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A veteran of the Westminster beat, the former BBC Deputy Political Editor believes that cynicism is unhelpful: assume politicians are attempting to say something useful - but listen very, very carefully. As well as insights and anecdotes from Parliament and broadcasting he has speculated on what might happen if we were to select governments by means of reality television.
John Pienaar was the BBC’s Deputy Political Editor and presenter of the weekly Westminster round-up Pienaar’s Politics on Radio 5Live. A seasoned reporter, he sees his job as beating a path through the forest of Government spin, a role he maintains for Times Radio. Ever since his original, often controversial parliamentary sketch for The Independent, he has acted as tour guide and translator of goings-on in the Westminster village.
Prior to spending almost three decades at the BBC, John originally trained at South London Press, covering whatever was occurring on his doorstep – be it street crime, domestic violence, sex, drugs or rock’n’roll. He then became an Old Bailey Correspondent and even wrote an angling column (without ever having held a fishing rod).
Instantly recognisable to television news audiences, John has spent hundreds of hours standing in the rain outside 10 Downing Street. He was also invited to take part in a celebrity boxing show, only for it to be cancelled for fear that someone might get hurt. Picking up this theme in his after dinner speech, John imagines what would happen if the public were to vote for MPs by means of a reality TV show.
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I’m always struck by the clarity with which John speaks about the complex issues facing political leaders, and the nation as a whole. He offers serious analysis, up to the minute information and behind the scenes insights into the goings-on at Westminster. But he also has a vast arsenal of anecdotes having spent many hundreds of hours grilling our lords and masters – and standing in front of 10 Downing Street in his favourite raincoat. JLA Agent Ruby Porter
John Pienaar Conference Speaker