Robin Day
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 Robin Day, OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (24 October 1923 – 6 August 2000) was a British political broadcaster and commentator. His obituary
An obituary is a news article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person's life and information about the upcoming funeral. In large cities and larger newspapers, obituaries are written only for people considered significant...

 in the Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

 stated that "he was the most outstanding television journalist of his generation. He transformed the television interview, changed the relationship between politicians and television, and strove to assert balance and rationality into the medium's treatment of current affairs".

Personal life

He was the son of a telephone engineer who became telephone manager at Gloucester
Gloucester is a city, district and county town of Gloucestershire in the South West region of England. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, and on the River Severn, approximately north-east of Bristol, and south-southwest of Birmingham....

. In 1965, he married Katherine Ainslie, an Australian law don
University don
A don is a fellow or tutor of a college or university, especially traditional collegiate universities such as Oxford and Cambridge in England.The term — similar to the title still used for Catholic priests — is a historical remnant of Oxford and Cambridge having started as ecclesiastical...

 at St Anne's College, Oxford, and had two sons. The marriage was dissolved in 1986. One of the tragedies of his life was that his elder son never fully recovered from the effects of multiple skull fractures he sustained in a childhood fall.

In the 1980s, Day had a coronary bypass, and he suffered from breathing problems that were often evident when he was on the air. He had always fought against a tendency to put on weight. As an undergraduate, he weighed 17 st (108 kg), and claimed that, in the course of his life, he had succeeded in losing more weight than any other person.

Day had problems relating to women. The broadcaster Joan Bakewell recalled that whilst he was professional when in the office:

"Socially he was a menace. There was no subtlety in his manner: at office parties he would attack head on. 'Do the men you interview fancy you? Do they stare at your legs? Do they stare at your breasts? Do you sleep with many of them?' ... Whenever he loomed in sight, I made myself scarce"

His funeral was a cremation service at Mortlake Crematorium. His ashes are interred near the south door of Whitchurch Canonicorum parish church in Dorset. The memorial stone has the words: "In loving memory of Sir Robin Day the Grand Inquisitor" upon it.


Day attended Brentwood School
Brentwood School (England)
Brentwood School is an independent school in Brentwood, Essex, England. Educating boys and girls in a British public school tradition. Brentwood School is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference....

 from 1934 to 1938, briefly attended The Crypt School, Gloucester
The Crypt School, Gloucester
The Crypt School is a grammar school for boys with a mixed Sixth Form, located in the city of Gloucester, England, founded in 1539 by Joan Cooke with money inherited from her husband John....

 and later Bembridge School
Bembridge School
Bembridge School was an independent school in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight founded in 1919 by social reformer and Liberal MP John Howard Whitehouse. Set in over on the eastern most tip of the Isle of Wight Bembridge was a public school intended to challenge the traditional concept of education...

 on the Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about 2–4 miles off the south coast of the county of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by a strait called the Solent...


War service

He served with the army in East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

, where he reached the rank of Captain but was demoted to Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 as part of a cull of rear-echelon jobs.

University and the Bar

After the war Day attended St Edmund Hall, Oxford
St Edmund Hall, Oxford
St Edmund Hall is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Better known within the University by its nickname, "Teddy Hall", the college has a claim to being "the oldest academical society for the education of undergraduates in any university"...

 and, while a student, was elected president of the Oxford Union
Oxford Union
The Oxford Union Society, commonly referred to simply as the Oxford Union, is a debating society in the city of Oxford, Britain, whose membership is drawn primarily but not exclusively from the University of Oxford...

 debating society. Day also took part in a debating tour of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 run by the English-Speaking Union
English-Speaking Union
The English-Speaking Union is an international educational charity which was founded by the journalist Evelyn Wrench in 1918. The ESU aims to "bring together and empower people of different languages and cultures," by building skills and confidence in communication, such that individuals realize...


