Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XCIV: Conor Ryan

(Conor Ryan)

Conor Ryan is a freelance writer and consultant. He blogs at conorfryan.blogspot.com. He is a former senior education adviser to Tony Blair and David Blunkett.


What made you decide to start blogging?

I wanted the chance to say what I thought when I wanted.


What is your best blogging experience?

Being able to add to the blog visiting Argentina last year.


And your worst?

Some of the (fortunately infrequent) anonymous abusive comments. I always think people should say who they are.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

That's for others to say!


Favourite blogs?

I read Hopi Sen, Alastair Campbell, Luke Akehurst and Iain Dale pretty regularly, and I like the Times Comment Central and John Rentoul on Independent Minds.


You worked as adviser to David Blunkett, then Tony Blair. What are the differences between working with them and what policy aims did you have during those times that you feel were achieved
?

Both were good people to work for. The main difference was to do with the nature of the job - education was the key role in my time with David Blunkett whereas it was one of several with Tony Blair, so I had more time at No 10 to visit schools and colleges. Biggest achievements were in literacy and numeracy, developing academies and specialist schools, introducing proper funding for drama students, starting to rebuild the educationaL infrastructure, spreading interest in the International Baccalaureate and introducing university endowment support.


What do you think will be the long lasting legacy of Acadamies?

I think they are already transforming attitudes to education in inner city areas. They are introducing a new culture and giving young people who were often written off in the past a reason to work hard in school. Anyone who doubts their potential should visit one.

You are refreshingly optimistic about Labour's staying power at the moment. How do you rate our chances at the next general election and what do you see is the Conservatives consistent achillies heel?

It is going to be very difficult. But though the Tories have some good people, most would-be ministers are lightweights. Their policies are much less developed than Labour's at this stage in the 1992-7 electoral cycle. But to pick one: their kowtowing to the BMA on health is pretty shameful and would be a disaster for patients and the NHS. And their stance on the economy has been pretty bizarre.


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

Plenty of places! Australia, India, Egypt and Syria to name four.


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

I like going back to the US, but would like to revisit Turkey and Argentina, and always enjoy the Greek islands.


Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

Michael Davitt, the Irish land leaguer has always intrigued me - and his writings are fascinating.


Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Probably Mary Robinson, the former Irish President.


Favourite Bond movie?

I enjoyed Casino Royale in both versions.


Favourite Doctor Who?

Jon Pertwee - I supposed that ages me!


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Chocolate, but not too often.


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

Runrig.


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

Cambridge always over Oxford, but I can see Barsby has its attractions.


Favourite national newspaper?

Probably The Times, though I also read the Guardian each day, because it has the better crossword.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Travel, going to films and plays, listening to folk and jazz, walking our dog, eating out


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. Joan Baez Donna Donna
2. Eric Bogle (The Band Played) Waltzing Matilda
3. Jimmy McCarthy Bright Blue Rose (sung by Mary Black or Christy Moore)
Books
1. Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart
2. Roy Foster Modern Ireland
3. Isabel Allende House of the Spirits

1 comment:

Praguetory said...

It's not often I've read one of these interviews looking forward to the end.