Andrew William Stevenson Marr (born 31 July 1959) is a Scottish political commentator and television presenter. Beginning his career as a political commentator, he subsequently edited The Independent (1996–98), and was political editor of BBC News (2000–05). He began hosting a political programme—Sunday AM, now called The Andrew Marr Show—on Sunday mornings on BBC One from September 2005. In 2002, Marr took over as host of BBC Radio 4's long-running Start the Week Monday morning discussion programme .
In 2007, he presented a political history of post-war Britain on BBC Two, Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain, followed by a prequel in 2009, Andrew Marr's The Making of Modern Britain, focusing on the period between 1901 and 1945. In 2010, he presented a series, Andrew Marr's Megacities (the title distinguishes it from another Megacities series), examining the life, development and challenges of some of the largest cities in the world. In early 2012 he presented The Diamond Queen, a three-part series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. In late September 2012, Marr began presenting Andrew Marr's History of the World, a new series examining the history of human civilisation.
Following a stroke in January 2013, Marr was in hospital for two months. He returned to presenting The Andrew Marr Show on 1 September 2013.
Marr was born on 31 July 1959 in Glasgow, Scotland, to Donald and Valerie Marr. His father was an investment trust manager. Regarding his upbringing, he has said: "My family are religious and go to church... [a]nd I went to church as a boy". Marr was educated in Scotland at Craigflower Preparatory School, the independent High School of Dundee; and at Loretto School, also an independent school in Musselburgh, East Lothian, where he was a member of Pinkie House and a prefect. He went to read English at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, graduating with a first class honours degree.
He was once a Maoist and member of the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory, an offshoot of the International-Communist League, now known as the Alliance for Workers' Liberty. At Cambridge, Marr says he was a "raving leftie" who handed out copies of Mao's Little Red Book and he acquired the nickname Red Andy.
Marr joined The Scotsman as a trainee and junior business reporter in 1981. In 1984, he moved to London where he became a parliamentary correspondent for the newspaper, and then a political correspondent in 1986. Marr met the political journalist Anthony Bevins, who became Marr's mentor and close friend. Bevins was responsible for Marr's first appointment at The Independent as a member of the newspaper's launch staff.
Marr left shortly afterwards, and joined The Economist, where he contributed to the weekly "Bagehot" political column and ultimately became the magazine's political editor in 1988. Marr has remarked that his time at The Economist "changed me quite a lot" and "made me question a lot of my assumptions".
Marr returned to The Independent as the newspaper's political editor in 1992, and became its editor in 1996 during a particularly turbulent time at the paper. Faced with price cutting by the Murdoch-owned Times, sales had begun to decline, and Marr made two attempts to arrest the slide. He made use of bold 'poster-style' front pages, and then in 1996 radically re-designed the paper along a mainland European model, with Gill Sans headline fonts, and stories being grouped together by subject matter, rather than according to strict news value. This tinkering ultimately proved disastrous. With a limited advertising budget, the re-launch struggled for attention, then was mocked for reinterpreting its original marketing slogan 'It Is – Are You' to read 'It's changed – have you?'.
At the beginning of 1998, Marr was sacked, according to one version of events, for having refused to reduce the newspaper's production staff to just five subeditors. According to Nick Cohen's account, the sacking was due to the intervention of Alastair Campbell, director of communications for Tony Blair. Campbell had demanded that David Montgomery, the paper's publisher, fire Marr over an article in which he had compared Blair with his predecessor John Major. This article had followed an earlier one by Blair published in The Sun, in which Blair had written: "On the day we remember the legend that St George slayed a dragon to protect England, some will argue that there is another dragon to be slayed: Europe." Marr's response asserted that Blair had spoken in bad faith, opportunistically championing Europe to pro-EU audiences while criticising it to anti-EU ones; and that the phrase "some will argue" was Blair's disingenuous rhetorical ruse to distance himself from the xenophobic appeal that he himself was making.
Three months later, Marr returned to The Independent. Tony O'Reilly had increased his stake in the paper and bought out owners, the Mirror Group. O'Reilly, who had a high regard for Marr, asked him to collaborate as co-editor with Rosie Boycott, in an arrangement whereby Marr would edit the comment pages, and Boycott would have overall control of the news pages.
Many pundits predicted the arrangement would not last and two months later, Boycott left to replace Richard Addis as editor of the Daily Express. Marr was sole editor again, but only for one week. Simon Kelner, who had worked on the paper when it was first launched, accepted the editorship and asked Marr to stay on as a political columnist. Kelner was not Marr's "cup of tea", Marr observed later, and he left the paper for the last time in May 1998.
Marr was then a columnist for the Daily Express and The Observer. Marr presented a three-part television series shown on BBC Two from 31 January to 2 February 2000 after Newsnight. A state-of-the-nation reflection, The Day Britain Died (2000) also had an accompanying book. Among Marr's other publications is My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism (2004).
At the BBC
Marr was appointed BBC political editor in May 2000. Among his personal scoops as Political Editor were the second resignation of Peter Mandelson, and the interview in late 2004 in which Tony Blair told him that he would not seek a fourth term as prime minister should he win the forthcoming general election. During his time as political editor, Marr assumed various presentational roles, and announced in 2005 that following the 2005 General Election, he would step down as political editor to spend more time with his family. He was succeeded as political editor by Nick Robinson.
In September 2005, he moved to a new role presenting the BBC's Sunday morning flagship news programme Sunday AM, known as The Andrew Marr Show since September 2007; the slot was previously filled by Breakfast with Frost and hosted by Sir David Frost. Marr also presented the BBC Radio 4 programme Start the Week until his illness in 2013, and has now returned as the programme's regular host.
