Who is Mishal Husain? The host of the final BBC leader’s debate before the election

Mishal Husain is moderating tonight’s BBC debate between Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak
Mishal Husain is moderating tonight’s BBC debate between Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are set to go head-to-head on Wednesday evening as the BBC hosts the final leaders’ debate before the general election.

The televised event will be the last chance the two party leaders have to put their policies before a live audience chosen by pollster Savanta.

It comes as ITV and Sky News hosted their own debates throughout the month of June.

From a debate stage at Nottingham Trent University, the contenders to be prime minister will face moments of jeopardy and opportunity during 75 minutes.

Tonight’s debate will be hosted by Mishal Husain, a senior radio presenter and TV host who has been at the BBC since 1998.

Mishal Husain presented the seven-way BBC debate (BBC)
Mishal Husain presented the seven-way BBC debate (BBC)

Ms Husain has warned both men that she is ready to “halt” them during the grilling at 8.15pm on BBC One.

She said: “Where necessary, I will be nudging the two men back to what was in the question, clarifying points, and yes, probably having to call a halt from time to time.”

The 51-year-old has been dubbed by Tatler as Today programme’s “smouldering assassin” for grilling political figures every morning on BBC Radio 4 since the snap election was announced.

The BBC veteran has done two seven-way leaders’ debates before, in 2017 and earlier in June.

Born in 1973 to Pakistani parents, Ms Husain grew up in Northampton where her mother was a teacher and her father a urologist.

She was privately educated at the British School in Abu Dhabi and attended Cambridge University where she graduated in Law.

The radio host began her career at the age of 18 as a city reporter in Islamabad and then gained work experience at the BBC producing several stints.

Mishal Husain is an anomaly among a white male-dominated industry (BBC)
Mishal Husain is an anomaly among a white male-dominated industry (BBC)

But her career took a turn when she landed a presenter job at Bloomberg Television in London in 1996, and two years later, worked as a junior producer for the News 24 channel.

She then moved to business news on BBC World News and then to the BBC News Channel, where she reported the invasion of Iraq and interviewed high-profile figures as a Washington correspondent.

Some of her top interviewees in the 2000s include Deputy US Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, and Paul Kagame the Rwandan president.

Ms Husain has also had a go as a travel reporter. In 2010 she published a personal piece for The Independent titled: ‘A return to the Emirates: Mishal Husain’s journey back to the UAE was a family holiday with a difference’.

In 2013, she became the regular presenter for the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme with co-host John Humphrys.

She is also an occasional presenter on the BBC News at Six, the weekday edition of the BBC News at Ten and during major breaking news stories.

Her career, spanning across three decades has been recognised at the London Press Club where she was crowned Broadcaster of the Year in 2015.

Husain interviewed the Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, featuring in a torrid episode on the Today programme where she was reportedly heard to say angrily, “No-one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.”

It came after Husain pressed her to accept that the “vast majority” of victims of violence had been Muslim during the interview.

Burmese leader reportedly angered by questions about anti-Islamic attitudes in the country
Burmese leader reportedly angered by questions about anti-Islamic attitudes in the country