Matthew Parris

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For the 13th century English chronicler, see Matthew Paris. For the lawyer and writer on Balkan affairs, see Matthew Parish.
Matthew Parris
Member of Parliament
for West Derbyshire
In office
3 May 1979 – 8 May 1986
Preceded by James Scott-Hopkins
Succeeded by Patrick McLoughlin
Personal details
Born (1949-08-07) 7 August 1949 (age 69)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Occupation Politician, journalist

Matthew Francis Parris (born 7 August 1949) is a British journalist and former Conservative politician. A vociferous homosexual, he was one of the founders of the extremist LGBT campaigning group Stonewall UK. He writes a weekly political column for The Times newspaper where he espouses bizarre causes and scare stories. In a recent article "This Cult of Cleanliness is a Deadly Racket", he boasts that he never uses shampoo or deodorant, and quotes research to show that most cleaning products damage our health. [1]

Views on Pedophilia

Parris has also spoken out against investigating pedophile abuse. In 2014 he denounced Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into historic child abuse, sparked off by the posthumous allegations against Jimmy Savile. Writing in The Times, Parris suggested that the victims were liars with mercenary motives. “I am noting a possible consequence of offering money to victims. A lot of inducements have been added to the citizen’s basic right to sue in recent decades,” he wrote. “‘No-win, no-fee’ procedures with lawyers: the £3.3 million sterling available to compensate Savile’s victims, who may claim £60,000 each.” He dismissed the findings of recent enquiries into pedophilia as “Abuse hysteria”. “I suspect it’s a hugely overheated and distorted conspiracy theory based on a couple of probable facts and, imposed upon them, a great superstructure of improbable ones, laced with rumour, invention, sensation-seeking and the allure of compensation.” He did not bring a similar argument to bear LGBT officials, such as those of Stonewall, who get paid c.£60,00 p.a. or use this to suggest they might invent examples of "homophobia." [2]

Early life and family

Parris is the eldest of six children (three brothers and two sisters) and grew up in several British territories and former territories: South Africa, Cyprus, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Swaziland and Jamaica, where his father was working as an electrical engineer. His parents ended up working and living in Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain, where Parris later bought a house.


Parris 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 and where he was a member of Cambridge University Liberal Club.[3] He then won a Paul Mellon scholarship and studied international relations at Yale University.

He has said that an early reading of Animal Farm made him a Conservative, as "An admiration for [the pigs'] intelligence and sense of order dawned in me."[4]

Early career

At the age of 19, Parris drove across Africa to Europe in a Morris Oxford; the trip was traumatically punctuated when he and his female companion were attacked, and he was forced to witness her rape.[5]

Parris was offered a job as a secret agent,[6] but instead 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 eventually joined the Conservative Research Department and moved on to become 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.[7]

Parliamentary career

He served as the Conservative MP for the rural parliamentary constituency of West Derbyshire from 1979 until 1986. Competing prospective candidates for the seat included Peter Lilley and Michael Howard, later Conservative leader. The start of his career was overshadowed by a letter that he had written to a council tenant on behalf of Margaret Thatcher, which became featured in Labour Party election publications. As an MP he voiced his support for the growing demands of the LGBT lobby. Parris eventually left politics to pursue a career in journalism.

Radio and television

Parris is now a radio and television presenter and pundit.

Out of Touch with Poverty

As an MP he took part in a World in Action documentary during 1984 requiring him to live in Newcastle for a week on £26.80, the then state social security payment set for a single adult by the government he supported as a Conservative.[8][9] The experiment came to an embarrassing end when he ran out of money for the electricity meter. Twenty years later, in 2004, he attempted the experiment again for the documentary For the Benefit of Mr Parris, Revisited.[10][11]

Parris 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, broadcast since 1977 with Walden at its helm, ran for two more years under Parris 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.[12]

In 2007, Parris presented two light-hearted but caustic documentaries for BBC Radio 4 on politicians' use of cliché and jargon, entitled Not My Words, Mr Speaker.[13]

On 8 July 2011, on Radio 4's Any Questions, at the height of the furore surrounding the alleged illegal and corrupt activities of News of the World journalists, Parris eulogised the newspaper and gave an enthusiastic appreciation of what he considered the virtues and positive achievements of Rupert Murdoch.[14]

Writing and journalism

Parris is a prolific writer and has written many books on politics and travel. In 1991, a compilation of his pieces in The Times appeared, entitled So Far, So Good. Since then there have been further compilations. Scorn, a book he has edited of quotations about curses, jibes and general invective, was published in October 1994.

