Brian Walden: Broadcaster and former Labour MP dies aged 86

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Interviewer Brian Walden made documentaries for the BBC

Brian Walden, the TV interviewer and former Labour MP, has died at the age of 86.

The broadcaster was known for his tough political interviews, including with Margaret Thatcher in 1989 which helped speed up the then-prime minister’s downfall.

Mr Walden died following complications from emphysema at his home in St Peter Port, Guernsey, on Thursday.

His widow, Hazel, said he was “always happy and got on well with people”.

Mr Walden served as Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood from 1964 until 1977.

He was best known politically for an impassioned speech calling for the abolition of capital punishment.

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Brian Walden was a Labour MP for 13 years

Mrs Walden, who says she was “happily married” to him for 43 years, said her husband was a passionate Brexiteer and that his biggest regret would be that he had not lived to see Brexit.

She said: “He agreed with Nigel Farage that the only way is out, unless we wish to give up our British rights and tradition to be held in a superstate.”

After being elected as a Labour MP in four elections, he resigned from Parliament to become a journalist and broadcaster.

He presented the ITV political programme Weekend World as well as other TV shows including The Walden Interview and Walden.

He became known for his tenacious interviewing style, and often grilled the then-prime minister Mrs Thatcher. According to the Press Association, Mrs Thatcher enjoyed being interviewed by him.

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Media captionSome of Brian Walden’s broadcasting highlights, including his 1989 interview with Margaret Thatcher

During his most famous interview with Mrs Thatcher in October 1989 – when her own party was turning against her – he asked her: “You come over as being someone who one of your backbenchers said is slightly off her trolley, authoritarian, domineering, refusing to listen to anybody else – why? Why can’t you publicly project what you have just told me is your private character?”

The then-PM replied: “Brian, if anyone’s coming over as domineering in this interview, it’s you. It’s you.”

Mr Walden’s own political views shifted away from Labour and towards the Thatcherite right wing. He maintained his libertarian beliefs and opposed the fox hunting ban.

His friend John Wakefield, who he worked with at ITV, said: “Initially he was on the Gaitskell wing of Labour but found it all rather tawdry under Wilson.”

‘Able to read politicians’ minds’

Mr Walden won several awards for his broadcasting, and was named ITV personality of the year in 1991.

Mr Wakefield said he and Mr Walden had a “terrific time” together.

“Brian was an immensely lively and entertaining person to work with,” he said.

“He was very much a team guy who loved what everybody had to say, including the most lowly, recent researcher, and was hugely gregarious and fun.

“He was brilliant because he was such a fantastic public speaker and, as a former politician, he knew how they operated – he was able to read their minds.”

Mr Walden later presented BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View programme, as well as documentaries for the BBC including Walden on Heroes and a series of profiles on former Labour Party leaders.

BBC political presenter Andrew Neil paid tribute to his friend on Twitter, saying Mr Walden was “always wise and witty” and praised him for his role in inventing the British political interview style.

And LBC radio presenter Iain Dale called his interviews “the stuff of legends”.

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