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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences Our alumni

Jon Sopel BSc Politics and Sociology, 1981

Presenter of the BBC Politics Show and senior anchor during the week for the News Channel

Jon Sopel's Photo

The best part of the job is being in places where you think a little bit of history is unfolding and you’re there watching it.

During his time studying at University of Southampton Jon was actively involved in student politics and believes this reflected the same processes of decision making and the necessary compromises you have to make in the outside world. His learning was thus a combination of theoretical learning about where power lies alongside a little practical involvement.
After graduating from Social Sciences at the University of Southampton in 1981, Jon joined the BBC in 1983, working first for Southampton's local radio station, Radio Solent as a reporter and producer. Ever since he has garnered national acclaim in his extensive reporting across UK politics and was voted political journalist of the year in 2007.

Following his initial post he then became a reporter for the World at One and PM and spent many years as first a political correspondent and then chief political correspondent at Westminster, before becoming head of the BBC's Paris Bureau for four years. During his time working for the BBC Jon has witnessed some monumental events covering the tsunami from Sri Lanka, Hurricane Katrina from New Orleans and on location from the Middle East during the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Jon has reported from all across the globe to cover sporting events such as Beijing’s Olympic Games and the World Cup in South Africa as well as the last three presidential campaigns and the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as part of his extensive travels in America.

When asked what his favourite parts of the job were Jon replied ‘being in places, where you think a little bit of history is unfolding and you’re there watching it’. Jon was in Rome when the Pope had died, witnessing hundreds of thousands of people flocking in total silence which gave him “an extraordinary sense of being”. He also reported live on the fall of Margaret Thatcher, the 2010 general election and subsequently the talks of the coalition which he watched unfold. Around the time of the 2010 general election, Jon presented the Campaign show which was on every evening. More recently Jon was on air reading the breaking news that Rupert Murdoch was shutting the New of the World, which he felt was “tremendously exciting”. However alongside these positive experiences Jon also describes his visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, places which people had been frantically trying to escape.

When asked what the scariest part of reporting in a war zone was Jon answered “much like a night before an exam, you are frightened about all that you don’t know. Once you have seen the paper you have a shape of what you have to do, which is not quite the same but broadly similar. Of course there are bits that are very terrifying but by and large you manage risk. It makes you feel very alive being in very strange places at very strange times and there is an excitement about it which is undeniable and it feels very real what you are doing.”

Jon is now the presenter of the BBC Politics Show , a position he has held since 2005, broadcast every Sunday lunchtime where he is given the opportunity to interview the most senior political figures in the UK and abroad. He is also senior anchor during the week for the News Channel and a regular presenter of Newsnight and Hardtalk on BBC World. Since his education at the University of Southampton, Jon’s has written an acclaimed biography of Tony Blair (Prime Minister 1997–2007), entitled Tony Blair: The Moderniser .

In addition, Jon is an active trustee of the Citizenship Foundation and an ambassador for the Prince's Trust . In 2011 the University of Southampton awarded Jon with an honorary doctorate for his contribution to politics and broadcasting.

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