4 July 1960
№ of episodes
2 regular shows
Mark Steel (born 4 July 1960) is a British socialist, back-up singer for a rock band, columnist, author and comedian. He was a member of the Socialist Workers Party from his late teens until 2007.
Steel grew up in Swanley, Kent. He was expelled from Swanley Comprehensive School, on St Mary's Road, for attending a cricket course at the age of 15, and went on to work in a garage. From there he went on to make his first public performance as a poet.
In the late '70s his father suffered a mental breakdown and was placed into care at Stonehouse Hospital. The shabby conditions of the home reinforced Steel's political beliefs.
During the Thatcher years, when he was in his 20s, Steel developed his left-wing political views. His anger and frustration at society's injustices, as he saw them, were vented by political protests, punk rock and poetry.
Seeing the Soviet Union as "shit", and state capitalist rather than truly socialist, Steel joined the Socialist Workers Party rather than the Communist Party. He attended marches, strikes and demonstrations, and was present at the death of Blair Peach. In the early '80s he also persuaded his mother to allow striking steelworkers to spend a night in the Steel residence. His political activism continued throughout the decade, from the miners' strike through to the Poll Tax Riots. During this time he moved into a squat with his old friend Mick Hannan, before taking up residence in a flat.
Steel has given varying accounts of his early life: he became bored with constantly being asked how he had started in comedy and took to telling the questioner the first thing that came into his head. He is often described as having worked as a television repair man but confesses that he has no technical ability whatsoever. He worked the comedy circuit for several years, and then in 1992 presented a satirical radio show The Mark Steel Solution on BBC Radio 5, consisting of half-hour monologues which offered solutions to social problems. It ran to four series. It's Not a Runner Bean, a comic autobiography, was published in 1996, and this led to a column in The Guardian.
Steel wrote a column for The Guardian between 1996 and 1999. He was sacked by that newspaper, according to him because The Guardian wanted to "realign towards Tony Blair" - though The Guardian denies this. In 2000 he started writing a weekly column for The Independent, which appears in the Wednesday Opinion Column.
In 2000 Steel took part in the London Assembly elections on behalf of the London Socialist Alliance (part of the Socialist Alliance) in the Croydon & Sutton constituency; he received 1,823 votes (1.5 per cent of the vote).
He has written and performed several radio and television series for the BBC, and authored several books, as detailed below.
In 2005 he toured the UK, where he discussed the French revolution from a comic view point.
In 2007 he left the SWP and justified his decision in his book Whats Going On?. In the book he wrote that he left the party because whilst the membership base had become smaller and smaller, the members that remained became increasingly delusional over the size and relevance of the organization. He also condemned how at a time when there was broad public support for socialist ideals, increasingly bitter and futile in-fighting on the left made political success untenable. His book was described by the Socialist Review as "a kind of grandiose ignorance" and that "the only principle one can detect here is that the SWP is always in the wrong".
Steel lives in South London. He is a supporter of Crystal Palace F.C. and Kent County Cricket Club and enjoys watching both play on occasion. He was interviewed by Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special during the South Africa series, giving an interview on his love of cricket.
He has a son (Elliot) and a daughter (Eloise) from a relationship, but he and his partner separated in 2008.
- The Mark Steel Solution (1992, 1994 - 1996) BBC Radio 5, BBC Radio 4, repeated BBC 7
- The Mark Steel Revolution (1998) BBC Radio 4, (2007) repeated BBC 7 Australia - Radio National 17.30 2009-01-13 to 2009-01-16 and 2009-01-19 to 2009-01-23
- The Mark Steel Lectures (1999 - 2002) BBC Radio 4, (2007) repeated BBC 7
- Dedicated Troublemaker (2004) BBC Radio 4
- Mark Steel's in Town (2009 - 2010) BBC Radio 4
He has also contributed to or appeared on the following shows:
- The Good Human Guide BBC Radio 2(1985). Contributing writer.
- Extra Time BBC Radio 5. Presenter. Sports programme.
- Late Edition BBC Radio 4 (1995). Regular panellist on this satirical talk show.
- The News Quiz BBC Radio 4 several occasions from the late 1990s onwards. Guest panellist on this satirical news based panel game.
- Loose Ends BBC Radio 4. Interviewee.
- Midweek BBC Radio 4. Interviewee.
- Excess Baggage BBC Radio 4. Interviewee.
- Test Match Special BBC Radio 4. Lunchtime interviewee, 1 August 2008 - England vs South Africa, 3rd test, Edgbaston.
- I've Never Seen Star Wars BBC Radio 4 (2008). Interviewee
- Heresy BBC Radio 4 (2009).
- The Mark Steel Lectures BBC Four (2003, 2004, 2006). Writer and Presenter. Television version of his radio programme of the same title. Produced in association with The Open University.
He also appeared in the following shows:
- Red Dwarf BBC Two (1989). Playing 'Ski-man' in episode "Timeslides" (non-speaking part).
- Loose Talk (1994). Guest.
- The Late Jonathan Ross (1996). Guest.
- Does China Exist. (1997).
- If I Ruled the World BBC Two (1998). Guest panellist.
- Lamarr's Attacks BBC Two (2000). Guest.
- Never Mind the Buzzcocks BBC Two (2000, 2001). Guest panellist on the satirical music based panel game.
- Have I Got News for You BBC One (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). Guest panellist on this satirical news based panel game.
- Question Time BBC One (2003, 2005). Guest panellist on discussion show.
- QI BBC Two, BBC Four (2004, 2005, 2006). Guest panellist.
- Mock the Week , BBC Two (2005, 2006). Guest panellist.
- Room 101 BBC Two, (2006). Guest
List of appearancesEdit
- Series 1, Episode 2
- Series 1, Episode 6 (Clips Show)
- Series 3, Episode 6
- Series 3, Episode 7 (Clips Show)
- Vive La Revolution (2003) ISBN 0-7432-0805-6, (2004) ISBN 0-7432-0806-4 History of the French Revolution.
- Reasons To Be Cheerful (2001) ISBN 0-7432-0803-X, (2002) ISBN 0-7432-0804-8 Autobiography concentrating on political activism.
- It's Not A Runner Bean (1996) ISBN 1-899344-12-8, (2004) ISBN 1-904316-43-3 Autobiography concentrating on his comedy career.
- What's Going On? The Meanderings of a Comic Mind in Confusion (2008) ISBN 1-847372-81-9 Autobiography charting changes to his own personal life and the politics of the left.
- Reasons to Be Cheerful: From Punk to New Labour Through the Eyes of a Dedicated Troublemaker (2001) cassette ISBN 0-7435-0062-8