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John Sergeant: the giant of political journalism who wanted to be a satirist

By: stagedoorscribbler - June 17, 2019

John Sergeant

John Sergeant’s era as chief political correspondent for the BBC and political editor for ITN, seems a long time ago now. But it covered a fascinating and crucial period of British politics with Prime Ministers like Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair - an era when many of the seeds of the current divisions that are tearing our country apart were sown.

The sterling work that John did as a political journalist made him one of Britain's most popular and respected broadcasters and authors.  One of his most memorable moments came in 1990 as he waited outside the British embassy in Paris for  Margaret Thatcher, in the hope of recording her reaction to the first ballot of the Conservative party leadership contest.

Instead, as the doomed Prime Minister emerged from the building, Sergeant was pushed aside by her press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham. It's a moment that is being revisited by the  media right now as they draw parallels between the end of Thatcher and the dying days of the Theresa May's time in Downing Street. Ironically this broadcast, which yielded no interview for John, won the British Press Guild award for the most memorable broadcast of the year, beating Gazza who had been nominated for bursting into tears during the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany.

John will no doubt be talking about many of these things when he appears with Clive Conway Productions in An Audience with John Sergeant at Guildford on Wednesday.

Of course there is another side to the multi-talented Mr Sergeant too. At university John harboured dreams of being a satirist  at university, performed in student comedy revues and after graduation he wrote comedy scripts and  appeared with Alan Bennett in a series of BBC sketch shows called On the Margin.

In recent years he has returned to the world of light entertainment guesting on programmes like The One ShowHave I Got News For You, QI, Room 101 and the News Quiz, and of course there were those appearances on Strictly..

More recently there have been a series well received documentaries including John Sergeant's Tourist Trail, Tracks of Empire - about the Indian Railways, and Britain's First Photo Album about the pioneering photography of Francis Frith and John’s own water-born adventures Barging Around Britain.

*An Audience with John Sergeant will be at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

in Guildford on Wednesday 19th June. More info at www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk