THERE is a calmness to his voice when he speaks.

But when he is talking about journalism, he does so with a passion and an authority as he has always upheld its values and he has what he described as ‘ink in his blood’.

The person I am speaking about is ex BBC war correspondent Martin Bell, the former MP for Tatton MP from 1997-2001, who became known as ‘the man in the white suit’.

His journalistic approach was and still is to check the facts and get them verified as he believes ‘slow news is more accurate than fast news’.

He hates rolling news, believes we are being engulfed by lifestyle and celebrity and journalists have retreated from war zones as it has become too dangerous.

Somerset County Gazette:

Martin is bringing all his wealth and knowledge about reporting the news to town as he will be appearing at the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton with his one-man discussion show called Martin Bell - War and Death of News.

He said: “Journalism today (as opposed to the past) has changed in so many ways. Mine was to report from war zones and conflicts where I was dodging bullets (Vietnam, Middle East, Angola, Nigeria, Northern Ireland - during The Troubles and Bosnia) and not wanting to get caught in crossfire.

“Now, there are large parts of the world where there are no war reporters.

“When I started there was an attempt to remove the fog of war and having the battle to re-take Basra shown on Kurdish television helped.

“War zones are not now accessible.

“For a long time there was no protection for journalists.

“There was no body armour, no steel helmets, you just believed the bullets would not hit you.

“It is frightening but you do build up a great camaraderie, especially among television news. You would always help each other.

“You took precautions as you did not go out at night and you never stopped asking about landmines as there were so many.

“You do convince yourself the job was worthwhile if you did not get shot.

“War reporting as I knew it is no longer possible.

“Being able to get into war zones is not possible due to the dangers, so journalism has retreated and replaced it with lifestyle and celebrity stuff.”

Commenting on the news today, Martin said he had no quarrel with reporters these days; what he does have a problem with is with all this feverish speculation.

He said news reporting tends to be more frantic, it is more about being celebrity television new reporters.

Somerset County Gazette:

He was never one for wanting to appear on screen, even though the BBC had paid his air fare.

He added: “I did my report, it lasted two-and-a-half minutes, then it should speak for itself.

“The reporter talking to the studio started in the 1990s with ITN as a way of engaging the presenter.

“But I thought it was a bad idea.

“It might be more valid to ask what is going on in Trump’s White House.

“There is an art to finding things out.

“You have to assemble the facts and a reporter needs to ask questions.

“It is no good having questions on a clipboard and just reading them one by one; you have to listen to what is being said and follow the answers up.

“One of the people who does this, and does it well, is Andrew Marr.

“It was an exciting time to be a reporter. I remember being in America when Ronald Reagan was President.

“Many people have compared Trump to him but there is little to connect them.

“There has never been another President like Trump.

“He is a one-off, he doesn’t read, when he looks in the mirror he sees the smartest man he knows and what he does he does on a whim.

“His saving grace is he is self-destructive and a lot of his misfortune he brings on himself.”

One of the things which Donald Trump said he was going to do when he became President was to ‘drain the swamp’ as his way of describing his plan to fix problems in the Federal Government.

One of the problems which Martin Bell wanted to combat and bring to people’s attention was political sleaze.

This is why he stood as an Independent in the 1997 General Election in Tatton, where the sitting Conservative Member of Parliament, Neil Hamilton, was embroiled in “sleaze” allegations.

Martin managed to overturn a 22,000 Conservative majority to be elected with an 11,000 majority.

Speaking about being an MP, he said: “It was tough and I think my war training was useful as you always had to watch your back.

Somerset County Gazette:

“Whatever you said, whatever you did or however you voted, you had to think how would it look on the front page of the local paper.

“If you thought it would be ok then it was acceptable.

“You did believe you were entitled to all this.

“You sat on the green seats (in the House of Commons), you were waited on by servants who wore C18th dress which was all a bit Gilbert and Sullivan.”

One of the things which Martin is fighting against is fake news.

In a recent article, he said: “Once a journalist, always a journalist. I believe our newspapers are worth fighting for against the trend of the times.

“They are the mainstream press; their reports are fact-based.

“They provide real news, not fake news.

“They offer shared experiences.

“And, at the regional and local level, they bind our communities together.”

Tickets for Martin Bell - War and the Death of News on July 5, are £17 for adults and £12 for students.

For further details on this show and to buy tickets for Martin Bell you need to go online at or call the box office on 01823 283244.