Getting to know you: Neil Bibby

Written by Jenni Davidson on 17 May 2018 in Inside Politics

Labour MSP for West of Scotland Neil Bibby talks sport with Jenni Davidson

What’s your earliest memory?

I was actually thinking last week, when it was the 30th anniversary of the Glasgow Garden Festival, and I remember going to that with my parents when I was four and I was too wee to go on the Coca-Cola rollercoaster at that point, but I do remember going up to Glasgow with my mum and dad and meeting the guy on stilts – I think his name was Big Rory – and he was an absolute giant compared to me at that time.

What were you like at school?

I studied a fair bit. I could have maybe studied a bit more and got better grades at school, but I think part of that may have been down to spending too much of my exam leave playing ‘Championship Manager’. And if I’d done less of that I would have perhaps done better in terms of grades.

So are you a straight-A student in ‘Championship Manager’, then?

Well, I got a few successes, yeah. Unfortunately, a football management career has not beckoned as a result of that.

If only they’d known, they’d have been calling you up to manage some football club. St Mirren?

My team’s actually Bolton Wanderers. My dad’s from that neck of the woods and I’m a Bolton Wanderers supporter. I enjoyed going down to games with my dad when I was younger, and still do that occasionally.

You’re probably the only Bolton fan, I suspect, in the parliament, are you?

The only one I’ve met so far is myself. They need all the support they can get at the moment.

So who would be your dream dinner date?

Well, in terms of being a big football fan, and Bolton fan, Sam Allardyce was the Bolton manager, John McGinlay a striker for Bolton during the glory years, so actually the opportunity to meet them, I think, would be something I would really enjoy.

A bit of hero worship?


What’s your greatest fear?

I don’t really have particular phobias or anything, but I’ve got two kids now under the age of three and that gives you a new sense of responsibility and my greatest fear would be something happening to them.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wife, Hazel, would say my phone, because I’m always on it. But probably my most treasured possession would be... my grandad served in the Second World War in Italy in 1943 and I’ve got his World War Two medals and some books about the Second World War that I keep in my house, so they’re probably the most treasured items.

What do you dislike about your appearance?

I think I’m getting one or two grey hairs. I think I got a few more after 14 hours on the Finance Committee dealing with the Brexit Continuity Bill! I suppose it’s better to have grey hair than nae hair, some people would say.

What’s the worst thing that anyone’s ever said to you?

I think being called a liar. Before the last Scottish Parliament elections, I was told I was telling lies about the future of the RAH children’s ward in Paisley. To be called a liar when you’re being honest and upfront with people is pretty hurtful.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

In 2007, at the age of 23, I stood for the council and I was taking over the seat from Jim Harkins, who was the former leader of Renfrewshire Council, and he said to me before the election: “People in this community want to vote for Labour. You can either make it easy for them or make it hard for them.” So I obviously tried to make it as easy as possible, and it certainly worked on that occasion! I think that was good advice that has stayed with me a long time.

Was that about you trying to be liked as a person?

I think it was just as a person, as a party, as offering something to the community, try and make it as easy as possible. So I’ve tried my best over the period to do that.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Probably lying awake at night with headphones on listening to BBC Test Match Special throughout the night when the Ashes are on in Australia.

I just don’t understand cricket. Also, I don’t understand spending hours watching it, or even worse, listening to it. Does it send you to sleep listening to it?

Well, I do enjoy it, but when it’s on throughout the night, you do eventually fall asleep.

If you weren’t an MSP, what would be your dream job?

When I was younger, I obviously wanted to grow up and be a footballer. But I think if I was taking a different course now, both my parents were social workers and they helped shape my values, and they particularly worked with young people in care, and I think that’s something that would interest me if I wasn’t in politics.

And if you could go back in time, where would you go to?

I’d probably like to go back to three weeks ago and put money on the 33-1 shot that won the Grand National. Again, talking about my grandad earlier, the Second World War is a period that I find fascinating and important and perhaps being a fly on the wall when the big decisions were getting made, not just Churchill but the coalition government, and Roosevelt, which have shaped the rest of the twentieth century and the twenty-first century.

What skill should every person have?

The ability to cook or phone a takeaway.

What’s the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?

Probably one of my other first memories was when I was little, I remember being out in the back garden at home in Renfrewshire and a wasp got caught in my vest. It was a hot summer’s day and it got caught in my vest and it kept stinging me and stinging me and I remember being absolutely traumatised by that experience, so that’s probably the most painful experience I can remember.

So do you have a fear of wasps now?

I’m wary of them, yeah. I’m certainly wary of them.

What’s your top film or TV programme of all time?

Well, TV programme, it’s probably Only Fools and Horses. I just find it hilarious. But in the house at the moment, more often than not, it’s Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig that’s on.

Are you saying those are your choices?!

No, they’re not my choices, no, but when my son Sam wants the telly, that’s what’s most often on.

He’s the telly boss, is he?

Oh certainly, when he’s up, he is.

What was your best holiday ever?

For Hazel’s and my honeymoon we went to New York and Vegas and that was fantastic. New York’s a fantastic city and Vegas is Vegas and there’s the Grand Canyon nearby and stuff like that, so that was the best.

And finally, what was the last book you read?

I’m almost finished reading a book called The Radical Thread, which is a book about Paisley and the politics of Paisley and how that changed from being a liberal town to embracing the Labour movement in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.


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