BBC's Jay leaves with final dig at 'red braces' brigade

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The Independent Online

Peter Jay, the BBC's economics editor ,fired a parting shot at his colleagues yesterday by warning that financial reporting was "not just for the men in red braces" of the City.

The remarks from the veteran broadcaster and former ambassador to Washington, who steps down from his post in the autumn, were interpreted by someas a broadside against Jeff Randall, the corporation's business editor.

Mr Randall, who was previously the editor of the City-orientated Sunday Business newspaper, joined the BBC late last year – an appointment rumoured to have been unpopular with his new colleagues.

Mr Jay, 64, who was often accused during his 12 years at the corporation of only making annual on-screen appearances to comment on the Budget, insisted both he and Randall were good friends.

But Mr Jay, a former advisor to the Treasury, who is also son-in-law to former Chancellor and Prime Minister James Callaghan, was determined to show his populist credentials.

Asked what he thought he had achieved at the BBC, he said: "It is weaning the BBC – and other broadcasters – away from the presentation of economic events as aspects of the City. I think we've managed to present economic events as massively important to 65 million people up and down the country."

Adding that he would be "disappointed" were his achievement to be reversed in his absence, Mr Jay, said his retirement was linked purely to his age rather than any rancour.

But, in a further contrast with Mr Randall, an experienced journalist who is well respected in the City, he said he believed specialist reporters should be trained outsiders rather than journalists.

Mr Jay said: "The true meaning of specialism (is) as a person whose whole previous life and education has prepared them for the role they are taking on, not just someone who has been handed a specialist title and a specialist portfolio and who brings little to the task but the trade craft of a general journalist."

With the agreement of the BBC, Mr Jay had recently been working from his Oxfordshire home rather than the London offices of the corporation's joint business and economics unit.

Although not a daily news commentator, he was prominent in the BBC's coverage of Exchange Rate Mechanism in the 1990s and, last year, presented a series on economic history, The Road to Riches.

Despite previously suggesting he would continue past his 64th birthday, the former husband of Labour peer Baroness Jay and chairman of TV-AM said he had arranged his retirement two years ago.

He will be replaced by Evan Davis, currently economics correspondent for BBC2's Newsnight, as part of a beefed-up BBC economics and business department.