Andrew was born in Paisley and attended Glasgow University, where he edited the student newspaper, the Glasgow University Guardian; he also dabbled in student television. He was a member of the Dialectic Society, the Conservative Club and participated in Glasgow University Union inter-varsity debates. In 1971, he was chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students. He graduated in 1971, gaining an MA with honours in political economy and political science; he had been tutored by Vince Cable and had a focus on American history. After his graduation, Neil briefly worked as a sports correspondent for local newspaper, the Paisley Daily Express, before working for the Conservative Party as a research assistant. In 1973, he landed a correspondent job with The Economist. It was whilst in this role that Andrew started making regular appearances on British television and radio. In 1979, he was appointed American correspondent at The Economist and became a familiar face on US TV networks, as a political and business commentator.
He returned to the UK in 1982, taking up the post of editor at The Economist and in 1983 he became the editor of The Sunday Times – a position he held for 11 years. In 1988, he was founding chairman of Sky TV and in 1991, launched a Sunday morning radio talk show on LBC.
Neil became a contributor to The Daily Mail and in 1996, became editor-in-chief of the Barclay brothers’ Press Holdings group of newspapers, owner of The Scotsman, Sunday Business (later just The Business) and The European. Press Holdings sold The Scotsman in December 2005, ending Neil’s relationship with the newspaper. Neil did not enjoy great success with sales of the newspapers (indeed The European folded shortly after he took over). The Business closed down in February 2008. He exchanged his role as chief executive of Press Holdings for chairman in July 2008. In June 2008, he led a consortium which bought talent agency Peters, Fraser & Dunlop (PFD) from CSS Stellar plc for £4 million and was appointed chairman of the new company. He served as Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1999 until 2002.
In late-1994, he resigned from his editorial roles and began hosting political programmes for the BBC, notably The Midnight Hour (BBC Two), The Andrew Neil Show (BBC Two/BBC World), Conference Talk (BBC Two), Despatch Box (BBC Two), Campaign Live (BBC Two, 2001), Conference Live (BBC Two). He also hosted Is This Your Life? (Channel 4, mid-1990s), which received a BAFTA award nomination for Best Talk Show.
In January 2003, BBC TV revamped its political programming. Andrew presented two of the new live shows: This Week (BBC One) and Daily Politics (BBC Two). He also hosted the weekly one-on-one political interview programme Straight Talk with Andrew Neil (BBC News Channel, 2007 – 2010). In 2012, he became the presenter of BBC One’s new Sunday Politics programme (which replaced The Politics Show). On 23rd August 2017, Neil announced he was standing down as presenter of Sunday Politics and that BBC Scotland editor Sarah Smith would take over.
Andrew occasionally guest-presented Newsnight (BBC Two) and played an important role in the BBC General Election coverage for the 2010, 2015 and 2017 elections. In the run-up to the General Election in 2017, he interviewed five of the party leaders in The Andrew Neil Interviews (BBC One). He has also covered foreign elections and, alongside Katty Kay, he led the BBC’s live coverage of the 2016 US presidential election.
The British satirical and investigative journalism magazine Private Eye has referred to Neil by the nickname ‘Brillo’, after his wiry hair, which is seen as bearing a resemblance to a Brillo pad, a brand of scouring pad.
Video Clips on the Internet
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PICTURED: Andrew Neil. SUPPLIED BY: The TV Room. COPYRIGHT: BBC.