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Matthew Parris

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Matthew Parris is a broadcaster, journalist, humorist and writer on a variety of topics including travel, politics and the use of the cliché and jargon in the English language. A versatile and witty speaker, his self-deprecating style is well-received by audiences and his preparation is excellent.

He presented the lunchtime current affairs series Weekend World for ITV, has appeared in BBC TV’s Have I got News For You? and currently presents Great Lives on BBC Radio 4.

A well-known and highly-respected commentator, he has weekly columns in The Times and The Spectator magazine. He was voted Writer of the Year in Granada Television’s What the Papers Say Awards, in part for reporting on elections in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Born in Johannesburg in August 1949, Matthew was educated at Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, an independent school just outside Mbabane in Swaziland, followed by Clare College at the University of Cambridge, from which he gained a first class degree in Law, where he was also a member of Cambridge University Liberal Club. He won a Paul Mellon scholarship and studied International Relations at Yale University.

Matthew was offered a job as a secret agent. Instead, he worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for two years. In 1976 he left this secure career because he did not like its formality, and because he wanted to become a Member of Parliament. He joined the Conservative Research Department and became Correspondence Secretary to Margaret Thatcher. He was awarded an RSPCA medal, (presented by Mrs. Thatcher, then Leader of the Opposition), for jumping into the Thames and rescuing a dog.

Matthew served as Conservative MP for the rural constituency of West Derbyshire from 1979 to 1986. Competing prospective candidates for the seat included Peter Lilley and Michael Howard, later the Conservative leader. The start of his career was overshadowed by a letter which he wrote to a council tenant on behalf of Margaret Thatcher, and which was featured in Labour Party election publications. As an MP, he voiced his support for gay rights.

Matthew resigned as an MP by applying for the Crown position of Steward of the Manor of Northstead and left Parliament specifically to take over from Brian Walden as host of ITV’s influential Sunday lunchtime current affairs series Weekend World in 1986. 

The series ran for two more years under Matthew before being cancelled in 1988.

He presents BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives biography series, and has appeared on the comedy news programme Have I got News For You and presented After Dark.

In 2007, Matthew presented two light-hearted but caustic documentaries for Radio 4 on politicians’ use of cliché and jargon, entitled Not My Words, Mr. Speaker.

Matthew is a prolific writer and has written many books on politics and travel. In 1991, a compilation 
of his pieces in The Times was published, entitled So Far, So Good. His book Scorn, a compilation of quotations about curses, jibes and general invective, was published in October 1994. 

In 2004, Matthew Parris was voted Writer of the Year in Granada Television’s What the Papers Say Awards. In part, this was for reporting on elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. His previous accolades include Columnist of the Year in the 1991 and 1993 British Press Awards, and in the What the Papers Say Awards 1992. In 1990 he received the London Press Club’s Edgar Wallace Outstanding Reporter of the Year Award.

Matthew has suggested that Tony Blair has a deep flaw in his personality which made him unsuitable for the role of Prime Minister. On 18 March 2006, Matthew wrote: “I believe Tony Blair is an out-and-out rascal, terminally untrustworthy and close to being unhinged. I said from the start that there was something wrong in his head, and each passing year convinces me more strongly that this man is a pathological confidence-trickster. To the extent that he ever believes what he says, he is delusional. To the extent that he does not, he is an actor whose first invention – himself – has been his only interesting role.”

Matthew has made several expeditions abroad, including to Mount Kilimanjaro in 1967 and 1989, Zaire in 1973, the Sahara in 1978, and Peru and Bolivia. In 1990 he published Inca-Kola, about his travels in Peru.

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