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John Sergeant
Born 14 April 1944 (1944-04-14) (age 65)
Oxford, England
Residence Ealing, West London
Nationality British
Education Great Tew Primary School
Bloxham School
Millfield School
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
Darlington College
Occupation Journalist, broadcaster
Employer Retired, freelance
Spouse(s) Mary Smithie
Children 2

John Sergeant (born 14 April 1944) is a British television and radio journalist and broadcaster.



The son of a missionary who was also a distinguished linguist, Sergeant is of Russian origin on his mother's side[1]. Sergeant's early life meant that he followed his father's work, and was raised in locations including Jerusalem and Oxford. Sergeant was educated at Great Tew Primary School, briefly at the independent Bloxham School near Banbury, in Oxfordshire, and then at the independent Millfield School in Street, Somerset.

He graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Sergeant made a name for himself in student comedy revues, with the result that, after graduation, he starred with Alan Bennett in a series of sketch shows on the BBC entitled On the Margin and wrote comedy scripts. He then trained as a journalist at Darlington College while reporting for the Liverpool Echo.

Journalism career

Sergeant started his journalistic career as a correspondent for the Liverpool Echo where he worked for around three years before joining the BBC as a radio reporter in 1970. He was tasked to join the international desk, covering stories in over 25 countries. He then worked as a war reporter in Vietnam and Israel, and reported the death of the first British soldier during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. He later covered the opening sessions of the European Parliament and became a Political Correspondent in 1981. He then worked on a documentary called "The Europe We Joined" and has presented BBC Radio 4 programmes, Today and The World At One. Having progressed via newspaper, radio and television journalism, he became the BBC's Chief Political Correspondent from 1992 until 2000.

In 2000, he joined ITN as Political Editor, replacing the retiring Michael Brunson. Sergeant retired himself in 2002, replaced at ITN by Nick Robinson.

Journalist highlights

In 1987 in Moscow following Margaret Thatcher, he made a comment implying that she had already started campaigning for the General Election in June, 1987, despite not having officially declared the contest. "I am serving my country", Thatcher replied.

One of his most memorable moments was when he waited outside the British embassy in Paris for Thatcher, in the hope of hearing her reaction to the first ballot in the party leadership contest of 1990, only to be pushed aside by her press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, when Thatcher emerged from the building. For this broadcast, Sergeant won the British Press Guild award for the most memorable broadcast of the year, beating Paul Gascoigne who had been nominated for bursting into tears during the 1990 Football World Cup Semi-Final against West Germany.

Another political scoop was gained when he was granted the only interview with the then Welsh Secretary, Ron Davies, after he had been forced to resign following a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common in October, 1998.

After journalism

After retirement from political journalism, Sergeant's appearances on programmes such as Have I Got News For You have made him a sought-after participant in television comedy and satire shows.

He is currently a reporter for The One Show. When the hosts Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley were on holiday John hosted the show alongside Myleene Klass for a week starting on the 24th of August 2009. Sergeant has also been a guest in Countdown's Dictionary Corner with Susie Dent for the first time. In February 2009 he appeared on QI. Sergeant is also the host of Argumental, a comedy debating game on Dave. He is also a very popular after-dinner speaker.

Strictly Come Dancing

Sergeant competed with partner Kristina Rihanoff in the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing which began on 20 September 2008. Although he repeatedly finished bottom of the leader board after the judges' votes, the public consistently voted to keep him in the competition, prompting criticism of the viewers' voting by the judges and some dancers.[2] He left the show in Week 10 following a farewell dance saying ""The trouble is that there is now a real danger that I might win the competition. Even for me that would be a joke too far."[3] He has since subsequently been engaged by Mentorn TV to produce a number of documentaries that include a three-part series entitled John Sergeant's Tourist Trail.[1]

Personal life

John married Mary Smithies on 4 January 1969, and the couple have two children: Will Sergeant (TV Producer/Director/Writer) and Mike Sergeant (BBC News Reporter). He lives in Ealing, West London.

He was President of the Johnson Society in 2003.[4] Interviewed by Sophie Lam in The Independent in June 2008 about his holiday memories, he stated: "I'm programmed not to be disappointed by holidays."[5]


  1. ^ Autobiography Give me ten seconds by John Sergeant: Macmillan 2001. On page 19: "Horatio [Cook, John's maternal grandfather] was a loyal Englishman but also deeply Russian ... he could pass without difficulty as a Russian and in Odessa he married the daughter of a priest ... my mother would later boast that because of the orthodox tradition ... she could lay claim to ancestors going back a thousand years to the beginning of Christianity in Russia."
  2. ^ John Sergeant dances through divide, BBC News, 17 November 2008
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "My Life in Travel - John Sergeant, The Independent". Retrieved 2008-07-14.  

External links



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