Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LIV: Lord Toby Harris

(Lord Toby Harris)

Lord Toby Harris has lived in London all his life.

He joined the Labour Party at 16 and was a Branch Secretary while still at school. He has been at various times a GC and LGC delegate and a Constituency Labour Party Chair. He was a member of the National Policy Forum for twelve years, a member of the NEC Local Government Sub-Committee and of the Board of the Greater London Labour Party until 2004.

He was elected as the youngest member of Haringey Council in 1978 and became Leader of the Council in 1987, having previously been Social Services Chair and Chief Whip. He led the Labour Group on Haringey Council to victory in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 elections – gaining 14 seats in 1990, another 14 in 1994 and with the loss of only one ward to the Lib Dems in 1998.

He was Chair of the Labour Group of the Local Government Association from 1995 to 2004.

He was the first Chair of the Association of London Government from 1995 to 2000, which before the creation of the Greater London Authority, was effectively the democratic voice of London. He campaigned for the principle of the GLA within the Party, coordinated the local government side of the 1998 London referendum campaign and founded the all-Party “Yes for London” campaign.

In 2000 he was elected to the new London Assembly as the member for Brent and Harrow and became Leader of the Labour Group on the Assembly and the first Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

After he lost his seat on the Assembly in 2004, he was appointed as the Home Secretary’s representative on the Metropolitan Police Authority to oversee the national and international responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police, primarily its role in counter-terrorism and security.

He was appointed to the House of Lords by Tony Blair in 1998. He chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Policing and is Treasurer of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee. He was a member of the House of Lords Select Committee that reported on “Personal Internet Security” that reported in 2007. His blog can be found here.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I was persuaded by various enthusiasts that (1) I had things to say that were worth a wider audience; and (2) that blogging is the new way of communicating your ideas and views. I am still sufficiently new to all of this to need more convincing – is anyone outside my usual circle taking any notice? However, I suspect my contributions do get more widely read than anything I say in the Chamber of the House of Lords!

What is your best blogging experience?

Too early to say.

And your worst?

Too early to say.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

It is yet to be written ….

Favourite blogs?

I am still finding new blogs that interest me, but I regularly read Luke Akehurst, Tom Harris, Hopi Sen, Jon Worth …

What inspired you to go into politics?

I wanted to make a difference. Some people go into politics to be someone; others to do something. I am definitely in the latter group. I believe in contributing to my community and to society and I believe in trying to address inequality, tackle discrimination and the principles of political freedom. Actually, Clause Four of the Labour Party Constitution contains some pretty good sentiments ….

Some have accused Labour bloggers of not having the bite of Conservative bloggers. How do counter that argument?

Perhaps Labour bloggers are nicer people ….., but give it time.

In the Lords, you recently called for a law in the UK along the lines of The US Children Online Privacy Protection Act. How much support does this have and when can you see it potentially being passed into law in the UK ?

I do not think COPPA-type legislation is a magic bullet that will solve all of the problems about children’s data, but I believe it could be helpful. I only made the suggestion a couple of weeks ago, so I think it is still rather early to say how much support the idea will have. It is certainly something I intend to discuss with Ministers and I would welcome other views.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

The list is too long – I haven’t been to much of the USA , any of Central or South America, most of Africa, most of Asia, most of Australia ….

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

I have happy memories of France , Italy , Greece , cities on the west and east coasts of the USA … How many trips are you going to allow me to make, particularly given the list of places that I still haven’t visited?

Who, excluding the present leader and Prime Minister, do you regard as the best British Prime Minister, and if different, the best Labour leader?

Clement Attlee

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Clement Attlee, but Kennedy, de Gaulle, Lyndon Johnson, Gandhi, and Churchill are all pretty inspiring too.

Favourite Bond movie?

From Russia with Love

Favorite Doctor Who?

Patrick Troughton

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Depends what you are talking about ….

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

My (limited) experience is that seeing most bands live is a bit of a disappointment – they are too far away, arrive late and play for too short a time.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford , Cambridge , or Barsby, Leics..?

Barsby???? It has to be Cambridge . To quote General Melchett in “Blackadder Goes Forth”, “ Oxford is a complete dump”.

Favourite national newspaper?

The Guardian

What would you say your hobbies were?

Reading and listening to opera (but not Wagner or Puccini).

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Three favourite songs: “Celeste Aida”; “Va, pensiero” and “Non piu andrai”.

Three favourite books: “Primary Colors”; “Total Recall” and “Enough is Enough”

1 comment:

Roland Hulme said...

"...am currently writing a novel about politics and polar exploration."

I HAVE to know more about this. PLEASE. It sounds... Well, I don't know WHAT it sounds like, which is why I HAVE TO FIND OUT.