Radio 4 broadcaster Nick Clarke dies, aged 58

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Leading politicians and broadcasters paid tribute to the BBC journalist Nick Clarke who died of cancer yesterday, aged 58.

With an instantly recognisable voice, a formidable intellect yet a scrupulously polite and respectful interviewing technique, Mr Clarke will be best remembered for presenting Radio 4's The World At One and Any Questions.

The father of five children returned to broadcasting earlier this year after surgeons removed his leg at the hip. He also underwent chemotherapy following the discovery of the fast-growing sarcoma which he referred to as "the beast".

His radio documentary, Fighting To Be Normal, detailed his battle against the disease and the impact it had on his wife, Barbara, and his three-year-old twin boys. It earned him plaudits from cancer sufferers and disability groups for its honesty and frankness.

Despite his determination to carry on with his career, he was forced to stop broadcasting six weeks ago when his health deteriorated.

The tributes were led by Tony Blair, who said: "Nick was an outstanding presenter who, over many years, represented the best elements of public service broadcasting in this country. A true professional, he will be deeply missed."

The Tory leader, David Cameron, described him as a "kind and thoughtful man". He added: "He got a lot out of the people he interviewed, not by hectoring but by asking thoughtful questions."

Michael Grade, the BBC chairman, praised the presenter as "one of the outstanding broadcast journalists of his generation". He said: "He will be greatly missed by his family, his audiences and by all of his friends, colleagues and admirers within the BBC."

Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, said: "He was one of the BBC's finest broadcasters and a brilliant political interviewer, who was also a great listener. Nick's interviewing style was penetrating but unfailingly courteous."

Mr Clarke was born in Godalming, Surrey, in 1948. His father was a cricket correspondent for the Evening Standard and a career in journalism was always likely. Educated at Bradfield College in Berkshire and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, he became a trainee reporter with the Yorkshire Evening Post before moving to the BBC in Manchester.

He came to national attention in 1976 reporting for the Nine O' Clock News before joining The Money Programme and then Newsnight. Radio remained his passion, however, and he began presenting The World At One in 1994. He chaired Radio 4's Round Britain Quiz, winning numerous broadcasting awards, and also wrote a biography of his friend Alistair Cooke.

He underwent the operation to remove his leg at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore in November 2005, six weeks after reluctantly going to his GP after developing a lump on his buttock.

He told his audio diary shortly before the amputation: "I call it 'the thing', or 'the beast'. When [the cancer] became known as a sarcoma, I didn't really call it that, I preferred 'the beast'. It's a bit like that ­ it's inside you, gnawing away, trying to devour you, which it's making a good job of doing."