Peter Jay

For the New York politician, see Peter A. Jay. For other uses, see Peter Jay (disambiguation).
The Honourable
Peter Jay
British Ambassador to the
United States
In office
President Jimmy Carter
Prime Minister James Callaghan
Preceded by Peter Ramsbotham
Succeeded by Nicholas Henderson
Personal details
Born (1937-02-07) 7 February 1937
London, United Kingdom
Spouse(s) Margaret Jay (div. 1986)
Children 7
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford

The Honourable Peter Jay (born 7 February 1937) is a British economist, broadcaster and diplomat.


Peter Jay is the son of Douglas Jay, Baron Jay, and Peggy Jay, both of whom were Labour Party politicians. He was educated at The Dragon School, Oxford (the alma mater of several senior Labour politicians, including Hugh Gaitskell), followed by Winchester College[1] (where he was head boy) and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated with a first class honours degree in PPE.[1] He was commissioned in the Royal Navy, then worked as a civil servant at HM Treasury before becoming a journalist and, for 10 years, economics editor with The Times.

In 1961 Jay married Margaret Callaghan, the daughter of Labour politician James Callaghan. In 1977, when his father-in-law had become Prime Minister, Jay was appointed to the important post of Ambassador to the United States by the Foreign Secretary, his friend David Owen. As Jay was just 40 years old, was not a diplomat and had never held any public office, the appointment caused some controversy and accusations of nepotism.[1]


In the early 1970s, Jay was the principal presenter of the London Weekend Television Sunday news analysis programme Weekend World. In 1972, Jay co-authored, with his friend John Birt, a series of articles for The Times where they criticised standard television journalism and developed what came to be called their "mission to explain".

As leader of a consortium of high-profile media figures, including Angela Rippon, David Frost, Michael Parkinson and Anna Ford, he won the franchise and became the founding chairman of TV-am, a breakfast TV station launched by the consortium. When the initial focus on news and current affairs did not yield economic success, he was fired by his friend and co-director Jonathan Aitken.[1]

Peter Jay's career took a surprising turn when he became Chief of Staff to Robert Maxwell during his most high-profile years. His wife Margaret led Maxwell's Aids Foundation around the same time, where she met her present husband Professor Mike Adler.

Peter Jay returned to broadcast journalism and became Economics Editor of the BBC, specially appointed by John Birt, and presented editions of The Money Programme.

Jay wrote The Road to Riches or the Wealth of Man (2000, Weidenfeld & Nicolson) and presented a related BBC TV documentary series.

Jay is a supporter of Keynesian economics. He has debated with economists Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell, including two episodes of Friedman's TV series Free to Choose (1980). He was also the moderator of the discussions in the British version of Free to Choose.[2]

He was a non-executive director of the Bank of England from June 2003 to May 2009.[3] He has been a governor of the Ditchley Foundation since 1982 and is a councillor on Woodstock Town Council.


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Jay talking". The Observer. 18 June 2000. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  2. Milton & Rose Friedman, Two Lucky People. Memoirs, Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998, p. 499;L Borders, Max (25 January 2011) Who is Francis Fox Piven?, Washington Examiner
  3. Peter Jay. "Peter Jay: Executive Profile & Biography - Businessweek". Retrieved 6 June 2014.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Peter Ramsbotham
British Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Sir Nicholas Henderson
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