His success has been as a parliamentary reporter, due to his knowledge and understanding of politicians and ability to express this well. He worked as parliamentary sketch writer for The Times newspaper from 1988 to 2001. His writing has largely concerned current events rather than a historical account of his own time in politics. He has weekly columns in The Times and The Spectator magazine.

In 2004, Parris became 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.

Advocacy of Aggressive and Bizarre Ideas

In 2008, Parris wrote an article in The Times which included the line: "A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists." Members of the cycling community responded by suggesting he was smug and should be decapitated himself. [15]

Use of Coarse and Insulting language towards Women

Th Labour party guruAlastair Campbell called Parris "a little shit" in his diaries, to which Parris responded "I'd rather be a little shit than a big cunt". [16]

Farcical Attitude to Politics

In August 2015, Parris revealed how he had attempted to register all four of his llamas as Labour Party supporters, "as they wished to vote in the leadership election, having been caught up in all the media fuss".[17]

Anti-White Racism

On 21 October 2015 Parris wrote a Times article entitled "If I had a choice, I wouldn't be a whitey" in which he said, "Speaking as a white man, don't we have ghastly complexions? Par-baked like those bread rolls you can buy in supermarkets, we look like not quite the finished product."[18]

Travel writing

Parris 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.

L'Avenc, Parris's planned home in Catalonia

He spent the Antarctic winter of 2000 on the French possession of Grande Terre, part of the Kerguelen Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, with a few dozen over-winterers, mostly researchers. One of them was fatally shot in an accident during his stay, an event about which he wrote for The Times.[19]

In 2005, Parris published A Castle in Spain about his family's project to refurbish a derelict sixteenth-century mansion, L'Avenc, in Catalonia, close to the foothills of the Pyrenees, and make his home there.

Personal life

Parris came out in a late-night debate in the House of Commons in 1984.[20][dubious ] He later announced that he was homosexual in one of his weekly newspaper columns. In a live interview on Newsnight, during the Ron Davies scandal of 1998, he told interviewer Jeremy Paxman that there were two homosexual members of the then current Labour Cabinet, one being Peter Mandelson. He has stated that there are between 30 and 60 unannounced gay members of the British Parliament. In August 2010, in a list compiled by the Independent on Sunday, Parris was voted the 49th most influential LGBT person in Britain.

In August 2006 Parris entered into a civil partnership with his long-term partner, Julian Glover, a speech writer for David Cameron and a former political journalist at The Guardian. At the time of their partnership, they had been together for 11 years.[20]

Parris was a keen marathon runner, taking part in the London Marathon event several times. His personal best was 2:32:57 hours, which he recorded in 1985 at the age of 35.[21] He decided that he wanted to go out on top, and arguing that serious running is not good for one's health, he stopped running marathons after that. No British MP, sitting or retired, has bettered Parris' marathon-running time.