He was called to the Bar
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

 in 1952, but practised only briefly. In his memoirs he recorded that he secured the acquittal of a lorry-driver accused of indecent exposure by persuading the magistrates that the man had been "shaking the drops from his person" after urinating, and by getting the man's young wife to testify, wearing a tight sweater, that she and her husband enjoyed a healthy love life.


Day spent almost his entire career in journalism
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

. He rose to prominence on the new Independent Television News
Independent Television News
ITN is a news and content provider with headquarters in the United Kingdom. It is made up of four key businesses: ITN News, ITN Source, ITN Productions and ITN Consulting. The ITN logotype can be displayed in any of 4 different colours, each of which represents a business unit. This is the...

 (ITN) from 1955, when he was the first British journalist to interview President Nasser of Egypt
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein was the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death. A colonel in the Egyptian army, Nasser led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 along with Muhammad Naguib, the first president, which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of...

 after the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...


On television, he presented Panorama
Panorama (TV series)
Panorama is a BBC Television current affairs documentary programme, which was first broadcast in 1953, and is the longest-running public affairs television programme in the world. Panorama has been presented by many well known BBC presenters, including Richard Dimbleby, Robin Day, David Dimbleby...

and chaired Question Time
Question Time (TV series)
Question Time is a topical debate BBC television programme in the United Kingdom, based on Any Questions?. The show typically features politicians from at least the three major political parties as well as other public figures who answer questions put to them by the audience...

(1979–89), and on radio was presenter of The World at One
The World At One
The World at One, or WATO for short, is BBC Radio 4's long-running lunchtime news and current affairs programme, which is broadcast from 1pm to 1:30pm from Monday to Friday. The programme describes itself as "Britain's leading political programme. With a reputation for rigorous and original...

from 1979 to 1987. His incisive and sometimes - by the standards of the day - abrasive interviewing style, together with his heavy-rimmed spectacles and trademark bow tie
Bow tie
The bow tie is a type of men's necktie. It consists of a ribbon of fabric tied around the collar in a symmetrical manner such that the two opposite ends form loops. Ready-tied bow ties are available, in which the distinctive bow is sewn into shape and the band around the neck incorporates a clip....

, made him an instantly recognisable and frequently impersonated figure over five decades.

He became known in British broadcasting as 'the Grand Inquisitor' for his abrasive interviewing of politicians, a style out of keeping with the British media's culture of deference to authority that prevailed during the early days of his career.

In 1958 he interviewed Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

, in what the Daily Express
Daily Express
The Daily Express switched from broadsheet to tabloid in 1977 and was bought by the construction company Trafalgar House in the same year. Its publishing company, Beaverbrook Newspapers, was renamed Express Newspapers...

called: "the most vigorous cross-examination a prime minister has been subjected to in public". The interview turned Macmillan into a television personality, and was probably the first time that British television became a serious part of the political process.

In the early 1970s, Day was involved on BBC Radio
BBC Radio
BBC Radio is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927. For a history of BBC radio prior to 1927 see British Broadcasting Company...

, where he proved an innovator with It's Your Line (1970-76). This was a national phone-in programme that enabled ordinary people, for the first time, to put questions directly to the prime minister and other politicians (it later spawned Election Call). He also presented The World At One
The World At One
The World at One, or WATO for short, is BBC Radio 4's long-running lunchtime news and current affairs programme, which is broadcast from 1pm to 1:30pm from Monday to Friday. The programme describes itself as "Britain's leading political programme. With a reputation for rigorous and original...

, from 1979 to 1987. In 1981, he was knighted for his services to broadcasting.

He was a regular fixture on all BBC Election Night programmes from the 1960s until 1987. After leaving Question Time, he moved to the new satellite service BSB where he presented the weekly political discussion programme Now Sir Robin. When BSB merged with Sky Television, the programme continued to be broadcast on Sky News for a while. On the night of the 1992 General Election, Sir Robin resumed his role as interviewer, this time on ITN's Election Night coverage, broadcast on ITV.

In the mid-90s, he regularly contributed to the lunchtime Channel Four political programme Around the House and also presented Central Lobby for Central TV, the ITV franchise in the Midlands. The show was sometimes broadcast at the same time as his old programme, Question Time was being shown on BBC One.

