Monday, April 13, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XCVIII: Alan Smart

(Alan Smart)

Alan Smart. Fomer Head of Broadacsting The Scottish Parliament, filmed it all from day one. Former Head of Current Affairs at Scottish TV in the decade leading up to devoution. One time President of NUS Scotland. Labour Party member for over two decades, but now pro independence. His blog is Aye We Can!

What made you decide to start blogging?

To explain my videos better. I write satirical songs, and given my broadcasting background. I like to make films to go with them. Specifically I'd made one called "Obama is Scottish" and quite a few folks wanted the words and to know a bit more about some of the references in the film. So a blog was a good vehicle. But I soon moved beyond just explaining videos, though I would say my blog is still genuinely "multi-media and not exclusivley "political" either. I've just done an Everton video for our FA cup run put the lyrics with explanatory hyperlinks on my blog. But, fundamentally I blog to give myself a voice on things I feel strongly about.
Most specifically, I started my current blog AyeWeCan for Rabbie Burns' 250th birthday,The Bard would have been a blogger for sure. And his birthday coincided with Obama's inauguration, so quite neat

What is your best blogging experience?

My "Sir Fred Goodwin Was My Chauffer" blog entry. I was suprised at the number of folk that read it or at least had heard about it. The Sunday Express even ran an article on it. For me it kind of summed up what blogging was about - something personal , but funny for others, and with a degree of purpose. And he was my chauffeur!

And your worst?

Not really had one yet. Indeed that is the beauty of blogging - you can post some mince and get away with it!

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

My entry of 25th January 2009 - "Ma Very Own Burns Day". a record of what I did to celebrate Rabbie's 250th birthday. Quite well written and constructed I'd say. I was complimented on it by a few old time Burns devotees , which was for me quite an accolade, particularly given the day I was writing about

Favourite blogs?

I do like Ian Dale's even though he's a Tory. But it well written and not narrowly partisan, beyond the obvious. In Scotland, Advanced Media Watch and SNP Tactical Voting are pretty good. But Scotland lacks a celebrity blogger, unless you count Tom Harris, more feted abroad than at home!

What inspired you to go into politics?

Born into it - my dad was the Labour Provost ( Mayor) of Paisley. My mum and dad both active, so too my brothers. So my involvement was kind of predictable - except that I got a job in the media in my mid 20s which kind of brought my active participation to an abrupt halt. For about two decades I reckon I was the "Forest Gump" of Scottish politics - saw it all close up, but that's about it. Blogging has kind of brought me back into the "activist" camp

You recently attacked the attitudes of most MSP's with regards to their civic duties. What would you do to reform the Scottish Parliament?

I'd need a page or two to even scratch the surface. My specific beef is with the Scottish Parliament as an institution, which after a promising start has fossilised very quickly - smug with its own accolades, populated by types that are just there for the excessively high pay and the easy life.( Holyrood has Soviet style staffing levels). It need not have been like this - the MSPs were all sleeping let this overstaffed semi-useless institution grow up literally on their own patch unchallenged. A real blind spot, we are all paying for big time. I blame the over-rated and smug George Reid, former Presiding Officer more than anyone. A phony "participation" man - participation on his terms only. Tick the box, move on quickly. John Precott's far more genuinely engaging, but then so is my hairdresser.
MSPs more generally ? No worse tha MPs , often better, but still not good enough. Remember people voted in a referendum to create their parliament in Scotland, unlike the UK or most places., So I think we have a right to expect our MSPs to be better - better that they are, loads better.
I've plenty more on this whole area,but this ain't a thesis

As a you describe yourself as a left wing libetarian, surely a Labour government is preferable to a Conservative one?

Remember in Scotland we have an SNP government, indeed due to PR a whole range of semi credible choices and of course a very big constitutional one. But the whole "if you ain't Labour you will let the Tories in" ( or I suppose vice versa) is the very straight jacket we all need to get out of, - but I guess it's easier in Scotland.
But on the specifics question you ask, I think New Labour is now so institutionally corrupt and burned out they need to lose the next UK general election, to save themselves. I'm hoping for a hung parliament, but appreciate you can't campaign for one. I genuinely think if the truth were known half of the Labour Cabinet would be in jail, or close to it., Will the Tories be any better? Over time I doubt it, but at least for a few years they would have a clean set of wheels. And what would it say about Britain, if it voted Brown, Jacqui Smith, Mandy, Hoon, McNulty and co back in?
And I've seen Labour in Scotland benefit from being out of power - it is semi "renewed", though needs the party UK wise out of office to complete the process, And Scotland ain't self imploded either, despite the new Labour's predictions of catastrophe, These £5k additional tax bills through our door, etc?. I'm still waiting for mine - it will probably come from Gordy!

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

Australia, South Africa and Thailand

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

Russia - saw it under Breshnev and thought it was appalling. Would love to go back and see it now ,warts and all. But I'm sure ten times better. And I want to go to Stalingrad - see the battlefield that saved us all.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

John Wheatley, one of the Red Clydesiders and Housing Minster in the first Labour Government.. His 1924 Housing Act built almost half a million council houses all over Britain. Indeed, near all now sold under right to buy - they were that good!. Wheatley was born in Ireland, but brought up in Lanarkshire in a single room in a family of 13. Went down the mines aged 12 and got himself out at 20 , educated himself, and organised the 1915 Rent Strike in Glasgow, going on to to become an MP and then a Government minster. And never sold out - died in 1930 fierce critic of Ramsey McDonald an co. Independent Labour.

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Rabbie Burns really under-rated as a political thinker and mass communicator. Latter in his life, he concentrated on writing songs rather than poems ,as most folk in his day could not read, but could sing, remember words set to music better. Totally sussed. And he knew how to live!

Favourite Bond movie?

The one they decide is the last one!

Favourite Doctor Who?

Not into Dr Who - but David Tennant is good. And his dad was my Minister, married my brother

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?


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

The Beatles of course. But I'd settle for Beyonce, She is fab and I think really talented. Folk underestimate her because she is so hot. And a political activists - so effective you dont even know it.

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

A bit English biased!.But If Liverpool ain't on the menu. Oxford

Favourite national newspaper?


What would you say your hobbies were?

Music - play guitar in a few pubs an now also via the net. Sport - support St Mirren, Celtic and Everton. And I like cricket - that Imperial garrison sport! Freddie Flintoff, top bloke. Play golf too, but not well.

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

Songs - "Oblivious" by Aztec Camera, "Late for the Sky" by Jackson Browne, and "What is Life" by George Harrison
Books - "With the Jocks", by Peter White ( great WW2 officer's diary). "The Damned United", by Dave Peace and "The Colonel" by Alana Nash

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