Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "New BBC political editor is a Tory"

Tony Blair's former spin-doctor used to put a junior BBC political reporter in his place by referring mockingly to the poor lad's past membership of the Federation of Conservative Students. That lad is the new political editor of the BBC, Nick Robinson.

Nick's refusal to be bullied by Alastair Campbell was probably one reason his former employers at the Beeb were determined to get him back from ITN. They were certainly impressed that, during last month's election, he refused to go along with the Labour spin on Tory spending and robustly challenged the Prime Minister while other journalists held back.

I was fishing in Ireland when news of the BBC appointment broke, but that didn't stop the usual suspects from ringing for a view on how Gordon Brown would react. I doubt if he gave it more than a few moments' thought. He knows, like the rest of us, that Nick is a pro and will be every bit as good as Andrew Marr at "cutting though the crap", as Greg Dyke would put it.

Never mind the politics - I suspect that small things like being treated with basic human decency will cut more ice with Robinson. I believe Marr was more impressed by one act of kindness from Brown than by any of his policies. When the Independent sacked Marr as editor, he suddenly found that all his lunches with cabinet ministers had been cancelled. Well, all but one, actually. Brown kept his date, and paid the bill, too.

I don't know if Robinson has had any similar experiences with politicians, but he has certainly had his share of bad moments with 10 Downing Street, and we can rejoice in knowing that No 10 will not be happy about his appointment.

This article first appeared in the 27 June 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Smokescreen