Friday, March 06, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LXV: Janus

The blogger commonly known by the pseudonym ‘Janus’ is a British political blogger based in London. He concedes he has a ‘political job’ but won’t be any clearer than that. He claims this is because he values both his job and points out that speech is only truly free when spoken from a position of anonymity. Janus also admires real journalists with the guts to give their name while they spout polemics. He further admits to admiring writers at the Economist even though they are as bad as he is. His blog is A Janus Face

What made you decide to start blogging?

I wanted to use employ my research skills and political judgement to provide in-depth analysis and insight into important developments in politics and current affairs.

Sadly I have a busy job so I fill my blog with lightweight drivel.

What is your best blogging experience?

Probably getting one of my photos from Labour conference into the Wall St Journal!

And your worst?

Probably the Wall St Journal publishing the wrong photo and then having to explain to a colleague why they were pictured in the Wall St Journal.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

That’s a hard question, and not because I’ve written lots of good posts.

Even though it seems very dated, perhaps the one where I talked about the Government’s oil price projections. I found the predictions while trawling through BERR documents and Hansard and they seemed to be inordinately low considering the price of oil was approaching $150 a barrel at the time. At the time I theorised the Government either weren’t paying attention or they knew something they weren’t telling anyone else. I concluded they were probably being stupid, though with hindsight I should have pushed the boat out and said they were being sly. Wonder whether it was the collapse of the pound or the collapse of the price of oil or both that they knew about... I pick this one because it became a frequent question in Parliament and even got asked (fleetingly) on Newsnight, though not forcibly enough.

Then again, this one about Jack Straw’s shame vests was much funnier:

Favourite blogs?

· Political Betting

· Libdem Voice

· Beau Bo Do’Or

· ConservativeHome ToryDiary

· Economist Democracy in America

· Guardian Backbencher (please come back!)

· Fail Blog (a guilty pleasure if ever there was one)

What inspired you to go into politics?

I was horrified by the idea of the decisions of a few affecting the lives of many. I therefore felt it my first duty to try to swell the ranks of the few by one more.

You sometimes accuse Conservatives of hypocrisy when they attack the government. What would you regard as a classic example?

Oh dear did I only attack the Conservatives? I meant everyone.

Now I’ll be hypocritical myself and lampoon the Tories again: David Cameron saying that since the economy is purring nicely, the next Conservative Government’s duty should be to mend society, then saying Gord should have fixed the roof. No doubt he’ll continue to blame a generation’s debt on the absence of prescience, yet refuse to implicate himself or his compatriots.

Why do you think there is there this upsurge in climate change denial in some quarters?

You mean like Sammy Wilson (the Northern Ireland Environment Minister)? I think some politicians would position anywhere on any subject if they thought it was in their overall interests politically. Wilson is just a case in point. He wanted to distance himself from a deeply unpopular Government and Prime Minister and chose something which made little difference to policy or law but which struck a chord with some constituents and pitted him against ‘the man’. I say this because he didn’t oppose his administration’s climate change legislation.

I think that sadly climate change denial may grow in the same way economic nationalism might, because climate change (like weakened globalisation) is an existential threat and somewhat obscure to the individual despite its monumental importance. I’m more worried about individuals putting it out of their mind or forgetting about it. I think that the real threat of climate change denial is to provide quick excuses to do this when the issue presents us with tough choices as individuals.

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

I’d like to visit to Uzbekistan, Myanmar or Columbia.

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

Italy. I really feel I need to explore it further.

Who, excluding the present leader, do you regard as the best Liberal Democrat/Liberal/SDP Party leader, and if different, the best Prime Minister?

Oh dear, I was asked this at party conference in a Newsnight poll that was then just used to attack Clegg!

I’m going to say Pitt the Elder (if I’m allowed to claim him!). I don’t agree with all his ideas, but I admire his abilities and his pragmatic liberalism.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Of all the politicians I’ve met, I think David Rendel the most admirable. He has the stamina of a shire horse and is a thoroughly decent human being! I’m now very glad this interview is anonymous.

Favourite Bond movie?

Licence To Kill because they actually try to delve into Bond’s character a bit and because Benicio del Toro appears briefly as a henchman and I think gets mangled in some factory machine. Surely there must be enough video evidence by now to put James Bond in the dock at the Hague.

Favorite Doctor Who?

Jon Pertwee, but mainly because The Master was great then – a no-nonsense unreconstituted 1960s baddie. I recall the gargoyle episode where the Master is alone in a church and psychically tells the gargoyle to kill a lone policeman, then just has a little chuckle to himself and gets on with his day. No other character even saw it happen.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla of course!

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

Nirvana, although Godspeed You! Black Emperor would be incredible.

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

Barsby, but mainly because my brother is reading medicine at Leicester.

Favourite national newspaper?

I would say the Guardian or the Economist (how predictable) but I think they consider themselves ‘global papers’ and I wouldn’t want to offend any of their staff.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Writing and recording music (I’ll post some when I feel happy with any of it). I do lots of other perfectly normal things but I wouldn’t really call any of them a hobby per se.

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

That’s the hardest question yet, shouldn’t you end with a nice easy one?


· Mars Volta: Cassandra Gemini

· Silver Mt. Zion: Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come and Gone)

· Subtle: Return of the Vein


· Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast

· Albert Camus: the Plague

· Knut Hamsun: Hunger

Those lists are by no means definitive.

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