Andrew Marr and Andrew Neil Comparison Essay

sarah atkinson

Comparison Essay

Andrew Marr and Andrew Neil


The two journalists chosen for comparison are Andrew Marr and Andrew Neil. On paper, they appear to be very similar, both Scottish political journalists who work for the BBC and have their own shows. They do however vary in their style, but have a shared aim, to inform the public and hold the people/parties/companies to account for their actions.

This essay will compare the two in both presenting style and delivery, and the way their personal lives, background and ethics influence them and the way in which they work. It will demonstrate how two broadcaster/journalists with differing styles accomplish the same outcome. They both hold to account the men and women who govern and shape all realms of the United Kingdom.

Andrew Marr is a Scottish political journalist and know hosts the Sunday morning BBC show ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ this is a current affairs programme made up of segments including a panel paper review, and a feature interview. Before working for the BBC Andrew Marr attended Cambridge, then went to work for several publications including The Scotsman and The Independent. In 2013 he had a stroke which still affects his left side, during a documentary about his stroke he explained how a nurse built a simple autocue. This allowed him to practice reading a script as part of his rehabilitation, and helped him return to his namesake show. He has a long-standing affiliation with the Labour Party

Andrew Neil was educated at Glasgow University where he became chairman for the federation of Conservative Students. He host’s and co-hosts politics show on the BBC, which are: Daily Politics, Sunday Politics and This Week. The Daily and Sunday Politics shows are broken into segments such as the paper review and a feature interview. This Week is an informal current affair show with two panellists, special guests and features. This is aired late at night allowing a less formal feel. The one constant through all three shows is Andrew Neil’s forthright style. Of all the BBC journalists, he has the most air-time at five hours per week. Prior to working on TV he worked in print at The Telegraph and The Spectator.

The two men behind the shows both share a deep passion for politics, and are both able to put aside personal beliefs during interviews. This allows a fair and balanced insight into the subject.

In an article published by The Guardian in July 2015 titled: ‘The BBC is Full of Political Bias – But Doesn’t Affect its Output’ the article considers political affiliations of the BBC’s top journalists and their impartiality.

It noted that Andrew Marr and Paul Mason in their younger days had ‘flirtations’ with Trotskyist groups which are far right communist’s.

Andrew Neil was mentioned as the political journalist who receives most air time at five hours a week. It acknowledged how he was a researcher for the Conservative Party and chairman of Spectator magazine, which is well known as a Conservative publication.

The writer Ivor Gaber wrote: “The current notion that there is obvious bias at the BBC – weather it be of the left or the right – that can be “investigated” and presumably purged, is troubling.” (gaber, 2015) highlighted where required.

The BBC like with any other media organisation spends a considerable sum on set design. Close attention is paid to the way in which the journalists/presenters position themselves and guests when interviewing.

Andrew Marr: The chairs are positioned at a five to the hour and five past the hour. There is nothing in-between them to create a barrier, tables for water are placed on the outer sides of the chairs. By allowing the middle space to be open there is a feeling of relaxed even standing between the two.

During the interview’s, Andrew Marr usually sits back in his chair with both hands wresting on his lap. This is a non-confrontational, relaxed stance, allowing the interviewee to feel unthreatened.

There are moments within interviews, usually when an interviewee is not answering or defecting answers when Marr will lean in or raise his hand in gesture to apply pressure for an and answer or justification. Once the desired outcome has been reached, the stance reverts to the resting position.

The way in which Marr facilitates his interviewees is similar to that of a counsellor and their client.

“Posture: Your posture needs to be open…to signal that you are receptive and willing to engage with your client.

Eye contact: use eye contact to demonstrate interest in them

Facial expression: be aware of the information that your facial expression might say

Seating: positioning yourself at a slight angle, rather than opposite, appears less confrontational. (Bond, 2011)

Andrew Neil: The chairs are positioned at opposite sides of a table. This creates a barrier and more formal feel to interviews. There are usually papers placed on the desk in-front of Andrew Neil which, even if not used gives allows the viewer to see without question who is in charge and in control of things.

The table allows Neil a platform on to rest. He frequently leans into the table giving a direct almost forceful stance against the interviewee. When trying to press a point, he will point or gesture to the guest, this is not done with a softer free arm, instead the motion is direct with the elbow firmly planted on the table top.

The image on the lest is the Andrew Marr Show, the image on the left Sunday Politics fronted by Andrew Neil.


Capture 3

The goal for both journalists is to hold the politicians to account, to question their party and personal agendas.

In a world of twenty-four-hour news, and scrutiny from social media, it is more important than ever for this kind of broadcast.

Andrew Marr to Jeremy Corbyn:

The opening sequence to this interview included an overview of the kind of questions which would be asked. Mr Corbyn was told there would be questions regarding home policy, however he would begin with foreign policy. This is quite a gentle softer approach and interviewing style.


His body language was relaxed whilst asking the question.

The question was regarding what instruction Mr Corbyn would put into a letter to the Captains of the nuclear submarines. Mr Corbyn avoided the question stating a desire for a nuclear free world. The question was repeated in a calm but firm manor, once again a straight answer was avoided but went on to speak about world peace.

Andrew Marr uses hand gestures throughout the interview, these gestures are not intimidating or menacing they are more expressive.

Throughout the interview, Andrew Marr’s tone remained calm, controlled, and polite. This encouraged Mr Corbyn to give an authentic personal answer.

