Stephanie Hope Flanders is a British former broadcast journalist who was the BBC economics editor for five years. In November 2013, she left the BBC for a role as J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s chief market strategist for Britain and Europe. She is the daughter of British actor and comic singer Michael Flanders and activist Claudia Cockburn.
She went to the independent St Paul’s Girls’ School and was a student at Balliol College, Oxford, where she obtained a first-class degree in philosophy, politics, and economics She then attended Harvard University as a Kennedy Scholar.
Flanders began her career as an economist at the London Business School and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. She then became a leader writer and columnist at the Financial Times from 1994. She became a speechwriter and advisor to U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers in 1997, and joined the New York Times in 2001.
She joined the BBC’s Newsnight in 2002. A keen cyclist, in 2005 she presented a review of Britain’s economic status for Panorama from her bicycle, traveling the length of the country. She also contributed with reference to her father’s song “A Transport of Delight”, to the BBC News coverage of the last of the AEC Routemaster buses. In 2006 and 2007 she presented some relief shifts for BBC News between 2pm and 5pm. She has anchored editions of Newsnight with an economic focus.
On a Newsnight programme in August 2007, Flanders interrogated Conservative Party leader David Cameron about his proposed policy of tax breaks for married couples while questioning him with other journalists, asking him whether he had ever met anyone who would get married for an extra £20 per week.
As an unmarried mother, she also asked Mr. Cameron whether the Conservative Party would like her to be married. Her contribution was criticised by Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn on 31 August 2007, where he made references to her “privileged” educational background and later wrote that “If Stephanie Flanders speaks for Britain, then I’m a gnu” which was about The Gnu – a song sung by her father and his stage partner Donald Swann.
In February 2008, it was announced that she would replace Evan Davis as BBC economics editor since he was moving to present Radio 4’s Today programme. She took up this position on 17 March, although from June of that year until January 2009, deputy economics editor Hugh Pym temporarily replaced her as the main economics editor whilst she was on maternity leave.
She presented a programme called “Stephanomics” on BBC Radio Four during July 2012. This programme asked questions about the world’s economy, such as whether China or the United States would be the more important economic power. Another series of this programme began to be broadcast on Radio Four in April 2013.
In 2012, Flanders presented Masters of Money, a BBC Two documentary series exploring the lives of Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Friedrich Hayek. In August 2012 Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith made a formal complaint to the BBC claiming that there was a pro-Labour bias in her coverage of unemployment figures. The BBC stated in response that they were satisfied that their coverage was impartial.
Aside from her work as an economic editor, Flanders presented The Andrew Marr Show during August 2009 to cover for Andrew Marr, and was an occasional relief presenter of Newsnight until she left the BBC.
In 2009, Flanders played herself in a BBC Radio production of the Julian Gough short story The Great Hargeisa Goat Bubble. Set in Somaliland in the 1980s, the story is an allegorical analysis of certain aspects of modern economics, such as automatic trading, and complex financial derivatives.
On 26 September 2013, it was announced that Flanders would leave the BBC to join J.P. Morgan Asset Management where she will be a chief market strategist for Europe and the UK. Guardian columnist Peter Preston mourned the BBC’s loss, writing “She wasn’t a simple reporter, talking to people and reading the runes: she was an intellectual player in a vital, but often arcane, area. “She was replaced as economics editor by the BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston. She still occasionally appears as an expert and presents programmes for the BBC.
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