David Dimbleby

David Dimbleby
David Dimbleby
Born 28 October 1938 (1938-10-28) (age 73)
Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Occupation Television presenter, journalist

David Dimbleby (born 28 October 1938) is a British BBC TV commentator and a presenter of current affairs and political programmes, most notably the BBC's flagship political show Question Time, and more recently, art, architectural history and history series. He is the son of Richard Dimbleby and elder brother of Jonathan Dimbleby.


Early life

Dimbleby was born in Surrey[1] and educated at two independent schools, the then Glengorse School in Battle, East Sussex,[2] and Charterhouse School in Godalming, Surrey (where he was a contemporary of Adam Raphael). After learning French in Paris and Italian in Perugia, he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Christ Church, Oxford and graduated with a third-class honours degree. While at Oxford he was President of the Christ Church JCR, a member of the Bullingdon Club - a socially exclusive student dining society - and editor of the student magazine, Isis.


Dimbleby joined the BBC as a news reporter in Bristol in the 1960s and has appeared in news programmes since 1962, early on co-presenting the televised version of the school quiz Top of the Form. In 1974, he became the presenter of Panorama, which had been presented by his father, Richard Dimbleby, and was involved in a number of projects which combined his established role as presenter and interviewer with documentary making. An early example of this was Yesterday's Men (1971), a film held to have ridiculed the Labour opposition and led to a major conflict between the BBC and the Labour Party; Dimbleby had his name removed from the credits for concessions that were made.[3] Later films were not the source of such controversy, they include The White Tribe of Africa (1979), an award-winning four-part history of South Africa's Afrikaans community and the rise of apartheid, An Ocean Apart (1988), an examination of the history of Anglo-American relations, and Rebellion! (1999), a history of Britain's troubled relations with Zimbabwe).

In 1980, he appeared in an episode of comedy sketch show The Goodies as "David Dimbumblum" in which he parodied himself, after being caught on camera during the 1979 election night coverage eating a sandwich, by carving and eating a roast turkey during a spoof election.[4]

Dimbleby was the main presenter of the BBC's flagship 1980s political series This Week Next Week,[5] broadcast on Sunday early afternoons from 1984 to 1988, as a competitor to ITV's long-running Weekend World series. Both the BBC and ITV series came to a permanent end in the same year. This Week Next Week was replaced in 1988 by the On the Record political series.

Dimbleby anchored his first General Election Night results programme for the BBC in 1979, when he presented alongside Bob McKenzie, David Butler, Sir Robin Day, and Angela Rippon. He has anchored every general election results programme for the BBC since then: in 1983 and 1987 with Sir Robin Day and Peter Snow; in 1992 with Peter Snow and Peter Sissons; in 1997, 2001 and 2005 with Peter Snow and Jeremy Paxman;, and in 2010 with Jeremy Paxman and Jeremy Vine. He is also seen on BBC Budget specials, and was a presenter of the BBC early evening weekday current affairs series Nationwide, on which he famously addressed Paddy Ashdown as "Panty Ashdown". During the same period (beginning in 1979), Dimbleby has also been the anchor for the BBC's European Elections results programmes and in 2008 anchored the BBC's coverage of the US Election night.

Since 1994, Dimbleby has been chairman of Question Time, the BBC's flagship programme of topical debate. This is the role in which he is now best known. One of the most memorable moments from Question Time was when Dimbleby accidentally referred to Robin Cook as "Robin Cock", to which Cook responded by jokingly referring to Dimbleby as "David Bumblebee".

Dimbleby has also covered outside broadcast events of national importance, such as the State Opening of Parliament, the Trooping the Colour, the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, royal weddings, and visits of US presidents. He commentated on the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002, and the state visit of U.S. President George W. Bush to Britain the following year. In 1999, he opened BBC 2000 Today, the BBC's coverage of the millennium celebrations, from Greenwich, England.

There were reports in 2004 that Dimbleby was shortlisted for the Chairmanship of the BBC.[6] However, the position was eventually awarded to Michael Grade. As early as 1987, he was a contender for the position of Director General of the BBC (losing out to Michael Checkland) and for the chairmanship in the Corporation's tumultuous period following 2001, which went to Gavyn Davies. He has instead remained best known for his role as a frank yet eminently impartial narrator, and occasional moderator, of British politics. He remains outspoken about the Corporation he has served for much of his life, but has stated that he will not apply for the chair or directorship again.