In October 1982, during an interview with the Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 Secretary of State for Defence
Secretary of State for Defence
The Secretary of State for Defence, popularly known as the Defence Secretary, is the senior Government of the United Kingdom minister in charge of the Ministry of Defence, chairing the Defence Council. It is a Cabinet position...

 John Nott
John Nott
Sir John William Frederic Nott KCB is a former British Conservative Party politician prominent in the late 1970s and early 1980s...

, pursuing cuts in defence expenditure, he posed the question: "But why should the public, on this issue, as regards the future of the Royal Navy, believe you, a transient, here-today and, if I may say so, gone-tomorrow politician, [a reference to Nott's announcement that he was to stand down at the next General Election
General election
In a parliamentary political system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. The term is usually used to refer to elections held for a nation's primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.The term...

] rather than a senior officer of many years?" Nott rose, removed his microphone, and said "I'm sorry, I'm fed up with this interview. Really, it's ridiculous" and walked off the set. Nott's autobiography in 2003 was called Here Today Gone Tomorrow: Recollections of an Errant Politician.

For 25 years he campaigned tirelessly, and eventually successfully, for the televising of parliament - not in the interests of television, but of parliament itself. He claimed that he was the first to present the detailed arguments in favour, in a Hansard Society
Hansard Society
The Hansard Society was formed in 1944 to promote parliamentary democracy. Founded and chaired by Commander Stephen King-Hall, the first subscribers were Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee...

 paper in 1963.

Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a BBC TV sketch comedy series. The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines...

often used Day as a reference, including the 'Eddie Baby' sketch in which John Cleese
John Cleese
John Marwood Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report...

 turns to the camera and states: 'Robin Day's got a hedgehog called Frank.' In another sketch, Eric Idle
Eric Idle
Eric Idle is an English comedian, actor, author, singer, writer, and comedic composer. He was as a member of the British comedy group Monty Python, a member of the The Rutles on Saturday Night Live and author of the play, Spamalot....

 said he was able to return his 'Robin Day tie' to Harrod's. He was also spoofed (as "Robin Yad") on The Goodies'
The Goodies (TV series)
The Goodies is a British television comedy series of the 1970s and early 1980s. The series, which combines surreal sketches and situation comedy, was broadcast by BBC 2 from 1970 until 1980 — and was then broadcast by the ITV company LWT for a year, between 1981 to 1982.The show was...

episode Saturday Night Grease . Day appeared as himself on an installment of the Morecambe & Wise show, in which he berates Ernie Wise in character. Then Eric Morecambe, acting as a TV presenter, says, "Sadly, we've come to the end of today's "Friendly Discussion with Robin Day."

Robin Day, and the Question Time programme were also satirized on an episode of Not the Nine O'Clock News, with Griff Rhys Jones as Sir Robin.

He was also frequently lampooned by the satirical TV programmme Spitting Image
Spitting Image
Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show that aired on the ITV network from 1984 to 1996. It was produced by Spitting Image Productions for Central Television. The series was nominated for 10 BAFTA Awards, winning one for editing in 1989....

. In this, his most famous examples of lampoonery were his interviews with the then prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 and how she would always give an answer somewhat vague to the question, and his breathing difficulties which affected him later in life. "My name is Robin (deep breath) Day!"

Day published two autobiographies; 'Day by Day' in 1975 and 'Grand Inquisitor' in 1989.


In the 1959 General Election
United Kingdom general election, 1959
This United Kingdom general election was held on 8 October 1959. It marked a third successive victory for the ruling Conservative Party, led by Harold Macmillan...

 he stood as a Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 candidate for Hereford
Hereford (UK Parliament constituency)
Hereford was, until 2010, a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Since 1918, it had elected one Member of Parliament by the first-past-the-post voting system....

 but failed to win.

External links

  • Sir Robin Day: 1923–2000 from the BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

  • Tributes to Sir Robin Day from the BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

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