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Kay Burley: From fledgling journalist to founding Sky News presenter

The Queen with Kay Burley (Fiona Hanson/PA)
The Queen with Kay Burley (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Kay Burley’s suspension from Sky News marks a turn in fortune for the high-profile presenter.

The journalist has been taken off air for six months after admitting to breaking Covid-19 rules during celebrations for her 60th birthday in London.

Raised in Wigan, Lancashire, Burley’s parents worked in a cardboard factory and she attended Whitley High School.

EU referendum
Then justice secretary Michael Gove with Faisal Islam and Kay Burley (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

She took her first steps into journalism reporting for the Wigan Evening Post and Chronicle aged 17.

Eventually she secured a job with the BBC on its local radio stations and Tyne Tees Television, before joining the now defunct TV-am in 1985 as a reporter and occasional newsreader.

Burley was recruited by Scottish broadcaster Andrew Neil and moved to the fledgling Sky News in 1988 as one of its founding presenters, covering major stories including the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the September 11 attacks.

On occasion she wrote for the Sunday Mirror newspaper and stood in for Iain Dale on his LBC show.

Burley joined the second series of ITV’s Dancing On Ice in 2007, skating for Macmillan Cancer Care in memory of her mother, who died of breast cancer.

Cameron-Miliband interviews
Then prime minister David Cameron takes part in a live Q&A with Kay Burley (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

She was eliminated in the fifth week and donated her appearance fee to the charity.

In February 2010, Burley apologised to guest Peter Andre who became tearful after she aired comments by the former footballer Dwight Yorke, who criticised the singer after he volunteered to adopt Katie Price’s first child, and Yorke’s son, Harvey.

Burley published her debut novel, First Ladies, in 2011. The erotic romance set in the media industry received mostly negative reviews.

September 2018 saw her given her own show on Sky News as part of a major shake-up at the channel.

The next year, she moved to the breakfast time slot, with her programme rebranded as Kay Burley @Breakfast and billed as “a hard-hitting, news-making breakfast news programme that will set the agenda for the day”.

In November 2019, she “empty chaired” then Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly after claiming he had missed a planned appearance on her breakfast show, although the Tory MP responded that he was not due to appear.

During the coronavirus pandemic, she regularly grilled politicians about lockdown rules.

In May 2020, she questioned Cabinet minister Michael Gove on the controversy over Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle.

But in December she admitted to breaking Covid-19 rules during celebrations for her 60th birthday and, following an internal review, was suspended from her role for six months.

The channel’s political editor Beth Rigby and correspondent Inzamam Rashid were also both taken off air for three months after attending the party.

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