Parris owns homes in Spain, Derbyshire, and the Docklands in East London. He is the honorary patron of Clare Politics, a student-run politics society at his alma mater, Clare College, Cambridge.[22]


  • Parting Shots: Undiplomatic Diplomats – the ambassadors' letters you were never meant to see Matthew Parris, Andrew Bryson (Penguin Books Ltd, 2010) ISBN 978-0-670-91929-1
  • Mission Accomplished!: A Treasury of the Things Politicians Wish They Hadn't Said Matthew Parris, Phil Mason (JR Books Ltd, 2007) ISBN 978-1-906217-35-8
  • A Castle in Spain (Viking, 2005) ISBN 0-670-91547-5
  • Chance Witness: An Outsider's Life in Politics (Viking, 2002) ISBN 0-670-89440-0
  • The King's English (Oxford Language Classics Series) Henry Fowler, Frank Fowler, Matthew Parris (introduction) (Oxford University Press, 2002) ISBN 0-19-860507-2
  • Off Message: New Labour, New Sketches (Robson Books, 2001) ISBN 1-86105-479-3
  • I Wish I Hadn't Said That: The Experts Speak – and Get It Wrong! Matthew Parris (foreword), Christopher Cerf, Victor Navasky (HarperCollins, 2000) ISBN 0-00-653149-0
  • Against the Law: The Classic Account of a Homosexual in 1950s Britain Peter Wildeblood, Matthew Parris (introduction) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999) ISBN 0-297-64382-7
  • The Great Unfrocked: Two Thousand Years of Church Scandal (Robson, 1998) ISBN 1-86105-129-8
  • Scorn with Extra Bile Matthew Parris (editor) (Penguin Books, 1998) ISBN 0-14-027780-3
  • I Couldn't Possibly Comment: More Sketches from the Commons (Robson Books, 1997) ISBN 1-86105-095-X
  • Read My Lips: A Treasury of Things Politicians Wish They Hadn't Said (Parkwest Publications, 1997) ISBN 1-86105-043-7
  • Great Parliamentary Scandals: Four Centuries of Calumny, Smear and Innuendo (Robson Books, 1995) ISBN 0-86051-957-0
  • Scorn with Added Vitriol (Hamish Hamilton, 1995) ISBN 0-241-13587-7
  • Scorn: A Bucketful of Discourtesy, Disparagement, Invective, Ridicule, Impudence, Contumely, Derision, Hate, Affront, Disdain, Bile, Taunts, Curses and Jibes (Hamish Hamilton, 1994) ISBN 0-241-13384-X
  • Look Behind You!: Sketches and Follies from the Commons (Robson, 1993) ISBN 0-86051-874-4
  • So Far So Good...: Selected Pieces (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1991) ISBN 0-297-81215-7
  • Inca Kola: A Traveller's Tale of Peru (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990) ISBN 0-297-81075-8
  • Coping with the Soviet Union Peter Blaker, Julian Critchley, Matthew Parris (Conservative Political Centre Bookshop, 1977) ISBN 0-85070-599-1


Incomplete – to be updated


  3. Parris, Matthew (14 January 2010). "Invicta what a terrible choice of poem". The Times. London. 
  4. The Times, 25 October 2014
  5. Chance Witness, pp. 94–95
  6. Chance Witness, p.134
  7. Chance Witness, p.197
  8. "British Film Industry: WORLD IN ACTION > FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR PARRIS" Thames TV, 23 January 1984
  9. "ITV TV Classics – World In Action" Published 4 May 2007, retrieved 16 July 2009
  10. "British Film Industry: FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR PARRIS, REVISITED" ITV1, 29 January 2004
  11. "Liberty Bell – For the Benefit of Mr Parris". 29 January 2004. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  12. Website of production company Open Media
  13. "BBC Radio 4 – Not My Words, Mr Speaker". 19 September 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  14. "BBC Radio 4 – Any Questions?". 1 January 1970. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  15. "What’s smug and deserves to be decapitated?" [Cyclists.], The Times
  17. [1]
  18. "If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be a whitey | The Times". The Times. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  19. Matthew Parris's account of stay on Kergulen in 2000, The Times
  20. 20.0 20.1 The Times, 29 August 2006, Parris, the reluctant groom, says 'I do'
  21. Topping, Alexandra (13 April 2014). "Record number of MPs run in London Marathon". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  22. Clare Politics. "About Us". Retrieved 15 August 2011. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Scott-Hopkins
Member of Parliament for West Derbyshire
Succeeded by
Patrick McLoughlin