Miranda Grell is a local councillor from Leyton, East London. She is 28 and says she is a Cancerian with Aquarius rising.... You can find her blog at Cllr Miranda Grell
What made you decide to start blogging?
Earlier this year as part of my campaign to be elected a local councillor in Leyton, East London. My good friend Jon Worth (www.jon-worth.eu) offered to design me a site as his contribution to the campaign (Thank you, Jon!!!!). Now I'm elected it is only natural to carry it on. Writing a blog helps me reach my ward constituents directly and shows them what I'm actually getting up to in between the times when I go to visit them.
What is your best blogging experience?
All of them actually. They've always been from the comfort of my home so far....And your worst?None yet!
What do you regard as your best blog entry?
Wow. Hmmm? Mine is a different type of blog in that I don't really pontificate about high politics very much - I write more to share news I think would interest my residents, but I do include a smattering of what I call "celeb politics". My cheesy stories about the "asstestic qualities" of the Milband brothers (posted in April and June 2006) or when Cherie Blair visited Leyton to help my campaign (posted in February 2006) are my favourites out of those. In terms of my "Leyton" posts, it would be any from the 'Community' section of my website. Reading back over the stories about all the fantastic local groups I've met or helped is what keeps me going on the days I may feel frustrated about being a local councillor.
Well I'm hooked on Bloggers 4 Labour. What a fantastic idea. You really do feel part of a little community, with the added bonus that we're all Labour supporters. Well, I obviously read yours, Paul, but I also love reading The Daily, Kerron Cross and Luke Akehurst's blog. I share some political views with Luke (commitment to trade unions and electoral reform) but he is so hardline - I normally read his posts with amusement combined with admiration and astonishment!!! I think Tom Miller's Newer Labour is great. How can one so young be so wise? I've also started logging on to Tom Watson's quite a bit - there's always something there and I admire the fact that he's making an effort to communicate online.
What do you most enjoy about being councillor in Leyton?
The people. There's no point going about having airs and graces and acting the big 'I am', you'll get put back in your place pretty sharpish. Leyton has people who come from 180 countries, half of our population is under 30 and we're about to be part of the 2012 Olympic Games. Leyton people are great and it's when I visit someone at home on their estate or go to a meeting of a local community group that I'm reminded why it's so important that we have a Labour councillor to work with our Labour MP, Labour leader of the council, Labour Mayor and Labour government. Life has improved dramatically for people in my ward through tax credits, free bus and tube travel, the education maintenance allowance and Sure Start, - but to name only a few areas. I am proud to tell people in Leyton that I represent Labour in our ward.
For the benefit of Mars Hill readers, why do you think Jon Cruddas should be the next Deputy Leader of the Labour Party?
Because Jon Cruddas really is the best candidate for the job. I was one of the many people emailing him and urging him to run - it wasn't his idea at all. I first met Jon two years ago when he came to address Walthamstow CLP's annual dinner hosted by fab MP Neil Gerrard. Jon gave a really lucid account of his views on social housing, tuition fees, the decline of trust in politics and a whole array of other topics. Here was a politician that was thoughtful about why they were in this business and wanted to debate solutions and ideas for making life better for our poorer and more socially excluded citizens. As the last two years have progressed, I have followed with interest what Jon has been doing locally in his constituency and in parliament. I am in total admiration of the fact that he has led from the front to build up his local party - many MPs don't bother - with the result that it has had a consistent month on month rise in membership over the last 18 months. I also like the fact that even though he has quite a prestigious past working for the PM in Downing St he has dedicated his time to improving this constituency and voting with his principles (top up tuition fees) rather than just sucking up to people to get promoted (he is talented enough to have already been). In terms of why I'm supporting him for the Deputy Leadership, I think we need a lot of what he's done at local level done nationally. I fully support his idea about separating the posts of Deputy Leader and Deputy PM. The Deputy Leader should be someone who gets stuck in to the hard task of restoring morale amongst the members and renewing the party's policy making structures and networks. They should be prepared to get their hands dirty and tour the country campaigning and boosting the work being done by local parties. They should be prepared to tell the leader when the members think he or she is getting it wrong. They should put the party first. This is what I believe we need to happen in our party if we are going to win the next general election. We really cannot continue to sit by and watch as people resign or become inactive. I want a good Deputy Prime Minster - I hope a woman - to do the PMQs and represent Britain to the world - but if we are going to have a good PM and DPM we need to win the next election first. If we don't sort out the malaise in our party's membership and activity we are not going to have a DPM to talk about. Jon Cruddas gives our party the best chance of doing this.
