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Unparliamentary Language: Chris Matheson

Agnes Chambre

7 min read

Each week Agnes Chambre sits down with a parliamentarian to find out about the human side of politics. This week, Labour’s Chris Matheson on bad habits and dressing up as an MP

What is your first childhood memory?

Running down the street to a sweet shop to catch up with my mum on a Sunday evening.

Where were you?

Not far from the sweet shop. In Warrington, I think.

How old were you?

Flipping heck, I don’t know. Three?

What were you like at school?

I was a goody-two-shoes. I didn’t particularly excel at anything, I rarely broke any rules. The only time I bunked off was when me and my mate Gaz got caught by the teacher whose lesson we’d missed but it was a first offence.

Were you terrified when you got caught?

No, it was a complete fluke he caught us. It was actually after his lesson that we bunked off. He was at a place we wouldn’t expect to be at it, it was complete bad luck.

So you never did it again after that?

No, but because I was a good boy, not because I was shocked into never doing it again.

When you were at school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A fireman. Then a train driver, and then I got to primary school and after that I quite fancied being an astrophysicist, but I was no good at science so that’s how I ended up in politics.

Do you have any secret talents?

If I did, I wouldn’t be telling you because then they wouldn’t be secrets.

Do you have any weird hobbies or talents that you might be willing to share with readers?

I’m a man of few talents, we’ll have to come back to that one.

What habit really annoys you in other people?

Going up at the end of a sentence when it’s not a question. That drives me up the wall, and back down again.

Do you tell people off for it?

Yes. I say, ‘are you asking me or telling me?’ I hate it.

If you were to choose one superpower, what would it be?

Being able to transport myself anywhere in the world, it would certainly save on holiday costs, well for me, not for my wife and children.

Where would you go?

I quite fancy going to Australia. Certainly a nice warm beach. How am I doing so far?

Pretty good. If you could have one trip in a time machine, where would you go?

I’d go back to the early 70s to when I was one or two and see how far we’ve come in my lifetime. Not very historical, is it. It’s not like saying I’d go back and see the birth of Christ, or I’d go back to the time of the gunpowder plot or go back and assassinate Hitler. No, I’d like to go back and see how far we’ve come in my lifetime.

Would you ever consider taking a mobile phone back to the 70s and claim you’d invented it?

Like that bloke in Hollywood? There’s some video on YouTube of some bloke walking along in the 1920s with a mobile phone at a Hollywood premiere. No, I’m not groovy enough to go back to the 70s and trying that. Also I’d have to wear flares.

What’s the last thing you’ve dressed up as?

A Member of Parliament.


I did! I went to a fancy dress party and I was late to it so I came in my suit and they said what are you dressing up as? And I said ‘an MP’.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Keep going, you’ll get there eventually.

Who gave you that?

I can’t remember, quite a few people. And it isn’t entirely true, is it? Because sometimes you don’t achieve everything you want to. But I’m quite persistent. How am I doing so far?

Very well. What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve been given?

Always shine your own shoes.

Who said that?

One of the teachers at school.

Why is it bad?

Because I don’t shine my shoes enough. I do always shine my own shoes but it seemed rather irrelevant at the time.

Have you ever given anything up?

I observe Lent. I only drink water during lent. Hate it, hate it! I lose a few pounds so I get rid of these jowls but then I have a nice cup of tea on Easter Sunday. Then the weight soon goes back on.

What’s the worst bad habit you have?

I have no bad habits.

What is your greatest fear?

Spiders. Can’t stand them.

What do you do if you see a spider?

Run. Didn’t I say I wanted to go to Australia before? I wouldn’t go to Australia because of all the spiders.

What mistakes did you make when you were younger?

Lots and lots. Thinking I was good at science and then finding out I wasn’t. That wasn’t very good.

How would your friends describe you in three words?

‘Not a bad lad’. That’s not three words… ‘He’s all right’.

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done?

I might dance quite badly when I’ve had a few too many to drink.

Who would play you in a movie?

Brad Pitt of course, or maybe George Clooney.

What would the title of your autobiography be?

‘My autobiography’. I like it plain and simple.

What’s something you’ve done once that you’ll never do again?

Going on the roller coaster at Blackpool. I’m not very good at motion sickness, I had to go back to my hotel and lie down. I was sick several times but only once I’d got off. It didn’t rain down on the rest of the people below me.

What inanimate object are you most attached to, apart from your phone?

My glasses. I left them in the Chamber the other day and I took me a week to find them again, I was like Velma out of Scooby Doo, “my glasses, my glasses”. I had my car stolen the other day from right outside my house, lucky I wasn’t as attached to that as I am my glasses.

That’s awful. Do you have any idea who took it?

No, last seen on the A49 on the police cameras. Bastards.

What’s your signature dish?

Beef bourguignon but I haven’t cooked it for about 20 years.

How come?

Because I love the eating but I haven’t got the patience for the cooking part. But do you know what? You’ve probably inspired me to cook it again some time soon.

Do you have any regrets?

Yeah, but it’s worked out for me so far. I’ve got nought to complain about.

Have you ever broken the law?

Can’t you see the halo above my head? No, never.


I might have gone two or three miles above the speed limit on the motorway late at night.

What’s something that’s happened to you that’s changed your life?

There was the time I saved a train. I was in primary school and there was a level crossing, they’ve closed it since. The crossing guard was working under the car and didn’t hear the level crossing alarm going and after a few minutes we ran over and he hadn’t heard anything. We closed one gate and he closed the other and just as we did, the train came through at 100mph, it didn’t change my life but it probably changed some lives on the train.

How old were you?


When was the last time you cried?

At my aunt’s funeral. Were you hoping I’d say that I recently watched a modern version of Romeo and Juliet and it was so tragic I cried?

I’m not going to make the cut with this interview, am I? With Who Do You Think You Are?, they sometimes do two episodes and then work out the ancestry is so boring that they junk the programme. Do you know what I mean? 

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