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August 1, 2018

Former BBC and New Statesman political editor Nyta Mann hailed as ‘uncompromising journalist’ after death aged 51

By Sam Forsdick

Former political editor at BBC News Online and the New Statesman, Nyta Mann, has died aged 51.

Mann had been living with multiple sclerosis – a disease that attacks the central nervous system. It is understood she took the decision to end her life through assisted suicide at Switzerland’s Dignitas clinic and died this year.

She began working as a political journalist in 1992, starting off on the New Statesman where she had a weekly political column.

Whilst at the news magazine, Mann worked in the Westminster Lobby as political correspondent and later political editor.

After four years with the New Statesman she was fired from the magazine, which “broke her heart” according to friend and journalist Nick Cohen, who wrote Mann’s obituary in the Observer.

Cohen, who was a close friend of Mann describes her as “stoic” and “spiky”, adding: “You died the way you lived: on your own terms. And how many of us will be able to claim that epitaph when our time comes?”

Following her time at the New Statesman Mann co-authored the “first critical analysis of the New Labour movement” alongside her former colleague Paul Anderson.

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Titled Safety First: the making of New Labour, it was published in 1997 – the same year Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister.

In 1998 Mann started work at the BBC, spending eight years as politics editor of the BBC News Online and overseeing a period of massive growth for the website following its launch a year earlier.

She then moved over to broadcast, working on BBC Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live as assistant editor on the Today and Drive programmes.

Jon Zilkha BBC News Channels controller, and Mann’s former editor at Radio 5 Live Drive, told Press Gazette: “Everyone who worked with her remembers Nyta for her passion, for the sharpest political debate and for her great integrity.

“From being one of the first political specialists at BBC News Online to her work at Radio 5 Live and Today, it was that dedication to the best political analysis that always shone through.

“We are all deeply saddened to learn of her death.”

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason, who worked with Mann on the 5 Live Drive show, described her as “waspish, funny and super bright” on Twitter.

Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire tweeted: “RIP smart, fun, lively Nyta Mann.”

Investigative journalist Jolyon Jenkins also paid tribute to  Mann on Twitter: “I knew Nyta Mann when she joined the New Statesman back in the 80s. [She was a] very good and uncompromising journalist.”

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson tweeted: “Farewell Nyta Mann. I didn’t know about her condition but feel strangely upset I didn’t get to say goodbye. She was, as Nick Cohen writes, defiantly independent.”

Sunday Times deputy editor described Mann in a tweet as “that rare writer, very political – and very witty”.

Mann left the journalism industry in 2009 when she started work as a political advisor for the Labour peer Lord Desai where she helped his efforts to get a statue of Gandhi erected in Parliament Square.

Lord Desai, who first became friends with Mann in the 1980s when writing for The Tribune, told Press Gazette: “She was, as always brave, self reliant but fearlessly planning to end her life by going to Switzerland rather than suffer the way she was doing.”

He describes her as “a real professional” with a “vibrant personality” and was “full of admiration for her”.

He added: “Her disability came as a shock but even so she managed to live on bravely. I shall be sad for a long time. I have lost a beautiful , valued friend.”

Picture: BBC

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