacement has yet to be announced but Jon Sopel, who recently left the North America editor post, and economics editor Faisal Islam, have all been linked to the job
During his bombshell evidence session to MPs earlier this year, the former Downing Street aide said the political editor was the ‘main’ journalist he would speak to – but stressed they would only talk once every ‘three or four weeks’ to ‘give guidance on big stories’.
BBC Political Editor full list of runners and riders
Jon Sopel – 3/1
Amol Rajan – 5/1
Lewis Goodall – 6/1
James Landale – 8/1
Adam Fleming – 10/1
Ben Brown – 10/1
Alex Forsyth – 12/1
Faisal Islam – 12/1
Nick Eardley – 12/1
Beth Rigby – 14/1
Emily Maitlis – 14/1
Nick Watt – 16/1
Sarah Smith – 16/1
Sam Coates – 20/1
Chris Mason – 25/1
Jon Craig – 25/1
Robert Peston – 25/1
Sophy Ridge – 25/1
Mr Cummings then made a series of scathing claims about the Prime Minister’s handling of the Covid pandemic – including that Boris Johnson allegedly viewed the virus as a ‘scare story’ just a month before the first lockdown – in a sit-down interview with Miss Kuenssberg.
During the 2019 General Election, Kuenssberg, along with ITV’s political editor Robert Peston, tweeted the false claim that an aide of disgraced ex-minister Matt Hancock was punched by a Labour activist.
The claim was quickly disproved by video evidence, forcing them to back down and apologise for the misleading information.
At the Labour Party conference in 2017, she had to be protected by security guards following abuse she had received for her reporting on Jeremy Corbyn. Critics claimed she was not neutral and treated the former Labour leader unfairly.
Kuenssberg also attracted controversy earlier this year after a complaint was made against her over her use of the phrase ‘nitty gritty’ while discussing Downing Street business on the Brexitcast.
Anti-racism campaigners claim the term originates from the slave trade, and was reportedly banned by Sky Sports last year amid concerns.
However, programme bosses threw out the complaint against Kuenssberg.
Prior to becoming the BBC’s politics editor, Kuenssberg served as the corporation’s chief political correspondent. She also previously held senior roles at ITV News and BBC Two’s Newsnight.
In 2016, Kuenssberg was awarded Broadcaster of the Year by the Political Studies Association, recognising her work covering the Brexit Referendum and subsequent follow-up stories.
She was also honoured as the Journalist of the Year at the British Journalism Awards the same year.