Shropshire Star

Political heavyweights pay tribute to Star man Pete Madeley

"How's Pete?" - That was the first question from Sir Keir Starmer, when he visited this newspaper for a question-and-answer session with readers last year.

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Boris bows down before Pete Madeley during a visit to Dudley

Indeed, the same words have been on the lips of almost every political heavyweight who has visited the West Midlands in recent months.

And over the past 24 hours, some of the biggest names in the political world have lined up to pay tribute to Pete Madeley, the Express & Star's highly respected political editor, who has died peacefully at his home in Wolverhampton nine months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson – who sent Pete a get-well card on hearing about his illness ­– is among those who have expressed their condolences.

Pete Madeley shares a joke with future prime minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Wolverhampton in 2017
Boris Johnson chats to Pete Madeley during the 2019 Conservative leadership election

"I am so sad to hear of the loss of Pete Madeley," said Mr Johnson, who briefly worked at the Express & Star as a young reporter in 1988. "He was an outstanding journalist who evidently loved his job and his beat. I know that he put up a long and valiant fight against his illness and my thoughts are with his family and loved ones today."

Pete, who was 50, took on the newspaper's political role eight years ago, just in time for the Brexit referendum, followed by two quickfire general elections, the coronavirus outbreak, and the war in Ukraine. During his time in post he won the respect of all the big beasts of the political jungle, who appreciated his sharp wit and unquestionable impartiality.

Pete, who grew up in Dudley, was educated at Castle High School and Nottingham Trent University where he met future wife Marina. He was a relative latecomer to the world of journalism. He grew up reading the Express & Star, and as a teenager dreamt of a career in the media, but went into teaching instead. For many years he taught teenagers at Solihull College, but became increasingly frustrated by the amount of bureaucracy the work entailed. Then in 2012, his wife Marina read about a journalism training course at City of Wolverhampton College, and at the age of 39 he suddenly found himself sitting in the opposite side of the classroom, among students little more than half his age.

After seven months learning the ropes as a part-time reporter on the Wolverhampton Chronicle, he was given a full-time reporting position on the Express & Star, a role he seized with great relish, quickly passing his journalistic exams and becoming the paper's education reporter. But he truly found his niche when a vacancy for political editor came up at the end of 2015. His dry sense of humour and disarming personality proved invaluable in winning the trust of major political figures, who readily shared their inner thoughts with him.

Express & Star acting editor Mark Drew said: "Pete was a fantastic personality, a real presence in the newsroom and an inspiration and influence to everyone he worked with. He was also an incredibly skilled journalist who was respected by politicians of all parties. He will be hugely missed."

Photographer Tim Thursfield, who accompanied him on many interviews, recalls: "Pete could get away with most things when questioning high-profile politicians because he would ask hard questions but with a cheeky glint in his eyes.

"The crazy thing is, his subject would usually know exactly what he was doing, but enjoy the process and go along with it, because they knew how good he was at his job, and that he knew his stuff inside out."

One of Pete's big scoops was when former Labour MP Ian Austin revealed he was backing the Conservatives

One of his big scoops came on the eve of the 2019 General Election when Dudley North MP Ian Austin quit the Labour Party – and exclusively revealed to Pete that he would be backing the Tories on polling day.

Now Lord Austin, the former MP spent many hours with Pete during his illness, often travelling from London to see him at his home.

"Pete was not just a great journalist, but a great man and a great friend," he said.

"He devoted his life first to helping give others a good start in life through teaching and then to informing the public and telling the truth as a journalist.

"He stood up for the Black Country and the community he loved.

"I thought he was just a great guy and a great friend. I’ll never forget our conversations about politics and the Villa, especially when he was ill and I’ll miss him very much."

Labour leader Sir Keir said; "The news of Pete’s passing is incredibly sad. A skilled reporter who held politicians to account with professionalism and personality, he was always a tireless champion of the Black Country.

“On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to share my deepest condolences to his wife and children at this difficult time.”

Pete Madeley chatting to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in 2021

Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East and shadow cabinet minister, said: "As political editor of the Express & Star he had the trust and respect of politicians right across the political parties. Sincere condolences to his family and colleagues."

Stourbridge MP Suzanne Webb, described him as "A man of incredible integrity, and someone I’ll greatly miss in our local media."

Jay Singh Sohail, who was the Conservative candidate to be police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands in 2021, described Pete as 'a brilliant journalist who always gave me a chance to comment. He asked tough questions, but was fair and balanced. He was much respected and will be missed."

Veteran Wolverhampton councillor Phil Bateman said: "Pete was a huge part of the Express & Star, experienced and professional."

Pete Madeley chatting to former prime minister Sir Tony Blair

Never short of an amusing anecdote, Pete will be remembered by colleagues for his infectious sense of humour, and was always the life and soul of office nights out. An Aston Villa season-ticket holder, he was also a big supporter of the Black Country non-league football scene, and was well-known for his competitive nature when it came to the office football predictions league.

Away from work, he was a devoted father to Thalia, 19 and Elias, 15 and husband to Marina. Pete also leaves parents John and Patricia and sister Liz.

Express & Star political editor Pete Madeley has died aged 50