Fiona Bruce claims that her family and friends are unaware of her views, despite the fact that some of her BBC colleagues appear incapable of keeping their opinions to themselves.

The newsreader says she took a ‘vow of silence’ decades ago and even takes pride that both Right and Left-wing activists take offence at her shows.

Ms Bruce, 57, tells The Mail on Sunday’s You magazine today: ‘It is the belief of the BBC that one has to strive to be neutral when reporting the news. It is ingrained in me as a way to get words across a rock. For years, I’ve not voiced my political views to friends and family.

Fiona Bruce says she took a ‘vow of silence’ decades ago and even takes pride that both Right and Left-wing activists take offence at her shows

Fiona Bruce says she took a ‘vow of silence’ decades ago and even takes pride that both Right and Left-wing activists take offence at her shows

‘When my children were growing up I never did, in case they blurted out something innocently at school. It was as this: omerta [vow of silence].’

Ms Bruce was the first woman presenter of News At Ten two years ago. She replaced David Dimbleby on Question Time. This attracts furious social media reactions. 

But unlike her Newsnight colleague Emily Maitlis – who has been criticised for breaching BBC standards on impartiality – Ms Bruce is thrilled viewers can’t discern her politics.

‘On my desk is a screenshot from Twitter that shows two responses to Question Time,’ she explains. ‘The first says “Fiona Bruce is turning this… into a Conservative hustings”, and literally the next one is, “She’s more Left-wing than Trotsky.”’

Fiona Bruce says, “Sometimes it is difficult not to cry.”

Jane Wharton, Mail on Sunday   

FIONA BRUCE opens up Cole Moreton Holding back the tears The one thing and live TV She refuses to speak about it – even to her family

Fiona wears dress, Sandro. Shoes, Grey Matters. Earrings, Dinosaur Designs. Necklace, Shaun Lean

Fiona wears dress, Sandro. Shoes by Grey Matters. Earrings, Dinosaur Designs. Necklace, Shaun Leane

 I laughed like a drain,’ says Fiona Bruce, her face lighting up. We don’t often see the presenter like this. We’re more used to her bossing politicians around on Question Time or projecting gravitas and decorum while reading the BBC News at Ten. Fiona is reminded, however, of an awful aunt column in a tabloid newspaper. ‘It said: “My boyfriend is obsessed with the news and wants me to act like Fiona Bruce,”’ she laughs. ‘Everyone in the newsroom teased me mercilessly about it.’

Fiona is a respected journalist and journalist at the BBC. A person who can control everything, be it the news bulletin, the Antiques Roadshow value estimation or the chair of Question Time.

‘Question Time has a bigger social media footprint than any other TV programme outside Love Island. That is an extraordinary statistic,’ she says. If you look at Twitter at night on Thursdays, you will see all the evidence. Viewers are posting their thoughts from their couches. Fiona, who has been hosting the show for two years after David Dimbleby’s departure, enjoys a lot more attention. Fiona is often the first to reveal her feelings, while celebrities, politicians, and business leaders jostle for attention. ‘On my desk is a screenshot from Twitter that shows two responses to Question Time. The first says “Fiona Bruce is turning this program into a Conservative hustings” and literally the next one is “She’s more left-wing than Trotsky.”’

As this elegantly illustrates, it’s hard to get a handle on the broadcaster. Fiona Bruce’s real identity is what I would like to discover. We’ve met a couple of times before: once on the set of an Antiques Roadshow episode, where she moved through the crowd like a minor royal, then delivered a brilliant piece to camera in one swift take. One was at the press area of the wedding of Duke and Duchess, when she made it clear to an American journalist that he was seated in her chair. He moved.

Blazer, trousers, and boots, Iris & Ink, Shirt, Jigsaw. Earrings, Ruby Jack. Ring, Fiona’s own

Blazer, trousers, and boots, Iris & Ink, Shirt, Jigsaw. Earrings: Ruby Jack Ring, Fiona’s own 

 Today this tall, angular 57-year-old is looking relaxed in trainers, trousers and sweater, as she talks about being born in Singapore in 1964, to a father who was on his way to becoming a regional manager for Unilever. ‘My father grew up in real poverty – where you got no presents on Christmas Day – and he pulled himself out of that in a remarkable way. He was very passionate and loved by all. So I was aware that things don’t just get handed to you on a plate – you have to work for what you get in life.’

She was at school in the Wirral first, then Milan when her father moved for work, and finally Haberdashers’ Aske’s in South London. ‘I had a very happy, uncomplicated childhood. By the time I came along into my parents’ household I’d say we were comfortable.’

Fiona went on to read French and Italian at Oxford but attending one of the UK’s premier universities was a culture shock. ‘No one in my family had been to university. This was an enormous deal. Then on the first day I met a baroness and thought: “What the hell is going on? It’s like these people are from a different planet.” I felt a real fish out of water and very chippy about the whole thing. Eventually I calmed down and realised I was overgeneralising and expressing my own prejudice about other people.’

It was a very chippy experience for me. I felt like a fish in water at oxford. 

After graduation, she worked in a management agency before going on to become an advertising executive. Fiona got into broadcasting when she met Panorama editor Tim Gardam during a 1989 wedding. She seized the opportunity. ‘I met Tim at the reception and I think he was rather surprised to get a call the next day to his office from this 24-year-old saying: “Can I take you out to lunch?” I pitched some stories and then I just kept reminding him I would very much like to work there. Eventually, months later, he said: “We’re interviewing for researchers, just come and see how you get on.” Probably just to get rid of me. You make your life chances. I’ve always felt I’m driven. If I see an opportunity, I’ll go for it.’

