Laura Juliet Kuenssberg (born 8 August 1976) is a British journalist. She is currently the political editor of BBC News, having succeeded Nick Robinson in July 2015, and is the first woman to hold the position. She has previously served as the BBC's chief political correspondent and was the first business editor of ITV News. She was also the chief correspondent for Newsnight between February 2014 and July 2015.
|Education||Laurel Bank School|
|Alma mater||University of Edinburgh (MA)|
|BBC News; Brexitcast|
|Title||Political editor of BBC News (2015–present)|
|Relatives||Joanna Kuenssberg (sister)|
Ekkehard von Kuenssberg (paternal grandfather)
Lord Robertson (maternal grandfather)
Sir James Wilson Robertson (great-uncle)
Early life and education
Kuenssberg was born in Italy in 1976 to Nick and Sally Kuenssberg. Her father is a businessman; 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 who had also been appointed a CBE, in the 1969 Birthday Honours. Her maternal grandfather was Lord Robertson, a judge of the Scots High Court of Justiciary, whose brother James Wilson Robertson was the last British Governor-General of Nigeria. Her elder brother David is executive director of finance and resources at Brighton and Hove City Council. Her elder sister Joanna Kuenssberg is a former diplomat who has served as 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, graduating with a first-class honours MA degree. She spent a year studying at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she interned at the 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 the BBC News channel. In May 2010, her presence on BBC Television was so ubiquitous in the period between the 2010 United Kingdom general election and the formation of the Cameron–Clegg coalition, 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.
Between the 2017 United Kingdom general election and Brexit in 2020, Kuenssberg also co-presented the BBC's Brexitcast podcast alongside Katya Adler, Adam Fleming, and Chris Mason, which was then retitled as the Newscast podcast.
BBC political editor
She was appointed in July 2015 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 European Union during 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 the prime minister Theresa May and Donald Trump, the president of the United States, Kuenssberg recalled a number of controversial statements Trump made about his proposed travel ban during the 2016 United States presidential election, and asked Trump if he had anything to say to British viewers "worried about you becoming the leader of the free world?" Trump responded, "That's your choice of a question?" He then remarked 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.
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 10 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, calling for her dismissal. The petition was later withdrawn by David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees, who suggested 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 Corbyn on the BBC News at Six which gave 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 question (not broadcast), and 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 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." Nevertheless, the BBC Trust found no evidence that there had been any intention to mislead, and their ruling was that the footage "had been compiled in good faith." The Daily Telegraph published a story about Kuenssberg in 2017 with the headline "the most divisive woman on TV today?" printed on the front-page.
In September 2019 Kuenssberg received criticism for her portrayal of Omar Salem, a father who confronted the 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...".
On 11 December 2019, the day before the 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." The Metropolitan Police later confirmed that there was "no evidence of any criminal offences having been committed."
Kuenssberg was criticised, alongside other major journalists, for incorrectly tweeting that a Labour activist had punched a Conservative Party advisor, without verification; footage was released showing this was untrue and she later apologised and retracted her tweet. On 3 March 2020, however, the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit stated that "It found no evidence of political bias nor that Laura Kuenssberg had failed to check the story before publication." In her apology, Kuenssberg noted that two sources had told her the story was true, and she hence decided to publish it.
In May 2020, as the Dominic Cummings scandal broke, Kuenssberg tweeted several statements from an anonymous source close to Cummings about the nature of his trip. In one tweet, she contradicted Pippa Crerar, one of the journalists who broke the story, with information from a "source" which argued that the trip was not illegal. Many suspected that the anonymous source was Cummings himself, which led to allegations that Kuenssberg was defending, or at least uncritically repeating, his side of the story. This led to a significant volume of complaints to the BBC, who defended Kuenssberg's actions. In May 2021, Dominic Cummings confirmed to a Parliamentary committee that he "set the record straight" with briefings to Kuenssberg.
An interview with Boris Johnson in July 2020 led to over 100 complaints against Kuenssberg being submitted to the BBC alleging that she had overly interrupted Johnson and was displaying bias against the government. The BBC defended Kuenssberg, stating that she had conducted the interview in a 'thorough, firm but fair manner.'
In November 2020, some economists criticized Kuenssberg's assessment of Rishi Sunak's economic statement suggesting she lacked understanding of economics. The BBC defended Kuenssberg stating that she was summarising the position of the Chancellor and that its economics editor, Faisal Islam, had then given the opposite position.
In a July 2017 Spectator article, Charles Moore wrote 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 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 both the Conservative and Labour Party conferences in 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."
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'.
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