The Honourable Peter Jay (born 7 February 1937) is a British economist, broadcaster and diplomat.
Peter Jay is the son of Douglas 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 (where he was head boy) and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated with a first class honours degree in PPE. 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.
Jay is the former husband of Margaret Jay, whom he married in 1961 and divorced in 1986. His friend Dr David Owen, Foreign Secretary in the government of Jay's father-in-law, James Callaghan, appointed him UK Ambassador to the United States (1977–1979), an appointment that caused some controversy and accusations of nepotism.
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".
Jay subsequently returned to journalism in Britain but was initially most visible as leader of a consortium of high-profile media figures, including David Frost and Anna Ford, who won the licence for an idea that did not work according to its business plan: he was founding chairman of TV-am, the breakfast TV station launched by the consortium, where the initial focus on news and current affairs did not yield economic success for the company (the first to broadcast outside traditional broadcasting hours in Britain). The station was rescued after a coup that involved Jonathan Aitken and by the more down-market Roland Rat character introduced by Greg Dyke, whose success there helped him build his credibility to become Director-General of the BBC.
Peter Jay's career took a surprising turn when he became Chief of Staff to Robert Maxwell during his most high-profile and controversial years. Margaret Jay led Maxwell's Aids Foundation around the same time, where she met her present husband professor Mike Adler.
Peter Jay returned to highbrow journalism and became Economics Editor of the BBC, specially appointed by John Birt, and presented editions of The Money Programme. His appearances on screen with explanations of major economic and business issues showed his intellectual grasp but could sometimes baffle his peak-time news audience. After his retirement, this task was handled by his successors (separately for economics and business) in a rather simpler and arguably more lucid way, with more visual illustration.
Jay wrote a book, The Road to Riches or the Wealth of Man (2000, Weidenfeld & Nicolson), exploring the history of man's search for wealth, 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.
He was a non-executive director of the Bank of England from June 2003 to May 2009. He has been a governor of the Ditchley Foundation since 1982. He is a councillor on Woodstock Town Council.
Sir Peter Ramsbotham
British Ambassador to the United States
Sir Nicholas Henderson