Broadcaster Brian Walden has been remembered as “wise and witty” and one of the greatest political interviewers of all time after his death aged 86.
Walden was a former Labour MP in Birmingham who resigned after 13 years as a backbencher in June 1977 to become a broadcaster and journalist.
He presented various TV programmes over the next decade or so, such as the Sunday current affairs series Weekend World on ITV, The Walden Interview and Walden.
Between 1981 and 1984 he was a member of the board of Central Television.
Walden won several awards, including the Shell International Award, the Bafta Richard Dimbleby award, and the TV Times favourite current affairs personality award. He was ITV personality of the year in 1991.
He famously interviewed then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in November 1989, the first broadcaster to interview her after her win.
Walden asked Thatcher: “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 cannot you publicly project what you have just told me is your private character?”
Thatcher responded: “Brian, if anyone’s coming over as domineering in this interview, it’s you.”
He also enraged many Labour MPs in February 1998 with comments made about Nelson Mandela in the final programme of his series Walden On Heroes.
He described the then-South African president as feckless, arrogant and autocratic, and accused him of waging an “incompetent” terror campaign as commander of the African National Congress military wing, thus helping, in Walden’s view, to entrench the white apartheid regime in South Africa throughout his 27 years in prison.
Walden continued to broadcast, and in March 2005 he began presenting a ten-minute programme on Fridays called A Point Of View on BBC Radio 4.
He died at his home on Guernsey from complications arising from emphysema on Thursday and leaves a widow, Hazel Walden, and four sons.
Many journalists paid tribute to Walden yesterday after the news of his death broke.
ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart said it was “farewell to a master” as he signed off yesterday’s evening bulletin following a report on Walden’s death.
BBC journalist John Simpson wrote: “Sad to hear of the death of the great Brian Walden, one of British television’s great interviewers: charming in person, savage on screen.
“Imagine how he would have ripped apart the politicians we watch today…”
BBC presenter Andrew Neil said: “Very sad to learn of the death of my friend and one-time colleague Brian Walden. Always wise and witty. A wonderful interrogator of politicians, especially on Weekend World.
“With Robin Day, he invented the British political interview style. Emulated but not matched to this day.”
BBC Radio 4 Today’s Nick Robinson said Walden was “quite simply the best” and former colleague David Jordan, now the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, said he had “set the standard for political interviewing”.
LBC presenter Iain Dale called Walden one of his top five political interviewers ever. “Very sad news that Brian Walden has died. His interviews on Weekend World were the stuff of legends,” he said.
“A former Labour MP who interviewed everyone in the same forensic way. I’d certainly put him in the top five political interviewers of all time.”
The Telegraph described Walden as the “sharpest interviewer in the business” while the Guardian said he was the “most feared and respected political interviewer on British TV” in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Picture: Tony Harris/PA Wire