John Sergeant / Speaker Profile

John Sergeant

John Sergeant

John Sergeant is a successful author and freelance journalist, having spent more than twenty years as Senior Political Correspondent at Westminster.

John joined ITN in March 2000 as Political Editor, taking over the role from Michael Brunson who retired after 32 years with ITN. In 2001 John reported on his eighth General Election campaign his first for ITN. On Election night itself he brought his vast political experience to bear as co-presenter on ITV's Election 2001 programme - alongside Jonathan Dimbleby. He has reported on all the main key political issues of the day both at home and abroad for ITN, including the G8 Summit in Genoa and the EU Summit in Stockholm. He also reported from Camp David on the first meeting between Tony Blair and George Bush.

Soon after his arrival at ITN John, was voted the Best Individual Television Contributor of the Year at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer Awards for 1999. John had been the BBC's chief political correspondent from 1988-2000. He joined the corporation as a radio reporter in 1970 and covered stories in more than 25 countries. He worked as a war correspondent in Vietnam, Cyprus, Israel, and Rhodesia. He regularly reported from Northern Ireland (reporting on the first British soldier killed during the recent troubles) and was a correspondent in Washington, Paris and Dublin.

For two years, he covered European affairs and the first sessions of the directly elected European Parliament. He wrote and presented a BBC TV documentary series called 'The Europe We Joined'. He has also presented on all the main current affairs programmes for BBC Radio 4, including 'Today' and 'The World at One'. In 1981 he became the political correspondent for television and radio.

Among his notable journalistic achievements, was his encounter with Margaret Thatcher at the Paris Embassy, days before she resigned as Prime Minister in 1990. The way he was pushed aside by Lady Thatcher's press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, has become one of the most famous live broadcasts of recent times. Many saw as a metaphor for the end of her regime. He won a British Press Guild award for the most memorable broadcast of that year, beating the footballer, Paul Gascoigne who was nominated for bursting into tears during a vital match in Italy. Among John's major scoops was the only interview with the Welsh secretary, Ron Davies, after he was forced to resign over the incident on Clapham Common, London. John has frequently reported on Prime Ministerial visits abroad in countries including the United States, Japan and India. There was another famous encounter with Margaret Thatcher in Moscow in 1987 when he suggested she had begun the election campaign ''I am serving my country,'' she snapped, implying that John was certainly not.

John's first taste of television had come in 1966 when he appeared in the award-winning BBC TV comedy series 'On the Margin' with Alan Bennett. Alan chose him from the cast of the Oxford University comedy revue at the Edinburgh Festival. John had already been accepted as a news trainee with Reuters but gave that up to work with Alan. He went back to journalism the year after and spent three years as a reporter on the Liverpool Echo before coming to London to join the BBC in 1970.

John Sergeant's career in light entertainment lay dormant for many years while he built up his image as a serious political correspondent but in 1998 his comedy career was revived when he appeared in an edition of 'Have I Got News For You' on BBC 2. Ian Hislop said recently he had been one of the funniest guests in the history of the programme and in 2002 John was invited to present the show. Other comedy successes followed, including a memorable encounter with Paul Merton in 'Room 101' on BBC2 when John listed his pet hates, including the BBC TV programme 'Casualty'. On Radio 4 he has been a guest on the 'News Quiz' and many other programmes including 'A Good Read'. He has also presented 'Pick of the Year'.

John spends much of his time concentrating on writing books and doing freelance journalistic and broadcasting work. He has a contract with the publisher Pan Macmillan for two more books, following the success of his memoirs GIVE ME TEN SECONDS. The paperback edition was in the best seller lists for six months and sold more than 200,000 copies. He continues to guest on shows as varied as 'Have I Got News for You' for BBC Television and 'The News Quiz' for BBC Radio 4. He has appeared as guest presenter of BBC2s Big Read, The One Show and 10 Best Sitcoms.

John is also a popular after dinner speaker and awards host on the corporate circuit. He has been asked by the BBC to present the What the Papers Say awards for BBC2, as well as host the special charity tribute to Spike Milligan on BBC2 in the autumn of 2002, which involved some of the top names of British comedy, including Eddie Izzard, Paul Merton, Harry Enfield, and Michael Palin.

September 2008 saw John team up with Russian dancer Kristina Rihanoff in the sixth series of BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. He started off as the rank outsider but the public warmed to him and despite a gruelling training schedule, John managed to stay in the competition. John gathered tremendous support and votes from all over the UK, even Terry Wogan supported him on his Radio 2 morning show, inviting all his TOG's to vote for John. Unfortunately and probably partialy due to the unkind remarks made by some of the judges, John decided to gracefully retire from the competition which was eventually won by Holby City heartthrob Tom Chambers and his Danish professional dance partner Camilla Dallerup.

Late 2008 also saw John presenting a new comedy show on the Dave channel called Argumental with sees two teams captained by Marcus Brigstocke and Rufus Hound debating topical issues in front of a live audience who ultimately decide the winners.

John was born in Oxford in 1944. He was educated at Great Tew Primary School, Millfield School in Somerset, and Magdalen College, Oxford. He has been married for over 30 years.


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