Martin is one of the most distinguished foreign affairs reporters of his generation, he was among those who defined the term “war correspondent”. He is also a British UNICEF (UNICEF UK) Ambassador and a former independent politician.
He was educated at The Leys School in Cambridge and King’s College, Cambridge, where he achieved a 1st Class Honours Degree in English.
Martin Bell joined the BBC as a reporter in Norwich in 1962 as a 24-year-old, following his graduation.
He moved to London three years later, beginning a distinguished career as a foreign affairs correspondent with his first assignment in Ghana. Over the next thirty years, he covered eleven conflicts and reported from eighty countries, making his name with reports from wars and conflicts in Vietnam, Middle East, Nigeria, Angola, and in Northern Ireland (during the “Troubles”).
He won the Royal Television Society’s Reporter of the Year award in 1977 and 1993, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1992. That same year, whilst covering the war in Bosnia Bell was seriously wounded by shrapnel while recording a report.
He remained an official BBC correspondent, although from the mid-1990s he filed relatively few reports, and became disillusioned with the BBC.
In 1997, twenty-four days before that year’s British General Election, Martin Bell announced that he was leaving the BBC to stand as an independent candidate in the Tatton constituency in Cheshire. and thus became the first successful independent parliamentary candidate since 1951. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tatton from 1997 to 2001.
Bell made a brief return to television news in 2003 when he provided analysis of the Iraq invasion for ITN’s Channel Five News. The short films he compiled from the daily video footage brought a unique historical and humanitarian perspective to the events that was in stark contrast to the coverage of much of the mainstream media.
On 21 May 2009, he appeared on the special live edition of BBC’s Question Time which was held in Salisbury. In the same year he came out in support of the Green Party in the weeks before the 2009 European elections, supporting the Green Party’s ‘Clean Campaigning’ pledge.
The Channel 4 drama ‘Mr White Goes to Westminster’ was loosely based on Bell’s political career.
Bell now acts as an ambassador for UNICEF and as a critic on the state of journalism today.
Martin’s career as a foreign affairs correspondent and then as a politician, have been remarkably colourful, which make him the perfect After Dinner Speaker as well as Keynote Speaker and Celebrity Speaker.