Laura Juliet Kuenssberg (born 8 August 1976) is a British journalist. In July 2015 she succeeded Nick Robinson as political editor of BBC News, the first woman to hold the position.
Early life and education
Kuenssberg was born in Italy in 1976 to Nick and Sally Kuenssberg. Her father is a businessman and her mother worked in children's services and received a CBE for this in the 2000 New Year Honours. Her paternal grandfather was Ekkehard von Kuenssberg, a co-founder, and president of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Her maternal grandfather was the Scottish high court judge Lord Robertson and his brother Sir James Wilson Robertson was the last British Governor-General of Nigeria. Her older brother David is executive director of finance and resources at Brighton and Hove City Council. Her older sister Joanna Kuenssberg is a diplomat, and a former high commissioner to Mozambique.
Her father worked in Italy for British company Coats Viyella for a number of years. Kuenssberg grew up in Glasgow, with her brother and sister, and attended Laurel Bank School, a private girls' school.
Kuenssberg studied history at the University of Edinburgh, followed by a journalism course at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she worked on an NBC News political programme.
After returning to the UK, she worked for local radio and then cable television in Glasgow, before joining BBC North East and Cumbria in March 2000 as a trainee journalist. Kuenssberg won a regional Royal Television Society award for her work as home affairs correspondent, and produced segments for the social affairs editor Niall Dickson.
Appointed chief political correspondent for BBC News, Kuenssberg reported for BBC One bulletins, Daily Politics and BBC News. In May 2010, her presence was so ubiquitous in the period between the general election and the formation of a coalition government under David Cameron, that journalist David Aaronovitch coined the term "Kuenssbergovision".
In September 2011, Kuenssberg took up the newly created role of business editor for ITV News, and was replaced at BBC News by Norman Smith from BBC Radio 4. She also contributed towards business reporting on ITV's current affairs strand, Tonight. On 27 August 2013, she made her debut co-newscasting News at Ten with Alastair Stewart
On 12 November 2013, it was announced that she would leave ITV to return to the BBC, as chief correspondent and a presenter of Newsnight, replacing Gavin Esler in the latter role. She joined the Newsnight team in February 2014.
BBC political editor
In July 2015 she was appointed as the BBC's political editor, the first woman to hold the position. In January 2016 Kuenssberg was involved in arranging for the Labour MP Stephen Doughty to publicly announce his resignation as a shadow foreign office minister on Daily Politics. The incident was the subject of an official complaint from Seumas Milne, the Labour Party's director of communications, which was rejected by Robbie Gibb, then the BBC's head of live political programmes.
In December 2016, Kuenssberg said a source had told her that the Queen had made comments supportive of leaving the EU in a private lunch at Windsor Castle. She initially decided not to report the comments because the BBC generally requires a story to have two sources before it can run.
During a joint press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump, Kuenssberg recalled a number of controversial statements Trump made on the campaign trail, and asked Trump if he had anything to say to UK viewers "worried about you becoming the leader of the free world?" Trump responded, "That's your choice of a question? [To May] There goes that relationship."
In March 2019, Kuenssberg presented a documentary, The Brexit Storm: Laura Kuenssberg's Inside Story, for BBC Two. Her role in the reporting of Brexit negotiations was the subject of an article in The Times Magazine of 30 March 2019.
Kuenssberg has been a recurring guest on The Andrew Neil Show since the programme's inception in September 2019.
On 11 December, one day before the 2019 general election, she drew controversy by claiming on air that submitted postal votes, apparently viewed by both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, were "looking pretty grim for Labour in a lot of parts of the country". Viewing postal votes prior to polling day is in breach of guidelines set by the Electoral Commission and predicting electoral outcomes based on votes cast prior to polls closing may be a criminal offence. The footage was subsequently withdrawn from BBC iPlayer, while the episode of Politics Live in which the incident happened was withdrawn and removed from the BBC Parliament schedule. The BBC News press office tweeted: "Regarding today's Politics Live programme, the BBC does not believe it, or its political editor, has breached electoral law."
On 17 December 2019, she presented a second documentary film, The Brexit Storm Continues: Laura Kuenssberg's Inside Story, which covered Boris Johnson's arrival at Downing Street through to the 2019 general election.
