The broadcaster Ed Stourton said he was "shattered" yesterday after being told that his contract as a regular presenter of the BBC's Today programme will end next year.
He learnt the news by telephone while at the Harrogate Literary Festival. Stourton rang the BBC after being tipped off by a journalist Cole Moreton, who was interviewing him for tomorrow's Independent On Sunday. He is being axed, after almost a decade, to make way for the BBC's North America editor, Justin Webb. "Cole has the distinction of telling me I was about to lose my job," he said.
"I rang my boss and was told that it was true. I have enjoyed my 10 years there, which is why I feel so shattered. Not many things make you cheerful about getting up at three o'clock in the morning, but that show is one of them."
Stourton, 51, moved to Today after six years presenting the One O'Clock News. Stourton's contract expires in September, when Webb is due to return from the US. A BBC insider said Webb had been "angling" for a job on Today, having stood in briefly as a relief presenter. The source added: "Ed is friendly with Mark Damazer, the controller of Radio 4, but that didn't save him. It's bad, the way he was told."
Stourton created a storm of controversy last month because of a passage about the Queen Mother in his book about political correctness, It's A PC World. He described how the Queen Mother, in a private conversation about the EU, had referred to "huns, wops and dagoes". Stourton wrote that he thought the comment made her sound like a "ghastly old bigot". He brushed off any suggestion that this might have influenced his removal from Today. "I have no indication it is connected with the Queen Mum," he said. "I think it's that they want Justin."
Mark Damazer said: "Justin has been an outstanding voice on Radio 4 News and Current Affairs output. His work in the United States has been one of the joys of the network."