This interview caused confusion from the general public and across the political spectrum due to Mr Corbyn giving his personal stance on the use of nuclear weapons and not that of the Labour Party who support it. (Stewart, 2017)

Jeremy Corbyn’s beliefs are long established and can be traced to him joining the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) as a schoolboy in 1966. (Wheeler, 2016)

Neil in contrast to Marr has a very direct interviewing style.

In an interview with Conservative Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin regarding the delay of the enquiry into High Speed 2 (HS2 as it is more commonly known), due to key evidence being left on a memory stick.

The tone of Neil’s voice was very direct and said with intent, this would indicate the severity of the question being asked. During the questioning, there was what could be described as a laughing tone, this could be viewed as a laugh of disbelief or one of derision.

Hand gestures were used which matched the tonality in the voice, they appeared purposeful and re-enforced what was being said.  This almost forceful style leaves the listener with no doubt of who is in charge.

In its simplest form an interview is a conversation between two people, the interviewer and interviewee.

Of the three main communication theories, the one most relevant to this special environment is Schramm’s model.

The communication is between two people, but structured rather than free flowing.

The model explains the way in which each person is both the encoder and the decoder within the transaction.

The response to the question asked by Andrew Marr to Jeremy Corbyn an element of Schramm’s model of communication is clear to see. The Field of Experience are factors which influence both the way we encode and decode messages.

“The Field of Experience are the things that influence the understanding and interpretation of messages like culture, social background beliefs, experiences, values and rules.” (Anon., n.d.)

This applies to both the interviewer and interviewee.

The process of interviewing a guest is something which, to perfect takes years of practice, the BBC academy offers a complete chapter on the process of interviewing and how to make the most out of an interview.

The use of open questions allows the interviewees to open up and give comprehensive answers. Both Marr and Neil have this down to a fine art.

For most kinds of guests this works extremely well, however, politicians are professionals at evading questions and giving the illusion they heard a different question to what was asked. On occasion, there is a necessity to ask a closed question, usually when pressing for a definitive answer.

This was demonstrated in Marrs interview with Jeremy Corbyn over giving the order for a nuclear strike, he avoided and skated round the answer to the point he was asked “would you give the order yes or no?” A clear answer still was not given. At this point he moved to the next subject.

The way in which questions are asked can be divisive.

Both Marr and Neil have featured in newspaper articles regarding their personal style of questioning.

In an interview with the Press Association on 7th February 2017 Marr spoke about how his interviewing style was the key to getting a good story. This was the response to a question about his softer style in relation to some of his peers including Andrew Neil. Mr Marr said they:

“Don’t really understand the nature of interviewing and how it works”

He followed with:

“I would say look at the amount of stories that come out of my show, it’s vastly more than anyone else’s”

Neil recently appeared in The Sun under the headline:

“’Drop the Democrat!’ Nick Clegg gets ripped to shreds by Andrew Neil on the Liberal Democrats’ hypocritical position on Brexit” (clark, 2016)

During the interview Neil told Mr Clegg that due to the Liberal Democrats stance on Brexit they should consider re-branding and dropping the ‘Democrat’.

This is not the first time a headline has implied Neil is not someone to take lightly.

When searching for articles relation to Neil, and observation was made.

Capture 7

In most of the headlines in the image above relating to Neil there is a theme, the use of powerful thought provoking words or phrases.

When seeing the word ‘schooled’ the denotation of this could be that Katie Hopkins is learning something from Neil, in the way a student would learn from a teacher. The connotation of this however implies something different, ‘totally schooled’ implies she has been taught a lesson in a similar way to a parent disciplining their child.



After watching and reading about both well respected journalists, it has become apparent that whilst contrasting in style, their aim is the same. Both hold to account and question the top political representatives in the country.

Andrew Marr is polite and softly spoken, whilst in contrast Andrew Neil is more assertive in manor, both take no prisoners.

They are both able to put personal feelings and beliefs aside irrespective of the person in-front of them.

Referring to the article regarding bias in the BBC, the two interviews mentioned demonstrate how this, at least with the two journalists in this comparison is not the case. The two interviewees were man belonging the parties to which both are associated.

There is no clear right or wrong way in terms of which works best. Both gentlemen work in a style which suites them and their personality.

Word count 2039

Works Cited

Anon., n.d. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 28th April 2017].

Bond, S. C. a. T., 2011. Integrative Counselling Skills in Action. 3rd ed. london: sage.

clark, n., 2016. The Sun. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 01 may 2017].

gaber, i., 2015. the guardian. [Online]

Available at: /

[Accessed 9 May 2017].

Stewart, J. E. a. H., 2017. The Guardian. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 17 May 2017].

Wheeler, b., 2016. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 17 may 2017].


Anon., n.d. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 28th April 2017].

Bond, S. C. a. T., 2011. Integrative Counselling Skills in Action. 3rd ed. london: sage.

clark, n., 2016. The Sun. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 01 may 2017].

Corbyn, J., 2017. The Andrew Marr Show [Interview] (23 April 2017).

gaber, i., 2015. the guardian. [Online]

Available at: /

[Accessed 9 May 2017].

McLoughlin, P., 2017. Sunday Politics [Interview] (23 April 2017).

Stewart, J. E. a. H., 2017. The Guardian. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 17 May 2017].

Wheeler, b., 2016. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 17 may 2017].




















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