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Presenter of Question Time, David Dimbleby
"He was interested in nailing the politicians and trying to get answers"
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Tuesday, 8 August, 2000, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Tributes to Sir Robin Day
Sir Robin Day
Sir Robin "led a generation of interviewers"
Seasoned politicians and journalists have been paying fond tributes to veteran broadcaster Sir Robin Day.

Former prime minister Baroness Thatcher said: "Sir Robin Day single-handedly pioneered modern political interviewing, and he excelled at it.

His death leaves British political life blander and poorer

Baroness Thatcher
"Our paths often crossed and I always enjoyed the joust. He was tough and relentless.

"His death leaves British political life blander and poorer."

Sir Robin, who died on Sunday night, aged 76, was best known for presenting BBC1's Question Time and Panorama.

He was famous for taking interviewees to task with forensic skill, and interviewed many of the world's leading politicians including Egyptian leader Colonel Nasser over the Suez crisis.

Sir Robin once attempted to enter Parliament for the Liberal Party, standing for Hereford in 1959.

'Led a generation'

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said: "Robin Day set the tone for a generation of political interviewers.

"His skill as an interviewer was as distinctive as his bow ties. He will be much missed."

Sir Robin, who underwent a multiple heart by-pass operation in the 1980s, died at the Wellington Hospital in London, having undergone investigations for a cardiac condition.

He was called to the Bar in 1952, but left to pursue a journalism career.

During the 1950s, he was one of the first broadcasters on ITN news, where he set the pace for television journalism before moving to the BBC.

'Fearless and courteous'

Tory leader William Hague said: "One of his greatest characteristics was that he was able to be penetrating and fearless but be courteous all at the same time. You do not always find that in political interviewers."

Lady Thatcher
Lady Thatcher: " I always enjoyed the joust."
Former prime minister Lord Callaghan said he always enjoyed being interviewed by Sir Robin.

"It was a pleasure, because he knew what he was talking about.

"To know that you were going to be interviewed by Robin Day made the blood run faster.

"He said I was the most difficult man he had ever interviewed, which I took as a great compliment. He was really a politician in disguise."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: "We shall all miss his razor-sharp mind, his wit and his instinctive sense of fairness very much."

'Public's right to know'

Former deputy Labour leader Lord Hattersley said Sir Robin's death marked the "end of an era".

I shudder to watch interviewers who think it clever to be snide, supercilious, or downright offensive

Sir Robin Day
David Dimbleby, current presenter of Question Time, said: "He invented the technique of asking the supplementary question - of not just letting the politician say what he wanted.

"He combined a barrister's training with a belief that the public had a right to know.

Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman said: "It would be impossible to exaggerate his importance as a broadcaster. He invented the political interview."

The BBC's John Humphrys, one of the journalists who has followed the trail first blazed by Sir Robin, said: "Most of us who were by his standards newcomers to the business were in awe of him. At his best there was simply nobody better. He was well informed, he was incisive."

'Persistent but civil'

Sir Robin, who also presented World At One on Radio 4, was knighted in 1981.

He and his Australian-born wife Kathryn Ainslie divorced in 1986, but remained on good terms. Sir Robin did not remarry.

Describing his craft in his own words, Sir Robin said simply: "The interviewer should be firm and courteous. Questioning should be tenacious and persistent, but civil.

"I shudder to watch interviewers who think it clever to be snide, supercilious, or downright offensive."

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08 Aug 00 | UK
Sir Robin Day dies
02 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Kebabbed: Part 2
07 Aug 00 | Background
Sir Robin Day remembered
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