John Gray: I was brought up in North Wales and have lived in Leeds and Edinburgh. I have worked as a Housing Estate officer in East London for the past 16 years. I am a UNISON and Labour Party activist. Leeds University graduate, Practitioner member of Chartered Institute of Housing and Technical member of Institute of Occupational Safety & Health.My blog is John's Labour blog.
What made you decide to start blogging?
I was thinking of doing it for a while. I’m interested in Politics, history, photography and ideas generally. Then a trade union blogger who should have known better, made to my mind, a really pompous and conceited post. I thought that it couldn’t go unanswered and it started off from then.
What is your best blogging experience?
Coming number One in the tigmoo “Guide to Trade Unions blogging” last year. The survey wasn’t particularly very scientific since there are so few of us and was never intended by its author to be more than a bit of fun. But it was nice to read and I’m sure it has wound up some people.
And your worst?
Its posting something that you are pleased with in the evening then the following morning in the very cold light of the day, you realise that you have misspelt someone’s name, got a date or key fact completely wrong. You feel such a pillock but it reminds us that we are amateurs and to “err” we are reliably informed - is human.
What do you regard as your best blog entry?
Not sure about the best but my favourite anyway is after being “blamed” for contributing to the demise of the SWP/Galloway Respect Party. I immediately posted “George Galloway: My Part in his Downfall”.
It has got to be Labourhome, Labour & Capital, Harry’s Place, Dave Osler, Touchstone, Johninnit, Lukes Blog. I enjoy working my way through the daily “Bloggers4Labour” digest and clicking on stuff that looks interesting.
What inspired you to go into politics?
I was brought up on tales of trade unions and the Labour Party. So maybe I had no choice. But neither of my sisters are that interested in politics. My earliest “political” memory was when I was probably 15 or 16 and I was a Vernon football pools collector in north Wales. It meant going into people’s homes and I can recall to this day the shock that I felt going into some flats and houses. The squalor, poverty and deprivation I found simply staggered me. Of course the poorest homes were also the most desperate to win the pools and would spend the most. It was a “something must be done” moment.
Has there been an increase in interest in Unison since the start of the recession, and in what ways has Unison been helpful to employees during this current crisis?
I don’t think that it has hit UNISON membership figures yet, even though members are being laid off up and down the country. You should join a trade union in the best of times but anyone who isn’t a member during a recession is being extremely short-sighted to say the least. Unions don’t have no magic stick but they can successfully challenge employers who want to make people redundant or cut terms and conditions for no good reason. In past recessions we have experienced “over sacking” and no doubt employers will be panicking in this recession and making people redundant unnecessarily as well. UNISON can also help ensure that any selection and redeployment process is as fair and as transparent as possible. The vast majority of employers don’t want to make people redundant either. If possible UNISON will work in partnership with decent employers to avoid unnecessary redundancies. UNISON regionally and nationally has been lobbying hard to save jobs.
Esp given President Obama's recent comments on Labor Unions in the US, are we seeing the end of the primacy of monetarist thinking?
Absolutely. This recession is almost entirely the fault of accepted monetarist dogma that the “markets know best” and can self regulate themselves. The pendulum has swung far too far in favour of relatively free and unregulated markets. To the determent not only of workers but also to the City and British businesses.
Unions are part of the solution. We need to rebalance the relationship between Labour and management at work. We also need to make sure that our workers capital (pensions and insurance policies) are carefully and properly invested in the future.
Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
New Zealand. The size of the UK with the population of Wales. It is suppose to be absolutely beautiful. A month touring and hiking would be a marvellous prospect. I don’t fancy the flight mind.
Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
Key West in Florida was fantastic. Driving across the bridges in a convertible listening to Bruce Springsteen was an unforgettable experience. I would be scared that if I did return it would spoil the memory.
Who, excluding the present leader and Prime Minister, do you regard as the best British Prime Minister, and if different, the best Labour leader?
The obvious choice for all his faults would be Churchill - for his 2nd world war wartime service only . While Attlee would appear to be the best Labour leader he lost power too quickly so under any real objective analysis it would have to be Tony Blair. While I didn’t agree with many of his government’s policies - for the Labour Party to do any good it firstly has to win and then stay in power. My philosophy is that the worst day of a Labour Government is much better than the best day in a Tory government. People forget this.
Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?
There have been a number. I am a little sceptical since I do think that all political figures have feet of clay and that it is probably true that all political careers end in failure. Despite this I think probably jointly Ernest Bevin and Aneurin Bevan. Ernest because he was a plain speaking pragmatic trade unionist who despite being born into poverty eventually became a Labour cabinet minister. He was a firm opponent of fascism and appeasement. He was a patriot who was also an internationalist. He approved the end of Empire and helped bring it about. Aneurin because he was a ex-Welsh miner, anti fascist and Labour cabinet minister who helped give birth to the NHS. Nuf said surely.
Favourite Bond movie?
I’m not really a great Bond fan but I think that Sean Connery as in Dr No was born to play that role.
Favourite Doctor Who?
It’s been a long time since I used to hide behind the sofa during Doctor Who, but I think it will have to be Tom Baker.
Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
My one saving grace diet wise is that I haven’t got a sweet tooth and I can “take it or leave it” with regard to ice cream. Welsh lamb with mint sauce. Now that it another matter.
Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
The Beatles. My uncle Gwyn and Auntie Val were brought up in Liverpool during the 1960’s and used to visit the Cavern to see them. At the time they just took it for granted.
In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
I don’t think I have ever spent a weekend in any of them? Cambridge is much closer.
Favourite national newspaper?
It has to be the Guardian even though it annoys me so much that from time to time I boycott it for months and even years on end.
What would you say your hobbies were?
Blogging, running (very slowly) and hill walking.
And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
“Con te Partiro, Jerusalem and Yesterday”
“Master and Commander, Homage to Catalonia and Smileys People”