In 2005, he hosted a major BBC One series, A Picture of Britain, celebrating British and Irish paintings, poetry, music, and landscapes. In June 2007 he wrote and presented a follow-up, the BBC series, How We Built Britain, in which he explored the chronological history of British architecture by visiting a region of Britain and its historic buildings each week. David Dimbleby has, as of February 2010, recently started to present a new series on BBC One, Seven Ages of Britain. In early editions of the programme, he has looked at the Bayeux Tapestry and exhibits to do with Thomas Becket.

On 12 November 2009, Dimbleby missed his first Question Time in over 15 years, having been taken to hospital as a precaution after being briefly knocked out by a rearing bullock at his farm in Sussex.[7]

Dimbleby hosted the third of three televised election debates featuring the leaders of the three main political parties held in the run up to the 2010 general election.[8] On the night of the 2010 Election, Dimbleby hosted the BBC coverage, along with Jeremy Vine, Jeremy Paxman, Nick Robinson, and Emily Maitlis.[9] Presenting from a specially built set in BBC Television Centre Studio 1, he was an anchor and involved commentary contributions, guest interviews, and introducing live outside broadcasts. He presented the election in 2010 for 18 hours.[10]


He was made an honorary graduate of the University of Essex in 2005,[11] and is the President of the Institute for citizenship.[12]


He is the son of the World War II war correspondent Richard Dimbleby and Dilys (née Thomas, from Wales) elder brother of Jonathan Dimbleby, also a current affairs commentator and presenter of both BBC and ITV programmes.[13] David Dimbleby was a director of the Dimbleby Newspaper Group, former publishers of the Richmond and Twickenham Times, acquired by the Newsquest Media Group in 2001 for a reported £12 million.

The younger Dimblebys made their television debuts in the BBC's first holiday travelogue programme Passport in the 1950s, when the entire family would visit locations in Switzerland or Brittany, for example. Several episodes of this series and the UK-based variant No Passport still exist in the BBC and BFI archives. Despite the brothers presenting election coverage on competing channels, when asked in an interview about rival ITV's plans to include a riverboat party with the likes of Kevin Spacey and Richard Branson in their broadcast, David Dimbleby commented "They've got Jonathan Dimbleby, what do they need Kevin Spacey for?"[14]

Dimbleby has three children by his first wife, Josceline Dimbleby, a cookery writer: Liza, artist; Henry, chef and co-founder of the healthy fast food chain Leon; and Kate, musician. Henry Dimbleby had a brief television career in a BBC TV adaptation of Arthur Ransome's children's novels Coot Club and The Big Six.

In 2000 Dimbleby married Belinda Giles, a granddaughter of Herbrand Sackville, 9th Earl De La Warr.[15] They have one son, Fred.[16] Dimbleby lives in Polegate, East Sussex[17] with a second home in Dartmouth, Devon.[18]


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: MAR 1938 2a 180 SURREY NE - David Dimbleby, mmn = Thomas
  2. ^ "Battle Abbey School". http://www.battleabbeyschool.com. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  3. ^ "Yesterday's Men 1971", The BBC Story (BBC website)
  4. ^ "Politics". The Goodies. BBC. 14 January 1980. No. 1, season 8.
  5. ^ Biography of David Dimbleby
  6. ^ Sherwin, Adam; Snoddy, Raymond (13 March 2004). "Headhunters look outside the box for Dyke successor". The Times (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1044739.ece. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "David Dimbleby injured by bullock". BBC News. 12 November 2009. Archived from the original on 12 November 2009. http://www.webcitation.org/5lEXipDZJ. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  8. ^ "Brown to face three televised election debates". BBC News Online. 2009-12-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8425280.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  9. ^ "BBC News Article - BBC Election Coverage 2010". 6 May 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8662141.stm. 
  10. ^ "Dimbleby, 71, up for 18 hours as BBC's General Election coverage goes into extra time", Daily Mail, 8 May 2010.
  11. ^ Honorary Graduates of the University of Essex, UK
  12. ^ Institute for Citizenship - Trustees
  13. ^ Barratt, Nick (3 February 2007). "Family detective". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/portal/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=A1&xml=/portal/2007/02/03/ftnick03.xml. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  14. ^ David Rowan: Interview: David Dimbleby, BBC Question Time (Evening Standard)
  15. ^ thePeerage.com - Person Page 19622
  16. ^ David Dimbleby misses Question Time for first time in 15 years - after being knocked out by wife's bullock - Daily Mail
  17. ^ BBC - Press Office - How We Built Britain: Programme Six Modern South
  18. ^ Stamp, Rory (2009 Spring). "Anchor man". The Lifeboat 587: 46–7. 

External links

Preceded by
Peter Sissons
Regular Host of Question Time
Preceded by
Alastair Burnet
Host of BBC Election Night Coverage

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