When she was still at work in an agency, Nigel Sharrocks was her director. Nigel was promoted to managing director at Warner Brothers where he managed the production of over 150 films, including Harry Potter. They were married in Islington in North London in 1994. Their first child, Sam, was born four years later. Fiona worked as a Newsnight reporter. By the time her daughter Mia was born in 2001 she was presenting The Six O’Clock News and Crimewatch. Fiona chose to go back to work 16 days after the birth and felt she had to justify herself by saying publicly: ‘I’m not some mad career monster.’ She’s at a different point in her life now, though. ‘We took our daughter to university on Sunday,’ she says, grimacing. ‘When we dropped her off she was happy, so it felt easier. Also my son is working but living at home, so we’re not yet empty-nesting.’

Fiona began hosting Antiques Roadshow back in the 90s. For the past decade, she has been hunting down fakes and hidden treasures alongside Philip Mould (Fake Or Fortune?). She took home around £409,000 from the BBC last year, according to official figures, but that was still a touch less than her newsreading contemporary Huw Edwards, who doesn’t have the other high-profile shows she has. ‘It’s getting there, but there’s still lots of work to be done on the pay gap. God knows if we will get a satisfactory result even in my lifetime.’ Isn’t this proof the BBC still has a problem with its gender pay gap?

Fiona and her husband Nigel Sharrocks at Wimbledon

Fiona Sharrocks with her husband Nigel Sharrocks in Wimbledon

Fiona was the first woman to present the News at Ten, a job that puts her into people’s living rooms. ‘It’s a very big close-up.’ Emotions sometimes show: particularly after the Grenfell fire or reports from hospitals in the frontline during the Covid crisis. ‘You need to tread a line between not getting in the way of the story and not being a robot.’ And the news does still get to her. ‘Yesterday I wept listening to testimony by the mother of Sarah Everard [who was abducted and murdered by a serving police officer]. Who wouldn’t? If I’d had to read that on the news I would have struggled. I would have had to rehearse it to make sure my throat didn’t catch.’

Another huge task is Question Time. ‘When the audience comes back I will kiss every single one of them, whether they like it or not,’ she said before the start of the latest series, after a year without them because of Covid. So did she? ‘That would probably constitute some kind of assault,’ she says, smiling. ‘But I’m thrilled that they have turned up and we’re doing the programme in this way. It’s massive. When you have the people in the room, it’s an event. You can feel the atmosphere, hear the laughter, the clapping, the intakes of breath, the disapproval… The panel and I feed off that.’

On the episode’s first back, James Cleverly missed the crucial issue of Afghanistan withdrawal. ‘A woman shouted from the back: “Shame on you: you’re not answering the question at all.” She had a real go at him. I remember thinking: “The audience is back! Here we go…” It was a brilliant moment.’

I’m listening to this and wondering how it works in her private life. Do you think she will just sit and watch at dinner parties or get involved with politics? ‘It is the belief of the BBC that one has to strive to be neutral when reporting the news. This belief is ingrained in me as a way to get words across a rock. I have not expressed political opinions to my friends or my family for years.’ Seriously? Not even in private? ‘When my children were growing up I never did, in case they blurted out something innocently at school. It was like this omertà [vow of silence] that I imposed upon myself.’

This is amazing. If they were discussing hospitals or if a family member had been on a long waiting list, could she be neutral? ‘I absolutely would. To do otherwise would be an abuse of my position.’ She’s adamant. ‘It’s quite clear where I’m coming from if I start doing that.’

This is Fiona Bruce, I believe after a little digging into her mind. She is a conservative with an occasional c and is constantly looking for the middle ground by instinct as well as training. This goes back to her school days when she was trying to figure out how to deal with international students from Milan and the wealthy kids of Oxford. But where’s the fire in her? A big clue comes when I ask if there’s anyone she would not have back to Question Time. It’s not Nigel Farage, Lawrence Fox or any other controversialist. ‘There was an actor whose name I forget, who’s been in The Lord of The Rings.’ That’s put him in his place. John Rhys-Davies was it? He had been challenged by her for rudeness to Caroline Lucas, Green MP. ‘Yeah, he called her “woman”.’

Foina with her daughter Mia

Foina with her daughter Mia

Actually, he went much further than that, slamming the desk with both hands and bellowing, ‘Oh, woman!’ in exasperation at something she said about Donald Trump. Fiona hated it. ‘My great regret is that I didn’t go after him and say: “Actually, her name is Caroline.” I wouldn’t have him back.’

You must feel so stressed that you are able to mediate a show which can sometimes turn into a real fight. How does she vent her frustration? ‘If I’m feeling stressed about something and I’ve got a lot on I find going for a run makes me feel a bit better.’ There’s something else too. ‘I started horse riding very late in life. I will always be pretty rubbish, but I love it.’

Now, at last, I’ve found her secret passion. Fiona’s face lights up again when she talks about this, and not in the way it did with the agony column. ‘It takes me to a different place. I can’t think about anything else when I’m doing it. I love being around horses. Speed is my favorite thing. I love being outdoors.’

You might be able to see Fiona Bruce riding on horseback away from the chaos, just as she does when the Question Time scrapping is fiercest.

Question Time airs every Thursday at 10.35pm on BBC One 

Picture director: Ester Malloy. 

Stylist: Sorrel Kids.

Barrie Griffith with guerlain makes up.

Hair: Narad Kutowaroo at Carol Hayes Management using GHD.