David Dimbley is leaving BBC Question Time after 25 years to return to his “first love” – reporting.
Dimbleby will step down from the BBC’s flagship political debate show in December, having first presented the weekly programme in January 1994 when John Major was still in power.
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The journalist said in a statement that he had “decided that this is the right moment to leave” and that it had been “exhilarating following the twists and turns of British politics” over a quarter of a century.
But, he added: “I am not giving up broadcasting. Instead, after years in the studio, I now plan to return to my first love: reporting.”
Last week Dimbleby presented an hour-long Panorama on Putin’s Russia, which saw him journey to the country to speak with the president’s supporters and opponents.
BBC director general Tony Hall described Dimbleby, son of former BBC journalist Richard Dimbleby who was the corporation’s first war, as a “titan in British broadcasting”.
He said: “The BBC and the public are extraordinarily lucky to have him in what are – to say the least – interesting times politically and socially. We look forward to working with him on other projects in the future.”
Among the big names rumoured to be in the running to replace Dimbleby in the coveted BBC role are Kirsty Wark, Emily Maitliss, Emma Barnett, Jeremy Vine, Huw Edwards, Victoria Derbyshire, Mishal Husain and Andrew Neil.
Dimbleby started his journalism career as a news reporter for the BBC in Bristol more than 57 years ago, having graduated from Oxford University.
He has been the BBC’s anchorman for all general elections since 1979. He reported through the night on the 2017 election, his tenth for the BBC, despite having said two years earlier that he would step back from doing so.
In June last year, Dimbleby told a Question Time audience member to leave after he repeatedly interrupted panel guest Gina Miller.