In May and June 2007, the BBC broadcast Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain. He presented the series of five one-hour documentaries chronicling the history of Britain from 1945 to 2007. Unsold copies of the book of the series, a best-seller, were recalled in March 2009 by publishers Macmillan when legal action was taken over false claims that domestic violence campaigner Erin Pizzey had been a member of The Angry Brigade terrorist group. According to her own account, in a Guardian interview in 2001, Pizzey had been present at a meeting when they discussed their intention of bombing Biba, a fashion store, and threatened to report their activities to the police. Damages were paid to Pizzey and Marr's book was republished with the error removed.
In 2008, he presented the prime time BBC One series Britain From Above. The following year, he contributed a three-part series called Darwin's Dangerous Idea to the BBC Darwin Season, celebrating the bicentenary of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his theory of evolution.
BBC programmes since 2009
In late 2009, BBC Two broadcast his six-part television series on British politics in the first half of the 20th century Andrew Marr's The Making of Modern Britain.
In September 2009 on the Sunday before the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Marr interviewed Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Towards the end of the interview, Marr told Brown he wanted to ask about:
The Prime Minister responded: "No. I think this is the sort of questioning which is all too often entering the lexicon of British politics." Marr was later heavily criticised by Labour politicians, the media and fellow political journalists for what was described as a vague question which relied on its source being a single entry on a political blog. In a later interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News, John Ward, the author of the Not Born Yesterday blog, admitted that he has no proof to back up the claim.
In early 2012, Marr presented a three-part TV series on BBC One looking at the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II in the run-up to the main celebrations of her Diamond Jubilee.
In 2012, Marr presented an eight-part series on BBC One entitled Andrew Marr's History of the World, in conjunction with the Open University.
Following the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on 8 April 2013, Marr narrated a memorial documentary, Margaret Thatcher: Prime Minister.
Marr has written about the need to remain impartial and "studiously neutral" whilst delivering news reports and "convey fact, and nothing more".
In the Daily Telegraph, in 2007, he claimed to be a libertarian when discussing his conflicting views on smoking bans. Writing in The Guardian in 1999, he defined himself as a "pampered white liberal" and said that:
... though teachers are the most effective anti-racist campaigners in the country, this means more than education in other religions it means a form of political education. Only people who understand the economic forces changing their world, threatening them but also creating new opportunities, have a chance of being immune to the old tribal chants. And the final answer, frankly, is the vigorous use of state power to coerce and repress. It may be my Presbyterian background, but I firmly believe that repression can be a great, civilising instrument for good. Stamp hard on certain 'natural' beliefs for long enough and you can almost kill them off. The police are first in line to be burdened further, but a new Race Relations Act will impose the will of the state on millions of other lives too.
At an October 2006, BBC seminar discussing impartiality, Marr highlighted alleged bias within the BBC. He stated: "The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities, and gay people. It has a liberal bias, not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias."
Marr spoke at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on 10 October 2010 about political blogging. He claimed that "[a] lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting. They are very angry people."
In March 2014, Marr was criticised for expressing his own opinion on an independent Scotland's membership of the EU while interviewing Alex Salmond on BBC TV.
In the New Statesman during 2015 Marr expressed the opinion that the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, may be electable and that Conservative leaders recognise this. Marr wrote, "Here and now, in 2015, we know diddly-squat." At that time Marr considered a Labour election victory under Corbyn unlikely.
Marr has helped support Sense, the National Deafblind and Rubella Association, and was the face of a Sense direct marketing appeal. He was President of the Galapagos Conservation Trust until 2013. In 2007 and 2014, Andrew Marr supported the charity iDE UK in the BBC Radio 4 Appeal and subsequently became a patron.
Marr lives in Primrose Hill, North London, with his wife, the political journalist Jackie Ashley of The Guardian, whom he married in August 1987 in Surrey. She is a daughter of the Labour life peer, Lord Ashley of Stoke (1922–2012). The couple have a son and two daughters. In 2015 Ashley became head of Lucy Cavendish College and so Marr spends much of his time at the President's house in Cambridge.
On 8 January 2013, Marr was taken to hospital after suffering a stroke at home. He left hospital on 3 March and said he hoped to return to work later in the year. He appeared as a guest on The Andrew Marr Show on 14 April and returned twice to interview David Miliband and the prime minister, David Cameron, before it was announced that Marr would return to presenting The Andrew Marr Show on 1 September 2013.
Marr has described his religious views: "Am I religious? No. Do I believe in anything? No. I just don't have that bump." He also stated "I'm an irreligious Calvinist".
On 28 June 2008, Richard Ingrams reported in The Independent that Marr had been granted a High Court "super-injunction" preventing disclosure in the media of "private" information, or the existence of the injunction. Private Eye had revealed the existence of the injunction earlier in the week, having successfully challenged the need for its existence to be kept secret.
On 26 April 2011, following legal action by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, an interview with Marr was published in the Daily Mail, in which he revealed that the super-injunction had covered the reporting of an extra-marital affair with a female journalist. Hislop had filed a court challenge earlier in April 2011, and described the super-injunction as "pretty rank".
In 1995, he was named Columnist of the Year at both the What the Papers Say Awards and the British Press Awards, and received the Journalist Award in the Channel 4 Political Awards of 2001.
He was considered for honorary membership of The Coterie for 2007. Marr has received two British Academy Television Awards: the Richard Dimbleby Award at the 2004 ceremony and the award for Best Specialist Factual Programme (for his History of Modern Britain) at the 2008 ceremony.
Marr and his wife were both awarded honorary doctorates from Staffordshire University in July 2009.