Steerpike Steerpike

BBC political editor frontrunner’s thousand-dollar bash

Jon Sopel (Credit: Penguin Books UK)

Of all the jobs in Westminster journalism, BBC political editor is thought to be the hardest. Laura Kuenssberg will shortly be quitting the role after nearly seven years in post but it seems the corporation is having a hard time finding a successor. First, favourite Vicki Young, Kuenssberg’s deputy, ruled herself out of the running. And then, last week, Mr S revealed that the Beeb had had to extend the deadline by another fortnight to allow more applicants.

The current frontrunner is Jon Sopel, who recently returned to Britain after almost eight years as the BBC’s main man in North America. Despite protestations that he is taking a ‘long break’ to write a book, bookmakers reckon the battle to succeed Laura K will be between him and fellow Beeb colleague Alex Forsyth. The successful appointee is required to have ‘the highest level of editorial judgment under pressure’ and will be expected to hold Boris Johnson’s government to account.

So Mr S was intrigued to learn that the Foreign Office threw a thousand-dollar bash to mark Sopel’s departure as BBC North America editor in November last year. Food, drink and hired staff were brought in to host some 86 invited guests, with British taxpayers stumping up for the $952 (£700) bill as it came out of the Embassy’s regular budget for representational events. 

However, as the FCDO was at pains to make clear in its response to a Freedom of Information request, ‘champagne was not served at the reception.’ Instead ‘in keeping with the British Embassy’s policy of using British produce wherever possible, British sparkling wine was served’ which was ‘paid for privately.’

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