How we Met: Martin Bell & David Soul

A war reporter with the BBC for more than two decades, Martin Bell MP, 60, had a change of career in 1997 when he challenged the discredited Tory MP Neil Hamilton for the seat of Tatton. The ever-present white suit symbolised his anti-sleaze ticket. He has been married three times, most recently to Fiona Goddard, and has two grown-up daughters

David Soul, 56, was half of the TV detective team Starsky and Hutch, before going on to a career in music and on stage. He has had two No 1 hits in Britain, and will soon embark on a 10-date concert tour of the country. His latest theatre venture was Nick Darke's The Dead Monkey, in which he played alongside his fourth wife, Alexa Hamilton. They live in London

MARTIN BELL: I made a rather controversial speech about journalistic ethics when I came out of Bosnia in 1996, and I was invited to ride my hobby-horse on Newsnight. Afterwards there was an intriguing message that David Soul, the actor, had called to speak to me. I knew who he was, although I don't suppose I'd seen more than two episodes of Starsky and Hutch in my life.

So I called him back and we met, and it transpired that he'd had a long- standing idea for a television series about a reporter in a war zone, played by, guess who, David Soul. It seemed like a reasonable idea, and as he'd never been in a war zone, he wanted some collateral information about how war correspondents operate. Soon after that we met again at La Gaffe, the restaurant in Hampstead where I am to be found every Sunday evening, being a creature of habit. I don't make friends easily, but we got to know each other quickly and I found that I liked him a lot. It may appear as if we have little in common, but David is basically an old- fashioned radical, a sort of American William Cobbett.

We met regularly after that. I advised him on the kind of things that had happened to me which might make a storyline. The thing with most TV series about journalists is that they get it wrong. The cameraman never holds the thing properly on his shoulder - that kind of thing.

I like the fact that David seems unaffected by being famous. It can't have been easy when Starsky and Hutch finished, but he just got on with life and forged a career for himself as a singer and stage actor. He had a difficult time last year when The Dead Monkey was savaged by critics. I had a call from the Daily Mirror asking me what I thought, as if I was expected to denounce him. I wasn't interested in what the critics thought.

When I was pitchforked into electioneering quite unexpectedly in 1997, I sort of recruited this little circle of friends and family. My daughter Melissa became my front woman, my book editor became my election agent, my Bosnia and Gulf War cameraman became my driver and minder, my nephew my issues adviser. I thought it might be a good idea if we brought in someone to add a dash of pizzazz and excitement. David was in a play in Lincoln at the time but he was pleased as punch when I invited him to join us. Initially he was just coming over for the day, but he finished up staying a week, including for the count. He was incredibly helpful and picked up the spirit of the thing really quickly. He was absolutely brilliant at door-to-door canvassing, especially with the more mature ladies. They'd open the door and there was Hutch. He concentrated on the under-privileged areas, the people who'd lost faith in politics under the Tories. On one occasion he gave an impromptu rendition of "Don't Give Up On Us" at a young people's shelter. I also had the ex-police commissioner John Stalker helping the campaign, so we had the bizarre spectacle of the real cop, Stalker, and the fictional cop, David, on the same campaign trail.

I think the fervour in the constituency, the idea that perhaps we could make the impossible happen, took him back to the heady days of Kennedy's presidential campaign. I know he got a real buzz out of that.

DAVID SOUL: You could say I met Martin on TV. I'd just moved to London when one night I turned on the TV and there was this chap in a white suit talking about the responsibility of news coverage, what should and shouldn't be told. What he said resonated with me to such an extent that I called the BBC and left a message asking Martin Bell to call me. I figured he'd probably be curious enough to want to know why the hell David Soul had called him ... and I was right. Within 20 minutes, he'd called back. Martin isn't the kind of person to suggest a leisurely lunch at the Garrick Club, so the first place we met was one of those stand-up coffee places at Kensington tube station. I told him about the series I was developing, which had really grown out of my secret desire, from an early age, to be a journalist.

Martin is not a demonstrative man, nor does he show a lot of emotion, but he is very loyal and there is a small coterie of family and friends he's very close to. They meet up every Sunday at La Gaffe, and after we'd met a few times he asked me if I'd like to go along and meet the gang. I'm always ready to meet new people - I sometimes find it easier to get along with strangers than with the people I'm closest to. I make friends easily but they're often quickly gone. There's a tenacity about Martin which ensures that our friendship is kept up. He'll always pick up the phone and extend an invitation, even if the conversation lasts only 10 seconds. I'll talk to someone I don't even like very much for 45 minutes and nothing will come of it. There has to be an investment on both sides for true friendship, and that's the case with Martin and me.

There are so many things about Martin that I admire. For me, he harkens back to another time, to the old values. He embodies the integrity and dignity and directness that I grew up with in the American Midwest - I was president of the Young Democrats of South Dakota in 1960 when the Kennedy bandwagon was rolling. Martin reminds me of those times, which is why I was so pleased to support him in his campaign. Mind you, my first response when he told me he was running was "What the hell are you doing?"

You knew you were supporting an honest, decent man. Whether or not he had any experience of politics was not the issue. The atmosphere at the count was extraordinary. Martin's not effusive, but I felt he was bursting inside. What really came through was his genuine humility, the fact that he so wanted to share his victory with everyone who had helped him. It was the British version of Mr Smith Comes to Washington.

Martin inspires tremendous loyalty in people. I know I'm not the only person who values his integrity and decency, those qualities that make him such a vital and valuable asset to the political life of this country.

The first concert in David Soul's British tour will be on 23 June at the Aylesbury Civic Centre (01296 486009)

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral