Steven Edginton — A talented young journalist
Steven Edginton is a British journalist who interviews famous political figures. Here, I review his career and his future in the news world.
One of the questions my friends and readers have often asked me since the early weeks of quarantine is how I spend the excessive amounts of ‘free’ time with which I am confronted — a query that has only increased in frequency since the end of spring semester. I can’t help but feel a growing sense of boredom at this question, because it seems my answer is the same as that of anyone else — reading the news, reminiscing, chatting with friends, exercising and, if I feel inspired enough, embarking on personal projects that would in a normal world have withered away as the lofty aspirations of an idealistic youth.
Recently though, that has changed. For the past two and a half weeks, I have spent almost all of the time I usually set aside for the news or book-reading to instead binge on videos produced by a person not much older than myself, whom I regard as one of the soon-to-become major online news media figures of my generation — Steven Edginton.
Edginton currently works as a journalist, and is the politics producer for The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper, where he interviews public intellectuals, comedians, politicians and scientists as part of a YouTube series called ‘Burning Questions’. Before I comment on why I find his videos so appealing, the topic of Edginton himself should perhaps be looked into — because his backstory has already merited several articles of its own.
Edginton was born in England to middle class parents, where he spent his childhood and attended state school. He says his first major foray into politics occurred in 2014 following that year’s European Parliament election, in which Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP — a pro-Brexit party) won a larger number of seats than either Labour or the Tories. This historical upset led Edginton to develop a curiosity about UK politics. Shortly afterwards, he began posting a series of silly videos to his YouTube channel, Politics UK, ‘of David Cameron having a go at Ed Miliband’ (Miliband, for those who are unfamiliar, was Leader of the Labour Party and of the Opposition from 2010 to 2015).
It was around this time that Edginton first began developing his pro-Brexit views. In an early video from his channel, he talked to Andrew Pierce from LBC on 24 June 2016 (Edginton was only 16 years old at this time) about why he supported Brexit, stating that he had been ‘campaigning for months’ to vote leave.
Following this discussion, he uploaded a couple more pro-Brexit videos to his channel, mixed with a drizzle of jabs at Labour MP Diane Abbott for her remarkable inability to provide straightforward answers to simple questions, her equally remarkable ability to produce multiple verbal gaffes in a single interview and for her generally behaving like ‘an extremely haughty, discourteous individual’.
Edginton published his own first interview on 26 Oct 2016, with Labour MP Gisela Stuart, followed by interviews with some more conservative people in British politics such as Peter Hitchens and Isabel Oakeshott, then again some Labour MPs and left-leaning figures. Apart from the occasional foray into the debates over identity politics, most Politics UK content focused on the topic of Brexit, with the channel’s increasing popularity cementing Edginton’s reputation as one of the most visible and articulate youth crusaders for the pro-Brexit camp.
In 2018, Edginton began branching out to different platforms, making appearances on the conservative youth channel Reasoned and on BBC Politics Live. All the while, he continued to push out content on Politics UK, including interviews with protestors in London, the Deputy Mayor of Oslo, broadcaster and commentator Iain Dale and several others.
His interview with Oakeshott, however, would come to be the making of his career. Shortly after interviewing her for his channel, Oakeshott offered to mentor Edginton as he pursued his passion for politics. Travelling with Oakeshott allowed Edginton to gain access to prominent British politicians and public figures, several of whom he then interviewed on his channel.
One of those figures was the same Nigel Farage on whose political triumph Edginton had cut his teeth as a young student. In April 2019, Edginton began working for the Brexit Party, helping run its social media feeds. Within a few months, he became entangled in a major political fiasco that echoed across Britain.
On 7 July 2019, Edginton received from an anonymous source a series of diplomatic cables sent by UK Ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, to certain members of the British government. In the cables, Darroch described the Trump administration as being ‘inept and insecure’. Nigel Farage condemned Darroch’s comments, and Trump tweeted that Darroch was ‘not liked or well thought of within the US’. In response, PM Theresa May supported Darroch and ordered an inquiry into the cable leak, leading to an investigation from Scotland Yard.
At this time, the public did not yet know who the leaker was, and to whom the cables had been leaked. When Edginton came forward on 20 July, writing in the Daily Mail that he was the journalist behind the leaks, he triggered a new cycle of news reports, with widespread gossip about whether the Brexit party had organized a sort of coup to remove Darroch from power.
Edginton preemptively stated in his article that ‘ this was not a Brexiteer plot to topple Sir Kim’. ‘Instead,’ he said, ‘it was simply an honest journalistic endeavour.’ But still the conspiracies continued to circulate. Nigel Farage had, after all, been endorsed by Trump to be the UK ambassador instead of Darroch.
Edginton’s involvement was also controversial because he was remarkably young — some people felt too young — to be handling a scoop of this size. He had also not had any formal training in journalism prior to this event. Why, asked some people, would the cable leaker contact Edginton?
Some also speculated that Edginton was the fall-guy for the Brexit conspirators, pointing to the Scotland Yard’s cancellation of their investigation as a result.
Conspiracy or not, the affair was a great boost for Edginton’s career. Whilst Farage never replaced Darroch as ambassador, Edginton was soon after hired by the political blogging site Guido Fawkes, and only a short two weeks later, at the age of 20 joined the tabloid newspaper The Sun as their Politics producer.
It was through The Sun that I first found out about Edginton, having watched his first interview with Douglas Murray as part of The Sun’s ‘Burning Questions’ YouTube interview series.
Though I am not a fan of most mainstream right-wing media, I found Edginton’s interviewing style masterly. Despite agreeing with Murray on almost every issue brought up, Edginton offered thoughtful counter-arguments and incisive questions that compelled Murray to provide highly detailed and nuanced replies in a way that doesn’t often happen with many older interviewers (both left wing and right). Towards the end of the interview, he even managed to induce Murray — an extremely private man — into providing some information about his own youth and inspirations for his career.
The Murray interview was by no means a one-off. Edginton employs the same respectful yet piercing style for all the people he talks to. When compared to most cable TV presenters, Edginton on average asks slightly fewer questions, but stays silent for most of the interview, allowing the guest to communicate his or her thoughts in a thorough manner, with very little interruption. His questions show a person who has conducted his research, paid due attention to the finer details of his interviewees’ beliefs and spent time understanding the logic behind their arguments.
Compared to the hit-or-miss performances of Emily Maitlis and Piers Morgan, when it comes to the respectful and balanced presentation of opposing views, Edginton delivers in every interview (A note: it is worth mentioning that almost all of Edginton’s interviewees are generally right-wing, with the exception of Dave Rubin and Richard Dawkins — even so, when Edginton found himself in disagreement with Dawkins over Brexit, he formulated his critiques in such a way so as to not provoke resentment and hostility).
Whatever one thinks of Edginton’s involvement in one of the Brexit Party’s shadier political skirmishes, one cannot deny that his interviews for The Sun are helping plug a very large hole in the reputation of mainstream media — namely, that of providing a respectful and open dialogue with notable public figures who hold diverse political opinions. For this to be said of any normal journalist marks them as a highly commendable source of information. For one as young as Edginton, it is a remarkable career achievement.
It is perhaps a little early to be making judgements about Edginton’s talents for politics, given that he is still in the early stages of his career. But I am certain that we shall be seeing him pop up in the news feeds more and more often in the coming decade. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting his next interviews.