Following the 2016 local elections, a petition was started on 38 Degrees which accused Kuenssberg of being biased against the Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, and called for her dismissal. The petition was later withdrawn by David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees, who cited concern that it had become a "focal point for sexist and hateful abuse made towards Laura Kuenssberg" on other social media websites such as Twitter although it was acknowledged that this represented "the actions of a small minority".
In January 2017 the BBC Trust ruled that a report in November 2015 by Kuenssberg broke the broadcaster's impartiality and accuracy guidelines. A viewer had complained about her item, which featured an interview with Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC News at Six which was edited to give the incorrect impression that Corbyn disagreed with the use of firearms by police in incidents such as that month's terrorist attacks in Paris. His purported answer to a question as broadcast in the report was in fact his reply to a more general (unbroadcast) question, not specifically about that terrorist attack. The BBC Trust said that the inaccuracy was "compounded" when Kuenssberg went on to state that Corbyn's message "couldn't be more different" from that of the prime minister Theresa May, who was about to publish anti-terrorism proposals. The trust said that accuracy was particularly important when dealing "with a critical question at a time of extreme national concern".
In September 2019 Kuenssberg received criticism for her portrayal of Omar Salem, a father who confronted prime minister Boris Johnson about the government's treatment of the NHS, as "a Labour activist". Salem defended Kuenssberg, saying that she was doing her job "without fear or favour which is a vital part of democracy. I don't think 'Labour activist cares about NHS' is a huge scoop though...".
In the 2019 United Kingdom general election, Kuenssberg was accused of bias again, however, this time it was alongside criticism of the BBC on its election coverage. She faced criticism for various incidents that happened during the campaign. Kuenssberg was criticised for tweeting Dominic Cummings' personal blog and getting the message of the government's chief strategist out unadulterated. She was then condemned for incorrectly tweeting that a Labour activist had punched a Conservative Party advisor without verification, footage was soon released showing that this was not true, she later apologised and retracted.
Charles Moore in The Spectator wrote in July 2017 of being told "informally" that Kuenssberg had received protection from a bodyguard during the 2017 general election. The BBC had believed her safety was under threat because of online abuse considered to be mainly from supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. The BBC refused to comment about the story. The Labour politician Yvette Cooper defended the BBC's political editor: "It’s her job to ask difficult questions. It’s her job to be sceptical about everything we say." By the end of the campaign Kuenssberg was also being abused by some Conservative and UKIP supporters.
At the Labour Party conference in Brighton in September 2017, Kuenssberg was accompanied by a security guard. Journalist Jenni Russell, a former BBC editor herself, was quoted in The New York Times about the issue affecting Kuenssberg: "The graphic level of threats to women is quite extraordinary and it’s one of the worst things to have happened in recent British public life." The bodyguard also accompanied her to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester in October 2017.
Kuenssberg said at the beginning of November 2017 at a gathering in London that the trolls were attempting to silence her.
Peter Oborne, writing for openDemocracy, criticised Kuenssberg for perpetuating what he called 'client journalism', suggesting that she may be too compliant in their eagerness to receive "insider" information which they report without challenge. This, he wrote, "allows Downing Street to frame the story as it wants. Some allow themselves to be used as tools to smear the government’s opponents. They say goodbye to the truth." The editor-at-large of Sky News, Adam Boulton, called for journalists not to be "part of the government's fake news machine".
In November 2016, Kuenssberg was awarded Broadcaster of the Year by the Political Studies Association. The prize was in recognition of her contribution to the public understanding of politics, especially surrounding the June 2016 EU Referendum and subsequent developments.
At the British Journalism Awards organised by Press Gazette in December 2016, Kuenssberg received the Journalist of the Year award. "Kuenssberg deserves this prize for the sheer volume and scope of reporting on some of the biggest changes ever in British politics" said the judges, pointing especially to her coverage of the EU membership referendum and its aftermath.
Kuenssberg was named in the Evening Standard's 2019 list of the top 20 'most influential Londoners'.
Kuenssberg is married to James Kelly, a management consultant. They live in East London.