Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XLIV: James Graham
What made you decide to start blogging?
I started blogging, using blogger, in 2003. Up until that point my experience of blogging had been resoundingly negative. In particular, I had seen the consequences of an individual waging a vindictive war against one of his ex-girlfriends on his blog and the consequences.
The idea that it was even possible to do a political blog at the time I found hard to conceive but I agreed to start mine up in response to a challenge that someone had set on a Lib Dem Youth and Student forums. Within a week I was hooked.
As someone who, up until that point was an extensive user of forums and newsgroups, I found blogging an invaluable way of letting off steam without automatically getting into flamewars. What's not to love?
What is your best blogging experience?
Winning the Lib Dem Blog of the Year in 2007 was totally unexpected and while I might like to pretend such things don't matter, it gave me a massive morale boost.
And your worst?
Having someone accuse me of racism on some spurious grounds at the end of 2003 (to be honest I can only dimly recall the details and blogger has now deleted the archive). It was totally ridiculous and trumped up but it did demotivate me a lot. This is one of the reasons why I find Derek Draper's spurious attacks on rightwing bloggers so irritating; I don't like the way he seems to determined to singlehandedly lower the tone.
What do you regard as your best blog entry?
I'm not so self-regarding as to keep a list, and most of my blog entries are little more than an opportunity for me to vent. But my blog post about the 2003 anti-war demo (http://www.theliberati.net/quaequamblog/2008/02/26/15-february-2003-five-years-and-11-days-later/) has been highly rated by my readers and it does sum up both something I am immensely proud of having been a part of and why I can be so ambivalent about my own party at times.
Liberal Conspiracy has become required reading for me. I have to admit I was concerned about this initially being too Labour and not really liberal, but I have to admit that Sunny and company have made a real effort to widen its appeal.
Lib Dem Voice has matured into a real hub for the Lib Dem blogosphere and broadly gets the balance right between being a critical friend of the party.
Jonathan Calder's blog is both eclectic and idiosyncratic, both of which are good things in my book.
What inspired you to go into politics?
My politics stem from a childhood reading 2000AD. It totally indoctrinated me to have a healthy suspicion of authoritarianism (too bad it, and Judge Dredd in particular, appears to have inspired so much of this government's current policy agenda!).
My parents were involved in the Liberals for a time but never recruited me. I joined the Lib Dems in 1995 after watching an interview with Paddy Ashdown and looking for something constructive to do in my second year of university. He perfectly summed up what I stood for.
I got lucky in that the Manchester Lib Dem Students had decided to up their game that autumn and I got harassed into becoming the society secretary almost immediately. I haven't really ever looked back.
Can you see yourself returning to life as a full-time activist?
You mean I'm not a full time activist at the moment?! Working for an organisation like Unlock Democracy is a big commitment and I've had to scale back my involvement in the party as a result. I have to admit to not missing it that much, but partly that is because I find the day job so rewarding.
But I do envisage a time when I might get back into local politics, when I'm a bit more settled. And I am inching my way back by helping to launch the Social Liberal Forum (http://socialliberal.net/).
What is your favourite Oliver Postgate series?
Ivor the Engine (note to self: must remember to take old polls from my website)
Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
I'm not well travelled so the short answer is yes. Apart from Israel and the US, I've never left Europe. But, and I'm sorry if this sounds puritanical, I'm wary of making my carbon footprint any worse by hopping around the world. As much as I might like to visit Africa, India, China and New Zealand, I would need a better reason for going to these places than just tourism.
Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
I instantly warmed to Boston and I liked Budapest (next time I'll wear lighter clothing though!).
Who, excluding the present leader, do you regard as the best Liberal Democrat/Liberal/SDP Party leader, and if different, the best Prime Minister?
Although I would quite happily excise his last year as leader from memory, Paddy Ashdown managed to haul the party back from brink - we'll always owe him for that. He was the most thoughtful leader the party has had while I've been a member and while Nick Clegg is a vast improvement in that respect, I miss having conference speeches that actually make me think.
Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?
Hmmm... I'm generally sceptical about having political heroes. If I were to pick one from my childhood who hasn't disappointed me, I would say Archbishop Desmond Tutu (and I say that as an atheist). Tutu has been rather overshadowed by Mandela over the past 15 years, but he played a leading role in the anti-apartheid movement during its darkest days, formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and continues to speak out on a range of issues that others are scared to touch, from Zimbabwe to gay rights. I wish I had his strength.
My other great inspiration in a different kind of way has been Jo Swinson MP who I have known since her earliest days in student politics and whose election campaign I helped run in 2005. I think she does a superb job and has repaid the effort I put in getting her elected in spades. It is great to invest in a politician's career and see it pay off.
Favourite Bond movie?
Probably Casino Royale, if only because it was the lead Bond-esque Bond movie (not a big fan).
Favorite Doctor Who?
It is a cliche to say Tom Baker, but I would have loved to have seen what Chris Ecclestone would have made of the role had he been around a bit longer.
Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
All three. In large quantities.
Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
Not so much a band, but I'd have loved to have been old enough to appreciate Manchester during the 80s. The Smiths, Joy Division, The Happy Mondays - what a great scene!
In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
Oxford since I have friends there, although I have a reflexive prejudice against Oxbridge in general (I am a bad person).
Favourite national newspaper?
What would you say your hobbies were?
Comic collecting and cinema.
And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
An impossible question! Okay, random things off the top of my head:
Books: The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins; Poverty and Progress by Henry George; The Complete Nemesis The Warlock by Pat Mills et al.
Songs: All is Full of Love by Bjork; The Diary of Horace Wimp by ELO; Baby Can I Hold You by Traci Chapman.