Martin Bell to lead a new insurgency in next Parliament…

There’s a passibly good case to make that journalists are in part responsible for the decline in standards in public life. In part, because in the end it is the elected politicians who at least hold some of their fate in their own hands. It’s politicians own obsession with the press and the foresaking of a credible longer term agenda that might mean something once they get into government. Blair had Campbell; Cameron has Coulson. Both know the seek and destroy game better than most. Brown’s bright but relatively amateurish McBride was stupid enough to get caught doing the others’ stock-in-trade. What they all have in common is that they none of them looked much further than the next day’s headlines. Now, former BBC hack and former MP Martin Bell is planning to take on politics again. In his recipe for a successful ‘insurgency‘:

“…three conditions have to be in place: a well-known candidate (not necessarily a TV personality: a prominent doctor or councillor will do just as well), a good cause and a vulnerable incumbent.”

All of which sounds like just another form of press populism to me…

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  • Brian Walker

    Mick, As a former colleague of Martin’s who also observed his strange translation to “the man in the white suit” who became a crusading MP, I’d like to put in a word for his integrity. Martin was the least “political” of reporters. In one sense, this prepared him for his career as an independent. In another sense, it created in him an overemphasis of the scale and importance of sleaze. Always economical with words, he just couldn’t see why it took MPs so long to get to the point in their speeches. You could never say that for Martin. I tie in another running theme these days- the beginning of the Troubles. “That Martin Bell” was one of those pilloried for the Troubles because of his remorsless, terse reporting for BBC Television News. Although as one of the last generation to do compulsory military service he later became a champion of the individual British soldier, he spared the Army no criticism in those early days – and nobody else. Here, he gives a flavour of what it was like to be a recognised TV reporter in those days.
    Over the years I was spat at, abused, physically set upon and threatened with being sent home in a box – by both sides, which was a sort of badge of neutrality if not a consolation.

  • Mick Fealty

    Agree with all of that Brian. I did not intend for him to be seen as the equivalent of press scoundrels like Campbell or Coulson.

    But in his later years Martin has developed this idea of a ‘journalism of attachment’. I can see where he’s coming from (the often too tightly straight-jacketed. I think he’s genuine, but wrong-headed.

    I may come to regret saying this, because no one can quite see how the future will pan out, but generally journalists should put their energies to tracking politics and mapping it rather than trying to shape it from within.

    The post Watergate conceit poses the investigative journalist as a the sheriff in the white hat, offering serially to clean up the town when in fact all they are doing is drawing the blood out of politics and (by default) handing power over to lobbyists and powerful corporate interests, that are not the same as the public interest MPs, TDs and others are supposed to be in business to prosecute.

  • Nordie Northsider

    What a load of utter crap. Martin Bell showed his true colours with his support for the Scots Guards who murdered Peter McBride. The message from Bell and his campaign ally Lord Tebbit was that the British Army can do no wrong. Bell is a self-aggrandising establishment toe-rag.

  • willis


    “I may come to regret saying this, because no one can quite see how the future will pan out, but generally journalists should put their energies to tracking politics and mapping it rather than trying to shape it from within.”

    What about those like Boris Johnson, who attempt to ride both horses at the same time, (for chicken feed)?

    IMHO 50+ independents sitting in the next parliament would be a huge improvement.

  • Mick Fealty


    I don’t begrudge you your feelings about Mr Bell, but that is a straightforwardly the kind of ad hominem argument we try to discourage here on Slugger.

    Here’s why: Since I am arguing against Bell myself, I hope there is no ambiguity in my intervention here.

  • Nordie Northsider

    No, you’re quite right, Mick. Emotional subject and all that…