Nick Robinson on Today, troubles with his voice, and the EU referendum

Since undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for lung cancer, Robinson's voice will never be what it once was


Describe a night in on the sofa with the family Robinson.


Everyone has their place. Harry, 15, insists he can only sit on the right side of the sofa so that he can plug his laptop in because he’s a teenager and has to be looking at three screens at all times – phone, TV, laptop. The 19-year-old, Will, only sits in the easy chair. He’s very much in charge of the seating plan and the remote.

What do you watch?

The thing that brings the family together is football [Robinson also has a 21-year-old daughter, Alice]. We’re all Manchester United fans.

What’s the Robinson verdict on the hiring of José Mourinho?

We want to get back to winning ways and Mourinho is nothing if not a winner. But we love the idea of being the young flair team with attacking players and that’s not always José’s way. As an aside, I’ve been practising my pronunciation of José. You pronounce the “J” in Portuguese, apparently. I got it wrong on air the other day and got told off by lots of listeners.

Is that a common occurrence?

Yes. The great thing about the Today listeners is that they’re very clever and can’t understand why some people don’t know as much as them on certain subjects. If you’re on 5Live you get people writing in saying that you’ve got your football facts wrong, but on Radio 4 they pull you up on your Portuguese pronunciation.

You had a rocky start on the Today programme…

I’d been unwell [he underwent surgery and chemotherapy for lung cancer] and my voice was very bad. My first day was covering the November Paris terror attacks
– I was on my own in the studio and I was interviewing the prime minister. My voice was croaky and I felt like I’d underperformed. But my wife [Pippa, a relationship counsellor] said, “It’s a weird series of circumstances, you’ll be fine.”

How’s your voice now?

It will never be fully recovered. Lots of people say it sounds normal now and I can’t tell you how much of a morale boost that is, but I’m like a runner with a knee injury. To anyone else I look fine but I know that, away from the track, I’m doing special exercises and being careful.

Has the EU referendum campaign been as confusing to report as it has been to watch?

I don’t think that we will look back and think that we had a healthy debate of the issues. The politicians know that most people don’t care much about Europe,
so they’ve tried to hook a series of things that we do care about – like the NHS –
 onto Europe, often in a deeply misleading way. I think most people have found the campaign a deeply demoralising experience.

Is it tempting to let your appearance slide now that you’re on radio more than TV?

I swore to myself that I would 
stay smart to present the Today programme, but I’m really embarrassed to say that I haven’t kept my word. I knew I didn’t have to wear a tie any more, but
 I started off putting on a white shirt. Then after a few weeks of getting up at 3.30am you think, “That cosy denim shirt looks really appealing,” and just chuck on chinos and boots.


The Big Decision with Nick Robinson is on Friday at 7:30pm on BBC1