How did you get involved with Compass and what do you see it as offering the Labour Party?
I got involved after reading the 'Dare More Democracy' pamphlet, which launched Compass. Finally, something which offered a home for my views, which were neither new or old Labour - more a mixture of Robin Cook, Shirley Williams and Ken Livingstone all of whose politics I share. I loved the fact that Compass supports the party's "Old" Labour values - a strong commitment to trade unionism, public services and fighting inequality but also the newer areas of electoral reform, pro-Europeanism and a commitment to the environment that have always featured lower down the party's areas of priority. I went along to a Compass meeting one Saturday, got talking and that was that. I was co-opted to the management committee last year and then elected properly this year. I see Compass as offering a space for those on the centre left (whether in the party or not) to float different ideas and debate policy. Why shouldn't we talk about issues about taxation or other meaty subjects? Why have people at the top of our party become seemingly afraid of debate? I am tired of hearing about the 1980s as an excuse for why there can't be diversity of mind in the Labour party - I was only two years old in 1980!!! I also remember when people used to be proud that the Labour party was a broad church, when the cabinet was always balanced with heavy weights from the different wings. I am a pluralist and Compass accepts and promotes pluralism. I think the reason some party members are disillusioned is because they feel that one wing has taken over and that many members' views are no longer treated as important. I think Compass is restoring many people's voices. Compass may not always get things right (the triumphalist response to the 90 days legislation vote was an example of how not to respond) but we are a very informal organisation and a very young organisation. Compass has much to offer the party. Many of Compass' members are joining or rejoining the party since they got involved in Compass.
Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
Definitely Japan. It looks very interesting and I've always said that I want to learn Japanese. For some reason places like Australia and New Zealand have never excited me...
Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
I lived in Spain for a year, as part of my undergraduate degree. I absolutely love Spain and would happily live there again. Since I put aside all international jaunts to win my election campaign I haven't been for over a year. They're back in the diary now my campaign is over though!!
Do you have a favourite political figure in history?
The Suffragettes. Every time I talk to a woman who tells me she's not going to vote I want to scream. Those women literally gave their lives for the female franchise. They are my absolute political heros.
Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?
I have two. I have always had some really great teachers and Professor Joe Harrison from Manchester University and Anne Lovelock who talk me GCSE music are the best. Joe took me on for my dissertation when no one else would (I'd picked a subject there was no information on - Sub Saharan immigration in 20th century Spain) and he gave me confidence and excellent support, which resulted in me getting 85% (a high first) for it - mad!!! Anne was superb. Here's an amazing Welsh woman teaching music in an inner city London comprehensive secondary school. I couldn't afford a cello but I got to have lessons because this feisty teacher demanded for us what every private school had and Anne always got what she demanded!!! She is still teaching at my old school now and I try to go and see her and my other teachers at least once a year. I'll be the guest of honour at their next GCSE awards evening in January. To be asked was a real honour.
Favourite Bond movie?
The one with the New Orleans funeral march - Live and Let Die. I like Sean Connery as Bond for his "asstestic" qualities but I think that Roger Moore was actually the better Bond!
Favorite Doctor Who?
Have never gotten into Doctor Who, I'm afraid. Have never been much of a teccie!
Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
Mint. Fresh like me!!!
Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
The Jackson 5 - before poor old Michael became Poor old Michael.
In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
I haven't got a clue what's going on in Barsby, Leics, and I've always being nosey, so it would have to be Barsby, Leics! Oxford and Cambridge are just too perfect...
Favourite national newspaper?
What would you say your hobbies were?
Hobbies? What are they?! Films - I love the Spanish director Almodovar. My favourite one of his films is the 1980s classic, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown". Restaurants - I'm a big foodie!!! I'm also really into doing "girlie" things to balance all this serious politics malarkey - I buy far too many glossy magazines. Does being obsessed with buying and trying out new and exciting type of moisturisers count as a hobby?! I know, I'm really sad .... :-)
And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
Songs: 1) Jamiroquai's Emergency on Planet Earth - I love all their tunes but particularly their old stuff circa 1993. Wonderful. 2) The Queens Aria from Mozart's 'The Magic Flute' - If you're in a bad mood, I recommend playing this at high volume and belting out every word; 3) Any garage tune by amazing old school garage DJ Todd Edwards.
Books: 1) Piers Morgan's diaries (it sates that girlie gossip streak I mentioned I have and has me cackling out loud every time I read it). 2) Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. 3) The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett. A beautifully written work of fiction about life under Belgian rule in colonial Congo. I couldn't put it down the first time around.