Friday, August 20, 2010

Interviewing Matthew Parris

My Total Politics interview with Matthew Parris is now live on the TP site HERE. Here's an excerpt to get your appetite whetted...

Has a part of you ever thought you'd quite like to be an MP again in this government?
No, because I really wasn't very good at that either. Certainly not a backbencher. I'd still like to be secretary of state for transport but I'm not going to be. Where is there a better case for big government than in providing roads and railways? It's just obvious. I really disapprove of the way the Conservative Party has never thought that transport mattered.

Since you left Parliament in 1986, have you ever had any regrets?
Not for a moment. But that was only because I wasn't going anywhere. There have been times when prime ministers have been appointing junior ministers when I thought: 'If only I had been doing well as a backbencher, I might now be...'. John Major told me he would have made me a junior minister if only I'd had a bit more patience, and that he was fairly confident I would have made a hash of it.

That's a very nice thing to say.
He said he'd give me a try.

Rail privatisation. That would have been you!
Absolutely! Or I would have said something similar to Edwina Currie, that a good winter cuts through the bed blockers in the elderly population like a knife through butter. John Major said he would have defended me on my first gaffe but perhaps when it came to the second he would have let me go. I think he was spot on.

Do you recognise that you have become a bit of a role model for younger gay men in politics, or more generally?
I do hope not. I'm a completely crap gay.

But you've been completely open for years at a time that many weren't... when I wasn't. I think you underestimate that.
Yes, but I judge these things as everybody does. There were years when I wasn't open because I judged I would never get into politics and wouldn't have been selected. I wasn't! I wish now that I had come out when I was a Conservative MP. I think I could have got away with it in retrospect, but it would have been a close run thing. I had the nicest constituency and the nicest association and it would have given them an awful shock. A lot of them, I'm sure, had their doubts already and I think I could have ridden the storm. I so muchadmire Chris Smith for taking the risk.

Did Mrs Thatcher know you were gay?
Yes, because I went to see her.

She was always quite tolerant of things out of the ordinary...
I think she quite liked gossip. She thought that the things human beings do are really very strange and unknowable. I told her I was gay when I went to say goodbye to her and she put an arm on my wrist and said: "Matthew, that must have been very difficult for you to say." She meant it kindly.

Do you think we are a little bit obsessed in this country with anybody who might be gay? The David Laws issue wouldn't have been such a big story had there not been a gay element to it.
What gay men who are not really out need to beware of (and Peter Mandelson notwithstanding, this is a warning not a threat), is the status of being a little bit gay and suspected of being gay but not having admitted it, because it really whets the media's appetite. Either you stay right in the closet, or if you've edged a little way out, for God's sake, come all the way out quickly. There is no status, although Peter Mandelson hoped there would be, in your homosexuality being "private but not secret". It's public or it's nothing.

Read the whole interview HERE. I will post an extended version here next

UPDATE: I forgot to include this, er, revelatory excerpt...

Tell me something that few people know about you...
I have a rudimentary third testicle.
I wasn’t expecting that! What does rudimentary mean?
It never completely formed. Apparently it’s not uncommon!
Ok... pity we don’t have a cameraman here.
You’re blushing Iain!
What’s your favourite view? Don’t say ‘my third testicle’!
It’s the view of the City of London from Waterloo Bridge.


Ed said...

Sheesh, that man has got lots of balls to come out with all he has come out with.

Nothing rudimentary about Matthew at all!

I have been reading his articles ever since 1986, great writer he is.

Little Black Sambo said...

Tells me more than I wish to know.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Certianly not anything ordinary about Matthew.

"Were I a great observer of human behaviour, were I an evocative recreator of landscapes or situations, or had I any talent to reproduce conversation, then I might be a different kind of writer. But with me, it's "What's your argument?"

Matthew is still very much in the closet. The Academic closet, that is. But let us be thankful he's not donned the comfy tweed jacket just yet.

Caro said...

I worked in Western European Department in the FCO with Matthew until his departure to join CCHQ. I was sad to read his account of his time there in his autobiography. I don't think he realises how he brightened the lives of his colleagues or how much he was actually valued by his superiors. One of them told me of his sense of failure at not being able to accommodate someone of Matthew's talents and make him happy in his work. I had great affection for Matthew and have followed his post FCO career, and writing, with much interest.

Pogo said...

Ah well... If all else fails he could always become a pawnbroker.

John said...

I love MP - always have. We don't agree on much politically but he is never dull. I don't know what he means by being a 'crap gay'. And Iain, next time you interview a straight person, will you ask them about their sexuality or do you only do that with gays?