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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
The forensic interviewer
Sir Robin Day on Question Time
Sir Robin Day, who has died age 76
By BBC Political Correspondent Nick Jones.

Politicians feared Sir Robin Day because unlike so many of his contemporaries they knew he had always researched his subject.

He had trained as a barrister and his forensic style of questioning, together with his undoubted showmanship, turned him into a popular but formidable interrogator.

His breakthrough as a broadcaster came in the mid 1950s when he was hired as one of the original newscasters on ITN.

Standing his ground

Instead of approaching ministers in the deferential way adopted by the BBC's broadcasters, who would ask courteously if the minister had anything to say, Day adopted a far punchier approach and always stood his ground.

After presenting Panorama in the 1960s, he switched to Question Time in 1979 and chaired it for the following decade. He also hosted numerous election programmes, including Election Call.

In addition to his work on television, he was a presenter on the World At One and it was during his time on Radio 4 that I got to know him well.

Throughout the 1980s my job as labour correspondent was to report on the industrial strife which became such a feature of the turbulent Thatcher years.

During the big strikes of that decade Sir Robin often walked down the corridor of Broadcasting House so that he could rifle through the files in my office.

Cliff edge

He liked to check the precise wording of the latest management offer or union statement and his careful research usually paid dividends.

I always knew I had to listen back to his interviews because frequently they would reveal a shift in the dispute.

Whenever I was interviewed on the World At One on the latest developments in the tortuous progress of strikes like the 1984-5 pit dispute, Sir Robin would check beforehand on the true extent of what I knew.

He used to say to me 'I'll take you all the way, that's just what I want to hear.'

I always admired his professionalism. It was as though he was taking me to the top of the cliff, but never letting me fall off the edge.

Campaigner

He wanted to serve the listener and instead of scoring points or promoting himself, he wanted to assist me, as a correspondent, to give the best possible assessment of what was happening.

Sir Robin's other great contribution to political journalism was his role as an early campaigner for the televising of Parliament.

Against the odds he fought for microphones and cameras to be allowed into the House of Commons.

Defender of democracy

Well into his seventies Sir Robin was still a regular attendee at political events and social events at Westminster.

He had always read the latest political book and loved the gossip.

He lived just across the road from the Houses of Parliament and will be remembered not just as a political interviewer but also as a stout defender of parliamentary democracy.

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